Choose Day Below
Not Expected to Lower Alert in Next 24 Hours
** Two IDF Soldiers Lightly Wounded in Gaza; IDF Dismantles Illegal Outpost
** Anti-War Demonstrations Turn Anti-Israel
** World-Leader Neuroscientist Says Israeli Scientific Achievements are Mind Boggling
** Other News in Brief
** Economic Briefs
Not Expected to Lower Alert in Next 24 Hours
The Israel Defense Forces is not expected to lower the level of alert in the next 24 hours, HA’ARETZ reported. The public will still be requested to carry gas masks at all times, and the Arrow and Patriot antimissile batteries will still be operated on a high-alert mode. Emergency crews called up by the Home Front Command all remain on high alert.
The decision to leave the alert level unchanged comes despite reports of progress made by American forces in western Iraq – the region from which any missiles aimed at Israel would have to be launched. A senior defense source noted that the United States is making "very substantial" efforts in western Iraq to locate any Iraqi missiles or launchers that could be used against Israel. However, he added that even if the United States were to step up their special forces activity in this region, complete US control over western Iraq – the necessary condition for Israel to cancel its alert – would not systematically be achieved. The Israeli Air Force did reduce the frequency of its round-the-clock aerial patrols on Sunday, as the damage the Iraqi Air Force has sustained from the American offensive reduced the threat of an airborne attack on Israel.
Speaking at the weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said the Government was continuing to monitor developments in the war in Iraq and "will decide our future steps according to events." He called on the population to continue with their daily routines such as going to work and sending children to school while at the same time "following instructions and directions from the proper authorities."
IDF Soldiers Lightly Wounded in Gaza; IDF Dismantles Illegal Outpost
Two Israel Defense Forces soldiers were lightly wounded today in exchanges of fire with Palestinian terrorists in Tel Sultan, in the southern Gaza Strip, HA’ARETZ reported. Five Palestinians were arrested during the course of the IDF operation in the area. In a separate operation in the central Gaza Strip, an Islamic Jihad terrorist was arrested. About 10 IDF tanks moved into a section of the Rafah refugee camp in Gaza, close to the border with Egypt, surrounded several houses and arrested two Hamas terrorists. In the West Bank, six Palestinians were arrested overnight.
Meanwhile, the IDF and the Civil Administration shut down three offices used by Hamas charity organizations – two in Dahariya and one in Hebron. In other news, the IDF dismantled an illegal Jewish community outpost next to the West Bank city of Hebron, ISRAEL RADIO reported. It was the first outpost to be taken down since Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s reelection on February 28. The outpost, known as "Hill 26," consisted of a few temporary buildings located next to the community of Kiryat Arba. On January 17, Netanel Ozeri was shot and killed at the outpost by Palestinian terrorists. The IDF said the evacuation was carried out "to enforce a Supreme Court ruling" denying building rights in the area.
Demonstrations Turn Anti-Israel
Yoni Odona, an Israeli teen, was beaten by demonstrators waving Palestinian flags at an anti-war demonstration in Paris, France on Saturday YEDIOT AHARONOT reported. Odona sustained injuries to his head and eye and suffered from shock. A member of the Ha’shomer Ha’tzair youth movement in France, who came to Odona’s aid, was also injured to the head by the demonstrators. The two were hospitalized.
"The situation was extremely difficult, the anti-war demonstrations are becoming more and more anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli," Uzi Shemesh, Ha’shomer Ha’tzair’s emissary in France, who witnessed the incident, said. In Milan, Italy, anti-war demonstrators broke down the doors of the Israeli Commerce Delegation to Italy and sprayed them with "Israel = terrorists" slogans. According to the head of the Commerce Delegation, Yossi Shochat, the demonstrators were carrying bats and rocks.
In Gaza, demonstrators burned Israeli, American and British flags on Sunday. Hamas leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin reiterated his organization’s call on the Iraqi people to "use the weapon of suicide bombing against the Americans." In addition, the demonstrators chanted "lovely Saddam, bomb Tel Aviv with missiles."
Neuroscientist Says Israeli Scientific Achievements are Mind Boggling
Israeli scientific achievements "are absolutely mind-boggling," according to Baroness Susan Greenfield, the prominent British neuroscientist and Oxford professor of pharmacology, who visited Israel last week as a guest of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, ISRAEL21C reported. Greenfield, who was named a life peer to the House of Lords in 2001 and was included in The Guardian’s list of the 50 most powerful women in Britain, first visited Israel as a volunteer in 1970 on Kibbutz Gesher Haziv in the north of the country and has since visited the country a dozen times. "During this trip, I’ve visited Hebrew University, the Technion, and the Weizmann Institute, and they are all doing stellar work," said Greenfield, a leader in brain research who is also the first female director of the Royal Institution, Britain’s oldest independent research body.
Greenfield is a vocal and active critic of recent British attempts to boycott Israeli academia. Recently, she authored an article in the Times newspaper stating her belief that the boycott efforts are not only immoral, but also dangerous. "The obvious implication of the boycott is that if this is stopping medical research from being propagated, then the development of treatments and people’s lives could be affected," Greenfield said. She also expressed anger and puzzlement over the boycott movement. "I don’t know why this boycott movement is focused on Israel. Why aren’t you boycotting American academics for invading Afghanistan, or British academics for taking part in the war on Iraq? It’s strange that Israel was selected, it’s seems illogical. Who is going to benefit from an academic boycott of Israel? Certainly Arabs who conduct research with Israelis or benefit from Israeli medical and other scientific discoveries will not," Greenfield said.
One way that Greenfield hopes to combat the boycott efforts is to bolster scientific cooperation between Israel and its Arab neighbors. She met Jordan’s Queen Rania last year and discussed Israeli-Jordanian scientific cooperation, and the original plans for her visit to the region involved meetings in Jordan and Iraq. Despite the threat of impending war with Iraq and the implications for Israel, Greenfield expressed no fear about her visit. "The world is no longer a safe place, but I refuse to live under the shadow of terror. The best revenge against terrorists is to travel and not be afraid."
El Al continued to
establish itself as the major air provider for Israel during times of
emergency and war by announcing it would honor its normal flight schedule
to and from Israel despite the current conflict in Iraq, MA’ARIV reported.
The airline has not canceled any of the 200 flights it operates every
week and has been booking additional flights to compensate for other airlines’
cancellations. El Al has been one of the only airlines to provide uninterrupted
flight service to and from Israel over the last 12 years.
Meanwhile, following assessments that the threat of a missile strike on Israel has lowered, Lufthansa, Air France, Austrian Airlines and Continental Airlines have resumed their normal flights schedule to Israel. Swiss Air, Air Canada and Al Italia had not altered their flight services to and from Israel. However, British Airways and KLM have stopped flying to the country until they finish re-assessing the political situation in the Middle East.
Emergency lines were opened today in Jerusalem to help English-speaking residents of Israel deal with the current emergency situation and provide them with information and counseling, GLOBES reported. The hotlines will be available 24 hours a day, and will function with the help of volunteers from the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel. United Jewish Communities, who is initiated the idea, also plans to open a situation room that will provide an overview of what is happening in Israel to the senior leadership of the Jewish Federations in North America, and assist them in locating relatives staying in the country.
The water level in
Lake Kinneret rose another 7 inches this weekend, passing the 692 feet
below sea level mark for the first time since the summer of 1998, HA’ARETZ
reported. Despite the considerable increase in the water level, officials
indicated that the lake remained more than 6.5 feet below its traditional
red line and that the aquifers in the rest of the country were still at
dangerously low levels.
The shekel strengthened by 0.6 percent against the dollar today, as investors shrugged off setbacks in the US war against Iraq and focused instead on economic fundamentals, GLOBES reported. The Bank of Israel fixed the representative rate at a three-month high of NIS 4.718/$, compared with NIS 4.747/$ on Friday. The Bank of Israel announced this afternoon a 2-percent drop in interest rates for April. The decision was based on the recent appreciation of the shekel, the unveiling of the Government’s economic plan to cut budget spending and the dip in inflation expectations for the coming year.
** Large Majority Expected to Back Budget
** Poll Says 70% of Palestinians Support Homicide Attacks Against Israel
** 19 Suspected Terrorists Arrested in West Bank Overnight
** Lieberman Resigns from Knesset to Enable Cohen Become MK
** Other News in Brief
** Economic Briefs
Majority Expected to Back Budget
The government was expected to approve the new budget during a marathon meeting scheduled to last for the whole of today, HA’ARETZ reported. The new budget includes $2.3 billion in cuts and major structural reforms. Speaking ahead of the meeting, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said that "the current economic and security situation demands drastic steps in order to preserve economic stability and restore growth." He added: "I expect the government ministers and Knesset members to show a sense of national responsibility by approving the plan as soon as possible, so that its implementation can begin. This will require enlistment, effort, and backing of all of us – cabinet ministers, and the entire Knesset."
Minister of Finance Benjamin Netanyahu said that "this plan will be difficult for the citizenry" and the he was "aware of the difficulties". "It will be difficult for many people including relatives and friends of mine, and all of Israel’s citizenry," he declared. "But I am convinced adopting the plan will get the economy out of the rut, we’ll repair it, make it grow and then we’ll be able to be generous with the public." Netanyahu added that the Bush administration would deliver its promised aid package only if Israel implemented the proposed cuts. The Finance Minister indicated on Monday that U.S. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice had expressed admiration for treasury’s plan.
The two ministers from the National Religious Party are expected to vote against the budget. Minister of Immigrant Absorption Tzipi Livni, Minister of Agriculture Yisrael Katz, and Minister of Health Danny Naveh – all of them Likud members – also said they would vote against because of specific cuts in their ministries. The Knesset is scheduled to first debate and vote on the text on April 14 and 15. The coalition is expected to make the final vote in May.
Says 70% of Palestinians Support Homicide Attacks Against Israel
According to a public opinion poll conducted by the Gaza-based Palestinian Society for Culture, Science and Development, about 70 percent of Palestinians living in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip support the continuation of homicide attacks against Israel, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. Another 64 percent condones Hamas’ use of mortars and rockets. The poll surveyed 1,169 people and has a margin of error of three percent. The poll also shows that 55.5 percent of the participants believe Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat decided to create the post of prime minister only because of international pressure. 27.3 percent said the decision was the result of Israeli pressure, while 9.5 percent said he made the decision as part of plans to reform the PA.
Meanwhile, according to YEDIOT AHARONOT, Palestinians throughout the West Bank and the Gaza Strip rallied and rejoiced when hearing the reports of Iraqi resistance to American and British troops and the capture of American POWs. "Everyone here was happy to see pictures of American soldiers in Iraqi custody," said a Palestinian policeman stationed at Arafat’s Ramallah headquarters. Another policeman declared that, "this is a big day for the Iraqi people and all the Arabs and Muslims. This is a big blow for [U.S. President George W.] Bush and [British Prime Minister Tony] Blair."
Suspected Terrorists Arrested in West Bank Overnight
The Israel Defense Forces arrested 19 Palestinians overnight in the West Bank, including Nidal Narnaryeh, a senior Tanzim terrorist believed to be responsible for lethal terror attacks on Israelis HA’ARETZ reported. Narnaryeh, who was detained in Jenin, where he is the local Tanzim leader, is thought to be behind last week’s attack against the Jewish community of Mevo Dotan in which one person was killed. He is also believed to be reponsible for the terror attack carried out during the Likud primaries in November 2002 in the northern city of Beit She’an, in which five people were killed and some 30 wounded. The IDF has imposed a closure on Jenin and its neighboring refugee camp since Sunday. A military official said that there had been three incidents where Palestinians were either wounded or killed in Jenin on Monday. The official said IDF forces shot a Palestinian who threw a firebomb at soldiers and at two Palestinians who tried to grab a machinegun from an armored personnel carrier. In the third incident, a Palestinian was taken away in an ambulance after a firebomb exploded prematurely in his hand.
Resigns from Knesset to Enable Cohen Become MK
Minister of Transportation Avigdor Lieberman (National Union) resigned on Monday from the Knesset to allow former MK and fellow party member Eliezer (Chita) Cohen to enter the parliament, MA’ARIV reported. The resignation will take effect after 48 hours. Lieberman handed in his resignation letter to Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, and said: "I feel that by serving as a cabinet minister, I might be hampering with my party’s parliamentary work. Since the issue of the constitution and that of a constitutional court are among the foundations of our party, it is only appropriate that Eliezer Cohen should resume serving as MK to promote them, as he did in the 15th Knesset."
Meanwhile, Labor Party Chairman Amram Mitzna announced on Monday that if former minister and Likud MK Dan Meridor runs for Jerusalem Mayor on an independent list, his party would back him up. Meridor will announce by the end of the week if he is running for Jerusalem Mayor.
National Security Advisor Ephraim Halevy drafted a new plan for resolving the conflict with the Palestinians, HA’ARETZ reported. The "Profile of the Israeli Diplomatic Initiative" was developed to further the peace process as well as to clarify Israel’s positions. According to the plan, Israel would support the creation of a Palestinian state in return for the abandonment of a Palestinian "right of return" and an agreement to end the conflict.
Heavy storms battered Israel this morning, HA’ARTEZ reported. Snow fell on the Hermon and Golan Heights, and heavy rains forced drivers in Haifa to find creative ways to avoid huge pools of water that blocked some roads. Safed and the Negev desert town of Mitzpeh Ramon were blanketed with snow. As a result of the heavy rain, Lake Kinneret has had its volume surge 600 cubic million gallons of water since the start of the winter.
The Yatir Forest in the Negev is slated to become a holistic tourist center, HA’ARETZ reported. The Jewish National Fund and the Bnei Shimon regional council are formulating a plan to turn the forest into a tourist complex featuring alternative medicine, a spa, outdoor sports and adventure tourism. The Yatir Forest is the largest in Israel and spreads over 30,000 dunams on the slopes of Mount Hebron, approximately 51 miles northeast of Be’er Sheba. The forest received a large quantity of rain during the winter and is usually covered with 13-inch-high tulips. It also has many archaeological sites and a large water reservoir earmarked for tourism.
An IDC Israel survey estimated that the Israel telecommunications market grew 1.2 percent in 2002, compared with 7.5 percent in 2001, GLOBES reported. The study reports and analyzes data from 2001-2002, and provides forecasts for the line and wireless telephony markets in 2003-2007, divided into voice and data communications. Israeli telecommunications market revenue amounted to $3.78 billion in 2002, $2.6 billion of which, amounting to two thirds, came from cellular communications, and $1.17 billion from fixed-line communications.
Diabetics, who usually cannot eat fruit, can now enjoy at least one fruit – the pepo – developed at the Vulcani Institute (Agricultural Research Organization), GLOBES reported. The Israel Diabetics Association tested the pepo and found it edible by diabetics thanks to its low sugar content. The pepo is derived from the South American pepino dulce fruit, but reportedly has more flavor.
Infiltrator Killed in Gaza – Hamas Terrorists Targeted in Bethlehem
** Israel Keeps Alert Levels High
** Cost of Palestinian Violence to the Economy Estimated at $4.4 Billion
** Commtouch Announces Anti-Spam Solution
** Spring Clean-Up in Jerusalem
** Other News in Brief
Infiltrator Killed in Gaza – Hamas Terrorists Targeted in Bethlehem
A Palestinian terrorist who tried to infiltrate the Jewish community of Morag in the Gaza Strip was killed by Israel Defense Forces soldiers this morning, HA’ARETZ reported. IDF troops spotted two Palestinian terrorists as they were trying to enter the town and opened fire on them. One was killed while the other managed to flee.
According to THE JERUSALEM POST, two Hamas terrorists – one of whom was carrying an explosives belt – were killed by an elite IDF unit operating in Bethlehem Tuesday evening. Two civilians were also killed during the operation. The Bethlehem incident occurred shortly after 6:30 p.m. as a special undercover Border Police unit was waiting to arrest the terrorists. As the soldiers were approaching their target, a Palestinian vehicle drove up with two armed men and a civilian inside. The terrorists opened fire at the Israeli soldiers, who returned fire and killed them.
"An army unit went on an arrest operation but before they did anything they were fired on from a car and a gun battle ensued," an Israeli military source said. A resident of Beit Jala, Muwaffaq Abd-al-Razzaq Muhammad Badran, 40, was reportedly in the car and shot dead by soldiers as he tried to flee the scene. During the gun battle, the Sa’ada family from Beit Sahour arrived at the scene in their car. Fearing that the second vehicle was being driven by terrorists as well, the soldiers fired at the car. Christine Sa’ada was killed immediately; her father George, the headmaster of a Beit Sahour school, was moderately injured; and her mother and sister were lightly injured. The family members were taken for medical treatment at Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Kerem Jerusalem.
Keeps Alert Levels High
The level of alert in Israel will not change any time soon, as American forces have not yet gained control over all areas from which Iraq could launch missiles at Israel, YEDIOT AHARONOT reported. Military officials indicated on Tuesday that the United States had set up observation posts and was conducting regular searches for possible launch sites in western Iraq, but that most of the relevant sites had not yet been searched. The defense establishment’s assessment continues to be that while the likelihood of an Iraqi missile strike remains low, it still exists. Officials said they believed the Iraqis hid surface-to-surface missiles or missile parts in various parts of the country. They assessed that the next two days, which will focus on the battle for Baghdad, would be critical for the American war effort and to determine whether Israel could possibly come under attack. The estimation is that if pushed into a corner, Saddam Hussein might strike at Israel.
The level of alert might be lowered once a majority of the possible launch sites have been searched – a task that could take anywhere from a few days to several weeks.
In contrast, the defense establishment believes the aerial threat to Israel has been removed, since the Iraqi air force effectively no longer exists. Israel is also concerned about the increased possibility of terror attacks by Islamic groups on Israeli or Jewish targets worldwide.
of Palestinian Violence to the Economy Estimated at $4.4 Billion
A new report issued by the Bank of Israel indicated that product losses resulting from Palestinian violence in the year 2002 were between between NIS 14.6 billion ($3.6 billion) and NIS 17.9 ($4.4 billion), costing the Israeli economy 3.8 percent of GDP, GLOBES reported. The Bank of Israel said that Palestinian violence, which broke out in the final quarter of 2000, had a significant influence on the current economic recession in Israel. Unlike earlier violent conflicts, the current fighting is affecting residential concentrations and civilian business over the long term, bringing about lifestyle changes. The Bank of Israel noted that private consumption had suffered with households expecting an income decrease in the foreseeable future, due to the erosion of salaries, increasing unemployment, cuts in social benefit payments and a decrease in the value of the public’s assets.
The Bank explained that the outbreak of violence initially affected only incoming tourism, exports to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and the regular arrival of Palestinian laborers into Israel. With the passing of time, the negative effects of violence spread to other sectors, primarily investments and private consumption. Another significant factor contributing to the recession is the costs associated with confronting the terror threats. This led to an increase in resources allotted to different branches of the security forces, as well as an increase in government expenditure. The report estimates that had the Palestinian uprising ended in December of 2001, the economy would be growing by an annualized 2 percent.
Announces Anti-Spam Solution
Commtouch, headquartered in Netanya, has announced a new product solution for unsolicited e-mail, otherwise known as spam, GLOBES reported. Commtouch’s latest product ASAP! (Anti-Spam Adaptive Protection) adjusts its detection capabilities to recognize and counter costly spam attacks as soon as they are launched over the Internet. ASAP! integrates with Microsoft Exchange Server to pre-emptively block spam from entering the user’s email system. "The key to effective spam prevention is a deep understanding of the characteristics and behavior of email and its users," Commtouch’s CEO, Gideon Mantel, said. "Users need to feel in control of their mailboxes, and IT needs to feel in control of the mail system. ASAP! satisfies both groups without requiring either to make any change in their normal use of email."
Clean-Up in Jerusalem
Jerusalem will undergo a process of beautification initiated by caretaker mayor Uri Lupoliansky who, during his short tenure, plans to fight Jerusalem’s image as a dirty city, HA’ARETZ reported. The clean up will be funded out of a NIS 50 million ($10.5 million) loan the city obtained from the Ministry of Interior to help it repair damage caused by last month’s snowstorm. The beautification plan is scheduled for completion in the next two months, with the major clean-up of the accumulated filth on the city’s streets to be completed before the Passover holiday in mid-April. In addition, roads, sidewalks and curbs will be repaired throughout the city. Trees and tens of thousands of flowers will be planted near the roadsides, and benches will be installed near the gardens. New playground equipment will be bought for city’s parks.
In an attempt to improve services for city’s residents, Mayor Lupoliansky has ordered municipal offices to provide a detailed response to every resident’s query within 48 hours. He is also initiating a "worker of the month" award – the most outstanding worker will receive a NIS 5,000 ($1050) bonus.
The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee made several decisions on Tuesday pertaining to reserve service in the Israel Defense Forces, including a measure to set an annual ceiling of 36 days of reserve duty, HA’ARETZ reported. No more than 32 of these 36 days are to be used for operational tasks, while another four-day period can be devoted to training or refresher courses. The committee sent this measure to the Knesset floor for its final readings, expected to be held today. Currently, the IDF is entitled to call up reservists for 37 days of operational duty, plus another six-day training stint. The legislative initiative for the reduced period of 36 days was sponsored by MK Avshalom Vilan (Meretz).
The government approved on Tuesday the emergency economic plan aimed at rescuing Israel’s teetering economy by trimming the public sector and boosting the private sector, HA’ARETZ reported. The ministers voted for the plan, proposed last week by Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, by 21 to two. Netanyahu has said the drastic measures are necessary to save the economy from the worst recession in the country’s 55-year history and reverse two years of negative growth. Ministers who favored the plan said they recognized the need to stimulate the economy, which suffered a drop of 1.1 percent in gross domestic product and an average of 10.3 percent unemployment last year.
Daylight savings time will go into effect at 1 AM on Friday, March 28, at which point clocks will be moved forward one hour, MA’ARIV reported. This year, daylight savings time will last 188 days and will end at 1 AM on October 3.
Islamic Jihad Terrorist Apprehended; Terrorist Youth Admits to Homicide
** Netanyahu’s Budget Proposal Hotly Debated
** Teva Announces Breakthrough in Parkinson’s Disease Treatment
** Walla! Most Popular Website in Israel
** Other News in Brief
** ECO & Hi-Tech Briefs
Wanted Islamic Jihad Terrorist Apprehended; Terrorist Youth Admits to Homicide Bombing Plan
Israel Defense Forces troops arrested wanted Islamic Jihad terrorist Shadi Sukeya today, after he was found hiding in the Red Cross offices in the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank, HA’ARETZ reported. Soldiers in the IDF’s Egoz unit were carrying out arrests in the neighborhood in which the Red Cross offices are located. The troops arrested one of Sukeya’s aids, and found two Kalashnikov automatic rifles. When they approached the Red Cross offices, their entry request was denied by Red Cross activists. The soldiers insisted on entering the offices, where they found Sukeya, who was armed.
Meanwhile, IDF troops clashed with Palestinians in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun today. Sixteen Palestinians were reported wounded. Israeli sources said the military moved in after receiving intelligence reports of Palestinian terrorists planning attacks in the area. They said Palestinian gunmen shot at the soldiers, and the troops fired back. They also said Palestinians detonated several bombs.
Also, a 17-year-old Palestinian youth who was arrested two months ago told police that he had planned to carry out a homicide bombing at a boarding school in Jerusalem. The Israeli security service and police arrested the youth a few days after he dumped a suitcase packed with explosives near the tunnel road connecting Jerusalem and Gush Etzion that had been intended for use in the attack. The bomb was discovered by an IDF patrol, which summoned sappers who carried out a controlled explosion. Initially, the would-be bomber refused to reveal whether he had a specific location, but a few days ago he told police he had planned to detonate the bomb in the Beit Ha’yeled boarding school in Gilo. He said he had decided not to go ahead with the attack after he realized that many children would be hurt. After admitting his plan, the youth was taken to Gilo where he reconstructed his plan. Security forces believe the youth was part of a Fatah cell and are still searching for its other members.
Budget Proposal Hotly Debated
The second phase of the battle for the approval of NIS 11.4 billion (approximately $2.3 billion) in budget cuts has begun as Minister of Finance Benjamin Netanyahu tried to gain the support of the public and the majority of MKs in advance of a final vote on the plan in the Knesset next month, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. Netanyahu won cabinet approval for his economic recovery plan on Tuesday.
Netanyahu’s bid for support began Wednesday as he lobbied members of his own faction with an almost hour-long presentation on the necessity of the plan. It is designed to combat the country’s growing deficit of NIS 30 billion (approximately $6.2 billion), which is equivalent to 6 percent of gross domestic product. Opposition parties are so upset over the plan that they have put aside partisan differences to fight it together. Still, Labor Party whip Dalia Itzik has invited Netanyahu to present his project to her faction at his convenience. Netanyahu had planned to present it to Shinui on Wednesday, but had to cancel as the debate in his own party continued longer than expected. Speaking before Likud MKs, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said the difficult plan is necessary for economic stability. Sharon urged MKs to show the same sense of national responsibility as the ministers did by approving the plan as soon as possible. "I ask you and all the economic experts to work with us rather than against us," he said.
Marking their opposition to the proposal, teachers unions called for an hour-long strike early this morning and the Histadrut reiterated its threats of a general strike. The Council of Jewish Communities in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip is also threatening to strike next week.
Announces Breakthrough in Parkinson’s Disease Treatment
After 25 years of research, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Ltd. and H. Lundbeck A/S announced today of the successful completion of two phase III clinical trials of the Rasagiline drug in patients with advanced Parkinson’s disease, GLOBES reported. Rasagiline, which was developed by Teva and based on the original research of Prof. Mousa Youdim and Prof. John Finberg from the Haifa Technion School of Medicine, is supposed to stop the creation of the disease.
In both trials, statistically significant results for the primary endpoint were achieved. Each of the studies, which compared once-daily dosages of Rasagiline to be used as an adjunct treatment to the current standard Levodopa treatment, demonstrated significant reductions in the duration of the "Off" time, a state in which patients are unable to function normally. The results of these two trials follow the successful results of an earlier phase III trial, which demonstrated the efficacy of Rasagiline as mono-therapy in early-stage Parkinson’s disease.
According to MA’ARIV, Prof. Youdim was extremely excited about the results. "This is my life’s work and I have always believed in this drug," he said. Prof. Youdim explained that losing nerve cells is a normal process of aging, but diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s are accelerating the death of nerve cells in the brain. Rasagiline is a molecule that can largely prevent the acceleration process
. Rasagiline is expected to be submitted for regulatory approval in North America and Europe during the second half of 2003. Israel Makov, President and CEO of Teva said that, "the robust results of these trials have met our expectations with regard to the efficacy of Rasagiline." He added: "We are extremely pleased with the clinical development of this product, which holds promise for patients with both early and advanced stages of Parkinson’s disease. These results also encourage us to move forward with investigating Rasagiline in other neurological disorders."
Most Popular Website in Israel
A survey conducted by TNS/Telesker Internet Monitor found out that Walla! is still Israel’s most popular website, GLOBES reported. According to the survey, whose conclusions are based on weekly exposure rates for selected Internet sites, 47.1 percent of all Israeli surfers enter Walla! at least once a week. Walla! is more popular among youths (58.3 percent) than adults (44.8 percent). Google is the second most popular site (37.5 percent), followed by MSN Israel (36.3 percent), Ynet (28.9 percent), and Nana (25.4 percent). Most of the 18 most popular websites are Israeli; only four – Yahoo!, Google, Alta Vista, and CNN – are international sites. Of the five leading websites, four are general ones, and one – Ynet – is a news site. Ynet is the most popular Israeli news website, followed by Maariv (14.8 percent), Ha’aretz (11.1 percent), Globes (6.3 percent), and TheMarker (5.1 percent). Except for Ynet, which has a presence among youths (16.2 percent of all surfers), youths visit virtually none of the other news sites.
Walla!, Nana, Tapuz, One, and Goop are more popular among youths than adults. 40 percent of youth surfers visit Nana, compared with 22.4 percent of adults. Goop, which has the lowest general popularity (9.3 percent), is the most popular youth website (31.6 percent), compared with 4.7 percent for adults. MSN Israel is the most popular homepage in Israel (17.6 percent of all Internet users). It is followed by Walla! (16.4 percent), Start (9.2 percent), Nana (4.9 percent), and Ynet (4.8 percent).
News in Brief
Minister of Foreign Affairs Silvan Shalom held an introductory meeting Wednesday with ranking Jordanian diplomat Mazen Tal, HA’ARETZ reported. Tal has been the senior Jordanian diplomat in Israel since King Abdullah II decided not to send a new ambassador to Israel after the onset of Palestinian violence in September 2000. The meeting was not connected to the war in Iraq, despite the increasing tensions between Jordan and Iraq in recent days. The main focus of the meeting dealt with the road map to a diplomatic process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and the appointment of Mahmoud Abbas as the new Palestinian Authority prime minister.
Belgium plans to impose restrictions on the Universal Authority Law, which facilitates indicting and trying foreigners for crimes against humanity not committed on Belgian soil, HA’ARETZ reported. The intention is to include restrictions aimed at stemming the flow of petitions from persons living outside Belgium, and will allow for the courts to turn down plaintiffs who have not resided in Belgium for at least three years. The amendments would also make it possible to recognize the immunity of incumbent prime ministers or other ministers. The amendments, however, would not affect the suit against Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, since they would refer to charges brought only after July 2002.
Israel’s economic situation improved during January and February 2003, GLOBES reported. Following increases in late 2002, Industrial output rose an annualized 5 percent and exports (excluding diamonds) rose an annualized 7 percent. Sales in both the retail and service sector rose an annualized 5 percent from December 2002 to February 2003. Experts feel that the rise in economic productivity stemmed from preparations for the Iraq war as well as a weakening euro.
China Unicom, one of the world’s largest mobile phone service providers, has chosen the Israeli company Celltick to provide a continuous stream of content to its customers in Xinjiang state, GLOBES reported. Celltick will design and implement a system whereby information and applications are sent to a user’s cell phone without interfering with incoming or outgoing calls nor using bandwidth, the provider’s most important and expensive resource. In doing so, Celltick will give Chinese cell phone users a dedicated channel through which they can access additional tools and programming. Celltick CEO Yossi Wellingstein said that "using or system, China Unicom will be able to intensify subscriber exposure to its many information services and to increase its value added service income significantly."
of Thousands of Palestinians March in Support of Iraq
** Bush and Blair Recommit Themselves to U.S. Peace Roadmap
** Trade Minister Olmert Suspends Work of Sabbath Inspectors
** Foreign Ministry Issues Travel Warning for Israelis
** Other News in Brief
** ECO & Hi-Tech Briefs
of Thousands of Palestinians March in Support of Iraq
Tens of thousands of Palestinians poured into the streets of the West Bank and Gaza Strip to burn effigies of Western leaders, beg Saddam to strike Israeli cities and call for a massive defeat of coalition forces in Iraq, HA’ARETZ reported. In one march organized by Hamas, 30,000 Palestinians took to the streets urging suicide attacks against American forces. "We advise our brother in Iraq to concentrate on martyrdom operations which will plant terror in the heart of the infidels," blared one loudspeaker mounted on a truck. In Nablus, 4,000 Palestinians cheered as effigies of US President George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair were set ablaze, while 16,000 additional marchers in various West Bank towns chanted "our beloved Saddam, strike, strike at Tel Aviv."
In other news, Syria is granting free passage across its border with Iraq to volunteers eager to take up arms against American and British forces. Dozens of Palestinians have already left for the front lines through Syrian border posts. Syrian military analyst Hitham al-Kilani said during an al-Jazeera interview on March 24 that "the Syrian border was open to Syrian, Arab and Muslim volunteers wishing to reach Iraq and participate in the fighting against the American invasion of Iraq."
While many Arab countries have voiced opposition of the American effort in Iraq, Syria is the only country that allows volunteers into Iraq to fight the coalition forces. In addition to keeping an open border for recruits eager to face allied troops, military equipment purchased by Damascus has been transported through Syria and sent into Iraqi hands.
and Blair Recommit Themselves to U.S. Peace Roadmap
At a press conference at Camp David on Thursday, U.S. President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair re-committed themselves to implementing the Israeli-Palestinian peace road map outlined in the President’s speech last June, HA’ARETZ reported. Israeli officials stressed that Israel was in agreement with the principles of the road map, but strongly insisted that terror activities had to be stopped immediately as a precondition for diplomatic progress to continue. "The roadmap is a sequential process and the first stage is the cessation of violence," Raanan Gissin, a close adviser to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said. The road map is a three-stage plan that calls for Palestinian governmental and security reforms, a Palestinian state with provisional borders, and a final settlement by 2005.
Meanwhile, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director-General Yoav Biran called British Ambassador Sherard Cowper-Coles to a meeting on Thursday to protest against British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw’s comment the previous day on the BBC World News Service. Straw had indicated that it was hypocritical not to demand the same sort of adherence to UN Security Council resolutions for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as it was from Iraq. Israeli diplomatic sources told YEDIOT AHARONOT that Straw’s words were "very upsetting." The sources said, "it is too bad that Europe doesn’t distinguish between a bloodthirsty dictator who threatens the entire world and a democratic country dealing with the worst wave of terror the world has ever seen."
Minister Olmert Suspends Work of Sabbath Inspectors
Minister of Industry, Trade and Employment Ehud Olmert halted the work of Sabbath inspectors, thus causing disagreements among coalition members, HA’ARETZ reported. The inspectors, who enforce the law banning work on the Sabbath, are to cease work this weekend. Olmert ordered a halt to the inspectors’ work until he can conduct a thorough and comprehensive review of the issue and then formulate a new policy. His decision followed talks with Minister of Justice Yosef Lapid of Shinui. In recent years, Shlomo Benizri of Shas intensified the inspectors’ activity while he served as Minister of Labor. National Religious Party chairman and Minister of Housing Effi Eitam said that "this is a harsh blow to the sanctity of the Sabbath" and indicated it would be difficult for the NRP to stay in the government if the decision was not reversed.
Ministry Issues Travel Warning for Israelis
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a warning for Israelis traveling abroad owing to the ongoing war in Iraq and the increase in terror threats against Israeli targets, MA’ARIV reported. All Israeli tourists have been requested to contact the nearest Israeli delegation and provide their contact information in case of an emergency. The Ministry has also recommended Israelis not to visit Kenya, the Philippines, Thailand, South Africa and Indonesia due to specific terror alerts in those places.
In addition, the Ministry has called on all citizens traveling abroad not to emphasize the fact that they are Israelis and stay out of places where Israelis are present in high numbers. Israelis have also been advised to avoid demonstrations and political arguments with strangers, and not provide information about army matters.
Following intelligence warnings of possible violence in protest of the war in Iraq, Jerusalem police imposed a ban to participate in Friday prayers at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount to Muslim worshippers under the age of 40, Israel Radio, KOL YISRAEL reported.
Meanwhile, Israel Defense Forces soldiers shot and killed a 20-year-old wanted Tanzim member in the Tulkarm today.
The new book by Amia Liblich, "Women’s Order", illustrates the positive aspects of single women living in Israeli society, MA’ARIV reported. Although several books have been written about single women in Israel, Liblich introduces for the first time the notion of single mother households in a conservative Israeli community. Liblich’s book is a result of numerous interviews with single women living throughout Israel who relate their positive experience of raising children by themselves. The book conveys a clear message to women according to which single lifestyle either by choice or by chance is a positive, viable and fair option to women. "Women’s Order" is establishing itself as a growing and popular feminist ideology within Israeli society.
Foreign investors are returning to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, GLOBES reported. The Bank of Israel indicated that foreign residents’ investments in the in TASE-listed shares grew by $28 million in January-February 2003. Foreign investment in the TASE has been rising steadily since September 2002. Net investment in this period was $277 million. Foreign divestment in the TASE totaled $1.2 billion in January 2000-August 2002. Bank of Israel figures also indicate increasing foreign investment in Israeli real estate, which totaled $55 million in January-February, and $110 million since December 2002. Foreign investment in Israeli real estate has amounted to $407 million since January 2001, and $1.2 billion since 1997.
Bank Hapoalim, Isracard, and high-tech company Cellpay are about to launch a trial project for credit card transactions, GLOBES reported. This is the first trial of its kind in Israel. The technology, jointly developed over three years, will allow cellular telephones to become a new credit card payment channel, using a secure method to verify and authenticate a transaction. The six-month trial, scheduled to begin in April, will encompass scores of businesses and 1,000 Isracard customers.
The entrenched recession in Israel in 2002 is almost invisible in foodstuffs producer Osem’s financial reports. THE MARKER reported. If the effects of the recession and of the rise in inflation are evident in the revenues item, which fell 3% against 2001, gross, operating and net profits show almost no evidence that last year was one of the toughest years ever for the Israeli economy in general and for the foodstuffs sector specifically. "In a year as tough as this, it is very hard to increase profits by increasing sales," Osem CFO Pinchas Kimelman said on Thursday. "So we focused primarily on streamlining and savings in order to continue our consistent improvement in profitability. The fourth quarter 2002 is the 15th consecutive quarter in which Osem improved operating profits, and we continue to streamline in order to maintain that trend in 2003."