Shorts: Mideast

Likud leads in polls despite allegations

Benjamin Netanyahu was hurt by recent allegations that he misspent public funds, but his Likud Party is still Israel’s most popular, a poll found.

According to a survey in Ma’ariv on March 18, 60.2 percent of Israelis think less of the former prime minister after a weekend television exposé revealed that he spent more than $30,000 on a luxury weeklong 2006 trip to London while he worked to defend Israel during the Second Lebanon War.

Nearly 36 percent of Israelis believe the controversy caused little or no harm to Netanyahu’s image, while the remaining respondents offered no answer on the issue.

Netanyahu, the opposition leader, has denied wrongdoing and accused political rivals of smearing him in a bid to prevent his return to top office.

But the Ma’ariv poll found that if general elections were held today, Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud would win. — jta

Livni criticizes settlement project

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni echoed U.S. criticism last week of Israel’s plan to build new homes in a settlement near Jerusalem.

In a speech at Harvard University, she discussed the Givat Ze’ev 750-home construction project, which has drawn charges from the Palestinian Authority that the Olmert government is not serious about U.S.-sponsored peace negotiations.

“Basically I don’t think that it helps,” Livni said. “We decided to stop settlement activities.” — jta

‘Israel’ for settlers on Facebook

A group of Israelis persuaded Facebook to list their West Bank hometowns as being in Israel rather than in Palestine.

Residents of Ariel, Ma’ale Adumim and other large West Bank settlements, angered when Facebook switched their country of residence to Palestine, lodged protests with the social networking Web site. They noted that they are citizens of Israel and no Palestinian state exists.

Facebook said it will allow users who live in major settlements to list their country as Israel.

In response, a group of pro-Palestinian Facebook users threatened to cancel their accounts if the “Palestine” rubric is removed. — jta

Shin Bet spies recruiting online

The Shin Bet’s Web site now features recruitment blogs by four hi-tech spies.

Israel’s domestic intelligence agency shed some of its shadowy mystique three years ago when it went online at in a bid to draw new applicants.

This week the site launched a new page,, on which four Shin Bet computing experts discuss what they like about their jobs.

The Hebrew-language text is sparing on details, with only silhouette portraits of the authors, whose names are withheld. — jta

Remains found from First Temple era

The remains of a building from the First Temple period have been uncovered in an archeological excavation just west of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, the Israel Antiquities Authority said March 16.

The discovery marks the first time in the history of Jerusalem archeological research that building remains from the First Temple period have been exposed so close to the Temple Mount.

No archeological excavations have ever been carried out on the Temple Mount due to religious sensitivities. —

UJC gives Ashkelon $14 million in aid

The United Jewish Communities has committed $14 million to the besieged residents of Ashkelon and the western Negev.

Palestinian terrorists from the Gaza Strip have fired longer-range rockets recently into the area.

The UJC funds will support Passover respites for the city’s children, bomb shelter renovations, security at senior-care facilities and programs to help deal with trauma. — jta

Rabbi: Hiring Arabs against the Torah

Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, an ultra-Orthodox Torah scholar, said this week that it is forbidden to hire Arabs under Jewish law because of the threat of endangering lives.

Administrators meeting in Kanievsky’s home had asked for his guidance in employment practices following the attack on Jerusalem’s Mercaz Harav yeshiva.

Kanievsky also said it was preferable to give jobs to Jews in order to provide them with a livelihood, unless the difference in cost was prohibitive. — jta