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Israel Newa Faxx Note: The publication will not appear from Thursday, November 24 through Wednesday, December 7 due to the upcoming U.S. Thanksgiving holiday. Happy Holidays!

Iran's New Satellite Capable of Spying on Israel


Iran, just weeks after its president called for Israel's destruction, admits that its new Sina-1 satellite is capable of spying on Israel.

The Islamic country insisted the satellite was for scientific purposes prior to its launch aboard a Russian rocket last month. They said its purpose was to take pictures of Iran and monitor regions prone to earthquakes. The head of the country's space program, however, told the Associated Press that the satellite is able to easily spy on the Jewish State from outer space.

"Sina-1 is a research satellite," said Deputy Telecom Minister and head of Iran's space program Ahmad Talebzadeh. Asked directly if it could be used to spy on the Jewish state, Talebzadeh said, "Technically speaking, yes. It can monitor Israel - but we don't need to do it. You can buy satellite photos of Israeli streets from the market."

Israeli officials acknowledge that Iran's satellite is a danger to the Jewish state. "We know that they spy on us," Chairman of the Knesset Defense Committee Ephraim Sneh (Labor) told AP. "What they are trying to do is look for places where a mega-terror attack can take place."

With Iran able to monitor everything from Israeli military deployment to locations of key strategic targets, it is feared that such information could be provided, in real time, to the handful of terror organizations under its sponsorship.

Iran plans to launch an additional satellite, the Misbah, in two month's time. Sneh said the launching of the satellite is part of Iran's ambition to become a global military power.

Iran has started another project to convert uranium ore into gas for making enriched uranium for its nuclear program, According to Agence France-Presse (AFP) and Reuters News Agency.

Iran still claims that its nuclear program is peaceful, aimed at producing electricity. The BBC reported, though, that Iran has already enriched Uranium ten times the concentration needed to produce electricity.

United Nations inspectors stated that the "the first drums of new uranium ore were fed into the process," an unidentified diplomat told Reuters. Iran is planning to convert 55 tons of ore, according to AFP.

Israel and the U.S. believe that Iran aims to produce nuclear weapons though it is unclear what steps will be taken to prevent the Islamic country from becoming a nuclear power.

Israel Calls Early Elections

By Jim Teeple (VOA-Jerusalem)

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon agreed on Thursday to hold early elections. He immediately began meeting with different party leaders to determine the exact date for the vote, which will be held in late February or early March.

Elections in Israel were scheduled to be held by November of next year. However the date was moved up after labor union leader Amir Peretz defeated longtime Labor Party leader Shimon Peres last week in a leadership contest to head the Labor Party.

Immediately following the political upset, Peretz said he would pull the Labor Party out of Sharon's coalition government, and force new elections. Akiva Aldar, a political columnist for Ha'aretz, said Peretz has completely changed the political landscape in Israel.

"I think that Amir Peretz is benefiting from the fact that since he was elected chairman of the Labor Party it seems that he takes over control and he dictates the political agenda in Israel. It seems that this historic alliance between Likud and Labor, maybe it is not history yet, but it is far away from where it was just a few weeks ago," he said.

Under the current coalition between the Labor and Likud parties, Israel has been able to disengage from the Gaza Strip and agree to a U.S. proposal this week that opens Gaza's international border with Egypt, and allows Palestinians movement between the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Political analysts said Israel's coming election, and legislative elections in the Palestinian territories scheduled to take place in January, would likely postpone any further talks between Israelis and Palestinians for the time being.

Akiva Aldar of Ha'aretz said Sharon might also benefit from a newly invigorated Labor Party. "What it does to the Likud is that this threat [from Peretz] puts them in a position where they want to feel more cozy and stick together, against this external threat. This is what Sharon is doing, using Peretz as a kind of a club coming from outside saying let us put our differences behind us."

Sharon recently faced down a challenge to his leadership within the Likud Party from dissidents angry over his disengagement from Gaza. There has been speculation he would leave Likud to form a new party in a bid to win reelection as prime minister on his own. For his part, Peretz said he supports the peace process with the Palestinians but his major concern is to restore social welfare programs and reverse privatization efforts taken recently.

Israeli President Invites Pope Benedict to Visit Israel

By Sabina Castelfranco (VOA-Rome

Israeli President Moshe Katsav has invited Pope Benedict to visit Israel and the pontiff has accepted. The Israeli leader extended the invitation during a meeting at the Vatican Thursday. The Israeli leader has been in Italy meeting with Italian officials and members of the Jewish community in Rome.

Katsav, accompanied by his wife Gila, spent 25 minutes in private talks with Pope Benedict in his library. Talks focused on the situation in the Holy Land and the agreements signed by Israel and the Holy See, following the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1993.

A spokesman said the Vatican's position, in favor of the existence and collaboration between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, was reiterated to the Israeli leader.

The late Pope John Paul II visited Israel in 2000. After his election in April of this year, Pope Benedict said he would continue along the path of his predecessor in efforts to strengthen relations between Catholics and Jews.

Katsav is on a three-day official visit to Italy. He has met with the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, with opposition leaders and members of Rome's Jewish community, including some who were wounded in a 1982 bomb attack.

Arabs Taking over Jordan Valley


The Israeli government has allowed Arabs to take over thousands of acres in the Jordan Valley, according to charges made by Jordan Valley Regional Council leader Dovi Tal. He said Civil Lands Administration officials have ignored Arab confiscation of lands while demanding lease money from Jews who farm government land.

"Two and a half years ago, the IDF abandoned several camps, and there was an agreement with the defense and agriculture ministers that we could use the land for farming," Tal explained. "Nothing happened because the Lands Administration wanted lease money...but the Arabs have no problem in taking over the land" without any government interference.

Kibbutz Sells Prime Kinneret Resort Property

By Ha'aretz

Publicly traded Golan Fine Crafts has agreed to pay Kibbutz Ha'on NIS 23 million for ownership of the Lake Kinneret beachfront resort Ha'on Holiday Village. The kibbutz explained that the agreement is not a sale but an agreement on price, should a sale take place. The parties must sign a sale agreement within 30 days.

Should the deal close, the kibbutz would hand over the 63-dunam (about 16-acre) resort village to Golan, controlled by diamond merchant Oded Desau. The village has 96 units and a 400-meter stretch of beach. Golan plans to construct and additional 100 vacation units at the site.

The deal must be approved by the kibbutz membership, Israel Lands Administration and the kibbutz's creditors. Ha'on has an estimated NIS 50 million in debt, about NIS 25 million is owed to the Jordan Valley Purchasing Corp. The kibbutz also owes NIS 7.5 million to banks, as well as various other creditors.

The kibbutz plans to use the proceeds from the sale, should it take place, to repay debt under a creditors agreement and to ensure members' pensions.

The sale of the resort village is a major component in the plan to extract Ha'on from its tremendous burden of debt and allow members a decent standard of living. The kibbutz, founded in 1949, now has about 70 members. Some are elderly and other are close to retirement age.

U.S. Orders Arrest of Former Jerusalem Post Owner


Conrad Black, the conservative media mogul who has headed some of the world's largest papers, was charged Thursday with a 51.8-million-dollar fraud. The indictment alleges that Black used an elaborate moneymaking scheme to pay for lavish trips to the South Pacific.

At one time, Black's Hollinger International empire included London's Daily Telegraph, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Jerusalem Post and 60 percent of Canada's dailies, prompting comparisons between Black and Australian media magnate Rupert Murdoch.

Black, 61, made headlines five years ago when he gave up his Canadian citizenship to become a British citizen and join the House of Lords. He was ousted as chairman and chief executive officer of Hollinger International; the company he built and then helped dismantle, in 2003, following allegations that he helped loot the company.

The 11-count indictment against Black and three fellow former executives were unsealed in Chicago, bringing to a head several years of legal entanglements over his allegedly fraudulent behavior.

Prosecutors issued a warrant for Black's arrest and offered him a chance to turn himself in. U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who is also handling the high-profile CIA leak case involving the White House, said the U.S. would seek extradition if Black does not comply.

The 51.8-million-dollar fraud charges follow a separate August indictment for $32 million in fraud, the Department of Justice said in a statement. Black's prosecution is the highest-profile criminal case against a former CEO since the arrests last year of WorldCom Inc.'s Bernard Ebbers and Enron Corp.'s Kenneth Lay.

Tourism to Israel Continues to Soar


Israel's Tourism Ministry's motto is: "Israel - No One Belongs Here More Than You." Over the first 10 months of the year, nearly 1.6 million tourists arrived in Israel - more than in all of 2004. Figures released by the Ministry of Tourism and the Central Bureau of Statistics show that the number of tourists over the past ten months is 27% more than during the same period last year. In October alone, 164,400 tourists entered Israel - a 28% increase over October 2004.

The trend of increasing tourism to Israel thus continues for the third straight year. Last year's total was approximately 1.5 million, following totals of 1.06 million in 2003 and 0.86 million in 2002. The peak of over 2.4 million, registered in the pre-Oslo War year of 2000, has still not been reached, but Tourism Minister Avraham Hirschson says he expects to surpass this number in 2007.

Last year, 379,000 tourists arrived from the U.S., compared with 272,000 the year before. From France, the numbers were 257,000 and 174,000, respectively. The increase from Great Britain was from 104,000 to 146,000. From Canada, the increase was particularly dramatic - from 31,000 to 44,000.

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