Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper personally intervened to pressure the Palestinian Authority to drop its bid for upgraded status at the United Nations.
While in New York to accept an award and attend the opening of a new session of the United Nations at the end of September, Harper had "a short, brusque meeting with [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas," the Globe and Mail newspaper reported Monday.
"In a little room at the United Nations, Mr. Harper skipped most of the pleasantries in a 15-minute meeting, according to sources briefed on the session, and told Mr. Abbas he had come to deliver a message: If you keep doing what you're doing, he said - referring to the Palestinian bid for upgraded status - 'there will be consequences,'" the newspaper reported.
"It was just one part of the bare-knuckle approach Canada has taken toward the U.N. bid, though largely out of public view," according to the newspaper
The P.A. is set on Nov. 29 to ask the U.N. General Assembly to approve Palestinian status as a non-member observer state. Abbas was rebuffed in an attempt last year to have the 15-member U.N. Security Council recognize a Palestinian state.
A source told the Globe that Canada has warned the P.A.'s envoys that their legation in Ottawa might be closed, and the Palestinian envoy, Said Hamad, sent home.
In addition, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has told several people, including Palestinian representatives, that he would travel to New York personally to cast a vote against the U.N. bid, the Globe reported.
The more serious potential aspects of the "consequences" about which Harper warned have to do with money: Ottawa pledged $300 million in aid over five years to the P.A. starting in 2008, and that period is about to run out.
Meanwhile, Australia will abstain in the U.N. vote on the status of Palestine, despite the Prime Minister reportedly being intent on siding with Israel and America in voting against the motion.
Local media reports Tuesday suggested Julia Gillard was roiled by a backbench revolt inside the Labor Party, but Foreign Minister Bob Carr, who supported abstaining, denied the charges.
Expressing disappointment at the decision, Peter Wertheim, the executive director of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, said: "Rightly or wrongly, the decision to abstain will damage Australia’s international reputation for moral leadership on international issues, and thus our international standing.”
The opposition Liberal Party's Julie Bishop argued that the vote on whether to upgrade Palestine's status at the U.N. is "an attempt by Palestinian leaders to enable them to bring action against Israel through the international courts."
But Gillard and Carr issued a joint statement Tuesday backing the decision to abstain. "The Government’s position balances our long-standing support for the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and their own state with our concern that the only durable basis for resolution of this conflict is direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians," it said.
"Australia strongly supports a negotiated two-state solution that allows a secure Israel to live side-by-side with a secure and independent future Palestinian state." -- JTA
The new Archbishop of Canterbury's father, Gavin Welby, was a man of mystery, with a flair for reinvention and a story to rival that of the Great Gatsby.
Gavin Welby, the archbishop's father
The new archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, didn't even know his father's real name. He was born Bernard Weiler, the son of a Jewish emigre and an erratic alcoholic who once dated a Kennedy.
Jason Lewis, Telegraph, UK
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs is calling on Congress to think about “the most vulnerable among us” as it works on creating a budget and avoiding the fiscal cliff.
“We believe that deficit reduction should be carefully calibrated to ensure that the most vulnerable among us are protected, opportunity for all is promoted, and justice is pursued,” Rabbi Steve Gutow, president and CEO of JCPA, wrote in a letter that was delivered Monday to Congress.
“At this point, as millions remain out of work and the poverty rate continues to be unacceptably high, it is critical that the institutional pathways to prosperity remain open and wide,” the two-page letter said.
The letter, which lists numerous programs, calls on Congress to “support a balanced deficit reduction plan that promotes the health of our nation’s economy while also insuring the sustainability and effectiveness of anti-poverty programs.”
JCPA is the national policy umbrella group of the American Jewish community. -- JTA
Cardinal Elia Angelo Dalla Costa, the World War II-era Archbishop of Florence, has been recognized as Righteous Among the Nations.
In an announcement issued Monday, Yad Vashem in Jerusalem said Dalla Costa was recognized as a righteous gentile earlier this year “for spearheading the rescue of hundreds of Jews in Florence during the Holocaust.” Dalla Costa died in 1961 at the age of 89.
Israel's Holocaust memorial said that during the Holocaust, Florence was the scene of a major rescue effort led by Dalla Costa and Jewish leaders, including Rabbi Nathan Cassuto.
“This Jewish-Christian network, set up following the German occupation of Italy and the onset of deportation of Jews, saved hundreds of local Jews and Jewish refugees from territories which had previously been under Italian control, mostly in France and Yugoslavia,” the Yad Vashem statement said.
It said Dalla Costa had “played a central role in the organization and operation of a widespread rescue network, recruited rescuers from among the clergy, supplied letters to his activists so that they could go to heads of monasteries and convents entreating them to shelter Jews, and sheltered fleeing Jews in his own palace for short periods until they were taken to safe places.”
A number of testimonies bear witness to his personal involvement in rescue activities, according to Yad Vashem. For example, Lya Quitt testified that she “fled from France to Florence in the beginning of September 1943 and was brought to the Archbishop's palace where she spent the night with other Jews who were being sheltered there. The following day they were taken to different convents in the city.”
Yad Vashem said it could not find any next of kin for Dalla Costa, so his Righteous Among the Nations medal would be kept at Yad Vashem. -- JTA