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Newsdesk December 19, 2003

Minister Backs Down on Prize

Education Minister Limor Livnat on Tuesday night retracted her decision to deny Daniel Barenboim the prestigious Wolf Prize after she heard the maestro tell Israel Radio that he apologizes to anyone who might have been offended by anything he had done.

Livnat, who chairs the Wolf Foundation in her capacity as minister of education and culture, had announced that Barenboim had won the prize, together with cellist Mstislav Rostropovich.

But the announcement of the award was immediately followed by a correction stating she was against giving Barenboim the prize because he had conducted the Berlin Philharmonic playing Wagner at the Israel Festival two years ago.

Livnat said she was complying with a Knesset Education Committee decision made after the performance that declared Barenboim “persona non grata.”

Barenboim said he was “more saddened than angered” by Livnat’s initial decision, but insisted she had no standing in the matter. “It’s about time we learn what democracy means,” he said.

The Wolf Prizes were established by the late Ricardo Wolf, a German-Cuban philanthropist who was an early backer of Fidel Castro and served as Cuban ambassador to Israel, where he died in 1981.

Saddam Report Slammed

The publication of details of the Israeli army’s 1992 plan to assassinate Saddam Hussein caused serious harm to national security, sources in the defense establishment charged this week.

Israel’s military chief of staff, Lieutenant General Moshe Ya’alon, labeled the media reports “irresponsible,” while the army censor said that it never approved some of the details that were reported. The censor added that it would consider taking steps against the guilty parties, which are apparently the dailies Ma’ariv and Yediot Aharonot.

The media reported yesterday that Sayeret Matkal, the elite General Staff Commando Unit, trained in 1992 to assassinate the Iraqi leader in a daring operation that would have landed commandos in Iraq and fired sophisticated missiles at him during a funeral.

The attempt was called off after five soldiers were killed during a training accident at the Tze’elim base in the Negev.

“There are things that should remain internal for security reasons, and shouldn’t be revealed to the whole world in an irresponsible manner,” Ya’alon said at the Herzliya Conference on Israel’s national security.

Although the army censor officially banned reports on the canceled operation for 11 years, many details have been published both in Israel and abroad. In light of this, the censor said in a press statement yesterday, it decided that following Saddam’s capture over the weekend, it would permit publication of certain details.

Nevertheless, the statement continued, “the press published many details that were forbidden and that could cause damage.”

Wall Plan Criticized

The local branch of the Conservative movement has asked the Religious Affairs Ministry to intervene in a construction project at the Western Wall that would expand the space in which the sexes are separated at the expense of the area where they are allowed to be together.

The project, an initiative of the Western Wall Heritage Fund and the East Jerusalem Development Corporation, would expand the area in front of the Wall, which is used for prayer, by some 600 square meters, at the expense of the upper plaza, which is used for ceremonies and for visitors who are not praying. In the prayer area, men and women are separated by a barrier in keeping with Orthodox tradition, and according to the Conservative movement, which rejects the separation of the sexes, the construction would result in this barrier being extended by about 15 meters.

The movement’s legal advisor, Dan Evron, charged that the project represents an attempt to turn the entire Western Wall plaza into an Orthodox synagogue. Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, the Wall’s rabbi, responded that the existing prayer area is too small, and that since the upper plaza is not used for worship, the expansion will not change the religious status quo.

Iran To Allow Access

Iran will sign an additional protocol to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty that will allow United Nations inspectors access to all its facilities, Iran’s vice president, Gholamreza Aghazadeh, said Wednesday. The signing will take place Thursday. Iran had allowed inspectors access only to some sites, leading to threats of sanctions from Western countries. Iranian conservatives had resisted signing the protocol. Israel’s Shin Bet security chief reiterated this week that Iran represents the greatest global terrorist threat.

Deal Reached

World Jewish Congress officials reached a compromise in a dispute over the group’s Israeli branch. The WJC executive committee agreed “by consensus” to name Matti Drobles, who chairs the group’s Israel bureau, as acting director of the Jerusalem office until the Israelis nominate a permanent replacement on January 27, said Elan Steinberg, the WJC’s executive vice president. Yehiel Leket, who co-chairs the Israel office, had opposed New York headquarters’ nomination of Bobby Brown, a former aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to head the Israel bureau. The conflict follows an earlier spat between the WJC’s president, Edgar Bronfman, and its senior vice president, Isi Leibler, which led to the creation of a task force to overhaul the group. The executives approved the task force’s first draft report.

Dating Behavior Eyed

Nearly half of college-aged Jews have one non-Jewish parent and don’t exclusively date Jews.

Those are among the findings from the latest National Jewish Population Survey about Jews ages 18 to 29, presented Sunday to officials of Hillel, who were meeting for a professional staff conference in Princeton, N.J. The NJPS 2000-01 showed dating and social patterns differing, sometimes dramatically, between students who have one or two Jewish parents.

While the report shows that less than 1% of students with only one Jewish parent exclusively date Jews, 36% of those with two Jewish parents date only Jews. According to the NJPS, 48% of college-aged Jewish students have two Jewish parents, 45% have one Jewish parent and 7% said neither parent was Jewish.

Report: Mideast Peace Unlikely

Israel and the Palestinians are unlikely to reach a peace agreement before 2020, an American intelligence report said. But the forecast could change when Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat dies, the report said. The report, written by the National Intelligence Council, which operates under the aegis of CIA Director George Tenet, also said unconventional weapons could be used if Israel gets into a war with an Arab state. “In the Israel-Arab conflict, there have been pleasant surprises, but the dispute has almost always reverted back to spheres of hostility and suspicion,” the report said.

Israel Fears U.N. Move

Israel is trying to thwart a Palestinian challenge to its United Nations credentials.

Palestinians are trying to “challenge our credentials by claiming that the credentials to Israel only apply to the pre-1967 Israel and not to what is called the ‘Occupied Territories,’” said Arye Mekel, Israel’s deputy permanent representative to the U.N.

It’s not the first time Palestinians have tried the tactic, but “obviously this is a very negative development, and we are working with many countries against the move,” Mekel said.

He expects the move to come in the form of an amendment next week in the General Assembly.

Istanbul Jews Return to Shul

Services for the Jewish Sabbath were held December 12 in one of the Istanbul synagogues bombed last month.

Chief Rabbi Isak Haleva, who was injured in one of the blasts, attended the services held in the Beth Israel synagogue. The two November 15 bombings and two others that rocked Istanbul five days later killed 61 people.

Architect Pulls Out of Project

Architect Frank Gehry quit designing a planned museum for Polish Jewry.

Details about Gehry’s departure from the Museum of the History of Polish Jewry, to be built on the site of the former Warsaw Ghetto, were not released.

A design competition for the museum will now be held. The Polish government has pledged to fund one-quarter of the museum’s $63 million price tag.


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