May 28, 2008
American donor deposed in Olmert probe, Carter spills nuclear bomb beans
Israeli prosecutors deposed American businessman Morris Talansky as part of the corruption probe of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Talansky, who was detained by police during a Passover visit to Israel, appeared at Jerusalem District Court on Tuesday to answer questions about his ties to the prime minister.
He testified to giving Olmert cash gifts amounting to approximately $150,000 while he was in previous government posts but denied that this constituted bribery.
"I never expected anything personally. I never had any personal benefits from this relationship whatsoever," the New York-based financier said, according to courtroom reporters.
When the case came to light this month, Olmert described Talansky's contributions as financing for successful 1993 and 1998 campaigns to be elected Jerusalem mayor and his failed 2003 run to lead the Likud Party.
Israeli media have reported that as much as $500,000 in money Olmert received from Talansky is unaccounted for. Israeli law limits political funding from foreign sources.
Olmert has vowed to resign if indicted in the Talansky case.
Talansky's testimony, designated as a "preliminary deposition" by prosecutors, is a condition for him being allowed to return home. He was expected to leave Israel this week.
Carter Says Israel Has 150 Atomic Weapons
Jimmy Carter, in violation of a decades-old U.S. policy, publicly acknowledged that Israel has nuclear weapons.
The former U.S. president, asked during an appearance at a British literary festival Sunday about Western efforts to curb Iran's nuclear program, listed existing atomic arsenals.
"The U.S. has more than 12,000 nuclear weapons, the Soviet Union has about the same, Great Britain and France have several hundred and Israel has 150 or more," he told the audience, according to a transcript of the event.
The comments raised eyebrows in Israel, which since the Nixon administration has enjoyed "don't ask, don't tell" understandings in Washington regarding its nonconventional military capabilities.
Jerusalem officials, having largely shunned Carter during a recent visit in which he tried to broker talks between Israel and Hamas, declined comment on his new statements.
Aharon Zeevi-Farkash, former chief of Israel's military intelligence, suggested Carter may have spoken in response to feeling "offended" at the cold shoulder he got from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government.
"The problem is that there are those who can use these statements when it comes to discussing the international effort to prevent Iran getting nuclear weapons," Zeevi-Farkash told Israel Radio.
U.S. Genetic Law Enacted
President Bush enacted a law that protects patients from discrimination based on genetic information.
Jewish groups, including Hadassah and United Jewish Communities, the federations' umbrella organization, had led lobbying for the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, which was signed into law May 21.
The bill bans health providers from refusing service because of genetic mutations and bans employers from discriminating on the basis of such disorders. Fears of such discrimination have kept many Americans from being tested for such mutations, inhibiting research.
"GINA represents proper public policy that is keeping pace with the rapidly evolving area of genetics research," a Hadassah statement said. "With the mapping of the human genome, we are now in an era that holds unprecedented promise for treating and curing disease."
Druckman Fired From Conversion Authority
The beleaguered head of Israel's state Conversion Authority was fired.
Rabbi Haim Druckman's contract will not be renewed when it expires at the end of next month, the prime minister's office announced May 22. The office cited the rabbi's age, 75, as the reason -- civil servants have mandatory retirement at the age of 67.
Druckman, however, already was in his 70s when he was hired four years ago.
Druckman told Army Radio that his firing was due to the government succumbing to political pressure by the ultra-Orthodox, or Charedim.
The High Rabbinical Court last month invalidated a conversion performed by Druckman, calling into doubt thousands of conversions performed by Druckman or performed under the authority of the Conversion Authority.
The authority was formed to ease the conversion process, especially for the many Israelis from the former Soviet Union who made aliyah under the Law of Return, even though they were not Jewish according to Jewish law.
The Conference of European Rabbis announced last week that it would not recognize conversions performed by rabbis in Israel, mentioning Druckman by name.
Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.