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Gaucher Disease Code Cracked


The Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot announced this week that researchers at the facility have the found the solution to the three-dimensional structure of an enzyme called glucocerebrosidase. Mutations occurring in this enzyme cause Gaucher disease, a genetic illness that mainly affects Ashkenazi Jews. The Institute study, published recently in EMBO Reports, may lead to the design of effective new therapies for treating the disease.

Mideast Summit Draws Mixed Reactions

By Sonja Pace (VOA-Jerusalem) &

President Bush's summit with the Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers in Aqaba, Jordan, ended with vows from all parties to work toward peace. That has given hope to some, stirred anger among others and left still others doubting that words can be translated into deeds.

Israel's Ha'aretz newspaper referred to one small step for regional mankind, in its front-page analysis of the summit. And that, perhaps, best describes what happened Wednesday in Aqaba, when George Bush, Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas stood alongside their host, King Abdullah of Jordan, to promise to work for peace in the region.

The goal was to get Israelis and Palestinians to agree on implementing the road map, the international peace plan drafted and backed by the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia.

Speaking in Aqaba, Bush said it was a good beginning. "All here today now share a goal," he said. "The Holy Land must be shared between a state of Palestine and a state of Israel, living in peace with each other and with every nation of the Middle East."

Sharon and his Palestinian counterpart agreed that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would not be solved by violence or military means. Abbas called for an end to armed resistance against Israeli occupation. "We will exert all of our efforts to end the militarization of the intifada, and we will succeed."

Even though the majority of Palestinians say they want peace, and even though Abbas has spoken out against violence in the past, his words angered many Palestinians. An editorial in the London-based Al Quds al Arabi newspaper Thursday described his latest statement as a catastrophe.

Many Palestinians argue that he caved in to American pressure in pledging an end to violence, without demanding that Israel do the same. There is also anger that he bluntly labeled Palestinian militant actions 'terrorism,' and that he did not mention the right of Palestinian refugees to return home, nor did he refer to the goal that, one day, Jerusalem will be the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Militant groups such as Islamic Jihad, Hamas and others said they would not abandon violence in the fight against Israeli occupation.

Israeli analyst Shlomo Brum is a retired general and a senior researcher at Tel Aviv's Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies. He said Abbas, who is commonly known as Abu Mazen, would find it difficult to stop the violence. "The Islamic organizations, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, are not willing to accept it, and even if they will accept it, they will accept it only for a limited period of time. And then, the test for Abu Mazen will be whether he is capable of forcing them to stop their action. It looks to me as if he's too weak to do it."

Speaking at the Aqaba summit, Sharon lent his support to the creation of a democratic Palestinian state, which he said would promote long-term security for Israel. And, he promised to get rid of Jewish settlement outposts in the West Bank and Gaza Strip that have been established without government authorization. "I want to reiterate that Israel is a society governed by the rule of law. Thus, we will immediately begin to remove unauthorized outposts."

Even though that pledge concerns only a small number of tiny outposts of tents and trailers, the words drew the immediate ire of Jewish hard-liners and settlers, thousands of whom demonstrated through the streets of Jerusalem Wednesday night, protesting the destruction of any settlements.

Though the media reported on "tens of thousands" or "35,000" people at Wednesday night's Yesha Council protest rally, police sources told the organizers that well over 100,000 people were in attendance. The demonstration against the Road Map and the establishment of a Palestinian state was held in downtown Jerusalem's Zion Square. The evening began with a minute of silence and a prayer in memory of the victims of Arab terrorism and violence, followed by short prayers for the recovery of the wounded.

Moderating the evening was Karnei Shomron Mayor Hudi Lieberman, who stated, "The nation is ready and waiting for political leadership that will not surrender to terrorism... The Road Map plan is not a map; it's a program for the establishment of a terrorist state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean... We have a different map: the map of settlement in the Land of Israel - the map that will stop a Palestinian state. Its cities and communities will block the formation of a Palestinian state. Our settlement map will defeat the Road Map!"

Analyst Brum agreed with those who doubt Sharon is really committed to removing the outposts, and said his pledge gives him plenty of room to maneuver. "Even from the way he worded this promise, I can see that he [Sharon] is going to do the minimal, or do nothing at all, because he can use the term 'unauthorized' to manipulate the issue in such a way that only a few and vacant outposts will be defined as unauthorized."

Further small steps are envisioned, including a possible meeting in the coming days between Abbas and Palestinian militants to try to get them to pledge to stop attacks against Israel, and a meeting between Israel's defense minister and army commanders to discuss dismantling some settlement outposts.

Meir Vilner, Declaration of Independence Signatory, Dies

By Joseph Algazy, Ha'aretz

Meir Vilner, the last living signatory of Israel's declaration of independence, died Thursday morning at the age of 84, in the hospital where he had spent the last 4 years. Vilner served as leader of the Israeli Communist Party and subsequently Hadash, which he represented as a member of Knesset for some 40 years.

Born in Vilna in 1918, Vilner studied at the Hebrew gymnasium "Tarbut." In 1938 he arrived in Israel to study at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. In 1940 he joined the communist party in Israel, which was underground at the time, and for many hears was a member of the party leadership. From 1965 until 1990 he served as secretary general of the Israel Communist Party and was its chairman from 1990-1993.

Vilner championed a Marxist-Leninist ideology, to which he remained true throughout the upheavals that shook the world in recent years. He maintained his political ideology even when it was deemed unacceptable and not easily discussed in Israel.

In 1967, Vilner survived an assassination attempt by a member of Herut - a right wing political movement that evolved into today's Likud party. He was stabbed at the height of an incitement campaign that targeted Vilner and his political party for their call to end the occupation and recognize the Palestinian right to a homeland alongside to Israel.

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