Shorts: Mideast

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West Bank settlers destroying olive trees

jerusalem (ap) | Israeli police have neglected the destruction of Palestinian olive groves by Jewish settlers, and the government may have to compensate Palestinian landowners, Attorney General Meni Mazuz said last week.

Jewish settlers have cut down and destroyed Palestinian olive groves near West Bank settlements, especially during the autumn harvest season. Mazuz said settlers have cut down 2,400 Palestinian-owned olive trees in the past few months.

The destruction of the olive groves and the failure to arrest and try those responsible is a symptom of a larger problem of a complete lack of law enforcement for Israelis in the West Bank, Mazuz told the Cabinet.

Police shut down anti-Arab office

jerusalem (ap) | About 200 Israeli police officers closed the offices last week of an anti-Arab group in a West Bank settlement known for its extremist activity, police said.

Israel’s army had ordered the offices of the “Jewish Battalion” in Tapuah closed due to suspicions of extremist activity, police spokesman Shlomi Sagi said.

The offices included three buildings: a kennel where dogs were trained to attack Palestinians, a religious seminary and a dining hall, Sagi said.

The group is connected to the outlawed anti-Arab Kach movement.

Investment fund created for kibbutzes

jerusalem (jta) | An investment fund was launched to invest in kibbutz businesses and real-estate enterprises.

The Katzir Fund hopes to raise $60 million over the next few months, including $20 million from abroad.

Once bastions of agricultural and communal socialism, kibbutzes increasingly have privatized in both living and economic arrangements over the past few decades.

Iran tried to plant spy in Knesset

jerusalem (ynetnews.com) | A 58-year-old Israeli Arab was indicted this week on suspicion of being recruited by Iran in order to infiltrate Israel’s political system.

It is suspected that Iranians plotted to have Jaris Jaris transfer intelligence information obtained through his political connections in exchange for a hefty sum of money.

They allegedly hoped he would be able to become a Knesset member and continue to transfer vital information to Iran.

Hamas launches Gaza TV station

jerusalem (jta) | Hamas has launched a television station in the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian terrorist group is unveiling Al Aksa Television just a few weeks before the Palestinians hold elections Jan. 25.

The station broadcast for half an hour Sunday, Jan. 8, before it went off the air because of technical difficulties.

Kabul ties to follow Palestinian state

jerusalem (jps) | Afghanistan’s president said last week his government would forge diplomatic ties with Israel if the Palestinians can form a state of their own.

“If a Palestinian state is recognized, we will recognize Israel, we will have relations with Israel. We will have trade with Israel,” Hamid Karzai said.

“Israelis are people like we are,” he said. “If I have the right to live, and have a home, and have a country, Israel has the right to live and have a country.”

Israel cuts ties with Pat Robertson

jerusalem (ap) | Israel will not do business with Pat Robertson after the evangelical leader suggested Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s massive stroke was divine punishment for the Gaza withdrawal, a tourism official said this week.

Robertson is leading a group of evangelicals who have pledged to raise $50 million to build a large Christian tourism center in Israel’s northern Galilee region, where tradition says Jesus lived and taught.

A day after Sharon’s Jan. 4 stroke, Robertson said the prime minister was being punished for the Gaza withdrawl.

Next for Iran: Holocaust denial

jerusalem (jps) | Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was expected to convene a conference in Iran soon dedicated to denying the Holocaust.

In response, Israel began preparing for a campaign targeted at eliciting international condemnation of the conference.

Iran expert Menashe Amir said Holocaust denial is not new in Iran.

“Iran always denied the Holocaust and claimed that the Jews, using such false claims, justified its existence on Muslim lands,” he explained.

Haifa student wins debate title

haifa (ynetnews.com) | A 25-year-old Haifa graduate philosophy student won the World Debate Championship held in Ireland this week and was crowned as “the world’s best debater.”

On her way to the desirable title, Anat Gelber was required to deliver fiery speeches on a variety of issues, including the situation in Pakistan, the right to undergo fertility treatments, animal rights and atomic energy.