Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu leaves on Sunday morning for Washington, where he is to address the 2009 General Assembly of the UJC/Jewish Federations of North America the next day.
Barak Obama and Binyamin Netanyahu
As of press time, the Prime Minister's Office said no formal meeting had been scheduled with US President Barack Obama during the visit, which could last through the week. No departure date has been set.
Netanyahu and Obama last met in New York in September on the sidelines of the opening of the United Nation's General Assembly session.
Obama plans to speak at the UJC event on Tuesday, in what will be his first speech to a Jewish audience at a public event since his election a year ago.
White House spokesman Tommy Vietor told The Jerusalem Post
that nothing had been planned in terms of a Netanyahu-Obama sit-down while the prime minister is in town. "There is no scheduled meeting," he said.
Several American Jewish leaders told the Post
that they expected a meeting would take place, but that the White House wanted to be assured it would be receiving something from Netanyahu in return. They said the US administration had also felt somewhat blind-sided by how the expectation of a meeting had played out.
Still, a number of Jewish leaders indicated that their optimism about a White House visit taking place was waning as the date of Netanyahu's arrival neared with no meeting being announced.
The three-day annual conference, which opens on Sunday, is one of the largest communal gatherings of Jewish activists in the US, generally attended by thousands. The UJC is the umbrella organization for more than 150 federations across the United States and Canada.
A government source said the GA was one of the most important yearly meetings of the North American Jewish community, and that Netanyahu's attendance at that meeting was the sole reason for his visit.
The prime minister understands full well the importance of the relationship between Israel and the North American Jewish community, and his trip is recognition of the significance of those ties, the source said.
The date of the visit was coordinated solely with the organizers of the GA, although it was possible that other meetings could be added onto the trip.
According to the source, the prime minister plans to speak of the challenges and opportunities that Israel faces, along with discussion of Iran and possibly the peace process.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak plans to travel with the prime minister to Washington.
The trip comes in the aftermath of a flurry of diplomatic activity in the region, in which Netanyahu as well as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met in the past week with visiting US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and the administration's special envoy George Mitchell.
Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, a spokesman for the Austrian Foreign Ministry, told the Post that he is not aware of any "Austrian company doing business with IRISL."
He said the Ministry is "aware of the UK decision" banning trade with the IRISL. Asked if Austria plans to replicate the UK decision, he said there are "ongoing EU discussions" concerning Iranian sanctions. Pressed about the media reports covering Peter Fichtenbauer, an Austrian member of Parliament and chairman of the defense committee, and his visit to Teheran this past week, urging an "expansion of economic and commercial ties between Iran and Austria," the Austrian spokesman said Fichtenbauer "did not speak on behalf of the government."
The Austrian spokesman Launsky-Tieffenthal said "In "2008 trade receded considerably between" Iran and Austria.
When asked about the spike in trade in 2009, he said "exports increased" but "after having dropped last year."
That the Austrian oil and gas giant OMV does not have "any operational activity in Iran says more than I can in additional words and is a reflection of our position toward trade" with Iran. The OMV signed a 22 billion euro tentative agreement signed in April 2007 to produce liquefied natural gas from Iran's South Pars gas field.
Reached in Rotterdam, Fer van de Laar, managing director, International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH), told the Post
that the transport of high explosive weapons on the Francop
vessel "does not serve a good purpose" but "we live in a world where trade is being done every day... It is difficult to regulate this kind of trade."
The shipment of weapons must "conform with the International Maritime and Danger Code," said Fer van de Laar.
However, Van de Laar said the IAPH does "not have the means to investigate, "and "it is up to UN to see if sanctions are being maintained."
He added that "we are just a port authority and are responsibility is to see that the ports are efficient for the safe traffic of imports."
Asked about IRISL's shipments of rockets and weapons, Lee Adamson, a spokesman for the UN-organization International Maritime Organization (IMO), told the Post
there "is a practical code about how dangerous goods should be carried... in terms of getting into to political matters it is not something our agency would be involved in."
Responding to the Post
's query about the IMO Secretary General-Efthimios Mitropoulos' praise of Iran's warships while in the Islamic Republic in September, Adamson, speaking from London, said the IMO has a "remit to suppress piracy" in Somalia and that Iran was active in combating pirates. The IMO "does not have a remit" to enforce violations of UN Security Council resolutions, said Adamson.
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.
US generals and soldiers flood Israel
A large number of American generals and at least 1,500 US soldiers arrived in Israel this week for one of the largest joint land exercises ever held between the two nations.
Dubbed "Juniper Cobra," the exercise, which is held every year, but never before on such a large scale, is scheduled to last three weeks.
One of the visiting US generals told Israel media that the exercise is in response to "specific threats," which every took to mean primarily the Iranian nuclear threat. There was much speculation that the exercise signaled the US had nearly given up on diplomatic efforts to curb Iran's nuclear program, and was gearing up for the aftermath of an Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities
Hamas successfully tests new Iran-made Silkworm that can reach Tel Aviv
DEBKAfile Special report
November 3, 2009, 12:41 PM (GMT+02:00)
Silkworm C-802 shore-to-ship missile fired from Lebanon
Israel's military intelligence chief Brig. Amos Yadlin revealed Tuesday, Nov. 3, that the Palestinian Hamas had successfully tested a new 60-km range Iranian shore-to-sea missile firing it west from the Gaza coast. When fired north overland the missile could reach Tel Aviv.
Brig. Yadlin's report to the Knesset foreign affairs and security committee confirmed DEBKAfile's Oct. 25 disclosure of intensive Iranian efforts to arm Hizballan and Hamas with extended-range missiles and rockets capable of reaching Israel's strategic heartland. He revealed that Iranian arms were reaching Hizballah and Hamas through Syria and, for the first, time via Turkey.
The intelligence chief did not specify the source of the missiles delivered to Hamas or disclose who their instructors were. DEBKAfile's military sources report that the Hizballah on orders from Tehran apparently took charge of smuggling the new missiles to their Palestinian allies and its officers instructed them in their use.
Our military sources identify the new missile in Hamas' arsenal as a C-802 of the Silkworm series (of Chinese origin), of the type Hizballah fired to cripple the Israeli missile ship Hanit on July 15 2006 during the second Lebanon war.
Tehran has since showered thousands of these missiles on Hizballah. They are positioned along the Lebanese Mediterranean in closer formation than almost any coastal defense array in the world.
Hamas' successful test indicates that Iran is intent on building up its Palestinian proxy's capability for breaking the Israeli Mediterranean naval blockade on the Gaza Strip and restricting the freedom of Israeli warships cruising opposite its southern shores.
Silkworms deployed in the Gaza Strip are a menace to Israel's southern naval bases, especially in Ashdod port. They are also precise enough to target land-based strategic facilities like power stations and fuel depots. In 1987, Tehran used an earlier version of the Silkworm to strike Kuwait's oil installations.
On Oct. 25, DEBKAfile also reported that the al Qods external terror branch of Iran's Revolutionary Guards was in the throes of a major effort to smuggle Fajr-5 surface rockets into the Gaza Strip. These rockets whose range is 75 km can also reach Tel Aviv and its southern satellite cities from Gaza. Our military sources report that the huge missiles are transported by sea to Hamas training camps in Sudan in 8-10 segments, smuggled from there north to the Egyptian shores of the Suez Canal, then offloaded in Sinai for covert transportation to the Gaza Strip.
On Oct. 31, our military sources revealed that North Korea had sold Iran and Syria EM52 midget submarines designed to drop small commando raider units on targeted shores and sow mines in enemy harbors.
Tehran is thus immersed in an operation for turning the Mediterranean into another hostile front against Israel in the event of a regional war.
While aware of the Iranian marine noose closing in on Israel, the government led by prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and defense minister Ehud Barak do not seem to be doing much in the way of preventive action.