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Missing Carbon Dioxide Greens Up The Desert


A Weizmann Institute study suggests that rising carbon dioxide levels in the world might help upgrade dry environments to valuable forests. In fact, the researchers think that 7 billion tons of unaccounted-for carbon dioxide may be the explanation for the expansion of forests into dry areas.

A group of scientists headed by Prof. Dan Yakir of Weizmann Institute's Environmental Sciences and Energy Department found that the Yatir Forest, planted at the edge of the Negev Desert 35 years ago, is expanding at an unexpected rate. Their findings, published in the current issue of Global Change Biology, suggest that forests in other parts of the globe could also be expanding into arid lands, absorbing carbon dioxide in the process.

Israel Arrests 15 Arab Residents on Hamas Funding Charges

By Ross Dunn (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israeli police have arrested 15 members of the country's Islamic Movement on charges that it has been helping to finance Palestinian terrorism.

Police allege that the organization gave millions of dollars to Hamas, a group that is responsible for numerous suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks. In one of the largest recent raids against Israeli Arabs, police took the members of the Islamic Movement into custody. The members were arrested on suspicion that they had funneled massive amounts of money to Hamas.

About 1,000 police took part in the operation in the town of Umm el-Fahm in northern Israel. Israel's Internal Security Minister, Tzahi Hanegbi, said the raid against the organization would help put an end to a system that he says has inflamed the bonfire of terrorism against the Jewish State.

He said the Islamic Movement under the guise of charity collected the money sent to Hamas for Israeli Arabs, who make up one-sixth of the country's 6.5 million citizens. A spokesman for the Islamic Movement denied it has links to Palestinian organizations.

The arrested activists included the head of the movement's northern branch, Raed Salah. Those arrested also included the treasurer and an accountant for the organization, which is accused of laundering millions of dollars of contributions from abroad and then funneling them to Hamas. Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement, then allegedly used the funds, to support the families of suicide bombers and Palestinian prisoners linked to terrorism.

The Islamic Movement, the largest organization representing Arabs inside Israel, responded by urging all the country's Arabs to demonstrate against the arrests and for Muslim clerics to speak out against the raid in mosques. The group includes some Israeli Muslims who participate in the Israeli political process and radicals who support Hamas, which is based in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Hamas denounced the arrests as a new escalation against Muslims and Arabs.

Sharon Reaffirms Commitment to Beit El And Shilo


Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was looking for an opportunity to correct an impression he made in an interview last month, and he found it. One month ago, Sharon told Ha'aretz that he would agree to remove some Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria as part of a comprehensive peace arrangement with the PA.

Under certain circumstances, he said, "we will have to take steps that are painful for every Jew, and painful for me personally... We are talking about the cradle of the Jewish people. Our whole history is bound up with these places. Bethlehem, Shilo, Beit El. And I know that we will have to part with some of these places. There will be a parting from places that are connected to the whole course of our history. As a Jew, this agonizes me..."

He has now made it clear that he did not mean that Beit El and Shilo would be dismantled. "If you ask me whether in Beit El there will not be Jews," Sharon told The Jerusalem Post, "no. Jews will live there," making it clear that it would not be under Arab sovereignty. "Do you see a possibility of Jews living under Arab sovereignty?" he asked rhetorically. "I'm asking you, do you see that possibility?"

The prime minister also told the Post that he has not come under heavy pressure from the U.S. to dismantle settlements or settlement outposts, and that it is not currently an issue. The only pressure is "from the Jews on themselves," he said. Sharon also repeated that which he told Ynet shortly beforehand, that he supports a Palestinian state as a "solution for the Palestinian people and the refugees."

He did not explain, however, how a state of up to seven million Arabs in Judea, Samaria and Gaza would not pose a demographic and physical threat to Israel. Sharon emphasized again that no progress on the Road Map would be made until Israel's strict security demands - namely, concrete actions against terrorists - are met.

Sharon will meet with Abu Mazen Saturday evening, for the first time since the latter became the new prime minister of the PA. The next day, Sharon will depart for Washington and his Road Map meetings with President George Bush.

British MP Charges 'Jewish Cabal' Guiding Blair

By Ha'aretz

Veteran leftist British Labor MP Tam Dalyell has charged that Prime Minister Tony Blair was "being unduly influenced by a cabal of Jewish advisers," the Daily Telegraph newspaper reported.

The comment echoed remarks by conservative Republican Pat Buchanan, who was widely accused of anti-Semitism when in an article last March, he described a predominately Jewish group of advisers to President Bush as "a cabal of polemicists and public officials [who] seek to ensnare our country in a series of wars that are not in America's interests."

The statement also coincided with publication of research showing that the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the United Kingdom rose by 75 percent during the first three months of 2003, according to a report issued by the Community Security Trust.

The Telegraph quoted an interview with Vanity Fair, in which the Labor MP named "Lord Levy, Tony Blair's personal envoy on the Middle East, Peter Mandelson, whose father was Jewish, and Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, who has Jewish ancestry, as three of the leading figures who had influenced Mr. Blair's policies on the Middle East."

Dalyell told the Telegraph that he was "fully aware that one is treading on cut glass on this issue and no one wants to be accused of anti-Semitism... I am not going to be labeled anti-Semitic. My children worked on a kibbutz. But the time has come for candor."

Jewish people in the Bush administration, including Richard Perle, a Pentagon adviser; Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary, and Ari Fleischer, the president's press secretary, Dalyell claimed, also indirectly influenced the Prime Minister. "They very much have captured the ear of the president of the United States. I said [to Vanity Fair] I thought that Blair was very sympathetic to them. I cannot understand why," Dalyell said.

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