Israeli officials, including Vice Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Ambassador Daniel Ayalon, were in Maryland this week to announce the start of the Maryland-Israel Development Fund. The Washington Jewish Week reports that "the $1 million fund will provide seed money of up to $150,000 for high-tech product development by pairs of Maryland and Israeli firms working together."
Maryland's Republican Governor Bob Ehrlich, of course, was there to sign an agreement with the Israelis. Whenever a Republican is involved with Israel or American Jews, suspicion is rampant. Can you imagine that a politician might be trying to gain support among potential voters? Ehrlich couldn't see what the fuss was about.
The WJW article quotes a local rabbi defending the governor.
For his part, Ehrlich used the event to tout his pro-Jewish credentials and pro-business stance.
"I've loved my three trips to Israel," he said, citing his travels there as Maryland delegate, as House member, and last November, as governor.
"This is a pro-business administration," Ehrlich told the audience, adding, "We are about business and business development."
Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt of Potomac's Congregation B'nai Tzedek addressed concerns that the new program was simply a ploy to win Jewish votes in the already contentious jockeying for the 2006 governor's race.
"Anytime a governor does anything, it's possible there's a political motivation, but this governor has shown through his visit to Israel and his other actions his genuine interest in strengthening ties between Maryland and the state of Israel," Weinblatt said.