Shorts: Mideast

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First kibbutz going private

Israel’s first-ever kibbutz has decided to embrace a more capitalistic wage system.

In a move that Israeli pundits said sounded the death knell for the traditional kibbutz lifestyle, Deganya-A in the Galilee voted this week to allow its members to earn and keep private salaries rather than continuing to funnel all income to a communal pool.

Veteran members of the kibbutz, which was founded in 1910, said the move would help preserve the community by keeping it in line with current Israeli mores. Just a handful of today’s kibbutzes still abide by the socialist ideology in which they were conceived. — jta

Hamas condemns Jerusalem dig

The Hamas-dominated Palestinian Legislative Council in Ramallah passed a resolution this week condemning a controversial Israeli dig in Jerusalem.

The PLC, which is based in Ramallah, said the Arab world should respond by severing diplomatic ties with the Jewish state. Israel has peace deals with Egypt and Jordan, and lower-level relations with several other Arab countries.

While there has been criticism of Israel’s recent excavations near the Temple Mount — which are taking place outside the mount and, Israeli officials say, do not threaten the Muslim shrines — there has been no sign of political ramifications for Israel.

However, a U.N. anti-racism panel will question Israel over the dig in Jerusalem’s Old City. The panel questioned Israel’s dedication to protecting sites sacred to religions other than Judaism. — jta

Pollard supporters picket Rice

Campaigners for Jonathan Pollard’s release tried to picket Condoleezza Rice during her Jerusalem visit. Israeli police said three Pollard supporters were arrested Monday, Feb. 19 after they slipped past security around the U.S. secretary of state’s hotel and tried to stage a protest outside her room demanding that the jailed spy be freed.

Rice, who was visiting Jerusalem to oversee a summit between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, wasn’t believed to be in her room at the time.

Pollard, a Jew and U.S. Navy analyst, was arrested in 1985 and sentenced to life imprisonment for passing classified information to Israel. His supporters argue that his sentence was too harsh. — jta

New park may be named for Sharon

Israeli officials proposed naming a park built on an enormous converted garbage dump after Ariel Sharon.

Environment Minister Gideon Ezra and Cabinet Secretary Yisrael Maimon said in a letter leaked to the press that a park currently under construction on the 110-acre-wide, 200-foot-high Hariya landfill should carry the name of the ailing former premier.

“There can be nothing more suitable than to name the park after the prime minister who promoted its establishment,” the letter read. “His love of the land — its vistas, flora and fauna — was deep and true.”

Renaming the Hariya conversion project, which is currently known as Ayalon Park, would require Cabinet ratification. — jta

Jerusalem opens alcohol-free bar

An alcohol-free bar opened in central Jerusalem with municipal funding. Lugar opened Monday, Feb. 19, with a teetotaling format geared toward minors.

The initiative was conceived by Mayor Uri Lupolianski following growing evidence that youths in Jerusalem, including many foreigners on study visits, were increasingly abusing lax controls on alcohol consumption in public places. Lupolianski said he hoped other cities in Israel would emulate the Lugar pilot. — jta

Hezbollah admits arms buildup

Hezbollah admitted it has resumed stockpiling arms on Lebanon’s frontier with Israel.

“We can reveal that we have arms, and of all kinds,” Hezbollah chief Sheik Hassan Nasrallah said last weeek in a speech. “We move them covertly, and Israel does not know about it.”

Nasrallah said the smuggling would continue in defiance of Israel, foreign peacekeepers and the Lebanese army, which deployed in southern Lebanon as part of the U.N.-brokered cease-fire that ended last year’s war. “We are not a burden to the Lebanese army but rather a supporter of its mission,” Nasrallah said. — jta

Israel shuffles top cops

Israel’s national police chief, Inspector-General Moshe Karadi, has resigned after being accused of dereliction of duty by a state-appointed commission investigating alleged ties between senior police personnel and an Israeli crime family.

Karadi denied wrongdoing but said Sunday, Feb. 18 that he was stepping down to preserve police honor. Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter named Ya’acov Ganot, head of the Prisons Service, as Karadi’s replacement, but the appointment was challenged immediately by watchdog groups that suggested impropriety due to graft accusations against Ganot in 1997. Ganot was cleared for lack of evidence.

While Dichter described the police reshuffling as a chance to pursue reform in Israeli law enforcement, media commentators noted that it comes on the heels of several high-level resignations and scandals, and could fuel public unhappiness with national leaders. — jta

Saudi prince eyes Tel Aviv for hotel

A Saudi prince reportedly is interested in building a Tel Aviv beachfront hotel.

Yediot Achronot reported that Saudi Prince Al-Walid Bin Talal has submitted plans to the Tel Aviv Municipality for an eight-story, 150-room hotel. The project reportedly would involve two architects, one Saudi and one Israeli, as well as funding from the Abulafias, a prominent Jaffa Arab clan.

The Tel Aviv Municipality had no immediate comment. — jta