The new United Nations secretary-general said solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was key to wider peace in the Middle East.
"If the issues with the conflicts between Israel and Palestine go well, other issues in the Middle East, including Lebanon, Iran, Iraq and Syria, are likely to follow suit," Ban Ki-moon said in an interview with South Korea's Hankyoreh newspaper published after he took office Sunday. "I will meet with the concerned parties as soon as possible."
The sentiments recalled those of Ban's predecessor, Kofi Annan, and run counter to Israel's assertions that Arab and Muslim regimes often focus excessively on the Palestinians' plight as a means of distracting from their own problems.
Shalikashvili: Look to Israel on Gays in Military
A former U.S. military chief of staff cited Israel's experience in recommending allowing gays to openly join the military. Gen. John Shalikashvili, who was chief of staff under President Bill Clinton when the "don't ask, don't tell" policy was introduced, said it was time to move on to the next phase: open acceptance of gays in the military.
"I now believe that if gay men and lesbians served openly in the United States military, they would not undermine the efficacy of the armed forces," Shalikashvili wrote on Tuesday's New York Times' opinion page. "Our military has been stretched thin by our deployments in the Middle East, and we must welcome the service of any American who is willing and able to do the job." Shalikashvili cited "Israel, Britain and other allies in the fight against terrorism" as having militaries that have successfully integrated gays.
Report: Katsav Indictment Imminent
Israeli President Moshe Katsav will reportedly be indicted this month in a sex scandal. Yediot Achronot reported Monday that the State Attorney's Office plans to file criminal charges within two weeks against Katsav, who has been accused of sexually molesting or raping several female employees. Katsav, who is due to step down this summer, has denied wrongdoing. According to Yediot, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz has yet to decide whether to include rape on the indictment or make do with lesser charges. Mazuz's office declined comment.
Jewish Group Sues Iran Conference Participants
The Forum of Jewish Organizations in Antwerp filed suit against participants in a recent Holocaust-denial conference in Tehran. The Belgian lawsuit includes anyone who gave a speech questioning the Holocaust at the conference sponsored this month by the Iranian Foreign Ministry. Holocaust denial is illegal in Belgium and is punishable by up to one year in jail and a $3,000 fine. The purpose of the lawsuit is to cause legal problems for attendees who might want to visit Belgium, according to a Forum source. The rabbinate in Antwerp issued a declaration against conference participants and urged that the few Jewish attendees of the conference -- mostly members of the fringe Neturei Karta group -- be banned from Antwerp synagogues. There are 15,000 Jews in Antwerp; according to some estimates, at least half of whom are Orthodox.
Kosher Internet in Israel
Ultra-Orthodox Jews have reportedly secured "kosher" Internet service in Israel. Yediot Achronot reported Sunday that the Rabbinical Committee for Communications Affairs and Bezeq, Israel's main telephone company, recently reached a deal on providing separate Internet servers for ultra-Orthodox subscribers. The servers will be supervised by rabbis to ensure that pornography is kept out and that users only have access to approved religious sites, Yediot reported.
Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
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