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Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell visit Israel and meet with Netanyahu amid looming crises



(JTA) — Judging from the photos and the tweets, it looked like a set of normal Congressional delegations to Israel: Senators posing with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The U.S. ambassador declaring that “Bipartisanship is alive and well in Israel!!” Pledges of mutual support amid external threats. Sen. Chuck Schumer standing arm-in-arm with Netanyahu, grinning. 

But these are not normal times in Israel, where the Netanyahu government is advancing legislation to sap the power of the judiciary, drawing hundreds of thousands of people into the streets in protest. On top of that, a wave of violence is cresting over Israel and the West Bank: An Israeli raid on militants in the West Bank city of Nablus this week killed 11 Palestinians, and the State Department said it was “deeply concerned.”

Both of those crises were crescendoing as Schumer, the Jewish Democrat and Senate majority leader — as well as the Republican minority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky — led delegations of their parties’ senators to the country. A few other delegations of current and former U.S. lawmakers also descended on Israel this week. 

Neither Schumer nor McConnell spoke out about the court reform, and they did not respond to requests for comment on it. But it was a subtext of some politicians’ public statements. And earlier in the week, McConnell — along with several other Republican politicians — addressed the Hertog Forum, a conference organized by the Tikvah Fund, a conservative group that is underwritten by American Jewish philanthropists who are sympathetic to the judiciary reform.

“We see you as a staunch ally on so many issues, you’re going to see here of course the internal and external issues that are on our agenda,” Israeli President Isaac Herzog told Schumer. He explicitly mentioned external issues, including threats from Iran and efforts by Israel and the Biden administration to expand normalization agreements between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

But the “internal” issue preoccupying Herzog right now is Netanyahu’s court overhaul. Herzog has thrown himself into efforts to get the governing coalition to put the brakes on the changes and enter into negotiations with the opposition.

Schumer picked up on the hint and praised Herzog for his skills at conciliation. “You give everybody a great deal of optimism, somebody like you in this position with your talent and your ability to bring people together and listen to all sides,” Schumer said. 

Biden administration officials have called for a pause on proposed reforms, which could endanger civil rights protections in Israel. In addition to being the administration’s top ally in the Senate, Schumer is one of his party’s staunchest supporters of Israel.

Schumer’s emphasis on Herzog’s aptitude at “bringing people together” was telling: Israeli presidents are not generally expected to be professional conciliators (though Herzog’s predecessor took that role on as well). The job has historically been mostly ceremonial, with a focus on diplomatic representation to other nations. 

But Herzog, in a dramatic speech last week, begged to play a new more involved role, as Israel faces a potential constitutional crisis and protests against the reforms go on.

For his part, Schumer in his remarks with Herzog noted that the delegation “is a very powerful group of senators, each head of a major committee or major area and we wanted to stop in Israel.” Among the delegation were Rhode Island’s Jack Reed, who heads the armed services committee, and Oregon’s Ron Wyden, one of the most influential lawmakers in the area of intelligence.

The judiciary reforms did apparently come up in meetings Netanyahu had with a third congressional delegation, organized by an affiliate of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. This delegation was solidly aligned with AIPAC’s traditional pro-Israel positions, and in interviews with the Times of Israel, two members of he delegation said the proposed judiciary reforms did not trouble them.

“At the end of the day, the changes that are made or not made, I still think that Israel is a very strong democracy, the only democracy in the Middle East, and I think our relationship continues to get stronger,” said Rep. Juan Vargas, a California Democrat who is among the closest in his caucus to AIPAC. Agreed Texas Republican Rep. Randy Weber: Netanyahu is “going to get this done.”

No one mentioned, at least not in public statements, the recent wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence. Releases from Netanyahu’s office were anodyne, praising the friendship of senators from both parties.

The American and Israeli leaders did openly discuss Iran as well as the Abraham Accords, the normalization agreements between Israel and several Arab countries. It may have been a sign that Netanyahu hopes Schumer is in the same place he was in 2015, when the senator was one of the few Democrats who opposed the Iran nuclear deal brokered by the Obama administration.

President Joe Biden entered office pledging to reenter the deal, which former President Donald Trump had abandoned at Netanyahu’s behest. But in recent months Biden officials have said that talks to reenter the deal are all but dead.

Among the other congressional delegations in Israel was one including Sen. Tom Cotton, the Arkansas Republican who is said to have presidential ambitions. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is weighing a presidential run, was also in Israel. Pompeo and Cotton are both close to Saudi Arabia — Cotton posed with its de facto leader, Mohammed bin Salman, on his way to Israel — and Netanyahu has made clear his strong desire to normalize relations with the kingdom. 

Netanyahu also met with a delegation of Democratic lawmakers organized by J Street, the liberal Israel advocacy group.

The post Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell visit Israel and meet with Netanyahu amid looming crises appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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