Friday, May 29, 2009

The Philadelphia Bulletin: US Crisis Looming with the Saudis?

by David Bedein

The United States has become concerned over what officials describe as a chill in its relations with Saudi Arabia.

The Middle East Newline has confirmed the Saudi regime has been dismayed by President Barack Obama’s decision to seek a reconciliation with Iran, and Saudi leaders have sent a series of warnings saying this would directly harm U.S. allies in the Gulf.

“The Saudis are beginning to back away from us and consider other strategic alliances,” an official said.

President Barack Obama plans to visit Saudi Arabia on Wednesday during his three-day trip to Egypt, Germany and France. Officials said the president added Riyadh to his itinerary amid warnings that Saudi leaders were becoming increasingly frustrated with the U.S. policy of reconciliation with Iran.

The Saudi royal family was not comforted by Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ visit earlier this month, officials said. They said Mr. Gates, despite his promises of additional U.S. weapons and training, was treated coolly by King Abdullah and his aides.

“The president believes it’s an important opportunity to discuss important business, like Middle East peace, but it’s not born out of anything specific,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said.

Mr. Gibbs said the president would discuss U.S. policy toward Iran during his visit to Riyadh and particularly its nuclear program. The spokesman said the president would also seek Saudi support for U.S. efforts to establish a Palestinian state in the West Bank.

The surprise Saudi visit stemmed from the cancellation of a summit between Egypt and the United States later this month.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, citing the death of his grandson, decided to cancel his trip to Washington in coordination with Saudi King Abdullah.

“There are a few Arab states who are very anxious over our policy toward Iran and have dismissed U.S. promises to compensate by additional weapons and an accelerated Israeli-Palestinian peace process,” the official said.

President Obama was apparently persuaded to visit Riyadh before his scheduled address to the Muslim world in Cairo on Thursday, in order to personally assure King Abdullah said Saudi interests would not be harmed by a U.S. reconciliation with Tehran. Saudi influence in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), as well as the kingdom’s role as the world’s leading supplier of crude oil and weapons importer, would remain stable.

Saudi Oil Industry Again Target Of Al-Qaida Terrorists

Al-Qaida appears to have renewed its campaign against Saudi Arabia’s energy industry.

Al-Qaida has resumed its campaign of tracking and striking Westerners in the Saudi kingdom. They said the focus once again appears to be the Western expatriate community in and around the Eastern Province, which contains the bulk of the Saudi crude oil reserves.

On Tuesday, al-Qaida was believed to have attacked a bus full of Western workers in Jubail. Three British nationals came under gunfire in the nighttime ambush.

“None of the passengers was harmed,” Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki said.

Maj. Gen. al-Turki said the attackers targeted a bus that contained five foreigners in the industrial region of Jubail. He said the bus contained three British passengers, a Pakistani, a Saudi and a Syrian.

This marked the first attack on foreigners in Saudi Arabia since 2007, when three French expatriates were shot dead during a desert trip. Al-Qaida was also said to have been responsible for the killings.

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The Philadelphia Bulletin: State Dept.: Obama’s Demands To Stop West Bank Expansion Includes Jerusalem

by David Bedein

Jerusalem - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has issued an unprecedented statement clarifying President Barack Obama’s demands for Israel to stop expanding Jewish communities in areas it acquired following the 1967 Six-Day War, including Jerusalem.

The statement, issued Wednesday, applies to the area known in Israel by their Biblical names, Judea and Samaria, and as the West Bank by the international community.

There are now 128 Jewish communities in these areas, with a population of almost 300,000 Jews.

Mrs. Clinton explained President Obama demands that there should be no expansion in these communities for the purpose of “natural growth.”

That would include an American demand to stop construction of kindergartens, schools and housing for young couples.

“West Bank maps” issued by the United Nations also include 18 Jewish neighborhoods inside the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem, in areas inside the city that Israel formally annexed after the 1967 war.

One of the Jerusalem neighborhoods resettled by Jews after the 1967 war is the Old City of Jerusalem, which hosts the Temple Mount, the holiest place in the world to the Jewish people.

Ms. Clinton’s press spokesman was asked if President Obama’s demand to halt expansion of “West Bank Jewish communities” included a demand to stop expansion of Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem.

The answer was affirmative. The U.S. State Department demands that Israel limit Jewish growth in these areas of Jerusalem, “whose status remains to be determined” in negotiations.

Israeli Government Press Director Daniel Seamen reacted to this Obama administration statement by saying: “I have to admire the residents of Iroquois territory for assuming that they have a right to determine where Jews should live in Jerusalem.”

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The Philadelphia Bulletin: Hezbollah Irked by Hariri Connection

by David Bedein

Der Spiegel’s revelation of Hezbollah’s alleged involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri remains in the media spotlight.

Hezbollah Secretary General Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah has accused Israel of being behind the supposedly false report, but the journalist who wrote the report is standing behind it.

“Every single word is the truth,” said Erich Follath, the journalist who authored the report.

The article was published, probably not coincidently, just two weeks before the Lebanese parliamentary elections, which a Shiite-Christian bloc under Mr. Nasrallah’s leadership is now participating in. The high echelons in the movement fear an attempt to connect them to the assassination could affect the voter’s choice.

Mr. Hariri, who was killed in a major explosion on Feb. 14, 2005, was popular among many sectors in the population, not just among Sunnis.

“This is an exceedingly dangerous article,” admitted Mr. Nasrallah in a speech aired earlier this week. “We regard it as an Israeli accusation.”

He added that the event that set off the Lebanese Civil War in April 1975 was no less severe.

The report in the German magazine detailed the role played by Hezbollah intelligence operatives in the operation and essentially exonerated the prime suspect to date - the Syrian leadership.

Mr. Follath says he based his report on documents from the U.N. tribunal established to investigate the Hariri assassination. He insists the documents are authentic and that he double-checked every fact before publishing his report.

“I am pleased with Hassan Nasrallah’s assault against me,” he told the newspaper Asharq al-Awsat. “Today I am more confident than ever about the article.”

Israel fears Mr. Nasrallah’s bloc will strengthen and score a significant hold over Lebanon. As a result, Israel has expressed its concern over Vice President Joe Biden’s statement the U.S. government plans to give the Lebanese military equipment, including tanks and warplanes.

Media outlets in Lebanon have reported the equipment will be transferred regardless of the election’s outcome in order to strengthen the Lebanese military against hostile forces.

Senior officials in the security establishment said in recent days: “Every weapon making its way to Lebanon will make its way to Hezbollah when the time has come.”

Another Israeli security source said: “Hezbollah is the dominant military force. The American declaration is testimony of its lack of understanding of the events in Lebanon.”

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Philadelphia Bulletin: Seminal Israeli Author Amos Eilon Dies at Age 84

by David Bedein

Former Ha’aretz newspaper reporter Amos Eilon died on Tuesday at the age of 84.

Eilon made his name in the annals of news coverage of the Middle East with his quintessential book from 38 years ago, titled The Israelis: Founders And Sons, which remains a seminal guide to the human side of the trials and tribulations of those who founded the state of Israel.

His book, which has no equal, remains a must for those who want to understand what makes the people of Israel tick and acts as a legacy to the memory of one of Israel’s finest journalists.

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The Philadelphia Bulletin: Netanyahu Puts Off Visit to Europe

by David Bedein

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided to put off his scheduled trip next week to France and Italy.

This was to be his first trip to those countries since his election as prime minister. One assessment is that the reason for the cancellation is the European anger over Mr. Netanyahu’s policies and the statements he made at a ceremony marking Jerusalem Day. At the ceremony, Mr. Netanyahu said that Jerusalem was Israel’s capital and would never be divided. Officials in the Prime Minister’s Bureau rejected that assessment outright.

Prime Minister Netanyahu was slated to meet next week with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. All of the facets of those two planned meetings had already been worked out and all of the technical difficulties had been surmounted. But last night, Mr. Netanyahu informed his French and Italian hosts that he was going to have to put off his planned visit.

Political sources said they believed the reason for the cancellation was the sensitive political situation in light of Mr. Netanyahu’s refusal to declare his support for the establishment of a Palestinian state.

And for the statements he made at a Jerusalem Day ceremony that “an undivided Jerusalem would remain the eternal capital of Israel.”

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The Philadelphia Bulletin: Israeli Government Ministers - Palestinians Want State on Israel's Ruins

by David Bedein

Senior members of Israel’s government delivered a clear message to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama this week during a seminar in the Israeli Knesset on the subject of finding alternatives to the two-state solution.

“The Palestinian goal is not a state within the 1967 borders, but rather a Palestinian state on the ruins of the State of Israel,” Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Yaalon, who convened the seminar, told the large gathering of opponents of having an independent Palestinian state.

Mr. Yaalon, who served as commander in chief of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) from 2001 to 2005, emphasized his seminar was “not a gathering of rebels,” but was intended to support the prime minister. The signal to Mr. Netanyahu, however, was clear.

Over 200 participants, many of whom remained outside the auditorium due to lack of room, attended the gathering, which was held at Israel’s Knesset on Tuesday.

The Strategic Affairs Minister said he did not see any chance an independent Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria, also known as the West Bank, or in the Gaza Strip, would be able to maintain an independent economy or be able to maintain its internal security.

Mr. Yaalon referred to the experience gained from Israel’s total withdrawal from Gaza in August 2005, which occurred two months after former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon removed him as IDF chief.

“It could be presumed with certainty that any territory that Israel would evacuate in Judea and Samaria would immediately turn into a second Hamastan,” Mr. Yaalon said.

Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai told the seminar attendees Israel should stop trying to seek favor in the eyes of the world and work to get them to see the truth.

“The Palestinians are not even willing to recognize the state of the Jewish people, because they want to eliminate the Jewish people,” Mr. Yishai said.

Former Israel National Security Council director Maj. Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland said, commenting on the seminar, that an independent Palestinian state would not be an ideal solution for the Palestinians.

“Many senior Palestinian figures would support the idea of establishing a Palestinian confederation under Jordanian rule. They realize that a Palestinian state would be controlled by Hamas and would prefer to be under Jordanian rule,” Maj. Gen. (res.) Eilan said.

Following the seminar, some members of Israel’s Knesset suggested turning Jordan into a Palestinian state, which Israeli President Shimon Peres called “ridiculous,” even though he is not supposed to express himself politically in his non-partisan position.

After Mr. Peres’ comment, Jordan’s ambassador to Israel filed an official complaint against the government of Israel for allowing a member of Israel’s Knesset to suggest replacing the Jordanian kingdom with a Palestinian state.

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The Philadelphia Bulletin: Hezbollah Victory Will Give Israel Sway

by David Bedein

Should Hezbollah prevail in Lebanon’s upcoming parliamentary elections next month, it could place Lebanon in Israel’s crosshairs.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Israel TV a Hezbollah election victory would render the terror group more vulnerable than in the past to the Israel Defense Force (IDF) because Israel would have freer rein in the event of a conflagration.

If the Iranian-financed terror organization were to become significantly stronger and were to hold a majority in the Lebanese government, Israeli security sources say Israel would directly retaliate against Lebanon in the event of a war along its northern border.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently said if Hezbollah were to win the Lebanese parliamentary elections: “[T]hat would be a troubling development, and our deployment will be in kind.”

Israel Defense Minister Barak also remarked on that issue, saying: “At present, Hezbollah already holds a third of the ministerial posts in the Lebanese cabinet. If Hezbollah receives a bigger chunk in the upcoming elections, that will expose it more than it was in the past to the IDF’s might, and will allow us freedom of action that we didn’t fully have in July 2006, during the Second Lebanon War.”

The Strategic Affairs Minister said he did not see any chance an independent Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria, also known as the West Bank, or in the Gaza Strip, would be able to maintain an independent economy or be able to maintain its internal security.

Mr. Yaalon referred to the experience gained from Israel’s total withdrawal from Gaza in August 2005, which occurred two months after former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon removed him as IDF chief.

“It could be presumed with certainty that any territory that Israel would evacuate in Judea and Samaria would immediately turn into a second Hamastan,” Mr. Yaalon said.

Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai told the seminar attendees Israel should stop trying to seek favor in the eyes of the world and work to get them to see the truth.

“The Palestinians are not even willing to recognize the state of the Jewish people, because they want to eliminate the Jewish people,” Mr. Yishai said.

Former Israel National Security Council director Maj. Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland said, commenting on the seminar, that an independent Palestinian state would not be an ideal solution for the Palestinians.

“Many senior Palestinian figures would support the idea of establishing a Palestinian confederation under Jordanian rule. They realize that a Palestinian state would be controlled by Hamas and would prefer to be under Jordanian rule,” Maj. Gen. (res.) Eilan said.

Following the seminar, some members of Israel’s Knesset suggested turning Jordan into a Palestinian state, which Israeli President Shimon Peres called “ridiculous,” even though he is not supposed to express himself politically in his non-partisan position.

After Mr. Peres’ comment, Jordan’s ambassador to Israel filed an official complaint against the government of Israel for allowing a member of Israel’s Knesset to suggest replacing the Jordanian kingdom with a Palestinian state.

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The Philadelphia Bulletin: Hezbollah Cell training in Sudan

by David Bedein

The Middle East Newsline has confirmed the Hezbollah network in Egypt planned to train its recruits in suicide bombing tactics in Sudan and in other countries in the Middle East.

Egyptian security sources report that Hezbollah operatives told interrogators the network worked to send scores of recruits for training in Lebanon, Libya, Sudan and Syria. Hezbollah had prepared training areas and instructors for these Egyptian recruits.

“The issue is much bigger than Hezbollah,” Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abu al-Gheit said. “It is an attempt to harm Egypt’s interests and twist its policy.”

So far, Egypt has identified at least 49 suspected members of the Hezbollah network. The sources said the network numbered 100 members, with about a quarter of them hiding in the Sinai Peninsula.

The Egyptian daily newspaper al-Masri al-Yom reported that two of the detainees detailed a Hezbollah plot to conduct a major terror attack in Tel Aviv.

Mohammed Ramadan Abdul Fatah Baraka and Nadal Hassan were identified as members of the Fatah movement who infiltrated Egypt from the Gaza Strip and settled in al-Arish, Egypt.

Hezbollah planned to send Baraka and Hassan to Sudan for training in suicide strikes. From Sudan, the sources said, the two Palestinians had been scheduled to fly to Syria and Lebanon.

Hezbollah recruits were told to report to Libya for intelligence training, but the sources said some of the recruits were unable to enter the North African country.

These Palestinian terrorists were said to have been recruited by the Hezbollah network in Egypt in 2008. After their recruitment, Baraka and Hassan returned to the Gaza Strip and months later infiltrated Sinai before agreeing to participate in the suicide attack.

Egypt has determined the Hezbollah effort was directed and financed by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Officials said Tehran has deemed Hezbollah a vital asset in Iran’s strategy to destabilize pro-U.S. regimes in the Middle East.

“Iran’s relationship with Hezbollah has gone beyond the stage of solid ties to a close relationship that has resulted in long-term military cooperation in addition to security and intelligence cooperation,” Egyptian security analyst [Ret.] Maj. Gen. Sameh Saif al-Yazal said.

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The Philadelphia Bulletin: Arafat Protege Abbas to Meet with Obama Today

by David Bedein

Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, the protégé of the late Yasser Arafat, will arrive in Washington, D.C., today to meet with the president of the United States.

There are 10 issues at hand that would challenge the credibility of Mr. Abbas as a peace negotiator:

Mr. Abbas’ continued incitement in the Arabic language, as expressed in his school books, media outlets and public statements that emanate from the Palestinian Authority (PA), which operates under his firm control.
Mr. Abbas’ refusal to renounce his own Holocaust Denial Ph.D., which also contends that the Nazis and Zionists worked together during WWII.
Mr. Abbas’ election platform from 2005 that calls for the total right of return to villages from before 1948.
Mr. Abbas’ celebrations of murder attacks against Jews.
Mr. Abbas’ refusal to implore the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) or the PA to ratify the Oslo Accords or cancel the PLO covenant.
Current weapons/security sharing arrangements between the PA and Hamas.
Disappearance of Arafat’s billions, some of which have wound up in the coffers of Mr. Abbas.
Mr. Abbas’ endorsement of the Hezbollah war, summer 2006.
The Nakba campaign endorsed by Mr. Abbas, which calls on Palestinians to reclaim areas lost in 1948 - by force if necessary.
Mr. Abbas’ continued confinement of Palestinian Arab refugees and their descendants to the indignity of United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) refugee camps, under the specious premise of the “right of return” to villages that no longer exist.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Philadelphia Bulletin: Israeli Reaction to North Korea - 'We Told You So'

by David Bedein

From Israel’s perspective, North Korea’s nuclear test, conducted Monday, was almost old news. Although the world was shocked when the news broke, Israeli security and Foreign Ministry officials could have said: “We told you so.”

Sources in the Israeli security establishment say they have been reporting on the connections between North Korea and Iran since the mid-1990s, when they started warning that North Korean technology was behind Iran’s Shahab missile. North Korean military, missile and nuclear experts have roamed the planet, mainly in the Middle East, seeking to sell their technologies to the highest bidder.

“And two years ago we reported - and backed it up with documentation - that North Korea was building Syria a nuclear reactor, and after we told them, we also attacked and destroyed it, to make sure that the threat was removed,” the sources said.

From Israel’s perspective, this is an existential issue: If the Americans blink, that will be sensed very clearly, and it will tell North Korea that it can continue to go about its nuclear weapons business. The North Korean developments likely will lead to Syria gaining improved missile technology and Iran accelerating its nuclear program.

Another senior Israeli official angrily chastised the United States for its lack of action after it learned North Korea was helping Syria build a nuclear reactor.

“What did the Americans do with all that? Not much,” the official said. “The Syrian reactor ought to have taught them that North Korea had lied throughout the entire affair, but Washington nevertheless preferred to persevere with its critical dialogue.

“The result of that is that the missiles were fired, the tests continued. Yesterday was a resounding slap on the cheek, which ostensibly is supposed to indicate to all of us that the time has come for the administration either to sober up, or for us to despair of it.”

Barak: ‘Talk And Sanctions Don’t Stop Rogue Regimes’

Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak called on the United States and the international community to learn lessons from North Korea’s nuclear defiance.

“It is incumbent upon the United States and the international community to learn the lessons so as to convey a clear message to Iran,” Mr. Barak said. “Israel is concerned by the free world’s failure to stand up to North Korea.

“Talk, declarations and soft sanctions do not stop rogue regimes from endangering world peace. This test is a warning sign and a message to the world to wake up.”

Mr. Barak also expressed skepticism about the United States’ ability to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power.

“The chance of the dialogue between the United States and Iran producing an end to the Iranian effort to advance towards the attainment of a military nuclear capability is very low,” said Mr. Barak. “The Americans understand that the chance is very low, just that they think that there is a logic to this dialogue and yet, if that doesn’t happen, they are going to have to cope with the significance of that further on.”

The Defense minister says he believes the dialogue between the United States and Iran needs to be time limited, but the Obama administration has refrained from setting a firm timetable so far.

Tzahi Hanegbi, chairman of the Israeli Knesset Parliament Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, was more explicit, saying: “The North Koreans’ flaunted nuclear test was registered not only by the seismographs, but mainly by the Iranian regime of ayatollahs. If the United States surrenders unconditionally to the axis of evil, the entire world can expect to face difficult and demanding moments.”

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The Philadelphia Bulletin: First Israeli Espionage Plane Lands in India

by David Bedein

Five years after the deal was signed between Israel and India, the first Israeli Phalcon plane landed on Monday in India. This is the first plane out of three that Israel sold to India in a deal whose value is estimated at $1.1 billion.

The plane took off for India from an Israeli military base.

The second Phalcon plane is expected to arrive in India in the course of the coming number of weeks. The third plane is slated to be delivered in 2010. India has thus become the first country in southern Asia to possess a plane with AWACS (airborne warning and control system) installed.

The Phalcon plane is a Russian-made Ilyushin-76 plane that Israel fitted with a variety of Israel Aerospace Industries-made electronic systems. The original Phalcon deal was signed with China, but was canceled in response to an American demand.

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The Philadelphia Bulletin: Descendents of Inquisition Victims Support Israel

by David Bedein

Dozens of people whose ancestors were forced to convert to Catholicism during the Inquisition over 500 years ago, often referred to by the derogatory term “Marranos,” gathered this past weekend in Barcelona for a special seminar run to train them to make Israel’s case to the media.

Amid rising anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment throughout Europe, especially in Spain, the Shavei Israel (Hebrew for “returning to Israel”) organization convened a special seminar this past weekend in Barcelona with the aim of training to become effective advocates for Israel and its cause in their home countries.

A number of experts on Israel advocacy were brought in to take part in training sessions for the participants and to provide them with guidance and tools to defend the Jewish state in the local and international media.

The seminar was held at the Jewish community center in Barcelona and drew some 70 participants from Spain and Portugal.

This marks the first time these “Marranos” have organized themselves to promote Israel in their own countries.

The idea behind the seminar arose several months ago when descendants of the Inquisition rose at a demonstration in support of Israel that was held in front of the Israeli Embassy in Madrid during the recent Gaza conflict. Many had traveled for hours to Madrid for the sole purpose of expressing their support for Israel.

According to “Shavei Israel” Chairman Michael Freund, there are tens of thousands, and possibly hundreds of thousands, in Spain and Portugal who are conscious of their actual identity and their special relationship with Israel and the Jewish people. Mr. Freund said they “can serve as a wonderful corps of goodwill ambassadors for the Jewish state, and it behooves us to reach out to them and forge a stronger relationship with them.”

Shavei Israel is a nonprofit organization founded by Mr. Freund, who immigrated to Israel from the United States, with the aim of strengthening ties between the State of Israel and the Jewish people and descendants of Jews around the world. The organization is currently active in nine countries and provides assistance to a variety of distant Jewish communities in India, Spain, Portugal and South America, and even in Kaifeng, China.

Historical Background

The Jewish community in Spain in the early Middle Ages was one of the oldest and most successful Diaspora Jewish communities. Despite this, from 1391 onward, a series of terrible disturbances and great tribulations befell the local Jewish community. One of the direct results was an unprecedented wave of forced conversions. These events continued on through 1492, when they reached their peak, and the remaining Jews were formally expelled from Spain. Many of those who had been compelled to convert to Catholicism - known by the Hebrew term “Bnai Anousim” - remained behind, where they continued to preserve their Jewish identity and to practice Jewish tradition covertly. As a result, this unique phenomenon is still evident even today, even though the Inquisition invested enormous efforts over the centuries to eradicate it.

Bnai Anousim in Portugal

In 1497, the Portuguese monarch forced the Jews of his kingdom to convert to Catholicism. Despite this, these “New Christians” did their utmost to remain loyal to their Jewish roots, secretly passing on their identities down through the generations, despite the wrath of the Inquisition. Many of those who were caught practicing Judaism in secret were made to pay a heavy price by the Inquisition for their fidelity to the faith of their ancestors. One of the most famous examples of Portuguese Bnai Anousim was the community of Belmonte, in northern Portugal, which was discovered 80 years ago by a visiting Jewish engineer. Two decades ago, the Bnai Anousim of Belmonte were formally restored to the Jewish people by a rabbinical court sent from Israel.

Bnai Anousim In Brazil

When the doors of the New World swung open in the 16th century, Brazil came to play an important role for those with initiative, opening new opportunities for a better life. In addition, because of its geographical distance from Portugal, many Bnai Anousim saw Brazil as a possible place of refuge that might put them beyond the reach of the Inquisition. Nonetheless, the long arm of the Church reached across the Atlantic and continued to pursue the Bnai Anousim. But many remained undeterred, and continued to preserve Jewish rituals and traditions in secret, passing down their covert Jewish identity from generation to generation.

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The Philadelphia Bulletin: Al-Qaeda Still Seen as Greatest Threat to Persian Gulf States

by David Bedein

The Middle East Newsline has confirmed the U.S. Central Command, responsible for U.S. military operations in the Middle East and Central Asia, has determined that al-Qaida poses a threat to the six Gulf Cooperation Council states as well as neighboring Iraq and Yemen. It says al-Qaida, flushed with success in Afghanistan, has sought to expand its presence throughout the Gulf region.

“We face, in this region, a number of inter-related threats and challenges from trans-national to state-centric, to those who blur the lines between the two,” Centcom chief Gen. David Petraeus said. “At the transnational level, violent extremism is, needless to say, the most pressing challenge. Al-Qaida and its affiliates pose the greatest such threat to many states in the region.”

In a conference in Manama, Centcom commanders reviewed threats to U.S. allies in the Gulf. The command envisioned an increasing al-Qaida threat amid the global economic crisis, particularly in Yemen.

“Such approaches involve significantly more than the application of just military or kinetic action,” Gen. Petraeus said. “In fact, they must do far more if they are to address not just the symptoms of current challenges, but also their underlying causes. The lack of sustainable economic development in certain parts of this region, for example, is not just a social or humanitarian issue. It is a serious security concern as well.”

The three-day conference, which ended on Friday, also reviewed Centcom cooperation plans in the Gulf. Officials said a key partner would be the U.S. Fifth Fleet.

“We will continue to work with our partners in the region to respond to these challenges and help ensure peace and stability in the region,” Fifth Fleet commander Vice Adm. William Gortney said. “U.S. naval forces have operated in the region for six decades, and we’ll be here for many more to come.”

Anti-piracy operations would remain a key element in expanding U.S. military cooperation. They said the need to combat Somali-based piracy in the Arabian Sea and Red Sea would bring together most GCC states as well as Yemen.

“The complex threats that we face at sea require cooperative solutions,” Vice Adm. Gortney said.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Philadelphia Bulletin: Study - Israel Could Survive Nuke Attack

by David Bedein

A new study based on Israeli and U.S. data says the Jewish state could survive being hit by as many as 80 nuclear weapons. According to Middle East Newsline, the study says Israeli casualties could be significantly reduced through the construction of bomb shelters and dispersal of the population.

Titled “Nuclear Threat: The New Challenge to Missile Defense Systems,” the report examines the possible effects of a nuclear strike on Tel Aviv, Israel’s commercial center.

“The atomic bomb does not mean doomsday,” said Yehoshua Sokol, author of the report and a member of the Ashkelon-based Academic Forum for Nuclear Awareness and a staffer at Falcon Analytics. “Simple things like bomb shelters and dispersal of the population would help significantly.”

This report marks the first disclosed study of the repercussions of a nuclear attack on Israel, as well as recommendations to reduce casualties.

The report, presented to the Israel Defense Ministry and the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, was assisted by Israeli government engineers and scientists, including from the Soreq Nuclear Research Center, regarded as the Israeli equivalent of the Livermore National Laboratory in the United States.

“If we build a system that stresses the construction of protected rooms [within homes and office buildings] then we could eliminate 75 percent of the casualties,” Mr. Sokol said. “It’s as if we had intercepted 75 percent of the incoming [nuclear] missiles.”

The study examined the likely outcome of an attack by a 15-kiloton atomic bomb, similar to that dropped by the United States on the Japanese city of Hiroshima in 1945.

The report estimates an atomic bomb dropped on Tel Aviv would result in 6,000 casualties if residents in the affected area were in protected rooms. Without protection, 25,000 people likely would die.

The study says 7,000 people would be killed if an atomic bomb fell on the less populated Israeli city of Ramle, located east of Tel Aviv.

About 1,000 people would be killed if an atom bomb struck Israeli communities in the northern West Bank.

In both cases, the study envisioned that the population would not be protected.

The worst-case scenario involved Israel being hit by 80 nuclear weapons. The study envisions 75,000 casualties with a population protected by bomb shelters. If no precautions are taken Israel could suffer as many as 300,000 dead.

Mr. Sokol, citing Hiroshima, said the immediate lethality radius from the epicenter of an atomic blast could be no more than 120 feet. As a result, he said, a nuclear attack on Tel Aviv would probably spare most of its residential and office towers.

“To knock out Aziereli (the tallest building in Tel Aviv) or any other big building, you would need a direct or near direct hit by an atomic bomb,” Mr. Sokol said.

Referring to the American atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Mr. Sokol played down the prospect of massive casualties from nuclear radiation.

Mr. Sokol, citing U.S. data, said fewer than 1,000 people died from cancer in the two Japanese cities from 1945 to 1998.

About 100,000 people were killed in the combined U.S. nuclear attacks.

As a result, Mr. Sokol said, the most likely nuclear scenario was of an electro-magnetic pulse attack on Israel. This would mean using a nuclear weapon that would explode at least 20 miles in altitude and knock out the Jewish state’s electronic and electrical grid of the Jewish state. The report concludes Israel needs to prepare by upgrading its electronic and electrical infrastructures.

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The Philadelphia Bulletin: Majority of Israelis Believe Iran will Develop Nuclear Bomb

by David Bedein

Although 49 percent of the Israeli public believes that Israel must wait and see whether American policy succeeds regarding Iran, 74 percent of the public does not believe that the policy of dialogue will succeed, according to a new poll conducted by the Center for Iranian Studies at Tel Aviv University on the evening its two-day research conference this week.

According to the poll, the Israeli public is divided on the question of whether Israel should attack or not. The poll says Israelis of 42 years of age and over are significantly more concerned about the Iranian bomb than their younger counterparts.

Eighty-nine percent of those 42 and over are concerned, compared with 61 percent of the young people.

There is a similar gap between the age groups regarding possible emigration from Israel if Iran should develop a nuclear bomb (89 percent and 64 percent, respectively, will consider emigrating). The secular population of the Israeli much more concerned than the religious population: 88 percent of the secular population is worried, while 67 percent of the religious population is concerned.

In all, that has to do with possible Israeli policy in response to the Iranian threat, 61 percent of Israeli men support an attack, as compared with 47 percent of the women.

Professor David Menashri, the head of the center, said: “The unbridled language of President Ahmadinejad and his threats to wipe Israel off the map of history, accompanied by a program to develop nuclear capability and the upgrading of ballistic missiles, together with Iran’s increasing involvement in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip - all these have created real concern among Israelis. In addition, it appears that the declarations of Israeli leaders that regard Iran as an ‘existential threat,’ which were meant to make Israel’s concern clear to the world, only raised the threshold of fear among the Israeli public.”

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The Philadelphia Bulletin: Obama to Provide Weapons to Lebanon, Morocco

by David Bedein

The United States plans to send an unprecedented array of offensive military systems to Lebanon and to Morocco.

The Obama administration has approved the delivery of missiles, artillery and main battle tanks to the Lebanese Army. This would mark the first offensive systems to Lebanon since the 1980s.

Meanwhile, on May 22, Vice President Joseph Biden visited Beirut and announced the administration was preparing to deliver a range of offensive military platforms to Lebanon.

Since 2006, the United States has relayed $410 million in military aid to Lebanon. Most of the aid has gone for Humvee combat vehicles, light ammunition and training.

Meanwhile, Morocco requested a U.S.-origin G-550 aircraft from Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation.

This marked the second Moroccan request for U.S. aircraft since 2007. The first request by Morocco was for 24 F-16 Block 52+ aircraft in a $2.4 billion deal.

A Pentagon agency said Morocco has requested one Gulfstream G-550 transport aircraft, one spare BR700-710C4-11 GmbH engine, aircraft ferry services, spare and repair parts, as well as training and logistics.

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The Philadelphia Bulletin: Israel's Security Cabinet Expresses Doubts about Peace

by David Bedein

Begin May Be Man to Watch in New Group

Benjamin Begin, son of late Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, could be the man to watch in Israel’s newly formed security cabinet.

Although he lacks a political portfolio, his importance surpasses other members of the cabinet, which also includes: Defense Minister Ehud Barak, a former Israel prime minister; Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman; Strategic Affairs Minister Bugi Yaalon; and Intelligence Affairs Minister Dan Meridor.

Mr. Begin has a history of opposing, giving concessions to the Palestinians. He resigned from the previous Netanyahu government in January 1997 after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu relinquished Israeli control over Hebron.

He left Likud following the conclusion of the Wye River Memorandums in October 1998, which called for the redeployment of Israeli forces. This effectively ended Mr. Netanyahu’s last government. Mr. Begin also opposed what he saw as former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s corruption and disloyalty from early on.

During a Knesset discussion last Wednesday on Jerusalem Day, Mr. Begin quoted extensively from remarks made by Abbas Zaki, a Palestinian Authority leader, on May 7.

In those comments, Mr. Zaki said: “The Jews view Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) as their historic dream. After they evacuate those lands, they will get out of Jerusalem. If the Jews leave those places, the Zionist idea will begin to collapse. Then they will move forward.”

Mr. Begin used these comments to remind the Israeli public of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s (PLO) plan of destroying Israel through diplomatic, as well as military means, over the course of several phases.

The other members of the security cabinet share Mr. Begin’s skepticism about the Palestinians.

Mr. Barak has long since lost faith in negotiations with the Palestinians. Mr. Lieberman opposes any form of withdrawal and has often said that the negotiations with the Palestinians have no chance of moving forward.

Mr. Yaalon, who served as the Israeli army chief of staff from 2001-2005, is probably the most severe in his position toward the Palestinians. He has written a recent book, not yet translated into English, where he openly states he does not believe in any peace plan. He writes that peace likely might only be possible three or four generations from now.

The strategic affairs minister believes that the process has to begin from the bottom, step by step, but only on the economic and municipal level, nothing on the national level.

In his book, Mr. Yaalon writes the Palestinian Authority must pass an unlimited number of tests before any progress can be made. They include altering Palestinian school curriculums calling for Israel’s destruction and its existence as a Jewish state.

Mr. Meridor, who was actively involved in the failed negotiations with the Palestinians at Camp David under the aegis of former President Bill Clinton in the summer of 2000, has often expressed how surprised he was with the seriousness of the Palestinian demand for the “right of return” to Arab villages that were lost in 1948, which have since been replaced by Israeli towns, collective farms and woodlands.

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The Philadelphia Bulletin: Israel Air Force Drops Warning Leaflets on Gaza

by David Bedein

The Israeli Air Force (IAF) dropped leaflets throughout Gaza, warning the Arabs not to approach the security fence between Gaza and Israel at a distance of less than 300 meters (984 feet), while saying “the Israeli army will operate against all those who approach the fence, due to the threat that they pose to the civilians of the State of Israel.”

Last Friday, two armed Arab terrorists approached the Gaza security fence north of the Kerem Shalom Crossing in an attempt to plant explosive devices.

An IAF force crossed the fence and fired at the terrorists, who were killed. Their bodies were armed with explosive device, two AK-47 rifles, hand grenades and military vests.

Later that same day, an bomb was detonated along the fence in northern Gaza, in the Nahal Oz area. Last Monday, Arabs detonated two bombs near Israeli soldiers patrolling on the Israeli side of the security fence in the northern Gaza Strip. No casualties were incurred.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

The Philadelphia Bulletin: Jerusalem Day Becomes 'Stand Up to Obama Day'

by David Bedein

Thursday marked Jerusalem Day in Israel. This was the day on the Hebrew calendar marking the 42nd anniversary of the Israeli defeat of an attack by the Jordanian Arab Legion against Jerusalem during the Six-Day War.

The battle unexpectedly gave Israel control over all of Jerusalem and united the holy city under Israeli rule. During 19 years of Arab rule over the Old City of Jerusalem, all Jewish synagogues and seminaries in the Old City were burned, and no Jew was allowed to enter the Old City.

The speeches by Israeli leaders on this year’s Jerusalem Day ceremonies were aimed both at the people of Israel and at the president of the United States.

These speeches were prompted by the publication of an Obama Middle East plan, which would force Israel to relinquish control of Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority and cede sovereignty over the Old City to the U.N.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave his first speech since his return from his meeting with President Barack Obama in the White House. He addressed the nation on all Israeli electronic media to give the “assurance that Jerusalem will not be divided” and that “Jerusalem is not on the negotiating table.”

Israeli President Shimon Peres delivered a strong speech on Ammuition Hill, on the spot of one of the bloody battles in Jerusalem. He reminded the world that only Israeli rule has given “freedom of access of all religions, and that this is why Jerusalem’s sovereignty would remain in Jewish hands.”

Appearing at a leading Jewish seminary in Jerusalem, Israeli Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, addressing the president with a message from the people of Israel, gave a direct message for Mr. Obama: “The president of the United States must know that Jerusalem belongs to the people of Israel.”

Senior Israeli government minister Benjamin Begin, son of the legendary late Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, spoke at a Jerusalem Day rally and stressed the historical right of the Jewish people to Jerusalem.

In his prepared remarks, Mr. Begin criticized “foreign leaders” who demand the people of Israel relinquish their rights in Jerusalem and other portions of the land of Israel, when “these leaders know full well from the experience of the past 15 years that no peace settlement will come out of any of this.”

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Philadelphia Bulletin: Obama Reveals Middle East Plan

by David Bedein

The purported outline of the Middle East peace plan President Barack Obama plans to propose during a speech in Cairo, Egypt, on June 4 was published yesterday morning in a British Arabic-language newspaper.

The widely circulated London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper ran an in-depth report that lays out what it says will be found in Mr. Obama’s peace initiative.

According to this press report, the American president’s plan, which will be based on the Saudi-sponsored Arab League plan from March 2002 would create a demilitarized Palestinian state.

The details of the purported plan do not address how the president plans to disarm the 50,000 Palestinian troops now in uniform.

Mr. Obama reportedly plans to mandate the creation of a Palestinian state with “territorial contiguity” between the West Bank and Gaza, which would split Israel in two.

The president’s reported plan would envision having Jerusalem’s Arab neighborhoods serve as the capital of a Palestinian state, even though these neighborhoods intertwine with Jewish neighborhoods.

The report said Mr. Obama plans to propose ending Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem’s Old City and turning it into an international territory. A similar proposal was part of the U.N.’s 1947 partition plan for the British Palestine mandate, which the Arabs rejected.

The Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper wrote Mr. Obama conceived the plan together with King Abdullah II of Jordan during their recent White House meeting.

This is first time that an American president had created a Middle East peace plan without advance coordination with Israel, which has many Israeli officials worried, none of whom would went on the record with their concerns.

The plan likely will face stiff Israeli resistance.

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The Philadelphia Bulletin: Ancient Handle Uncovered Near Jerusalem

by David Bedein

An unusual artifact was discovered during an excavation by the Israel Antiquities Authority prior to the construction of a girls’ school by the Jerusalem municipality.

The find dates to different phases of the Middle Canaanite period (2200-1900 B.C.) and the last years of the First Temple period (8th-7th centuries B.C.), and includes a handle engraved with the name “Menachem,” written in ancient Hebrew script. It was recently exposed in an archaeological excavation the Israel Antiquities Authority is conducting near the Mount of Olives in preparation for the school.

The Israel Antiquities Authority’s excavation director, Dr. Ron Beeri, said: “This important find joins similar names that were found in archaeological excavations in the Ancient East and in Israel in particular. The names Menachem and Yinachem are expressions of condolence - possibly related to the death of family members.”

This is the first time that a handle with this name has been found in Jerusalem.

Dr. Beeri said such names already appeared earlier in the Canaanite period: The name Yinachem was found written on an Egyptian pottery sherd that dates to the 18th dynasty, and the name Yinachemu is mentioned in the El-Amarna letters (from the 14th century B.C.) as the name of an Egyptian governor on the Lebanese coast.

This is the first time that a handle with this name has been found in Jerusalem. The name Menachem is known from the corpus of Hebrew or Phoenician names and seals that bear this name were found in Israel, Assyria, Cyprus and Egypt.

The name Menachem Ben Gadi is mentioned in the Bible. He reigned as king of Israel for 10 years in Samaria and was one of the last kings of the Kingdom of Israel. According to Second Kings, Menachem Ben Gadi ascended the throne in the 39th year of Uzziah, king of Judah.

Menachem, king of Israel, is also mentioned in the texts of the king of Assyria, Tiglath-Pileser III, as “Menachem of Samaria” and as one of the kings from whom he received tribute.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Philadelphia Bulletin: Gaza Rockets Strikes Sderot

by David Bedein

Attack Occurs after Netanyahu Meeting with Obama

A Qassam rocket fired from Gaza slammed between two homes around 5:30 p.m., local time, yesterday. The Tzeva Adom, Color Red siren, blared twice in the city, sending residents fleeing to area bomb shelters. After the second Color Red siren, an unusually loud explosion sounded throughout the city.

The sound of the rocket explosion shocked no one more than Ilan Dahan. Ilan was sleeping when the Qassam rocket crashed into his backyard, right outside his bedroom.

“I slept right through the Color Red siren,” said Ilan. Ilan, dazed and shocked, walked into his bedroom. His bed was full of broken glass, from a window right above the bed, which shattered from the impact of the rocket slamming into the ground.

“It’s a miracle that all I got was this small scratch,” Ilan told the Sderot Media Center. A piece of broken glass struck Ilan’s back, leaving behind a red mark.

Both of Ilan’s parents were home when the rocket struck. His father raced into Ilan’s bedroom after the rocket struck, picked his son up and carried him outside to safety. “At that point, I didn’t even realize that the rocket hit right outside our home,” said Ilan, who is 18 and getting ready to enter the army.

Shula, Ilan’s mother, looked tearfully at her son.

“I never expected this to happen to us during a cease-fire,” she said. The family was sitting outside in the front of the home to cool off from the heat of the evening when the siren sounded.

“We didn’t react quickly enough to the siren,” said Shula. “If we had reacted, we would have raced to the back of the home where our new shelter is located. Most likely, one of us would have been injured because the rocket exploded right outside the shelter.”

The back of the Dahans’ home suffered severe damage from the rocket blast. Broken glass and debris littered the floor, while holes from rocket shrapnel marked the ceiling and walls. Outside, the Dahans’ shelter was also covered with shrapnel marks.

The rocket explosion also damaged the home next to the Dahans.

Family members from both sides suffered shock, as did neighbors further along the street. Several people were treated for trauma on the scene.

The rocket attack comes as the Sderot Mental Health Center is shutting down. Dr. Adrianne Katz, the head of Sderot Mental Health, told the Sderot Media Center that the mental health center is closing due to budget cuts. The Sderot Mental Health Center has provided therapy treatments to thousands of Sderot trauma victims and has 5,500 patients on file.

The Gaza rocket attacks on Sderot came in the wake of the meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama in the White House on Monday.

During a White House press conference after the meeting, President Obama said: “[T]here is a recognition that the Palestinians are going to have to do a better job providing the kinds of security assurances that Israelis would need to achieve a two-state solution, [and] gain additional legitimacy and credibility with their own people, and delivering services.”

Mr. Obama also called the situation in Sderot unacceptable and recalled his experience visiting the city during last year’s presidential campaign.

When Mr. Obama visited Sderot last year, he stated in a Sderot press conference: “I will work from the moment that I return to America, to tell the story of Sderot and to make sure that the good people who live here are enjoying a future of peace and security and hope.”

The president emphasized Israel’s responsibility to protect its citizens.

“If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I’m going to do everything in my power to stop that. And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing,” Mr. Obama said.

Yesterday marked the fifth month since the Hamas-Israel cease-fire in mid-January. Since then, over 210 rockets have been fired from Hamas-controlled Gaza at Israel.

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The Philadelphia Bulletin: Israeli PM Called Meeting With Obama Successful

by David Bedein

Netanyahu Still Questions Timetable For Iran Talks

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a briefing yesterday regarding Monday’s meeting with President Barack Obama.

The prime minister called the meeting successful as far as he was concerned.

First and foremost, it is clear Mr. Netanyahu had interpreted Mr. Obama’s seemingly contradictory words relating to a timetable for dialogue with the Iranians over their nuclear program as a deadline in every sense of the word.

Although Mr. Obama said he would not commit to an artificial deadline, he made it clear the U.S. was giving itself until the end of the year to make progress in talks with Tehran.

“If only these negotiations succeed,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “Obama talked about re-evaluating at the end of the year. Is that a deadline or not?”

He said setting the end of the year as a clear target date for re-evaluating progress equaled setting a time limit for the dialogue.

The prime minister left the meeting with Mr. Obama pleased, particularly relating to what was agreed upon on Iran.

“I didn’t ask him for a green light or an orange light,” the prime minister said. “What’s important is that we reached agreement on a commitment to the outcome - that Iran not develop nuclear military capability. He stated this clearly.”

As for the Palestinian issue, it was apparent that the White House meeting did not exactly end according to Mr. Netanyahu’s expectations. The prime minister again clarified his belief that discussions with regard to establishing a Palestinian state should focus on restrictions that would guarantee Israeli security.

“All those who talk about the solution don’t stress the constraints enough - that it not have an army, about how to ensure that this be an entity that does not threaten Israel. That is the emphasis for us,” he said.

Mr. Netanyahu said the meeting between them had taken place in a very friendly atmosphere.

“At first, there was a meeting of an hour and 45 minutes, and that was very important to solidify the personal connection between us,” the prime minister said.

The president’s verbal ability and good English definitely helped, but it was not the only thing that solidified this important connection between the leaders.

“There is a deep commitment to the connection between Israel and the U.S.,” Mr. Netanyahu said, summing up the summit.

Predictions About Tense Meeting Were Proved Wrong

The Israeli political establishment had braced for a disastrous meeting between Messrs. Netanyahu and Obama.

Once the results of the meeting became known last night, members of the prime minister’s Likud Party expressed their happiness with the outcome.

“The predictions about a tense meeting were disproved,” said Likud Knesset member Ophir Okunis, who heads the party’s public response team. “The Obama-Netanyahu meeting proved once again the might of the relationship between the United States and Israel.

“The government is committed to the peace process with the Palestinians not on the basis of two states for two peoples, but, rather, on the basis of Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.”

However, Dr. Aryeh Eldad, a Knesset member of the opposition National Union Party, said he was troubled by Mr. Obama’s statements about Iran.

“There is cause for real concern because the United States is shrugging off its historic duty to guarantee Israel’s security. The United States is willing, in practice, to resign itself to a nuclear Iran, so that Israel has been left facing Iran alone.”

Dr. Eldad said that Israel might not have any choice, in light of Mr. Obama’s statements, but to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities itself.

Labor Knesset member Yuli Tamir said: “Netanyahu has insisted on ignoring the unequivocal policy that has been introduced by the president of the United States, who regards the principle of two states for two peoples to be the key for stability in the Middle East...”

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The Philadelphia Bulletin: Fatah, Hamas Agree on Joint Security Force

by David Bedein

deal Occurs, Despite US Training Fatah to Fight Hamas

A senior adviser to Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas has said, according to Middle East Newsline, Fatah, the faction that runs the PA, has agreed in principle to form a joint security force with its rival, Hamas.

Nabil Shaath, who is serving as a PA negotiator, said this took place in the course of its negotiations in Cairo, Egypt with the rival terrorist group, which runs Gaza. This has taken place despite the presence of American military advisers in the West Bank who are training the PA’s security forces and U.S. opposition to Hamas.

“There are many details that must be concluded,” Mr. Shaath said.

This marked the second time in three months that a Fatah official claimed an agreement with Hamas in reconciliation talks conducted in Egypt.

Egypt has been encouraging Hamas to agree to the joint security force in an effort to form a unity government with Fatah. The next round of talks was scheduled for July.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Philadelphia Bulletin: Netanyahu Jockeys for Position with Obama

by David Bedein

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama met privately yesterday for their first summit, going beyond their scheduled time, before being joined by their advisers.

After the meeting, both leaders said they would work together to meet the challenges of the Middle East, including Iran.

Mr. Obama said the dialogue with Iran should have no time limit put on it and said he would like to see progress by the end of the year. If he does not see any progress, he will consider “other options” such as sanctions.

With regard to the Palestinian issue, Mr. Obama said he wants to see two states living side by side in peace.

Mr. Netanyahu, however, said he would like to see some sort of Palestinian autonomy, but stopped short of calling for an independent state.

He called for economic development and other assistance for the Palestinian Authority (PA) and emphasized that education for peace would be a primary concern, since the PA curriculum calls for Israel’s conquest and destruction.

At the press conference after the meeting, Mr. Netanyahu said he had asked Mr. Obama to consider the possibility an independent Palestinian state would use Gaza as a model and mount rocket attacks on the rest of Israel, from its safe haven in the West Bank.

Mr. Netanyahu has a full day ahead of himself today, since he is scheduled to meet with the leading lights of the American foreign and defense establishment throughout the day.

Prior to meeting with Mr. Obama, Mr. Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, arrived at Blair House, where foreign heads of state and dignitaries stay while they are meeting with the president.

Much of the prime minister’s first day in the U.S., in advance of the meeting, was devoted to preparatory consultations with his advisers.

Mr. Netanyahu, unlike his predecessors, decided to hold his consultations at the Israeli Embassy rather than Blair House due to wiretapping concerns.

“Netanyahu has red lines that he will not agree to cross by any means, even if the US administration should try to pressure him,” a senior source in the prime minister’s entourage said.

Mr. Netanyahu intends to establish red lines with the Obama administration when it comes to the Iranian nuclear threat and establishing a Palestinian state.

“On both these issues, the U.S. is in the bleachers; whereas, Israel is on the playing field,” the source said.

Netanyahu’s national security adviser, Dr. Uzi Arad, also addressed the nuclear issue.

“The nuclear issue will be at the focus of the prime minister’s statements in the White House, which is an existential matter for Israel,” Dr. Arad said during a briefing for Israeli journalists at the entrance to Blair House.

The escalation in the Israeli statements could be felt clearly.

“America may be the surgeon, but Israel is lying on the operating table. A Palestinian state in the West Bank that could turn into Hamastan is absolutely unacceptable,” a senior Israeli source said.

However, the senior Israeli source emphasized, Mr. Netanyahu will make an effort to reach understandings with the administration.

“Israel understands that it must take into account the American interests in the region, including Obama’s firm decision to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq,” the senior source said.

On the Palestinian issue, Dr. Arad said differences of approach could arise on both sides, but he hoped it would be possible to reach a practical approach to promoting negotiations with the Palestinians.

Officials in Mr. Netanyahu’s entourage are angry with the Obama administration’s behavior in recent weeks.

“While we showed restraint, at the administration’s request, and did not wage a campaign, the administration conveyed aggressive messages towards the Israeli government on several occasions,” sources in the entourage said.

This peaked with a New York Times editorial that was published this week, which was inspired by administration sources. It warned Mr. Netanyahu not to entangle the U.S. in a war with Iran.

Mr. Netanyahu, however, does not intend to “entangle” the U.S. Rather, he wants to make a friend in the White House, so the continuation of the visit runs smoother, more pleasant and more favorable, just like Israel is accustomed to in the United States.

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The Philadelphia Bulletin: Poll - Most Israeli Arabs Reject Israel as a Jewish State

by David Bedein

Majority, "59 Percent," Do Not Recognize Israel’s Right To Exist

A new Haifa University poll shows only 41 percent of Israel’s Arab citizens - who constitute 1.4 million of the nation’s 7 million population - recognize its right to exist as a Jewish democratic state. A further 59 percent do not.

Additionally, 40.5 percent of Arab Israelis believe the mass murder of Jews by the Nazis and their allies never happened.

Haifa Professor Sami Samocha, who conducted the survey, has been monitoring Arab-Jewish relations for 35 years.

The poll underscores the fears of Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, who also acted as the nation’s first defense minister, 1948-1963, and mandated military rule over the Israeli Arab population. He worried the Israeli Arabs would one day create a fifth column and join forces with surrounding Arab nations that were at war with Israel.

After Ben Gurion’s retirement, Israeli military rule over the Israeli Arabs was lifted in 1966, over his objections.

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The Philadelphia Bulletin: Israel's Tourism Ministry Targets Christians

by David Bedein

Following the Papal visit, the Israeli Tourism Ministry has announced that it is launching comprehensive marketing activities via the Israel Government Tourist Offices overseas to promote Christian tourism to Israel.

The Israel Government Tourist Offices, located around the world, have been working with target audiences and leading tourism bodies in target countries and will launch focused marketing campaigns within the next few weeks.

They will act in accordance with the various market activities, including conventions on the theme of pilgrimage travel; launching focused itinerary suggestions; hosting opinion makers in the Christian world; and launching complementary public relations activities.

A special Israel Tourism Ministry camera crew accompanied the Pope during his recent pilgrimage.

Over the next few days, a special film of the visit will be produced and used to augment marketing activities overseas.

Alongside these marketing activities, a Web site developed by the Tourism Ministry in honor of the Papal visit will remain online.

Israel Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov said: “The visit of the Pope represents a strategic anchor for Christian tourism to Israel in the coming years, and the Israel Tourism Ministry will operate in all areas to realize the great potential in this type of tourism.”

Three million tourists visited Israel in 2008 (a record year), of whom over 1 million were Christian.

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The Philadelphia Bulletin: Efforts Underway For Israeli PM’s Wife, US First Lady To Meet

by David Bedein

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s aides have been busy trying to arrange a meeting between his wife, Sara, and first lady Michelle Obama.

Mrs. Netanyahu said she has been interested in having such a meeting, but it is unclear whether one will take place.

“We are attempting to schedule a meeting between Sara Netanyahu and Michelle Obama [for today],” said a source in the prime minister’s entourage.

This could prove difficult because Mrs. Obama is presently away from Washington.

The tradition so far has always been, during an Israeli prime minister’s first visit to Washington, for the wives of the two leaders to meet for a joint meal.

Mrs. Obama, it seems, had other plans.

She is in no hurry to meet with wives of leaders who visit Washington and prefers cultural and social events instead. But the last word has yet to be said, and indeed, if the efforts of the Israelis bear fruit, Mrs. Netanyahu will be able to hold a face-to-face meeting with the first lady of the United States.

During Mr. Netanyahu’s fist visit to Washington in the course of his first term as prime minister in the 1990s, Mrs. Netanyahu met with then first lady Hillary Clinton.

Even if she does not meet with the president’s wife, a busy schedule still awaits Sara Netanyahu, and she has already been rather busy.

Yesterday, she paid an official visit to the Holocaust Museum, met with professionals in her field - child psychology - visited a local school and also met with Noa Meridor, the wife of Israeli Ambassador to Washington Sallai Meridor.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

The Philadlephia Bulletin: US Admits Training Palestinian Armed Forces While PA Negotiates With Hamas

by David Bedein

The American military now openly admits providing military training to Palestinian military forces.

A U.S. military official, Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton, assigned by the United States to be a “security coordinator,” has been appointed to train 1,500 Palestinian military personnel. They will be available for “immediate deployment” in the area between Jenin and Nablus, less than an hour from Israel’s populated coastal plain.

He discussed his mission at the Washington Institute for Near East Studies last week.

Lt. Gen. Dayton said: “We also have something in our pocket called the West Bank Training Initiative where we have plans to continue a series of courses in the West Bank on logistics, leadership, first aid, maintenance, English language, battalion staff training and driver education. These are led by our British and Turkish officers with an eye to eventually turning this over to the Palestinians themselves.”

The premise behind American military aid to the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) military forces is the hope the American-trained Palestinian personnel will fight Hamas.

However, the training of Palestinian military units by U.S. advisers is taking place at the same time the PA is negotiating to join forces with the Hamas terrorist organization, which rules Gaza.

All indications show the PA is making every effort to co-opt and include Hamas in its military forces for joint operations against Israel.

Were that to happen, American military advisers and their Palestinian trainees would be placed into direct confrontation with the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and with the Israeli population.

Despite assurances to the contrary, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the parent organization of the PA, remains in a state of war with Israel.

To reassure the Washington Institute, Lt. Gen. Dayton downplayed the dangers of the training that the Americans are providing the Palestinians, by saying that “Our equipping is all nonlethal...”

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The Philadelphia Bulletin: Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Questions Syria's Credibility

by David Bedein

A senior Israeli Foreign Ministry official responded yesterday to a press statement made by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad Saturday, saying “Israel is not a partner for peace,” by calling the Syrian dictator’s credibility into question.

“What interests Assad is not peace, but rather the peace process. Assad knows very well that he will have to pay for peace with normalization and open his country to the West, which could bring about the toppling of his regime,” said Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon. “Assad is only interested in the peace process in order to get his country out of its international isolation and to remove the pressure of the international community.”

Peace between Israel and Syria can only be reached, he said, when the Syrians start negotiating without preconditions and stop supporting terrorist groups that seek Israel’s destruction.

“It’s impossible to desire peace and at the same time support and arm Hezbollah, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad,” Mr. Ayalon said.

Mr. Ayalon also addressed today’s meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama in Washington. He called the bond between the U.S. and Israel “a natural one” because both nations share the common goal of stopping Iran’s and Pakistan’s nuclear programs.

The Israelis, he said, likely would not act against Iran without coordinating operations with the U.S., and he expressed hope that time hasn’t run out for a diplomatic solution to Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

“Iran is a very weak state in a shaky situation,” Mr. Ayalon said. “They cannot withstand real sanctions; their banks and shipping companies are vulnerable. If the world insists on imposing strict sanctions against them, military action may not be necessary.”

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The Philadelphia Bulletin: Study - Iran Issue Will 'Make or Break' US President

by David Bedein

A report issued on the eve of today’s summit between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama says U.S. policy toward Iran’s nuclear program could determine the outcome of the president’s administration.

The report, published by The Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), warns the issue could be “the Cuban missile crisis all over again.”

“It will test the ability of the newly-elected U.S. president to confront the adversary and better him. In a way, this is a make-or-break situation for Obama,” analyst Ephraim Asculai wrote in the INSS report, titled “The Game with Iran.”

The INSS report said Tehran would test Mr. Obama’s resolve by continuing uranium enrichment and other activities required for nuclear weapons development.

It also says the United States will likely be forced to confront rising instability in the Middle East sparked by Iran’s nuclear program, as well as by Tehran’s support for insurgency groups. The report cited Egypt’s capture of an alleged Hezbollah network, which reportedly planned attacks throughout the Sinai Peninsula as an example.

“Egypt is confronting Iran and instability is in the air,” the report said. “Perhaps more than the recent U.S. elections, the timetable is now dictated by the closing deadline of Iran’s nuclear progress.”

Earlier this month, CIA director Leon Panetta held a meeting with the Israeli prime minister and reportedly demanded Israel not take any military action against Iran.

Officials said Mr. Obama ordered Mr. Panetta’s visit because he wanted to avoid a long discussion on Iran during today’s meeting in Washington.

Mr. Asculai, a former official in the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, said the Obama administration likely will pursue a diplomatic solution to Iran’s outlawed uranium enrichment program. But the report advises Mr. Obama to set a deadline for obtaining diplomatic results.

“In setting the time limit, the president must remember that any time gained by the Iranians during the negotiation process would be used to further advance their project,” the report warned.

The report said Iran could exploit the Obama administration’s diplomatic endeavors by insisting its nuclear project is nonnegotiable. Doing so, the report said, would harm U.S. influence throughout the Middle East, particularly among the Gulf Cooperation Council states, such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

Mr. Asculai urged Israel to delay plans to attack Iran and instead recommended the Netanyahu government give Mr. Obama time to discover how receptive Iran is to diplomacy.

“Should engagement fail, Israel would be in a better position to convince the United States, if not to actively support, then at least not to interfere, with any military action,” the report said.

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Friday, May 15, 2009

The Philadelphia Bulletin: Pressure on Israel's PM Before Talks with Obama

by David Bedein

Leading members of Israel’s ruling coalition in the Knesset gave Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a firm message Thursday in advance of Monday’s meeting with President Barack Obama in Washington.

Their message: “You have no mandate for concessions.”

Those who participated in the large public morning meeting of the Likud-led coalition, organized by Likud member Danny Danon, called for Mr. Netanyahu not to yield any ground on the establishment of a Palestinian state.

“The Palestinian state idea should be brought to a halt,” they said.

Shas Knesset member Haim Amsalem said his conservative religious party would not support a Palestinian state.

Even the Knesset member who is closest to Mr. Netanyahu, Ophir Okunis, reminded Israel’s prime minister the Likud Central Committee had rejected the two-state solution in the past.

In recent weeks, organizations associated with Israel’s governing coalition have harshly criticized Mr. Netanyahu. They claim he is continuing the Olmert government’s policies of giving the U.S. the impression Israel would allow the establishment of a sovereign, independent Palestinian state to the east.

They fear doing so would foster the same sort of terror threat that Israel now faces from Gaza.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Philadelphia Bulletin: Academic Study? Growing Divergence between Jerusalem and Washington?

by David Bedein

A stinging academic report denouncing the Obama administration’s Middle East policies has been released with less than a week remaining before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s first meeting with President Barack Obama.

The report, authored by Prof. Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA) at Bar-Ilan University, near Tel Aviv, particularly criticizes Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Prof. Inbar called Mrs. Clinton’s reported statement that gaining Arab support to prevent Iran from going nuclear “requires Israeli flexibility on the Palestinian issue” worrisome.

He said the U.S. State Department fails to understand the Arab states will cooperate with efforts to stop Iran’s nuclear program regardless of progress on the Palestinian issue.

“We also learned that the White House is trying to make kosher the transfer of funds to a Palestinian government that includes the radical Islamist Hamas,” Prof. Inbar said.

He characterized this as a “strategic folly,” since Hamas is a “a recognized terrorist organization, is an Iranian proxy, with a clear Jihadist agenda.”

He also views this Obama/Clinton approach as a threat to Egypt, since Hamas maintains “strong ties to the Islamic opposition in Egypt that wants to replace the pro-Western Mubarak regime.”

Prof. Inbar concluded his report stating “the chances for progress toward a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian arena, which the U.S. favors, are dismal, since the Jewish and Arab national movements cannot reach a compromise.”

This is particularly true considering the Palestinian refusal to accept the Jewish right to self-determination.

“Misguided American policies, particularly regarding Iran, may have disastrous consequences such as the fall of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey into Islamist hands,” Prof. Inbar wrote.

Under such a scenario, Israel would remain the only country where an American airplane could land safely in the Middle East.

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The Philadelphia Bulletin: Grieving Father of Terror Victim Meets with Pope

by David Bedein

Last night, Naftali Moses, an American Israeli, paced the floor of his home in Efrat, a Bethlehem suburb, where Pope Benedict XVI spent the day.

Today, Mr. Moses will meet the Pope to share his grief over the loss of his son, Avraham David Moses, to the hands of an Arab terrorist.

It has been 14 months since an Arab sprayed more than 500 bullets into the library of Jerusalem’s Rabbi Kook Talmudic Academy, mowing down eight young men while they studied the Talmud.

Avraham David Moses and his learning partner, Segev Avichayil, were studying together when the terrorist entered the library.

The two boys were immersed in learning when their friends yelled to both of them to run for their lives, but they did not run fast enough.

The Arab murdered both boys in cold blood, shooting Avraham David and Segev in the back of their necks to make sure that they were dead.

The assailant was eventually shot to death by a neighbor who heard the shooting in the seminary. Following the murder, the Palestinian Authority (PA) declared the murderer an “honored martyr.”

Mr. Naftali says that he will tell the Pope about his double pain - losing a son, and witnessing the PA, run by Mahmoud Abbas, honor the murderer of his son.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Philadelphia Bulletin: Report - Gaza As A Strategic Juncture For Insurgent Operations For Iran

by David Bedein

A report published by the Herzlia, Israel-based Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center says Iran regards Gaza as a strategic crossroads for insurgent operations in both Asia and Africa.

It also says Iran regards the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip as a regional power it can use to challenge Israel and its neighbors.

The report titled “Exposure of a Hezbollah network in Egypt” indicates Iran views the Hamas presence in the Gaza Strip as a convenient staging ground for staging terrorist attacks against Israel and in its fight with pro-Western Arab governments.

The report said the Iranian-sponsored Hezbollah has been helping Hamas’ military buildup in the Gaza Strip, despite Hamas’ refusal to “fully comply with Iranian dictates.”

“Iran considers the establishment of the radical Islamic entity in the Gaza Strip to be an important leverage for waging an armed struggle against Israel along its southern border by providing Palestinian terrorist organizations with rocket capabilities as Iran did with Hezbollah in Lebanon,” the report said. “What is more, the Iranians consider the Hamas-controlled Islamist Gaza Strip to be a regional power which they can use to increase their influence in the Arab and Muslim world, pose a considerable challenge to Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas], and export radical Islam to such pro-Western Arab countries as Egypt, using that country’s geographical proximity to the Gaza Strip.”

The report also said Iranian aid to the Gaza Strip was highlighted by the capture of a Hezbollah cell in Egypt in late 2008. Hezbollah reportedly operated Unit 1800, a unit assigned to establish operational terror cells to attack Israel from neighboring Arab states.

“It is also our assessment that those operatives had undergone training in Iran, Syria and Lebanon and had been brought back to the Gaza Strip with the assistance of Hezbollah,” the report said.

Hezbollah’s network in Egypt reportedly facilitated a weapons smuggling route through Sudan, Egypt and the Gaza Strip since at least 2005. The network, which acquired C4 plastic explosives and smuggled trained fighters to the Gaza Strip, was said to have planned attacks on Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

“The exposure of the Hezbollah network, which not only provided Gaza Strip terrorist organizations with logistical assistance but was also planning to perpetrate terrorist attacks on Egyptian soil, was a warning sign the Egyptians could not ignore,” the report said.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Philadelphia Bulletin: A Rabbi and the Pope Meet in Jerusalem

by David Bedein

During Pope John Paul’s March 2000 Jerusalem visit, the late Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, professor of history at Dartmouth and New York University and author of several books, challenged the late Pope about numerous questions surrounding his Polish background.

An Israeli man puts up a poster welcoming Pope Benedict XVI at the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem yesterday. Pope Benedict XVI is on a week long tour in the Middle East that includes Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories. The Pope’s visit to Israel has renewed questions about the relationship between Judaism and Catholicism during World War II. (Tara Todras-Whitehill/Associated Press)

As a scholar of history, Rabbi Hertzberg had conducted scholarly research concerning the fate of Polish Jewry during the war and the activity of the Catholic Church in Poland during those years.

“In the weekly reports of the Polish bishops filed to the Vatican during the war, there is not a single report on record that relates to the fate of the Jews,” said Rabbi Hertzberg.

Rabbi Hertzberg said the Vatican denied him access to the 11 volumes of records that the Vatican itself maintained concerning the mass murder of 3 million Jews of Poland during World War II when he asked to review them.

On a personal note, Rabbi Hertzberg said he and Pope John Paul II were the same age, born only a few miles from one another in Poland.

While Rabbi Hertzberg was brought up in the U.S., 37 of his close relatives remained in Poland and were murdered during World War II.

Rabbi Hertzberg said Pope John Paul II would not discuss what he did during the war, when he was a young priest in Poland, except to tell TV interviewer Marek Halter: “I lived too quiet a life.”

Rabbi Hertzberg asked the Pope some difficult, public questions during his visit to Jerusalem: “What were his activities during the war? What did the future pontiff know of what was happening to the Jews of Poland?”

“This pope will go to his death, wishing that he had behaved differently during the war,” Rabbi Hertzberg said at the end of his 2000 press conference.

Pope John Paul II died in April 2005, and Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg died in April 2006

Shortly before his death, an ailing Rabbi Hertzberg shared an official Vatican volume that depicted the legacy of Pope John Paul II, which included Rabbi Hertzberg’s seething critique of Pope John Paul II and the silence of the Vatican in World War II.

“After my press conference in Jerusalem, Pope John Paul II said that, indeed, he “did not do what he could have done to save the Jews,” the rabbi said.

Rabbi Hertzberg said he received a request from the Vatican in the name of the Pope to request that his critical critique be included in the Vatican volume to be issued in honor of Pope John Paul II.

“I readily agreed to that request,” Rabbi Hertzberg said, with some emotion.

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The Philadelphia Bulletin: Synagogues Seeks Cell Phone Jamming Equipment

by David Bedein

At a time when issues of religious worship are widely discussed in Jerusalem among all religions, the lay leadership of synagogue boards in Northern Israel have become fed up with cell phones ringing in the middle of prayer services.

As a result, they have decided to take action and have sought a permit to install cell phone jamming equipment and have sent the Israel Communications Ministry a request for it to examine the possibility of authorizing the use of equipment that disrupts cell phone reception in synagogues in Northern Israel.

The initiative was born following a request by Shlomo Burzuki, the sexton of the Yad Lebanim Synagogue in Kiryat Shmona. “I regret to say that it’s become a state-wide plague,” said Mr. Burzuki.

“In the very place where we’re supposed to connect to the Holy One Blessed Be He with a quiver in our bodies, people engage in the inanities of the world.”

Mr. Burzuki, who wanted to put an end to cell phone use in his synagogue during services, took the matter up with Ofer Cohen, chairman of the Lobby for Jewish Values.

Mr. Cohen sympathized with the sexton’s problem and said that he suffered from the same difficulty in Tiberias, where he lives.

“The situation has become insufferable,” Mr. Cohen said in a shocked tone of voice. “People come to synagogue and, instead of cleaving with the Creator, they listen to third- and fourth-generation conversations.”

Mr. Cohen drafted a petition that seeks to prevent the use of cellular telephones in synagogues.

He also submitted a request for a license from the Communication Ministry to use jamming equipment that would affect a radius of between approximately 165 and 230 feet - equipment that would be installed in synagogue prayer halls.

Such jamming equipment is often used in sensitive Israeli intelligence venues and in combat units in the Israeli army to prevent conversations from being conveyed to Hezbollah and Hamas.

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The Philadelphia Bulletin: Peres To UN Chief: You Should Have Visited Auschwitz, Not Ahmadinejad

by David Bedein

Israeli President Shimon Peres harshly criticized U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during their Wednesday meeting in New York.

The meeting took place against the backdrop of Mr. Ban’s personal behavior during last month’s Durban II conference and the U.N.’s recent report criticizing Israeli conduct in Gaza four months ago.

Addressing the Durban II conference, Mr. Peres told Mr. Ban he should have taken his entourage to visit Auschwitz instead of sitting by idly as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivered a speech devoted to the denial of the Holocaust.

Unlike the European representatives, the U.N. secretary-general listened attentively to the entire speech and did not leave the hall.

“I am ashamed,” Mr. Peres said.

Mr. Ban, in response, tried to tone down Mr. Peres’ harsh statements and said, in his defense, Mr. Ahmadinejad had misled him.

The secretary-general said he had sat with Mr. Ahmadinejad and drafted a moderate statement with him for an hour prior to his speech at the Geneva, Switzerland-based conference.

However, Mr. Ahmadinejad went up to the stage and ignored their agreement, delivering a speech denying the Holocaust instead.

Mr. Ban said his position as secretary-general prevented him from leaving the hall, but Mr. Peres rejected his explanation.

Mr. Peres said he felt a great shame that the U.N. had chosen Holocaust Memorial Day, the worst day in the Jewish consciousness, to give a platform to such a despicable man.

After their discussion about the Durban II conference, the meeting continued to be tense because of the U.N. report on the Israeli operation in Gaza, among other reasons.

Mr. Ban said he had attempted to tone down the report and had softened many problematic parts and extracted clauses that deviated from the report’s original purpose.

The Israeli president gave Mr. Ban a sharp rhetorical question, inquiring if the U.N. expected Israel to sit idly by, since more than 4,000 rockets were fired on Israel in the past three years.

He lambasted the report’s ignorance of Hamas’ activities, such as planting bombs in kindergartens, buildings and even U.N. facilities.

The secretary-general responded by saying the U.N. would not begin another inquiry into Operation Cast Lead, as the Gaza incursion is referred to by Israel, without the Jewish state’s consent.

Mr. Peres admitted Israel made some mistakes in the course if the operation and said Israel did not intend to deliberately kill civilians; however, he also said the Arabs who fire from Gaza do.

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