Much attention has been focused of
late on the Quartet's plans for
Middle East peacemaking. The
Quartet is made up of the U.S.,
Russia, the U.N. and the European
Union. But a significant body right
here in the U.S., our Congress, can
have a more immediate impact
when it returns to session in January.
BEHIND VIE ISSUE
Congressional funding of large aid
packages to Israel, Egypt, Jordan
and the Palestinians provides a
tremendous vehicle for influencing
the policies of the recipients.
Congressional efforts in January are
expected to focus on forcing reforms
in the Palestinian Authority to elim-
inate support for terror and also to
stimulate a change of leadership. El
— Allan Gale, Jewish Community
Council of Metropolitan Detroit
A Tougher Line
Lott's bloody departure and Frist's
elevation to the top leadership post
could be good news for Jewish
Republicans but bad news for back-
ers of the hardline policies of Israeli
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Frist is a strong backer of Israel,
but he has not been a leader on the
issue during his seven years in the
Senate. Lott, increasingly, has
reflected the position of the increas-
ingly influential Christian Zionists
— not only pro-Israel but pro-
"This change was very good for
Jewish Republicans but very bad news
for the hardline pro-Israel communi-
ty," said a prominent Republican
activist. The reason: Lott was willing
to challenge administration pressure
on Israel, while Frist — with his lower
level of interest in the subject and his
close relations with the president — is
unlikely to do so.
"When President Bush started to
pressure Israel because of its re-entry
into Palestinian territories, it was
Lott — along with Tom DeLay, R-
Texas — who went to the president
and warned him to back off," the
source said. "Bill Frist won't do that;
he won't challenge the president, and
he doesn't have the strong personal
connection to the issue."
But politically, many Jewish
Republicans are delighted with the
change. The president's refusal to
throw a lifeline to Lott sent a clear
signal that for Bush and chief politi-
cal adviser Karl Rove, widening the
base of the GOP will be a priority
— especially. as the party gears up
for the 2004 elections.
But in the end, it's the black vote,
not the Jewish vote, that GOP lead-
ers have set their sights on.
Benjamin Ginsberg, a Johns
Hopkins University political scien-
tist, called it the "five percent strate-
gy." "It reflects a new awareness on
the part of the Republicans that if
they can get five additional percent-
age points in the black community,
they're going to be very hard to
beat," he said.
The model for that new strategy,
he said, is Rep. Robert Ehrlich, R-
Md., who defied the long odds
against Republicans in Maryland and
won the November gubeinatorial
contest — in part because he attract-
ed small handfuls of black voters.
And to pursue that strategy,
Ginsberg said, Lott had to go —
which could provide a small boost for
the GOP outreach to Jews, as well.
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The rise of Israeli-Palestinian negoti-
ations in the early 1990s gave rise to
a new category of activist: the
Mideast peace profes-
sional. Former Rep.
Wayne Owens, D-
Utah, who died last
week in Israel, was a
charter member of
Owens parlayed an
interest in the region
developed as a mem-
ber of the House
Committee into a career after he left
the House in 1992 to run for the
Senate. Owens created the Center for
Middle East Peace and Economic
Cooperation to foster economic ties in
the region that he believed would rein-
force the peace process.
Owens worked closely with S.
Daniel Abraham, chairman of Slim
Fast Foods, a primary funder of his
Mideast peacemaking efforts.
In 1989, he won the ire of some
Jewish groups when he met with
Yassir Arafat — several years before
Arafat became a fixture in official
Washington. But Owens also devel-
oped close ties to leading peace
process supporters in Israel.
Owens reportedly died while jog-
ging on a beach near Tel Aviv. El
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