Shorts: Mideast

Red Cross-Israel dispute resolved?

jerusalem (jta) | Israeli and Palestinian ambulance services signed an agreement they hope will ease Israel’s accession to the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement. Under the pact signed between Magen David Adom and the Palestinian Red Crescent in Geneva, Palestinian ambulances are guaranteed speedier passage through West Bank checkpoints.

The move is seen as key to mollifying Arab signatories to the 1949 Geneva Conventions who might otherwise have voted against a resolution, to be discussed next week, introducing a nondenominational red diamond emblem to the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement. Muslim states refuse to recognize the red Star of David.

Court petitioned over conversions

jerusalem (jta) | Israel’s top court was asked to recognize Conservative and Reform conversions performed in the Jewish state.

The Reform movement’s Israel Religious Action Center filed seven High Court petitions this week demanding that the Orthodox monopoly on local conversions be ended.

Earlier this year, the Reform and Conservative movements scored a judicial coup when the High Court ordered the state to recognize their converts who had studied in Israel but completed the conversion procedure abroad. The Orthodox establishment opposes granting full recognition to Reform and Conservative conversions in Israel, saying this would undermine Israel’s core identity.

Whistle-blower Vanunu loses libel suit

jerusalem (jta) | Israeli nuclear whistle-blower Mordechai Vanunu lost a lawsuit against a newspaper that reported he had advised Hamas terrorists on building bombs.

Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court this week found against Vanunu’s claim that Yediot Achronot falsely and injuriously reported in 1999 that he was caught passing notes with advice to the Palestinians, who were jailed with him in Ashkelon. The court noted Vanunu’s insistence that as a peace activist he would do no such thing, but said Yediot’s report was based on a senior security source and thus did not violate Israel’s libel laws.

Vanunu, who went free last year after serving an 18-year prison term for sharing Israeli nuclear secrets with a British newspaper, was ordered to pay $7,700 in court costs.

Mubarak: Sharon is a peacemaker

jerusalem (jta) | Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said only Ariel Sharon can bring peace between Israel and the Palestinians. “Sharon, of all the Israeli politicians, is the only one capable of achieving peace with the Palestinians,” Mubarak said in an interview with Spain’s ABC newspaper.

“He has the ability to take difficult decisions, commit to what he says and carry it out.” Mubarak praised Sharon’s decision last week to quit the Likud Party.

Woman faces jail for terror ties

jerusalem (jta) | An Israeli woman who offered to protect a Palestinian terrorist faces three years in prison. Lawyers for Tali Fahima, arrested last year after befriending the leader of the al-Aksa Brigade in the West Bank city of Jenin, said this week she had entered a plea bargain with state prosecutors.

Under the deal, Fahima, 29, will be convicted of illegal contacts with a foreign agent and harming national security, and get a three-year jail term. She will be spared a possible life sentence on charges of assisting the enemy during wartime. Fahima was accused of translating, on behalf of the al-Aksa Brigade, a classified document about a planned Israeli army operation in Jenin. She already has spent almost two years behind bars, and is expected to go free in 11 months.

‘Peace Team’ plays in Spain

jerusalem (jta) | An Israeli-Palestinian team took on one of the world’s top soccer clubs, but lost. The “Peace Team,” assembled for this week’s Euro-Mediterranean summit in Spain, played Barcelona Football Club in its home stadium, losing 2-1.

The event Monday, Nov. 28, was deemed a success because it brought together athletes from Israel and the Palestinian areas in a rare show of cooperation. Among the 32,000 fans were Israeli Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres, whose eponymous center sponsored the team, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos and actor Sean Connery.