Shorts: Mideast

U.S. told Iran has nuclear device

jerusalem (jps) | Iran has developed and tested a trigger device for a nuclear bomb, Israeli agents stationed there have told the White House, according to a report published in the New Yorker magazine Monday, Nov. 20.

According to the report, written by investigative reporter Seymour M. Hersh, the White House received the information but did not hand it to the CIA.

The Israeli intelligence presented a stark contrast to recent CIA estimates on Iran’s nuclear program, which claimed that Tehran was far from attaining a nuclear bomb.

The article seemed to suggest that there was a difference of opinion between the CIA, the White House and the Pentagon with regards to the progress of Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

Israeli officials blast U.N. resolution on Gaza

jerusalem (jta) | Israel and the United Nations are at loggerheads once again.

A U.N. General Assembly resolution deploring civilian deaths in a recent Israeli artillery barrage on the Gaza Strip stirred ire in Jerusalem on Sunday, Nov. 19 as officials grappled with ways to stem Palestinian rocket salvoes.

“We have no doubt that it is the state of Israel which must respond to attacks on civilians,” Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told his Cabinet.

“But those who preach morality and roll their eyes have yet to see fit to initiate a resolution in condemnation of those who are shooting with the goal of hitting civilians as a long-range, systematic policy.”

Peretz, Abbas in talks

jerusalem ( | Israel’s defense minister drew fire for holding talks with the Palestinian Authority president.

Yediot Achronot reported Monday, Nov. 20 that Amir Peretz recently spoke by telephone with President Mahmoud Abbas about the escalating violence in the Gaza Strip, at the behest of an Israeli Arab lawmaker.

Political sources said Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who has held off on meeting Abbas, was angry at the disclosure.

Appearing before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Peretz said he spoke with Abbas only to make clear that Israel was firm in its demand that Palestinian rocket salvos from Gaza should cease immediately.

Knesset bids farewell to Sharansky

jerusalem (jps) | Knesset members honored the esteemed career of retiring member Natan Sharansky on Monday, Nov. 20 in ceremonies at the plenum and the Likud Faction meeting.

In his departing speech, Sharansky told the Knesset that he was “deeply worried” not only about the external threats to Israel’s security, but by the public’s waning faith in its leaders.

During the farewell ceremony, Sharansky was praised by several of Israel’s top political officials for the “overwhelming example” he has set as a Knesset Member.

Sharansky is leaving the Knesset to head the Shalem Center’s Institute for Strategic Studies.

Cluster bombs under scrutiny

jerusalem (jta) | Israel’s military chief suggested cluster bombs were used improperly during the Lebanon war.

Israel used thousands of the air force and artillery munitions against Hezbollah targets during the 34-day campaign, but leftover bomblets have caused civilian casualties since the war ended and drawn international censure.

Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, Israel’s military chief of staff, said Monday, Nov. 20 that an investigation is under way.

Market launches Israeli index 

jerusalem ( | Israel marked a historic moment in its economic history Monday, Nov. 20 as the 73 Israeli companies currently being traded on Nasdaq are counted in a new Israeli index. Canada is the only other foreign country whose companies are monitored by such an index.

The new index will include big names like Teva Pharmaceuticals, Check Point Software and ECI Telecom, and will allow Israeli companies greater exposure to both American and international investors.

Israeli Arab to repudiate Holocaust deniers

jerusalem (ap) | An Israeli Arab plans to argue against Holocaust denial at a conference in Iran.

Khaled Kasab Mahameed, who runs a Holocaust museum in Nazareth, said he had been invited to the Dec. 11 conference in Tehran called by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has denied the Holocaust.

Livni blasts Lebanese minister’s killing

jerusalem (jta) | Israel’s foreign minister called the assassination of an anti-Syrian Lebanese Cabinet minister “another example of the kind of neighborhood we live in.”

The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday, Nov. 21 quoted Tzipi Livni shortly after the assassination of Christian politician Pierre Gemayel, who was shot to death while driving in his car in Jdeideh, a Beirut suburb.

The Phalange Party politician belonged to a prominent family of anti-Syrian politicians, including his father, former President Amin Gemayel, and his uncle Bashir, a president-elect who was assassinated in 1982 before he took office.

The killing comes amid an already tense situation in Lebanese politics, with Hezbollah vying for increased government control since its summer war with Israel.

Israeli gay couples get limited recognition

jerusalem (jta) | Israel’s High Court of Justice ordered the government to recognize homosexuals who marry abroad.

The court ruled Tuesday, Nov. 21 in favor of petitions filed by five gay Israeli couples who had married in Canada and wanted to be registered as married by the Interior Ministry in Jerusalem.

As a result, the couples will face fewer bureaucratic hurdles regarding marital rights such as inheritance and tax breaks.

The ruling will not apply to same-sex unions performed in Israel, which are not recognized by the state.