- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 31, 2011

‘DANGEROUS INCITEMENT’

The recent brutal murder of an Israeli family prompted 27 U.S. senators this week to urge the Obama administration to demand that Palestinian leaders stop tolerating violence against Jews.

“Palestinian incitement includes the glorification of terrorists and jihad and anti-Semitic stereotypes in the Palestinian media,” the senators said in a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“We would like to know what specific steps you are taking to press for an end to this dangerous incitement,” they said.

The senators expressed shock over the March 11 murder of a father, mother and three children, including a 3-month-old girl, in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Itamar.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Palestinians for the killings and cited incitement of violence against Jews as the motive. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the murders but questioned whether Palestinians committed the crime.

In their letter, the senators cited a speech two days before the murder by Abbas adviser Sabri Saidam, who “emphasized that Palestinian weapons must be turned toward Israel.”

The Palestinian Authority, which receives about $400 million a year in U.S. aid, must “take unequivocal steps to condemn the incident and stop allowing the incitement that leads to such crimes,” the senators said.

“The Itamar massacre was a sobering reminder that words matter and that Palestinian incitement against Jews and Israel can lead to violence and terror,” they said.

Sens. Mark Kirk, Illinois Republican, and Kirsten E. Gillibrand, New York Democrat, organized the letter signed by 12 Republicans, 14 Democrats and one independent, Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.

ROMANIA’S PIGGY BANKS

Romania must sell state-owned energy companies to promote growth in the economy and stop using them as “piggy banks” to cover government deficits, U.S. Ambassador Mark Gitenstein told investors Thursday at the Bucharest Stock Exchange.

“The key to Romania’s future is building enduring institutions that undergird your democracy and free markets, transparency and rule of law and predictability,” he said.

Mr. Gitenstein, a descendant of Romanian immigrants, praised the government for reforming pension laws, enacting a labor code, passing anti-corruption laws and recruiting honest police and prosecutors.

“I am very impressed with [those] efforts …, but it is not enough,” he said.

The ambassador cited Poland as a role model for the Romanian economy. He noted that equities on the Warsaw Stock Exchange are worth more than $200 billion, while shares in the Romanian stock market are worth “less than 13 percent of that amount.”

Mr. Gitenstein warned his audience that Romania’s economy will not improve as long as state-owned companies, like the electricity and natural gas enterprises, are “run by inexperienced political cronies making decisions based, not on what’s best for the company, but what serves their own interests.”

He criticized the government for using state-owned companies “literally” as a “piggy bank to deal with short term cash-flow problems.” In one case, the government “asked” Romgaz, the natural gas company, to make a “donation” of more than $100 million to cover a budget shortfall, and the government representatives on the board of directors “were directed to approve the ‘request,’” he said.

Mr. Gitenstein urged the government to abandon plans to reorganize the state-owned utilities and sell them to private investors.

“As we would say in America,” he added, “[the government’s plan] is an effort to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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