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Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel
For those interested in keeping up with events in Palestine/Israel, there is no better digest than VTJP.

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10 March 2008


Israel defies freeze on illegal settlements
Eric Silver in Jerusalem, The Independent 3/9/2008
Israel approved plans yesterday to build 330 new homes in a suburban West Bank settlement north of Jerusalem. The move was denounced by the Palestinian Authority as "a slap in the face of the peace process" and called on the Quartet of the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia to "act to get Israel to revoke the decision". Saeb Erakat, the Palestinians’ chief negotiator, said: "This is a provocative action by Israel that demonstrates its intention of further strengthening illegal occupation and colonisation of Palestinian territory." He branded the timing of the decision as "outrageous" because it came on the eve of American-Israeli-Palestinian talks to assess the two sides’ performance under the international road map for peace. Expansion of settlements is supposed to be frozen under the terms of the peace process.

Settlers vow revenge over Jerusalem massacre
Toni O''Loughlin in Jerusalem, The Observer, The Guardian 3/9/2008
As violence spirals and calls for peace talks grow, extremists say they will build a new West Bank settlement for each of the eight students killed - Israel’s far-right settler movement has set itself on a renewed collision course with the government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, declaring that last week’s massacre in a Jewish religious school had targeted them directly and vowing to build a new illegal outpost in the West Bank for every one of the killed students. Amid a sense of spiralling crisis in Israeli and the Occupied Territories - which has stemmed from the impression that both Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are rudderless amid the climbing violence - Abbas performed yet another policy U-turn, calling for new talks with Israel after having earlier appeared to back away from peace talks. The latest moves follow the killing on Thursday by a Palestinian gunmen

Palestinian shot by Israeli forces near Kisufim
Ma’an News Agency 3/9/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – A Palestinian was shot by Israeli forces stationed at the Kisufim military site, east of the town of Al-Qarara, on Sunday, Palestinian medical sources said. Muawiya Hasanain, the director of ambulance and emergency services in the Palestinian Health Ministry, said that the Gazan resident is in serious condition, and has been transferred to Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis for treatment. Israeli sources claimed that Palestinian fighters opened fire at Israeli soldiers near Kisufim on Sunday, but reported no injuries. [end]

Barrier turns Nu’man village into virtual enclave
Kareem Jubran/B''tselem, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 3/10/2008
Palestinian school children must pass this Israeli checkpoint to go to and from school NUMAN, WEST BANK, 9 March 2008 (IRIN) - "With the Wall’s route like this we can’t go anywhere," said Yousef al-Darawi, as he drew a map of Israel’s Barrier which blocks Nu’man village off from both East Jerusalem and the West Bank and leaves it a virtual enclave. [Read this report in Arabic] "All people who want to visit have to be on a list at the checkpoint at the village’s entrance," he said, including basic service providers. Most of the 170 residents have to enter and exit on foot. Only a handful of residents are allowed to drive in, limiting the import of goods, while Israeli troops restrict further the amounts of flour, meat, and vegetables allowed in, according to residents." If we bring in a 50kg bag of flour the soldiers open it and check it. Sometimes the flour gets ruined, or some of it gets lost," Yousef explained.

Hamas denies reaching truce with Israel
KHALED ABU TOAMEH, Jerusalem Post 3/10/2008
Hamas denied Sunday that it had reached understandings with Israel over a truce or period of calm, but confirmed that Egypt was playing a role in trying to achieve a cease-fire. Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah told The Jerusalem Post that Hamas and Israel had reached "secret understandings" to stop the violence. The officials claimed that the latest agreement was reached under the auspices of the Egyptians and that Hamas had pledged to stop firing rockets at Israel. Israeli officials emphatically denied that it was negotiating any type of cease-fire with Hamas, or through a third party. "Hamas’s position regarding a tahdiyah [calm] has not changed," said Muhammed Nasr, a senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip. "Any tahdiyah must be mutual and comprehensive." He said the Egyptian government was making huge efforts to reach a deal that would be acceptable to all parties.

VIDEO - News / Arrest warrants issued for family members of yeshiva gunman
Haaretz Staff and Channel 10, Ha’aretz 3/10/2008
Haaretz. com/Channel 10 news roundup for March 9, 2008. In this edition: Police issue arrest warrants for family members of the yeshiva gunman. / The head of the Shin Bet tells ministers that chances for a new Intifada are low. / Israel Defense Forces soldier Liran Banai succumbs to wounds sustained in an ambush on Thursday. [end]

Abbas: Israel has agreed to cease-fire with Hamas
Barak Ravid and Amos Harels, Haaretz Service and Agencies, Ha’aretz 3/10/2008
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday told the Arabic-language al Arabiya television network that Israel had in fact agreed to a cease-fire with Hamas, contradicting comments made earlier by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who insisted that no cease-fire agreement had been made. According to Abbas, Hamas has asked Israel to refrain from killing its leaders, and the leaders of militant movement Islamic Jihad. Abbas said "I think that Israel has agreed or will soon agree." He added that the details of the agreement will likely emerge in the coming days. The discussion regarding a possible cease-fire was ignited after Qassam rocket fire from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and Israel Defense Forces strikes subsided over the past days. Coming out of a meeting with the Czech prime minister, Olmert said earlier Monday that "there...

Deal: Outpost evacuation in return for settlements
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 3/9/2008
Defense Ministry offered settlers to evacuate 18 illegal outposts in coming months, in exchange for new housing units in settlement blocs, Ynet learns. Yesha Council denies report - The Defense Ministry recently offered settler leaders to evacuate illegal outposts in exchange for resuming the construction works in the settlement blocs. Ynet has learned that as part of the deal, the State will evacuate in the coming months 18 of the 24 illegal outposts, which were built after 2001. in return, new housing units will be built in Gush Etzion, Maaleh Adumim, Givat Ze’ev, Ariel, Elkana and Efrat. Sources at Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s office said that an agreement on the details of the plan was reached in a meeting held two weeks ago with representatives of the Yesha Council. The meeting was attended by Barak, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai, Defense...

’Jenin, Jenin’ director tells court film based entirely on truth
Ofra Edelman, Ha’aretz 3/10/2008
The director of the film "Jenin, Jenin," Mohammed Bakri, testified on Sunday in the libel suit brought against him by five Israel Defense Forces reserve soldiers that he would swear on all holy books that there were no falsehoods in the movie. Judge Michal Nadav of the Petah Tikva District Court recommended the parties reach an agreement. Their lawyers refused the judge’s proposed agreement, but said they would try to compromise. Bakri’s film critically depicts the IDF’s Operation Defensive Shield in Jenin in 2002, and ascribes war crimes to the army. The five reservists argued that the movie had sullied their good name because the public knew they took part in the operation, after an interview they gave and another movie in which they appeared. One scene in "Jenin, Jenin" depicts an armored personnel carrier moving toward...

Hamas criticizes Abbas for resuming negotiations with Israel
Ma’an News Agency 3/9/2008
Gaza - Ma’an – Hamas strongly criticized Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday for continuing the negotiations with the Israeli government at a time when children and women in Gaza are being killed by the Israelis. Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri said, "The talk about a tripartite meeting Palestinian Israeli U.S. in the coming days, is an attempt to ensure the American-Israeli tightening of the Ramallah policy of repression against the resistance forces in the West Bank, particularly against the Hamas, especially at the time of the Jerusalem [operation] against the school." Abu Zuhri added: "Hamas rejected the continuation of these negotiations between the leadership of the [Palestinian] Authority in Ramallah and the Israeli occupation, which we consider participating in the crime of not less than the crime of the occupation," and called on to stop these negotiations "aimed at liquidating the Palestinian cause and the … resistance.

Education minister verbally attacked at Mercaz Harav yeshiva
Vered Luvitch, YNetNews 3/9/2008
Tamir pays condolence visit to yeshiva that lost eight students in terror attack, greeted with hostile chants, including ’murderer. ’ This reminded me of the period before Rabin’s murder, she says - Education Minister Yuli Tamir was forced to leave the Mercaz Harav yeshiva in Jerusalem Sunday afternoon after being verbally attacked by dozens of youths who were waiting for her outside the seminary. The minister was on a condolence visit to the yeshiva following Thursday’s terror attack, which left eight students killed"The atmosphere at the seminary was restrained, but the mob that gathered outside greeted me with harsh chants, including ’murderer. ’ "This reminded me of the days before (former Prime Minister Yitzhak) Rabin’s murder. It’s unfortunate that that there is a public which cannot put limits for itself."

Egyptian plan, with US and EU backing, engages Hamas, PA and Israel in resolving Gaza crisis
Ma’an News Agency 3/9/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Egyptian diplomatic sources revealed the details of a ceasefire proposal that Cairo plans to present to Israel and to Palestinian leaders from both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. The sources told the Al-Hayat newspaper in London, that "Egypt is working to calm the situation in Gaza in preparation for procedures that allow the easing of the siege on the Palestinian people," adding that American and European government officials had expressed support for the plan. They explained that the Egyptian role is larger than just mediation between Hamas and Israel, because it aims to achieve a truce, an end to the Israeli blockade, and a resumption of talks between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority." After the events of the border crossing, the Egyptian leadership felt the need to reach an end to this situation," the sources said, referring to the breach of the Gaza-Egypt border wall in late January.

Israeli foreign minister dismisses creation of a Palestinian state for the time being
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center 3/9/2008
Israeli foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, dismissed Sunday possibility for creation of a Palestinian state for the time being, citing what she called ’ continued attacks on Israelis and the situation in Gaza’. Livni told U. S envoy James Jones that Israel should respond to what she termed ’ Palestinian terror’ and that the creation of a Palestinian state does not go in line with Israel’s security needs. She maintained that any future Palestinian state should comprise Palestinian leaders , who are willing to live in peace, from one hand, and fight ’terror’ from the other hand. Livni will head for Washington today for a three-day talks over Gaza situation and other relevant issues, online Israeli daily ’Haaretz’, reported. U.S. envoy, Lt. Gen. William Fraser III, who President Gorge W. Bush appointed to monitor implementation of the US-backed road map peace plan, will expectedly arrive in the region by Thursday.

McCain to visit Israel next week
Yitzhak Benhorin, YNetNews 3/9/2008
Hoping to garner support among Jewish voters, Republican presidential candidate to arrive in Israel on March 18, meet with Olmert, Livni and Barak - WASHINGTON - Republican presidential candidate John McCain will arrive in Israel on March 18 as part of a delegation of senators visiting the region. The schedule for the trip has not been released yet, but it is expected to be a brief, one-day visit during which McCain will meet with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. According to US sources, the trip is aimed at boosting support for McCain among Jewish voters in the US. McCain has already declared that he plans to attend Israel’s 60th anniversary celebrations this year. The republican candidate is considered a staunch supporter of Israel, and his visit to the country is expected to further boost his pro-Israeli image.

Palestinians: Ceasefire in south already in effect
Ali Waked, YNetNews 3/9/2008
Gaza sources claim Israel, armed Palestinian factions reach understanding on ceasefire in area, effective as of this weekend. Only one rocket fired at Negev in last two days, no IDF strikes registered in Strip. PMO denies any deal reached with Hamas - Israel and the Palestinian factions in Gaza have reached an understanding that would lead to a ceasefire in the area, Palestinian sources in the Strip told Ynet Sunday. According to the sources, the lull has already gone into effect this weekend, during which only one rocket was fired on Israel’s southern communities. The Prime Minister’s Office on said that it was "unfamiliar with any agreement on a ceasefire with Hamas." According to a statement issued by the PMO, "The policy has remained unchanged, as decided by the cabinet and as the prime minister said: ’If they don’t shoot, we won’t shoot."

A lull in Gaza?
Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 3/10/2008
The statistics are not lying: Since last Thursday, there has been a lull in the fighting in the Gaza Strip. It is quite certain that this will be a short break. But it is also hard to argue with the data: At its peak, on February 29, some 50 rockets were fired each day, mostly by Hamas militants. In the middle of last week, the rate dropped to 10-15 rockets per day, fired by more extremist groups - but the Qassams were provided to them mostly by Hamas. Since last Friday, one or two rockets have been fired each day. Was their a specific agreement between Israel and Hamas? It does not appear so, even though there are reports on such a deal in some media. It is more reasonable that this is a Hamas initiative, in line with Egyptian expectations. Hamas issued an order to the groups not to fire rockets, and it is being obeyed quite strictly by members of the armed wing of its own organization, and only partially by the other factions.

IDF asked to curb strikes against Hamas
Barak Ravid and Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 3/10/2008
The government recently ordered the Israel Defense Forces to exercise restraint in operations in the Gaza Strip, pursuant to what a senior government official termed new rules of the game forged in the aftermath of last week’s military operation in Gaza. The official credited these rules, under which Israel will not attack Gaza as long as Hamas does not fire at Israel, with the recent lull in violence. Yet at the same time, he charged, they completely contradict last week’s cabinet decision, which stated that Israel should keep up the military pressure on Hamas. The volume of rocket fire from Gaza has declined sharply in recent days: Since last Friday, Palestinians have fired only three Qassam rockets at Israel, compared to some 50 a day during the previous week. The IDF, for its part, has withdrawn all ground troops from the Strip and also halted aerial assaults.

West Bank closure extended for at least 24 hours
Ma’an News Agency 3/9/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The Israeli government decided to extend the comprehensive closure on the West Bank for at least 24 hours on Sunday. The government will review the situation again on Monday. Israel ordered the West Bank sealed on Friday following a deadly attack, carried out by a Palestinian man from Mount Al-Mukabber, in Jerusalem, on a Jewish religious school in West Jerusalem. Eight students were killed in the attack on the Mercaz Harav yeshiva, an institution with deep historical ties to the Israeli settler movement. Israeli police will continue to be on high alert throughout the country, especially in Jerusalem. Extra security forces will be deployed at educational institutions. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert linked the attack in Jerusalem to the homemade projectiles fired from the Gaza Strip.

ANALYSIS: The lull in rockets is not due to an Israel-Hamas deal
Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harels, Ha’aretz 3/10/2008
The statistics are not lying: Since last Thursday, there has been a lull in the fighting in the Gaza Strip. It is quite certain that this will be a short break. But it is also hard to argue with the data: At its peak, on February 29, some 50 rockets were fired each day, mostly by Hamas militants. In the middle of last week, the rate dropped to 10-15 rockets per day, fired by more extremist groups - but the Qassams were provided to them mostly by Hamas. Since last Friday, one or two rockets have been fired each day. Was there a specific agreement between Israel and Hamas? It does not appear so, even though there are reports on such a deal in some media. It is more reasonable that this is a Hamas initiative, in line with Egyptian expectations. Hamas issued an order to the groups not to fire rockets, and it is being obeyed quite strictly by...

Israel calls for tighter security on West Bank
Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem, The Independent 3/9/2008
Israel yesterday urged the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank to inject more "dynamism" into the faltering negotiating process by fighting militant cells after the killing of eight students at a Jewish seminary on Thursday. Meanwhile the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, insisted negotiations must move ahead despite the major escalation in violence. Speaking in Ramallah, Mr Abbas said: "Despite all the circumstances we’re living through and all the attacks we’re experiencing, we insist on peace. There is no other path." While saying that there could not merely be "business as usual", Mark Regev, spokesman for Israel’s Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, said Israel remained committed to the process established after the Annapolis summit last year and aimed at agreeing the outlines of a future Palestinian state. But with some right-wing politicians already calling for the talks to be

London-based newspaper: Cairo has a plan to end Gaza crisis
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center 3/9/2008
Cairo has prepared an ’overall’ plan towards ending underway closure of Gaza, resorting to calm and reopening all Gaza’s crossings, the London-based Al-Hayat Arabic newspaper reported Sunday. Egyptian diplomats revealed to the paper that such a plan has been welcomed by the United States and Europe, yet it is faced with some difficulties on the ground. The diplomatic sources also said that Cairo has thought over the plan following the breach of its borders by besieged Palestinian crowds in January, as the Israeli closure of the coastal enclave happened to reach a climax. According to the Al-Hayat, the proposed plan includes: 1. Lifting the Israeli siege and reinstalling the 2005’s Rafah crossing terminal operation agreement, despite Hamas’s reservations. 2. Israel should consequently ease its siege on Gaza in return for halting Palestinian homemade shells fire from Gaza into nearby Israeli towns.

50 wounded Palestinians arrive in Egypt for treatment
Xinhua News Agency, ReliefWeb 3/9/2008
CAIRO, Mar 9, 2008 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Some 50 Palestinians who were wounded in recent Israeli strikes against the Gaza Strip crossed into Egypt on Sunday for medical treatment. The group of the wounded Palestinians entered Egypt through Rafah crossing at the Egypt-Gaza border, the Egyptian official MENA news agency reported. Several ambulances have been sent to transfer the wounded to hospitals in the city of Al-Arish in North Sinai governorate, Maged el-Sheikh, under secretary of health and population ministry in North Sinai, was quoted as saying. Some of the seriously wounded Palestinians were admitted to hospitals in Ismailia and Cairo, he added. On March 2, Egypt decided to open Rafah crossing to receive Palestinians wounded in the five-day Israeli raids ended on Monday morning that killed more than 120 Palestinians and wounded hundreds of others.

Hamas leaders head to Yemen to discuss efforts for Palestinian unity
Ma’an News Agency 3/9/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – A delegation of high-ranking Hamas leaders will head to Yemen this week to discuss the internal Palestinian political situation. Hamas spokesperson Ismail Radwan said the visit will focus on "recent developments" in the wake of Israel’s escalation of attacks in the Gaza Strip, and efforts to heal the division in the Palestinian polity. Radhwan said: "The visit does not mean a final agreement for the initial initiative in Yemen, but that the discussion on the initiative will be part of the discussions that will take place there, where [Hamas political chief] Khaled Mash’al with the delegation going to Yemen." "We are ready to make any Arab effort, regional or Palestinians to unify ranks while preserving the constants and the supreme national interest," he added.

Softening Shas / Low-cost housing
Nadav Shragai, Ha’aretz 3/10/2008
Ehud Olmert managed to curb pressure from Shas to release suspended state construction in and around East Jerusalem at a relatively low cost, and without any real change to the general picture of frozen construction in these areas. The Agan Ayalot neighborhood [settlement], whose construction has supposedly been unfrozen, is already partially built. The infrastructure - water, sewage, electricity and roads - is ready. The contractors had initially halted construction not because of a government dictate, but rather due to a security exigency: the second intifada, back at the beginning of 2000. At that time the contractors were the ones to seek to be released from their obligations. They even sued the state in court, but the state opposed halting the project. The attorney general explained to the judges that NIS 100 million had already been sunk into infrastructure and roads, and asked the court to require the contractors to continue building.

At Mercaz Harav, Tamir branded ’murderer,’ Olmert told not to visit
Yair Ettinger, Ha’aretz 3/10/2008
"Our strength is in our togetherness, and by one person giving strength to the other. Together is something very, very, very deep. It holds us together, to help and be helped. We all need help, you and me," said Rabbi Yerahamiel Weiss, the head of the high-school yeshiva within the Mercaz Harav complex, speaking in a loud but choking voice to hundreds of his students. Five of the high-school yeshiva’s students were among the eight people murdered in last Thursday’s terrorist attack. Weiss’ students’ week began yesterday with visits to the wounded, visits to the bereaved, prayers and conversation. But for a moment, the controlled mourning broke out into an outburst of rage. It happened at noon, after a meeting between the students and visiting Education Minister Yuli Tamir. Several hundred students gathered at the entrance of the yeshiva and some heckled her with cries of "criminal," "traitor," "murderer.

Olmert: J’lem attack targeted religious Zionism’s flagship
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 3/9/2008
Prime minister says despite political differences, he has deep appreciation for Mercaz Harav yeshiva and its legacy - Thursday’s murderous terror attack, which claimed the lives of eight yeshiva students in Jerusalem, stood at the heart of Sunday’s cabinet meeting. "This was a carefully-orchestrated terror attack," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said at the opening of the meeting. "It was designed to target a special place in Jerusalem and the flagship of the religious Zionist movement." Mercaz Harav yeshiva, stated Olmert, has produced "the finest soldiers for many generations; people who have realized the Zionist faith. This yeshiva - which was founded by Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook - has educated and nurtured tradition and legacy, as part of Israel’s resilience."

Mercaz Harav rabbi: Torah is our roadmap
Neta Sela, YNetNews 3/9/2008
Head of yeshiva that lost eight students in Thursday’s deadly terror attack says government should be replaced with one that ’expresses the true will of the people’ - The head of the Mercaz Harav rabbinical seminary in Jerusalem, the site of Thursday’s terror attack that left eight Israelis dead, told a press conference Sunday that the government should be replaced with one that "expresses the true will of the people." "During times like these we should glorify the Torah and put the nation’s concealed powers into practice," Rabbi Yaakov Shapira said. "If there is no Torah, there is no spiritual fortitude, and physical endurance lacks as well. We are constantly defending ourselves in the face of our enemies. The people expect a change in the way of thinking, and this is the time for it."

Tamir ’deeply saddened’ by mob behavior during visit to yeshiva
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 3/9/2008
Education minister verbally abused, kicked and spat on by protesters angry with gov’t policy in front of Mercaz Harav seminary, site of Thursday’s terror attack - "The physical pain I’m feeling now is insignificant; it is the mental anguish that hurts me more," Education Minister Yuli Tamir said just hours after being attacked outside the Mercaz Harav rabbinical seminary in Jerusalem, the site of Thursday’s deadly terror attack that left eight Israelis dead. During her visit to the yeshiva on Sunday Tamir spoke to the students, some of whom told her that they felt the government was not doing enough to fight terror. Upon leaving the seminary Tamir was verbally attacked by dozens of youths who called out "murderer," "get out of here" and "the Left is to blame for everything." She was also kicked in the back twice.

Less illegal building in east Jerusalem
Orit Bar-Gil, Globes Online 3/9/2008
At the same time, legal construction grows. Jerusalem municipality figures indicate a sharp decline in illegal construction in east Jerusalem and a corresponding increase in legal building. The municipality attributes the change to increased enforcement of building codes. The municipality executed 61 demolition orders in 2003, 115 in 2004, 76 in 2005, 71 in 2006, and 69 in 2007. The municipality claims that the decline in the execution of demolition orders is due to less illegal building. Some of the demolition orders were issued in earlier periods, but their execution was delayed until the completion of legal proceedings. The municipality added that many legally built structures are now undergoing completion and occupancy certificates (Form 4). The municipality reports a 50% increase in applications for building permits in east Jerusalem, of which 450 applications were for new structures.

Mercaz Harav yeshiva tells Olmert he’s not welcome to visit
Yair Ettinger and Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 3/10/2008
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was told on Sunday that he is not welcome to visit the Mercaz Harav religious school in Jerusalem, where eight students were killed Thursday when a Palestinian gunman opened fire on a crowded library. The yeshiva informed Olmert of its decision in response to the prime minister’s request to visit the school in the wake of the attack. In its message, the yeshiva said its decision was not final, but emphasized that their wish was "to save him and us the embarrassment." The Prime Minister’s Office on Sunday night denied that Olmert had been told not to visit, according to Army Radio. The PMO told the radio that the yeshiva had actually contacted the prime minister to invite him. Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi visited the yeshiva on Sunday night, where he met with the heads of institution...

VIDEO - Erekat: Israel’s construction plans humiliate Abbas
Associated Press, YNetNews 3/9/2008
(VIDEO) Chief Palestinian negotiator strongly condemns Israeli plans to build hundreds of homes in the West Bank and disputed east Jerusalem. Housing minister Boim: Construction in line with Kadima’s platform to hold on to settlement blocs - VIDEO - Israeli plans to build hundreds of homes in the West Bank and disputed east Jerusalem drew harsh Palestinian condemnation Sunday, just days before a visit by a US general to monitor the troubled peace process. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said he had appealed to the Bush Administration to pressure Israel o halt the projects. "Why do they insist on doing this and humiliating Abu Mazen in front of the Palestinian public?" he said, using the nickname of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Palestinians concerned over expected Israeli settlement activities
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center 3/9/2008
Senior Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Eriqat, cast doubts on Sunday over Israel’s intentions towards peace with the Palestinians. Eriqat’s skepticism came after media reports said Israel plans on expanding Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian lands in the West Bank. The Israeli housing ministry said today that PM Ehud Olmert has okayed construction of hundreds of housing units in the ’illegal’ Israeli settlement of Giv’at Ze’aiv. "It seems to me the Israelis are determined to put a stick in the wheel of negotiations," Eriqat said. "It will undermine the U.S. effort to revive the negotiations." According to the ministry, the project is expectedto include the building of 750 housing units. A spokesman of PM Olmert, Mark Regev, was quoted by Ha’aretz Israeli online daily as saying " the project has been approved by previous governments and Olmert has approved it as well," and...

Olmert approves hundreds of homes on occupied land
Daily Star 3/10/2008
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has approved the construction of hundreds of new housing units at a Jewish settlement in the Occupied West Bank, setting off another crisis in embattled Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations. "After a series of consultations with the prime minister, Housing Minister Zeev Boim has approved the relaunching of construction in Givat Zeev," the Israeli Housing Ministry said in a statement on Sunday. The move was swiftly denounced as hampering efforts to advance faltering peace talks that Israelis and Palestinians revived under US stewardship in late November, but that have been stagnant since. "We condemn in the harshest terms this decision," senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said. "We consider that with this decision, Israel wants to demolish the peace process and demolish the international efforts to advance the peace process," he added.

Israel expands settlements in blow to peace process
Toni O''Loughlin in Jerusalem, Ian Black, The Guardian 3/10/2008
PM allows 530 West Bank homes after school killings - Palestinian Authority says move dents its credibility - Israel’s prime minister, Ehud Olmert, embraced the rightwing settler movement yesterday by saying he shared their pain in the wake of last week’s killings at a Jewish religious school and by approving 530 new settler homes in the West Bank. The decision to build in Givat Ze’ev, a Jewish settlement near the Palestinian administrative centre of Ramallah, has dealt another blow to the faltering US-backed Annapolis peace process, Palestinians and diplomatic sources say. Olmert is under growing pressure from settlers who are opposed to the Annapolis process. "No differences of opinion can overcome the sense of deep obligation and appreciation that I and the entire country must have for the people at Mercaz Harav," Olmert said at the beginning of a cabinet meeting yesterday.

Olmert approves homes for West Bank settlement
Avida Landa, ReliefWeb 3/9/2008
JERUSALEM, March 9 (Reuters) - Israel announced plans to build hundreds of new homes in a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank on Sunday in a move the Palestinians denounced as another blow to U.S. -brokered peace talks. The new building was announced three days after a Palestinian gunman killed eight students at a Jewish seminary in Jerusalem that was associated with the settler movement. Israeli officials said they revived a plan to build a total of 750 homes in Givat Ze’ev, a settlement near Jerusalem. Housing Ministry officials said 200 partially-constructed units would now be completed. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert authorised building another 330 new homes in the area, his spokesman, Mark Regev, said. Housing ministry officials said the remaining homes would be built at a later date.

VIDEO - Soldier hurt in Gaza explosion dies
Ynet reporters, YNetNews 3/9/2008
Givati soldier Liran Banai, 20, critically wounded after Palestinians detonate explosive device near IDF jeep in Gaza last week, succumbs to his wounds in Soroka hospital Sunday. IDF tracker killed in incident - Sergeant Liran Banai, who was critically wounded in an explosion near central Gaza last Thursday, has died of his wounds in Beersheba’s Soroka Medical Center Sunday morning. The 20-year-old Banai from Ashkelon served at Givati Brigade’s Tzabar battalion as a jeep driver. He has been fighting for his life at the hospital for the past three days, after both his legs were amputated in the blast. Video depicting explosion on border (Video: Infolive. tv) An IDF tracker was killed in the same incident, after Palestinians detonated an explosive device near the force’s IDF Sufa jeep that was patrolling the area close to the Kissufim crossing.

Second Israeli soldier dies from Islamic Jihad’s border ambush
Ma’an News Agency 3/9/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – A second Israeli soldier has died of wounds he sustained on Thursday when Palestinian fighters bombed an Israeli military jeep on the border with the Gaza Strip. Twenty-year-old Liran Banai was critically injured in the attack near the Kisufim crossing point. Another Israeli soldier was also killed in the attack. The Al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of Islamic Jihad, issued a statement reiterating that they were behind the operation. The group urged other resistance factions to take caution before claiming responsibility for attacks that may have been carried out by others. The Al-Quds Brigades vowed to take more action against occupation forces, stressing that Israel’s assassinations of resistance fighters will only result in more resistance operations, "in the appropriate time and place."

IDF captures 70 liters of acid used to make explosives in W. Bank
Jerusalem Post 3/10/2008
IDF forces in the West Bank on Sunday captured 70 liters of acidic materials which can be used to produce explosives. 40 liters of sulfuric acid and 30 liters of nitric acid were discovered in a truck wich was stopped at a checkpoint near Kalkilya. Due to a recent increase in incidents where security forces captured chemicals used to manufacture bombs, the Civil Administration said it would distribute notebooks with details of 27 banned chemicals among soldiers, to help them catch dangerous contraband. [end]

The road to Gaza runs through Tehran
Amir Oren, Ha’aretz 3/10/2008
"Anyone who says that a big operation in Gaza will be 10 times as complicated, complex and dangerous as Operation Defensive Shield" - the West Bank incursion of spring 2002 - "doesn’t know what he is talking about," a senior security expert who is very familiar with the situation in the territories said a week ago. "And not a hundred times, either - it will be a thousand times harder." A bit of an exaggeration, perhaps, but not completely off the wall. Advanced armies are built to mass forces in order to vanquish rival armies; and on the other side, to attack and destroy those same concentrations of forces, from the air and with shelling and the movement of armored corps. Terrorist and guerrilla organizations operate by the opposite logic: They atomize into particles in order to make action against them difficult.

Police probe why first cop on the scene did not fire
Jonathan Lis, Ha’aretz 3/10/2008
Jerusalem police are looking into the actions of the first patrolman to arrive at the Mercaz Harav yeshiva following reports of shots fired, to determine whether his decision not to engage the terrorist was reasonable. The patrolman, a sergeant, is said to have completed the police academy only a few months ago. He arrived on the scene in a patrol car, together with other police, about seven minutes after students reported shots fired. Police sources said yesterday that about eight more minutes passed until an army officer and additional police killed the terrorist. An investigation by Channel 10, based on Magen David Adom recordings, reveals that about 20 minutes passed from the time the terrorist opened fire until he was killed. The police probe, led by Commander Amnon Alkalai, head of the Moriah sub-district, reveals that the policeman, who was armed only with a revolver, chose...

Likud MK to propose ban on public mourning for terrorists
Shahar Ilan, and Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 3/10/2008
Likud MK Gilad Erdan said Sunday he intends to propose a bill that would ban mourners’ tents or any other public form of mourning or remembrance for terrorists. The proposal comes after police said they could not prevent the erection of a mourners’ tent in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber honoring Ala Abu Dhaim, who carried out Thursday’s terror attack in a Jerusalem yeshiva that killed eight, most of them teenagers. "The State of Israel acts more like a suicidal democracy than a democracy that is defending itself," said Erdan. "It is our obligation to send a clear message that whoever murders innocent civilians will not only not receive any financial benefits from the state, but also will not be commemorated in public," said Erdan. Meanwhile, six right-wing Israeli activists were detained Sunday afternoon...

VIDEO - Olmert: Don’t grant terrorist’s family burial fees
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 3/9/2008
(Video) Prime minister asks police to prevent hanging of Hamas flags near mourning tent set up for east Jerusalem man who killed eight yeshiva students. Police detain for questioning six right-wing activists on their way to shooter’s house - VIDEO - Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday instructed the National Insurance Institute not to transfer the burial fees to the family of Alaa Abu Dheim, who carried out the bloody terror attack the Mercaz Harav yeshiva in Jerusalem on Thursday. The legal basis of the decision has yet to be examined. Protest at Armon Hanatziv (Video courtesy of infolive. tv) The prime minister also addressed the mourning tent set up in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber, and asked the police to prevent the hanging of Hamas flags and other nationalistic elements at the tent or nearby.

Jewish Agency to start anti-terror drive after J’lem attack
Anshel Pfeffer and Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 3/10/2008
The Jewish Agency will start a drive this week to raise support for Israel and its fight against terror among Jewish communities around the world, following the attack on Mercaz Harav yeshiva last Thursday. Hundreds of JA and World Zionist Organization envoys will receive kits with photographs of the attack and information material to hold memorial events and rallies. The campaign is also aimed to counter pro-Palestinian campaigns following the IDF’s operation in the Gaza Strip, which killed 120 Palestinians. The Anti-Defamation League on Friday denounced as "shocking" the United Nations Security Council’s abstention from condemning Thursday’s terror attack at a Jerusalem yeshiva. "It is shocking that the Security Council could not bring itself to condemn this heinous terrorist attack on Israeli teenagers at a Jerusalem yeshiva," said Abraham H.

Shin Bet chief: Chances of fresh Intifada in 2008 are low
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 3/10/2008
The head of the Shin Bet security service told ministers on Sunday that the chances for a renewed popular Palestinian uprisingin the near future. Citing the service’s annual intelligence estimate, Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin said that such an outbreak would erupt only if Muslim holy places - such as the Dome of the Rock - were damaged, or if the Palestinian death toll were to rise dramatically Meanwhile, the Military Intelligence and the Mossad share the view that Syria is prepared to sever its ties with extremist groups in the Middle East. Both estimate that Syria would be more likely to embark on such a scenario if Israel were to agreed to return the Golan Heights and if U.S. were to renew negotiations with Damascus. The intelligence estimates were presented three days after a Palestinian gunman infiltrated the Mercaz...

VIDEO - Intelligence report: Chances of 3rd intifada slim
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 3/9/2008
(Video) Outbreak of limited violent revolt possible should number of Palestinian casualties increase significantly, intelligence officials tell cabinet in annual briefing, adding that Syria can be persuaded to sever ties with Iran in exchange for Golan Heights - VIDEO - The chances of a third intifada erupting are slim, but the outbreak of a limited violent revolt is possible should the Temple Mount complex be damaged or if the number of Palestinian casualties increases significantly, according to an intelligence briefing given to members of cabinet on Sunday. The annual intelligence review, presented by officials from the Shin Bet internal security service, Miltary Intelligence and the Mossad, said 25 Arab-Israelis had been involved in terror-related activities in 2007, adding that they had all operated under instructions from terror groups based in the West Bank.

AJC leader urges Israel to give conference ’Durban 2’ a chance
Anshel Pfeffer, Ha’aretz 3/10/2008
The "Durban 2" anti-racism conference can still be salvaged, despite recent decisions by Israel and Canada to boycott the gathering, according to David Harris, the executive director of the American Jewish Committee (AJC). Visiting Israel as part of his organization’s Board Of Governors’ mission, Harris told Haaretz that "we can’t afford to declare ’Durban 2’ lost without more focus on diplomacy, especially toward the European Union countries and others influenced by them." Following Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s announcement two weeks ago that Israel would not participate in the United Nation’s follow-up Conference against Racism, unless it was made clear that the event would not become a platform for Israel-bashing, there has been a great deal of indecision among international Jewish organizations as to how to deal with "Durban 2".

30-year anniversary of vicious terrorist attack marked
Roi Mandel, YNetNews 3/9/2008
On March 11th 1978, Israel was stunned when Palestinian terrorists hijacked bus and went on rampage that left 35 dead. 30 years later, survivors meet and admit that it appears little has changed - 30 years later and nothing has changed: At a monument located at the Glilot junction on the Tel Aviv - Haifa highway, a yearly remembrance ceremony for the victims of a vicious terrorist attack that occurred 30 years ago was held Sunday morning. "On Thursday, eight were killed ; 30 years ago, 35 were killed - once again a terror attack and once again Jews are killed. Everything has stayed the same," Lily Glutman, the event’s organizer and herself a survivor of the attack who lost her husband, wistfully uttered. On the 11th of March, 1978, a Palestinian terrorist cell from Lebanon infiltrated into Israel via the beach south of Kibbutz Maagan Michael.

Pageantry and pomp in Paris
Anshel Pfeffer, Ha’aretz 3/10/2008
President Shimon Peres is to leave this morning on a five-day official visit to France. It is the first visit by a foreign leader to be hosted by President Nicolas Sarkozy since he took office. Peres is to thank France for the defense assistance it provided during Israel’s early years, when he served as director-general of the Defense Ministry in charge of the security relationship with France. During the meeting with Sarkozy, Peres will be awarded the French Legion of Honor medal. He will also meet with Prime Minister Francois Fillon, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and Senate President Christian Poncelet. Peres will meet Jewish leaders and participate in a special ceremony at Paris’ largest synagogue commemorating the victims of last week’s terror attack on Jerusalem’s Mercaz Harav yeshiva. Peres and Sarkozy will together open the Paris International Book Fair, which will feature a special section honoring Israel’s 60th anniversary.

In show of love for Israel, Sarkozy makes Peres his first official visitor
Adar Primor, Ha’aretz 3/10/2008
In the 16th century, French Protestant King Henry IV said, "Paris is well worth a Mass" (that is, conversion). The ruler today in the capital believes the warming of relations with Israel is well worth irate drivers’ nervous breakdowns. That statement was written in these pages in February 2004, during the visit of president Moshe Katsav to Paris, the last official visit of an Israeli president in France, and the first since 1988. Then-president Jacques Chirac received his Israeli counterpart warmly, stopping traffic for him in the heart of the city. Chirac seemed to want to play the part of Jacques I, the leader of a monarchy seeking - precisely at the end of its road - the goodwill of the Jewish state. At the height of the municipal election campaigns in France, Nicolas Sarkozy wants to show that what seemed then a surrealistic, self-serving episode is just the tip of the iceberg.

For German media, Gaza is not an issue
Assaf Uni, Ha’aretz 3/10/2008
MUNICH - No one mentioned the Gaza Strip. The eight senior reporters of Bayerischer Rundfunk (Bavarian Broadcasting) sat Tuesday facing Israel’s ambassador to Germany, Yoram Ben-Ze’ev. They asked him about the special relationship between the two countries, the conflict with Hezbollah and Iran’s nuclear program. But the latest escalation in the Gaza Strip, in which three Israelis and more than 100 Palestinians were killed, whose shocking photographs were broadcast the world over and forced the Foreign Ministry to initiate a public relations offensive, was not mentioned in the television station’s conference room near Munich. On this issue, Germany is unusual compared with the media throughout Europe, and Ben-Ze’ev understands this. The Qassam attacks against Israel and the offensive in the Gaza Strip received limited coverage here, perhaps because the events took place during the...

Kuwaiti analyst: Best if Israel, not U.S., destroys Iranian nukes
News Agencies, Ha’aretz 3/10/2008
The destruction of Iran’s nuclear capabilities would be in the interest of the Arab nations in the Gulf, and it would be less embarrassing if it was done by Israel rather than the U.S. , a top Kuwaiti strategist said in remarks published Sunday. Officially Kuwait, like the other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, wants a peaceful solution to the nuclear standoff between Tehran and the West and will not allow the U.S. to use its territories for any attack on Iran. But when asked in an interview with the daily Al-Siyassah about the consequences of an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear reactors, analyst and former government adviser Sami al-Faraj said it would not be such a bad thing." Honestly speaking, they would be achieving something of great strategic value for the GCC by stopping Iran’s tendency for hegemony over the area," he said, adding that "nipping it in the bud by Israeli hands would be less embarrassing for us than if the Americans did it."

Report: ’Hamas leader’ says hundreds of militants trained in Iran, Syria
Ruth Margalit, Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 3/10/2008
Hamas has sent hundreds of militants to train in Iran and Syria in the past two years, a commander in the Iz al-Din al-Qassam military wing of Hamas said in a rare interview with The Sunday Times of London. Speaking on the record but on condition of anonymity, the Hamas commander, already a senior figure in his late twenties, told the British newspaper that Hamas had been sending militants to Iran for training in both field tactics and weapons technology since Israel pulled out of the Gaza Strip in 2005. Others, he said, go to Syria for more basic training. "We have sent seven ’courses’ of our fighters to Iran," he said in the interview. "During each course, the group is trained to increase our capacity to fight." The most promising members of each group stay longer for an advanced course and return as trainers themselves, he said, adding "We send our best brains to Tehran."

Turkish Cypriots planning to open trade office in Israel
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 3/10/2008
The breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus will open a trade office in Israel in the coming weeks, with the assistance of the law office of Dov Weissglas, the former bureau chief of prime minister Ariel Sharon. The office will hold no diplomatic status and aims to further economic dealings between Israel and northern Cyprus. Israel’s Foreign Ministry has tried to tread carefully around the issue, fearing a backlash in relations with the Republic of Cyprus, which controls the southern portion of the island and is a member state of the European Union. Cyprus was divided into a Greek-controlled south and a Turkish-controlled north in 1974, following a failed coup engineered with support from Athens, and a subsequent Turkish invasion. In 1983 the Turkish Cypriot minority established an independent republic in the north, but to date only Turkey has recognized it.

Israel lists Iran, Gaza rockets as top threats
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 3/10/2008
JERUSALEM: Israeli intelligence agencies painted a bleak picture of threats facing the Jewish state in an annual assessment Sunday that came on the heels of the deadliest Palestinian attack in Jerusalem in four years. Iran and its controversial nuclear program remain the main threat seen by the Jewish state, while rocket fire from Gaza is the most active front it is facing, a senior official quoted intelligence chiefs as telling the weekly Cabinet meeting." The main strategic threats are from Iran through its nuclear program and the pivotal role it is playing as a leader of the radical axis in the Arab and Muslim world," the official quoted the annual report as saying. Iran is also increasing its cooperation with other foes Syria, Lebanon’s Hizbullah and Palestinian militant groups, he said. While rocket fire from Gaza is the most "active front Israel is facing today," a widescale offensive by Israel in the coastal strip would likely lead to a flare-up of violence with Hizbullah...

Hamas lashes out at OIC leader for condemning Jerusalem attack
Ma’an News Agency 3/9/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Hamas criticized the Secretary General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, on Saturday for condemning Thursday’s deadly shooting attack on a religious school in West Jerusalem. Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri, said he is deeply dismayed by Ihsanoglu’s statement, which he says provides an opportunity for the occupation to justify its crimes against the Palestinian people, and said it conflicted with the fact that the attack was a reaction to the Israeli occupation’s crimes and with the people’s right to resist the occupation. Abu Zuhri lashed out at Arab leaders who condemn the Palestinian resistance. He called on Arab and Muslim leaders to support the Palestinian struggle. Ihsanoglu’s statement, issued Friday, expressed "grave concern over and condemned the recent killings of students in the West Jerusalem.

Iranian group puts price on Barak’s head
Dudi Cohen, YNetNews 3/9/2008
’Islamic Student Justice Seekers’ declare financial prizes to be awarded to those who kill Israeli defense minister, Mossad Director Meir Dagan, and Military Intelligence Chief Amos Yadlin - Do Ehud Barak, Meir Dagan and Amos Yadlin need to be worried? In the Iranian capital of Tehran, it was reported that an unprecedented ceremony took place on Sunday in which a price was put on the heads of the top ranking Israeli security officials as revenge for the assassination of Hizbullahh arch terrorist Imad Mugniyah last month. The Iranian news agency IRNA quoted an announcement from a radical organization called the "Islamic Student Justice Seekers" in which the group made clear its reasoning for the move. "Following the increase in crimes by the Zionist regime in occupied Palestine and in the Gaza Strip, and in wake of the assassination that..."

Israeli minister says sack ElBaradei over Iran
Reuters, YNetNews 3/9/2008
Housing Minister Zeev Boim recommends International Atomic Energy Agency director be canned, alleges he is ’planted agent. ’ Israel says Iran could have nuclear weapons in 2 years - An Israeli cabinet minister called on Sunday for the dismissal of the head of the UN nuclear watchdog for not doing enough to curb Iranian atomic projects with bomb-making potential. There was no immediate International Atomic Energy Agency comment. The IAEA has long pressed for wider-ranging inspections in Iran and full cooperation with agency investigations aimed at verifying Iranian nuclear activity is wholly peaceful. Israeli Housing Minister Zeev Boim was quoted in local media reports as saying IAEA Director Mohamed ElBaradei should be sacked and then alleged in a Channel One television interview that he was an agent for the Islamic Republic.

Pope denounces Mideast violence
Middle East Online 3/9/2008
VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday denounced the "endless spiral of death and destruction" in Israel, and urged Israelis and Palestinian authorities to continue to negotiate "to build a peaceful future." "In recent days violence and horror has again bloodied the Holy Land, feeding an endless spiral of destruction and death," he told thousands of pilgrims in St. Peter’s square for his weekly angelus. His call came after the cycles of violence killed over 120 Palestinians and 12 Israelis." I encourage Israel and Palestinian authorities in their intention to continue, through negotiation, to build a peaceful and just future for their people," he added. Benedict called on "all in the name of God to leave the tortuous ways of hate and vengeance to take, in a responsible way, the paths of dialogue and confidence..."

Egyptian police discover six tunnels near the Gaza Strip
Ma’an News Agency 3/9/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an - Egyptian police found six tunnels near the border with the Gaza Strip on Saturday. An Egyptian security official said police found the tunnels on a tip from a local resident. All of the tunnels were empty when they were discovered. Israel often accuses Egypt of being lax in its policing of its border with the Gaza Strip, allowing Palestinian fighters to smuggle weapons and people into the Hamas-controlled enclave. Cairo strongly denies these accusations. Egyptian police also arrested six people of various African nationalities who were reportedly attempting to enter Israel from the Sinai Peninsula. [end]

Amos Oz: Left wing can return to power in next elections
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 3/10/2008
The Israeli left wing has a chance to win the next general elections, Israeli author Amos Oz told attendees at a rally for MK Haim Oron, who is running for the chairmanship of the left-wing Meretz Party. Oz stated that the greatest challenge facing the left wing is convincing the public that there is a direct link between the occupation and poverty in Israel." Poverty is gnawing at the country. We have an impoverished country, running from Gadera to the South and from Hadera to the North. Our real enemy is not the right wing, it? s fatigue and desperation, the feeling that there is nothing we can do," Oz stated. Oz added that "more and more Israelis are fed up with the right wing, the settlements, and have come to the conclusion that enough is enough." In regard to the Palestinians, Oz stated that presently there are two Palestinian entities developing, one in the West Bank and one in Gaza, and that Israel must reach a peace agreement with both.

Palestinian teachers to strike over pay
Ma’an News Agency 3/9/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an - The Palestinian Teachers Union announced of a series of strikes starting on Wednesday and Thursday because the teachers feel their needs are not being met by the Palestinian Authority. The head of the union, Jamil Shehada told Ma’an that a meeting was held on Sunday during the strike was called. Teachers will also strike on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of next week. He added, "There should be a presence of teachers and students in their schools, noy studying but sitting in front of the Council of Ministers in Ramallah." The head of the Palestinian public employees union, Bassam Zakarneh said that the union remains committed to the suspension of the protests "until the end of the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip. Teachers and public employees are demanding higher salaries to match the rising price of consumer goods, food, and transportation.

With just 50 takers in 6 months, national service option fails to attract yeshiva students
Shahar Ilan, Ha’aretz 3/10/2008
Only 50 yeshiva students have opted for civilian national service since this option was made available to them about six months ago, according to data provided by the head of the National Civilian Service Administration, Dr. Reuven Gal. This is less than 0. 1 percent of the more than 50,000 yeshiva students who currently receive draft deferrals. In other words, the Tal Law - which was meant to encourage yeshiva students to enter the job market by allowing them to perform civilian service instead of military service (as opposed to keeping their draft deferral status by remaining in yeshiva and not seeking employment) - has thus far been a flop. "We are maintaining a low profile," Gal explained. "The time has not yet come to make waves. Those who do civilian service are pleased with it, and every dozen brings another dozen.

VIDEO - New program to allow mentally challenged to enlist in the IDF
Haaretz Staff and Channel 10, Ha’aretz 3/10/2008
Haaretz. com/Channel 10 daily feature for March 9, 2008. A new project is set to give Israel’s mentally challenged an opportunity to undergo one of the society’s most important rites of passage. AKIM, the National Association for the Habilitation of the Mentally Handicapped, is cooperating with the Israel Defense Forces to enlist 200 mentally challenged citizens between the ages of 21 and 30 into the army. In the past, mentally challenged citizens would get an automatic exemption from the army at the age of 18. But this project is intended to close some of the gaps that prevent its participants from meaningful integration into Israeli society. [end]

Meretz needs Gal-On’s moral compass
Ari Shavit, Ha’aretz 3/10/2008
Israel needs Meretz more than ever. With prospects for peace receding on the horizon, Israel needs a peace party like Meretz. When the rule of law is under attack, Israel needs a party of law like Meretz. When the rich do as they please in this country, Israel needs a social-democratic party like Meretz. When the prime minister surrenders unconditionally to Shas, Israel needs a secular party like Meretz. Even those who are not comfortable with every jot and tittle of the Geneva Initiative ought to hope that next week’s Meretz leadership primary renews and strengthens Israel’s human rights party. Meretz’s current situation is not bright. The party that was once chic and popular has, over the years, become gray and dusty. The party of radical youth has become established and calcified.

Negative income tax to start in October
Moti Bassok, Ha’aretz 3/10/2008
The first payments to be made under the negative income tax will come on October 15. Those eligible will be residents of 14 communities chosen as part of a pilot project, and they will receive partial payments based on their 2007 income. The remaining payments for 2007 will come only on January 15, 2009 and April 15, 2009. The maximum payment is NIS 1,600 per employed person, or NIS 3,200 for a family of two wage-earners. The grants for 2008 and on will be made in four equal payments, every three months. The first disbursements for 2008 will be made on July 15, 2009. The goal is to reduce social gaps while encouraging people to go out to work. The payments as a result of the negative income tax will be a supplement to these low-income workers. The grant will be paid directly into the workers’ bank accounts.

Most new conversion court judges will be ultra-Orthodox
Anshel Pfeffer, Ha’aretz 3/10/2008
At least eight out of 10 new judges to be selected today to serve on the rabbinical courts for conversion will come from the strict ultra-Orthodox sector. Leading officials involved in the conversion process said the original objective was to choose more liberal judges who would make conversion easier. The officials said the selection committee, headed by Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, made a deal to appoint four ultra-Orthodox judges who currently serve in the private rabbinical court of Rabbi Nissim Karelitz in Bnei Brak and four rabbis who are affiliated with Shas or Amar’s associates. The other two will likely be from the religious Zionist camp. "Over the last few weeks, there has been a lot of pressure on committee members from ultra-Orthodox quarters and also from religious Zionist rabbis who are hostile to the conversion issue.

Real estate in the shadow of the Qassams
Ranit Nahum-Halevy, Ha’aretz 3/10/2008
The first Grad missile that fell on Ashkelon scored a direct hit on the real estate sector. Deals that were about to be signed were stalled, and buyers who did agree to continue negotiations demanded 10% price reductions. "Since the rockets began falling, a number of clients have called me, asking if they should move forward with deals," says Avigail Biton, a real estate appraiser in the South. "I told them, quite frankly, that now is not the time to invest. Why put their hard-earned money into something that is uncertain?" There is a fundamental conflict between the real estate market - which symbolizes calm, stability and faith in an unruffled future - and war and shelling. The Second Lebanon War paralyzed the real estate market in Haifa and the North, and not surprisingly, the real estate market in the range of the Qassams and Grads...

Union Bank sees Bank of Israel following Fed
Shira Horesh, Globes Online 3/9/2008
The bank says that local investors are showing signs of unrest, and that a further interest rate cut by the Bank of Israel could be inevitable." The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) is being swayed by the falls on key indices in the US, and investors are showing signs of unrest," says Union Bank in its weekly review. The bank expects the Consumer Price Index (CPI) to fall by 0. 2% in February, and by 0. 3% in March, but then rise by 0. 6% in April. Inflation for 2008 as a whole will total 2%. Union Bank notes that the shekel-dollar rate continued to fall, despite the unexpected interest rate cut by the Governor of the Bank of Israel Stanley Fischer. Given that investors are anticipating yet another interest rate cut by the US Federal Reserve Board, when its Open Market Committee meets next week, Union Bank believes that should this be the case, Fischer will have no alternative but...

Revealed: trap that lured the merchant of death
Mitchell Prothero, The Observer, The Guardian 3/9/2008
The war between Israel and Hizbollah was three days old when American intelligence spotted a bear-sized man with a moustache and hangdog face meeting high-ranking Hizbollah officials in a safe house just outside Beirut. With Israeli F-16s roaming the skies above the city and military commanders growing increasingly desperate to find and kill high-value Hizbollah targets, the sighting should have been a watershed moment. Those high-ranking Hizbollah officials, it is now widely believed, were, in all probability, meeting the man who apparently supplied them with their hi-tech weapons: Viktor Bout, the world’s biggest arms dealer. It was, it appears, another close escape for the man known as the ’Merchant of Death’, who had spent more than a decade fueling wars across the world by being able to deliver weapons to anyone, anywhere, at almost any time.

Ban informs Siniora preparations under way for Hariri tribunal
Daily Star 3/10/2008
Syria blasts lack of criticism of Israeli violations in UN report - BEIRUT: UN chief Ban Ki-Moon informed Prime Minister Fouad Siniora during a phone conversation Saturday that preparations for the international tribunal to try suspects in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri were under way. Ban also told Siniora that during the last few days, a UN administrative committee has inspected a potential site for the tribunal in the Netherlands. An-Nahar newspaper quoted well-informed sources as saying on Sunday that there were widespread expectations that the next two months would see an announcement of the composition of the tribunal. Justice Minister Charles Rizk renewed his support for the international tribunal and said he expected positive developments soon. Rizk said following a meeting with US Charge d’Affaires Michele Sison on Friday that the clearest indication of the tribunal’s progress was the general recognition of the trial as a fait accompli by all sides in Lebanon.

Al-Jazeera apologizes over ’Barbarian Muslims’ remark
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 3/9/2008
Syrian-American psychologist’s unprecedented attack on Islam stirs row in Arab world. Qatari satellite network rushes to apologize, cancel reruns - Qatari satellite network al-Jazeera was busy this week trying to calm the row sparked in the Arab world following remarks made on one of its programs against Islam." The al-Jazeera network deeply apologizes for the fact that one of its programs’ participants degraded Islam and the monotheistic faiths on her own initiative. The channel extends its apology to all its viewers for the offensive remarks and has canceled both reruns of the program," the network said in a statement. The unusual apology came following a debate on the talk show "The Opposite Direction" - one of the station’s flagship programs, which has stirred many rows in the past with harsh criticism against the Arab regimes.


Kill a Hundred Turks and Rest
Uri Avnery, Middle East Online 3/9/2008
      I was reminded this week of the old tale about a Jewish mother taking leave of her son, who has been called up to serve in the Czar’s army against the Turks.
     "Don’t exert yourself too much," she admonishes him, "Kill a Turk and rest. Kill another Turk and rest again…"
     "But mother," he exclaims, "What if the Turk kills me?"
     "Kill you?" she cries out, "Why? What have you done to him?"
     This is not a joke (and this is not a week for jokes). It is a lesson in psychology. I was reminded of it when I read Ehud Olmert’s statement that more than anything else he was furious about the outburst of joy in Gaza after the attack in Jerusalem, in which eight yeshiva students were killed.
     Before that, last weekend, the Israeli army killed 120 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, half of them civilians, among them dozens of children. That was not "kill a Turk and rest". That was "kill a hundred Turks and rest". But Olmert does not understand.

No discounts and no installments

Akiva Eldar, Ha’aretz 3/10/2008
      When soldiers fell in defense of the settlers in Gush Katif, the Jewish brain invented the patent of unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. When a terrorist from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jebel Mukaber murders yeshiva students in the west of the city, the Israeli genius proposes unilateral withdrawal from the capital’s "outer neighborhoods."
     How easy and simple: Wherever they shoot, we pull out. The rest of the territories will wait patiently for convergence, Annapolis, a shelf agreement, or the next catastrophe. Whatever comes first.
     We don’t understand why, after we left Gaza, they continue to fire rockets at Sderot from there. Is that how they want to build trust with the Israeli public? Is it any wonder that even the most ardent Meretz supporters are afraid that if we leave the West Bank, their homes in Kfar Sava will enter the range of the Qassams?
     ...Nobody asks himself what would happen if a foreign conqueror were to withdraw, say, from the North of the country, leaving the other parts of Palestine-Eretz Yisrael, including Jerusalem and the Western Wall, under occupation. Would the Jewish community in Tel Aviv give the occupier a moment’s peace, or would it turn Haifa into a base for continuing the struggle for the liberation of the rest of the country?

What Israel says and what Israel does are two very different things

Editorial, Daily Star 3/10/2008
      The Israeli government has directed yet another blow at the sputtering peace with the Palestinians, this time by authorizing the construction of hundreds of new homes for colonists in and around Occupied East Jerusalem. From its inception following the 1967 war, the illegal policy of establishing "settlements" on occupied land was designed, in part, to create a constituency within Israeli society that would always be against making peace. But the timing of Sunday’s announcement that Olmert had approved 1,100 new homes also demonstrated another result of the project: to deliberately undermine Palestinian and other Arab leaders willing to engage with the Jewish state.
     The recent slaughter carried out by the Israeli military in the Gaza Strip had already put Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a difficult position, opening him up to accusations of what amounts to collaboration. Abbas even declared that he was suspending his negotiations with Olmert before being forced to back down by American pressure. Now insult is being added to injury by making clear just how little value Israel puts in the peace process. Abbas is risking his life and his reputation by trying to strike a deal with his people’s enemies - and Olmert responds by humiliating him.

Fatah must reinvent itself, or risk irrelevance

Mouin Rabbani, Daily Star 3/10/2008
      With preparations accelerating, it seems increasingly likely that Fatah, the Palestinian National Liberation Movement, will hold its Sixth General Conference during 2008. Yet given the advanced state of disintegration in which the movement finds itself, it may well be a case of too little too late. Simply put, Fatah’s very survival now hangs in the balance.
     Much has changed since Fatah held its Fifth General Conference in 1989. The movement’s leader, Yasser Arafat, has departed from the scene, along with a third of the 21-member Fatah Central Committee (FCC). Yet none have been replaced because the power to do so rests with the General Conference. The surviving members - though drawn from a society whose median age is well below 30 - are over 65, often considerably older, and in several cases incapacitated by illness.
     Moreover, Fatah in recent years has fragmented, not just into two or three rival camps, but into multiple, competing power centers. These power centers - generally associated with individual leaders engaged in constantly shifting alliances - consist of networks based on patronage, shared history, geography, foreign sponsorship, ideology, policy, or various combinations of the above.

Tragedy of Israel and Palestine

Mark Levine, Al Jazeera 3/9/2008
      Americans have grown so accustomed to the disastrous dynamics operating between Israelis and Palestinians today that the failure to reach a peace deal amid the soaring death tolls assumes an aura of normalcy in their minds.
     This reflects a situation we imagine ourselves to be powerless to help change and only adds to the tragedy unfolding in the Occupied Territories and Israel as well.
     Today the world’s attention has turned to the aftermath of the murder of eight students of an ultra-Zionist Mercaz HaRav yeshiva, established by the founder of religious zionism, Rabbi Avraham Isaac Kook in 1924.
     Last week the focus was the ongoing war in Gaza which will likely be the centre of attention next week as well.
     The attacks on religious students in the midst of study and prayer - coupled with the ongoing rocket attacks from Gaza on the Israeli towns of Sderot and Ashkelon - are already being offered as the latest examples of continued Palestinian unwillingness to make peace with Israel more than two years after its unprecedented withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.
     But there are many problems with this argument; firstly, most of the acts of Palestinian resistance to the occupation have always been non-violent.

The wrong man for the ILA

Alexandre (Sandy) Kedar, Ha’aretz 3/10/2008
      The appointment of a new director of the Israel Lands Administration could very rapidly go from being a bureaucratic issue that primarily concerns land experts to a ticking bomb for society, due to the sensitivity of the matter of land and its influence on majority-minority relations in Israel. That is precisely what is liable to take place in the wake of the expected appointment of Yoel Lavi, the mayor of Ramle, as director of the ILA.
     Last year Lavi responded quite brusquely to a request from Arab Ramle residents to give Arab names to the streets in Arab neighborhoods of Ramle. Among his less scathing comments, he suggested that the people who complained about the street names move to Jaljulya.
     During Lavi’s term as mayor, he also worked to keep the Jews and Arabs of his city apart. He initiated the construction of a wall between the Jewish neighborhood of Ganei Dan and the Arab neighborhood of Juarish and supported housing projects that, using various methods and excuses, kept Arabs out. For instance, the municipality gave its blessing to the establishment of a new neighborhood called Park Tzafon, which offered deals to army veterans only.

Neither God, nor Judea and Samaria

Tom Segev, Ha’aretz 3/10/2008
      The terrorist who murdered eight students of the Mercaz Harav yeshiva last week could not have picked a more symbolic target. Naturally, the yeshiva students expressed their pain and anger in very political language. The incident was not yet over when one of them nearly grabbed the microphone from the hands of a television reporter and screamed that Shimon Peres was at fault: Peres had given the terrorists guns - and he is guilty of the murder.
     These things can happen during live broadcasts, and this is a fine reason not to air raw material that is still not appropriate to be aired to the rest of the world. But recorded and edited material does not always deserve to be broadcast. MKs on the right were allowed during the week to say terrible and embarrassing things, competing with each other over who will propose a more spectacular act of vengeance against the family of the terrorist, his village, the entire population of East Jerusalem, the Arabs at large.

Countdown to Arab defeat

Wafaa'' Al-Natheema, Al Jazeera 3/8/2008
      In November 1966, an Israeli contingent of some 400 men, 10 tanks and 40 armoured vehicles attacked the village of Samu in the Jordan-controlled West Bank and destroyed some 100 buildings and killed many Arabs.
     This was one of many incidents of confrontation between Israel and Syria in the months prior to the war, and between Israel and the Palestinian fida’iyeen, or resistance fighters. In Rami Tai’s 1997 book The Dayan Memoirs and interviews conducted in 1976, Moshe Dayan, Israel’s defence minister at the time, said that 80 per cent of these confrontational episodes were planned and executed by Israel.
     When asked if the Syrians initiated cross-border wars of attrition from the Golan Heights, he stated:
     "It went this way: We would send a tractor to plough some place where it wasn’t possible to do anything, in the demilitarised area, and knew in advance that the Syrians would start to shoot. If they didn’t shoot, we would tell the tractor to advance farther, until in the end [the] Syrians would get annoyed and shoot."

No day is women’s day in Gaza

Mohammed Omer writing from occupied Gaza Strip, Electronic Intifada 3/8/2008
      GAZA CITY, 7 March (IPS) - Mahasen Darduna suffers in ways the world recognizes; her suffering comes at the hands of the Israelis. But there are many Palestinian women whose suffering the world does not see, because their hell is inflicted on them by fellow Palestinians.One way or another, no day is woman’s day in Gaza.
     For a week, Mahasen Darduna, 30, has sat day and night by her son’s bedside in the hospital. The boy, Yahiya, nine, was among a group of children hit by an Israeli missile while playing football on a field at the Jabaliya refugee camp. Yahia survived, but with severe injuries.
     "He needs my support, he has been confined to this bed since he was maimed by the Israeli missile," Mahasen says. But she must also slip away often to see her other five children, who she has moved to her mother-in-law’s house in belief they will be safer there.
     "I think of them constantly when we are apart. I feel terrible: two are getting sick, and they all cry each time we say goodbye. I can’t be at both places."