Prime Minister Ehud Olmert promised Orthodox Jewish leaders that Jerusalem is not up for discussion in forthcoming negotiations with the Palestinians.
In response to a letter from the Orthodox Union (OU) insisting that Olmert not cede portions of Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority, Rachael Risby-Raz, Olmert's diaspora affairs adviser, said the prime minister would keep the city united. The OU wrote to Olmert following a speech Monday in which he appeared to suggest he was willing to consider ceding parts of the city to the Palestinians.
"The issue of Jerusalem is currently not under negotiations with the Palestinians," Risby-Raz wrote. "We assure you, however, that in any future settlement, the prime minister will strengthen the Jewish character of Jerusalem, enhance its Jewish majority, and keep Jerusalem as the eternal, united and internationally recognized capital of the Jewish people and the State of Israel."
Despite the reassurance, the OU still found Olmert's commitment unsatisfactory, noting that in light of his comments "and in light of the unparalleled significance to all Jews of the fate of the holy city, we must ask Prime Minister Olmert to be more explicit about his intentions and commitment to keep Jerusalem as the 'eternal and indivisible capital of the Jewish People,'" a statement from President Stephen Savitsky said.
On Monday, Olmert questioned the inclusion of certain Arab areas within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem -- a remark the Israeli media construed as signaling his willingness to part with certain parts of the city.
Jew Is Oldest Nobel Recipient
Leonid Hurwicz, 90, became the oldest recipient of a Nobel Prize. Hurwicz, professor emeritus of the University of Minnesota, will share the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science with economists Roger Myerson, a professor at the University of Chicago, and Eric Maskin, a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., both 56.
They were awarded Monday for their work in mechanism design theory, a field initiated by Hurwicz and developed further by his co-honorees. Hurwicz was born in Russia and grew up in Poland, where his parents fled after the outbreak of World War I. He was studying in Geneva when World War II broke out and was forced to move to Portugual. His parents and brother were interned in Soviet labor camps.
The three economists will share the $1.56 million prize money.
Temple Mount Digging Contested
Israel's decision to resume digging near the Temple Mount could spark riots, the Israeli Cabinet's only Arab member said.
The archaeological excavations, which are required in order to construct a new pedestrian walkway to the holy site, have been put on hold for two weeks after a letter appealing the decision was filed with the Cabinet secretary by Science, Culture and Sport Minister Ghaleb Majadle, the Cabinet's lone Arab member.
Majadle's letter noted the possibility of rioting. Palestinians have charged that Israel is using the work near the Mughrabi Gate, halted since June, to foil the November peace conference in Annapolis, Md.
The new walkway will replace one damaged last winter. When the work began in February the Muslim world was up in arms, charging that Israel was trying to damage the foundation of the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aksa mosques.
Israeli Survivors Get More Money
Israeli government allowances for Holocaust survivors will rise to more than 10 times their current levels. Some survivors of ghettos and concentration camps will receive a monthly stipend of more than $250 by 2009, Israel Radio reported.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced an additional $371 million for needy senior citizens and Holocaust survivors at a news conference Monday.
The allocations will be based on age and need. Some of the money will also help survivors who escaped areas under Nazi rule and did not spend time in ghettos and concentration camps. An estimated 240,000 Holocaust survivors live in Israel.
Dump JNF, Activists Tell Brown
Palestinian activists are calling on British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to disassociate himself from the Jewish National Fund (JNF). In a letter to Brown, the Scottish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign demanded that he resign as a patron of the Jewish National Fund-U.K. The group said JNF's discriminatory practice of not selling land to Arabs was a blight on the prime minister's reputation.
Brown became a JNF-U.K. patron shortly after his election last June. The activist group appears to be capitalizing on the fact that Brown is running poorly in political polls.
It also will ask the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator to review whether the JNF's Scottish branch violates the country's charitable laws. Other JNF-U.K. patrons include former Prime Minister Tony Blair, opposition leader David Cameron and Jonathan Sacks, the chief rabbi of Britain.
Olmert Plans France, U.K. Visit
Ehud Olmert will hold high-level talks in France and Britain. The Israeli prime minister is scheduled to visit Paris and London on Oct. 22 and 23 before returning home. Olmert will meet with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Political sources said he will likely lobby for their support ahead of next month's Israeli-Palestinian peace conference in Annapolis, Md.
Olmert last visited the key European countries in June 2006 after he had broached selective Israeli withdrawals from the West Bank. That "realignment plan," while supported abroad, had to be shelved after the Lebanon war.
Rabin Assassin to Be a Father
Yitzhak Rabin's jailed assassin, Yigal Amir, is about to become a father. Larissa Trimbobbler, who married Amir in a proxy prison wedding ceremony and won rights to conjugal visits, will give birth to their first child imminently, family sources said Monday. According to Ha'aretz, the child is a boy.
Amir, who is serving a life prison sentence with no chance of parole for killing Prime Minister Rabin in 1995, has asked Israeli authorities for permission to attend the circumcision.
Yediot Achronot reported that Trimbobbler scheduled the pregnancy in hope the birth will take place next week on the Hebrew anniversary of Rabin's assassination. She denied it.
"You can't plan these things," Trimbobbler told Israel Radio.
The prospect of Amir having children has drawn censure from across Israel's political spectrum, though civil liberties groups argue he should not be denied family rights granted to other jailed felons.
Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.