Mossad Eyes Iranian Bomb
The head of the Mossad said that Iran is trying to develop more than one nuclear weapon. “The concern is that if they manage to acquire the bomb, they will not make do with the fissile materials required for one, but will go on producing larger amounts,” Meir Dagan told the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in his annual briefing Tuesday. According to Dagan, Iran is months away from being able to enrich uranium independently, a key step for making nuclear weapons. He predicted that Iran would have the bomb within two years after that. Israel has been urging the United Nations Security Council to threaten Iran with sanctions unless it abandons its nuclear program.
In an effort to pressure Tehran, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations said it has written to leaders around the world, asking them to refrain from contact with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad until he renounces his recent Holocaust denial and his calls to destroy Israel. “The world has paid a heavy price in the past for ignoring such violent rhetoric and philosophy of hatred,” said the chairman of the Presidents Conference, Harold Tanner, and its executive vice chairman, Malcolm Hoenlein, in a statement.
Kibbutz Hit in Drug Bust
A kibbutz in northern Israel allegedly served as a center for a drug-smuggling ring.
Members of Kibbutz Gesher Haziv, which was settled after Israel’s War of Independence with immigrants from North America, were allegedly part of a ring that smuggled cocaine from Argentina into Israel. Liquid cocaine was smuggled into Israel in wine bottles, police believe, earning the smugglers, most of them reportedly Chilean-born Israelis, hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Congress Okays Israeli Aid
Congress passed $600 million for American-Israeli cooperative defense programs. The allocation, $150 million more than the White House request, passed the House of Representatives on December 22 as part of the Defense Appropriations Bill. The measure passed the Senate last week. The earmark includes $133 million for the Arrow Anti-Ballistic Missile System, $37.4 million for the LITENING Targeting and Navigation Pod, $22 million for Reactive Armor tiles for Bradley fighting vehicles and $17 million for the ITALD aircraft decoy system.
O.U. Defends Alito
The Orthodox Union expressed support for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Samuel Alito’s record on church-state relations. In a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee leaders, the Orthodox group came out against liberal organizations that suggest Alito’s rulings would hurt protections of religious liberty. The letter, signed by Mark Bane, chairman of the O.U.’s Institute for Public Affairs, and by Nathan Diament, the institute’s director, said it’s impossible to view Alito’s positions on the separation of church and state as out of the mainstream.
“Only those who would advocate the most extreme views of religion-state relations in America — either total separation or total integration — could assert as much,” the letter said. The Orthodox Union did not specifically endorse Alito.
Another Orthodox group, Agudath Israel of America, announced its support for Alito last month; also last month, the Union for Reform Judaism announced its opposition to him.
New Outposts Erected
Israeli settlers said they had set up 13 new illegal outposts in the West Bank. The Land of Israel Faithful said Tuesday that its members had cobbled together the makeshift outposts near established communities as part of efforts to stop any further Israeli withdrawals from the West Bank. The army said that if the outposts weren’t evacuated voluntarily, it would dismantle them. Under the American-led road map peace plan with the Palestinians, Israel is obligated to raze dozens of West Bank outposts. Implementation has been sketchy, but the government vowed to crack down after it completes its withdrawal from Gaza.
Meanwhile, the Israeli Housing Ministry issued construction tenders Monday for 150 new homes in Beitar Illit and 78 new homes in Efrat, despite a call in the road map for a freeze on such expansion. Both settlements are in the Gush Etzion bloc, which Prime Minister Sharon has said Israel will keep under any final peace accord with the Palestinians.
French Comic Condemned
A French watchdog group condemned Dieudonné, a French comedian, for antisemitic behavior. The National Office of Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism called for the state prosecutor to take action against the comedian, who has been tried for antisemitism numerous times. He delivered a December 15 performance in Paris in which he listed the names of Jewish artists and philosophers, encouraging the audience to boo. He then announced his support for the satellite television station Al-Manar, run by Hezbollah, which was banned in France last year for its antisemitic programming.
“This individual is a political agitator, not a comedian, who harangues the public and incites the crowds to anti-Jewish revolt; he runs the risk of pushing them to commit acts of antisemitism, as has occurred on several occasions after his performances,” the president of the office, Sammy Ghozlan, said in a statement. In the same performance, Dieudonné announced his intention to run for president of France in 2007.
Sharon to Have Procedure
Prime Minister Sharon is scheduled to have a minor heart operation. Doctors for the 77-year-old Israeli prime minister, who went public with his medical record, said Monday that Sharon’s mild stroke last week was caused by a blood clot traced to a hole in his heart. A common birth defect, the tiny hole will be sealed with a cardiac catheterization in the next two or three weeks, they said.
Woman To Head University
A woman will become president of an Israeli university for what is believed to be the first time. Dr. Rivka Carmi, a pediatrician and geneticist, was named president of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Carmi replaces Avishai Braverman, who left his post to enter the political realm.
Turnaround in Peru
A Jewish leader in Peru joined the political slate of a candidate he denounced as antisemitic just three weeks ago. Isaac Mekler, president of the Peruvian Jewish Association, said he joined the congressional slate of controversial presidential candidate Ollanta Humala after “he convinced me that he was not antisemitic.” Humala, a former army officer who, with his brother, led an indigenous rebellion a few years ago, is currently running second in polls for the presidential election scheduled for April 9, 2006.