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Court Upholds Terror Designation
Israel Faxx News Services

A U.S. court upheld the State Department's designation of the Jewish group Kahane Chai and its affiliates as terrorist groups. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the State Department's decision in 2003 to renew its 1997 decision had "substantial support," noting that the group "was known to approve of terrorist tactics, including the mass murder of Arab worshipers." Kahane Chai, a group that preaches the anti-Arab teachings of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, argued that it was a legitimate Jewish activist group that did not support terrorism. The group's Web site, kahane.org, also was declared a terrorist entity.


Israeli Prime Minister Urges Russia to Act Against Iran

By VOA News & IsraelNationalNews.com

Following his meeting in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin, analysts are reporting that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert emerged "empty-handed."

Some political analysts explain that Israel did not seek anything resembling a firm commitment from Putin to work towards halting the Iranian nuclear program, but there was hope for some indication that the Russian leader would take steps in line with Israel's agenda.

On the contrary, Russia has played a major role towards arming Iran, and continues to sell advanced weapons to Syria which has made their way to Hizbullah.

Many Russian-built anti-tank rockets were used during the Lebanon war against IDF tanks and infantry, claiming many lives and leaving soldiers permanently maimed.

Olmert stated Wednesday that Israel would not tolerate a situation in which a state such as Iran is in possession of nuclear weapons. A nuclear Iran, Olmert told Putin, is at the top of Israel's security agenda.

"Israel cannot accept a situation in which a state that seeks to exterminate it is in possession of nuclear capabilities," Olmert said, at the conclusion of a meeting with Putin in Moscow.

Speaking in Moscow after talks with Putin, Olmert said the entire international community should unite to block what he called Iran's intention to build nuclear weapons.

Olmert said he is confident that Putin understands Israel's concerns. But in a joint news conference Wednesday, Putin said nothing about Iran's nuclear program. He said Russia wants to help restart peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Russia has been reluctant to go along with proposed sanctions against Tehran.


Israeli Forces Push into Southern Gaza

By IsraelNationalNews.com

The IDF has returned to the Philadelphi Corridor between Gaza and Egypt

The soldiers returned to the corridor one year after it was abandoned as then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's final step in the implementation of his unilateral surrender of Gaza. Five tunnels were identified and destroyed on Wednesday alone.

The Philadelphi strip, located between the Gaza town of Rafiah and the Sinai town of the same name, was the location of smuggling tunnels throughout the years. Special IDF units were assigned to detecting and destroying the tunnels in order to disrupt the flow of weapons, drugs, terrorists and prostitutes.

Following the Disengagement from Gaza, in which 25 Jewish communities were destroyed and their residents evicted, the corridor's tunnels were rebuilt and the Rafiah Crossing itself was placed under the supervision of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and European Union representatives. The border lay open for week-long periods after various terror factions bulldozed or blasted holes in the fence.

Two large tunnels were exposed and two other tunnel openings were identified in Rafiah Tuesday. In recent weeks, 20 such tunnels have been discovered in the area. The attack on the IDF's Kerem Shalom lookout was carried out by use of a tunnel from Gaza deep underneath the security fence.

The government's decision to send the IDF back to the 7.2 mile long corridor was reluctant as much effort and US pressure were invested in hammering out an agreement under which the European Union would oversee the border together with the Palestinian Authority.

In reality, with Hamas running the PA and Egypt overseeing security on its side of the border, the smuggling has mushroomed to a level exceeding any other time in history.

Russian-made Kornet anti-tank missiles, which were used against IDF tanks effectively in Lebanon, have been transported in large quantities into Gaza, according to IDF intelligence briefings to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. The missiles were responsible for a third of the casualties suffered in the recent war with Hizbullah. Explosives, guns, ammunition and even anti-aircraft missiles are also being smuggled into the region.

Defense Minister Amir Peretz's aids have been hinting that Israel is preparing to launch its largest operation in the entire Gaza region since the expulsion took place just over a year ago. Peretz himself said earlier this week that Gaza must be prevented from becoming a "second Lebanon."

The IDF return to Rafiah and the corridor met little resistance from local terror groups.


US Raises Concerns Over Israeli Visa Policies

By Jim Teeple (VOA-Jerusalem)

The U.S. government says it is concerned about new visa restrictions Israel is imposing on Palestinian-Americans who want to visit or live in the Palestinian territories.


State Department officials have delivered a demarche, or diplomatic note, to the Israeli Embassy in Washington outlining their concerns over the new Israeli policy that has restricted visits by Palestinian foreign passport holders, many of them U.S. citizens, to the occupied territories.

A number of Palestinian-American business people have complained in recent months that Israel is refusing to grant tourist visas, or issue extensions to existing visas they need to enter Israel, in order to travel to the West Bank, where their businesses and homes are located.

The issue was raised by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice this month during a visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories. Rice said she would work to ensure that U.S. citizens receive "fair and equal" treatment with regard to the issuance of visas.

U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv spokesman Geoff Anisman said the United States hopes to resolve the issue with Israel soon. "The U.S. government is committed to ensuring that all American travelers receive fair and equal treatment," he said. "As the secretary [Rice] noted recently, continuing security problems in those regions represent a great challenge for the many Palestinian-Americans living and working there - and for Americans who seek to travel there. We have a positive dialogue with the government of Israel on this and a wide range of other travel and security-related issues."

A spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry said Israeli officials are looking into the matter.

A leading Palestinian-American businessman, Sam Bahour, who lives and works in the West Bank city of Ramallah, said he welcomes the attention being brought to the issue by the U.S. government.

"We do hope this is the beginning of U.S. action towards actually leveraging their position with Israel to resolve this issue," he said. "The issue not only deals with Americans, but all foreign nationals who are coming to visit the Palestinian occupied territories, as well as more than 120,000 other people like myself, who are looking for residency here because our families are here."

Israeli officials deny targeting Palestinian holders of foreign passports, but say tourist visas are only good for visiting Israel, and not for living and working in the Palestinian territories.

Israeli officials said anyone who wants to live and work in the Palestinian territories must obtain a work permit. Palestinians say such permits are virtually impossible to obtain because they are issued by the Israeli Defense Forces.


Olmert Sets Sights on Nobel Laureate Wiesel for Presidency

By IsraelNationalNews.com

In a surprise move, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is suggesting a new candidate for president - not an Israeli, but Nobel Prize Laureate Elie Wiesel.

Olmert suggested Wiesel as a possible candidate to replace President Moshe Katzav. While Olmert has been careful not to publicly undermine the president, it is now apparent that Katzav will likely be compelled to step down from office in the near future. Katzav will likely be facing a multi-count criminal indictment and his future will be determined by the outcome of the judicial proceedings against him.

Olmert has made it clear that he prefers a president who does not emerge from the ranks of the political arena, as was the case with Katzav and others. Wiesel, who is internationally acclaimed, has been awarded the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize and is widely respected internationally.

Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor, would be compelled to move to Israel if he accepts the nomination and is elected, and would immediately be granted Israeli citizenship. Olmert pointed out that selecting a non-Israeli for the post is not without precedent; Albert Einstein was encouraged to move to Israel to serve as Israel's president in its early days, but he turned down the offer.

Wiesel speaks Hebrew, along with a number of other languages, making him even more suited for the post, the prime minister explains.

Olmert is also considering throwing his support behind former Prisoner of Zion Natan Sharansky, who recently announced his resignation from politics. He has accepted a position in Jerusalem's prestigious Shalem Center.

Sharansky served in the past as a cabinet minister and is respected worldwide for his published views regarding issues of human rights and terrorism. He sat in Soviet prison for close to a decade because of his struggle to emigrate from the former USSR to Israel.

Vice Premier Shimon Peres has already signaled he too may run for the post. Peres lost to Katzav six years ago in the secret Knesset vote. Many analysts believe that despite being among the most respected politicians in the world, Peres would not take a chance on running once again for office. Peres, 83, is widely known in Israel as "The Loser," barely ever having won an election.

The president, Israel's head of state, is elected to a five-year term by a majority of the Knesset in a secret ballot. The president can be reelected for only one more consecutive term.


Reservists Return Gift Vouchers to IDF

By YnetNews.com

Two IDF reserve soldiers who participated in the last war in Lebanon and who received gift vouchers from the IDF as a gesture of appreciation for their efforts have decided to send them back to the chief of staff.

In a letter sent to Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz one of the reservists told the chief of staff that "It would be better to invest the money in the equipment that the soldiers are still missing. When you don't have money for bread, you shouldn't buy cakes."


The vouchers, NIS 392 ($92) were meant to be used to purchase books and novelty items and could also be used for vacation discounts. But Lt. Adam Matan, a reservist who commanded over a tank unit in the central and eastern sectors in Lebanon, claims that it is inappropriate to hand out such a gift as the IDF is lacking in basic equipment.

"During the war we were missing crucial equipment – from proper outfitting for our tanks to simple personal equipment like shoes, helmets, vests and coveralls and all the way to logistical means like a company vehicle," wrote Matan to the chief of staff. "After the war we came back to our war reserves store unit for an inspection and to my surprise we still hadn't received enough suitable personal equipment. We didn't have shoes and we didn't have coveralls and there weren't fireproof gloves in our sizes."

Staff Sgt. Y, a reserve fighter in the armored corps also sent a letter to the chief of staff with his gift vouchers. "I served in the last war as a tank commander in the area of Bint Jbel. Grave equipment and ammunition deficiencies were discovered in the instrument placed in my hands. These deficiencies could have endangered my team, and some of the missing equipment was replaced with equipment taken from a decommissioned tank… how can an organization which has budgetary problems on the one hand, and carelessly neglects the gear used by its front workers, easily finds the resources needed to thank those workers for their job."

"Many reservists have difficult bridging the gap between the army that sent them to war unprepared and without the proper fighting equipment to the army that later sends them to indulge themselves in cabins up north," said officials from the Hapash forum, an organization for reserve soldiers.

"The IDF doesn't have a budgetary problem; it has crooked priorities and amateur management. If they haven't understood that in the IDF after the war, the whole thing seems hopeless," said the forum, "at this rate - today reservists are returning gift vouchers, tomorrow they'll be returning their reserve papers."




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