Shorts: Mideast

Shin Bet tactics restricted

jerusalem (jta) | A new Israeli law restricts Shin Bet interrogators’ use of force against suspected terrorists.

The Shin Bet Law was presented Tuesday, Nov. 16, by the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee after it was drawn up over two years of fierce debate.

The law defines the Shin Bet’s mandate — counterterrorism, counterintelligence and diplomatic security — and how this should be reconciled with civil rights. The most burning issue has to do with what the Shin Bet calls “moderate physical pressure,” tactics such as sleep deprivation and shaking meant to coerce terror suspects into cooperating with interrogators. Human rights groups denounce the method as torture.

The new law rules out free use of such coercion by the Shin Bet, but allows interrogators to resort to it if there is evidence the subject is withholding information on an impending terror attack. If the suspicion is borne out, the interrogator is immune from prosecution.

Canadian and Israeli companies jointly buy Jerusalem Post

jerusalem (jta) | A Canadian media company and an Israeli media group appear set to take over the Jerusalem Post.

CanWest Global Communications Corp. and the Mirkaei Tikshoret Group each will own 50 percent of the newspaper, as well as the Jerusalem Report magazine and other properties, according to media reports.

The sale by Hollinger International group is believed to be for $13.2 million. Hollinger paid $21.5 million for the newspaper, which it acquired in two stages in 1989 and 1990.

Hollinger International has been selling off its holdings after Conrad Black, its CEO, resigned amid an internal investigation that found that Black and others stole tens of millions of dollars from the company. Black has denied any impropriety.

Mirkaei Tikshoret has holdings that include TV and radio stations, as well as daily newspapers in Russian and magazines in Hebrew and Russian.

Vatican-Israel deal impending

jerusalem (jta) | Israel is in the process of formalizing its diplomatic relations with the Vatican, Israel’s ambassador to the Holy See said.

Israel established full diplomatic relations with the Vatican in 1993, but hasn’t had time to complete the resulting Fundamental Agreement, which should be signed late this year or early next year, Oded Ben-Hur said, according to the New York Jewish Week.

The document sets “relations between Israel and the Vatican and deals with rights of Catholic communities in Israel, as well as issues that are financial, economic and judicial in nature,” Ben-Hur said in New York. “We are about to conclude it.”

Court awards inheritance right to gay man

jerusalem (jta) | An Israeli court recognized the right of a gay man to inherit property from his partner. The Sunday, Nov. 14, ruling by the Nazareth District Court in favor of the Kiryat Shmona man who wanted to inherit the home he shared with his deceased boyfriend, was seen by legal analysts as a step toward homosexual unions being recognized in Israel.

Currently same-sex couples married abroad enjoy limited common-law recognition in the Jewish state.

Deep trouble or friendly spy?

jerusalem (jta) | A suspected Western spy submarine penetrated Israeli waters from Lebanon, stirring security concerns.

Last week’s incursion was kept under wraps by the Israeli navy until Army Radio reported it Monday, Nov. 15, drawing a reluctant confirmation from military spokesmen.

According to the radio report, on Nov. 10 the submarine reached the shore of Nahariya, two miles south of the Lebanese border, but turned back after Israeli boats spotted it.

A security source said the submarine was believed to belong to a “friendly Western country” and may have drifted across the border while spying on Lebanon or Syria.

But Hezbollah links to the submarine have not been ruled out, as the incursion came just days after the Lebanese militia launched a spy drone across the border. Hezbollah chief Sheik Hassan Nasrallah had vowed to achieve “strategic balance” with the Jewish state’s regular surveillance flights over Lebanon. Israeli officials understood this to mean that the militia is seeking new spy systems.