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Israeline — Monday, December 30, 2002 —


** Dying IDF Soldier Saves Dozens
** IDF Thwart Terrorist Attempt to Infiltrate Be’eri
** Israel’s First Toll Road Launched
** Sharon: Jewish Conversion Process Should Be Shortened
** Economic Briefs


Dying IDF Soldier Saves Dozens
A heroic act by St.-Sgt Noam Apter, 23, of Shilo saved dozens of lives after two Islamic Jihad terrorists ambushed a religious school on Friday evening killing Apter and three others, at the West Bank community of Otniel, Israel Radio, KOL YISRAEL reported. Around 7:30 pm on Friday, two terrorists dressed in Israel Defense Forces fatigues infiltrated Otniel, carrying M-16 rifles and other types of ammunition and opened fire on the yeshiva. One of the terrorists managed to get inside the building and entered the kitchen area where four students were preparing the Sabbath meal. The terrorists open fired killing Private Yehuda Bamberger 20, of Karnei Shomron, Gavriel Hoter, 17, of Alonei Habashan, Zvi Zieman, 18, of Re’ut and Apter. However, before Apter died of his wounds, he managed to lock the kitchen door, preventing the terrorist from entering the dining area, where 100 students were gathered. Soon after, IDF troops arrived on the scene and killed the two terrorists. According to military sources, Apter’s action, combined with the quick response of soldiers, prevented a bigger "massacre" at the yeshiva.

Security sources said that a Hebron branch of the Islamic Jihad organization was responsible for the Otniel attack. The same Hebron cell was also behind the November 15 ambush at The Cave of Patriarchs in which 12 Israeli soldiers and security men were killed.

Funeral services were held on Sunday for all four victims. "Four in one day is so hard to do. so hard to eulogize," Rabbi Kalmanson of Otniel’s yeshiva said.


IDF Thwart Terrorist Attempt to Infiltrate Be’eri
An Israel Defense Forces reserve force thwarted a terrorist attack this morning at Kibbutz Be’eri in the Negev, MA’ARIV reported. The unit identified three terrorists crossing the perimeter fence and heading toward a grove near Kibbutz Be’eri. During an exchange of fire, one of the terrorists was killed while the other two escaped back to the Gaza Strip. The IDF later discovered a Kalshnikov rifle, grenades, and other weapons on the terrorist’s body.

According to HA’ARETZ, on Friday night, a car bomb exploded in the Russian Compound pub district in Jerusalem. No injuries were reported. According to reports, a 22-year-old Palestinian terrorist from East Jerusalem parked his car, loaded with a bomb made from two cooking gas canisters, in the parking lot behind the pubs. Before the car exploded, its upholstery caught fire, burning the terrorist’s face and hands. He started running away, but was caught by the police.

Meanwhile, the Tel Aviv District Court sentenced a Jaffa taxi driver to 15 years in prison for transporting the terrorists who carried out a homicide attack in the old Tel Aviv Central Bus Station last July. Five people were killed in the attack and 39 wounded.


Israel’s First Toll Road Launched
The Trans-Israel Highway became the country’s first public road to begin charging a toll on Sunday, YEDIOT AHARONOT reported. Toll charges will vary depending on the type of vehicle and distance traveled by the driver. Rather than the traditional toll booths, the designated roads are fitted with electronic gates, equipped with video cameras. When cars pass through the gates, a photo of their license plate will be taken. At the end of the month the driver will receive a bill.

To date, a 31-kilometer (approximately 19-mile) stretch from Kibbutz Eyal to Ben Shemen has been opened to traffic, while another segment between the Ben Shemen junction and Nahshonim is open, only on the northbound side. The 10-kilometer (approximately 6-mile) section from Nesharim to Ben Shemen is expected to open in the next few weeks, and by 2003, the nine-stretches totaling 86-kilometers (approximately 53 miles) from Gedera to Hadera are slated to be opened.


Sharon: Jewish Conversion Process Should Be Shortened
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said at the weekly cabinent meeting on Sunday that the process of converting to Judaism should be shortened, HA’ARETZ reported. Sharon told the Cabinet that he sees immigration as the central and most important goal of the country. Immigration, Sharon said, provides a huge contribution to Israel’s security, economy, and diplomatic standing, and "all of us have the obligation to work toward absorbing immigrants." Sharon reiterated his goal of bringing another million Jews to Israel over the next 10 years.

Meanwhile, Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert called for the abolition of religious councils in an address to a rabbinical forum. The mayor explained that the councils were creating difficulties for the many citizens requiring their services. He added that because of the councils’ treatment, many Israelis want nothing to do with religion.

Israel’s National Security Council recently began a first-of-its-kind research study of the motivations of homicide bombers, HA’ARETZ reported. Approximately 20 homicide bombers incarcerated in Israeli prisons have been interviewed for the study, and several dozen more are scheduled for questioning by the researchers. Security officials said that Israel has the world’s largest "reservoir" of would-be homicide bombers. These terrorists were captured by security forces en route to carrying out homicide attacks.


Economic Briefs

* Teva announced today that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted tentative approval for its application to market Alendronate Sodium Tablets, the generic version of Merck’s Fosamax Tablets, GLOBES reported. Alendronate Sodium Tablets are indicated for the treatment and prevention of osteoporosis in postmenopausal women and the treatment of Paget’s disease.

* Eight projects for the new Israel-Italy Program for Industrial, Scientific and Technological Research and Development Cooperation were approved last week, at an investment of approximately $8.8 million, GLOBES reported. Chief Scientist Dr. Eli Opper said the program’s joint committee decided that each government would grant direct support to companies from their country. Israel Line is a daily summary of news items taken directly from the Israeli media.

Israeline — Thursday, January 2, 2003 —


** Missing Israeli Found Dead
** Border Police’s Anti-Terror Unit Thwarts Terrorists Attack
** Israel and PA Sign Agreement on Tax Revenues Transfer
** Moscow Teen Hostages Arrive in Israel for Solidarity Visit
** Economic Briefs


Missing Israeli Found Dead
Security forces found the body of Massoud Mahlouf Elon, 72, of Moshav Menahemya who had been missing since Wednesday after he left his home to do business in the West Bank village of Tamun YEDIOT AHARONOT reported. The body, which was completely burned, was found outside his car near the Israeli Arab village of Tubas in the northern Jordan Valley this afternoon.

According to initial reports, police suspect that the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade killed Elon for ‘nationalistic purposes.’ The investigation revealed that the Brigade disseminated flyers claiming that they had killed an Israeli in the Jordan Valley to avenge the Israel Defense Forces killing of one of its own members several months ago in Tamun. Al-Jazeera also reported on Wednesday night that a Palestinian gunman had shot dead an Israeli.

Elon’s son, Benny, said that his father had had ongoing business relations with the local Arab population, and was well liked and trusted by his Arab clients. Benny also said that he had spoken with his father by phone before the older man had left home and had asked him not to go to the Jordan Valley.


Border Police’s Anti-Terror Unit Thwarts Terrorists Attack
A special Border Police unit shot and killed a Palestinian terrorist early this morning, several hours after he infiltrated a house in the community village of Maor, close to the seam line between Israel and the West Bank, MA’ARIV reported. The terrorist entered the home of Patricia and Roland Mori and fired one shot before his weapon jammed. The couple managed to escape from the house through a window, while the terrorist remained inside. The police’s anti-terror unit surrounded the house and killed the terrorist. Military sources said that the gunman was armed with hundreds of rounds of ammunition and was planning a major shooting spree in the community.

"I was in a different room when I realized the terrorist’s gun had malfunctioned and he couldn’t shoot any more," Roland said. "I went out toward him . I started throwing things at him." Roland said that he grabbed the terrorist and told his wife to leave the house. "I wrestled with him, and told myself it’s either him or me. When I heard my wife shouting at me from outside, I let him go and ran outside."


Israel and PA Sign Agreement on Tax Revenues Transfer
The Government and the Palestinian Authority signed an agreement this week specifying the conditions and supervisory mechanisms for the transfer of Palestinian tax revenues collected by Israel, to the Palestinian Authority, HA’ARTEZ reported. Israeli Ministry of Finance Director General Ohad Marani and PA Finance Minister Salam Fayyad signed the agreement.

According to the terms, Israel is obligated to resume the monthly transfers of tax revenues that have been frozen since the violence broke out in September 2000. Although only future tax transfers will be affected.


Moscow Teen Hostages Arrive in Israel for Solidarity Visit
Eleven actors, aged 8 to 15, who survived the Chechnyan hostage situation in Moscow, Russia two months ago, arrived in Israel on Wednesday for a 10-day solidarity visit, YEDIOT AHARONOT reported. "When I was in the theater, in those hard hours, I felt terrible and now I understand what the Israeli children are going through," said Alexandra Rosevsky, 13. Another boy said that he had heard about the many children who have been seriously hurt and hospitalized as a result of terror attacks. "Some of them have difficult injuries while we miraculously came out with no scratch from the theater incident," he said. "I promised that if I meet a child like that, we’ll be pen pals until he or she gets better."

Chairman of the Moscow Theater Igor Vaslayev contacted Russian Chief Rabbi Berl Lazar with the idea of bringing the children to Israel. The two organized the trip with the help of El Al, the Jewish Agency and the Ministry of Tourism.


Economic Briefs

* The Bank of Israel’s supervision of the foreign currency markets ended this week with the abolition of the ceiling capping foreign investments by institutional investors at 20 percent of their total assets, HA’ARETZ reported. The move makes the shekel freely convertible. The decision to unleash the shekel and free institutional investors was taken a year ago, as part of a number of steps agreed upon between the Government and the Bank of Israel. The completion of the liberalization process is a key step in adapting the Israeli marketplace to international standards. The advantages include greater integration between Israel’s capital market and foreign markets, intensification of competition and efficiency in the capital market.

* A large Israeli delegation headed by Ministry of Finance Director General Ohad Marani, Ministry of Defense Director General Amos Yaron, and the Prime Minister’s Bureau Chief Dov Weisglass, are slated to arrive in Washington this week to meet with their American counterparts regarding Israel’s request for U.S. loan guarantees and special military aid, HA’ARETZ reported. Israel asked the Bush administration for $8 billion in loan guarantees over a three-year period, as well as special military aid of $4 billion over a two-year period.

Friday, January 10, 2003
Judge Mishael Cheshin on Thursday evening ordered the shutdown of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s televised news conference only minutes after the broadcast began, GLOBES reported. Sharon was to have answered questions about accusations leveled against him and his sons regarding improper campaign financing. Chesin, who heads the Central Election Committee, said Sharon’s speech was not appropriate due to elections campaigning regulations because of his criticism of the Labor Party. Israeli television has certain designated time-slots for election campaigning.
According to HA’ARETZ, the Likud party said that due to the black out, the Prime Minister was not able to properly answer the allegations against him. Labor says that the committee must discuss the manner in which Sharon used the media for unauthorized election campaining.
The Central Elections Committee presidency is to convene Saturday night, at the behest of the Likud and Labor parties, to discuss the decision of the committee chairman to halt media coverage of the press conference, convened by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to refute claims of alleged financial improprieties
British Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Thursday that he intended to work toward reversing his country’s policies restricting the export of security-related equipment to Israel, HA’ARETZ reported. Blair was speaking after a meeting with Labor Party chairman Amram Mitzna. Mitzna reportedly raised the issue with the British leader as a result of requests he received from Israeli sources, whom he refused to identify. These sources, Mitzna acknowledged, had stressed the problems the British arms embargo was posing to Israel’s defense needs. Among the items under reconsideration are those that are not related to the Israeli security efforts against the Palestinians.
In addition to a discussion about the developments in the Middle East, the two men discussed ways to renew the peace process, while maintaining pressure on terrorist organizations. Blair’s envoy to the Middle East, Lord Michael Levy, accompanied Mitzna during part of his visit to Britain.
Israel will partner in space research with India, France, Ukraine and Holland says Avi Har-Even, Director-General of the Space Agency, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. Among the joint ventures being discussed is a joint satellite mission between Israel and India, to be launched in the next two years.
Meanwhile, Ilan Ramon will become the first Israeli astronaut to be sent into space on January 16th, if all goes as planned. The shuttle mission was supposed to launch in July, but was delayed when NASA found cracks in the fuel lines of its four orbiters. Har-Even said Israel plans to send more astronauts into space in the coming years, via the partnership with NASA. He added that the excellent space research cooperation Israel has with America would continue.
The Italian Football Association confirmed on Wednesday that it would host Israel’s Euro 2004 Group 1 qualifying matches scheduled for April against France and Cyprus in Florence, HA’ARETZ reported. The Israeli Football Association is waiting for confirmation from UEFA, and plans to send a delegation to Florence Sunday to complete arrangements with the local municipality and police force.
After UEFA banned Israel in March 2002 from hosting international matches due to the security situation, the Israeli Football Association approached several venues in England, however, they fell through due to excessive security expenses. IFA Chairman Gavri Levi has said that the association stands to lose some $1.5 million in revenues as a result of the ban. Israel’s under-21 team will also host its qualifying matches in Italy, however it is yet to be decided whether the games will be held in Florence or Ampoli.
* * *
The Civil Aviations Administration has given final approval to Israir to fly from Ben-Gurion International Airport to New York, Israel Radio, KOL YISRAEL reports. The airline has announced that the first flight will take place in July. Israir has committed to employing Israeli crewmembers on this route, the radio said. An estimated 7,000 travelers fly between Ben-Gurion and New York each year.
• The Ministry of Industry and Trade incubator administration has approved five incubators to operate under the privatization pilot model, GLOBES reported. Three more incubators are in the final stages of the approval process. The five incubators are: Orit Technological R&D Center in Ariel; Initiative Center for the Negev in Beer Sheva; Meytag Technology Incubator in Katzrin; Ofakim Innovative Technologies; and NGT in Nazareth, established as the first incubator in the Arab sector. Outside investors must pledge an incubator at least $300,000 in investment a year for three years, regardless of the number of projects at the incubator. They must also pledge to finance five projects a year for three years. The total commitment is $2 to $2.5 million.
• New ministers who join the government after the January 28 elections will earn NIS 2,135 (approximately $454) a month more than those who have been in the cabinet since the current government was formed in March 2001, due to two changes in the law that differentiate between these two groups. In June 2001, the wages of new ministers and deputy ministers were linked to the Consumer Price Index. However, the change did not apply to veteran ministers, those that were already serving in the cabinet at the time. Their pay was linked, as it had always been, to the average wage.
Today’s Israel Line was prepared by Dina Wosner and Jonathan Schienberg at the Consulate General of Israel in New York.