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British Vote for Israeli Hummus


The British Independent newspaper chose the Tsabar (Sabra) hummus brand as the best in a taste test conducted by the newspaper's weekend magazine. Six hummus manufacturers participated in the taste test. The Tsabar (Sabra) hummus, marketed under the brand name "Jordan Sabra" received the highest score: 4.5 stars. The test conductors found the Tsabar hummus to have a smooth texture with an authentic Middle-Eastern taste. The price of a 500 gram package of humus in Britain is about $5.60 compared to about $3.20 in Israel. Tsabar is owned by the Israeli food giant Osem.

Iran Test Launches Shihab-3

By Reuters, &

Several hours before the meeting between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and US President George W. Bush at the White House, in which they were expected to discuss the Iranian threat, Iran test fired the Shihab-3 missile.

Iran conducted the test launch Tuesday evening of the intermediate-range ballistic missile, with a range capable of striking Israel, all US forces in the region and Iran's Arab rivals.

The Shihab-3 is estimated to have a 1,300-1,500 kilometer operational range, with a respective 1,000-750 kilogram warhead. As a first generation nuclear warhead has typically a weight of about 1,000 kilograms, the Shihab-3 could theoretically be used to deliver an unconventional payload.

Israeli officials estimate that Iran has dozens of the Shihab-3 missiles. Additionally, Iran has longer-range Shihab-4 missiles and has recently acquired superior North Korean modified BM-25 missiles, as well.

According to reports, the test was seen as a partial success; it is unknown what problems took places during the test of the missile

The range of the missile of this model reaches 1,300 kilometers (806 miles), but according to reports that have come out of Iran in recent months, improvements on the missile have been carried out with the aim that it reaches 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles). It is fair to assume that the timing of the new test firing was preplanned for the Olmert-Bush summit.

Maj. Gen. Aharon Zeevi Farkash, the former IDF intelligence chief, warned last week that the Iranians will possess long-range missiles of 5,000 kilometers (3,100 miles), "and all of Europe will be covered" as a result.

Meanwhile, Israel has speeded up efforts to develop long-range cruise missiles of a type that could be used should the Jewish state try to strike at Iran's nuclear facilities, security sources said on Tuesday.

Israel sent warplanes to destroy Iraq's main atomic reactor at Osiraq in 1981 and has not ruled out similar action to prevent its arch-foe from getting the bomb should US-led diplomatic pressure on Tehran fail. The greater ranges to Iran's nuclear facilities might make cruise missiles more practical than planes, but the United States has rebuffed past Israeli requests to buy them.

Cruise missiles are programmed to seek out and hit distant targets, flying low to avoid radar. But only the United States and Russia are known to have mastered all aspects of production.

"A top priority has been put on developing this technology, in light of the Iran situation, as well as improving the Arrow," an Israeli security source said, referring to the anti-missile defense system designed by state-run Israel Aircraft Industries.

Jane's Defense Weekly said in 2004 that Israel Military Industries had fielded the country's first cruise missile, but its range was only around 300 km (190 miles). There have also been media reports that government arms manufacturer Rafael created at least a prototype cruise missile by attaching a jet booster to its medium-range Popeye missile.

Israel asked Washington to sell it Tomahawk cruise missiles in 2000, during peace talks with Syria. Israel argued that it would need Tomahawks to make up for the loss of "strategic depth" were it to return the occupied Golan Heights to Syria.

The request went unmet. Defense experts saw US reluctance to stir up jitters among Israel's rivals in the Middle East. "The United States would not want to export such a capable weapon at such sensitive times," said Jane's analyst Robert Hewson, noting that Tomahawks can carry nuclear warheads. Israel is believed to have the region's only atomic arsenal.

Iran is high on the agenda for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on his current first visit to Washington. An Olmert confidant predicted that after a White House summit on Tuesday, Israel would renew its request for Tomahawks.

Israel might also argue that Olmert's plan to give up parts of the occupied West Bank, with or without a peace deal with the Palestinians, would cost Israel strategic depth that would need to be balanced with better weapons "It (Tomahawk) was requested in the past. I believe it will be requested again, especially in light of the kind of threats Israel is facing in the future," the Olmert confidant said.

Some Israeli missile specialists, however, voiced skepticism about the usefulness of Tomahawks against Iranian nuclear facilities that are much better fortified than Osiraq was.

Israeli defense analyst Alon Ben-David suggested the United States might end up supplying the Tomahawks in order to scotch Israel's rival cruise missile program. "If the Americans discover that Israel is close to a credible cruise-missile capability, I expect they will be quick to curb it by finally coming up with the Tomahawks," he said.

Tomahawks are guided by a coded global positioning system network controlled by the Pentagon, meaning any Israeli launch would have to be approved by Washington.

Bush: Olmert's Unilateral Withdrawal Plan is Important Step to Peace


In a joint news conference with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, President George W. Bush on Tuesday conveyed the message that the convergence plan can only be implemented through negotiations.

Bush praised Olmert's convergence plan for a unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank, saying it could be "an important step toward the peace we both support." But Bush, in the first White House meeting with the new Israeli leader, stopped short of a full endorsement, saying a negotiated agreement "best serves Israelis and Palestinians and the cause of peace."

Bush also urged Israel to reach out to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas as an alternative to dealing with the Hamas-dominated Palestinian Authority. "Hamas must recognize Israel's right to exist, must abandon terror, must accept all previous agreements," Bush added. "No country can be expected to make peace with those who deny its right to exist, and who use terror to attack its population."

Olmert said he extended his hand to Abbas, and hopes "he will take the necessary steps which he committed to in order to move forward." But he said the rise of Hamas, which refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist and regards terrorism as a legitimate tool, "severely undermines the possibility of promoting a genuine peace process."

Olmert said that if Hamas abandons its refusal to recognize Israel and its embrace of violence, "they will find us a willing partner in peace." But he said Israel would not enter an agreement with any party that refuses to recognize its right to exist. "We cannot wait indefinitely for the Palestinians to change," he said.

Bush called Olmert's ideas "bold," saying that while any final peace agreement must be the product of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, "the prime minister's ideas could be an important step toward the peace we both support. I am encouraged by his constructive efforts to find ways to move the peace process forward," he said.

The two officials also extensively discussed the Iranian issue, and at the end of the meeting Bush made it clear that he prefers a diplomatic solution for the problem. "We determined that the Iranian regime must not obtain nuclear weapons," he said. Olmert warned: "This is a moment of truth. It is still not too late to prevent this from happening."

House Approves Palestinian Sanctions Bill Opposed by Bush

By Dan Robinson (VOA-Capitol Hill)

By a 361 to 37 majority, the U.S. House of Representatives Tuesday approved legislation calling for sanctions against the Palestinian Authority following the Hamas election victory earlier this year. The White House remains opposed to the legislation.

The Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act had the support of a vast majority of the 435-member Republican-controlled House.

The legislation would cut off all assistance to the terrorist Hamas-led Palestinian Authority, and place conditions on humanitarian assistance flowing through non-government organizations.

The House bill and similar Senate legislation both contain provisions designed to send a strong message to Hamas that it must formally renounce terrorism, recognize Israel, disarm militant groups, stop anti-Israeli incitement and reform its financial institutions.

The legislation would also declare the Palestinian Authority a terrorist sanctuary, deny visas for Palestinian officials, restrict travel by Palestinian Authority officials based at the United Nations, and cut off funds for diplomatic contacts between U.S. and Palestinian officials.

Debate reflected strong opinions over how Congress and the United States should continue to help the Palestinian people while expressing disapproval of Hamas policies.

"Today, we must send a message to Hamas, and President Abbas, that the free nations of the world reject their desire to be recognized as legitimate leaders of their people," said Eric Cantor, a Virginia Republican. "Both Hamas and Fatah's al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade have a record of terror and their leaders have a demonstrated lack of humanity by allowing these murderous activities."

Opponents argued that the legislation's provisions would reduce U.S. flexibility to guide Palestinian-Israeli peace efforts by limiting the president's decision-making powers.

Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat, argues the measure will also strengthen the hand of Palestinian extremists. "It does little to prioritize on the basis of our strategic interests, and provides no prospect for Palestinian reform coming through the process of negotiations," he noted. "In so doing, it weakens the hands of those who advocate for peace negotiations, and supports those extremists who believe in violence."

However, a Democrat and co-sponsor of the measure, Tom Lantos, said Congress must send an unambiguous message to Hamas. "It is, therefore, incumbent upon us, as the ally and longtime supporter of the Democratic state of Israel, to do everything we can to demonstrate the bankruptcy of Hamas' vision and to ensure that Hamas receives no help from the United States in implementing its evil plans."

In contrast to the House version, the Senate bill gives the president authority to disregard the law in the interests of U.S. National Security. The House measure would allow U.S. aid to the West Bank or Gaza for humanitarian needs, including water, food, medicine and sanitation, and if it is shown to promote national security interests of the United States.

Presidential spokesman Tony Snow reiterated White House opposition to the legislation. "We did not support that measure precisely because it does tie the president's hand in some of the activities that I was just talking about just now which is providing humanitarian aid. We think it unnecessarily constrains."

Missionaries Target Hassidic Households in New York


A Yiddish-language DVD, produced by Jews for Jesus and called "Days of Moshiach," was sent this month to 80,000 homes in the primarily Hassidic and Hareidi neighborhoods of New York and New Jersey. Purporting to present a Jewish narrative, starting with biblical figures such as Adam, Abraham and Jacob, the video promotes belief in Jesus and in the Christian religion.

DVDs were sent to homes in Kiryas Joel; the Monsey area of Rockland County; the Borough Park and Williamsburg sections of Brooklyn; and Lakewood, N.J. Local Jewish newspapers published fierce warnings to Jewish families regarding the Christian missionary nature of the DVDs.

The Israel-based Yad L'Achim warns that the direct mail campaign is to precede a series of home visits by the missionaries, who are expected to be dressed in Hareidi or Hassidic clothes in order to gain their targets' confidence.

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