Katsav to be Indicted, P.A. Prime Minister Resigns

Katsav to Be Indicted on Sex Charges

Former Israeli President Moshe Katsav will be indicted on sexual offense charges, the attorney general announced.

Menachem Mazuz said Sunday that Katsav will be indicted on rape and indecent assault charges involving several women who worked closely with him when he served as tourism minister and president. He also will be charged with obstruction of justice.

State Prosecutor Moshe Lador concurred with the charges after determining that there was enough evidence to make a case.

Katsav was first accused in 2006 and stepped down as president shortly before his term ended in June 2007. He was replaced by Shimon Peres.

Katsav struck a plea deal in June 2007, under which the rape charges would be dropped, but last April he reneged on the deal.

P.A. Prime Minister Submits Resignation

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad submitted his resignation, which could speed the formation of a Fatah-Hamas unity government.

P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas asked Fayyad after his announcement Saturday to remain in his position until the talks were completed. Fayyad said he would step down with the formation of the new government or by the end of March.

Abbas fired Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas and replaced him with Fayyad after Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in 2007.

Millions of dollars pledged to the Palestinians earlier this month and last year were donated on the condition that they are funneled through the Fayyad government. It is unclear how his resignation will affect the pledges, according to reports.

Fayyad said of his resignation in a statement Saturday, “This step comes in the efforts to form a national conciliation government.”

Unity talks were scheduled to resume Tuesday in Cairo.

Haniyeh, Hamas Popularity Rise, Poll Shows

Hamas’ prime minister would defeat Mahmoud Abbas in a presidential election, a new poll showed.

The survey published Monday giving Ismail Haniyeh an edge over the Palestinian Authority president also showed that Hamas’ popularity has increased among Palestinians in the aftermath of Israel’s military operation in the Gaza Strip.

Haniyeh received a 47 percent popularity rating among the more than 1,270 Palestinians surveyed March 5-7 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to 45 percent for Abbas. A similar poll in December had Haniyeh at 38 percent and Hamas at 48 percent.

Meanwhile, the poll showed that jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti would easily defeat Haniyeh, 61 percent to 34 percent.

Hamas’ popularity increased to 33 percent, a 5 percent rise from December. Fatah, however, remained the more popular faction with 40 percent of support, compared to 42 percent three months ago.

“Despite the visible increase in the popularity of Hamas and Haniyeh,” the pollsters reported, the overwhelming majority, 71 percent, believes Palestinians are worse off than they were before Israel’s Gaza operation.

The poll, which was conducted by the West Bank-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, had a 3 percent margin of error.

The findings were released as Hamas and Fatah negotiators arrived in Cairo for talks aimed at ending their differences and forming a unity government. Hamas won a Palestinian parliamentary election in 2006 and seized control of the Gaza Strip the next year after fighting with Fatah.

Son of Dead Sea Scrolls Expert Charged With Theft of Professor’s Identity

The son of a Dead Sea Scrolls expert was accused of identity theft.

Raphael Golb, a real estate lawyer in New York City, was arrested March 5 and charged with identity theft, criminal impersonation and aggravated harassment, The New York Times reported.

Golb is accused of impersonating a New York University professor who differed with Golb’s father about the origins of the Dead Sea Scrolls, a set of ancient religious texts discovered near the Dead Sea settlement of Qumran in the 1940s and ’50s.

Prosecutors say Golb used a fake e-mail address in the name of the professor, Lawrence Schiffman, to fabricate an admission that Schiffman had plagiarized his father’s work.

Golb faces up to four years in prison if convicted.

Medical Journal Focuses on Palestinians

A prominent medical journal devoted a special issue to “Health in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.”

The special issue of the Lancet, a leading general medical journal, includes articles by academics from the West Bank, Europe and the United States.

“Hope for improving health and quality of life of Palestinians will exist only once people recognize that the structural and political conditions that they endure in the occupied Palestinian territory are the key determinants of population health,” one article reports.

The series of articles includes pieces on “The Occupied Palestinian Territory: Peace, Justice and Health,” “Peace and Health in the Occupied Palestinian Territory” and “Keys to Health: Justice, Sovereignty and Self-determination,” as well as articles on Palestinian health issues.

The verdict concerning Israel is mixed. There is criticism about roadblocks, with a report that in the past decade, 69 women gave birth at roadblocks. The report also addressed child mortality: “Infant mortality dropped between 1967 and 1987 but stalled between 2000 and 2006 at 27 per 1,000 live births.” The rate in Israel, the report notes, is 3.9 per 1,000.

Touro Synagogue Cancels Tours

Touro Synagogue, the nation’s oldest Jewish house of worship, canceled public tours because of financial difficulties.

The last two paid staff members of the Newport, R.I., synagogue were let go last week, according to the Providence Journal.

Plans to open a museum of American Jewish history at the site this summer will go forward. Group tours already scheduled for the summer will take place, but no new ones will be booked, said a spokesman for the nonprofit foundation that runs the project.

Touro is a major tourist destination, especially for Jewish visitors. It was built in 1763 and declared a national historic site in the 1940s. In 2001, the National Trust for Historic Preservation designated it as the nation’s first religious historic site.

Briefs courtesy of Jewish Telegraphic Agency.