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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA

 


Netanyahu vows to keep Golan Heights forever

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel will never give up the Golan Heights, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday, a day after the Israeli leader said he delivered the same message to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

The meeting was held for the first time on the land captured from Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War.

“I chose to hold this festive Cabinet meeting on the Golan Heights in order to deliver a clear message: The Golan Heights will forever remain in Israel’s hands. Israel will never come down from the Golan Heights,” Netanyahu said.

Israel annexed the Golan Heights in 1981. The international community has never recognized the annexation.

Syrian President Bashar Assad reportedly has said that one principle upon which peace talks to end his country’s years-long civil war must be based is that the entire Golan Heights be considered Syrian and the part annexed by Israel be considered occupied territory.

Netanyahu told the government ministers at the Cabinet meeting that in speaking with Kerry the previous evening, he told the secretary of state that Israel “will not oppose a diplomatic settlement in Syria on condition that it not come at the expense of the security of the State of Israel,” specifically that Iran, Hezbollah and the Islamic State will be removed from Syrian soil.

He added that he also told Kerry that Israel will not relinquish the Golan Heights.

Netanyahu called the Golan “an integral part of the State of Israel in the new era.”

He later said: “The time has come for the international community to recognize reality, especially two basic facts. One, whatever is beyond the border, the boundary itself will not change. Two, after 50 years, the time has come for the international community to finally recognize that the Golan Heights will remain under Israel’s sovereignty permanently.”

UNESCO resolution ignores Jewish ties to Temple Mount, Western Wall

JERUSALEM (JTA)—A UNESCO resolution does not recognize a Jewish connection to the Western Wall and the Temple Mount and calls Israel an “occupying power.”

The resolution was adopted last Friday by the executive board of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization resolution at a meeting in Paris.

Six months after the organization decided not to classify the Western Wall as a solely Muslim site, the measure refers to the Western Wall as Al-Buraq Plaza and to the Temple Mount as the Al-Aksa Mosque/Al-Haram Al Sharif.

The resolution, which condemns Israeli actions in eastern Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, accuses Israel of being an “occupying power,” of “planting Jewish fake graves in other spaces of the Muslim cemeteries” and of “the continued conversion of many Islamic and Byzantine remains into the so-called Jewish ritual baths or into Jewish prayer places,” according to Israeli newspaper reports.

It also criticizes Israel for its decision to build an egalitarian prayer area in the Western Wall Plaza and for “illegal measures against the freedom of worship” at the “Muslim holy site of worship.” The resolutions refers to the cities of Hebron and Bethlehem as solely Muslim, and raps Israeli control over the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb, both in Hebron.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blasted the resolution.

“This is yet another absurd U.N. decision,” Netanyahu said in a statement issued Saturday night. “UNESCO ignores the unique historic connection of Judaism to the Temple Mount, where two temples stood for a thousand years and to which every Jew in the world has prayed for thousands of years. The U.N. is rewriting a basic part of human history and has once again proven that there is no low to which it will not stoop.”

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog questioned by police fraud unit

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog was questioned for six hours on Sunday by investigators from the police fraud unit.

Herzog, who heads the Zionist Union camp, was questioned over suspicions that he received illegal contributions and failed to report donations during his successful campaign in the Labor Party primaries in 2013. He also is accused of making a false statement.

Herzog said in a statement that he asked to come in and give his statement “in order to put the matter behind me as soon as possible.”

“I have complete trust in law enforcement authorities, and am thankful for their fair and respectable conduct,” he added.

Zionist Union lawmaker Shelly Yachimovich, who Herzog defeated for the Labor leadership, expressed concern for the party.

“I am convinced Herzog has in mind the best interests of the party and the opposition, and I will work alongside him and the members of our party to decide on the steps to take,” Yachimovich said in a statement. “There is no doubt that the party chairman and opposition leader being questioned under warning exacerbates the situation. I have complete trust in the police and law enforcement authorities.”

Zionist Union is made up of Labor and the Hatnua party led by Tzipi Livni, a former foreign minister.

Earlier this month, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said talks about Zionist Union joining the ruling government coalition stalled when the investigation into Herzog became public in late March.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri of the haredi Orthodox Sephardic Shas party is also currently the subject of a corruption investigation.

Cousin of murdered Palestinian teen beaten

JERUSALEM (JTA)—A cousin of the Palestinian teen who was burned to death by Jewish extremists in a revenge murder was attacked by two people that the victim described as Jewish.

Zoheir Abu Khdeir, 63, a first cousin of the father of murdered teen Mohammed Abu Khdeir, was attacked April 14 in the Egged public bus parking lot in Jerusalem where he works, Haaretz reported. He was hospitalized overnight with a broken nose, a facial cut that required 12 stitches, and bruises to his eyes and head.

The family told Haaretz that police on an emergency hotline said the victim, a resident of eastern Jerusalem, would have to come to a police station and file a report in person, which he is unable to do.

Police told Haaretz they had no record of such a call and would send an officer to take the victim’s statement once they receive a complaint.

Mohammed Abu Khdeir was beaten unconscious before he was burned to death in the Jerusalem Forest on July 2, 2014, to avenge the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens the previous month, one of the men convicted of carrying out the murder told police.

“We don’t want it to be like it was with Mohammed, that the police did nothing,” Majed Abu Khdeir, the victim’s brother, told Haaretz. “What would happen if the opposite had happened, if a Jew had been beaten up? An arrest within minutes.”

Right-wing Israeli minister calls for Gaza port

(JTA)— A right-wing Israeli minister spoke out against “shameful” conditions Palestinians experience at Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank.

Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, a member of the Jewish Home party who advocates for Jews having greater access to the Temple Mount, said last Friday that the current conditions are a “disgrace to the State of Israel and to the security establishment,” the Times of Israel reported.

A former leader with the Yesha Council, the primary advocacy group for Jewish settlers in the West Bank, Ariel has been a longtime supporter of settlement construction and in 2012 settler group Matot Arim named him the second-most right wing member of the Knesset.

In an interview on Tel Aviv Radio last Friday morning, Ariel said Israel must do more to improve the well-being of Palestinians both in the West Bank and Gaza.

He said Gaza Palestinians are hurt by Israel not allowing the coastal enclave to have an international port, and West Bank Palestinians are often forced to wait at checkpoints for hours without shade, water or other shelter from harsh weather conditions.

“Why can’t we fix this? Why shouldn’t they have a port?” he asked, saying it could be created with “100 percent security.”

Israeli troops with beards barred from Yad Vashem ceremony

(JTA)—Israeli commanders forbade soldiers with beards from participating in a Holocaust commemoration event last week at the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, citing regulations.

An Israel Defense Forces spokesperson confirmed to the news site 0404 the existence of regulations that prevent “any soldier who is not shaven” from participating in official ceremonies. The spokesperson was replying to a query following instructions given to troops from the Paratroopers Brigade.

Many Orthodox religious Jews do not shave their beards, and IDF regulations permit facial hair for religious reasons. But recently, IDF officers have cracked down on the practice, requiring the signed approval of a colonel.

The disclosure prompted criticism by Bezalel Smotrich, a lawmaker for the right-wing Jewish Home party, who called on the IDF to scrap the regulation.

“This regrettable regulations reflects a disconnect and perhaps cultural rejection from Jewish values,” he told the news site Srugium. “I call on the chief of staff to change it. One cannot encourage service by religious and Haredi soldiers on the one hand, and then exclude them from ceremonial functions based on the claim that their appearance is undignified.”

An unnamed soldier told 0404, “Yad Vashem has pictures of Jews who were murdered because of their beards. It’s strange that there of all places soldiers may not be seen with a beard.”

Religious Israeli publications recently published the rejected application of a soldier who sought to be assigned to officer’s training. In explaining his negative opinion, the soldier’s commander wrote, “A future commander is expected to shave.”

Last week, Israel’s Supreme Court rejected a petition by soldiers seeking an injunction that would simplify the procedure for getting permission to grow facial hair.

Oracle buys army vets’ big-data firm in $550M Israel shopping spree

(JTA)—Less than two months after buying an Israeli cloud-services firm for approximately half a billion dollars, the American technology giant Oracle purchased another Israeli big-data firm, Crosswise, for a reported $50 million.

Oracle, owned by Jewish entrepreneur Larry Ellison, announced the acquisition on April 14. Specific details of the deal were not released, but a source close to the company told The Times of Israel that the deal was in the “range of $50 million.”

Oracle said in a statement on April 14 that it will integrate Crosswise’s technology into its data cloud, which it explained “ingests third-party data, extracts value, and activates the data to drive insights and harness this knowledge for targeting” to aid advertisers.

The Tel Aviv-based Crosswise specializes in cross-device marketing. It goes through over a petabyte (a million gigabytes) of data from billions of devices every month and identifies patterns in the way people use technology. Two of the company’s three co-founders, Jonathan Seidner and Ron Reiter, served in the Israeli army’s 8200 communications intelligence unit, acquiring skills they later implemented at Crosswire, according to their firm.

Crosswire’s CEO, Steven Glanz, a Harvard Law School graduate, set up the firm with his two partners in 2013, raising approximately $5 million for development, according to PC, an Israeli news site on technology. It has 20 employees.

Their firm’s acquisition is Oracle’s second major purchase this year in Israel, following the February sale of Ravello Systems, a firm that offers solutions for fast-working cloud services, for approximately half a billion dollars. Oracle said it would set up a cloud lab in Israel as part of that purchase.

Oracle has bought several other firms over the past few years, highlighting a desire to bolster its data cloud technology.

“The addition of Crosswise further broadens the Oracle ID Graph to construct a complete view of consumers’ digital interactions across multiple devices,” the company said in the statement.

After rape charge, Israeli lawmakers vow to nix state honors for slain general

(JTA)—Several Israeli politicians called for canceling state-organized commemorations for Rehavam Zeevi following the publication of rape and intimidation allegations against the slain former Cabinet minister.

The allegations appeared last week on Channel 2’s investigative journalism television program “Uvda.” It included an anonymous testimony by a female soldier who said she was raped by Zeevi, a right-wing politician and retired general whom Palestinian terrorists murdered in 2001.

According to “Uvda,” Zeevi also conspired with a crime boss, Tuvia Oshri, to set off an explosive device in 1974 outside the home of Silvia Keshet, an investigative journalist who wrote critically about Zeevi. No one was convicted of the crime.

Following the airing of the documentary, the chairwoman of the left-wing Meretz party, Zehava Gal-On, said her party will work to cancel the annual memorial day that the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, inaugurated in 2005 in Zeevi’s memory.

Shelly Yachimovich, a Zionist Union lawmaker who used to head the Labor Party, supported the initiative on Twitter. Zeevi, she wrote, “is dead but his victims live on, scarred, as their daughters and granddaughter study his horrific legacy.”

Eitan Haber, a close associate of the late Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, said Zeevi during an argument once pointed a handgun at Haber’s head. Zeevi, known by the nickname “Gandhi,” fought bravely during Israel’s War of Independence and was a senior member of the general staff of the Israel Defense Forces during the Six-Day War. Rabin, who was chief of staff, promoted him to brigadier general after the war.

Hailing from a socialist Zionist home, Zeevi gradually became more hawkish. During the 1990s, he was an advocate of the concept of having Arab Israelis transferred outside the borders of the State of Israel.

Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel of the Jewish Home party said he would oppose attempts to stop commemorations and criticized the airing of documentary, citing Zeevi’s inability to respond to the claims.

“Gen. Rehavam Zeevi devoted his life to safeguarding Israel’s security. It is inappropriate to destroy his reputation when he is unable to comment,” Ariel wrote.

Ayman Odeh, leader of the the Joint Arab List party, linked the sexual offenses attributed to Zeevi to his political views.

“It is unsurprising to discover that a person who supported the transfer of a civilian population also assaulted women and persecuted journalists,” he wrote on Twitter. “Those who saw no shame in commemorating him earlier should not find it any more shameful to do so now.”

Larry David back on ‘SNL’ as Bernie Sanders—with Julia Louis-Dreyfus

(JTA)—Larry David was back on “Saturday Night Live” playing Bernie Sanders, this time answering an audience question from former “Seinfeld” co-star Julie Louis-Dreyfus in character as Elaine Benes.

The skit, which again featured Kate McKinnon portraying Hillary Clinton, had the two Democratic presidential candidates in a mock debate from Brooklyn, New York, ahead of the state’s primary on Tuesday.

Benes, chosen as a long-time New Yorker to ask the candidates a question, wonders how Sanders plans to break up the big banks. Sanders gives a vague, “Seinfeld”-esque reply. (David was a creator and executive producer of the ‘90s megahit.)

“Once I’m elected president, I’ll have a nice shvitz in the White House gym, then I’ll go to the big banks, I’ll sit them down, and yada yada yada, they’ll be broken up,” he says, using a “Seinfeld” euphemism for being vague about details.

“You can’t yada yada at a debate,” Benes objects. “Also, you yada yadaed over the best part.”

“No, I mentioned the shvitz,” Sanders replies.

Later, making a reference to “Seinfeld,” Benes asks Sanders about his plan to tax the super-rich at a higher rate, and muses how the creator of hugely successful sitcom would “lose a lot of money. You see what I’m saying?”

“Yeah,” David as Sanders replies, pointing at his opponent. “You should vote for her.”

David has played Sanders several times in guest appearances on “SNL.”

 

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