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Netanyahu says Syria, Iran and peace process on Obama agenda in Israel

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Obama will focus on Iran, Syria and advancing the peace process when Obama visits Israel.

Netanyahu at the beginning of the weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday said he and Obama had “discussed the visit” and agreed on the subjects on which they will focus during their talks: Iran’s attempt to arm itself with nuclear weapons; the unstable situation in Syria and its consequences for the security of the region; and efforts to advance the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.

The Israel leader said Obama’s planned visit to Israel next month is “welcome.”

“This will be a very important visit that will emphasize the strong alliance between Israel and the U.S.,” Netanyahu said. “I think that the importance of this alliance stands out even more given what is happening, in light of the great revolutions, the earthquakes that are taking place around us throughout the Middle East, from the Atlantic Ocean and North Africa and eastwards to Iran.”

The seriousness of the issues to be discussed “require as broad a national unity as possible, the harnessing of all forces in the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said, “and this is the nature of our efforts at this time to form a government.”

Netanyahu was charged a week ago with forming a government coalition following the Jan. 22 elections and has up to six weeks to present a government to the Knesset for approval.

Obama said last week that he will visit Israel as part of a regional visit.

Israeli troops dismantle fifth Palestinian West Bank outpost

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israeli troops evacuated Palestinian and foreign activists attempting to erect a Palestinian outpost in the West Bank.

On Saturday, the soldiers dismantled a tent and removed the equipment brought to the site near Mount Hebron by some 30 activists, according to reports.

Canaan, as the activists called the outpost, was the fifth Palestinian outpost in the West Bank to be dismantled in the last five weeks.

Suha Arafat says PLO chief forced her to stay with him

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Suha Arafat, the widow of Yasser Arafat, said she tried to leave him “hundreds of times, but he wouldn’t let me.”

Arafat also told the Turkish newspaper Sabah that she would not have married the Palestinian leader had she known how difficult life with him would be.

“My life with him was hard. However, my life without him is even harder,” she said. “It is as if I am walking in a field covered with mines and I have no idea when one will go off. We were married for 22 years; however it felt like it was 50.

“If I had known what I would have to go through; I definitely would not have gotten married. I was with a great leader, but I was also all alone.”

Yasser Arafat died in November 2004. His body was recently exhumed from its crypt in Ramallah in the West Bank at the request of his wife to test his remains for traces of radioactive poisoning.

Arafat, who was 33 years younger than her husband with whom she eloped on her 27th birthday, converted from Christianity to Islam. She said she believed her marriage to Yasser Arafat was her “fate,” a concept Arafat said that she is focused on her 17-year-old daughter, Zahwa, and that she is not interested in remarrying.

After hate speech charges, Jerusalem soccer club set on fire

(JTA)—Arsonists set fire to the trophy room of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team after the indictment of four fans for anti-Muslim hate speech.

Assaf Evers, a fire department spokesman, was quoted by Ynet as saying that the fire was set deliberately early last Friday morning.

No one was hurt in the fire, but the trophy room and the office of property caretaker Meir Harush were heavily damaged.

“The history of Beitar has gone up in flames,” Harush told the news site NRG.

The attack followed the indictments of four Beitar Jerusalem fans suspected of incitement against Arabs and Muslims.

On Jan. 26, the indictment said, the four men, all in their 20s, called “death to the Arabs” while watching a game from the bleachers. One of them also was charged with shouting “Burn their village.”

Spanish police arrest alleged jihadist planning attacks

(JTA)—Spanish police arrested a “self-radicalized” Moroccan they suspect of planning terrorist attacks in Spain and elsewhere in Europe.

Mohamed Echaabi, 22, was arrested on Feb. 7 in Valencia, police announced the following day.

Echaabi reportedly traveled to the Gaza Strip in 2011 planning to carry out a suicide bomb attack against Israel, according to CNN. 

Described as a lone wolf, Echaabi was “self-radicalized” using the Internet and was recruited by terrorist networks, much like Merah, Spanish police said in a statement, according to AFP.

He intended to commit terrorist acts in Spain and other European countries, police said.

Connecticut court affirms rabbinical prenup defending agunot

(JTA)—In a precedent-setting ruling, a Connecticut judge determined that a religious prenuptial contract is enforceable in a secular court.

The Forward reported last Friday that Judge Mark Gould of the Connecticut Superior Court determined that enforcing the contract is no different than enforcing a secular contract.

Created by the Beth Din of America rabbinical court in the 1990s, the contract is aimed at avoiding situations in which a husband refuses to give his wife a religious divorce, or get. Such refusal prevents wives from remarrying in a religious ceremony.

The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by Rachel Light, 34, in July against her husband, Eban Light, from whom she is separated. Rachel Light asked the court to enforce the contract’s requirement that her husband pay $100 for each day he refused to grant the divorce.

The Forward quoted observers as saying that Gould was the first to enforce the Beth Din contract in a secular court.

Rachel Light may be eligible to demand more than $100,000 from her husband, from whom she separated three years ago, according to the Forward.

New doubts cast on Holocaust account of Nazi child mascot

SYDNEY (JTA)—A war crimes investigator cast fresh doubts on the account of a purported Holocaust survivor who says he was a child mascot for Nazis.

Efraim Zuroff, the director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, wrote to officials last week at the New York-based Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany contesting the miraculous survival story of Alex Kurzem, an elderly man who now lives in Melbourne.

“Everything in this case appears to point to a scam, but only a comprehensive investigation can finally determine whether Kurzem is indeed a Holocaust survivor, which I very much doubt, or an impostor whose main motivation was to gain fortune and fame by distorting his unusual wartime experiences,” Zuroff wrote.

Zuroff’s intervention came just after the Claims Conference, which approved reparations payments for Kurzem in 1999, handed over the case to its ombudsman, Shmuel Hollander.

Hollander is now sifting through a dossier of claims, including those by two American investigators, Barry Resnick and Colleen Fitzpatrick, who have doubted Kurzem’s story since seeing a feature on him on the CBS news magazine “60 Minutes” in 2009.

Kurzem claims he witnessed his mother, brother and sister being massacred in 1941 in Koidanov, or Dzyarzhynsk, in Belarus before escaping and being adopted by a Latvian SS guard who gave him a new name (Uldis Kurzemnieks) and made him his battalion’s mascot.

The Americans do not dispute he was a child mascot, but they do contest his claim that he witnessed his family being murdered and that he was born a Jew.

Kurzem, who has vehemently denied the allegations, told his story in a best-selling book and an award-winning film, both titled “The Mascot” and written by his now deceased son, Mark.

The Claims Conference, which recently was embroiled in a nearly $60 million fraud, said it was treating the investigation with the “utmost of seriousness.”


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