International Papers

Is Monica Good for Israel?


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Writing Thursday in the Jerusalem Post, Yossi Ben-Aharon, a former director-general in the Israeli prime minister’s office, proffered the Monica Lewinsky case as an example of why Benjamin Netanyahu should convene an emergency conference of world Jewish leaders in Jerusalem to adopt “an urgent plan to save Diaspora Jewry from extinction.” Lewinsky demonstrates the extent to which American Jewry has become assimilated, he said. The fact that she landed a “much-sought-after job” in the White House “show[s] the extent to which the American Jewish community [has] become so well-connected, right up to the highest levels of society and government.”

Ben-Aharon wrote that a report by the World Jewish Congress showed “the American Jewish community is fast disappearing from the Jewish demographic map.” According to the WJC, he wrote, the present number of Jews in the United States–5.5 million–will be reduced by half in two decades. “The government of Israel, the Jewish Agency and the organized leadership of world Jewry must wake up to the urgent need to take action in the face of the impending disaster.”

With NATO poised for military action over Kosovo, Yugoslavia, the Russian press took a strongly anti-Western line on the issue. But the daily Sevodnya also mocked President Boris Yeltsin for devoting more time to it than to Russia’s economic crisis. “Russians waited for a month and a half for Yeltsin to explain the crisis and how the country should fight it,” the paper said Wednesday. “The president, however, remained in a state of lethargy.” Then, “when he finally woke up,” he immediately started making phone calls to world leaders about Kosovo because this “gave him a chance to feel himself a leader of a great power.” On Russia’s pledge to veto any U.N. resolution authorizing force against Yugoslavia, Sevodnya described Russia’s position as ambiguous “because [it] is both threatening the West and begging it for money at the same time.”

Izvestiya said the use of force against Yugoslavia would revive the Cold War. Nezavisimaya Gazeta said there is a possibility Russia will send troops into the Balkans in extreme circumstances. “Back in February 1994, when NATO threatened to bomb the Bosnian Serbs, it was the appearance of Russian peacekeepers in the region that prevented the attack,” it explained. It added that, by constantly putting pressure on only one side in the conflict–the Serbs–the West was encouraging Albanian terrorism. “The general assumption that Milosevic is bad and Albanians are good still dominates Western politics,” it concluded.

In an editorial Thursday, the Times of London decried the chaos afflicting international diplomacy over Kosovo, “with meetings scheduled and cancelled within hours, statements issued and promptly retracted, statesmen announcing their arrival in capitals unprepared to greet them, and leaders trying to keep telephone track of the Balkan imbroglio while locked into campaigns and duties thousands of miles away.” Attempts to base every decision on consensus had created a multinational muddle, “while Slobodan Milosevic laughs a little longer,” it concluded.

On Russia’s own crisis, Komsomolskaya Pravda said Yeltsin was being sheltered from reality by his Kremlin advisers who sent him reports making his reforms appear successful and life in Russia happier than it was. But it praised him for having at least restored free speech to a country that had been deprived of it for centuries. “No one in Yeltsin’s time has ever been persecuted for making anti-Russian statements,” it said.

Novye Izvestiya ran an interview Wednesday with the American economist Geoffrey Saks, an adviser to the Russian government in 1994, whom it quoted as saying that corruption and misappropriation of Western credits have created a situation in Russia to which no one sees a solution. Saks said that between $50 billion and $100 billion in Western aid was taken out of the country and either deposited in Western banks or used to buy property abroad. Saks added that when he spoke to the White House and the State Department about this scandal, he was met only with silence, even though, in private talks, U.S. officials admitted the West had given money to Russia not for economic but for political purposes.

In Paris, Le Monde reported Thursday on its front page that the mayor has ordered the establishment of a 100 square meter vegetable garden in the old quarter of Le Marais as a memorial to Princess Diana. It is designed to be “a center of initiation to nature” for children, the paper said. The proposal angered neighborhood leaders and provoked some acid comments in British newspapers, which pointed out that Diana had no interest in gardening and that she couldn’t even cook. But the London Evening Standard hopes the proposal will undermine a deeply controversial plan supported by the British government for a memorial garden to her to be created in Kensington Gardens in London.