Mideast Report

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JERUSALEM (JTA) — Residents of the fervently Orthodox community of Bnei Brak near Tel Aviv denounced a spate of attacks at three area synagogues.

The vandals drew swastikas, removed mezuzot and smashed windows.

Top Israeli politicians lobby in D.C. for aid

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A number of Israeli cabinet ministers descended on Capitol Hill this week to lobby for $1.8 billion in aid the Clinton administration pledged to help Israel, the Palestinians and Jordan implement last year's Wye agreement.

Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh and Interior Minister Natan Sharansky met with key lawmakers Monday and Tuesday, with Sneh saying he expected the aid to be approved before Thanksgiving.

Science Minister Matan Vilnai and Public Security Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami are expected in Washington next week.

President Clinton vetoed the foreign aid bill Monday, saying it did not contain any money for Israel and the Palestinians to implement the Wye agreement.

Emigre convicted of spying for KGB

JERUSALEM (JTA) — An immigrant from the former Soviet Union was convicted Monday of spying for the KGB.

Valery Kaminsky pleaded guilty in a plea bargain to providing the KGB with classified information he culled from his son, an Israeli soldier, and from his work as an airplane maintenance technician on an air force base, between 1976 and 1993. Charges were not brought against his son.

Reform leader to join Jerusalem council

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The leader of the Reform movement in Israel has been elected to sit on Jerusalem's religious council, according to the Israeli daily Ha'aretz.

This week's election of Rabbi Uri Regev, head of the Reform movement's Religious Action Center in Israel, came as Orthodox politicians continue to seek to keep leaders of the more liberal movements off the councils.

Levy blasts Egypt for blocking peace

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Egypt is undermining Israeli attempts to improve relations with Arab countries, Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy said Wednesday.

"Egypt has double vision. On the one hand the peace with Israel is important. On the other hand they try to block every attempt by Israel to improve its relations and cooperation with Arab countries," Levy told Israel Radio.

His comments came after an Israeli doctor who was due to speak at an epilepsy conference in Cairo in November was told she could participate only if she did not identify herself as Israeli.

Israel may boost pluralism with cash

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel's education minister has promised to budget $1.25 million for educational organizations that offer a pluralistic approach to Judaism, according to the Israeli daily Ha'aretz.

Education Minister Yossi Sarid said this money would come in addition to the $15 million budgeted for pluralistic educational programs to implement the recommendations of a commission that investigated the issue in the early 1990s.

He spoke at a meeting with representatives of some of the 70 non-Orthodox groups involved in Jewish education in Israel's state school system.

Lebanon withdrawal may cost $234 million

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Israeli army estimates it will cost $234 million to withdraw its troops from Lebanon and redeploy them along the Israeli border, according to the Israeli daily Yediot Achranot.

Most of the money would be used for building shelters and other protective facilities in Israeli towns and villages along the border, the paper reported Tuesday.