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Singing Bin Laden, Saddam dolls seized

jerusalem (jta) | Israeli customs agents seized 400 Osama bin Laden dolls and 50 more Saddam Hussein dolls Wednesday, Dec. 3, saying they were inciteful material, the customs authority said in a release.

An Arab Israeli had ordered the singing and dancing dolls that carry toy guns as a “gimmick” for sale to Arabs and Jews in Israel, he told the agents when he was questioned. Customs agents discovered the dolls during a routine check of cargo at the port of Haifa, in northern Israel, the customs authority said.

The ship carrying the toys from China also contained 450 Teletubby dolls, which agents are examining to see if they are counterfeit, the release said.

U.N. to debate Israeli separation wall

jerusalem (jta) | Arab countries called an emergency session of the U.N. General Assembly for Monday, Dec. 8, to make demands on Israel.

Arab states seeking to stop Israel from building its security barrier plan to propose a resolution to condemn the Jewish state for not complying with a resolution adopted last month calling on Israel to dismantle its West Bank security fence.

The new resolution also will call on the International Court of Justice in The Hague to assess the fence’s legality, according to Arye Mekel, deputy permanent representative of Israel to the United Nations.

Mekel said Israel is “working very actively on the highest levels,” especially with European states, to urge countries to vote against the resolution or pressure the Palestinians to remove the Hague portion.

“It will introduce a new element into the Middle Eastern equation, namely the ICJ, which would only make it more difficult to make any progress in the peace process,” Mekel said.

U.S. funds back private peace plan

jerusalem (jta) | A new Israeli-Palestinian peace plan indirectly backed by U.S. government money is circulating among U.S. officials.

The Jerusalem Post reported Friday, Nov.28, that the plan was hammered out at a Nov. 7-8 meeting at a hotel on the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea.

The meeting was organized by UCLA’s Burkle Center for International Relations, which gets $1.5 million annually from the Pentagon to promote Middle East dialogue.

In contrast to other recent private peace initiatives, the new plan focuses on intermediate steps rather than a permanent settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

U.S.: Syria not serious

jerusalem (jta) | Syria must crack down on Palestinian terrorist groups if it is serious about peace, a State Department spokesman said.

“We find it hard to understand how Syria can talk peace at a time when Syria continues to support groups that are violently opposed to the peace process, that are violently opposed to Palestinian government, to the building of a Palestinian state,” State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Monday, Dec. 1.

Syrian President Bashar Assad said in a New York Times interview that the United States should press to renew Israeli-Syrian talks. He blamed Israel for the breakdown of earlier negotiations.

Jewish extremists plead guilty

jerusalem (jta) | Two Israeli Jewish extremists pleaded guilty to weapons-related crimes as part of a plea bargain.

Yitzhak Pass, whose infant daughter was killed in 2001 by Palestinian terrorists, and his brother-in-law, Matityahu Shvu, will not face charges that they planned to use explosives found in their car for a terrorist attack.

Israeli officials believe the two were part of a cell of Jewish terrorists based in the West Bank settlement of Bat Ayin. The plea bargain was announced Tuesday.

Club Med returns to Israel

jerusalem (jta) | Club Mediterranean Ltd. is resuming operations in Israel after a two-year absence, and intends to reopen Club Med Coral Beach in Eilat in April 2004, the world’s largest resort company said Monday, Dec. 1.

Club Med has entered into a strategic partnership with Fattal Hotel Management Company and the Ofer Brothers, which will pump some $8 million into the enterprise.

On hand to announce the reopening of its Eilat facility, closed since 2001, was Francois Salamon, president Club Med Europe Yuly Ofer, and Fattal Hotel managing director David Fattal.

Club Med is also looking into reopening its Achziv facility, closed for many years.

Israeli hospital treating Iraqi baby

jerusalem (jta) | A week-old Iraqi baby girl was brought to Israel for a heart operation.

The girl was brought to the country for an operation doctors hope will correct a congenital heart defect.

The Israeli organization Save a Child’s Heart brought Bayan Jassem and her parents to Wolfson Medical Center in Holon.

The baby’s condition was diagnosed by an American doctor working with the U.S. military in Iraq the day after she was born in the city of Kirkuk. An Israeli doctor instructed a counterpart in Baghdad over the phone how to perform a minor operation on the baby to stabilize her before she was brought to Israel.