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Israeline — Monday, July 1, 2002 —

** Sharon: Israel Now Has Opportunity to Further Diplomatic Process
** Israel’s Most-Wanted Terrorist Killed
** Judea and Samaria Council Evacuates 11 Illegal Outposts in the West Bank
** Amendment to Law of Return Rejected
** "Made in Israel" Label Launched
** Economic Briefs

Sharon: Israel Now Has Opportunity to Further Diplomatic Process

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told reporters today that, after United States President George W. Bush’s recent address on the Middle East, Israel now faces an "opportunity of the first order to further the diplomatic process," HA’ARETZ reported. Sharon spoke after meeting with President Moshe Katsav, in which he updated him on political developments since the Bush address and ways to advance to the next stage in the peace process.

According to YEDIOT AHARONOT ON-LINE, Sharon also said that Israel and the U.S. are in close contact so, jointly, they may give the Palestinians economic and humanitarian aid. Sharon also stressed that he "gave very clear orders to the defense establishment last week over how to ease restrictions on the Palestinian civilian population."

Meanwhile, Israel temporarily lifted curfews enacted two weeks ago in the West Bank cities of Jenin, Qalqilyah, Ramallah, Bethlehem and Hebron.

Israel’s Most-Wanted Terrorist Killed

During a military operation in the West Bank on Sunday the Israel Defense Force’s Naval commandos killed Muhaned Taher, the head of Hamas’s military wing in Nablus, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. After collecting intelligence about Taher’s whereabouts, possibly from the interrogation of more than 40 terrorists in Hebron last week, security forces performed counter-terrorism measures in the Masaken a-Shabiya neighborhood, locating and killing Muhaned Taher and his second in command, Imad Droaza.

Described by Palestinians as "the Engineer-4" for his expertise in bomb-making and strategic attack planning, Taher was one of the top men on Israel’s wanted list. According to Israeli security sources he was responsible for 121 Israeli deaths since 1996. Among other terrorist activities, Taher supplied the deadly bomb used in the June 18 bus bombing in Jerusalem, as well as the bomb that exploded at the Park Hotel in Netanya on Passover. In addition, Taher was the mastermind behind the June 1, 2001 attack at Tel Aviv’s Dolphinarium club that killed 21 teenagers.

Judea and Samaria Council Evacuates 11 Illegal Outposts in the West Bank

The Judea and Samaria council evacuated eleven illegal outposts on Sunday that had been built near Israeli communities in the West Bank, MA’ARIV reported. Ten other illegal outposts will be evacuated in the next two weeks. The Israel Defense Forces will tour the area to ensure that that the outposts were fully vacated.

Speaking today to Likud Knesset members, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon expressed support for dismantling the illegal outposts. Minister of Defense Binyamin Ben-Eliezer explained that the outposts "require evacuation for security purposes." In an interview with Army Radio Ben-Eliezer also said that he intends "to take down everything that is illegal – everything that endangers and loads down the IDF with unnecessary burdens."

Amendment to Law of Return Rejected

The Law of Return, which grants automatic citizenship to Jewish immigrants to the third generation, will remain unchanged following the cabinet’s rejection of an amendment proposal on Sunday, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. Central Bureau of Statistics data show that 49% of those who immigrated under the Law of Return in 2000 consider themselves Jewish, compared with 96% in 1990. Interior Minister Eli Yishai said he would continue to work on changing the Law of Return in order to preserve the Jewish Majority.

Construction and Housing Minister Natan Sharansky, who opposed the Law of Return amendment, was authorized by the cabinet to open a dialogue with the Chief Rabbinate on ways to make conversion an easier option for non-Jewish immigrants.

In the meantime, the Knesset Law Committee passed an amendment of the 1950 law, which would stop granting automatic citizenship to non-Jewish grandchildren who come to Israel without their Jewish grandparent.

"Made in Israel" Label Launched

The "Blue and White" staff of the Manufacturers Association of Israel initiated a special label to mark Israeli products that contain at least 35 percent Israeli content, GLOBES reported. The "Made in Israel" label, which was launched today, is similar to labels in the U.S., Germany and France.

"Blue and White" Chairman David Artzi said, starting today, 1,600 industrial factory members could use the label in their advertising. Artzi also said that hundreds of plants have already applied to the Manufacturers Association for permission to use the label.

Israel decided to withdraw its signature from the constitution of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, whose jurisdiction takes effect today, due to the Court’s negative approach to issues concerning Israel, HAARETZ reported.

Economic Briefs

* U.S. banking giant Citibank said it would open four retail branches in Israel as intended, denying media reports it would cancel its plans due to the economic and security situation, GLOBES reported. Referring to branches in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Ra’anana and Herzliya, the bank’s spokesman said that they are not "canceling or suspending any other branch openings."

* The Ministries of Finance, Industry and Trade and Hewlett Packard will set up a joint team to examine HP’s application to build a plant for its Indigo subsidiary in Kiryat Gat, GLOBES reported. HP plans to manufacture digital inks at the factory, which will initially employ 70 people and have a turnover of $50 million a year, 99 percent of which will be exported. HP said it aims to build more plants in Israel.

Israeline — Tuesday, July 2, 2002 —

** Burns Meets with Madrid Quartet in London
** Palestinian Driving Stolen Military Vehicle Arrested; Shelling Continues in Galilee
** New Program to Help Unemployed Approved
** Palestinian Workers Protest Against the PA
** Moderate Muslim Group from Galilee Launches Movement Against Extremism
** Economic Briefs

Burns Meets with Madrid Quartet in London

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for the Near East William Burns arrived in London today for consultations with officials from the "Madrid Quartet" about U.S. policy on the Middle East, as outlined by President Bush’s policy speech last week. Burns will meet with officials representing Russia, the European Union and the United Nations, seeking support for the replacement of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat as head of the Palestinian Authority. He will also discuss establishing mechanisms to provide aid to the Palestinians and help them implement economic, security and political reforms. The other quartet envoys are Andrei Vdovin of Russia, Miguel Angel Moratinos of the European Union and Terje Roed-Larsen, UN special envoy to the Middle East.

Meanwhile, British Foreign Office Minister Mike O’Brien is slated to hold talks with Arafat today. A spokesman for Prime Minister Tony Blair said O’Brien would meet Arafat at his West Bank headquarters in Ramallah.The meeting will be the first between Arafat and the British government since U.S. President George W. Bush called last week for Arafat to be replaced as Palestinian leader. According to the British Spokesman, O’Brien’s trip to the Middle East, during which he will also meet with Minister of Foreign Affairs Shimon Peres, is being billed a "familiarization visit.".

Palestinian Driving Stolen Military Vehicle Arrested; Shelling Continues in Galilee

Police arrested a Palestinian driving a stolen military vehicle near the Sha’ar Menashe junction, east of Hadera on Monday, after the suspect pointed a gun at them, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. The vehicle and pistol had been stolen Sunday night from a house in the Hadera area.
The two off-duty policemen from the West Bank District who made the arrest were unharmed. The suspect, from Tulkarem, was taken to the Hadera police station for questioning. The incident took place as the policemen were returning to their homes after work. They saw the military vehicle being driven in a suspicious manner. When they ordered the driver to stop. He jumped from the vehicle, started running away on foot, and then aimed a pistol at them.

Meanwhile, the sound of exploding anti-aircraft shells reverberated over parts of the Galilee on Monday. Burning shrapnel fell in Shlomi in the Western Galilee and in Metulla and Kiryat Shmona in the Galilee Panhandle, without causing any casualties or property damage.
Similar attacks have been initiated by the Hizbullah prior to this, even when there have been no military over flights and, on several occasions, when civilian planes have been flying near the northern border, but well inside Israeli airspace.

"This is a very uncomfortable situation for all the residents in the region and not just those of us here," Kiryat Shmona Mayor Haim Barbivay said. "This is especially the case now that the long summer vacation has started and there are many children playing outside, which could be dangerous," he said. He added, however, "I prefer to hear the explosions at a distance and continue with life as normal rather than to have everybody in bomb shelters because of Katyusha rocket attacks."

The Shlomi Local Council head Gaby Na’aman added, "This time, children from the kindergarten were in the swimming pool and they all had to get out and take cover."

New Program to Help Unemployed Approved

A nationwide pilot program to put the unemployed back to work was approved by the Social-Economic cabinet on Monday, HA’ARETZ reported. Planning for the program, which is modeled after the American Wisconsin Plan, will begin in August. The pilot will begin on March 1, 2003, and run through the end of 2004. At least 14,000 unemployed people will participate in the program.

The program will be divided into four regions the southern, central, northern and Jerusalem regions, and will be run by four foreign companies acting in conjunction with Israeli organizations, including the Government Employment Service. Various categories of unemployed citizens will be involved, including single mothers with children over the age of 3, who are currently exempt from looking for work until their children turn 7, and people considered unemployable due to behavioral problems. Participants will start by undergoing testing to determine suitable types of work for them. Each job-seeker will then be assigned a counselor who will develop a work plan with the individual. For those unable to find a job, the Government will supply full- or part-time community service work. The hope is that eventually, as people find work and leave the welfare rolls, the money saved on their welfare payments can be used to bring new people into the program.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who voted for the program and was present at the meeting, said, "The economy is burning. we need people to get to work now."

Palestinian Workers Protest Against the PA

Approximately 10,000 Palestinian workers demonstrated against corruption in the Palestinian Authority on Monday, YEDIOT AHARONOT reported. The demonstrators, stood in front of the Palestinian Legislative Council in Gaza with pita bread and empty plates in their hands, and chanted, "Arafat, we are hungry! If you want to free Palestine – give us a sack of flour!" The protestors said that they are on the verge of starvation and that the millions of dollars donated for the Palestinian people by Arab countries have disappeared into the recesses of the offices of high PA officials.

The demonstration was also staged in opposition to various workers’ unions that, according to the demonstrators, did not do enough to take care of their members and get jobs for them. This protest was one of several in the last few weeks against the PA and the largest to date. At one point, about 4,000 Palestinians began marching toward PA Chairman Yasser Arafat’s offices, but were stopped by the Palestinian police.

The unemployment rate within the PA reached 38.7 percent today. 1.8 million Palestinians declared that they subsist solely on humanitarian aid. More then half of the Palestinian families in the West Bank and Gaza Strip live in poverty with a $2/day income, per capita. Comparatively, the PA budget is $90 million per month. $60 million of that budget is theoretically allotted for salaries.

Moderate Muslim Group from Galilee Launches Movement Against Extremism

Ten Muslims from villages in the Galilee have launched the first Orthodox Muslim movement in the region to oppose Muslim militancy and extremism, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. Named "The Prophetic Tradition Helpers Association (PTHA)," the group’s goals include providing a platform for moderation and nonviolence and educating the Muslim public about how extremists are misinterpreting Orthodox Islam. "We have watched the situation deteriorate at the hands of extremists," Khalid Abu Ras of Ilut, near Nazareth, an Arabic teacher and founding member, said. "We are unhappy that they talk in the name of Islam, and we think their views are wrong. They are hurting Islam and our people." The group is the first to publish an anti-extremist essay in Arabic from a religious point of view. "People think all Muslims are the same, but they are wrong. So many people disagree with the extremists, but they have nowhere to speak. We want to give them a voice," Abu Ras said.

Among the group’s founders are nine men, including a journalist, a Sufi sheikh, educators, and merchants, and one woman, a homemaker. They claim to have supporters across Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israel, and the US. "I have more than 100 students and imams who study Islam with me and support our ideas from a religious point of view," Sheikh Abdel al-Salaam Menasra of Nazareth said. "We agree that we have to be moderate not hard-hearted, that we have to understand the other, that we must speak out for what we believe and not sell ourselves. Now we are working to spread the word."

Economic Briefs

* The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will pay its first visit to Israel in more than a year and a half, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. The visit will be to Teva Pharmaceuticals and Bio-Technology General. The FDA, which had suspended visits to Israel in Dec. 2001 following the outbreak of the violence, decided to resume inspections of local drug manufacturing plants after stringent security details were worked out. The absence of FDA officials has forced local companies to move manufacturing processes abroad at considerable cost.

* Sapiens International Corporation, the largest provider of IT services in Israel, announced a multi-million dollar agreement to implement a Web-enabled policy administration system for U.S.-based OneBeacon Insurance, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. "It is a very significant deal, Sapiens President and CEO Itzik Sharir said. "I would call it a cornerstone deal, because it is very unique and is part of our strategic plan." The system Sapiens will develop for OneBeacon is intended to provide easier access to insurance information using Web-based, personalized portals for independent agents and open architecture, improving customer service and streamlining business processes.

Israeline — Wednesday, July 3, 2002 —


** IDF Thwarts Homicide Bombing; Tirawi Accused of Preaching and Instructing Terror
** New Security Surveillance System Installed at Airport
** Weizmann Institute Scientists Develop Technique to Reduce Hunger in Africa
** Economic Briefs

IDF Thwarts Homicide Bombing; Tirawi Accused of Preaching and Instructing Terror

Israel Defense Forces arrested Osama Tslahat on Tuesday, an Islamic Jihad member who was planning to carry out a homicide bombing in Yatta, south of Hebron on Tuesday, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. In addition, two Palestinians affiliated with Fatah were arrested in the last 24 hours in Salfit, south of Ariel, another in El Khader near Bethlehem, two fugitives in Yatta, and two fugitives in Danabeh east of Tulkarem and in Habla, south of Kalkilya.

Meanwhile, a captured Palestinian gunman told the Israeli Security Agency that Commander of Palestinian General Intelligence Gen. Tawfik Tirawi not only instructed Palestinians to carry out attacks against Israelis, but also supplied them with weapons and training. According to a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office, Tirawi also armed and guided other Palestinians to carry out attacks in the Ramallah area.

According to the gunmen’s testimony, the Palestinian general told him that he was to join other youths in shooting attacks against Israeli targets. Tirawi even supplied him with a Kalashnikov assault rifle, which he told him to keep in his possession at all times.

New Security Surveillance System Installed at Airport

A new security surveillance system was installed on Monday at the Ben-Gurion Airport, YEDIOT AHARONOT reported. The new system, designed to speed up security checks for departing passengers by sending all luggage through the scanner instead of the usual questioning of each passenger, is manned by trained security officers from the Airport Authority’s security department.

According to HA’ARETZ, this system is already in use in ten airports around the world where El Al operates, and the installation of the system at Ben-Gurion is part of a series of steps decided on by Minister of Transportation Ephraim Sneh to bolster security after September 11. This technology is only being used now for outgoing El Al flights, but in the future it will gradually be implemented for all departures, as well as for domestic flights.

Weizmann Institute Scientists Develop Technique to Reduce Hunger in Africa

Scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot have developed a technique for overcoming witch-weed, the enemy of corn plants, which could dramatically reduce hunger in Africa where most people live on corn and suffer as a result of the weed disease, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. The Israeli team collaborated with researchers at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in Mexico.

The phenomenon of starvation in Africa, concentrated mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, is mainly caused by the witch-weed, Striga hermonthica, a parasitic weed, which ravages grain crops.

Prof. Jonathan Gressel from the Department of Plant Sciences at the Weizmann Institute proposed and introduced a solution to the problem by using a new type of corn, developed in the United States, using biotechnology. The corn carries a mutant gene, which confers immunity to a specific herbicide. The development suggests that instead of spraying entire fields, herbicide-resistant seeds are coated with the herbicide before planting. Once the plants sprout, the parasites demolish the weed-killing chemical from the crop roots or surrounding soil, and die. By the time the crop matures, the herbicide has disappeared, leaving the food product unaffected.


The Ministry of Health is taking severe precautions due to urgent warnings that terrorists may try to mount an attack using an ambulance, HA’ARETZ reported. According to Ministry Security Chief Reuven Keren, from now on, all ambulances will be subjected to security checks when approaching hospitals, even in emergency situations. Surprise exercises were conducted in recent weeks at hospitals around the country.


Economic Briefs

* Creo Inc., a Canadian provider of solutions for the graphic arts industry, has announced that it will be providing Koenig & Bauer AG (KBA) with its on-press thermal imaging as part of a multiyear contract, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. The product, which was sold to KBA, was developed by Creo Israel (formerly Scitex). As part of the contract, KBA has agreed to make Creo its exclusive supplier of thermal imaging heads for its 74 Karab digital offset press. Creo’s technology makes the press more efficient and cost-effective for short and medium runs.

* Pharmos’ phase III clinical trial of its dexanabinol drug for severe traumatic brain injury is expected to begin in the second half of 2002, GLOBES reported.

Pharmos chairman and CEO Dr. Haim Aviv said, "Over the past year, Pharmos has further strengthened its position as a leading company in the treatment of central nervous system disorders. Over the next several months we believe our clinical program with dexanabinol will gain momentum, and we will continue to test new compounds from our synthetic cannabinoid library for a range of serious neuro- inflammatory indications." Dexanabinol is the first neuroprotective product under clinical development at Pharmos.