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The Good, The Bad And The Prime Minister
n Associated Press news report on the
that is so stereotypically Middle Eastern.
Netanya suicide bombing that injured at
But they could also, like the new
least 40 Israelis last Sunday neatly encap-
Palestinian prime minister, reflect a will-
sulated why there could be some
ingness to bend a bit under the United
prospects for peace and yet, why those prospects
are so dim.
Make no mistake about Abbas. He is
"Sunday's bombing," said AP, "also underscored
not a friend of Israel nor of the Jews. He
the difficulties facing Mahmoud Abbas, the new
has written that fewer than one million
Palestinian prime minister. Abbas, also known as
Jews were killed in the Holocaust and sug-
Abu Mazen, has the support of international
gested that the Shoah was, in fact, a
Mideast mediators who want him to rein in
Zionist plot to encourage Jewish emigra-
Palestinian militants. Abbas was meeting with
tion to Israel.
Palestinian factions in Gaza Sunday."
Most recently, he has asserted that
The good news: The Palestinian Legislative
Palestinians are entitled to make any
Council defied Yasser Arafat and created
"defense" of what they consider
the post of prime minister with some real
their land in the West Bank or
ORIAL Gaza, essentially sanctioning
authority to improve the corrupt and
inefficient agencies of government.
attacks on soldiers and settlers in
The bad news: No one controls the suicidal cra-
those disputed areas beyond the Green
zies and their masters in Hamas and Islamic Jihad
Line of 1967. He lacks an independent
and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades who believe they
political base, and Arafat will retain ulti-
flourish by continuing their murderous attacks on
mate power over any substantive negotia-
Israelis and thus preventing any serious reopening
tions with Israel.
of negotiations that could dampen down the last
But Abbas was a principal crafter of the
2'/2 years of violence.
1993 Oslo peace accords with Israel and
Still, the emergence of Abbas, who is 68, reflects
has maintained secret access to Israeli
a wider pattern of quiet movement toward some
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and other
more open and democratic government in the
top Israeli politicians, while assailing the
Arab world. It coincides with efforts by Saudi
armed intifada (uprising) as less effective
Arabia's Crown Prime Abdullah to promote an
than popular resistance.
'Arab Charter" that includes internal reforms and
Western diplomats say he is trustworthy
a larger, direct popular voice in government.
as a negotiator — in sharp contrast to Arafat. As
In that same mode, Jordan's King Abdullah said his
Secretary of State Colin Powell noted in his
country would vote in June for a parliament to replace
address to the American Israel Public Affairs
the one he dissolved in 2001. And Egypt finally
Committee Sunday night, the test will be in how
dropped the trumped-up prosecution of one of its
Abbas performs in office.
leading pro-democracy activists, Saad Eddin Ibrahim.
The history of the Mideast is so littered with
The actions may be just for show, part of the
moments of false optimism that we have to be
endlessly tiresome pattern of pseudo-negotiation
wary about raising any grand expectations. Much
I F AMERICA
as we hope that common sense will someday pre-
vail, that the Arab states will recognize that Israel's
existence helps the region and that peace is better
than war, experience prevents us from raising our
hopes very high.
The appointment of Abbas is not a light at the
end of a tunnel. But it is a sign that a tunnel just
might be buildable.
Rabbi With A Cause
on't be misled by his soft-spoken demeanor:
Rabbi Elliot Pachter is on a mission.
His concern for his congregation — indi-
vidually and collectively — and the Jewish
community is not just a matter of words.
During his 10 years as spiritual leader of
Congregation B'nai Moshe and five years
as assistant rabbi at Adat Shalom
Synagogue, Rabbi Pachter has established
himself as a caring, compassionate leader
with a staunch commitment to Jewish education
for all Jews — children, adults and seniors. He has
strongly supported B'nai Moshe's LIFE program,
which brings children — and their families — into
the shul on Shabbat morning, rather than Sunday,
as well as during the week. In addition to educating
the youngsters, LIFE has reconnected their parents
to the synagogue, their Judiasm and Shabbat.
At the same time, he is impassioned about day-
school education. His sons attend Hillel Day
School of Metropolitan Detroit, where he has
taught four classes a week for seventh- and eighth-
grade students for the past 13 years. He also serves
on Hillel's board, and is a strong advocate for the
connections and depth of Jewish back-
ground that a day-school education pro-
Rabbi Pachter has taken Jewish com-
mitment on the road. He has experimented with
synagogue programs off-site, was a leader in estab-
lishing what has become the local Conservative
movement's Eilu v'Eilu adult education program,
and leads a Mocha Moment discussion each
Thursday at Barnes and Noble Booksellers in West
In addition, he is a popular faculty member at
the community's annual Seminars for Adult Jewish
His resume, while impressive, is not why B'nai
Moshe members are honoring their rabbi this week-
end for his 10 years of service. Part of the reason
happens at the end of services each Shabbat. When
the children of the congregation are invited up on
the bimah to help with Kiddush and Adon Olam,
the broadest smile in the sanctuary is the rabbi's.
The guiding rules for Sunday's events — laid
down by Rabbi Pachter — were that the dinner
should be affordable, so that anyone who wanted to
could come. The Sunday schedule includes family
activities, an auction, dancing, speeches and a din-
ner costing $36 for adults and $12 for children.
It may not be the showiest event, but it epito-
mizes a rabbi who has made a lasting impact on his