Shorts: Mideast

President Carter to meet with Hamas?

Former President Jimmy Carter is planing to visit Syria this month and meet with exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, the London-based daily al Hayat reported this week.

According to a report on, Carter’s press secretary Deanna Congileo would not deny that the former president was planning to go to Syria to meet Mashaal during his visit to the Middle East.

“I cannot confirm any specific meetings at this point in time,” she is quoted as saying.

According to the report in al Hayat, Carter will be representing the Carter Center during his visit to Syria, and will not be traveling in his capacity of former president of the United States. —

Minister sends Iran a warning

Israel would destroy Iran if it were to come under Iranian attack, an Israeli Cabinet minister said this week.

“Israel will not stand quietly by should Iran try to use weapons against it,” National Infra- structure Minister Benjamin Ben- Eliezer told Channel 2 television. “I say here that, yes, it would be the end of Iran.”

The threat by Ben-Eliezer, who as a former defense minister is well aware of Israel’s military capabilities, came as the Olmert government took part in an exercise meant to simulate a full-scale regional war. — jta

Economist: Israeli school system failing

Education woes are a long-term threat to Israel, according to the Economist.

The April 5 edition of the British magazine included a 14-page report that assesses Israel 60 years after its founding and its prospects for the future.

While the Jewish state faces significant security threats and friction between its various ethnic and religious sectors, “perhaps the most serious threat to Israel’s long-term prosperity, and the one that most troubles ordinary Israelis, is the state of the education system,” the Economist wrote.

It cited the increasingly poor showings by Israeli high schoolers in international educational indices and echoed academic experts who argue that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s government has neglected to improve the quality and employment terms of teachers.

Education Minister Yuli Tamir described the report as “inaccurate.”

“They studied the Israeli reality only partially,” she told Israel Radio. “The government is in the midst of reform — the biggest educational reform ever — and this will bear fruit in the coming years.” — jta

Israel to improve online image

The Israeli government is launching a campaign to generate positive national images over the Internet.

Shaul Tzemach, the Tourism Ministry’s director-general, said last week the government was sponsoring new ads celebrating Israel’s tourist attractions that would be made available over the Web.

Israeli officials also will encourage sympathetic online communities to promulgate uplifting images of the Jewish state rather than footage that stirs up fear.

The ministry came out against recently posted YouTube clips showing photographs of the massacre at the Mercaz Harav yeshiva. The source of the clips is unclear.

“The terror attack videos greatly hurt Israel’s image as a desired tourist destination,” Tzemach said in a statement. — jta