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Business and financial news in Israel and the Middle East

Egypt Ends its Gas Agreement with Israel

Egypt’s national gas company EGAS made an announcement that it will be proceeding with plans to cancel a natural gas supply deal it formerly made with Israel.

EGAS released a statement that it will be terminating its contract with Ampal-American Israel Corporation, which is a partner in the East Mediterranean Gas Company (EMG). EMG, in response, has expressed dismay at EGAS’s decision and is demanding that they withdraw their plans for termination. It also added that the decision could jeopardize the existing peace agreement with Israel.

The chief of the Egyptian Natural Gas Company, Mohamed Shoeb, maintained that the choice to sever the deal agreement was due to a business dispute and not a political one. He also added that part of the decision was due to Israel failing to pay for its gas in the last four months, a claim that Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor dismissed as false.

Yuval Steinitz, the finance minister, responded to EGAS’ decision, saying that the cancellation of the gas agreement can seriously hurt Egypt and Israel relations both politically and economically.

Opposition leader Shaul Mofaz is also chiding in and calling for the U.S. to intervene in the matter. The U.S. was present when the Camp David Accords were signed.

Israel and Egypt made a pact in 2005 in which Egypt agreed to allocate seven billion cubic meters of its gas to Israel over the next 20 years. EMG obtains its gas through an Egyptian pipeline, which it then sells to Israeli customers. The pipeline, however, is in constant jeopardy as it is often targeted since the ouster of Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak. The pipeline is Israel’s main source of power, and the country has faced bouts of power outages due to shortages of energy. EMG has blamed this on the pipeline attacks and is now seeking compensation from Egypt for its failure to protect their investment.

TABANK Beats Bloomberg Analyst’s Estimates and Unemployment Rates Sink

The three biggest Israeli banks surprised analysts’ estimates for second-quarter profit, by sending the banking index to its highest close in a month.

The Tel Aviv Banking Index (TABANK), which includes the five biggest lenders, gained 1.2 percent to 1,107.58, set for the highest close it has had since Aug. 8. The index dropped 15 percent in the last six months, and the benchmark TA-25 fell 12 percent during the exact same period.

Bank Hapoalim Ltd., the second-biggest bank, led the gains rising 3 percent to 14.91 shekels at about 1:46 p.m. Israel Discount Bank Ltd. (DSCT) was sent up 2.9 percent to 6.13 shekels, and the American Bank Leumi Le-Israel Ltd. fell 0.6 percent to 13.17 shekels.

Bank Hapoalim’s net income rose 43 percent from last year to 712 million shekels, 11 percent more than the 643 million- shekel mean estimate by five analysts. Leumi, Israel’s largest bank by assets, said net income rose 10.7 percent to 563 million shekels or $158 million, beating the mean estimate of 535 million shekels by leading analysts. Second-quarter profit at Discount Bank climbed 48 percent to 231 million shekels, above the mean estimate of 192 million shekels by other leading analysts.

Stanley Fischer is keeping the benchmark interest rate unchanged at 3.25 percent for a third month as the economy expands and inflation slows down.
The two-year breakeven rate reflecting the rate of inflation which traders generally expected dropped to 206.9 on Aug. 22nd. This is the lowest it has dropped in at least 14 months. The rate spiked two basis points to 2.24 percent last week.

In other news, the unemployment rate fell to its all time low of 5.5% of the population labor force in the second quarter of 2011. Participation in the labor force jumped to 57.5% in the second quarter from 57.4% in the first. The number of employees was 3.2 million in the second quarter, a figure which includes 3.03 million employed by 175,000 private sector businesses.

58.9% of men over the age of 15 participated in the labor force in the second quarter, up from 58.3% in the preceding quarter, and the participation of women rose to 50% from 49.9%. The rate of men employed aged 25-64 rose to 72% from 71.7%, and the participation of women aged 25-64 shot up to 66.6% from 66.5%.

The number of men employees spiked to 1.6 million in the second quarter from 1.58 million in the preceding quarter, and the number of female employees rose to 1.43 million from 1.42 million.
The unemployment rate among people aged 25-64 fell to 4.6% in the second quarter from 5.2% in the quarter before that one. The unemployment rate among men in the age group fell to 4.6% from 5.5% and the unemployment rate for women fell to 4.5% down from 5%.

Phew!

Last Sunday, the Tel Aviv stock exchange suffered a sharp nose-dive following Standard & Poor’s downgrading of US credit ratings from AAA to AA+ before stabilizing on Monday. Sunday registered as the worst day on the exchange since the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Discount Investments loses 17.5%, Africa Israel tumbles 16%, Fishman’s JEC weakened by 12%, Tshuva’s Delek Group slips 8% and Israel Corporation under Ofer family sheds 6.5%.

By 10:30 am on Monday, the TA-25 was back up to 2.45 percent. The TA-100 climbed 2.44 percent and the blue tech 50 added 2.55 percent.

Last week’s tailspin was exaggerated by the United States raising of their debt ceiling. As a result, US treasury bonds are now not the safest investment in the world.
Riding the dismal wave, the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange benchmark TA-100 index fell 9% over the last 10 days and is 16% below its peak level from January.
As a result of last week’s sliding, the shekel was down 0.62% against the US currency to NIS 3.542/$, and dived 2.22% against the euro to NIS 5.089/€.

While G7 leaders promise to restore stability to global markets Bank of Bank of Jerusalem (TASE: JBNK) thinks the dollar’s potential to continue strengthening against the shekel is limited at best, and influenced by the political and economic uncertainty and concern about growth on global markets.

The Bank of Jerusalem holds that while the dollar may continue to strengthen in the coming days, it is only a temporary strengthening bound to end when calm return to the markets. The Bank of Jerusalem wrote in its daily survey, “The dollar will reach a stronger resistance threshold at NIS 3.55/$ and crossing it will be a serious obstacle, but we do not rule out this happening.”
Ami Ginsburg of Haaretz offers a list of concerns for local investors:

1. Fears the U.S. is bound for another recession
2. The European debt crisis is getting worse
3. Worry over growth slowdown for developing countries
4. The possibility that social protest signals a crisis
5. Harm to Israeli exports
6. Israel’s rising risk premium from the wave of debt settlements
7. Fear of economic sanctions following declaration of Palestinian state

Amdocs/Bridgewater

Israeli software giant, Amdocs, who had $1.16 billion in cash and equivalents as of March 31, acquired Canada’s Bridgewater Systems for some $215 million in a deal which promises to improve its phone-billing software business.
Bridgewater provides network control solutions for mobile and convergent service providers.

Bridgewater president and CEO Ed Ogonek had this to say:

“As the market leader in customer experience systems, Amdocs has an excellent reputation for delivering tangible value to service providers worldwide. The combination of Bridgewater’s policy and subscriber data management portfolio with Amdocs CES portfolio will create a unique offering that would further extend Amdocs industry leadership, and deliver innovative solutions for service providers as they seek to transform their networks, improve customer loyalty and monetize their data services…This acquisition would build on Amdocs’ leadership in delivering innovative solutions that change market paradigms. It is a continuation of our strategy to support service providers as they seek to transform their businesses in anticipation of new market opportunities like 4G and machine-to-machine, and in response to clear threats, such as the data explosion…”

Stanley Fischer, Supported by Fayyad, Turned Down by IMF as Leader Candidate

Governor of the Bank of Israel, Stanley Fischer, is credited with assisting Israel through the 2008 global financial crisis; he is criticized for funding Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Recently, Mr. Fischer formally announced his candidacy to lead the International Monetary Fund. While the selection process is a political one, Mr. Fischer has received support from Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, who said:

“Were it purely professional it would be hard-pressed to find a better person than Fischer.”

Salam Fayyad disputed Palestinian Authority Prime Minister supported Mr. Fischer, saying the Israeli would make a ”great managing director” for the IMF and is:

“A superb human being…He is supremely qualified for the job. Indeed, it’s difficult to see how one can be more qualified…”

On a side note, Hamas has refused to recognize Fayyad, a political independent, as Prime Minister. Fayyad received his PhD in economics from the University of Texas, as well as working for the IMF in the 1980s; so he is a good man to ask.

As mentioned, the recently announced “reconciliation” between the government in the West Bank, led by Fatah and the terrorist group Hamas in control of the Gaza Strip is threatening Fayyad’s political status.

But Monday night Fischer was notified that his candidacy was disqualified because of his age, 67. IMF rules state the Managing Director must be under 65 when taking office for the five-year position. Fischer was hoping the IMF board would waive the restriction, saying it is “not relevant today.”

Fischer is in the second year of his second five-year term as the chariman of Israel’s bank. He was hoping to take over at the IMF for Dominique Strauss-Kahn of France, who resigned on May 14 after his arrest on charges of attempted rape of a maid in a New York hotel.

Fischer had this to say:

“I will proudly and happily continue in my role as Governor of the Bank of Israel, to deal with the challenges facing the Bank of Israel and the Israeli economy. I would like to thank the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance for their unconditional support when I decided to submit my candidacy, and for their expressed hope that I will continue to serve as the Governor of the Bank of Israel – as I shall happily do…”

The finance minister of France, Christine Lagarde, is considered to be the front-runner in the IMF race. The final decision will be made toward the end of the month.

Fischer was the thesis adviser to Ben Bernanke, chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, when he was pursuing his doctorate in economics from MIT and is a former deputy managing director of the IMF.

Mazal Tov Israel

On Thursday, the Bank of Israel increased its 2011 GDP growth forecast to 5.2 percent from 4.5 percent and lowered its unemployment rate forecast to 5.8 percent – lowest ever

The Bank of Israel’s growth forecast is in fact lower than the OECD forecast – 5.4 percent – announced earlier in the week. They are also predicting 4.2 percent GDP growth in the coming year and no change in the impressive unemployment rate.

The bank issued a statement saying:

“The rapid growth of GDP and use of resources in the first quarter, and in particular the surge in exports and fixed investment, resulted in an upward revision of most items. Despite the rapid increase in exports, the surplus in the current account of the balance of payments is expected to be significantly smaller than in the previous forecast, because of a faster increase in imports and a more severe deterioration in the terms of trade. The quarterly rates of growth are expected to slow a little in the course of the year as the economy converges to a full employment situation.”

And as for 2012:

“Exports are expected to continue increasing, at a rate slightly below that of world trade, due to both external forces – the deterioration in the terms of trade – and the level of the real exchange rate. The steep increase in capital stock, the result of the expansion of investment in 2011; and the continued rise in the rate of participation in the labor force to 58%, are expected to contribute to a growth rate in 2012 in excess of the potential rate, despite the fact that the economy is in a full employment environment.”

The prediction is 4 percent growth in private consumption for both this year and next; export growth (excluding diamonds) of 6.3 percent this year and 6.2 percent in 2012, import growth (not including defense and diamonds) of 11.5 percent and 6.7 percent respectively, and investment in fixed assets growth of 15.4 percent and 6.8 percent.

The forecast is evidence of stability in Israel’s geopolitical situation and continued smooth riding – knock on wood – in the global economy with no serious fiscal crises developing.

Meanwhile, in IMD’s World Competitiveness Yearbook (WCY) in 2011, Israel is number one in the world in total expenditures of R&D as percentage of GDP, central bank policy, entrepreneurship and scientific research. Also, in 2011 Israel was ranked by IMD, the second in the world in access to venture capital and public expenditure for education.

Trumah and Truth

In 2010, American philanthropists donated approximately $3.3 billion to charity – and 19 of the 53 top givers were Jews. George Soros ranked first with $332 million contributed in 2010.

Top DonorsNew York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was No. 2 with $279.2 million. Irwin and Joan Jacobs, Eli and Edythe Broad, and Leonard Blavatnik, respectively took places four through six, with $117 million to $119 million in donations.

But are American Jews not doing enough for other Jews? Stephen and Nancy Grand gave more than $20 million of their $28 million of their charitable donations in 2010 to the American Technion Society, that supports the Technion: Israel Institute for Technology. Whereas, Soros gave $1 million to World ORT in September, and Bloomberg gave a smaller donation to the Jewish Association for Services for the Aged, their gifts to Jewish organizations made-up a small proportion of their overall giving.

Hedge fund manager, William Ackman and his wife Karen gave away $59.3 million last year. At 44, Ackman is one of Wall Street’s toughest players and a regular on the dais of the UJA-Federation of New York’s annual Wall Street banquet. He made his most significant Jewish contribution in the past year, directing a move to bail out the Center for Jewish History in New York from its $30 million debt with a gift of $6.8 million.

Irwin Jacobs, founder of Qualcomm, gave a $100 million-plus San Diego Symphony with a $100 million-plus gift last decade, he and his wife, Joan, have chosen to give away most of their savings through a donor-advised fund at the Jewish Community Foundation of San Diego, where Joan Jacobs is a board member. Last year, they gave the fund $39.1 million, which will be spent on both Jewish and nonsectarian causes.

Here is the list of Jews gracing the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s Philanthropy 50 top givers of 2010, with their rank and total philanthropic contributions in 2010:


George Soros, $332m

Michael R. Bloomberg, $279.2m

Irwin M. and Joan K. Jacobs, $119.5m

Eli and Edythe L. Broad, $118.3m

Leonard Blavatnik, $117.2m

Meyer and Renee Luskin, $100.5m

Marc R. and Lynne Benioff, $100m

Mark Zuckerberg, $100m

William A. and Karen Ackman, $59.3m

Charles E. Kaufman, $53.3m

Lawrence J. Ellison, $45.1m

Lee G. and Jane H. Seidman, $42m

Lin Arison, $39m

Herman Ostrow, $35m

Stephen and Nancy Grand, $28.1m

David M. Rubenstein, $26.6m

Paul and Daisy M. Soros, $25m

Iris Cantor, $20m

Richard A. and Susan P. Friedman, $20m

Agassi Says: Let It Ride

Before 2020, says Israel’s entrepreneurial sweetheart, electric cars will be flying off the showroom floor faster than gasoline-powered automobiles.

“It doesn’t mean that oil is not necessary, but we’re starting the way out…In Israel, in 2016, plus or minus a year, more electric cars will be sold than gasoline cars. When that happens in Country One, within two years you will see it in every country.”

Better Place Electric Vehicle ChargersBefore the end of the year there will be 56 stations b’Eretz and 5,000 cars produced. In 2012, Denmark, Australia, Hawaii and the San Francisco Bay Area will fall in line.

Agassi has raised some $700m and spent one-third of it on setting up recharging stations. This leaves him with enough cash to absorb losses assuring his breaking even with the initial steps of the venture.

Shai did not shy away from expressing his enthusiasm to the press:

“Israel will become the first country in the world to put 100,000 all-electric cars on the road…Not the US. Not China. Not countries much bigger – Israel!…From 2000 to 2010, China added 120 million cars on the road (and) next year, 25 to 30 million..It’s no longer the US that sets the price (of oil). Now it’s a question of how many cars were added in China, how many were added in Brazil, how many were added in India…The end of the oil era will not come because we ran out of oil – it will come become we don’t want to use oil any more to drive…I can guarantee you that we will finish the need for oil as an energy source for cars before we run out of oil in the ground.”

The Current State and Future of Israeli/American Business Alliances

In light of its geopolitical under-dog status, Israel’s global reputation for her cutting-edge high-tech industry continues to ripen.

Israeli StartupsJewish Ideas Daily recently released a report exploring “The drivers behind Israel’s innovative impulse, drawing in part on a recent series of panel discussions sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.” We will also take a glance at the partnerships Israeli companies have forged with U.S. companies; and the causes of the painful adjustment period being faced today by the Israeli venture capital business.

Today, Israel has the second largest number of start-up firms in the world, and the largest number of Nasdaq-listed companies outside North America. Panelists at a conference which happened recently in Washington, D.C., called, “The United States and Israel: Building Business Through Innovation,” explored the issues contributing to innovation in Israel, while debating what has helped and hindered the Jewish Country’s move to be a hotbed of global entrepreneurship.

The fact is hundreds of U.S. and Israeli companies have formed alliances in recent years, while many more partnerships are in the works. The relationships are fueled by a nature of quid prop quo. The Israelis get funding, marketing expertise, job growth and better access to the North American market; while the Americans benefit on the job front and through increased market access. They also reap savings in development and production and have an opportunity to tap into Israel’s talent for innovation.

Once acclaimed in Israel for its ability to launch a rich stream of high-tech start-ups, the VC industry has been injured lately on two fronts: Firms in the sector are not able to raise money for new funds, and they cannot exit easily from existing investments via IPOs. Is this painful squeeze merely part of a healthy cycle or is it representative of something with more severe implications?

“The doomsday scenario, according to some industry experts, is that future high-tech start-ups will not need the VC industry as much as before.”

Wrote a researcher from the University of Pennsylvania who attended the conference.

Who’s Kicking Ass

One company to lookout for is Gazit Globe. Considered among the world’s top real estate investment multinationals, the firm is listed on the Tel Aviv stock exchange. They operate in some 20 countries and own or operate 6.3 million square meters of space spread over more than 650 properties.

In United States, Gazit’s investment vehicles include Equity one, a real estate investment trust which focuses on high quality retail properties. Gazit’s total asset value exceeds $15 billion. Gazit’s chairman and founder, Chaim Katzman, spoke recently with Wharton real estate professor, Peter Linneman, and Knowledge@Wharton about the firm’s origins, and a bit about his personal management philosophy.

Fischer Criticized For Not Changing Interest Rates

Market analysts hurried to comment on Governor of the Bank of Israel, Professor Stanley Fischer’s decision earlier this week to keep the country’s interest rate unchanged at 2%.

Stanley FischerThe decision was in harmony with market expectations, given the crisis in Europe and the U.S. economic slowdown, which is actually beginning to affect Israel, whose GDP growth decelerated to 3.8% growth in the third fiscal quarter from 4.6% in the first quarter.

The stall in the central bank’s return to “normal” interest rates could result in increasingly swift interest rate hikes in the future.

DS Brokerage chief economist Alex Zabezhinsky said:

“Inflation is beginning to be felt not only in apartment prices, and because of international factors, such as commodities prices, but also as a result of domestic demand caused by falling unemployment and the full use of production capacity. Although the rise in the latest CPI was in line with expectations, were it not for the unexpected drop in the housing item (rent), which we think was ephemeral, the CPI would have greatly exceeded forecasts due to higher prices for a long line of goods and services. In addition, the continuing rise in home prices leads us to conclude that the risk of an inflationary outbreak has risen, and today’s decision by the Bank of Israel does not help calm things down.”

From the Traditional Thanksgiving to Modern Day Cyber Monday

Remember when Black Friday was all the rage?

Coined on the East coast in 1966, it occurs between the 23rd and 29th of November following Thanksgiving Day. Thanksgiving is traditionally spent with family, getting in arguments about whether the living room television would screen the Detroit Lions or the Macy’s Day Parade and conducting stealth missions into the kitchen to get a taste of the turkey and stuffing despite being ordered not to…Why aren’t we doing a better job being thankful on Thanksgiving? Because the satanic lure of Black Friday is creeping around the corner and turning blessed American spirits into greedy consumers.

Well, now that hellish hoopla has been pushed up in the calendar by two days, with the introduction of online shopping and Cyber Monday. The term made its debut when in 2005 Shop.org presented a press release called, “Cyber Monday’ Quickly Becoming One of the Biggest Online Shopping Days of the Year.”

According to the Shop.org 2005 eHoliday Mood Study:

“77% of online retailers said that their sales increased substantially last year on the Monday after Thanksgiving, a trend that is driving serious online discounts and promotions on Cyber Monday this year (2005)”.

In the same year the New York Times reported that:

cyber monday shopping

“The name Cyber Monday grew out of the observation that millions of otherwise productive working Americans, fresh off a Thanksgiving weekend of window shopping, were returning to high-speed Internet connections at work Monday and buying what they liked.”

Then, in 2006, Shop.org announced that it launched the CyberMonday.com portal, a one-stop shop for Cyber Monday deals. And in 2009, comScore reported that consumers spent $887M online on Cyber Monday, the second highest spending day of 2009.

The term Cyber Monday is also used in the marketing world of Portugal, Turkey, Venezuela, France and the United Kingdom. In these countries, Cyber Monday sales last for eight days, usually from the last Monday in November to the first Monday in December.

There are several theories as to why online sales increase so explosively on Cyber Monday; however, some debate if all retailers experience this trend. One theory suggests that people see certain items in the shopping malls over the weekend and wait until Monday to buy them online, where they may compare prices, avoid lines and take advantage of free shipping or other offers. Yet another theory suggests that shoppers have faster internet connections at work and, henceforth, wait until then to make their online purchases.

This year, Cyber Monday starts on November 29th, exactly 26 days before Christmas.
Simply put, the way to get the most out of the many Cyber Monday deals and specials out there is preparation. Remember that your goal is maximizing savings in your purchases for Christmas needs and to save on effort in buying them.

First it is quite important to know where you are at financially. Check all your bank and credit card balances and determine how much money you may budget for your purchases. You don’t want to go bankrupt after the sale. You can also include how much cash on hand you happen to have that you can use to deposit to pay your credit card purchases.

Start going to department stores and look at the items in your list. Check for designs, brands, colors and sizes so that you would know exactly what you want.

With your budget and your list ready, begin searching online for the stores early Sunday as there are stores who advertise early. Since you already more or less pin pointed what you need, it will be easy for you to search for the stores who offer them.

So now it’s not rush to Macy’s to find the hot sale before it gets snatched from the shelf, with a weapon for self-defense; but rush to the family PC to fill up the electronic shopping cart.

I’ve Got You Under My Skin

The London branch of the Ahava cosmetics store was closed for three and a half hours (11:30 am until 3pm) on Shabbat when activists, acting on behalf of the International Solidarity Movement, locked their arms together on a concrete slab with tubing leading into the middle of the shop.

The protestors were removed and consequently arrested by London Police.

Ahava store in London shut down

The aggravated trespass charge will be challenged on grounds that Ahava is an unlawful business ergo no lawful activity was stopped by the provisional blockade.

For those who have not felt the mineral magic of Ahava’s Holy Land blessed face, body and hand, bath and hair, botanic, spa, anti-aging, dermud and various other products – I feel bad for you.

You don’t know what you’re missing!

A privately held Israeli firm founded in 1988, Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories’ central location and much-visited visitors’ center is located in Mitzpe Shalem, in the spectacular Judean desert; a spitting distance from the magical Dead Sea and the freshwater springs of Ein Gedi: playground for the Syrian Brown Bear, Mountain Gazelle and Nubian Ibex, where King David hid from his persecutors and composed Psalms to Elohim.

37% of Ahava company shares are held by the settlement of Kibbutz Mitzpe Shalem, 37% by Hamashbir Holdings (investment fund of B. Gaon Holdings and the Livnat family), 18% by Shamrock Holdings (investment fund of the Roy E. Disney family), and 7% by Kibbutz Kalia.

Mitzpe Shalem is about 9 km from the green line, Kibbutz Kalia too lays in disputed territory.

According to international law, a person of any nationality may establish a factory in any country, so long as they pay taxes to the local government. The Palestinian Authority does not receive any kind of bursary from the lucrative Israeli cosmetics firm, and therein is found the grievance.

To put things into context, listen to this:

Last year, while on display in London at the British Library, the antiquities minister of Jordan urged the Britons to return the Dead Sea Scrolls to them, rather than to their home at the Israel Museum. The reason? The ancient Hebrew Biblical scriptures on sheepskin parchment, dating from 50 AD and backward were uncovered in Qumran in the Judean Hills before the founding of the State of Israel, in “annexed territory.”

Come on! Like Jordanians can read Hebrew!

The “pillage” or “plunder” of materials, referencing the all-natural ingredients of Ahava products is illegal under international humanitarian law; specifically Articles 23, 53 and 55 of the Hague Regulations; Articles 51 and 53 of the 4th Geneva Conventions and Article 8(2)(b) of the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court.

Once an Israeli government official was asked about the legality behind the activities of the Ahava firm and this is what they said:

“The Palestinians did nothing with this land when they had it…And the Palestinians still have access to the Dead Sea. If they wanted to, they could set up a factory themselves.”

In November 2009, the Dutch Foreign Minister launched an investigation into the conditions which Ahava products are made to determine if the firm’s practices and location flouted international law and European Union labeling regulations.

This is what a representative of Ahava had to say:

“The Dead Sea and its treasures are international and do not belong to one nation…The company was founded out of love for the magical environs of the Dead Sea and throughout the years has been driven by a deep passion to reveal the secrets of the minerals’ rejuvenating effects on the skin. Therefore, the natural location of the factory is along the western shore of the Dead Sea.”

The Ahava factory outlet in Israel is open Sunday through Thursday 8-5, Friday 8-4, and Saturday 8:30-5.

Summer of Lebanon Cedars and Iranian Brow-Beaters

Last Saturday, the Iranian Intelligence Minister, Heydar Moslehi accused the Swedish
cosmetics firm, Oriflame of trying to harm Iran’s security after the Tehran office was closed and five of its employees were taken into police custody amid allegations that they were running a pyramid scheme for a spy agency.

Moslehi was quoted as saying:

“Oriflame intended to fight the (Iranian) system. There are no economic reasons behind the company… We realized through the evidence that the arrogance (Western powers) and intelligence agencies sought to create security problems for the country through this company.”

An Oriflame representative in Stockholm said the firm is in no way involved in political activities. CEO Gabriel Bennet said:

“We are a cosmetics company, we are selling direct. We are of course not involved in any political activities in the country (Iran)…”

Mr. Bennet continued,

“It’s very difficult to comment on this because we don’t know why our colleagues have been detained, we don’t know why the company has been shut down…” Ah, the mysterious Iranian signature! “We are doing our utmost to solve the situation in Iran and especially for our colleagues being detained.”

Moslehi insisted:

“These companies operate with outside support and are not engaged in economic activities. They are under the guidance of spy agencies.”

To which refuted the Sweating Swede:

“The firm’s business model is to sell cosmetics and give 40,000 Iranians, mainly women, a possibility to earn money through direct sales.”

Good for Iran on cracking down. But why so paranoid?
Meanwhile Teheran is ready, willing and able to supply the Lebanese army with any arms it may need. This is nothing new since the Hezbollah swung into town in 1982.
Iranian General Ahmad Vahidi said,

“Lebanon is our friend, if there is a demand in this respect, we are ready to help that country and conduct weapons transactions with it.”

The USA is on the case, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said that such transaction between the Islamic Republic and the Republic of Lebanon is exactly why “the importance both to our (American) national security and the security of the region to continue with our security assistance to the Lebanese people.”

This comes after, as OneJerusalem reported last week, the US suspended $100 million of foreign aid to the sometimes seedy Republic of Cedars, which is really OK, because plenty of arms donations are coming to Lebanon from France, anyway. Herve Morin, French Defense Minister sent a letter to Elias Murr, according to the Jerusalem Post, pushing the sale of 100 HOT anti-tank missiles to be used on their Gazelle helicopters.

Well, the US also warned Lebanon – and I think that means, should Lebanon crumble under Hezbollah influence, the IDF has the capability of destroying the Lebanese Armed Forces in four hours!

Israel’s Green Business Tycoon

Shari Arison
Mazal Tov to Shari Arison! Forbes recently unveiled a list of the “Top 10 Greenest Billionaires.” The Israeli heiress to the Carnival Cruise Line was included.

For Arison, profits and environmental sustainability are not opposing forces at all. Being environmentally friendly actually has increased her companies’ success.

In an interview with BusinessWeek she said,

“Sustainability is the key to our survival on this planet and will also determine success on all levels.”

Arison’s net worth is 3.4 billion dollars thanks to her lucrative companies such as Miya, a water company based on technology which eliminates water loss in transit.

While her father, from whom she inherited Carnival Cruise, was still living, the now 52-year-old tycoon did her best to stay out of the limelight. When she inherited a large chunk of the company in the late 90’s all of this changed.

Ms. Arison chose to focus her attention on the two largest assets in the estate: Bank Hapoalim, which is now Israel’s second-largest financial institution; and Housing & Construction Holding, the Jewish Country’s biggest construction firm.

Last year, Arison published a book in Israel in which she talks about her spiritual journey and lays out a vision for how to save the planet.

Now the english translation of her book, When the Spiritual and the Material Come Together, has been released in the U.S.

Arison holds that it is possible for businesses to succeed while benefitting their natural surroundings; and economies can thrive if they would only take the environment into consideration.

Arison has sold off her personal jet and yacht, switched to a hybrid automobile, and she even ordered a retrofit of her home to make it more environmentally friendly.

About her company, Housing & Construction she says:

“Within five years it will be a 100%-green company.”

The construction giant is taking steps in this direction by planning and building Israel’s first “green” neighborhoods in Kfar Saba and Netanya, and a huge shopping mall in Beer Sheva which takes into account the city’s desert conditions.

Her start-up, the Luxembourg based Miya, which she launched in 2006 is underwritten with $100 million of her own money. This is a consulting and audit company which advises municipal water utilities on how to reduce leakage from underground pipes.

Israel to Join the Organization for Economic Development

Mazal Tov to Israel. A vote on Monday by the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD) accepted the Jewish Country onto its roster, alongside Slovenia and Estonia, making the total count of countries, 34.

Said our fearless finance minister Yuval Steinitz, who will receive an official invitation in Paris at the end of the month from the OECD’s finance ministers:

“The significance of this is huge and that is why, as a matter of fact, I decided to treat it as a top priority 10 months ago and enter into a special program to introduce Israel into the organization at a peak time… It is the most respectable international club a small state like Israel can be accepted into…From what we know about other states, in the years following the acceptance there is a rise of billions of dollars in foreign investments in the state accepted…There is also a political gain here. We are receiving a stamp of approval… that Israel belongs to the world’s most advanced and developed countries, and not just financially – in civil rights, a clean and independent court system, regulations, equality, and steps to eliminate discrimination.”

Manufacturers Association President Shraga Brosh said:

“Israel’s membership with the organization constitutes a label of quality.”

Treasury chief Haim Shani had this to say:

“The joining of Israel to the organization points to the trust companies have in Israel’s economy and solidity. I believe the new membership will help Israel’s society and economy progress, attract foreign investors, and develop the market.”

OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría put it like this:

“Estonia, Israel and Slovenia, along with Chile that has just deposited its instrument to become a full member, will contribute to a more plural and open OECD that is playing an increasingly important role in the global economic architecture…This new chapter in the history of the Organisation confirms our global vocation as the group of countries that search for answers to the global challenges, and establish standards in many policy fields such as environment, trade, innovation or social issues.”

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