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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


Israeli Cabinet OKs exporting 40 percent of newly found natural gas

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel’s Cabinet approved a decision to export about 40 percent of its recently discovered reserves of natural gas while keeping a 25-year supply for the country’s consumption.

The Cabinet on Sunday agreed to retain 540 billion cubic meters for Israeli consumption, which should last for about 25 years. Revenue from the exported gas is expected to be about $60 billion.

“We will lower the cost of living in the electricity sector via the gas that will flow into the Israeli economy, and we will invest in the public welfare thanks to the profits that will go into the state coffers from gas exports,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said following the vote, which had three dissenters among the 22 Cabinet members.

“Any delay in implementing this decision will endanger the state’s ability to realize the benefits of our gas resources. Gas must not stay in the ground under layers of bureaucracy and populism.”

The 40 percent export figure is 13 percent less than what was proposed by the Tzemach Commission, which was created in 2011 to come up with a national policy on the natural resource.

Opposition leader Shelly Yachimovich, head of the Labor Party, and other opposition politicians have threatened to take opposition to the proposal to the Supreme Court, saying the public supported keeping the gas in the country.

Several large natural gas fields have been discovered in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Israel in recent years. There are projected to be about 950 billion cubic meters of gas in the natural gas fields.

2 Palestinians executed for passing information to Israel

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Two Palestinian men convicted of spying for Israel were executed by Hamas authorities in Gaza.

The men were hanged on Saturday after being found guilty of “collaboration with the Israeli occupation.”

In a statement, the Hamas Interior Ministry in Gaza said the men were executed “in accordance with our religion and Palestinian law,” according to The Jerusalem Post.

They were accused of passing information to Israel that included the location of military posts, government offices, homes and weapons factories.

Some 16 Palestinian Gazans have been executed after trial since 2007 for spying for Israel. Dozens more have been killed without trials, according to The Associated Press.

Gaza Palestinian singer wins ‘Arab Idol’

JERUSALEM (JTA)—A Palestinian singer from Gaza won the Pan-Arab singing competition “Arab Idol.”

Mohammed Assaf, 22, won the singing contest late Saturday night, a day after the show’s final was held in Beirut, Lebanon. The program was broadcast on the Saudi MBC channel.

Palestinians throughout Gaza and the West Bank poured onto the streets to celebrate after watching the victory from coffee shops and giant screens.

Assaf defeated Egyptian Ahmed Jamal and Syrian Farah Youssef, a woman.

His final performance was “Alli al-keffiyeh,” or “Raise Your Keffiyeh,” a Palestinian nationalist anthem. Assaf called on the Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah to settle their differences and unite.

Abbas begins work to replace newly appointed P.A. prime minister

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas accepted the resignation of his prime minister, who quit two weeks after taking office.

Abbas on Sunday appointed Rami Hamdallah, 55, to lead an interim government after accepting his resignation. Hamdallah reportedly quit after disagreements with his two Abbas-appointed deputy prime ministers.

Western Wall security guard had clashed with man he shot

JERUSALEM (JTA)—The security guard who fatally shot an Israeli homeless man at the Western Wall plaza is under investigation for murder.

The guard, a Druze who had been on the job for a short time, reportedly had clashed previously with Doron Ben Shlush. He was arrested after the incident last Friday morning and ordered held for five days. His name is under a gag order.

A police investigation has determined that Ben Shlush yelled “Druze, you son of a bitch” at the security guard, according to the Times of Israel.

The guard, a civilian employed by a private company, said Ben Shlush had shouted “Allah hu akbar” (“God is great”) in Arabic and tried to pull an object from his pocket near the public bathrooms before the guard fired his sidearm up to 10 times.

Druze in Israel ask to bring 20 families from Syria

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Druze leaders living on the Israeli Golan Heights asked Israel’s prime minister to allow some Druze in Syria to enter Israel.

Sources told the Times of Israel that the request to Benjamin Netanyahu, made in a letter last week, covers about 20 families.

The letter was given to the director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office, Harel Locker, during a meeting with some 100  Druze leaders on the Golan Heights.

Netanyahu won’t ask U.S. to exempt aid to Israel in defense cuts

(JTA)—Israel will not object to a planned five percent cut in the annual military aid package from the United States, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly said.

Under the sequester, the across-the-board cuts mandated by 2011 legislation, Washington is set to cut more than $150 million from the annual $3.1 billion package to Israel.

According to the Maariv daily, Netanyahu instructed Israeli officials in Washington not to ask the U.S. government for an exception from cuts.

“Israel did not seek an exception,” Maariv quoted Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to Washington, as saying. “We are willing to share in the burden.”

Lapid: Netanyahu should be more proactive in peace talks

WASHINGTON (JTA)—Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid said he was pressing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be more proactive in talks with the Palestinians.

“The most important thing is to go back to the negotiating table and talk until the white smoke comes out,” Lapid said in an interview published last Friday by the Washington Post. “I’m talking constantly to our prime minister, saying we have to be more proactive.”

Lapid’s remarks come after criticism from some members of his Yesh Atid party that he has not been assertive enough in defending the two-state solution against pronouncements from others in the government that it is dead.

The Obama administration is moving forward with its bid to revive the peace talks and Secretary of State John Kerry has appealed to American Jews to press the Israeli leadership to hew to the two-state solution.

“For me, there’s no other game in town but the two-state solution,” Lapid told the Post. “The Palestinians must have their own country, and the Israelis must understand that the Palestinians should have their own country. I’m going to push for this as hard as I can because I think this is really important for Israel.”

Rabbi tapped to lead party list for Argentinian elections

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA)—Rabbi Sergio Bergman will lead the ticket for the center-right PRO Party in Argentina’s national elections.

The PRO Party confirmed the decision on Saturday hours before the deadline for parties to present candidates for the October vote.

Bergman, a member of  the Buenos Aires municipal Legislature, will head the list for the National Lower House. He is the first rabbi to lead a national ticket in Argentina.

Buenos Aires city Mayor Mauricio Macri, who is running against President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of the Victory Front party, tapped Bergman to lead the party list.

Bergman, the senior rabbi of the traditional Congregacion Israelita Argentina, is the founder of Active Memory, a group that demonstrated every Monday for a decade seeking justice for the victims of the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center.

Jews buried in 13th century Spanish cemetery ‘well preserved’

(JTA)—A Spanish historian who identified and catalogued 107 tombs in a 13th-century Jewish cemetery in Toledo said the remains were “well preserved.”

The cemetery was partially unearthed in 2008, but the delineation and archaeological study of the graves was only recently completed, according to the Spanish news agency, EFE.

The archaeologist leading the excavations, Arturo Ruiz Taboada, told EFE earlier this month that the people buried in the 107 Jewish tombs were “well preserved” and deposited unusually deep in the ground, some over 9 feet from ground level. The identity of many of those buried at the site remains unknown.

The deep burial may have been to ensure that the Jews were not buried with the remains of others, Jews and non-Jews alike, who had been buried in the area, Taboada told the news agency.

Taboada said that some burial plots contained whole families, including several tombs where mothers were buried with newborn infants.

Archaeologists first learned of the cemetery’s existence in 2008, when human bones were found in the grounds of a local school. The Spanish government began excavating there but stopped following protests by Jewish groups.

Local authorities in Toledo—a major center of Jewish life before the expulsion of Spain’s Jewish communities in 1492—had offered to hand over the bones for reburial at another site, but eventually they were reburied in 2011 at the same cemetery at the request of the local Jewish community and European Jewish groups.


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