(JTA) President Bush said the United States would use "military might" to protect Israel. Bush fielded national security questions Monday at Cleveland's City Club. Asked about Iran's nuclear threat, he said, "The threat from Iran is, of course, their stated objective to destroy our strong ally, Israel. That's a threat, a serious threat. It's a threat to world peace, it’s a threat, in essence, to a strong alliance. I've made it clear, and I'll make it clear again, that we will use military might to protect our ally, Israel."

(JTA) The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Jonathan Pollard's petition for access to classified information used to convict him. A former U.S. Navy analyst, Pollard is serving a life sentence in a U.S. prison for spying for Israel. On Monday, the high court rejected Pollard's request for a hearing on a petition for his attorneys to receive access to the evidence to bolster Pollard's argument for clemency. A hearing would not have affected Pollard's conviction, but would have addressed whether federal courts may grant access to classified material for clemency, which is the purview of the executive branch.

(JTA) Israel confirmed its first contagion by a deadly strain of avian flu. The Agriculture Ministry officially announced Monday that a virus that killed turkeys and chickens at three Negev farms was H5N1, a virulent strain that has spread across Europe, Africa and parts of Asia over the past three years. The virus can kill humans if contracted from poultry, and scientists fear it could mutate and become directly communicable between people. But the ministry said the outbreak, which prompted mass culling of poultry, was under control.

(JTA) Israel briefly reopened the main commercial crossing into the Gaza Strip following warnings of Palestinian food shortages. The Karni crossing, which had been closed repeatedly over the past two months because of alerts of impending Palestinian attacks, was temporarily opened Monday to allow goods convoys into Gaza. Palestinians and the United Nations had complained of a looming humanitarian crisis in Gaza, prompting the change in policy. "The shortage of basic foodstuffs was weighed against the terror threat, and the logical decision to open up for a limited time was made," said Maj. Gen. Amos Gilad, a senior official in Israel's Defense Ministry. The opening was to have lasted three hours but was called off much sooner, with security sources citing renewed terrorism warnings.

(JTA) Russian prosecutors urged a 16-year sentence for the man accused of stabbing several worshipers at a synagogue in Moscow. Alexander Koptsev is on trial for the January attack on Moscow’s Bolshaya Bronnaya Street Synagogue. He is charged with attempted murder and activities intended to humiliate a religious or ethnic group. Koptsev was judged fit to strand trial, though some doctors said he suffered from a personality disorder.

(JTA) More than 40 professors and staff members at the University of Michigan presented a letter supporting divestment from Israel. Submitted online and to university regents last Friday, the letter argued that the school’s financial involvements in Israel posed a "serious moral or ethical questions." During apartheid, university regents voted to divest stock of companies doing business with South Africa, and some Jewish observers worry they will do the same now with Israel-related stocks. Backers of divestment say the move will pressure Israel not to violate Palestinian human rights, but opponents say it ignores the reality that Israel is responding to Palestinian terrorist attacks.

(JTA) A group of Jews, Muslims and Christians is making a solidarity trek across North Africa. The 10-member interfaith team, sponsored by the peacemaking group "Breaking the Ice," set off from Jerusalem on March 7 for a four-week journey scheduled to end in Tripoli. Among those taking part in the 3,400-mile trek is a retired Israeli fighter pilot, a former body double for Saddam Hussein’s late son Udai, a Palestinian accounting student, a New York firefighter and a representative from Iran. Last year, Breaking the Ice sponsored a similar trip to Antarctica.


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