Shorts: mideast

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Poll: There’s very little accord on Geneva plan

jerusalem (jta) | More Israelis and Palestinians oppose the unofficial Geneva accord peace proposal than support it, a new poll says.

Thirty-four percent of Israelis and 19 percent of Palestinians support the Geneva proposal, and 43 percent of Israelis and 44 percent of Palestinians oppose the plan, according to the poll, carried out by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research and Hebrew University’s Truman Institute.

Israelis and Palestinians backed different components of the accord, which was drafted by Israeli opposition figures and officials close to Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat.

A majority of Palestinian respondents support two parts of the accord: Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and the notion that security arrangements should include a multinational force.

Israel gives prize to Barenboim

jerusalem (jta) | Conductor Daniel Barenboim, who performed Wagner’s music in Israel, will receive Israel’s Wolf Prize.

Barenboim, music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and State Opera House in Berlin, led the Berlin Staatskapelle Orchestra in a performance from Richard Wagner’s “Tristan und Isolde” in July 2001, defying an informal Israeli ban on the music of Hitler’s favorite composer.

Barenboim did not explicitly apologize for the decision, but he said he regretted if the music offended anyone, The Associated Press said. Israeli Education Minister Limor Livnat had demanded that Barenboim apologize in order to receive the prize, and Livnat now says the “matter has been resolved.”

Western Wall plans anger Conservatives

jerusalem (jta) | The Conservative movement is calling for a halt to the expansion of the prayer area at the Western Wall.

The movement’s Israeli branch is calling on Israel’s Religious Affairs Ministry to halt the expansion, which it says would expand separate-sex prayer areas and turn the Western Wall Plaza into an Orthodox synagogue.

The Western Wall’s rabbi, Shmuel Rabinovitch, said the expansion is necessary because the existing prayer area is too small.

Israel beefs up wooing of Christian tourists

jerusalem (jta) | Israel intensified its wooing of Christian tourists. Israeli officials are sending a documentary on Christian tourist attractions to Protestant clergy throughout the United States, Ha’aretz reported.

Christian tourists have become an increasingly important niche for Israel’s tourism industry, particularly during the last few years of violence.

Netanyahu rules out unilateral withdrawal

jerusalem (jta) | Israeli Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Minister Ehud Olmert’s plans for a unilateral withdrawal from settlements.

Attacking Olmert’s argument that demographic problems require a unilateral withdrawal, Netanyahu said the only demographic problem is with Israeli Arabs. He said the way to counter the growing Israeli Arab population is by building a healthy economy that would encourage aliyah.