Shorts: Mideast

Israelis oppose full Golan withdrawal

Most Israelis would oppose handing over the Golan Heights in a peace deal with Syria, a survey found.

According to the poll in Maariv, 84 percent of Israelis would oppose any withdrawal from the Golan in exchange for peace with Syria or would support only a partial withdrawal. Only 10 percent of respondents said Israel should meet Syria’s bedrock demand for a full return of the Golan. Asked about recent peace overtures between Jerusalem and Damascus, 74 percent of respondents said they did not believe that Syrian President Bashar Assad wanted peace, while 17 percent believed him. Forty-seven percent of Israelis believe war could break out with Syria in the coming year and 37 percent do not. The poll had 500 respondents and a 4.5 percent margin of error. — jta

Israeli universities unite against boycott

Seven major Israeli universities are uniting to fight a major British trade union’s vote to consider a boycott of Israeli academics. The universities will launch an advertising campaign in the U.S. media, including The New York Times, to highlight the contributions of Israeli universities to society. The ad will note that Ben-Gurion University of the Negev prevented millions in Africa and China from going blind or even dying by creating a biological control for mosquitoes and black flies that cause malaria and river blindness. The boycott, proposed by the University and College Union, would prohibit Israeli scholars from working at British universities, presenting their work at international conferences, engaging in cross-border research and publishing their research in scholarly journals. — jta

92 percent of Palestinians are depressed

The number of Palestinians suffering from anxiety, caused by despair over violence between Hamas and Fatah gunmen, is more than double the level from November 2005, a survey published by Washington Times reveals. Ninety-two percent of Palestinians now suffer from depression-related anxiety, the poll found. Jamil Rabah, the director of Ramallah-based Near East Consulting, polled 801 Palestinians from the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem for the latest survey, which has a margin of error of 3.4 percent. The data constitute a jump of 15 percent compared with a poll conducted in October and more than double the level from November 2005. —

Critics call Burg anti-Zionist

A former Knesset speaker and Jewish Agency head described the Jewish state as a lost cause in a newspaper interview. Avraham Burg, an Orthodox left-winger who has spent most of his career in Israeli politics, is under fire for comments he made to Ha’artez. A member of the Likud Party went so far as to suggest Berg deserves to be Palestinian prime minister. Burg, 52, told Ha’aretz, “To define the state of Israel as a Jewish state is the key to its end. Judaism always prepared alternatives,” he said. “The strategic mistake of Zionism was to annul the alternatives. Israeliness has only body; it doesn’t have soul.” The interview was aimed at promoting a new Burg memoir titled “Defeating Hitler,” which Ha’aretz described as a book of “mourning for the loss of Israel.” Burg’s comments drew fire in the Knesset, which he quit in 2004 in protest of his Labor Party’s plan to join Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s coalition. Ottniel Shneller of the ruling Kadima Party called for Burg to refund all the state benefits he accrued during his years in public service, and even proposed a law that would bar avowed non-Zionists from being buried in Jerusalem’s Mount Zion cemetery, which is usually the resting place of Israeli notables. Gilad Ardan of the opposition Likud predicted that Burg’s remarks would serve the international campaign to delegitimize Israel. — jta

Israeli launches new spy satellite

Israel launched a new spy satellite, Ofek-7, from an Israeli air base Monday, June 9, and was due to begin relaying ground images from orbit by the weekend. The satellite will boost Israel’s efforts to track the nuclear program of Iran. According to defense officials, Ofek-7, which is manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries, will offer high-resolution photographs of the Middle East in almost all weather conditions. Ofek-7 will replace Ofek-5, which was put into orbit in 2002 and will soon be out of commission. In 2004, Israel tried to launch Ofek-6 but it crashed on takeoff. — jta

IAF fears brain drain

Israel’s Air Force reportedly is worried about the departure of pilots to the private sector. Yediot Achronot cited an internal IAF survey that found that just 45 percent of air crew personnel said they wanted to sign up for additional terms of military service, down from 60 percent in a previous study. Pilots increasingly are drawn to high-paying careers in Israel’s lucrative high-tech sector. — jta n