Peace Summit Set
Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas will meet in Egypt next week. The Israeli prime minister's office said the Feb. 8 summit with the Palestinian Authority president in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik was proposed by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in hope of kick-starting the U.S.-led "road map" peace plan. Jordan's King Abdullah also is expected to attend. It will be the highest-level meeting between Israeli and Palestinian officials since Sharon's predecessor, Ehud Barak, held talks with the late P.A. President Yasser Arafat in December 2000.
Out of Africa
Israel pledged to bring all Jews currently in Ethiopia to the Jewish state by 2007. Starting in June, Israel will double the number of Falash Mura descendants of Jews who converted to Christianity but who have since returned to Judaism granted entry to the Jewish state, to 600 a month. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced the decision Monday after meeting with the chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, Sallai Meridor; Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; Absorption Minister Tzipi Livni; and Interior Minister Ophir Pines-Paz. The Jewish Agency, which had lobbied to double the monthly rate of Falash Mura aliyah, will take over the compounds where some 15,000 Falash Mura live while waiting to immigrate from Addis Ababa and Gondar. The compounds currently are run by the North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry. The Jewish Agency's board of governors had outlined this plan last year.
Outposts Becoming Permanent
West Bank settlers are bolstering illegal outposts, an Israeli watchdog group said. Peace Now said in a report issued Wednesday that 15 of 99 outposts erected without government permission in the West Bank were expanded last year, creating a de facto infrastructure for new settlements. Under the U.S.-sponsored "road map" peace plan, Israel is obligated to dismantle the illegal outposts, but the evacuations have been inconsistent and often inconsequential and the clusters of hilltop caravans can easily be reassembled. Military sources blamed court appeals lodged by the settlers for the delays in removing the outposts.
Author: CIA Contacted Terrorists
The CIA used intermediaries in the 1990s to communicate with Palestinian terrorist groups, a former agent said. Melissa Boyle Mahle, who has just published a book, "Denial and Deception," about experiences that included five years in the Palestinian areas, said agency policy was not to talk to terrorists directly.
"They wouldn't actually let you talk to terrorists because they were dirt, or somehow you would be implicating yourself and the U.S. government in ... talking to terrorists, being involved with terrorists," Mahle said Tuesday on CNN.
Bill Would Allow Holocaust Lawsuits
A bill reintroduced in Congress would allow Holocaust survivors to sue the French National Railway for transporting Jews to concentration camps. The bill, introduced Tuesday by Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), would get around claims from the French government that it is immune from lawsuits because of the Foreign Service Immunities Act. "As we remember the 60th anniversary of the liberation" of Auschwitz, "we must not forget those who survived the Holocaust," Ros-Lehtinen said. "We must also not forget the companies and people that enabled it to occur."
Kosher Chicken Recalled
More than 5,700 pounds of kosher chicken are being recalled because of possible listeria contamination. The recall of the products by the Schreiber Processing Corporation of Long Island involves 48-ounce boxes of Empire Kosher Fully Cooked Buffalo Style Wings; Chicken Wings Coated in Sauce, with date code 1444; and 28-ounce boxes of Empire Kosher Fully Cooked, Breaded, Fried Chicken, six to nine assorted pieces, with date code 0274. No illnesses have been reported from the products. The chicken was distributed to retail stores in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, California, Illinois, Ohio, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
Circumcision May Have Caused Death
New York City health officials are investigating whether a baby died after contracting herpes during a ritual circumcision. The city officials believe at least three babies may have contracted herpes, and one died, after Rabbi Yitzchok Fischer performed a process known as metzizah bi peh, in which the mohel puts his lips to the wound on the penis and then sucks blood into his mouth to stop the bleeding. Fischer is a well-known mohel in suburban Rockland County, N.Y., and city officials filed a legal complaint against him after he refused to stop the practice. According to a recent report in the journal Pediatrics, the process has led to herpes cases in Israel and Canada during the past few years.
O.U. Wants FCC Chief to Focus on Decency
The Orthodox Union (OU) asked the Bush administration to appoint a new Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman committed to enforcing broadcast decency laws. Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, the O.U.'s executive vice president, called for the FCC to continue the process of levying large fines on broadcast outlets that broadcast sexual and vulgar images.
"These were steps forward for the FCC, but if there is to be a lasting impact, these steps must be repeated and expanded upon until broadcasters understand they are not above the law and that won't happen unless Chairman Powell's successor is committed to enforcing indecency laws," said a letter signed by Weinreb and 40 other national and state leaders. Michael Powell resigned as FCC chairman earlier in January.
Briefs courtesy of Jewish Telegraphic Agency.