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Israeline — Monday, June 16, 2003 —

** Egyptian Delegation Obtains Cease-Fire Promise from Hamas – Israel Bent on Eliminating Terror
** Local PA Mutiny Enabled Qassam Attacks – Hamas Singled Out in Mike’s Place Bombing
** NYC Jewish Population Falls Below One Million
** Negev to House World’s Largest Solar Power Station
** Other News in Brief
** Eco & Hi-Tech Briefs


Egyptian Delegation Obtains Cease-Fire Promise from Hamas – Israel Bent on Eliminating Terror
Following talks between Egyptian officials and Hamas leaders on Sunday, the Palestinian terrorist group gave its approval in principle to a halt on its attacks against Israelis in the next 48 hours, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. The Egyptian delegation, headed by the assistant to Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, Mustafa al Beheri, arrived in Gaza on Sunday afternoon for a series of meetings with Palestinian factions starting with the Fatah leadership in the Strip, and followed by the entire Hamas leadership – including Abdel Aziz Rantisi – at Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin’s home. Egyptian mediators asked Palestinian terror organizations to agree to a cease-fire in an effort to rescue the road map.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon indicated on Sunday that Israel would not initiate military strikes in the event of a cease-fire, but would continue targeting "ticking bombs," a term referring to terrorists about to carry out attacks. Minister of Foreign Affairs Silvan Shalom explained that the idea of striking a deal with Hamas was out of the question, saying that Palestinian security forces were required under the text of the road map to dismantle all terror groups. Shalom said a truce would simply allow terrorist groups to recover from Israeli strikes and gain strength.

Meanwhile, outgoing EU Middle East peace envoy Miguel Angel Moratinos was quoted by the Spanish daily El Pais today as saying that the European Union should add Hamas to its list of terrorist organizations, thus allowing its assets to be seized. The comments followed a weekend of strong condemnation of Hamas by U.S. President George W. Bush, who said the free world should deal "harshly" with the Islamic organization responsible for "sabotaging peace."

In other news, Israeli and Palestinian security officials continued their talks to arrange an Israeli handover of security control in parts of the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Security Minister Mohammed Dahlan. The IDF is preparing to quit the Beit Hanun area and transfer it to the PA this week. At the same time, Israel is giving positive consideration to a Palestinian request to expand the "pilot project" to include Bethlehem. On Saturday night, Maj. Gen. Amos Gilad, the government coordinator in the territories, met at U.S. Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer’s Herzliya residence with Dahlan to discuss the arrangement. Israeli sources said the meeting was relatively positive and constructive. Another meeting between Gilad and Dahlan, this time with Israel Security Agency officials and Palestinian counterparts is expected shortly. Israel expects the Palestinians to present a detailed plan for taking security responsibility for the northern Gaza Strip, with a particular emphasis on how it proposes to stop Qassam rocket fire from the area.


Local PA Mutiny Enabled Qassam Attacks – Hamas Singled Out in Mike’s Place Bombing
A local mutiny by officers from the Preventive Security forces in the Khan Yunis and Rafah area in south Gaza allowed terrorists to launch five Qassam rockets toward the western Negev Sunday, HA’ARETZ reported. Two fell on the southern town of Sderot, with the first landing in wasteland near the local cemetery. No injuries or damage to property were reported in either incident. A Qassam rocket also fell within the municipal borders of the Eshkol regional council Sunday afternoon, hours after two others landed in the same area, damaging agricultural areas there. At this stage it is still not clear whether the officers were linked to Hamas and Fatah military operatives in the area or whether they were protesting against the senior command, headed by Rashid Abu Shbak. In either case, they refused to follow orders to arrest the Qassam cells firing from an area that until now the Hamas had stayed clear of. Earlier Sunday, two mortars were fired at a Gush Katif community in the northern Gaza Strip, without causing injuries or damage.

Also Sunday, two Palestinians were killed by Israel Defense Forces troops in the Gaza Strip. A local leader in the military wing of the Fatah, Rifat Azati, 30, was killed near Rafah after by a Golani patrol spotted him along with a group of five armed men. The second killing, near Beit Hanun, occurred when a young man tried to throw a grenade at an IDF armored personnel carrier on patrol.

Meanwhile, Israeli security forces arrested a senior wanted Islamic Jihad terrorist in the West Bank town of Bethlehem. The man, Issa Batat, 31, has been on Israel’s wanted list for the last five years and is considered the head of Islamic Jihad in the area. Two other men were arrested with him. IDF troops also arrested wanted terrorists in the West Bank towns of Nablus and Qalqilyah.

In other news, the Israel Security Agency announced Sunday night that members of the Gaza Strip branch of Iz a Din al-Kassam, Hamas’s military wing, were responsible for dispatching the two British men who carried out the homicide bombing at Mike’s Place pub in Tel Aviv on April 30, in which three people were killed. The attack was planned by Hamas terrorist Wa’il Nasser, who is considered to be the deputy of Mohammed Def, the head of the Gaza branch of Iz a Din al-Kassam. In a statement released Sunday, the Prime Minister’s Office said that, "dispatching Muslim foreign citizens, to carry out terror attacks constitutes a dramatic and strategic turning point for Hamas" and that the Israel Secuirty Agency would be investigating suspicions of possible cooperation between Hamas and Al-Qaida for this operation.


NYC Jewish Population Falls Below One Million
A study released by the UJA-Federation of New York shows that, for the first time in 100 years, New York City’s Jewish population has dipped below the one million mark, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. In all, the number of Jews in the Big Apple has fallen by five percent since 1991 reaching 972,000 in 2002. But on the other hand, the survey indicates that the Jewish population has risen in three suburban counties in New York.

The study reveals that were it not for the influx of Jews from the former Soviet Union during the 1990’s, the decline in the city’s Jewish population would have been even greater. Overall, the Jewish population in the eight-county region covered by UJA-Federation – comprised of the five counties of the city as well as Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk Counties – has remained stable at about 1.4 million.

According to the study, the proportion of Jews who call themselves Orthodox has increased sharply over the decade, reaching today 19 percent. The proportion of Reform and Conservative Jews has accordingly decreased. The rate of interfaith marriage, which rose sharply in the 1970’s, has stabilized, with 13 percent of Jews marrying someone of another faith. The study, which was reportedly based on telephone interviews conducted between March and September 2002 on 4,533 randomly selected households, has a margin of error of 1.8 to 2.7 percent.


Negev to House World’s Largest Solar Power Station
The world’s largest solar power station is being planned in the Negev, ISRAEL21C reported. The station, which would be the first ever built in Israel, will be based on technologies developed in cooperation with the Ben-Gurion University’s National Solar Energy Center, which is part of the Blaustein Institute for Desert Research in Sde Boker.

"Israel is prominent on the world stage for developing solar technology, but until now, we haven’t really harnessed that knowledge for our own needs," Prof. David Faiman, director of the Solar Energy Center told ISRAEL21c. American environmentalists are excited about the prospect of such a project coming into being. "There is intense interest in this sort of ‘concentrated solar’ technology in parts of the United States, like our desert Southwest, that have similar conditions to the Negev," said Seth Kaplan, senior attorney at the Conservation Law Foundation, who advocates for development of alternative and renewable energy sources. "This project could plot a course for those areas to become major sources of clean energy, allowing them to play a part in efforts to reduce the dangerous emissions from fossil fuel power plants. The U.S. is increasingly looking to Israel for hi-tech innovations. This project shows that this trend extends to rapidly expanding field of alternative energy production."

The station has been approved in principle by the government, and a tentative 1,000-acre site has been selected, but has not yet been budgeted. The plant is planned initially to supply 100 megawatts of power and grow to 500 megawatts, about 5 percent of the country’s current generating capacity. When construction is finished in 2012, it should employ some 100 people.


Other News in Brief

* The Knesset will debate the road map peace plan for the first time today during a session that will be attended by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, HA’ARETZ reported. MK Zahava Gal-On (Meretz) will open the debate and Sharon will then address the plenum. The Prime Minister must attend the entire debate, at the end of which the Knesset will present him with its position on the road map. The leader of the opposition, MK Dalia Itzik (Labor), said Sharon would be asked to provide answers he has so far avoided giving.

* Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said today that he intended to challenge Shimon Peres for the position of Labor’s temporary chairmanship, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. Labor’s Central Committee is due to elect an interim leader by secret ballot on Thursday in order to replace Amram Mitzna, who resigned a few weeks ago.


Eco & Hi-Tech Briefs

* Microsoft Israel’s revenues in 2003 will grow 8 percent to $120 million, THE MARKER reported. The 8 percent increase in year to year revenues follows an 18 percent and 30 percent revenue increase in the two preceding years. "Our profit percent dropped in 2003 against 2002, mainly because the global Microsoft’s policy is to invest more in auxiliary services and in customer support, which hardly generate any profits, but are key to maintaining good relations with customers," Microsoft Israel Chief Executive Arie Scope said. Microsoft Israel employs 400 people. "We hired 15 new people this year and have eight open jobs we mean to man, in sales, support, the legal department, and people in charge of customer satisfaction," Scope said.

* The Central Bureau of Statistics said today that the unemployment rate for April remained unchanged at 10.8 percent, or some 281,000 people, HA’ARETZ reported. According to the figures, the civilian work force in the first quarter of 2003 numbered 2,605,000 people, of whom 2,323,000 were currently employed. In the last quarter of 2002, the unemployment rate stood at 10.2 percent versus 10.8 for the first quarter of 2003. The figure for April 2002 was 10.5 percent.

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

Israeline — Tuesday, June 17, 2003 —

** U.S. Steps Up Peace Efforts
** EU Considering Listing Hamas a Terror Organization
** Polish Government Agrees to Help Fund Jewish History Museum
** Other News in Brief
** Eco & Hi-Tech Briefs

U.S. Steps Up Peace Efforts
The Bush administration is stepping up its involvement in the Israeli Palestinian conflict by holding separate talks with senior Israeli officials in Washington, and with Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas in Gaza, HA’ARETZ reported. U.S. officials see stopping the threat posed by Hamas, the terrorist group responsible for many of the homicide bombings against Israelis, as the key to progress. "The president’s message is that the best security comes from the Israelis and Palestinians working together to fight terror," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said. "There are threats to the Israelis, threats to the Palestinians. They come principally from Hamas and from the other groups of a rejectionist nature." Assistant Secretary of State John Wolf, who arrived in Jerusalem over the weekend to promote the road map, met Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and PA security chief Mohammed Dahlan in Gaza on Tuesday. Wolf heads the team of U.S. advisers charged with overseeing the implementation of the road map peace plan.

By tonight, Abbas was expected to have held talks with representatives of all Palestinian militant groups, in hopes of forging a moratorium on terror attacks against Israelis. A senior Israeli military official was quoted as saying on Monday that Israel would not hand over security responsibilities to the Palestinians until Hamas announced that it would cease terror attacks. However, Israeli defense officials were "guardedly optimistic" that Hamas would eventually agree to a cease-fire.

Egyptian officials have also been trying to mediate a cease-fire, but envoys failed on Monday to achieve a breakthrough in talks with Palestinian terrorist groups. Despite the breakdown in talks, the Egyptian officials will now travel to Beirut and Damascus for talks with leaders of terror organizations based there to forge a similar cease-fire agreement. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel would be a useful initial step. "The idea of a cease-fire is a step along the way," he said. "It is a good one, but ultimately it has to lead to that kind of dismantlement that the president talked about, denying of the ability to carry out attacks, because Hamas is clearly an obstacle to peace."

Hamas has defied the Palestinian Authority and rejected the road map as too generous to Israel. It claimed responsibility for the most recent lethal incident, a homicide bombing in Jerusalem last Wednesday that murdered 17 people.


EU Considering Listing Hamas a Terror Organization
The European Union is considering listing the political wing of Hamas as a terrorist organization if they do not back the peace process and abandon homicide bombings, HA’ARETZ reported. The EU has already put Izz a Din al-Kassam, Hamas’ military wing, on its list of terrorist organizations. Greece’s Minister of Foreign Affairs George Papandreou, who presided over the EU meeting of foreign ministers on Monday, said the military and political wings of the organization were increasingly intertwined. A EU joint statement said that those opposing the road map to Middle East peace "will face consequences." The statement added that Hamas and other groups had to accept "a total cease-fire with the objective of allowing the immediate and faithful implementation" of the road map.

Meanwhile, according to THE JERUSALEM POST, the EU is reluctant to pay for the reconstruction of the Palestinian Authority’s security forces following reports that PA Chairman Yasser Arafat was channeling EU funding to terrorist organizations. The EU decided that the United States would handle the security apparatus of the PA. For its part, the EU will fund PA reforms and will help the PA pay back loans to the Palestinian private sector. The EU will also allocate money for social services, such as health and education, PA institutions in Jerusalem, and the promotion of Palestinian and Israeli dialogue and peace projects.

Also, Australian Attorney General Daryl Williams said on Monday that Australia planned to list Hizbullah as a terrorist organization. The national parliament passed a bill on Monday specifically designed to ban the Hizbullah External Security Organization. According to the law, anyone found guilty of belonging to, training, funding or recruiting members for a banned "terrorist group" could be jailed for up to 25 years.


Polish Government Agrees to Help Fund Jewish History Museum
The Polish government has announced that it will fund a quarter of the cost of the establishment of a museum of the history of Polish Jews, giving a huge boost to the project, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. The state of the art $63 million museum, which aims to present a millennium of vibrant Jewish culture in Poland, is slated to be built on the site of the Warsaw Ghetto. According to project director Jerzy Halbersztadt, the construction of the project, which will be designed by the noted American architect Frank Gehry, is scheduled to begin next year, with the museum likely to open its doors within five years.

The idea to create such a museum in Poland, whose Jewish community numbers less than 10,000 in a country of 39 million, gathered steam following a period of national soul-searching that stemmed, in part, from the publication of a book stating that it was Poles, not occupying Nazis, who murdered thousands of Jewish residents in the village of Jedwabne. The book, and the large media and public response it provoked, came at a time of increased Polish awareness of their mixed role in the Holocaust, and followed four decades of a virtual news and educational blackout on the subject during communist rule.

The museum, which is being decried by some due to its lavish price tag, aims to serve the Polish public at large, as well the tens of thousands of Jews who visit each year, Halbersztadt said. "It is not coincidental that American and Israeli Jews come to Poland to touch something that is important to their reality. Despite the Nazi extermination of 3 million Polish Jews during the Holocaust, Polish-Jewish history is not a closed chapter," he added.

The force behind the museum was the late Yeshayahu Weinberg, who served as director of Beth Hatefutsoth (the Nahum Goldmann Museum of the Jewish Diaspora) in Tel Aviv and the first director of the US Holocaust Museum in Washington. When the Polish-born Weinberg approached Halbersztadt with his idea nearly a decade ago, the project seemed inconceivable, Halbersztadt said. Planned exhibits include a recreation of the Warsaw Ghetto, a theater, and, a virtual synagogue.


Other News in Brief

A Knesset debate on the road map on Monday resulted in the adoption in a 57-42 vote of the policy statement issued by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. Addressing the MKs, Sharon vowed to go on fighting terrorism and added that the "war on terrorism aims to bring peace." The Prime Minister said that only after terrorism and incitement came to a halt, would his government be willing to make "very painful concessions." Sharon noted that he was not required to bring the road map endorsed by his cabinet to the Knesset for approval, because it was not a signed agreement.

The Israel Defense Forces has prepared a list of 19 additional settlement outposts to be evacuated, including five populated ones, HA’ARETZ reported. Of the outposts on the army’s original list, all the unpopulated ones have already been dismantled, and the six populated ones are slated to be evacuated in the coming days. These were originally supposed to be dismantled last week but legal proceedings forced a postponement.

Two workers suffered light shrapnel wounds this morning from mortar shells fired at the Gush Katif settlement bloc in the Gaza Strip, HA’ARETZ reported. They were evacuated to Soroka Hospital in Be’er Sheva. In other events overnight Monday, Israel Defense Forces soldiers troops arrested eight wanted Palestinians in the West Bank cities of Bethlehem, Jenin and Nablus. According to MA’ARIV, Mohammad Jamjom, a resident of East Jerusalem was charged with espionage, prohibited military training and attempt to recruit agents in Jerusalem. According to the charges, Jamjom was recruited by the Palestinian Intelligence Services in Abu Dis in 1999. Prior to his recruitment, he was already filming and gathering information about Israel Defense Forces bases and units, and attempted to identify suspected collaborators.

Activists of the outlawed Jewish extremist movement Kach torched and pulled down rainbow-striped flags and decorations over night, HA’ARETZ reported. The decorations were set up by the Jerusalem municipality in the city’s center for the Gay Pride Parade to be held Friday. The gay-lesbian community quoted newly elected Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lopolianski as defending the right of gays and lesbians to hold the parade, "Everyone has his march of the living," he said. Jerusalem City Manager Eitan Meir said the municipality allows groups of all kinds to hold parades in Jerusalem, and that a valid license had been granted for the parade and a rally to follow.


Eco & Hi-Tech Briefs

* Internet security software firm Check Point announced on Monday that University of Wisconsin-Green Bay had deployed a complete security and Internet connectivity solution using Check Point’s VPN-1 Pro and FloodGate-1 products, GLOBES reported. The university – serving more than 6,750 students and staff through 3,000 on-campus workstations – saved more than $130,000 annually by using the products, Check Point said.

* Speaking at the Italian-Israeli Forum on Computer Science in Tel Aviv, Italian Ambassador to Israel Giulio Terzi said that scientific and technological cooperation between the two countries was increasing, GLOBES reported. "Forty-two percent of Israel’s trade is with European countries," he said. "Israel participated in 612 programs under the Fifth Framework Program of the European Community for Research, Technological Development and Demonstration Activities (1998 – 2002), half of which also involved Italian companies." Terzi asserted that after accessing to the EU presidency of the on July 1, Italy would further demonstrate its interest in scientific cooperation with Israel.

* The State of New York will invest half a billion dollars in the Israeli economy – mainly in infrastructures and industrial companies – through a pension fund and private investors, MA’ARIV reported. Treasury officials expressed satisfaction at the news which is perceived as a sign of improvement of Israel’s standing in the world’s market.

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

Israeline — Wednesday, June 18, 2003 —

** Seven-Year-Old Girl Killed in Terror Shooting Near Qalqilyah
** Israel Willing to Grant PA Grace Period to Crack Down on Terror
** Israel and France Increase Counter-Terror Ties
** Other News in Brief
** Eco & Hi-Tech Briefs


Seven-Year-Old Girl Killed in Terror Shooting Near Qalqilyah
Seven-year-old Noam Leibovitch was murdered on Tuesday when a hail of bullets was fired by a Palestinian terrorist near the Kibbutz Eyal junction, HA’ARETZ reported. Noam was traveling in a car on the Trans-Israel highway inside of Israel with her family when they were fired upon from Qalqilyah. Her younger sister and grandfather were seriously wounded; all three victims were taken to Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva. Police closed off the highway and other roads in the area, and the Israel Defense Force imposed a curfew on the Palestinian town of Qalqilyah, while troops moved in to hunt for the shooter(s).

Reacting to the news of the attack, Minister of Foreign Affairs Silvan Shalom said that the Palestinian Authority had "failed to take the strategic decision to disarm terrorists." The shooting occurred not long after Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas failed to persuade terrorist groups to agree to a cease-fire. Secretary of State Colin Powell condemned Hamas violence, and explained that not only will Hamas and other terrorist organizations have to stop these terrorist attacks, but "we also have to eliminate their capability to do so." Funeral services for Noam Leibowitz were due to take place Wednesday afternoon at the cemetery in Nir Etzion.


Israel Willing to Grant PA Grace Period to Crack Down on Terror
Israel and the United States agreed that if Palestinian terrorist organizations reached a cease-fire, Israel would restrict its military operations, thus allowing Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas to exert security responsibilities, HA’ARETZ reported. However, government sources indicated that this grace period would last for no more than six weeks, after which the Palestinian Authority would be expected to take actions against the terrorist groups.

Dov Weisglass, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s bureau chief, held talks earlier this week in Washington with National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of State Colin Powell during which it was decided that should a terror attack occur while the truce was in force, Israel would not retaliate harshly if it were convinced that the Palestinians were making a genuine effort to prevent terror. In addition, Israel committed itself to resorting to targeted interceptions of wanted Palestinians only in the case of a "ticking bomb" – a term referring to a terrorist about to carry out an imminent attack. Meanwhile during a meeting held on Tuesday between the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Major General Amos Gilad and PA Minister for Security Affairs Mohammed Dahlan, the latter indicated his refusal so far to commit to a time-table for accepting security responsibility in the northern Gaza Strip. Dahlan ascribed his decision to the delay in reaching a cease-fire agreement between the PA and the terrorist organizations.

Israel and the PA expressed cautious optimism on Tuesday regarding the chances that terrorist groups would agree to a cease-fire. Israeli sources said that the heavy pressure being exerted on Hamas seemed to be bearing fruit. Over the past two days, Hamas leaders have moderated their rhetoric, and a relative decline in the number of attacks on the ground has been registered – The Israel Secuirty Agency is still reporting nearly 60 warnings of attempts to organize attacks on Tuesday.

Abbas held talks on Tuesday with the leaders of several Palestinian teror groups in Gaza: Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front, and the Democratic Front. The meetings were also attended by Haider Abd al-Shafi, a former member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and one of the most respected Palestinians in Gaza. Abbas also met on Tuesday with John Wolf, the head of the American team supervising the implementation of the road map, in a meeting described by Palestinian sources as "productive and serious."


Israel and France Increase Counter-Terror Ties
Israel and France agreed on Tuesday to cooperate fully in the war against terror, HA’ARETZ reported. Folowing a meeting between Minister of Defense Shaul Mofaz and French Minister of Defense Michelle Alliot-Marie in Paris on Tuesday, the two countries decided to set up a series of channels of communications whose main purpose will be to facilitate their joint anti-terrorism efforts. "Israel sees France as an important friend of Israel," Mofaz told his host, "and it is vitally important that we cultivate that friendship."

Mofaz stressed the importance for European countries – including France – to list Hamas as a terror organization. "I think that Europe should learn from the United States on this," he said adding that, "I see no difference between Hamas and al-Qeada. The world should treat both groups in the same way." Also in Paris, Minister of Science and Technology Eliezer Sandberg signed a series of space exploration cooperation agreements with France and other European Union countries. Among the possibilities to be examined is the addition of an Israeli scientist to the European Space Agency. In other defense related events, it was revealed that senior Defense Ministry officials and their Polish counterparts met Monday to discuss the possibility for Israel to provide the weapons for Poland’s U.S.-supplied F-16 fighter planes. Israel already has a $250 million contract to supply anti-tank missiles to Poland. Israel and Italy also signed a "first of its kind" joint memorandum of defense at the Paris Air Show.


Other News in Brief

A 16-year-old Israeli Arab turned himself in to Israel security hours before he was set to carry out a homicide bombing, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. The young man explained that he was to receive an explosives belt from his operative in Qalqilyah, but that the curfew imposed on the city this morning had postponed the homicide attack. He then decided to hand himself over. The Regional Court of Tel Aviv found him guilty of conspiring to aid the enemy and of having contact with an enemy agent. After signing a plea bargain, the youth received a two-year prison term.

A Palestinian Kassam missile was fired from the northern Gaza strip and slammed into an Israeli home early this morning in the Negev desert farm of Netiv Haesra, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. The rocket attack occurred at 1 AM, causing physical damage, but no injuries. In other incidents, Israel Defense Forces positions came under anti-tank rocket and automatic weapons fire in Rafah, in the southern Gaza strip. IDF Paratroopers and elite Golani troops arrested 14 men last night in the West Bank. The suspected terrorists were captured in Hebron, Nablus, Bethlehem and Qalqilyah. No casualties were reported among Israeli security forces in last night’s anti-terror operations.

US Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer received from Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Tuesday a commemorative stamp marking the September 11 attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. Sharon said at the ceremony in his office in Jerusalem, that the September 11 attacks made the United States and the international community aware to the danger terrorism posed to the free world and its values. Kurtzer said that America and Israel were "of one mind" and "one heart" in their battle against terrorism. Kurtzer not only represents a country that lost thousands to terrorism, but he himself is mourning his second cousin who was killed in Jerusalem’s homicide bus bombing last week. The stamp’s designer, Israel Prize laureate Michael Gross, is himself no stranger to terrorism, having lost his father in 1939 when Arab marauders destroyed his family’s farm and home.

One week after suffering a horrific homicide bombing, Jerusalem will be holding the "City Streets Fair" on Ben-Yehuda Street in an effort to revive its city center, MA’ARIV reported. The fair will take place under tight security and will last until August 30. Jerusalem’s newly elected mayor, Uri Lupoliansky, said that it was city hall’s duty to bring a sense of routine back into Jerusalemites’ lives. He also said that he would take a series of measures in order to rehabilitate the city’s economy and culture.


Eco & Hi-Tech Briefs

* The New York State Common Retirement Fund earmarked $200 million for investment in Israel, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. The investments will be made via the Markstone Capital Partners fund, managed by Ron Lubash, former head of Lehman Brothers Israeli operations, and the fund’s founder, Eliot Brody. The Markstone fund has pledged another $300 million. Fund Comptroller Alan G. Hevesi is the sole trustee of the pension fund, the second largest in the U.S. after California with assets of $105 billion. John Chartier, the fund’s spokesman, said Hevesi was impressed by Israel’s solid dynamic business environment. "Israeli businesses are prominently represented on the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ, said Chartier. "As a result, close business relations have developed between the U.S. and Israel.

* Israeli venture capital fund managers are cautiously optimistic that their sector’s business climate will improve, according to the second quarter 2003 VC survey by CPA firm Deloitte and Gouche – Brightman Almagor, GLOBES reported. The survey asked investment managers at 46 Israeli venture capital funds about their expectations for the next six months. Forty six percent of respondents predicted that the economy would improve, compared with 8 percent in the previous quarter. Ten percent of the respondents predicted the economy would deteriorate compared with 25 percent in the previous quarter. Sixty three percent predicted foreign investment would grow.

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

Israeline — Thursday, June 19, 2003 —


** Suicide Bomber Kills Man on Moshav SDE Trumot; IDF Dismantles First Inhabited Outpost
** Abbas and Terrorist Factions Hold Talks; Powell to Visit Region Friday
** Nefesh B’nefesh Brings Another 1,000 to Israel
** Israel Urges OSCE to Make Anti-Semitism a Criminal Offense
** Other News in Brief
** Eco & Hi-Tech Briefs


Suicide Bomber Kills Man on Moshav SDE Trumot; IDF Dismantles First Inhabited Outpost
Avner Mordechai, 63, was killed today in a homicide bombing at his grocery store on Moshav Sde Trumot, near Beit She’an, Israel Radio, KOL YISRAEL, reported. The attack took place shortly after 6 am. Mordechai died of his wounds after being evacuated to Haemek Hospital in Afula. He was married with six children. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack. According to northern police chief Ya’akov Borovsky, the bomber was dropped off at the entrance to the moshav. According to eyewitnesses’ accounts, Mordechai may have spotted the man on the store’s security camera, and than made his move toward terrorist. Borovsky added that Mordechai prevented a major tragedy by preventing the homicide bomber from entering the moshav, where many more people could have been killed.

Sde Trumot resident Asher Ben Musa, who left the grocery store minutes before the attack, said he spotted a young man wearing jeans and carrying a bag with the inscription "Nike – just do it!" The man stopped at the entrance to the grocery, Musa said, looked at the wine bottles, then stepped into the store and blew up. Police believe the bomber detonated prematurely as a result of a technical malfunction.

Meanwhile, violent clashes erupted today between residents of the illegal outpost Mitzpeh Yitzhar and security forces, as evacuation began of the illegal outpost adjacent to the West Bank community of Yitzhar, south of Nablus, HA’ARETZ reported. While ten uninhabited outposts were removed last week, this was the first attempt to evacuate an inhabited outpost. Four police officers and three neighborhood residents suffered extremely light injuries. The Israel Defense Forces have placed a closure on all communities near Mitzpeh Yitzhar, and erected roadblocks on area roads to prevent similar outbursts. The IDF has also prepared a list of another 19 outposts, including five inhabited positions that are slated for eviction.


Abbas and Terrorist Factions Hold Talks; Powell to Visit Region Friday
Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) proposed on Wednesday a joint political leadership including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, in an effort to move forward cease-fire talks with the Islamic terrorist factions, HA’ARETZ reported. The joint leadership would be headed by PA leader Yasser Arafat and operate under the umbrella of the PLO. The talks with Hamas and Abbas, held Wednesday in the Gaza Strip, failed to yield any concrete agreements on the halting of attacks on Israel, despite an Israeli concession to curb its targeted interceptions against terrorists leaders. Leaders of the Palestinian terrorist factions dismissed the Israeli gesture as meaningless.

According to THE JERUSALEM POST, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell will visit the region of Friday in hopes to restore momentum to the U.S. led efforts to bring peace to the region. Powell plans to visit Jerusalem for talks with Israeli officials, and then will travel to "another location," probably Jericho, to meet with Palestinian officials.


Nefesh B’nefesh Brings Another 1,000 to Israel
Next month, 1,000 North Americans will make aliya (emigration to Israel) through Nefesh b’Nefesh, an organization that provides one-time grants of $5,000 to $25,000 to new immigrants, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. According to the organization’s spokesman, George Birnbaum, of the 550 immigrants Nefesh b’Nefesh brought to Israel last year, 93 percent are currently employed, and 29 families have given birth. This year, he said, the immigrants hail from 27 states, 65 percent are Orthodox, and the youngest immigrant is a yet unborn baby, scheduled to be delivered just two weeks before the plane takes off. "I think it sends a remarkable message to those in the Diaspora who are contemplating aliya," Executive Director Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, said. According to Jewish Agency statistics, 1,664 new immigrants arrived in Israel from North America in 2002, a 20 percent increase from 2001, when just 1,378 Americans and Canadians immigrated. In 1995, more than 2,500 Americans and Canadians moved to Israel.

Among those moving to Israel in this group, is Abir Welhous, an African-American man who converted to Judaism. He decided that he wanted to immigrate to Israel 19 years ago, after a Jerusalem bus he missed getting on was blown up in a terrorist attack. He is first making his dream come true now. "I believe it was a blessing from God," said Welhous, 45, who converted two years after that near-death experience and is now married with four children "It’s been a lifelong dream," his wife Rivka, 47, said at a farewell party this past Tuesday at the UJA-Federation of New York. The family has decided to settle in the Galilee. "I feel good when I’m there. I feel alive," she added.


Israel Urges OSCE to Make Anti-Semitism a Criminal Offense
Israel urged the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) delegates on Thursday to have their governments make anti-Semitism a criminal offense, HA’ARETZ reported. At the 55-member conference, Israeli chief representative Avraham Toledo told the OSCE that tougher and more unified measures were needed to combat the growth in violence and intimidation against Jews on the continent.

The two-day conference, grouping more than 350 delegates from Europe, central Asia, the United States, Russia and Canada, comes amid an alarming rise in anti-Semitic acts, mostly in Europe. The gathering of delegates from 55 OSCE-participating states and more than 100 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) is the first such exploration of the subject by a major European security organization, according to a State Department website.

Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, which tracks such incidents, said last month that attacks against Jews in Europe reached the highest level since World War II. Since 2001, the center has documented 1,300 anti-Semitic acts in France, while in Britain, records show 1,308 attacks against Jews between 1998 and 2001. Toledo urged governments to be alert for acts of anti-Semitism committed under the guise of opposition to Israel’s Palestinian policies. A statement by the European Union said the conference was a way to send a "timely and strong signal of ‘no tolerance’ towards anti-Semitism."


Other News in Brief

U.S. State Senator Robert Singer personally thanked two Israeli citizens who pulled his daughter Sari out of the Egged bus which a homicide bomber blew up last week in downtown Jerusalem that killed 19 and injured over 100 people, ISRAEL21C reported. Sari suffered shoulder injuries and will be discharged from Hadassah Medical Center, Ein Kerem this week. Singer, one of two Republican majority leaders of New Jersey’s state senate, immediately flew to Israel upon learning that Sari had been on the bus. Singer also visited the site of the bombing and lit a candle for those who perished. Singer said that, "Palestinians need to clamp down on terrorism instead of leaving the job to Israel." He added, "there can not be a true peace while Hamas is free to be violent."

In hopes of creating economic opportunities, The Likud party is preparing to discuss the establishment of casinos, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. Plans are underway to create a police force and accountability measures to ensure that profits are properly channeled to social projects for the public.

Eco & Hi-Tech Briefs

* Two of Leumi Group’s provident fund companies – Ofek and its wholly owned subsidiary, Psagot – may be merged into a single $1.5 billion company that will account for 16 percent of all provident funds in Israel, HA’ARETZ reported. Psagot currently manages 32 funds and Ofek manages about 10. In 2002, the group generated revenues of $12 million on both companies. Such a merger would substantially cut the companies’ overhead. Psagot CEO Gabi Ravid is slated to manage the merged company and Ofek CEO Zvi Yogev will be given another appointment within the group. If this merger goes through, it will be the latest on the list of mergers and acquisitions that have taken place over the past few months in the capital market, spurred by the recession.

* Oded Tyrah, President of the Manufacturers Association, plans to call on Europe and the US to set up a $20 billion four-year Middle East development fund for joint infrastructures in Israel, the Palestinian Authority (PA), Jordan, and the other countries in the region. He announced in advance of the World Economic Forum to be held soon in Jordan, that "the 41 million unemployed people that are anticipated in the Arab countries over the coming decade are liable to threaten the economic stability of Europe. Over 11 million of those unemployed will be in the countries bordering Israel." Tyrah said the fund should be composed of ?10 billion from Europe and $10 billion from the US. He added that the fund would be leveraged into $80 billion by businessmen, and would produce 21.5 million new jobs in the next four years, thereby narrowing social gaps. According to Tyrah, the projects must be based on local companies, even if the financing is international.

* This weekend, the huge Arena Mall that entrepreneur Motti Zisser built, will be open at Herzliya marina. For months, the religiously observant Zisser has expressed his unwillingness to see the mall open on the Shabbath and sought creative solutions to avoid breaking religious tenets. In the end, Zisser found a halakhic ruling that allows him to operate the mall on Sabbath on two conditions. First, he must find a buyer for the mall, or at least a major shareholder, in a reasonable period of time. Second, he must donate the profits from Saturday shopping to charity. In practice, Zisser’s share in the mall is just 20 percent. He isn’t a member of the Elscint board of directors and isn’t a company executive. Elscint’s management, we are told, makes decisions based solely on professional considerations. Therefore, when the company distributes dividends and these make their way upstairs to parent company Europe Israel and from there to Mercazei Shlita – Zisser’s privately held company – Zisser will donate to charity the portion of the dividend that stems from Saturday operations. In other words, Zisser will donate just 20 percent of the expected very high Saturday profits in the future when a dividend is distributed.

Today’s Israel Line was prepared by Adina Kay, David Dorfman and Shelly Revah at The Consulate General of Israel in New York.

Israeline — Friday, June 20, 2003 —

** Father En Route to Wedding Celebration Killed in West Bank; American Grandparents Severely Injured
** Powell Meets Sharon in Jerusalem; Calls Hamas an ‘Enemy of Peace’
** Peres Elected Interim Chairman of the Labor Party
** Other News in Brief
** Economic & Hi-Tech Briefs


Father En Route to Wedding Celebration Killed in West Bank; American Grandparents Severely Injured
An Israeli citizen whose son was married on Thursday was killed this morning, and three of his family members injured, two of them seriously, in a shooting attack near the community of Ofra northeast of Jerusalem, HA’ARETZ reported. The grandparents of the recently married man are American citizens from Long Island and were seriously injured in the attack. Information about the fourth casualty is still undetermined.

The family was apparently on their way to "Sheva Brachot" (post wedding ceremony) when snipers attacked their car. Magen David Adom said that two of the people traveling in the car on Route 60 were hit by bullets, and that the other two were hurt when the car overturned. It is believed that the vehicle came under fire north of Ofra, near Ramallah. The driver continued for some 10 kilometers in the direction of the Sha’ar Binyamin industrial zone on the Ramallah bypass road before apparently losing control of the vehicle, which overturned several times.

In a separate incident earlier today, according to Israel Radio, KOL YISRAEL, a bicycle laden with explosives detonated next to a checkpoint for Palestinian workers in the central Gaza Strip,. No injuries or damage was caused by the blast.


Powell Meets Sharon in Jerusalem; Calls Hamas an ‘Enemy of Peace’
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell called the terrorist group Hamas an "enemy of peace" during a diplomatic mission to the Middle East today, HA’ARETZ reported. After meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs Silvan Shalom this morning, Powell met with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. He then held a brief discussion with Minister of Defense Shaul Mofaz before traveling to Jericho to meet with Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas.

"The enemy of peace has been Hamas," Powell said at a joint press conference in Jerusalem with Sharon, adding that as long as the group remained committed to terror and violence, "this is a problem we have to deal with in its entirety."

Powell also said that he would push Abbas to crack down on Palestinian terror organizations. "I am anxious to speak to Prime Minister Abbas about efforts they are making to bring violence under control, to end violence, not just through the means of having a cease-fire, but going beyond that," Powell said.

The U.S. Secretary of State said that the terror attacks that followed the Aqaba summit where U.S. President George Bush met with Sharon and Abbas came as no surprise because terrorists wanted to stop the peace process and the implementation of the road map. When asked about U.S. demands that Syria rein in terror groups, Powell explained that Syrian steps taken so far had been "inadequate."

Sharon said that the events of the past week, which included several terror attacks and the evacuation of an unauthorized outpost in the West Bank, were "birth pains" of the peace process.

The Prime Minister added that he would make the utmost effort to achieve peace, but stressed that Israel’s security came first. "As long as terror continues, as long as violence continues, as long as this terrible incitement continues, there will be no progress," Sharon said. "There will be no peace with terror."

Shalom after his talks with Powell, said that, "the war on terrorism must continue everywhere, using all means at our disposal," recalling that 29 Israelis had been killed in bombings and shootings since the Aqaba summit on June 4.

In other news, according to Israel Radio, Kol Yisrael, Head of the Israel Security Agency Avi Dichter said in talks with senior officials in Washington that the Palestinian Authority was capable of taking on the Hamas organization if it had the desire to do so. During talks with Central Intelligence Agency Director George Tenet and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Dichter pointed out that PA security services in the Gaza Strip remained intact and that Mohammed Dahlan the PA Minister responsible for security affairs, had the ability to embark on an uncompromising battle against Hamas.

Meanwhile, PA officials expressed optimism on Thursday that a cease-fire deal with terrorist groups could be reached by the end of the week, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. One PA official said Thursday night that most of the Palestinian factions, including Hamas, had already accepted the cease-fire proposal in principle, but were refraining from saying so in public until Israel starts its withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and Palestinian security forces are deployed in those areas.


Peres Elected Interim Chairman of the Labor Party
Member of Knesset Shimon Peres was elected Interim Chairman of the Labor Party on Thursday, winning 49.2 percent of the vote, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak called Peres to congratulate him on his victory and invited him to Cairo for talks. Peres is due to meet with senior members of the Labor leadership, for what party members are calling a ‘hand-over’ meeting. Members of the Labor said that they expect Peres to try to lead the party back into Sharon’s government, restoring a partnership that fell apart last November after 18 months of a unity government.

His challengers, MK Ephraim Sneh and Gilboa Regional Council Chairman Danny Atar, received 28 percent (359 votes) and 21.9 percent (281) respectively. There were 11 blank ballots. The turnout for the election was low, with just 40 percent of the 2,400-strong central committee arriving at Beit Berl to vote.

"I was chosen because of my deep belief that this party will be restored to its former glory, its historic place," said Peres in his victory speech, which also thanked former chairman Benjamin Ben-Eliezer for his support.
Earlier in the week, Ben-Eliezer, who had previously been a Peres supporter, suddenly announced that he would run against him for the post. But he withdrew his candidacy on Wednesday after receiving a guarantee from Peres that he would not run for the post of permanent chairman next year.


Other News in Brief

* The evacuation of an inhabited unauthorized outpost was carried out on Thursday by security forces in Mitzpe Yitzhar, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. Some 18 troops and policemen and 20 "pro-settlement" activists were lightly injured in the scuffles that took place despite admonitions by the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip for activists to use only passive resistance to protest Government decisions.

* Minister of Finance Benjamin Netanyahu held talks on Wednesday with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Vice President Dick Cheney, Treasury Secretary John Snow, and Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan during which he outlined Israel’s security needs by explaining the necessity for Israel to build a security fence along the West Bank, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. "The fence, along with other capabilities, gives us the ability to halt the penetration of terrorists into Israel," Netanyahu told US officials. He pointed out that more than 250 homicide bombers had come from the West Bank and not a single one from the Gaza Strip, which is already fenced. The Minister of Finance also stressed that the fence was only a defensive measure and in no way stood as a political demarcation.


Economic & Hi-Tech Briefs

* US Joint Economic Development Group (JDEG) members announced on Thursday that Israel had successfully implemented the Ministry of Finance’s economic plan and that Israel was therefore eligible for $9 billion in U.S. commercial loan guarantees, GLOBES reported. "We received unreserved support from the Americans to continue implementing the reforms," Ministry of Finance director general Ohad Marani, who headed the Israeli team, said. "We were told that we’re heading in the right direction. The meeting was good, and the Americans were impressed by the plan and its implementation, especially the privatization of El Al and the efforts to privatize Israel Electric Corporation. They were also pleased by the pension fund reform."

* Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor Ehud Olmert met Intel SVP and general manager of the technology and manufacturing group Robert J. Baker in Santa Clara, CA on Thursday to discuss expanding Intel’s activities in Israel, GLOBES reported. They also discussed the possibility of accelerating the establishment of Intel’s second $4 billion plant in Kiryat Gat. However, Intel executives have still not made a final decision on whether to build the plant in Israel. Olmert also met Mercury Interactive Corporation president and CEO Amnon Landan, executives of 50 venture capital executives, and Israeli high-tech leaders in Silicon Valley to discuss other possible investments in Israel.

* In response to a request by Minister of Finance Benjamin Netanyahu, Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown announced today that he would support Israel’s future membership in the in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). "This will greatly help Israel’s economy," Netanyahu said.