-FROM ALGERIA TO SAUDI ARABIA: The weekend in review

WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

A compendium of news of interest to the Jewish community: July 6, 2009.

Saudis give nod to Israeli raid on Iran

The head of Mossad, Israel’s overseas intelligence service, has assured Benjamin Netanyahu, its prime minister that Saudi Arabia would turn a blind eye to Israeli jets flying over the kingdom during any future raid on Iran’s nuclear sites. Earlier this year Meir Dagan, Mossad’s director since 2002, held secret talks with Saudi officials to discuss the possibility. The Israeli press has already carried unconfirmed reports that high-ranking officials, including Ehud Olmert, the former prime minister, held meetings with Saudi colleagues. The reports were denied by Saudi officials. “The Saudis have tacitly agreed to the Israeli air force flying through their airspace on a mission which is supposed to be in the common interests of both Israel and Saudi Arabia,” a diplomatic source said last week. Although the countries have no formal diplomatic relations, an Israeli defence source confirmed that Mossad maintained “working relations” with the Saudis. – The Sunday Times (UK). July 5, 2009.

Bahraini officials make unprecedented Israel trip

Bahraini officials made an unprecedented visit to Israel to collect five Bahrainis detained trying to enter the Gaza Strip to deliver aid, local media reported yesterday. The Bahrain News Agency said the delegation was sent Friday by the interior and foreign ministries to collect the five Bahrainis from Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport. Israeli officials detained the five on Tuesday on a boat bound for Gaza from Cyprus that was trying to break the Israeli blockade on the territory. Friday’s trip marked the first visit by a delegation from Bahrain to Israel. Bahrain has no diplomatic relations with Israel. Speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject an Israeli foreign ministry official confirmed that the Bahraini officials did land, but said they did not pass through Israeli border controls and so technically did not enter the country. He said Israeli officials went out to the plane on the tarmac with the forms necessary for the prisoners’ release then escorted the five to the aircraft. He said it should not be taken as a breakthrough in relations. “We were looking for a solution to an unexpected problem,” the official said. The predominantly Shiite Gulf state does have a very small Jewish population, one of which, Huda Noono, is the country’s current ambassador to the United States and Canada. Bahrain’s foreign minister created a stir when he said in an interview last year that Middle East nations should form a regional organization that includes Israel and Iran to try to resolve their disputes. – Kuwait Times. July 5, 2009.

Algerian Jews recognized by government for first time

The minister of Religious Affairs and Endowment in Algeria, Abu Abdullah Ghulam Allah, has announced that for the first time, the Algerian government will adopt formal representation of the Jewish religion with the creation of a Jewish association. The development comes in response to a February 2006 law on non-Muslims in Algeria that will allow the Jewish community to be incorporated into the legal framework of the country. El Khabar reported that this decision could likely “provoke violent reactions” from “extremists” in the country. Mohamad Fellahi, the spokesman for the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Endowment, announced that the new association will be headed by Roger Said, who though not a Rabbi, is a “religious and cultural person who will participate in many events in Algeria.” Said recently returned from Marseille to Algeria, where he left following an outbreak of violence against the country’s small Jewish community over a decade ago. The association will reportedly work with the government to restore Jewish tombs in Constantine, Bildan and Tlemcen. The size of the Algerian Jewish community is unknown, though it is assumed to be small—perhaps fewer than one hundred. Most Jews left the country following Algerian independence from France in 1962 out of fears of reprisals. – http://www.albawaba.com (Jordan). July 2, 2009.

Solution may be at hand for Israeli-Lebanese conflict

A possible solution to a territorial dispute over a small piece of land between Israel, Lebanon and Syria could have major positive repercussions for regional peace, a leading Israeli analyst told Xinhua on Sunday. A report of Israeli daily Ha’aretz on Sunday confirms what analysts have suspected for some time — that Saudi Arabia and the United States are jointly pressuring Syria to demarcate its border with Lebanon in the area known as the Shaba Farms. The 22-square km mountainous ridge and valley was deemed by the UN as occupied by Israel in the wake of the 1967 War. The UN and Israel regarded Shaba as being Syrian territory. However, in the wake of the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, both Lebanon and Syria maintained the land was Lebanese.. . . A key reason for trying to resolve the issue is that the Syrian– and Iranian-backed Hezbollah says it has continued legitimacy to attack Israel so long as Israel continues to occupy Shaba — what it calls occupied Lebanese territory. – Xinhua News Agency (China). July 5, 2009.

Arabs shouldn’t live alongside Jews: Shas minister

Arab members of the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) on Friday lashed out at Israeli Construction and Housing Minister Ariel Attias after he said that Arabs should not live with Jews. Speaking at the Israel Bar Association headquarters in Tel Aviv late Thursday, Attias said Israel was in danger of “losing the Galilee” if the Israeli-Arab population continued to “spread” in the north, and mentioned in particular the Wadi Ara area, where he said Haredim, an ultra-Orthodox community, planned to construct houses that could help stop the expansion. “Arabs buy apartments in places with a Jewish nature, which causes unwanted friction,” Attias, who is a member of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, said. “We can all be bleeding hearts,” said the minister, “but I think it is unsuitable (for Jews and Arabs) to live together.” Attias cited the Jewish-Arab clashes last year in Acre to explain his point. “Mayors don’t want mixed cities. We all saw the riots in Acre, we saw how dangerous it was. We can’t toy with that. The reality is that different sectors do not necessarily get along. The many Arabs in Wadi Ara make it an undesirable place to live.” – Arab News (Saudi Arabia). July 4, 2009.

Israelis eye slice of India’s e-gov pie

Israeli technology firms are joining the race for India’s e-governance projects, seeking to offer solutions for the unique identification card programme. “Israeli companies may bid along with Indian ones as we always need local partners for e-governance projects”, Consul General of Israel Orna Sagiv said. Sagiv was heading a delegation of 14 Israeli software companies to Bangalore to explore the opportunities in the Indian market and find local partners. Trade between the two countries is at $4 billion in 2008, up from $3.3 billion in 2007. Israel will be looking to partner the Indian technology giants especially because the country has e-governance solutions like e-payment, e-documentation, registration of population and citizen smart cards already running. “Many governments around the world came to Israel to see how we did it,” said Katrin Melamed, business development manager at the Israel Export and International Co operation Institute (IEICI).India is among top three trade partner for Israel in Asia and one of the top 10 trade partners globally. – The Economic Times (India). July 6, 2009.

Jordan trade union leaders arrested for anti-Israel rally

Jordanian police yesterday arrested 11 people, including trade union leaders, to break up a demonstration against fruit and vegetable imports from Israel, protest organisers said. They were taken to the Shmeisani police station, in west of Amman, half an hour after they started their protest outside the ministry of agriculture, the sources and an AFP reporter said. “We demand that the government bans imports of fruits and vegetables from the Zionist entity (Israel),” the 14 trade unions which organised the protest said in a joint statement. – The Peninsula (Qatar). July 6, 2009.

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For a selection of abridged topics originally published in jewishinfoNews,  click here

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