The Conservative movement’s highest legal body moved to allow commitment ceremonies for gays and the ordination of gay rabbis. (JTA)

The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards endorsed three opinions Wednesday on homosexuality.

Two opinions upheld earlier prohibitions on homosexual activity, but the third endorsed commitment ceremonies and the ordination of gay rabbis, while retaining the biblical ban on male sodomy.

Two other opinions that were under consideration, which would have removed all restrictions on gay activity, were declared takanot, or substantial breaks from tradition that would require an absolute majority of the committee members for adoption.

They were defeated.


The Iraq Study Group urged the United States to re-engage with Iran and Syria and renew efforts to resolve the Israeli-Arab conflict. (JTA)

The congressionally mandated study group, headed by former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker and former U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton, said in a report issued Wednesday that there were disincentives and incentives available to the United States to prod Iran and Syria into a more constructive role in Iraq, but they were not outlined in the executive summary made available to reporters.

It also said “there must be a renewed and sustained commitment by the United States to a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace on all fronts: Lebanon, Syria and President Bush’s June 2002 commitment to a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine.

This commitment must include direct talks with, by, and between Israel, Lebanon, Palestinians (those who accept Israel’s right to exist), and Syria.”

Israeli officials had no immediate comment but one Israeli pundit, Ben Caspit of Ma’ariv, said the Iraq Study Group’s recommendations appeared to be in line with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s recent push to engage moderate Arab regimes against strategic threats like Iran and the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority.


Shimon Peres dismissed the idea that a Palestinian Authority coalition government would seek to make peace with Israel. (JTA)

The Israeli vice premier said Wednesday that long-running talks between the governing P.A. faction Hamas and the rival Fatah movement on a possible unity government was intended only to coax the international community into renewing aid to the Palestinian Authority.

“Hamas doesn’t want peace, even if we give them 1967 borders,” Peres told Israel Radio, referring to territories where Fatah has said it wants to found a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

“Hamas wants to use Fatah as a cover, a facade, so they can get money.”

Israeli officials previously had voiced cautious approval for the unity talks, but insisted that the West not abandon its demands that any future P.A. government renounce terrorism and recognize Israel’s right to exist.


Iran is unlikely to launch a nuclear attack on Israel, President Bush’s nominee for defense secretary said. (JTA)

Addressing the U.S. Senate in his confirmation hearings Tuesday, Robert Gates said he did not discount threats to Israel from Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but added that he believed that the religious establishment controlling Iran was less inclined to an attack.

“There are, in fact, higher powers in Iran than he, than the president,” Gates said.

“And I think that while they are certainly pressing, in my opinion, for a nuclear capability, I think that they would see it in the first instance as a deterrent. They are surrounded by powers with nuclear weapons — Pakistan to their east, the Russians to the north, the Israelis to the west and us in the Persian Gulf.”

He said a U.S. attack on Iran or Syria could destabilize the region.

Gates, who was referred to the full Senate unanimously by its Armed Services Committee, added that he was surprised upon the announcement of his nomination that the first nations to congratulate him were Israel and some Arab countries.


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