September 20, 2007
Briefs: Olmert numbers rise after mystery Syria raid, Bolton backs Iran attack
According to Tuesday's Yediot Achronot survey, 35 percent of Israelis rate Prime Minister Ehud Olmert performance as "good" following the reported Sept. 6 strike against a strategic military target in northern Syria. Sixty-three percent called Olmert's performance "not good," while 2 percent had no response. The pollster, Dahaf, noted that a similar survey two weeks ago found 25 percent supporting Olmert and 70 percent opposing the embattled prime minister.
Olmert has been at pains to shore up his popularity since last year's Lebanon war, whose setbacks many Israelis blamed on government incompetence and media leaks. Jerusalem has declined all comment on the Syria incident, which U.S. officials have speculated targeted a nuclear facility supplied by North Korea. If this indeed was the case, 78 percent of Israelis polled by Dahaf said they supported the operation, 10 percent were opposed and 12 percent had no response. Fifty-one percent of respondents said the incident had not affected the chances of Israel going to war with Syria, despite Damascus's pledges to retaliate.
Thirty-two percent saw an increased chance of war, 13 percent a decreased chance of war and 4 percent had no reponse. The survey had 441 Jewish Israeli respondents and a 4 percent margin of error.
Bolton: U.S. Backs Israeli Pre-Emption
The United States would stand behind any pre-emptive attack by Israel on neighboring countries believed to have nuclear weapons programs, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said in an interview published Tuesday in the Israeli daily Yediot Achronot. Bolton's remarks following Israel's alleged air raid Sept. 6 in Syria is consistent with longstanding U.S. suspicions that Damascus had received nuclear material from North Korea. Israel has not formally commented on the incident, which has stirred speculation that a pre-emptive attack on Iran's nuclear facilities could be next. Bolton said such actions would find support in Washington.
"The greatest concern is to prevent Iran and other countries in the region from acquiring nuclear weapons," Bolton said. "We're talking about a clear message to Iran -- Israel has the right to self-defense --and that includes offensive operations against WMD facilities that pose a threat to Israel. The United States would justify such attacks."
Jordan, U.S. Sign Nuclear Agreement
A memorandum of understanding, signed Sunday in Vienna, commits Jordan and the United States to work together to develop "appropriate power reactors, fuel service arrangements, civilian training, nuclear safety, energy technology and other related areas," according to a statement posted on the Web site of the U.S. embassy in Amman. The agreement is part of the U.S.-led Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, an effort to promote clean energy while preventing proliferation of nuclear weapons. Jordan, like a number of other Arab nations, has suggested that it would consider a nuclear weapons program should Iran achieve one.
Hamas: Conference Will Fail
Terrorist group Hamas said an upcoming peace conference between Israel and the Palestinian Authority will fail.
"The fall conference will be a failure and needs no one to thwart or abort it," the terrorist faction said in a statement Monday on the U.S.-sponsored gathering. "It appears that this has driven the two sides to seek weak excuses."
Hamas appeared to be referring to efforts by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who are due to convene in Washington in November, to lower expectations of a breakthrough. Abbas, who broke with Hamas after its June coup in the Gaza Strip, has tried to prod Olmert into making concrete diplomatic concessions on a future Palestinian state. But Olmert instead seems to be aiming for a less binding statement of principles with Abbas. Unnamed Abbas aides told Israeli media this week that the Palestinian Authority may withdraw from the conference.
Holocaust Denier's Sentence Upheld
The German Federal High Court confirmed Monday that it has upheld the 68-year-old Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel's five-year prison sentence. On Sept. 12, the court rejected a 600-page proposed revision in the sentence, according to German news reports. After a yearlong trial Zundel, one of the world's most active Holocaust deniers, was sentenced Feb. 15 by the Mannheim district court on charges of denying the Holocaust on his Canada and U.S.-based Internet site.
In justifying the sentence, the presiding judge, Ulrich Meinerzhagen, had described Zundel as an "extreme anti-Semite" and "committed National Socialist" who sought to glamorize Hitler and make him seem harmless. Zundel, a German native, was arrested in Canada in February 2003 and deported to Germany two years later. Reportedly he is one of the first right-wing extremists to use the Internet to spread hate material worldwide.
Peres, Madonna Celebrate Rosh Hashanah
Madonna, in Israel for Rosh Hashanah with fellow Kabbalah devotees, traveled secretly to Jerusalem Saturday evening for an audience with Israeli president Shimon Peres.
"I can't believe I'm celebrating the new year in the Land of Israel together with you," the pop idol was quoted as telling the elder statesman. "This is a dream come true."
According to media reports, Madonna and Peres spent an hour and a half discussing current affairs and the need to promote peace.
Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency