Mideast briefs

Right-wing party in Israel facing corruption scandal

A former Israeli tourism minister and more than a dozen other officials of the Yisrael Beiteinu party will be indicted for offenses including bribery and fraud in what is being called one of Israel’s biggest public corruption investigations.

Party leader Avigdor Liberman, currently the defense minister, is not accused in the corruption affair. Yisrael Beiteinu is a secularist right-wing nationalistic party.

A statement from the Justice Ministry, according to the Times of Israel, called it “one of the biggest” public corruption cases ever uncovered in Israel, “both from the point of view of the complexity and sophistication of the method, and the breadth of the activities and the number of people involved.”

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan said on Sept. 26 that Stas Misezhnikov, who served as tourism minister from 2009 to 2013, will be indicted on charges of bribery, fraud, breach of trust, obstruction of justice and possession of a controlled substance.

He is accused of sending an adviser to purchase cocaine several times while he was serving as tourism minister, and of using the drug during official events both in Israel and abroad, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported.

Misezhnikov also is suspected of giving $250,000 to a students’ festival in Eilat and then asking the organizers to hire his partner, which it did.

Former Yisrael Beiteinu General Secretary Faina Kirschenbaum reportedly will be charged with bribery, fraud, breach of trust, money laundering and tax evasion.

The violations occurred between 2009 and 2014. — jta


U.S. Muslim leaders tell Hamas: Return soldiers’ remains to Israel

Ten Muslim leaders in the United States — including both Muslims in Congress  — are urging Hamas to return to Israel the remains of two soldiers.

“In the name of Almighty God the most merciful and compassionate, we appeal to you on the basis of humanity and charity to release the remains of Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, two Israeli soldiers killed in action, to their families,” said the letter sent Sept. 21 to Khaled Meshal, a leader of Hamas, the terrorist group that controls the Gaza Strip.

Signatories include the two Muslim members of the House of Representatives, Democrats Keith Ellison of Minnesota and André Carson of Indiana; M. Ali Chaudry, the former mayor of Basking Ridge, New Jersey; Sayyid Syeed, the director of interfaith alliances at the Islamic Society of North America; and Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who directed an unsuccessful effort to build an Islamic community center near the site of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York.

“Both Israelis and Palestinians have felt the pain of war, of losing loved ones and children far too soon,” the letter said. “The Holy Qur’an reminds us that ‘Whoever pardons and makes reconciliation will receive his reward from Allah.’ We ask you to act upon these words and allow the Goldin and Shaul families to bury their loved ones.”

Shaul and Goldin were killed during the 2014 war in Gaza. Goldin’s parents last week opened an exhibition of their son’s artwork at the United Nations in New York in a bid to raise awareness about their quest to return their son’s remains.

Shaul’s father, Herzl, died Sept. 2, from intestinal cancer. His family released a letter he had written to his son. — jta


Male IDF soldiers can now choose men-only units

Male Israeli soldiers can request not to serve alongside women and to be excused from any military event that goes against their beliefs, according to a new directive.

The directive by Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot, published Sept. 25  and distributed to all units, comes as Eisenkot has decided not to establish any additional Nahal Haredi battalions, made up exclusively of haredi Orthodox soldiers, and integrate them into regular units of the Israel Defense Forces, the Israeli web portal Walla reported.

Soldiers can now request not to serve with women nor share living spaces.

Formal events, such as Independence Day and Memorial Day ceremonies, Holocaust Remembrance Day, services for fallen soldiers and Yitzhak Rabin’s memorial day, will still be required and more difficult for soldiers to get out of, according to the new directive. Other events, such as cultural or educational ones, including where females sing in front of men, will be at the discretion of the unit’s commander, according to the directive. — jta