Briefs: Rep. Lantos calls on NATO to include Israel; Ariel Sharon’s son to the slammer

Lantos: Include Israel in NATO

The chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Committee called for Israel’s inclusion in NATO. Rep. Tom Lantos (D-San Mateo) made his remarks in a June 22 hearing, calling on NATO to consider expanding its borders beyond Europe and North Africa.

“Why not allow firmly democratic nations, such as South Korea, New Zealand, Australia and Israel, to join the world’s greatest military alliance?” Lantos asked.

Lantos also said NATO must be revitalized to confront 21st century terrorism and that Europe needs to be a full partner in the battle against the resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan.

“We need German and French and other European troops, whose grandparents we freed from Nazi tyranny in World War II, to fight on the front lines, too,” said Lantos, a Holocaust survivor.

Omri Sharon Gets Seven Months

The prison sentence of Ariel Sharon’s son was reduced by two months. Omri Sharon had appealed his nine-month sentence handed down in March. The Tel Aviv District Court maintained Sharon’s original fine, approximately $70,000. Omri Sharon, a former Knesset member, was found guilty of concealing illegal contributions to his father’s 1999 campaign for leadership of Israel’s Likud Party, among other crimes. Ariel Sharon, the former prime minister, remains comatose in a long-term care facility near Tel Aviv after suffering a brain hemorrhage in January 2006.

Israeli Heat Wave Sparks Fires

A heat wave in Israel caused nearly two-dozen fires in the Galilee and Golan. Temperatures of 95 to 110 degrees were recorded across the country in Israel’s most severe heat wave of the year. Dozens of acres of fields, forests and olive groves were destroyed in the fires. Temperatures are expected to remain unusually high through Wednesday.

British Elite Against Israel Boycott

In a new poll conducted by Populus, 86 percent of Britain’s elite opposed an academic boycott of Israel, 80 percent said it is an unreasonable way to express disapproval of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and 70 percent thought it would be bad for Britain’s image and economy.

The Populus Network is comprised of nearly 1,000 British business, cultural and political leaders. It also includes figures from trade unions and think tanks.

HUC-JIR Appoints New Dean

Rabbi Shirley Idelson was named dean of the New York campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR).

Idelson, whose term will commence on July 1, will be responsible for overseeing all functions of the campus, including academics, administration, operations and development. She currently is director of HUC-JIR’s rabbinical school and associate dean of the New York campus. Idelson was ordained in 1991 and holds degrees from Dartmouth College and Columbia University. She is a doctoral candidate at the City University of New York.

Bush Nominates Brinker to Protocol Post

President Bush nominated Nancy Goodman Brinker, a philanthropist who founded a top breast cancer research group, to the top protocol job at the State Department. Brinker, nominated Monday, would plan visits by foreign heads of state in the role, which is an ambassador-level post. Brinker founded the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation in 1982, named for her sister who died of cancer in 1980. Prominent in the Republican Jewish Coalition, Brinker has also served as U.S. ambassador to Hungary.

Chabad Marks Rebbe’s Death

Some 50,000 people from all over the world flocked to New York to visit the Lubavicher Rebbe’s grave site. The annual pilgrimage to the cemetery in Cambria Heights, Queens, on the anniversary of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson’s death, has become a Chabad tradition since he died 13 years ago.

In honor of his death, which was marked June 18-19, Chabad held a day of scholarship; launched a new Web site,; and released a new DVD containing excerpts from a seven-hour speech Schneerson gave in 1972. Schneerson was the architect of Chabad’s emissary program, which now has some 4,000 rabbis in outposts throughout the world.

Jewish Groups Back Travel Insurance Law

A wall-to-wall coalition of Jewish groups back a proposed provision to the terrorism insurance act that would keep insurers from withholding insurance based on a client’s Israel travel. Insurers often reject travelers who have visited or plan to visit nations on the U.S. State Department’s travel warning list, which frequently includes Israel.

“Some travelers to Israel have been denied life insurance coverage even though, according the best analysis of current data, travel in Israel is not statistically more dangerous than travel in the United States,” said the letter signed by 16 groups and sent Wednesday to members of the U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services committee, which is considering the renewal of the 2002 Terrorism Insurance Act. “According to Business Week, there were 17 homicides per 100,000 people in the United States in 2002, compared with just 11 in Israel.”

The new provision, authored by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), would require insurance companies to provide a comprehensive risk assessment, as opposed to a mere citation of the State Department list.

“We urge you to act to protect travelers to lawful foreign destinations from unfair and discriminatory insurance practices,” said the letter, signed by, among others, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Anti-Defamation League and representatives of the Reform, Conservative, Orthodox and Reconstructionist streams. The act federally underwrites companies that provide terrorism insurance.

Israel Naturalizes Soccer Players

Israel granted citizenship to two foreign-born players on its national soccer team so they could qualify for the Euro 2008 tournament.

Interior Minister Roni Bar-On acceded to urgent requests by the Israel Football Association that Roberto Colautti and Toto Tamuz be naturalized in time for the soccer tournament.

The move was prompted by a recent decision of the international soccer body FIFA to require that all players be citizens of the countries they represent. Neither Colautti, of Argentina, nor Tamuz, of Nigeria, is Jewish, though Colautti is married to an Israeli and Tamuz grew up in Israel.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.