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Israeline — Tuesday, May 27, 2003 —

** Sharon: Road Map A Necessary Step In Achieving Peace
** Bush Planning Middle East Summit
** Israel, Turkey Sign Joint Anti-Terror Agreement
** Israeli Arabs, Jews Visit Polish Concentration Camps
** Whitney Houston In Israel: "We Are Very Happy To Be Here"
** Other News In Brief
** Eco & Hi-Tech Briefs

Sharon: Road Map A Necessary Step In Achieving Peace
Israel’s Cabinet approved-with reservations and 4 abstentions-the framework of the road map peace initiative in a 12-7 vote on Sunday, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. In his address to the Cabinet, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said, "the approval of the road map is a necessary step in achieving peace." He added that the road map was the direction towards restoring the economy. "If there is security and quiet, along with the measures we are taking, there will be investment in Israel and growth," he said. "Israel cannot improve its economy by financial measures alone."

Israel’s reservations on the roadmap include the following: the Palestinian Authority must waive any right of return for Palestinian refugees to the State of Israel; the United Nations resolutions 242 and 338 stand as the only references to be used for any future settlement; the Palestinians will have to dismantle the existing security organizations and implement security reforms during the course of which new organizations will be formed in order to combat terror and incitement; full performance will be a condition for progress between phases and for progress within phases – the first condition for progress will be the complete cessation of terror, violence and incitement.

Meanwhile, during a Likud Party meeting on Monday, Sharon defended his position on the roadmap against party members’ criticism saying: "You might not like the word occupation, but that is what it is. To hold 3.5 million Palestinians under occupation is a terrible thing for Israel. Does Israel want to take responsibility for the 3.5 million Palestinians’ health, welfare, and educational needs?" He added that Israel couldn’t stay forever in Nablus, Jenin, and Ramallah. However, Sharon did stress that Israel was fighting terrorism everyday and if terror attacks continued to be launched against Israel, "the Palestinians won’t get anything."

Meanwhile, Sharon was scheduled to meet with Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) in Jerusalem on Wednesday to discuss implementation of the road map, but the Palestinians postponed the meeting.


Bush Planning Middle East Summit
U.S. President George Bush is planning a two-day Middle East summit next week, HA’ARETZ reported. The summit, to be held in either the Egyptian city of Aqaba or Sharm el-Sheikh – possibly both- would feature a meeting between the U.S. President and pro-American Arab leaders one day, and between Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers on the next. However, Bush wants to see substantial steps on the ground by both the Palestinians and Israelis before going ahead with the summit. According to the text of the road map, at the outset of Phase 1, the Palestinian Authority leadership is to issue an "unequivocal statement reiterating Israel’s right to exist in peace and security, calling for an immediate and unconditional cease-fire to end armed activity and all acts of violence against Israelis anywhere and all official PA institutions end incitement against Israel."

Meanwhile, Israel echoed the U.S. administration’s concerns. "Why hold a high-profile summit before anything substantial has happened on the ground?" one senior diplomatic official said. The concern, the official said, is that "it will create the impression that things are changing, when in fact nothing significant has changed on the ground."


Israel, Turkey Sign Joint Anti-Terror Agreement
Following Minister of Defense Shaul Mofaz’s visit to Ankara, an agreement between Israel and Turkey to cooperate in the war on terror was signed on Monday, HA’ARETZ reported. During his visit, Mofaz met with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul and Turkey’s Chief of Staff General Hilmi Ozkok. According to Israeli defense sources, the Turkish-Israeli cooperation in fighting terror will primarily focus on international terrorist organizations such as al-Qaida. Information about al-Qaida’s plans to hit Turkish targets has recently been revealed. Turkey is also interested in Israeli intelligence and operational assistance in its battle against the Kurdish PKK. During the series of meetings, Israel and Turkey discussed their shared concern about Iran’s nuclear weapons program and the tension on Israel’s northern border involving Syria and the Hizbullah.


Israeli Arabs, Jews Visit Polish Concentration Camps
A group of 125 Israeli Arabs and 130 Israeli Jews arrived in Poland on Monday for a four-day tour of concentration camps, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. The group, called "From Memory to Peace", was started by Father Emile Shufani as a way to build understanding and tolerance between Arabs and Jews. The tour began in Kracow where the group was set to visit markers of pre-Shoah Jewish life. Day two will open at the Birkenau concentration camp and then move to Auschwitz in the afternoon before ending with a group discussion.

On Wednesday, after hearing the testimonies of six Birkenau survivors, the participants will set up a memorial near the Death Wall, where Jews were lined up by number and shot. The Arab participants plan to recite the names of the group’s Jewish members’ relatives who died in the Holocaust. A second group of similar size, also organized by "From Memory to Peace" and comprised of Jews, Arabs, and Christians from France, will join the Israelis for dinner Wednesday night. Israeli organizer Ruth Bar-Shalev said the participants had been recruited on a non-political basis and that they represented a critical mass of leaders, entrepreneurs, and trendsetters "who would now write, act, lead, and live within a new paradigm."

Nazir Majally, an Israeli-Arab participant from Tel Aviv who writes for the London newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsat, said: "I don’t know what I will see, but my heart is beating, bam bam bam. Why? Because how will he [my Jewish friend] feel? How will I feel? It is the Holocaust. There is nothing in the world like this. We all say this, but now we come to stand in it. Between saying and standing is a long distance."


Whitney Houston In Israel: "We Are Very Happy To Be Here"
Pop star Whitney Houston arrived in Israel on Sunday for a weeklong visit with her husband, rap artist Bobby Brown, their children, and Houston’s brother and his wife, MA’ARIV reported. Houston is a guest of the Black Hebrews community in Dimona. The visit was made possible after Houston’s brother and sister were guests of the Black Hebrews in Israel. "They saw that this is a place of peace and quiet," Prince Emanuel Ben-Yehuda, one of the community’s leaders, said. "We had a connection and they encouraged Whitney to come to Israel. The visit is not professional or political. This is a spiritual family visit." In interviews, Houston said she was "very happy to be here" and that it was "a spiritual visit, which allows us to visit our brothers and sisters in Dimona." Houston is slated to meet Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at his Jerusalem residence today.


Other News In Brief

"Maccabi Ahi Nazareth" became the second Israeli Arab team in Israeli soccer history last Friday to reach the premier league, MA’ARIV reported. The team has an Israeli Arab coach and is composed of both Arab and Jewish players. Nazareth inhabitants described their team’s achievement as one of the most important events for their city in the past 100 years.

Three Kassam rockets fired from the Gaza Strip struck the Negev town of Sderot in separate attacks today, HA’ARETZ reported. The rockets landed in open areas. One Israeli girl was treated for shock as a result of the attack. In a separate incident, a bomb went off next to an Israel Defense Forces jeep in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun, causing no injury. Meanwhile, security forces shot dead a Palestinian infiltrator on Monday near Kibbutz Erez, north of the Gaza Strip, and captured his accomplice. According to the IDF, the two men used a ladder to breach the security fence.

Minister of Transport Avigdor Lieberman awarded on Sunday a certificate of appreciation to the family of Alexander Kostyok, the security guard killed while preventing a homicide bomber from entering the Kfar Sava railway station last month, HA’ARETZ reported. The award was given at a special memorial ceremony during which the station was renamed in Kostyok’s honor. The ceremony was also attended by Police Commissioner Shlomo Aharonishky and other senior police officials.

Eco & Hi-Tech Briefs

Broadband wireless technology provider Alvarion has announced that Kentucky’s largest municipal utility had deployed the Alvarion BreezeACCESS solution to offer broadband services in its service area, GLOBES reported. Backed by the BreezeACCESS solution, Owensboro Municipal Utilities (OMU) has launched OMU Online to provide high-speed Internet access to business and residential customers throughout Owensboro. "We chose BreezeACCESS because we wanted to provide a cost-effective alternative to local DSL and cable operators, but with carrier-class reliability and scalability," said Phillip Coleman, OMU Online’s director of operations.

Micro-power technology and device provider Power Paper was recently named in the third annual Tornado 100 list as one of the top emerging private tech companies in Europe and Israel, GLOBES reported. Power Paper’s patented, thin and flexible energy cells can be adapted to fit the size, thickness and form factors required for the design of any product. The environment-friendly, safe batteries require no metal casing, and can be printed cost-effectively directly onto paper, plastics or other surfaces by standard printing equipment.

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

Israeline — Wednesday, May 28, 2003 —


** Sharon, Abbas To Meet Tomorrow Ahead Of Summit With Us President
** Homicide Bomber Captured In Nablus
** Knesset Votes On Emergency Economic Plan
** Other News In Brief
** Eco & Hi-Tech Briefs

Sharon, Abbas To Meet Tomorrow Ahead Of Summit With Us President
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas are scheduled to meet on Thursday afternoon to lay the groundwork for an expected meeting next week with U.S. President George W. Bush in Aqaba, Jordan, HA’ARETZ reported. Sharon’s bureau chief Dov Weisglass is coordinating the Israeli side’s preparations for the summit. Israeli sources have indicated that Sharon would ask the Palestinian leader how he planned to combat terror now that Israel has officially accepted the road map’s vision. Abbas has yet to implement the first phase laid out in the road map – namely, to take actions against terrorist organizations.

Commenting on the upcoming negotiations, Sharon recently stated that, ‘there is an understanding with the heads of the American administration that the subject of the settlement communities and outposts will not be discussed in the framework of the road map, but rather separately between Jerusalem and Washington’. Moreover, Sharon said he would personally conduct the discussions with the Palestinians. "The [roadmap] has dangers and holds opportunities," Sharon said. "I plan to conduct the negotiations. One must be alert and self-confident when negotiating. If we see the Palestinians are doing things that harm Israel and its security, we will do nothing [for the peace process]. If they think they can fire missiles at the marketplace in Sderot … and continue with the terror, and then get something from us, they are wrong."

Meanwhile, Abbas said in an interview with HA’ARETZ that the Palestinians would not relinquish the "right of return", but that the issue should only be discussed in permanent-status talks. Abbas also said he would not be satisfied with merely a hudna, or Islamic truce, but would want to achieve an "absolute calm" from Hamas. "We hope and think it is important to control the violence, put an end to it, and we expect the Israelis to understand that even if here and there some violent incidents take place, we don’t agree to it," Abbas said. Israel has repeatedly demanded that the Palestinians decisively destroy the Palestinian infrastructure of terror in order to demonstrate that they are serious about peace.


Homicide Bomber Captured In Nablus
Israel Defense Forces troops arrested in Nablus early this morning a Palestinian terrorist who planned to carry out a homicide bombing within Israel in the near future, HA’ARETZ reported. Radwan Sahal, who is affiliated with Islamic Jihad, was captured along with two other Palestinian men suspected of terror-related activities. In additional operations across the West Bank and Gaza, the IDF captured 16 wanted Palestinian terrorists overnight.

In other news, a bomb exploded early this morning close to IDF troops near the Netzarim Junction in the Gaza Strip, causing no casualties. The IDF also demolished two houses belonging respectively to Said Ramadan of the Tel village, south of Nablus, who carried out a terror attack last year on Jaffa Street in Jerusalem in which two people were killed, and to Mohammed Hanani of Beit Furik, east of Nablus, who attempted to carry out a homicide bombing at Kibbutz Metzer, near the Green Line, about six months ago.

In Tel Aviv today, the District Court was set to decide on the appeal filed by five Islamic Movement members, including Sheikh Ra’ad Salah, who objected to the judicial decision rendered earlier this week to extend their remand by an additional 15 days, Israel Radio, KOL ISRAEL reported. The suspects were allegedly involved in transferring foreign funds through Israel to Hamas for use in the Palestinian Islamic Group’s terrorist activities. Israeli authorities are working to outlaw the movement, which is believed to have tens of thousands of followers, mostly in the Galilee.


Knesset Votes On Emergency Economic Plan
The Knesset opened the second vote for the proposed emergency economic plan this afternoon, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. Minister of Finance Benjamin Netanyahu detailed the coalition agreements he reached to ensure passage of plan. He announced that funding would be partially restored to foreign yeshiva students, at the request of the National Religious Party, and that the second big cut in child allowances, scheduled for January 1, would be postponed by 6 months to help ease the transition for large families. The first cut will be made in August. Under the bill, the allowances are to be cut by 70 percent over the next seven years. The brunt of the cut is to be absorbed by families with more than five children. The first 50 percent of the cut is to be implemented in August and January, with the rest spread over five years. Funding for yeshiva students is also be cut by 40 percent. Those over age 23 will be able to work without having to serve in the Israel Defense Forces, as long as they study full-time, according to another provision in the package.

The amendment eliminates the principle in the Tal Law under which yeshiva students who want to join the job market have to enlist. Reforms that have particularly disturbed the labor unions are the end of union control of the pension funds and a measure to privatize Israel Electric Company by 2010. The government is to advance legislation to increase the retirement age to 67 later this summer, a move that is likely to provoke heavy labor strife. Income tax reform is also to be expedited, with a maximum tax of 49 percent for those earning more than NIS 34,820 by 2006. The opposition Labor party has proposed some 8,000 amendments to delay the budget’s passage, which is still expected to be approved by a clear majority.


Other News In Brief

* Israel presided on Tuesday over the 65-nation UN Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, marking the first time Israel chaired a major international meeting, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. The conference is the world’s major negotiating forum for disarmament treaties. During the 1990s it produced agreements to ban chemical weapons and nuclear weapons tests. Several Muslim countries were represented below ambassador level in an apparent protest, and two delegations sat in the galleries instead of behind their country nameplates, but no one walked out.

* The life organs of a 15-year-old Israeli boy who died as a result of head injuries, were successfully transplanted on Thursday into seven people in five different hospitals in Israel, MA’ARIV reported. A 54-year-old man received the boy’s heart after waiting two years for a transplant. His lung went to a 63-year-old woman, and his liver to a 50-year-old man. The boy’s pancreas was transplanted into a 23-year-old woman who suffered from severe diabetes. A 17-year-old and four-year-old each received a kidney.

* In one of the biggest upsets in the history of Israeli soccer, second division team Hapoel Ramat Gan won the State Cup on Tuesday after beating Premier League’s Hapoel Be’er Sheva in a penalty shoot-out, after the teams ended the match 1-1 after extra time, HA’ARETZ reported. Ramat Gan, who had not won a trophy since winning the first division title in 1964, became the first soccer team from a lower division to obtain the trophy since its inception in 1928. The win gives Ramat Gan a place in the UEFA Cup next season.


Eco & Hi-Tech Briefs

* The shekel climbed 0.5 percent against the dollar yesterday as the Bank of Israel set the representative trade rate at NIS 4.432, HA’ARETZ reported. The latest trade rate is the strongest for the Israeli currency in comparison to the dollar since January 2002. The gain for the shekel is attributed to anticipation of the peace summit at the beginning of June and the expiration of the shekel-dollar options yesterday.

* The Washington Post has selected ActivePaper Daily by Olive Software of Israel to distribute an electronic edition, GLOBES reported. The Washington Post Electronic Edition is an exact replica of the newspaper that can be read online through any browser. ActivePaper Daily is one of four electronic publishing solutions offered through Olive Software’s electronic publishing platform suite. Olive Software was founded in 1999 by a team of entrepreneurs. About $1.5 million in seed funding was provided by private investors. Today, Olive Software provides software and services to more than 120 newspaper and magazine titles worldwide, and has a number of customers in the library market. Imaging Ltd.

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

Israeline — Thursday, May 29, 2003 —

** Sharon and Abbas to Meet Tonight As Scheduled
** Jerusalem Celebrates 36 Years of Reunification
** Policewomen Stationed at Roadblocks to Spot Female Bombers
** Inquiry Into Belgium’s Complicity During the Holocaust Set to Begin
** Other News in Brief
** Economic & Hi-tech Briefs


Sharon and Abbas to Meet Tonight As Scheduled
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) confirmed that they would meet for the second time since Abbas formed a government, at an undisclosed location in Jerusalem tonight, HA’ARETZ reported. The confirmation came just hours after the White House formally announced that President George W. Bush would meet with Sharon and Abu Mazen next Wednesday.

Abbas will bring his minister for security, Mohammed Dahlan, and his minister for external relations, Nabil Sha’ath, to tonight’s mini-summit, while Sharon will also be accompanied by advisors and aides. The venue was being kept secret until the last minute for security reasons.

According to government sources, the Prime Minister is very eager for tonight’s meeting to be successful, as part of the groundwork ahead of the meeting with Bush next week. Sharon is expected to propose to the Palestinians that they take gradual charge of areas in Gaza and West Bank from where the Israel Defense Forces will have redeployed.

The road map process is formally supposed to begin with a joint statement reaffirming the principles laid out in the peace plan – an objective that the summit organized by the US Administration next week appears to be aiming for.

Meanwhile, Abu Mazen told YEDIOT AHARONOT today that he expected to reach an agreement with Hamas by next week for a complete halt to attacks on Israelis. "My assessment is that by next week I will arrive at a ceasefire agreement with Hamas," Abbas said. Reportedly, however, senior Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar responded by announcing today that the terrorist organization had set no preconditions for discussing a cease-fire agreement, and that "if Abu Mazen succeeds in achieving our national goals, Hamas will discuss the issue of a cease-fire."


Jerusalem Celebrates 36 Years of Reunification
Numerous events to celebrate Jerusalem Day, which commemorates the reunification of Jerusalem during the Six-Day War, took place today throughout the capital, HA’ARETZ reported. On Wednesday evening, acting Jerusalem mayor Uri Lupoliansky awarded certificates of merit to members of the security and emergency services in Jerusalem. Later that night, some 20,000 people participated in a march organized by the kibbutz and moshav movements, along with 20 floats, 45 vintage tractors and delegations representing the Jerusalem Police, the Zaka Rescue and Recovery service, Magen David Adom and the Yad Sarah charitable organization.

According to MA’ARIV, a memorial ceremony for Ethiopian Jews, who died on their way to Israel, took place this morning at a monument near Kibbutz Ramat Rachel, southeast of Jerusalem. Another memorial ceremony to commemorate the soldiers who died in the Six-Day War took place at the Mt. Herzl military cemetery.
In addition, the traditional flag parade began at the Sacher Park and ended at the Western Wall, where prayers were held along with traditional Jewish dancing. The official state ceremony celebrating the liberation of the city will begin this evening at Ammunition Hill.

According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, Jerusalem is Israel’s largest city, both in terms of population and area. The city covers an area of around 126,400 dunams. By the end of 2002, there were 681,300 people–10 percent of the Israeli population– living in the capital. Today, 66 percent of the population is Jewish and 32 percent is Arab (94 percent Moslem, 6 percent Christian). The average size of the city’s households is 3.9 people, and is the highest in the country. Jerusalem also has a relatively young population compared to the rest of the country. During 2002 the population of Jerusalem grew 1.7 percent.

Meanwhile, mayoral elections will be held next Tuesday in Jerusalem, as well as Haifa and Or Akiva. Six candidates are running for the position in Jerusalem: acting mayor Lupoliansky, Jerusalem city council member Igal Amadi, Jerusalem city council member Roni Aloni, Jerusalem city council member Yosef tal Gan, businessman Nir Barkat and Yerushalayim Beitenu Party’s Larisa Gerstein.

Policewomen Stationed at Roadblocks to Spot Female Bombers
The Israel Defense Forces has recently begun deploying military policewomen at roadblocks along the Green Line in an attempt to spot potential female homicide bombers, HA’ARETZ reported. The army’s decision followed last week’s homicide bomb attack at an Afula shopping mall carried out by a Palestinian woman and in which three Israeli citizens lost their lives. All Palestinian males, from youths to the elderly, are asked by IDF soldiers at the roadblocks to lift up their shirts when they are a certain distance from the soldiers to prove they are not carrying an explosive belt. The IDF has, however, maintained a respect for Palestinian religious and cultural norms by not asking women to lift their shirts or be subject to physical searches at roadblocks to check for bombs. In an attempt to overcome the lapse in security that this could cause, female officers at the checkpoints will oversee any necessary searches. The IDF stressed that searches will be carried out only in cases where there is a very real suspicion.

Five Palestinian women have carried out homicide bombings in the past 18 months. Security forces have apprehended 10 others suspected of planning to carry out similar attacks. In addition, women have aided male bombers by smuggling explosives, accompanying them to their destinations to help them avoid suspicion, and briefing them on their target.

Meanwhile, soldiers from the Duvdevan undercover unit yesterday apprehended three Tanzim operatives who had until recently been given shelter in the Palestinian Authority Chairman Yassir Arafat’s Ramallah compound. The wanted men were planning to send a booby-trapped car into Israel.

A Qassam rocket fired by Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip landed on a private residence in the Negev town of Sderot on Wednesday afternoon. No injuries were reported. This was the fifth Qassam rocket to be fired at Sderot and its environs last week.

Inquiry Into Belgium’s Complicity During the Holocaust Set to Begin
Belgian historians will begin to investigate the complicity of Belgium’s authorities in the deportation and death of the country’s Jews during World War II, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. The historians will be given unprecedented access to libraries and archives for the purpose of the research.

Official figures show that 30,544 Jews of mixed European nationalities were deported from Belgium to death camps between 1942 and 1944. Only 1,524 survived and at least one-fifth of those who died were children. According to a report in the London daily The Guardian, the government has now commissioned historians to "establish the eventual responsibility of the Belgian authorities for the deportation and persecution of the Jews."
The historians will consider the veracity of claims that the local authorities and police actively collaborated in rounding up Jews for deportation, compiled a national register of Jews which was handed over to the Nazis, enforced the wearing of the yellow Star of David, and scrupulously followed German orders relating to Belgium’s Jewish community.

Jose Gotovitch, director of the Study and Documentation Center on War and Contemporary Society, the institute charged with carrying out the inquiry, wants the researchers to go beyond mere fact-checking and attempt to understand why some Belgians collaborated so enthusiastically with the Germans. "This will be the study of the formation of a mentality," he was quoted as saying. "We want to understand why people did what they did."

Legislation permitting the inquiry, which is expected to take up to two years, was passed last month and work on the project is scheduled to start early next year.

Other News in Brief

* Temperatures were expected to soar to unseasonably high levels throughout Israel today, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. The afternoon temperature was supposed to reach a high of 109 degrees (Farenheit) in Tel Aviv, 104 in Haifa, 97 in Jerusalem, and 107 in Be’ersheva. Meteorologists said that the heat wave would taper off on Friday and temperatures would continue to fall on Saturday. Strong winds and light rain were predicted for these days as well.

Economic & Hi-tech Briefs

* The Knesset voted today to accept the economic recovery plan to help boost Israel’s economy, GLOBES reported. During the second of the three readings of the bill, the opposition unsuccessfully attempted to force the Government into compromising on certain sections of the plan by raising thousands of objections. Minister of Finance Benjamin Netanyahu described the bill’s passage as "an important moment for the Israeli economy."

* Israel Incoming Tour Operators Association informed the Ministry of Tourism today that it expected a very visible rise in tourism to Israel in 2004, Globes reported. The expected increase would bring the number of tourists to 1.4 million next year – up from 1 million this year. By 2005, the association anticipates 1.8 million people to travel to Israel. The figure jumps to 2.4 million for 2006. The increased wave of tourism would also create new jobs and bring additional income to Israeli businesses.

* Verint Systems announced that under a new distributor agreement, Lockheed Martin will become a systems integrator for the Verint Loronix digital video security solution, GLOBES reported. Verint, a subsidiary of Comverse, said its Loronix solution enables governments and commercial organizations to enhance security by networking video across multiple locations and applying content analysis to alert security personnel to potential security breaches.

Israeline — Friday, May 30, 2003 —

** Following Sharon, Abbas Meeting, IDF To Redeploy From West Bank
** Top Hamas Bomber Charged With 66 Israeli Deaths
** Netanyahu: Foreigners Look To Increase Investments In Israel
** Richard Gere To Visit Israel
** Other News In Brief
** Eco & Hi-Tech Briefs

Following Sharon, Abbas Meeting, IDF To Redeploy From West Bank
Following his meeting on Thursday with Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced that he would order the Israel Defense Forces to redeploy from the center of West Bank cities, HA’ARETZ reported. Sharon and Abbas held their second meeting in two weeks on Thursday night in Jerusalem to discuss the implementation of the road map to Middle East peace.

The talks between the two leaders were described as "very positive" and resulted in the announcement by the Prime Minister’s office that Israel would enforce a series of steps aiming to "ease the living conditions of the Palestinians, foster trade and encourage the Palestinian economy". The measures include: Lifting the closure of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip; granting permits to senior Palestinian officials allowing them to travel between the West Bank and Gaza; increasing the amount of tax money transferred to the PA by NIS 150 million a month; allowing 25,000 Palestinian laborers to work in Israel; easing restrictions on humanitarian organizations working in the West Bank and Gaza. In addition, Israel committed itself to undertaking a comprehensive review of its prisoner lists in order to examine which individuals could be released. A total of 100 detainees are slated to be left out of jail, including Khaled Abu Sukar, 68, the oldest and longest-serving Palestinian prisoner, and Tayseer Khaled, a member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s executive committee. Israel stressed that every prisoner would be required to sign a document obliging him or her to stay away from terror activities.

Sharon also offered the Palestinians security control in the areas from which the IDF withdraws. However, due to the weakened state of their security forces in the West Bank, Palestinians said that they would rather assume these responsibilities in the Gaza Strip first. During their talks, Sharon asked Abbas to do all he could to bring an end to the firing of Qassam rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israel. "It is unacceptable that, while we are conducting negotiations, Qassam rockets are falling on our children," Sharon said.

Commenting on the meeting, David Baker, an official at the prime minister’s office, said today that "Israelis woke up this morning with hope for a brighter future" and that "last night, Israel demonstrated that it is willing to take far-reaching steps to achieve progress." Baker added: "Now it is up to the Palestinians to follow through once and for all and start cracking down on terror by incarcerating terrorists, confiscating illegal weapons, and breaking the terrorist infrastructure in the territories."


Top Hamas Bomber Charged With 66 Israeli Deaths
Abdallah Jamal Barghouti – the senior bomb maker in the West Bank – will go on trial Sunday and will have to answer to 66 counts of murder, HA’ARETZ reported. Barghouti, the head of several separate terror cells who was arrested in March by the Israel Defense Forces, was indicted today with one of the most severe charge sheets ever filed against a terrorist by an Israeli court. The 31-year-old Qatar-born terrorist arrived in Israel in 1999, and military sources described his arrest as the most important the IDF had carried out in the past 12 months. Barghouti is being charged with providing the explosives used in several attacks in Jerusalem, including the Sbarro restaurant on August 9, 2001, in which 15 people were killed, and the Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall attack some four months later, in which 12 people were killed. He has also been linked the Hebrew University cafeteria attack in July of last year, which claimed the lives of nine people, and the bombing at the Moment cafe in the capital’s Rehavia neighborhood, in which 11 people died.

Meanwhile, IDF troops killed overnight a Palestinian armed with hand grenades and carrying an explosive belt as he was trying to cross into Israel from the Gaza Strip, south of the Katif crossing, Israel Radio, KOL ISRAEL reported. The IDF completed early today the operation it launched on Wednesday in the center of Jenin and its casbah following army warnings that militants in the city were planning to depart to carry out attacks.


Netanyahu: Foreigners Look To Increase Investments In Israel
Minister of Finance Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday that following the Knesset’s approval of the economic recovery plan, the Treasury had been receiving many inquiries by foreigners interested in investing in Israel, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. Without disclosing the names of investors or institutions, Netanyahu said the past 24 hours had been filled with new inquiries regarding Israel’s banks, defense companies, and other possible ventures. "It’s not coincidence that these people are looking at Israel", he said. "They understand that when the government implements the needed policies – all the while absorbing criticism but still moving forward – there is a leadership in Israel that is ready to make the needed changes."

The newly adopted legislation cuts between NIS 9.5 billion to NIS 10b. from the budget through public-sector wage cuts and liberalization of key industries, including electricity and aviation. The state plans to privatize Israel Electric, El Al, Oil Refineries Ltd.-Bazan, and other government-owned concerns. Netanyahu expects Bank of Israel Governor David Klein to continue slashing interest rates beyond the 0.4 percentage-point cut on Monday.


Richard Gere To Visit Israel
Actor Richard Gere is slated to visit Israel next week to further peace in the region, YEDIOT AHARONOT reported. The visit is part of the actor’s commitment to advance peace in countries in conflict. Gere plans to meet with Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) in Ramallah and possibly with former Minister of Foreign Affairs Shimon Peres. Aside from his acting career, Gere is known for his involvement in social action causes, such as helping free Tibet from Chinese rule and raising AIDS awareness in the United States. Meanwhile, according to MA’ARIV, singer Whitney Houston said today that she was planning to buy a house in Dimona, in southern Israel. Houston arrived in Israel earlier this week to visit the country. Speaking of her passion for Israel, Houston said: "It’s home. It’s a friendship I’ve never had with any other country."


Other News In Brief

Zuhair Manasra, who heads the Palestinian Authority’s Preventive Security Service in the West Bank, submitted his resignation to Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) on Thursday, HA’ARETZ reported. Palestinian sources said that Manasra – who was appointed by PA Chairman Yasser Arafat – resigned after realizing that neither Abbas nor Security Chief Mohammed Dahlan, wanted him to continue in the job. Abbas and Dahlan want to unite the West Bank and Gazan branches of the Preventive Security Service, which previously operated independently, under a single roof.

The Israeli defense establishment has recently received severe alerts about Islamic groups trying to strike Israeli and other Western targets in Thailand, HA’ARETZ reported. Six months ago, the Israeli Foreign Ministry recommended that Israeli travelers avoid some of Thailand’s most popular tourism spots following information that terrorists planned to strike the country’s popular resorts. According to sources, Islamic terror groups have raised their profile in Southeast Asia in recent months, especially since last October’s terror attack in Bali, when some 200 tourists, mostly Australians, were killed in a bombing of a nightclub.


Eco & Hi-Tech Briefs

Ra’anana-based Amdocs is set to buy Cergen, Bell Canada’s billing systems company, for $64 million, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. The move is intended to allow Bell, Canada’s communications leader, to out-source its billing management. Under the terms of the agreement, Certen will continue to provide the day-to-day, end-to-end billing functions for Bell Canada, including invoice production and distribution. Bell Canada will assume from Certen the project management and business analysis roles related to billing system modernization and development, as well as the oversight function for billing operations.

Petah Tikva start-up Can-Fite BioPharma is to begin Phase II clinical trials of a new oral treatment for colorectal cancer, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. The trials of the company’s lead drug CF 101 will be carried out on 70 patients suffering from colorectal cancer, according to Can-Fite president and CEO Dr. Ilan Cohn. According to Cohn, CF 101 is a highly effective treatment that can both inhibit the growth of cancerous tumors and, in some cases, destroy the tumor completely. He said the drug is as effective as chemotherapy, but has none of the devastating toxic side effects.

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