December 13, 2007
Briefs: Rudy and Hillary lead, Jews for Putin, Russia needs Jews
U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Rudy Giuliani come in first and second in approval ratings in a poll of American Jews.
Clinton, the front-runner among Democrats, scored 53 percent in this year's American Jewish Committee poll. Giuliani, the former New York mayor and a front-runner among Republicans, received a 41 percent favorable rating. Giuliani was ahead -- albeit within the margin of error of 3 percentage points -- of two other Democratic front-runners, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, who tied at 38 percent.
Such a staunch showing for a Republican is unusual in a community that trends strongly Democratic. Respondents broke down into 58 percent Democrat, 26 percent independent and 15 percent Republican, diverging from the third-third-third breakdown that is the norm in general population polls.
The phone survey of 1,000 Jewish Americans was conducted Nov. 6-25.
Germany Frees Iranian 'Bargaining Chips'
Germany released two jailed Iranian agents whom Israel had wanted swapped for missing airman Ron Arad. German authorities announced this week they had granted an early release to Kazem Darabi and Abbas Rhayel, who had been serving life sentences for the 1992 assassination of four Iranian opposition leaders in Berlin. Both men were deported.
The releases came over protests lodged by representatives of Arad, an Israeli air force navigator who is believed to have disappeared into Iranian captivity after bailing out over Lebanon in 1986. Germany has long tried to help Israel obtain word on Arad's fate, but did not agree to keeping the two detainees as "bargaining chips" for his return.
"It is very disappointing, as our best chips are being given away," Eliad Shraga, a lawyer for the Arad family, told Israel's Army Radio on Tuesday.
Former Publisher Black Sentenced to Prison
Former Jerusalem Post publisher Conrad Black was sentenced to 6 1/2 years in prison. Black, 63, was convicted July 13 on three counts of mail fraud and one count of obstruction of justice for bilking millions of dollars from shareholders of his Hollinger International newspaper publishing conglomerate. The Canadian-born member of the British House of Lords was ordered to report to prison in 12 weeks; he remains free on $21 million bond.
Black will serve his time in an American prison, not a Canadian prison as his lawyer requested. Black was ordered to pay restitution of $6.1 million and was fined $125,000.
Prosecutors have calculated the total loss to shareholders to be about $32 million.
Hollinger International controlled 60 percent of Canadian newspapers as well as hundreds of daily newspapers worldwide, including the Jerusalem Post, the Chicago Sun Times, the Montreal Gazette and Britain's Daily Telegraph, through the mid-1990s. Black resigned in 2004 as chairman and chief executive officer of Hollinger after an internal investigation sparked by shareholders' complaints that he was stealing company funds.
Settlers Unmoved by Relocation Offer
Most Israeli settlers living east of the West Bank security fence do not want to relocate, a poll found.
Left-wing Israeli lawmakers this week tabled legislation that would offer residents of 18 settlements located east of the fence compensation if they moved voluntarily, but a Ma'ariv survey indicated there is little interest in the initiative. Eighty-four percent of settlers said they would not relocate in exchange for compensation equivalent to the value of their homes, while 11 percent said they would and 5 percent were undecided. Money appears to be a secondary concern for the settlers, many of whom are religious and ideologically driven. Asked if they would move in exchange for compensation equivalent to double the value of their homes, 76 percent said no, 17 percent said yes and 7 percent were undecided. The survey, published Friday, had 400 respondents and a 4.9 percent margin of error. Israeli officials have hinted that the West Bank security fence could be the border of a future Palestine, meaning that settlers east of the barrier would have to go as part of a diplomatic accord. Many rightist Israelis are distrustful of such thinking, especially given the complaints by many of the settlers evacuated from the Gaza Strip in 2005 that they have been neglected by the government.
Jewish Support for Putin for PM
A chief rabbi of Russia came out in support of Vladimir Putin as prime minister, calling the possibility a "great present." Anointed presidential successor Dmitry Medvedev went on state television Tuesday to ask Putin to head his government following elections in March.
Rabbi Berel Lazar, of the Chabad-led Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, spoke enthusiastically about the idea in an interview with the Interfax news service. "When president, Vladimir Putin has showed that he is equal to any task," Lazar told Interfax. "If Putin considers the scenario offered by Dmitry Medvedev realistic, it will surely be a great present, if the government is headed by the most efficient statesmen in Russia."
These remarks stand in contrast to recent statements made by Lazar about the role of religion in politics. Following an endorsement of Medvedev by Putin that virtually guaranteed him the presidency, Lazar told Interfax that it is not "the matter of religious figures to agitate for any candidate."
Russia Wants Its Jews Back
Russia reportedly is trying to lure back Russian Jews who immigrated to Israel. Israeli intelligence believes that a cultural center recently opened by the Russian Embassy in Tel Aviv is designed to promote the repatriation of Jews who emigrated from Russia.
During last week's parliamentary elections in Moscow, the cultural center sent emissaries throughout Israel to encourage ex-Russians to vote. According to Ha'aretz, the cultural center is headed by a former KGB spy whose appointment Israel briefly tried to block. The Russian Embassy was not available for comment on the report.
There are more than 1 million Israelis from the former Soviet Union.