- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 9, 2003

Going to Israel

Israeli Ambassador Daniel Ayalon on Tuesday bid farewell and good luck to 330 American and Canadian Jews who immigrated to Israel “in spite of the terror and difficulties.”

The group is one of the largest to have made the Aliyah, Hebrew for “going up” to the Holy Land, an Israeli Embassy spokesman said.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon greeted them at Ben Gurion Airport yesterday.

“Welcome home,” he said, according to the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz. “We always need you, and we need you now more than ever. Israel is the place for Jews to live as Jews. We need you, and we need many more like you.”

Mr. Sharon said immigration is Israel’s top priority, even more than peace and security, Ha’aretz reported.

Mr. Ayalon met the group before its departure from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

“You are taking part in the Jewish dream to return to the land of Israel. You will join the corps of more than 60,000 new immigrants over the past two years and over 1 million in the past decade who have come to Israel in spite of the terror and difficulties,” he said.

“In Israel, we stand tall — proud of our heritage, proud of our traditions and our faith. We have built a great nation and integrated peoples from over 100 countries and speaking some 80 languages.

“We are a diverse, yet unified people that together create a vibrant and democratic society.”

The group was assisted by Nefesh B’Nefesh (Jewish Souls United), an organization that encourages Jewish immigration from North America.

In Washington, meanwhile, Israel’s incoming minister for public security, Tzachi Hanegbi, met Attorney General John Ashcroft and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge.

Mr. Hanegbi also is chairman of the Central Committee of Likud, the leading party in Israel’s coalition government.

Next week, Israeli Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is due in Washington, the embassy said.

Probe spurs worry

A U.S. Embassy official in Moscow said yesterday that American investors are concerned about the latest corporate-corruption probe into Russia’s second-largest oil producer.

“We have been inquiring as to what is the significance of this [investigation]. We’re interested because of the political implications of this affair,” Agence France-Presse quoted the official, who spoke on the condition that he not be identified, as saying.

Russian prosecutors are investigating the Yukos group, led by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, an oil tycoon who also has funded opposition political parties campaigning in December parliamentary elections.

The official said Mr. Khodorkovsky met with U.S. Ambassador Alexander Vershbow last week on the day that his business partner, Platon Lebedev, was arrested as part of the probe into charges linked to a privatization deal in the 1990s. The investigation has been expanded to include suspicion of tax fraud.

“He didn’t ask for anything,” the official said. “He wanted us to understand his perspective, what events meant. He mentioned that charges were about to be brought.”

The official said American executives have been troubled by the investigation because Yukos is seen as an attractive business for foreign investment.

Mr. Khodorkovsky “has been setting a positive example in terms of how he has changed management practices at Yukos. We’ve cited him as a model,” the official said.

“I picked up from a lot of American business people that this is going to raise new questions in potential investors’ minds as to the stability of the Russian market as a place to do business, about the evolution of the rule of law in Russia, which is a key factor in influencing the investment climate,” he said.

Bound for Ireland

President Bush has selected a Chicago businessman to serve as ambassador to Ireland.

James Casey Kenny is president of Kenny Management Services and vice president of the Kenny Construction Co.

Earlier, Mr. Bush had appointed him to the National Corporation for Housing Partnerships.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.


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