Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, April/May 1995, Pages 45-46

People

Marianne Gingrich Denies Israel Job Is a "Political Payoff"

By Nathan Jones

Marianne Gingrich, wife of House Speaker Newt Gingrich, has been hired by the Israel Export Development Co., Ltd (IEDC) as its vice president for business development. Mrs. Gingrich's interest in Israel's proposed free-trade zone, designed to attract foreign investment to Israel, was said to have begun during an eight-day trip to Israel she and her husband made in August 1994 at the expense of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Israel's Washington, DC lobby. "If I were going to get a political payoff, it would not be for the amount of money I am making," said Mrs. Gingrich, who has no experience in the field. Her salary, which she has drawn since August, is $2,500 per month, "plus commissions." Neither she nor her employers would disclose the size of the commissions. Speaker Gingrich told the Baltimore Sun, which broke the story in February, that his wife previously had her "own business." IEDC President Larry Silverstein told The Wall Street Journal that Gingrich was one of a number of congressmembers who were lobbied to support his company's proposal.

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin revealed on Feb. 21 that his country had negotiated through Germany with Iran over the release of downed Israeli airman Ron Arad, but said the talks had not been successful. His comment was made after the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported that talks had begun shortly after Arad's aircraft was shot down over Lebanon in 1986 and had "entered the decisive stage." Rabin said the talks had not been successful but added: "We consider him alive and we hold the Iranians responsible for his fate."

In May 1994 Israeli forces seized from his home in Lebanon Mustapha Dirani, a leader of the Lebanese militia group that first took Arad captive, saying they hoped he would provide information on Arad's whereabouts. Journalists believe the Israelis also are holding Sheikh Abdul Karim Obeid, who was seized by Israeli forces in Lebanon in 1989, and Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, spiritual leader of the Palestinian Hamas organization, to exchange for Arad.

Former American hostages in Lebanon Terry Anderson and Joseph J. Cicippio have lent their support to Lebanon's campaign for lifting of the State Department ban on the travel of American citizens to Lebanon. Lebanese Ambassador Riad Tabbarah said his government is urging the State Department to downgrade the ban to a warning or an advisory and to allow Middle East Airlines, his country's principal air carrier, to issue tickets in the United States. He said many Lebanese, particularly members of extremist groups, believe the U.S. is using the ban to punish Lebanon for not taking a more active role in the current Middle East peace process. Lebanon has made it clear that it is not interested in making a separate peace before all Arab territorial claims have been settled.

Former U.S. Representative Mary Rose Oakar (D-OH), 54, who served in Congress from 1977 to 1992, was charged by a federal grand jury on Feb. 23 with seven counts of writing bad checks on the now-defunct House bank, and making false statements on her financial disclosure form and to FBI agents and the Federal Election Commission. A nephew and former aide, Joseph DeMio, was charged with making false statements to the FEC regarding Oakar's unsuccessful 1992 re-election campaign, and another nephew, Ignatius J. DeMio, agreed to plead guilty to conspiring to violate election laws.

Former U.S. special envoy to Somalia Ambassador Robert B. Oakley has agreed to pay a $5,000 civil fine to resolve allegations that he "improperly lobbied the U.S. government" on behalf of Beirut-based Middle East Airlines, the Justice Department announced on Dec. 30. After he left government in 1992, the former U.S. ambassador to Somalia and to Pakistan agreed, as a private consultant, to assist the Lebanese airline in lifting the ban imposed in 1985 on its flights to and from the United States. However, U.S. government regulations bar former public officials for life from trying to influence government action on issues in which the official participated personally. The justice department charged that Oakley "took part personally and substantially in the presidential decision to ban Middle East Airlines" when he was head of the State Department's Counter Terrorism Office from 1984 to 1986. In reaching the settlement, the Justice Department noted that Oakley never concealed the fact that he was working for Middle East Airlines after his retirement and "did not recommend that the ban be lifted until and unless the airline and the Beirut International Airport made significant improvements to their security."

Israel's first ambassador to Jordan will be Shimon Shamir, who also served as Israeli ambassador to Egypt from 1988 to 1990. The appointment of Shamir, an academic and the founder and director of the Institute for Peace Studies at Tel Aviv University, ended speculation that Ephraim Halevy, deputy head of Mossad, Israel's external intelligence agency, would be named ambassador to Jordan.

Justice Department attorney Eli M. Rosenbaum has become head of the department's Nazi-hunting "Office of Special Investigations." The job was held for several years by Neal Scher, who left it to become executive director of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, Israel's principal Washington, DC lobby.

Some 300 Israeli settlers defied Israeli government denunciations to attend a memorial ceremony at the grave of Baruch Goldstein, the Jewish physician who on Feb. 25, 1994 murdered 29 and wounded dozens of men and boys at prayer in the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron before he was killed. Israeli Chief Rabbi Yisrael Lau denounced the ceremony, held Feb. 16 on the first anniversary of the massacre according to the Jewish calendar, at a shrine erected over his tomb at the West Bank Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba, where Goldstein lived. Eli Epstein, a follower of the slain anti-Arab militant Rabbi Meir Kahane and organizer of the commemoration, said "the sainted doctor's act" would "be remembered as the beginning of the end of this phony peace with the atrocity mongers of the PLO." Commenting on severe restrictions placed since the massacre on the 100,000 Palestinians living in Hebron to prevent revenge attacks on 400 Jewish settlers who have seized houses in the city's center, Muslim cleric Sheikh Taysir Bayud Al-Tamimi pleaded with Israeli occupation authorities to move the settlers out of the city so that "life will return to normal."

Prosecution witness Yaacov Shmuelevitz set off one of two political storms involving Shin Bet, Israel's internal security service, by revealing at the corruption trial of his associate, former Israeli Interior Minister Arye Deri, that Deri and other Israeli politicians had been tipped off by a senior political leader that their phones were being tapped by the Shin Bet. Deri is accused of illegally funneling government funds to Israeli religious councils in the early 1990s. Police Minister Moshe Shalal said he was worried about other possible cases of interference in ongoing investigations. Communications Minister Shulamit Alonidescribed the interference as "horrible and shocking, totally opposed to proper government." Attorney General Michael Ben-Yair said on Feb. 26 he was "looking into" the charges.

Activities of the Shin Bet have increasingly been scrutinized by the Israeli media since former Shin Bet chief Avraham Yair was forced to resign after photographic evidence revealed that two Palestinian bus hijackers who were captured alive subsequently had been beaten to death by Shin Bet agents in 1984. When Shin Bet's newest chief, who may be referred to only as "C" under Israeli law, was sworn in on Feb. 26, two top Shin Bet officials resigned in protest. "C's" 1990 master's thesis at Haifa University concerned the threats posed by Israeli right-wing extremists. "The ideological crimes of the extreme right are a direct and real threat to Israeli law and Israel's existence as a democratic and free state," the thesis said. "Israeli society and government not only fail to defend themselves against this activity, but are reconciled to it."

Israel has expelled Mohammed Jamil Issawi, a former member of Palestinian National Authority President Yasser Arafat's elite Force 17 personal security unit. Issawi, arrested on charges of entering the Gaza Strip under a false name, was driven by Israeli security police to the Allenby Bridge on Feb. 27 and forced to cross into Jordan. Arafat spokesman Marwan Kanafani said Issawi's expulsion would set a bad precedent for thousands of other PLO officials now in the Gaza Strip.

Dalia Ashkenazi, who inherited a spacious Arab house in Ramle, Israel, from her parents, 1948 immigrants to Israel from Bulgaria, has deeded the house to a foundation to be called Open House. The house will be used as a day-care center for Arab children mornings and as a community center for joint Arab-Jewish activities afternoons and evenings. Mrs. Ashkenazi said her action resulted from meeting in 1967 with the family of Bashir Al-Khayri, who was six years old when his Palestinian family was forced out of the house in 1948 and took refuge in the West Bank town of Ramallah, 20 miles away. Al-Khayri, who is five years older than Mrs. Ashkenazi, later spent 15 years in Israeli prisons for planting a bomb in a Jerusalem supermarket and subsequently was expelled to Jordan, where he remains. Mrs. Ashkenazi said she and her husband, Yehezkel Landau, an Orthodox Jew, first had considered giving the house back to the Al-Khayri family, but felt the step would be too radical for fellow Israelis. Mr. Landau will serve as director of development at Open House and Michael Fanous, a Christian Palestinian member of the Ramle city council, will be executive director.

Nathan Jones is a Canadian-born free-lance writer based in Washington, DC.

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