Briefs: Katsav plea bargain stands, Dems designate Mordecai official donkey

High Court Upholds Katsav Deal

Israel’s High Court of Justice upheld ex-president Moshe Katsav’s plea bargain. A five-justice High Court panel decided Tuesday to reject six petitions against the Attorney General’s Office decision last year to drop rape charges against Katsav in exchange for his confession to lesser offenses.

Two justices, including High Court President Dorit Beinisch, demurred over the deal but had to back the ruling as it was supported by the other three justices. The plea bargain outraged feminist and government watchdog groups, who said the state risked playing down the severity of sex crimes and inviting charges of favoritism toward public figures.

Katsav, who resigned last year in disgrace, denied allegations by several former female staffers that he had raped or sexually harassed them. Under the plea bargain, the former president will receive a suspended prison sentence and pay $12,000 in compensation to two of the complainants. A rape conviction would have carried a penalty of as much as seven years behind bars.

Israel Aside, Obama Romps in Global Primary

Hillary Rodham Clinton was the choice in Israel, but Barack Obama easily won an international primary. Expatriate Americans gave Obama, a U.S. senator from Illinois, 66 percent of the vote to 33 percent for his Senate colleague from New York in the Democrats Abroad Global Primary held Feb. 5-12. Clinton took Israel, which is home to an estimated 200,000 U.S. citizens, 54 percent to 44 percent.

The results determine the allocation of four and a half delegate votes at the Democratic National Convention in August. With his victory, Obama captured two and a half delegates and Clinton two. Another two and a half delegates will be determined in April at the Democrats Abroad Global Convention. In addition, Democrats Abroad holds four superdelegate votes.

Balloting took place by mail, fax and at voting centers in more than 30 countries. For the first time, voting was also available on the Internet through a secure system. Ballots were cast from 164 countries and territories, according to a Democrats Abroad statement. Republicans do not hold a global primary.

Advisers’ Rap Roils Obama Campaign

Jewish surrogates for Barack Obama called the Clinton campaign “hypocritical” following reports that its staff had criticized Obama’s Middle East advisers. The presidential campaign for the U.S. senator from Illinois reacted to a Newsweek article this week that cited an anonymous source quoting Ann Lewis, a top adviser to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), as telling a teleconference of Jewish leaders last month that Zbigniew Brzezinski was Obama’s chief foreign policy adviser.

Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser, has angered pro-Israel advocates by claiming that U.S. policy is excessively weighted in favor of the Jewish state. He is not an Obama adviser but has endorsed Obama.

Also, a Clinton campaign supporter and a staffer circulated e-mails critical of Obama’s foreign policy staff. Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.), Obama’s top Jewish surrogate, told JTA that the attacks were the “height of hypocrisy” given that most of the advisers named in the e-mails had also advised Clinton’s husband when he was the president. The Clinton campaign did not respond.

Israel Does Not Pass Go

“Jerusalem, Israel” created problems for the makers of Monopoly.

Hasbro removed country names from an online contest to select cities for an international version after receiving complaints about “Jerusalem, Israel.” The company is asking fans to vote on the cities to appear in the “World Edition” as well as on their placement on the board. After pro-Palestinian groups complained about the inclusion of “Jerusalem, Israel,” a staffer pulled “Israel” from the Web site, The Associated Press reported. Complaints then came in, however, from people who noted that Jerusalem was the only city not attached to a country. Hasbro apologized for that oversight last week and pulled all country names.

Applicants to Birthright Israel Soar

Birthright Israel said it received 14,000 applicants for its spring and summer trips on the first day of registration. More than 30,000 applicants have registered for Birthright’s free trips to Israel since registration opened Feb. 12. Registration will run through the end of March.

The program has sent some 160,000 Jews aged 18-26 on free 10-day trips since its founding in 2000. The group will send about 20,000 young Jews to Israel from North America this spring and summer; it sent 17,000 this winter. Birthright Israel has been able to double the number of its trips since casino mogul Sheldon Adelson pledged $60 million to the group in late 2006.

Dems Look to Purim for Mascot Mordecai

A 10-year-old Jewish donkey handler had her charge chosen to be the Democratic Party’s convention mascot. Party officials in Denver, where the convention will be held this summer, reviewed an array of local donkeys, a party periodical reported this week.

The “best behaved, most well-groomed and the best-fit donkey” was Mordecai, which is handled by Sophie Herzog of Fairplay, Colo. Democratic National Committee officials touted the selection as a “Purim story.”

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.