Political tidbits: Some more news on Ross and Kurtzer’s future, Rahm’s possible Jewish succesor?

  • Laura Rozen at ForeignPolicy.com has some more scuttlebutt on who might be getting what foreign policy job in the Obama admninistration, including news about Dennis Ross and Dan Kurtzer:

Sources say of a few names in the mix for Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs — including those of Daniel Kurtzer, former U.S. ambassador to Egypt and Israel, and David Hale, a DAS in NEA, former U.S. ambassador to Jordan and a former special advisor to Madeleine Albright, that "Kurtzer has been the most mentioned name for quite a long time … and his name now seems to be back at the top of the list," according to one department hand. Former NEA DAS and A/S Europe Beth Jones, now with APCO worldwide, has told associates that she has not been approached by the Obama transition about the NEA job. (She didn’t respond to a query).

Jeffrey Feltman, the current acting assistant secretary for NEA and former U.S. ambassador to Lebanon, is expected to become principal deputy assistant secretary after the new assistant secretary is appointed, at least for some time. "He is very widely respected and liked within the NEA Bureau and the wider State Department," says the department hand. "He’s a real professional who is great for morale here."

Sources continue to offer varying interpretations of what the role of former U.S. Mideast peace envoy Dennis Ross will be. "I am now hearing [Ross]’s title will be ‘special advisor,’ not ‘special envoy,’" said one figure close to the Obama transition Wednesday, "and that he’ll have under him special envoys, for Israel-Palestine, Iran, for other things." Concerns about whether that would interfere in the A/S NEA’s job may be overblown, the source suggested. "Most assistant secretaries don’t want to have to be swamped to deal with all the problems" of every regional hotspot.

  • A group of 34 religious leaders from the National Religious Campaign Against Torture — including representatives from the Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist movements as well as from the Jewish Council fo Public Affairs, National Council of Jewish Women and Rabbis for Human Rights — North America — are urging the president-elect to making signing an executive order banning torture a top priority:

We have enclosed a Declaration of Principles for a Presidential Executive Order banning torture which has been endorsed by religious leaders, and foreign affairs specialists and former military officers. We respectfully ask you to review this Declaration of Principles and issue an executive order on Inauguration Day or as early as possible.  We believe such a step will help the United States to regain the moral high ground and restore our credibility within the international community at this critical time.

  • Another Jewish Democrat, Illinois state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, is one of the frontrunners to replace Rahm Emanuel in Congress, reports Politico:

Feigenholtz has already qualified for the ballot and announced that she raised $300,000 for the race to date — the most of any declared candidate. An outspoken, self-described progressive, she is expected to garner support from affluent, liberal lakefront voters.

  • Shumel Rosner at the Jerusalem Post flags some key passages from U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations nominee Susan Rice’s testimony this morning at her confirmation hearing:

the flaws and disappointing actions within the UN are rooted in its potential to serve as an engine for progress. All nations understand the importance of this institution. That is why countries like Sudan, North Korea and Cuba work so hard to render bodies like the UN Human Rights Council ineffective and objectionable. It is why efforts to pass Security Council resolutions on abuses in places from Zimbabwe to Burma occasion such fierce debate, and don’t always succeed. It is also why many try to use the UN to willfully and unfairly condemn our ally Israel. When effective and principled UN action is blocked, our frustration naturally grows, but that should only cause us to redouble our efforts to ensure that the United Nations lives up to its founding principles.

  • If you still want to come to D.C. for the inauguration and are looking for a kosher place to rent, there are lots still on the market, reports the Washington Jewish Week:

The local housing bubble has burst yet again, as those hoping to rent out their kosher homes and apartments for the inauguration are beginning to realize that buyers just aren’t biting.

"Unfortunately, I think the whole housing in D.C. was overhyped," said Liora Herman, who posted a notice for her kosher Dupont Circle apartment about a month ago, hoping to attract the highest bidder. "I heard a lot of hype on the news about people coming into D.C. … and I really wanted to jump on the bandwagon to make some money."

Thus far, Herman, 22, has not received a single response. And she’s not alone.

  • The WJW also notes that two of the five members of the House of Representatives who voted present on last week’s pro-Israel resolution were from the D.C. area — longtime Israel critic Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) and J Street endorsee Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.):

n a statement on her Web site, Edwards explained her vote: "The House voted on the wrong resolution at the wrong time. … I voted present on this resolution because I do not believe it is in the best interest of resolving the current situation."

Though Edwards maintained that Israel "has a right to defend itself" and that "the people of Israel should not have to live in constant fear," she urged Congress to endorse an "immediate, durable and fully respected cease-fire, leading to the full withdraw of Israeli forces from Gaza."….

Jeremy Ben-Ami, J Street’s executive director, said in an interview that while "we didn’t support the resolution," the group did support certain aspects of it, such as the proposed creation of a Palestinian state and the expressed support for Israel to defend itself. "We are just glad to see Congress essentially … adopt the approach we’ve been calling for from day-one," Ben-Ami said.

As to Edwards, whom J Street endorsed in elections last year, Ben-Ami "applauded her statement." Discussing her vote, he said, "It sounds like we voted ‘present,’ too, doesn’t it?"

Generations of immigrants, my parents and I among them, came to these shores “yearning to breathe free,” and Emma Lazarus’ poem engraved on the Statue of Liberty does not bestow this privilege exclusively on those of “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses” who happen to be heterosexual.

  • Former Republican Jewish Coalition California director Larry Greenfield reviews the record of President George W. Bush, in the Los Angeles Jewish Journal:

Our grade of Bush should be balanced, our view of him honest and hopeful. History will judge his national security leadership during a time of terror. It may be a higher grade than contemporaries expect.

  • National Jewish Democratic Council press secretary Aaron Keyak responds in the Huffington Post:

Greenfield suspends belief and ignores reality as he weaves a revisionist version of history where President George W. Bush had a successful Presidency. A quick tip to Greenfield — this propaganda works better once Bush is at least forgotten from our short-term memory.

  • Tikkun editor Rabbi Michael Lerner, in the San Francisco Chronicle, says the Obama/Clinton path to peace, as Clinton laid out in her Senate hearing Tuesday, will fail and only an "imposed" solution will work in the Middle East:

The only viable alternative is for Obama to call for an international conference of the European Unon, Israel and the Arab States, the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, and, yes, Iran and India as well, and allow that international conference to impose a solution that provides security and justice to both sides. Only an imposed settlement has the slightest chance of being just to Palestinians – the precondition for a lasting peace, and a secure Israel.

Hard as it might be to push the Obama administration in this direction, it will be less difficult than getting Secretary of State Clinton to use American power to directly force Israel to be responsive to the minimum needs for peace and justice for the Palestinian people.

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