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Newsdesk January 9, 2004

Israelis To Visit Libya

Following the announcement by President Muammar Gadhafi last month that Libya is willing to forgo its weapons of mass destruction, Israel has initiated diplomatic contacts with Tripoli.

The head of the Foreign Ministry’s diplomatic team, Ron Prosor, met in Paris in late December with Libyan diplomats, in order to establish a channel of communications with Tripoli. The meeting was coordinated with Prime Minister Sharon as well as Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom and Mossad chief Meir Dagan.

A high-ranking Israeli delegation is expected to visit Libya with the aim of reaching a mutual understanding on the signing of a peace agreement, Kuwaiti newspaper A-Siyasa, quoted on the Al Bawaba Web site, reported Tuesday. Meanwhile, in comments published Tuesday, Gadhafi was quoted as saying he is ready to compensate Libyan Jews whose properties were confiscated. He also said he is prepared to allow Libyans to travel to Israel, according to Arab press reports.

According to Al Bawaba, the Israeli delegation, comprising officials from the Foreign Ministry, Defense Ministry and the Mossad, will visit Tripoli toward the end of this month, with the aim of discussing the formal end of the state of hostility and the building of normal ties between Libya and Israel.

European diplomatic sources said Monday that senior Libyan and Israeli officials met in Vienna January 2 in the presence of an American diplomat and agreed to send an Israeli delegation in the new year. The sources told the newspaper that Gadhafi’s son, Saif al Islam, and the head of Libyan intelligence, Moussa Kousa, met Israeli officials more than once in Geneva and London last year with Qatari mediation.

E.U. Postpones Forum

The European Union may postpone a seminar on antisemitism after Jewish leaders accused the European Commission of antisemitism. A spokesman for the European Union’s executive branch, Reijo Temkinnen, said that the commission’s president, Romano Prodi, wants next month’s seminar — agreed to at a meeting between Jewish leaders and E.U. leaders last month — delayed because of tensions. “It takes two to tango,” Temkinnen said. “The basis for dialogue is not to just accuse people publicly.”

In an article published Monday in London’s Financial Times, Edgar Bronfman and Cobi Benatoff, presidents respectively of the World Jewish Congress and European Jewish Congress, criticized the commission, saying “anti-Semitism could be expressed in two ways: by action and by inaction. Remarkably, the European Commission is guilty of both.”

Israeli Tapped for Memorial

The son of a former Israeli ambassador to the United States created the winning design for the World Trade Center memorial. On Tuesday, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation chose Michael Arad’s design “Reflecting Absence” to be built on the World Trade Center site as a memorial to the victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack. The memorial has two pools below street level, with pine trees and a paved stone field. Arad’s father, Moshe, served as the Israeli ambassador in Washington from 1987 to 1990.

Jane Fonda Dropped

Dallas’s Jewish federation canceled a speaking invitation to Jane Fonda. A spokeswoman for the federation told the Dallas Jewish Week that Fonda will not speak as scheduled at the 2004 Women’s Event because no one wanted to hear the actress. But Fonda said she believes the cancellation stems from a December 2002 trip to Israel when, she says, it was reported incorrectly that she tried to visit Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat.

Conference Examines U.S.S. Liberty

The State Department will cast a spotlight next week on the 1967 Israeli attack on the American spy ship Liberty in which 34 American servicemen were killed, The Associated Press reported.

Israeli, Arab, British and Canadian diplomats have been invited to attend a two-day conference January 12 and January 13 at the department’s Henderson auditorium.

The two-day conference features the release of historical research on the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

Last October, a former U.S. Navy attorney who helped lead a military investigation into the incident, Ward Boston, said in a signed affidavit that then-president Lyndon Johnson and his defense secretary, Robert McNamara, ordered that the inquiry conclude the incident was an accident.

Boston said Johnson and McNamara ordered Navy investigators to “conclude that the attack was a case of ‘mistaken identity’ despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.”

Boston said he felt compelled to “share the truth” following the publication of a 2002 book, “The Liberty Incident,” that said the attack was unintentional.

The U.S.S. Liberty was an electronic intelligence-gathering ship sailing in international waters off the Egyptian coast when it was attacked on June 8, 1967 by Israeli planes and torpedo boats in the midst of the Six-Day War.

In addition to the 34 Americans killed, more than 170 were wounded.

Israel has long maintained that the attack was a case of mistaken identity, an explanation that the Johnson administration did not formally challenge. After the attack, a Navy court of inquiry concluded that insufficient information existed to make a judgment.

Israeli Strike Ends

Three months of Israeli labor discord have come to an end. Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Histadrut labor federation chief Amir Peretz signed a deal ending three months of strikes after the Treasury agreed to reverse some cuts to public spending planned in the 2004 austerity budget. The Histadrut had been especially concerned about dwindling retirement perks for public-sector employees. By ending 98 days of strikes that at times paralyzed the country, Netanyahu has bolstered his chances of passing the budget in the Knesset on Wednesday.

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