US lotto scam, Ra'anana mom stabber, Paris crisis, landlady murder, yishai meeting, Hamas charges, china unsc, china iran, barak ben el fined, justice min dir gen, soldiers abuse
Seven Israeli citizens wanted in the US for allegedly running a phony lottery scam and bilking elderly Americans out of $2.5 million will be extradited to the US, the Jerusalem District Court ruled on Wednesday.
Targeting wealthy victims, mostly 75 and older, the suspects supposedly pretended to be calling from lottery sweepstakes companies and convinced people to send thousands of dollars in fees and taxes associated with their 'wins.' Victims were plied with gift baskets and phony Internal Revenue Service documents to convince them of the sweepstakes' legitimacy.
Israeli officers arrested the seven suspects in July following a joint investigation by the FBI and the Israel Police. Along with two Israeli women who turned themselves in voluntarily, the suspects face charges that include conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, and could face up to 30 years in prison.
According to prosecutors, the suspects chose their victims via list brokers in the US, who sold them the names and contact information of Americans who had entered lottery sweepstakes. Working from various locations in Israel, the suspects allegedly contacted the victims, and using scripts, told them they had won "substantial" cash prizes from companies such as "Clearinghouse Sweepstakes" and "Consumers Clearinghouse."
From 2005 to 2009, the suspects obtained 185,000 names of potential victims from brokers, prosecutors said.
Over the phone, the suspects allegedly assessed the victims' finances, and if they were wealthy enough, transferred them to co-conspirators posing as attorneys from law firms such as "Bernstein Schwartz," "Bloomberg and Associates" and "Meyer Stevens." The so-called attorneys provided instructions for wiring funds to Israel, the US and Cyprus.
E.B. Solomont contributed to this report
ben hartman and jpost.com staff
Police on Wednesday indicted a Ra'anana man on suspicion of brutally murdering his mother.
According to the indictment, Yovav Elguati, 26, stabbed his mother, Ariana Margolis, 66 times before heading for his older brother's house and attempting to murder him as well.
Elguati's brother was seriously wounded in the attack two weeks ago.
The suspect was arrested outside his brother's home. He was covered in blood, police said, and was described by officers as being "very calm."
On Sunday, the Tel Aviv District Court extended Elguati's remand by four days. During the remand extension hearing, Elguati admitted to stabbing his mother and older brother Yanir because his family was "out to get him."
At the time, he also said that his family had hired a personal coach to help him find his place in society.
Although an evaluation showed he was not responsible for his actions, Elguati was found mentally fit to stand trial and was released on Wednesday from the psychiatric hospital where he had been held for two weeks.
Elguati's father, who was separated from the murdered mother, had been imploring police in recent days to release his troubled son from the institution.
Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.
Officials in Jerusalem on Wednesday denied that French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner's cancellation of a visit planned for next week was a sign of a diplomatic crisis between Israel and France, and stressed that ties with Paris were "excellent."
The French foreign minister was scheduled to visit Damascus, Beirut and Jerusalem next week, but announced on Tuesday that his trip was shortened and he would only be visiting Lebanon.
Channel 2 reported that Kouchner canceled the visit after he was told that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu would not have time to meet with him this month, though French officials said the visit was simply delayed due to technical issues. Other media outlets reported that Kouchner canceled the trip because Jerusalem would not allow him to cross the border to enter the Gaza Strip, in light of Paris's stance on the Goldstone Commission Report.
Netanyahu's spokesman Nir Hefetz on Wednesday denied the report and told Army Radio that Israel's ties with France were excellent and that the prime minister "would be happy to meet with Kouchner when he arrives in the country."
Kadima MK Ze'ev Boim, however, criticized Israel's foreign policy, saying the government was wrong to deny Kouchner's request to visit the Gaza Strip.
In an interview with Israel Radio, Boim said that the issue should have been handled differently, in light of France's involvement in efforts to bring about the release of captive IDF soldier Gilad Schalit.
Diplomatic officials in Jerusalem told the radio station that Kouchner's visit was postponed until mid-November due to meetings he had arranged in Europe. The French foreign minister will not visit the Strip in November, the officials stressed.
France and Britain both did not participate in the UN Human Rights Council vote in Geneva on Friday that endorsed the Goldstone Commission's Report, which accuses Israel of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity during last winter's Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.
Israeli officials, who admitted that Israel was disappointed that neither Britain nor France voted against the resolution, said efforts were underway to reschedule the meeting for anther time.
In recent days, senior officials in the Prime Minister's Office have been comparing France and Britain's actions on the report to those of the US, which voted against the Goldstone resolution.
Israel, government sources said, had made its appreciation of the US's actions on the matter very clear to the Obama administration.
Avi Dar will not stand trial for murdering his landlady Tzipora Nahmo in August, but will instead be hospitalized in the Sha'ar Menashe psychiatric institution, the Jerusalem District Court ruled on Wednesday.
The 43-year-old M.A. student at Hebrew University rented an apartment from Nahmo on Rehov Meir Feinstein in Jerusalem's East Talpiot neighborhood. He stabbed his landlady to death with a nine-centimeter-long commando knife after slashing her in the face and body.
While the judges ruled that Dar committed the murder, they accepted his attorneys' argument that he could not be held responsible for his actions, and therefore was not fit to stand trial.
Dar will undergo an assessment every six months to determine whether he must remain within the psychiatric hospital.
The victim's son, Yinon Nahmo, told the judges that he wanted Dar to remain imprisoned for the rest of his life.
"I want the court to understand the crime that was committed here and the tragedy that we suffered. My mother was one of a kind, and this murderer, this monster, cut her life short, ruining all of our lives," Nahmo said.
"He deserves nothing less than suffering every single day of his life without seeing the sunshine. I demand that he be locked up for the rest of his life, if not in jail then in an institution," he concluded.
Dan Izenberg contributed to this report
Interior Minister Eli Yishai refused to take part in a meeting of the Knesset Committee on Foreign Workers on Wednesday, after he learned that children of migrant workers had arrived at the conference room where the meeting was held.
Yishai said he did not show up for the discussion because MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) was "trying to turn the Knesset into a theater of the absurd" by inviting children of migrant workers to attend the meeting, Israel Radio reported.
When the participants were notified that Yishai would not attend the discussion, an argument broke out between Shas MKs and MKs from other parties.
The foreign workers and their children reportedly left the room in tears when they learned the interior minister did not wish to see them.
MK Horowitz said Yishai, who was "enthusiastic about imprisoning migrant workers and deporting their children," failed to attend the meeting because he could not stand to look the foreign worker's children in the eyes.
Yishai, however, said Horowitz must be held responsible for the lack of significant discussion of the government's policy on the deportation of illegal foreign workers.
He went on to call on Kadima MK Orit Zuaretz to coordinate another meeting on the matter, which would be attended by all the relevant Interior Ministry officials.
While no formal decision has been announced yet, Yishai has been leading the government's firm line against granting permanent status to 1,200 children of foreign workers who were born in Israel.
Last Thursday, the interior minister declared that workers' children must be deported to prevent other immigrants from taking advantage of Israeli kindness and trying to gain permanent status through childbirth.
"It is no secret that if we continue to abandon the borders and allow the entrance of foreigners into the country and don't - call it what you will - deport, remove or return them to their homelands or if we are too 'good-natured,' as too may of us are, in a few years we will find hundreds and thousands of them here, and that is a threat to the Zionist project in Israel. We will lose our country," Yishai had told Army Radio.
Ron Friedman contributed to this report
Israel's defense establishment on Wednesday called on the Defense Ministry, Foreign Ministry and Justice Ministry to seriously consider pressing charges in courts around the world against Hamas commanders and operatives who carried out terror attacks in Israel for years and fought against the IDF during Operation Cast Lead.
According to various reports, defense officials said classified information, including names and photographs, would be revealed in order to prepare demands for compensation and indictments against terrorists who hid in kindergartens, schools, hospitals and UN structures throughout the IDF's three-week offensive and in the eight years that preceded it, forcing IDF troops to harm civilians in order to prevent the firing of rockets, close smuggling tunnels and purge terrorist activity from the area.
However, a top Defense Ministry official stated that progress would have to be made cautiously. "We have to take all aspects into account, we must not be dragged into the sort of field our enemies are trying to drag us into," he was quoted as saying on Israel Radio.
One official told the radio station that charges could be pressed against dozens of Hamas officials within several days, stressing it was unthinkable that IDF officers should be wary of arrest abroad "while Hamas terrorists, officials and supporters in the Middle East and Europe continue to travel around the world unhindered, as though they have been granted immunity despite the crimes that they committed."
The official cited as an example the location of Hamas headquarters in the basement of Gaza's central Shifa Hospital. He stressed that although Israel's intelligence community knew without a doubt that the hospital was housing terrorist headquarters, the IDF "refrained from attacking the area so that the hospital staff and patients would not come to harm."
In an Israel Radio interview later on Wednesday, former judge and military official Amnon Strashnov expressed doubts about transferring the issue of Operation Cast Lead to what he termed "the Palestinian arena." Legitimizing the judicial power of international law over the IDF would also legitimize attempts by Palestinian and Arab groups to use foreign courts to prosecute Israel and its military, Strashnov warned.
In September, the British Foreign Office instructed a UK court to reject a petition for an arrest warrant against Defense Minister Ehud Barak on grounds of war crimes.
"We must not glorify this phenomenon," said Strashnov, adding that in the past, Israel had overturned arrest warrants issued by courts around the world. The former judge stated that in his opinion, the root of the problem lay within the IDF, which stopped conducting internal investigations into its activity in the Palestinian territories at the onset of the Second Intifada.
However, Strashnov stressed that outdated rules of warfare also posed a problem. "There are conventions against war crimes and crimes against humanity, but not against terror organizations," he concluded.
Earlier on Wednesday, IDF officials petitioned to the government against an independent investigation into the Goldstone Commission's report, which accused Israel of committing war crimes and possible crimes against humanity during Operation Cast Lead.
"Terrorist organizations are positioning themselves in urban areas, missile ranges are growing and growing," one military official told Army Radio, adding that the IDF would not be able to defend Israel successfully "if forced to consult lawyers at every turn."
The official suggested that a better alternative would be to change international law in order to accommodate the evolving reality of terror, echoing sentiments expressed Tuesday by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Beijing will oppose discussing the Goldstone Commission's report at the UN Security Council and allowing the document to serve as a basis for law suits against Israel at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Chinese members of parliament told a visiting delegation of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in Beijing on Wednesday.
The Goldstone report, which states that Israel committed war crimes and possible crimes against humanity during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, called on the UN Security Council to refer the matter to the ICC, which could prosecute individual Israelis.
The Chinese statement came after MK Tzahi Hanegbi (Kadima), who chairs the committee, slammed China for voting in favor of a resolution endorsing the Goldstone report at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) session on Friday.
Despite Israeli lobbying efforts, the resolution passed 25-6, with 11 countries abstaining and five declining to vote. Russia, along with India and China, all voted against Israel at Friday's meeting that sent the report to the UN General Assembly.
The Chinese MPs stressed that the UNHRC had the tools to look into the report without the involvement of other international institutions.
Hanegbi, who is leading the Knesset delegation to Beijing, explained that Wednesday's statement did not indicate a change in China's position regarding the Goldstone report, adding that China endorsed the UNHRC resolution because of other issues included in the document.
"China is in good relations with everyone, there's no advantage in our favor. They have good ties with the Palestinians, with the Arab states, with Iran. Regarding this vote, the Arabs did something clever, they included in the resolution issues other than the Goldstone report, issues that are classically supported by the majority of the UN member states, such as the importance of preventing violations of the rights of Arabs in Jerusalem and including the Palestinians in international dialogue on the establishment of a Palestinian state. Many states that support the Arabs had no choice but to support the resolution once these issues were mentioned in it," explained Hanegbi in an interview with Israel Radio.
"Both Russia and China have stressed that they wouldn't have voted in favor of the resolution if it dealt only with the Goldstone report," Hanegbi said. "Right now, China, Russia, and other states that endorsed the report understand that this must be the end of the road because progress on this issue [i.e. if the Security Council refers the matter to the ICC] would have dire consequences for peace talks."
When asked whether the Knesset delegation tried to explain Israel's difficult situation regarding the Palestinians to their Chinese counterparts, Hanegbi said that the Iranian issue and not the Middle East peace process was the major topic of conversation in Beijing.
"China wants peace and stability in the Middle East, but it's not fascinated with all the details of the situation. However, it's one of the six world powers currently holding talks with Iranian officials. I feel it's important for us to get China to use all its powers of persuasion to clarify to Teheran that the world won't accept a nuclear Iran," Hanegbi said.
"It's true that China and Iran have very strong tiesâ€¦ China imports 14 percent of its gas from Iran. But China's top priority is stability, which is necessary for continued financial growth. We tried to explain that a nuclear Iran would undermine stability in the region and in the world, as it would lead to an arms race in the Middle East. That's why China must present a harsh policy on the Iranian front," he concluded.
Speaking of the Chinese and Russian votes at the UNHRC, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said on Sunday, "This is very disappointing. We are going to check this through diplomatic channels with these countries. Russia and China are very serious countries which we respect and appreciate. We do not understand why they would vote against their own interests."
In related news, a UN official in New York on Monday announced that the UN General Assembly would hold a special session to discuss the Goldstone report before the end of 2009, Israel Radio reported.
According to the report, the exact date for the session would be set after consultations with the relevant parties and representatives of UN member states.
Tovah Lazaroff and Herb Keinon contributed to this report
The world cannot accept an Iranian bomb, European Union foreign police chief Javier Solana told President Shimon Peres's 'Facing Tomorrow' conference in Jerusalem Wednesday.
"Tomorrow is today and we have no time to lose," he said.
He also mentioned the Middle East peace process, saying, "Nothing has been done in the world without taking risks."
Earlier in the day, Solana toured Ramallah and met with Palestinian Authority leaders. He expressed support for PA President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah party, and was set to meet with PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad later Wednesday.
Solana met with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman in Jerusalem on Tuesday.
US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice and Quartet envoy Tony Blair were also in Israel for Peres's annual conference.
The Knesset Ethics Committee on Wednesday fined Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer for insufficient attendance at Knesset plenum discussions.
Barak will lose six days of pay, and Ben-Eliezer four.
Justice Minister Ya'acov Ne'eman announced on Wednesday afternoon his intention to replace recently dismissed Justice Ministry director-general Moshe Shilo with attorney Guy Rotkopf. Rotkopf served in the past as an assistant and deputy to former justice minister Daniel Friedman. His appointment must be approved by the Civil Service Commission.
Four IDF combat intelligence soldiers ran away from their base in southern Israel overnight Tuesday because of what they described as harsh abuse by one of their commanders, Army Radio reported on Wednesday.
After the soldiers' parents turned to Army Radio, OC Ground Forces Command Maj.-Gen. Sami Turgeman ordered the establishment of a team headed by a brigadier general to probe the allegations.