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Bargain-hunting at Sharon's Negev Ranch


Kach activist Itamar Ben-Gvir and his attorney Baruch Ben-Yosef were detained by police Sunday, along with about two dozen other people, after they gathered at the entrance to Prime Minister Sharon's Shikmim Farm in the Negev, near Sderot. Ben-Yosef explained that they had come to buy a sheep from Sharon, expecting a particularly good bargain. "It's obvious from the way he handles the negotiations with the Arabs that he's not so good at it, so we figured we could get a pretty good price from him on a sheep."

Israel to Evacuate Illegal Jewish Outposts Before U.S. Vote

By Ross Dunn (VOA-Jerusalem)

The Israeli government said it will evacuate illegal Jewish outposts in the West Bank before the U.S. presidential election in November, following American pressure to halt settlement activity. Officials in the office of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said they are looking for new legal powers to ensure the removal of all illegal Jewish outposts before the presidential election.

The outposts are intended by Jewish settlers to become the basis of new communities, or to expand existing ones. But the international "road map" to peace plan, which is supported by the United States, calls for a freeze on settlement activity.

While Israel has not accepted a total freeze, its justice minister, Yosev Lapid, says the growth of Jewish settlements must be kept in check. "I think that, in general, we should not expand the borders of the settlements. We are in agreement on this with the United States government."

The officials said the basis for Israel's future strategy is a report being prepared by the Justice Ministry to allow for a speedy evacuation of the outposts. Sharon's outgoing bureau chief, Dov Weisglass, told Israel's Channel Two television station that the recommendations of the report would be presented in the coming weeks. Weisglass said the report would provide the prime minister with "more effective tools to evacuate the outposts, and he will begin to do so energetically."

He said that while Israel cannot so far boast of efforts to remove the settlement outposts, it would carry out its promise to evacuate all of them in full. Weisglass is due to leave for the United States later this month for a meeting with National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice to discuss a range of issues, including the Jewish settlements and Israel's controversial West Bank security barrier.

The Israeli Defense Ministry said Jewish settlers have established 23 outposts in the West Bank since March 2001, when Sharon first came to power. Visiting U.S. envoy Elliot Abrams raised the issue when he met with senior Israeli officials last week.

EU Set to Tax Exports from Jewish Settlements

By Ross Dunn (VOA-Jerusalem)

The European Union has decided to tax products from Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, saying it does not recognize these areas as part of Israel. The move is outlined in a new agreement reached between the EU and Israel.

Israeli and EU negotiators have signed a document declaring that goods exported by Israel to Europe would be labeled with a town of origin, as well as nationality. Those shown to have been produced in Israeli settlements in Gaza and the West Bank would no longer be allowed to enter the European Union tariff-free under the new agreement. The decision would affect a number of goods, including palm oil and fruit juice, worth some $200 million a year. These exports from the settlements amount to less than one percent of the $7.6 billion in annual Israeli exports to Europe.

European customs officials demanding to know whether they had come from Jewish settlements have also held up Israeli products. EU officials said the settlements are not recognized as belonging to Israel, and, therefore, there is a consensus in Europe that products from these areas should not be given the benefit of trade preferences granted to Israel.

Cancer Society Outraged by Rabbi's Statement


The Israel Cancer Society responded with anger and outrage to an article released by Rabbi Shalom Yosef Elyashiv, the leader of Hareidi Lithuanian Jewry, stating cancer is a "punishment" for those who stray from religion, adding there is no cure. The quote appeared in the daily Ma'ariv last Thursday.

The publisher of the works released last week stated the quotation in Ma'ariv was indeed accurate, adding it was taken from a lengthier piece that was intended for Torah scholars and not the media, indicating it may have been quoted out of context.

IDF: Pill Distribution Not Cause for Alarm


Army officials insist the decision to distribute anti-radiation pills to 200,000 southern area residents is not cause for alarm, insisting the nuclear reactor in Dimona is operating without incident according to state nuclear experts.

An army training exercise indicated that in the event of an emergency, a leak from the reactor, soldiers would not be able to distribute the pills in time, leading to the decision to move ahead with the distribution campaign now, a process that will take about two weeks.

Some experts are less than comforted however, explaining the nuclear facility has been operating for a number of decades and can no longer be deemed safe, pushing for its closure. Skeptics also question why after a number of decades the decision was just made to distribute the medication to area residents.

Iran Seeks to Improve Shihab-3 Missile

By Al Bawaba Middle East News

Iran aims to soon test an improved version of its Shihab-3 medium-range missile, Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani said, following Israel's boosting of its anti-missile missile capability.

"We will improve the Shihab-3 and when we test it, in the very short future, we will let you know," what improvements have been made, said the minister, who was quoted by ISNA student news agency. "These improvements do not only concern its range, but other specifications as well," Shamkhani said, without providing further details.

Late last month, Israel successfully tested its Arrow II anti-missile missile in the United States. It was the seventh time the missile has worked, but the first time it destroyed a real Scud missile.

Shamkhani insisted the Shihab-3 was intended for defensive purposes. "The Israelis are trying hard to improve the capacity of their missiles, and we are also trying to improve the Shihab-3 in a short time," Shamkhani said, denying the Islamic republic was working on a more advanced Shihab-4.

When asked if the army was involved in Iran's nuclear program, Shamkhani said that its "only intervention in the nuclear area, is nuclear protection," referring to possible attack from Israel's suspected nuclear arsenal. "If a military operation is carried out against us, we cannot do nothing, so we are investing in nuclear protection," he said.

Iran's Looming Nuclear Threat Sparks Fresh Tensions

By DEBKAfile (A Special Military Report)

On Saturday night, Iranian Defense Minister Admiral Ali Shamkhani said Iran would soon test an improved version of its new ballistic Shehab-3 missile whose 1300-km range covers every part of Israel. In between emphasizing defense, Shamkhani issued a dire warning to Israel not to dare attack its nuclear sites.

DEBKAfile notes that the Shehab-3 missile's first unveiling was accompanied by the pledge: "We will wipe Israel off the map," a theme that recurs every Friday sermon in Iran's mosques and its official pronouncements. In view of the Tehran hard-line regime's admitted strategic commitment to Israel's destruction, Iran's nuclear program combined with the development of its Shehab-3 is seen by policymakers in Jerusalem as the greatest threat to Israel's existence since 1948.

Iran's processing facilities for enriching the uranium necessary to building nuclear weapons are carefully dispersed in several subterranean sites. They are built in bunkers, often tens of meters deep, under densely populated urban centers, in the hope of deterring the Americans and the Israelis from attacking them.

Nonetheless, the Iranians do not feel safe. The defense minister believes Israel is developing a new type of depth bomb able to penetrate buried sites or wipe out electronics with electro-magnetic energy bursts. Tehran's defense specialists are also keeping a watchful eye on the war tactics employed by the US military before, during and since the invasion of Iraq and against the Iraqi guerrilla war. They regard the Iraq precedent as a potential dress rehearsal for a possible US military operation against Iran.

Iranian military chiefs avidly read American publications on new weaponry - for instance, US Air Force research on a 9.5 ton Massive Ordnance Air-burst Bomb capable of hitting mountain bunkers, whose warhead is as powerful as a small nuclear bomb. This weapon is designed to replace the biggest conventional US bomb, the 7.5-ton Daisy Cutter, used at least twice in Afghanistan against mountain caves.

The Iranians are also worried by the airborne GBI-28 bunker busters the Americans used in the capture of Baghdad and in another airborne or cruise missile-carried BLU-114B bomb that is capable of knocking out the electricity grids of whole cities. There are reports of an "E-bomb" under development, whose microwave beams can massively damage electronic circuitry over a large area.

International media, furthermore, have reported at least one Israeli Dolphin submarine carrying cruise missiles with nuclear warheads to be lurking in waters just outside the Persian Gulf between the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden. Israel's Ofek 4 spy satellite is also able to track Iran's nuclear activities.

Iran is concerned by these new weapons and devices because they are armed with deep underground penetration capabilities, or geared to crippling electric and electronic systems in urban areas. Iran's subterranean nuclear plants are therefore potentially vulnerable - even in their subterranean lairs under cities. Iran's regime and military leaders live in fear of waking up one morning to find that an Israeli or an American strike has wiped out their nuclear option just when it is closest to their grasp.

Although Tehran's highly effective procrastination maneuvers have paid off so far in keeping diplomatic, military and economic hurdles at bay, defense minister Shamkhani finds it necessary to issue a warning threat to Israel. In the last ten days, these threats have intensified as a result of certain key developments inside Iran.

One, According to DEBKAfile's Iranian sources, Iran's radical spiritual ruler Ali Khamenei convened a high-powered secret conference last week, to underline a policy of nuclear brinkmanship in the face of the US-led international outcry against its nuclear weapons program. The decision to tough it out was endorsed by the assembled leadership group of former president Hashemi Rafsanjani, secretary of the national security council and liaison on nuclear matters with international institutions Hassan Rouhani, Iran's former delegation to the IAEA Ali Akbar Salehi, head of foreign affairs commission of NSC Seyyed Hossein Moussavian and also defense minister Shamkhani. A tough line against America automatically begets a doubly aggressive attitude towards Israel.

Two, Some of the new Shehab-3 missiles have been deployed secretly in central Iran - both as a shield for the nuclear plants against air, ground or naval attack and as a retaliatory option against attackers. Knocking out this deployment would leave the industry susceptible to attack and nullify Iran's deterrent.

The comment by Israel's air defense commander that Israel's Arrow II anti-missile missile system successfully tested last week against a Scud would not be effective against an Iranian multiple warhead Shehab 3 was taken with a pinch of salt by the ayatollahs who live in suspicion of trickery. But it does leave teasing questions about what Israel can do to prevent the deployment of the soon-to-be tested improved Shehab-3 batteries pointing in the direction of the Jewish state.

The Shamkhani threat comes together with the distribution in southern Israel of Lugol radiation antidote capsules to people living in the triangle formed by Israel's nuclear center at Dimona, Arad and Eilat on the Red Sea. Home Command soldiers are handing these iodine dose packages - not to be opened until ordered - round homes in Dimona, Yeruham, Arara, Kseifa and Bedouin Negev settlements. Instructions in Hebrew, Arabic, English, Russian and Amharic are attached. Distribution centers will also stock the antidote and extra doses made available for growing families.

Lugol is being handed out in case of an accidental leak from the Dimona reactor, say Israeli officials. They are talking less about the danger of nuclear fallout from a possible strike by an Iranian Shehab-3 missile.

In the 1991 Gulf War, Saddam Hussein did shoot a Scud missile against Dimona. It carried a warhead packed with cement for smashing through the reactor's dome but missed its target and fell in the sand without causing damage.

(Copyright 2000-2004 DEBKAfile. All Rights Reserved.)

Presbyterians' Shameful Boycott

By Alan M. Dershowitz

The Presbyterian Church (USA) has committed a grievous sin. The General Assembly of that church has voted to divest from only one country in the world. No, it was not China, which has occupied Tibet for half a century and continues to deny basic human rights to its own citizens. No, it was not Iran, which threatens nuclear holocaust, executes dissenters and denies religious freedom to Christians and -- you guessed it -- Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East and America's most reliable ally in a troubled part of the world.

The way it will work is simple: A blacklist will be prepared for the church's leaders, showing companies that earn more than $1 million annually from investments in Israel or that invest more than $1 million a year in Israel. The Presbyterians plan to divest from any company on the list -- with a handful of exemptions for companies that deal in education, social welfare programs and construction.

How did the church come to such a ludicrous, wrongheaded position? Just look at the resolution itself, which bursts with bigotry and ignorance. It effectively blames the Israelis for Palestinian slaughter of civilians by asserting that the occupation is the "root" of terrorism. This canard ignores the reality that the Palestinian leadership opted for murder and violence as the tactic of choice well before there was any occupation, and that the leaders of Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad have vowed to continue murdering Jews after the occupation ends, as long as the Jewish state exists.

The Presbyterian resolution effectively calls for the end of Israel by insisting on "the right of [Palestinian] refugees to return to their homeland." This is a well-known euphemism for turning Israel from a Jewish state into another state with a Palestinian majority. (Jordan is the other.)

The Presbyterian resolution also condemns Israel's military actions taken in defense of its civilians. It claims, without an iota of proof and against all the available evidence, that Israel commits "horrific acts of violence and deadly attacks on innocent people" when the truth is that Israel, like the United States, goes to extraordinary lengths to avoid killing innocent people. It equates Israel's targeting of terrorists with Palestinian targeting of civilians.

The president of Harvard University, in a speech delivered in Harvard's Memorial Church in 2002, included the singling out of Israel for divestment as the sort of "actions that are anti-Semitic in their effect, if not in their intent." The one-sided actions of the Presbyterian Church fit into this category. Divestment also encourages the continued use of terrorism by Palestinian leaders, who see that when Israel responds to their terrorism, it causes an important church to punish Israel.

I do not believe that a majority of the 2.5 million Presbyterians in the U.S. want their church used to support terrorism. But they are now on notice that their church has been hijacked and its name misused in the service of an immoral tactic.

Balanced criticism of Israel and of specific policies of its government is proper and essential to democratic governance. But the Presbyterian resolution is so one-sided, so anti-Zionist in its rhetoric and so ignorant of the realities on the ground that it can only be explained by the kind of bigotry that the Presbyterian Church itself condemned in 1987 when it promised "never again to participate in, to contribute to, or (insofar as we are able) to allow the persecution or denigration of Jews."

Unless the church rescinds this immoral, sinful and bigoted denigration of the Jewish state, it will be "participating in" and "contributing to" anti-Jewish bigotry and the encouragement of terrorism.

(This article originally appeared in the LA Times.)

(Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter professor of law at Harvard Law School and author of The Case for Israel.)

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