Shorts: Mideast

Sharon says Peres can pick his own post

jerusalem (jta) | Shimon Peres was offered his choice of jobs in a future Israeli government under Ariel Sharon.

Sharon said Sunday, Dec. 4 that if he’s re-elected prime minister in the March 28 elections, Peres, a former prime minister, could pick the role he wants to play in politics and diplomacy.

“Regardless of the job Shimon picks, it is crystal clear that he will be a full and central partner in the diplomatic process,” Sharon said during a news conference promoting his new Kadima Party.

Peres said he had left the Labor Party, his political home for decades, because of the need to help Sharon push for peace with the Palestinians.

Labor leader slips in poll

Jerusalem (jta) | Labor Party chief Amir Peretz’s chances of winning the upcoming Israeli general election are diminishing, a poll found.

According to this week’s survey in Ma’ariv, Labor under Peretz is expected to take 24 of the Knesset’s 120 seats in the March 28 election.

Two weeks ago, the prediction was 28 seats. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s Kadima Party is the front-runner with a predicted 39 seats, and the Likud Party is in third place.

Tzachi Hanegbi, the acting head of Israel’s Likud Party, quit that party this week to join Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Hanegbi, a Cabinet minister, took the Likud’s helm after Sharon quit last month to set up the Kadima Party.

Pope presses Abbas on Mideast peace talks

vatican city (ap) | Pope Benedict XVI met with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas last week and stressed the need to integrate all Palestinians in the peace process, the Vatican said — an apparent reference to extremist elements blamed for recent violence.

Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the Vatican spokesman, declined to elaborate on what the pontiff said the Palestinians must do to bring about peace.

Abbas said that the pontiff with his “symbolic weight … can carry out a decisive role for peace” between Israel and the Palestinians.

Israel passes euthanasia bill

jerusalem (jta) | Israel passed a law this week allowing the terminally ill to cut off life support.

The bill, which was held up by years of debate among religious legislators, was approved by the Knesset on Tuesday, Dec. 6.

Under the new law, patients deemed to have six months or less to live can opt to have a special timer installed on their life-support systems, whose countdown system can be continually extended or not.

Ethicists noted that since the mechanism gives the patient the option of not resuming life-support, it’s different from active euthanasia and therefore consistent with Jewish morality.

Militants return to Gaza

jerusalem (jta) | As many as 15 Palestinian militants have returned to the Gaza Strip, Israeli officials contend.

The Hamas members, including one of the terrorist organization’s founders, have been allowed to enter Gaza through the Rafah crossing, which was opened under Palestinian Authority control last week.

Authority security officials admit some wanted men have entered Gaza, but said anyone with a Palestinian identification card can enter. They called Israel’s security requirements “unrealistic.”

Call him Katif

jerusalem (jta) | An Israeli legally changed his name to commemorate the former Gaza Strip settlements.

Yitzhar Sharabi, a Tel Aviv student active in right-wing politics, recently had the Interior Ministry change his surname to Katif in reference to the main Gaza settlement bloc of Gush Katif, which was evacuated in August.