Bush receives a little praise and a little advice from candidate Lieberman.
has said. Only if that happens will there
be (Israeli) responses."
Lieberman said U.S. policymakers
should make it clear in the early stages of
resident George W. Bush's
road map negotiations that they will not
first burst of Middle East
pressure Israel to accept a Palestinian
summitry won cautious
"right of return" to Israel proper. Any
praise from both sides of the
on refugees should be worked
aisle, and from one of the president's
out "between Israel and the Palestinians,"
leading rivals in his bid for a second
he said. "The only source of pressure on
term in 2004.
Israel to take specific actions should be
But, while Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-
the actions by the Palestinian leadership
Conn., said direct presidential involve-
to stop the terrorism.
ment in the moribund peace process
"We have to be careful not to pressure
was long overdue, he raised warning
the Israelis for the sake of some diplo-
flags about the primary vehicle for
renewed U.S. diplomacy — the interna- matic advantage of ours."
And he said it was a mistake for the
tional road map, which puts Palestinian
to leave just a low-level
statehood on the diplomatic fast track
to follow up on this
-"The good news is that after two and
week's summits. The peace effort
a half years of pretty good policies on
"deserves more than that," he said.
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the
Lieberman expressed confidence that
administration has now gotten involved
campaign for the Democratic nomi-
on the ground," Lieberman said in an
is gaining momentum, despite
interview "Until now, they've been dis-
the crowded field of contenders and the
fact that he is lagging behind some in
Lieberman also wel-
the critical fund-raising race. "I have felt
comed the news that "at
the momentum in the campaign grow
the highest levels, the
the past month," he said.
Israelis and Palestinians are
He rejected recent studies suggesting
talking to each other again.
a nationwide rise in anti-Semitism, par-
That's a hopeful sign.
ticularly in the African American com-
But he expressed skepti-
munity, and speculation that his
cism about the interna-
Lieberman Jewishness could hinder his campaign in
tional road map, which
2004. "I'm not naive; I see the signs on
was recenil-y-eildorsed by
some campuses where anti-Zionism
the Israeli government, after friendly
seems to go over into anti-Semitism,"
but insistent arm twisting from
he said. "But I must tell you that I don't
see a rise in anti-Semitism as I travel
"The one thing about the road map
around the country"
that both sides agree on is the destina-
He agrees with former Vice President
tion: peace and a two-state solution," he
Al Gore's assessment of anti-Semitism in
said. "But it's clear they do not agree on
2000 — that "the fear among Jews of
many of its twists and turns. So it is my
belief they will not reach the destination anti-Semitism is much greater than the
reality of anti-Semitism. That liberated
according to the road map."
to make the choice that he wanted
Specifically, Lieberman mirrored
to make. I think that's true today."
objections among pro-Israel groups to
Lieberman said he is receiving a
the "simultaneity" of the road map's
"wonderfully strong and warm response
demands on both sides. "Today, the
in the African American community,
president seemed to be asking the
as I did in 2000. The most recent
Israelis to disband some of the settle-
polls show I am leading all the
ments at the outset of the process," he
said. "It seems to me that American pol- Democratic candidates among African
icy should be that there is not an equiv- American voters — and that includes
two African American candidates."
alence between an end of terrorism and
"The first thing that has to happen is
for the Palestinians to make a '100 per- Jewish groups often find themselves
on opposite sides of key church-state
cent effort,' as Prime Minister Sharon
JAMES D. BESSER
questions, but they are operating as a
team as the push intensifies for a
Workplace Religious Freedom Act
In recent days, there's been a flurry
of activity, all directed at one goal: get-
ting the Senate to finally act on the
bill, which has been stalled for more
than five years, mostly because of the
indifference of the congressional lead-
ership and opposition by business
groups, which fear the costs of a law
that would make it easier for workers
to fulfill their religious obligations
without risking their jobs.
Jewish groups with very different
perspectives have divvied up the
WRFA lobbying chores. The
Orthodox Union and Agudath Israel
of America have been seeking co-spon-
sors among Senate Republicans; the
Religious Action Center of Reform
Judaism, a liberal group, has been
working with civil rights and labor
groups. The American Jewish
Committee and the
League are also pressing
hard for co-sponsors.
counsel, said a "corner
has been turned" on
WRFA, which would
have the biggest impact
on thousands of Orthodox Jews whose
jobs are sometimes in jeopardy .
because of their Sabbath and holiday
obligations. "We are moving toward a
faith-based imitative that's really
worthwhile," he said. "We have a
strong bipartisan group of co-spon-
One of the lead sponsors is Sen.
Rick Santorum, R-Pa., rising in the
Republican leadership and a leading
conservative. The Leadership
Conference on Civil Rights might also
put its weight behind the measure.
In the past, major civil rights have
supported WRFA but never really
pushed for it. Members of the WRFA
coalition recently met with Senate
Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.,
and with a group of Senate
"The coalition is canvassing the
whole U.S. Senate now," said Nathan
Diament, director of the OU's
Institute for Public Affairs. "We think
we're gaining momentum. It's still
going to be a difficult fight, but we are
This week, Congress was expected to
finalize a ban on late-term abortions.
The issue was scheduled to come to
the House floor on Wednesday, where
passage was considered likely; the
measure has already passed the Senate.
A similar bill cleared both Houses
but was vetoed by former President
Bill Clinton in 1996. This time
around, President George W. Bush has
promised to sign a late-term abortion
bill, and conservative groups are press-
ing hard for quick House action.
"It will be the first real rollback of a
range of reproductive rights that were
constitutionally entrenched -with Roe
V. Wade," said an official with a major
Jewish group. "And with anti-choice
majorities in both Houses, it's just the
start; we can expect to see a big flurry
of legislation chipping away at the
edges of Roe in the coming months,"
Jewish women's groups and a num-
ber of major "defense organizations,"
including the Anti-Defamation League
and the American Jewish Committee,
oppose the ban. The Orthodox Union
has stayed out of the debate.
Jewish pro-choice activists are also
keeping a close eye on the Supreme
Court, whose term ends late this
month — at which time some
observers expect at least one retire-
ment. And the battle over the admin-
istration's judicial nominations contin-
For months, the National Council
of Jewish Women (NCJW) has fought
against anti-choice nominees, with
mixed results. Several of the Bush
administration's appointme.uts have
been held up in the Senate by
Democratic filibusters; several others
have been approved. Now NCJW has
its sights set on two high-profile nomi-
The group will vigorously oppose
the appointment of Judge Carolyn
Kuhl to the 9th Circuit Court of
Appeals because of a record "hostile to
reproductive freedom and a troubling
record on federal enforcement of civil