The Day In Israel: Wednesday Jan 13th, 2010

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After Turkey’s apology demand from Israel following Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon’s treatment of the Turkish ambassador to Israel, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reportedly stated he supported the Foreign Ministry’s conduct.

Nevertheless, Ayalon has apologized.

Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon issued a special statement of apology Tuesday night for his treatment of Turkish ambassador to Israel Ahmet Oguz Celikkol on Monday. Ayalon had delivered a rebuke to Celikkol regarding an anti-Israeli television show in Turkey.

“My protest of the attacks against Israel in Turkey still stands,” Ayalon said. “However, it is not my way to insult foreign ambassadors and in the future I will clarify my position by more acceptable diplomatic means.”

At the beginning of the conversation with the Turkish envoy on Monday, Ayalon told cameramen in Hebrew: “Pay attention that he is sitting in a lower chair … that there is only an Israeli flag on the table and that we are not smiling.”

The Turkish ambassador and the Turkish government were furious at the humiliation of the envoy. In a sharply worded ultimatum to Israel earlier Tuesday, Ankara demanded an apology for what it described as Ayalon’s demeaning treatment of its ambassador on Monday.

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Earlier Tuesday, Ayalon had not expressed any regret for his behavior. “I do not think I went too far,” he said. “Others will respect us only when we protect our honor.”

Yeah, how’s that going?



Updates (Israel time; most recent at top)

11:15PM: From the Palestine Media website:

Nothing anti-Semitic here. Move along.

11:00PM: Ok, so now he’s really apologized.

7:46PM: Islamic Jihad and a clan affiliated with Fatah have been fighting over the Furqan Mosque.

No, that is not a spelling error.

7:38PM: According to the Turkish media, Ankara has recalled its ambassador to Israel after Jerusalem said it would not issue a second, formal apology for Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon’s treatment of the Turkish envoy.

6:15PM: Here is more on the IDF Search and Rescue Unit being sent to help with the rescue efforts in Haiti.

The IDF National Search and Rescue Unit, under the Home Front Command, is a highly skilled force trained to execute special search and rescue missions, both in Israel and abroad. The unit was founded in 1983, and its’ expertise is in rescuing people trapped under ruins.

The unit is comprised primarily of reservists who are always on call, with prepared kits to enable immediate departure, and a small core of soldiers in mandatory service. In addition to the rescue teams, the unit employs doctors, engineers, mechanical engineering equipment operators and rescue dog handlers.

In November 2003 the first Search and Rescue Company, the Shavit Company, was founded in response to the need for a large operational S&R force that would be available at all times. Subsequently, two additional companies, Hetz and Rotem, were established. The soldiers are all graduates of the Search and Rescue course, and are trained in first aid, Krav Maga, infantry, ABC (atomic, biological, chemical) warfare, and more.

The unit is on-call 24 hours a day and are deployed whenever there is a disaster – earthquakes, tsunamis, conventional or unconventional terrorist attacks. The S&R companies also assist IDF infantry forces during routine operations.

For photos on previous IDF Search and Rescue efforts in India and Kenya, see here.

5:55PM: Former supermodel Kathy Ireland, recently here in Israel, proves she is also beautiful on the inside.

You can hear more on Kathy’s views on Israel in the below video (from 4:00 onwards)

And then there’s, of course, her Twitter stream, containing comments like this:

…honoring brave warriors here in Israel.

5:35PM: Shower time just got that much more dangerous for Sheikh Raed Salah.

A Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court judge sentenced Northern Branch Islamic Movement leader Sheikh Raed Salah on Wednesday to nine months in prison and six months on parole on condition that he does not repeat the offense.

Salah was convicted of assaulting a police officer with intention to disrupt him from doing his job and for unlawful rioting. He will begin his prison term in February.

“Stay away, Bubbaaaaaaaaaaaaa!”

5:15PM: Ma’an reports:

One Palestinian was killed following an ice cream factory explosion in the Al-Amal neighborhood of Khan Younis, southern Gaza, medical sources said on Tuesday.

Let me guess..Neapolitan Dynamite?

4:32PM: You may recall a news item I posted on here a few weeks ago, regarding possible Israeli plans to withdraw from the northern part of the village of Ghajar on the border with Lebanon.

Well, not everyone is happy with such plans, especially the residents of Ghajar.

A number of Ghajar residents met Tuesday with Foreign Ministry director-general Yossi Gal and expressed fierce opposition to Israel pulling back from the northern part of Ghajar.

The residents said that such a move would make life insufferable, and they would have to go through security checks every time they needed to work their fields, go to the store or the supermarket. They also warned of violence from Hizbullah if Israel pulled back from the northern part of the town.

Gal is leading the Israeli team negotiating with UNIFIL over a possible withdrawal from the town, which straddles the Lebanese border. Gal presented UNIFIL commander Maj.-Gen Claudio Graziano on Thursday with Israel’s vision of arrangements in and around the town following a possible IDF pullback.

One ministry official said Tuesday’s meeting in Ghajar with the residents should not be interpreted as an indication that a withdrawal from the northern part of the Alawite town was imminent. Discussions with UNIFIL have centered on how UNIFIL forces would be deployed in and around Ghajar to prevent Hizbullah from smuggling men or arms into Israel through it.

The government has reportedly approved a plan to turn over control of the northern half of the village to UNIFIL. No physical barrier would be built between the northern and southern parts of the village, but rather UNIFIL would patrol both the northern half and the perimeter.

The details, however, are still being worked out between Israel and UNIFIL. All the residents of the town are Israeli citizens, and no one is remarking publicly about what their legal status would be, were the northern part of the village turned over to UNIFIL control.

Ghajar has about 2,000 residents, with around 70 percent living in its northern half. When the IDF pulled out of Lebanon in 2000, the UN determined that the international border between Israel and Lebanon ran through the middle.

Since that time Israel has placed a checkpoint at the southern part of the town, and the residents told Gal this prevented people from entering and leaving freely. This situation, they said, would only be exacerbated if the IDF were to leave the area.

The residents Tuesday presented Gal, who was accompanied by officials from the IDF and the foreign, defense and justice ministries, with maps they said proved that the town was never split in half by the international border.

Since the Second Lebanon War in 2006, Israel has maintained a military presence in the northern part of the town and built a security fence around it.

2:28PM: An Al Qaeda affiliated palestinian terror group has claimed responsibility for firing a Qassam into Israel earlier today.

2:12PM: Make that three Israelis feared missing in Haiti.

Meanwhile, we’ve already dispatched a rescue team, with Prime Minister Netanyahu ordering the Defense Ministry, Foreign Ministry and Public Security Ministry to act quickly to render humanitarian assistance.

11:33AM: In the wake of the earthquake that hit Haiti, it is a no-brainer that Israel is doing what it can to assist.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry announced on Wednesday that an initial inspection team of eight experts was sent to Haiti. The team includes Foreign Ministry and Central Command experts.

The team will examine whether there is a need to send larger rescue teams or aid crews to the Caribbean nation.

Chief Medical Officer Brigadier-General Dr. Nachman Esh said the medical corps was preparing to send medical aid to Haiti. “We have yet to receive a request from the Foreign Ministry, but we are making internal arrangements in order to be able to leave as quickly as possible,” he said.

“I believe that within 24 hours from being contacted, we will be able to send teams and medical equipment,” he added.

In 2003 the IDF sent a filed hospital to aid the victims of an earthquake in India.

Meanwhile, at least one Israeli in Haiti is feared missing: Sharona Elsaieh, daughter of the late peace activists Abie Nathan.

9:20AM: Assassinated Iranian nuclear physicist Massoud Mohammadi was reportedly acquainted with Israeli scientists.

Professor Massoud Mohammadi, 50, the Iranian physicist who was murdered in a mysterious assassination in Tehran, participated in an unique project alongside Israeli scientists, among others, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.

SESAME, a project on synchrotron-light for sxperimental science and applications in the Middle East, joins together researchers from many Middle Eastern nations including Iran, Pakistan,Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

The project is based in Jordan and in 2002 it launched a synchrotron – a form of an advanced particle accelerator. The project enables scientists to learn about the structure and behavior of molecules, atoms and crystals for studies in protein research, drug development as well as bio-technology.

SESAME operates under United Nations auspices and is in the forefront of world scientific research.

Mohammadi, who is considered an expert on particle and theoretical physics became acquainted with the Israeli delegation as part of SESAME conferences, however the extent of the contacts between the parties is unclear.

The Iranian and Israeli participation in the project is unusual because the two countries have had no ties since the 1979 Islamic revolution. The last SESAME conference was held in Jordan last November.

The Israeli representative Eliezer Rabinovich, director of the Institute for Advanced Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem told the Washington Post that he had spoken to the Iranian physicist during an informal meeting.

“We did not discuss politics or nuclear issues, as our project is not connected to nuclear physics,” Rabinovich said. He asked Mohammadi whether Iran was interested in building its own particle accelerator but received no clear answer.

Rabinovich noted he barely knew Mohammadi and has “no idea whatsoever” why he was killed.

Moshe Paz-Pasternak, a scientist from the Tel Aviv University who also attended the Joran conference described the Iranian professor as a friendly and humorous person.

Meanwhile, the plot thickens once more.

Iranian authorities have placed the blame for the murder on Israel and the US and described Mohammadi as “a firm believer in the Islamic system,” while local opposition elements claimed that Mohammadi was a reformist and was taken out by the government, which had discovered he intended to seek asylum in Sweden.

6:15AM: Gaza smuggling tunnels, you’ve been fatwa’d!

At the request of the Palestinian Authority, an Islamic scholar published a fatwa on Tuesday banning Muslims from digging or working in tunnels under the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt.

The fatwa is the first of its kind and is seen in the context of the PA’s efforts to undermine Hamas’s rule in the Gaza Strip. It’s seen by Palestinians as yet another sign of mounting tensions between the PA and Hamas despite attempts by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Qatar to resolve the power struggle between the two parties.

The fatwa also comes in response to the death of dozens of Palestinian smugglers involved in the tunnel industry over the past three years.

Sheikh Muhammad bin Salman Abu Jamea, the scholar who issued the fatwa, cited a number of reasons for his decision.

He said that the main reason was that about 300 Palestinians have been killed while working in the tunnels.

“The owners of the tunnels exploit the poor workers and employ them as slaves under the worst conditions,” he said.

Abu Jamea condemned another fatwa issued by a Muslim scholar in the Gaza Strip that permitted tunnel owners to employ laborers under harsh conditions. That fatwa ruled that tunnel owners would pay only $9,000 in compensation to each family whose unmarried son is killed while digging or smuggling, while the family of a married laborer would receive $11,000.

Abu Jamea condemned the tunnel owners as “merchants and princes of war who have no value or respect for the blood of Muslims.”

Addressing the tunnel owners and the scholar who okayed their business, the new fatwa asked: “Have you forgotten how many homes have been destroyed because of the death of their sons? Do you know how many mothers have lost their beloved ones and how many wives have been widowed and children orphaned?”

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He also pointed out that the tunnels were being used to smuggle into Gaza alcohol and drugs and other merchandise that was being exploited by manipulative merchants to make illegal profits.

Sounds like the Sheik has somewhat of a moral compass. But what about the fact the tunnels are used to smuggle weapons which are ultimately used to kill innocent Jews, which is also something to which our “peace partners” in the PA should be opposed?

Abu Jamea also cited the smuggling of weapons as a reason behind his decision to ban work in the tunnels.

“Don’t the arms dealers know that trading in weapons during the period of civil strife [between Hamas and Fatah] is haram [religiously forbidden]?” he asked, adding that the weapons were being used by “rebels” to continue “sowing dissension among Palestinians.”

In other words, weapons to be used against fellow palestinians = bad; weapons to be used against Jews = good.

By the way, I can think of at least one other reason the Sheik may have wanted to ban the tunnels.

6:00AM: Still on the subject of the whole Ayalon-Turkish Ambassador brouhaha, a Turkish source has said Celikkol had no idea what was going on at the time, including why he was given a lower sofa

“He thought he was sitting on the more comfortable chair,” the source said.

‘Wow, this is comfortable. Is it IKEA?”

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