December 8, 2009 Religious Issues Dominate News

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1July09
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A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman

December 8, 2009 Religious Issues Dominate News

The news in Israel was dominated by two stories that intersect the religious-secular divide. The first item, the one that made the most news, was a statement by Israel’s Minister of Justice, Ya'akov Neeman, at a religious judges convention, that their actions (they are involved in voluntary mediations based on Jewish law) are steps along the way for Israel's laws to be decided according to Jewish law, and that that is what he (Ne'eman) would like to see. This naturally brought about a storm of protest. The statement ended up coming out at the same time Israeli TV 10 was running an expose of how religious courts work-- including the fact that women, brothers, and other relatives cannot be witnesses.

The other issue in the news was whether to revoke the status of Hesder Yeshiva (a Yeshiva where the students go to the army part of the time and study the remainder of the time). The Rabbis of these two Yeshivas are accused of encouraging their students to ignore army commands (Sarbanoot) One of the two rabbis, Rabbi Elyakin, was shown on TV speaking at a conference yesterday saying that soldiers who studied under him ignored orders during the Second Lebanon War and as result all of their soldiers returned. His words stunned most Israelis listeners, and as one relgious retired high ranking officer stated; it shows that he might know something about halacha, but he clearly does not understand anything about how an army is run.

The European Union’s foreign minister came out with a resolution on the need for peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. The wording blunted an earlier Swedish resolution that wanted to recognize East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital. The European resolution, in the end, just stated that after negotiations Jerusalem should become the capital of the Palestinian state. This resolution is problematic, but not as bad as it could be.

Israel Channel 10 revealed details today of the Olmert-Livni negotiations with the Palestinians. Accoriding to Channel 10, Livni offered the Palestinians 92.7% of the West Bank and 3% additonal percent of lands within the "Green Line". In addition, at the end Olmert offered 93.5% and an additional 5.8% within Israel- an almost one to one exchange. They also discussed Jerusalem, with Olmert effectively offering to divide Jerusalem based on population, with the holy basin internationalized. The two major areas of disagreement seem to be over the areas of Ariel and Maale Adumim. Abbas failed to respond.

Demonstrations continued for a second day today in Iran. The Iranian government has managed to block most news reports, so it is not totally clear what is happening. What is clear, is that the government has not been successful in suppressing the opposition.

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