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Saturday, February 17, 2007

Nasrallah: We're transporting weapons without Israel's knowledge

Nasrallah: We're transporting weapons without Israel's knowledge

Hizbullah secretary-general speaks at Beirut rally, says organization secretly transporting weapons, willing to fight alongside Lebanese troops in case of conflict with Israel

by Roee Nahmias
Published: 02.16.07, 19:37,7340,L-3366027,00.html

Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah said that Hizbullah was in possession of many different types of weapons and that it was the organization’s right to use the weapons against Israel.

“We are secretly transporting weapons and Israel doesn’t know about it,” Nasrallah said.

In his speech at a rally in Beirut Friday, Nasrallah hinted that Hizbullah wouldn’t shy away from confronting Israel in the future. “If a confrontation develops, our weapons, our blood, and our youth will stand shoulder to shoulder beside the Lebanese army,” he said.

Hizbullah’s leader also commented on last week’s incident in which Lebanese authorities seized a truck carrying weapons in the outskirts of Beirut.

“The most important element in the resistance’s strength is its secrecy … why are we being demanded to show are weapons openly?” Nasrallah asked.

Nasrallah added that he would not forgive the Lebanese authorities for confiscating weapons intended for use by the organization.

He also commented on calls by Christian Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea and Druze leader Walid Jumblatt to transfer all weapons in Hizbullah’s possession to the Lebanese army. He said he was prepared to give the army a hundred times the amount of weapons, but that he would not allow even a single bullet to be taken from Hizbullah.

Nasrallah concluded that “no one will succeed in creating conflict between Hizbullah and the army” and that he did not differentiate between the army and Hizbullah, saying they could combine their weapons, missiles, and resources and fight side by side.


Hezbollah will not forgive Lebanon arms seizure AFP Friday February 16, 03:06 PM

BEIRUT (AFP) - Hezbollah chief Hasan Nasarallah has said he will not forgive Lebanese authorities for seizing weapons from his anti-Israeli Shiite guerrilla group.

"We will not forgive anyone who confiscates a bullet," he said in a speech Friday during the annual commemoration of the killing of two senior Hezbollah officials in Israeli attacks in 1987 and 1992.

"We are ready to provide the army with all the weapons that it requires ... but we will not forgive anyone who confiscates a bullet," he said.

Last week, Lebanese authorities seized a truckful of weapons belonging to Hezbollah near Beirut.

Nasrallah said "we have plenty of weapons, of all kinds ... and we have the right to transport our arms to combat Israel, even if we transport them in secret to hide them from the Israeli enemy."

"The Resistance will always stand by the Lebanese army, with our weapons, men and blood ... to defend Lebanon," he said.

Defence Minister Elias Murr later said the army will use the seized weapons to fight Israel in case of any future violation of Lebanese sovereignty.

Continued (Permanent Link)

The Curse of Uri Zvi Greenberg Coming True? Degania A, first kibbutz in Israel, to undergo privatization

To each according to his abilities...
It states:
"It seems that on this issue Degania will return to its historical symbolic status and will represent a model to be imitated, despite the fact that not a few kibbutzim have already undergone this or a similar change,"
And it also states:
"We are certain that the quality of life of the members today, after the change, will prove a fitting response to their hard work throughout their lives," he said
And if they all go to live in California, the quality of life will be even better.

Degania A, first kibbutz in Israel, to undergo privatization
By Eli Ashkenazi, Haaretz Correspondent
Degania A, the first kibbutz established in Israel, will undergo a process of privatization, kibbutz members decided in a vote Saturday.
Members passed the privatization motion, which will include the establishment of differential salaries, by a margin of 85 percent.
The decision comes after a year-long trial period of privatization.
Degania A, located southwest of Lake Kinneret, was founded in 1910.
"Degania represented and still represents the model and the epitome of the social values of the [kibbutz] movement in Israel," said Shai Shoshani, chairman of the kibbutz management committee.
"It was very important for us to show a sense of respect to those who worked their whole lives and gave themselves to this wonderful place, as well as to create an attractive horizon to the [members'] children and the next generation," Shoshani said.
"We are certain that the quality of life of the members today, after the change, will prove a fitting response to their hard work throughout their lives," he said.
Degania A is currently defined as a "renewal kibbutz," that is, one in which members are paid differential salaries, and where apartments and property are distributed among members.
Such kibbutzim also feature a "security network" intended to ensure a reasonable quality of life to economically weaker segments of the kibbutz population.
Shoshani said the members chose to make the change "from a position of strength and of economical and social ability, and not from need or compulsion."
Several kibbutzim that are still considering the option of privatization have been in contact with Degania A to learn about changes made to its organizational structure.
"It seems that on this issue Degania will return to its historical symbolic status and will represent a model to be imitated, despite the fact that not a few kibbutzim have already undergone this or a similar change," a kibbutz spokesman said.

Continued (Permanent Link)

"Apartheid" walls are everywhere.

For better or worse, these walls are going up everywhere, but Israel is the only country that is getting flak for a security fence.
Why Walls Are Going Up All Over the World?
Gwynne Dyer, Arab News  Tuesday, 13, February, 2007

If good fences make good neighbors, then the world is experiencing an unprecedented outbreak of neighborliness. They used to wall cities. Now they wall whole countries.

The latest country to start building a wall - sorry, a "security fence" - is Thailand, which has just announced plans to build a physical barrier along the most inaccessible 75 km. (50 miles) of its frontier with Malaysia. The goal, says Bangkok, is to stop "terrorists" from crossing into Thailand's restive Muslim-majority southern provinces from northern Malaysia, whose people share the same language and religion. If experience elsewhere is any guide, the whole border will be walled sooner or later.

India is well on the way to being walled (except along the Himalayas, where the mountains do the job for free). The barrier along its 3,000-km. (1,800-mile) border with Pakistan is largely complete except in the parts of Kashmir where the steep and broken terrain precludes the construction of the usual two-row, three-meter-high (ten-foot-high) fence, with concertina wire and mines between the two fences. And India is now building an even longer barrier (3,300 km., 1,950 miles) to halt illegal immigration from Bangladesh.

While India's walls keep unwelcome intruders out, the barriers around North Korea are meant to keep North Koreans in. The original fortifications along the Demilitarised Zone between North and South Korea, which have been continually improved since the 1950s, were built mainly to stop infiltration by North Korean troops or saboteurs. However, the fence that Beijing is now building along its own frontier with North Korea is a precautionary measure to stop an immense wave of refugees from entering China if the regime in Pyongyang collapses.

The majority of the new walls springing up around the world are there to stop either terrorist attacks or illegal immigration, but sometimes they also serve as a unilateral way of defining a country's desired borders. That is certainly true of the 2,700 km. (1,600 miles) of high sand or stone berms, backed by wire fences, mines, radar, troop bunkers and artillery bases, that seal off Western Sahara, annexed by Morocco in 1975, from the camps in Algeria from which many of the former inhabitants waged a guerrilla war until the 1991 cease-fire.

It is equally true of the wall that Israel is building through the occupied West Bank. The country has long had heavily mined and monitored barrier fences along its external frontiers with Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon and around the Gaza Strip, but the wall in the West Bank does not follow the cease-fire line of 1967. Instead it penetrates deep into the Palestinian territories at a number of points to leave Jewish settlement blocs on the Israeli side, and it cuts off (Arab) East Jerusalem from the West Bank entirely.

Pakistan is building a 1,500-mile fence with Afghanistan, Uzbekistan has built a fence along its border with Tajikistan, the United Arab Emirates is erecting a barrier along its frontier with Oman, and Kuwait is upgrading its existing 215-km (125-mile) wall along the Iraqi frontier. But the most impressive barriers are certainly around Saudi Arabia.

Saudis have been quietly pursuing an $8.5 billion project to fence off the full length of its porous border with Yemen for some years, but the highest priority now is to get a high-tech barrier built along the 900-km (550-mile) border with Iraq. "If and when Iraq fragments, there's going to be a lot of people heading south," said Nawaf Obaid, head of the Saudi National Security Assessment Project, "and that is when we have to be prepared."

By comparison, the apparently endless debate about building a relatively low-tech fence along the 3,360-km (1,920-mile) US border with Mexico to cut illegal immigration seems like an echo from an innocent past.

The European Union's feeble gestures toward curbing illegal immigration from Africa (fences around the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla on the Moroccan coast, naval patrols off the Canary Islands) seem merely pathetic. But these are probably the last of the Good Old Days, at least in Europe.

The reason that the United States is incapable of controlling its Mexican border is political, not financial or technological: Powerful domestic lobbies work to ensure a steady supply of "undocumented" Mexican workers who will accept very low wages because they are in the United States illegally.

President Bush has now been authorized by Congress to build a fence along about 1,125 km (700 miles) of the Mexican border, but he will stall as long as he can while experimenting with a so-called "virtual fence."

No equivalent lobby operates in the European Union, and it is only a matter of time before really serious barriers appear on the EU's land frontiers, especially with Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Turkey. The walls are going up all over the world, and most of them will not come down for a long time, if ever.

- Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Abbas: In your face, International Community

Suppose that an Israeli coalition had been formed with a Kahana Chai person at the head, and Israel had told the world, "Deal with it."
For a President without a state, for a country without a GDP, totally dependent on foreign donors, Abbas is pretty defiant:
"Abbas told senior State Department official David Welch that the Mecca agreement was the only possible agreement and the world must deal with it, Abba aide Nabil Abu Rdeneh said, after the meeting in Ramallah with Welch."
Tell Abbas: The quartet conditions are the only possible conditions for Palestinians, and they must deal with them.

Last update - 17:37 17/02/2007   

Abbas to U.S. envoy: Int'l community must learn to live with PA coalition
By Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondent, and Agencies

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas delivered a defiant message to a senior U.S. envoy on Saturday, saying that the world would have to learn to live with a new coalition between his Fatah movement and the Islamic militant Hamas, an alliance which has raised concerns in Washington.
U.S. officials have told Abbas they would shun any Palestinian government that does not explicitly recognize Israel, according to Abbas aides. The platform of a Hamas-Fatah government agreed at a meeting in Mecca last week only contains a vague promise to respect previous peace deals with Israel, at best implying recognition.
Abbas told senior State Department official David Welch that the Mecca agreement was the only possible agreement and the world must deal with it, Abba aide Nabil Abu Rdeneh said, after the meeting in Ramallah with Welch.
In the three-way meeting with Olmert and Rice, President Abbas is going to say that this government should be given a chance. Abu Rdeneh said.
A Palestinian official present at Saturday's meeting, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Welch had assured Abbas that the U.S. would decide its position only when the new coalition takes office.
Palestinian negotiatior Saeb Erekat, however, said Welch reiterated Washington's insistence that the new coalition accept the conditions laid out by the so-called Quartet of peacemakers - the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union - that any Palestinian government must recognize Israel, renounce violence and honor previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements.
"We are going to judge this government according to its commitment to the
Quartet conditions," Erekat quoted the American envoy saying.
United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to meet with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni shortly after her arrival in Israel Saturday evening.
Rice made an unannounced visit to Baghdad earlier Saturday in order to meet with several Iraqi officials. She is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday to prepare for the three-way summit on Monday.
Along with Rice and Omert, Abbas will take part in Monday's summit meeting.
On Friday, Russia's RIA news agency quoted Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying "Israel and the Palestinians are likely to agree to restart peace talks during the trilateral summit scheduled for Monday."
"We expect this meeting will yield agreements about restarting talks on a definite framework for a conclusive resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict," RIA quoted Lavrov as telling Russian journalists.
Also on Friday, United States President George W. Bush spoke with Saudi and Israeli leaders about an agreement by rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah to form a unity government, the White House said.
Bush discussed Iraq and Israeli-Palestinian developments with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, where the Palestinian groups struck the deal aimed at ending factional warfare in Gaza and easing an economic embargo on the Palestinian Authority.
He spoke with Olmert about "recent developments in Palestinian political affairs" and Iran, White House National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.
Bush and Olmert also discussed coming meetings between Rice, Olmert and Abbas scheduled for Monday in Jerusalem.
On Thursday, Rice reaffirmed U.S. support for Abbas, even as she said his plan to govern alongside Hamas militants complicates U.S. peacemaking efforts.
Rice suggested Thursday that the Bush administration has strong reservations about Abbas' planned union with Hamas, but she would not confirm that U.S. diplomats have warned Abbas that Washington would shun the new government.
Rice said she will reserve judgment until the coalition government is formed and its policies clear. She said she has seen no evidence yet that the government intends to meet the Quartet's demands.
When Rice spoke to newspaper reporters, ahead of her Middle East tour, it was the first time she had addressed the deal brokered last week in Saudi Arabia without U.S. help.
In an interview on Palestinian TV late Thursday, Abbas said the international boycott would not be lifted right away, but "we will fight and struggle, and we hope this can be accomplished soon, though there are still obstacles."
On Thursday, Palestinian officials and diplomats said Washington will boycott all Palestinian unity government ministers, including non-Hamas members, unless international demands on policy towards Israel are met.
The Hamas-led government resigned Thursday, paving the way for Abbas to officially ask Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh to form the new coalition.
Some U.S. officials had been advocating a shift in Washington's position that would allow limited diplomatic contacts with cabinet ministers from Abbas' Fatah faction and other parties.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the U.S. would not make judgments about the government before it is formed and before it has an official platform. The U.S. administration also will watch the government's actions once it takes office, he said.
But a senior Palestinian official said: "The Americans have informed us that they will be boycotting the new government headed by Hamas. The Fatah and independent ministers will be treated the same way that Hamas ministers are treated."
Jacob Walles, the U.S. consul general in Jerusalem, then delivered the same message to Abbas in person Thursday, the aides said.
The aides said the U.S. officials indicated that all members of the future unity government, including independents and those belonging to Fatah, would be shunned. The U.S. government would still maintain ties with Abbas and his office, the aides added.
A meeting held earlier this week between Israelis and Palestinians to prepare for Monday's trilateral summit faltered over whether the agenda should include discussions on a final status agreement.
Olmert's bureau chief Yoram Turbowicz and political advisor Shalom Turjeman met Monday with chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and Abbas' chief of staff, Rafik al-Husseini, but were unable to resolve their differences.
The Palestinian representatives at the meeting reiterated their demand that the summit address permanent settlement issues, but the Israeli representatives rejected the topic as out of hand.
Abbas held a phone conversation Wednesday with a top U.S. government official who said that the U.S. would cooperate with the unity government only if the government accepts the conditions set forth by the Quartet.
The official reiterated prior statements conveyed to Erekat and PLO working committee member Yasser Abed Rabbo during their recent visit to Washington, that Abbas must bring about a change in Hamas' attitude. Haniyeh has already announced that the new government will not recognize Israel.
During their meeting in Amman earlier this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin also told Abbas that despite Russian statements supporting the Mecca agreement over a unity government, Moscow would only cooperate with the new government if it accepts the Quartet's demands.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Friday, February 16, 2007

Israeli Islamist Sheikh Salah calls for intifada to defend Al-Aqsa Mosque

Of course, another Intifadah is just what we need.

Last update - 13:50 16/02/2007  

Salah calls for intifada to defend Al-Aqsa Mosque

By Jonathan Lis, Haaretz Correspondent, and Haaretz Service

The head of the northern branch of Israel's Islamic Movement on Friday called for an "intifada" to save the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Israel Radio reported.

In a fiery speech at his protest tent in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Wadi Joz, Sheikh Raed Salah accused Israel of attempting to build the Temple on the Temple Mount while drenched in Arab blood, according to the report.

"Israeli history is drenched in blood," Israel Radio quoted Salah as saying. "They want to build their Temple while our blood is on their clothing, on their doorposts, in their food and in their water."

On Thursday, Salah dismissed a court ruling to extend by another month the order to keep him 150 meters away from the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem because he is accused of organizing demonstrations against Israeli renovations near the Temple Mount, spitting at police officers and calling them murderers, occupiers and cowards.

"They have no right to make decisions on anything connected to the Al-Aqsa Mosque," he said. "I emphasize that I will enter the mosque at any time I think is right."

Temple Mt. prayers end peacefully; scattered clashes in J'lem
Friday prayers at the Temple Mount ended without a recurrence of last week's violent protests against Israeli renovations near the holy site, but several clashes took place between police and Arab youths in East Jerusalem.

Police arrested 10 Arab youths in East Jerusalem, including four suspected of attacking police officers in an attempt to get into the Temple Mount. Police said the others were arrested for participating in riots to protest Israeli renovations near the Temple Mount, including five who threw stones at police near the Old City's Damascus Gate.

Arab youths also threw stones at police in the Ras al-Amud neighborhood of East Jerusalem. Police dispersed the demonstration with stun grenades.

Some 6,000 worshipers attended Friday prayers, Israel Radio reported.

Jerusalem police raised the the minimum age of worshipers allowed to enter the Temple Mount compound to 50. No restriction was imposed on female worshipers.

Police had been expecting another outbreak of the violence that erupted last week over a salvage dig near the Mugrabi Gate leading to the Temple Mount, which is meant to precede the replacement of a temporary bridge.

Police raised the alert level across the country Friday in anticipation of possible protests, deploying some 3,000 police officers in East Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, Turkey announced Thursday that a delegation led by Ankara's ambassador to Israel would visit the site of the Mugrabi ascent in the near future to investigate whether the walkway causes damage to the foundations of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Last week, the police forbade men under 45 from entering the compound, but found that many of the worshipers took part in the stone throwing and disturbances. Police considered forbidding men under 65 to enter Temple Mount this week, but ultimately decided against that for the time being.

During the past week, police arrested more than 70 worshipers who had been photographed rioting last Friday. Policemen posted along the Old City gates blocked Arab residents of Jerusalem who are under age 45 and live outside the Old City from entering. Everyone working, studying or residing within the Old City was required to present identity cards before entering.

Muslim separatists in Kashmir protest against Temple Mount dig
A strike called by separatist militants to protest against the excavations near the Temple Mount closed most shops and businesses in Kashmir's main city of Srinagar on Friday.

Traffic was thin and most streets in Srinagar, summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, India's only Muslim-majority state, were deserted in response to the call by Islamist militants fighting New Delhi's rule in the disputed region.

"We appeal to Kashmiri Muslims to protest against the nefarious designs of Israel," Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen, a hardline militant group, said in a statement. Al-Badr, another militant group, backed the call.

Scores of Muslims shouting "Al-Aqsa mosque is crying ... down with Israel" took to streets of Srinagar and burnt Israeli flags.

Israel ups policing at al-Aqsa site
Israeli police have deployed in force on a planned day of Palestinian protest against controversial work near Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque.

To guard against possible unrest, 3,000 policemen and border guards fanned out around Jerusalem's Old City, as Israel tightened restrictions on those attending prayers on Friday.

Mohammed Hussein, the Palestinian mufti, and Raed Salah, the head of Israel's Islamic Movement, have urged people to mobilise against continuing Israeli excavations that Muslims say endanger the al-Aqsa mosque compound site.

Only Muslim men aged over 50 and in possession of Israeli identity cards are being allowed to attend Friday prayers at the mosque, although there are no restrictions on women. Communal Friday prayers are a religious obligation for Muslim men.

Al Jazeera's Barnaby Philips said men who had been prevented from entering the mosque were praying outside on the street and that at least three people had been arrested.

Illegal demonstration

A Jerusalem court has banned Salah from coming within 150m of the Old City walls for two months, after finding him guilty of participating in an illegal demonstration against the work and assaulting a police officer.

Salah vowed to ignore the Israeli court's order.

"I have the right to enter al-Aqsa," Salah told Al Jazeera. "We have the right to protect the al-Aqsa mosque and confront the Israeli occupation.

"I hope that 10,000 of our people will head towards al-Aqsa mosque today [Friday]."

Israel's increased police presence comes after 15 police and at least 20 Palestinians were wounded in clashes at the al-Aqsa compound on a similar day of protest against the Israeli works last Friday.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Continued (Permanent Link)

Rice: US is not boycotting Palestinians, reserves judgement

[These two stories add to the confusion about the US stand. Palestinian sources previously announced that the US had told them they would shun the new government:
16 Feb 2007 10:09:51 GMT
Source: Reuters
DUBAI, Feb 16 (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice denied in comments aired on Friday that the United States had decided to boycott all ministers of a Palestinian unity government now being formed.

In an interview with Al Arabiya television, Rice said Washington would reserve judgement on the new Palestinian government until it was formed but hoped it would respect the wishes of the Quartet of Middle East mediators that it accept existing interim peace accords and recognise Israel.

"We have said we will wait until the formation of the government before we decide how to deal with it, but we have made clear that there should be a commitment to the principles of the Quartet and that is the basis on which we will judge this government," Rice said in comments that were dubbed into Arabic.

"There is no government so far and we will not judge it before its formation," she said in excerpts of the interview aired on Arabiya's news broadcasts.

It was not immediately possible to obtain the comments in their original English form.

A senior Palestinian official and diplomats said on Thursday the United States would boycott all Palestinian unity government ministers, including those who were not members of Hamas, until it was satisfied the government had met the demands of the Quartet -- the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas formally asked Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas on Thursday to form a unity government and urged him to respect peace accords with Israel.

Haniyeh vowed to "work in accordance" with Abbas's letter of designation but did not specifically say if Hamas would recognise the Jewish state or renounce violence.

Abbas reached an agreement with Hamas in Saudi Arabia this month over the formation of a unity government aimed at ending a Western blockade in place since Hamas came to power in March.

Rice is due to meet Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Feb 19 but uncertainty over the Palestinian unity government complicates the summit.

The meeting had been billed as the start of a new U.S. peace effort but some Israeli officials say it will now focus on U.S. and Israeli concerns over the unity government.

Rice sceptical about PA unity deal

Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, has said the unclear character of the new Palestinian government has complicated her meeting next week with Palestinian and Israeli leaders.

"It's obviously more complicated because of the uncertainties surrounding the national unity government," Rice said, referring to the agreement between the Hamas and Fatah factions.

"But then in the Middle East if you wait for the perfect circumstances you would probably never take the airplane," Rice said in an interview with US newspaper reporters.

The talks had been billed as the start of a renewed US effort to try to broker a Middle East peace deal, but Rice and others sought to lower expectations.


Some officials in Jerusalem have said the focus would be on US and Israeli concerns about the unity government deal.

"The purpose of the trilateral is just really to begin a conversation to look on how we can move forward on what everyone believes is the most important goal of two states living side by side," said Rice.

But Middle Eastern diplomats and analysts pointed to the weakness of both Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of Fatah and the Palestinian president, as well as changes in the president's tactics by forging a deal with Hamas.

The Bush administration is deliberating on how to handle contacts with a new Palestinian government that includes both Hamas and Fatah.

A Palestinian official said Abbas was told that Washington would boycott all members unless international demands on policy towards Israel were met.

But Rice, who declined to discuss diplomatic conversations with the Palestinians, said Washington was holding back on making any judgments until details of a new government were known.

"We are not going to jump the gun here," she said. But Rice made clear that the US fully supported Abbas and his peace efforts with Israel.

"It would be a very big mistake to not continue to deal with him and to not continue to build on his commitment to a two-state solution and to non-violence," she said.


The US goal of bolstering Abbas and isolating Hamas has also hit a snag in congress, where a US lawmaker is blocking a request by the Bush administration for $86m to help train Abbas's security forces.

"The strategy of strengthening Abu Mazen [Abbas] over Hamas has been pre-empted and that changes both what the US was trying to do and how the US was trying to do it," said Middle East expert Jon Alterman.

Ned Walker, the former US ambassador to Israel and Egypt, said it was unrealistic to expect any breakthroughs from next week's three-way meeting in Jerusalem.

"It seems to me that it is good to do this, but we should not put too much of a high expectation on this and undercut the secretary and her efforts," said Walker.

Source: Agencies

Continued (Permanent Link)

Palestinian Politics 101: Islamic Jihad likes the Mecca Accords Too

The principles of Palestinian politics are further illustrated in this announcement from the Islamic Jihad movement. They accept the Mecca accords of the unity government. As noteed in this article:
Al-Hindi told the press that the conveners in Mecca agreed on broad lines and left several details unsettled. He was referring to the ambiguity around the terms "respect" and "commitment" [referring to the obligations of the new government to abide by decisions of past governments], which leaves the agreement open to interpretation.
"Open to interpretation" indeed. Everything is open to interpretation. Here we have again, the principles of obfuscation, as Islamic Jihad gets ready to play its role of bad cop in the Palestinian political array. Al-Hindi states that his movement has:
 "a clear political horizon, represented in the refusal to recognize Israel, and the Quartet, in addition to our dedication to resistance."

Islamic Jihad give cautious welcome to Mecca accords
Date: 15 / 02 / 2007  Time:  19:36

Gaza - Ma'an - The leader within the Islamic Jihad movement, Dr Muhammad Al-Hindi, has on Thursday welcomed the Mecca accords as the first steps toward saving Palestinian blood, "despite some reservations the Islamic Jihad has over the agreement".

Al-Hindi told the press that the conveners in Mecca agreed on broad lines and left several details unsettled. He was referring to the ambiguity around the terms "respect" and "commitment" [referring to the obligations of the new government to abide by decisions of past governments], which leaves the agreement open to interpretation.

Al-Hindi added that, "political partnership isn't necessarily limited to participation in this government, however, there are several other issues which are important, which have been neglected during the composition of the government."

He related the mutual fear between Hamas and Fatah to the absence of a political goal and partnership. The Jihad leader affirmed that his movement is based on "a clear political horizon, represented in the refusal to recognize Israel, and the Quartet, in addition to our dedication to resistance."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Principles of Palestinian Politics: Abbas: We Abide by Agreements Signed by PLO

The "unity government" takes advantage of priniciples developed by the late Yasser Arafat and expands on them, leveraging on the Hamas-Fatah split.
A first principle is obfuscation. Abbas says "we renounce terror." This is achieved not by any practical change, but by redefining terror as "resistance."
A second principle is deniability. Arafat pioneered this principle in the 1970s, when Black September was attacking US interests and killing Israeli athletes. Arafat insisted that this movement was a "splinter faction" that he did not control. He said the same of terror carried out after 2000. However, Israeli and US intelligence findings showed conclusively that Arafat had given the orders for these operations or hired the terrorists.
A third principle is "good cop-bad cop." This has played a prominent part in Palestinian strategy since 1994, and finds its fullest expression in the unity government agreement. As Suffian Abu-Zeid noted, "anyone can understand this agreement as they wish." The PLO can say they abide by agreements and recognize Israel. The Hamas can say they will never recognize Israel.
The report below illustrates the first two principles in operation. Numerous Hamas statements that insist that the agreement does not require recognition of Israel illustrate the third point.

President Abbas: We Abide by Agreements Signed by PLO

GAZA, February 16, 2007 (WAFA - PLO news agency)- President Mahmoud Abbas said we have totally abided by the agreements signed by the PLO and we are committed to the international resolutions related to the Palestinian cause, we are also committed to the Road Map and the vision of President Bush of two states.

In an interview with Palestine TV the President affirmed: We are also committed to renouncing terrorism which late President Yasser Arafat announced in 1988. We are abided by all these issues as we are also
committed to the Arab peace initiative in 2002 which we honorably
participated in its formulation.

Hereby is unofficial translation of the interview:

Q: After this long trip of dialogue and indifferences in big Arab stations,
topped with the Saudi initiative, you signed the Mecca Agreement, as well as
you handed the commissioning letter, how do you evaluate these efforts and
what exactly the role of the Arabs, Palestinian factions and civil society?

A: In fact, the efforts were restless, they took a long and hard time,
because we wanted to reach a result. No doubt, there were impediments and
stations which we can describe as a mess the Palestinian arena witnesses. In
spite of all this, I would like to say that we passed through more than
dialogue in Doha, Damascus and Cairo, till we reached Mecca.

The dialogue in Mecca is distinguished for its sacredness as it took place
in the cradle of the Islamic religion. In this station, the dialogue was
mounted with the sought results we wished to form a national unity

Hence, we succeed in putting an acceptable political framework for this
Government, to end all acts taking place from time to time between brothers
either in the Gaza Strip or in the West Bank.

I do not deny that all Arabs were hopefully waiting for the results of Mecca
dialogue as they were enthusiastic for the dialogue and keen for its

In addition, the Palestinian arena, I mean the private sector and civil
society were eager than us, the Palestinian factions, for the success of the
dialogue, they had been urging us to reach this agreement, we thank God that
we fulfilled the appeals of the people, the homeland and the conscious, as
we achieved the agreement.

Q: Mecca station and the good Saudi offices was the top of various Arab
efforts beside the Palestinians', how do you comment on this station?

A: Today, I mentioned some of theses exerted efforts. But, we could not
point out all of them, for instance: When there is a Palestinian-Palestinian
fighting or dialogue, a lot of Arab countries contact us and tell us:
"Please come to us to talk with each other, please, we want you to
succeed.", in such attitudes, we felt that all of them wish we have to
succeed. I mean Qatar and Syria, and no doubt Egypt. Egypt has a key role,
and Jordan also, there are a lot of stations we passed through. In all
stations we felt that all of them are eager for the success of our dialogue
and to exit from the neck of the bottle we live in, and thank God we

Q: Being the Chairman of the PLO and the President of the PNA, you are in
charge of the political and negotiations files, do you find that the (Mecca)
Agreement and the letter of commissioning cohere with this task?

A: In general, the PLO is the only body in charge of the political and
negotiations files and I think that the letter of commissioning is enough
for the upcoming government which is asked to abide by this letter. Now, as
PNA and officials, we have totally abided by the agreements signed by the
PLO and we are committed to the international resolutions related to the
Palestinian cause, we are also committed to the Road Map and the vision of
President Bush of two states. We are also committed to renouncing terrorism
which late President Yasser Arafat announced in 1988. We are abided by all
these issues as we are also committed to the Arab peace initiative in 2002
which we honorably participated in its formulation.

Accordingly these issues are reflected in the Agreement. But frankly
speaking, I say, being the Chairman of the PLO, we are committed to all the
Palestinian legitimacies, I mean the resolutions of the Palestinian National
Council and the agreements signed by the PLO as well as the Arab and
international legitimacies.

All these issues were undoubtedly mentioned in the letter of commissioning
and they might raise some questions, but let me say that we are committed to
all these obligations, we will never renounce these commitments because
first and foremost we are in charge of the negotiations and political files
as well as the obligations of the PLO since it was established to this

Q: Are you optimistic about your meeting with the Israeli PM Ehud Olmert and
the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice? Or are we going to witness a new
round of hard struggle for you have always affirmed you want start the final
status negotiations?

A: In fact, it is the first time to hear a new tone from the Americans.It
speaks about final and comprehensive negotiations. For more than one time,
we have given our stance of a state with temporary borders and we recently
heard of nearly similar stance from USA. So, for the first time, we feel a
serious American position aiming at ending the Palestinian file. We fully
welcome this [US] intention and seriousness therefore we will meet it with
more seriousness and deeper aspiration to resolve our issues during this
period, a year or less than a year. For that reason, we say we go to this
meeting with open hearts and hope to reach a final solution to the cause.

Q: What is your message to the Palestinian people who lived in the sorrowful
infighting and now living among the good news of the agreement and the
letter of commissioning?

A: I say to the Palestinian people that we pray to God that the black days
and the days of fighting will never return. I tell the Palestinian people
that there is a national unity, and it will be a fact through the new
government. But we say that there are still suffering, and we can not
promise the people that the siege would be lifted. We will struggle to lift
the siege. There are still obstacles relevant to the siege and we hope it
will be soon lifted.

We say that we will reach an agreement on the Palestinian prisoners who
spent tens of years [in Israeli jails], in addition to the ministers and
lawmakers. In the meantime, we say that the Israeli prisoner should be
released. While we are calling for freedom for our prisoners, we frankly
call for the release of this soldier and to end his problem and we call for
a comprehensive solution for all the prisoners.

S.A.S & A.D (01:51 P) (11:51 GMT)

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Saudi Arabian Investment - Guess Where?

If true, this is more valuable than US foreign aid.

Saudi prince to build hotel in Tel Aviv
Date: 15 / 02 / 2007  Time:  09:25

Ma'an - Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal is in negotiations to build an eight-storey, 150-room hotel on Tel Aviv's coastline, the Israeli newspaper 'Yedioth Ahranoth' reported in its online edition.

The Israeli paper says that two architects have already started working on the project. One is Bin Talal's private architect, who had worked with him on oriental hotels across the world, Basel al-Beiti. The other is former Tel Aviv Chief City Engineer, Yisrael Gudovich.

The planned project is a joint venture with the Abulafya family in Tel Aviv, the paper says.

Bin Talal is the nephew of the late Saudi King Faisal. He is considered to be extremely wealthy (the paper suggests he is worth $26.4 billion) with an empire that includes holdings in banks, financing and investment firms, hi-tech and communications companies, leading hotels in the United States, Europe and the Arab world, and tourist sites.

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Poll: Continue Temple Mount construction 52.0%:34.1%

Poll: Don't halt Mugrabi Gate construction 52.0%:34.1%, Don't cooperate with
PA unity gov't 51.7%:39.9%, Hold new elections 47.4%:36.2%
Dr. Aaron Lerner     Date: 15 February 2007

Telephone poll of a representative sample of 530 adult Israelis (including
Arab Israelis) carried out by Geocartographia for Israel Radio's "Its all
Talk" on 14 February 2007

In light of the disturbances that took place in the Old City of Jerusalem in the wake of construction at the Mugrabi Gate do you support the proposal to halt the construction at the Mugrabi Gate?
Total: Yes 34.1% No 52.0% Other replies 13.9%
Voted Kadima: Yes 39.9% No 48.2% Other replies 11.9%
Voted Likud: Yes 14.8% No 82.9% Other replies 2.2%
Voted Labor: Yes 39.1% No 31.3% Other replies 29.6%
Voted Yisrael Beiteinu: Yes 5.4% No 94.6%

Should Israel cooperate with the Palestinian unity government that is expected to form in accordance with an agreement signed in Mecca between Hamas and Abu Mazen (AL: aka Mahmoud Abbas)?
Total: Yes 39.9% No 51.7% Other replies 8.4%
Voted Kadima: Yes 41.8% No 43.5% Other replies 14.7%
Voted Likud: Yes 19.3% No 80.7%
Voted Labor: Yes 69.8% No 24.8% Other replies 5.4%
Voted Yisrael Beiteinu: Yes 12.0% No 82.6% Other replies 5.4%

The retiring COS Dan Halutz, said "the number two in his jet shot him in the back".  Of the following, who do you think Dan Halutz had in mind?
Deputy COS Kaplinsky 5.2% DM Peretz 19.5% The generals who called for his
resignation 19.5%
PM Olmert 6.2% All the above 3.1% Don't know 46.5%

Has your feeling of security increased or decreased as a result of Gabi Ashkenazi becoming COS?
Total: Increased 27.4% Decreased 11.3% Unchanged 52.6% Don't know 8.7%

Do you support dispersing the Knesset and holding new elections?
Total: Yes 74.4% No 36.2% Other replies 16.4%
Voted Kadima: Yes 42.3% No 47.0% Other replies 10.7%
Voted Likud: Yes 72.1% No 23.4% Other replies 4.5%
Voted Labor: Yes 20.3% No 63.0% Other replies 16.7%
Voted Yisrael Beiteinu: Yes 88.0% No 12.0%

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

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Blood Libel book condemned by Bar Ilan, Stopped by Professor Toaff

OK. So why can't the University of Haifa do this with Ilan Pappe's work?


Bar-Ilan University Condemns Publication of Book on Blood Libels

University expects Prof. Ariel Toaff to take immediate measures to repair the damage caused by the publication of his book

Following a preliminary investigation into the circumstances surrounding the publication of Prof. Ariel Toaff's book in Italy, Bar-Ilan University is expressing great anger and extreme displeasure at Prof. Ariel Toaff, for his lack of sensitivity in publishing his book about blood libels in Italy. His choice of a private publishing firm in Italy, the book's provocative title and the interpretations given by the media to its contents, have offended the sensitivities of Jews around the world and harmed the delicate fabric of relations between Jews and Christians.

Bar-Ilan University strongly condemns and repudiates what is seemingly implied by Toaff's book and by reports in the media concerning its contents, as if there is a basis for the blood libels that led to the murder of millions of innocent Jews.

Bar-Ilan University's executive leadership and academic faculty have consistently condemned any attempt to justify the terrible blood libels against the Jews. Prof. Toaff should have demonstrated greater sensitivity and caution in his handling of the book and its publication, in a manner that would have prevented the distorted and offensive reports and

At Bar-Ilan University it is expected that now, after the extent of the damage caused to the Jewish public has become apparent, Prof. Toaff will take personal responsibility for his blunder and act to repair the damage which he caused.

In addition, the University expects all those involved in the matter to work to set the record straight and to remove the needless cloud that has formed in the wake of the distorted accounts.

For further information, contact:
Shmuel Elgrably, Bar-Ilan University Spokesman
Tel: +972-505-401410

February 14, 2007


In light of the false and distorted interpretation given to my recently published book, I have requested the Italian publishing house "El Molino" to immediately stop further distribution of the book, in order that I may re-edit those passages which comprised the basis of the distortions and falsehoods that have been published in the media.  I was astounded by the
sheer force of these misrepresentations, which turned what is a research book into a vehicle used to harm Judaism and the Jewish people and, G-d forbid, as a justification for blood libel.

I feel deeply responsible for the recent events which have transpired, and in order to express my profound regret regarding the misrepresentations that were attributed to me and which hurt the Jewish people, I have decided to donate all the funds forthcoming from the sale of this publication to further the activities of the Anti-Defamation League.  I will never allow any Jew-hater to use me or my research as an instrument for fanning the flames, once again, of the hatred that led to the murder of millions of Jews.  I extend my sincerest apologies to all those who were offended by the articles and twisted facts that were attributed to me and to my book.

In order to prevent the continuation of these horrible distortions, I have decided to ask my publisher to stop the book's distribution, so that I can insert the requisite clarifications as speedily as possible.  I am taking these steps in order to prevent the further misuse of my book as anti-Semitic propaganda.

Prof. Ariel Toaff
Tel:  +972-3-641-4410
Mobile:  +972-52-432-5704

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

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Officials: U.S. to boycott all Palestinian ministers

"Not meeting" means not meeting in public.

Last update - 15:22 15/02/2007   

Officials: U.S. to boycott all Palestinian ministers
By Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondent

The United States will boycott all Palestinian unity government ministers, including non-Hamas members, unless international demands on policy towards Israel are met, a Palestinian official and diplomats said on Thursday.
Some U.S. officials had been advocating a shift in Washington's position that would allow limited diplomatic contacts with cabinet ministers from moderate President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction and other parties.
But a senior Palestinian official said: "The Americans have informed us that they will be boycotting the new government headed by Hamas. The Fatah and independent ministers will be treated the same way that Hamas ministers are treated."
Diplomats familiar with discussions on the issue confirmed Washington's intention to shun members of the unity government unless it satisfied international calls for Hamas to recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept interim peace accords.
U.S. contacts with Abbas would not be affected although diplomatic sources said relations have been strained by his power-sharing deal with Hamas Islamists, a pact that fell short of meeting the demands for the policy changes.
U.S. officials declined to comment and said Washington was waiting to see how a new government would shape up.
Talks on 3-way summit falter over final status issue
A meeting held earlier this week between Israelis and Palestinians to prepare for an upcoming trilateral summit faltered over whether the agenda should include discussions on a final status agreement.
The meeting between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Abbas and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is set to take place in Jerusalem on Monday.
Olmert's bureau chief Yoram Turbowicz and his political advisor Shalom Turjeman met Monday with chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and Abbas' chief of staff, Rafik al-Husseini, but were unable to resolve their differences.
The Palestinian representatives at the meeting reiterated their demand that the summit address permanent settlement issues, but the Israeli representatives rejected the topic as out of hand.
Rice is scheduled to meet with Abbas in Ramallah on Monday to try to reach an agreement on the agenda for the summit.
Abbas held a phone conversation Wednesday with a top U.S. government official who said that the U.S. would cooperate with the unity government only if the government accepts the conditions set forth by the Quartet of Middle East peace mediators: recognizing Israel, abiding by prior agreements and renouncing violence.
The official reiterated prior statements conveyed to Erekat and PLO working committee member Yasser Abed Rabbo during their recent visit to Washington, the Abbas must bring about a change in Hamas' attitude. Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh has already announced that the new government will not recognize Israel.
During their meeting in Amman earlier this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin also told Abbas that despite Russian statements supporting the Mecca agreement over a unity government, Moscow would only cooperate with the new government if it accepts the Quartet's demands.

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Chirac: Appease Iran to protect French troops

For Chirac, the safety of a few thousand French troops are more important than the lives of 7 million Israelis. Remember Jacques: Even if Jews don't count, more than a million of us are Arabs.

Last update - 09:10 15/02/2007   

Chirac backs easing pressure on Iran to protect UNIFIL troops
By Aluf Benn, Haaretz Correspondent

French President Jacque Chirac has announced his support for lessening pressure on Iran to stop its nuclear program, for fear Hezbollah will strike at French troops serving in Lebanon, according to information recently received in Jerusalem. According to reports, Chirac proposed sending a special envoy to Tehran to reach understandings that would protect the French soldiers serving in in the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL).
A government source said Chirac's position is controversial in Paris, with the French Foreign Ministry continuing to support a hard line with regard to the Iranian nuclear program, a position also expressed Wednesday by the French ambassador to Israel, Jean-Michel Casa, in an interview with Haaretz.
Chirac told reporters at the end of January that it would not be terrible if Iran had a nuclear bomb or two, but quickly reversed himself following protests from officials at home. Israeli experts said that the link Chirac is making between French presence in Lebanon and the closing down of Iran's nuclear program shows the shortcomings of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the second Lebanon war. According to one expert, Israel "begged the French to send soldiers to Lebanon" and end up paying for it by damaging its strategic interests. Israel is conducting an intensive international diplomatic effort to increase sanctions on Iran, in an attempt to put a stop to its nuclear program.

About two weeks ago, the United States under secretary of state for arms control and international security, Robert Joseph, visited Israel with his successor, John Rood, now chief of international security in the State Department. They two were briefed by Israeli experts on Iran's domestic situation and discussed ways of promoting sanctions.
The Security Council voted to impose "soft sanctions" on Iran in the face of its refusal to stop enriching uranium. But the sanctions committee has yet to be created.
The European Union has not created an agreed-on policy regarding enforcement of sanctions.
The Foreign Ministry's deputy director general for strategic affairs, Miriam Ziv, went to Moscow at the head of an interministerial delegation to talks on Iran's nuclear program. The Russians told her they were sending harshly worded messages to Iran on all levels and had even met with Iran's spiritual leader, Ali Khamani.
This week Ziv will meet in Berlin with senior German Foreign Ministry officials.
A government source in Jerusalem said foreign delegations listen to Israel, and are not trying to create a link between stopping Iran's nuclear program and regional nuclear disarmament or progress toward a peace agreement on the Israeli-Palestinian front.

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Jordanian MPs claim Jerusalem dig violates peace treaty with Israel

Last update - 09:17 15/02/2007   
Jordanian MPs: Jerusalem dig violates peace pact with Israel
By Jonathan Lis and Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondents and DPA

At least 25 Jordanian lawmakers have signed a petition urging the government to officially declare that Israel has "violated" the peace treaty concluded between the two countries in 1994 by going ahead with excavations near Jerusalem's al-Aqsa Mosque, parliamentary sources said Thursday.
Accordingly, the deputies said, the government should summon the Jordanian ambassador from Tel Aviv and "dismiss" the Israeli ambassador from Amman.
"We hereby urge the government to officially declare that Israel has violated the article 9 of the peace treaty by conducting excavations at al-Aqsa Mosque," the lawmakers said in their memorandum.

Article 9 commits Israel to respect Jordan's role in looking after the Islamic and Christian holy shrines in East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in 1967.
The parliamentary memorandum coincides with Jordanian contacts with Arab and Islamic countries as well as with world powers to put pressure on Israel to halt its construction work at the Temple Mount road leading to al-Aqsa Mosque's Mugrabi Gate.
Jerusalem police prepared for violence around Temple Mount
Jerusalem police are prepared for more violence on and around the Temple Mount to protest the nearby construction work.
The northern branch of the Islamic Movement is planning a large demonstration in East Jerusalem. Leader Sheikh Ra'ad Salah is barred by a restraining order from entering the Old City and plans to deliver his Friday sermon in his protest tent in Wadi Joz.
On Thursday afternoon, the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court will rule on the state's request to extend Salah's restraining order by 60 days. At Wednesday's hearing, the police submitted footage from Channel 2 News allegedly showing Salah spitting at police officers. The state said the officers involved testified that Salah had spit at them. Salah is heard calling the police officers "murderers," "occupiers" and "cowards." Another photograph, from a security camera above Dung Gate, shows Salah directing demonstrators last week.
Salah appeared at the hearing without counsel, by choice. He refused to recognize the authority of the court and its rulings. "An Israeli court has no authority to rule on issues connected to Al-Aqsa Mosque," Salah said. "Thus any decision made by this court over keeping me away from Al-Aqsa is null and void."

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Israeli doctors treating more Palestinians

The circumloquitous headline below is apparently the Palestinian and UN way of thanking the Israelis sons of dogs and apes for free medical treatment.
More Palestinians entering Israel on health grounds, Israeli coordination office reports
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
BEIT EL/TEL AVIV, 15 February2007 (IRIN) - More and more Palestinians are gaining permission to enter Israel and East Jerusalem for medical reasons - one of the few ways they can still obtain a permit.
Behind an oversized desk, Dalia Bessa, the Health Coordinator for the Israeli Civil Administration in the West Bank, answers her numerous phones in Hebrew, English and Arabic. One woman needs a permit to go to Jerusalem for cancer treatment; on another line, a report comes in about a car accident near Nablus. A moment later a Palestinian director of an East Jerusalem hospital files his request.
"We got 81,000 Palestinians permits to enter Israel for health reasons in 2006, a rise of 61 percent from 2005," Bessa says from her office in Beit El, near Ramallah. Without those permits, no hospital will grant entry to a Palestinian patient.
She believes the increase is due to the Israeli security barrier, which limits Palestinians' movements, and a strike in the medical sector. She expects even more Palestinians to require permits in 2007.
While fewer and fewer Palestinians from the West Bank, and none from Gaza, are able to enter Israel to work - a situation unlikely to change - Bessa says 90 percent of applicants are granted permits when the reason is medical.
Karni Crossing, the main commercial crossing into the Gaza Strip, is frequently closed by Israel due to intelligence alleging imminent attacks.
The Israeli human rights organisation Gisha has filed a High Court petition demanding that Karni be open longer so that aid can get through to Gaza. A hearing is set for the end of February.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) owes more than US$1 million in penalty fees to storage companies at the Ashdod Port in southern Israel, since it is unable to transfer containers in and out of the Gaza Strip quickly enough. This is wasted aid money, UNRWA officials say.
Shlomo Dror, a spokesman at the Israeli Ministry of Defence, says that without the international aid organisations there would be a humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian areas. "We don't want a crisis like that," Dror emphasised. "But, if one did emerge, we would have to go in [to the Palestinian areas] and help. But we want the Palestinian Authority to take responsibility, not us."
Gabi Ashkenazi replaced Dan Halutz on Wednesday as the Israeli Chief-of-Staff but the coordination branches are expected to remain the same. However, work with the Palestinian side may improve if the Palestinians establish a unity government, as the military will not deal with Hamas.
Major Peter Lerner, in charge of humanitarian coordination in the Gaza Strip, explains that the army has implemented changes.
"Before 2003, we had three people doing this. Now 21 people coordinate humanitarian affairs in the Palestinian areas," he says, "leading to better services and operations."
This item comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian news and information service, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. IRIN is a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
The information in this article is not compiled by Ma'an reporters

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Palestinians claim: Israel continues dig close to Al-Aqsa;

Actually, it seems only salvage digging is going on, as the plan is suspended. 

Israel continues dig close to Al-Aqsa; Jordanian legislators urge Jordan to revoke peace treaty with Israel
Date: 15 / 02 / 2007  Time:  12:31   

Jerusalem - Ma'an - Israel continued on Wednesday its controversial dig close to the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque in the old city of Jerusalem. The Israeli authorities demolished part of the Magharbeh (also known as 'Moroccan' or 'Dung') Gate and two rooms.
For the 9th consecutive day, works continued to take place close to the third holiest site for Muslims worldwide, the Al-Aqsa Mosque, causing continued outrage across the Islamic world.
The Israeli authorities erected tents, allegedly deliberately to prevent the media from photographing or documenting the excavation works.
Sheikh Raed Salah, the chairman of the Islamic movement in Israel, is currently barred by a restraining order from entering Jerusalem's old city, following his involvement in protests against Israel's controversial dig close to Al-Aqsa Mosque. He is accused of spitting at the Israeli police and directing the demonstrations.
During a hearing at Jerusalem's magistrate court on Wednesday, Salah asserted that "An Israeli court has no authority to rule on issues connected to Al-Aqsa Mosque." He continued, "Thus any decision made by this court over keeping me away from Al-Aqsa is null and void." He asserted that the indictment against him was completely illegal and pledged to prove the illegality at a future date.
It is reported that Sheikh Salah plans to deliver his Friday sermon this week in his protest tent in Wadi Joz, a neighborhood of east Jerusalem close to the old city. He is banned from getting within 150 meters of the old city. He is urging inhabitants of Jerusalem and Israel to join him in the protest tent.
The Al-Aqsa charitable foundation has reported that Israel has doubled the number of laborers working on the excavations, and that a small machine used in excavation operations has been added to the apparatus.
In another development, at least 25 Jordanian lawmakers have signed a petition urging the government to officially declare that Israel has "violated" the peace treaty concluded between the two countries in 1994 by going ahead with excavations near Jerusalem's al-Aqsa Mosque, the Israeli newspaper 'Haaretz' said on Thursday quoting parliamentary sources.
Article 9 of the peace treaty commits Israel to respect Jordan's role in looking after the Islamic and Christian holy shrines in East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in 1967.
Haaretz says that the Jordanian members of parliament called on their government to summon the Jordanian ambassador from Tel Aviv back to Jordan and to "dismiss" the Israeli ambassador from Amman.

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Don't throw matches in kerosene barrels: Temple Mount wisdom

His is right, and also those who claim Israel should not give in to blackmail are right. Everyone is right.

Temple Mount wisdom
Arab claims hypocritical, but our own leaders should handle crisis wisely
Gilad Kariv Published:  02.14.07, 17:22 / Israel Opinion

If I had the opportunity to launch a radio advertising campaign that would reach our leaders, I think I would choose the slogan: "On Temple Mount don't be right – be smart." With a sort of scary cyclicality that repeats every five years, the Temple Mount is again about to bring bloodshed that makes its sanctity frightening and threatening.
Ten years after the Western Wall Tunnel was opened and five years after the bloody clash between Israeli Arabs and security forces, we're again at the edge of an abyss, which is hidden from view in the mists of sanctity, slogans, and an unending desire to "demonstrate to the other side."
Many words can be written about the hypocrisy of Islamic Movement leaders and the group of Arab Knesset members who were quick to tow the line. Anyone with eyes in their head and an honest heart knows that repairing a bridge at the Mugrabi Gate isn't part of an Israeli conspiracy to take over Temple Mount, and that those are indeed renovation works whose time has come.
The endless scope of the hypocrisy is further clarified in light of the fact that in recent years the Waqf authorities, with the Islamic Movement's encouragement, remove hundreds of tons of Temple Mount soil that contains archeological findings holding immense religious and historical significance. The Waqf also dug huge halls under the al-Aqsa Mosque and almost brought about the collapse of the holy Mount's supporting walls.
With this being the daily reality at the Mount, the arguments articulated by leaders of the Islamic Movement and those who back them show nothing but a lack of religious, public, and leadership integrity.
Publicize detailed work plans
Yet I'm not looking for Ra'ad Salah and his friends to show wisdom, but rather, for the wisdom, good judgment, and sense of responsibility meant to be exercised by our leaders every step of the way. In the volatile reality that characterizes the relationship between the Arab-Muslim minority and the Jewish majority in recent years, one must wonder in the face of the Israeli government's insistence to continue the works near the Mount immediately and without delay.
What kind of damage would have been caused had the government announced the works were being frozen for two weeks and invited Arab Knesset members and public figures to an open and dignified debate on the matter? If they complied with the invitation, it would have been great. Otherwise, the government could have at least shown that it wasn't insisting on acting stubbornly.
 Why shouldn't the government publicize the detailed work plans and present them to the Arab public? Why should observers from the Arab community, relevant academicians or clerics, be invited to monitor the works? What would happen had our leaders used this opportunity to signal to the Arab community in Israel that its fears and outcries – even if those lack a factual basis – are being heard in Jerusalem?
A wonder of wonders: In current-day Israel, one bone that apparently belongs to a Byzantine soldier is enough to delay the paving of the Cross-Israel Highway for months. One protest by the ultra-Orthodox, who ignore all the religious rulings that permit the removal of graves for the benefit of the public, was enough to make our leaders realize the need to take feelings into account, reach compromises, engage in secret negotiations with community leaders, and all the other well-known methods for calming tensions.
However, when it comes to Israeli Arabs and their sensitivities, there is no room for these mechanisms on the Israeli agenda – here, it is suddenly appropriate for justice, public order, the rule of law and Israeli sovereignty to make their clear, uncompromising voice heard.
At this time, there is a huge struggle taking place among the Arab community in Israel between those who wish to violently separate from the State and those who despite all their frustrations hope that we can coexist here. To our regret, the former group is growing stronger. In light of the recent events, it appears that the Israeli government, without intending to do so, is providing a backwind to those who view it and its representatives as bitter enemies.
This isn't the first time we're contributing to the boost in the power of radicals, whose religious fervor is merely a veneer for their hatred. The troubling question is why the hell don't we learn from experience?

On second thought, why come up with a modern-day slogan for my radio campaign when I can go back to our heritage and again be jealous in the face of previous generations' wisdom. It was Ben Zoma who already taught us: "Who is a hero? He who controls his urges. Better one who is slow to anger than one who is mighty, and one who rules his spirit than the captor of a city."
Let's hope that in the coming week our leaders' heart will be filled with the heroism of Ben Zoma and not that of the zealots, who 2,000 years ago brought the fires to the Temple Mount's gates.
The writer is a reform rabbi and attorney

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46% of Jewish Israelis want talks with PA unity government


Half of Israelis want talks with PA unity government

Forty-six percent of Jewish population in country supports renewing negotiations with Hamas-Fatah cabinet, if established. 'Olmert must answer challenge, start dialogue, says Geneva Initiative official
Roee Nahmias Published:  02.14.07, 22:48 / Israel News
Forty-six percent of the Jewish population in Israel supports renewing negotiations with a Palestinian unity government if and when it is established, reveals a study conducted on behalf of the Geneva Initiative.
The survey found that 37.4 percent object to such negotiations and 16.1 percent of the people asked replied that they did not know.

Members of the Geneva Initiative were satisfied by these results. "After a six-year standstill, the Mecca accord will lead to the establishment of a Palestinian unity government, providing an opportunity for Israel to renew negotiations for a permanent solution," said Gadi Baltiansky, Director General of the Geneva Initiative.
Start negotiations as soon as possible

"Our studies, performed on a regular basis, show us that the majority of Israelis demand that the government return to the negotiation table. They accept the outline of the Geneva Accord as a basis for the permanent solution. The prime minister (Ehud Olmert) has to answer the challenge and start the dialogue without delay," Baltiansky said.
At a special meeting scheduled for Wednesday evening in Tel Aviv, Israeli Housing and Construction Minister Meir Sheetrit will meet with Faris Qadoura, one of the leaders of the Geneva Initiative and a Hamas official.
This is the first public meeting between Israeli and Palestinian officials since the Mecca accord, in which Faris was involved. His name has come up as a possible minister in the unity government.

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Iranian Military Exercises and the Power of Headlines

If this was an Israeli military exercise reported by Mahnaimi in the Sunday Times, what would the headline look like? "Israelis practising attack on Iran," no doubt.

Iran jets in long-range training

Expert tells Ynetnews reported Iran air force exercise may be tied to Israel, but threat not major
Yaakov Lappin Published:  02.14.07, 23:24 / Israel News

Israel could be a target of recently reported Iranian air force drills aimed at giving jets long-range attack capabilities, a security analyst told Ynetnews.

At the same time, experts said they doubted Iran's air force was anywhere near a stage of development that could challenge Israel's Air Force.
Islamic Republic
At the beginning of February, Jane's Defense Weekly reported that "Iranian pilots are stepping up training and exercises for long-range missions."
Quoting "Western defense sources," the report said "Iran is pursuing a longer-range strike capability for its air assets to support the delivery of more powerful strategic weapon systems," adding that Tehran was "investing considerable resources" in aerial refueling capabilities. The training involved Iran Air Force's (IRIAF's) Sukhoi Su-24MK strike aircraft, Jane's Weekly said.

The aerial refueling exercises, originating out of the Tactical Air Base 7 in Shiraz, southwest Iran, take place at night and involve planes flying at very low altitudes, the report continued. The exercises were aimed at simulating "operational scenarios that would entail night-time refueling of an Iranian attack aircraft, at low altitude over the Mediterranean, outward bound en route to the target," Jane's Weekly added.
'Iran jets can reach Israel'
Dr. Ephraim Kam, who teaches securities studies at Tel Aviv University, and is Deputy Head of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, confirmed that Iran possesses long-range warplanes. "They don't have many, but the Sukhoi Su-24 can also reach Israel. Iran also has a certain ability - though I'm not sure to what extent - to refuel in the air," Kam said.
"They could be taking Israel into account during their training," Kam said, adding: "It's logical, because if Israel attacks, they would want to respond. If they reach a nuclear ability, they may also want to have the option of using planes to launch nuclear missiles, and not rely solely on the Shihab 3 missile. This can't be ruled out," Kam said.
Kam added that Israel has been aware of Iran's air force capabilities for many years. "Against the Israeli Air Force, these planes are not very significant. They are not so developed in their long-range attack abilities. The Iranians are not sufficiently familiar with the Israel arena, and the Israeli Air Force (IAF) is much more developed. I assume Israel has answers to this," he said.
 'Israel not at top of target list'
Yizhak Shapir, an expert on Iran's military capabilities, also of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, told Ynetnews that Israel was not at the top of Iran's target list. "Strategically, Israel is in a fairly low place on the list of Iran's targets," he said, adding: "It's not in first place."
 "Ideologically, Israel is seen as an envoy of West. Strategically, they have many targets to look for, and they are looking to develop their air force capabilities," Shapir said.
 "After saying that, it's also important to say their air force is small and weak, and certainly not close to being able to deal with IAF. Their warplanes – the Sukhoi Su24, are from the 1980s. Their capabilities are from the last generation. They have a relatively small number of planes," Shapir noted.
 'Israel is publicly-stated destination'
Professor Raymond Tanter, founder of the Iran Policy Committee, did not specifically comment on the report by Jane's, but did suggest that Israel was in first place in Iran's list of targets. He underlined in an email sections of a recent book he co-authored, titled What Makes Tehran Tick, which he said "provides our latest thinking on the Iranian missile threat and motivations of the regime."
"Israel is the publicly-state destination of these missiles. Such targeting is not only declared in speeches of Iran's top leadership, but also inscribed on the fuselages of the missiles," the book passage said.

"At the same time, Iran is developing ideas for deceptive weaponry, such as transferable warheads. Iran's ballistic missile development is racing ahead in much the same way as its uranium enrichment, formulating missiles that could be fitted with the nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons as well as the conventional warheads that most of them were designed to carry," the book added.

 Referring to Hizbullah's role in Iran's targeting of Israel, the passage continued: "Since the Shahab-3 was not used during the 2006 war in Lebanon, Iran may have been authorizing a closely-located third party to strike back strategically if the need arose, such as a response to an Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear program."

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Who killed Anne Frank?

The point of this article is muted. Somewhere there is a US consular official who turned down the visa request of the Frank family. Whoever they were, they signed the death warrant for Anne Frank, and for hundreds of thousands of other Anne Franks. We know it is so - but while 6 million people are a statistic, one young girl is a tragedy.

Last update - 00:20 15/02/2007   

Letters reveal Anne Frank's father sought U.S. visa in 1941
By Reuters

The father of Anne Frank, the Jewish girl whose diaries of life hiding from the Nazis became world famous, sought money and help obtaining a U.S. visa from a wealthy New York friend in hopes of escaping Europe, according to documents released on Wednesday.
Frank asked for $5,000 from college friend Nathan Strauss Jr., whose father at the time owned Macy's department store, as he tried to escape Holland with his wife, mother-in-law and daughters Margot and Anne, according documents from the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York City.
"This is the first concrete evidence that he did actually pursue the possibility of escape from Holland," said David Engel, a New York University professor.
A YIVO volunteer discovered the correspondence among the millions of documents in its archives in mid-2005, but the institute had to resolve copyright issues before putting them on display.
The letters, telegrams and government documents date from April to December 1941 and show efforts by Otto Frank to get to the United States and Cuba before going into hiding in 1942, a period Anne Frank described in her diary before she eventually
died aged 15 in a German concentration camp in 1945.
"It is for the sake of the children mainly that we have to care for. Our own fate is of less importance," Otto Frank wrote in a letter to Strauss, who was the head of the U.S. Housing Authority. "You are the only person I know that I can ask."
Frank asked for $5,000 to cover a deposit related to getting a U.S. visa, but the money was ultimately not needed because the visa was not granted.
Appeals for help
Strauss, who is now dead, and his wife made several appeals to government contacts, according to the documents. The papers also show the Franks received help from Julius Hollander, Otto Frank's brother-in-law, who was living in Boston.
If her father had sought help sooner, "Anne Frank could be a 77-year-old woman living in Boston today, a writer. That is what the YIVO's documents suggest," said Richard Breitman, a professor at American University.
However, Otto Frank decided to try to escape just as the Nazis were making it more difficult to leave and the United States was making it more difficult to enter, Breitman said.
Cuba issued Otto Frank a visa on Dec. 1, 1941, according to the documents, but it was canceled 10 days later when Germany declared war on the United States.
The following summer, as Jews were being sent from Amsterdam to Nazi camps, the Frank family went into hiding for two years before being discovered and sent to concentration camps. Otto Frank survived the camp but died in 1980.
Engel said one of the most striking findings for historians was the timing of his efforts to escape the Netherlands, which he didn't pursue until a year after the Nazi invasion.
He said there was evidence that Frank may have been blackmailed by a member of the Dutch Nazi Party, who approached Frank with a letter of denunciation in April 1941. Just 12 days later, Frank contacted Strauss seeking help getting to the
United States.
"So circumstantially there is reason to speculate about this as a possible trigger for the events," said Engel.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Halutz stopped development of safe Israeli cluster bomb and other vital arms

Now they tell us.

Halutz stopped advance of vital arms
Yaakov Katz, THE JERUSALEM POST Feb. 14, 2007

Development of a weapons system that could have been used against Hizbullah during the second Lebanon war was halted in 2002 by Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz, then commander of the air force. Development of the system has now resumed on the orders of the current IAF commander, Maj.-Gen. Elazar Shkedy, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

The system was being built by Israel Military Industries (IMI) until 2002, when the project's funding was cut by Halutz and his deputy at the time, Maj.-Gen. Ido Nehustan, today head of the IDF's Planning Division.

Development of the weapon was started in 2000 by then-OC Ground Forces Command Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yiftah Ron-Tal. Since the Ground Forces Command lacked the funds to develop the weapon, Ron-Tal joined forces with the IAF.

The system is not intended to harm civilians, and is being developed according the International Mine Action Standards.

"There is no doubt that this system would have assisted IDF forces during the Lebanon war," a former officer in the Ground Forces Command told the Post. "It could have stopped Hizbullah in their tracks and prevented the guerrillas from transferring weaponry and rockets from place to place."

According to another officer who was involved in the project, Halutz and Nehushtan decided to cut the funding due to a change "in their priorities." The Ground Forces Command, the officer said, then had no choice but to stop development.

But now, following the disappointing results of the second Lebanon war, IMI has once again been approached by the IAF, which has expressed what is being described as "extreme interest" in the weapon. The air force has yet to resume funding, but IMI sources told the Post they believed development would begin in the near future.

This is not the only time Halutz prevented the procurement of weapons that could have helped the IDF during the recent war. In August, Time magazine reported that as IAF commander, he rejected a US offer in 2002 to sell Israel "bunker buster" bombs capable of penetrating underground Hizbullah bunkers, saying that Israel had its own "superb weapons."

During the Lebanon war, however, Israel received an emergency shipment of bunker buster bombs from the US after its own weapons failed to destroy Hizbullah installations.

Following the war, IMI head Avi Felder appointed Dan Peretz, VP for research and development, to head a committee to study the IDF's future needs.

The panel concluded the technology existed to produce a variety of weapons that could have assisted the IDF, and possibly even changed the outcome of the war, but that for various reasons the military had decided not to purchase the weapons.

One example was the IMI system. Another weapon, development of which was stopped by the IDF before the war and has now been restarted.

The IDF has purchased several models for elite units and is now considering equipping all its ground forces with the advanced weaponry.

Another weapon the military declined to purchase from IMI before the war was a cluster bomb that self-destructs if it does not detonate upon impact, unlike the ones the IDF receives from the US.

"Had the IDF bought our cluster bomb it would have spared Israel a major diplomatic crisis," Dan Peretz said in reference to US intentions to impose sanctions on Israel for using American made cluster bombs against international regulations.

"The bottom line," Peretz concluded, "was that all of the technology was there. It was just that the IDF wasn't equipping itself with the necessary platforms and weapons."

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Continued (Permanent Link)

PM [Olmert] visit to Turkey to focus on reining in Iran nukes program

Last update - 23:26 14/02/2007   
PM visit to Turkey to focus on reining in Iran nukes program
By Haaretz Service and The Associated Press

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert arrived in Turkey on Wednesday for a two-day visit with leaders of the Muslim country, hoping to discuss ways to rein in Iran's nuclear program.
His hosts were expected to press him to ease restrictions on Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
At Israel's airport before leaving, Olmert said he expected productive talks with Turkish leaders, including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul.
"We have good relations, we speak frequently and I'm looking forward to talking with them, Olmert told reporters. Olmert is also scheduled to meet Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer on Thursday before returning home.
Turkey's Islamic government has good relations with both Syria and Hamas, the militant Islamic group that heads the Palestinian government, and also with Iran, with which it shares a long border.
Israel considers Iran a strategic threat, suspecting that Iran is building nuclear weapons, despite its denials. Iran's president has repeatedly called for Israel to be wiped off the map. Olmert hopes to enlist Turkey in accelerated efforts to keep Iran from going nuclear.
Turkey will likely press Olmert to work with a new Palestinian government
after last week's agreement by Hamas to join a national unity government with the more moderate Fatah of President Mahmoud Abbas. Israel and the West have reserved judgment, insisting that any Palestinian government must recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept previous peace deals.
Israel, the United States and Europe ban contact with Hamas, which they label a terror group.
Turkey is also expected to urge Israel to accept peace overtures from Syria, but Israeli officials say Syria is interested in peace talks, not peace - as a way of ending its diplomatic isolation.
Before leaving Israel, Olmert acknowledged Turkey's potential, saying it is an important country economically, diplomatically.
In Turkey, about 50 demonstrators protested the visit hours before Olmert's arrival. "Murderer Olmert! Get Out!" read a banner carried by the group in downtown Istanbul.
PMO mum on issue of executed spy's remains
The Prime Minister's Office on Wednesday refused to elaborate on reports that Olmert was to ask Turkey to assist in retrieving the remains of executed Israeli spy Eli Cohen from Syria.
Cohen's 71-year-old widow, Nadia, said on Tuesday that Olmert had promised her he would raise the issue during his meetings in Turkey.
Egyptian-born spy Eli Cohen infiltrated the Syrian government before he was discovered and hanged in 1965.
Israel has appealed in the past to Syria via European intermediaries for Cohen's body without success.

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Is there a Palestinian unity deal: Abbas puts off declaring formation of unity gov't

The deal made in Mecca had a lot of "creative ambiguity" - which means each side is free to interpret it in their own way. This cannot be true in practice of course.
The trouble is starting...

Last update - 22:23 14/02/2007   

Abbas puts off declaring formation of unity gov't
By Avi Isscharoff, Haaretz Correspondent

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has canceled an address scheduled for Thursday in which he was officially to assign Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh the task of forming a unity government.
Abbas announced Wednesday his decision to cancel the address, which he was to give at noon on Thursday, due to increasing tensions between the rival Hamas and Fatah factions.
"Hamas has made several unacceptable conditions which cannot be implemented. The Mecca agreement cannot be re-interpreted and must be implemented immediately without any conditions," a Palestinian official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

" ... they have certain conditions on the interior minister and the foreign minister and on the executive force," he said.
The latest crisis erupted after Hamas insisted that Haniyeh would only dissolve the current cabinet on three conditions. The first of the conditions was that the unity government recognize every decision made by the Hamas cabinet, including political appointments and the security force it established.
Haniyeh's second condition was that Abbas must announce immediately which of two Hamas candidates has been chosen for the position of interior minister. According to the Mecca agreement, Hamas was to choose an independent candidate for the position of interior minister, but Abbas reserved the right to approve or reject the appointment.
The third condition was that Fatah must agree to consider Ziad Abu Amar, who was chosen to take on the role of foreign minister, as an independent candidate in order to enable Hamas a greater number of ministers in the cabinet.
Abbas is expected to head to the Gaza Strip on Thursday to meet with Haniyeh and work out the unresolved issues between the two factions.
Abbas aide: PA unity deal meets Quartet terms 100%
A top aide to Abbas said on Wednesday that the unity government deal with Hamas met all the demands of the Quartet of mediating powers and should be accepted.
The comments by Azzam al-Ahmad, an Abbas aide who heads Fatah's parliamentary bloc, came one day after officials close to Abbas admitted they were having difficulty persuading the international community to lift sanctions on the unity government.
"We will contact the Americans and explain to them all the items in the agreement in detail," Ahmad told reporters in the West Bank city of Ramallah. "The agreement meets the conditions of the Quartet 100 percent."
The Quartet of Middle East mediators, composed of the United States, the
European Union, the United Nations and Russia, has called on the Palestinian government to recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept interim peace deals.
The unity agreement, signed by the ruling Hamas movement and Abbas's Fatah faction last week in Mecca, makes no explicit commitment to recognize Israel or renounce violence.
But a letter from Abbas reappointing Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas as prime minister contains a vague call to Hamas to "abide" by Palestinian and Arab resolutions that include recognition of Israel, and to "respect" past agreements and international law.
Ahmad said these clauses implicitly met the Quartet's three conditions. "We have our own language," he said, adding that the deal "left no pretext for Israel or America" to keep sanctions on the government in place.
Hamas has said the unity government deal does not include recognition of
Israel and does not commit it to accepting previous agreements.
Haniyeh said at the start of his weekly cabinet meeting in Gaza that he
would begin taking steps soon to ensure the unity government "can see the
light of day in the nearest time possible".
A government official said Haniyeh and his Hamas-led cabinet would resign
by Thursday to make way for the unity government.
Haniyeh is expected to lead the new government, according to the terms of
the deal, which aimed to end factional warfare in Gaza and ease an economic embargo on the Palestinian Authority.
Fatah head: Abbas wants Dahlan as new deputy PM
A senior figure in Abbas' Fatah movement said Wednesday that the Palestinian Authority Chairman wants party strongman Mohammed Dahlan to serve as deputy prime minister in a new unity government headed by Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas.
Dahlan, an advisor to late PA chairman Yasser Arafat, is viewed as Fatah's most senior figure in the generally Hamas-dominated Gaza Strip.
Haniyeh said Tuesday that it was "too early to talk about the resignation of the [Hamas-run] Palestinian government" in the context of the Mecca agreement on a Palestinian unity government.
The prime minister was speaking as he arrived at the PLO office in the Gaza Strip, where he was meeting with representatives of other Palestinian factions.
Haniyeh had been slated to submit his resignation on Wednesday, according to a statement made Monday by his political adviser, Ahmed Yusuf.
But Palestinian sources said Haniyeh is worried that Abbas will try to prevent him from being appointed head of the unity government, due to heavy Israeli and American pressure to get the new government to recognize Israel.
It appears that Haniyeh is waiting for Abbas to make an official announcement assigning Haniyeh the task of forming a new government. Abbas is expected to make the announcement Thursday.
Meanwhile, Abbas's adviser, Nabil Amar, said that top European Union officials with whom he met recently in Brussels viewed the Mecca agreement in a positive light but requested more time to examine the new situation.
Unresolved issues
Some Hamas lawmakers said Haniyeh would not step down until he and Abbas had finalized several unresolved issues in the Saudi-brokered deal, including naming an interior minister and deputy prime minister.
Abbas and Hamas have yet to settle their differences over the fate of
Hamas's 5,600-member "executive" police force. Fatah is pushing for the force to be broken up, but Hamas wants to keep it together.
Fighting between Hamas and Fatah killed more than 90 Palestinians between late December and early February.
Israeli officials said Israel was considering suspending contacts with Abbas if the unity government did not meet all three Quartet demands.
The move could increase pressure on Abbas and hinder U.S. efforts to revive long-stalled peace talks. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice plans a three-way meeting with Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem on February 19.

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Congress freezes transfer of $86 million in aid to Abbas

Ultimately, it is likely that the administration will get its way....

Last update - 20:10 14/02/2007   

U.S. Congress freezes transfer of $86 million in aid to Abbas
By Shmuel Rosner, Haaretz Correspondent
The United States Congress last week decided to freeze the transfer of $86 million in aid that was to be allocated to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. It is unclear when and if the aid will be transferred.
The Bush administration had publicly promised to ask Congress to transfer the funds in order to bolster Abbas and his forces. Due to the uncertainty of a few legislators, the transfer has been postponed indefinitely.
The State Department was informed of the decision ten days ago by Democratic Congresswoman Nita Lowey, who also chairs the House of Representative's Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, Export Financing and Related Agencies.
According to Lowey, the funds will not be transferred until the cabinet has elaborated on the designation of the aid. Lowey said Congress was not given sufficient information regarding where and why the funds were being transferred.
Bush had said that the money would be used to fund training for Abbas's security forces, and to supply them with uniforms and other equipment.
The transfer of funds was frozen before the rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah signed a unity government agreement in Mecca. Lowey's office told Haaretz Tuesday that following the agreement, legislators have expressed even greater doubt over transferring the money. Observers in Washington told Haaretz that Lowey is one of Congress' most staunch supporters of Israel.
At this stage, the money will not be transferred to Palestinian leaders until Congress is convinced such a move should be implemented.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Book about blood libel to be changed

Last update - 23:26 14/02/2007   
Author of blood libel book holds distribution to make changes
By Ofri Ilani, Haaretz Correspondent

The author of a book on the ritualistic use of blood by Jews in Ashkenazi communities in the Middle Ages on Wednesday asked the book's Italian publisher to discontinue distribution in order to let him amend and annotate contentious sections.
Professor Ariel Toaff submitted his request to the El Molino publishing house just days after the book was released, due to the furor its publication caused around the world. The first edition of the book had sold out within a few days of its release.
Toaff told Haaretz earlier this week that he stood by the contention of his book, "Pasque di Sangue," that there is a factual basis for some of the medieval blood libels against the Jews. However, he said he was sorry his arguments had been twisted.
"I tried to show that the Jewish world at that time was also violent, among other things because it had been hurt by Christian violence," the Bar-Ilan history professor said. Of course I do not claim that Judaism condones murder. But within Ashkenazi Judaism there were extremist groups that could have committed such an act and justified it," he said.
He added, "I will not give up my devotion to the truth and academic freedom even if the world crucifies me."
Toaff to donate proceeds to ADL
Toaff announced that he would donate the proceeds from the sales of his book to the Anti-Defamation League, which battles anti-Semitism.
Last week, following the release of the book in Italy, the ADL condemned Toaff's claims that some of the confessions extracted from Jews during post-Crusades trials were based on actual fact.
ADL Chairman Abraham Foxman said that Toaff's book serves the interests of anti-Semites. "It is hard to believe that anybody, not to mention an Israeli historian, would legitimize baseless claims of blood libel," Foxman said.
In his announcement, Toaff said that he had decided to donate the profits "out of a sense of personal responsibility for what had occurred, and in order to emphasize how deeply sorry I am for the insult I caused to the Jewish public."
"I would never allow any Israel hater to use me or my research to rekindle the hatred that brought about the deaths of millions of Jews," he added.
Bar Ilan 'furious' over Toaff's lack of sensitivity
Bar Ilan University said Wednesday its administrations and researchers felt "great fury and displeasure" over Toaff's lack of sensitivity.
University spokesman Shmuel Elgrabli said that Toaff's decision to publish his book privately in Italy, the provocative wording of the book's title, and the analysis given on the book by the media has emotionally hurt Jews around the world as well as harmed the delicate fabric of relations between Jews and Christians.
Elgrabi added that it would have been appropriate for Toaff to have used more sensitivity and care when publishing his book.
The university said in a statement that now that "the severity of the damage caused to the Jewish public has become clear," Toaff was going to take the responsibility to mend personally any damage caused.
The university said it has no plans to take any action against Toaff and said it defends his academic liberty as well as that of every one of its researchers.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Jews are "evil souls" in new PA TV video clip

Palestinian unity is not so good if it is directed against you know who.

Palestinian Media Watch Bulletin - Feb. 14, 2007

Jews are "evil souls" in new PA TV video clip

"The [Jews are] evil souls,
a thousand evil ones [Jews] are in my home!"

by Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook

The lyrics in a new video clip broadcast on official Palestinian Authority Television refer to Jews as "evil souls, a thousand evil ones. . . in my home." The lyrics are sung to images of a religious Jew walking in Jerusalem and Jews praying at the Western Wall of the Temple.

This overtly anti-Semitic message not only defines Jews as "evil souls," but likewise tells Palestinians to see Jews as outsiders in Jerusalem. Even Jews at the Western Wall are portrayed as intruders.

Click here to view the clip

The following is an excerpt from the song:

"I am Palestinian, and my home is my home.
The evil souls [Visual: Jew walking in Jerusalem],
A thousand evil ones are in my home!" [Visual: Jew walking in Jerusalem]
But I am Palestinian and my home is my home,
The evil souls [Visual: Jews praying at Western Wall],
A thousand evil ones are in my home!" [Visual: Jews praying at Western Wall]
[PA TV, February 13, 2007]

The rest of the video, named "Palestinian Unity," features a teenage boy singing about Palestinian unity, over background images of dead bodies, funerals and military parades of the rival Palestinian terror groups, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Fatah, the Popular Front and the Democratic Front. The background images also include scenes of violence against Israel, including Israeli tanks and jeeps being hit by stones and Molotov cocktails.

The lyrics include:

"We are all Palestinians in blood and identity, Fatah, Hamas, and the Jihad, the Popular [Front] and the Democratic [Front]…
We want to liberate the land through the national unity..."

The words, "We are a sword which is not drawn, except towards the occupier," are sung to the images of a gun firing, followed by that of falling Israeli soldier.

Please feel free to forward this bulletin, crediting Palestinian Media Watch

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Continued (Permanent Link)

Israel Apartheid Week

This week is "end Israel Apartheid week"...
To demonstrate the "apartheid," an Israeli Arab MK will go to Canada to explain that he is persecuted and has no political rights. Does anyone see a contradiction there?

Last update - 16:16 13/02/2007   

Balad MK to speak at Israel Apartheid Week in Canada
By Haaretz Service

MK Jamal Zakhalka (Balad) intends to participate in an international conference in Montreal entitled Israeli Apartheid Week, Army Radio reported on Tuesday.
The Israeli Arab parliamentarian is currently making his way to Canada from Britain.
Jewish students will hold a counter-demonstration at Montreal campuses wearing blue-and-white shirts and will hold support rallies for Israel.
Israeli Apartheid Week is a week-long series of events held for the third year concurrently across various North American and European campuses. The event is organized by the Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights.
Event organizers describe Israel as a "settler-colonial state" in the mold of pre-reformed South Africa, arguing "that Israel is in fact an apartheid state, not just a belligerent occupying power."
The group's Web site describes its aim as pushing "forward the analysis of Israel as an apartheid state and to bolster support for the boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaign ... [demanding] full equality for Arab citizens of Israel, an end to the occupation and colonization of the West Bank and Gaza, and the implementation of the right of return and compensation for Palestinian refugees."

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Saudi Arabia finances a housing programme in Hebron

Saudi Arabia finances a housing programme in Hebron
Date: 14 / 02 / 2007  Time:  11:11

Ma'an - On 11 February 2007, in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, a Memorandum of
Understanding (MOU) on mutual cooperation between UN-HABITAT and the Saudi
Committee was signed in order to establish a "Housing and Income Generating
Programme for Widowed and Poor Women in Al Khalil (Hebron), the West Bank,
the occupied Palestinian territories".

In a press release from the United Nations Human Settlements Program
(UN-HABITAT), it is reported that the memorandum was signed by Anna
Tibaijuka, Executive Director of UN-HABITAT, and Dr. Sa'id Al-Orabi
Al-Harthi, Chairman, Saudi Committee for the Palestinian People Relief, and
Advisor to the Minister of Interior. The occasion was witnessed by Dr. Jamal
Al-Shobaki, the Palestinian ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Over a three year period, the Saudi Committee will provide US$ 6.3 million
to finance this new programme, which will include the construction of 100
housing units, the development of income generating projects and training
for widowed and poor women, in addition to building capacities of the
Ministry of Labor and Social affairs.

It is stated in the press release that Mrs Tibaijuka expressed her pleasure
that the memorandum was signed in the wake of the Mecca agreement, which she
described as "an auspicious development".

Dr. Sa'id Al-Orabi Al-Harthi said that the programme falls within the
framework of the humanitarian and developmental role of the Kingdom of Saudi
Arabia to benefit the Palestinian people. He added that the Saudi Committee
has signed several agreements with other UN agencies to implement relief and
development projects in the Palestinian territories.

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Israel considerate of Saudi needs; will review ties with Abbas due to Mecca deal

Israel recognizes Saudi leadership:
One of the main recommendations to emerge from Tuesday's meeting was that Israel should avoid doing anything that would cause political harm to Saudi Arabia, which brokered the Mecca Agreement, so as not to undermine Riyadh's position as part of the region's "axis of moderates" against the developing threat from Iran.
Last update - 07:16 14/02/2007   
Israel to review ties with Abbas due to Mecca deal
By Aluf Benn, Haaretz Correspondent

Israel has decided to reassess its relations with the Palestinian Authority and its chairman, Mahmoud Abbas, due to the Mecca Agreement on a unity government between Fatah and Hamas.
The agreement, including its implications for the diplomatic process and Israeli-Palestinian relations, will be at the center of Monday's tripartite summit in Jerusalem, senior government sources said Tuesday.
The summit, to take place at Jerusalem's David Citadel Hotel, will include Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Olmert departs on Wednesday for a visit to Turkey, and Rice is due to arrive in the region on Saturday.
At a preparatory meeting on the summit Tuesday, Olmert said that the strategic and geopolitical implications of the Mecca agreement are no less important than those of Hamas's victory in the elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council a year ago. He added that Israel must calculate its policies toward the new Palestinian unity government carefully.
"The chances that there will be talk of a political horizon at the summit, given that a Fatah-Hamas government is waiting in the corner, are not high," a well-placed government source said.
Olmert is planning to demand that Abbas obtain the release of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit. "Abu Mazen [Abbas] can no longer evade responsibility for the release of Shalit if he sits with Hamas in the same government," the source explained.
Government sources added that at Monday's summit, Olmert has no intention of offering Abbas any goodwill gestures aimed at easing daily life for Palestinian civilians, such as those that followed the two men's meeting on December 23, 2006.
The Mecca Agreement poses a dilemma for Israel. Before it was signed, Israel maintained contacts with Abbas, who it presented as a moderate, while boycotting the Hamas government. The tripartite summit, which was scheduled during Rice's previous visit to the region, was meant to restart the diplomatic process. But following the Mecca Agreement, the lines distinguishing the moderates from the extremists among the Palestinians have become blurred.
Olmert will therefore seek clarifications from Abbas and Rice on how the relationship with the new Palestinian government will be conducted.
During Tuesday's preparatory meeting, which was also attended by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and the heads of the intelligence agencies, Olmert expressed his view that Israel does not have to take the lead in moves against the new Palestinian government or in ceasing contacts with Abbas. Instead of Israel positioning itself at the forefront of the struggle, he said, it should conduct a diplomatic campaign to demand that the international community insist on the Palestinians meeting the three conditions put forth by the Quartet: recognizing Israel, relinquishing violence and honoring previous agreements between Israel and the PLO.
Over the last few days, Olmert has talked on the telephone with Rice, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the leaders of Russia, Britain and Germany. According to government sources, this diplomatic effort aims to marshal international pressure on Abbas in order to influence the Palestinian unity government's diplomatic platform.
One of the main recommendations to emerge from Tuesday's meeting was that Israel should avoid doing anything that would cause political harm to Saudi Arabia, which brokered the Mecca Agreement, so as not to undermine Riyadh's position as part of the region's "axis of moderates" against the developing threat from Iran.
At a meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday, opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu urged Olmert to cancel the tripartite summit in response to the Mecca Agreement. Olmert's reply was that there is no need to respond rashly. Senior Israeli officials did weigh the possibility of canceling the summit over the weekend, but Rice insisted that the meeting be held.
During his visit to Turkey Wednesday, Olmert will meet with Turkish President Ahmet Sezer and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He will also meet Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul and Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul.
It is not clear whether the visit, which was originally scheduled to take place tomorrow, was moved forward because a secret meeting has been arranged with some Arab or Muslim figure via Turkish mediation, or for some other reason. A year and a half ago, the foreign ministers of Israel and Pakistan held their first public meeting in Istanbul, and the Turkish government has repeatedly offered its services in mediating between Israel and Syria, the Palestinians and others.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Ahmadinejad Friedensreden with Dianne Sawyer: Not wiping out Israel so fast

In a "Friedensreden" interview with ABC's Dianne Sawyer, Ahmadinejad said Iran would not develop nuclear weapons, which are "weapons of the past." He also said, as noted below, that Palestinians should determine their own future, but he refrained from saying directly that he would accept the existence of Israel. At the conclusion of the interview, he explained to Ms. Sawyer that women should not ask pointed political questions, and should confine their interests to feminine affairs.
This week Ahmadinejad is blowing warm. The alternation of threats and peace talk was characteristic of Adolf Hitler, who, from time to time, gave "peace loving" interviews or talks called Friedensreden or Friedenssprache.

Last update - 18:42 13/02/2007   

Ahmadinejad: Palestinians must be able to determine own future
By The Associated Press

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad toned down his verbal attacks on Israel, saying in an interview with American television aired Tuesday that the Palestinians should be allowed to determine a resolution to the conflict with Israel.
Ahmadinejad's comments were the latest in which the hard-line leader has
sought to show a relatively more moderate face toward the West, including over Iran's controversial nuclear program.
In the interview with ABC's Good Morning America, Ahmadinejad was asked if he stuck by his past calls for Israel to be wiped off the face of the map. Interviewer Diane Sawyer also asked whether Iran would recognize Israel if the Palestinians reach a peace deal with it.
Ahmadinejad stopped short of addressing whether Iran would recognize Israel but said any decision the Palestinians make should be respected.
"We say that based on the charter of the UN, we say that based on the current international regulations, let Palestinians decide," Ahmadinejad said, according to ABC's translation of his Farsi comments.
He repeated a call he has previously made for a referendum among Palestinians and Israelis to determine the fate of the area. "I think that this is their right to determine their future, any decision made by Palestinians must be respected. And I think this is a very clear proposition," he said.
Ahmadinejad raised outrage in the West when he said in an October 2005 speech that Israel's Zionist regime should be wiped off the map.
Supporters of the president and some independent analysts have argued recently that his words were mistranslated from the Farsi - they argue it is better translated vanish from the pages of time, implying it would vanish on its own rather be destroyed.
In the ABC interview, Ahmadinejad compared Israel to the Soviet Union, saying, "What happened to the former Soviet Union? It disappeared, disappeared from the face of the Earth. Was it because of war? No. It was through the decision of the people."
Ahmadinejad has taken a less confrontational tone in recent days at a time when the United States has sharply stepped up its pressure on Iran, increasing its military presence in the Gulf and accusing Iran of providing sophisticated explosives to militants in Iraq.

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UN: Both IDF, Lebanese Army violated truce during clashes last week

Last update - 21:38 13/02/2007   
UN: Both IDF, Lebanese Army violated truce during clashes last week
By Reuters

Israel Defense Forces troops crossed into Lebanon last week in an effort to clear mines and the Lebanese Army opened fire while the Israeli troops were still in their own territory, a United Nations investigation reported.
The incident last Wednesday was the first border clash since last summer's 34 days of fighting between Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas. Lebanese leaders called it an Israeli violation of Lebanese territory but Israel said its army was inside its own frontier.
Alvaro de Soto, the UN coordinator for the Middle East peace process, on Tuesday blamed both sides for the incident.
He told the 15-member Security Council that the IDF had signaled to the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, known as UNIFIL, it intended to cross a protective or "technical fence" to clear a number of mines in Israeli territory.
But UNIFIL commanders urged Israel to meet first with the United Nations and Lebanon "so as to avoid an increase in tension along the Blue Line," the frontier between the two countries demarcated by the United Nations in 2000, de Soto said.
The three parties met Monday in the Lebanese city of Naquora. In a separate meeting, senior officers from the Lebanese Army and UNIFIL agreed to work on marking a UN-drawn line that defines the border between Lebanon and Israel.
Crossing the fence does not violate the border between Israel and Lebanon but crossing the Blue Line would.
Despite UNIFIL's appeals, the IDF went ahead and the "Lebanese Army opened small arms fire after the IDF made an opening in the technical fence but whilst they were still on the Israeli side of the Blue Line," de Soto said.
The Lebanese Army then "intensified fire, using both rifles and machine guns aimed at the IDF bulldozer which by that time had crossed the fence," de Soto said.
"The IDF responded with at least one missile. No casualties were reported," he said. "Subsequently, the IDF bulldozer and excavator carried out earthworks to clear the area of mines and violated the Blue Line in the process."
The incident took place at the same location where the IDF had shot at and destroyed four improvised explosive devices on the Lebanese side of the Blue Line two days earlier.
Still, the firing by the Lebanese Army was a violation of the Security Council's cease-fire resolution 1701, adopted last August after the war, de Soto said.
"The IDF also violated resolution 1701 by crossing the Blue Line," de Soto said. "The exchange of fire posed a threat to the lives of UNIFIL troops patrolling in the area. "
"These incidents illustrate the continued volatility of the situation in Southern Lebanon," de Soto said.

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Peres: Israel wants Hamas participation in peace talks

Last update - 19:09 13/02/2007   
Peres: Israel wants more than formal recognition from Hamas
By Aluf Benn and Gideon Alon, Haaretz Correspondents

Vice Premier Shimon Peres told Haaretz on Tuesday that Israel was "not just waiting for formal recognition by Hamas", but also wanted "active recognition in the form of the group's presence at peace negotiations."
Peres was referring to the weekend agreement between Fatah and Hamas at a Mecca summit to form a unity government. The terms of the agreement say that the new government will "respect" previous peace accords between Israel and the Palestinians, but makes no commitment to abide by them. The accord also makes no mention of two other key international demands, namely recognition of Israel and renunciation of violence.
Speaking during a tour of the Galilee with foreign diplomats, Peres said that the Mecca accord has "several interpretations, and we must explore them and they play out on the ground."
"There are still many question marks regarding the agreement, and several things that will be put to the test, including the release of captured soldier Gilad Shalit, which is one of the most important tests and could remove the barrier to continued talks."
Meanwhile, Israeli and Palestinian leaders are embroiled in a bitter dispute over what topics should be on the agenda of next week's trilateral summit.
The summit, involving Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, is scheduled to take place in Jerusalem on Monday.
Despite the dispute, Rice is insisting on holding the meeting to demonstrate progress in Israeli-Palestinian relations.
According to government sources, however, Olmert is refusing to discuss three major elements of any final-status agreement - Palestinian refugees, the status of Jerusalem and an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 armistice lines - because he believes that raising any of these issues would doom the talks to failure.
"There is no doubt that Abu Mazen [Abbas] will have to make compromises on these issues, given Israel's positions, and it is not clear that he can get them past the Palestinian street," one source said.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni also believes that final-status issues should not be discussed now, lest they cause the talks to fail and spark renewed violence, as was the case after the Camp David summit of July 2000. She believes the talks should focus on establishing a Palestinian state within temporary borders, as proposed in the second stage of the road map peace plan.
Olmert and Livni also insist that any discussions be purely theoretical, with implementation conditioned on fulfillment of the road map's first stage: dismantling Palestinian terror organizations.
Because of the difficulties that discussing final-status issues would create, "the artificial definition selected for these talks is a 'political horizon.' We are no longer sitting and forming committees on the refugees and Jerusalem," a government source said.
Olmert also intends to stress that the three-way summit is not a substitute for direct bilateral negotiations, which should be the main channel for progress.
However, Abbas presented over the weekend a position that diametrically contradicted Olmert's views. "We agreed with [Secretary] Rice that it is necessary to discuss a final-status arrangement and to begin negotiations on permanent borders, the settlements and the refugee problem," he said in Cairo. Abbas also reiterated his opposition to any discussion of a Palestinian state within temporary borders.
Meanwhile, an American team is already in Israel working on the preparatory requirements of the summit.
American and Israeli sources said Monday that the meeting will take place in one of three sites: the Prime Minister's office, the Prime Minister's residence, or the David Citadel hotel, where Rice will stay.
Holding the meeting at a hotel instead of an Israeli official site will bolster the impression of equal status among the three sides.
It is also likely that a joint press conference will be held at the end of the summit, even though in the previous meeting between Olmert and Abbas at the end of last year, the two leaders did not appear before the press after their meeting.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Marcus: Palestinians need recognition, not Israel

What Marcus says is formally true enough, but recognition of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state by the Arab/Muslim world and Hamas would be a significant indication that they might stop trying to destroy Israel.

Who did you say needs recognition?
By Yoel Marcus

Negotiations on the establishment of a Palestinian state will begin February 19, the U.S. State Department spokesman announced in a laconic tone. On that day, which is next Monday, Condoleezza Rice will host Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas in Washington for talks on how to promote a "political horizon." This, Rice said, will give the Palestinians an idea of what their future state, alongside Israel, is going to look like.
By laying this "political horizon" (a hatchling of the Bush plan) on the table, she is aiming for the opposite of violence on the horizon. Above all, the intention is to end the bloody civil war between Hamas and Fatah in Gaza, which decreases the chance for an agreement with Israel on establishing a Palestinian state, the longer it goes on.
The ghastly pictures from Gaza, which the world watches on television, once again bring to mind Abba Eban's famous dictum that the Palestinians have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity. It is the kind of bloodbath that only helps the Greater Israel fanatics dig in their heels and say no to an agreement based on withdrawal to the 1967 borders.
In the wake of Bush's request, or arm-twisting, Saudi Arabia has become a mediator. In return for a billion-dollar donation to the territories and a possible renewal of global aid, it has produced a peace plan - not with Israel, but between Hamas and Fatah. According to the plan, the Mecca agreement, Mahmoud Abbas will continue to chair the Palestinian Authority and Hamas' Ismael Haniyeh will remain prime minister. Portfolios have been divvied up Israel-style, but with one difference: We don't murder one another, starve our citizens or make life miserable for an entire people in order to put together a coalition.
Bush is known for his short fuse, and presumably this is not the baby he was waiting for. The Saudis have pulled a half-baked plan out of their oven. The missing ingredients include the principles of the Bush plan and the road map, in which recognizing Israel is a chief component; putting a stop to terror; and honoring all previous agreements.
Not that the promises of the Palestinians mean very much: As soon as Arafat pocketed the Nobel Peace Prize, he launched a wave of terror, allowing Islamic militants to carry out suicide bombings in Israel. In the end, he instigated the al-Aqsa Intifada, which left a heap of bodies on both sides.
But now we are dealing with Hamas, part and parcel of a bloodthirsty Islamic movement that regards America as the big Satan and Israel as the little Satan. Hamas has no problem killing its Arab brothers, and is eager to see Israel's demise. It can hardly wait for the day when Iran has the bomb and Ahmadinejad keeps his word.
The Mecca agreement, which has no clause recognizing Israel or on abstaining from terror, is a farce in the eyes of the U.S. administration and Israel. The immediate response of the Prime Minister's Office was that Israel has no intention of recognizing a Palestinian unity government as long as Hamas refuses to recognize Israel.
What I can't figure out is what all this "recognition of Israel" business is about. What kind of obsession is this, getting up every other day and demanding that our bitter enemies recognize us? The way things stand today, who needs their recognition?
Israel was one of the first countries in the world to rebel against imperialism and seek national independence. It was one of the first countries to join the United Nations: Israel is number 52 out of 190 countries that belong today. On May 10, 1949, MK David Hacohen unfurled the Israeli flag over the building then housing the UN. This insistence on being recognized, when Israel was one of the first states to be born after World War II, is plain masochism.
The State of Israel does not need recognition. It is already recognized as one of the wonders of the world - by the very dint of its existence, after seven Arab countries tried to wipe it off the map, by what it has managed to create, by what it has accomplished in the span of 59 years.
Israel is a political and geopolitical fact, as well as a household name. If there is anyone who needs recognition, it is not Israel but the Palestinians, who will need ours, if they ever have the brains to adopt the UN resolution passed 60 years ago and get around to establishing a state of their own.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Plain old anti-Semitism is good enough

Who needs new anti-Semitism, when any old anti-Semitism is clearly good enough?

Mitt Romney, blood libel, and that old time Jew hate
By Bradley Burston

It may just be a bad dream. Or it may be the future.
In the space of a week, we have had a professor from an Orthodox-oriented Israeli university argue that some medieval blood libels against the Jews were based in fact.
We have had Muslim clerics declaring that the Jewish Temples of antiquity never existed, that there is no evidence that they ever did, that the Jews' insistence that they did was "the greatest fraud crime in history," that the Western Wall is a Muslim site, that the Jews' reverence for it - and for Jerusalem - is a relatively recent and politically-motivated phenomenon.
Not coincidentally, we have had Egyptian legislator Mohammed el-Katatny of President Hosni Mubarak's ruling party informing parliament "That cursed Israel is trying to destroy al-Aqsa mosque," and that "Nothing will work with Israel except for a nuclear bomb that wipes it out of existence."
And now we have Mitt Romney.
On Tuesday, the former governor of Massachusetts is set to formally launch his campaign for the Republican nomination for the presidency.
He has chosen as the venue a museum which bills itself as America's Greatest History Attraction, the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.
Named for America's greatest anti-Semite.
Named for a man revered by Adolf Hitler, who awarded him the Grand Service Cross of the Supreme Order of the German Eagle. Named for the U.S. publisher of the "Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion" and "The International Jew: the World's foremost problem."
Perhaps unfortunately, perhaps inevitably, the first to take Romney to task for the decision was the National Jewish Democratic Council. The council's executive director Ira Forman said the group was "deeply troubled by Governor Romney's choice of locations to announce his presidential campaign."
"Romney has been traveling the country talking about inclusiveness and understanding of people from all walks of life," Forman continued. "Yet he chooses to kick [off] his presidential campaign on the former estate of a well-known and outspoken anti-Semite and xenophobe."
According to Forman, Romney's "embrace of Henry Ford and association of Ford's legacy with his presidential campaign raises serious questions about either the sincerity of Romney's words or his understanding of basic American history."
Petty? Maybe Partisan? Certainly. Or maybe these things are just becoming second nature. After all, the Romney campaign says it's sticking by its decision, and that the campaign kickoff will continue as planned.
"Governor Romney believes our country needs to put innovation at the forefront if we are to ensure a stronger, safer and more prosperous America," said Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said. "The Ford Museum embodies that bold, innovative spirit."
There's something bold and innovative about that old-time Jew hate as well. When it comes back, after being gone so long, its adherents have that feeling of freshness, of renewal.
What's next? Accusations of bubonic plague?

Continued (Permanent Link)

Archeologists Find Medieval Ruins in Jerusalem Salvage Operations

Ruins discovered at Mughrabi site

As the controversy swirls around the construction of the new bridge leading
to the Temple Mount at the Mughrabi Gate, archeologists have already
uncovered finds from the medieval period and early Islamic era that shed new
light on Jerusalem's history.

"We have dug three meters down and discovered massive walls which we believe
are from the early Islamic Umayyad period," Jerusalem's chief archeologist
Yuval Baruch said. "Because of its proximity to the Wohl Archeological Park,
I personally hope to find the rest of the Umayyad palaces."

The archeological park currently has the only uncovered ruins of the Umayyad
palaces which were destroyed in 749 CE by an earthquake. They were built in
the eighth century as the seat for the Caliphate when visiting Jerusalem.
The uncovered complex includes a harem for the caliph's wives, bathhouses, a
kitchen, a dining area, and quarters for the caliph's family and servants.
The palace also featured a bridge that allowed the caliphs direct access to
the Aksa Mosque

Among the findings at the site currently being excavated for the rebuilding
of the bridge to the Mughrabi Gate, the archeologists have found pipes
belonging to a medieval water system, but for Baruch, "the most interesting
find is that we have found the evidence which suggests that right under the
Umayyad ruins are Byzantine ruins [135-638], and under these, we believe
there are Herodian roads and other ruins from the Second Temple period."

"The main excavations of the Umayyad and Byzantine ruins at the Mugrabi area
will begin in a couple of days, and if we are patient enough, in five or six
months time we could find Second Temple period ruins" to add to what has
already been discoved in the adjacent archelogical park, Baruch added.

The excavations in the archeological garden are taking place in three
separate sites. There are two on the western side of the park and one site
atop the bathhouses and ritual baths situated directly across Robinson's
Arch, the bridge that connected the Temple complex to the markets. 4nd earth
that line the steps descending down into the park from the road leading to
the Dung Gate, but have already found pieces of pottery and other artifacts
which have not been dated as of yet.

"We have uncovered pieces of Jerusalem's history," Baruch said, "but we are
unsatisfied with the amount of archeological results in Jerusalem. We need
to continue with our work so we can find out more of the history of these
buildings which gives us more information."

Baruch also expressed concern that if the excavations stopped, the new ruins
would be damaged if they are not immediately and properly salvaged.

The findings at the excavation site could pose a problem for the initial
project to reinforce the Mugrabi bridge. The original plan would have seen
pillars placed under the bridge for support.

Now, due to the findings, Baruch acknowledged that some re\planning might be
necessary. "Before we know what exactly is in the area, no matter what we
find and no matter which historical period it comes from, we will need to
find a new spot for the pillars of the bridge," Baruch said.

According to city hall officials, the Jerusalem Municipality will submit new
plans for the Mughrabi Gate bridge leading to the Temple Mount, but work is
scheduled to continue at the site.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Monday, February 12, 2007

UN Chief Ban backs PA unity, urges recognition of Israel

This could be an indication of how the wind is blowing...
But one wonders if there is really a deal:
One unresolved issue is who will be interior minister and thus exert considerable control over the security forces. Wrangling over such control helped spark deadly Hamas-Fatah clashes in Gaza in recent months.
The deal also did not settle the fate of Hamas' 5,600-strong militia, which was formed last year over Abbas' objections. Under one proposal, the force would be dismantled and its members assigned to various security branches, as part of an overall reform of the security forces, who are mainly loyal to Abbas.
So what did they settle?

Last update - 00:43 13/02/2007   
Ban backs PA unity deal, urges recognition of Israel
By News Agencies

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon telephoned Israeli, Palestinian and Saudi leaders to urge support of a unity deal among Palestinian factions and appeal for recognition of Israel, his spokeswoman said on Monday.
In his conversation with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Ban also expressed concern over Israel's excavations in East Jerusalem, which has been widely condemned by Arab and Muslim governments, spokeswoman Michele Montas said.
Ban, a member of the quartet of Middle East advisers, spoke to Olmert, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Saudi King Abdullah over the weekend.
Also Monday, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh appealed to the international community to honor the unity deal signed by warring Palestinian factions last week and to lift economic sanctions on the Palestinian Authority.
Today there is a cautious, pessimistic U.S. position towards this agreement," said Haniyeh. "I say to the Quartet and to the European Union that this is the will of the Palestinian people, and they should respect it and they should work to end the status of siege," he said.
Senior Palestinian officials said Monday they will start forming a new, national unity government in coming days, but acknowledged that previous dealbreakers, such as control over the security forces and the fate of Hamas' militia, have still not been resolved.
Under the power-sharing deal reached last week in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, the Hamas-led cabinet is to step down in the coming days, to make way for a unity government with Abbas' rival Fatah movement.
The two sides have agreed to a division of ministerial posts, but have not yet reached agreement on the names of most of the government ministers.
One unresolved issue is who will be interior minister and thus exert considerable control over the security forces. Wrangling over such control helped spark deadly Hamas-Fatah clashes in Gaza in recent months.
The deal also did not settle the fate of Hamas' 5,600-strong militia, which was formed last year over Abbas' objections. Under one proposal, the force would be dismantled and its members assigned to various security branches, as part of an overall reform of the security forces, who are mainly loyal to Abbas.
"When President Abu Mazen comes to Gaza, we will continue the negotiations on issues that remain," Haniyeh said an address on Palestinian television.
Haniyeh, of Hamas, returned to Gaza on Monday and said his government planned to resign in the coming days to start the process of forming the new coalition.
"We are convinced of the necessity of speeding up the resignation to within days, possibly Wednesday, Thursday or Friday," Haniyeh told reporters at the Egypt-Gaza border crossing.
Under the Mecca deal, Hamas is to propose candidates for interior minister, and Abbas has the right to choose one of them. Haniyeh said Monday that Hamas has proposed two candidates, but has not yet heard back from Abbas.
Haniyeh, who has five weeks to put together a government, is to meet with Abbas on Thursday. Two key portfolios, foreign and finance, have already been assigned to independents.
Once the Hamas government resigns, Abbas would send a letter of designation for a new coalition, to be headed by Haniyeh, said Abbas aide Rafiq Husseini.
The PA chairman "wants to move quickly and hopes to issue the letter within days," Husseini said.
Abbas is also trying to win international support for the coalition deal, even though it falls short of international demands that any Palestinian government recognize Israel and renounce violence.
The Mecca deal says the coalition would respect all agreements signed by the PLO, including those with Israel, but does not specifically recognize Israel's right to exist.
"The agreement moves in the direction of the international community's demands," Husseini said. "We hope the international community will look at the agreement from a positive side," he added.
Palestinian officials hoped the deal would lead to a lifting of international sanctions that were imposed after Hamas' election last year.
But foreign governments said they would wait to study the agreement and to see if the new government had the will - or ability - to prevent ongoing attacks on Israel, including rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip.
On Monday, Gaza militants launched five rockets into Israel, causing no injuries, the army said.
On Tuesday, Abbas is meeting in Jordan with Russian President Vladmir Putin. Russia is one of the members of the "Quartet" of Middle East peace brokers, along with the U.S., the European Union and the United Nations.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Egyptian MP: Nothing will work with Israel except nuclear bomb

There is nothing like the calm atmosphere of rational debate which characterizes the Middle East. In particular, in a friendly country that has made peace with Israel. This reaction is from a member of the ruling party.
Israel has never made any moves to interfere with waqf excavation works that are destroying precious archeological materials that may be from the time of the first temple.

Egyptian MP: Nothing will work with Israel except nuclear bomb
By The Associated Press
Last update - 22:08 12/02/2007

Israeli excavations near the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem sparked angry reactions on Monday from Egyptian parliament members, including one who said only a nuclear bomb could stop Israel.

The excavations, which aim to salvage artefacts before construction of a pedestrian bridge leading to the complex also sacred to Jews, have angered many Muslims who fear the work will harm the foundations of al-Aqsa mosque. Israel says the holy places will not be harmed.

"That cursed Israel is trying to destroy al-Aqsa mosque," Mohammed el-Katatny of President Hosni Mubarak's National Democratic Party (NDP) told a heated parliament session held to discuss the Israeli digging.

"Nothing will work with Israel except for a nuclear bomb that wipes it out of existence," he said.

Egypt was the first Arab state to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, but many Egyptians still regard Israel as an enemy because of its continued conflict with Palestinians.

Several Egyptian lawmakers at Monday's session called on the government to abolish all agreements with Israel, but the house has little say in national security issues or foreign policy, ultimately dictated by Mubarak who has rejected similar calls in the past.

"The war with Israel is still ongoing whether we like it or not," NDP lawmaker Khalifa Radwan said.

Mohamed Amer, another ruling party member, said: "What this [Israeli] gang is doing makes me demand that we trample over all the agreements we signed."

Israeli authorities said on Monday they would reconsider the planned construction work near the mosque in response to Muslim protests but would continue to search for ancient artefacts in the area.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Palestinians Abbas appeals for end of Stanctions

It is not clear what the Israeli response to this is. It is clear what it should be:
Tell us clearly what you mean, and show us what you mean first.

Palestinian PM appeals for end to Western sanctions
12 Feb 2007 19:43:39 GMT
Source: Reuters

By Nidal al-Mughrabi

GAZA, Feb 12 (Reuters) - Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh appealed on Monday to the United States and other Middle East mediators to restore economic aid to the Palestinian Authority in response to a Hamas-Fatah unity deal.

"The American administration should reconsider its hasty position, which refuses to deal with the will of the Palestinian people," Haniyeh, a Hamas leader, said in a speech.

"I say to the Quartet and to the European Union that this is the will of the Palestinian people, and they should respect it and they should work to end the status of siege," he said.

The Quartet of Middle East mediators -- the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations -- cut off direct funding of the Palestinian Authority after Hamas came to power last year.

Hamas, an Islamist movement, has rejected the Quartet's conditions for restoring aid: recognition of Israel, renunciation of violence and acceptance of existing interim peace agreements.

The unity agreement Hamas signed with the long-dominant Fatah faction in Saudi Arabia last Thursday made no explicit commitment to recognise the Jewish state.

Earlier on Monday, Israeli officials said earlier that Israel was considering suspending contacts with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas if the unity government did not meet the international demands.

The move could increase pressure on Abbas but hinder U.S. efforts to revive long-stalled peace talks. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice plans a three-way summit with Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem on Feb. 19.

A letter from Abbas of Fatah reappointing Haniyeh as prime minister contained a vague call to the movement to "abide by the interests of the Palestinian people" and "respect" past agreements and international law.


Haniyeh said the unity agreement reflected a desire by Hamas and Fatah to end factional warfare that killed more than 90 Palestinians between late December and early February. A policemen died on Monday of wounds he had sustained in the clashes, hospital officials said.

Haniyeh said Hamas would hold nine cabinet posts, with six going to Fatah. An independent candidate would become interior minister, a position that oversees security services. He said he planned to hold more talks with Abbas to finalise the details.

Saudi Arabia's cabinet on Monday called for world support for the Mecca agreement, saying positive world reaction "would be a strong impetus towards alleviating the suffering of the Palestinian people and help push the peace process forward".

Olmert told Israeli lawmakers he needed to assess where Abbas stood following his power-sharing deal with Hamas.

"Now they are one and they are one government," Olmert said, according to a parliamentary spokesman. "If (the new government) insists on the same stance, Abu Mazen (Abbas) would be moving from the positions that he had earlier."

Israeli officials said a suspension of contacts may only be temporary and that a final decision will not be made until the unity government is in place, a process that could take a month or longer.

Israel's response also depended on whether Abbas and the new government secured the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. "Gilad Shalit can serve as a test," Olmert said.

(Additional reporting by Adam Entous and Dan Williams in Jerusalem and Firouz Sedarat in Dubai)

Continued (Permanent Link)

Reuters: Israel mulls suspending ties over Abbas-Hamas deal

This report was denied by the Israeli government, but Reutrers has not changed it.

Israel mulls suspending ties over Abbas-Hamas deal
12 Feb 2007 17:53:18 GMT

By Adam Entous

JERUSALEM, Feb 12 (Reuters) - Israel is considering suspending contacts with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas if his new unity government with Hamas does not meet international demands, Israeli officials said on Monday.

The move could increase pressure on Abbas but hinder U.S. efforts to revive long-stalled peace talks. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice plans a three-way summit with Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem on Feb. 19.

Olmert told Israeli lawmakers he needed to assess where Abbas stood following his power-sharing deal with the governing Hamas movement.

"Now they are one and they are one government," Olmert said, according to a parliamentary spokesman. "If (the new government) insists on the same stance, Abu Mazen (Abbas) would be moving from the positions that he had earlier."

Advisers to Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni met on Monday to consider their response to the unity deal.

"One option under serious discussion is severing contacts with Abu Mazen," said one of the officials involved in the deliberations.

Israeli officials said a suspension of contacts may only be temporary and that a final decision will not be made until the unity government is in place, a process that could take a month or longer.

Israel's response also depended on whether Abbas and the new government secured the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. "Gilad Shalit can serve as a test," Olmert said.

An Israeli defence official said ties with Mohammed Dahlan, a top Abbas aide who had spearheaded Fatah's power struggle with Hamas, were also in doubt.

Dahlan took part in the Saudi-brokered unity talks, which led to the signing of a power-sharing pact in Mecca last Thursday. His role in the new Palestinian government is unclear.

Olmert's spokeswoman, Miri Eisin, said: "We expect the Palestinian government ... to accept all three of the international community's conditions, and that includes recognition of Israel's right to exist, full acceptance and implementation of former agreements, complete stopping of terror actions and a clear renunciation of terror and violence."

Western donors cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority after Hamas came to power in an election a year ago.

In Brussels, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the European Union's external relations commissioner, said the EU had to study details of the proposed administration.


A Hamas official had said Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh could unveil the new government before a Feb. 21 meeting of the "Quartet" of Middle East mediators, the United States, Russia, the EU and the United Nations.

But Salah al-Bardaweel, spokesman of the Hamas parliament bloc, said it might take another four weeks because Fatah and Hamas had yet to agree on who would take the posts of deputy prime minister and interior minister.

Fighting between Hamas and Fatah killed more than 90 Palestinians between late December and early February.

Washington organised the Feb. 19 summit to explore the contours of a Palestinian state but the focus may shift to U.S. and Israeli concerns about the unity government deal.

"This puts us in a very difficult position," a senior Israeli official said, referring to U.S.-led efforts to strengthen Abbas, who seeks a negotiated peace with Israel. "Our assumptions have been shattered. What do we do?"

The Mecca deal made no explicit commitment to recognise Israel. A letter from Abbas reappointing Haniyeh as prime minister contained a vague call to the movement to "abide by the interests of the Palestinian people" and "respect" past agreements and international law. (Additional reporting by Dan Williams in Jerusalem and Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza)

Continued (Permanent Link)

About the 'Agreement: Hamas: We will not recognize Israel or stop violence

This helps us judge the agreement...

Hamas: We will not recognize Israel or stop violence
by Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook
Palestinian Media Watch
p:+972 2 625 4140e:
f: +972 2 624 2803

A Hamas spokesman has reiterated that the new Hamas-led coalition government
will neither recognize Israel nor stop terror. According to Hamas spokesman
Mushir Al-Masri, Hamas interprets the Mecca agreement to mean that the Arab
and Islamic worlds have accepted them as they are, and that "international
legitimization" will follow.

The following are excerpts from the article:

Hamas movement spokesman, Mushir Al-Masri, said: "Hamas remains as it is:
following its principles. It did not retreat, but advanced forward." He
confirmed that it will not recognize Israel, will not abandon the resistance
[i.e. terror] and will not discard its principles." He further said: "The
Hamas [that existed] prior to the government, is Hamas of the government.
Hamas prior to the unity [government] is Hamas after the unity."

This was said during a rally organized yesterday by the Islamic University
student council, as part of a series of activities of identification with
the university. Thousands of university students and a group of
representatives from the Legislative Council and ministers participated in
the rally.Al-Masri added: "Hamas received national legitimization through
the gathering of masses around it and around the option of resistance [i.e.,
terror] and received legislative legitimization through its victory in the
Legislative Council elections. It now received Arab and Islamic
legitimization and will receive international legitimization." [Al-Ayyam,
February 12, 2007]

Please feel free to forward this bulletin, crediting Palestinian Media Watch

To SUBSCRIBE to PMW reports,
send an e-mail to
with "SUBSCRIBE" in the subject line.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Campus Zionism - Giving a new face to Zionist activism

Fein explains why UPZ is important to Campus Zionism, and how OneVoice is helping to build a constituency for peace.
Some Good News, Courtesy of the Young
The Hour
Leonard Fein | Fri. Feb 02, 2007
As Israel's foreign minister (and deputy prime minister), Tzipi Livni, said at the biannual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last week, pretty much every approach to peace between Israel and the Palestinians has been tried — and has failed. There was the step-by-step approach of Oslo, with its emphasis on confidence-building; there was the whole kit and caboodle approach of Camp David, in 2000; there was Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005. While all three failed, the two-state conception that lies at their heart survives. It is battered and bruised, with growing numbers on both the right and the left now promoting a one-state solution. (On the left that means one "secular democratic state" between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River; on the right it means one Jewish state covering Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.) Exhaustion, too, must be counted among the enemies of the two-state conception; the hopelessness among Palestinians and the gloom among Israelis, both Jewish and Arab, has generated a fatalistic cynicism that doubts any slogan, any program for progress towards peace.
But polls show that a large majority of both Israelis and Palestinians continue to favor a two-state solution. They may, of course, doubt the capacity of their leaders to get from here to there, and they may differ, even sharply, on the parameters of the two states — on what should be the fate of the Palestinian refugees, about Jerusalem, about borders and so forth — but the core concept lives.
Good news: A movement called One Voice now seems to have taken root. One Voice is an effort to mobilize both Jews and Palestinians to endorse a two-state solution and to persuade their friends and neighbors to do the same, and it has so far registered more than a quarter of a million people from both sides as signatories of its proclamation denouncing violence and calling for an end to the conflict based on two states living side by side in peace and security.
More to the present point, One Voice was a star participant at this year's Davos meeting. The remarks by Livni, Mahmoud Abbas and Shimon Peres at a plenary session chaired by the founder of the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab, were preceded by video messages from One Voice activists in Tel Aviv, Ramallah and East Jerusalem. From rooms apparently packed with hundreds of mainly young (20s and 30s) supporters, four statements were read out demanding an end to "excuses and delays," insisting that attention be paid to "the moderate majority" in both societies. (A summary of the proceedings is available at, and, if you've 67 minutes to invest — it's well worth it — you can see and hear the entire session by going to and clicking on the "Session: Enough is Enough: Israel and the Palestinian Territories.") The firm enthusiasm and the uncommon sobriety of the activists so clearly stood in contrast to the daily reports from the area that the observer wants to grab hold of it, to encourage it, to help transform it into a regional pandemic. (Peres took honors for the quip of the day: Speaking immediately after Livni, he began by saying: "Although Tzipi and I are in the same government, I agree with every word she said.")
More good news, from an entirely different venue: The third-annual Limmud New York conference in Catskill, N.Y., has been well covered in the Jewish press. But not enough attention has been paid to the fact that this remarkable encounter is the product of an independent, overwhelmingly volunteer-driven organization, which managed with extraordinary efficiency to recruit some 800 participants — multigenerational and multi-denominational — along with 100 or so "presenters" for three-plus days of intensive programming on topics theological, political, cultural and everything else as well. (Reviewing the program, I was reminded of the apocryphal professor who assigned his students a paper on "the universe and related problems.") Those who lament the American Jewish condition should try to come to Limmud next year and soak up a bit of the abundant energy it generates.
And more still, evidence that our community is, now and then, thoughtful, responsible and mature. The Union of Progressive Zionists is a proud member of the Israel on Campus Coalition, an effort of 31 organizations large and small working to advance Israel's interests on college campuses. The UPZ, though among the smaller members of the coalition, occupies an important niche: It demonstrates that one need not choose between being politically progressive and being a Zionist; these days, given the "fashionable" anti-Zionism on the left, that's a major contribution.
Some weeks back, the UPZ sponsored a college tour by an Israeli organization called Breaking the Silence, a group of Israeli ex-soldiers who report on the excesses and even, sometimes, atrocities of the Israel Defense Forces. Predictably, the Zionist Organization of America, ever blind to nuance, demanded the UPZ's expulsion from the ICC (but later modified that demand). It was joined by an even huffier American Jewish Congress (yes, how the mighty have fallen), and for a time it seemed as if the UPZ would get the ax for having violated the standing rule against washing your dirty linen in public. In the end however, the eight-member ICC steering committee (which includes Aipac and the American Jewish Committee among others) voted unanimously not only not to expel the UPZ but also not to monitor the campus programming of ICC member organizations and not to revisit the criteria for membership in the ICC.
Good sense being in short supply these days, it is worth praising it when it shows up. And to note, with delight, that all three items in this uncharacteristically jolly report derive from the actions of young people.

Continued (Permanent Link)

CAIR: Women's rights advocate is 'just one more Muslim-basher on the lecture circuit'

Congratulations to Mr. Hooper, who dismisses Hirsan Ali's tragic lifestory thuswise:

'just one more Muslim-basher on the lecture circuit'

Well OK, CAIR. We'll remember that one when Muslims champion 'Jews' like Israel Shamir and Rabbi David Weiss, "Just one more Jew-Basher on the lecture circuit."
It's a heck of a way to respond to allegations of profound oppression, but hey, if it works, I say go for it!
After finding refuge in Holland, Hirsan Ali was attacked for speaking out against gender oppression in Islam, and finally forced to leave on a pretext. Now the apostles of 'tolerance' in the US are beginning to work on her as well.
Says Ibrahim Hooper:
"We believe that she will bring an increase to the level of anti-Muslim bias in this country that we saw her bring to the situation in Europe," the council's communications director, Ibrahim Hooper, said in an interview Saturday. "Unfortunately her message is one of bigotry, not one of mutual understanding."
What is there to understand about genital mutilation, cracking people's skulls and other progressive manifestations of reactionary religious fanaticism? What sort of understanding does Mr. Hooper want to reach, and with whom?
Who is the oppressor? Who is defending oppression?

Critic of Islam Finds New Home in U.S.
By WILLIAM C. MANN, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON - As a child, Ayaan Hirsi Ali fled violence in Somalia with her family. As an adult she fled Kenya to escape an arranged marriage. She left her adopted Holland after she was caught up in political turmoil and had her life threatened.

Now Hirsi Ali - a brave critic of Islam to her supporters, a bigot to her critics - has found refuge in the intellectual bastion of leading U.S. conservatives.
Hirsi Ali joined the American Enterprise Institute last September, after a sometimes stormy 14 years in the Netherlands, where she was a member of parliament and became a central figure in two events that jolted the nation.
First, after she wrote a script for a film that depicted naked women with Quranic verses scrawled on their bodies, a Dutch-born Muslim gunned down the filmmaker, Theo van Gogh. A letter threatening Hirsi Ali was left on a knife plunged into van Gogh's chest.
Next, a fight within Hirsi Ali's political party over her Dutch citizenship brought down the government.
These days, Hirsi Ali is promoting her autobiography, "Infidel." It gives a graphic account of how she rejected her faith and the violence she says was inflicted on her in the name of Islam.
"I'm an apostate. That's why the book is called 'Infidel,'" she said in a telephone interview from New York.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations thinks Hirsi Ali's campaign amounts to slander and bigotry.
"We believe that she will bring an increase to the level of anti-Muslim bias in this country that we saw her bring to the situation in Europe," the council's communications director, Ibrahim Hooper, said in an interview Saturday. "Unfortunately her message is one of bigotry, not one of mutual understanding."
Her new colleagues at the American Enterprise Institute laud Ali Hirsi as a brave voice taking on a taboo subject.
"She's very original, a very courageous thinker, and she has independence of mind," said Christina Hoff Sommers, an institute fellow who specializes, among other things, in feminism.
At the institute, Hirsi Ali's studies will involve Islam and women: the relationship between the West and Islam; women's rights in Islam; violence against women propagated by religious and cultural arguments; and Islam in Europe.
Many institute scholars have had a close relationship with the Bush administration. Among its senior fellows are former House Speaker Newt Gingrich; John R. Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; and Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice President Dick Cheney.
It may seem like odd company for a woman born in a Mogadishu hospital 37 years ago.
"I've been accused of selling out," she said. "I've been told, 'You're hanging the dirty laundry outside.'"
Ali Hirsi's book provides a graphic account of how her grandmother had her subjected to genital mutilation, sometimes called female circumcision, when she was 5 years old. The practice began in Africa, before Islam, but some African Muslim societies still see it as a requirement of religion.
She also describes a time when she was a teenager in Kenya, a majority Christian country with many Muslim Somali refugees, and a Quran teacher cracked her skull after she challenged his insistence that students write Quranic verses on wooden boards and memorize them.
"I started to call him uncivilized and backward and said he lived in the time of ignorance before Islam had come around and this was an outrageous system," she said. The man bashed her head against the wall.
She lied to be accepted as a refugee in Holland, became a Dutch citizen, graduated from prestigious Leiden University and won a seat in the Dutch parliament for a party that was tough on immigration. She became known as a firebrand.
That led to her collaboration with van Gogh on the short television movie, "Submission." In 2004, a man enraged by the movie shot van Gogh seven times and slit his throat on an Amsterdam street, leaving the note threatening Hirsi Ali.
Her lie when she entered the country - she used an assumed name - caught up with her last year. By that time her falsehood was widely known, even to her good friend Rita Verdonk, the immigration minister. Because of a notorious similar case in which Verdonk expelled a young woman, she came under pressure to cancel Hirsi Ali's citizenship. She did, and the six members of the government's smallest coalition party resigned in protest. The government fell, although Verdonk had used a technicality to restore Hirsi Ali's Dutch citizenship.
Considering van Gogh's death, and her continuing outspokenness about Islam, Hirsi Ali said she no longer can feel safe without bodyguards in the presence of even moderate Muslims.
Unlike many world leaders, including Bush, who say Muslim terrorists are distorting the peaceful Islamic religion, Hirsi Ali said the terrorists in large part have truth on their side: The violence is in the Quran and the hadith, the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad, she said.
Islam today, she said, "is not my grandmother's amulet-wearing, superstitious sort of Islam that is just comforting for the believer." Today's Islam sees the world as its enemy, she said. "And you wage war against your enemies."
The Council on American-Islamic Relations' Hooper contends that she exaggerates to further her agenda.
"She is just one more Muslim-basher on the lecture circuit," he said

Continued (Permanent Link)

Palestinian claim: Israel offers 1,429 Palestinian prisoners' in exchange for captured Israeli

"we will stand still until Israelis bow to our demands,
Palestinian people have sacrificed hundreds of martyrs since the capture of
Shalit, homes were destroyed, people were arrested, we can't release him for
If 1429 prisoners are not enough, what are the demands?

Israel offers 1,429 Palestinian prisoners' in exchange for captured Israeli
soldier, Gilad Shalit
Date: 12 / 02 / 2007  Time:  16:17

Gaza - Ma'an - Palestinian Legislative Council member, Mohammad Shehab, is
confident that Israel will release more than 1000 Palestinian prisoners, in
a prisoners swap for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Speaking to Ma'an, Shehab said that Shalit's captors have received a
proposal from Egypt, whom Israel choose to negotiate through, offering the
release of 1,429 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the soldier. Shehab
said "this came only after the Egyptians made persistent contact and
consultation with Israel, who finally made an offer of this number."
Shehab also said "we will stand still until Israelis bow to our demands,
Palestinian people have sacrificed hundreds of martyrs since the capture of
Shalit, homes were destroyed, people were arrested, we can't release him for

Shehab viewed the prisoners' exchange deal as intrinsic to the Mecca deal,
he said "the Mecca agreement was built on the prisoners' document; this
document was behind the agreement. This issue is not only the demand of the
prisoners', but the demand of the people."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Hillel and OneVoice respond to defamatory articles in Stanford Review and Frontpage magazine

For those who wondered about recent attacks on Hillel and One Voice in the Stanford Review and Frontpage Magazine, here are some replies.
Onevoice is an organization of mainstream Zionists and mainstream Palestinians working for peace. They are supported by US celebrities and leaders in their respective communities.
It is bordering on absurd to claim that Hillel is anti-Zionist and past absurd to claim that Onevioice supports terrorism or extremism.
The articles in question claimed that Shaykh Tamimi is a member of the OneVoice "board." He is actually a member of the One Voice Honorary Advisory Board, which does not determine policy. Other members include Likud and Labor party Knesset members, Rabbi Melchior and other well known and honorable figures. This is not mentioned in either article.
In both Front Page Magazine and Stanford Review articles, the same alleged 1994 extremist quote by Tamimi was used to "prove" that Onevoice supports extremism. No provenance has been given in either article for this quote, which appears in precisely the same form in about 40 different Web logs and articles. The original must've been in Arabic, so they are all using the same translation -- or invention.
This claim seems to be deliberately misleading defamation.
Ami Isseroff

Below are two responses to an article published exclusively online in Issue 11, entitled, "Israel's Defeat on Campus." An abridged version of the response to the article will appear in the next print edition of The Review.
Back to Reality: Israel, Hillel, and Jewish Life at Stanford
One would think from Daniel Kaganovich's and Jeremy England's article (Stanford Review, Online Edition, "Israel's Defeat on Campus," January 26, 2007) that the Jewish campus community, student leadership and Hillel professional staff are part of some twisted conspiracy.  The article seems to repeatedly use the classic method of simplifying and then demonizing a group to galvanize antipathy towards that group.  Fortunately, nothing could be further from the truth, and we are disappointed that these two students have chosen to place themselves outside the wide and diverse tent of our community, and attack it, rather than join us within it.
The programming policy of Hillel and its affiliated student groups reflects our commitment to a flourishing Jewish and democratic State of Israel within internationally recognized secure borders.  Hillel does not promote views outside of that framework.  Hillel does support students' exploration of wide-ranging education and debate within that broad framework.  Many of us who are actively engaged in the campus Jewish community hold divergent views on key issues relating to Israel – a reflection not only of the American Jewish community, but also of the diverse views within Israel itself.  Our pro-Israel program – which we organize regardless of the level of anti-Israel sentiment on campus at any given time – includes educational, advocacy and cultural events.  A small sampling of last quarter's speaker program included David Horowitz, Editor of the Jerusalem Post, Shavit Matias, Deputy Attorney General of Israel, and historian Michael Oren.  Cultural events included our Israeli Beit Café and an Israeli film night.  Our Hamagshimim student group and AIPAC student liaisons hold regular discussions and advocacy trainings.  And, some of us have traveled with Hillel to Israel either for first-time Taglit-birthright Israel experience or we've returned to Israel for leadership missions.
Unfortunately, the authors of the article have chosen to exclude themselves from the debate and discussion within our community and, instead, attack us from the outside.  Ironically, their fallacious diatribe against Hillel and against our rich and diverse campus Jewish community was unleashed precisely at the time our Jewish community has become more unified than ever as we have come together to effectively combat anti-Israel sentiment.  Students from our numerous Israel groups have come together, along with many students who are usually less active but were angered by SCAI into action.  Together, we have implemented a number of strategies and activities to combat the erroneous, simplistic views that SCAI has attempted to bring to Stanford – a campus usually known for its quality discourse on complex issues.  We have protested SCAI's activities and launched a campaign to educate the wider campus community about the evils of divestment; we have met with campus administrators as well as the leaders of SCAI to express our disappointment at this campaign that not only is grossly offensive and inaccurate, but also erodes the usually elevated level of discourse that we have come to expect on Stanford's campus; we have created a strong pro-Israel presence in the pages of the Stanford Daily; we have gone door-to-door with our petition, and created an online signup option at, to gather signatures and combat SCAI's campaign with a pro-Israel, pro-peace declaration.  And, of course, we are continuing, with Hillel's guidance and support, to plan Israel education and advocacy events as we usually do. 
It is truly a pity, and perhaps the most disheartening of all, to see two members of the Jewish community unleash their frustration at the larger Jewish community at this critical time.  It is a shame that we must now divert our energies away from combating anti-Israel activity on campus, as we deal with this internecine battle. 
While Kaganovich's and England's article is filled with too many inaccuracies to address each, we do wish to take issue here with the authors' claim that, "Coming to Israel's defense is a daunting task for even the most determined student."  It is true that many students find Israel issues on campus complex and challenging.  Often, many students would rather simply focus on their schoolwork.  And, in times of quiet on campus, many of our peers are not as active as those of us writing this article would like them to be.  But now, more than ever, Stanford students are both defending Israel and actively promoting it.  And, frankly, we do not feel daunted.  Perhaps it is much less daunting at Stanford than it would be at another campus – as our Jewish community is supported by a Hillel with one of the most dedicated and talented staffs in the country.
Finally, if these students wish to participate in Jewish campus life, rather than criticize from afar, we simply suggest they check the Hillel website.  On it, aside from our social justice programming for which our Hillel has been nationally acclaimed, they will find a weekly Beit Midrash (traditional-style learning) program, with two levels of Talmud study taught on Wednesday nights, each taught by observant Talmud scholars.  They will find four additional weekly classes on topics ranging from the weekly Torah portion to Maimonides to Hebrew study taught by Hillel's full-time Reconstructionist rabbi and two Orthodox rabbis who are engaged by Hillel to ensure a broad spectrum of Jewish learning and role modeling.  They will see the opportunity to participate in Shabbat services that range from Reform to Orthodox, followed on Friday nights by Shabbat dinner for all.  And, had they checked the website last Simchat Torah, they would have seen that our Hillel joined with Chabad in celebration of this holiday.  In fact, Stanford boasts one of the most positive Hillel–Chabad relationships in the country.  While each organization is distinct and holds many programs of their own, these organizations come together periodically for joint celebrations and programs, and the staffs of Chabad at Stanford and Hillel at Stanford model true "derech eretz" (a Hebrew phrase generally understood to mean "respect") that is evident by the way the Chabad rabbi, Hillel rabbi and Hillel director interact – which, itself, is a blessing to our community and something we hope these students will learn to emulate.  We hope they will choose to join us as we work to maximize support for a Jewish and democratic state of Israel that enjoys safe and secure borders.
Mishan Araujo, Stanford University '08, President, Stanford Israel Alliance
David Cohen, Stanford University '07, Vice President, Stanford Israel Alliance
Marissa Cramer, Stanford University '08, Vice President, Stanford Israel Alliance
Carrie Mlynarczyk , Stanford University '09, Israel Chair, Jewish Students Association
Cheryl Pruce, Stanford University '08, President, Jewish Students Association

In response to the article 'Israel's Defeat on Campus', OneVoice answers Back
 Daniel Kaganovich and Jeremy England recently wrote a cutting piece about Hillel hosting the OneVoice Movement at Stanford. Shame on them.
When I first came to Stanford I walked into a room with lead representatives of Stanford's most prominent Israeli, Muslim, Jewish, and Palestinian groups. The first thing that struck me was that they didn't know each others names.
I was accompanied by a Palestinian and an Israeli who volunteer with OneVoice in the Middle East and were spending just one week speaking on campuses across California.
The event was convened by the Dean of Student Affairs and a couple of Stanford's finest professors and experts on the subject of conflict resolution. They were worried about the growing animosity at Stanford between these Israeli/Jewish and Arab/Muslim groups - that the conflict in the Middle East was dividing their local community as it has so many others. The group came, listened, aired grievances and when my colleagues and I had to get up to rush to Berkeley for another event, they barely noticed us leave. They remained behind to debate and plan – to understand one another and to do better. A year later, the seeds sown in that meeting helped us bring more Israeli and Palestinian activists to Stanford before a much bigger audience hosted jointly by the major Palestinian and Jewish groups.  This program exists to isolate those who want to divide communities and to have futile debates about historical rights; instead, we engage those with more imagination in thinking about what they can do to actually help those in the Region.
OneVoice's core work happens out of offices in Ramallah, Tel Aviv and Gaza. Its mission is to enable the people of the Region to play a role in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Nothing would be better for both peoples than our achievement of this goal. But what can we do? We have seen negotiations stall and fail; we've seen wars and Intifadas. There is massive animosity and mistrust between the populations today, increasing involvement from outside groups who exploit this conflict and the practical problem of actually finding answers to difficult questions – refugees, Jerusalem, holy sites, borders, water and so on.
At OneVoice we attempt to do three things:
Firstly, we attempt to redefine this conflict.  It is not a conflict of Jews and Muslims, East and West, though many would use this as an excuse to continue to wage war. It is a conflict fought for the sake of the realization of the national necessities of each people. I use the word 'necessities' rather than implausible 'ideals' because the situation today is not, for the majority of the populations, a question of 'Greater Israel' vs. pre-1948 Palestine. On the contrary, the vast majority of Israelis and Palestinians (76% according to our polls, 60-85% according to most mainstream polls) are not working toward these goals at all. Rather, they have accepted that they have to compromise and – for the sake of their children – are desperate to do so. It is a conflict where each side is vying for their part of a two-state solution.
Therefore, it is not a black and white conflict, Israelis vs. Palestinians, but one of those who want to compromise against those who hold absolutist visions. This is a conflict that is yet to be fought, but fight it we must.
Second, we at OneVoice attempt to build internal coalitions to bolster our external goal.
To support compromise is not to abandon our convictions in support of the other side. It is not to admit that their cause is better or more just than your own and it is not to like the other side. It is to find answers to a problem that haunts your life – takes away your security, your freedom, your independence, your right to life.
The relatively right wing Israeli Likud party today supports a two-state solution – its leaders and members have joined OneVoice as board members and activists. MK Yoel Hasson was the leader of the youth wing of Likud and has stayed involved with OneVoice since taking office as a Kadima candidate, having been one of our first graduating volunteer youth leaders. Obviously Mr. Hasson MK, is just not quite as patriotic an Israeli as Jeremy England, even if he did sit in the office next door to Prime Minister Sharon during two years of Intifada.
A range of Palestinians throughout the West Bank and Gaza have joined OneVoice's leadership program and are actively promoting non-violence and compromise in their communities with great success.
What is needed is an umbrella that will set parameters – non-violence, anti-extremism, two-state solution – and within those parameters bring together the widest possible coalition of people. OneVoice does this.
Thirdly, we give ownership to the people. The people never felt the benefits of Oslo, they never felt connected to Camp David and they were isolated from the Geneva Accords. People do not like to be told that they must sacrifice this or that – that they will be moved here or there, especially when they would only be prepared to do so out of necessity rather than ideals. At OneVoice we are about driving a process to engage the grassroots populations in seeing how much they agree on potential resolutions and giving their feedback to each other and to the leadership. Most Israelis and most Palestinians do not realize that people in their own societies agree with them, let alone across the divide. In the re-defined conflict of absolutists vs. those who want to compromise, we have to organize and coordinate jointly better than before.
Our citizen negotiations platform and the focus groups that go on around it are at the heart of this process – over 250,000 Israelis and Palestinians have taken part at some level and the results are startling. Consensus, consensus, consensus – not on exact answers, but on the willingness to compromise, to find answers. In doing this we are not trying to craft a peace agreement. Too many of them exist already and all are useless in today's political climate. What we need is a process to push leaders to take steps toward conflict resolution and to empower them to do so by amplifying the voice of their millions of constituents. In doing so, we isolate those who do not want to see compromise and stand directly against those who would use violence to push toward their absolutist visions.
Until now, those who do not want to compromise have organized better than us, and the small sub-group within them who want to use violence to derail this process, better than anyone.
Last month, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Palestinian President Abbas shared a stage at the World Economic Forum for the first time to talk about what they could do for the peace process. They were brought together by hundreds of young Israelis and Palestinians who allied through independent OneVoice demonstrations in Ramallah, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to take their message to the leaders. What an incredible piece of diplomacy – so called 'enemy' populations, bringing together their leaders to push them to find answers and to vow to support them through the difficult process of finding those answers.
This is bravery and imagination. This is civil society and inspiration. This is OneVoice. Will we succeed? Maybe not, as the factors working against us are great. But we have no option but to try.
OneVoice activists came to Stanford to ask all those who care about the fates of the Israeli and Palestinian people to support their work. The response has been fantastic – Palestinians and Israelis, Muslims and Christians and Jews standing with us—and we applaud Stanford Hillel for this and other initiatives. Kaganovich, who wrote to my colleague that "I am opposed to dialogue with Palestinian Arab organizations in general, as I would be opposed to dialogue with the SS," is not only out of step with members of his own community, like Stanford Israel Alliance Amie Barron who brought OneVoice to campus with the conviction that "to affect change on a broad scale, we must first be able to combat intolerance and injustice, and increase understanding, locally." He also fails to represent those in the Region who recognize the need to propel their leaders towards conflict resolution. 
Shame on these angry children who would tell Israelis from Likud, Mafdal, Shas, Kadima and Shinui who support OneVoice that they are not passionate enough about Israel because they want to find a practical way out of the conflict. Shame on them for bringing up and belittling the Holocaust at every possible opportunity to try to give weight to their weak arguments. Shame on them for that.
This is not about demonizing one 'side,' it's about the fact that the situation in the Middle East is hideous. Here, Israeli and Palestinian people are desperately trying to guide themselves out of this intertwined misery. Their fates are shared for better or worse – both will have peace or both will have war.
And what do we do? Do we go back to the same old game, of supporting one side by attacking the other, of hate literature, of divestment? We can, but the world will move backwards, not forwards, if we do. We are asking all of those who care about the fates of the Israeli and Palestinian people to dedicate their energy to improving those fates lest we condemn those we claim to care about to an eternity of misery. We came to Stanford to say exactly that and the response on the whole has been fantastic – Palestinians and Israelis, Muslims and Jews standing with us. Thank you, Stanford and please don't lose sight of the fact that you have a role to play, but it is in helping those people in the Middle East, not wasting your time on those unworthy of it on your campus, as I have had to do here.
They say if you can't write something on the back of a napkin it's not worth writing at all. In half as many words as Danny and Jeremy used in their article, I hope I have explained a bit more about what we stand for and why we stand for it, and if I haven't already, let me do so here, as though on the back of a napkin:
Hillel is right to work with others, so long as the aspirations of partner groups are not a threat to Israel or Jews.  OneVoice is a pioneer of such aspirations, not a threat to them, just as it is a pioneer of Palestinian aspirations for a permanent, viable, independent state alongside Israel. The vast majority of those who live with the consequences of an expanding, deepening conflict understand that – let us support them however we can.
Jake Hayman is the International Coordinator for the OneVoice Movement. He has spoken at over 50 campuses and communities worldwide about their work after spending time in both 2005 and 2006 with the OneVoice offices in Ramallah and Tel Aviv.

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Analysis of the Palestinian Unity Agreement

Nobody knows what to make of this agreement. There is no agreement even about the text of the letter of authorization for the government, and whether it "recognizes," "honors" or "respects" previous agreements, or what those agreements might be.

Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center
Initial analysis of the agreement reached at Mecca between Fatah and Hamas for the establishment of a Palestinian national unity government 

Main points of the Agreement
1. On February 6-8 negotiations were held in Mecca between senior members of Fatah and Hamas. Among them were Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), the chairman of the Palestinian Authority, and Khaled Mashaal the head of Hamas's political bureau.
2. The negotiations were held in Saudi Arabia under the auspices of King Abdullah, and at their conclusion the Mecca Agreement was signed. It main points were the following: 1
A. Palestinian blood must not be shed . All steps must be taken to prevent Palestinian bloodshed and to adopt the policy of dialogue as the only means of settling political disputes.
B. A Palestinian national unity government is to be established on the basis of the "detailed agreement" reached by Fatah and Hamas. (The specifics were not mentioned.) It was decided that as soon as possible, both sides would start implementing the necessary constitutional steps to form the government.
C. Furthering proceedings were necessary to reorganize the PLO for development and reform.
D. The objective of the agreement was to enable both sides, Fatah and Hamas, to turn their energy to "liberation from the burden of the occupation," "and first and foremost in matters concerning Jerusalem, the refugees, Al-Aqsa mosque, the prisoners and detainees, the
[security] fence and the settlements."

3. At the signing of the Mecca Agreement, Nabil Omar, Abu Mazen's advisor, read Abu Mazen's letter of appointment to Ismail Haniya, which stated that: 2
A. Abu Mazen charged Ismail Haniya with forming the next Palestinian government during the period of time specified by the Palestinian basic law and presenting it to the Palestinian Legislative Council for ratification.
B. Abu Mazen called upon Ismail Haniya to honor legitimate international decisions (i.e., those made by the UN) and agreements signed by the PLO . That includes those made on the basis of by previous decisions made by the Palestinian Legislative Councils, the "national reconciliation document" (i.e., "the prisoners' document" 3) and the decisions made at Arab summit meetings.

4. The distribution of portfolios among Fatah and Hamas ministers was not specified in the Mecca Agreement or the letter of appointment. According to Palestinian news media reporting from Mecca, it was decided in principle that nine ministries would to go Hamas, six to Fatah (including that of deputy prime minister), four to other factions and five to independent public figures (among them the important ministry of the interior, which includes control of some of the security forces, the foreign ministry and the ministry of finance). According to one version, Abu Mazen would choose the minister of the interior from among candidates proposed by Hamas (Agence France-Presse, February 8).

5. Deliberations on the exact composition of the government are expected to continue until Abu Mazen and senior Hamas members return to the Palestinian Authority. Palestinians throughout the PA were pleased with the agreement and expressed their support by holding processions and waving Hamas and Fatah flags.

The significance of the Mecca Agreement – first evaluation 
1. The Mecca Agreement primarily expresses Fatah-Hamas interest to prevent a continuation and worsening of the violent clashes between them. In effect, Abu Mazen and Fatah decided in favor of an internal Palestinian reconciliation at the price of concessions to Hamas and ignoring the demands of the United States and the Quartet.
2. Hamas would seem to have profited most from the Mecca Agreement because it was able to preserve most of its governmental assets without making ideological concessions with regard to the continuation of terrorism against Israel and without having to accept the conditions of the Quartet and the international community.
3. Fatah's participation in the national unity government and Abu Mazen's call in the letter of appointment for the honoring of previous agreements signed by the PLO were intended to permit Abu Mazen and Hamas to present a less belligerent front to the international community. That was done in the hope of reinstating foreign aid and ending the PA's political isolation . However, the Mecca Agreement makes no mention of two of the United States and the Quartet's fundamental demands which are fundamental components of previous agreements (including the road map): recognition of the right of the State of Israel to exist and abandoning terrorism and violence as solutions to the conflict. Hamas spokesmen used the media to make it clear that the future national unity government's political platform did not include recognition of Israel . 4

1 According to the version read by Nabil Omar, Abu Mazen's advisor, at a festive ceremony in Mecca (Palestinian News Agency, February 8).
2 Al-Arabiya TV, February 8.
3 For further information see our June 8, 2006 Bulletin entitled "Abu Mazen declared that on July 26 he would submit the prisoners' document to a national referendum…," at . The prisoners' document does not recognize the State of Israel and its right to exist, nor mention the abandoning of terrorism or the honoring of previous agreements signed by Israel and the Palestinians.
4 For example, Hamas spokesman Ismail Radwan stated that the Mecca Agreement did not mean recognition of the Israeli entity (Palestinian News Agency, February 9).

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Mecca deal good for Israel?

An unlikely thesis...

Ron Ben-Yishai 
Mecca deal good for Israel?

Saudi mediation weakens Iranian influence on Palestinians; deal may bring calm
Published:  02.12.07, 07:30 / Israel Opinion

If Mahmoud Abbas and Ismail Haniyeh manage to implement the Mecca agreement in the Palestinian territories, Israel may benefit as well, particularly in the security sphere. If the implementation fails, the very existence of the Mecca deal is bad for Israel on all fronts: Both diplomatically and security-wise.
This is the bottom line. But when we examine what was achieved through the Saudi king's mediation effort, we must recall that the Mecca deal is first and foremost an intra-Palestinian matter. It reflects the new balance of power, both politically and militarily, between Hamas and Fatah. This balance of power was created in the stormy year since Hamas came to power. It also includes an attempt to institutionalize and reinforce the patterns of government partnership between the radical Islamic branch and the main secular branch.
The agreement, however, does not include an unequivocal decision on the question of recognizing Israel and the way to reach peaceful coexistence with it.
The complex wording cannot hide the fact that Hamas continues to cling to its traditional positions, as does Fatah. The agreement between the two factions is pragmatic and meant to enable them to end the mutual bloodshed and receive hundreds of millions of dollars from the Saudis and Europeans. Therefore, from a diplomatic point of view, the deal is bad for Israel. It lifts the international pressure on Hamas to moderate its positions and enables it to establish itself in power without changing its ideological stance.
Moreover, the agreement will enhance the pressure on the Israeli government to enter into diplomatic negotiations on a final-status agreement with Abbas and make concessions before it's even clear whether Abbas, who serves as a moderate front for Hamas, can deliver the goods. This could lead to a situation where terrorism continues while Israel faces international pressure to implement what was agreed on with Abbas.
On the other hand, the Mecca deal features one important diplomatic ray of light: The mere fact that Saudi Arabia was the one that mediated and brought about the agreement boosts the influence of the sane elements in the Arab world on the Palestinian arena and weakens the influence of Iran and its emissaries.
From an Israeli security-related point of view, the agreement has several clear advantages: The Shin Bet director already said recently that the gravest danger faced by Israel in the Palestinian arena stems from the crumbling of society and violent anarchy in the Territories. The armed chaos allows Iran, Hizbullah and al-Qaeda to infiltrate the Territories and boos their influence. The absence of a central government with the ability to enforce its will, and the armed clans along with small yet murderous organizations such as Islamic Jihad dictate the Palestinian agenda. Their objective is to worsen the conflict with Israel in order to drag both Fatah and Hamas into it and enhance the motivation for terror attacks among the population.
Calm good for everyone
Under the cover of chaos, the smuggling tunnels on the Philadelphi route are operating with no interruptions and the lack of monitoring at the Rafah crossing allows arms, technological know-how and terrorists to constantly pour into the Strip. If through some miracle, Abbas, Ismail Haniyeh and Khaled Mashaal are able to implement the Mecca agreement and stabilize a functioning central government, there's a chance to change this state of affairs.
Both Hamas and Fatah need the lull in the fighting with Israel in order to receive assistance and redeploy. Therefore, they may act together to restrain the rebellious elements. Hence, if the Mecca deal is implemented, we can expect a period of relative calm, which Israel needs no less than the Palestinians.
We must admit that the IDF and new chief of staff need a lull at this time in order to repair the flaws discovered during the second Lebanon War, in order to rebuild the ground forces and train then, and in a bid to renew the faith in the army's top brass. The Israeli defense establishment also needs the lull in order to digest and implement the Winograd Commission conclusions on the personal level (also regarding the prime minister, defense minister, and several general staff officers) as well as on the system level.
No less important, a timeout, if used properly, will enable the defense system to rapidly advance urgent security projects that would allow the State of Israel to better address the threats it faces at all theaters. We're talking about three projects: Fortifying western Negev communities, developing systems that intercept rockets and short and medium range missiles, and the completion of the security fence.
Hamas will indeed make use of the period of calm, should it materialize, in order to continue building its new military infrastructure in the Gaza Strip based on the second Lebanon War's lessons. Yet in any case, Hamas is already using the anarchy to vigorously work on constructing the infrastructure for tunnels and the smuggling of know-how and arms, and therefore a calm in the Strip as a result of the Mecca deal won't change the situation much on that front. It may only serve to provide Israel with a clearer address for diplomatic and military pressures.
The improvement of the economic situation in Palestinian Authority areas as a result of the foreign aid to be provided may also minimize the motivation for terrorism and boost Abbas' status. All of this depends, as noted, on the extent to which the Hamas and Fatah leaderships are able to overcome the personal and extended clan animosity and contain the desire for revenge that emerged in recent months. All those may turn the Mecca agreement into a dead letter within a short period of time.
In addition, the respective Palestinian leaderships need to:

Unite Palestinian security apparatuses and bring them under the effective command of the new interior minister. To that end, the "operational force" set up by Hamas will have to be brought into the Palestinian Authority's existing apparatuses. This is not an easy task, and in fact an almost impossible one.
Enforce a ceasefire on Islamic Jihad and other rebellious groups.
Bring the negotiations on the release of Gilad Shalit in exchange for Palestinian prisoners to a successful conclusion
Agree on a mechanism that would effectively control the Rafah Crossing and crossings into Israeli territory.
 If the Hamas leadership and Abbas are able to implement these moves, there's a chance the Mecca agreement will open a new intermediate chapter that is better not only for the Palestinians, but also for Israel. What will happen after this timeout? We shall see.
Yet experience shows that the Palestinians are experts at missing opportunities, even when we're talking about improving their own condition in every way. Therefore, it would be appropriate to keep expectations low in Israel as well and prepare for a situation where in a few months Israel will have no choice and the IDF will have to launch a wide-scale operation in the Gaza Strip.

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Moshe Elad: Islam out, West in - Israeli Arabs are changing

We need to hope this is true.

Islam out, West in
Westernization of young Israeli Muslims limits Temple Mount protest
Moshe Elad Published:  02.11.07, 16:37 / Israel Opinion
Israeli Muslims' meager response to the Islamic Movement leader's call to protest the Mugrabi Gate bridge renovations proved that it is not the al-Aqsa Mosque that is in danger, but rather, the Movement's leadership.
The heads of the Movement, who once excelled in fanning the flames of incitement, encountered a more mature audience this time around.
The intermediate generation, and particularly the younger generation, didn't buy into the spin that an esoteric engineering problem could turn into a global religious war and expressed its dissatisfaction through its absence. The Israeli Muslim public apparently doesn't believe that the "whole world is a narrow bridge," as the popular Israeli song goes.
 A series of surveys and studies have pointed to a trend, which the Islamic Movement leaders are trying hard to conceal – the power of religion is waning, while the power of Westernization is on the rise.
A survey conducted among hundreds of Arab youth to find out who their role models were, found that more than half admire artists and pop stars, and over a quarter identify with athletes and intellectuals, whereas politicians (11 percent) and religious clerics (6 percent) were the least popular role models.
The Islamic Movement understands that its problem lies in its youth and in its women, and therefore launched a campaign called "our sons are in danger" in 2004. Its aim was to make its youngsters and women return to their religion. Surveys show that more and more Muslim youth describe themselves as non-religious, and there has been a significant drop in the adherence to Islamic laws (Ramadan, prayers.) More students are enrolled at ordinary academic institutions, and more youngsters enjoy spending their time at shopping malls alongside their Israeli counterparts while wearing the same brand-name shirts and jeans.
 Muslim youth dance to the same rock and rap music, use the same cellular phones, and drink and smoke the same stuff.
Drop in bigamy
The Movement's leadership is concerned by the fact that more and more women are discarding the Hijab and ignoring the rules of Islamic traditional dress. Many Muslim women take driving lessons, travel in mixed vehicles to their jobs and studies, bear fewer children and divorce more.
Much to the Islamic leadership's regret, the last decade has seen a drop in bigamy and polygamy; while at the same time Muslim women's associations have been working to apply the rulings of family courts on the Muslim community as well. Another concerning aspect is that hundreds (perhaps even more) of Muslim men are in relationships with Jewish women.
Overall, the average Muslim family makes use of multi-channel TVs, and the home distribution of personal computers and Internet access is quickly reaching the level prevalent in the Jewish community. As a result of this, the use of Israeli and English terminology is becoming increasingly widespread.
For Muslim youth, who constitute half of the Muslim population, the Mugrabi Gate sounds more like an Internet blog than a disputed area, and they would much rather surf the Temple Mount than gather around it.
 Moshe Elad is a researcher at the Samuel Neaman Institute for Advanced Studies in Science and Technology 

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Sever Plocker : Hamas victory in Mecca

Sever Plocker 
Hamas victory in Mecca
Saudi-brokered PA unity deal signals failure of effort to isolate Hamas government
Published:  02.11.07, 12:14 / Israel Opinion
Just a little over a year has elapsed since Hamas won the elections for the Palestinian parliament.
 Despite the economic and diplomatic embargo the world imposed on the Palestinian cabinet, despite its isolation in the official Arab world, despite the growing poverty and the raging violence and despite the suffering of the Palestinian people – Hamas did not give in to the demands of the international community; it did not fold or surrender.
The contrary is true: The extremist terror movement's leadership knew how to conduct itself artfully when necessary, and with brutal decisiveness when required. It correctly evaluated Fatah's limitations and its leaders' helplessness. It ignored Mahmoud Abbas' empty threats and Egypt's overt pressure.
It maneuvered between words and bloodshed, and now with the signing of the Mecca Agreement, it is celebrating its final victory: Mecca paved the way to international legitimacy of the Hamas organization as an elected democratic representative of the Palestinian people. Hamas got what it wanted without having to relinquish any of its principles and beliefs.
 This Hamas achievement was granted by the Saudi leadership. After all the Mecca Agreement is the result of a Saudi dictate that tends to favor Hamas by some 85 percent. A unity government wasn't established in Mecca, but rather, a government under Saudi patronage.
Extremist movements are not interested in governing alone. They need a broader political framework that would enable them to hold the reigns of power without drawing the attention of the civilized world, which is interested in being misled. Even the new Palestinian unity government will serve as a camouflage for Hamas.
And if the international blockade is not lifted quite yet, it won't be such a bad thing. The Saudi benefactor and its allies can funnel the Palestinian protectorate aid amounting to USD three billion every year without butting an eyelid. Their oil revenues last year totaled some USD 480 billion.
The new government's letter of appointment, as dictated to Abbas, does not mention Israel and there is no commitment to abide by or apply former agreements signed by previous Palestinian governments and/or the PLO, but rather, only to "recognize" them. Hamas has not shown any flexibility whatsoever.
Olmert government erred

From Israel's point of view, the Mecca Agreement is a worrisome development. The battle to hinder Hamas from gaining the world's acceptance may end in defeat. Because let's not delude ourselves: The US would not be able to reject an intra-Palestinian compromise agreement led by the Saudi king.

American interests are stronger: Saudi Arabia is the third-largest supplier of oil to the US (14 percent.) Saudi Arabia and the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, under its auspices, have accumulated foreign currency reserves of USD 1,000 billion, primarily invested in dollar bonds.
According to an announcement made by the Saudi government, in the coming years it is set to invest USD 650 billion in developing its country's infrastructure: Oil and gas drills, power stations, ports, airports, communication networks, underwater pipe systems, desalination facilities, refineries, schools and universities. Each of these massive projects can either be opened or closed to American companies.
 And Finally, Saudi Arabia is presenting itself as an ally and a bridge between the US and the Middle East; it indiscriminately purchases American weapons and is inundated with American advisors.
Due to the above, no level-headed administration in Washington would dare reject the Mecca Agreement the Saudi king is so proud of, whatever the heads of the administration may think of it.
The Olmert government erred in its approach to Hamas when it blindly believed in an economic-diplomatic siege. A siege is a passive act that only encourages resilience. Israel should have opted for an active policy, yet the Olmert administration didn't take advantage of the opportunity when Abbas almost begged for it – it also didn't take advantage of the opportunity to engage in decisive peace dialogue with the Saudis when they first made such a proposal.
 The result is that the Mecca Agreement will establish an emboldened Hamas government that would dance to the tune played by Khaled Mashaal and composed in Riyadh.

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Coming out of the closet: Arabs try outreach to Israel, U.S. Jews

This article sheds light on a process that has been going on quietly since the first Iraq War in 1991.
Arabs try outreach to Israel, U.S. Jews
Posted 2/11/2007 10:38 PM
By Barbara Slavin, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia, are making some of their most public overtures ever to Israel and American Jews in an effort to undercut Iran's growing influence, contain violence in Iraq and Lebanon and push for a Palestinian solution.
The high-profile gestures coincide with Saudi Arabia's lead role last week in brokering a deal for a coalition Palestinian government.
Last month, Prince Turki al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia's departing ambassador to the United States, attended a Washington reception sponsored by American Jewish organizations. The event honored a State Department diplomat appointed to combat anti-Semitism.
The appearance of a Saudi diplomat is "unprecedented," said William Daroff, Washington office director for the United Jewish Communities, which organized the reception.
Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have stepped up contacts with Israel and pro-Israel Jewish groups in the USA. The outreach has the Bush administration's blessing: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said six Gulf states and Egypt, Jordan and Israel are a new alignment of moderates to oppose extremists backed by Iran and Syria. She has said an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal would weaken militants such as Hamas and Hezbollah.
Contacts have intensified as part of a strategy meant to undercut extremists and build momentum for a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians, said Jamal Kashoggi, an aide to Saudi Prince Turki.
Judith Kipper, a Middle East expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, said, "What really concerns pro-U.S. Arab states is that Iran is setting the political agenda in the region."
Saudi and Gulf Arab contacts with Israelis and American Jews go back more than a decade but have never been so public. Arab countries have treated Israel as a pariah since it gained independence in 1948. Most Arab countries ban travel to Israel, investment there and other commercial ties with the Jewish state and routinely refer to it as the "Zionist entity."
Only three of 21 Arab nations recognize Israel: Egypt, Jordan and Mauritania. A 2002 peace plan put forward by Saudi Arabia offers diplomatic relations with the other 18 Arab states if Israel withdraws to the borders it had in 1967 — meaning giving up the West Bank and the Golan Heights — and cedes land for a new Palestinian state.
Among the other recent Arab-Jewish contacts:
•Saudi national security adviser Bandar bin Sultan met privately with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jordan in September, said Daniel Ayalon, Israel's former ambassador to Washington. He said it was the highest-level Saudi-Israeli meeting he'd ever heard of.
•The United Arab Emirates has invited a delegation from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. The conference, a 51-member umbrella group, is a strong supporter of Israel.
•Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres met the emir of Qatar in late January after taking part in a debate with Arab students there. It was the highest-level Israeli meeting with the Gulf nation since 1996, when Peres visited as prime minister.

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Danny Rubinstein - Recognition for Hamas: A chance to change direction

Perhaps it is so, but when Israel recognizes the Palestinian unity government, this must be reciprocated by a letter signed by every Palestinian faction recognizing Israel. Isn't that fair?

A chance to change direction
By Danny Rubinstein

The Israeli government can and should recognize the Palestinian unity government. Can recognize - because in his letter of appointment, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas calls on Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh "to honor the legitimate Arab and international resolutions and to honor the agreements signed by the Palestine Liberation Organization." This could be seen as a call to abide by the Oslo Accords, including the three demands leveled by the Quartet (recognizing Israel, honoring prior agreements and denouncing violence). Should recognize - because recognition of the new government is the only way now to renew negotiations with PA head Abbas, who has received the backing of all the Palestinian factions to conduct the talks.
Out of the plethora of declarations and reactions at the end of the Mecca conference, it was important to notice one headline, prominent in several media channels - the one concerning the comments by Hamas leader Khaled Meshal on the letter of appointment that Abbas wrote to Haniyeh. After promising that Hamas will be committed to this letter, Meshal added: "Hamas is adopting new political language."
This does not mark a political turnaround in Hamas. No revolution of clear and official recognition of Israel occurred or will occur, certainly not in the near future. But there is some change. Meshal himself testifies to this change, though no political figure hastens to admit that he is changing his position. The change is evident in the route Hamas has traveled this year - a route that, for many Israelis, was not particularly dramatic, but for the Hamas leadership can be seen as a change in direction.
More than a year ago Hamas agreed, with the other Palestinian factions, to a cease-fire with Israel. This agreement was not so simple for an organization that has made its motto the principle of violent, uncompromising struggle against Israel. Hamas activists more or less maintained the cease-fire for most of the time. Later the movement agreed to participate in PA elections, first for local government and later for the Palestinian parliament. The parliament was created by and operates according to the Oslo Accords.
The decision to participate in elections was not easy for Hamas, as it meant the group was tacitly agreeing to operate as a political party and not as a military organization fighting Israel. Later, there were Hamas government decisions on a willingness to talk, on practical matters, with Israeli government ministries. Later came declarations of willingness for a long-term cease-fire, hudna, with Israel, that would be maintained by the Palestinian state to be established in 1967 borders. And now comes the decision to honor past agreements, which means "adopting new political language," according to Meshal.
The Israeli government also should recognize the Palestinian unity government because it is now the only chance to stop the bloodshed in Gaza. Despite the Mecca deal, there is no certainty that the unity government will be able to function. Strong feelings of hatred and vengeance surfaced among the rival groups over the recent months, and it is hard to know how to handle them.
In an East Jerusalem meeting held over the weekend, a former senior Fatah official from Gaza, Sufian Abu Zaida, described the difficult situations he and his colleagues have recently endured. It has reached the point that Hamas members call him, Mohammed Dahlan and others "murtadi." The meaning of this term is something like "heretic." In practice, it means it is okay to spill his blood. Israeli recognition of the unity government will marginally boost its chances of imposing law and order in the Gaza Strip, and that is not important only to the Palestinians - but to us, too.

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Bid to keep out Abraham halted: Olmert rejects bid to exclude converts from Law of Return

Under the proposed law, Abraham would not have been eligible for the law of return, and neither would Ruth have been.

Last update - 10:29 12/02/2007   
Olmert rejects bid to exclude converts from Law of Return
By Amiram Barkat, Haaretz Correspondent

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has rejected "at this time" a proposal by Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar to amend the Law of Return to exclude its recognition of converts as Jews, according to a letter sent by Prime Minister's Office Director General Raanan Dinur to the Conservative Movement in Israel.
The letter was a response to one written by the Masorti (Conservative) Movement a month after Amar made his proposal, which aroused the ire of Jewish organizations in Israel and abroad.
Haaretz reported in late November that Amar had asked Olmert to change the Law of Return, which currently states that an individual born to a Jewish mother or who has converted to Judaism is considered Jewish, and thus has the right to come to Israel and receive Israeli citizenship.
Amar wanted even those who had undergone Orthodox conversions not to be recognized as Jews by the Law of Return. Behind Amar's proposal is his concern that the High Court of Justice will require the state to recognize non-Orthodox conversions in Israel, as well as non-Orthodox marriages.
He is also worried that non-Orthodox rabbis will conduct conversions abroad, allowing the converts to immigrate to Israel and become citizens.

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Ariel Toaff, Super Star: Bar-Ilan prof. defiant on blood libel book 'even if crucified'

Last update - 13:41 12/02/2007   

Bar-Ilan prof. defiant on blood libel book 'even if crucified'
By Ofri Ilani, Haaretz Correspondent

The author of a book on the use of blood by Jews in Ashkenazi communities in the Middle Ages said Sunday, in the face of the furor its publication aroused, "I will not give up my devotion to the truth and academic freedom even if the world crucifies me."
In an interview with Haaretz from Rome, Professor Ariel Toaff said he stood behind the contention of his book, "Pasque di Sangue," just published in Italy, that there is a factual basis for some of the medieval blood libels against the Jews. However, he said he was sorry his arguments had been twisted.
"I tried to show that the Jewish world at that time was also violent, among other things because it had been hurt by Christian violence," the Bar-Ilan history professor said. Of course I do not claim that Judaism condones murder. But within Ashkenazi Judaism there were extremist groups that could have committed such an act and justified it," he said.
Toaff said he reached his conclusions after coming across testimony from the trial for the murder of a Christian child, Simon of Trento, in 1475, which in the past was believed to have been falsified. "I found there were statements and parts of the testimony that were not part of the Christian culture of the judges, and they could not have been invented or added by them. They were components appearing in prayers known from the [Jewish] prayer book.
"Over many dozens of pages I proved the centrality of blood on Passover," Toaff said. "Based on many sermons, I concluded that blood was used, especially by Ashkenazi Jews, and that there was a belief in the special curative powers of children's blood. It turns out that among the remedies of Ashkenazi Jews were powders made of blood."
Although the use of blood is prohibited by Jewish law, Toaff says he found proof of rabbinic permission to use blood, even human blood. "The rabbis permitted it both because the blood was already dried," and because in Ashkenazi communities it was an accepted custom that took on the force of law, Toaff said. There is no proof of acts of murder, Toaff said, but there were curses and hatred of Christians, and prayers inciting to cruel vengeance against Christians. "There was always the possibility that some crazy person would do something."
Toaff said the use of blood was common in medieval medicine. "In Germany, it became a real craze. Peddlers of medicines would sell human blood, the way you have a transfusion today. The Jews were influenced by this and did the same things.
"In one of the testimonies in the Trento trial, a peddler of sugar and blood is mentioned, who came to Venice," Toaff says. "I went to the archives in Venice and found that there had been a man peddling sugar and blood, which were basic products in pharmacies of the period. A man named Asher of Trento was also mentioned in the trial, who had ostensibly come with a bag and sold dried blood. One of the witnesses said he was tried for alchemy in Venice and arrested there. I took a team to the archives and found documentation of the man's trial. Thus, I found that it is not easy to discount all the testimony," he added.
Toaff, who will be returning to Israel today, said he was very hurt by accusations that his research plays into the hands of anti-Semitic incitement. "I am being presented like the new Yigal Amir. But one shouldn't be afraid to tell the truth." Toaff also said, "unfortunately my research has become marginal, and only the real or false implications it might have are being related to. I directed the research at intelligent people, who know that in the Jewish world there are different streams. I believe that academia cannot avoid dealing with issues that have an emotional impact. This is the truth, and if I don't publish it, someone else will find it and publish it."
Still, Toaff says he is sorry he did not explain some of the points in his book more clearly.
He claims that he has been making the same arguments for a long time. "After 35 years of research, I have not become a stupid anti-Semite, and have not published a book to make money."
In any case, Toaff says he believes his findings have current implications. "Extremists in the past brought disaster on us by false accusations. I wanted to show that hatred and incitement of this kind can develop, because there will always be someone who will take advantage of it."
Meanwhile, Bar-Ilan University announced Sunday that its president, Professor Moshe Kaveh, will summon Toaff to explain his research. The university's statement said it strongly objected to what was implied in media publications regarding Toaff's research, and condemned "any attempt to justify the terrible blood libels against the Jews." However, the university also reiterated that Toaff was among the senior lecturers in his field in Israel and internationally

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Dubious linkage? Olmert: Freeing Shalit would change our ties to PA gov't

Last update - 13:33 12/02/2007   
Why should freeing Shalit be the deciding factor? Either the Palestinian Authority recognizes the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state or they do not. Either they stop the violence and disarm the groups or they do not.

Olmert: Freeing Shalit would change our ties to PA gov't
By Haaretz Service

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Monday that if the Palestinian unity government were to free captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, Israel's position would change with respect to the prospective Hamas-Fatah coalition.
Olmert, speaking to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, also said that he would go through with plans to attend a three-way summit with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, despite expected domestic criticism.
According to Olmert, he would attend the meeting in order to explore possibilites for a "diplomatic horizon."
Olmert Sunday softened Israel's stance on the "Mecca agreement" for a Palestinian unity government. Last week, the government declared the agreement was unacceptable. On Sunday, however, Olmert told the cabinet that "at this stage, Israel neither rejects nor accepts the agreement. Like the international community, we are studying what was achieved in the agreement, what it says and the basis of the consensus."
Olmert's decision to stop criticizing the accord stemmed from the Quartet's announcement that it continues to demand that any Palestinian government abide by the conditions it laid down last year: recognizing Israel, renouncing terror and accepting previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements, as well as the road map. In light of this statement by the Quartet, whose members include the U.S., European Union, United Nations and Russia, Olmert opted to lower the profile of his response, so as not to appear rejectionist.
Olmert also told the cabinet that since the Palestinian unity government has not yet actually been formed, there is no reason not to attend next week's tripartite summit with PA President Mahmoud Abbas and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
The prime minister spoke Sunday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and told her that as a first step, the new Palestinian government should be required to release Shalit, who has been held by Hamas and related groups since Juine 25. Germany holds the EU's rotating presidency, and EU foreign ministers will meet today to discuss the Mecca agreement.
Olmert also called Russian President Vladimir Putin Sunday, and told the cabinet that Putin had promised to toe the Quartet line.
Major General Amos Yadlin, head of Military Intelligence, told the cabinet that Hamas was the big winner from the Mecca agreement, since the deal enables the Islamic movement to retain control of the Palestinian government without giving up its ideology.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Majadele: Jerusalem mayor knew Mugrabi dig was illegal

Better late than never...
Last update - 13:12 12/02/2007   

Majadele: Jerusalem mayor knew Mugrabi dig was illegal
By Jonathan Lis, Haaretz Correspondent, and Haaretz Service

Israel's first Arab minister, Ghaleb Majadele, on Monday accused Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski of approving controversial construction work in the Old City of the capital, even though he knew it was illegal.
The excavation and building work at the Mugrabi Ascent, some 60 meters away from the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount, has sparked demonstrations and criticism across the Muslim world.
Majadele, speaking at a stormy meeting of the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee, accused the mayor of agreeing to the work without first obtaining the correct authorization required by law.
The minister said that several days he had told the head of the Antiquities Authority that the dig was illegal, and had tried in vain to set up a meeting with Lupolianski.
The mayor announced late Sunday night that he had decided to postpone construction of the walkway at the Mugrabi Ascent until zoning authorities complete plans for the area.
"The Mayor of Jerusalem, Uri Lupolianski, together with Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi for the Kotel and Holy Places, decided last night to allow public discussion of the plans to construct the Mugrabi Bridge at the planning and construction committees," city spokesman Gideon Schmerling said in a statement.
"This is due to the sensitivity of the plan and following meetings and discussions with representatives from eastern Jerusalem who requested to look over the plans and voice their opinions."
Scmerling added that the archeological work conducted by the Antiquities Authority at the site would continue.
Over the past several days, Lupolianski held meetings and discussions with various representatives from eastern Jerusalem, together with Rabbi Rabinowitz, and Lupolianski assured them that he will allow open discussion with full disclosure in order to make it clear that there is no intention to enter the Temple Mount or cause any damage to it.
Lupolianski and Western Wall rabbi Shmuel Rabinovich drafted the decision Sunday following conversations with Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, municipal planning authorities, Muslim community leaders and other representatives of the Arab population of East Jerusalem, in order to allow the general public to review plans for the bridge and submit opposition.
Lupolianski announced that the measure reflects a desire for transparency and to foster a sense of cooperation with residents in the construction process. He also wanted to avoid the feeling among the public that the work constitutes some sort of an Israeli ambush.
In practice, the decision means that approval of the plan will be postponed until a hearing of all the letters of opposition filed by city residents. The salvage excavation being conducted by the Antiquities Authority is expected to continue at this stage, parallel to the public discussion of the zoning plan.
Jerusalem municipal sources said Sunday that the decision could in fact be postponed for months, and that there is no certainty the zoning authorities that hear the arguments of those opposed will actually approve the plan in the end.
Settlers to gov't: Don't give in to threats
The Yesha Council of Settlements voiced support of continued work at the site, urging the government not to "surrender to threats" and to open the Temple Mount to Jewish worship, Israel Radio reported Monday.
It quoted the Yesha's Rabbinical Committee as saying that, "The violent events on the Temple Mount are the rotten fruit of the weakness that Israeli governments have demonstrated since the liberation of the Temple Mount in the [1967] Six-Day War.
"This is a direct result of the negation of the rights of the Jews at the site.
The council announced that it "backs the government, which is not surrendering to threats and fabrications," the radio said.
Many rabbis have ruled the Temple Mount site off-limits to Jews, citing prohibitions on entering the area where the Temple courtyard once lay, and the difficulty of fulfilling the ancient ritual requirement of cleansing with the ashes of a red heifer.
'Plan engendered wave of rumor
Lupolianski told associates Sunday that "the plan to construct the walkway engendered a wave of rumor and speculation about Israeli intentions regarding the [Al-Aqsa] mosque."
"We therefore decided to be totally transparent with all residents about the walkway construction plan, so they will know clearly where it is to be built and to allow members of the public to express their positions to the zoning board," Lupoliansky continued. "The move is slated to help people understand that the walkway is in no way injurious and does not enter the Temple Mount. It is important to us that there is no feeling that this was done covertly or sneakily."
The decision to draft a zoning plan for the walkway is controversial: City Hall has sufficed until now with issuing permits - a rapid process - rather than demanding a broad plan, since the walkway is intended to replace an existing bridge and does not involve construction of a new structure.
The city's legal counsel has said in recent months that a building permit is sufficient, but after the mayor's discussions with Mazuz and representatives of East Jerusalem, it was decided to create a zoning procedure and allow all residents to file reservations about the project.

Continued (Permanent Link)

New [Palestinian] government to be announced Thursday

"whoever is not in the government can
say whatever he wishes, but in regard to those in the government, they must
be strictly committed to the letter."
Hamas can have their Jihad and eat it too...

New government to be announced Thursday
Date: 12 / 02 / 2007  Time:  10:02

Bethlehem - Ma'an - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said that he is
going to ask Prime Minister Haniyeh to form the unity government on
Thursday. After meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo,
Abbas stated that he will ask Haniyeh to form the government once he
dismisses his current government.

Abbas told the press that the new government is requested to be committed to
the letter of assignment. He added that whoever is not in the government can
say whatever he wishes, but in regard to those in the government, they must
be strictly committed to the letter.

Informed sources in Fatah said that Abbas will start consultations with
Fatah leaders to choose the deputy prime minister. Haniyeh will resign with
the government and then begin contacts to form his second government. The
sources told the newspaper 'Al Quds Al Arabi' that there are many names for
the deputy prime minister including Muhammad Dahlan, Hakam Bal'awi and Azzam
Al Ahmad.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Another day in the Negev: Four Qassam rockets fired at Israel from Gaza Strip

Hamas said they were considering ending the truce...
Four Qassam rockets fired at Israel from Gaza Strip
By Yonatan Lis, Haaretz Correspondent, and Haaretz Service Last update -
10:58 12/02/2007

Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip on Monday fired four Qassam rockets
at Israel. The rockets landed in open areas in the western Negev, causing
neither casualties nor damage.

Violent protests over Israel's construction work at the Mugrabi gate
continued throughout the West Bank Sunday.

According to Israel Defense Forces information, 61 rock-throwing incidents -
28 targeting Israeli civilian vehicles, 27 involving IDF vehicles, and six
involving work on the West Bank security fence - were registered between
Thursday afternoon and Sunday morning.

In addition, the IDF registered 28 incidents of Molotov cocktail attacks:
Two on civilian targets and 22 targeting IDF troops.

An Israeli woman sustained light injuries after she was hit by a rock in the
village of Hawara, south of Nablus.

IDF sources said the hubs of the protests were the Kalandia checkpoint, the
village of Beit Omar, and Hebron.

Israeli security forces have remained on high alert for fear of escalation
in the violence.

Continued (Permanent Link)

President Abbas... Calls Israelis to Deal with the Fait Accompli

President Abbas Authorizes Haneyeh to Form Uinty Gov't Next Thursday, Calls
Israelis to Deal with the Fait Accompli
[Offical PNA Press Web site]
GAZA, Palestine, February 12,2007 (IPC+ Agencies)   -President Mahmoud Abbas said Sunday that he will officially authorize prime Minister Ismael Haneya to form a unity government next Thursday after the resignation of incumbent government which include four
ministers are being still jailed by Israel.

Following his meeting Egyptian President Mohammed Hussni Mubrak in Cairo
Abbas said " in pursuant to the basic law, Haneyeh will resign and then I
will ask officially in a meeting slated 15 February in Gaza to form
coalition government."

President Abbas and Khaled Mashal, Exiled Hamas's politburo in Damascus
agreed late Thursday in Mecca under the auspice of Saudi Arabia to form a
national unity government heads by Haneyeh provided that his deputy should
be from Fateh.

Abbas underlined that it is required from the National unity government to
abide literally by the letter of appointment, pointing out that those who
are uninvolved in Government are free to speak but the involved ones have to
abide with the letter of appointment.

Reliable sources of Fateh said " President Abbas will carry out within next
three days consultations with Fateh's leader to pick up vice Prime minister
of New coalition government."

The sources told London-based Al Quds Al Arabi newspaper reported that there
has been more than one name nominated for the position among were lawmaker
Mohamed Dahlan and Fateh's executive committee and lawmaker Hakam Balwai and
Azzam Al Ahmad, head of Fateh's parliamentary bloc at PLC.

It is expected that the government will meet within next few days and submit
its resignation to Haneyeh and an acting government will put in place
instead, unless the formation of News coalition.

Status quo policy

President Abbas called Israel to deal with the "status quo" over the next

"This is a Palestinian issue and an Arab issue and it is up to the Israelis
to deal with the fait accompli," Abbas said. He also stressed that it would
be the Palestinian presidency and the Palestine Liberation Organization
which would lead any peace negotiations with Israel.

"This is clear to everyone, including Israel, the (Palestinian) government
or other parties. It is not up to them to say 'yes' or 'no' if the talk is
about official negotiations between us and the Israelis," he added. Abbas
made the remarks after briefing Jordanian Prime Minister Maaruf Bakhit on
Thursday's agreement between his Fatah faction and Hamas to set up a
national unity government.

In a related development, the trilateral meeting including President Abbas,
USA secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud
Olmert, slated on 19 Feb. according to President Abbas will set the features
of the road to resurrect negotiations over the final status settlement in
the Palestinian territories.

"The tripartite summit with Rice and Olmert will be on19 February to set the
features of the road to start a final peace process," Abbas said.

He added " we have already agreed with Rice that we must go to final status
settlement and negotiations over borders, settlement, refugees and statehood
and we will put a timetable to implement this when negotiations starts."

In this regard, Israeli official sources asserted that the summit will be on
scheduled time and denied predictions of possible delay until forming
Palestinian unity government.

Continued (Permanent Link)

How to get ulcers doing Hasbara

This is from a fellow named Yuval Zaliouk, who modestly calls himself "Your Truth Provider."
Does anyone know the size of this man's following??
What he writes seems fairly juvenile.
Dear friends,

Now that my February 2007 article is published, here it is for those of you who have not received a copy.

Your Truth Provider,


If I Ran for the Office of Prime Minister

By Yuval Zaliouk

People often ask me what is my solution to the Middle East conflict. My response is always why must there be a solution? What is the hurry? Why should we show such eagerness if our enemies do not?

It is clear to me that genuine peace can only come on the day when all her enemies are convinced that Israel is forever indestructible.

Israel is facing many acute challenges that need urgent immediate attention, long before national energies and resources are spent on imaginary "peace now." Tenuous peace, particularly of the kind forced on Israel by outsiders, should never be a priority. On the contrary, as recent history has already proven, "peace plans" of this kind must be vigorously resisted by Israel as they can only lead to its ultimate annihilation.

Furthermore, of course Israel's security is of paramount importance, but the painful sacrifices are worth it only if its citizens know what they are fighting for and what  values they are called upon to protect.

Israel's resolve and confidence have suffered serious blows since the critical mistake of the 1993 Oslo Accords. Before peace can be achieved, if at all, Israelis must first know who they are and what they are doing in the Land of Israel. They must repossess their values. This can only be achieved by reconnecting to Israel's Jewish and Zionist heritage.

Here are some of the main points I would offer as my platform had I ran for office. My promise to the voters would be never to compromise any of these points:

  • Israel is the eternal homeland of the Jewish People wherever they are.
  • The territory of Israel stretches from the Jordan River to the sea and from the Golan to the Red Sea and includes Judea and Samaria.
  • Israel's 1949 Armistice Lines are null and void.
  • The security fence will be torn down.
  • The eternal Capital of Israel is Jerusalem.
  • There is no room for another country within the above borders.
  • Israel will not actively seek peace with its enemies until they recognize its existence within its borders.
  • Jewish settlement of the entire Land of Israel is a top national priority and will be encouraged and financially supported.
  • Hebrew is the official language of Israel.
  • Israel grants full equality before the law to all its loyal citizens.
  • Non Jewish citizens must accept the destiny of the Jewish State, its culture, traditions and beliefs.
  • Just like Americans and citizens of all countries, only those who take a loyalty oath to the Jewish State of Israel and its principals, will be considered loyal citizens.
  • All Knesset members must be loyal to Israel's values and aspirations.
  • A Constitution based on the above principals must be introduced.
  • The State of Israel will encourage and welcome non Jews who wish to become Jewish, emigrate to Israel and accept its destiny.
  • Special official State conversion schools will be established for that purpose.
  • Jewish education will become top priority. All public grade schools will be required to teach the Bible, Talmud, Jewish heritage, history and literature.
  • General education, with emphasis on exact sciences, is also a top priority. Free education for all will be guaranteed from grade school through a university BA degree.
  • Israel's economy is based on the principles of free market economy.
  • Poverty is unacceptable. All those who are capable must work.
  • Those below a certain level of income, the handicapped and the sick, are guaranteed full health insurance and livable income from the State.
  • Crime will have zero tolerance. The police force will be increased and trained with the aim of eradicating crime.
  • Corruption will also have zero tolerance and will be punished with the utmost severity.
  • Israel will seek open cooperation and commerce with all countries of the world without exception.

There are many other issues worthy of attention, but for now I think my platform can ensure Israel's strength and security for generations to come. Is this not what we all wish for?

(c)Yuval Zaliouk 2007


Continued (Permanent Link)

Arrow anti-missile system passes its first nighttime launch

Last update - 01:19 12/02/2007
Arrow anti-missile system passes its first nighttime launch
By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent

Israel successfully tested the Arrow anti-missile system Sunday night, in its first nighttime trial, intercepting a test target that simulated the warhead of a long-range Iranian surface-to-surface Shihab-3 missile.
Apparently coincidentally (because the timing of the trials are determined by weather conditions) the test was conducted on the anniversary of the outbreak of the Iranian revolution.
The coordinator of the Defense Ministry administration that was in charge of the project, Moshe Fattal, told Haaretz there was no connection with the Iranian event. "What is important is that the system worked under extreme conditions, simulating those that might exist in reality. This is a happy moment for us," he said.
This is the 15th test of the Arrow. The previous one, in December 2005, was also successful. Two Arrow batteries, one at Palmahim in the south and the other at Ein Shemer in the center of the country, tracked the missile with the help of a Patriot battery.
Deputy Chief of Staff Moshe Kaplinski and Israel Air Force Commander Elyezer Shkedy were at Palmahim during the trial, which took place at 9:18 P.M.
The Defense Ministry said that "the purpose of the test was to study the improved operational capabilities of the system, which include expansion of the intercept envelope against future targets that might threaten Israel. In this trial the system was examined in a combined operational configuration of two batteries that were at a geographical distance, while taking into consideration lessons learned in the past. The interceptor, manufactured by Israel Aircraft Industries and Boeing, was launched at night, simulating an operational scenario in all its components."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Arab states Don't pay their share for Palestinian refugees

Arab states are financing Hamas despite the Quartet ban, but have no money for UNRWA...
UN pressing Arab states for more aid to Palestinian refugees
Michael Freund, THE JERUSALEM POST Feb. 9, 2007

Despite their rhetorical pledges of support for the Palestinians, the Arab
states are providing an increasingly smaller amount of aid to the United
Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), prompting
the UN agency to step up efforts to solicit more funds from Arab regimes
throughout the region.

At a press conference held Wednesday in Manama, the Bahraini capital, UNRWA
representative Peter Ford issued a plea to Arab countries to increase their
donations on behalf of Palestinian refugees, asserting that UNRWA is facing
"a financial crisis."

Over the past two decades, Ford noted, Arab states have provided a steadily
decreasing percentage of UNRWA's funding. In the 1980s, he said, their
donations amounted to 8% of the group's annual budget, whereas now, "Arab
donors currently contribute less than three percent of UNRWA's overall

"The objective," he said, "is to return to that level of support at a time
when the innocent refugees, as always the victims of political problems, are
suffering more than ever."

Ford added that while funds from major donor countries have been "regular
and steady," the agency is now looking to tap into other sources, in
particular the Arab states, in light of growing demand for UNRWA's services
among Palestinian refugees.
"The situation for the refugees is ominously deteriorating because of
Israeli attitudes and Palestinian in-fighting," he said. "There is an
increasing need for funds from several sources, mainly Arab states."

According to UNRWA's Web site, the largest pledge received from an Arab
country in 2006 was $1.5 million from Kuwait, with Saudi Arabia promising
just $1.2 million. By contrast, Sweden pledged more than $41 million, the UK
$27 million, and Denmark over $12 million.

Other Arab states were even less generous, with oil-rich Bahrain offering
$30,000 and Lebanon a mere $10,000.

The US was the largest supporter of UNRWA's activities, with more than $137
million of the group's budgeted expenditures of $462 million coming from

As of October 31, the latest date for which figures are available, UNRWA was
expecting a funding shortfall in 2006 of $117 million, with total pledges
amounting to $345 million.

Nearly all of UNRWA's operations are financed by voluntary contributions
from governments and the European Union. In total, Western countries provide
more than 95% of the agency's finances.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Epiphany? No Jihad Left Behind

Terror is always justifiable until it strikes close to home, until you understand they are after you.
No Jihad Left Behind
by Jayne Lyn Stahl
 There are jihads, and there are jihads, but this one takes the cake.

A week ago Friday, after participating in a panel discussion about "Facing Violence," which also featured former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, at a downtown San Francisco hotel, best-selling author, Holocaust survivor, and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel was dragged from the elevator, on the sixth floor, by a Holocaust denying stalker who identified himself only as "Eric Hunt" in a post to the Web site Ziopedia in which he took responsibility for this appaling act. Fortunately, the 78 year old author was unharmed, but questions remain as to why release of the assault, on February 1st, was put on hold until February 8th. There are also unresolved issues about who hides behind the nom de plume, Eric Hunt, the assailant, who has yet to be found despite the SFPD's conclusion that the attack was a hate crime.

This is not the first time Mr. Wiesel has faced violence. He survived Auschwitz and now, when he returns to Boston University, he can say he survived San Francisco, too; well, not quite. After all, we're talking about the Bay Area, the apotheosis of blue state, liberal, progressive, the free speech movement; home of Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Lee, Jerry Brown, Ron Dellums. What madness that such a vile act should occur in what many consider the bastion of all that is new left in this country.

Clearly, it's unfair, and ludicrous, to imply that this attack has anything to do with the Bay Area. For all we know, this Hunt fellow is from Orange County, or the Bronx. We know nothing about him other than what appears in his comments on an anti-Zionist Web site. We only know that he was stalking Elie Wiesel for weeks and, under the pretext of wanting to inteview him, tried to force the author into an empty room while screaming "Why don't you want people to know the truth?" Which truth did Mr. Hunt have in mind?

As his post later asserts, he wanted Wiesel to admit that the Holocaust was a "myth," a fabrication like weapons of mass destruction, just another work of fiction; no such luck. Wiesel's loud shrieks caused this two-bit coward to flee with his tail between his legs.

I wondered what kind of Web site would welcome the comments of someone who would take the pseudonym of Eric Hunt, so I decided to pay a little visit to Ziopedia to find that it is a Web site based in Sydney which bears the disclaimer that given their "highly critical attitude towards Zionism in general, and Israel in particular, it doesn't come as a surprise" that they are being called "wildly anti-Semitic."

Curiously, they also describe themselves as "antiwar" and "progressive." A quick perusal of a list of recent titles of articles on their site reveals the following: "In the olden days, an anti-Semite was someone who hated Jews; these days, it's someone the Jews hate," "Judaism is Nobody's Friend," "Poll: 40% of U.S. voters believe Israel Lobby is key factor in going to war in Iraq," as well as an editorial which suggests that those who buy Starbucks coffee are supporting Israel.

Obviously, our friends at Ziopedia make some huge leaps in assuming that 1) Judaism and Zionism are the same, 2) every Israeli is a Zionist, and/or Jew, and 3) their position is a "progressive" one. And, here I thought, all along, that it was American left that was reactionary when it came to their position on the bogey man "Israel Lobby," but at which point does the far left and the far right intersect?

As one who believes in socialized medicine, state-subsidized housing, caps on the acquisition of vast amounts of wealth and private property, a liveable wage, as well as other things that are considered to far to the left, I have to ask whether or not anyone can call himself "antiwar" and socially progressive while, at the same time, dragging an elderly man from a hotel elevator, like a piece of meat, with SS-like brutality? Is this emblematic of a "peace" movement that's here to stay? Is it okay to treat a Jew like this, and then condemn U.S. treatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay?

Those who denounce Zionism, and blame the Jews for the war in Iraq, have their own little jihadist movement going which, after last Friday, can no longer be denied. When a man who survived the camps is disgraced by this kind of brute force, and arrogance, it must be a wake up call that we, in the left, need to ask if talk about AIPAC, and the "Israel Lobby," justifiably or otherwise, may be seen as a contributing factor. And, if so, what can we do to prevent an assault like this from happening on someone else? The fact that he screamed may have been the only thing that prevented the Nobel Prize winner from suffering a heinous beating. We need to ask if ideological brutality is more acceptable in the hands of a sophomoric philistine who thinks he's getting at the "truth" about the Holocaust than it is in the hands of a president who believes he takes direction from a "higher authority?"

One would think, after six years of George Bush, we would have had enough of ideologues, but this sociopathic gesture in the name of correcting history proves only that there are too many holy wars, of all stripes, for one planet at any one period of time. There are too many who are willing to embrace a jihad, but few willing to clean up after it.

No one can deny that our thoughts have consequences, not just our actions. In this case, one m an's ideas about what he believes to be the fabrication of Jewish genocide resulted in an unprovoked attack on a man who has already been assaulted more than anyone deserves to be. The spineless bastard who did this should be an instant pariah among all those who believe that truth, peace, and justice are not antiquated notions, as well as those who fought the good fight for civil rights, and free speech in this country , and continue to fight. Does one have to be left to be right and, after all is said and done, is this what is left of the left ---leftovers from the days of the Weimar Republic?

We'd like to think that what happened in a San Francisco hotel, last Friday, was the act of a zealot, and a very disturbed one, but history shows that most acts of barbarism come at the hands of disturbed zealots, so we have to own this Hunt bastard. He belongs to all of us. He is our son, our brother, our neighbor, our student, our friend as, whether our worldviews are left, right, or center, whether we are in Sydney, London, or San Francisco, one thing remains constant: there are those who hunt, and those who are hunted,. And, when those who hunt infiltrate the ranks of those who condemn violence and acts of aggression, it's time to take a long, hard look at how it is that this monster came to be, so we can stop him from replicating fast.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Sudan divestment Initiative: Kristof: Death by Dollars

Those who insist on divesting, should consider the most urgent cases first. The Sudan divestment initiative might be the only path left to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. International organizations, Human Rights Groups and others have been powerless to stop the monumental slaughter in Sudan, which has been protected by China and the Arab League. It is interesting that Fidelity Mutual Funds are heavily invested in Sudan. Guess who runs those?
The New York Times
February 11, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist
Death by Dollars
So is your Fidelity account underwriting genocide in Sudan? Is your pension fund helping finance the janjaweed militias that throw babies into bonfires in Darfur and Chad?

The answer to both questions is complicated but may be yes, and that's one reason a divestment campaign is gaining strength around America and abroad. Six states (including California) have already begun divesting from companies active in Sudan, and legislation is pending in 23 more states, including New York.

More than 30 universities, beginning with Harvard in 2005, have sold certain Sudan-related investments. Five cities have divested, and New York is considering doing so. A bill before Congress would bar certain companies active in Sudan from receiving federalcontracts.

Let's start by acknowledging that divestment and economic sanctions generally fail. 
But Sudan is an exception, a rare instance where narrowly focused divestment makes practical as well as moral sense.

Partly that's because Sudan's economy depends on foreign oil companies, giving the outside world leverage. And 70 percent of Sudan's oil revenue goes to weaponry, like bayonets used to gouge out people's eyes.

The oil companies in Sudan aren't American; the biggest players are Chinese companies. Pressure on them is also one way to get the attention of the Chinese government, which is Sudan's main protector in the U.N. Security Council.

So in this case pressure on a small number of foreign companies could help get Sudan's attention, and that of its protectors in China, without hurting ordinary people...
Fortunately, the Darfur divestment campaign has been remarkably restrained in choosing targets. Organizers are not seeking divestment from all of the more than 400 foreign companies that operate in Sudan, but only from a few dozen that are complicit in genocide without helping ordinary Sudanese. (See the guidelines at , developed largely by a recent U.C.L.A. graduate, Adam Sterling.)
More than other money managers, Fidelity has resisted the pressure and clung firmly to Sudan-related investments. So Darfur campaigners are urging investors to avoid Fidelity mutual funds: more information is at .

The biggest U.S. investor in Class H shares of PetroChina, a Chinese oil concern whose parent company is active in Sudan, is Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway... [S]urely if Berkshire Hathaway and Fidelity mutual funds saw lucrative opportunities in selling bayonets to the janjaweed, they would balk at that.

It's not a sure thing. But remember that in Darfur and Chad, aid workers — some of them Americans — are being killed, raped and beaten as they try to alleviate the slaughter. So shouldn't we make the minimal sacrifice of divestment, rather than blithely continue to invest in ways that provide grenades and guns to kill aid workers and Darfuris alike?

Continued (Permanent Link)

There are no solutions in dangerous slogans

There are no solutions in dangerous slogans
The way of Zionism and of the Jewish people has long been the way of peace, and must remain the way of peace. This is so, despite the best attempts of our enemies to demonize Israel and Zionism as militant warmonger expansionist entities.
In 1909, Meir Dizengoff wrote:
We shall never possess cannons, even if the goyim shall bear arms against one another for ever. Therefore, we cannot but settle in our land fairly and justly, to live and let live. "
That view and that philosophy proved to be impractical and did not prevail. Never say "never." In the real world, it is sometimes necessary to enforce justice with cannon; without cannon, Jews never got much justice. However, it is a long way from there to militarism for the sake of militarism.
The much maligned Iron Wall of the "extremist" Jabotinsky was about as militant as Zionism got. It called for a Jewish police force armed with rifles that would defend the Jews of the Palestine mandate from Arab riots.
Therefore it is disturbing to me, as a Zionist, to see the slogan "There is only a military solution" as the title of a Israpundit article, and emblazoned on the main page of Israpundit, which purports to represent "Zionism."
The fine print of Ted Belman's article reads:
"In my view Israel should first destroy the "resistance" and then negotiate. "
He is not talking about a "military solution," but rather about self defense and eliminating an immediate threat. But nobody will read the fine print, just as nobody is interested in the fine print explanations that Jimmy Carter's "Palestine Peace not Apartheid" is not really about apartheid. The slogan stands by itself. It brands Zionists as warmongers and provides aid and comfort to the enemies of Israel.
Of course, Israel "destroyed the resistance" quite a few times. It did not bring peace.
Taking to arms is rarely a complete solution in itself. World War I did not solve the problem of German militarism. It left the fundamental issues untouched. World War II solved the immediate problem of Nazi aggression, but without intelligent management after the war, it would not have solved the problem of Germany in Europe, or of Japanese nationalism. Hitler and Tojo are examples of people who believed "there is only a military solution."
Sometimes there is a military solution, though it may not be the only one. The US Civil War saved the union. It would have been far better had it been possible to accomplish the same end by negotiations.
Mr. Belman's example, however, is the defeat of the Milosevic regime by the Nato allies, principally the U.S. Anyone who has studied the history of the Balkans and of Yugoslavia must be skeptical that the current status represents the "solution;" it is more than likely that many more such military "solutions" may be required. Inevitably, as before in history, the tiny quarrels of the Balkans will ignite confrontations between larger powers. At most, the war in Yugoslavia was a stop-gap measure that prevented genocide in Kossovo. War is the result of the failure of diplomacy.
The Israeli-Arab conflict is an egregious example of a case in which both common sense and the lessons of experience prove that there is no military "solution." As far as Israel is concerned, the problem of the Palestinians and the Arabs should have been solved by the War of Independence in 1948 or the 1967 Six Day War.  Problems don't get much more "solved" than that by military means. The Palestinians lost their land - first part of it, and then all of it, and were scattered to the wind. Three Arab states were decisively defeated.
It is the same "solution" as the Romans adopted in Judea. It worked for Hadrian, but it wasn't a good solution. Here and now it was tried, but it did not work. It cannot work. Israel faces the combined might of all the Arab peoples and of most of the 1.3 billion Muslims of the world. By diligence and courage, diplomacy that has been skilfull by fits and starts, and amazing feats of military valor, we have overcome incredible odds, and have about reached the stage where a formerly implacable enemy may be willing to live in peace. It is feasible that Israel will be able, with the help of its allies, to defend itself in any war. It is absurd to believe that Israel alone could vanquish 1.3 billion Muslims, or even defeat and occupy a country like Iran or Syria, as the allies did to Germany and Japan after World War II.
If it is necessary to go to war, then we must do so. However, the less than satisfactory results of the recent Lebanon war should point out to those who forget, that the chances of war are always uncertain.
What is the point of adopting this slogan, and advertising that Zionists are war mongers? Leave that for the other side. It is their stock in trade.
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Everything you wanted to know about Carter's book: Palestine Peace Not Apartheid

Maybe all you need to know about the book is the title. A book about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict mentions only "Palestine" in the title and uses the "apartheid" slogan.
But the devil is in the details. This book is likely to become the bible of moderate anti-Zionists, because it presents the Palestinian case so artfully, and give it the authority of an ex-President and Nobel prize winner. Make no mistake, this is a very bad book. It is not scholarly, it omits major relevant facts and includes glaring errors. That will not prevent it from remaining a bestseller.
I hope this review will provide a reasonably definitive resource for refuting the book.
Ami Isseroff


by Jimmy Carter.

264 pp. Simon and Schuster. $27.

This "strange little book" as Ethan Bronner described it in the New York Times, requires a long review. It is like no book about the Middle East that I ever read, and probably like no book that you ever read. Consequently, it must be described in detail.

We cannot say that Jimmy Carter's book is "like" a conventional anti-Israel diatribe, or the account of a "New Historian" like Benny Morris. It is made differently and it has a different "feel" and different assumptions. If an American reads the history of the United States as recorded by a fairly hostile visitor from Alpha Centauri, it might feel the same to them as this book feels to me. The book has been so vilified and lauded, and the author is held in such high personal repute, that any assertions made about it must be meticulously backed by quotes and research.

The title of the book manifests a gross error in judgment. Carter chose to use a slogan that has been popularized by anti-Zionists who want to delegitimize Zionism and destroy the state of Israel. However, there is no evidence in this book that Jimmy Carter is an anti-Semite or an anti-Zionist, though he seems to lack awareness of Jewish national claims and the accomplishments of the Zionist movement. In parts of the book, he manifests an earnest and abiding love for the Jewish people and the State of Israel. That is incompatible with the systematic distortions and biased reportage in other parts of the book. The book is full of omissions, incorrect statements and bizarre interludes. Carter is earnest in the manner of a Christian missionary. He is so earnest, and radiates such profound religious convictions, but tells so many fibs, that while reading the book, I was often tempted to say out loud, "Jimmy Carter, didn't your Mama teach you that it's a sin to lie?"

Curiously, points that were glaringly apparent to me seem to have been missed by many of the most critical reviewers. Jews seem to have been critical of the book in a way that is not understood by non-Jews, for reasons that may become apparent from understanding Mr. Carter's approach.

Part of the strangeness of this book is apparently the underlying world view and approach. Mr. Carter's approach is not that of a Nobel prize winning statesman and ex-president who wrestled with the intricacies of geopolitics, brokered a meta-historical peace treaty and gave his name to a prestigious think tank and peace NGO. Whether he really believes it, or whether it is a device he uses to communicate with and convince his audience, Carter presents the whole question from a Christian religious perspective. "Palestine," not Israel, is mentioned in the title. Jesus is mentioned five times in this book, Herzl -- not once.

Carter writes of the security fence: especially heartbreaking division is on the southern slope of the Mount of Olives, a favorite place for Jesus and his disciples, and very near Bethany, where they often visited Mary, Martha and their brother Lazarus... (p. 194)

As a testament of faith it is touching. As a rhetorical device, it is devastating. How can one object to this sacred testimony in terms of mundane concerns such as suicide bombings and auto thefts?

Carter makes claims that are diametrically opposed to the historical record, as far as can be ascertained from public documents and from statements and books by ex-President Bill Clinton, by Dennis Ross and by others. Carter provides no documentation for any of his assertions, many of which are inexcusable on any grounds. According to Carter, Transjordan (72% of the area of the Palestine mandate) was created in "remote desert regions." He writes that Lebanon, which is at war with Israel, is "neutral as between Israel and Syria." He tells us that Shebaa farms has been considered part of Lebanon since 1924, but the UN did not find any evidence to support that statement, and Lebanese army maps from 1966 show Shebaa farms in Syria. Carter quotes Yasir Arafat uncritically when he says that the PLO never sought to kick the Jews out of Israel, contradicting the published text of the 1968 PLO Charter, as well as public declarations by PLO leaders. Carter never points out the error. On the other hand, when writing about the Israeli security fence, Carter calls it a "segregation wall" and shows various fictive plans and proposed routes without giving any direct sources for his "information." In discussing the final peace negotiations in 2000, Carter relies exclusively on Palestinian sources apparently, and ignores the published text of President Clinton's Bridging Proposal, as well as maps and explanations of Dennis Ross. He never tells us where he gets his information. Almost anyone with a nodding acquaintance of the Middle East could write a more balanced and more thorough account of the issues and history. Many of the detailed facts he relates about the Israeli occupation and the security fence might be true, but how can anyone believe any of his undocumented assertions, given that so much of his "information" is demonstrably false?

Continued (with maps and detials at   Peace not apartheid - The definitive guide

Continued (Permanent Link)

The Jewish school where half the pupils are Muslim

Is this a model to follow? If it could work in UK, why can't it work in Israel? Or in the USA?
The Jewish school where half the pupils are Muslim

1 February 2007 12:02
The Jewish school where half the pupils are Muslim
King David, in Birmingham, is a state primary where the children learn Hebrew, recite Jewish prayers, eat kosher food and wave Israeli flags. So how come the majority of pupils are followers of Islam? Jonathan Margolis investigates
Published: 01 February 2007
The Jewish school where half the pupils are Muslim
It's infant prize day at King David School, a state primary in Moseley, Birmingham. The children sit cross-legged on the floor, their parents fiddling with their video cameras. The head, Steve Langford, is wearing a Sesame Street tie.
A typical end-of-term school event, then. But at King David there's a twist that gives it a claim to be one of the most extraordinary schools in the country: King David is a strictly Jewish school. Judaism is the only religion taught. There's a synagogue on site. The children learn modern Hebrew - Ivrit - the language of Israel. And they celebrate Israeli independence day.
But half the 247 pupils at the 40-year-old local authority-supported school are Muslim, and apparently the Muslim parents go through all sorts of hoops, including moving into the school's catchment area, to get their children into King David to learn Hebrew, wave Israeli flags on independence day and hang out with the people some would have us believe that they hate more than anyone in the world.

The Muslim parents, mostly devout and many of the women wearing the hijab, say they love the ethos of the school, and even the kosher school lunches, which are suitable because halal and kosher dietary rules are virtually identical. The school is also respectful to Islam, setting aside a prayer room for the children and supplying Muslim teachers during Ramadan.
At Eid, the Muslim children are wished Eid Mubarak in assembly, and all year round, if they wish, can wear a kufi (hat). Amazingly, dozens of the Muslim children choose instead to wear the Jewish kipah.
At the prize morning Carol Cooper, the RE teacher, says: "Boker tov," (Ivrit for "Good morning").
"Good morning Mrs Cooper," the children chant in reply. The entire school, Muslims, Jews, plus the handful of Christians and Sikhs then say the Shema, the holiest Jewish prayer, all together.
The Year Four violin club (five Muslims, two Jews) play "Little Bird, I Have Heard". Just as many prizes are being distributed to Hussains and Hassans and Shabinas as there are to Sauls and Rebeccas and Ruths. In fact, if anything, the Muslim children have beaten the Jewish ones. Thus does the Elsie Davis Prize for Progress go to a beaming little lad called Walid, the religious studies prize to a boy called Imran wearing a kipah and the progress prizes for Hebrew, to a boy called Habib and a girl called Alia.
Times being as they are, King David doesn't advertise its presence in a city where its pioneering multiculturalism could raise all kinds of unwelcome attention. There's a discreet signboard outside that reveals little about the school's unique nature. There are watchful video cameras high up on the walls, plus two electronic gates to pass through. Sadly, it is, to a significant extent, says Laurence Sharman, the (Christian) chairman of the PTA, "an
undercover school".
The Muslim parents, however, are only too keen to talk in the playground about what might be seen by some in their communities as a controversial schooling decision.
"We actually bought a flat in the catchment area for the children to come here," says Nahid Shafiq, the mother of Zainah, four, and Hamza, nine, and wife of Mohammed, a taxi driver.
"We were attracted by the high moral values of the school, and that's what we wanted our kids to have. None of us has any problem with it being a Jewish school. Why on earth should we? Our similarities as religions and cultures are far greater and more important than our differences. It's not even an issue.
"At the mosque, occasionally, people ask why we send the children here, but there is no antagonism whatsoever, and neither is there from anyone in our family. In fact, it was a big family decision to try and get them into King David. This is the real world. This is the way real people do things in the real world. All the violence and prejudice and problems - that's not real, that's just what you see on the news."
Fawzia Ismail (the mother of Aly-Raza, nine, and Aliah, six) is equally positive. "My nephew came here and my brother showed me the school, so it's a bit of a family tradition now. We're very, very pleased with the school. It's so friendly. All the kids mix and go to one another's parties and are in and out of each other's houses. They teach a bit about Israel, but we don't have any problem with that. There are such similarities between our people and our societies."
Irum Rashid (mother of Hanan, nine, and Maryam, four) says that a lot of people in Small Heath are considering moving to Moseley because of King David. "It's a very happy school, the behaviour is fantastic, the food is great - because it's kosher - and so are the SATs results."
But what about learning Hebrew and the Jewish prayers? "I think it's great. The more knowledge, the more understanding," says one of the mothers. "They learn all they need about Islam at mosque school. Actually, the kids often sing Hebrew songs in the bath, which is a bit confusing because we speak Gujarati at home, but I think it's great."
The Jewish parents and teachers I speak to are just as enthusiastic. "You know, in these difficult times in the world, I think we show how things should be done. It's really a bit of a beacon," says one teacher, whose three children all went to King David and ended up at Oxford University.
Parent Trevor Aremband is from South Africa. "In Johannesburg, we have Jewish schools, but they're 100 per cent Jewish, so we were a bit shocked when we first came here. But the integration works so well. It's clearly the way to go in today's world. My son is eight and has loads of Muslim friends."
The most important thing, I am told repeatedly, is that the cross-cultural friendships forged at King David last a lifetime. I hear a conversation about how a Rebecca is going to fly over from the States for a Fatima's wedding. I am told about a pair of lads, one Jewish, one Muslim, who became friends the day they started in the nursery, went to senior school together as well as to university and are now living close to one another with their wives and families and are currently on holiday together.

King David was not designed to be such a beacon of inter-faith cooperation and friendship. Founded in 1865 as The Hebrew School, it was 100 per cent Jewish until the late 1950s.
Then two things began to happen: there was a growth in the Muslim population in middle-income areas such as Moseley, and a shrinking of Britain's Jewish community, especially outside the main centres of London and Manchester. Muslim children started coming to the school in the early 1960s, but the current position, in which they are in the majority (Jewish children comprise 35 per cent, Muslims 50 per cent, Christians, Sikhs and other, 15 per cent) is very new.

"One of the things that surprises people about this school," says Langford, "is that it's not an especially privileged intake. Half of our kids have English as an additional language. But the amazing thing is how well it all works. We have a new little boy here from China, whose only English a few weeks ago was to ask for the toilet. He now speaks English - and can say the Shema perfectly.

"If you gauge success, for instance, by racial incidents, which schools always have to report to the LEA, we have at the most one a term. And that can just mean some harsh words with a racial slant used in the playground. At multicultural inner city schools where I've taught, there will be far, far more than that, possibly one or more a week."
In terms of SATs and Ofsted inspections, King David has also shone. It is rated as good - the second highest possible ranking - in all areas, and Ofsted made a special mention at the last inspection of the integration between children of different faiths and races. In the recent SATs results, the school also came in well above the national average in all subjects.
Steve Langford, a Warwick University economics graduate, is himself a bit of a paradox. He is Church of England on both parental sides and only became interested in Judaism when he worked in a Jewish summer camp in Massachusetts in his gap year. His interest paid off when he got a teaching job a King David. Now he is learning Ivrit at evening classes and goes to Israel for holidays.
The Rabbi of Birmingham's Singers Hill Synagogue, one of the financial backers of King David, is proud of Steve Langford and of the school's extraordinary interfaith record.
"King David School is amazing," says Rabbi Tann. "The reason I think it works well is that racism is engendered entirely by adults. Children don't have it within themselves. Their natural mode is to play happily with everyone. It's only when adults say, 'Don't play with him, he's black, or don't have anything to do with him, he's Muslim, that troubles begin.'
"We never have any racial or inter-faith problems at all. Not ever. In 20 years here, it's simply never happened in any significant way. We teach that if you don't like someone, you avoid them. Don't play with them. Go to the other side of the playground. I believe that if more people followed the lead of King David School, we'd have a much more peaceful world."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Confusion in Israel over Hamas-Fatah deal

Israeli officials have decided not to decide about the Fatah - Hamas pact.
Two articles, two opinions. Israel is studying the details of the agreement, but we have not seen any published text of this agreement.

Last update - 11:24 11/02/2007   

PM: No stance taken on Hamas-Fatah pact as yet
By Aluf Benn, Avi Issacharoff and Gideon Alon, Haaretz Correspondents
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday said that Israel is yet to form its stance on the Mecca Accord on a Palestinian unity government signed between the rival Fatah and Hamas factions last week.
Speaking at the opening of the weekly cabinet meeting, Olmert said that "Israel is not rejecting nor is it embracing the Mecca Accord. Israel is studying the details of the agreement."
Olmert told the ministers that he spoke recently to Russian President Vladimir Putin on the Mecca Accord. The premier said he was pleased to hear from Putin that Russia is still backing the position of the Quartet on Middle East peace negotiations.
The prime minister's statement came after unnamed government sources said Saturday that Israel rejects the agreement. It said the accord is not in line with the Quartet of Middle East mediators' conditions - recognition of Israel, renouncing violence, and ratifying past agreements and the road map.
Government sources said Israel would insist on the three conditions, which are expected to be the focus of the tri-partite summit between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice next Monday.
The sources said the controversy over the new Palestinian government and its accepting the Quartet's demands casts a heavy shadow on the triangle summit. Since the Palestinian government will not be formed by next Monday, the argument on the Mecca agreement will not cast doubt on the summit's existence. However, any progress in the peace talks is conditional on the Palestinian government's fulfilling the Quartet's demands, they said.
A political adviser to Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas said Saturday that the unity government would not recognize Israel.
"The issue of recognition was not addressed at all [in Mecca]," Ahmed Youssef said. "In the platform of the new government there will be no sign of recognition [of Israel], regardless of the pressures the United States and the Quartet would exert," he said.
A senior source in Jerusalem said earlier Saturday that all the signs indicated that the new Palestinian government would not accept the Quartet's conditions, not even by implication.
He said the new government may raise other problems. "Until now there was a clear distinction between Abbas and the Hamas government and it was convenient for us to talk and make progress with one side. Fatah's entering the government would blur that distinction. The question would be raised whether to transfer funds to a government whose finance minister is Salam Fayyad."
Fayyad is a much respected leader in the United States and the international community.
Israel made a diplomatic effort over the weekend to prevent any of the Quartet's conditions from being watered down as a result of the Mecca agreement. The Quartet's foreign ministers issued a statement on Friday reiterating its demand that any Palestinian government renounce violence, recognize Israel and respect peace deals in order to receive Western aid.
In a joint statement, the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States withheld judgment on whether a new national unity government, to be formed by rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah, met its conditions.
"The Quartet welcomes the role of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in reaching the agreement to form a Palestinian national unity government. The Quartet expresses hope that the desired calm will prevail," the group said in the statement released by the U.S. State Department after a Quartet conference call.
However, Russia on Friday welcomed the Mecca agreement to form a unity government and appealed for the freeze on direct aid to the Palestinian government to be lifted.
The Quartet's ministers will meet in Berlin in 10 days − two days after the Olmert-Abbas-Rice summit − to discuss the developments.
A senior Israeli source said the Quartet's statement made it clear that any Palestinian government must adopt the three conditions in full.
"At the end of the Mecca meeting, the Palestinians made no statement agreeing to those terms. The terror acts against Israel continue, including Qassams and smuggling munitions to Gaza and kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit has not been released yet," he said.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who took part in a global security conference in Munich, met Javier Solana, the European Union's defense and security coordinator, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the foreign ministers of Austria, Slovakia, Sweden and the Czech Republic. She spoke to Rice twice on the telephone as well as with her German, British and Norwegian counterparts.
Livni said the international community and Europe in particular must insist on the Quartet's conditions.
The cabinet on Sunday will discuss the implications of the Mecca agreement and hear intelligence surveys about it from the Shin Bet and Military Intelligence.

Israel snubs Mecca deal

In first official statement, officials in Jerusalem say Hamas-Fatah deal fails to meet Quartet preconditions and 'is not what Israel expected'. Israel does not outright reject the agreement and will continue to monitor developments, officials add
Attila Somfalvi Published:  02.09.07, 22:55 / Israel News

Israeli officials in Jerusalem on Friday snubbed the unity government deal reached between Hamas and Fatah in Mecca, saying it failed to meet the preconditions set by the Quartet.
The officials stressed, however, that they also did not reject the Palestinian agreement outright.

Following days of negotiations hosted in Mecca in Saudi Arabia, Hamas and Fatah representatives signed a deal dividing cabinet portfolios and diplomatic positions between the two parties. The deal noted that both sides must uphold previous deals signed by the PLO, but omitted any direct mention of Israel.

"This isn't what we expected," Jerusalem officials commented. "The international community – the Quartet – clearly established that any Palestinian government must fully adopt the following three preconditions: Recognize Israel's right to exist, halt terror activities, and implement all previous agreements reached, including the Road Map."

"Even though the future Palestinian government has not yet established its Basic Principles, the appointment letter issued by (Palestinian President) Mahmoud Abbas makes it clear that the conditions were not upheld," officials added.

"Israel stresses that terror activity against it is continuing, and Gilad Shalit has not yet been released. We will continue to examine developments in light of the Quartet's
clear conditions. Israel expects the international community to continue to show determination and stand behind its principles to bring about their full implementation," they declared. 

However, they stressed that Israel did not fully reject the agreements either. "We will continue to monitor developments," they said.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, currently visiting Germany, responded to the Palestinian deal, saying, "Hamas does not represent the interests of the Palestinian people."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Abbas folded, Hamas won the jackpot

There seems to be little doubt that Hamas won this round.
Hamas won the jackpot

Unity agreement signed in Mecca marks a major victory for Khaled Mashaal and Ismail Haniyeh
Ronny Shaked Published:  02.10.07, 17:02 / Israel Opinion
The unity agreement signed in Mecca last Thursday marked a major victory for Hamas. Khaled Mashaal and Ismail Haniyeh could not have hoped for a greater achievement.
 Even amid the pressure exerted by the Suadi king, Hamas would not waver and came out stronger as far as the internal Palestinian arena is concerned, and much stronger in the eyes of the Arab world and the international community.

Hamas did not relinquish its rule or ideology, did not recognize Israel or renounce terror and did not agree to acknowledge past agreements with Israel. In return for this inflexible stance it received the unity government that it wanted so much.
Hamas sought a unity government to promote the lifting of the economic and political siege imposed on the Palestinians by the international community's and end the infighting.

The organization wanted Fatah's participation in the new government so as not to bear sole responsibility for the economic, social and political failures in the Authority and to gain the legitimacy to remain in power and continue instilling fundamental values in Palestinian society.

In Mecca Hamas won the jackpot. The agreement, along with millions of dollars from the Saudi king, will help Hamas recover from its economic crisis, strengthen its hold on government and arrive at the next elections in a position to win the presidency as well as the elections for the Legislative Council.
Nothing to lose

And what if the unity government collapses? Hamas still has nothing to lose. If the bogus partnership should fall apart - and this may happen rather quickly – the blame will fall on Fatah and Mahmoud Abbas, not only in the PA but in the entire Arab world as well.

Mecca's sanctity, coupled with Saudi king's efforts, was not enough to bridge the gap between Islamist Hamas and the nationalist Fatah organization. It was Abbas who eventually backed down when he agreed to establish a unity government before drafting its guidelines.

Abbas' body language on Thursday testified to the disagreements and to the fact that he understands that the Saudis and Hamas have trapped him.

The important question as far as Israel is concerned is whether the agreement would accelerate Gilad Shalit's return home. Abbas demanded his release as a condition, but it appears that as long as the government is not established, Hamas will continue to take advantage of Gilad Shalit as a bargaining chip in its battle against Fatah.
If the international community recognizes the new government – and this might definitely happen in light of the cracks in the Quartet's stance – Israel could find itself isolated in the face of the stance demanding that it negotiates with the Hamas-led government.
Expressions of unity and joy and an end to the street battles are expected in the Palestinian street in the coming days. But one must not be mistaken. The ideological differences have remained deep and wide as they were, and it is only a question of time before the clashes erupt once again. And have no illusions, even a unity government will not bring an end to terror and the launching of Qassam rockets.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Fatah - Hamas unity agreement: What agreement??

The Fatah and Hamas agreement that the world is talking about, in which Hamas supposedly agree to "respect" or "honor" previous agreements, has not been made public, it seems.
On Riyadh Al-Ikhbariyah Satellite TV - an official Saudi Arabian News channel, two documents were read out by Nabil Amr, the Palestinian authority media advisor, at the conclusion of the Mecca meeting between Mahmoud Abbas for Fatah PLO and Ismail Haniyeh of the Hamas.
There is possibly a third "detailed" agreement, but nobody knows what it is.
The first document is an announcement of an agreement, that refers to a detailed agreement. It says nothing at all about any of the conditions of the quartet regarding recognition of Israel's right to exist or cessation of violence against Israel. It is full of references to Jerusalem. The content of the detailed agreement is not known.
The second document is a letter from Mahmoud Abbas to Ismail Haniyeh, charging him to form a government. It says only:
"From this premise, I call upon you to respect the resolutions of international legitimacy and the agreements signed by the PLO."
There is no explicit undertaking by Hamas even to that watered down formula, only a call by Abbas.  
If there is a detailed undertaking, it seems it was not made public as yet.
Ami Isseroff

The first statment:
1910 GMT 08 Feb 07

[Text of Palestinian agreement, read out by Nabil Amr, media adviser
to the Palestinian Authority president, in Mecca -- live]

In the Name of God,  the Merciful, the Compassionate,

"Glory to God who did take His servant for a journey by night from the sacred mosque to the farthest mosque whose precincts we did bless." [Qur'anic verse]

Based on the noble initiative announced by Custodian of the Two Holy Places King Abdallah Bin-Abd-al-Aziz, king of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and under his majesty's generous auspices, Palestinian dialogues of accord and agreement were held in holy Mecca between
Fatah and HAMAS 19-21 Muharram 1428 Hegira, corresponding to 6-8February 2007.  With God's help, these dialogues achieved success, as agreement was reached on the following:

First, stressing the sanctity of Palestinian blood and taking all steps to prevent bloodshed, while emphasizing the importance of national unity as a basis for national steadfastness and resistance against the occupation, in addition to achieving legitimate national aims of the Palestinian people and espousing the language of dialogue as the sole foundation for resolving political disagreements on the Palestinian scene.  In this context, we offer our profound gratitude to the brothers in sisterly Egypt and the Egyptian security delegation
in Gaza, who exerted great efforts to pacify the situation in the sector recently.

Second, agreeing on forming a Palestinian national unity government in accordance with a detailed agreement approved by the two parties, and urgently take the constitutional procedures to bolster it.

Third, proceeding with developing and re-forming the PLO and speeding up the preliminary committee's work in accordance with the Cairo and Damascus understandings.  And agreement was reached on detailed steps between the two sides in this connection.

Fourth, stressing the political partnership principle on the basis of the laws applied by the Palestinian National Authority and political pluralism, based on an agreement endorsed by the two sides.  While we announce this agreement to our Palestinian masses, the masses of our Arab and Islamic nation, all friends worldwide, we emphasize our commitment to it, in letter and spirit, in order to focus on achieving our national aims, getting rid of the occupation, restoring our rights,  and focusing on the main issues, first and foremost the Jerusalem and refugee issues,  Al-Aqsa Mosque issue, the prisoners issue, the detainees issue, and tackling the [security] fence and settlement issue.

It is God who grants success.

Holy Mecca, 21 Muharram 1428 Hegira, corresponding  to 8 February 2007.

May God's peace be upon you.

PA Chief Statement On Commissioning HAMAS' Isma'il Haniyah to Form Government

1915 GMT 08 Feb 07

[Text of statement read by Nabil Amr, Palestinian Authority President's media adviser, in Mecca--live]

In the name of God The Merciful, The Compassionate

A letter of authorization to form a government.

Your Excellency Isma'il Abd-al-Salam Haniyyah, greetings:

As head of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization [PLO] and president of the Palestinian National Authority and following perusal of the basic law and according to the authority that we have:

1.  We commission you to form the next Palestinian government within the designated period in the basic law.

2. Following the formation of government and after presenting it to us, it will be presented to the Legislative Council to get a vote of confidence.

3.  As head of the next government, I call upon you to be committed to the higher interests of the Palestinian people, protect their rights, preserve their achievements and develop them, work to realize their national rights as agreed in the national councils' decisions, the articles of the basic law, the National Accord Document, and the Arab summits' resolutions.  From this premise, I call upon you to respect the resolutions of international legitimacy and the agreements signed by the PLO.

May God make you succeed and guide you to the path of goodness.

[Signed] Mahmud Abbas, head of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization and president of the Palestinian National Authority.

Continued (Permanent Link)

ANALYSIS-Saudi seen worried over Iran, not U.S., in Mecca deal

ANALYSIS-Saudi seen worried over Iran, not U.S., in Mecca deal
10 Feb 2007 15:12:51 GMT
Source: Reuters

By Andrew Hammond

RIYADH, Feb 10 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia risks annoying its U.S. ally with a Palestinian reconciliation deal mediated in Mecca this week, but it has served its greater goal of countering Iranian influence, diplomats and analysts say.

Saudi Arabia is close to the U.S.-backed Palestinian faction headed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who signed a deal to end deadly infighting with the Islamist group Hamas that won parliamentary elections last year.

But the agreement after two days of crisis talks in Mecca fell short of U.S. and Israeli demands for a clear recognition by Hamas of the state of Israel, which controls Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 where Palestinians want a state.

Palestinian sources said Saudi officials had pressed Hamas to agree to wording on a unity government that would "abide" by past agreements with Israel as a form of implicit recognition that would allow Western countries to lift an aid blockade.

But the deal came instead with a call from Abbas to his new government to "respect" past agreements and international law and abide by the "interests of the Palestinian people".

The United States and European Union are still considering their response.

"Most of it is about Iran," said London-based Saudi analyst Mai Yamani. "Iran has been financing Hamas, while the Saudis in the last few months even refused to meet (Hamas Prime Minister Ismail) Haniyeh. They realised that if there is more chaos in the Palestinian territories Iran will have more influence."

There may have been prior discussions between Riyadh and Washington on the need to end Palestinian infighting, she said.

The meeting at King Abdullah's invitation was the latest in a series of Saudi efforts to steer unstable political situations including Iraq and Lebanon, where Shi'ite power Iran is backing groups challenging a perceived a U.S.-imposed regional order.


While the United States -- the sole superpower in the region after the Soviet collapse of 1991 -- has failed to pacify Iraq or bring stability following its invasion of 2003, Iran has steadily grown in influence in the region.

"The fact that they came out publicly to organise this meeting is an indication of how seriously they view the issue," said a Western diplomat in Riyadh.

"They might have liked to see Hamas compromise more on some issues but this is the agreement they all came to."

Over 90 Palestinians have died in fighting between Fatah and Hamas since December, threatening a civil war that Saudi commentators feared could last for years.

Saudi Arabia and other Arab governments closely allied to Washington, including Egypt and Jordan, have been pressing the United States to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks to calm the region as the flames of radicalism threaten to spread.

"In their view, progress on the Palestinian file is essential to calming the growth of radicalisation, so an agreement that advances the peace process would have a positive spillover for other regional conflicts," the diplomat said.

Saudi media said the Mecca deal was a message to Washington that it would have to take its mediation role more seriously.

"America has not been an honourable or effective mediator. When it has reservations over a Palestinian agreement between factions, it is placing Israel's interest before all others," the daily al-Riyadh said in an editorial on Saturday.

"It must understand that managing conflicts in the region requires putting good sense before any religious sympathies (with Israel) that ignore political interest."

Continued (Permanent Link)

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