Newsletter : 7fax1019.txt
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Israel, US to Work on Multi-Layered Missile Defense System
By VOA News
The United States and Israel have agreed to work together on developing a new missile
defense system that would counter both long-range ballistic missiles as well as
Defense Secretary Robert Gates and his Israeli counterpart, Ehud Barak, agreed to form
a committee to work on the proposed system. A Pentagon spokesman, Geoff Morrell, said
Israel wants to be able to counter missile attacks possibly from Iran as well as rockets
fired from Palestinian territories. Israel has been facing regular rocket fire from
Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip since withdrawing from the territory in 2005.
Putin to Olmert: We Know How Worried You Are Over Iran
By Reuters, IsraelNationalNews.com & VOA News
President Vladimir Putin sought on Thursday to allay Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's
concerns about Iran's nuclear program after the Russian leader visited Tehran earlier this
"We know how much you are worried by the situation about Iran's nuclear program," Putin
told Olmert at the start of their talks in the Kremlin. "I am ready to share with you the
results of my visit to Tehran."
Olmert, paying a snap visit to Russia which will last just a few hours, replied: "I
will be glad to hear about the results of your visit to Tehran and to talk about all the
concerns we have regarding this situation, as well as about other issues."
Putin visited Iran on Tuesday; the first Kremlin leader to go to Iran since Josef
Stalin in 1943, and told Washington that Moscow would not accept military action against
Tehran. He also invited Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to visit Moscow.
With Iran's president threatening to "wipe Israel off the map," Olmert wanted to speak
to Mr. Putin face-to-face.
"Israel sees the Russian efforts to move forward the Iranian nuclear project as a
challenge to Israeli security interests in the Middle East, and the whole Western
interests in the Middle East," said Ze'ev Hanin, an Israeli expert on Russian affairs.
Israel considers Iran a threat to its existence, while Russia is helping to build a
nuclear power plant in Iran. Hanin told Israel Radio that this is straining relations
between the two countries. "Naturally, it is a point of concern for Israel. This is the
point of cleavage and misunderstanding between Jerusalem and Moscow," he said.
Israeli officials said Olmert's message was clear: Iran must not be allowed to acquire
the atom bomb. Officials here have warned time and again that if the world does not stop
Iran, Israel will. They said military action against Iran's nuclear facilities is a last
resort, but it is an option.
Putin's visit to Tehran was watched closely because of Moscow's possible leverage in the
Islamic Republic's nuclear row with the West.
Russia is building Iran's first atomic power plant in Bushehr, but Western powers fear
that Tehran's pursuit of nuclear-generated electricity is a precursor to building an atom
bomb. Iran says its program is for peaceful purposes.
Olmert last visited Moscow a year ago and voiced Israel's concerns about Iran's nuclear
ambitions. The Israeli-Palestinian peace process is also high on Olmert's agenda in
Russia; Itar-Tass news agency quoted an unidentified Kremlin source as saying.
Russia is part of the "Quartet" of international mediators on the Middle East. Other
members are the United States, the United Nations and the European Union.
"Russia views this meeting as a step in a series of events before convening a full-scale
international conference on all-embracing peaceful settlement in the Middle East," the
Kremlin source told Itar-Tass.
Olmert's trip came on the final day of a four-day visit to Israel and the occupied West
Bank by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is preparing the ground for a
US-sponsored Middle East conference expected next month.
According to the Prime Minister's Office and the official Russian news agency, TASS,
the issues of Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian Authority negotiations were priority items
on the agenda of the two leaders. However, the PMO added that they also discussed
bilateral issues and the need to confront global terrorism.
TASS said that Prime Minister Olmert and President Putin agreed that there are "good
prospects for development" of bilateral relations between Russia and Israel, while Israeli
sources noted that they would "remain in close contact in order to advance the two
countries' mutual interests."
In characterizing the meeting between himself and Putin, Olmert said the talks were
"aimed at the strengthening of relations between Russia, a world power, and the state of
Israel Moves to Restrict Jewish Immigration
In a move that has incensed religious, nationalist and immigration groups, the Israeli
government this week voted to heavily restrict approval of new immigrants who want to
convert to Judaism and move to the Jewish state.
The bill, initiated by Israeli Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit, constitutes a major
obstacle for many immigrant groups, including thousands of Indian citizens who believe
they are one of the "lost tribes" of Israel and seek to return to the Jewish state.
Over 1,000 members of the Indian group the Bnei Menashe moved in recent
years to Israel, where they were successfully integrated into religious Israeli society,
holding professional jobs, attending universities, becoming rabbinic leaders and serving
in the Israel Defense Forces.
Israeli lawmakers voted earlier this week to take away the interior minister's power to
approve the immigration of groups who claim Jewish descent, instead requiring a vote by
the entire Israeli cabinet.
Michael Freund, chairman of Shavei Israel, a Jerusalem-based organization working to
bring the remaining 7,000 Bnei Menashe from India to Israel, slammed the decision. He
accused Sheetrit of attempting to "prevent groups with historical ties to the Jewish
people from returning to Judaism and moving to Israel."
"Requiring full cabinet approval every time a group of 100 or 200 people wish to move
here and undergo conversion is a recipe for bureaucratic inertia, as there is little
chance of getting such an item onto the busy agenda of the entire government," said
Freund, who previously served as deputy communications director under former Israeli Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Bnei Menashe believe they are descendants of Manasseh, one of biblical patriarch
Joseph's two sons and a grandson of Jacob, the man whose name was changed to Israel. The
tribe lives in the two Indian states of Mizoram and Manipur, to which they claim to have
been exiled from Israel more than 2,700 years ago by the Assyrian empire.
The Bnei Menashe, which has preserved ancient Jewish customs and rituals, has been
trying the past 50 years to return to Israel.
Freund recently brought over batches of the tribe to Israel after members of Israel's
chief rabbinate flew to India to meet with and convert members of the Bnei Menashe. Once
legally Jewish, the tribe was able to apply for Israeli citizenship under the country's
"Law of Return," which guarantees sanctuary to Jews from around the world. But the Indian
government, which heavily restricts conversions, put a halt on the plan by barring further
Now Bnei Menashe members seeking to return must be brought over as tourists and convert
once they are in the Jewish state. However, the new cabinet decision requiring full
governmental approval for every batch makes their immigration unlikely.
"Why, you might be wondering, would Sheetrit and his cabinet colleagues do such a
thing? The answer is really quite simple. It is post-Zionism of the ugliest sort, tinged
by prejudice and sheer ignorance," stated Freund.
Post-Zionism is a secularist movement in Israel that believes Zionism support
for a Jewish homeland was fulfilled with the establishment of Israel and is no
This week's vote isn't the first time the Israeli government has blocked the arrival of
the Bnei Menashe. Over the last decade, Freund's Shavei Israel, at times working with
other organizations, brought about 1,200 Bnei Menashe members to the Jewish state.
The original batches of Bnei Menashe to arrive here came as tourists in an agreement
with Israel's Interior Ministry. Once here, the Bnei Menashe converted officially to
Judaism and became citizens. But diplomatic wrangling halted the immigration process in
2003, with officials from some Israeli ministries refusing to grant the rest of the group
still in India permission to travel here.
To smooth the process, Freund enlisted the help of Israel's chief rabbinate, which flew
to India in 2005 to convert members of the Bnei Menashe, a process stopped last year by
Freund then coordinated with the Israeli government the arrival of batches of a few
hundred Bnei Menashe as tourists who would later convert, but that process was canceled
after Sheetrit took office.
Freund took particular offense at the involvement of Sheetrit, himself an immigrant.
"Amazingly enough, though, Sheetrit himself was born in the town of Ksar Souk, Morocco, in
1948 and made aliyah at the age of 9. He undoubtedly endured various types of
discrimination as he was growing up here, as many veteran Israelis looked down on
Sephardic immigrants from Morocco," commented Freund.
But the activist said he was hopeful a way would be found to fly over the remaining
Bnei Menashe: "The divine process of Israel's return to Zion is far greater than any
single person or even government, and no human power can stand in its way," he said.
According to Bnei Menashe oral tradition, the tribe was exiled from Israel and pushed
to the east, eventually settling in the border regions of China and India, where most
remain today. Most kept customs similar to Jewish tradition, including observing Shabbat,
keeping the laws of Kosher, practicing circumcision on the eighth day of a baby boy's life
and observing laws of family purity.
In the 1950s, several thousand Bnei Menashe say they set out on foot to Israel but were
quickly halted by Indian authorities. Undeterred, many began practicing Orthodox Judaism
and pledged to make it to Israel. They now attend community centers established by Shavei
Israel to teach the Bnei Menashe Jewish tradition and modern Hebrew.
On PA TV, All of Israel to be Replaced by 'Palestine'
Even as Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas declares his demand for "only" all
6,205 kilometers of Judea, Samaria and Gaza, his official TV station shows a PA flag
covering all of Israel.
Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), a media watchdog group that monitors the media in the
Palestinian Authority, reports on a clip broadcast by Fatah-controlled Palestinian
television this week. The clip shows a map in which Israel, in its entirety, is painted
in the colors of the Palestinian flag - black, white, red and green. The message is that
the PA strives to replace all of Israel, and not just Judea, Samaria and Gaza.
Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook of PMW write that the broadcast of the map at this
particular time renders the matter of even greater concern. "As preparations for the
American peace conference continue," they write, "the leaders of the Palestinian Authority
have announced their demands for a future Palestinian state with an area of 6205 square
kilometers. This would include the Gaza Strip, the West Bank [Judea and Samaria - ed.] and
[eastern] Jerusalem. However, the message they have conveyed to their people for years,
and continue to convey on the eve of the conference, is that 'Palestine' exists and it
replaces all of Israel."
As documented by PMW for many years, the idea of turning Israel into an
Arab-Palestinian state is part of a formal educational approach throughout the Palestinian
Authority. "The picture painted for the Palestinian population, both verbally and
visually, is of a world without Israel," PMW writes. "This uniform message of a world
without Israel is repeated in school books, children's programs, crossword puzzles, video
clips, formal symbols, school and street names, etc."
Street names in the PA have been changed to memorialize terrorists, for instance, and
PA textbooks regularly include references to the "Israel is Palestine" canard. For
instance, a 12th-grade literature book states, "Palestine's war ended with a catastrophe
that is unprecedented in history, when the Zionist gangs stole Palestine and expelled its
people from their cities, their villages, their lands and their houses, and established
the State of Israel." [Arabic Language, Analysis, Literature and Criticism, grade 12, p.
Crossword puzzles in the official PA newspaper, Al Hayat al Jadida, have included clues
such as "A Palestinian city" - with the proper answer being, in various places, Haifa,
Lod, and Ashkelon; all three, of course, are present-day Israeli cities within the
pre-1967 borders. Another clue calls Yad Vashem Holocaust Center a "Jewish Center for
eternalizing the Holocaust and the lies."
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