US: No policy barring nuke scientists

State Department criticism of Palestinian incitement welcomed by Jewish groups.

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration on Friday rejected media reports that the US had implemented a new policy denying visas to Israeli scientists connected to the Dimona nuclear reactor.
“The report is inaccurate. There has been no change in administration policy regarding visa issuance to scientists from Israel,” a State Department official told The Jerusalem Post.
“We value greatly our academic and scientific exchanges with Israel and will continue to promote these important exchanges.”
The story, which first appeared in Ma’ariv last week, said that Israeli professors affiliated with the nuclear reactor were recently denied visas because of their work in Dimona as part of a new policy.
But State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said in response that “we continue to issue visas to Israeli scientists, including nuclear scientists, on a regular basis.”
“We’ve actually improved processing times for visas for scientific exchanges with Israel,” he added.
Last week, Crowley also stepped up US criticism of the Palestinians, saying the administration is “disturbed” by recent comments the Palestinian Authority made during renovations of Jewish sites in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City.
“Denying Jewish heritage and links to Jerusalem undermine the trust and confidence needed for substantive and productive Israeli-Palestinian negotiations,” he said.
He went on to strongly condemn the glorification of terrorists.
“Honoring terrorists who have murdered innocent civilians either by official statements or by the dedication of public places hurts peace efforts and must end,” he said.
“We will continue to hold Palestinian leaders accountable for incitement.”
It is rare for a State Department spokesman to call out the Palestinians at a briefing on an issue not raised by the press corps, as Crowley did Thursday.
The move was welcomed by several Jewish groups, many of whom have charged that the Obama administration has been more critical of Israel than the Palestinians, and routinely issues statements reprimanding Israel for hurting the peace process while letting the Palestinians off the hook.
“We appreciate the statement of Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs P.J. Crowley denouncing these acts,” the heads of the Conference of Presidents of Major Organizations said in a statement Friday. “For too long these escalating acts of incitement, often accompanied by acts of violence, have not been addressed by the international community.”
The Religious Action Center of the Reform Movement joined the Conference of Presidents in condemning the Palestinian actions and applauding the American response.
“These recent incidents of Palestinian incitement against Israel arereprehensible and counterproductive if the Palestinian leadership wantsto make progress on the increasingly difficult path toward peace,” RACdirector Rabbi David Saperstein said in a statement also put out Friday.
“We welcome the US State Department call, issued yesterday, on thePalestinian leadership to curb incitement against Israel and to ceasethe glorification of terrorists. We agree that Palestinian leaders mustbe held accountable for their hateful words and actions, which onlyserve as roadblocks on the path to peace.”