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Political tidbits: Franken predicts victory, Caroline backs undivided Jerusalem

  • Al Franken has taken a 251-vote lead in Minnesota, and his campaign attorney is predicting victory, reports Fox News:

"The work left for the state canvassing board to do next week – the re-allocation of withdrawn challenges – is work we have already done in our internal count, because that count has always assumed that all challenges will fail," Franken’s campaign attorney Marc Elias said at a press conference Saturday. "On Tuesday, I will stand before you with that work completed. Al Franken will have a lead of between 35 and 50 votes. And, at some point not too long after that, Al Franken will stand before you as the Senator-Elect from Minnesota."

  • Meanwhile, further work by the state Canvassing Board on the count won’t restart until Tuesday, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said Sunday that the delay was caused by the amount of time it is taking to reallocate the roughly 5,000 ballot challenges that were withdrawn by the two men …

The same day, the state Supreme Court will take up the question of whether more than 100 ballots were counted twice, as Coleman contends.

Still at issue is the fate of an estimated 1,600 absentee ballots that were improperly rejected by election judges. The two campaigns and state officials have until Dec. 31 to figure out which of those rejected ballots will be counted.

  • Caroline Kennedy tells the New York Times that she "believe an undivided Jerusalem must be the national capital of the State of Israel" and comes across as strongly pro-Israel answering an Israel-related question from Politico:

QUESTION 8: Do you think Israel should negotiate with Hamas? Do you agree with Israel’s Gaza Strip embargo? Would you support an Israeli airstrike on Iran if they felt Tehran’s nuclear program represented a threat to their survival?

ANSWER: "Caroline Kennedy strongly supports a safe and secure Israel. She believe Israel’s security decisions should be left to Israel."

  • An unidentified "leader of a major Jewish organization with a large New York constituency tells Politico:

"This answer from Ms. Kennedy is a good start, but not sufficient from a person who wants to be the US Senator from the state with the largest number of American Jews.

"When Hillary Clinton sought to succeed Sen. Moynihan, she engaged in detailed discussions with Jewish New Yorkers about such critical issues such as the future of Jerusalem, her thoughts on the peace process, Arab incitement against Israel and more.  We look forward to such discussions with Caroline Kennedy," said the leader, who asked not to be identified because he said he was "optimistic" that Kennedy "would engage the Jewish community further."

  • Meanwhile, Fred Dicker in the New York Post says New York Gov. David Paterson will be talking to Jewish Democrat Rep. Steve Israel on their trip to Iraq about picking him for the seat Kennedy wants in the Senate:

"The governor will be talking to Steve about his interest in the Senate, and you could say this gives Steve Israel a leg up on Caroline," said a source close to Paterson.

Paterson has also told friends that he considers Israel "certainly qualified" to be named to the Senate, another source said.

  • The American Enterprise Institute’s Danielle Pletka writes in the New York Times that a Syria-first strategy in the Middle East sounds good but won’t work:

It is not inconceivable that the regime in Damascus might throw its supporters in Tehran under the bus in exchange for prestige, cash and a free hand in Lebanon. But it is unrealistic to expect President Assad to dispose of Hezbollah and Hamas in the same way. Mr. Assad — broadly disliked at home, a member of a mistrusted Alawite minority, comically inept at managing his country’s resources — can maintain his grip on power only as long as he is seen as a vital instrument of Israel’s defeat.

  • New House Minority Whip Eric Cantor talks about being the only Republican Jew in the House and how his faith influences himn, with Dan Gilgoff of U.S. News and World Report:

Obviously, my faith is part of who I am. It would tend to color my being. I don’t feel like I necessarily apply that faith in any direct way. I’m sure it does manifest itself so far as my perceptions and my views and how I work on legislation. But I can’t come up with a way that says it dictates my position one way or the other. There isn’t a monolithic Jewish position on anything.

His middle name might be Hussein, and without a doubt he is viewed more favorably than his predecessor. But President-elect Barack Obama isn’t going to find it easy to win over a skeptical Arab world that is already starting to doubt whether he really will represent much change.

Many Arabs say their initial hopes that Obama would herald a new era in the Middle East have been tempered by some of his choices for key positions in his administration, and by his statements in support of Israel on the campaign trail.

  • In the New York Times, the co-chairs of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Genocide Prevention Task Force, Madeleine Albright and William Cohen, urge Barack Obama to demonstrate that "preventing genocide is a national priority":

Success will require that the president summon political will not only during a crisis but before one emerges. This means taking on inertia within the government, investing political capital, doing the heavy lifting of persuasion. It means fending off critics and cynics. It means taking risks.

We are keenly aware that the incoming president’s agenda will be daunting from Day One. But preventing genocide and mass atrocities is not an idealistic addition to our core foreign policy agenda. It is a moral and strategic imperative.

  • Florida’s new first lady, Carole Rose Crist, is Jewish, notes the Associated Press, in a report on her and Gov. Charlie Crist’s (R)  first public appearance since their recent wedding:

The couple later hosted a menorah lighting celebration with four rabbis and members of Tallahassee’s Jewish community.

When the menorah was lit, the governor danced in a circle around the menorah holding hands with the rabbis as Carole Crist, who is Jewish, danced in another circle nearby with their wives.

“I think it’s wonderful, the best ever,” Carole Crist said of the ceremony. “Beautiful and meaningful.”

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