Shorts: Mideast

Sarkozy to Israel: Share Jerusalem

France is ready to help Israel achieve peace but wants concessions toward the Palestinians, French President Nicolas Sarkozy told the Knesset on June 23.

Sarkozy, on his first visit to Israel as president, gave an impassioned speech in the Knesset on June 23 emphasizing the depth of his government’s — and his own — affinity for the Jewish state. But Sarkozy also said a peaceful Palestinian state cannot be established unless Israel makes way in the West Bank.

“There can be no peace without a halt to settlement activity,” he said, adding that Jerusalem should be a shared Israeli-Palestinian capital. — jta

Audit: Israel’s survivors cheated out of reparations

Holocaust survivors in Israel have received less than two-thirds of the German reparations allotted to them, an audit found.

A report issued June 22 by a commission of inquiry under retired Israeli Supreme Court Justice Dalia Dorner found that of the Holocaust reparations paid to Israel under a 1952 deal with Germany, only about 62 percent found their way to survivors living in the Jewish state.

On average, each survivor was underpaid $400,000 to $700,000 in total. The government promised to address the shortfall — jta

Olmert: Time to review Israel-diaspora ties

Israel, facing reductions in immigration, must review its ties to the diaspora, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said this week in Jerusalem.

“For the first time since the destruction of the Second Temple, a majority of the world’s Jews live in Israel. We must understand that it is possible that the period of massive immigration to Israel is nearing an end,” the Israeli prime minister told the Jewish Agency Board of Governors meeting on June 22.

Despite vigorous efforts by governmental and quasi-governmental agencies to encourage aliyah, Israel is seeing consistent drop-offs in the number of new citizens arriving from abroad. The phenomenon comes while some diaspora communities play down the imperative of immigrating to Israel.

Olmert added: “We must stop talking in terms of big brother and little brother and instead speak in terms of two brothers marching hand-in-hand and supporting each other so that the Jewish people — both in Israel and around the world — has a better future.” — jta

Baseball officials deny AP story about new season

Sources at the Israel Association of Baseball said last week that they have not been granted permission to hold a second season, despite the emergence of reports that the Israel Baseball League has been resurrected by a new management team.

In a story carried by the Associated Press, it was announced that the IBL “would begin play on July 27, about a month behind its original schedule and in abbreviated form.”

The IAB, which is authorized by the Ministry of Science, Culture and Sports to grant licenses for professional baseball in Israel, said the 2008 season is still on hold. —

JNF to construct Sderot playground

The Jewish National Fund announced plans recently to build Israel’s largest indoor playground in Sderot.

The $5 million project, a 21,000-square-foot building to be located “in a secure industrial zone,” will feature recreational and exercise facilities for children 16 and under.

The facility will include jungle gym equipment, a soccer field, a volleyball court, a rock climbing wall, a snack area and gift shop, a movie and television area, a disco, swing sets and a merry-go-round. —