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Israeli Flag Flies Atop Mount Everest


An Australian mother and daughter have reached the top of Mount Everest, the highest point in the world, and flew the flag of Israel.

The team, Cheryl Bart and her daughter Nikki are the first mother-daughter team to reach the mountain's summit. They included a small flag of Israel in their backpack. Cheryl Bart declared, "Having reached the highest point on earth, we should probably go to the Dead Sea" (the lowest spot on earth).

Report: U.S. Eyes Syrian Nuclear Sites

By Israel Faxx News Services

The United States reportedly suspects Syria of hiding several nuclear sites in addition to a secret reactor destroyed by Israel. Citing U.S. officials, the Washington Post reported Thursday that the Bush administration wants the International Atomic Energy Agency to expand the scope of a planned inspection of Syria.

The IAEA has asked Syria for permission to examine a site bombed by Israeli warplanes last September. The CIA has said that was a secret, North Korean-built plutonium reactor. According to the Post, the United States is now arguing that at least three other Syrian locations should be looked at, too.

The IAEA, which is being stonewalled by Damascus, has acknowledged receiving requests for broader inspections in Syria but gave no further details. Experts believe that any further nuclear sites in Syria may be part of a production chain leading to the alleged reactor.

Fearing Olmert Collapse, Palestinians Rush for a Deal

By WorldNet Daily

Fearing the collapse of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government, the Palestinian Authority asked the U.S. government for backing to rush a deal regarding the establishment of a Palestinian state, WND has learned.

According to a top PA negotiator, the Palestinians expect Olmert will be forced from office before the end of the year. They fear some of the negotiations led by Olmert's government will be fruitless unless an understanding is reached before the Israeli leader vacates office.

"What we are seeking is to quickly reach certain understandings, put those understandings on paper and have them guaranteed by the U.S. so the understandings can be used as a starting point in negotiations with the next Israeli prime minister," the top PA negotiator told WND.

Olmert's government has been conducting intense negotiations with the PA started at last November's U.S.-backed Annapolis summit, which sought to create a Palestinian state before Bush leaves office in January. Israel is highly expected to offer the Palestinians most of the West Bank and sections of Jerusalem.

Olmert faces a bribery and corruption investigation that has been described by police officials here as "very serious." The Israeli leader has said he would resign if he is indicted.

Earlier this week, Morris Talansky, a U.S. businessman, testified in court he provided about $150,000 in cash to Olmert over the years and that he didn't know exactly what the Israeli leader did with the money.

According to sources close to the investigation, the charges against Olmert extend far beyond possible cash transfers by Talansky and involve other foreign businessmen allegedly passing on money in exchange for political and business favors.

In a major blow to Olmert's future leadership, his defense minister and senior coalition partner, Ehud Barak, Wednesday called on him to step down. "I do not think the prime minister can simultaneously run the government and deal with his own personal affair," Barak said at a nationally televised news conference after conferring with other members of his Labor party.

Barak maintained his position Thursday, telling the Knesset that early elections appear inevitable in light of the corruption probe.

Olmert, though, continues to insist he will not resign unless he is indicted. He told the Knesset he was certain that once his side of the story is aired, no charges would be brought against him. "I have been done an injustice, and it is illogical that a prime minister should be brought down because of something like this. Some people think that every investigation requires a resignation. I do not agree, and I do not intend to resign," Olmert said.

The prime minister has faced five previous investigations into accusations of corruption or accepting bribes.

Immediately after Barak's Wednesday statements three members of his party, which is in a governing coalition with Olmert's Kadima party, submitted motions to the Knesset to dissolve the Olmert government. By Israeli law, if the majority of the Knesset votes for the downfall of the prime minister, new elections must be held within 90 days.

Barak has made no secret of his desire to become prime minister. But his calls for Olmert to step down were also echoed across the political spectrum.

Legally, Olmert can remain in office until 2010 unless he is either convicted or the Knesset votes for new elections. If he resigns, Olmert could appoint a member of his Kadima party as prime minister to avoid early elections and ensure his party remains in power. He could also take a 90-day leave of absence during which time his deputy prime minister, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, would temporarily govern. Olmert, though, is said to oppose placing Livni is power.

U.S. Homeland Security Seeks to Adopt Israeli Airport Standards

By Reuters

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said on Thursday he would seek to adopt novel Israeli methods, like behavior-detection technologies, to better secure America's airports. "That's a scenario where Israel has a lot of experience," Chertoff said in an interview with Reuters. "I think that it is of interest to us to see if there is any adaptation there."

Ben-Gurion International Airport, known for its strict security measures, relies heavily on techniques that detect suspicious behavior among travelers.

Chertoff said such methods, as well as Israeli technologies that detect explosives, are some of the things that may help protect U.S. airports and other public places against attacks.

Chertoff, at a conference in Jerusalem for public and homeland security ministers from around the world, signed an agreement with Israel to share technology and information on methods to improve homeland security.

One of the new systems presented at the conference, developed by the Israeli technology company WeCU, uses behavioral science, together with biometric sensors, to detect sinister intentions among travelers.

The homeland security chief said that not all methods developed and used in Israel, such as questioning every passenger, are practical in larger U.S. airports. Ben Gurion International Airport handles about 9 million travelers a year while major U.S. hubs, like Chicago O'Hare, see some 76 million passengers.

Chertoff also said that the U.S. could not adopt border security methods used in Israel, which prevent Palestinian militants from entering its territory, for U.S. efforts to stop illegal immigrants from crossing its frontier with Mexico. "[It's] a vastly longer border. It's not an area where there is much useful experience," he said.

Chertoff is expected to leave his post when President George W. Bush finishes his term in January 2009.

France to Announce Involvement in Israel-Jordan Peace Canal

By Ha'aretz

In three weeks, on June 22, Israel will be invaded. Four large passenger planes will land at Ben-Gurion International Airport and the president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, will emerge from one of them, accompanied by his wife Carla Bruni, the French finance minister, members of the National Assembly, 70 senior executives, dozens of journalists, hundreds of aides, and the famous French singer Enrique Mesias.

The huge delegation will be arriving for a two-day official presidential visit, which the French hope will overshadow even the recent visit by George W. Bush. Sarkozy and President Shimon Peres want to make this visit even bigger, more impressive and more royal.

On the first day of his visit, Sarkozy will meet with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and then tour the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial.

But the second day will hold the surprise, revealed here for the first time: The entire delegation will go to the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea, to meet with King Abdullah and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

And then, there on the shore of the Dead Sea, Peres will make a festive announcement of the launch of his huge project: the Peace Channel, which will connect the Dead and Red Seas. Sarkozy has already committed to take part in the project. After all, it was a French company headed by Ferdinand de Lesseps that built the Suez Canal in the mid-19th century.

Israel Names Hoopoe National Bird
Israel Faxx News Services

The Hoopoe was named Israel's national bird.

After months of consulting with the public and ornithology experts, President Shimon Peres declared the Hoopoe, or "Duchifat" in Hebrew, Israel's national bird Thursday as part of celebrations of 60 years since the founding of the Jewish state.

The white-crested fowl is commonly seen in the Middle East and has an Israeli commando unit named after it.

Among other candidates for the national title defeated by the Hoopoe were the Palestine Sunbird, whose English name was deemed politically problematic, and the Bulbul, which in Hebrew also serves as slang for penis.

The Book of Leviticus groups the Hoopoe with birds such as the eagle, vulture and pelican that are "abhorrent, not to be eaten." Israel is a main crossroads for birds migrating between Europe and Africa. Some 155,000 Israelis cast ballots in the national bird vote.

Does Birthright Deliver?

By Ha'aretz
If you're Jewish, North American and in your 20s then you're in demand. The chances are, you've probably either participated in an Israel program organized by one Zionist organization or another - or at the very least, you've been approached to take part. Taglit-Birthright Israel is the original, the most dominant and the best-funded of the numerous organizations set up since 2000 that offer young Jews the opportunity to go on short and long-term trips to Israel. Birthright by itself has brought over 160,000 young Jews to Israel on free 10-day trips and this summer the organization plans to bring 60,000 more. The organization focuses on bringing young Jews to Israel for the first time, many of whom may only have a loose affiliation with Judaism, with the aiming of bolstering their religious and cultural identity. According to Birthright, the organization's goal is to "diminish the divide between Israel and the Jewish communities around the world; to strengthen the sense of solidarity among world Jewry; and to strengthen participants' personal Jewish identity and connection to the Jewish people." Rachel Daniel, a previous Birthright participant, recalls the positive impact it had on her. "My Birthright trip really gave me the opportunity to deepen my Jewish identity and establish a relationship with Israel. After 10 days I really felt that Israel was my home and that as a Jew I had a place here." Other participants argue that the organization pushes their political and religious views on the participants too much, with the result that it is hard to feel well informed. "Everyone who comes on Birthright knows that they have an agenda - marry Jewish, make aliyah, make Jewish babies. They pay for the trip, so they can tell us whatever they want about Israel, but it would be nice to learn different viewpoints." A complete contrasting experience is offered by a subversively similar-sounding group, Birthright Unplugged. Founded as a reaction to and corrective for, the mainstream Zionist narrative of birthright trips, the organization offers six-day tours of the West Bank. Their trips challenge the idea that Jewish people have a birthright to the lands beyond the 1967 borders, expose young Jews to the Palestinian experience since 1948 and give them first-hand experience in Palestinian cities, villages, and refugee camps. The organization also tries to bring Palestinian voices to the international community, particularly to Jews from the United States. The program openly cultivates activist initiatives on behalf of Palestinians by its alumni, including pro-sanctions and pro-boycott work. As The Birthright Unplugged website explains, According to Hannah Mermelstein, one of the co-founders of Birthright Unplugged, "Sharing Palestinian voices in the West is a way to critique Zionism, which in large part attempts to silence Palestinian voices."

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