Latest US/World News


Israel tests long-range missile interceptor
( A successful test of Israel’s Arrow 3 anti-ballistic missile system was conducted on Monday, Israel Hayom reported. Arrow 3 is a joint project of the Defense Ministry’s Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure and the U.S. Defense Department’s Missile Defense Agency. It is considered to be the most innovative and revolutionary anti-missile system in the world. The Defense Ministry said the Arrow 3 is a central component of the multilayered aerial defense network being developed by Israel. The network includes Iron Dome (operational), David’s Sling (in development), Arrow 2 (operational) and Arrow 3 (in development). It is designed to intercept long-range ballistic missiles outside the Earth’s atmosphere in space.

Israel and Turkey seek to reconcile
( Israeli and Turkish officials have been engaging in dialogue over the past few weeks, Israel’s Channel 2 News reported. The head of Israel’s National Security Council recently met with a high-ranking Turkish Foreign Ministry official in Rome at the behest of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israeli-Turkish ties have been severely strained since the May 2010 Turkish flotilla incident in which Israeli commandoes killed nine activists — including eight Turks and one Turkish-American – who violently attacked the commandoes as they boarded the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara ship. A UN report on the incident concluded that Israel’s blockade of Gaza is legal and confirmed the Turkish activists’ initial attack on the Israelis. Turkey, however, has demanded an apology from Israel over the incident and an end to the Gaza blockade.
Turkish reports indicate that Israel may include a “partial apology” ahead of President Barack Obama’s visit in March. In return, Turkey may forgo its demands to end the Gaza blockade. Experts believe that both nations seek to return to normal relations, especially in light of the growing regional instability.

Oxford University Student Union to vote on BDS
( Students at Great Britain’s prestigious Oxford University will vote this week on a controversial motion to boycott Israel, The Guardian reported. The Oxford University Student’s Union (OUSU) meets on Wednesday to decide on a motion to join the international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement “in protest of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and its hindrance
of attempts to create a Palestinian state,” according to The Guardian. The vote comes amid increased tensions on campus over the past week. Anti-Israeli MP (Member of Parliament) George Galloway, set off a firestorm when he walked out on a debate with an Israeli student after he found out of the student’s nationality. “I don’t recognize Israel and I don’t debate with Israelis,” Galloway
said, to gasps of shock and mutters of “racism,” The Guardian reported.
A later posting on Galloway’s Facebook page said, “I refused this evening at Oxford University to debate with an Israeli, a supporter of the apartheid state of Israel,” according to the Independent. Galloway is widely known for his anti-Israel views. He has openly supported Hamas, Syrian dictator President Bashar al-Assad and has a television show on Iran’s state-run channel, Press TV, according to the Jerusalem Post.
Magdalen College, one of the constitute colleges of Oxford University, voted 39-3 against the motion. “The boycott goes against everything the university stands for. The idea that we are not going to read your books or articles or hear your arguments on the basis
of your nationality is ridiculous,” Henry Watson, a student at Magdalen College, told The Guardian.

Vienna Jewish museum grapples with items looted by Nazis
( Twenty-five years after the founding of the Jewish Museum of Vienna, museum officials have admitted that many of the items in the museum’s possession were looted from Jewish families during the Holocaust. A review of the artifacts found 490 objects and more than 980 books that may have been stolen from Jewish owners.
Back in 1998, Austria passed a law requiring restitution for Jewish families who lost property to the Nazis. Prior to this, the Leopold Museum in Vienna spent 10 years fighting Jewish heirs who sought the return of two paintings. While the Jewish Museum of Vienna is not the first institution to have such items, many have said that as a Jewish museum it has a special responsibility to find any living descendants of the original owners and to return the items. Museum officials said that researching the origin of Judaica can be very difficult, given the few identifying markers and the fact that most Jewish institutions that existed before the Holocaust were completely destroyed.

Iran-backed terror plots against Israelis revealed in Nigeria, Cyprus
( Terrorist plots against Israel that were backed by the Islamic Republic were revealed in Nigeria and Cyprus. The Nigerian secret police on Wednesday, Feb. 20 said it foiled a terrorist group backed by “Iranian handlers.” Secret police spokeswoman Marilyn Ogar said in a statement that the leader of the terrorist group, 50-year old Abdullahi Mustaphah Berende, “took photographs of the Israeli culture center in Ikoyi, Lagos, which he sent to his handlers.” Nigeria has arrested Berende and two other suspects from the group, which it did not describe any further.
Meanwhile, a Lebanese-Swedish citizen, Hossam Taleb Yaacoub, who is on trial for terrorism charges in Cyprus, admitted in court to taking part in surveillance against Israeli targets for Hezbollah, the New York Times reported. He is facing eight terrorism-related charges. Yaacoub claims he is innocent.
U.S. and Israeli officials have strongly urged the EU to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization and crack down on the group’s presence within the EU. The EU, however, has so far refused to blacklist Hezbollah.

Kerry to skip Israel on first Middle East trip
(Israel Hayom/Exclusive to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has bypassed Israel on his first official trip to the Middle East, U.S. officials said. Kerry’s maiden voyage, which began Sunday, Feb. 24, included stops in nine countries: Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Qatar. His trip focused on the conflicts in Mali, Syria and Afghanistan, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
Nuland said the U.S. was waiting for Israeli political parties to form a new government after the recent Knesset election. “The Israelis are still working on their coalition,” she told reporters, adding that Kerry won’t travel to Israel or the Palestinian territories until next month—when he will accompany President Barack Obama to the region.

Senators ask Obama to withdraw Hagel nomination
( As the Ledger went to press on Tuesday, the Senate was set to vote on the confirmation of Chuck Hagel to be the next Secretary of Defense. Prior to the vote, 14 U.S. senators asked President Barack Obama to withdraw his nomination of former Nebraska senator Chuck Hagel, who continues to come under fire for his record on Israel and other areas of foreign policy, for Secretary of Defense. In a letter dated Feb. 21, the senators — all Republican — said Hagel in his confirmation hearing “displayed a seeming ambivalence about whether containment or prevention is the best approach [to Iran’s nuclear program], which gives us great concern.”
“Any sound strategy on Iran must be underpinned by the highly credible threat of U.S. military force, and there is broad bipartisan agreement on that point,” the senators said. “If Senator Hagel becomes Secretary of Defense, the military option will have near zero credibility.” The senators also questioned the Hagel nomination based on its lack of near-unanimous support. “It would be unprecedented for a Secretary of Defense to take office without the broad base of bipartisan support and confidence needed to serve effectively in this critical position,” they said.
The letter’s signatories were: Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX), James Inhofe (R-OK), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Roger Wicker (R-MS), David Vitter (R-LA), Edward Cruz (R-TX), Mike Lee (R-UT), Pat Toomey (R-PA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Dan Coats (R-IN), Ron Johnson (R-WI), James Risch (R-ID), John Barrasso (R-WY), Tom Coburn (R-OK), and Tim Scott (R-SC).

Pro-Israel group criticizes Hagel in an ad
On Monday, the Emergency Committee for Israel published a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal and The Hill, with a timeline of Hagel’s remarks over the years vis a vis Israel.  Among them: Israel is carrying out a “sickening slaughter” in Lebanon and the “systematic destruction” of the country and people of Lebanon” (Senate speech, 7/31/06) and “The political reality…is that the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here” (Interview Aaron David Miller, 2006).  It also cited several pundits and lawmakers who are critical of Hagel’s nomination. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), who commented on C-Span on Dec. 23: “It seems there is some kind of an endemic hostility towards Israel,” and Tom Ricks, commenting on Face the Nation on Feb. 17:  “I think he world be a very weakened Secretary of Defense.”

Report: Hamas making rockets that can strike Tel Aviv
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