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Israeline — Monday, April 21, 2003 —


** Abu Mazen Issues Final Ultimatum
** Al-Qaida Planned to Shoot Down Israeli Plane at Heathrow
** 20,000 Flock to Jerusalem’s Old City for Pessah Celebrations
** Other News in Brief
** Economic Briefs

Abu Mazen Issues Final Ultimatum
Abu Mazen – the designated Palestinian prime minister – and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, continued negotiating through mediators in Ramallah today after the two failed to reach an agreement on the composition of the future Palestinian government, HA’ARETZ reported. Abu Mazen reiterated his stance that he had no intention of becoming prime minister under conditions imposed by Arafat.

Meanwhile, Arafat stuck to his refusal to allow former Gaza Preventive Security boss Mohammed Dahlan to be in Abu Mazen’s government. Arafat also insisted that his loyalist, Hanni el Hassan, remain interior minister. Arafat is opposed to letting Abu Mazen hold the position of both interior minister and prime minister.

European and Arab leaders have spoken to Arafat by phone in recent days, pressing him to get the new Cabinet approved quickly. Among those exerting pressure were German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Jordan’s King Abdullah and the European Union’s Middle East envoy, Miguel Moratinos.

A European official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Moratinos had told Arafat that European officials considered Abbas the only acceptable choice as prime minister.

Meanwhile, Senior Palestinian leader Nabil Sha’ath said today that he saw little chance – at least for now – that Abu Mazen would meet Tuesday night’s deadline to present his government to the Palestinian Legislative Council.


Al-Qaida Planned to Shoot Down Israeli Plane at Heathrow
Al-Qaeda terrorists planned to shoot down a London-bound El Al airliner from a theme park close to Heathrow airport, YEDIOT AHARONOT reported. Members of the terror network reportedly planned to break into Legoland, near Windsor, while it was closed for the winter to carry out the strike using a shoulder-fired Strella 2 missile. ”The intelligence services established there were a threat from elements connected to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network,” an official British government source said. ”Obviously they hoped to get in unnoticed, mount the assault and get away before anyone had realized where the missile had come from,” the source added.

"We had a lot of luck that this information fell into our hands. But, we should remember that the missile launcher is still out there with the terrorists."

In November, two Strella anti-aircraft missiles were fired at and just missed an Arkia airliner taking off from the Mombassa airport in Kenya. That attack occurred simultaneous to the car bombing of Mombassa’s Paradise Hotel, in which three Israelis and twelve Kenyans were killed.


20,000 Flock to Jerusalem’s Old City for Pessah Celebrations
Worshippers thronged through the narrow streets of the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City on Sunday, making their way to the Western Wall for the biggest city celebration of Pesach since the outbreak of the Palestinian violence, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. In the Old City’s Christian and Muslim Quarters, hundreds of Christians marked a quiet Easter Sunday.

Police reported that around 20,000 people flocked to the Western Wall Sunday morning to witness the mass birkat kohanim (priestly blessing), a ritual dating back to biblical times. Under the watchful eyes of scores of border policemen stationed throughout the Old City on the unusually cool spring day, the predominantly religious crowds of holiday revelers made their way down to the Western Wall, many with strollers and children in tow. With a Jerusalem-only mix of Hassidic bands, church bells, and muezzin calling for Muslim prayers, the ancient streets were swarming with visitors. The police turned back Jewish activists when they tried to enter the Temple Mount complex. Since the beginning of Palestinian violence in September 2000, the Temple Mount has been off limits to Jews and Christians. The High Court of Justice deferred a ruling allowing Jewish prayer there. Last year’s Pesach celebrations were muted and overshadowed by several horrific terrorist attacks.


Other News in Brief

* The Central Boycott Office in Syria moved Monday to renew its boycott of companies that do business with Israel, HA’ARETZ reported. Mohammed al-Ajami, head of the Syrian regional office for the boycott of Israel, stressed that the measure would remain active until the liberation of all "occupied" Arab lands and the restoration of all Palestinian rights, including the right of establishing an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. Arabs were asked to boycott all Israeli goods as well as companies that did business with Israel. The United States banned its companies from complying with the boycott. The participants in the meeting were Syria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Algeria, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Morocco, Libya, Lebanon, Kuwait, Qatar, the Palestinian Authority, Oman and Somalia. Tunisia, Iraq, Comoros, and Djibouti were absent. Mauritania, Egypt and Jordan, who are bound by peace accords with Israel, stayed away.


Eco and Hi-tech Briefs

* The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange rose sharply again on Sunday, as the Maof climbed 1.77 percent, to 384 points, and the Tel Aviv 100, Israel’s leading stocks, climbed 1.8 percent, to 394 points, HA’ARETZ reported. With yesterday’s results, the TA-100 has registered a 30 percent rise in value over the last two months and its highest level since the eve of Operation Defensive Shield last year.

The Tel-Tech, an index of the technology stocks traded on the stock exchange, leaped 3.5 percent to reach 205 points, with market mavens saying it reflected rises in New York-listed Israeli shares over the holiday in New York.

Traders explain the rising market due to three factors: the geopolitical change after the war in Iraq, improving Israel’s overall long-term security; expectations that the peace process is heading for renewal after tomorrow night’s planned presentation of the Abu Mazen government; and the government’s economic program, which proposes radical cuts in public-sector expenditures.

Today’s Israel Line was prepared by Victor Chemtob, Shelly Revah and Adina Kay at the Consulate General of Israel in New York.


Israeline — Tuesday, April 22, 2003 —

Arafat Rejects Plan by Abu Mazen to Disarm Fatah Militia
Knesset Vote on Austerity Plan to Be Held Wednesday
Body of Dead IDF Soldier Who Fell into Jordan River Found
Commission Says No Proof IDF’s Kishon River Diving Caused Cancer
Other News in Brief
Eco and Hi-tech Briefs


Arafat Rejects Plan by Abu Mazen to Disarm Fatah Militia
The dispute between Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat and Palestinian prime minister-designate Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) over the formation of a new government centers around the latter’s plans to dismantle Fatah’s Al Aqsa Brigades and his intentions to confront Hamas and Islamic Jihad, HA’ARETZ reported. With the Wednesday midnight deadline by when Abu Mazen must present his new cabinet to Arafat getting closer, there was still no end in sight to the dispute between the two men on Tuesday. Abu Mazen insists that he be granted sole authority over the disarming of armed factions, while Arafat rejects the demand, fearing that the disarming of the Al Aqsa Brigades would lead to a civil war. The two have also not reached an agreement as to how to deal with the other armed factions operating under Palestinian Authority jurisdiction. A senior Palestinian official close to Arafat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there was little hope for compromise and that he expected Abu Mazen to resign – a move that would almost certainly delay the publication of the "road map" for peace in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, Minister of Foreign Affairs Silvan Shalom spoke about the Abu Mazen-Arafat impasse with US Secretary of State Colin Powell on Sunday, and expressed "disappointment" about the recent developments. We must not "let the wheel turn backward and once again strengthen Arafat’s stature," Shalom said. He added that as long as Arafat was "pulling the strings," Israel would not negotiate with the PA. Powell said the US was determined to bring about the creation of a Palestinian leadership not tainted by terrorism.

Zalman Shoval, one of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s foreign policy advisers, said Israel would try to live with any PA prime minister and any PA cabinet, as long as they implemented "the primary condition for the resumption the peace process namely, deal effectively with Palestinian violence and terror."


Knesset Vote on Austerity Plan to Be Held Wednesday
The Knesset vote on the Government’s new economic plan has been postponed until Wednesday next week, HA’ARETZ reported. The delay, agreed to by Minister of Finance Benyamin Netanyahu and Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, gives more time for the treasury and the Histadrut labor federation to reach an agreement on the economic plan and avoid a general strike.

So far, there has been no significant progress in the talks between the treasury and the Histadrut regarding the plan. One suggestion being put forward was that only part of the plan would be put to a vote. Finance ministry officials have hinted that "problematic" paragraphs – such as the one calling for the dismissals of 3,000 public sector workers and for an 8-9 percent cut in salary for those keeping their job – would not be passed through legislation.

Meanwhile, negotiations between teachers’ organizations and the finance and education ministries ended Tuesday afternoon without resolving the teachers’ dispute. The talks had resumed Tuesday morning in an effort to prevent classes from being suspended after the Passover break ends. The holiday will be over Wednesday night.


Body of Dead IDF Soldier Who Fell into Jordan River Found
Rescue forces found the body of Israel Defense Forces soldier Guy Gamlieli today after he was washed away in the strong currents of the Jordan River on Monday during an educational trip with his unit, HA’ARETZ reported. Gamlieli’s body was found after a section of the Jordan River was diverted to reduce the flow, thus making it easier to carry out the search. The initial investigation revealed that Gamlieli was hit in the head after being dragged downstream.

According to MA’ARIV, the accident took place while the soldiers, who were enrolled in a military intelligence course, were on an educational trip in the Golan area. An initial investigation indicates that the commander of the course instructed his soldiers to cross the river by foot. The missing soldier slipped in the water and was carried away by the current. Another soldier, who jumped into the water to try to save him, was dragged by the current about five kilometers away from the rest of his group and succeeded in pulling himself up to the bank uninjured.

The IDF opened a committee of inquiry to investigate the incident. Army sources believe that once the investigation is completed, the IDF is likely to take serious steps against those responsible for the accident.


Commission Says No Proof IDF’s Kishon River Diving Caused Cancer
A special commission of inquiry has concluded that the Israeli Navy’s practice of dive training in the polluted Kishon river did not lead to incidences of cancer among naval commandos who performed the dives, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. Former commandos diagnosed with cancer have asked Minister of Defense Shaul Mofaz to grant them full rights as disabled war veterans.

Commission members former High Court of Justice president Meir Shamgar, Meir Vilchik, and Dr. Gadi Renart submitted a 200-page second installment of their report to IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya’alon on Monday. Of the three members, only Shamgar concluded that a connection existed between the Navy’s dives in the polluted river and the cancer that has afflicted 107 former commandos who took part in the diving exercises from 1948 to 2000. Ya’alon accepted the commission’s findings and recommendations and said the army would implement them fully and continue to assist soldiers harmed during their military service and their families.


Other News in Brief

* The Israel Defense Forces, Police and other security forces are on high alert for the last day of the Passover holiday on Wednesday, due to a large number of warnings of terror attacks against Israelis within the green line and in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, HA’ARETZ reported. Security has been beefed up at synagogues during prayer times, shopping malls, parks and various festivals taking place throughout the country. In addition, the IDF imposed a curfew on the West Bank town of Jenin, as well as on parts of Hebron. Special security emphasis has been placed on Netanya – particularly on the city’s hotels and beach area. The traditional Moroccan Mimouna festivities that mark the end of Passover will not be held for the second year straight in Jerusalem’s Sacher Park due to security considerations.


Eco and Hi-tech Briefs

* With no hotel rooms available in Eilat for the Passover holiday, the recession in the city came – at least temporarily – to a halt, GLOBES reported. In addition, revenue at tourist sites and shopping centers in the city has been extremely high in recent days. Shopping centers’ turnovers amounted to tens of millions of shekels. The positive evolution in hotel occupancy in Eilat, occurred only 10 days before the Passover holiday. According to Fattal Hotel Management Vice President of Marketing and Sales Anat Starik-Dahan, demand for hotel rooms during the Passover holiday began two months later than in previous years. Starik-Dahan attributes the awakening demand to the end of the war in Iraq.

* Israel Diamond Exchange president Shmuel Schnitzer told GLOBES that, "the SARS epidemic could cause a global problem in the diamond industry" adding that "diamond exports to the Far East from key diamond production centers in Belgium, South Africa, India and China have already been hard hit." Schnitzer said the diamond trade could be cut by 10% this year as travel and commerce to the lucrative Far East markets are halted by fears of the virus. "The cancellation of flights to the Far East is another problem, especially since diamond transactions are handled in person," he said. Israel’s diamond exports to China grew by 180% in 2002 to over $1 billion. Total diamond exports to the region were $1.5 billion. Schnitzer estimated that SARS would cut Israel’s exports by tens of millions of dollars.

Please note that in observance of the Pessah holiday, the next edition of Israel Line will be sent on Friday, April 25, 2003.

Today’s Israel Line was prepared by Michal Rachlevsky, Matthew Miller and Victor Chemtob at the Consulate General of Israel in New York.


Israeline — Friday, April 25, 2003 —

Security Guard Dies in Homicide Bombing at Kfar Sava Station
Arafat, Abu Mazen, Agree on Dahlan Appointment
US, EU At Odds Over Road Map Implementation
Iran Frees Last of the Jews Jailed for "Spying"
Other News in Brief
Eco and Hi-tech Briefs


Security Guard Dies in Homicide Bombing at Kfar Sava Station
Alexander Kostyuk, 23, a security guard at the Kfar Sava train station, was killed on Thursday while preventing a homicide bomber from entering the station during the morning rush hour, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. Fourteen people were wounded in the blast – two were listed in serious condition and the rest sustained light injuries.

The bomber was identified as 18-year-old Ahmed Khaled Khatib of the Balata refugee camp located on the outskirts of Nablus. He was said to belong to a terror group composed of members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade (the military wing of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat’s Fatah) and the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades (the military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine).

According to eyewitnesses, Khatib was fashionably dressed, wearing a black leather jacket and sunglasses. He was carrying an explosive belt hidden underneath his jacket and containing five kilograms of explosives and insecticide together with nails and washers in order to inflict as much damage as possible. Kostyuk was suspicious of the terrorist and asked him to present an ID card. The bomber pretended to reach for it inside his coat, but instead detonated his bomb. Kostyuk’s family decided that Alexander – who is survived by his parents and a younger sibling – would be buried in Israel.

Israel Police Insp.-Gen. Shlomo Aharonishky, who arrived at the scene shortly after the explosion, said the security guard had averted a more serious disaster by preventing the homicide bomber from entering the railway station inside which were some 250 people. "It should be recalled that during the course of the [Pesach] holidays, many terror attacks were thwarted," Aharonishky said. "Unfortunately, we are talking about an attack by a terrorist who managed to evade the security forces, reach the railway station, and blow himself up. There is no doubt that the guard at the entrance, who did his job as demanded of him, prevented a bigger disaster with more casualties and damage. We understand today that with all the successful preventions and all the extra measures, it is still impossible to block [terrorists] with 100 percent success."

There have been as many as 60 general warnings of pending terrorist attacks over the holiday period. Aharonishky said it was known that the motivation of various Palestinian groups to carry out attacks was high, regardless of political developments, and that the security forces had to continue to be prepared accordingly. His comments were echoed by Minister of Internal Security Tzahi Hanegbi, who maintained that Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other terrorist groups did not need any pretexts for trying to perpetrate murderous attacks as demonstrated over the past two-and-a-half years.

Minister of Defense Shaul Mofaz held an assessment session with the defense establishment and army officers during where it was decided the current counter-terrorism policies would remain unchanged and that there would be no specific response to the Kfar Sava bombing.


Arafat, Abu Mazen, Agree on Dahlan Appointment
Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat agreed on Wednesday to the appointment of Muhammad Dahlan as minister of state for security affairs in a new PA cabinet after last-minute mediation help from Gen. Omar Sulieman, the head of Egyptian intelligence, HA’ARETZ reported. The agreement ends a days-long crisis between Arafat and the PA Prime Minister-designate Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and paves the way for the latter to present his new cabinet to the Palestinian Legislative Council for approval.

Under the deal, Abbas will serve as interior minister, while Dahlan will be in charge of security affairs. Arafat had held out against accepting Dahlan, whom he sacked as Gaza Strip Preventive Security Service chief last year. But the "Quartet," composed of the United States, the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations considers Dahlan the key to cracking down on those opposed to a negotiated peace with Israel and pressed Arafat to back down. The accord, seen by many Palestinians as a severe blow to Arafat, was reached hours before a midnight deadline, which had already been extended by two weeks. Dahlan and Abbas will now have to show the world what they can do to reign in terrorism, a member of the Fatah Tanzim who works for one of the security services in the West Bank, said.

The next step for Abbas is to present his cabinet to the PLC for a vote of confidence. It is not clear at this stage how the lawmakers will react to the new line-up in light of the latest developments surrounding the crisis. The cabinet list requires approval of the 88-member PLC. According to PA Speaker Ahmed Qurei, the PLC will convene within a week to vote. By law, Abbas has the sole authority to form the cabinet, but in practice he needs Arafat’s blessing. The ruling Fatah movement, which sided with Arafat in this showdown, commands a solid majority of the PLC.


US, EU At Odds Over Road Map Implementation
In a telecast to the Arab world, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Thursday that terrorism had to end if peacemaking between Israel and the Palestinians were to have a chance of succeeding, Israel Radio, KOL YISRAEL reported. "Let’s be very open and candid," Powell told the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation. "Unless terrorism and violence stops, then it’s almost impossible to get going on any process toward peace." U.S. President George W. Bush plans to unveil the road map, with its goal of creating a Palestinian state by 2005, following the confirmation of a new Palestinian cabinet, set to go to the Palestinian legislature for ratification early next week.

In a separate interview with Al-Arabiya, a television station based in Dubai, Powell notified Israel and the Palestinians that he did not want to debate the terms of a peacemaking road map with them when he holds talks in the Middle East, probably early next month. "I don’t want to spend a great deal of time arguing about the details of the road map," Powell said. "I want to see both sides, in a spirit of cooperation, in a spirit of peace, with the earnest desire to move forward, to start performing." Powell also said he had been in touch with Israeli authorities and found "they are ready and anxious to participate in moving forward with [incoming Palestinian Prime Minister Mr. Abu Mazen." As for Yasser Arafat, Powell said: "Mr. Arafat still occupies a position within the hearts and minds of the Palestinian people, and I can’t remove that, and I wouldn’t even try to." But, at the same time, Powell said, "we do not believe that Mr. Arafat has shown the kind of leadership that is needed to take us through this crisis."

Meanwhile, the European Union insisted Thursday that the United States did not have sole ownership of the "road map," in an apparent bid to forestall any effort by Washington to sideline its partners. "This is not a problem to be solved by only one country, it is a problem to be solved by the cooperation of… members of the international community that have been engaged in this peace process for a long time," EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said. "The road map is not the property of one country, it is the property of the Quartet," he told reporters. Solana was responding to a question on whether he was concerned that the Bush administration was under pressure from Congress and influential conservative advisers to relegate its Quartet partners – the EU, the United Nations and Russia – to the sidelines of the peace effort.


Iran Frees Last of the Jews Jailed for "Spying"
The Iranian Foreign Minister, Kamal Kharrazi, announced on Thursday that five Iranian Jews sentenced to prison for espionage had been freed. The five are the remainder of a group of 13 Jews imprisoned for spying for Israel in 1999. U.S. Congressman Brad Sherman led efforts to free the Jews of Shiraz in June 1999. He has always believed they were innocent. "These charges are absurd," said Sherman. "The thing to remember in Iran is no Jew is allowed anywhere near anything of security significance period."

Kharrazi did not indicate the date of their release. The only Jewish legislator in Iran, Maurice Motamed, said that the five prisoners had been granted a furlough for the Persian New Year, which began March 21.

A closed-door trial in 2000 found 10 Jews guilty of spying for Israel and sentenced them to prison terms ranging from four to 13 years. The trial in Shiraz, 885 kilometers south of Tehran, was internationally condemned as an abuse of justice. Israel denied having any links to the Jews. Later, a court of appeal changed the conviction from espionage to cooperating with Israel and reduced the sentences to a maximum of nine years. Two of the 10 Jews were released, having already served their sentences. Three others were pardoned in October to mark a religious holiday. Iran has an estimated 25,000 Jewish citizens.


Other News in Brief

Sixty years after the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, six Polish-born Israelis who fought the Nazis in various underground movements had their Polish citizenship reinstated Thursday in a ceremony at the Polish Embassy in Tel Aviv, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. The six Holocaust survivors, who are now in their early 80s, were awarded certificates of recognition in addition to being issued honorary citizenship. "With all our bitter memories that we have from Poland, all the good people who helped us in the country are not to be forgotten," said Luba Gawisar of Tel Aviv, who was one of the honorees.

Eco and Hi-tech Briefs

The Government Companies Authority is expected to propose that the ministerial privatization committee approve the total privatization of El Al through the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, without a preliminary sale of 49% of the company, GLOBES reported. The decision was made at a recent meeting between the Government Companies Authority and potential investors. If the ministerial privatization committee accepts the recommendations of the Government Companies Authority, headed by director Eyal Gabbai, it will mark the first time that a controlling interest in a company undergoing privatization will be made available through the TASE.

Israeli start-up Jungo Software Technologies unveiled this week partnerships with Samsung Electronics Co. and QuickLogic Corporation, GLOBES reported. The joint venture between Jungo and Samsung Electronics Co. utilize integrated software with a product ready infrastructure that "speeds up development of broadband gateways, routers, and Digital Subscriber Lines (DSL) modems." "By offering manufacturers an integrated software and hardware solution with Samsung, Jungo is able to provide its customers with additional flexibility in product development," said Ofer Vilenski, president and chief executive officer of Jungo. In addition, QuickLogic Corporation announced that it would include Jungo’s WinDriver driver development tool in the QuickLogic Reference Development Kit (RDK). "Teaming with QuickLogic reinforces Jungo’s position as a leader in the driver development and hardware access development market," said Ophir Herbst, software tools general manager at Jungo. "This combination provides designers a one-stop hardware/software solution for developing PCI devices and drivers."

Today’s Israel Line was prepared by Adina Kay, Victor Chemtob, Shelly Revah and David Price at the Consulate General of Israel in New York.