Briefs: Separation fence must be moved, court says; Olmert expands Fatah amnesty; Jewish woman eyes

Bil’in Fence to be Rerouted

Israel’s High Court of Justice ordered a controversial section of the West Bank security fence rerouted. A three-justice panel under High Court President Dorit Beinisch on Tuesday ordered the Defense Ministry to come up with a new plan for Bil’in, a Palestinian village currently slated to lose swaths of farmland to the fence.

Finding in favor of a petition filed by Palestinian activists two years ago, Beinisch wrote that the fence threatens to cause “significant hardship” to Bil’in’s residents and should therefore circumvent the village. Bil’in has seen almost weekly clashes between pro-Palestinian protestors and Israeli security forces, becoming a focus of international opposition to the West Bank fence.

Israel Plans New Fatah Amnesty

Israel may free more imprisoned Fatah members as a goodwill gesture toward the Palestinian Authority. Jerusalem officials said Tuesday that there is a plan to release 100 members of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ faction who are serving prison sentences for low-level security offenses. If approved by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, the releases will take place during the Muslim fast month of Ramadan, which begins next week.

Israel freed 250 jailed Palestinians, most of them from Fatah, in July after Olmert revived rapprochement with Abbas. Israel wants to bolster Fatah in face of Hamas after the Islamist group overran the Gaza Strip in June, prompting Abbas to dismiss it from the Palestinian Authority government.

Sderot Mayor Suspends Himself Amid Probe

Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal is suspending himself from his position indefinitely as his office is investigated for corruption. Moyal made the announcement Tuesday, a day after fraud investigators raided his office for evidence of corruption at City Hall extending to the mayor himself. Rabbi Oran Malka will serve as interim mayor, according to the Jerusalem Post, which reported the self-imposed suspension.

“I’m glad there is an investigation,” Moyal said, explaining that the probe would prove he has “nothing to hide,” the Post reported.

Moyal has been under investigation for several months following complaints that he and cronies have been bilking the city of money sent to help Sderot and its residents cope with the constant Palestinian rocket fire from the nearby Gaza Strip.

Israel Lifts Visa Requirement For FSU Citizens

Russian citizens will be able to visit Israel without obtaining a visa. A special Israeli governmental commission announced the visa waiver decision after Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter, who initially warned the visa waiver would “flood Israel with thousands of prostitutes and illegal immigrants,” withdrew his objections last week.

The commission voted unanimously for the draft bill to be forwarded to the government. Tourism Minister Isaak Aranovich, who proposed the initiative in July, predicted that the influx of Russian tourists would create up to 10,000 jobs in Israel. He said he expects 250,000 Russian tourists per year to visit Israel.

Ernst & Young analysts say the number of Russian visitors to Israel in the first half of 2007 shot up 54 percent over last year. In the first half of the year, more than 11,000 Israelis visited Russia. Fourteen scheduled flights per week now connect Moscow and Tel Aviv. That number may increase to 21 flights a week by the end of 2007, officials said.

The Israeli commission expects Moscow to issue a similar visa waiver for Israeli citizens.

A bilateral agreement on the issue may be signed as early as October when Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov will be in Israel. However, some experts in Moscow are warning against overly optimistic expectations.

Sergei Shpilko, the president of Russia’s tourism union, told Expert magazine that Russia’s Interior and Defense ministries likely will object to waiving the visa requirement for Israelis.

Wiesenthal Center Slams Croatia

The Simon Wiesenthal Center condemned Croatia for failing to prosecute a World War II official suspected of deporting thousands to concentration camps.

“Croatia’s failure to prosecute Ivo Rojnica, the Ustashe governor of Dubrovnik, currently residing in Buenos Aires, Argentina, is one of the most disappointing results of the period under review,” Efraim Zuroff, Israel director of the Wiesenthal Center, said in a statement.

Croatia’s fascist Ustashe government was allied with Hitler during the war and was responsible for the deaths of thousands of Jews, Serbs and gypsies.

“Despite the explicit promise of attorney general [Mladen] Bajic that the Rojnica case would be decided in early 2007 at the latest, there still has been no decision in the case, which only brings Rojnica closer to eluding justice,” the Wiesenthal Center said in a statement.

Jewish Woman Eyes Moroccan Parliament

Maggie Cacoun, a centrist politician known for her work on women’s rights, is considered among the front-runners in an election for the Moroccan Rabat assembly to be held later this week. Since details on her ethnic background emerged, Cacoun, 54, has been at pains to stress her patriotism as a Moroccan.

“I do not want to be treated as a Jew,” Cacoun said in one interview. “I did not seek permission to run from the Jewish community. The only person I consulted with was my husband, and he gave me his blessing.”

Most of Morocco’s Jews left decades ago, mainly for Israel or Europe, but the 5,000 or so who remained tend to voice satisfaction about living in the moderate Muslim Arab country.

Ancient Honey Farm Found in Israel

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem announced this week that its archeologists had uncovered an apiary, or man-made beehive colony, dating from the 10th to early ninth century B.C.E.

The discovery was made during a summer dig at the site of the ancient Israelite community of Tel Rehov in the Beit She’an valley. It is believed to be the earliest evidence of honey being harvested by humans in the Middle East.

The find consisted of three ties of hives with access points for bees and for removing honey. Experts who visited the site estimated that the apiary might have produced as much as half a ton of honey a year.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency