Shorts: Mideast

Israeli economy a stronger bet

jerusalem (jta) | Israel’s economy is seen as a better investment than a year ago.

In its annual analysis of investment risk in emerging markets, the Economist magazine this week said Israel ranked eighth of 29 countries, Ha’aretz reported.

Rated on a 100-point scale with zero being safest and 100 riskiest, Israel scored about 37, down from nearly 45 a year ago, an Economist chart showed.

Israel ranked a better investment risk than Brazil, China, Hungary, India, Mexico or Turkey, and more of a risk than such highly rated bets as Singapore, which topped the list, Hong Kong, Chile, Taiwan, Thailand or Poland.

Barghouti militia vows revenge

jerusalem (jta) | A Palestinian militia vowed to avenge the jailing of its leader, Marwan Barghouti, by kidnapping and murdering Israelis.

“We urge all our fighters to kidnap Zionists — children, women and soldiers — and sentence them to death,” the al-Aksa Brigade said in a statement. “Strike the Zionist enemy wherever it is in our land.”

Barghouti, a West Bank leader of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement, was jailed Sunday, June 6, for 165 years by an Israeli court after he was found guilty of planning gun ambushes that killed five people.

Barghouti has denied involvement in terrorism but said he has no intention of appealing the sentence.

Police crack down on soccer racism

jerusalem (jta) | Six Israeli soccer fans were charged with incitement to racism for shouting anti-Arab slogans at soccer games.

Eli Abarbanel, the district attorney for Jerusalem, said that he has instructed police to crack down on fans who shout “Death to Arabs” at games of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer club.

Gays and lesbians march in Jerusalem

jerusalem (jta) | Hundreds of people attended Israel’s annual gay pride parade in Jerusalem.

The demonstrators marched Thursday, June 3, through downtown Jerusalem, ending with a party at Liberty Bell Park.

Some 150 fervently religious Jews held a counterdemonstration not far from the route of the parade.

Industrial park in Gaza to close

jerusalem (jta) | Erez, an Israeli-run industrial zone on the Gaza Strip border that employs thousands of Palestinians, is to close.

Trade Minister Ehud Olmert said this week the closure follows government approval of an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in 2005. Olmert further said security fears at the fortified complex made operations unviable, and that the 201 factories there would be relocated in southern Israel.

There was no date given for the closure, which would put some 4,000 Palestinians out of work. Erez, which was created after the Oslo peace accords in the mid-1990s, produces textiles, furniture and steel, but frequently was targeted by Palestinian terrorists.

Intervention sought to help halt shelling

new york (jta) | Israel is calling for U.N. intervention to help stop Lebanese shelling of Israeli towns.

Israel sent a letter this week to the U.N. secretary-general and the president of the Security Council asking them to help halt recent Lebanese rocket fire into Israel. Israel’s complaint comes after Lebanon lodged a protest at the United Nations of Israel’s bombing of a suspected Palestinian terrorist camp near Beirut.

Lebanese terrorist groups shot six rockets at an Israeli navy vessel Monday, June 7, and fired the following day into Shebaa Farms, a town that straddles Israel’s northern border. The activities are a “very severe violation” of the U.N. resolution that certifies that Israel has pulled out of Lebanon, said Arye Mekel, deputy permanent representative of Israel to the United Nations.

New borders for Jerusalem?

jerusalem (jta) | An Israeli Cabinet minister and former mayor of Jerusalem called for Israel to give up some Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem.

Ehud Olmert told the Web site of the Ma’ariv newspaper, “In the future, as part of efforts to improve the demographic balance, the border should be delineated so that Issawiya, Kafr Akab, Zur Baher, Umm-Tuba, Shuafat refugee camp and Anata will all be east or north of the fence, not under Israeli rule.”

Olmert, a Likud stalwart who has led efforts to win approval for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s disengagement plan from the Palestinians, did not say whether his proposal has support in the government.