The televised “confession” by an Iranian Jew to spying for Israel was predictable, Jewish leaders maintain, but they heatedly denied Iranian claims that Hamid “Danny” Tefileen had made similar statements Monday during a four-hour trial in the southern Iranian city of Shiraz.
Meanwhile, diplomatic efforts were under way to punish Iran by denying it more than $200 million in loans from the World Bank.
In a stepped-up response to the 13 Iranian Jews charged with spying for Israel — 10 of whom were convicted last week — the organized Jewish community is planning its first rally at noon Monday to protest the charges. Until now, it has restricted its public events to prayer vigils.
Israelis returned to work after the Passover holiday to learn of a failed terrorist attack in Tel Aviv, contradictory information regarding a prisoner swap, unconfirmed reports that an Israeli Arab Knesset member has fled the country to avoid arrest, and of Iranian boasts of nuclear progress. And the thread tying together all four seemingly unrelated events is Iran and its quest to control the Middle East.
Israeli officials in the United States for talks with the Bush administration have stressed that they will continue to hold discussions with “realistic” Palestinian leaders even as they confine Palestinian President Yasir Arafat to his headquarters in Ramallah and counter Iranian, Iraqi and Syrian efforts to help the Palestinian terror campaign.
As Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon flew to Washington for talks Thursday with President George W. Bush at the White House, saber rattling picked up between Israel and Iran.
Iran is demanding that Britain, Germany and France support its efforts to obtain nuclear technology for both civilian and military purposes, alarming Western nations and bolstering American efforts to impose UN sanctions on Iran.
The Iranian demand was reported this week shortly after the London Sunday Times wrote that Israel had prepared and rehearsed a plan to destroy Iranian nuclear reactors, especially the one being built in Busheh.
As Israeli leaders continued to warn against the dangers posed should Iran develop nuclear weapons, Tehran reportedly conspired with Syria in August to have its Hezbollah proxies replace Yasir Arafat’s troops as the most important Palestinian force in Lebanon.
Israeli opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu is well known for his power of oratory. But with his chief political rival, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, shown to be trusted by just 2 percent of Israelis, according to the latest opinion polls, Netanyahu has been uncharacteristically quiet of late, no doubt figuring there is no need to criticize Olmert when he is inflicting the most damage on himself.
Two of Israel's two main enemies, Syria and Iran, were rebuked by the United Nations Security Council within four days of each other this past week: a fact that one former Israeli ambassador said is no coincidence.
"Iran is Syria's ally and even patron," explained Itamar Rabinovich, Israel's former ambassador to Washington and chief negotiator with Syria a decade ago. "Iran is the senior partner in the relationship and it seeks to give Syria protective patronage."
The organized Jewish community sent out a "security briefing update" Tuesday amid reports that the Lebanese-based Hezbollah terrorist organization has sleeper cells in New York and other major American cities that may be activated in the event of an American-Iranian confrontation over Iran's nuclear efforts.
"There is no specific threat or credible information regarding a threat to the Jewish community," stressed Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.