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Newsdesk August 6, 2004

Moskowitz Bid Rejected

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem sold 24 acres of land in East Jerusalem to a Palestinian company that specializes in mortgages for Palestinians.

According to reports in Yediot Ahronot, the university rejected a bid for the property from right-wing American-based financier Irving Moskowitz, who offered the university three times as much as the Palestinian bid of $1.1 million. Moskowitz has a reputation for building politically explosive real estate developments for Jews in East Jerusalem. Yediot reported that the university feared a Moskowitz purchase would deter future donors.

There was one appeal by a government agency to delay the sale to Palestinians so that it could raise the money for the purchase, but at the last minute the government agency reportedly backed out of the deal.

Army, Shin Bet Clash

Israel’s chief of military intelligence, Aharon Ze’evi, warned Tuesday that “there’s no bottom to the terror barrel.”

This view flatly contradicts the assessment offered last month by Avi Dichter, head of the Shin Bet security forces, who argued that Israel was making significant stride in crippling the Palestinian network.

Ze’evi made his remark while responding to a question from Meretz lawmaker Yossi Sarid during a briefing with the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. Sarid asked him to comment on Dichter’s statement that “there is a bottom to the barrel” in the fight against terror.

Ze’evi said: “It may be possible to close one barrel but another one opens up immediately…. It’s a long struggle that cannot be resolved by military action alone.”

Ze’evi said we should expect “additional rounds of disturbances” and that terror attempts would continue even after disengagement from Gaza. The Palestinians’ motivation for terror is increasing while the ability to carry out terrorist attacks is diminishing, he said, and Israel’s efforts to foil terror are becoming more successful.

He described the situation in the territories in bleak terms, saying there is a crisis between those who support reforms and those who oppose them.

Librarian Accused of Theft

The head of the Hebrew section of France’s national library was arrested on suspicion of stealing hundreds of historic books and documents. Michel Garel, 56, who has headed the department for the past 20 years, initially denied all charges of aggravated theft, though he admitted to an investigating judge on July 31 that he had sold one of the works for $300,000 at a public auction at Christie’s after forging authentication certificates. Garel’s wife is being investigated as an accomplice since the couple is believed to have purchased an apartment with the money.

Spielberg Delays Flick

Steven Spielberg postponed his movie about the hunt for Palestinian terrorists who attacked the Israeli Olympic team at the 1972 Munich Games. As the New York Post reported Tuesday, Spielberg is concerned that “Vengeance” will inflame Muslim terrorists and turn the set into a target, particularly since one of the 17 Palestinians who perpetrated the Munich massacre, which killed 11 Israeli athletes, is thought to still be at large.

Arrests in Uzbek Blasts

Uzbek officials said they had made a number of arrests in connection with three suicide bombings, one of which took place at the Israeli Embassy in Tashkent. The July 30 blast at the Israel Embassy killed two Uzbek security guards, and a third died in an attack on the U.S. Embassy in the former Soviet republic. An Uzbek policeman died Tuesday of wounds suffered in the blast.

A team of Israeli investigators traveled to Tashkent over the weekend to help in the probe.

A group known as the Islamic Jihad Group in Uzbekistan claimed responsibility for the blasts, saying it was an attack on links between the Uzbek government “and its infidel allies of Americans and Jews.” But government officials said a group known as Hizb-ut-Tahir was responsible for the blasts.

Meanwhile, Israel said it is boosting security at all its embassies.

Baby-food Scandal Settled

The German baby-food firm Humana agreed to compensate Israelis whose infants were hurt by nutritional deficiencies in one of its products. Humana said July 31 that it would pay up to $22 million to 17 Israeli families whose babies fell ill last year after being fed its Remedia formula. Two of the babies eventually died of what was determined to be a lethal lack of the B-1 vitamin in Remedia. “We sympathize with the families,” Humana’s representative in Israel, Moshe Miller, told Channel Two television. “We know a financial settlement, no matter how big, will not assuage the suffering of the families. That knowledge will be with us forever.”

Envoy Presses Settlements

The State Department’s top Middle East envoy, William Burns, met with Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Daniel Ayalon, and pressed him on settlement expansion. The Bush administration is frustrated by Israel’s slowness in dismantling unapproved settlement outposts and by reports that Israel is building inside existing settlements.

“We’re having discussions with the Israelis, and we’ll stay in close touch with them on their commitments to end settlement activity,” spokesman Richard Boucher said after Burns met Tuesday with Ayalon. Israel is “aware of our concerns, and we continue to press them to live up to the statements of the ‘road map’” peace plan, Boucher said.

Ayalon said he told Burns that Israel was committed to dismantling the outposts, and that plans to build in existing settlements were launched before Prime Minister Ariel Sharon pledged to President Bush that he would freeze new construction.

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