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Friday, December 31, 2010

Soldier Attacked at Entrance to Kiryat Arba

IDF solders on patrol in Hebron

An Israeli soldier was attacked and wounded by Arabs on Thursday evening at the entrance to Kiryat Arba.

According to reports, the Arabs hit the soldier with various objects and threw a glass bottle at him, injuring him in the head.

The assailants were arrested and turned over to the police for questioning.

Following the incident, Kiryat Arba local council members Bentzi Gofshtein and Yisrael Bramson called on the IDF to close Tzir Tzion (Zion Road) to Arab traffic. “Don’t force us, the residents, to close the road,” they said.

Tzir Tzion, the road leading from Kiryat Arba to Hevron, was reopened to Arab traffic last summer,upsetting Jewish residents of Hevron and Kiryat Arba who warned that opening the road will lead to murder.

The opening of the road, as well as the removal of dozens of other checkpoints, was done as part of Israel’s “good-will gestures” to the Palestinian Authority.

Earlier on Thursday, Arab terrorists opened fire towards the community of Horesh Yaron in Binyamin. No one was hurt. IDF soldiers were searching for the shooters.

Thursday’s incidents occurred after the Israel Security Agency released its annual report which said that there was an overall decrease in the number of terror attacks against Israel in 2010, compared to 2009.

The report said that there were 798 recorded terror attacks by Arabs in 2010, down from about 1,354 in 2009. Nine people were murdered by terrorists in 2010, and none of the terror attacks were suicide bombings.  The total number of shooting and explosive attacks in Judea and Samaria in 2010 was 32, just one less than the previous year.

IDF officers warned of Iranian revenge - Iran smuggled hundreds of rockets to Gaza in 2010

In detailed letter, army instructs reserve officers to take extra precautions in Israel and abroad following assassination of nuclear scientists in Tehran. Officers ordered to avoid travelling on same traffic routes, shopping for groceries at same place

Israel Defense Forces reserve officer are urged to take extra precautions following the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists: A detailed letter was sent Wednesday to a series of reserve officers, instructing them how to conduct themselves inIsrael and abroad.

The officers were asked to replace the supermarket they shop in frequently and to avoid travelling on regular routes. The procedures are aimed at thwarting an attempt by terrorist organizations to target these people, some of whom are still holding key roles in the military reserve force.

The letter, signed by Brigadier-General Kobi Barak, head of operations at the General Staff, explains that the increased fear stems from recent events, including thedeath of Iranian nuclear scientists in Tehran last month.

Barak also mentioned the February 2008 assassination of seniorHezbollah commander Imad Mugniyah in an explosion in Damascus, after which the Shiite group's Secretary-GeneralHassan Nasrallah vowed to avenge his death.

He noted that last month a pro-Palestinian organization published the personal details of some 200 officers and soldiers who took part in Operation Cast Lead, claiming that they were war criminals. Some of them even had threatening letters sent to their homes.

Fear rising. Scene of Tehran assassination

Brigadier-General Barak called on the officers to brief their family members on the situation and pay attention to any suspicion vehicles, unusual activity or unknown people wandering near their homes.

The officers were also asked to "disrupt their routine," which Barak defined as "our weak point".

According to the document, the officers must avoid repeating activities over time, like travelling on the same traffic routes or shopping for groceries at the same place.

The letter advises the officers to check their cars in the morning before driving them, examine their mail and avoid accepting unexpected packages. When they are abroad, the officers are urged not to stay in hotels defense officials are not familiar with and to reserve rooms which are not located next to the elevator or staircase.

Officers who received the letter on Wednesday morning told Ynet that these were the most detailed instructions they had ever received in terms of personal safety.

"Instructions have been given in the past, but they were never so detailed and extensive," one of them said. "This forces all of us to act in a wise and calculated manner in order to avoid unusual incidents."

In year-end report, Israel Security Agency says Teheran also funds Hamas training in Lebanon and Syria.

ran smuggled into the Gaza Strip about 1,000 mortar shells, hundreds of shortrange rockets and a few dozen advanced anti-tank missiles over the past year, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) revealed on Thursday.

In a report summing up 2010, the Shin Bet said that Iran continued to serve as Hamas’s dominant supplier of weaponry throughout the past year, using smuggling routes in Sudan and Sinai. It was also instrumental in funding the training of Hamas operatives in Lebanon and Syria.

Last week, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi revealed that two weeks ago, a Russianmade Kornet anti-tank missile – one of the most sophisticated in the world – hit an Israeli Merkava tank and succeeded in penetrating its hull. As a result, the IDF has decided to deploy Battalion 9 of the 401st Armored Brigade along the Gaza border, since its tanks are equipped with the Trophy active protection antitank missile defense system.

The Shin Bet warned that Hamas was making efforts to reestablish its military infrastructure in the West Bank with an emphasis on the Hebron area. Some of these efforts were thwarted by the IDF and the Palestinian Authority security forces, the Shin Bet said.

The most dramatic statistic in the report was the significant drop in rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip, down from 569 in 2009 to 150 in 2010. In 2008, in comparison, 2,048 rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel.

The Shin Bet warned in its report, however, that Sinai was turning into the “backyard” for Hamas operations as well as for storage of arms that could later be smuggled into Gaza and used against Israel. While the weaponry is in Sinai it is not vulnerable to Israeli attacks. There were also two incidents over the past year of Hamas rocket attacks from the Sinai at Eilat.

The Shin Bet warned of an increase in attacks in the Jerusalem area, with an emphasis on shooting and gasoline bomb attacks.

In total, the Shin Bet recorded a drop in the number of attacks in 2010 to 798 in comparison to 1,354 a year earlier.

'Mossad, US, UK cooperating to sabotage Iran nukes' - Ahmadinejad admits centrifuges damaged by virus

Sabotage acts on Iran included Stuxnet virus, explosion in missile factory, killing of scientists, reports newspaper 'Le Canard Enchaine.'

US and UK intelligence services are cooperating with the Mossad to sabotageTeheran’s nuclear program in exchange for Israel agreeing not to launch a military strike on Iran, the French weekly Le Canard enchaîné reported on Thursday, quoting French intelligence sources.

Acts of sabotage carried out in the past year in Iran were conducted by Israel with the help of the CIA and MI6, the sources said.

The sabotage included, according to the report, the introduction of the Stuxnet computer virus into 30,000 computers in Iran’s nuclear reactors and explosions in October in which 18 Iranian technicians were killed at a factory in the Zagros mountains that manufactured Shihab missiles.

According to the sources, the assassination of five Iranian nuclear scientists were also carried out by the Mossad in cooperation with the American and British intelligence agencies.

The sources said the cooperation continues, and more joint actions aimed at stopping Iran from completing its nuclear program are expected.


Iranian president says specialists stopped Stuxnet virus; also announced weekend as starting date for nuclear talks.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday admitted that "software installed in electronic equipment" damaged "several" of the country's uranium enrichment centrifuges, according to an AFP report.

"They were able to disable on a limited basis some of our centrifuges by software installed in electronic equipment," Ahmadinejad responded to reporters after he was asked whether his country's nuclear program encountered problems.

"Our specialists stopped that and they will not be able to do it again," the Iranian president declared.

Earlier in November, Symantec, a computer security firm, said that computer worm "Stuxnet" might have been created to damage electronics that power uranium enrichment centrifuges.

Iranian officials reiterated that the country's nuclear program was not harmed by Stuxnet, and rejected claims that there was a halt in the enrichment.

However, the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a report last week that a one-day outage did occur within Iran's Natanz nuclear plant earlier this month. 

In related news, Ahmadinejad also said on Monday that Iran has accepted a weekend starting date for talks with major powers over the country's controversial nuclear program, according to Reuters.

"Two dates have been proposed, they accepted one of them and we do not have any problem with that," Reuters cited Ahmadinejad as saying during a news conference.

The Iranian leader added that the venue was still being determined.


Teheran's intelligence services claim to uncover wide network operating against Islamic Republic; allege Mossad, US, UK involvement.

Iranian Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi Thursday said that Iran has arrested those responsible for killing two nuclear scientists in Teheran on Monday, PressTV reported.

Speaking in a television interview, Moslehi said that Iranian intelligence agencies have uncovered a wide network of intelligence agencies operating against Iran, according to the report.

Moslehi announced that, "with the arrest of these people, we have found new clues to arrest other elements," PressTV reported. He alleged, "The three spy agencies of Mossad, CIA and MI6 played a role in these attacks.

Separate but identical bomb attacks killed two prominent Iranian nuclear scientists in Teheran on Monday.

Iranian state television said attackers riding on motorcycles attached bombs to the car windows of the scientists as they were driving to their workplaces.

One bomb killed Majid Shahriari, a member of the nuclear engineering faculty at theTehran University, and wounded his wife.

The second blast killed nuclear physicist Fereidoun Abbasi.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said, “Undoubtedly, the hand of the Zionist regime and Western governments is involved in the assassination."

‘Israel is Doing Far Too Little to Fight Boycotts’

Dr. Manfred GerstenfeldAccording to Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld, Israel should do a lot more when it comes to the international boycotts against it.

Gerstenfeld, who is Chairman of the Board of Fellows of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA), took part on Thursday in the Ariel Conference for Law and Mass Media at the Ariel University Center of Samaria, where he gave a talk on “The Academic and Political Boycott of Israel.”

Gerstenfeld told Israel National News TV’s Yoni Kempinski that he believes that the boycotts are “a serious issue” because they essentially affect civil rights.
“These boycotts affect the civil rights of individuals,” said Gerstenfeld. “They are highly discriminatory. To a certain extent they are racist. Many people on the left, the anti-Israelis, are what I call humanitarian racists. They look away from the incredible crimes in the Arab-Muslim world, in the Palestinian world, which is a world permeated by criminality: criminality against human rights, war crimes, and many other crimes.”

Despite the harmful effect of the boycotts, Gerstenfeld believes that Israel “is doing far too little” against them, with the exception of a handful of Israeli diplomats in countries such as Norway or the UK. “In other countries it’s not always very effective and people are not doing their best,” he said.

Gerstenfeld believes that universities, who are almost always under attack, should take action against these boycotts. “The universities should stop their attitude which I would call nearly parasitic. They are the main people attacked. They should also be the main people who fight against it. Certainly the Israeli government should start investigating this issue in far more detail. Devote more human resources to it, devote more financial resources to it.”
He added that there are many ways to fight these boycotts, and while responding to them rather than ignoring them sometimes gives them more legitimacy, he believes that “it’s like a business feasibility study. You have to analyze each case, how you’re going to harm your enemy. People who boycott us are, to every extent, our enemies in the war against us.”

Deputy FM Ayalon: Israeli Companies Harm Our Diplomatic Efforts

On Thursday, the Ariel Conference for Law and Mass Media was held at the Ariel University Center of Samaria. The conference this year dealt with the subject of “Israel in the Middle East – Current Evaluation.”

The guest speaker at the opening session of the conference was Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon. In a conversation with Israel National News TV’s Yoni Kempinski, Ayalon addressed a recently announced boycott by Israeli companies who are cooperating with building the Palestinian Authority city of Rawabi, and are agreeing not to use any Israeli products made in Judea and Samaria and even products from east Jerusalem.
“This is something which is very serious,” said Ayalon. “I think it’s not only morally and economically wrong, it’s also politically wrong and I believe that the judicial authorities should look into it to see if it’s even legal.”

Ayalon added that the real problem with such boycotts is that they give anti-Israel elements around the world legitimacy to criticize Israel. “If there are some elements in Israeli society that cater to those who try to delegitimize us, it’s going to make our job much harder,” he said.

However, Ayalon believes that Israel will have the upper hand on those who try to delegitimize it. “Those who try to boycott Israel or to delegitimize it will not succeed. Israel is a proud nation. We have a lot to offer and I think the most important thing is to continue and present Israel in the world markets and economies, and also in the public opinion, as a free, democratic country with creative energy.”

Ayalon also addressed recent efforts by the Palestinian Authority to make advances towards a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state, particularly in light of recent recognitions by South American countries such as Brazil of such a state.

“First of all we talk to all the countries,” said Ayalon. “We have good relations with most of the countries in the world. We will not let the Palestinians temper or interfere with our bilateral relations with other countries in the world.”
He added that Israel will use its good diplomatic relations to present its case and protest the Arabs’ unilateral steps. “Mostly we will continue to work with our friends and allies, first and foremost the United States, and other western democracies.”

PM: Conflict continues due to refusal to accept Israel

Netanyahu says countries perceive Israel as “guilty until it proves otherwise;” Israel must "delegitimize the delegitimizers;" National Security Council head Uzi Arad visits Jordan.

The root of the Israeli-Arab conflict is not Israel’s presence in the settlements, but rather its presence in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Thursday.

Netanyahu, speaking at the Foreign Ministry’s annual meeting of the country’s ambassadors and consul generals in Jerusalem, said that “peace cannot be based on lies. This conflict continues because there is a refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and bring an end to the conflict.”

Peace, Netanyahu said, will require the Palestinians to “give up their right of return, because it is impossible to have a Jewish state and in parallel to flood it with Palestinian refugees.”

Speaking at the same forum where five days earlier Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that the current PA government was illegitimate and that the Israeli government had too many “coalition contradictions” to present a clear diplomatic program, Netanyahu said his government “seeks peace.”

“This is the target and the goal,” he said, saying that the Palestinians were the ones unwilling to negotiate. Israel, he said, was ready last month to accede to a US request for an additional three-month settlement freeze, but that Washington concluded that this would not help the negotiations, because the PA would continue demanding more moratoriums when that one had expired.

Many countries in the world, Netanyahu said, perceive Israel as “guilty until it proves otherwise.”

He said Israel would “use all the resources at its disposal” to go on the offensive, fight the delegitimization campaign, and “delegitimize the delegitimizers.”

The prime minister said that another pillar of any future peace agreement, alongside the recognition of Israel’s legitimacy, was security arrangements on the ground. The IDF is the only force, he said, that could ensure that if Israel pulled out of the West Bank, Iran would not walk in, as happened when Israel withdrew from Gaza and left the 14 kilometer Philadelphia corridor between Gaza and Egypt.

Regarding Iran, Netanyahu said that the current US-led sanctions regime was having an impact, but that the only way to stop Iran’s nuclear march was through harsh sanctions “combined with a credible military option.”

“All countries are worried about Iran,” Netanyahu said, “and the stronger it gets, the more difficult it will be to achieve peace.”

In a related development, National Security Council head Uzi Arad – who went to Egypt earlier this week to prepare for Netanyahu’s visit there next week – travelled to Jordan Thursday for high level meetings dealing with the current diplomatic process.

Israel: Best Economy in the West

Israel’s economy is the fastest-growing in the West, the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) reports.

Israel's Gross National Product grew by 4.5% in the year 2010, according to CBS data and estimates – 0.5% more than had been expected. This compares with only 2.7% in the other 33 countries of the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD). Israel became an OECD member state this past September.

In 2009, despite the great worldwide economic crash, Israel’s economy grew by 0.8% - and by 4.2% in 2008. The GNP per capita grew by 2.7% this year, compared with a drop of 1.1% the year before. In the OECD as a whole, this year’s per capita GNP grew by 2.3%.

Israel is also doing better in the employment arena than the rest of the OECD, with a 6.7% unemployment rate, compared with 8.3% in the other countries.

The CBS notes three notable developments in Israel's economy during 2010: Exports slowed during the third quarter, following the growth spurt in the second half of 2009; rapid growth of private consumption began to slow down; and investments in residential buildings and the like continued to grow.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Jerusalem: Cab Driver Attacked by Arabs

Sammy Shasha-CohenWhen Jerusalem cab driver Sammy Shasha-Cohen picked up seemingly two ordinary men into his cab this past Saturday night, he did not even think that his life would end up in danger. “I was on King George Street in the center of Jerusalem and I was stopped by two people,” recalled Shasha-Cohen. “They asked if I was Jewish. I said yes, and one sat down next to me and said that his mother is Jewish and his father is an Arab. He said he needs go towards Givat HaMatos at the southern end of the city and the whole time he kept talking about how he is about to enlist to the Border Police.”
Shasha-Cohen, who still did not suspect anything out of the ordinary, said that when he arrived at Givat HaMatos, he was asked by the Arab to drive onto a dirt road. “I said, ‘but there are no houses here,’ and he answered: ‘No no, go all the way up.’”

At that point, said Shasha-Cohen, he suddenly felt like he was suffocating. “He took out some gas. I pulled myself out of the car and called for help, and some firefighters arrived. The two Arabs ran towards the firefighters, and when they saw the two Arabs, they called the police. When the police arrived the firefighters showed them where the two assailants had run.”

Recalling the moments where he feared for his life, Shasha-Cohen said that he believes this was no robbery attempt but rather an attempt to kill him. “It was for sure an attempt to kill me because when I arrived at that spot he told me: ‘Don’t say a word. Stop and don’t move. We’re killing you.’ Those were the words he used.”

Despite the danger he faced, Shasha-Cohen is determined to continue life as usual. “I’m more cautious and more alert. That’s all. I’ll continue to work. This is my country. I live here. I won’t work here? I have to continue with my regular routine but I also have to be more careful.”

SOS: Selective Outrage Syndrome

Under the guise of enlightened progressivism, left-wing activists are actually advancing prejudice.

There is a new malady sweeping the land, one so widespread and corrosive that it is rapidly becoming a serious epidemic. It strikes with increasing frequency, leaving its victims babbling incoherently. And while it makes no distinction between young and old, it does seem to hit those on the Left with particular ferocity.

It is what I call Selective Outrage Syndrome, or SOS, and the symptoms are really quite obvious: applying a selective double-standard in matters relating to human rights and politics.

To better understand this phenomenon, let’s take a look at an especially egregious example in the heart of Jerusalem. For months, left-wing activists have been pressing for the eviction of the Jewish residents of the Beit Yehonatan apartment complex in the neighborhood of Shiloah, or Silwan, citing repeated court rulings to seal the building.

Mustering all the passion at their disposal, the campaigners invoke lofty principles such as the rule of law, while denouncing the presence of Jews in the neighborhood as an act of “occupation.” They insist that failure to carry out the court orders would constitute a travesty of justice.

And yet, just 100 meters down the road, some of those very same activists have been busy trying to block the implementation of another court ruling. In this case, it has to do with the Old Yemenite Synagogue, where an Arab family was found to have been squatting illegally for decades. In January 2010, a court decided that the Arab tenants should be evicted.

Amid a mounting brouhaha, Jerusalem MayorNir Barkat put the two sets of evictions on hold this past Sunday, at least for the time being. But the case provides a compelling example of moral myopia bordering on blindness.

In one instance, when it comes to evicting Jews, the left-wing protesters are all in favor of upholding the court’s decision. But when it comes to evacuating illegal Arab tenants, they do everything in their power to subvert the court’s ruling.

What these do-gooders don’t seem to understand is that the rule of law is not something that can be applied only when it fits one’s political agenda. If the law is supreme, you can’t insist that Jews be held to a certain standard, while making excuses for Arabs. Unless, of course, you suffer from selective outrage syndrome.

YET ANOTHER instance of this kind of thinking was on display earlier this week, whenPalestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas made a statement worthy of American segregationists from the 1960s. “When a Palestinian state is established, it will be empty of any Israeli presence,” said our ostensible peace partner. “ If a Palestinian state is established with Jerusalem as its capital, we will object to the presence of even one Israeli in its territory. This is our position.”

That’s right. Abbas said it loudly and clearly: No Jews allowed.

Despite the outright racist nature of his remarks, Abbas’s comments evoked nothing but silence on the liberal Left. There were no howls of protest, or denunciations of this blatant anti- Semitic rhetoric.

Contrast this with the fury that erupted when a group of rabbis ruled last month that homes should not be rented to Arabs or other non- Jews.

Once again, we see that the Left is quite ready to deplore a certain behavior by Jews, while ignoring similar conduct by Palestinians.

Ironically, then, these liberals end up being the most vocal advocates of drawing distinctions between Jews and Arabs based only on who they are. Ummm, isn’t that racial discrimination? And so, under the guise of enlightened progressivism, left-wing activists are actually advancing prejudice.

To be fair, leftists are not the only ones plagued by SOS. There is plenty of it on the Right as well, only in the opposite direction.

And of course there are quite a few thoughtful left-leaning people who still believe in upholding the principle of one standard for all. But they seem to have been drowned out by the more vocal, extreme elements.

It is to these radicals that I say: you can’t have it both ways. If you want to invoke noble values and ideals, that is truly wonderful.

But the moment you start applying those principles inequitably, you become precisely that which you so fiercely condemn.

US against anti-settlement resolution in Security Council

Palestinian Authority looking for draft calling settlements "illegal"; Israel dismisses claims of isolation, noting Arabs from the region come here for medical treatment.

The US is against efforts to bring the settlement issue to the UN Security Council, a State Department spokesman said Wednesday, soon after PLO chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said the Palestinians intended to ask the Security Council to condemn the settlements as “illegal.”

“We have consistently opposed taking these kinds of issues to the UN Security Council,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said at a press briefing, though he declined to specify whether the US would actually veto a resolution should it be voted on.

Israeli officials said various draft resolutions on the matter were currently being discussed in New York, and the degree to which a resolution would run into US opposition would depend on its final language, and whether it called for operative steps such as sanctions.

The Associated Press obtained a copy of a draft on Wednesday calling settlements a “major obstacle to the achievement of peace.” It does not, however, call for sanctions, and urges both sides to continue negotiations toward a final peace agreement.

The draft resolution reaffirms Palestinian claims that “Israeli settlements established in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including east Jerusalem, are illegal and constitute a major obstacle to the achievement of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.”

Additionally, the document demands that Israel “immediately and completely ceases all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem, and that it fully respects all of its legal obligations in this regard.”

Israeli officials said the more watered-down the resolution, the less likely that the US would use its veto to block it.

While the Europeans consistently say that settlements are illegal under international law, the US – with the exception of the Jimmy Carter administration – has generally refrained from adopting that language, instead characterizing the settlements as “illegitimate.”

Toner emphasized that “final-status issues can only be resolved” through direct negotiations rather than a UN vote, a long-standing US position.

However, he also reiterated America’s continued opposition to Israeli settlements.

“We don’t accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity,” Toner stated, labeling such continued construction “corrosive to our peace efforts,” as well as to Israel’s future.

Erekat, meanwhile, denied earlier reports that claimed the Palestinians were planning to ask the UN Security Council to recognize a Palestinian state early next year.

He said that the Palestinians had no intention of making such a request in the near future.

The PA also rejected on Wednesday any talk about an interim solution with Israel. The announcement came in response to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s remarks in an interview with Channel 10 on Tuesday.

Netanyahu, in that interview, said that if direct negotiations with the Palestinians “hit a wall” over core issues such as security, Jerusalem or refugees, it may be necessary to aim for a long-term interim agreement. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, however, said this week that a long-term interim agreement should be the goal from the outset.

Nabil Abu Rudaineh, a spokesman for PA President Mahmoud Abbas, said that the Palestinians were opposed to an interim agreement because it would exclude the issues of Jerusalem and the refugees.

“Renewed talk about a Palestinian state with temporary borders is completely unacceptable and wouldn’t lead to real peace,” Abu Rudaineh said. “The time has come for decisions on final-status issues and the establishment of a Palestinian state on the June 4, 1967 borders, including east Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”

Erekat, in discussing the PA move to take the settlement issue to the UN, was quoted by the German press agency DPA as saying that “the Israeli government is witnessing an international isolation that it hasn’t witnessed before.”

He said this was “due to the efforts exerted by the Palestinian leadership” and by Abbas.

But Palestinian boasts that its policies were successfully isolating Israel were dismissed in Jerusalem, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor saying that for all the “isolation” talk, “patients from the Arab world seeking treatment for their ailments were coming to Israel.”

Palmor said that “isolation was very much in the eye of the beholder.”

Wealthy patients from countries such as Iraq, Jordan and the Persian Gulf come to Israel to take advantage of its advanced medicine, government officials said Wednesday, unwilling to provide numbers or indicate whether this included political elites.

Palmor said that even as Erekat talked about an isolated Israel, it was attracting more investment than the financial support the Palestinian Authority was getting from the Arab world.

One diplomatic official cautioned the Palestinians against becoming “intoxicated” by the fact that four South American countries had either recognized a Palestinian state, or declared their intention to do so in the near future.

“Diplomatic fireworks will not bring about a state,” the official said. “Fireworks look spectacular momentarily in the sky, but then disappear.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said in response to Erekat’s threat to take a resolution to the Security Council that “desperate attempts by the Palestinians are the result of a dead end that they led into because of their preconditions. A real Palestinian state, and not a virtual one, will be established only through negotiations with the elected government of Israel.”

Ayalon called on the international community to “show responsibility” and not create illusions for the Palestinians.

Ya'alon: Iran’s Nuke Program Set Back Three Years

Iran now is at least three years away from being able to produce a nuclear bomb because of technical problems and sanctions, Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon told Voice of Israel government radio Wednesday.

Yaalon, a former IDF Chief of Staff and considered a leading “hawk” on Iran, said that “we are talking in terms of three years” before the Islamic Republic can achieve its presumed aim of producing a nuclear weapon. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said several times that Israel should be destroyed but has insisted that Iran’s nuclear program is intended for peaceful purposes.
Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities recently suffered severe damage from theStuxnet virus. Israel has been widely mentioned as being behind the infection of Iran’s computers with the virus.

Despite the new time frame, Yaalon said that the United States eventually will have to take actions beyond sanctions to stop Iran, which he said “must choose between continuing to seek nuclear capability and surviving.”
The Obama administration has been hoping that local unrest in Iran will engineer an overthrow of the regime currently headed by Muslim clerics and Ahmadinejad, whose re-election last year was largely viewed as fraudulent, sparking widespread unrest until riot police and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards brutally subdued the protests.

Another Huge Gas Field Confirmed Off Haifa Shore

Drill platform.Initial drilling confirms that a huge gas field has been found off Israel's Mediterranean shore. The amount of natural gas in the Leviathan gas field is estimated at 450 billion cubic meters - almost twice the size of the previous large gas discovery at the Tamar field. The find was announced in June but the size could not be confirmed until now. 

About one month ago, the partners in the drilling project reached their target layer in an underwater geological structure 135 km west of Haifa. The Sedco Express rig drilled through 1,634 meters of water and penetrated to 5,100 meters under sea level. When it reached a layer of sand, advanced geological tests were conducted, and their results confirmed the presence of the gas.
One of the partners, Delek Energy, said Wednesday that of all the gas fields discovered in deep waters worldwide in the last ten years, the Leviathan is the largest
"This is happy news for the Israeli energy market, and the results have great economic and strategic importance," it said.
Trading in stocks of drilling partners "Delek Drilling," "Avner Oil Searches" and "Ratio" were halted earlier Wednesday, after they announced they would issue a "meaningful report."
"We have received the most important energy-related news since the founding of Israel, that will undoubtedly bring a blessing and have a meaningful influence on many fields [of endeavor] in Israel," Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau said glowingly Wednesday.
If Israel handles itself properly, he predicted, it can use the gas to become a supplier of gas in the Middle East. The finds "will enable Israeli citizens to enjoy clean, cheap electricity production, and the income the state can expect following these discoveries."

Jewish Students From Throughout the World Gather in Jerusalem

Jewish students from around the world are gathering in Jerusalem this week for the World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS) Congress. A tradition since 1924, the WUJS Congress brings together elected representative Jewish student leaders from around the globe to assess and confront the contemporary face of the age-old challenges facing Jewish students.

WUJS Chair Chaya Singer told Israel National News TV that Jewish students around the world are united by their commitment to the future of the Jewish people.

“Jewish students on campuses are at the forefront of the battle against anti-Semitism and delegitimization of Israel on campus and assimilation,” she said. “Jewish students are here today because a Jewish student can’t walk onto a campus nowadays and just get involved in his studies without being confronted by the virulent delegitimization of Israel that goes on in campuses today. It’s our responsibility to take action and to make sure that campuses are a safe place for Jewish students and that the future leaders of the world who are on university campuses today leave university with a positive impression of the Jewish people and a positive impression of the land of Israel and the contribution that we make to society.”

Singer stressed that WUJS is a pluralistic organization which embraces Jewish students from all sides of all religious and political spectrums. “The aim of the World Union of Jewish Students is to bring everybody under one umbrella and to be able to bring in all these diverse views and to be able to embrace and engage everybody. That is a legacy and heritage that we own and this is something that we embrace, and no matter what aspect we come from, this is something that unites us and brings us together.”

She added that Israelis are very much a part of the organization and noted that three of the candidates who are running for the position of WUJS chairperson are Israeli.

“I think what’s most important is to bridge that connection between Israeli and Diaspora students,” said Singer. “It’s about a cultural understanding. I think a lot of the issues that Jewish students are facing pertain to the delegitimization of Israel and Israel as a society and the Israeli students are there to help with that. For Jewish students in the Diaspora and for Israeli students here it’s about understanding and engaging with what it means to be Jewish.”

The WUJS Congress continues until Thursday. Some of the speakers who will take part include Opposition leader MK Tzipi Livni, Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, former Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler, Italian MP Fiamma Nirenstein, and many others.

Authorities hail 2010’s strong aliya growth

Sharansky says programs like Taglit, Masa deserve credit for increased immigration; over 19,000 move to Israel; 16 percent increase from 2009.

More than 19,000 people moved to the State of Israel in 2010, marking a rise of 16 percent over the previous year and continuing the upward trend in aliya from 2009, the Immigrant Absorption Ministry and the Jewish Agency for Israel reported jointly on Tuesday.

Many of those making Israel their new home came from free and democratic Western countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Belgium and Switzerland, with the average age of new immigrants falling just below 30, the data revealed.

Finally, Israel has a one-stop immigration service

“I would like to say that this increase has happened only since I took over as chairman,” Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky joked in an interview with The Jerusalem Post.

“However, I’m more convinced that it is due to many wonderful programs such as Taglit (Birthright), Masa or Lapid that encourage a connection between the Jewish Diaspora and Israel.”

He added that “most of those coming are from free countries, and for many of the new immigrants it is because of the contact they had in the past with the State of Israel and its people.”

Sharansky said that according to a recent study among new immigrants, the main reason olim from North America gave for making aliya was “a desire to be part of a Jewish country.”

“It is mainly people who have had a significant positive experience in Israel,” he said.

The global economic crisis, anti-Semitism and the “delegitimization” of Israel in many countries across the globe were also important, but were less of a factor in encouraging Jews worldwide to make aliya, Sharansky said.

“[In] Israel the economic situation is more stable, and that might draw people to come live here, but it does not explain everything because in places like Russia and the US, the economic situation is a little better,” he explained, adding that attempts to delegitimize Israel tended to have a negative effect on Jews worldwide and often turned them away from the Jewish state.

According to the information released by the Jewish Agency, which works together with the Immigrant Absorption Ministry to facilitate aliya and make the absorption process for new immigrants as smooth as possible, people from places as diverse as Venezuela, Malta, Japan and Rwanda chose to make their new home in Israel this year.

The largest group of immigrants, the figures showed, came from the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and Germany, with 7,700 people – or 40% of 2010’s new immigrants – arriving from that region.

Despite some economic improvements in former Soviet states, there was an increase of 7% in the number of olim arriving from there, compared to figures from 2009. By the end of the year, there will be 7,300 new immigrants from the FSU as opposed to 6,820 last year and 5,880 in 2008.

More than 1,000 new immigrants arrived from Moscow this year, the seventh year in a row with such a level of aliya from the Russian capital.

Among English-speaking immigrants, there was also a significant rise. A total of 3,980 new immigrants arrived here from North America, an increase of 6% over the previous year’s 3,767; from the UK, 760 people made aliya compared to 853 in 2009; and 1,470 South African olim arrived in Israel this year, an increase of 8% from 2009’s 1,233.

There were also large increases in immigration from some unlikely countries such as Australia and New Zealand, whence 260 people moved here compared to 175 in 2009; Belgium, which provided 250 new immigrants compared to 152 the previous year; and Switzerland, with some 120 people making aliya compared to 94 in 2009.

Other places that saw significant growth were Italy, which went up 25% from 89 in 2009 to 120 in 2010, and India, which saw an increase of 60% from 30 immigrants in 2009 to 48 people this year.

The biggest leap, however, came from South America, with Jews from the troubled community in Venezuela increasing their numbers by 280%, from 38 people in 2009 to 150 people in 2010.

Argentina also saw a rise, with 380 immigrants arriving in 2010 compared to 313 the previous year. Mexicans increased from 140 people in 2009 to 180 new olim this year, and Peruvians went from 105 last year to 140 this year.

The Jewish Agency and the ministry also reported new immigrants from China (10), Monaco (4), Japan (3), Hong Kong (3) and Honduras (3), as well as two olim from Malawi and individual immigrants from Malta, Singapore, Korea, Kenya and Rwanda.

Out of those who made aliya, 52.3% were men and 47.7% were women. Jerusalem was the most popular destination, with 2,397 making it their new home. The greatest number of immigrants (2,293) arrived in July.

The average age of new immigrants is 29.75, and the oldest immigrant to arrive here this year was 99.

Sharansky highlighted the younger average age of immigrants as a significant development, especially those from Russia, who are mostly young professionals.

“Fifteen years ago, the majority of immigrants from Russia were pensioners,” he said.

“Successful immigration and absorption will forever remain pillars of the Zionist enterprise, guaranteeing the existence and growth of the Jewish state,” Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver said. “I’m glad that during the past two years the trend has changed and the amount of immigrants is increasing.”

She added that “this was made possible in part thanks to a fruitful cooperation of all parties involved in preparation for immigration and absorption in Israel, including the Jewish Agency, the ministry and others.”

Both Landver and Sharansky cited new measures put in place recently to better streamline the immigration process. For US and UK immigrants arriving here, aliya organization Nefesh B’Nefesh has taken up the task, arranging group flights and helping new olim sidestep what used to be infuriating and complicated bureaucracy.

For other immigrants, the Jewish Agency and the ministry have undertaken to ease the absorption process. Last week, Landver launched an initiative that would allow olim to receive relevant documentation, including an Israeli identity card, when they first arrive at Ben-Gurion Airport.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Fire on Train Hurts 76, Five in Moderate Condition

Perhaps another concealed act of terror:

At least four cars on a passenger train caught fire Tuesday morning, trapping passengers inside and hurting at least 76 people. Five people were evacuated in moderate condition and the rest are described a being lightly hurt.

The moderately injured passengers suffer from burns, smoke inhalation and cuts they suffered from glass while clambering out the train windows. 
The casualties were evacuated to Laniado Hospital in Netanya, Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba, Beilinson Hospital in Petach Tikva and Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv.
The train was traveling from north to south on the Haifa-Tel Aviv tracks. Near Shefayim, opposite the Ronit Farm, the rear engine car caught fire, possibly due to an electrical malfunction. The fire spread to passenger cars and passengers shouted to the train driver to stop the train. 
The train ground to a halt but emergency system that was supposed to throw open the train's doors failed to operate, and the passengers were trapped. The windows in the cars are supposed to be broken in case of an emergency, but the emergency hammers for breaking them were all gone. It remained to a Border Guard policeman to solve the problem by loading his weapon and firing at the windows to break them and allow people to get out.