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News: World

Iran deadline approaches

Skeptics on both sides draw dueling red lines

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WASHINGTON — It’s deadline time at the nuclear talks between Iran and the major powers, and skeptics on both sides are laying out red lines in a bid to shape a final deal.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, who had been wary of the talks, last week outlined his own expectations for the deal — and where there would be no compromise.

On the American side, a five-point memo circulated by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee has been influential in shaping how Congress and others are pressing the Obama administration.

Among the contentious issues are the period that restrictions must stay in place and how much Iran must reveal of its nuclear past.

Officials on both sides say that the talks being held in Vienna, Austria, will stretch for a week or so beyond Tuesday’s deadline.


Will Israelis pay the price for a natural gas ‘monopoly’?

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Israeli consumers are no strangers to high prices.

Basic household goods like food and toiletries cost more in Israel than in all but two countries in Europe, a recent Nielsen research study found. Israeli real estate prices are up nearly 60 percent since 2008. Tel Aviv is the world’s third-most expensive city in which to buy beer, and furniture prices at IKEA Israel are more than double those at IKEA Norway, recent surveys have shown.

Now Israeli consumers are worried about high natural gas prices.

At issue is a deal on which the Knesset is preparing to vote that would give a partnership between two companies — Texas-based Noble Energy and Israel’s Delek Group — control over developing the two largest gas fields discovered off Israel’s Mediterranean coast in recent years.


Remembering Steven Sotloff

Honoring the slain journalist in his Florida hometown

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It’s been eight months since Jewish freelance journalist Steven Sotloff was beheaded by ISIS.

Still shaken by the loss, his hometown, Pinecrest, Florida, an upscale community of some 20,000 people, just south of Miami, continues to find new ways to honor his memory.

The tributes to Sotloff range in scale from local tributes to programs that are global in reach.

“Temple Beth Am Day School wants you to know that your sacrifice will not be forgotten,” fifth-grader Zachary Marcus wrote in a dedication in the school’s yearbook. “It must have been too terrible to put into words what you went through leading to your death. You have more bravery and courage than anyone else we know. You are a true superhero, a real superman.”


Burning questions

Rabbi Lawrence Troster reflects on papal environmental letter

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On Sunday, Rabbi Lawrence Troster of Teaneck will march through downtown Rome to Vatican City.

The march is being organized to support Pope Francis’ call for action on the environment embodied in the papal letter, or encyclical, he released last week, called Laudato Si (“Blessed Be”). An international interfaith coalition, Our Voices, whose goal is “bringing faith to the climate talks,” is organizing the march. Among the coalition’s members are the American interfaith group GreenFaith, where Rabbi Troster is scholar-in-residence.

This is a period of increased activity for Rabbi Troster and the broader Jewish environmental movement, jumpstarted by the papal letter that Rabbi Troster called “amazing” and leading up to global talks on a new treaty to fight global warming scheduled for November in Paris.

These next few months, Rabbi Troster said, will see the environmental issues taking a higher profile on the Jewish communal agenda, as it becomes a priority for the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center in Washington, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, and a group he is organizing of rabbis and cantors called Shomrei Breishit. He hopes it will surface in high holiday sermons, and in interfaith actions during Sukkot.


France suggests peace plan

Israel objects unequivocally

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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.


Invading London’s Jewish heart

Planned neo-Nazi rally provokes outrage

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LONDON — Like many European Jews, Stephen Lever has mostly stopped wearing his kippah on the street in recent years.

A Londoner, Lever said he fears joining the hundreds of Jews accosted annually in his native United Kingdom, often by Muslim or Arab extremists seeking to exact retribution for Israel’s actions. More than 1,000 anti-Semitic attacks were recorded in Great Britain last year. That’s an all-time high, and it’s even more attacks than reported in France, which has roughly double the Jewish population.

The exception, however, is in Golders Green, the heavily Jewish neighborhood in northwest London that is considered the epicenter of British Jewry. Approximately one-fifth of Britain’s 250,000 Jews live in the surrounding northern borough of Barnet.

Along the neighborhood’s main thoroughfare, Golders Green Road, dozens of shops feature signs in Hebrew.


Israeli President Reuven Rivlin riles Conservative rabbis

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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

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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.

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