News in Brief

PM holds meeting on Iran's nuclear program

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon held a meeting last night to discuss Israel's response to the Iranian nuclear program. A senior Israeli source said this week that Israel is leaning toward a diplomatic option. The same source said that the military option has a very low priority and that diplomacy is believed to be the best way of delaying Iranian movement toward nuclear arms. Sharon has said in recent weeks that the question of the Iranian nuclear program should be brought before the UN Security Council and should not be handled solely by the European Union. (Aluf Benn)

Lapid to be declared opposition head Monday

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin will declare on Monday MK Yosef Lapid as opposition head in place of MK Shimon Peres, according to a letter Rivlin wrote to Peres yesterday. Rivlin wrote that since Labor Party MKs have chosen ministerial portfolios, and therefore will be required to support government decisions, Peres can no longer be considered head of the opposition. Shas party chairman MK Eli Yishai has been trying unsuccessfully over the past weeks to garner a majority of opposition MKs to support his own appointment as opposition head. (Gideon Alon)

Gardener allegedly killed woman over loan

Jerusalem resident Tziona Spivak, 67, who was stabbed to death in her home Sunday, was murdered by a man who had been her gardener for eight years, police and the Shin Bet security service said. The suspect, Mohammed Tzabarna, admitted during interrogation that he murdered Spivak when she refused his demand for a NIS 25,000 loan to finance medical treatment for his son. Tzabarna was fired eight months ago, because he did not have a work permit. Since then, he regularly visited the German Colony home that Spivak shared with photographer David Rubinger to ask for money. (Jonathan Lis)

Husband gets life for killing wife in Bangkok

Eli Maimon Cohen, 37, of Rehovot, was sentenced to life imprisonment in Bangkok yesterday for killing his wife. Cohen had earlier pleaded guilty to murder after signing a confession. His wife Carol's torso was found in February stuffed into a travel bag floating in a Bangkok river. Her head, legs and arms were recovered later in a canal. Cohen was arrested February 24 after he filed a missing person's report for his wife at the Israeli Embassy. Police detained him after hotel staff in Bangkok reported finding a bloodstained towel in their room, and a hotel surveillance camera showed the couple with a travel bag similar to the one found in the river, according to police. Cohen said yesterday through an interpreter that he would not appeal but will ask to be repatriated after serving four years of his sentence in Thailand. (AP)

MK petitions court over speech revocation

Hadash MK Issam Makhoul petitioned the High Court yesterday to nullify a Knesset Ethics Committee decision to revoke his speaking privileges for 10 days. The committee's decision was approved Wednesday by a 41-13 majority. Makhoul was punished following a June Knesset hearing on the reduction of the number of lifeguards along Israel's beaches, in which Makhoul said that "government policy is encouraging death by drowning" and that it is "a government of blood and of death." (Haaretz Staff)

U.S. Jews launch campaign for victims

The American Jewish community has raised approximately $1 million so far to assist the victims of Asia's tsunami. The American Jewish World Service, a humanitarian assistance agency, announced yesterday it had raised $500,000, while the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee reported that it had received numerous inquiries about contributing to disaster victims in Asia. The Jewish communities in New York and Chicago are initiating emergency campaigns, and the United Jewish Communities launched a similar appeal among its constituent federations in the U.S. and Canada. (Amiram Barkat)

Clal Insurance sends team to Thailand

The Clal Insurance Company is sending a rescue team to Thailand, including medical personnel, engineers and intelligence experts. The team will assist Israeli families in locating missing relatives in the disaster area. The nine-member team will first go to Krabi, south of Phuket, following information received from company personnel, the Foreign Ministry and other assistance groups in the area. (Shlomy Golobinski)

Metzger says saved should recite Hagomel

Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger said yesterday that those who had been in a place of danger, where others were injured, and were spared should recite the special blessing for deliverance known as Hagomel. Those who had merely planned on being at the site of disaster but were not, he said, did not have to recite the prayer. "Hagomel is said in thanks and acknowledgment to the Creator of the universe for saving us from mortal danger," the rabbi said. (Itim)