Shorts: Mideast

Yigal Amir demands conjugal visits

jerusalem (jps) | Yigal Amir petitioned the Tel Aviv District Court to allow conjugal visits with his wife, Larissa Trimbobler, after claiming that the fertility treatments that had been approved earlier this year were endangering her health.

Amir, who is serving a life sentence for the assassination of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, claimed that the state and Prison Services were ignoring humanitarian concerns by refusing to allow the visits, forcing Trimbobler to use painful and dangerous medical procedures instead.

In March, Israel Prison Services officially gave permission to Amir to artificially inseminate his wife; however, conjugal visits were still forbidden due to security concerns.

Katsav’s vacancy creates speculation

jerusalem (jta) | A former Israeli consul general in New York announced her bid to become the Jewish state’s first female president.

Colette Avital, now a senior Labor Party member, said Tuesday, Oct. 17 she would like to succeed embattled President Moshe Katsav.

The following day Prime Minister Ehud Olmert suggested that Vice Premier Shimon Peres would be an excellent candidate for the presidency. Olmert’s statement came shortly after he angered Peres by saying that his ideal presidential candidate would be someone from outside the political arena.

Olmert’s associates said the statement did not necessarily mean that he would ask Peres to run as Kadima’s presidential candidate and Peres’s aides would not say whether he wanted the post.

Israel’s largely ceremonial president is chosen by a Knesset vote and serves for seven years. Katsav is scheduled to end his term in 2007, but is widely expected to resign early as he is facing possible prosecution on rape charges.

Sharansky throws in the towel

jerusalem (jta) | Natan Sharansky is quitting Israeli politics.

Sources close to the Soviet refusenik-turned-Likud lawmaker said last week he would step down from the Knesset. He is expected to take up a full-time position at the Shalem Center, a conservative Jerusalem think tank.

Sharansky was one of the best-known Jewish dissidents in the former Soviet Union.

Having spent many years in KGB custody, he was released in 1986 and moved to Israel. He entered politics in 1996 with the new immigrant party Yisrael B’Aliyah, eventually serving as a Cabinet minister. He resigned from Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s government last year to protest the Gaza Strip withdrawal.

Netanyahu proves popular in polls

jerusalem (jta) | Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party would win if elections were held in Israel today, a survey found.

A Yediot Achronot poll published Oct. 12 found that the hawkish Likud would take enough votes to win 22 of the Knesset’s 120 seats, almost twice its current showing.

Avigdor Lieberman’s right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu Party would place second with 20 seats, and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s centrist Kadima Party would come in third with 15 seats, almost half of its current 29.

Olmert’s popularity has plunged in the wake of the Lebanon war, stirring speculation that he could be forced into early elections. The Yediot poll found that Kadima’s main coalition partner, the center-left Labor Party, would get only 15 Knesset seats if elections were held today. It currently holds 19.

Peres invites Assad to Jerusalem

jerusalem (jta) | Israel’s vice premier Shimon Peres suggested Syria’s president visit Israel to show he is serious about seeking peace.

Peres alluded to recent peace overtures by Bashar Assad in an interview Oct. 11. “He needs to say, ‘I want to speak with Israel about peace. That is it. I want to meet,'” Peres told Israel Radio. “If Assad said, ‘I’m coming to the Knesset,’ would anyone stop him?”

Assad has called for new negotiations with Israel since the end of the Lebanon war, saying Israel must agree to return the Golan Heights and hinting that he could resort to war if diplomacy fails. Israel has rebuffed the calls, saying it wouldn’t accept preconditions for talks and that Assad should show his sincerity by ending his support for Hezbollah and Palestinian terrorist groups.

Protesters link pride parade to recent war

jerusalem ( | Thousands of fervently religious Jews protested in Jerusalem Wednesday, Oct. 18 against the 2006 Gay Pride Parade scheduled to take place Nov. 10.

The parade, originally slated for last summer, was canceled due to the Lebanon war, but gay rights groups acted to set another date for the parade since the fighting has ceased.

Many of the protesters claimed that the recent war in Lebanon broke out as a result of the parade.

The Open House organization said the renewed campaign against the parade will not deter community members or prevent the parade from taking place.