Fighting For Fund'
As social programs su er, are tax-cut reversals off the agenda?
JAMES D. BESSER
major Jewish group is
mounting an all-out nation-
wide effort to fight cuts in
health and social service programs.
But the Jewish Council for Public
Affairs (JCPA), which in June called for
"appropriate funding of social programs
and, if necessary to accomplish that goal,
repeal of the federal tax cuts enacted
during the past two years," is skirting the
issue of the administration's big tax cuts,
which critics say are major factors in
Washington's fiscal meltdown.
The primary reason, participants say:
the tax cuts are a done deal and unlikely
to be reversed, while the threat to thou-
sands of vital health and social service
programs is mounting by the day.
"If we try to revisit the tax cuts, we
will be wasting our energy," said William
Rapfogel, executive director of the
Metropolitan New York Coordinating
Council on Jewish Poverty, who served
on the JCPA "Confronting Poverty Task
Force." Rapfogel's dramatic June testi-
mony about soaring Jewish poverty and
the funding crisis for social service agen-
cies was a major impetus for the JCPA
The JCPA action plan calls for new
efforts to "position poverty as an issue
high on the Jewish and general commu-
nities' social agenda," and to "raise pub-
lic awareness of the impact of federal,
state and local budget realities on key
health, human and social service pro-
grams and the people they serve."
The report also calls for creating and
joining coalitions to advocate on behalf
of threatened services for the poor.
But the report stays away from the
explosive issue of tax cuts — a source of
division within the Jewish community.
Praise And Skepticism
Mahmoud Abbas was a qualified hit
with the Jewish leaders who met with
the new Palestinian prime minister dur-
ing his groundbreaking trip to
Washington last week.
But even some leading doves tempered
their enthusiasm with a healthy dose of
skepticism about the new leader's ability
to create an environment favorable to
new peace negotiations.
"Those of us who enthusiastically sup-
ported the peace process 10 years ago
feel burned," said an activist with a pro-
peace process group here. "We trusted
that Arafat would be a genuine partner
for peace, and we were wrong. We're not
going to make that kind of mistake
Participants were impressed with
Abbas' emphasis on Israel's right to secu-
rity, but dismayed by his insistence that
he would not dismantle the terrorist
infrastructure — a basic requirement of
the Mideast road map.
That point stuck in the craw of many
in Congress, as well.
"Folks really want to think the best"
about the Palestinian leader, said Rep.
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., chair of a
key House subcommittee dealing with
Mideast policy, which grilled the
Palestinian leader last week. "They're
hoping that if they say favorable things,
he will do nice things. They don't want
to jinx him so early in the game."
But Ros-Lehtinen said
she was "dissatisfied" with
Abbas' answers to ques-
tions about his continued
devotion to Palestinian
Authority President Yasser
Arafat and his unwilling-
ness to put groups like
Hamas out of business
once and for all.
"Its obvious he is still very tied to
Arafat, which is worrisome," she said in
an interview. "That doesn't mean he isn't
better than previous Palestinian leaders;
there's a ray of hope here. But in general,
I was disappointed."
Will Jews Back Daniel Pipes?
The Bush administration is leaning hard
on Jewish groups to support its contro-
versial nomination of Mideast analyst
Daniel Pipes to the board of the U.S.
Institute of Peace, a previously obscure
government-funded think tank.
Last week, Arab-American and
Muslim groups opposed to the Pipes
nomination, with support from key lib-
erals, won a partial victory when a
Senate committee was unable to act on
the Pipes nomination.
Major pro-Israel groups are supporting
the nomination — but several observers
say they are not fighting very hard for it.
"The administration is leaning very
hard on all of us, trying to generate sup-
port," said a leading Jewish activist here.
"There is significant support for Pipes in
the community — but there is also some
concern that he has gone too far in his
claims about Islam."
The result, this activist said, is "a
somewhat ambivalent response. There
are some who are not real enthusiastic
about this nomination, but nobody
wants to give CAIR (the Council on
American Islamic Relations, a leading
Islamic group that critics say is tinged
with extremism) a victory. And people
are inclined to give the administration
what they want, since this isn't consid-
ered a really important nomination."
The American Jewish Committee has
been the most vocal Jewish supporter of
Pipes. David Harris, the group's execu-
tive director, said the nomination has
become "a kind of lightning rod. Before
this, very few people even know of the
existence of the U.S. Institute of Peace."
Harris said the nomi-
nation has become "high-
ly politicized. Daniel
Pipes committed the car-
dinal sin of studying and
exposing radical Islam,
and describing it as a
In an earlier statement,
he said that "rejecting this nomination
would have a chilling effect on the
important political discourse about the
threat of Islamic radicalism."
The American Israel Public Affairs
Committee (AIPAC) has also registered
support for the embattled candidate.
But last week, the nomination hit
rough water in the Senate Health,
Education, Labor and Pensions
Committee. Democratic Sens. Edward
Kennedy, Mass., Christopher Dodd,
Conn., and Tom Harkin, Iowa, all
expressed concerns about Pipes' past
statements about Islam.
Kennedy said that "The views of this
nominee are longstanding, well known
— and decidedly one-sided. And they
are not the words of one committed to
bridging differences and bringing peace."
Travel Season Starts
It's the season for congressional travel,
and thanks to the lull in terrorism, Israel
is once again a favorite destination.
This week, Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas,
the House Majority leader, was in Israel
offering support for the embattled
Jewish state — and a message that
directly conflicted with the leader of his
party, President George W. Bush, who
wants to accelerate the Mideast peace
process and hasten the creation of a
In fact, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
delayed his departure for Washington by
a few hours in order to meet with DeLay
in Jerusalem — a meeting whose signifi-
cance was undoubtedly not lost on the
politically savvy White House.
DeLay has emerged as a prominent
opponent of new peace efforts in the
region; earlier this year, he told the pro-
Israel lobby that Israel should not give
up any of the land captured in the 1967
Six-Day War — a direct repudiation of
the Republican administration's intensi-
fied Mideast peacemaking efforts.
DeLay's trip is part of a Republican
Jewish Coalition mission.
Not to be outdone, the Democrats are
getting ready to send over a huge delega-
tion of freshmen lawmakers, many of
whom have never been to Israel.
This month, House Minority Whip
Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., will lead a
group of 29 Democratic colleagues to
the Jewish state, spon-
sored by the American
foundation is also taking
a group of 48
Republicans to Israel dur- DeLay
ing the August recess, led
by Rep. Eric Cantor, R-
Va., and Rep. Tom Reynolds, R-NY.
Good News For Lieberman
The 2004 presidential contest is heating
up, and with it the rush of public opin-
ion surveys designed to take the temper-
ature of the electorate.
One of the latest offered good news
and bad news for Sen. Joe Lieberman,
D-Conn., battling for the right to repre-
sent the Democratic party in the fight to
unseat President George W Bush in
The Quinnipiac University survey
showed Lieberman leading fellow
Democrats — but trailing a non-candi-
date, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-
Without Clinton's name on the poll,
Lieberman won 21 percent in the survey
of Democratic voters; Rep. Dick
Gephardt, D-Mo., came in second at 16