Monday, October 10, 2005

A7news: Al-Qaeda Bases in Sinai

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Al-Qaeda Bases in Sinai
Al-Qaeda has built at least one base in Sinai, from where terrorists are sent to Gaza and from there to Israel. Egypt has done nothing to stop it, says IDF Intelligence Chief Gen. Ze'evi-Farkash.

 1. Al-Qaeda Bases in Sinai
 2. Sharon-Abbas Meeting Postponed Due to Lack of Concessions
 3. Israel´s Prof. Aumann Wins Nobel Prize in Economics
 4. Lulav Shortage
 5. NRP to Join the Government?
 6. Rice Favors Diplomatic Isolation Over Attacking Syria
 7. First Steps Towards Solving Major Problems
 8. On A7 Radio: 50,000 Jewish Babies Aborted Yearly in Israel
 9. Sharon National Park

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Monday, October 10, 2005
7 Tishrei 5766


1. Al-Qaeda Bases in Sinai
By Hillel Fendel

Al-Qaeda has built at least one base in Sinai, from where terrorists are sent to Gaza and from there to Israel. Egypt has done nothing to stop it, says IDF Intelligence Chief Gen. Ze'evi-Farkash.

Gen. Aharon Ze'evi-Farkash told the Cabinet ministers at their weekly meeting on Sunday that a gang of the international terrorist organization Al-Qaeda recently took over a large area in the Sinai Peninsula. After banishing the residents, they placed mines around their new base - signaling Egyptian police and army forces not to come near.

Activities at the base include the training of terrorists and preparations for sending them to Gaza, from where they can more easily enter Israel to perpetrate attacks.

Almost a month ago, Mahmoud A-Zahar, regional head of Hamas, told the Italian newspaper "Corriere de La Sierra" that several Al-Qaeda terrorists had already crossed into Gaza.

Ze'evi-Farkash said that in the days and weeks following Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, Al-Qaeda sent large amounts of weapons and many terrorists into Gaza, with the purpose of strengthening the terrorist infrastructure there. Among the weapons smuggled in are shoulder-launched missiles, long-range Katyusha rockets, and tremendous amounts of automatic rifles and bullets. It is even reported that a new Kassam rocket has been introduced into the Gaza arsenal, one that explodes in mid-air, releasing lethal falling shrapnel even if it misses its essential target.

The Intelligence Chief said that Egypt is refraining from taking action against the new terrorists. He said Egypt fears that a direct clash with Al-Qaeda will lead to terror attacks against Egypt itself. Other reports are that Egypt cannot take massive military action in the demilitarized desert without Israeli permission - something it does not wish to request.

Farkash's report jibes with other accounts. A recent article in The Jordan Times cites reports to the effect that Al-Qaeda has set up makeshift camps in Sinai's rough terrain and inaccessible peaks just as it did in Afghanistan's Tora Bora mountains. Debkafile, which reported on Al-Qaeda's presence in Sinai a week ago, said that Egyptian forces basically control only the perimeter of Sinai, while up to half of the interior is exclusively Al-Qaeda-land.

The Anti-Terrorism Task Force, under the auspices of the Prime Minister's Office, has not withdrawn its warning against travel to Sinai, issued in light of "specific and well-based intelligence" indicating plans to kidnap vacationing Israelis there.

Gen. Ze'evi-Farkash told the Jaffe Center for Strategic Studies last week that Al-Qaeda terrorists had entered Gaza from Egypt following Israel's withdrawal, though he did not emphasize their presence in the Sinai. The general also said that during the ten days after the withdrawal, Palestinian terrorist groups brought in 3,000 AK-47 assault rifles, 300 rocket-propelled grenades, 1.5 million rounds of ammunition and an undetermined number of anti-tank rockets and surface-to-air missiles from Sinai.

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2. Sharon-Abbas Meeting Postponed Due to Lack of Concessions
By Alex Traiman

A meeting scheduled to take place Tuesday between PM Ariel Sharon and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has been postponed. Abbas was hoping to achieve significant concessions from Israel during the summit.

According to sources from both parties, agreements on key issues had not been met during preceding negotiations between top Sharon aide Dov Weisglass and Palestinian Authority (PA) negotiator Saeb Erekat. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon cited lack of preparation as the main reason the meeting was postponed. The summit will most likely instead take place sometime in November.

"While it is important to have contact, you don't go to a meeting that is not properly prepared,” Sharon stated in a cabinet meeting Sunday.

Israel has been thus far unwilling to concede to multiple PA demands during ongoing discussions between Weisglass and Erekat. According to media reports, the PA is seeking weapons from Israel to help fight ongoing terror, the release of several prisoners, and an Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) withdrawal from the town of Bethlehem.

It remains unclear what Israel hopes to receive in return for such gestures.

According to Dr. Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar Ilan University, Abbas needs to show his constituents and the world concrete results for the meeting with Sharon to be a success.

"The Palestinians are expecting more concessions from the Israeli side,” said Inbar in an interview with Arutz-7. “They have a strategy of being a nebech [misfortunate one]. They say, 'I am a nebech. I am weak. Give me more. Strengthen me.' That is the strategy that has worked for them for many years."

Abbas is planning to travel to Washington for a meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush on October 20. The U.S. State Department dispatched Assistant Secretary for Near Easter Affairs, David Welch, to Ramallah ahead of the Washington meeting.

Welch and Abbas discussed political developments following Israel's withdrawal from Gaza, as well as issues to be raised at Abbas' scheduled meeting with Ariel Sharon. Welch had been pressuring Abbas to meet with Sharon now, instead of in November as originally planned.

Abbas had been hoping to boast a successful meeting with Sharon, during his Washington trip later in the month. However, once it became clear that PA would not achieve any significant gains from Israel during the meeting, the meeting with Sharon was postponed.

"I think that Abu Mazen didn't get what he wanted,” Inbar stated. “He doesn't want to be seen too much with Ariel Sharon. He has a strong opposition from Hamas and other bodies, so if he cannot produce some concrete concessions from Israel, he has no need to meet Sharon, despite the American pressure for him to do so.

"I assume that if the meeting will take place in November, there will be something that Abu Mazen will get that he can show to his constituents. He may get prisoners. He may get a city. He may get some safe passage from Gaza to Judea and Samaria.”

Inbar believes that Sharon should remain committed to meeting with Abbas. "Israel must do what it can to reach some understanding with the Palestinians, but not at all costs,” Inbar stated.

“Sharon also faces internal issues similar to those of Abu Mazen. Sharon faces internal opposition within his party. He is facing elections within a year. There is an expectation that he will now pursue a hawkish policy. He has no reason to make concessions to the Palestinians now. The expectation of Israelis and I think of the whole world is that Abu Mazen must establish order in his own house and Sharon is trying to strengthen that expectation."

Despite the cancellation of the planned meeting, the IDF has decided to ease conditions for PA Arabs during the current Moslem holiday of Ramadan.

Arab workers will be allowed to help Israeli farmers pick olives, and 100 businessmen from the PA will be allowed to leave Judea and Samaria and enter Israel's pre-1967 borders. In addition, 4,000 Arabs over the age of 45 will be allowed to pray on the Jewish Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Furthermore, on Sunday, the Israeli Navy lifted restrictions on Gazan fisherman, and the IDF re-opened the Karni Crossing in northern Gaza. Gaza's primary commercial passage was closed several weeks ago after Arabs fired numerous Kassam rockets into the Negev.

OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Dan Harel responded by claiming that "the State of Israel has a great interest in the welfare of the residents of Gaza. It's our opinion that as their economic situation improves, it will undermine the legs of terror."

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3. Israel´s Prof. Aumann Wins Nobel Prize in Economics
By Hillel Fendel

Prof. Robert J. Aumann of Heb. U. is a co-winner of this year's Nobel Prize in Economics, for "enhancing our understanding of conflict and cooperation through game-theory analysis."

Aumann, a religious Jew who grew up in New York City and currently resides in Jerusalem, won the prestigious prize together with Prof. Thomas C. Schelling of the University of Maryland. The two established game theory as the dominant approach towards understanding conflict and cooperation between countries, individuals and organizations. They will share the $1.3 million prize.

The official name of the prize, which will be awarded in Stockholm on Dec. 10, is The Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel. Nobel himself established awards for physics, chemistry, medicine, peace and literature, and Sweden's central bank added economics to the list in 1968.

Aumann's research is not easily understood by the layman. It involves concepts such as neo-Walrasian theory, core equivalence in a "continuum" economy, the "perfectly competitive" scenario and approximate purification of mixed strategies. His six books include " Values of Non-Atomic Games," "Game Theory" (in Hebrew), and "Repeated Games with Incomplete Information." He has written and delivered papers entitled "Game-Theoretic Analysis of a Bankruptcy Problem from the Talmud," "Asphericity of Alternating Knots," and dozens more.

Prof. Yisrael Aharoni, head of the Mathematics Department of the Jerusalem College of Technology (Machon Lev) in Jerusalem, studied briefly under Prof. Aumann. Expressing satisfaction at Aumann's Nobel recognition, Aharoni told Arutz-7, "Three years ago, another Israeli professor, Daniel Kahneman, won the Economics prize, and he basically said that economics is all psychology. What's interesting is that this winner, Prof. Aumann, says basically the opposite, that economics is all mathematical and logical."

Prof. Aharoni said that a famous article by Prof. Aumann, in which he applies his theories to explain a difficult Mishna in Tractate Ketubot and another Mishna in Tractate Baba Metzia "caused economists and mathematicians around the world to take an interest in Talmudic texts and see how they deal with economic/legal issues."

"It's gratifying to see," Aharoni said, "that the Nobel Prize committee recognized the contribution of mathematics to economics, as it has done in the past regarding similar contributions to medicine, chemistry and other areas."

Prof. Aharoni said that Aumann showed how "the results of all sorts of competitions and arguments between people or entities can be analyzed mathematically. For instance, a seller has various options, such as selling less for a higher price or more for a lower price. The buyer also has various options. The relevant data can be analyzed and a level can be found such that both sides will end up as satisfied as possible under the given circumstances."

Another example of the application of game theory is in the area of "repeated games." If a situation is faced once, Prof. Aharoni explained, "the best strategy is used, but if it is encountered many times, it is likely that one strategy will be used a certain amount of the time, and another strategy for the remainder - given the advantages and disadvantages of each. This is so because of the very fact of the repetition. For instance, if you buy bread every single day, some of the times you will be willing to travel further to pay a lower price - but not all the time, because then the seller will raise the price."

Previous Israeli Nobel Prize winners include Shmuel Yosef Agnon (Literature, 1966), Daniel Kahneman (Economics, 2002), and Avraham Hershko and Aharon Ciechanover (Chemistry, 2004). Yitzchak Rabin and Shimon Peres won a controversial Peace Prize in 1994.

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4. Lulav Shortage
By Hillel Fendel

The lulav crisis in Israel is still not going away, despite the entry of 70,000 lulavim from Gaza today. The U.S. has additional lulav problems of its own.

The Israeli market demands some 500,000 kosher lulavim a year for the Sukkot holiday, and the vast majority of this number are imported from Egypt. This year, however, one importer - Avi Balali of Segulah, north of Kiryat Gat - has managed to convince Egypt to drastically reduce the amount of lulavim it exports, and to allow him exclusive rights on that limited amount.

A lulav - a branch growing out of the center of the palm tree - is one of the Four Species that Jews are bidden to take and hold for at least a few moments each day of the Sukkot holiday. The other three species are the etrog (citron fruit), three hadasim (foot-long myrtle branches), and two aravot (foot-long willow branches).

A report in the Hebrew weekly Yated Ne'eman alleges that Balali, a non-observant Jew, bribed Egyptian officials to this end.

Balali himself has managed to bring in 300,000 lulavim from Egypt, but it is estimated that 40% of them - even less than the customary 50% - are kosher (acceptable for use in accordance to Jewish legal requirements).

Some lulavim are entering Israel via channels other than Egypt, but at present it does not appear that the goal of 500,000 kosher palm branches will be reached. Another importer has apparently managed to buy 100,000 lulavim from Egypt - half of which are expected to be kosher - and hopes to bring them to Israel via the Haifa port today. An unknown number of high-quality palm branches are available from the Jordan Valley, but not as many as had been hoped - because the farmers changed their minds about increasing their supply. Agriculture Ministry officials said they could not explain why.

A third source is Gaza, from where some 70,000 lulavim were brought in this morning via the Karni Crossing. This, due to the intervention of Deputy Welfare Minister Avraham Ravits (United Torah Judaism), who spoke with Defense Minister Sha'ul Mofaz and requested that the crossing be opened for the purpose.

Many lulav-consumers are not anxious to support Gaza farmers, however. "I have no intention of buying a lulav from Gaza," one young buyer at one of the lulav markets said this morning. "How do I know if the payment won't reach the hands of one of those who burnt a synagogue a few weeks ago?"

His friend agreed, adding, "It seems obvious that the concept of 'beautifying the commandments' that is so prevalent on the Sukkot holiday applies to this as well, and that we should add a few shekels in order to buy Jewish produce - not Gazan or Egyptian."

Just yesterday (Sunday), an importer received permission from both Israel and Jordan to import a quantity of lulavim - but as he was in the midst of the actual harvest, he was suddenly informed by the Jordanian authorities that he must cease and desist. It is suspected, according to Yated Ne'eman, that Balali was behind this decision as well.

A small number of lulavim might arrive from Spain, while even Iraqi palm branches were briefly considered for a short while. The remaining options are to convince Egypt to reconsider its restrictions, and/or to convince Jordan to do the same.

Balali, who is facing charges on similar schemes in the past, is suspected of bringing down a large part of the American lulav market as well. Yated Ne'eman reports that a man from the Lakewood, New Jersey yeshiva community made an advance payment to Balali of $40,000 for 200,000 lulavim - which never arrived. The man said that Balali explained that the ship was "lost at sea." It is suspected, however, that Balali actually sold the same shipment to a second U.S. importer. A rabbinical court in the United States has issued the equivalent of a restraining order against using the lulavim in the shipment, based on the Rabbinic injunction against using stolen lulavim.

Balali is thus holding both the Israeli and American lulav markets "by the koisheklach," the Yated Ne'eman reporter told Arutz-7 today. Koisheklach are holders made out of palm leaves in which the willow and myrtle branches are placed and held close to the lulav.

Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, Chief Rabbi of Ramat Gan, ruled this week that in light of the lulav shortage, lulavim taken from canary palm trees are acceptable. Such trees are prevalent throughout Israel, including in private yards. Rabbi Ariel wrote that though regular palm tree lulavim are preferable, "canary lulavim are barely distinguishable from regular ones, and in times of shortage, they can be used."

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5. NRP to Join the Government?
By Hillel Fendel

Just 11 months after the Nat'l Religious Party quit the government, ending months of internal disagreement on the matter, hints of party disunity over whether to rejoin the government are surfacing.

MK Gila Finkelstein calls the current regime "the destruction government of Arik and Omri," referring to the Prime Minister and his Knesset Member son. "I will fight against our party's entry into the government with all my might," she said today.

On the other hand, party leader Zevulun Orlev and MK Sha'ul Yahalom say that no doors should be slammed shut. Yahalom told Arutz-7 yesterday that the NRP could do much more for the religious public from within the government than from without, and that if certain conditions are met, he would be willing to join.

Similar arguments were heard throughout 2004, as four party MKs defended their decision to remain in the disengagement government after the other two - Eitam and Levy - resigned from the government.

"Our demands are," Yahalom said, "that the terrible fear of additional retreats and the destruction of outposts be removed; the renewal of settlement activity in Judea and Samaria; the cessation of the Dovrat Reforms [in the educational system]; and the renewal of government-sponsored religious services."

"Let's assume we were in the government right now," Yahalom said. "We would be able to find permanent housing for all those who were uprooted from Gush Katif, as well as solve other related problems, from within the Housing Ministry [which was manned by then-NRP member Effie Eitam]... The issues that we deal with are so numerous that we have to be in the coalition. When the NRP was in the coalition, our Zevulun Orlev was the chairman of the ministerial committee for religious affairs and he was about to rejuvenate the issue of religious services. If the NRP's important demands for a Jewish state are met, and the question is whether to join the coalition or allow [ultra-secular Shinui Party leader MK Tommy] Lapid to be in the coalition and institute his changes, then certainly the NRP must join."

MK Orlev made similar remarks, though late last week he said that now was not the right time to join "because of the tremendous anger within our public towards the government."

MK Finkelstein said today, "Will we once again sell our principles for the lentil soup of ministerial positions?"

MK Nissan Slomiansky said, "The issue of joining the government has not come up for discussion, and to me it appears totally unrealistic - unless Prime Minister Sharon decides that all the Jews will return to Gush Katif or something like that." He said that the demands mentioned by Yahalom are not practical.

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6. Rice Favors Diplomatic Isolation Over Attacking Syria
By Scott Shiloh

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice succeeded in thwarting a United States attack on Syria at an October 1st meeting of senior American officials.

According to Newseek magazine, Rice said she favored isolating Syria diplomatically over launching a military strike. She cited a pending UN report that may blame Syria for assassinating former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.

The United States has accused Syria of harboring Iraqi insurgents who have been escalating the war against American forces in Iraq. U.S. forces have recently been waging an offensive against insurgents infiltrating into Iraq from Syria. The offensive has concentrated on Iraqi towns along the Syrian border.

President Bush turned up the heat on the Syrian government last Thursday when he referred to it as an “outlaw regime,” even going so far as to say that such a regime was an “enemy of civilization.”

Prior to the president’s speech, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, said last month that “our patience was running out,” with Damascus.

In contrast to the recent harsh rhetoric, Newsweek reported that the United States had been privately praising Syria for handing Saddam Hussein’s half-brother Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hassan, to U.S. forces earlier in the year.

Syrian-U.S. relations, however, soured a few months ago when Syria cut off all security and intelligence cooperation with the United States, in retaliation for the United States’ tough public stance against the regime. The loss of cooperation has been costing the United States vital information important for precluding planned terrorist attacks.

Syria’s ambassador the United States, Imad Moustapha, told Newsweek that Syria was willing to resume cooperation with the United States, provided that the U.S. cease its public criticism of that country.

A U.S. attack on Syria could have serious repercussions for the Jewish State. Syria is known to have stored large quantities of chemical weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. Some security analysts suggest that Iraq may have transferred its weapons of mass destruction to Syria before the American strike on that country in 2003.

Some military analysts claim that Syria would choose to retaliate against Israel, in the event of a U.S. attack, an action that could embroil the Middle East in a major Arab-Israeli war. Such would have serious consequences for the region and the world at large.

Aside from attacking Israel directly, Syria could signal its proxies in Lebanon, particularly Hezbollah, to reignite the border with Israel. Hezbollah reportedly has in its possession thousands of surface to surface missiles that could destroy targets as far south as Haifa.

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7. First Steps Towards Solving Major Problems
By Hillel Fendel

The first steps towards identifying/solving three major problems in Israeli society were taken today: Army suicides, public corruption, and the large number of unmarried.

* At a special IDF General Staff meeting today, 30 cases of suicides in the army over the past year were reviewed, with an eye towards reducing the number of such suicides in the future. Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz said that many of the suicides were unconnected with the soldiers' military service, while Chief Personnel Officer Maj.-Gen. Elazar Stern noted that the rate of suicides in the IDF is similar to that in other armies. The recent order to withhold weapons from some soldiers working in non-military positions was praised.

The following measures were decided upon: Increase of availability of those who can provide help for soldiers in distress; increased awareness and training for officers dealing with soldiers' distress; educational programs for soldiers and officers.

* It was announced today that State Comptroller Hon. Justice Micha Lindenstrauss has established a special department in his office to fight public corruption. The department will investigate suspected criminal activity in "real time" and will publicize its conclusions in a report separate from the Comptroller's annual report.

First on the agenda will be an investigation into the appointment of Eli Landau as Chairman of the Israel Broadcasting Authority, and one into allegedly illegal benefits granted to Bank of Israel employees.

* Finally, a special prayer service is scheduled for 6:30 PM this evening (Monday) at the Western Wall plaza on behalf of those who are not yet married. The organizers say that the prayer is being held "in light of the painful situation in which tens of thousands of people have not yet established a home and family... We call upon the wider public to take part and ask together for the removal of all obstacles in the way of the establishment of families, and for the granting of wisdom and counsel for the correct path to be blessed quickly with the 'joyous sound of groom and bride.'"

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8. On A7 Radio: 50,000 Jewish Babies Aborted Yearly in Israel

  • Avi Hyman talks with Tzvi Binn of Efrat, an organization dedicated to stemming the tide of abortions in Israel. Click here to listen

  • Malkah Fleisher gives over a Yom Kippur primer on the Eyshet Chayil Show. Click here to listen

  • Ben Bresky interviews famous Israeli musician Aaron Razel about his new album. Click here to listen

  • Jay Shapiro comments on Thomas Freidman's shallow understanding of the Middle East, and gives an alternative vision of Israel's mission. Click here to listen

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  • 9. Sharon National Park
    The 1500 acres of the Sharon National Park comprise a relatively large and uninterrupted slice of natural landscape, containing all the elements typical of the coastal plain.
    Landscape in the Sharon National Park:
    Seashore - A magnificent three-kilometer sandstone cliff runs along most of the coastline. The remaining sandy strip is five meters across at its widest point. As the rocks on the shore and the sandstone itself are eroded, they create lovely lagoons and natural bays, one of which was dubbed Sinai Bay. Typical seaside flora and fauna make their homes on the narrow sandy strip. The beach is sandy on the northern and southern edges of the sandstone ridge.

    To read the rest of this article, courtesy of Israel Nature & National Parks Protection Authority, see Arutz-7's Travel Page

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