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France suggests peace plan

Israel objects unequivocally

WorldPublished: 26 June 2015

TEL AVIV — For months, France has considered taking a more active role in advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Israel wants no part of it.

The French peace proposal reportedly would have three components: a return to direct Israeli-Palestinian talks, a committee of representatives from world and regional powers to facilitate the negotiations, and a United Nations Security Council resolution that would set a timetable for the process.

“We don’t want to replace the role of the sides,” Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius of France said, according to Israeli reports, adding that the U.N. resolution is “a means, not an end.”

But for Israel, the resolution is a poison pill. The Israeli government sees U.N. actions regarding Israel as irredeemably biased and has opposed Palestinian initiatives to gain statehood through U.N. recognition.


Israeli President Reuven Rivlin riles Conservative rabbis

WorldPublished: 12 June 2015

Israeli Conservative rabbis — and their American colleagues — are learning an important lesson.

Sometimes no mitzvah goes unpunished.

After the Orthodox mayor of Rehovot cancelled a bar mitzvah ceremony for disabled children arranged by the local Masorti synagogue, leaders of Israel’s Masorti movement, as Conservative Judaism is known in Israel, thought they had a compromise brokered by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who offered to host the ceremony in his official residence.

Now Masorti leaders are crying foul, saying the rabbi who trained the disabled kids for their group bar mitzvah has been disinvited from the planned June ceremony arranged by Rivlin’s office.


At security confab, Israeli coalition members split on West Bank policy

WorldPublished: 12 June 2015

HERZLIYA, Israel — When Israel’s coalition government formed last month, its constituent parties all but ruled out establishing a Palestinian state in the near future. But that doesn’t mean they can agree on what to do instead.

Speaking this week at the Herzliya Conference, Israel’s premier diplomatic and security policy gathering, senior Israeli government officials struck different and sometimes conflicting tones on what Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians should be. Even within the ruling Likud party, officials advanced significantly different proposals for the future of the West Bank.

Some favor indefinite control of the territory. Others support negotiations and interim steps to prepare the ground for a future partition. Others want to hang tight while the wars roiling the Middle East play out.


Modern Orthodox rabbi summoned to hearing

Riskin, a liberal on conversion practice, to face rabbinate council scrutiny

WorldPublished: 05 June 2015

TEL AVIV — There’s no shortage of Israelis who want to reform the office of the chief rabbinate.

Ranging from advocates of religion-state separation to leaders of Israel’s non-Orthodox movements to newspaper columnists, some want to end the rabbinate’s monopoly over the country’s religious services. Others want to dissolve it entirely.

But last week, the rabbinate appears to have targeted a leader whose critique of Israel’s religious status quo is subtler. Shlomo Riskin, chief rabbi of the West Bank settlement of Efrat, has been summoned to a hearing before the rabbinate next month, where he believes his job will be challenged.

Unlike many of the rabbinate’s critics, Riskin is Orthodox, supports the rabbinate in its current form, and operates within the bounds of Orthodox Jewish law, or halachah. But he has called on the rabbinate to condone his relatively progressive policies, especially regarding conversion and the ordination of women.

“I’m very much in favor of the chief rabbinate, but there has to be a certain degree of pluralism for the rabbis,” Riskin, who draws a salary from the rabbinate, said. “It’s important for the chief rabbinate to contain within itself a number of different halachic ways.”


Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, in Israel, likes it but stays neutral

WorldPublished: 22 May 2015

TEL AVIV — In 2003, two years after the website was founded, the editors of Wikipedia faced a dilemma: How should they refer to the part-fence, part-wall Israel was building along the West Bank border?

The article’s first iteration — published amid the bloody second intifada, or Palestinian uprising — called it a “security fence” and focused on Israeli support. Within half an hour, another editor added a sentence about a United Nations condemnation. Later that day, the Palestinians’ preferred term, “apartheid wall,” appeared.

Following thousands of edits on the free online crowdsourced encyclopedia, the article now calls it the “Israeli West Bank barrier” and links to a list of alternative names, from “separation fence” to “wall of apartheid.”

“The right thing to do, if you’re new to the issue, is you should be told what is this debate about,” Jimmy Wales, a Wikipedia founder, said on Sunday during an interview here. “That’s a struggle. You have to be taught about those issues. You don’t want to, in an unclear way, use language that carries with it a hidden conclusion.”


Back in power, charedi parties aim to dismantle religious reforms

WorldPublished: 08 May 2015

TEL AVIV — Israel’s last governing coalition, divided on war, peace and economics, did agree on one thing: Israel’s religious policies had to change.

Now it appears that the incoming coalition will be organized around the opposite principle: Those changes must end.

A coalition agreement signed last week between the Likud party led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the charedi Orthodox United Torah Judaism faction promises to dismantle a raft of legislation enacted in the last two years that chipped away at several longstanding entitlements enjoyed by the charedi community. Shas, the Sephardic charedi party, signed its own coalition agreement with Likud this week. That will cement the power of religious parties in the next government.

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Why Ethiopian-Israelis took to Tel Aviv’s streets

WorldPublished: 08 May 2015

TEL AVIV — A historically disadvantaged black minority is galvanized when one of its members appears to suffer brutality at the hands of police — and the episode is caught on video. Peaceful mass protests devolve into violence. Police crack down in an attempt to control crowds.

It’s not Baltimore or Ferguson. It’s Tel Aviv, which was rocked by unrest Sunday after a video of a uniformed Ethiopian-Israeli soldier, Demas Pakada, being beaten by Israeli police made the rounds online. Here are four things you need to know about the Israeli demonstrations.

A police beating sparked the protests.

The video that triggered the Tel Aviv protests shows Pakada holding his bicycle on an empty sidewalk. A police officer approaches him, grabs him, punches him, and pushes him to the ground. Pakada then stands up and exchanges words with the officer.

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After the quake

Israelis in Nepal stick together, try to calm their parents

WorldPublished: 01 May 2015

TEL AVIV — When the ground began to shake, Inbar Irron was among a dozen Israelis in Nepal who ran outside the building where they had been sitting — and straight into a cloud of dust.

When their vision cleared, they saw a devastating scene. Much of the village of Manegau, where they had come to volunteer for four months, had crumbled to the ground. Miraculously, none of the villagers was hurt. but many of their homes had been reduced to rubble.

Irron’s group — sent by the Israeli NGO Tevel B’Tzedek, which organizes volunteer trips to Nepal — was there to set up a youth group, provide leadership workshops to women in the village, and to bring Israeli agritech to its farms and computers to its schools.

Now that mission is on long-term hold. The volunteers and villagers have pitched plastic tents to weather the rainy nights, and they hope that their food stockpile will last until the road to Katmandu reopens. The immediate task, Irron says, is to rebuild at least a few buildings and reassure the villagers.

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Why Israeli couples have surrogate pregnancies in Nepal

WorldPublished: 01 May 2015

TEL AVIV — While Israel mobilizes to aid victims of Nepal’s earthquake and find its missing citizens, the Jewish state is paying special attention to the safety of 26 Israeli babies born of surrogate mothers in Nepal.

Hundreds of Israeli couples choose surrogate pregnancy, where a couple’s embryo is implanted in another woman, who carries the pregnancy to term.

Here’s why Israelis opt for surrogate pregnancies, and why so many choose surrogate mothers in places like Nepal.

Why do Israelis choose surrogacy?

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Bibi wins

After divisive campaign, Israelis elect Netanyahu

WorldPublished: 20 March 2015

TEL AVIV — After weeks in which polls consistently showed Zionist Union holding a slight lead over the Likud Party of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli leader effected a dramatic comeback to win a decisive victory in Israeli elections on Tuesday.

With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Netanyahu’s Likud had won 30 seats. That is a quarter of the Knesset and six more than the Zionist Union’s 24.

“Our country’s everyday reality doesn’t give us the luxury for delay,” Netanyahu said in a statement released on Wednesday. “The citizens of Israel expect that we will act quickly and responsibly to establish a leadership that will work for them in areas of defense, the economy, and society just as we promised in this campaign — and just like we will now set ourselves towards doing.”

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