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Iran Gave Syria Over $1 Billion for Arms Purchases - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
Iran is making huge efforts to upgrade the Syrian army and provided Syria with more than $1 billion to buy surface-to-surface missiles, rockets, anti-tank missiles and anti-aircraft systems.
Syria is buying more missiles than tanks, on the assumption that attacking the Israeli home front would deter Israel and help to determine the war.
The London-based Asharq Alawsat newspaper reported in July 2007, during Iranian President Ahmadinejad's visit to Damascus, that he promised Bashar Assad that Iran would finance Russian and North Korean weapons deals for $1 billion.
In exchange, Syria reportedly undertook not to proceed with the peace process with Israel.
Israel is also concerned over Iran's continuing weapon deliveries to Hizbullah via Syria. Recently, Iran sent Hizbullah a number of deliveries, including a large amount of explosives.
Palestinian Exhibit Depicts Children in Crematorium - Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook (Palestinian Media Watch)
The Ramallah-based Al Ayyam reported Thursday: "The National Committee for Defense of Children from the Holocaust opened its activities with a Holocaust exhibit. The exhibit includes a large [cremation] oven and inside it small children are being burned [by Israel]."
British Target Prisons as Terror Incubators - Mark Rice-Oxley (Christian Science Monitor)
British authorities are increasingly concerned that as more Islamist terrorists end up in Britain's jails, radicalization of other prisoners could become commonplace.
Officials have launched plans to train dozens of prison imams to ensure they are part of the solution, not part of the problem. Mentoring vulnerable prisoners is another tactic under consideration.
Other options include grouping jihadis together to prevent proselytizing among the general prison population, close supervision of the noisiest evangelists, and better training for prison officers to alert them to tell-tale signs of radicals at work.
Islamists Murder International Earthquake Relief Workers in Pakistan - Kathy Gannon (AP/Toronto Star)
On Feb. 25, Islamist gunmen killed four Pakistani employees of Plan International, a British-based charity helping earthquake victims in Mensehra, Pakistan, then wrecked the office with grenades and set it on fire.
Threats by Islamists have forced several foreign agencies to scale back assistance to survivors of the October 2005 earthquake that killed at least 78,000 people and left 3 million homeless.
Islamic extremists are known to despise international aid groups because they employ women and work for women's rights.
February Sees 200,000 Tourists Arrive in Israel (Ynet News)
February 2008 saw 200,000 tourists arrive in Israel, an increase of 46% in comparison to 2007.
The U.S. tops the list, providing more than a quarter of all tourists, followed by France and Russia. Poland, Italy, Ukraine, Germany and England also rank high.
Individuals from China and Korea are also beginning to show a keen interest in visiting Israel.
Israel's Big Presence on Nasdaq (San Jose Mercury News)
Seventy Israeli companies are listed on the tech-heavy Nasdaq Stock Market.
That's more than any other country outside the U.S., followed by China with 60 and Canada with 51.
Israeli Immigrant, 63, Solves Math Riddle - Aron Heller (AP/USA Today)
A mathematical mystery that has baffled top minds for nearly four decades has recently been cracked - by a 63-year-old former security guard.
Avraham Trakhtman, a mathematician who worked as a laborer after immigrating to Israel from Russia, has succeeded in solving the elusive "Road Coloring Problem" in the esoteric field of symbolic dynamics.
Uzbek Farmers on Cattle Breeding Course in Israel (TradingMarkets.com)
26 Uzbek farmers, specialists in cattle breeding, and veterinarians from the Tashkent region left for Israel on March 17 as part of a joint project on dairy cattle breeding, the Israeli embassy in Tashkent said.
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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Iran a Nuclear Threat, Bush Insists - Robin Wright
President Bush said Thursday that Iran has declared that it wants to be a nuclear power with a weapon to "destroy people," contradicting the judgments of a recent U.S. intelligence estimate. "They've declared they want to have a nuclear weapon to destroy people - some in the Middle East. And that's unacceptable to the United States, and it's unacceptable to the world," Bush told U.S.-funded Radio Farda, which broadcasts into Iran in Farsi.
See also U.S. Banks Warned on Iran's "Deceptive Practices"
The Bush administration issued a fresh warning Thursday to U.S. banks that Iran is using "an array of deceptive practices" to hide its alleged involvement in nuclear proliferation and terrorist activities.
The Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network said that Iran's central bank, Bank Markazi, and Iranian commercial banks have requested that their names be removed from global financial transactions to make it difficult to "determine the true parties in the transaction."
The U.S. government told U.S. banks that the Treasury Department is "particularly concerned that the central bank of Iran may be facilitating transactions for sanctioned Iranian banks."
Accidental Blast at Hamas Training Base Kills Two - Ibrahim Barzak
Palestinian militants accidentally set off a large blast at a Hamas training base in the central Gaza Strip on Thursday, killing two members of the violent Islamic group and wounding another, a Palestinian medical official said.
Hamas initially blamed Israel for the blast, but later acknowledged that it was caused by a mishandling of explosives, saying its men died while performing a "holy mission."
See also Hamas Accuses Egypt of Torturing Its Members
Hamas accused Egypt on Thursday of torturing dozens of its members who were arrested and detained in Egypt in January. A Hamas official said 39 militants are currently being held in Egypt, while 90 others have been released in recent weeks.
"The Hamas prisoners suffered all sorts of torture. Those who have been freed have given accounts of being tortured and of interrogations," said the official. Hamas leader Said Siam said in Gaza that "dozens of Palestinians are still being held in Egyptian prisons." He said he had "reliable information" that among those being held were "certain heads of the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades (the armed branch of Hamas) who have been subjected to the most extreme torture."
Bin Laden Accuses Pope of Anti-Islam Crusade - Paul Schemm
Osama bin Laden accused Pope Benedict XVI of helping in a "new Crusade" against Islam and warned of a "severe" reaction to European publications of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that insulted many Muslims. Bin Laden's audiotape, posted Wednesday, said the cartoons "came in the framework of a new Crusade in which the pope of the Vatican has played a large, lengthy role." The Vatican spokesman, Rev. Federico Lombardi, said bin Laden's accusation is "baseless."
Israel, U.S. Conduct Four-Day Military Training Exercise
The Israeli military said Thursday that around 200 U.S. and Israeli officers had staged a computer-based battle simulation designed to improve coordination between the two countries' armed forces. The four-day exercise, codenamed "Juniper Falcon," was part of a standing agreement between the two strategic allies to hold regular joint training to boost "interoperability, understanding and cooperation." Defense officials said that, in addition, the Israeli military's southern command held a separate simulation based on a scenario of an escalated conflict in Gaza. (AP/International Herald Tribune)
UK Parliamentary Enquiry on Development Aid to Palestinians
On Wednesday, NGO Monitor submitted a report to the House of Commons' International Development Committee examining how funds given by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) to three organizations - Christian Aid, War on Want and Oxfam-GB - ostensibly for humanitarian or development aid, are used for political campaigns which contradict DFID goals.
UK policies to promote peace are undermined by activities that seek to internationally isolate Israel by referring to it as an "apartheid state," by calls for boycotts, divestment and sanctions, and by repetition of a rejectionist Palestinian narrative which ignores key causes of conflict. Based on this, the report discusses the urgent need for DFID to reconsider the extent to which recipient NGOs advance peace and development goals. DFID should ensure that its funds are not being used to pursue political goals.
Read the Report (pdf)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Israel Says Gaza Cease-Fire Deal Unlikely - Yaakov Katz
As talks continue between Israel and Egypt over the possibility of a cease-fire deal with Hamas in Gaza, senior defense officials said Thursday that they are pessimistic that a deal will be reached. "The talks are ongoing but it is unlikely Hamas will abide by it even if we agreed to a cease-fire," said one official involved in the talks.
See also Can Egypt Broker Hamas-Israel Truce? - Josh Mitnick and Ilene Prusher
Analysts and officials caution that Egypt has a poor track record brokering a cease-fire.
"Egypt is an important player, but I don't perceive it as a decisive force that can bring a durable cease-fire between Hamas and Israel," says Basem Ezbidi, a political scientist at Bir Zeit University in the West Bank. "Egypt hasn't even been able to bring peace among the Palestinians, between Hamas and Fatah. How can Egypt bring peace between Israel and Hamas?"
While denying using Egypt as a mediator with Hamas, Israeli officials said they are trying to come up with a plan to shut down the weapons flow between Gaza and Sinai as a prerequisite for any calm. "This matter is key," says Mark Regev, a spokesman for Israel's prime minister. "If you have a situation of quiet in the south, and there is a continuation of smuggling of Grad rockets into Gaza, that's not a solution. That's a mirage."
(Christian Science Monitor)
Israeli Boy Hurt in Terror Attack - Yuval Azoulay and Jonathan Lis
A 13-year-old boy was wounded Thursday night in a terror attack when the car in which he was traveling was targeted by an explosive device south of Hebron. Fatah's Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack, Army Radio reported.
Earlier Thursday, Palestinians opened fire at an Israeli bus south of Nablus. (Ha'aretz)
Palestinian Rocket Lands in Kibbutz - Shmulik Hadad
Palestinians in Gaza fired a Kassam rocket that landed in an Israeli kibbutz Thursday. "The rocket landed very close to one of the houses. There was a loud explosion and several houses' windows were shattered by the blast," said local security officer Ami Rabin. (Ynet News)
Bank of Israel Moves to Slow Dollar's Decline Against Shekel - Sharon Wrobel
Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer announced plans on Thursday to dramatically increase the bank's foreign currency reserves over the next two years by buying $25 million of foreign currencies daily, increasing its reserves to $35-40 billion. It currently has about $28b. "The shekel appreciated sharply against the dollar, damaging exporters' profits and threatening the economy. The action is expected to slow down or put a halt to the rapid appreciation of the shekel against the dollar," said Shlomo Maoz, chief economist at Excellence Nessuah. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
Not Just a Palestinian Gimmick - Editorial
The PA leadership seems to be backing an initiative to respond to Israel's 60th anniversary by encouraging Palestinians to enact their "right of return" by showing up on Israel's doorstep on May 14. While obviously a propaganda stunt, even gimmicks say something about where Palestinians stand. After all, Fatah is presumably committed to a two-state solution and to peace with Israel. This is the basis of the Annapolis process, of billions of dollars of assistance now flowing to the PA, and countless missions by Secretary of State Rice.
The basis of the entire process is the principle of two states - a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
The planned stunt, however, indicates that at least some of those in the hierarchy of our supposed PA peace partner do not accept the basic premise of the process. Without mutual recognition by each side of the other's right to a state, what is the point of discussing all the "final status issues"? Either the Palestinians are working to build their own state, or to destroy Israel; they cannot do both at the same time. (Jerusalem Post)
From the Shores of Tripoli to the Tigris - Michael B. Oren
In 1785, many Americans urged their government to follow the European practice of bribing the pirates of the Barbary States, but Jefferson believed that paying off pirates would only encourage them. America's first foreign war was fought in the Middle East. After trying and failing to form an international coalition against Barbary, Jefferson sent the U.S. Navy to battle the pirates in 1801.
American forces suffered many setbacks before 1805, when the Marines marched to "the shores of Tripoli" and defeated the enemy's army. America has pursued similar goals in the Middle East for well over 200 years. But Jefferson never ordered his troops to occupy the territory they conquered. Rather than crushing the Barbary States, he used the Marines' victory as a springboard for concluding a negotiated peace.
Though U.S. troops will eventually withdraw from Iraq, the persistence of terrorism will necessitate undiminished American vigilance, if not active intervention, in the area. The writer is a senior fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem.
(International Herald Tribune)
The Palestinians Have No Interest in Peace - Richard Baehr
As reported by the New York Times no less, it turns out that an overwhelming majority of Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank support violence against Israel and want an end to any talks with Israel. While Mahmoud Abbas initially condemned the cold-blooded slaughter of children in Jerusalem, he subsequently elevated the killer to martyr status, and the killer is now glorified in the Palestinian media as another hero of the resistance. When a gunman enters a school and aims to murder as many children as possible and the killer is treated as a national hero, we are dealing with a society that has no equal on the planet in terms of its abandonment of morality and basic human decency.
Peace has always been the Israeli goal: end the conflict, compromise on all the major issues, and finally put an end to the claims and grievances hurled against Israel in the region and in international organizations. For the Palestinians, peace may be a stage in movement toward a goal (a short-term tactic), but peace itself has no meaning to the Palestinians. The Palestinian national ethos is broadcast constantly by Hamas - that Israelis worship life, but we (the Palestinians) worship death, and so are destined in the end to win. The Palestinian goal is the end of Israel.
Power of Symbolism - Guy Bechor
In Palestinian society, a mother whose son committed suicide as part of the struggle against the Jews must openly declare that she is overjoyed by his martyrdom.
In other words: Even if we kill 1,000 terrorists, the other side will still be declaring victory.
Hamas has adopted common Middle Eastern tactics - the tactics of symbols. Symbols, pictures, and performances will always overcome words.
David Ben-Gurion knew this. His very image was a symbol. His rhetoric style, his hair, his pioneer spirit, his emphasis on action, and his enthusiasm all served to convey emotions. (Ynet News)
Meet the World's Most Incompetent Ethnic Cleansers - Evelyn Gordon
It is hard to decide which aspect of Mahmoud Abbas' recent "ethnic cleansing" accusation is more worrying: what it reveals about him, or what it reveals about the world's willingness to tolerate the vilest slanders against Israel.
If Jerusalem's Arabs are facing ethnic cleansing, then Israelis are surely the most incompetent ethnic cleansers in human history.
According to the Central Bureau of Statistics and the Jerusalem Institute of Israel Studies, Jerusalem's Arab population grew 266% between 1967 and 2006 (the last year for which figures are available). That is almost double the Jewish population's growth during those years (143%); consequently, the city's ratio of Jews to Arabs shrank from 74:26 in 1967 to 66:34 in 2006.
During the second intifada, the Arab population in the city rose from 208,700 at the end of 2000 to 252,400 at the end of 2006, an increase of 21% in six years. But more importantly, how can you trust the good faith of someone who has no qualms about accusing you of one of the most heinous crimes in the modern lexicon without even bothering to check his facts? Almost certainly, however, Abbas does know the facts. This was nothing less than deliberate incitement against Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
Land of Milk and Start-Ups
Most venture capital in Israel's Silicon Wadi is invested not in software or trendy web-based services, but in start-ups developing specialized chips or advanced telecoms equipment. Israeli high-tech is particularly strong in wireless technology, especially when it comes to combining digital and analogue signals on a single chip. Take Wisair, a start-up that designs such chips for a technology called ultra-wideband, which is expected to begin replacing cables between electronic devices, such as computers and monitors, later this year. A focus on innovation and technology, and a relative lack of interest in management and marketing, explain why Israeli entrepreneurs tend to sell out early, mostly to big foreign firms, rather than build up their companies.
Mud Moguls - Carolyn Sayre
Using the black mud and gray-white salt from the Dead Sea in a line of skin care products, Dead Sea Laboratories grossed nearly $1 million in its first year in 1988. Under the new brand name Ahava, the products are now sold in 33 countries, generating nearly $150 million a year in sales, and the company has three flagship stores in the UK, Germany and Singapore. It's the next best thing to taking a dip in the Dead Sea yourself.
HBO's "In Treatment" Born in Israel
Before "In Treatment" became a daily drama staple on HBO, it was "Betipul," a low-budget, high-quality show in Israel. For four days each week, the show's therapist would meet with a different patient; on the fifth day, he would pour his heart out to his own shrink. (The Press of Atlantic City)
See also Lost in Adaptation - Michal Lando
Those who have had the pleasure of seeing the original are acutely aware that, in its journey across the Atlantic, something has gone mysteriously askew. (Jerusalem Post)
Report: Small Progress in Revising Palestinian Textbooks (American Jewish Committee)
Seven years after the Palestinian Authority began publishing textbooks for use in West Bank and Gaza schools, there still is no recognition of the State of Israel and no advocacy of peace with it.
- Instead, the textbooks promote violent struggle, while hateful descriptions of Jews and the West remain prevalent, according to the report, "Palestinian Textbooks: From Arafat to Abbas and Hamas," co-published by AJC and the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (formerly the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace-CMIP).
- "While Israeli leaders speak openly of negotiating a two-state solution, Palestinian children are exposed to a rigid, narrow worldview in which Israel does not exist and Jews are considered subhuman enemies," said AJC Executive Director David A. Harris.
- "A negotiated settlement cannot succeed until Palestinian children are taught to live in peace with their Israeli neighbors."
Read the Report (pdf)
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