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Israeli Lawsuit Against Iranian President


A group of Israelis have filed a lawsuit against Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a German court, obligating Germany's chief prosecutor to initiate criminal proceedings. The lawsuit, brought by a Ramat Gan lawyer and a human rights organization (Civil Coalition) is the first of its kind. It accuses Ahmadinejad of harming the memory of Holocaust victims, Holocaust denial, racism, incitement to hatred and violation of UN conventions and resolutions, according to a report on Wednesday in Yedioth Ahronoth.

Israel Concerned Over New Hamas-Iran Alliance

By Robert Berger (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israel is tightening the financial squeeze on the Islamic terrorist group Hamas, which won Palestinian parliamentary elections last month. Hamas has struck a deal to receive financing from Iran.

Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Hamas is not a strategic threat to Israel. The statement was a signal that Israel would continue to put economic, but not military pressure on Hamas. Olmert told the parliamentary Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that with Hamas at the helm, the Palestinian Authority is "contaminated with terror."

Officials at the closed-door meeting quoted Olmert as saying that Israel would not transfer any more money to the Palestinian Authority. That amounts to about $50 million a month in tax revenues collected by Israel on behalf of the Palestinians.

The United States and Europe are also threatening to cut nearly $1 billion a year in aid to the Palestinian Authority, on grounds that Hamas is a terrorist organization seeking the destruction of Israel.

But Hamas has found a new donor. Iran pledged to support the Palestinian Authority, following meetings in Tehran with Hamas leader Khaled Mash'aal, who pledged future support to Iran in return.

Israelis spokesman Avi Pazner said Iran is seeking nuclear weapons, and therefore he says, its alliance with Hamas is an "axis of evil."

"With Iran now you have both the danger of classical terrorism, of nuclear terrorism, and a state who by itself has a terroristic policy. And this is a new threat, and this is a threat that is dangerous to everybody," he said.

Despite its strengthening ties with Iran, Hamas is also reaching out to Palestinian moderates. It held a first round of talks with the defeated Fatah party to discuss a possible partnership in the new Palestinian government. Hamas wants an alliance with Fatah, which signed previous peace agreements with Israel. That could help a Hamas-led government win international recognition.

Kadima Proposes Negative Tax, Civil Marriage and Secular Burial


Education Minister Meir Sheetrit has set out Kadima's socio-economic policy. It includes a negative income tax, civil marriage and secular burial.

At the heart of Kadima's economic policy is a negative income tax, an idea that has been floated periodically in the media as a panacea for alleviating poverty.

Such a tax, generally a graduated transfer payment made to persons who earn below a set amount, can be implemented in a multitude of ways. Sheetrit failed to reveal concrete details regarding Kadima's version of the idea. He said he hoped that a negative tax would break the cycle of unemployment and poverty.

Sheetrit, who served as Binyamin Netanyahu's finance minister when Netanyahu was prime minister (1996-99), also mentioned nothing about restoring other cuts in transfer payments. Netanyahu slashed such payments when he served as Sharon's finance minister (2003-2005). The cuts have been blamed for dramatically increasing poverty levels in Israel.

Sheetrit did say that a Kadima-led government would give tax breaks to persons or families paying tuition for higher education. On the other hand, Sheetrit was silent regarding a long-standing proposal to recognize mortgage payments for tax purposes. He said Kadima would back educational programs for the poor and unemployed and favor introducing interest-free long-term school loans for the disadvantaged.

On other issues, Sheetrit said Kadima would push for legislation legalizing civil marriage and facilitating secular forms of burial. Such matters, in relation to Jews, are currently under the authority of the Israeli Rabbinate.

Kadima's stand on these issues makes it highly unlikely the party would form a coalition with the religious parties, or other more nationalistic parties on the right. These parties generally oppose measures that would negatively impact on Israel's character as a Jewish state.

Chirac to Attend Synagogue Memorial for Jewish Man Tortured and Killed

By Reuters

French President Jacques Chirac and his prime minister will attend a synagogue memorial ceremony Thursday for a Jewish man who was kidnapped, tortured and killed.

Chirac's government has said anti-Semitism seemingly played a role in the killing of Ilan Halimi, a 23-year-old mobile phone salesman whose kidnapping January 21 and death have shocked France.

Chirac's office announced Wednesday that he would attend a ceremony for Halimi at a Paris synagogue on Thursday night, as will Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin. Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy, meanwhile, said he would attend a march Sunday in Paris against racism and anti-Semitism. The opposition Socialists also called for people to join the march to protest "this odious crime."

French authorities found Halimi naked, handcuffed and covered with burn marks last week near railroad tracks in the Essonne region south of Paris. He died on his way to a hospital.

Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said Tuesday that the kidnappers were primarily motivated by greed and believed Jews were wealthy targets. Raids by police probing Halimi's killing turned up documents supporting a Palestinian aid group and others with a militant Islamic character, he said without elaborating.

France is home to Western Europe's largest Jewish and Muslim communities and many recent anti-Jewish attacks have been blamed on Muslim youths angry at the situation in the Middle East.

The rise in attacks prompted Ariel Sharon's appeal last year to French Jews to escape anti-Semitism by immigrating to Israel. Sharon's call briefly set back Israeli-French relations.

Concerns over anti-Semitism in France resurfaced this week after the torture and killing of a young Jewish man. French officials called it an anti-Semitic crime and police found literature linking some suspects to Muslim causes.

Appellate Court Upholds Petition on Placing 'Jerusalem, Israel' on Passports


Menachem Binyamin Zivotofsky of Jerusalem, just 3 years old, emerged victorious last week in his battle with the U.S. administration - a small and perhaps temporary victory, but sweet nevertheless.

The U.S. Court of Appeals upheld his arguments and decided to send his case back to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, so that "both sides may develop a more complete record relating to these and other subjects of dispute." The two parties are the child (and his parents, Ari and Naomi) and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

All said, the ruling is a technical one: Zivotofsky has an argument worthy of deliberation, the judges decided. Via his parents, Zivotofsky is making a simple request: He wants his U.S. passport to record him as born in "Israel," and not, as the U.S. Consulate decided, in "Jerusalem."

The U.S. administration, as a matter of policy, is not willing to confirm that U.S. citizens who were born in Jerusalem were indeed born in Israel because, as was argued by the state's representative in court, the issue is "the subject of profound dispute" and Israel's claim to sovereignty over the city has never been decided.

Two facts bear mentioning: One, the U.S. Embassy is located in Tel Aviv; and two, the passport of a U.S. citizen who is born in Jerusalem will not include the word "Israel," according to State Department regulations behind the actions of the consular officials.

Zivotofsky petitioned the court based on a law passed by Congress in 2002. Among the law's requirements, Zivotofsky is arguing, is that the secretary of state list Israel as the country of origin for U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem on passports, birth certificates and certificates of nationality. But the U.S. administration refuses to recognize this.

During the State Department authorization signing ceremony, President Bush said, "U.S. policy regarding Jerusalem has not changed," and that the Jerusalem provisions "would, if construed as mandatory rather than advisory, impermissibly interfere with the president's constitutional authority to formulate the position of the United States, speak for the nation in international affairs, and determine the terms on which recognition is given to foreign states."

The U.S. District Court rejected Zivotofsky's original petition, ruling that the administration had exclusive jurisdiction when it came to the question of political recognition. The Federal Appeals Court, however, believes the debate over the issue has yet to be exhausted.

According to Zivotofsky's lawyer, Nathan Lewin, the child's right to have his passport bear the name of the country in which he was born has been violated by the state. Contrary to the original petition, in which Zivotofsky had asked for his passport to list him as born in "Jerusalem, Israel," the parties have agreed that the upcoming debate will focus on the question of whether the word "Israel" alone should be written in the document.

The judges heard the oral arguments of the parties in November, with a significant portion of the debate dedicated to the question of whether Zivotofsky had the right to sue at all. Lewin convinced the judges that his client did have the right to sue, and that the State Department's regulations had caused him "damage."

However, the Federal Appeals Court did not rule on the essential issue - the political question.

The judges and the state's representative spent a long time arguing over the meaning of the word "shall" that appears in the Congressional law. Is it sufficient for the law to stipulate that the administration "shall" write "Israel?" The state argued that such a stipulation was insufficient; the judges weren't convinced.

The crux of the issue at stake is not Jerusalem's political status, but the power of Congress versus the power of the president. Under the U.S. Constitution, the president is authorized "to receive ambassadors and other state officials" from foreign countries - hence the interpretation that the president has the power to recognize (or not) other states. And this lies behind the administration's disregard for the Congressional law.

"Are you aware of precedents in which the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the president contrary to the position of Congress?" the Federal Appeals Court asked the state's representative. "I am not aware" of such cases, the state's representative admitted. This question will now come up for discussion again before the District Court.

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