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World's Oldest Surface Discovered in Israeli Negev


Scientists from the Hebrew University recently discovered the world's oldest surface in the Negev Desert.

A patch of "desert pavement" there was found to be around 1.8 million years old, four times older than the next oldest desert surface in Nevada. The results of the geological survey were published in the May issue of the Geological Society of American Bulletin.

White House Official: Iranian, Israeli Nukes are Unrelated Issues


An Obama official's call for Israel to declare its nuclear weapons could mean the end of a 40-year-pact to keep the Israeli arsenal under wraps, officials in both countries said.

A senior White House official told the Washington Times Wednesday that the administration considered Iran's nuclear program and Israel's nuclear program to be "apples and oranges," or unrelated issues.

Asked whether the Obama administration would press Israel to join the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the official – who spoke on the condition of anonymity – said, "We support universal adherence to the NPT. [It] remains a long-term goal."

Other U.S. and Israeli officials and nuclear specialists – some still serving, others not – told the Times that efforts by Washington to curb the spread of nuclear weapons could "expose and derail" a 40-year-old secret pact between the U.S. and Israel to protect the Jewish state's nuclear arsenal from international scrutiny.

According to the paper, the issue will probably "come to a head" when Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu meets with President Barack Obama on May 18 in Washington. Netanyahu will seek assurances that Obama "will uphold the U.S. commitment and will not trade Israeli nuclear concessions for Iranian ones."

Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller said Tuesday at a U.N. meeting that Israel should sign on to the NPT. "Universal adherence to the NPT itself, including by India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea, ... remains a fundamental objective of the United States," Gottemoeller said. She would not say, however, whether the Obama administration intends to put pressure on Israel to join the treaty.

In its editorial Wednesday, the Times warned against changing U.S policy towards Israel's reported nuclear weapons. "Will the United States sell out its strongest ally in the Middle East to cozy up to its worst enemy?" it asked in its opening sentence.

Until now, Israel has never confirmed that it possesses nuclear weapons. If it does sign the NPT, it would have to declare and relinquish any nuclear arms at its disposal. Israel's Muslim neighbors have threatened to destroy it and murder its citizens ever since it declared independence in 1948. For decades it has maintained deliberate ambiguity regarding the claims that it has nuclear arms, saying only that it will not be the first to introduce them to the Middle East.

Report: Arabs Drafting 'Moderate' Peace Initiative


Quoting Palestinian sources, the London-based Arabic language newspaper al-Quds al-Arabi reported Wednesday that the leaders of the moderate Arab countries are revising the Saudi peace initiative in order to make it more acceptable to Israel.

According to the report, the leaders of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority have been working on a "clearer" initiative at the request of President Barack Obama. The Arabs are working vigorously so that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will be able to present the revised proposal to Obama during their upcoming meeting in Washington.

The Palestinian sources told al-Quds al-Arabi that Jordan's King Abdullah, who recently met with Obama, promised to assist in drafting a new initiative that would "clarify the vague points" in the current plan and make it more acceptable to the US and Israel. The Palestinians said the suggested amendments would require holding an Arab summit.

According to Palestinian sources, the new initiative will call for the settling of Palestinian refugees in Arab countries and in a future Palestinian state, following a land swap with Israel. The US administration has also demanded that the Arab countries set a timetable for the normalization of their ties with Israel with the aim of encouraging Jerusalem to take practical steps towards the establishment of a Palestinian state, they added.

The issue of the Palestinian refugees' "right of return" to their homes in Israel has been one of the major points of disagreement between Israel and the Arab countries.

The sources were also quoted as saying that the initiative will enable the Israeli flag to be displayed in Arab countries, while Israel will allow the Palestinian flag to be hung in Arab neighborhoods in east Jerusalem, which, according to the initiative, will be the capital of the Palestinian state. The UN flag will adorn sites in Jerusalem's Old City that are holy to the three major religions.

Israel Would Not Ask U.S. Before Hitting Iran

By Reuters (Analysis)

When he first got word of Israel's sneak attack on the Iraqi atomic reactor in 1981, U.S. President Ronald Reagan privately shrugged it off, telling his national security adviser: "Boys will be boys."

Would Barack Obama be so sanguine if today's Israelis made good on years of threats and bombed Iran's nuclear facilities, yanking the United States into an unprecedented Middle East eruption that could dash his goal of easing regional tensions through revived and redoubled U.S. outreach?

For that matter, would Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu readily take on Iran alone, given his country's limited firepower and the risk of stirring up a backlash against the Jewish state among war-weary, budget-strapped Americans?

Obama is no Reagan. And many experts believe the two allies are now so enmeshed in strategic ties -- with dialogue at the highest level of government and military -- that complete Israeli autonomy on a major issue like Iran is notional only.

So while no one questions Israel's willingness to attack should it deem U.S.-led talks on curbing Iranian uranium enrichment a dead end, such strikes would almost certainly entail at least last-minute coordination with Washington.

Israel would want to ensure that its jets would not be shot down by accident if overflying U.S.-occupied Iraq, and to give Americans in the Gulf forewarning of possible Iranian reprisals. "Whether or not Israel got the green light from Washington to attack Iran is almost immaterial, as everybody in the region would believe that the U.S. was complicit," said Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

One U.S. diplomat envisaged Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak telephoning Pentagon chief Robert Gates, unannounced, "to give a heads-up and explain" once the mission were under way.

Gates and the U.S. military brass have voiced distaste for pre-emptive strikes on Iran, which says its uranium enrichment is for legitimate electricity production, not weapons. But their public comments have acknowledged that Israel could break rank.

"I do not doubt that Israel will do what it thinks it needs to do, regardless of whether the U.S. approves," said Mark Fitzpatrick, non-proliferation expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.

A retired Israeli general who advises the government on strategic issues suggested there was a tacit synchronicity in recent messages about Iran from Israel and the United States: "The Israeli threat adds urgency to Obama's calls for diplomatic engagement, and should Israel take things into its hands, the Americans retain wriggle room, some deniability."

Israel's bombing in 2007 of what the CIA described as a North Korean-built reactor in Syria may provide a precedent. According to a source familiar with the operation, Israel carried out the sortie alone, but only after "letting the Americans know that something like this could happen. It's the difference between informing, and seeking consent."

It was the United States which, a year later, published the allegations about the bombed site, pitting its clout as a superpower against Syrian denials. Israel, which has never discussed the attack, was spared the burden of proving its case.

As both Obama and Netanyahu head new governments, the Israeli former general said any joint strategy would go unformed at least until the leaders held their first summit on May 18. "There's a sense that no decision has been made on either side," he said. "My impression is that the current American statements are for the record, to convince the international community about the seriousness of the Obama administration's efforts to talk Tehran into a solution."

Regardless of Obama's eventual stance, it would be severely tested should U.S. interests be threatened -- say, with Iran answering an Israeli bombing by goading Shi'ites in Iraq to stoke the embers of their insurgency, or by choking off oil exports. "Whatever temporary sense of solidarity with Israel that ensued would be through gritted teeth," said Fitzpatrick, a former U.S. State Department official.

Then again, drawing in the United States, with its superior air power, could serve Israel's endgame of putting paid to Iran's nuclear facilities. Most analysts think Israel's warplanes might set back Iran's plans by a few years at best and could never erase the knowledge of Iran's atomic scientists.

After reacting to the 1981 Iraq strike by saying -- according to then-National Security Adviser Richard Allen -- "You know what, Dick? Boys will be boys," Reagan rapped Israel by holding up a shipment of F-16 jets. Future U.S. administrations would thank the Israelis for denting the might of Saddam Hussein -- whom the Reagan White House backed against Iran at the time.

Fitzpatrick said U.S. public opinion would swing in Israel's favor "if Iran is stopped from achieving a nuclear weapons capability, and the price is not too great in terms of attacks on American citizens and facilities."

Obama's punitive options could, in theory, include cutting the billions in U.S. defense aid and loan guarantees to Israel, though he would face opposition in an Israel-friendly Congress.

Washington could also call for a nuclear-free Middle East as part of a regional peace drive, arguing that, with Iran neutralized and the Arab world mollified, Israel's own assumed atomic arsenal should no longer go unchecked.

Stolen 2,000-Year-Old Hebrew Papyrus Recovered


A 2,000-year-old Hebrew document has been recovered by police and antiquities authorities, shedding light on post-Temple Jewish life in the Land of Israel.

The 15x15 cm (6x6 inch) papyrus is 15 lines long, and is clearly dated, "Year 4 to the destruction of Israel." Archaeologists say this refers to either 74 CE, four years after the Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans, or the year 139 CE, after the destruction of rural settlement in Judah following the Bar Kokhba Revolt.

Amir Ganor, director of the Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery in the Israel Antiquities Authority, told Israel National News, "We heard about this papyrus several months ago, and after investigation by the police and the other units involved, we finally reached the right people this past week." Asked when it was found and removed from the ground, he said, "It still has pieces of earth on it, and since it was offered for sale in recent months, it is likely that it was found in the very recent past."

Asked if he knew where it was found, Ganor said, "The best climatic conditions for preserving documents of this nature for so many centuries are in the Judean Desert, and so that is our assumption." The investigation as to where and how the papyrus was found continues.

The recovery of the document was the culmination of an operation led by the Intelligence Office of the Zion [central Jerusalem] Region and the Undercover Unit of the Jerusalem Border Police, in cooperation with the Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery and the Archaeological Staff Officer in the Civil Administration. "It appears that we are dealing with rare historic evidence regarding the Jewish people in their country from more than 2,000 years ago," Ganor summed up.

The document is written in ancient Hebrew script characteristic of the Second Temple period. This style of the writing is primarily known from the Dead Sea scrolls and various inscriptions that occur on ossuaries and coffins. The papyrus is incomplete and was in all likelihood rolled up; pieces of it crumbled, mainly along its bottom and left sides.

The name of a woman, "Miriam barat [Aramaic for `daughter of'] Yaakov" is also legible in the document, followed by a name that is likely to be that of the village in which she lived: Misalev, believed to be Salabim and possibly the present-day Kibbutz Shaalvim in the Ayalon Valley.

Also mentioned in the document are the names of other people and families, the names of a number of other villages from the Second Temple period, and legal wording dealing with the property of a widow and her relinquishment of it.

Messianic Jews Demand Israeli Citizenship


Three Messianic Jews residing in Britain filed a petition with the High Court of Justice Wednesday in an effort to convince Interior Minister Eli Yishai to grant them citizenship. John Christopher and Nina and Kevin Aires are members of a faith that believes Jesus is the messiah but see themselves as Jews.

The petition states that Christopher's grandfather and Nina Aires' grandmother were Jewish, which grants them the right of return by law. They claim they have appealed to the Interior Ministry a number of times but were rejected because they are Messianic Jews. They say the ministry sees members of their faith as missionaries and has denied their appeals for this reason.

The three say they have done nothing to warrant a denial of citizenship that is theirs by law and that they are Zionists who want to make Israel their home. The petitioners claim the Interior Ministry is behaving in a discriminatory manner and persecuting them for their beliefs. The State's response has not yet been filed.


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