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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


Trump administration to move US Embassy to Jerusalem in May, Israel’s 70th birthday

WASHINGTON (JTA)—The Trump administration will formally move the US Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv in May to coincide with Israel’s 70th anniversary.

“We’re planning to open the new US Embassy to Israel in Jerusalem in May,” a State Department spokesman told JTA in an email. “The Embassy opening will coincide with Israel’s 70th anniversary.”

The spokesman did not reveal a specific date, but May 14 would mark 70 years since Israel’s establishment.

The spokesman said the embassy would be located in a southern Jerusalem neighborhood on the side that Israel held before 1967 but running along the seam of what was then the border.

“The Embassy will initially be located in Arnona, on a compound that currently houses the consular operations of Consulate General Jerusalem,” he said.

Building a new embassy will take at least three years, and the spokesman suggested that at least for now, much of the daily operation of the embassy would remain in Tel Aviv.

“At least initially, it will consist of the Ambassador and a small team,” the spokesman said of the Jerusalem operation.

Trump administration officials had said previously that the embassy move would take place in 2019. President Donald Trump has heralded his Dec. 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital as one of the highlights of his administration. He earned lengthy applause on Friday from the CPAC annual conservative conference in Washington when he mentioned the Jerusalem recognition.

Another source apprised of the move provided JTA with a timeline for the move: In the first phase, starting in May, Ambassador David Friedman and some staff will begin working out of the consular section at a cost of about $300,000 to $500,000. In the second phase, by the end of 2019, an annex on site will be constructed for a more permanent working space for the ambassador, staff and a classified processing site. That will cost $10 million to 15 million, and the security arrangement will cost at least $45 million. The third phase, the site selection and construction of a new embassy, will take up to nine years.

Sheldon Adelson reportedly offering to fund US Embassy move to Jerusalem

(JTA)—The Trump administration is considering an offer from Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson to pay for at least part of a new US Embassy in Jerusalem, four US officials told The Associated Press.

Lawyers at the State Department are looking into the legality of accepting private donations to cover some or all of the embassy costs, the administration officials told the news agency, which published an article on the reported plan Friday.

The discussions are occurring, the report said, as the new embassy clears its final bureaucratic hurdles. On Thursday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ended weeks of delay by signing off on a security plan for moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city, according to the officials, who weren’t authorized to discuss the issue publicly and demanded anonymity.

In one possible scenario, the administration would solicit contributions not only from Adelson but also potentially from other donors in the evangelical and American Jewish communities. One official said Adelson, a Las Vegas casino magnate and staunch supporter of Israel, had offered to pay the difference between the total cost, which is expected to run into the hundreds of millions of dollars, and what the administration is able to raise.

Under any circumstance, letting private citizens cover the costs of an official government building would mark a significant departure from historical US practice, according to AP.

It’s not clear if there are any precedents, nor whether government lawyers would give the green light to accept donations for the embassy from Adelson or anyone else.

At least one US Jewish leader, who also has close ties with Adelson, appeared to be skeptical of the idea.

“This is a government project. It’s a government-run embassy,” Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, told AP. “I don’t want people to be able to say it was Jewish money.”

Adelson’s unconventional offer was made around the time Trump announced in December he would move the embassy to the disputed city of Jerusalem. It would address the president’s stated distaste for shelling out large sums for overseas diplomatic facilities. Although Trump has promoted the Jerusalem move as fulfilling a key campaign promise, he also was outspoken last month in blasting the $1 billion price tag for a new embassy in London.

Since Trump’s announcement, his administration has been sifting through options for fast-tracking the embassy’s relocation. Last month, Vice President Mike Pence announced during a visit to Israel that the embassy would move by the end of 2019, and possibly earlier.

Ambassador David Friedman, who lobbied for Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, has advocated moving the embassy as soon as possible.

The United States has looked at several possible sites. The most likely plan involves a phased approach to opening the embassy in the Arnona neighborhood at an existing US facility that handles consular affairs like passports and visas. The United States could initially retrofit a small suite of offices in that facility to accommodate Friedman and one or two top aides such as his chief of staff.

It’s unclear how much of the cost Adelson might be willing to cover.

Bernie Sanders’ son considering run for Congress in New Hampshire

(JTA)—Levi Sanders, the son of Sen. Bernie Sanders, said he is considering a run for Congress in New Hampshire.

“Oh absolutely, I’m definitely considering it,” the younger Sanders told Vice News of his envisaged bid for the open seat in the 1st District, which is expected to be one of the most contested in the country this year. “I’m excited, motivated, and interested in the race.”

Levi Sanders, 48, told Vice in an interview published Friday that he would run on a similar platform of Medicare for all and free college tuition that animated his father’s presidential run in 2016, when the the elder Sanders beat Hillary Clinton in the New Hampshire Democratic primary, 60.4 to 38 percent. Bernie Sanders, an Independent from Vermont, caucuses with Senate Democrats.

“The basic difference is that I’m a vegetarian and he’s not,” Levi said of his father, adding that despite their policy similarities, he would run his own campaign. Sanders said he has talked to his father about the race but declined to elaborate.

Sanders has been around for every race his father has ever run and served as a senior policy strategist for the presidential campaign, according to Vice. He also works as an advocate for people trying to obtain Social Security benefits. Eight years ago, Sanders lost in a bid for City Council in Claremont, New Hampshire.

In the 1st District race, seven Democrats are already running and raising money to succeed Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, a Democrat, who is retiring. Her seat is one of the Republican Party’s top targets in 2018 as the district regularly swings from blue to red, Vice wrote. President Donald Trump received more votes than Hillary Clinton in the district in 2016.

The Democratic Party’s establishment has a successor for the district in Chris Pappas, a Bernie Sanders supporter, the report said. Levi Sanders detractors are eager to point out that he doesn’t live in the district, according to the report.

Given how well Bernie Sanders, who is Jewish, did in the New Hampshire primary and how well known he is there, it will give his son “some instant visibility and make the race even more interesting,” said Dean Spiliotes, a professor at Southern New Hampshire University and an expert in the state’s politics.

“Whether he’s able to turn it into on the ground organization, it’s hard to know.”

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens indicted in fallout from 2015 affair

(JTA)—Eric Greitens, the governor of Missouri, has been indicted for felony invasion of privacy after allegedly blackmailing a former lover.

Greitens, a Republican, has resisted bipartisan calls to step down after news emerged in January that he had an affair with a woman in 2015, then photographed her while she was in a compromised position. He allegedly threatened to release the photo if she ever revealed the affair. Greitens has admitted to the affair but says he did nothing illegal.

He was indicted by a St. Louis grand jury Thursday. The indictment accuses him of photographing the woman, then transmitting the photo “in a manner that allowed access to that image via a computer,” according to the Kansas City Star.

“As I have stated before, it is essential for residents of the City of St. Louis and our state to have confidence in their leaders,” St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner said in a statement. “They must know that the Office of the Circuit Attorney will hold public officials accountable in the same manner as any other resident of our city”

Greitens, a former Navy SEAL whose seven military awards include the Bronze Star, became the first Jewish governor of Missouri when he was elected in November 2016.

NRA chief singles out George Soros and Michael Bloomberg as ‘socialists’

WASHINGTON (JTA)—Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, told a conservative conference that three liberal philanthropists were funding a socialist takeover of the United States.

“Every time in every nation in which this political disease rises to power,” LaPierre told the CPAC conference on Thursday, describing socialism, “its citizens are repressed, their freedoms are destroyed, and their firearms are banned and confiscated, and it’s all backed in this country by the social engineering and the billions of people like George Soros, Michael Bloomberg, Tom Steyer and more.”

Soros is a hedge fund trader who has been prominent in backing Democratic policies, but also is known for promoting free markets overseas, particularly in formerly communist countries. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York, has taken a lead in recent years in promoting gun control, but also has a pro-business reputation cultivated through his eponymous news service.

Steyer, also a hedge funder, for decades has been involved in Democratic politics, with much of that focus on the environment. Last year he launched a movement to impeach President Donald Trump.

All three are Jewish, although Steyer, whose wife is Episcopalian, attends a church in that denomination.

LaPierre painted an apocalyptic picture of the challenges he said are facing conservatives.

“Their goal is to eliminate the Second Amendment and firearms freedom so they can eliminate all our freedoms,” he said of gun control activists.

“Saul Alinsky would be proud” of gun control activists, LaPierre said, referring to the Jewish community worker who authored a how-to book on social activism.

Despite being dead for decades, Alinsky remains a byword for radicalism among some conservatives.

Charter schools co-founder Michael Feinberg fired over sexual abuse claim

(JTA)—KIPP, one of the largest charter school chains in the country, dismissed its co-founder, Michael Feinberg, over claims that he sexually abused a student.

Feinberg was let go after an investigation found credible a claim of the alleged abuse some two decades ago, KIPP’s management wrote in a letter that The New York Times reported was sent to the school community on Thursday.

He was accused last spring of sexually abusing a minor female student in Houston in the late 1990s, a source told The Times. An outside investigation found her claim credible after interviewing the student and her mother, who both gave the same sequence of events.

Feinberg denies the accusation, his lawyer, Christopher Tritico, told The Times.

Investigators also uncovered evidence that Feinberg had sexually harassed two KIPP employees, according to the report. One case, in 2004, led to a financial settlement, the letter said, and the other could not be corroborated because the woman involved would not cooperate.

Feinberg had never been told of the precise allegations against him, and had not been given a chance to defend himself, his lawyer told The Times.

“The investigation was conducted without even the most rudimentary form of due process,” Tritico said.

Feinberg and David Levin, two former Teach for America teachers, launched KIPP in Texas in 1994. Today it counts nearly 90,000 students and 209 schools in 20 states. In 2008 they received the Presidential Citizens Medal from President George W. Bush for “their work to encourage youth to make responsible choices and build a solid foundation for a lifetime of accomplishment.”

Feinberg and Levin, who are Jewish, also received the 2009 Charles Bronfman Prize. Established in honor of the Jewish philanthropist, the prize recognizes those whose humanitarian work and Jewish values combine to significantly improve the world. At the time, the prize committee noted that KIPP “has made enormous strides in closing the achievement gap in low income communities.”

In 2008, Feinberg visited Israel to promote the KIPP concept to officials in Nahariya. Israel currently has two schools inspired by the KIPP model.

500 Icelandic physicians back bill to outlaw circumcision

(JTA)—Hundreds of physicians in Iceland and some of Belgium’s top doctors came out in support of a bill proposing to criminalize nonmedical circumcision of boys in the Scandinavian island nation.

The approximately 500 Icelandic physicians who backed the bill that was submitted last month to the parliament cited the World Medical Association’s Declaration of Helsinki on ethical principles.

“Potential complications should offset the benefits” of male circumcision, “which are few,” the Icelandic physicians wrote in a joint statement published Wednesday.

Advocates of male circumcision include many physicians who believe it reduces the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases and genital infections.

In Belgium, several prominent physicians, including Guy T’Sjoen of Ghent University Hospital, told the De Morgen daily they also support a ban.

“As a physician, I find it very regrettable that we have thousands of unnecessary circumcisions annually of boys who can’t have their say about it,” he said in an interview published Tuesday.

In Denmark, a petition featured on the parliament’s website proposing to ban nonmedical circumcision of boys has received 20,000 signatures out of the 50,000 needed to come up for a parliamentary vote as draft resolution. As per a new law, the petition, which was posted on Feb. 1, will remain active for 180 days.

Throughout Scandinavia, the nonmedical circumcision of boys under 18 is the subject of a debate on children’s rights and religious freedoms. The children’s ombudsmen of all Nordic countries—Finland, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden and Norway—released a joint declaration in 2013 proposing a ban, though none of these countries has enacted one.

In the debate, circumcision is under attack from right-wing politicians who view it as a foreign import whose proliferation is often associated mostly with Muslim immigration. And it is also opposed by left-wing liberals and atheists who denounce it as a primitive form of child abuse.

A similar debate is taking place across Western Europe about the ritual slaughter of animals, which is illegal in several European Union member states.

Palestinian stone-thrower bitten by Israeli army dog sues Dutch breeder

AMSTERDAM (JTA)—A 19-year-old Palestinian man is suing a Dutch dog breeder who sold a dog to the Israeli army that the claimant said bit him during a riot in the West Bank.

Hamze Abu Hashem was bitten in 2014 while throwing stones at Israeli soldiers, according to the Telegraaf daily’s report Thursday on the unusual lawsuit. He sued the Four Winds K9 dog breeding company in the southern Netherlands for $13,500 in damages.

The company says it is not responsible for what Israel does with its army dogs.

Liesbeth Zegveld, Abu Hashem’s attorney in the Netherlands, told the Algemeen Dagblad daily that the money is for psychological damage sustained by her client. She is also seeking an injunction outlawing the sale of dogs to Israel.

“My client bears serious scars that will remain with him for the rest of his life,” Zegveld told the daily. “He is also deeply traumatized by the attack. He shakes when he hears dogs barking, he is too afraid to sleep and suffers from sleepwalking.”

Abu Hashem was imprisoned for three months for throwing stones at Israeli soldiers.


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