Shorts: mideast

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Sharon corruption scandal deepens

jerusalem (jta) | A former aide to Ariel Sharon said Sharon knew about illicit funding of his political campaigns.

On Monday, David Spector, a strategy consultant who helped Sharon win the 1999 Likud Party primary, told Israel’s Channel Two television that the prime minister was involved in all aspects of the campaign financing, including an allegedly illegal $1.5 million loan from a South African friend.

Spector played a recording of what he said was a conversation between himself and Sharon in which the latter asked for documents on foreign currency transfers to Israeli bank accounts.

Sharon has maintained his innocence, saying his sons Gilad and Omri handled his campaign finances. On Tuesday, the opposition Labor Party demanded that Sharon resign.

Israeli army camels succumb to chill

jerusalem (jta) | Seven camels the Israeli army used to keep grass trimmed around bases in the north of the country died of cold.

The camels were corralled in the Negev and freighted up to the border with Lebanon several months ago, but quickly succumbed to the chilly conditions, with the last dying Wednesday, the Ma’ariv newspaper reported.

According to the paper, the camels’ duties include eating foliage around army bases to reduce the risk of brush fires.

Ilan Ramon gets plaque on Mars

jerusalem (jta) | A plaque honoring the ill-fated Columbia Space Shuttle crew, including Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, is affixed to the Mars exploration vehicle Spirit.

A Web site for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory carries a black-and-white photo from Mars of the exploratory vehicle that landed last weekend, showing the plaque honoring the Columbia seven.

The plaque includes an American flag and an Israeli flag next to Ramon’s name.

Grassroots peace plan gets 250,000 signatures

jerusalem (jta) | Some 150,000 Israelis and 100,000 Palestinians endorsed a grassroots peace plan.

The People’s Campaign for Peace and Democracy’s “Destination Map” calls for a democratic Palestinian state in the entirety of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

It also calls for the evacuation of Jewish settlements in those areas and the return of Palestinian refugees to the Palestinian state.

The campaign was formed in December 2001 and has collaborated with, among others, the People’s Voice for Peace campaign, spearheaded by former Shin Bet chief Ami Ayalon and Palestinian intellectual Sari Nusseibeh.

Israel to end royalties for U.S. artists?

jerusalem (jta) | Israel is considering a bill that would end royalties for American artists and recording labels whose songs are played in Israel.

As part of plans to modernize Israel’s copyright laws, the country is considering a provision to allow compensation only to participants to the 1961 Rome Convention treaty on copyright laws, which does not include the United States, according to The Jerusalem Post.

The U.S. recording industry is concerned about the proposed bill, which would cut compensation for songs played on Israeli radio and at Israeli dance clubs.