Two advisers to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert are scheduled to travel to Turkey Tuesday to begin a fourth round of negotiations, AFP reported, citing an anonymous Israeli source. Turkish officials shuttle between the two sides during the negotiations. AFP reported that the two sides are still far apart on many issues. The last round of indirect talks was held early this month. The talks started in May after an eight-year gap.
Syria has stated that direct talks will not be held in the near future. Still, Syria is interested in making as much progress as possible with Olmert so that his successor will be bound to whatever commitments he makes, Ha'aretz quoted a Western source as saying Monday.
The new round of talks is gearing up a day after Syria's Ambassador to the United States, Imad Moustapha, told the American branch of Peace Now that Syria is ready to make peace with Israel.
Israeli University Chiefs Want Palestinian Students
Israeli university heads are demanding that the defense ministry stop preventing them from enrolling Palestinian students. The Council of Heads of Universities sent a letter to Defense Minister Ehud Barak, signed by the rectors and deans of six universities asking him to respect their academic freedom. Palestinians from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are not allowed to enter Israel without permission from the army.
"Since its establishment, the State of Israel has carefully maintained a tradition of academic freedom," the letter said. "We expect the military to maintain this tradition and to limit its involvement to matters in its area of authority, meaning security evaluations only. Israeli universities open their gates to all those who meet the academic demands, irrespective of race, sex, religion or nationality."
Signing on to the letter were Tel Aviv University, Hebrew University, Technion, Weizmann Institute of Science, Haifa University and Ben-Gurion University.
Also Tuesday, five Israeli professors asked the Israeli Supreme Court to allow them to join a petition against restrictions on Palestinian students entering Israel to study at institutions of higher education submitted by Gisha-Legal Center for Free Movement. Gisha's request was submitted as part of the center's challenge to the military's power to decide on the admission of Palestinian students to Israeli universities. The policy compels department heads to justify their academic considerations before the military and to persuade military officials of the wisdom of their decision to admit Palestinian students.
Israel Report: Prisoners in Palestinian Jails Tortured
Prisoners in Palestinian jails in Gaza and the West Bank are subject to torture and inhumane treatment, according to a new report. Al-Haq, a Palestinian human rights organization, on Monday released a report that documents and analyzes arbitrary arrests, acts of torture and other cruel treatment or punishment against individuals in the West Bank and Gaza by Palestinian security or military agencies and personnel.
"Torturing Each Other: The Widespread Practices of Arbitrary Detention and Torture in the Palestinian Territory," found that arrests and detention, carried out by both the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and the ruling Hamas authority in the Gaza Strip, were routinely implemented for political reasons and ends.
The report states that most arrests in Gaza and the West Bank, estimated at more than 1,000 on each side, are carried out for political reasons and not for valid security or criminal reasons. The report came out after a weekend in which Fatah forces detained more than 50 Hamas supporters following the arrest by Hamas of dozens of Fatah supporters who planted bombs that killed five Hamas terrorists. Victims testified that they were subject to whippings, beatings, humiliation, death threats, solitary confinement, shackling and blindfolding, exposure, lack of hygiene and sleep deprivation, among other things.
Three prisoners have died in detention in Gaza, and one in the West Bank in the last year, according to the Al-Haq report.
Sudanese, Israelis Rally in Tel Aviv
More than 100 Sudanese and Israelis called on Israel to help stop the genocide in Darfur at a rally in Tel Aviv. The Sons of Darfur Organization held a rally July 23 to support the International Criminal Court's decision to indict, arrest and prosecute Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir, as well as leaders and others committing genocide and other war crimes in the Sudan region. Rally participants carried signs that featured quotations from the ICC prosecutor's request to bring al-Bashir to trial for war crimes.
"We, Bnai Darfur organization, still wait for justice and equality for all Sudanese in Israel," said Adam Bashir, a founder of the Sons of Darfur. "We ask you, Israeli citizens, to stand by us and show your government that you care, that you oppose the genocide in Darfur and that you would like your government to put more pressure for international military intervention in Darfur. We call the U.N. and the entire free world to make all necessary efforts to bring peace in Darfur region and stop the genocide of innocent men, women and children."
Inmate Can Sue Over Kosher Food
South Dakota's highest court reinstated a lawsuit by an inmate over his prison's kosher food preparation. Charles Sisney, a convicted murderer, claimed the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls violated his religious rights by changing how it prepares kosher food.
His suit, which was reinstated in a July 23 ruling by the state Supreme Court after having been dismissed by a lower state court, would require prison officials to use prepackaged kosher meals. The penitentiary stopped using the prepackaged meals in February 2007 and now cooks some of the food served in its kosher diet in the prison kitchen, according to The Associated Press. The prison signed an agreement eight years ago saying it would provide a kosher diet, including prepackaged meals, to Jewish inmates who make the request.
Sisney claimed he was a practicing Jew and asked for kosher meals after the agreement was signed, three years after he entered the prison. The Supreme Court said Sisney had a right to file the lawsuit since the agreement in 2000 covered all Jewish inmates from that time on.
German Firm Closes Deal With Iran
A German firm has closed a major deal with Iran to build three new liquid gas plants. The deal, recently approved by the German government, reportedly is worth $156 million to the Siegen-based firm of SPG-Steiner-Prematecnic-Gastec. SPG-Steiner will apply its high-tech method of turning gas into a sulphur-free liquid fuel, enabling the production of 10,000 barrels per day at each of three plants in southern Iran.
Germany's Federal Agency for Economics and Export Control examined the deal for a year before giving its approval, based on its determination that none of the construction elements could be put to military use and that the contract would not violate United Nations or European Union sanctions. State loan guarantees are banned for deals with Iran, so step-by-step financing reportedly is planned.
Critics say the deal violates the spirit of the sanctions, if not the letter of the law. Johannes Gerster, the head of the German-Israeli friendship society and a former member of parliament, told The Jerusalem Post the deal should be rescinded as incompatible with German Chancellor Angela Merkel's talk of tougher sanctions during her address to the Israeli Knesset in March. Germany has reduced trade with Iran over the past year as part of international pressure on the Islamic Republic to stop enriching uranium.
Iran Eyes Security Council Seat
Iran is seeking a non-permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council. Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki asked the Non-Aligned Movement to support Iran's bid during a speech Sunday at a meeting of the group in Tehran, Iran's Fars news agency reported. Mottaki said Iran already has sent the Security Council its nomination for membership for 2009-10 as the Asia representative, according to Fars. Japan is also up for the seat.
Under three Security Council resolutions, Iran is facing possible sanctions unless it halts its nuclear program. The Non-Aligned Movement represents about two-thirds of the member states of the United Nations.
Briefs courtesy of Jewish Telegraphic Agency.