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Report: Israel Mulls Creating Proxy Force with Syrian Druze on Golan

By Israel Hayom

Israeli officials are discussing establishing a proxy force inside Syria made up of residents of villages close to the cease-fire line, perhaps led by the minority Druze sect in Syria, which also has some 20,000 members living over the border in Israeli-controlled territory, The New York Times reported on Thursday.

According to the paper, several Israeli officials who follow Syria closely said Israeli security forces had already been quietly working with villagers who support neither the government nor the rebels, supplying moderate humanitarian aid and maintaining intense intelligence activity. However, The Times reported that its sources said any notion of arming such villagers was remote if not far-fetched, noting that the main Druze leadership in Syria had so far stayed steadfastly out of the conflict.

Amid the growing tension with Syria, Israel Air Force chief Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel said that Israel was poised for a large-scale assault on Syria to prevent advanced weapons reaching jihadist rebels or Hizbullah guerrillas in Lebanon if President Bashar al-Assad was toppled.

Addressing a security conference, Eshel said Israeli warplanes could be repelled by Syria's formidable, Russian-supplied anti-aircraft systems. "If Syria collapses tomorrow we could find ourselves very quickly inside this cauldron, and on a very large scale, because this enormous arsenal is parked there, just waiting to be looted, and could be turned [against Israel]," he told the Fisher Institute for Air and Space Studies near Tel Aviv.

"We may find ourselves having to take action, on a very broad scale, within a very short period of time," Eshel said. "It does not mean we will act, but that we have to be ready to." He said fighting could escalate to include attacks on Israel by Hizbullah and by Iran, who both back Assad, and that the air force might have to employ "the full spectrum of its might."

Beset by the more than two-year insurgency that Hizbullah been helping his army battle, Assad has not retaliated to Israel's reported airstrikes. But there are signs his restraint may wane, seen in a shooting attack by Syrian troops at an Israeli patrol in the Golan Heights on Tuesday.

While militarily superior to Syria, Israel fears this edge will be blunted by Assad's Russian-made air and coast defenses, especially if Israeli forces are stretched over three fronts. Eshel said the most formidable of the Russian anti-aircraft systems available, the S-300, was "on its way" to Syria, without elaborating on where he was getting his information. "Air superiority is critical, and we must contend with a new generation of [Syrian] capabilities," Eshel said.

In separate remarks about Syria to the conference, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said: "There are those who are trying to bring weapons systems into the area that are liable to harm our aerial and naval supremacy ... and this must be prevented in a responsible and considered manner."

He said that despite recent gains against the Syrian rebels by Assad and Hizbullah forces, Damascus was in decline. "Assad is losing Syria. There is a sense that he is charging ahead because of the Russian support, but that story is not over -- it could end suddenly, or continue for years as a bloody civil war." Ya'alon played down the prospect of anyone on the Syrian side starting a war with Israel, "because they understand the heavy price they would pay."

But Israelis should also not anticipate an easy victory, Eshel told Reuters on the sidelines of the conference. "People are looking for a knockout, for things to be surgical and sterile, but they won't be," he said. "The homefront will be hit, no matter how much we defend it."

Air Force Chief Warns of `Surprise War' with Syria

By The Times of Israel

The commander of the Israeli Air Force, which has reportedly bombarded targets in Syria several times in recent months, warned that war could break out on Israel's northern border at any moment, demanding the full engagement of the IAF's resources.

"If tomorrow Syria collapses, and I am not saying that will happen, we could find ourselves in the thick of it very fast and in great number," IAF commander Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel said, illustrating how the nature of surprise wars had changed for Israel since the Yom Kippur War in 1973. Because the immense arsenal parked there, just waiting to be looted, could spread with each gust of wind and you find yourself having to act very fast and in great quantity," he said, alluding to Syrian President Bashar Assad's sizable stockpile of both conventional and chemical weapons. "These days a number of scenarios can lead to a surprise war."

Speaking at a conference in Herzliya, Eshel said that aerial superiority was the key to victory in such a war, and that swift triumph on the field would be of supreme strategic importance. That was why, he said, the Assad regime had spent billions of dollars on anti-aircraft missiles, including advanced S-300 batteries due to arrive from Russia.

Eshel said the Russian-made surface-to-air system would boost Syria's confidence and could lead to more aggressive behavior toward Israel. He cautioned that the regime could fall at any moment, and that many groups were resolved to lay their hands on Assad's weapons. "It doesn't mean we'll act, but it does mean we have to be ready with aircraft and defensive batteries," Eshel said. "After all, we won't be told `You have two weeks to prepare for a war.' We'll have to brace for rockets from Gaza and Lebanon and from further afield. And if we're not prepared, it'll show we've failed to internalize the lessons of the Yom Kippur War."

Eshel assured his audience that Israel would likely win a potential war with Syria, but that it would have to do so in a matter of days. "In 2013, we can win wars, but there are no more knock-out victories. The other side is focusing on sabotaging our abilities. We find ourselves in a very different context than during the Yom Kippur War, and we will have to employ greater flexibility, with more intensity and in a short amount of time. We can win and it will require massive firepower," he said.

Echoing Eshel's comparison of a future conflict to the traumatic Yom Kippur War, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz said Wednesday that the IDF was preparing for the "tangible scenario of a confrontation on multiple fronts. We're resolved to act with jointness, cooperation and maximal efficiency to ensure our ability to swiftly overcome any confrontation and win any future battle," he said.


Hand-Drawn Map Shows What Olmert Offered for Peace

By The Times of Israel

A sketched map of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's land-for-peace offer to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in 2008 — hurriedly drawn up by Abbas after a meeting with Olmert that December, and made public for the first time on Thursday — suggests that Israel was prepared to withdraw to borders very similar to the pre-1967 lines and swap areas of northern and southern Israel in return for maintaining the larger settlement blocs.

The map, published by Walla news, was based on an offer Olmert made to Abbas on Dec. 16, 2008, during a meeting in Jerusalem. Olmert presented Abbas with a large formal map showing his territorial compromise proposal for the contours of a Palestinian state as part of a permanent peace accord, and demanded that Abbas initial the proposal before taking it back to Ramallah for consideration by the Palestinians. Abbas refused to do so, but on his return to his headquarters, he gathered his officials and asked them to remain silent while he hastily recreated the offer on a sheet of official Palestinian Authority notepaper.

The sketch, which includes no place names, indicates that Olmert was apparently willing to more or less return to the pre-1967 lines, while maintaining the Gush Etzion settlement bloc south of Jerusalem, the settlement city of Ma'ale Adumin to the east, and a slice of territory that apparently would encompass the large settlement of Ariel in Samaria. In exchange for expanding Israeli sovereignty to those areas, Israel would have given up some of its own land to the new Palestinian state.

According to Walla, Olmert envisaged relinquishing Israeli territory on a one-for-one basis to the Palestinians in areas including near Afula; near Tirat Zvi south of Beit She'an; north of Jerusalem; in the Judean Desert, and in the Lachish area. He also endorsed a tunnel route to link Gaza and the West Bank.

Olmert, as he has subsequently confirmed, was also prepared to divide Jerusalem into Israeli- and Palestinian-controlled neighborhoods, and to relinquish Israeli sovereignty at the Temple Mount and the entire Old City. He proposed that the "Holy Basin" be overseen instead by a five-member, non-sovereign international trusteeship, comprising Israel, the PA, Jordan, the US and Saudi Arabia. According to Walla, Olmert has confirmed that Abbas' sketched map is similar to that depicted in his proposal, and reconfirmed his readiness to have relinquished sovereignty at the Temple Mount.

The map shows no Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley. Walla said Olmert confirmed he was ready to forgo an Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley — a key strategic area, control of which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has defined as vital to Israel's security. In return, Walla cited Olmert as saying, Israel expected full security cooperation with Jordan.

In March, the New Republic reported that in September 2008 Abbas was close to signing an agreement that would have seen him give up on the so-called "right of return" for Palestinian refugees and their descendants beyond a symbolic number of several thousand.

Overall in recent years, Olmert has been widely reported to have proposed that Israel annex some 6.3% of the West Bank to encompass the key settlements, and compensate the Palestinians with a corresponding 5.8% of territory from within Israel, plus the corridor linking Gaza to the West Bank. The Palestinians have been reported to have countered with a proposal for a far smaller, 1.9% land swap. Abbas told the Washington Post in 2009 that Olmert's offer was insufficient. "The gaps were wide," he said.

Some analysts suggest Abbas backed out at the time in large part because he believed that Olmert, who had announced that he planned to resign in order to fight corruption allegations, did not have the political clout to see the deal through. Others see Abbas' failure to seize the most far-reaching offer even made by an Israeli prime minister as proof that no offer that Israel might reasonably make would be accepted by the Palestinian leadership.

Publication of the map Thursday drew a sharp response from Deputy Minister Ofir Akunis (Likud), a staunch Netanyahu loyalist who acts as a liaison between the government and the Knesset. Akunis said that what he called the PA's rejection of the Olmert offer shows that the Palestinians are not really interested in peace.

"It is further proof that the argument is not about Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] but on the very existence of Israel," Akunis told Walla. "Even though Olmert sold out on everything, gave in, for nothing in return, the Palestinians didn't accept the offer. Their continued refusal of even the most generous offer should present a warning sign to the whole world: The Palestinians are the obstacle to peace."

Olmert has said that Abbas did not accept the offer but also did not specifically reject it. Rather, according to Olmert, Abbas failed to respond to it.


Haredi Ad: Tight Pants May Seduce Women

By YnetNews.com

Ads posted recently in ultra-Orthodox areas in Jerusalem quote prominent Ashkenazi Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky as saying that men who "intentionally" wear tight pants will be subject to ostracism. The ads were distributed as part of a campaign launched several months ago in regards to standards of modesty in men's clothing. The campaign's highlight was the ban on tight pants, which were defined as a serious Torah prohibition and a "gentile practice."



According to the campaign managers, anyone wearing close-fitting trousers is violating the prohibition "Do not follow their practices" (Leviticus 18:3). In addition, according to the campaign initiators, wearing tight pants emphasizes the shape of one's body, which may entice women. In order to make the desired wardrobe clear to the haredi public, the ad included pictures of rabbis wearing wide pants.


Wedding Bells for Belz as Heir to Hassidic Dynasty Ties Knot

By The Times of Israel

Tens of thousands of Ultra-Orthodox men and women from Israel and abroad participated in one of the largest weddings seen in modern times Tuesday night, as the grandson of rabbi of the Belz Hassidic dynasty tied the knot with Hana Batya Pener, a daughter of one of the community members. Rabbi Shalom Rokach, 18, is the eldest grandson of the Belz Rabbi and is expected to run for leadership of the sect in the future.

Members of various Hassidic sects, the national-religious world and Sephardi Judaism also attended the wedding. The leader of the Gur Hassidic sect, the biggest in Israel, and the Lithuanian Ultra-Orthodox community each received a special welcome from the Belz Rabbi, as did Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.

The wedding of Rokach's parents in 1993 was the largest in the city's modern history, drawing 30,000 people, who gobbled down 3.1 tons of potatoes, 1.5 tons of gefilte fish and 39,000 gallons of pop in celebration.

Belz Hassidism, which was nearly wiped out in the Holocaust, is named for the Western Ukrainian town of Belz, near the Polish border.


Shades of Star Trek's Borg: Technion Scientists Develop an Advanced Biological Computer

By Arutz Sheva

Technion scientists developed and constructed a molecular transducer, which is an advanced computing machine. This molecular computer was built entirely of biomolecules, such as DNA and enzymes that can manipulate genetic codes.

This unprecedented device can compute iteratively, namely, it uses the output as a new input for subsequent computations. Furthermore, it produces outputs in the form of biologically meaningful phenomena, such as resistance of bacteria to various antibiotics.

The researchers demonstrated that their transducer can perform long division of binary numbers by 3 and performed an iterative computation.

This study by Prof. Ehud Keinan, postdoctoral fellows Dr. Tamar Ratner and Dr. Ron Piran of the Schulich Faculty of Chemistry, and Dr. Natasha Jonoska of the department of Mathematics at the University of South Florida, is published today in the prestigious journal Chemistry & Biology of the Cell publishing house.

"The ever-increasing interest in biomolecular computing devices has not arisen from the hope that such machines could ever compete with their electronic counterparts by offering greater computation speed, fidelity and power or performance in traditional computing tasks", explains Prof. Keinan. "The main advantages of biomolecular computing devices over the electronic computers arise from other properties. As shown in this work and other projects carried out in our lab, these systems can interact directly with biological systems and even with living organisms. No interface is required since all components of molecular computers, including hardware, software, input and output, are molecules that interact in solution along a cascade of programmable chemical events."

"All biological systems, and even entire living organisms, are natural molecular computers. Every one of us is a biomolecular computer, that is, a machine in which all components are molecules "talking" to one another in a logical manner. The hardware and software are complex biological molecules that activate one another to carry out some predetermined chemical tasks. The input is a molecule that undergoes specific, programmed changes, following a specific set of rules (software) and the output of this chemical computation process is another well defined molecule."

"Our results are significant because they demonstrate for the first time a synthetic designed computing machine that not only computes iteratively, but also produces biologically relevant results. Although this transducer was employed to solve a specific problem, the general methodology shows that similar devices could be applied for other computational problems.

"In addition to its enhanced computation power, this DNA-based transducer offers multiple benefits, such as the ability to read and transform genetic information, miniaturization to the molecular scale, and the aptitude to produce computational results, which interact directly with living organisms. Therefore, its implementation on a genetic material may not just evaluate and detect specific sequences, it can also alter and algorithmically process the genetic code. This possibility opens up interesting opportunities in biotechnology, including individual gene therapy and cloning."


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