Shorts: Mideast

Biden, Livni talk Iran, peace

Vice president-elect Joe Biden discussed Middle East peace and Iran in a phone call with Tzipi Livni. Biden spoke to the Israeli foreign minister after last week’s elections, according to a statement released by Livni’s office.

Biden, a senator from Delaware for 35 years, is expected to take a lead foreign policy role in the Obama administration. He is well known to Israeli leaders, having made his first visit to the region just before the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

“Livni thanked Biden for his long-standing friendship and support of Israel, and said that she looks forward to continuing to work with him,” the statement said. “They agreed to work together to advance the shared interests and values of Israel and the United States in the Middle East.”

The statement also emphasized concerns about Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program and control of the Gaza Strip by Hamas terrorists. — jta

Olmert, Obama discuss peace process

Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert spoke by telephone Nov. 6 with president-elect Barack Obama, and congratulated him on his historic election.

The prime minister’s office said Olmert and Obama discussed the longstanding friendship between the United States and Israel, and the importance of preserving and strengthening the existing relationship.

The prime minister went on to say that the ties between Jerusalem and Washington were based on shared values and interests, and that this was evident in the close cooperation between the two countries. —

Knesset approves divorce law

Israeli lawmakers passed a law preventing the extortion of women by husbands who refuse to grant a divorce.

The law will allow the division of property between a husband and wife before the divorce is granted under certain conditions. Recalcitrant husbands often use extortion to obtain all or the majority of joint property before agreeing to a divorce.

A woman cannot remarry without a get, or religious bill of divorce. Fifty-eight members of Knesset supported the bill, up for its third and final reading on Nov. 5. Twenty-one lawmakers, mostly members of the ultra-Orthodox parties, voted against the measure. — jta

Peace Now chief to run for Knesset

The head of Peace Now, an Israeli pacifist organization, will run for the Knesset. Left-wing activist Yariv Oppenheimer announced last week that he will seek a spot on the Labor Party’s list for the general election, set for Feb. 10.

Threats against Oppenheimer have appeared on Web sites and in pamphlets in recent months, allegedly made by far-right activists. — jta

Meridor announces return to politics

Former Israeli government minister Dan Meridor announced he will be resuming his political activities within the Likud Party.

Meridor, a former justice and finance minister who served as a Knesset member between 1984 and 2003, told reporters he would be seeking a slot on the party’s next Knesset roster.

“I’ve seen what has been happening over the past few years,” Meridor told reporters. “The Kadima government failed miserably on two fronts, and each of these failures should have sent it packing. The first, and worse of the two, was the way the second Lebanon war was handled. The second failure was the unprecedented attack on the judicial system.”

Meridor is the second of the party’s past-prominent figures to rejoin its ranks: Last week Dr. Benny Begin, a former Likud minister and son of a former prime minister who retired from politics in 1999, announced he was rejoining Likud. —

China, Israel sign stockexchange deal

The Shanghai and Tel Aviv stock exchanges signed a cooperative agreement.

The deal will strengthen ties between the two exchanges, and delegations from each country will visit the other in an effort to stimulate both markets, the Jerusalem Post reported.

“We are delighted to sign this cooperation agreement between our two exchanges,” said the CEO of the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, Ester Levanon. “We are committed to working closely with Shanghai over the coming years and to create opportunities to develop investment between our markets.” — jta