It could have been the race to watch on Long Island this year: Two old friends from Huntington vying for a congressional seat in the first all-Jewish general election anyone can remember in Suffolk County.
Amid speculation about shifting party loyalties, it might have been interesting to see if Jewish voters picked Democratic incumbent Steve Israel or Republican Allan Binder.
But fate, and the state legislative redistricting committee, was not to have it that way. The plan expected to be approved this week by a federal court gives Israel what many see as a foolproof district while cutting out heavily Republican areas on the South Shore that could have helped Binder, a county legislator, take on the freshman rep.
The new lines reflect the spirit of compromise necessary to reach a deal on redistricting, which with few exceptions protects incumbents. The new Long Island lines help Republican Peter King by handing him more conservative areas such as Lindenhurst, Babylon and West Islip while giving Israel Democratic territory in Nassau, including Plainview, Syosset and Jericho. King and Israel lobbied together for the changes.
Binder did not return repeated calls for comment to explain why he dropped out of the race. But Suffolk political consultant Alan Eysen said the legislator read the writing on the map.
“These new lines put a great many more Democrats into the 2nd Congressional District,” said Eysen. “Binder felt it would be very difficult for him to overcome.”
Israel now faces the lesser-known Joseph Finley of Northport, who had planned to run against Rep. Gary Ackerman before the lines changed. Republican leaders insist Israel is vulnerable and view Finley as formidable because he is a New York City fireman who worked at the Ground Zero recovery.
But Eysen said Israel, with some $800,000 in the bank, would hold his own.
“He’s made himself well-enough known in the Republican parts of his district, and he’s a moderate conservative, which fits the profile of this part of Suffolk County,” said Eysen.
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An all-Jewish battle is shaping up in Rockland, where three county legislators are vying for the Assembly seat to be vacated by nine-term veteran Sam Colman. Competing for the Democratic nomination are Ellen Jaffe, Ryan Karben and Alan Simon.
Shortly after Karben, the Legislature’s majority leader, announced his candidacy, a local Republican leader charged in state Supreme Court that Karben lives outside his heavily Orthodox Jewish district, which includes parts of Monsey, Spring Valley, New Hempstead and the chasidic village of Kaser. Karben resides in an adjoining district but owns the house occupied by his mother in New Hempstead.
After an initial defeat, the appellate division ruled that Karben’s former home, where he is registered to vote, is a legal residence. “I hope the Republicans will now focus on issues that matter to Rockland families,” Karben gloated.
The winner of the Democratic nomination faces Republican Jerry Walsh in November.
Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Andrew Cuomo is calling the current discussion of Palestinian statehood “a concession and reward to terrorists.” The idea, he says, should be rejected until the safety and security of the Israelis has been guaranteed.
“Until the terror ends, really and finally ends, and is renounced forever, Americans must first and foremost support the Israeli state and the Israeli peace process,” Cuomo said in a statement.
The statement was released three days after the New York Post published a photo of a smiling Cuomo meeting with Yasir Arafat in 2000, when Cuomo was U.S. housing secretary. The Post obtained the never-released photo, taken before the current violence erupted, from government archives.
According to Cuomo’s statement, he was responding to reports that President George W. Bush has told Saudi officials he will soon announce a plan for an interim Palestinian state.
In other Cuomo campaign news, the candidate has hired Jonathan Zalisky as a Jewish liaison. Zalisky was a top aide to Councilman Ken Fisher of Brooklyn, who was forced out of office by term limits, and is well known in Jewish communal circles.
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Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields will honor the memory of venerable community leader Rabbi Israel Miller at her annual Jewish heritage event June 25. The event also will honor Miller’s son, Michael, executive vice president of the Jewish Community Relations Council.
Rabbi Miller, who died in March at 83 in Jerusalem, led numerous Jewish local, national and international organizations and a congregation in New York in more than 60 years of communal service.
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Passionately upset about French anti-Semitism, former Mayor Ed Koch has been calling on American Jews to boycott the country and its products.
“If they’re going to Europe, there’s no reason they should be going to France,” said Koch, a radio and TV commentator. “Ireland is a lovely country. So is Spain. I’ve been to them all.”
The boycott should last “unless and until the French government apologizes for its ambassador to Britain calling Israel a sh—y little country. Not only didn’t they apologize, they renewed his assignment! There’s no reason for supporters of Israel to spend their money in France.”
Koch insists the boycott could be effective. “When Jews boycotted Mexico because it voted against Israel, Mexico changed its vote … France leads the European community. They’re no f—ing good.”
He added: “But I would never call them a sh—y little country.”