Mideast Report Legislators queried on alleged Mafia ties

Three Cabinet ministers and five Knesset members — from the Labor, Likud and Yisrael Ba'Aliyah parties — will be questioned for possible ties to Gregory Lerner, a millionaire businessman suspected of involvement in organized crime in Israel and Russia, according to Israeli media reports.

Some of the politicians will be questioned under police caution, which means that they are suspected of criminal activities and should consider having a lawyer present.

Police Commissioner Assaf Hefetz said investigators want to verify whether the politicians were aware of Lerner's alleged involvement in criminal activities.

Lerner, also known as Gad Ben-Ari, is suspected of involvement in fraud, connection to assassinations by organized crime figures in Russia and trying to bribe public officials.

Ultra-religious decry plan to draft youth

JERUSALEM (JPS) — Ultra-religious leaders dismissed a proposal by the Israeli army's manpower branch this week to set up more ultra-religious army units as a way to combat the dramatic rise in the number of youth deferring their military service on religious grounds.

"Someone who studies Torah is serving the country," said Moshe Gafni of the United Torah Judaism. "As long as he is studying, then he doesn't have to be drafted."

Gafni added that the ultra-religious community actually encourages those who finish their studies to join the army.

Each year the number of ultra-religious who get deferments on religious grounds grows by about 1,000 men, enough to form a brigade, according to the army.

China telecom pact totals $10 million

TEL AVIV (JPS) — The Tadiran Telecommunications firm, a subsidiary of Tadiran Ltd., has signed a $10 million contract to supply the Beijing Lian Tong Ren Economic Trade Company with wireless and wired telecommunications systems.

Beijing Lian Tong is a subsidiary of China United Telecommunications, China's second largest telecommunications operator.

"The agreement is another major milestone in [Tadiran's] growing global presence," said Haim Rosen, CEO of the company based in the Tel Aviv suburb of Petach Tikva.