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Former Israeli PM Yitzhak Shamir Laid to Rest

By Robert Berger (VOA-Jerusalem)

A former Israeli leader was laid to rest Monday in a state funeral. Israelis paid their last respects to former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir as his flag-draped coffin lay in state in the Knesset, Israel's parliament. "He was a short person, but a giant as a leader," said Yossi Ben-Aharon, who was Shamir's chief of staff. "I admired his stubborn dedication to the state and to the people, to the Jewish people and to the Land of Israel."

Shamir served two terms as Israeli prime minister from 1983-1984 and again from 1986 to 1992 as head of the right-wing Likud party, the same party that rules Israel today. He supported Jewish settlement in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and strongly opposed territorial concessions and the creation of a Palestinian state. "I don't believe there will be peace with the Arabs," he once said, "because they don't want peace."

But under pressure from the United States, Shamir reluctantly brought Israel to the Madrid Peace Conference in 1991, kicking off a negotiating process based on the concept of land for peace. He was defeated in the 1992 elections, and his successor, Yitzhak Rabin, signed the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians a year later. That led to Israeli troop withdrawals from Palestinian cities in the West Bank and Gaza.

In a state funeral, Shamir's coffin was taken from the Knesset to the Mount Herzl Cemetery in Jerusalem, where he was laid to rest alongside other leaders of Israel. He was 96 years old and has suffered from Alzheimer's disease.

Born Yitzhak Jazernicki in Poland, he immigrated to British-ruled Palestine in 1935. He joined Lehi, the most hard-line of Jewish movements fighting the British rule. After Israel became a state in 1948, he became one of the founders of the Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad.

Shamir gave up spying in 1965 and entered politics five years later to become speaker of the Knesset after his right-wing Likud party won general elections in 1977. In 1999 he left Likud, accusing Binyamin Netanyahu, the current prime minister, of betraying his party's ideology by agreeing to limited Palestinian sovereignty over parts of the occupied West Bank.

Romney to Visit Israel, Meet Netanyahu


Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, will visit Israel this summer to meet with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and other leaders, a senior aide to Netanyahu told The New York Times on Monday.

According to the report Romney, who has pledged to "do the opposite" of the Obama administration on matters pertaining to Israel, is also expected to meet with the Palestinian Authority's Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, President Shimon Peres of Israel, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel B. Shapiro and leaders of the opposition Labor Party.

"He's a strong friend of Israel and we'll be happy to meet with him," Ron Dermer, Netanyahu's senior adviser, told The New York Times. "We value strong bipartisan support for Israel and we're sure it will only deepen that."

Dermer said Netanyahu and Romney would probably meet over a meal at the prime minister's residence, though details have not yet been decided. "The prime minister meets Democratic and Republican officials alike," he told The New York Times. "I'm sure they want to broadcast a very strong relationship with Israel, and Israel wants to broadcast a very strong bipartisan relationship with both sides of the aisle."

Republican Congressmen recently urged Romney to hurry up and visit Israel to"shame" President Obama, who has not visited as president. Obama visited Israel during his 2008 campaign, and has hinted that he will come again this year before the November elections.

A recent poll indicated that Obama's support from Jews in New York State has plummeted and he now can count only on a slim majority to vote for him. The poll indicated that the reason for the drop in support is that Jews – like others – feel worse off than four years ago. While the president is expected to easily win New York in the November election, the drop in Jewish support is a worrying sign for his fundraisers and for campaign managers in states where the Jewish vote may be critical.

Obama has come under fire for his policy on Israel. In his foreign policy speech last May, Obama called for Israel to return to the indefensible pre-1967 borders as a starting point for negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. The speech drew criticism from Obama's political opponents, with Romney accusing the President of having "thrown Israel under the bus."

Officials: Iranians Planned to Attack US, Israeli Targets in Kenya

By ABC News

Two Iranian men who led officials to a 33-pound stash of explosives have now allegedly admitted they were plotting to attack U.S., Israel, Saudi or British targets in Kenya, according to the Associated Press.

Ahmad Abolfathi Mohammad and Sayed Mansour Mousavi, who appeared in a Nairobi court last week, were arrested on June 19 in Nairobi and then led Kenyan authorities to 15 kilograms (of explosives in Mombasa. They are believed to be members of the Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force, say Kenyan officials.

Last fall, the U.S. disrupted an alleged plot by the Quds Force to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. in Washington. Earlier this year, the Azerbaijani government arrested nearly two dozen Iranians who were allegedly plotting attacks on Western targets, and Thai police arrested a group of Iranian nationals after they allegedly attempted to flee a rented residence where bombs had detonated by flinging explosives at a taxi driver and police. Indian police have identified, but not apprehended, three Iranian suspects in the February bombing of an Israeli diplomatic vehicle. Israeli officials say a similar bomb was found on an Israeli vehicle in Tbilisi, Georgia but was defused.

"After Iran sent its people to assassinate the Saudi ambassador on American soil," said Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's office in a statement Monday, "and carry out attacks in Azerbaijan, Bangkok, Tbilisi and New Delhi, now its intention to carry out attacks in Africa is revealed. The international community needs to fight the world's greatest exporter of terror."

One of the Iranian suspects, Ahmad Mohammad, alleged in court last week that the two men had been interrogated by Israeli agents while under arrest. He also said he was tortured while in detention, which a Kenyan prosecutor denied.

Israelis have long vacationed in Kenya, and Israelis own hotels and retail properties in the country. In 2002, 13 people were killed in the bombing of an Israeli-owned beach hotel in Mombasa.

Over the past several years, at least five scientists linked to the Iranian nuclear program have been killed, and Iran has blamed the U.S., the U.K. and Israel for the attacks. Several were killed using magnetic "sticky" bombs attached to vehicles. Some of the apparent reprisal attacks allegedly carried out by Iranian suspects used the same method.

The arrests of Iranian suspects come in the midst of a series of terror attacks inside Kenya. The U.S. embassy issued an alert on June 22, three days after the men were arrested, and warning Americans against travel to Mombasa, ordering government workers out of the city and suspending government travel there through July 1.

Poll: Israelis Divided on US Role in Mideast Peace


The seventh annual B'nai B'rith World Center's Survey on Contemporary Israeli Attitudes Toward Diaspora Jewry found that the Israeli public is divided on the effect of United States' involvement in the Mideast peace process.

One-third of the participants said that the US impeded progress, while one-third said the US promoted the peace process over the past few years, with the final third saying they did not know. . Most of the survey focused on attitudes regarding the ties between Israel and the Diaspora. An overwhelming 80% of Israelis strongly favored the use of their tax money to promote programs like Birthright or Masa, which garner support for Israel in the Diaspora by bringing Jewish teens and young adults to the Jewish state.

When asked what they considered the best way for the state to deal with violence against Jews in Europe, a majority felt it would be more effective to encourage aliyah (51%) than to work with local governments (38%) or to train the Jewish community in tactics of self-defense (7%).

Israelis were almost equally split on whether Israeli tax money should be used to help members of Diaspora Jewry during times of economic crisis, with 46% supporting and 43% opposing such aid. When asked the same question in 2009, nearly 60% supported the measure.

Most Israelis – 51% – strongly oppose allowing citizens living outside of Israel to elect Knesset members, while 29% were in favor of allowing such citizens voting rights. When asked whether American Jews should boycott Israeli settlements, 76% of Israelis said no while 13% said yes.

Jewish Hospital in Berlin Suspends Circumcisions


The Jewish Hospital in Berlin has decided to suspend all circumcisions of children for religious reasons following the ruling delivered by a German court a hospital spokesman said. "We are suspending circumcisions until the legal situation is clarified," said Gerhard Nerlich, a spokesman for the hospital, citing the chief of internal medicine Kristof Graf.

The Jewish hospital in Berlin performs 300 circumcisions annually, including 100 for religious reasons and the rest for medical reasons. "We performed circumcisions on a regular basis until this ruling and we no longer have the legal freedom to do it," said Nerlich, adding that two operations scheduled to take place had already been canceled. "The surgeon has contacted the families explaining the reasons why this can not be done."

Nerlich highlighted the dilemma of Jewish parents and Muslims who want to circumcise their child. "Where will they go now? It is a matter that should be cleared up quickly," he said. Earlier, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle had distanced himself from the ruling, stressing that "religious traditions are protected in Germany."

Earlier, a German court ruled that non-medical circumcision is a "serious and irreversible interference in the integrity of the human body." The Cologne District Court addressed the issue after a Muslim doctor performed a circumcision on a four-year-old boy. Two days later the boy's mother brought the child to the emergency room because he was bleeding. Charges were subsequently brought against the doctor, who was found not guilty in the first instance, but the prosecutor appealed.

Meanwhile, a jurist with a leading role in the legal debate said Friday that the widely criticized decision aims only to delay the act, not ban it, and is not directed against any faith. The operation does serious bodily harm and only males old enough to consent to it freely should undergo it, said Holm Putzke, law professor at Passau University in southern Germany.

"I can understand that this verdict has irritated people around the world, but this irritation can be resolved if people look at the reasons for it," Putzke told Reuters by telephone. "Nobody wants to ban religious circumcision in Islam and Judaism, not at all," he said. "It should just be decided by those who undergo it."

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