Shorts: Mideast

Kadima, Labor sign new coalition deal

Labor will be the senior partner in a new Israeli government, according to a draft coalition agreement signed Oct. 12 by Kadima and Labor representatives.

Israeli media are reporting that the agreement will serve as the basis for continuing talks between the ruling Kadima and Labor. The agreement will make Labor the senior partner in the new government, with Labor’s chairman, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, serving as senior deputy prime minister and playing a significant role in negotiations with Syria.

Barak reportedly is concerned that the Shas party will not join a government led by Prime Minister-designate Tzipi Livni, and that Labor will be stuck in a government with a narrow ruling coalition, hamstringing the party.

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, the chairman of the Likud Party, met Oct. 13 with Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual leader of Shas, to encourage him not to join a Livni government. — jta

Libya pays into account for victims of terror

Libya deposited a “substantial amount” into an account for victims of Libyan terrorism, U.S. officials said.

The account was set up to settle lawsuits brought against the Libyan government over the last two decades and to pave the way to full normalization between Libya and the U.S. The settlement calls for the Libyans to pay $1.5 billion to American victims of its terrorism and for the United States to pay $300 million to Libyan victims of its raids.

U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) has placed a hold on confirming a U.S. ambassador to Tripoli until the Libyans pay settlements to victims of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Lautenberg authored the law that allows victims and victims’ families to sue state sponsors of terrorism; the law has also enabled suits against Hamas and the Palestine Liberation Organization. — jta

Israeli universities say they can’t open on schedule

Cutbacks will prevent Israeli universities from opening for the new academic year, according to the university heads.

With more money slashed from the Finance Ministry’s budget for higher education, the universities will not open Nov. 2 as scheduled, representatives of the country’s universities told an emergency session of the Knesset Education Committee on Oct. 12.

“After seven years of continual cutbacks we have reduced the number of courses, we have raised the number of students in classes and we have banished an entire generation of lecturers overseas,” Rivka Carmi, president of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, told the committee.

The announcement was made just a week after the Hebrew University of Jerusalem was ranked 93rd in the world by the Times Higher Education survey, jumping 35 places since last year. — jta

Synagogue near Temple Mount reopened

A synagogue near the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Muslim Quarter was reopened.

The Ohel Yitzhak Synagogue was abandoned in 1938 by a group of haredi Jews called the Shomrei Hachomot, or Guardians of the Walls, in the face of Arab violence.

American philanthropists Irving and Cherna Moskowitz bought the property rights to the synagogue, which is located about 100 yards from the Temple Mount, and funded the refurbishing. The Temple Mount, home also to the Dome of the Rock mosque, has been at the center of tension between Jews and Arabs, particularly in the past two decades. — jta