Haifa — The scientific race to build smaller and smaller electronic circuits, medical equipment and other devices took a giant leap forward this week with the announcement that the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology here has established a new $88 million nanotechnology institute.
Even as Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas raised expectations with their almost identical pledges for an end to violence, Sharon’s own political fortunes at home were not as bright.
He faces a fight with his own foreign minister and other members of his party who are supporting calls for a referendum on the Gaza withdrawal plan. And Sharon does not yet have enough votes in the Knesset to win passage of the 2005 budget. If it does not pass by March 31, his government would collapse and new elections would be held.
The chairman of a committee of Israeli banks insisted last week at a press conference here that the banks never hoarded the deposits of Holocaust victims, but said they were willing to pay more to the heirs of survivors who were found to be shortchanged by the system when their money was returned.
“We acted in good faith and did everything required,” said the official, Eitan Raff, who is also chairman of the Leumi Group, on Feb. 3. “For us it is not an issue of money. It’s one of normative behavior and conscience.”
Jerusalem — In a move that strikes at the heart of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, the Jewish National Fund would sever all legal ties to the state to prevent anyone but Jews from building on the land it owns, according to a proposal under consideration by the Sharon government.
The proposal stems from a statement last week by Israel’s attorney general, Menachem Mazuz, that JNF cannot prevent Israeli Arabs from applying for building plots on land it owns.
Jerusalem — Opponents of the Gaza disengagement plan are focusing their efforts now on more street demonstrations to force either a referendum on the issue or the collapse of the Sharon government. But they acknowledge that their chances of success are slim.“I think this [turnout] is very good,” said Mordechai Afargan, 23, a yeshiva student from Ashdod, as he scanned the estimated 150,000 who gathered Sunday night in front of the Knesset. “This is the biggest rally we have had here and they say it is going to be the turning point.”
Israeli troops were poised this week to move into the northern Gaza Strip to halt continued missile attacks on the nearby Israeli community of Sderot. But the action was delayed to see if Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas would do it using his own troops.
The decision of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to wait touched off a debate in Israel as to how long the government should give Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, to act.
The strident comments this week of Mahmoud Abbas, the frontrunner in Sunday’s Palestinian presidential election, have left Israelis puzzled and concerned after weeks of more conciliatory talk and directives on his part to end Palestinian incitement against Israel.
Abbas, the man viewed by both Israel and the United States as a moderate who could lead the Palestinian people to statehood, called Israel the “Zionist enemy” during remarks to thousands of supporters in the Gaza Strip Tuesday.
Armed Palestinian terrorists continued to defy Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ efforts this week to disarm them or get them to rejoin the Palestinian security forces to which most of them had once belonged.
Unable to get the security situation under control, Abbas was forced to delay his planned trip to the United States to meet with President George W. Bush. The trip had been expected to take place about a week after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s visit to Bush next week.
As European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana sought further clarification this week of a Saudi statement that promised true Middle East peace, the idea that Israel would no longer be virtually isolated amid hostile Arab neighbors brought a glimmer of hope to Israelis still reeling from a week that left some 70 Israelis and Palestinians dead.
Now that survivors and their heirs have begun receiving payments in Holocaust claims from Germany and Switzerland, the next fight appears to be within the Jewish community itself.
The Jewish Agency for Israel has written to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon asking that he stop the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany from voting April 11 on a new slate of lay leaders. The agency’s treasurer, Chaim Chessler, said in an interview that his organization is upset that there was no Israeli representative on the nominating committee.
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