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Parachute Found by PA, Parachutist Still Missing


Although witnesses report seeing a parachutist with an orange parachute land in a valley near the Arab villages of Sa'ir and Shayukh, north of Hebron, widespread searches have still borne no fruit. PA police report finding the parachute, but claim not to have seen the Israeli who is said to have landed accidentally in the region. Arab villagers continue to attack Israeli search parties that path through or near their villages.

Iran's Leader, Ahmadinejad, Calls on Nations to "Remove Israel"

By & Reuters

At a rally in Teheran, commemorating the 27th anniversary of the revolution that created the Islamic republic, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reiterated his call for Israel's destruction.

"We ask the West to remove what they created 60 years ago, and if they do not listen to our recommendations, then the Palestinian nation and other nations will eventually do this for them. Remove Israel before it is too late and save yourself from the fury of regional nations," proclaimed Ahamdinejad to a crowd of hundreds of thousands of Iranians, according to state media.

Once again, the Iranian president called the Holocaust "a fairy tale" and accused European nations of being held hostage by "Zionists" in Israel. He said "neutral scholars" should be allowed to investigate in Europe and report on "the truth about the fairy tale of the Holocaust."

Ahmadinejad compared the Holocaust to the caricatures of Mohammed that ignited a wave of violent protests around the Islamic world. "Now in the West insulting the prophet is allowed, but questioning the Holocaust is considered a crime," he said. The cartoons, he said were part of a "Zionist plot."

"We ask, why do you insult the prophet? The response is that it is a matter of freedom, while in fact they are hostages of the Zionists. And the people of the U.S. and Europe should pay a heavy price for becoming hostages to Zionists," he expounded.

Chastising the West for not recognizing the Hamas victory in parliamentary elections in the Palestinian Authority, Ahmadinejad said, "You [the West] want democracy but do not respect the outcome. It seems that you [the West] only want that form of democracy whose results just repeat your standpoints and only follow your policies."

The current president of the European Union, Ursula Plassnik, who also serves as Austria's foreign minister, condemned Ahmadinejad's latest threat to destroy the Jewish state. "That this type of completely unacceptable remarks are continually being repeated does not mean we should accept them in silence," she said. Plassnik also said that the land of Israel should be divided between Arabs and Israelis, living side-by-side in two states, without violence of terrorism.

Right before Ahmadinejad's speech, which also focused on Iran's "inalienable" right to develop nuclear power, the crowd chanted "Death to America," "Death to Israel," and "Nuclear energy is our inalienable right."

Iran's Jews have sharply criticized Ahmadinejad for denying the Holocaust, saying his remarks have sparked fears in their ancient but dwindling community.

Ahmadinejad has dismissed the 1933-1945 genocide of six million Jews by the Nazis and their allies as a myth, saying the crime was exaggerated to bolster Israeli interests. Haroun Yashayaei, the head of Iran's Jewish community, sent a letter of complaint to Ahmadinejad two weeks ago.

"How is it possible to ignore all of the undeniable evidence existing for the exile and massacre of the Jews in Europe during World War Two?" said a copy of Yashayaei's letter faxed to Reuters on Sunday.

"Challenging one of the most obvious and saddening events of 20th century humanity has created astonishment among the people of the world and spread fear and anxiety among the small Jewish community of Iran," the letter added.

A Jewish community leader said he preferred not to comment on whether Ahmadinejad had sent a reply to the letter, penned on behalf on the entire Jewish community. Jews occupy an awkward position in Israel's arch-foe Iran, often speaking out against Israeli treatment of Palestinians.

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, spiritual father of Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution, urged Iranians to distinguish clearly between their own ancient community and Zionists.

However, Iran's Jewish community has slumped to some 25,000 members from about 85,000 at the time of the revolution. Iran's population is about 69 million. Iran's Jews are often the subjects of intense suspicion and 10 from the southern city of Shiraz were convicted of spying in 2000. The closed-door trial sparked international outrage. The last five detained were released in April 2003.

Last April, Iran's Jewish parliamentarian had to complain to parliament that popular television serials were anti-Semitic. The parliament speaker supported his complaint.

Iran's Jews are sometimes called "Esther's Children," Esther, a queen of Persia who gave her name to a book of the Bible, is buried in the Western Iranian city of Hamadan.

Olmert: New Rules Apply to Hamas-Led PA

By Ha'aretz

Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned Sunday "once the Palestinian parliament is sworn in, the Palestinian Authority will turn into a Hamas authority." Speaking at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Olmert told the ministers ". We won't not wink at anyone - our no is a no, and if we say yes we will mean yes."

Olmert also reacted for the first time to Likud Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu's criticism following the government's decision to hand the Palestinians some $250 million in customs and duties that Israel withheld following Hamas' victory. "The former finance minister [Netanyahu] transferred monies to the Palestinian Authority, sometimes following a terror attack," Olmert said during the meeting.

The acting premier said that the decision was made at the recommendation of the defense establishment. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said that Hamas' PA takeover is a negative development and that Israel must hold fast to its policy of abstaining from holding talks with the terrorist organization.

So long as Hamas does not recognize Israel's right to exist, Mofaz said, "this complex reality requires us to back the unequivocal message of 'no' to Hamas, unless it meets all our conditions, i.e. disarms and gets rid of the section in its manifesto calling for the destruction of Israel. We must insist on our policy of not holding any contacts with Hamas and insist that Abu Mazen [PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas] disarm all terror organizations."

According to the defense minister, the identity of the PA's new senior office bearers, including the new PA prime minister, chairman of the Palestinian Legislative Council and the head of the PA's security services will determine the future face of the PA and Abbas' future as well.

Justice and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who returned from a visit to the U.S., told the cabinet that Washington's stance on the deliberations with Hamas is compatible with Israel's.

Livni warned of a slippery slope on which Hamas would attempt to operate on two opposite planes - politically, with a government led by professionals who would garner international acceptance for Hamas, and militarily, preserving the organization's terror capabilities. This way, Livni warned, Hamas would enjoy growing legitimacy without meeting the demand posed to Hamas by the international community that it disarm.

Israel Continues to Deride Russian Invitation to Hamas

By Michael Bowman (VOA-Washington)

Israel continues to criticize Russia's invitation to Hamas leaders to visit Moscow in the wake of the terrorist group's victory in last month's Palestinian elections.

Israel's ambassador in Washington, Daniel Ayalon, said the international community must demand sweeping changes from Hamas, including a complete break from terrorism and full acceptance of Israel's right to exist. Appearing on CNN's Late Edition program, Ayalon said Russia is undermining what should be a unified message to Hamas.

"It is very puzzling, and, I would say, troubling, because the Russians were part of the 'quartet,' which took a decision a week ago of no contact with Hamas unless they change," he said. "By breaching the unified position of the international community against a terror organization, they compromise our intention to bring about a change."

The quartet consists of the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, and Russia. Russian officials have said they plan to emphasize the need for Hamas to reform itself in any meetings with the group's leadership.

Appearing on CBS's Face the Nation program, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice indicated the Bush administration is taking a wait-and-see approach regarding the Russian invitation to Hamas.

"The quartet has signed on to a statement that says a Palestinian government must recognize Israel's right to exist, must give up violence, must accept the two-state solution, and so on," she said. "The Russians assure us that, after President Putin's comments, that anything they say to Hamas will simply be to reinforce that message." Rice noted that Russia, unlike the United States and the European Union, does not regard Hamas as a terrorist organization.

Sitting next to the Israeli ambassador on Late Edition was the Palestinian representative to the United States, Afif Safieh, who predicted that the international community's concern over Hamas' leadership would prove unwarranted.

"I believe that Hamas is going to behave with great responsibility, surprising many," said Safieh. "I personally believe that Hamas will be reflecting Palestinian preferences for a convincing peace process, which was not the case for the last 15 years. They are aware that they do not have a mandate to go against the peace process which our people aspire for."

Hamas leaders have said they plan on traveling to Moscow later this month. Israeli officials have said that, as matters now stand, they have no intention of dealing with the incoming Palestinian government. Ayalon said that if Hamas accepts Israel's right to exist, renounces terrorism, disarms, and actively fights against terrorism, and then Israel would reconsider its position.

Mesh´al Cites Importance of Israeli Arabs in Hamas Strategy


Hamas, having won the Palestinian Authority elections, sees itself as also representing the Arab citizens of Israel, the organization's political leader, Khaled Mesh'al, told reporters in Qatar.

Israeli-Arabs, he said, are one of the most important engines behind the drive to transform all of Israel into "Palestine." In particular, Mesh'al cited the Israeli-Arabs' role in the effort to overwhelm Israel through an Arab "right of return."

The Hamas leader's statements in Qatar were not the expression of a new stance, however. In December, a Hamas campaign video praised Arab citizens of Israel who wish to destroy the country "from within."

Israeli-Arabs are only one aspect of the pan-Arab, pan-Islamic strategy of Hamas, according to Mesh'al. The terrorist organization claims to represent all those identified as Palestinians throughout the world, but is also seeking to motivate the Arab and Islamic masses to act as a counterweight to Israeli dominance locally.

The strategy of appealing to the wider circle of Arab and Muslim peoples is particularly relevant at this time, as the masses are at a stage of "awakening," Mesh'al said, apparently in reference to ongoing worldwide riots over Danish cartoons of Islam's founder, Muhammad.

Hamas policy, the terror organization's representative explained, is based on five pillars: resistance, political reform, steadfastness, deterrence and Arabism.

Mesh'al reiterated the Hamas view that the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza was a victory for the organization's policy of ongoing terrorism. The Israeli side, he said, is in withdrawal and more successes are to be expected.

"There is no liberation [of Islamic lands] without resistance, and there is no honor for the Islamic nation without resistance," Mesh'al declared, expressing confidence that the uncompromising position of Hamas will force world governments to accept the legitimacy of the organization.

Report: 350,000 Israelis Live in NY


About 350,000 Israeli nationals were living in the New York Metropolitan area in December 2005, a new report compiled by the Israeli consulate in Manhattan revealed.

The report, sent to the Foreign and Absorption Ministries in Israel, estimates there are several additional tens of thousands of Israelis in the NY, New Jersey and Connecticut vicinity that have not yet approached the consulate for services, and that were consequently not registered there.

All and all, consulate personnel believe that some 400,000 Israeli citizens live in the NY Metropolitan area, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Sunday.

The consulate's assessment is based on the number of files opened at its offices for Israelis who immigrated to the United States that stands at 70,000. According to consulate records, there is an average of five members per family, making the total number of Israelis approximately 350,000.

The recent report confirms earlier assessments according to which there were 800,000 Israelis residing in the U.S., mainly in NY, California (about 200,000) and Florida (about 100,000).

Israel's Consul in NY Arieh Mekel told Yedioth a mere 600 Israelis arrived at the consulate's offices during 2005 in a bid to explore the opportunity of returning to Israel, and only 365 actually made the step and moved back to the country. Mekel stressed the figure only refers to Israelis assisted by the consulate in the process of returning home.

Notably, the decline in immigration to Israel in recent years has influenced Israeli missions abroad to revive efforts to bring Israeli nationals back to their native land. These efforts include organized meetings between Israeli officials and Israelis overseas, real estate fairs and projects to introduce Israelis with the financial rights they are guaranteed if they return. "We have significantly boosted our efforts to return Israelis home," Mekel explained.

Israel Gets a Little Closer - Just A Local Call Away


MSM Netphone Inc. of Cedarhurst, NY announced a new service by which subscribers are eligible to receive local Israeli phone numbers that ring through to phones worldwide.

"We are very excited about this new service," said Martin Rothman, MSM Netphone CEO. "For a nominal monthly fee our subscribers will have local Israeli numbers - no matter where they may live."

The numbers function the same as a normal Israeli number. For example, an Israeli resident calling a MSM subscriber in NY, merely dials a local Israeli phone number, and the phone will ring in NY.

The new service includes an exclusive Israeli Bezeq phone number in the 03 area code. Each subscriber will receive his own phone number with the ability to have it ring through to anywhere in the world.

According to Rothman, MSM will be offering the numbers under two programs. The first program requires a broadband connection and a MSM VoIP adapter. With this service, the subscriber can make and receive unlimited calls to and from Israel for a fixed monthly fee.

The second program does not require an Internet connection. The subscriber receives an Israeli phone number, and MSM routes it to ring on a regular landline in the country of the subscriber.

Rothman noted that the new service is a perfect solution for Israelis with family and business connections abroad, or for foreign companies that want to sell to Israel. MSM Netphone forecast a large demand for this new service.

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