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Iranian Official: Israel's Annihilation Still Our Central Goal


A senior Iranian official has reiterated that Iran views the annihilation of the State of Israel as its most central foreign policy, despite warming relations with western powers.

The Iranian Parliament Speaker's Adviser for International Affairs, Hossein Sheikholeslam, made the comments in a speech to reporters in Tehran, during which he also attacked the British Foreign Secretary for suggesting Iran's hostility towards Israel had softened since the nuclear deal. "Our positions against the usurper Zionist regime have not changed at all; Israel should be annihilated and this is our ultimate slogan," Sheikholeslam said Tuesday, according to the semi-official Fars News.

He was responding to an interview given by UK Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond following the reopening of the British embassy in Tehran, during which Hammond claimed the current Iranian regime was displaying a "more nuanced" approach towards the Jewish state than previous ones. "What we're looking for is behavior from Iran, not only towards Israel but towards other players in the region, that slowly rebuilds their sense that Iran is not a threat to them," Hammond added.

Sheikholeslam also rebuffed Hammond's call for past hostilities between Iran and Britain to be forgotten, retorting that Iran ""will never forget the past and Britain's colonialist moves."

PA Claims 'Western Wall is Muslim'


The Palestinian Authority's Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammed Hussein on Tuesday condemned Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan's (Likud) call the day before to ban the Islamist organizations that routinely riot on the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism.

Hussein claimed that Israel prevents Muslims from fully controlling Al-Aqsa Mosque, where Islam claims its founder Mohammed "ascended to the heavens" in a night vision. He also accused Israel of allowing "Jewish extremists to breach in and desecrate it (the site - ed.)."

The PA Mufti accused Israel of being "haughty," and for indirectly seeking equal rights for Jews at the holy site by dividing time between Muslims and Jews at the Mount - as is currently done at the Cave of Machpelah in Hebron.

He called for Muslims to strengthen their hold on the Al-Aqsa Mosque through protests and showing a physical presence, in a call to action that eerily echoes that of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas last November, when he urged Palestinian Arabs to wage holy war over the Mount as his aides later explained his comments to mean.

In parallel to Hussein's statements, the PA ministry of holy sites published a report on Tuesday, accusing Israel of an aggressive policy and of corruption in order to "Judaize" Jerusalem, and in particular Al-Aqsa Mosque.

The report, which provides an overview of Israeli steps taken to develop Jerusalem's Old City, claimed the Jewish claim to the Temple Mount - the site of the First and Second Temples - is "false." It further accuses Israel of adopting the Kotel (Western Wall) as a Jewish site, referring to it as "Al-Buraq" Wall, a name given by Muslims to the Kotel in the 1920s in an attempt to claim it. The name refers to Mohammed's "winged steed" he supposedly rode to Jerusalem in his "night journey."

Yasser Abbas – The Son Whom the Palestinian Leader Plans to Succeed Him

By DEBKAfile

The reports swirling around the Arab world over the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas' decision to quit disguise the octogenarian's next plans. According to our Middle East sources, Abbas (known to all as Abu Mazen) has confided to his close circle that he has lost faith in President Barack Obama, whom he accuses of deserting the Palestinian cause, and in Secretary of State John Kerry, whom he has nicknamed "the tall liar." He is now looking for new champions, possibly in Tehran, while at the same time shoring up his rule over the Palestinian Authority and designing his legacy.

Abbas joins the list of regional allies who feel abandoned by the Obama administration, like the Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz, Egyptian President Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi and, up to a point, Israel's Binyamin Netanyahu. For the immediate future, Abu Mazen is developing a comprehensive plan for replacing his enemies on the PLO's Executive Committee with young faces, chosen for their ability to preserve the Abbas clan's majority in this key institution and uphold his guiding principles for the Palestinian movement.

Since the end of July, his henchmen, Saeb Erekat, Akram Haniya and Palestinian General Intelligence chief Mejad Freij have been working on this blueprint. They are to complete their project by September, when Abbas plans to introduce his choice of new leaders to the Executive Committee. They will consist mainly of the sons of the founders of the PLO and his own Fatah party.

Some of their names are unknown outside the Palestinian Authority's seat in Ramallah. DEBKAfile reports that prominent among them are Sabry Shayden - son of the PLO's first chief of staff; Maher Ghanem - son of Abu Maher Ghanem, the Fatah Party's first organizer; and also Gen. Majid Freij, Ayman Makbul from Nablus and Fahmi Zar'ir from the Gaza Strip.

The most important new face will be that of Yasser Abbas – Mahmoud Abbas' own son. The new appointments will herald another change: the PLO Executive Committee is to be elevated as the supreme Palestinian ruling institution, with jurisdiction over the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian government.

Abu Mazen is shaping this reshuffle to guarantee that his immediate successor as PA Chairman - mostly probably Erekat, whom the West knows as the most public Palestinian negotiator - will give up his seat when the time comes to make way for Yasser Abbas.

In this way, Mahmoud Abbas hopes to keep control of the Palestinian movement in the hands of his dynasty. His son, aged 52, who was named in honor of the late Yasir Arafat, moved from Ramallah to Canada in 1997 and built a business career. A civil engineering graduate from Washington State University, he owns a string of companies in Canada, the Gulf and the West Bank. Among them is Falco Tobacco, which holds the sole agency for the distribution of American cigarettes in the Palestinian territory.

There are many rumors about how he made his fortune, including corrupt practices in high Palestinian circles. Little is known about his politics. When interviewed on occasion, he prefers to dwell on how he made his money rather than expanding on public affairs that concern his people. His good connections in Washington will no doubt be useful for opening a new chapter with the US when he takes over. No date has been set for an Abbas visit to Tehran. It will be interesting to see whom he picks for the party to accompany him if and when it takes place.

Jewish Businessman Saves ISIS Sex Slaves from Captivity


Canadian Jewish businessman Steve Maman has earned the nickname "the Jewish Schindler" after establishing an organization that saves Christian and Yazidi-Kurdish women and girls in Iraq who were kidnapped by the Islamic State.

The CYCI (Liberation of Christian and Yazidi Children of Iraq) is a secret project that has so far led to the release of 128 young women and girls from ISIS captivity. The terror group has taken some 2,700 women captive, torturing them and using them as sex slaves.

Maman keeps the process through which he brings to the release of these women under wraps, but insists his organization doesn't just buy their freedom. "We raise the funds...we have the team on the ground which is a trusted team...these people receive the funds that we send to them...they actually have made great connections throughout the last 15 years in the areas of Iraq," he told Canada's CBC Radio.

"There's millions of inhabitants in Mosul and they're not all ISIS so we, within those millions of people, have found teams that were willing to work with us in order to get those girls out," he added. The CYCI funds all of the logistics and security expenses for the teams negotiating with ISIS, but Maman says the money is not transferred directly to the terror organization.

"We don't deal with ISIS and that's enough for me...we deal with intermediaries that are willing to help and I'm willing to cover their cost in order to save a world," he told CBC Radio. Maman met with several of the women he helped save and heard horror stories from them about their time in captivity.

"When it's women, younger women, it's always a question of rape...repeated's a question of being resold numerous times, we hear about beatings, we hear about women being underfed, we hear about women actually being kept in cages, we hear about women that were actually threatened with being burnt if they wouldn't do certain sexual acts," he said.

Amid worries that paying ransom for the women would encourage ISIS to consider it a "profitable business model," Maman noted that "ISIS is worth today $4 billion. Do you think that my little meager two or 3,000 dollars per child is going to in any way or form help the power and might that ISIS may attain?"

"You'd have to stand up and tell the 1,200 survivors thanks to Oskar Schindler and their 15,000 descendants, that they were liberated unlawfully...because we were liberated thanks to Oskar Schindler giving money to the Nazi," he argued. "What motivated me is very simple...being Jewish, being part of a people that actually survived the Holocaust...we for six years waited for people to actually answer the call and come and help us," he told CBC Radio.

Why Israel Just Downgraded Heinz Tomato Ketchup

By Fortune

It will now have to be referred to as `tomato seasoning.' Israel's Health Ministry recently ruled that Heinz tomato ketchup does not contain enough "tomato solids" to qualify as ketchup, and it will now have to be referred to as "tomato seasoning," the Times of Israel reported. The ruling will only affect the Hebrew label version.

Israel's decision comes as a response to a lobbying campaign against Heinz by Israeli food manufacturer Osem, which controls about two-thirds of the ketchup market in Israel, according to Ynet. Heinz claims the majority of the remaining third.

Osem sent a letter to retailers back in January saying it had arranged for the Heinz product to be tested, and the results showed that it did not meet the Israeli Health Ministry's minimum requirement to be considered ketchup. The letter, which was signed by Osem CEO Nizan Goldberg, reads:

We wish to bring it to your attention that we recently discovered that the product marketed as Heinz 700g ketchup only contains about 21% tomato concentrate and not the 61% tomato concentrate as advertised on the product…. The incorrect indication of tomato concentrate in the products severely misleads the Israeli consumer public and is a violation of the provisions of the law to protect consumers.

Retailers responded angrily to Osem's aggressive push against Heinz. Supermarket magnate Rami Levy told Israel's Food Network: "Osem competes with Heinz via the consumer and the shelf, and the only one who can tell me whether Heinz ketchup is valid or not, is the Ministry of Health." And that's exactly what the Ministry did.

The Times of Israel noted that Diplomat, the company that distributes Heinz in Israel, is now petitioning for Heinz's "ketchup" status to be restored by proposing that the Israeli Health Ministry lower its ketchup standards.

(Israel News Faxx editor's note: I was just wondering whether the story above had anything to do with the Heinz Company being owned by Secretary of State John Kerry's wife?)

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