Shorts: Mideast

Sharon’s political survival at stake?

jerusalem (jta) | Ariel Sharon wants to expand his governing coalition after a Knesset vote of no confidence in his disengagement plan.

Political sources said Sharon’s ruling Likud Party is courting the Labor and Shas parties as potential coalition partners who could bolster the Israeli prime minister’s plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank next year.

On Monday, Oct. 11, Sharon presented his disengagement plan as well as economic policies to the Knesset, only to lose a symbolic no-confidence motion by a vote of 53-44. Analysts called the motion a blow to Sharon’s political prospects that could even hasten elections.

Sderot gets anti-rocket radar

jerusalem (jta) | An Israeli town unveiled a radar system meant to protect its residents from Palestinian rockets.

The Ma’anim system was unveiled in Sderot on Tuesday, Oct. 12, after being quietly introduced for field testing last month.

Officials said they were confident the radar would succeed in spotting rocket launches from the nearby Gaza Strip, giving Sderot residents 25 seconds to take cover.

According to security sources, Ma’anim managed to spot launches during the test period, but there was no way to alert residents as the radar had not yet been connected to Sderot’s public-address system.

Low-priced flu vaccine available across Israel

jerusalem (jps) | Although the U.S. is suffering from a severe shortage of influenza vaccine, there is enough for all Israelis who want to be vaccinated, Israeli Health Ministry officials said.

Vaccinations are available now at a low price — free for high-risk groups — at all health fund community clinics.

Israeli document predicts breakdown in Israel-EU relations

jerusalem (ap) | Israel is set on a collision course with the European Union and could turn into a pariah state, like South Africa during the apartheid years, if the Mideast conflict is not resolved, Israel’s Foreign Ministry warns in a confidential 10-year forecast obtained by The Associated Press on Wednesday, Oct. 13.

The 25-page document, put together by the ministry’s Center for Political Research, says the EU is pushing to become a major global player in the next decade, and that as a result, the United States, Israel’s main ally, could lose international influence.

Gaza sweep continues

jerusalem (jta) | Ariel Sharon rejected his top general’s advice to curtail an Israeli sweep of the northern Gaza Strip. Israeli sources said the prime minister believes ending Operation Days of Repentance so soon after last week’s Sinai bombings could embolden terrorists in Gaza.

On Sunday, Oct. 10, Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya’alon, Israel’s chief of staff, told the prime minister that the operation launched Sept. 30 should be brought to a close, sources said.

According to the top brass, Days of Repentance largely has achieved its objective of crushing Hamas rocket crews in the northern Gaza Strip.

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said that troops would be withdrawn from the area soon.

Witnesses said a 9-year-old girl was shot dead during a clash in the Palestinian town of Beit Hanoun. A Palestinian farmer working at the Gush Katif settlement bloc was also killed by a Palestinian sniper after apparently being mistaken for an Israeli.

Cop turns robber

jerusalem (jta) | An Israeli policeman was arrested for robbing a lottery ticket vendor.

The suspect, an intelligence officer with the Negev police, was arrested Monday, Oct. 11, after confessing to the robbery in Arad. He also is believed to have taken part in the armed robbery of a bank in the desert city.

Jews-only towns in Israel?

jerusalem (jta) | A Knesset member proposed a law that would allow for the creation of exclusively Jewish communities in Israel.

Zvi Hendel of the National Union bloc submitted his bill Monday, Oct. 11, after convincing the Knesset’s legal adviser that it wasn’t racist.

According to media reports, Hendel argued that the law would allow Israeli Arabs to set up their own racially exclusive communities. A date for a parliamentary vote on the proposal was not immediately set.

Army wrong on U.N. allegation

jerusalem (jta) | The Israeli army admitted it was wrong when it said a video showed a Palestinian rocket being loaded into a U.N. vehicle.

A spokeswoman for the Israel Defense Forces made the admission Tuesday, Oct. 12, while speaking to a Knesset committee.

Israel recently asked U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to investigate the possibility that ambulances affiliated with UNRWA, the U.N. agency responsible for Palestinian refugees, were being used to transport rockets.