Microsoft CEO meets Netanyahu to finalize deal
(JNS.org) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz met with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer in Jerusalem on Monday morning to discuss cooperation in the field of teleprocessing technology, Israel Hayom reported. Israeli Finance Ministry Chief Information Officer Carmela Avner and Microsoft Israel CEO Danny Yamin were set to sign a memo of understanding defining the parameters of the strategic cooperation between Microsoft and Israel, including mechanisms for exchanging information and know-how in a number of fields, as well as the development of joint infrastructure intended to encourage investment in the field of international teleprocessing. The sides will also work to promote and develop technological innovation, launch government policies, implement technology to reduce bureaucratic burdens, better handle large databases, improve information security and privacy protection, improve access to government services, exchange information, launch community projects in Israel and advance Israeli technology and start-up companies.
Report: Secret U.S.-Iran talks going on for months
(JNS.org) Following a New York Times report last month that the U.S. had agreed to direct negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program for the time, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Monday, Nov., 5 that a senior advisor to President Barack Obama has already been leading secret talks with Iran for several months. The Israeli newspaper said Valerie Jarrett, a Chicago lawyer who was born in the Iranian city of Shiraz, initiated the talks with the Islamic Republic. The White House denied that report, as did Obama during the Oct. 22 presidential debate on foreign policy. In the ongoing U.S.-Iran talks, which are taking place in Bahrain, Jarrett has reportedly been communicating with representatives of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Jarrett, a longtime friend of First Lady Michelle Obama, is the assistant to the president for public engagement and intergovernmental affairs. Jonathan Tobin, senior online editor of Commentary magazine, wrote that “by putting someone with no background on security issues in charge of [negotiations with Iran], Obama may be signaling that the president’s goal here is not an Iranian surrender of nuclear capability, but rather a political compromise that may not eliminate the threat of an Islamist bomb sometime down the road.”
Abbas ignites controversy over ‘right of return’ remarks
(JNS.org) Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ignited a firestorm of controversy in the Middle East over the weekend, stemming from remarks that he made on an Israeli television interview that seemingly conceded the Palestinian “right of return.” In an English language one-on-one interview with Israel’s Channel 2, Abbas was asked if he would like to go back to Safed, the northern Israeli town where he was born in 1935. Abbas responded: “It’s my right to see it, but not to live there,” he said. “I am a refugee, but I am living in Ramallah, and this is Palestine. I believe the West Bank and Gaza is Palestine, and the other parts are Israel.”
Abbas’s response has been widely interpreted as conceding the issue of the Palestinian “right of return” — one of the core issues of the Arab-Israeli conflict, perhaps the most important issue to the Palestinian people. As part of the 1948 War of Independence, over 700,000 Palestinian Arabs became refugees as a result of the conflict they initiated. Today, the refugees and their descendants (estimated to be around 5 million) remain largely stateless in refugee camps throughout the Arab world. Over the decades, Palestinian leaders have promised to seek the return of the refugees as part of any final peace agreement. However, the Israelis see this as an existential threat. “It is illogical to ask Israel to take five million, or indeed one million,” Abbas said in 2011 according to the New York Times.
Abbas’ remarks were widely condemned in the Muslim world. In Hamas-controlled Gaza, he was branded a traitor. In Israel, his remarks were met with mixed reaction. Politicians on the Israeli left praised his remarks, while right-wing politicians, including Netanyahu, did not see any connection with his remarks and his actions. Political analysts believe that Abbas was attempting to bring the issue of Palestinian negotiations to the center stage ahead of the Israeli January elections.
After the political fallout, Abbas later partially retracted his remarks, saying, “What I said about Safed is my personal stance.”
Israeli cardboard bike inventors to make wheelchair
(JNS.org) Israeli inventors who have already created a bicycle made nearly entirely out of cardboard that could allow developing nations to get bicycles for free (http://is.gd/5xK7IV) is now planning to make a cardboard wheelchair.
The bicycle is made out of cardboard but is treated with a secret organic concoction that makes it water and fire proof, and is then coated with lacquer paint. The similar cardboard wheelchairs will be maintenance-free, withstand water and humidity, and weigh 20 pounds, but will have the capacity to carry riders weighing up to 400 pounds. Inventors Nimrod Elmish and Izhar Gafni, and I.G. Cardboard Technologies, have been approached by an anonymous international non-profit organization for the purpose of producing cardboard wheelchairs in Africa. It will cost “a one-time fee of $6 million to build a factory for the production of cardboard wheelchairs in Africa and then almost nothing to produce them,” Elmish said, according to Israel21c, adding that the organization can then “produce as many wheelchairs as (it) wants once the factory is running. All we need is access to old car tires, plastic bottle recycling and cardboard recycling.”
Winston Churchill statue unveiled in Jerusalem
(JNS.org) Nearly half a century after his death, Winston Churchill was honored with the unveiling of a bronze statue near Yael Garden in Jerusalem’s Old City.
The project was conceived in partnership with the Jerusalem Foundation Labor Member of Knesset Isaac Herzog, son of former Israeli President Chaim Herzog, after he attended a reading of historian Martin Gilbert’s book “Churchill and the Jews.” “The book laid out in crystal clear form that Churchill throughout his life was a passionate believer in the cause of Zionism,” Antony Rosenfelder, a British co-trustee of the Jerusalem Foundation, told the Guardian. Churchill has a mixed legacy among Israelis and Jews. Some are upset at his failure to bomb Nazi concentration camps and the British policy towards Jews during the mandate era, including restrictions on Jews fleeing Europe. However, Herzog and others hope that this statue will shed light on his support for Zionism and strong leadership in the face of tyranny. The event was attended by a number of Israeli and British dignitaries, including Churchill’s grandson, Lord Randolph Churchill.
Saudi cleric calls hurricane punishment for support of Israel
(JNS.org) Saudi cleric Nasser Al-Omar called Hurricane Sandy “divine punishment” for the U.S. due to the fact that America is “an infidel and tyrannical nation that is hostile to Allah and His Messenger, and fights the Muslims.” Saying America “defends terrorism in the world,” the cleric specifically pointed out U.S. support for the Jewish state, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) reported. He asked: “Who supports Israel? Who endlessly defends the Jews?” Muslims “must be glad and thank Allah” for the hurricane, Al-Omar said.
UK funds salaries for PA terrorists in Israeli jails
(JNS.org) Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) director Itamar Marcus presented evidence to British politicians this week showing that the UK contributes to the Palestinian General Budget, from which the Palestinian Authority (PA) pays a total of £2.8 million ($4.5 million) every month in salaries to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. UK Minister of State for International Development Alan Duncan rejected this testimony, saying, “We have investigated the matter fully and can confirm that the allegations in Palestinian Media Watch’s report are both inaccurate and misleading.” The payments were not salaries but “social assistance programs to provide welfare payments,” he said, according to the Wall Street Journal. However, the PA refers to salaries earned in Israeli jails by Palestinian prisoners, including mass murderers, by using the Arabic word “Ratib,” which means “salary,” not welfare. The longer prisoners remain incarcerated and the more serious the crime they committed, the more money they receive, according to PMW.
New Kosher sweeteners made from agave plant
(JNS.org) Two new kosher products that can be seen as healthy alternatives to sugar, corn syrup or other artificial sweeteners are making their debut this month.
The sweeteners — made with organic inulin extracted from the agave plant—will be featured in an exhibit from Sheil Foods at KosherFest, an international kosher food festival to be held in Secaucus, NJ from Nov. 13-14. One product is the Vivente Zero Calorie Functional Organic Sweetener, and the other is the Vivente organic agave nectar. The nectar is available in nine flavors and is sweeter than sugar. Inulin is a natural dietary fiber thought to have probiotic effects, including helping with weight control, strengthening the immune system, improving digestion and strengthening bones. The new products contain zero calories and are suitable diabetics, the press release said.
Turkish court trying IDF soldiers in absentia
(JNS.org) A Turkish court has begun a trial of four high-ranking Israeli officers in absentia for their involvement in the 2010 Gaza Flotilla incident. The trial, which commenced Nov. 6, is likely to further strain relations between the former regional allies. Israel has rebuffed Turkish demands for an apology over the May 2010 incident in which Israeli commandoes killed nine activists—including eight Turks and one Turkish-American, who violently attacked the commandoes as they bordered the ship, Mavi Marmara, headed for Gaza. Turkish prosecutors are asking for a combined 18,000 years in prison. A UN report on the incident concluded that Israel’s blockade of Gaza is legal and that violent activists on board the Mavi Marmara had attacked Israeli commandoes, but also
accused Israel of using disproportionate force against the activists.
Israel takes the lead in medical marijuana research
(JNS.org) The medical marijuana industry in Israel is to set to expand with official government support, the Associated Press reported.Unlike in the U.S. where the federal government is battling states legalizing medical marijuana, the issue is facing little opposition from the Israeli government. In fact, the Israeli Health Ministry is considering the distribution of medical marijuana in pharmacies next year. “When people see how suffering people are benefitting, I’m sure everyone will get behind it,” said Yuli Edelstein, Israeli Minister of Public Diplomacy.While marijuana is still illegal in Israel, it has been permitted for use by chronically ill patients since the early 90s.
Israel has been at the forefront of research into marijuana for decades. In 1964, Israeli scientists were the first to isolate THC as the key psychoactive component of cannabis that produces the “high” feeling. Today, Israeli scientists are working to develop strains of marijuana with high qualities of another compound, CBD, which is believed to an anti-inflammatory ingredient that helps alleviate pain. Israeli scientists see medical marijuana as a safer alternative to morphine and other dangerous drugs for chronically ill patients.
“We know how to extend life, but sometimes it’s not pleasant and can cause a great deal of suffering, so we’re looking to alleviate this, to add quality to longevity,” said Ruth Gallily, professor of immunology at Hebrew University. “Cannabis meets this need. Almost all our patients are eating again, and their moods have improved tremendously.”