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Israeline — Monday, July 14, 2003 —

** Search Underway in West Bank for Missing Cab Driver
** Sharon Arrives in England for Three-Day Visit
** Israel-Swiss Research Team Discover Planetary System Outside the Solar System
** Other News in Brief
** Eco & Hi-Tech Briefs


Search Underway in West Bank for Missing Cab Driver
The search for Eliyahu Gurel – a taxi driver missing since Friday night and believed to have been kidnapped by Palestinian terrorists – is currently underway as the Israel Defense Forces enforced a closure on the West Bank city of Ramallah on this afternoon, scouring the area, Israel Radio, KOL ISRAEL reported. Gurel is believed to be held by a local Fatah faction. A source in Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s entourage assessed on Sunday that Gurel was alive at least "until a certain hour." Gurel did not return home to Ramat Gan on Friday evening after taking passengers from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. On Saturday morning he managed to contact his daughter and tell her "I’m alright" before being disconnected. Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas called Minister of Defense Shaul Mofaz on Sunday night and promised to work for the release of Gurel. A few hours before Gurel vanished, both Hamas and Islamic Jihad had threatened to kidnap Israelis in order to use them as bargaining chips in their attempt to force Israel to agree to the release all Palestinian prisoners.

In other news, Mofaz said during the weekly cabinet meeting that the Palestinian Authority had collected weapons and arrested 20 gunmen in the Gaza Strip over the weekend, HA’ARETZ reported. The number of warnings of terror attacks received by Israeli security forces was decreasing as the Israel Security Agency registered 20 terror threats. However, Mofaz warned that Palestinian terror organizations were taking advantage of the cease-fire to rehabilitate their infrastructure.

Meanwhile, Palestinian security forces safely detonated a 20-kilogram explosive device found in central Bethlehem this afternoon. The IDF arrested today two wanted Palestinians in the West Bank. A Fatah member was picked up by troops in Nablus, while the second man was arrested in the Jenin area.


Sharon Arrives in England for Three-Day Visit
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon arrived in London on Sunday for a three-day visit during which he was slated to hold meetings with Prime Minister Tony Blair, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith, members of the British media and Jewish community leaders, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. Sharon will attend a dinner at Blair’s official residence on Downing Street this evening, during which the two leaders will work on restoring the relatively strained relations between the two countries and discuss ways to further advance on the road map to peace.

Sharon met with Straw this afternoon and told him that Israel was willing to make painful concessions for peace – but none that would compromise the security of its citizens. Sharon briefed Straw on his meetings with Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, and said that Arafat stood as the main obstacle to peace. Straw asked for Israeli assistance in tracking down terror organizations posing as charity groups and stressed the importance of the release of Palestinian prisoners. He said that Britain would continue to work with Yasser Arafat, despite Sharon’s contention that he should be removed from power. "We know the huge amount of work you have been doing to help, in very great difficulties, the peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians and we would like to commend you for that," Straw said to Sharon at the start of their meeting.


Israel-Swiss Research Team Discover Planetary System Outside the Solar System
Two Israeli researchers working in conjunction with a Swiss team have discovered an unusual planetary system outside the solar system, HA’ARETZ reported. The Swiss team has been searching the skies using telescopes in France and Chile while the Israeli researchers – Professor Tsevi Mazeh and Dr.Shay Zucker of Tel Aviv University – handled the data analysis. A preliminary analysis of the light coming from one of the stars the team had been investigating (known as HD41004) indicated that the star had a nearby planet which made a complete orbit approximately every 30 hours. According to Zucker, the phenomenon seemed very suspicious as no planet discovered hitherto orbits its star that quickly. The two Israelis therefore performed further analysis of the star’s light, using a new technique that they had developed.

"Using this technique, we discovered that in truth, there were two stars," Zucker said. "The smaller star is orbited by a body called a `brown dwarf’ – a body that is similar to a star, and larger than an ordinary planet. It was this [body] that was completing a revolution every 30 hours." Additional observations and analyses revealed that this system also contained a real planet that orbited the larger star. This planet completes one revolution approximately every 600 days.

Though the first planets outside the solar system were discovered only some 10 years ago, about 100 are known today. The HD41004 system, however, is the first system ever discovered that contains a double star – a brown dwarf and a planet. The existence of such a system may indicate that the birth process of double stars, planets and brown dwarfs are more closely related than had previously been thought, Zucker said.


Other News in Brief

Minister of Foreign Affairs Silvan Shalom and Israel Football Association chairman Gavri Levi are to meet with UEFA CEO Gerhard Aigner and his successor, Lars-Christer Olsson, in Nyon, Switzerland today in order to obtain the return of international soccer to Israel, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. Shalom intends to present letters of support written by European foreign ministers in an attempt to lift the ban preventing Israel from hosting international matches on its soil. Shalom has received support from the governments of Italy and Spain and from the foreign ministers of Slovakia, Austria, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic, all calling on the UEFA to revert its March 2002 decision.

The battle against the government’s cuts to welfare gained force today as more single parents began marching to Jerusalem, HA’ARETZ reported. Five more women and a man set off for the capital this morning and were set to join the 50 women or so already camping out in five tents opposite the Knesset. The Finance Ministry said it would soon publish its solution for those families most affected by the budget cuts.


Eco & Hi-Tech Briefs

Israel is considering a return to the Samurai bond market for the first time in six years with a planned issuance of $ 169.8 million in five-year paper, GLOBES reported. News of the issuance in Japan comes a month after Israel raised $750 million in a successful bond issue in New York. That bond issue was four times oversubscribed.

Taiwanese company Macronix International, which has already invested $75 million in Tower Semiconductor is considering an additional investment, GLOBES reported. In recent years, the number of Taiwanese venture capital firms investing in Israeli start-ups has increased. So far these firms have invested an estimated $100 million in Israeli start-ups, both directly, and through Israeli venture capital firms.Today’s Israel Line was prepared by Victor Chemtob and Dina Wosner at the Consulate General of Israel in New York.

Today’s Israel Line was prepared by Victor Chemtob and Dina Wosner at the Consulate General of Israel in New York.

Israeline — Tuesday, July 15, 2003 —

** 24-Year-Old Israeli Killed by Palestinian Terrorist
** Abbas Agrees to Share Power with Arafat on Roadmap
** Netanyahu Presents Single-Parent Employment Plan
** Results of ‘Right of Return’ Poll Trigger Ramallah Riot
** Other News in Brief
** Eco & Hi-Tech Briefs

24-Year-Old Israeli Killed By Palestinian Terrorist
Amir Simchon, 24, from Bat Yam was killed and two other Israelis were wounded early this morning when a Palestinian resident of Jerusalem carried out a stabbing attack on Tel Aviv’s beachfront promenade, near Jaffa, HA’ARETZ reported. The terrorist was wounded and then apprehended. He told investigators that he was a member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade which is part of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement.

According to THE JERUSALEM POST, the terrorist entered the Tarbin restaurant located at the point where Tel Aviv and Jaffa meet. The restaurant owner, Gili Magmezi, said that the man got a few steps inside the restaurant, shouting "Allah Akbar." He struggled with a security guard and stabbed him in the neck. The restaurant owner threw a chair at him, and the attacker tried to flee along the seaside promenade, with the guard and owner in pursuit. The attacker stabbed two more people – including Simchon – before the guard shot him in the legs. Simchon, who worked at a medical clinic in Bat-Yam, had served in the army as a Border Policeman and was a member of the civil guard. According to childhood friend Rafael Asael, Simchon was active in community building between Jews and Arabs in Jaffa.

The attack came hours after Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas pledged to enforce the cease-fire. "Unfortunately there are some violations of the truce, and we will deal with them in accordance with the law," he said. Abbas condemned the attack. However, Minister of Foreign Affairs Silvan Shalom said that the Palestinian Authority was still not doing enough to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure. "The Palestinians are still not acting in the realm of terror," Shalom told Army Radio. "There’s maybe the beginning of sparks of activity," he added, referring to "positive change" in the PA’s reduction of anti-Israel incitement.


Abbas Agrees to Share Power with Arafat on Roadmap
Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat reached an agreement Monday evening that ends the recent tensions between them and guarantees Arafat’s influence over negotiations with Israel and over the management of Palestinian security forces, HA’ARETZ reported. According to the agreement, a negotiating committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization will from now on give Abbas bargaining guidelines in regard to negotiations with Israel. The new committee will consist of the following four personalities: Ahmed Qurei, the Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council; Saeb Erekat, a longtime negotiator and Arafat adviser; Akram Haniyeh, a political adviser to Arafat and editor of the newspaper Al Ayyam; and Ghassan Shaka, the mayor of Nablus, in the West Bank, and a member of executive committee of the PLO. In a similar compromise, Abbas agreed that a security committee would oversee the work of his minister for security, Muhammad Dahlan.

The Palestinian leadership crisis was compounded a week ago when Abbas quit from the top Fatah body, following criticism from Arafat and his associates over the way in which he was handling negotiations with Israel.


Netanyahu Presents Single-Parent Employment Plan
One day after the public outcry led by single-mother Vikki Knafo against the recently passed economic austerity plan reached a peak, Minister of Finance Benjamin Netanyahu announced today a new 10-point program aimed at encouraging single parents to get off the dole and back to work, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. The program, which begins in August and will last one year, encourages single-parent family heads – both men and women – to work at least 12 hours a week. In exchange, they will be eligible for a long list of benefits. The plan is designed to provide an incentive for single parents to go back to work by making it more profitable to do so.

Netanyahu said that returning to the previous level of social benefits was out of the question. "The previous situation caused terrible distortions, created dependency on the state, and perpetuated a welfare culture for coming generations," he said. The following measures will be implemented as part of the new program: Subsidized day care will be provided to allow single parents to work longer hours. Subsidized transportation will be arranged to enable people to travel from remote areas to city centers, where jobs are easier to find. Incentives will be created to encourage small-businesses such as at-home childcare.


Results of ‘Right of Return’ Poll Trigger Ramallah Riot
Furious Palestinian refugees stormed the Ramallah offices of pollster Khalil Shikaki on Sunday morning, trying to stop him from releasing a new survey showing that most Palestinian refugees are ready to abandon claims to return to Israel, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. According to Shikaki’s Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research poll, only 10 percent of people surveyed would wish to rebuild their homes under Israeli rule. Just over half of said they would want to return to an independent Palestinian state, 17 percent said they would stay in their adopted homes, while 2 percent would like to move to a foreign country. The rest rejected all the options presented or did not have an opinion. The survey states that the majority of refugees would support an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians that does not address the so-called right of return. An equal number of refugees from Jordan, Lebanon, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip totaling 4,506 people, were interviewed between January and June. The survey has a margin of error of less than 3 percent for each of the areas surveyed.

Around 700,000 Palestinians became refugees during the War of Independence in 1948 – a number that now reaches almost four million people, living in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. "The refugees who didn’t choose to return to 1948 lands, knowing that life in Israel meant adopting Israeli citizenship and accepting Israeli laws and the Israeli social environment," Shikaki said. He was to present the results to journalists at his office when an angry crowd of refugees came to protest against the results and a group of youngsters stormed into the offices, smashing windows, overturning and breaking furniture, and throwing eggs at him.

Al-Quds University president Sari Nusseibeh, the most prominent Palestinian to state that Palestinians must give up on the "right of return," was attacked by Fatah activists in Ramallah for making the statements and lost a lot of popularity for simply raising the issue.


Other News in Brief

Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails released a statement calling for the release of Israeli taxi driver Eliyahu Goral, 61, who has been missing since late Friday, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. A top Palestinian official said Monday that Palestinian police would do all they can to help free Goral, whose taxi was found in an Arab neighborhood of Jerusalem. On Monday, Israel declared a curfew on the West Bank town of Ramallah, where Goral was thought to be held.

Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon was posthumously presented on Sunday with Hadassah’s lifetime achievement award as the women organization gathered for its annual convention in New York, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. Rona Ramon – Ilan Ramon’s wife – attended the ceremony and shared some personal family moments with the convention’s participants. Ramon emphasized that her husband understood the importance of his mission to the Jewish people as it "symbolized overcoming the difficulties of the history of the Jewish people." Ramon added that several of her husband’s belongings that were recovered would be donated to the Israel Air Force.


Eco & Hi-Tech Briefs

High-products and services account for 63 percent of all industrial exports, according to a new survey by the Planning and Economic Division of the Industry, Trade, and Labor Ministry, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. The high-tech sales accounted for only 32 percent of all industrial exports in 1997, but since then the amount has risen to 49 percent, to 63 percent when high-tech related services are included. Such a high concentration of industrial exports from the high-tech sector is found in only a few other countries in the world, including Korea, Japan, and Singapore.

Minister of Finance Benjamin Netanyahu informed the Knesset Finance Committee of his intention to submit before the summer recess a request for approval for privatizing Bank Leumi and Discount Bank via the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, GLOBES reported. The ministerial committee for privatization has already approved the move. On the privatization of Bank Leumi, Netanyahu said no other method was possible. As far as Discount Bank was concerned, he said that six groups from Israel and overseas were interested in buying control of the bank, but that the government wished to retain the option of privatization via the stock market in order to achieve a better price. "I prefer that market conditions should determine the outcome," Netanyahu told the Finance Committee.

Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda inaugurated on Monday in Herzliya the economic interest office of the Czech-Israeli Chamber of Commerce (CICC), whose aim is to promote and facilitate trade exchange between the two countries, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. During a reception in the Dan Hotel in Tel Aviv, Svoboda said the opening of the local branch of CICC was "a good instrument for improving relations between the State of Israel and Czech Republic." Svoboda came to Israel with a delegation of Czech businesspeople, including CICC President Pavel Svarc, the chairman of Unipetrol, the second-largest company in the Czech Republic.

Today’s Israel Line was prepared by David Dorfman, David Nekrutman, Biranit Zarmon and Victor Chemtob at the Consulate General of Israel in New York.

Israeline — Wednesday, July 16, 2003 —

** Kidnapped Taxi Driver Rescued in IDF Raid
** Sharon Arrives in Norway after Three-Day Visit to England
IDF Report on Palestinian Compliance with Road Map Shows Security Concerns
** Scientists Identify Fatal Gene in Arab Infants
** Other News in Brief
** Eco & Hi-Tech Briefs

Kidnapped Taxi Driver Rescued in IDF Raid
Eliahu Gurel, the 61-year-old Israeli taxi driver kidnapped last Friday by Palestinian terrorists, was released today after elite Israeli security forces successfully carried out a rescue mission shortly after midnight today, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. Troops stormed a building under construction outside of Ramallah and rescued Gurel, who had been placed in a ten-meter-deep hole in the basement floor. As troops approached the building, they overpowered and arrested two guards before entering the premises and finding Gurel.

OC Central Command Maj.Gen. Moshe Kaplinskly declared that the entire operation had been entirely managed by Israeli security forces and denied reports that the Palestinians had participated in the rescue. Gurel, who was in good condition, was checked by army medics before being taken to Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem, from where he was allowed to go home early this afternoon. The staging of the raid was made possible after two of Gurel’s captors who were arrested by the Border Police a few hours earlier revealed key information regarding the taxi driver’s whereabouts. Less then a day after his abduction, security forces had arrested a female Palestinian involved in the kidnapping together with her fianc?e and three other people.

Security officials are now checking the terrorist affiliations of the captors, who planned to secure the release of 2,000 Palestinian security prisoners incarcerated in Israel in exchange for freeing Gurel. Among the names on the list of Palestinians that the kidnappers were wishing to set free are:
– Marwan Bargouti head of the Tanzim in the West Bank
– The terrorists involved in the assassination of the late tourism minister Rehavam Zeevi jailed in a PA prison in Jericho (Hamdi Koran, Ahmed Saadat, Ahad Ulma, Majdi Rimawi and Basel Al Asmar)
– Hassan Yusef Halil, a senior Hamas terrorist.
– Hussan Abu Quwaik a senior Hamas operative in Ramallah.
– Abdallah Bargouti, a senior Hamas terrorist, and explosive device expert, responsible for the murder of 60 Israelis in the past year.

Meanwhile, Amir Simchon, the 24-year-old killed by a knife-wielding Palestinian Tuesday morning terror attack on Tel Aviv-Jaffa’s beachfront promenade, was buried on Tuesday afternoon in Holon.


Sharon Arrives in Norway after Three-Day Visit to England
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon arrived today in Molde, Norway, for about five hours of talks with his Norwegian counterpart, Kjell Magne Bondevik, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. Sharon stopped in Molde, the hometown of the Norwegian Prime Minister on his way home to Israel after a three-day visit in London. During the roughly five-hour stopover, the two leaders will discuss Middle East peace efforts, as well as partake in some casual sightseeing. Bondevik said it was essential for Norway, a Middle East peace mediator for more than a decade, to continue talking to both sides in the conflict.

Sharon has been urging European leaders to undermine popular Palestinian support for Hamas and recommended that Europe take over the terror group’s role as the provider of medical, educational, social, and welfare services in the Gaza Strip. Sharon introduced the initiative during a two-and-a-half-hour dinner with British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Monday night. According to a senior Israeli source, Blair was told that social welfare activities contribute to the popular support for Hamas on the Palestinian street. By taking over these functions, Europe could play a significant role in the "complete delegitimization" of Hamas and other terrorist groups. The source said Blair was convinced that if the terrorist infrastructure was not destroyed, there would be great danger to Israel – and an even greater danger to the existence of the Palestinian Authority.

Blair was also told by Sharon that, "there is a need to invest in projects that would be implemented immediately" to demonstrate a peace dividend to the Palestinian public. Sharon explained that by taking a bold economic step in the Palestinian arena and destroying the influence of the Islamic terrorist groups, the Europeans would make a significant contribution to peace, thus reducing the threat of terrorism that hangs over the road map.


IDF Report on Palestinian Compliance with Road Map Shows Security Concerns
An Israel Defense Forces report given to John Wolf, the chief American monitor for the implementation of the Road Map, reveals that 50,000 illegal weapons are still circulating inside the areas under Palestinian control, HA’ARETZ reported. According to the document, there are, within the Palestinian areas, 24 bomb-manufacturing plants, 20 weapons-smuggling networks and between 4 to 13 tunnels linking terror headquarters in Rafah to Egypt. Senior military officers believe that the most pressing issue is disarming the Palestinian terror groups of their "heavy" weapons such as Qassam rockets, land mines and mortars.

As a result of the IDF’s lifting of travel restrictions in the Gaza Strip, an increase in terror preparations and training has been registered. Palestinian terrorists are now able to travel without restriction throughout the Strip. IDF officials also warned of Hamas’ development of increased-range Qassam rockets that can travel up to 13 kilometers as opposed to the 8-kilometer range of the current version. Armed with such rockets, Hamas could target Ashkelon as well as Ariel Sharon’s personal estate in the South. The IDF also called on the American observers to develop a criterion by which Palestinian compliance with the terms of the road map could be measured in a systematic way.


Scientists Identify Fatal Gene in Arab Infants
Israeli, Saudi Arabian, Kuwaiti, American, and Belgian researchers have successfully identified the defective gene that causes a rare and usually fatal disease found in Arab infants, including Beduin and Palestinians, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. Although their findings were published jointly in Nature Genetics a few months ago, the research was carried out without any contact between the Arabs and the Israelis. Ben-Gurion University researchers feared that the Saudis and Kuwaitis were forbidden from collaborating with Israelis, even though the findings have benefited Arabs alone. Dr. George Diaz of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City served as the coordinator, transmitting data to the Israelis and Arabs to eliminate the need for them to communicate directly.

The recessive gene causing hypoparathyroidism retardation and dysmorphism (HRD) was found on chromosome No. 1 in 35 Arab families in the Negev, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait; in addition, a French physician reported on a case in a Moroccan family and another was found in a patient in Belgium. The findings indicate that a single Arab was the source of the gene mutation decades or perhaps centuries ago.

The discovery opens an opportunity for a deeper understanding of the cellular biology involved in the disease and makes possible prenatal diagnosis of the disease, said Dr. Ruti Parvari, of the molecular and developmental genetics department of BGU’s Health Sciences Faculty and of Soroka Hospital in Beersheba. A number of Israeli Beduin families have already aborted fetuses carrying the gene, which has been compared to Tay-Sachs, a genetic disease found among Ashkenazim.


Other News in Brief

More than 50 percent of Hamas’s funding comes from Saudi Arabia, and is increasing despite U.S. President George W. Bush’s call to the kingdom to halt aid to Palestinian terrorist groups, Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the United Nation and a researcher of terrorist financing, said Tuesday, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. "The Saudi share of Hamas funding is growing, not declining and we’re getting no change in Saudi behavior," Gold said at a roundtable on Saudi terrorist financing and September 11 organized by American Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chair of the House International Relations Subcommittee on the Middle East and Central Asia, and Gary Ackerman, the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee.

Syria has begun withdrawing 1,000 soldiers out of an estimated 20,000 from Lebanon in what is seen as a move aimed at appeasing the United States, after the latter’s public criticism of its "illegal occupation", THE JERUSALEM POST reported. "There is no doubt that America has served notice that Syria’s continuing armed presence in Lebanon is on the agenda as a major problem for the future of the Middle East," Prof. Gabriel Ben-Dor, director of the University of Haifa’s National Security Studies Center, said. America has also been highly critical over Syrian support for terror organizations and has called for the closure of the headquarters of these groups in Damascus and Lebanon.


Eco & Hi-Tech Briefs

Food exports to the United States rose 33 percent, to $59 million, in January-May 2003, from $44 million in the corresponding period last year, GLOBES reported. Economic Minister of Israel to North America Zohar Peri estimated that fresh and processed food exports would total $150 million in 2003. He attributed part of the increased exports to the success of the "Fine Foods from Israel" campaign to encourage the purchase of Israeli products in the United States. Peri added that the companies that benefited from the project were those with marketing networks to export to the United States. The Fine Foods from Israel project helped them expand their market penetration.

Israeli high-tech firms raised $271 million from venture capital investors in the first quarter of this year, and a total of $482 million in the first half of the year according to the Israel Venture Capital (IVC) Research center, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. The survey, conducted with the cooperation of the Israel Venture Association (IVA), reviews capital raised by private Israeli high-tech companies from Israeli venture capital funds and from other investors. The survey is based on reports from 130 venture investors, of which 68 are Israeli management companies and 62 are foreign investment entities.

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

Israeline — Thursday, July 17, 2003 —


** Sharon, Abbas to Travel to Washington a Few Days Apart
** Shalom: Road Map Success Conditional on the Dismantling of Terror Groups
** Rescued Taxi Driver Recounts his Ordeal
** Irish Man Suspected of IRA Terror Link Freed
** Other News in Brief
** Economic & Hi-Tech Briefs


Sharon, Abbas to Travel to Washington a Few Days Apart
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas are to travel to Washington a few days apart at the end of July for talks with U.S. President George W. Bush, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. The office of PA Prime Minister said Wednesday that he would meet Bush at the White House on July 25. Sharon is due in Washington on July 29 – a trip that was originally scheduled for September.

It will be Sharon’s eighth meeting with Bush. In contrast, Abbas will be first Palestinian leader to visit Washington since Bush took office. Bush refused to meet Chairman of the PA Yasser Arafat for his involvement in terrorism. Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad have blasted Abbas for planning to visit the United States while Arafat’s movements are still curtailed by Israel. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade has called on Arafat to dismantle the government of Abbas.

Sharon and Abbas were expected to meet on Sunday – their fifth summit since Abbas took office.
In another positive step toward working on the roadmap a top Palestinian official spoke of extending a limited truce indefinitely. Dore Gold, a Sharon adviser, called the cease-fire an "internal Palestinian matter" and said an extension would not change Israel’s demand that the terrorists be disarmed. "Israel works with the road map," Gold said. "The critical first step the Palestinian Authority must take is the dismantlement of the terror infrastructure."

Shalom: Road Map Success Conditional on the Dismantling of Terror Groups
Following a trip to Brussels on Sunday where he is slated to address the foreign ministers of the European Union, Minister of Foreign Affairs Silvan Shalom will travel to Washington and hold talks with senior administration officials including, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. Prior to his leaving Israel, Shalom gave an exclusive interview to THE JERUSALEM POST in which he sheds some light on Israel’s current foreign policy positions.

Commenting on Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s suggestion that Israel could join the European Union, Shalom said that Israel was very "flattered" by the offer and that the process of the integration into the EU would be long one involving the gradual tightening of ties with Europe, both economically and politically. Shalom explained that Europe was now adopting a " very, very positive approach to Israel". "I said the first day I came into office that I don’t accept the formula that Israel can live without Europe, and Europe can live without Israel – a formula that was existent for dozens of years," Shalom said.

Citing examples of the EU’s new attitude towards Israel, Shalom indicated that Europe was "demanding that the Palestinians dismantle the terror infrastructure and stop the incitement."

"They are also demanding that the Arab countries [Egypt and Jordan] bring back their ambassadors to Israel," he added. "And the most basic thing is that they are not conditioning bilateral progress to diplomatic progress with the Palestinians, something that happened in the past."

Shalom also addressed the issue of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, saying that ever since the attack at the Dolphinarium two years ago, he had come to the logical conclusion that it would be impossible to ever come to an agreement with Arafat and that he stood as the main obstacle to peace. The Foreign Minister said that, today, "the Americans don’t meet with Arafat – nor does the President of the EU -and a new government was appointed in his place."

On the issue of the implementation of the road map, Shalom said that unless the Palestinians dismantled the terror infrastructure, Israel would not pass to the second phase of the peace plan. "I won’t be the one to close the eyes and sweep everything under the rug, as was done in the past," Shalom said. "We used to say ‘Everything will work out in the end,’ and it blew up in our faces." Shalom added that Israel would not release murderers with blood on their hands. "The prisoner release is one of the [confidence building] gestures," he said. "We will give more gestures – more work permits, more freedom of movement, more permits for overnight stays in Israel, more fishing rights. If they ease our lives by lowering terror, we will ease their lives. Now let’s move forward, let’s do joint projects, stop incitement, give something positive."

Rescued Taxi Driver Recounts his Ordeal
"I wasn’t sure that I would get out of there alive," rescued taxi driver Eliyahu Gurel said Wednesday of his four-day abduction in the West Bank, HA’ARETZ reported. Gurel was abducted by a group of Palestinians on Friday and held captive in the village of Bitouniya near Ramallah, until being freed by the Israel Defense Forces at around midnight on Tuesday.

Gurel recalled the incident as follows: "Two men, a woman and a child climbed in and asked me to drive them to Jerusalem. When we reached Pisgat Ze’ev [a northern suburb of the city], they pulled out a knife and told me I was kidnapped. They ordered me to drive where they wanted. At a certain stage, we left the taxi and began walking for a long time on foot. We reached a building in an industrial zone. I had no idea where I was."

Gurel told reporters that the kidnappers then pushed him into a well, where he remained. "They treated me well and gave me food and water," he said. "They said I would not be harmed, but I was not sure I’d get back alive. They took my cell phone but twice allowed me to call home and say I was okay. The calls were short and they cut me off. They told me they had abducted me so that Palestinian prisoners would be released."

Gurel said that on Monday he attempted to escape. "I tried to climb out of the well on some hinges, but I fell. They heard the noise but didn’t harm me."

He recounted that Tuesday night he suddenly saw soldiers coming into the building. "They took me out of there," he said. Gurel said he did not know where his abductors were at the time.

Gurel was overcome with emotion when he arrived at his Ramat Gan home at almost three o’clock Wednesday morning, to a relieved and tearful welcome from his wife and daughters. Outside the house in Jabotinsky street, Gurel’s co-workers and friends had gathered to welcome him with singing.

The family heard news of Gurel’s release from Minister of Defense Shaul Mofaz. Gurel’s wife Hannah recalled, "He called me and said: `Mazal tov, Hannah, your husband is free; he is in the hands of our soldiers.’"

Hannah Gurel praised the IDF, Israel Security Agency and police for rescuing her husband. "They are the best people in the world," she said. She also thanked the prime minister who called her during the ordeal.

Irish Man Suspected of IRA Terror Link Freed
Northern Irish teacher and journalist John Morgan, who was mistaken for an IRA bomb expert and arrested at a West Bank checkpoint on Saturday, was freed on Wednesday and escorted by police to Ben Gurion Airport where he left on a flight home, HA’ARETZ reported. Morgan had been arrested on a mistaken tip-off from British intelligence, who had no photograph of the wanted Real IRA man.

Morgan uses his Gaelic name "Sean O Muireagain", not the English translation John Morgan, a relatively common name he shares with the Real IRA bomb expert from South Armagh who disappeared more than three years ago.
The Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement that continued to make an IRA connection, saying Morgan was released because "he had not yet been linked up with terrorist organizations in the territories and had not perpetrated any terrorist acts. He underwent a polygraph examination and was found to be speaking the truth. Therefore, he was released and left Israel." The PMO claimed Morgan had confessed to taking part in an IRA robbery in the 1980s and had served prison time for it. But the statement also said a lie detector test showed Morgan was telling the truth and had not made any contacts with Palestinian terror groups.

Other News in Brief

* Syrian President Bashar Assad expressed interest in opening direct negotiations with Israel and discussing the release of kidnapped and missing Israelis in the framework of a prisoner exchange, MA’ARIV reported. While meeting with UN Mideast envoy Terje Larsen a week ago, Assad said of the missing Israelis: "Some are dead, some are alive. We know where they are and demand the release of prisoners held in Israel in exchange for them, including at least two Syrian citizens." Assad said he wanted direct contact with Israel. "We’re interested in negotiating with Israel, in bilateral talks," he said. Syria expressed on Saturday its readiness to renew peace talks with Israel if Israel were to agree to completely withdraw from the Golan Heights.

* A Pakistani news website posted that Pakistan’s Foreign Office was supporting the establishment of diplomatic ties with Israel, claiming the shift would bring about numerous political, military, and economic benefits, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. The website "Hi Pakistan", summarizing recent domestic press reports, said Pakistan had discussed the issue of recognizing Israel with Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates during the last few months.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf was also reported to be discussing the matter in a visit to Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. With a few exceptions, Muslim countries have not yet recognized Israel.

* The Al-Aqsa Martyrs` Brigade demanded that Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat dismantle the new PA government and put an end to security coordination between the PA and Israel, HA’ARETZ reported. The Al-Aqsa Brigade, an offshoot of Arafat’s Fatah, published the demand in a Palestinian newspaper. The militant group specifically targeted Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian Minister for Security Affairs Mohammed Dahlan, demanding that Abbas’s government be dismantled and that security ties between Dahlan and Israel be cut.

Economic & Hi-Tech Briefs

* Economic indicators released by the Bank of Israel, Central Bureau of Statistics, and Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry point to stability in business activity, as well as a recovery in key sectors, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. For the first time since the eruption of violence in September 2000, trade and service firms reported an increase in domestic sales during the second quarter of 2003, with forecasts for expansion in the upcoming quarter.

* Minister of Finance Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Health Dan Naveh held a late-night meeting Wednesday in an effort to resolve the health system’s budget crisis, THE MARKER reported. The two ministers were expected to meet again this morning. As a result of the crisis, medicine suppliers have halted deliveries to seven state hospitals. A dozen public hospitals – some state-owned and some owned by the Clalit health fund – called off expensive treatments and surgery, including catheterizations, brain surgery, dialysis treatments, orthopedic surgery and various cancer treatments. The Health Ministry wants the treasury to immediately transfer more than NIS 200 million to its accounts – half the ministry’s present deficit.

* Haim Sakal’s plans to open a $25 million shopping site for teenagers in New York, HA’ARETZ reported. The site will be similar to the Mall, in Herzlia and will include fashion, music, entertainment, food and beverages, and sport. According to Sakal, the company will partner with a group of investors and a local developer. "The plan is to open similar sites in central cities around the world," Sakal said. "They will be based on fashion, entertainment and a social strategy. We are holding talks in a number of cities; including New York."

Today’s Israel Line was prepared by David Dorfman, Naomi Peled and Victor Chemtob at The Consulate General of Israel in New York.

Israeline — Friday, July 18, 2003 —

** Sharon and Abbas to Meet on Sunday
** Britain, Israel to Share Intelligence; Blair Calls on Arab World to Recognize Israel
** Some Hamas, Islamic Jihad Members Considered for Release
** Foreign Ministry Launches Campaign Against Israel Bashing at UN
** Other News in Brief
** Economic & Hi-Tech Briefs


Sharon and Abbas to Meet on Sunday
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will meet Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday, Minister of Foreign Affairs Silvan Shalom told the New York Times in an interview published today, HA’ARETZ reported. Both the Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers will meet with U.S. President George W. Bush in Washington within the next 10 days – Abbas on July 25, and Sharon four days later. Abbas will also travel to Egypt, Jordan and the Persian Gulf states ahead of his meeting in Washington.

"I’m very encouraged, I must tell you, much more than I was before," Shalom said, referring to the talks with Abbas. "I believe that this new leadership, that speaks differently – it might be that they mean differently." Shalom is slated to address the foreign ministers of the European Union on Monday before heading to Washington for his own meetings with Vice President Dick Cheney and other U.S. Administration officials. "Next week is going to be a very, very intensive political week," he said.

In Washington, Sharon will hold a meeting with Bush, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Thursday. "The two leaders will discuss efforts to advance the peace between Israelis and Palestinians, as well as a range of bilateral and regional issues," McClellan said at a briefing.

Abbas is set to meet and have lunch with Bush on July 25, in the first discussions the two have had in Washington, McClellan said. "The president is committed to his vision of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security, and he looks forward to discussing with Prime Minister Abbas the path forward toward the realization of this vision," the spokesman said.

It is unclear whether Abbas – who will be making his first visit to the White House as prime
minister – will remain in the United States while Sharon is there, or whether the two will hold a joint summit with Bush.


Britain, Israel to Share Intelligence; Blair Calls on Arab World to Recognize Israel
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and British Prime Minister Tony Blair agreed during their talks in London this week to strengthen diplomatic coordination between the two countries, particularly in the field of the exchange of intelligence information, Israel Radio, KOL ISRAEL reported. The two premiers decided to appoint two contact people in each of their offices to facilitate a direct intelligence link.

Meanwhile, according to HA’ARETZ, Blair in a speech to the U.S. Congress on Thursday said that the war on terror would not be won without peace between Israel and the Palestinians. "There is one cause terrorism rides upon, a cause they have no belief in but can manipulate," he said. "I want to be very plain: This terrorism will not be defeated without peace in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine."

In the first address to Congress by a British prime minister since Margaret Thatcher in 1985, Blair said that the entire Arab world had to recognize the State of Israel and end incitement against both Israel and Jews. "Here it is that the extremist is able to confuse in the mind of a frighteningly large number of people the case for a Palestinian state and the destruction of Israel, and to translate this moreover into a battle between East and West, Muslims, Jews and Christians,” Blair said.

"May this never compromise the security of the State of Israel,” he continued. “The State of Israel should be recognized by the entire Arab world, and the vile propaganda used to indoctrinate children, not just against Israel but against Jews, must cease.”

"You cannot teach people hate and then ask them to practice peace,” he said. “But neither can you teach people peace except by according them dignity and granting them hope. Innocent Israelis suffer. So do innocent Palestinians.”


Some Hamas, Islamic Jihad Members Considered for Release
Government sources revealed on Thursday that between 40 to 60 Hamas and Islamic Jihad prisonners are now included on the list of some 400 Palestinian people Israel is considering for release as part of confidence-building measues planned in the road map, HA’ARETZ reported. The Israel Security Agency is currently filtering potential candidates to determine if they meet the criteria to be released from prison. Sources indicated that the number of people to be freed – now set at 400 – could grow. Minister of Foreign Affairs Silvan Shalom had made clear on Thurday that no Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists responsible for the direct death of Israelis would be let out of jail.

In other news, the Israel Defense Forces demolished overnight the Ramallah-area houses of the two Palestinians who kidnapped taxi driver Eliyahu Gurel, Israel Radio, KOL ISRAEL reported. Ahmad Hajaji and Ramez Rimawi kidnapped Gurel on Friday night and held him until about midnight Tuesday, when IDF troops rescued him just after a police counter-terrorist unit arrested the kidnappers without a fight in Qalandiya.

Also overnight, the IDF discovered a 15-kilogram explosive device hidden in an olive orchard in Tubas, near the West Bank city of Nablus. Palestinians hurled a grenade at an IDF post on the Israel-Egypt border, near Rafah in the Gaza Strip overnight. There were no injuries or damage. About 500 Palestinians demonstrated Thursday in Nablus to demand an end to the violence carried out by armed Palestinians in the city, which has caused the deaths of innocent bystanders. The protesters, who carried signs saying, "Stop the killing," said the armed residents were generally not caught or punished. Earlier in the week, two Palestinians were killed by Palestinian gunmen in Nablus due to violent activity in the city.


Foreign Ministry Launches Campaign Against Israel Bashing at UN
Palestinian incitement against Israel needs to end, not only on Palestinian television and radio but also on CNN and in the U.N. General Assembly, David Granit, the foreign ministry’s deputy director-general for UN and International Organizations, said Thursday, THE JERUSALEM POST reported.

According to Granit, this request will be one of the key messages Minister of Foreign Affairs Silvan Shalom will deliver in a speech Monday to the foreign ministers of the European Union, and will also be one of the key topics of his discussions later in the week in Washington.

Shalom is expected to challenge the EU foreign ministers and say that if the EU views itself as an active partner in the road map process, it is incumbent upon it to take action against the anti-Israel resolutions in UN bodies both by voting against them and by ensuring that the Palestinians and Arab states tone down their rhetoric.

Many of the UN resolutions, Granit said, can be characterized as the type of incitement the PA has obligated itself to put an end to under the road map. Although these resolutions have been a staple at the UN for years, Granit said that a number of factors have now come together, making it the right time for Israel to combat the phenomenon.

Among these factors is a strong international movement, led by the United States, to reform the UN in the wake of its performance prior to the war in Iraq. In addition, the diplomatic process currently under way also makes it timely to wage a campaign around the issue. "These anti-Israeli resolutions create obstacles to the peace process," Granit said. "We did not understand at Oslo the damage these resolutions can do, and thought that the excitement of Oslo would sweep away all the negativity. But we did not appreciate enough the strength of the radical countries, Islamic fundamentalism, and the legitimacy they have in the UN.”


Other News in Brief

* Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office believe that the recent statements coming out of Syria that they are willing to renew talks with Israel are merely designed to ease the intense U.S. pressure on Damascus, HA’ARETZ reported. "If the Syrians were serious about wanting to speak to us, they know how to reach us – through the Americans," a senior source in Jerusalem said on Thursday. The source added that Syria had the intention to restart negotiations from the point at which former Prime Minister Ehud Barak and late Syrian President Afez Al-Assad had left them back in 1999 – a stance that is unacceptable to Israel.

* Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen Moshe Ya’alon was slated to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell today and warn him against the risks of Palestinian terrorist groups using the temporary cease-fire to re-build their capabilities, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. Ya’alon also planned to discuss the continued funding of Palestinian terrorist organizations coming from abroad. On Thursday, Ya’alon met with his U.S. counterpart General Richard Myers, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. Myers presented him with the Legion of Merit, signed by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The document praises Ya’alon’s leadership of the IDF during a "tremendously turbulent time in the region."


Economic & Hi-Tech Briefs

* Representatives of the Ministries of Finance and Health are continuing their negotiations on the government hospitals crisis, GOLBES reported. Further discussions began this morning, after some progress was achieved in last night’s intensive negotiations between the parties. Sources informed GLOBES that the emerging solution would be an injection of NIS 210 million, part of what the Ministry of Health is demanding. At the same time, the Ministry of Health promised to streamline the hospitals in order to cover the accumulated deficits.

Today’s Israel Line was prepared by Jonathan Schienberg, Victor Chemtob and Dina Wosner at The Consulate General of Israel in New York.