Shorts: Mideast

PLO names Abbas as future president

In a show of support, the PLO has named Mahmoud Abbas the president of the future Palestinian state, giving the Palestinian Authority president the symbolic title held by the late Yasser Arafat.

Abbas, the leader of the West Bank, has had frequent clashes with Hamas, which took over the Gaza Strip in June 2007. On Nov. 23, the Damascus-based exiled leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, verbally attacked Abbas for placing advertisements in Israel’s major daily newspapers over the weekend stating that 57 Arab countries would make peace with Israel if it pulled out of the West Bank, Gaza, parts of Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

Also on Nov. 23, Abbas said he would call elections early next year unless Hamas continues reconciliation talks with Abbas’ Fatah movement. Abbas and Hamas are deadlocked over when Abbas’ term ends. Abbas says he has another year; Hamas says his term ends at the end of this year. — jta

Netanyahu hires two of Obama’s advisers

After designing a Web site similar to Barack Obama’s, Benjamin Netanyahu has now hired two of the president-elect’s advisers to help him in his election campaign.

Bill Knapp and Josh Isay have joined the Likud leader’s team in his bid to be elected prime minister in Feburary. The pair also has worked in recent years with President Clinton, Sen. Joe Lieberman and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Netanyahu has hired U.S. advisers in all of his election campaigns, the most famous one being Arthur Finkelstein. —

Neo-Nazis sentenced to prison in Israel

A Tel Aviv District Court handed down prison sentences Nov. 23 to eight members, all males aged 16 to 21, of a neo-Nazi gang based in central Israel; the longest sentence was seven years.

The cell members were arrested in September, accused of attacks on drug addicts, homosexuals, religious Jews wearing kippahs and foreign workers, among others.

“These are horrifying actions no Jews can accept.” Judge Zvi Gurfinkel wrote in his ruling. — jta

U.N. leader urges boycott of Israel

Israel filed a formal complaint with the United Nations Nov. 25 over statements made by U.N. General Assembly President, Father Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann of Nicaragua, who called for an international boycott of Israel after accusing it of being an apartheid regime.

D’Escoto said, “Although different, what is being done against the Palestinian people seems to me to be a version of the highest policy of apartheid.” He also described the failure to create a Palestinian state as “the single greatest failure in the history of the United Nations.”

Taking the podium at the U.N. Nov. 25, Israeli Ambassador Gabriella Shalev lamented the anti-Israel tone of the United Nations at a time when it is engaged in peace talks with the Palestinian Authority. She slammed the U.N. as being disconnected from reality, calling it an organization “that does not represent or reflect what is truly happening.”

The United Nations this week marked its annual International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people. The two-day event was scheduled to include exhibits on Palestinian suffering, films comparing Israel to the Nazi regime and the passing of six resolutions against Israel, including ones calling for the return of the Golan Heights to Syria and the division of Jerusalem. Until last year, Israel had usually refused to take part in the event. —