Ehud Olmert voiced confidence that Israeli-U.S. relations will remain robust despite the Republicans' midterm election defeat.
"Support for Israel has traditionally been bipartisan," the Israeli prime minister told reporters en route to Washington, where he met President Bush on Monday morning.
"I don't see anything changing in the next two years that can alter overall attitudes toward us," Olmert said, referring to Bush's remaining time in office. The Democratic sweep of last week's congressional elections has raised speculation that Bush, with his Iraq policies increasingly unpopular, could turn his attention to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This could mean reduced U.S. support for unilateral Israeli moves and a greater engagement of somewhat moderate elements in the Palestinian Authority.
Haniyeh Successor Named
Palestinian Authority officials named the likely successor to Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh in a future Cabinet. Representatives of the governing Hamas and rival Fatah faction said Monday that Mohammad Shbair, former head of the Islamic University in Gaza City, had been tapped to lead a future Cabinet of technocrats. Hamas and Fatah hope that by forming a coalition government devoid of major figures from the Islamic terrorist group they'll be able to lift a Western aid embargo on the Palestinian Authority. Haniyeh, of Hamas, has voiced willingness to step down under such circumstances. Shbair, who was educated in the United States, is close to Hamas but isn't an official member. Israeli media reported that his candidacy has received tacit U.S. backing. PA President Mahmoud Abbas has yet to approve Shbair's nomination.
Olmert's Daughter Slams Gay Pride Handling
Ehud Olmert's lesbian daughter came out against Israeli authorities' handling of last week's gay pride rally in Jerusalem. Dana Olmert gave a rare media interview Sunday in which she accused police and politicians of being too lenient toward religious protesters who threatened violence against those participating in the event. While not commenting on her father's refusal to take a strong stand for or against last Friday's rally, she deplored the fact that a Cabinet member could denounce homosexuals without being challenged.
"I would have been happy had someone within the government responded to Eli Yishai, who called the march an abomination," Olmert told Israel's Army Radio. As a compromise deal, what had been planned as a march through Jerusalem was relocated to a Hebrew University stadium on the outskirts of the capital. Dana Olmert said the fact that the event was not canceled outright was a "bitter victory."
"There was a feeling that we were in a cage," she said. "There was something sad about the whole thing, the way it was handled."
Seaman Sentenced for Japanese Deaths
An Israeli court sentenced a seaman to community service for causing the death of seven Japanese fisherman. Pilastro Zdravko, a Montenegrin who worked as a navigator for Israeli shipping company Zim, received six months of community service Sunday in Haifa Magistrate's Court. He was found guilty of negligence in a 2005 collision off Japan that capsized a fishing boat. Separately, Zim has offered compensation to the victims' families.
Arabs Want Peace Summit
The Arab League called for a peace summit with Israel and U.N. power brokers. Arab foreign ministers who had gathered for an emergency conference Sunday in Cairo issued a resolution to try to engage Israel, as well as the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, in peace talks on the principle of territorial concessions. The Cairo talks were convened following the recent killing of 18 Palestinian civilians in an Israeli artillery barrage on the Gaza Strip. Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar, a member of Hamas, said he supported the idea of a summit, but it remained unclear if he would attend.
Israeli Arabs Suspected of Gun-Running
Twelve Israeli Arabs are suspected of trafficking arms in the Palestinian Authority. The Shin Bet on Sunday lifted a gag order on arrests of the 12, all of them from northern Israel. Four suspects have been remanded in custody, while the rest where released on bail pending their indictment on lesser charges. According to the Shin Bet, the suspects, who were arrested last month, sold large amounts of small arms and ammunition obtained on the black market to Palestinians. It was not immediately clear how they would plead to the charges.
Border Communities Strike
Israeli communities on the border with Lebanon went on "strike" to demand compensation for damages suffered during the recent war with Hezbollah. Seven frontier farming villages announced Sunday that they were suspending tax and utilities payments until they receive long-delayed government payouts for lost harvests and buildings damaged by Hezbollah attacks in the 34-day conflict. They also threatened to withhold services to Israeli soldiers garrisoned along the border. State representatives said the hold-ups were due to bureaucratic difficulties, but promised to address the bulk of the communities' complaints by the end of the month.
Study: More Boston Kids Raised Jewish
Most children in interfaith households in Boston are being raised as Jews, a new study found. Almost 60 percent of such children in Boston are being raised Jewishly, far above the national average, according to preliminary findings released Friday from the 2005 Greater Boston Jewish Community Study. The study was commissioned by the Combined Jewish Philanthropies, the central planning and fundraising arm of Boston's Jewish community, and carried out by Brandeis University's Steinhardt Social Research Institute. The study also found strong growth in the Jewish community, which now stands at 265,500,or nine percent of the total population. That figure includes 57,000 non-Jews living in Jewish households.
Stolen Klimt Sets Record
A Klimt painting stolen by the Nazis and returned to its rightful owner set records at auction. Austria ended an extensive legal battle in January by handing over five works by Gustav Klimt to Maria Altmann, the niece of Adele and Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer; one of the paintings was a portrait of Adele. It sold for $87.9 million at a Christie's auction in New York on Nov. 8, setting a record for a Klimt. It had been expected to sell for $40 million to $60 million. "My Aunt Adele and Uncle Ferdinand enjoyed living with these paintings and sharing them, and we trust that their new owners will build on this tradition of appreciation," Altmann said.
Three of the other Klimts also sold for much more than anticipated. Another work reclaimed through Nazi restitution, by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, sold for $38 million, above its $18 million to $25 million estimate.
Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.