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Knesset passes bill criminalizing hiring of prostitutes

A bill making it a crime to buy the services of a prostitute received preliminary approval by the Knesset yesterday. The proposed law, which was sponsored by Kadima MK Orit Zuaretz, would allow courts to jail those running afoul of the law for up to six months. First-time offenders would be allowed to attend workshops where they would hear the personal stories of former prostitutes. Similar legislation in Sweden brought down the rate of men who hire prostitutes from 13.6 percent to 7.8 percent. A third of all prostitutes in Israel are reportedly minors and the average age at which prostitutes begin to engage in selling their sexual services here is 14. (Jonathan Lis)

Meir Sheetrit drops out of Kadima race

Kadima MK Meir Sheetrit announced yesterday that he would not run for the leadership of his party. He said he would meet with the three candidates for the post before announcing which of them he will support. Incumbent leader Tzipi Livni and MKs Shaul Mofaz and Avi Dichter are running for the post. Sheetrit told a news conference that he decided to bow out after poll results showed that he had the support of only 15 percent of party members, even though 70 to 80 percent had a favorable impression of him. (Jonathan Lis)

Knesset bill calls for financial aid to battered women

The Knesset yesterday passed in preliminary reading two proposals allocating grants to women coming out of battered women's shelters, to help them start a new life. A woman who stays in a shelter at least 30 days will be eligible for an NIS 8,000 state grant, while a woman with children will receive an additional NIS 1000 for each child, according to proposals sponsored by MKs Zehava Galon (Meretz) and Dov Khenin (Hadash). The grant is intended for buying furniture and basic items and is conditioned on the woman's moving away from her violent husband. "Today women coming out of the shelter have no money or work and are frequently forced to return to their violent spouse," Galon said. (Jonathan Lis)

Shakib Shanan sworn in as Atzmaut MK, amid harsh criticism

Shakib Shanan was sworn in to the Knesset yesterday as a member of the Atzmaut faction, instead of Home Front Defense Minister Matan Vilnai, who resigned on Sunday, after being appointed Israel's ambassador to China. Shanan's entry into the Knesset was clouded by harsh criticism for quitting Labor's faction in order to be appointed an MK on Ehud Barak's Atzmaut ticket. "What Shanan did gives politics a bad name," Labor MK Isaac Herzog said. "Also, his funding unit (the party factions' funding consists of the sum of their MKs' funding units) should be transferred to Labor because a lone MK cannot take his funding [to another faction]." Herzog threatened to take legal measures if Shanan's funding unit is not passed to Labor. (Jonathan Lis)

Knesset committee to consider limiting Yair Lapid’s funding

The Ministerial Legislation Committee is due to discuss on Sunday whether to support a proposal intended to block TV personality Yair Lapid's entry into the political arena. The proposal sponsored by MK Yariv Levin (Likud) would make it difficult for Lapid to raise campaign funds for contending in the Knesset elections. "Lapid must expose all his funding sources right away...the public is entitled to know where the money is from," Yariv said. Currently, such funding limitations apply to registered parties, but not to people and groups that have not yet been established as parties. (Jonathan Lis)

French probe Nazi-themed stag party

Judicial authorities in France have opened a probe of allegations including incitement to racism over a Nazi-themed stag party attended by a British lawmaker. Albertville state
prosecutor Patrick Quincy says no suspect is so far targeted in the investigation opened yesterday over the December 3 party in a Val Thorens restaurant in the French Alps attended by Conservative lawmaker Aidan Burley. British news reports have featured photos and amateur video of Burley next to a man dressed in a Nazi SS uniform and among guests who toasted the Third Reich at the party. Burley lost his job as a parliamentary aide last month, and has apologized. Prime Minister David Cameron has ordered an investigation into his behavior. (AP)

Author wins $100,000 prize for Jewish history

The author of a history of Jews in the Soviet Union has won a $100,000 award. The Jewish Book Council announced yesterday that Gal Beckerman’s “When They Come for Us We’ll Be Gone” has won the 2012 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature. It was Beckerman’s first book. The Rohr prize honors “an author’s potential to make significant contributions to Jewish literature.” This year’s runner-up was Abigail Green’s “Moses Montefiore.” Green will receive $25,000. The Rohr prize was founded in 2007. (AP)

Channel 2’s Reshet rapped for running too many reality shows

The Second Authority for Television and Radio has opened proceedings against Reshet, one of the two concessionaires running Channel 2, for allegedly exceeding its reality shows quota at the expense of a drama show. Reshet has a five-and-a-half hour quota for broadcasting reality shows, providing it air six or seven drama or documentary programs. Last Thursday Reshet cancelled a police-series episode because “The Race To A Million” took longer than expected, exceeding the quota. A week ago the authority held a hearing for Reshet following a similar violation and instructed it to reduce the reality broadcasts and add drama or documentary shows. (Emilie Grunzweig)

Channel 8 to air three-part documentary series on the Israeli left

A documentary on the history of the Israeli left is to air on Channel 8 in November. The three-part series will focus on the various movements and the history of negotiations with the Palestinians. The first of the three hour-long programs will cover the period from 1948 to the Six-Day War; the second program will deal with the Six-Day War to the 1993 Oslo Accords and the third, from after the accords were signed to the present. Shulamit Aloni, Uri Avneri, Yonatan Gefen, Naomi Hazan, MK Nitzan Horowitz and Amir Peretz and other leftist figures will be interviewed, discussing the left today and ways to resuscitate it. (Emilie Grunzweig)

New English-language Israeli website launched

An English news website, the Times of Israel, was launched yesterday. The site was founded by David Horovitz, who left his position as editor of the Jerusalem Post last summer. Horovitz is the editor of the new site; his financial partner in the venture is the U.S.-based Seth Klarman. The site, which operates from Jerusalem, will deal with news from Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, and will publish a daily survey of the Hebrew press and the Arabic press in Israel. Horovitz describes the site as “a determined effort to report Israel, the region and the Jewish world accurately and engagingly.” (Emilie Grunzweig)