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U.S. Supreme Court Denies Survivor Suit vs. German Firms


The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday denied a petition brought by Holocaust survivors against 17 German companies, including BMW, Volkswagen and Deutsche Bank.

The survivors had hoped to renegotiate reparation agreements signed with the companies. The survivors claim that the companies are holding $100 million from a fund for survivors of the German forced-labor camps that operated during the Holocaust.

Obama: U.S. Backs Palestinian Statehood, No Iran Deadline

By Ha'aretz & VOA News

President Barack Obama voiced support for creation of a Palestinian state in talks on Monday with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who held back from endorsing the main cornerstone of Washington's Mideast policy.

With Israeli leaders mostly skeptical of Obama's efforts to engage Iran diplomatically, Netanyahu had planned to stress Israel's growing concerns about Tehran's nuclear ambitions, Israeli officials said before the talks.

Obama, speaking along with Netanyahu to reporters in the Oval Office, said after the two-hour meeting that he saw no reason to set an artificial deadline for diplomacy with Iran, but the U.S. would like to see progress with Tehran by the end of the year.

He said he was not closing off a "range of steps" against Iran, including sanctions, if it continues its nuclear program, which Washington believes is aimed at producing an atomic weapon but Tehran says is for peaceful purposes. Obama also reminded Israel of its commitment, under a 2003 U.S.-backed peace road map agreement to cease settlement activity in the West Bank.

"We talked about restarting serious negotiations on issues of Israel and the Palestinians," Obama said, adding that it was in the interests of both sides "to achieve a two-state solution."

Netanyahu, in his remarks, reiterated that he supported self-government for the Palestinians but made no mention of a state, a position underscoring a rare rift in U.S.-Israeli relations. "We don't want to govern the Palestinians. We want them to govern themselves," Netanyahu said, echoing statements he has made in the past.

Obama sees engagement in Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking - in contrast to the Bush administration's largely hands-off approach - as crucial to repairing the U.S. image in the Muslim world and to convincing moderate Arab states to join a united front against Iran.

There have been signs Obama hopes to sway Netanyahu with the prospect of normalized ties between Israel and all Muslim countries, but such a comprehensive deal would require extraordinary diplomatic work by the United States.

After making a joint statement, Netanyahu spoke to Israeli reporters at the president's guesthouse at Blair House, saying that "it was a good meeting, friendly. There was a deep commitment to relations with the U.S., with whom we have a special relationship.

"Another thing was Iran," the prime minister continued, "a topic which consumed most of hour private one-on-one meeting. It was clear that he [Obama] understands the extent of the problem, for the world as well as for us, and he is committed to preventing Iran from gaining nuclear weapons.

"In regard to the settlements, we decided that this is something that needs to be implemented through commitments on both sides," Netanyahu added. "Israel has dismantled settlements and the Palestinians were supposed to dismantle terror infrastructure. In Gaza, we dismantled settlements and got huge terror infrastructure in return."

Before Monday's meeting, analysts were speculating on whether there might be a public clash between Obama and Netanyahu over their different policy priorities. Obama was focused on resuming peace talks with the Palestinians, and Netanyahu was focused on Iran's nuclear threat.

Speaking to the press after their meeting, both leaders made a point of recognizing how crucial both issues are to peace and security. Netanyahu said he is ready to resume peace talks with the Palestinians.

"And I want to start peace negotiations with the Palestinians immediately," said Netanyahu. "I would like to broaden the circle of peace to include others in the Arab world. If we could, Mr. President, it is a distant vision but one that we shouldn't let go, maybe peace with the entire Arab world."

The Israeli Prime Minister made clear, however, that any agreement depends on the Palestinians accepting Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, and Israel's right to defend itself. And he stopped short of endorsing Palestinian statehood, saying only that Israel does not want to govern the Palestinians.

Netanyahu said the common threat posed by Iran's nuclear program to the entire region could even lead to opportunities for Israel to work with its Arab neighbors. "And in my 59 years, in the life of the Jewish state, there has never been a time when Arabs and Israelis see a common threat the way we see it today, and also see the need to join together in working towards peace while simultaneously defending ourselves against this common threat."

Next week, Mr. Obama will continue his push for Middle East diplomacy, hosting Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House.

Israel Moves Ahead With West Bank Settlements

By Luis Ramirez (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israel is pressing ahead with plans to build more settlement housing in the West Bank. An Israeli official announced the scheme Monday The move could cause friction with Washington, which wants Israel to stop settlement expansion.

The matter of Israeli settlements in the West Bank is one of the key sticking points in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Palestinians want no Israeli presence in their state if and when it is established. Israeli authorities say there are roughly 280,000 people living in Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Israeli developers and a local government official on Monday said they are moving ahead with construction at a former military site known as Maskiot in the Jordan Valley. Contractors toured the site on Sunday. Officials say the building plans were approved by Israel's defense ministry last year.

The construction plans are drawing protests from the Palestinians who accuse the Israelis of timing their release with Binyamin Netanyahu's visit to Washington to send a message that Israel is strengthening its hold on the West Bank.

They repeated their warning that no negotiations will take place as long as Netanyahu does not endorse the creation of a Palestinian state. The General Secretary of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Yasser Abed Rabu, accused Netanyahu of trying to derail the peace process. He called for the United States to announce a one-year deadline.

Abed Rabu said the most important thing for the Palestinians is to see what the United States and Israel plan to do. He says the Palestinians are waiting to see what steps the United States will take and whether Washington will announce that a Palestinian state will be created within a year.

Some Israelis oppose the creation of such a state out of concern that it might be subject to takeover by Islamist terrorists, as was the case in the Gaza Strip where the Iranian-backed Hamas movement seized the government after Israel's 2005 withdrawal from the enclave.

Poll: Only 31 Percent of Israelis Consider Obama Pro-Israel


Only 31 percent of Israel's adult Jewish population considers Barack Obama' administration to be pro-Israel, according to a Smith Institute poll released on the eve of Obama's meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The poll had a 4.5% margin of error.

The survey of 500 Israelis, representing a statistical model of the Israeli population, was conducted last week. It revealed that 14 percent of Israeli Jews consider Obama pro-Palestinian, while 40 percent of the respondents labeled him as neutral; 15 percent declined to offer their opinion.

The poll further showed that 88 percent of Israeli Jews believe that Obama's predecessor, former President George W. Bush, was pro-Israel, as opposed to only two percent who claim he was pro-Palestinian. Seven percent of the respondents said Bush was neutral.

However, the survey showed that Israelis still consider the Obama Administration to be more favorable towards Israel than Europe, with Russia considered the most pro-Palestinian.

Some 62 percent of Israeli Jews believe Moscow is pro-Palestinian, the poll revealed, while only five percent said the Russian regime favored Israel. Most western European are also deemed pro-Palestinian by the Israeli public, but 37 percent of Israeli Jews believe the German government under Chancellor Angela Merkel holds a pro-Israel stance, as opposed to 21 percent who believe the German decision-makers support the Palestinians.

Eldad: U.S. Selling Israel Down the River


Knesset member Aryeh Eldad (National Union party) said following the meeting between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that Israel has true cause for concern, because the U.S. is shaking off its historic commitment to vouch for Israel's security.

"Defining a deadline-free negotiating process vis-à-vis Iran means, in practice, that the U.S. is willing to accept a nuclear Iran and that Israel remains alone facing Iran," Eldad said. "Israel will have no choice but to destroy the Iranian nuclear facilities with all the means at its disposal, be the price what it may be."

However, Knesset member Ophir Akunis, head of the Likud's Media Responses Team, said that the predictions of a tense meeting between Obama and Netanyahu have proven untrue. "The Obama-Netanyahu meeting proved again the power of the deep bond between the U.S. and Israel."

Two Alleged Spies Flee Lebanon to Israel


A disabled Lebanese citizen and his family fled to Israel at dawn Monday along with another suspected spy amid a crackdown on espionage networks throughout Lebanon, a security official said.

Elie Maroun Hayek, a mathematics professor who lives in the southern town of Qolayaa, some six miles from the Israeli border, slipped under barbed wire between the border towns of Rmaysh and Yaron, the official told AFP. Hayek, who is paraplegic, fled with his wife and three sons, he said.

Another man from the town of Rmaysh also fled to Israel early Monday, the official said without giving more detail. He said the man and Hayek are suspected of being part of Israeli spy networks uncovered by Lebanese officials in recent months.

Lebanon has arrested 13 people since January on suspicion of spying for Israel. An undisclosed number of others have also been detained for interrogation. "We have begun to crack the infrastructure of Israeli spy rings," internal security chief General Achraf Rifi told a Lebanese daily on Monday. "There is a common factor which has helped us track down the rings," he said without giving details.

Shin Bet: Terrorists Using Facebook to Entrap Israelis


The Israeli Security Agency (Shin Bet) said Monday that terrorists are using the Facebook internet-based social network to try and entrap Israelis and gather sensitive security information.

The agency has received numerous reports of Israelis on Facebook who received messages asking them for sensitive military secrets in return for payment. Similar incidents occurred on other internet social networks as well.

In one case, an Israeli received a message from a "Lebanese Merchant" who offered him payment in exchange for sensitive information. The Israeli immediately contacted the Shin Bet about the incident, but the security agency says it was not an isolated incident.

In addition, the agency warned that terrorists may try to entrap an Israeli by using the pretext of meeting him outside of the country in order to transfer a payment for the information. The Shin Bet fears that terrorists may kidnap Israelis through this method.

Security sources warned that terrorists may use the private personal information on social networks, such as names, addresses, and phone numbers, to locate Israelis both in Israel and abroad.

Terrorists have become more adept at using technology to further their purposes. According to Israeli officials, terrorist groups very actively search the internet for Israeli sites that may contain sensitive security information.

In addition, authorities have expressed concern over technologies such as Google Earth which could enable terrorists to gain high quality images of sensitive military sites. Google Earth has blocked some locations in Israel and around the world from view.

During Operation Cast Lead, terrorists made use of cell phone technology to send hostile SMS text messages to Israelis, in a kind of psychological warfare intended to scare soldiers and civilians.

95-Year Old Woman Caught Speeding at 132 Kph


Israeli traffic police caught a 95-year-old woman speeding down an Israeli highway at 132 kilometers per hour (82 mph) on Monday. The woman could not adequately explain to the police why she was driving so fast and so they chose to temporarily revoke her license.

The elderly woman is expected to appear in court within a month to decide on the future of her driving license.

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