Newsletter : 4fax1130.txt
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Egypt Expected to Push el-Assad
During Tuesday's Sharm el-Sheikh meeting between Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and
Syrian President Bashar el-Assad, Mubarak is likely to ask the Syrian leader to have
Egypt's foreign minister and intelligence chief act as an intermediary to Israel. The two
senior Egyptian officials will be meeting in Jerusalem on Wednesday with Foreign Minister
Silvan Shalom. It is likely that Egypt will deliver some sort of message on Wednesday
indicating Syria's willingness to resume diplomatic contacts and negotiations with Israel.
Egypt is most interested in portraying itself as a peace intermediary in the region.
Senior Hamas Leader Holds Out Possibility of Cease-Fire with Israel
By Sonja Pace (VOA-Jerusalem)
A senior leader of the Islamic militant group Hamas said his organization would not
stand in the way of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement if it were fair for the
Palestinians. He also held out prospects for a long-term cease-fire with Israel. Sheik
Hassan Yusef is the top Hamas leader in the West Bank, and his comments are the most
moderate a member of the group has made publicly.
Hamas has never recognized the right of Israel to exist and has carried out dozens of
attacks against Israelis during the past four years of violence, but Sheik Yusef indicated
the group might be re-thinking its strategy as it explores new avenues in a post-Arafat
era. Violence has dropped off considerably since Arafat's death on Nov. 11, with the
interim Palestinian leadership and the Israeli government seemingly eager for a calm
Speaking on Israel Radio, Sheik Yusef spoke of Israel and the Palestinians living side
by side under a long-term cease-fire. "This may surprise you," he said, "but a 'hudna' - a
cease-fire, should be between two sides that agree to live together side by side. Such a
'hudna' could be for 10 years and could be extended." However, he has also said a truce
would have to be respected by both sides.
The Palestinians are preparing for elections in January to choose a successor to
Arafat, and front-runner Mahmoud Abbas has been meeting with militant groups to discuss
their cooperation. Sheik Yusef said while Hamas would not field a candidate in the
elections, it is watching the process closely. He indicated Hamas wants to become part of
the political process and possibly join a future government.
Sheik Yusef also said Hamas would not veto a peace agreement with Israel as long as it
is fair and restores the rights of the Palestinians. "We would study any such agreement
carefully." He said his comments should be seen in the context of "new realities" and a
reflection of Hamas' growing "maturity." Sheik Yusef called on Israel and the
international community to re-consider their characterization of Hamas as a terrorist
organization. He has spent the past two years in an Israeli jail and was just recently
High Court Overturns Rabbinical Court Ruling
The Supreme Court has determined that a Monaco man who refuses to give his wife a
Jewish divorce may not be held in Israel against his will.
The story began six years ago when the couple - married in both Jewish and civil
ceremonies - received a civil divorce in Monaco. The husband refused to give his wife a
get [Jewish divorce], however, thus that the woman was prevented from marrying anyone
The woman moved to Israel in the meanwhile, while the husband persisted in his refusal
to allow her to continue with her life. She found out several months ago that he was
planning a visit to Israel, and turned to the Rabbinical Court for help. Upon his arrival
in the country seven months ago, the Court issued an injunction forbidding him to leave
until he gives his wife the longed-for document.
The man countered by turning to the Supreme Court, which issued a majority opinion in
his favor Monday. The Court ruled that the Rabbinical Courts have no jurisdiction over a
foreign citizen. "However painful and difficult the woman's problem is," the Court ruled,
"this can have no effect on the principles of international [relations]." Justice Elyakim
Rubenstein was in the minority in his opinion that the Rabbinical Court should be allowed
a say in this matter.
Scientology Settlement Puts IRS in a Kosher Pickle
By The National Law Journal
Tax lawyers are watching a trial in Los Angeles that pits an orthodox Jewish family
against the Internal Revenue Service over whether tuition for religious education is
deductible -- based in part on a "secret" settlement between the IRS and the Church of
"It's not clear that [plaintiffs] Michael and Marla Sklar will win, but if they do, it
may well mean that millions of families will be able to deduct some portion of private
religious school education," said Prof. Evelyn Brody, a Chicago-Kent College of Law tax
specialist. "It would force the IRS to deal with millions of dollars in new deductions and
it would overwhelm them."
Elizabeth Pierson, a tax attorney with Los Angeles' Hoffman Sabban & Watenmaker,
said the case has tax lawyers' attention. "The Sklars are trying to establish a brave new
world where private compromises between the government and taxpayers can be relied on by
unrelated taxpayers, not the norm," she said. "And it's a constitutional question of the
separation of church and state, because, if religious education becomes deductible, it
means that taxpayers are subsidizing religion."
The fight is over $3,200 in taxes Sklar saved by deducting about $15,000 in tuition for
his children's religious education at an orthodox school in Los Angeles. Sklar v.
Commissioner, 000395-01 (U.S. Tax Ct., L.A.). Michael Sklar, who is an accountant, sued
the IRS over the same deduction in 1997 over his 1994 return and lost. The current suit is
over his 1995 tax return. IRS attorney Louis Jack said he is not allowed to comment on the
case. But in his opening remarks, Jack said that case law is clear that tuition for
religious schooling is not deductible.
The Sklars have launched two arguments. First, according to Jeffrey Zuckerman, the
family's attorney, Congress amended the tax code in 1993, adding intangible benefits from
charitable donations to the list of things that are deductible. For example, a $125 ticket
to a fund-raising dinner is reduced by the value of the dinner, and the difference can be
deducted. Sklar argues that part of the tuition, the excess beyond the actual cost of
private secular education, which is considered tangible, can be deducted.
Second, the IRS struck a 1993 deal with the Church of Scientology that allows
Scientologists to deduct the cost of training and auditing, a form of religious education,
which means that all religious tuition should be deductible. Auditing refers to one-to-one
encounters with church officials, through which the student becomes aware of his or her
spiritual dimension. Training refers to doctrine classes, according to the U.S. Supreme
Court opinion, Hernandez v. Commissioner, 490 U.S. 680 (1989). The settlement, which came
after the 1993 opinion, ended a battle between the IRS and the church that began in the
1960s when Scientologists lost their IRS standing as a church.
"The IRS has publicly called them a church and described training and auditing as
deductible," said Zuckerman, an antitrust and labor lawyer with the Washington, D.C.,
office of New York's Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle. "That recognition should be
extended to all religions, and it is discrimination not to."
Brody, who serves on the American Bar Association Tax Committee, said the 9th U.S.
Circuit Court of Appeals has already ruled on the disparate treatment argument. "They said
it doesn't matter how the Scientologists are treated, and, anyway, the Scientologists
shouldn't have gotten what they did," Brody said. "That's why we're all watching the case
-- we've been expecting it." He added, "When the IRS settled with the Scientologists,
after they'd beaten them, we knew deductions for tuition would come into question."
If the Sklars prevail, it will drive the issue back to Congress, according to Gail
Richmond, a professor of law and associate dean at the Shepard Broad Law Center of Nova
Southeastern University in Florida. "It will force the IRS to come up with a calculation
and the next fight will be over where that line is," she said.
An Israeli Brief
(Guysen Israel News)
A poll published in the Israeli edition of the National Geographic reveals that 42% of
the Israelis would be convinced that man has been created as described in the Torah, while
they are only 31% to adopt the evolution theory. Judaism sees no antagonism between these
two versions, since the creation of the world might have preceded the creation of Adam,
the first man, by several billion years.
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