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Israeli Police: Aide to Olmert Under House Arrest in Corruption Probe

By VOA News

Israeli police say Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's personal secretary has been placed under house arrest for 10 days as part of a corruption probe - the latest political scandal to rock the Jewish state. A spokesman says Shula Zaken was among more than 15 people questioned Tuesday in an investigation into government officials accepting or giving bribes in return for tax breaks. Reports say Olmert has not been targeted in the probe. The prime minister has been the subject of several previous corruption investigations but has not been charged.

Teddy Kollek, Legendary Jerusalem Mayor, Passes Away


Teddy Kollek, the long-time mayor of Jerusalem before, during and after the unification of Jerusalem, passed away in a Jerusalem home Tuesday morning at the age of 95.

Praise for his tremendous contribution to the building of modern Jerusalem was lavished from all quarters. "Never since Herod has there been someone who brought about such building and thriving as him," said former Knesset Speaker Ruby Rivlin about Kollek.

Born near Budapest in 1911, he immigrated with his family to Palestine - the Holy Land - in 1934. Shortly afterwards, he helped found Kibbutz Ein Gev on the eastern shores of the Sea of Galilee, with his young wife Tamar. The couple had two children, Amos (later a film director and writer) and Osnat.

Kollek worked for a decade in and out of the Holy Land to help the growing Jewish community there develop into a state. In l939, he was able to persuade Adolf Eichmann in Vienna to release 3,000 Jewish youths from concentration camps in Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia, and allow them to leave for England. Details of this chapter are sketchy.

The Encyclopedia of Zionism and Israel states, "In the late 1930s he carried out rescue missions in Austria and Germany and was engaged in Zionist political work in England. In 1942 he joined the Political Department of the Jewish Agency and served as liaison officer with the British military intelligence and with Jewish underground groups in Europe, operating out of Jerusalem, Cairo, and Istanbul. In 1947-48 he directed the illegal arms purchasing operations for the Haganah in the United States."

By his own admission, according to Nicholas Bethell's The Palestine Triangle, Haganah member Kollek worked "sporadically" with the British and against the Irgun and Lechi, saying, 'We detained Jewish dissidents, interrogated them, then either released them or handed them over to the CID [British Intelligence].'" Irgun and Lechi members caught by the British were often deported, sometimes tortured, and occasionally killed.

The Haganah is the forerunner of today's Labor Party, believing in cooperation with the British and restraint against Arab attacks, while the Irgun and Lechi were more right-wing and pro-active in their attempts to oust the British from Palestine and thus hasten the birth of the independent Jewish State. Former Haganah members headed the state until 1977, when Menachem Begin, who had headed the Irgun, was elected Prime Minister.

After the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, Kollek remained in Washington as Israel's ambassador, returning to Israel in 1952 to head Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion's office - a post he held until 1964. The next year, Kollek was elected mayor of Jerusalem, serving in that office for the next 28 years until he was unseated by Ehud Olmert.

Presiding over the unification of the city from 1967 and onwards, Kollek made overtures towards the city's various minorities. He oversaw the great expansion of Jerusalem, including new neighborhoods, parks, community centers, and cultural and religious centers such as the Israel Museum, the Jerusalem Theater, the rebuilding of the Jewish Quarter in the Old City, the Teddy Stadium, the Cinematek, Safra Square where the municipal officers are located, and more.

He specialized in raising funds for Jerusalem, even after he left office, and established the Jerusalem Foundation in 1991 for this purpose. In 1988, Kollek was awarded the Israel Prize for his special contribution to the country. Kollek will be brought to rest on Thursday in the Greats of the Nation area of the Mt. Herzl Cemetery.

Olmert, who defeated Kollek in 1993 to become mayor of Jerusalem: "When he was first elected mayor, Jerusalem was a divided city that was not accorded the status it deserved. When he left office in 1993, Jerusalem was a large, modern, united and populous city. He made Jerusalem's glory known throughout the world. He had a decisive influence on the city's way of life, and its culture, its social fabric; he designed its horizons and built its institutions."

Think Tank: Israel Could Attack Iran's Nuclear Program Alone

By Ha'aretz

The Institute for National Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University said in its annual report, released Tuesday, that Iran will possess nuclear weapons unless military action is taken against it, and Israel would be capable of carrying out such an attack

"Time is working in Iran's favor, and barring military action, Iran's possession of nuclear weapons is only a matter of time," the institute said in a statement distributed at a news conference.

Israel considers Iran to be its most serious threat. It dismisses Tehran's claims that its nuclear program is designed solely to produce energy and is worried by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's repeated calls to wipe the Jewish state off the map.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has not ruled out a military strike against Iran's nuclear program, but has said he hoped other ways could be found to keep Tehran from becoming a nuclear power. In 1981, Israel destroyed an unfinished Iraqi nuclear reactor in a surprise air attack.

The INSS think tank stopped short of calling for an Israeli military strike to curb Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

Although experts elsewhere have questioned Israel's ability to cripple the Iranian program, which is scattered and built in part in underground bunkers, analysts at INSS said Israel would be capable of carrying it off.

A member of the institute's board, Brig. Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland said there would not be a military strike without a full "strategic and military" understanding with the U.S. "Even if, at the end of the day, Israeli jets are going to carry out, or execute, this attack, it might be perceived - and rightly - as an understanding between the United States and Israel."

INSS head Zvi Shtauber, a retired general who also served as Israel's ambassador in London and senior policy adviser to former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, said Israel was "technically" capable of striking alone and would have to do so if it takes action, because no other country would agree to work openly with Israel.

Taking issue with Eiland's assessment that the U.S. must sign off on such an attack, he said, "There are certain things that it's better the U.S. not know about."

Institute analysts, while doubtful that international sanctions would sway Iran from its nuclear ambitions, said the time had not yet come to decide on military action. "We should do it only when it's clear we've exhausted all other means," Shtauber said.

Iran Website Heralds 'Mahdi' by Spring


An official state media website in Iran has posted a message heralding the coming of the Shiite messianic figure, Imam Mahdi, noting he could arrive with Jesus by the spring equinox.

"Imam Mahdi (may God hasten his reappearance) will appear all of a sudden on the world scene with a voice from the skies announcing his reappearance at the holy Ka'ba in Mecca," the message says.

The Islamic Republic of Iran broadcasting website said in a program called "The World toward Illumination," that the Mahdi will form an army to defeat the enemies of Islam in a series of apocalyptic battles, in which the Mahdi will overcome his arch villain in Jerusalem.

The Mahdi's far sightedness and firmness in the face of mischievous elements will strike awe. After his uprising from Mecca all of Arabia will be submit to him and then other parts of the world as he marches upon Iraq and established his seat of global government in the city of Kufa.

Then the Imam will send 10,000 of his forces to the east and west to uproot the oppressors. At this time God will facilitate things for him and lands will come under his control one after the other. ...

After his appearance the Imam would remain in Mecca for some time, and then go to Medina. ... a descendant of the Prophet's archenemy Abu Sofyan will seize Syria and attack Iraq and the Hejaz with the ferocity of a beast ... finally Imam Mahdi sends troops who kill the Sofyani in Beit ol-Moqaddas (Jerusalem), the Islamic holy city in Palestine that is currently under occupation of the Zionists.

The Iranian series also claims the Mahdi will reappear on Earth with Jesus: "We read in the book Tazkarat ol-Olia, 'the Mahdi will come with Jesus, son of Mary, accompanying him.' ... Imam Mahdi will be the leader while Prophet Jesus will act as his lieutenant in the struggle against oppression and establishment of justice in the world. Jesus had himself given the tidings of the coming of God's last messenger and will see Mohammad's ideals materialize in the time of the Mahdi."

As WND reported, in a greeting to the world's Christians for the coming New Year, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he expects both Jesus and the Mahdi, to return and "wipe away oppression."

"I wish all the Christians a very happy new year and I wish to ask them a question as well," said Ahmadinejad, according to an Iranian Student News Agency report cited by

"My one question from the Christians is: What would Jesus do if he were present in the world today? What would he do before some of the oppressive powers of the world who are in fact residing in Christian countries? Which powers would he revive and which of them would he destroy?" asked the Iranian leader. "If Jesus were present today, who would be facing him and who would be following him?"

Ahmadinejad's mystical pre-occupation with the coming of the Mahdi is raising concerns that a nuclear-armed Islamic Republic could trigger the kind of global conflagration he envisions will set the stage for the end of the world.

In a videotaped meeting with Ayatollah Javadi-Amoli in Tehran, Ahmadinejad discussed candidly a strange, paranormal experience he had while addressing the United Nations in New York last September.

He recounts how he found himself bathed in light throughout the speech. But this wasn't the light directed at the podium by the U.N. and television cameras. It was, he said, a light from heaven.

According to a transcript of his comments, obtained and translated by Joseph Farah's G2 Bulletin, Ahmadinejad wasn't the only one who noticed the unearthly light. One of his aides brought it to his attention.

The Iranian president recalled being told about it by one of his delegation: "When you began with the words 'in the name of Allah,' I saw a light coming, surrounding you and protecting you to the end."

Ahmadinejad agreed that he sensed the same thing. "On the last day when I was speaking, one of our group told me that when I started to say 'Bismillah Muhammad,' he saw a green light come from around me, and I was placed inside this aura," he says. "I felt it myself. I felt that the atmosphere suddenly changed, and for those 27 or 28 minutes, all the leaders of the world did not blink. When I say they didn't move an eyelid, I'm not exaggerating. They were looking as if a hand was holding them there, and had just opened their eyes – Alhamdulillah!"

Ahmadinejad's "vision" at the U.N. is strangely reminiscent and alarmingly similar to statements he has made about his personal role in ushering in the return of the Shiite Muslim messiah.

He sees his main mission, as he recounted in a Nov. 16 speech in Tehran, as to "pave the path for the glorious reappearance of Imam Mahdi, may Allah hasten his reappearance."

According to Shiites, the 12th imam disappeared as a child in the year 941. When he returns, they believe, he will reign on earth for seven years, before bringing about a final judgment and the end of the world.

Ahmadinejad is urging Iranians to prepare for the coming of the Mahdi by turning the country into a mighty and advanced Islamic society and by avoiding the corruption and excesses of the West.

All Iran is buzzing about the Mahdi, the 12th imam and the role Iran and Ahmadinejad are playing in his anticipated return. There's a new messiah hotline. There are news agencies especially devoted to the latest developments.

"People are anxious to know when and how will He rise; what they must do to receive this worldwide salvation," says Ali Lari, a cleric at the Bright Future Institute in Iran's religious center of Qom. "The timing is not clear, but the conditions are more specific," he adds. "There is a saying: 'When the students are ready, the teacher will come.'"

French Court: Pork Soup Kitchen Not Racist

By Reuters

A French court ruled on Tuesday that an organization with far-right links can continue offering pork soup to the homeless, rejecting police complaints that the food distribution was racist. Police banned the soup kitchen last month, arguing that the handouts discriminated against Jews and Muslims who do not eat pork on religious grounds.

The administrative court said the distribution was "clearly discriminatory", but could not be stopped because the organizers offered to feed anyone who asked for help.

The mayor of Paris condemned the ruling and urged the police to appeal the ruling. "Faced by this initiative which stinks of xenophobia, I want once again to express city hall's desire to fight all forms of discrimination, racism and anti-Semitism," Mayor Bertrand Delanoe said in a statement.

The food handouts are organized by a nationalist group called Solidarity of the French (SDF). It says its "pig soup," which uses pork fat for stock, is country fare much loved by French traditionalists.

"No-one has ever been able to prove that anyone has been refused soup or clothes on the grounds of their religion or race," SDF lawyer Frederic Pichon told France Info radio after Tuesday's court decision.

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