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Israel Opposes French-Sponsored Peace Conference with Palestinians

By VOA News &

Israel has reiterated its firm opposition to a French-sponsored international conference before the end of the year to revive long-stalled peace efforts with the Palestinians.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has spoken out against "international diktats" and repeatedly called for direct negotiations with the Palestinians. Netanyahu's emissaries made clear to French Envoy Pierre Vimont, who is in the region for talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials, that Israel will not participate in any international conference convened contrary to that position.

According to a statement from Netanyahu's office, the Israeli officials called for "direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority" and said "any other initiative only pushes the region further away from this process."

The statement added that "promoting such a conference will make the possibility of advancing the peace process much less likely" since it will allow Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority "to continue avoiding the decision to enter into direct negotiations without preconditions."

Netanyahu has repeatedly called on Abbas to meet for talks, but Abbas has refused unless Israel ends settlement construction and conducts a prisoner release that Netanyahu canceled. The Palestinians strongly support France's international approach, saying years of negotiations with the Israelis have not ended the occupation. The United States mediated peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed in 2014.

However, France will not stop trying to promote its initiative to convene an international peace conference by the end of the year despite Israel's negative response to the idea; senior French diplomats told the Ha'aretz newspaper on Monday evening.

During the meeting, according to Ha'aretz, Vimont presented the updated French agenda aimed at convening an international conference by year's end. He spoke on Sunday at a conference on relations between Israel and the EU and stressed that France was adamant on promoting its peace initiative in order to revive the "two-state solution".

While Israel has rejected the French initiative, the PA has accepted it but has continued to seek an alternative in case the United States may seek to modify it – namely in the form of a Security Council resolution condemning Israeli "settlements".

Anti-Trump Ad Switches Word 'Jewish' for Muslim


An anti-Trump ad that falsely substitutes the word "Jews" for "Muslims" in an anti-immigrant speech by the presidential candidate is running in the swing state of Florida. A similar ad running in Utah substitutes "Mormons" for Muslims.

The blatantly lying ads were launched by TruthPAC, a new super PAC launched Friday by Dick Brass, a former executive at Microsoft and Oracle, the Huffington Post reported. Brass told the Huffington Post he launched the PAC to prevent Trump from winning Tuesday's election.

In the ads, Trump is seen at a campaign rally reading a news story about himself to the cheering crowd. "Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States," he reads in the original clip. The ad airing in Florida, however, as was noted, substitutes Jews for Muslims.

One day before Election Day, the Florida race for president remains tight. Nearly half a million Jews live in Florida, making the word substitution a new low for pre-election advertising.

Clouding the skies in Trump's ad are three well-known Jews, and in the final days of a campaign that has flirted with bias against Muslims, blacks and Hispanics, Trump's ad now has a good portion of the established Jewish community crying foul, and his campaign and its defenders angrily rejoining that allegations of anti-Semitism are smears.

Trump's ad features a portion of his October 13 speech in West Palm Beach, Fla. outlining what he said were "the global special interests" that "don't have your good in mind." In the ad, Trump has introduced Jews — three of them: Janet Yellen, the chairwoman of the Federal Reserve; George Soros, the hedge funder and global philanthropist, and Lloyd Blankfein, the CEO of Goldman Sachs (the later two are Clinton backers).

Trump's ad plays out in a good guys-bad guys montage. The bad guys are Hillary Clinton, former President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama. There are also several shots of Clinton appearing with a broad array of foreign officials, and two shots of Clinton meeting with Mexican and Chinese officials. (Trump, in the ad, as in his campaign, singles out those countries as sucking away American jobs.)

Aside from a single image pairing FBI chief James Comey with Hillary Clinton (Comey cleared Clinton of any criminal intent in the scandal involving her use of a private email server while secretary of state), only three other "villains" get close-ups, and they're all Jewish. That's led at least five Jewish groups – including the Reform movement and the Anti-Defamation League– to condemn the ad.

"Whether intentional or not, the images and rhetoric in this ad touch on subjects that anti-Semites have used for ages," ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said. The condemnations in turn have sparked a roar of disapproval, from Trump's Jewish advisers, but also on social media. Here are some of the objections to the objections to the ad:

Attacking Jews without naming them is not new, and has proliferated since the enormity of the Holocaust finally drove (for a while at least) explicit anti-Semitism to the margins of polite society. Soviets favored the euphemism "rootless cosmopolitan." "Zionist" or "Zios" for short has become a pejorative on the anti-Israel left, and has been applied to Jews who identify as well, Jewish.

Other code words? "International bankers," "global financial powers", "special interests." All three appeared in Trump's speech. But there are international bankers, and global financial powers and special interests. What's wrong with naming them?

Israeli Rabbinical Court Punishes American for Son's Divorce Refusal


In a first ruling of its kind, Israeli rabbinical authorities have seized the passport of an American businessman and barred him from leaving the country for more than a year, claiming he is responsible for his son's refusal to grant his wife a divorce. With the ruling, Israel's rabbinical court system has dramatically extended its reach by punishing a parent for his son's actions in a bid to solve a bitter, years-long divorce dispute.

Under millennia-old Jewish law, a woman needs the approval of her husband to dissolve a marriage. In Israel, where all marriages are subject to religious law, this norm has left thousands of women in legal limbo due to their husbands' refusal to grant them a divorce.

In recent decades, the rabbinical courts have gained the authority to impose various sanctions against recalcitrant husbands. That said, the present case has legal experts saying that never before has a rabbinical court punished a husband's parent—in this case claiming that the father is helping his son live a life of luxury in the United States while leaving his estranged wife languishing back in Israel.

"It's really shameful that this is the only way to solve the terrible plight of this miserable woman, by incarcerating or confiscating the passport of her father-in-law. There should definitely be an alternative way," said Ruth Halperin-Kaddari, founding director of the Rackman Center for the Advancement of the Status of Women at Israel's Bar-Ilan University.

Israel's state-sanctioned rabbinate oversees many aspects of daily life for the Jewish majority, including marriage and divorce. There are no civil marriages, meaning that couples must marry or divorce according to religious law—or travel abroad for a civil ceremony. Some women's rights advocates say these religious laws stem from a patriarchal tradition and therefore put women at a disadvantage.

Among the most contentious of Jewish rites is the one that grants men disproportionate power in divorce. Women who are not granted divorces are often forced to relinquish their child custody rights or alimony payments to convince husbands to accede.

Rabbinical judges are allowed to use sanctions against husbands who refuse to grant a "gett," the Jewish term for a divorce. The rabbinical court, a recognized legal body in Israel, has frozen bank accounts and canceled driver's licenses among other means to pressure husbands in Israel, but those outside the country are largely out of their reach.

Women's rights advocates say sanctions are used in only a tiny fraction of cases and that they should be employed more. Shai Doron, a spokesman for the rabbinical courts, said judges use "all the tools at their disposal" to solve divorce cases.

The rabbinical court said the case in question is "one of the most difficult" it has faced in light of the dire situation of the wife, who suffered a stroke and became partially paralyzed shortly before requesting a divorce a decade ago. Their names have been barred from publication.

According to the court documents, the wife suffered the stroke on a visit to Israel with her husband in 2005. Shortly after, the husband returned to the US, where he remains. His wife and their two children stayed in Israel and she became an Israeli citizen. The court says the husband has ignored her request and a court ruling for a divorce as well as another ruling demanding he pay alimony.

The father is in his late 60s and according to court documents is a wealthy member of New York's Hasidic community who runs a real estate company. He was in Israel last year on a family visit when he was summoned to the court, told to hand in his and his wife's passports and barred from leaving the country. He was later sentenced to 30 days in prison for contempt of court.

The rabbinical court argued that by providing his son with a job and stipend, the father was responsible for his son's intransigence. His lawyers argued he is being used as leverage to pressure his son and are appealing to the Supreme Court. "One of the most basic tenets of justice is that a person carries his own sins and is not punished for the sins of others," said a statement from his lawyers. "The father has no control over his son."

According to the father's lawyers, the father and son are estranged, and despite his best efforts, he has been unable to force him to grant a divorce. The statement said the father has fired the son from his job and pleaded with religious leaders to convince him.

Osnat Sharon, the wife's lawyer, said her client has endured an "intensive and Sisyphean" process of rehabilitation that will not be complete until she is allowed to move on. "She is not yet 40. She has her entire life ahead of her," said Sharon, who also serves as legal adviser to Yad L'Isha, an aid center for women who have been refused a divorce by their husbands. "Part of her rehabilitation is to find a new relationship, and she can't do that."

The woman's husband told Israeli Channel 2 TV in a report from August that he would approve the divorce if his children returned to the US.

Under Israeli law, the court has the jurisdiction to take the measures it has taken. Court documents show that the court has rejected a US Embassy request to have the passports returned, telling the embassy that its involvement in the case was "unacceptable and intolerable." The embassy said it has provided the father with assistance but declined to comment further.

The New York-based Organization for the Resolution of Agunot, which works to help solve Jewish divorce disputes, has been following the case. Its executive director, Rabbi Jeremy Stern, said the husband, who has a girlfriend, splits his time between a home in Brooklyn and "an exquisite apartment" in a luxury Trump residence near Miami, both owned by his parents.

"Everything that we know about this indicates that it is the parents who are directly supporting, enabling, aiding and abetting the husband's recalcitrance," Stern said. "Let (the father) kick him out on the street and let him know that he can't live (in his homes) until he gives a gett."

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