Shorts: Mideast

Four mothers for 40 percent of Ashkenazis?

haifa (ap) | Some 3.5 million of today’s Ashkenazi Jews — about 40 percent of the total Ashkenazi population — are descended from just four women, a genetic study indicates.

Those women apparently lived somewhere in Europe within the last 2,000 years, but not necessarily in the same place or even the same century, said lead author Dr. Doron Behar of the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, Israel.

He did the work with Karl Skorecki of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and others.

Each woman left a genetic signature that shows up in their descendants today, Behar and his colleagues said in a report published online by the American Journal of Human Genetics.

No Prisoner of Zion status for Pollard

jerusalem (jta) | Israel’s High Court of Justice rejected Jonathan Pollard’s petition to name him a Prisoner of Zion.

The court ruled Monday, Jan. 16 that Pollard, a former U.S. Navy analyst serving a life sentence for spying for Israel, does not meet the criteria for the designation, mainly because the United States is not considered a country hostile to Israel or to Jews.

Pollard and his supporters had hoped the designation would help efforts to get him released.

103 members of Congress went to Israel in 2005

jerusalem (jta) | More than 100 members of the United States Congress visited Israel in 2005.

In his summary to the Israeli Cabinet last week on relations with the United States, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said 23 U.S. senators and 80 members of the House of Representatives visited Israel last year, some multiple times. (Tzipi Livni replaced Shalom this week as foreign minister, after Shalom and three other Likud Cabinet ministers resigned.)

“The legislative branch has maintained its unique and long-standing status as a stronghold of support for Israel, transcending party lines and Congressional houses,” he said.

Poll: Israelis back Palestinian state, more withdrawals

jerusalem (jta) | Sixty percent of Israelis who do not believe the Palestinians have accepted Israel’s existence still favor a Palestinian state, according to a new poll.

Some 61 percent of respondents to the survey, from the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research at Tel Aviv University, back negotiations if a stable Palestinian government is formed after the Jan. 25 Palestinian elections, with 16 percent of respondents backing the status quo and 8.5 percent backing additional unilateral withdrawals from the West Bank.

If no stable government is formed, then 35 percent prefer keeping the status quo, 31 percent support returning to negotiations and 16 percent favor unilateral withdrawal.

Shimon Peres quits Knesset

jerusalem (jps) | Former Prime Minister Shimon Peres resigned from the Knesset this week, a record 47 years after the 82-year-old politician was elected to the parliament for the first time in 1959 at the ripe young age of 36.

Peres had no choice but to leave the Knesset or risk not being able to return to the next Knesset with Kadima, due to a law that prevents parliamentarians who switched parties from running for Knesset with their new party.

Peres, who faxed his resignation letter from the United States where he was meeting with Condoleezza Rice, wrote in the letter that he was returning the mandate he received from Labor back to that party.

The same law does not apply to former Likud members who joined Kadima.

Since one-third of the Likud MKs bolted for Kadima, the party is considered to have split, and those who left the mother party are eligible for ministerial posts.

2005 tourism boosts Israeli economy

jerusalem (jps) | Income from tourism reached $4.7 billion in 2005.

The Tourism Ministry said this week that the 11 percent increase from the previous year was spurred by the sharp rise in foreign visitors.

In presenting an overview for the year, the ministry said over 1.9 million foreign tourists arrived in Israel in 2005, contributing $2.5 billion to the country’s coffers, while local tourism brought in $2.2 billion.

“The additional 400,000 tourists that arrived last year over 2004 created 16,000 jobs and contributed $800 million to the economy,” the ministry said in a statement.