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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  www.pmw.org.il

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 www.onevoicemovement.org, and, if you've 67 minutes to invest — it's well worth it — you can see and hear the entire session by going to www.weforum.org/anuualmeeting/webcasts 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 http://peaceinisrael.iringweb.com/, 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.

Continued (Permanent Link)

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 http://terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/pdf/abu_mazen0606e.pdf . 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).

Continued (Permanent Link)

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.

Continued (Permanent Link)

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 

Continued (Permanent Link)

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.

Continued (Permanent Link)

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.

Continued (Permanent Link)

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.

Continued (Permanent Link)

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.

Continued (Permanent Link)

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

Continued (Permanent Link)

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)

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