Mideast shorts

Israel drafts interim deal for survivors

Israeli survivors of Nazi concentration camps and wartime ghettoes are to receive increased state subsidies under an interim deal forged by Ehud Olmert.

Sunday, Aug. 19 marked the deadline set by the Israeli prime minister for settling the demands of Holocaust survivors who had protested a government plan to grant them just $20 a month in subsidies. Under a draft deal, those survivors who were in concentration camps or ghettoes will now receive between $200 and $300 a month in addition to standard welfare payouts for the elderly.

A resolution is still pending for the majority of Israel’s 250,000 survivors who were dispossessed by Nazi Germany’s onslaught but never incarcerated. Israeli officials suggested they might attempt a compromise whereby state funding for a central trust catering to the needs of Holocaust survivors would be significantly raised. — jta

B-ball star Tal Brody to run for Knesset

Former Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball star Tal Brody is expected to run for the Knesset on behalf of the Likud, according to Yediot Ahronot.

The legendary shooting guard was recently asked by Benjamin Netanyahu to join the party. Brody told Netanyahu he would be willing to enter politics to advocate issues close to his heart, namely sports, aliyah and social issues. “I am about to retire, and if [the country] is looking for people who can contribute instead of retiring or going to the beach, then I must oblige,” he said. “I do not intend to intervene in political matters that I am unfamiliar with.”

After retiring from basketball, Brody focused on volunteer work, and currently heads the Spirit of Israel organization, which is dedicated to raising funds for “vital human needs, as specified by the Jewish Agency and Keren Hayesod.” — ynetnews.com

Israel gets 25 percent increase in U.S. aid

Israel has secured a windfall in U.S. military aid. U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns and Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer clinched a deal Aug. 16 whereby the Jewish state would receive $30 billion in defense grants over the coming decade, a 25 percent increase.

Burns made clear that the Bush administration sees the aid as a means of protecting Israel against a roster of regional foes topped by Iran, even as the Olmert government seeks ways of reviving peace talks with the Palestinians.

Burns said the package was part of efforts to contain a “resurgent Iran” whose nuclear program has set off jitters not only in Israel, but also among Sunni Arabs.

Israel currently receives $2.4 billion annually in military grants from the United States, 26.3 percent of which it may spend on its domestic defense industries. Under the new deal, the payouts will gradually increase until they level out at $3.1 billion in 2012. Olmert’s office said he had spoken to Burns to convey Israel’s thanks. — jta

Israel suffering high tech ‘brain drain’

As a result of government cuts to research and development, more than 25,000 Israeli high tech workers have moved to the United States within the last seven years, said Shraga Brosh, president of the Manufacturers Association of Israel. These same budget cuts also have resulted in $10 billion in loss export revenue, he said.

According to Brosh, Israel is suffering from a “brain-drain” that is costing the country billions of shekels each year. He added that since 2000, government cuts have forced high-tech companies to move their activities overseas, where they receive better benefits and opportunities.

A study conducted by the Economic Department of the Manufacturers Association of Israel found that government support of the Israeli business sector currently stands at 5 percent, as opposed to 20 percent between 1990 and 1996. The investment places Israel 17th in the developed world. — jps

Katsav receives security stipend

Former Israeli President Moshe Katsav, who left office in disgrace after admitting to sexual misconduct charges, was granted $250,000 a year for bodyguards and other security measures, according to a parliament spokesman.

The Knesset’s finance committee approved the outlay on Aug. 16, according to spokesman Giora Pordes.

“This is a travesty. He shouldn’t be rewarded for what he did,” lawmaker Zehava Galon said.

Katsav stepped down in late June after four former female employees accused him of a series of sex crimes, including rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment. Facing indictment, he agreed to a plea bargain that allowed him to escape the most serious charges and avoid jail. — ap

Go to shul — for your health

A Hebrew University of Jerusalem study suggests that people who attend synagogue regularly live longer than those who do not. Professor Howard Litwin of the university’s Israel Gerontological Data Center studied 5,000 Israelis aged 60 or older over a seven-year period. His findings, published in the European Journal of Aging, showed a death rate 75 percent higher among those who did not attend synagogue regularly. Litwin suggested several reasons: Faith may help people survive psychological pressure better; observant Jews walk to shul on Shabbat and a supportive community helps people live longer. — jps