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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.

VTJP Archives | Newslinks Archives  
2 June 2008

Israel plans more settlement units
Al Jazeera 6/1/2008
The Israeli housing ministry has announced that it will build 884 more houses in East Jerusalem, an area that Palestinians want as the capital of their promised independent state." We will invite tenders for the construction of 121 housing units in Har Homa and 763 others in Pisgat Zeev," Eran Sidis, a ministry spokesman, said on Sunday. Both the settlements are part of Palestinian territories occupied by Israel in the 1967 war. Har Homa is built on Jabal Abu Ghnein in East Jerusalem. In 1968 Israel unilaterally annexed East Jerusalem - a move that was condemned as illegal by the UN Security Council. All settlements in both the West Bank and East Jerusalem are considered illegal under international law. Ehud Olmert, the current prime ministers, has said he considers settlements blocs in East Jerusalem as part of Israel.

Israel releases Lebanese after six years in prison
Daily Star 6/2/2008
BEIRUT: Israel on Sunday released from prison and deported back to Lebanon Nassim Nisr, who was convicted of spying for Hizbullah, while the Shiite group on its own returned to Israel the body parts of Israeli soldiers killed during its 2006 war on Lebanon. Nisr, born in Lebanon to a Jewish Lebanese mother and a Shiite father, was released after more than six years in Israeli prison on charges of collaborating with Hizbullah. Arriving at his hometown of Bazouriyeh in South Lebanon, Nisr said that he had communicated with other Lebanese prisoners during his detention period. "We used to communicate through our lawyers. . . Our last contact was this past Thursday, and their morale was very high. "Asked why he left for Israel, Nisr said that he "went to Israel for a valid reason." Nisr, qualifying for Israeli citizenship because of his Jewish ancestry, left Lebanon during the Israeli. . .

Olmert agrees to primaries; Kadima seeks early vote
Yossi Verter and Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 6/2/2008
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will not try to block primaries from taking place in his party, Kadima, he said yesterday. However, Olmert is asking that internal moves toward primaries not begin until he returns from his visit to the United States next weekend. However, Olmert may ask for the pause to be extended until his defense lawyers have an opportunity to cross-examine Morris Talansky, a chief witness for the prosecution in the corruption probe of the PM if this could be scheduled in about 10 days. "I am not going to fight this [primaries]. They want primaries? Let there be primaries," Olmert said during the weekend in talks with aides and officials in Kadima. "This movement is dear to me. I do not intend to draw it into my legal issues, and I will never do anything to harm it." Olmert and his defense team believe that the cross-examination of Talansky will defuse some of the. . .

Twelve Palestinians wounded and five others detained by the Israeli army in Beli’en
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 6/1/2008
Twelve Palestinians have been reportedly wounded and five others taken prisoners by the Israeli army in the West Bank village of Beli’en, after scores of demonstrators including international activists protested at the separation barrier in the Beli’en village. Salah Elkhawaja, coordinator of the popular committee for the struggle against the separation wall (Apartheid Wall) in the West Bank, said that 12 Palestinians were evacuated to local hospitals in Ramallah. Elkhawakja said that five other protesters were taken prisoners by the Israeli soldiers as the Israeli bulldozers razed areas of the Beli’en village. Former Palestinian information minister, Mustafa Albarghouti, who took part in the Beli’en’s protest today, said that " all Israeli practices and measures wont prevent our people from keeping up their popular struggle against the Apartheid Wall".

IOF soldier, 3 Qassam fighters wounded in Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 6/1/2008
KHAN YOUNIS, (PIC)-- Three members of the Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, were wounded in an Israeli aerial raid that targeted their position east of Khan Younis, south of the Gaza Strip, on Sunday. Medical sources told PIC reporter in the area that the three Qassam fighters were moderately wounded in the missile raid at dawn while another group escaped unharmed in a similar attack. Local sources said that ten IOF tanks and five military bulldozers advanced into Qarara, east of Khan Younis, amidst violent shelling and intensified hovering of choppers. The armed wing, however, said that its fighters engaged the invading troops, detonated two explosive devices in two armored vehicles and fired two mortar shells and four RPGs at the occupation forces. The IOF command acknowledged that one of its soldiers was moderately injured in the Qassam shooting, and added that he was carried to hospital in a helicopter.

A female detainee rejects Israeli offer of deportation instead of imprisonment
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 6/2/2008
The Palestine News Network reported on Sunday that Palestinian female detainee, Noura Al Hashlamoon, 37, from the southern West Bank city of Hebron, rejected an Israeli suggestion of 3-year deportation to Jordan instead of imprisonment under administrative detention. The Israeli security services presented the offer through the prosecution and said that Al Hashlamoon can choose to be deported to Jordan and can also take her children with her, otherwise she will remain under administrative detention without charges until further notice. Al Hashlamoon told lawyers of different Human Rights Groups that she rejects this offer as it is illegal and violates the international law. She added that she should be set free as she remains under administrative detention without any charges since she was kidnapped by the Israeli forces in August 2006.

Tadamun: IOF troops killed 45 Palestinians including five children last month
Palestinian Information Center 6/1/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- International Tadamun (solidarity) society for human rights reported that the IOF troops killed 45 Palestinian citizens during last May including five children and two women, adding that most of the victims were murdered in the Gaza Strip. In a monthly report received by the PIC, the society said that this large number of victims in one month clearly indicates that the Israeli occupation is persistent in its aggression through pursuing the policy of execution and assassination against the Palestinians despite it is proscribed by international conventions and charters. Tadamun expressed its deep concern over this high number of victims killed by Israel in Gaza, considering what is happening part of the Israeli policy of ethnic cleansing and war crimes against humanity. The society called on all parties concerned with human rights to urgently intervene to stop the. . .

Ofar Military court extends administrative detention remand of Qalqilia mayor for the third time
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 6/2/2008
The Ofer Israeli Military Court, located near the Palestinian central West Bank city of Ramallah, extended for the third time the administrative detention remand of Qalqilia Mayor, Wajeeh Qawwas, without pressing any charges against him. Qawwas, 42, was kidnapped by the Israeli forces on May, 23, 2007. Qalqilia is located in the northern part of the West Bank. Wisam Ighbariyya, the lawyer representing Qawwas, told the Palestine News Network that the Israeli prosecution did not press any charges against the detained mayor but demanded his continued arrest under administrative detention orders. Ighbariyya added that he will file an appeal against this decision and will appeal to the High Court of Justice as the mayor is still imprisoned without charges. Qalqilia municipality slammed the Israeli decision against the mayor who was elected with a very high majority as he is well known and respected by the residents.

Israel to help Gaza students travel for studies
Reuters, YNetNews 6/1/2008
Foreign Ministry agrees to comply with US request, allow Gaza students awarded Fulbright fellowships entry to Jerusalem for visa interview - Israel said on Sunday it would try to assist Palestinian students in the Gaza Strip hoping to study overseas achieve their aim by letting them leave the blockaded territory, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said. Israel’s agreement to help came in response to a request by the United States on Friday that it allow seven students set to receive coveted US Government Fulbright fellowships to travel to Jerusalem for a visa interview. Israel tightened its cordon around the Gaza Strip after Hamas Islamists took over the coastal strip nearly a year ago and only a very small number of Palestinians, mainly humanitarian cases, are allowed to leave the enclave.

Committee seeks to help Palestinian students
Gisha/IRIN, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 6/2/2008
Nibal Naif, 27, dreams of becoming the first woman in Gaza to hold a doctorate in computer engineering - JERUSALEM/GAZA, 1 June 2008 (IRIN) - Hundreds of students in the Gaza Strip are unable to leave and travel to universities outside the enclave due to the tight restrictions on entry and exit, the Israeli rights group Gisha said. The matter was brought before the Israeli Knesset’s (parliament) Education Committee on 28 May, which convened and heard student testimonies. "Preventing students in Gaza from studying is reminiscent of a painful point in Jewish history," said Rabbi Michael Malchior, the committee chairman. "Trapping hundreds of students in Gaza is immoral and unwise," he added. A spokesman for Malchior told IRIN the committee would write to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defence Minister Ehud Barak, asking them to reconsider the current policy and allow. . .

Settlers and Israeli soldiers attack farmers working on their land, injuring two with live ammunition
International Womens’ Peace Service 6/1/2008
Place: Immatin, Qalqilya District - Witness/es: Farmers and municipality members - Description of Incident: Farmers from the village of Immatin report that on Saturday, the 31st of May 2008, Israeli settlers from the illegal extremist settlement out post “Shvut Ami” repeatedly attacked them as they were working on their land, about 600m away from the outpost. According to their account, about twenty settlers with dogs approached five farmers working in the area at around 9. 00 a. m. . They started cursing the farmers and their religion, swearing at Prophet Mohammad. The settlers then began to throw stones at the farmers, who stood their ground and defended themselves by also throwing stones back at the settlers and called for help from the village. After approximately half an hour, as more people from the village arrived, the settlers retreated back to the outpost.

VIDEO - Alleged Palestinian collaborator exposes Shin Bet activity in Gaza
YNetNews 5/31/2008
Islamic Jihad detains man who allegedly passed on information on tunnels dug by Hamas to carry out suicide attacks, forces him to continue contact with Israeli agent (06. 01. 08) Video: infolive. tvAuthor: YnetnewsEditor: infolive. tv [end]

Egypt to reopen Rafah crossing terminal this week
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 6/1/2008
The Egyptian authorities decided yesterday to reopen the Rafah crossing terminal on Egypt-Gaza border line in southern Gaza Strip for three days this week for humanitarian purposes. Palestinian sources at the Palestinian embassy in Cairo confirmed that the crossing will be opened this week to allow entry of Gaza patients , in need of medical care outside of Gaza, university students abroad and those with expired visit visas. The third day will be dedicated for Egyptian citizens who have been stranded in Gaza since January of this year, when Gaza crowds flew into Egypt amidst a crippling Israeli siege , to bring in essential supplies. However, the sources maintained, the Egyptian authorities did not set the opening days, as on Sunday, tens of Gaza patients who completed treatment in Cairo, will be allowed back to Gaza.

Abbas says Israel, Palestinians still far from breakthrough
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 6/2/2008
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told senior Israeli officials recently that there were still major gaps between Israel and the PA in negotiations. Abbas said the parties did not appear to be moving toward closure on core issues, although the gaps were becoming more clearly defined; he added that more time was needed. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Abbas will meet this afternoon at Olmert’s official residence in Jerusalem to continue coordinating their positions ahead of Olmert’s visit to Washington this week. A senior Israeli negotiator said behind closed doors last week that the parties were still far from making concessions that would see a breakthrough. He added that Israel wanted to be practical and move toward solving some issues, but the Palestinians continued to speak in slogans about their national rights, international legitimacy and the need to redress historic injustice.

Israeli foreign minister wants a comprehensive peace deal with the Palestinians
Rami Almeghari&Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 6/1/2008
Israeli foreign minister, Tsibi Livni, asserted on Sunday that there is a need to reach an overall agreement with the Palestinians , including all issues of peace talks between the two sides. Israeli media sources quoted Livni as saying that reaching a ’vague’ deal with the Palestinians will constitute a ’fatal’ mistake, pointing out that peace can not be divided and that any peace agreement should not be one more chapter of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict but should rather end such a conflict once and for all. Livni’s remarks came as the Israeli housing ministry announced new plans for settlements construction on occupied Palestinian lands, a move the Palestinian Authority considers ’preempting’ the final status talks with Israel. In a related note, Israeli ’Labor’ minister, Itzhaq Hertsug, urged the Israeli government to exert every possible effort to conclude a truce deal with the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Report: Livni hunted Palestinian terrorists for Mossad in Europe
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 6/2/2008
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni served as a Paris agent for the Mossad overseas intelligence agency in the 1980s during a series of missions it ran to kill Palestinian terrorists across Europe, according to the Sunday Times. The report cites Livni’s former colleagues as saying the Kadima frontrunner was on active duty in 1983, when senior Palestine Liberation Organization official Mamoun Meraish was shot dead by two Mossad agents in Athens. While Livni was not involved in the killing, her service in the Mossad remains secret, the report says. She had joined the agency after completing her service in the Israel Defense Forces with a rank of lieutenant and one year of law school. According to the report, during Livni’s service in the Mossad she traveled from her Paris base throughout Europe, seeking out Palestinian terrorists.

Sunday Times reveals Livni’s ’top-secret past’
Haaretz Staff, Ha’aretz 6/2/2008
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni served as a Mossad agent in Paris in the 1980s, during which time a series of missions took place to kill Palestinian terrorists in Europe, according to a Sunday Times report. The report cites Livni’s former colleagues as saying the Kadima frontrunner was on active duty in 1983, when senior Palestine Liberation Organization official Mamoun Meraish was shot dead by two Mossad agents in Athens. Livni was not involved in the killing and her service in the Mossad remains secret, the report says. She joined the agency after completing her service in the Israel Defense Forces with a rank of lieutenant and one year of law school. According to the report, during Livni’s service in the Mossad she traveled throughout Europe, seeking out Palestinian terrorists. "Tzipi was not an office girl," the report quotes an acquaintance of Livni as saying.

Hamas: Abbas-Olmert meeting provides cover for occupation
Palestinian Information Center 6/1/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement on Sunday condemned PA chief Mahmoud Abbas’s insistence on meeting with Zionist occupation leaders despite their ongoing murder crimes, aggression, judaization and colonization against the Palestinian people and lands. Dr. Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, said in a statement to the PIC that the "dangerous" point in Abbas’s meeting with Olmert on Monday is the fact that it coincides with the construction of hundreds of new settlement units in occupied Jerusalem, which proves that such meetings are used to cover up for occupation’s crimes. Meetings with occupation are "futile and harmful", he said, stressing that they should be immediately stopped. "All those participating in such meetings openly declare that they are interested in serving the Zionist occupation’s interests," he charged.

Three Qassam fighters wounded during an Israeli army invasion into southern Gaza
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 6/1/2008
Three fighters of the aL-Qassam brigades, the armed wing of the ruling Hamas party in Gaza have been reportedly shot and wounded by the Israeli army in southern Gaza. Medical sources said that the at least two wounded people were admitted Sunday morning to the Naser hospital in Khan Younis city to the south of Gaza Strip. Witnesses said that a column of Israeli tanks rolled earlier on Sunday morning into the aL-Qarrara village, east of Khan Younis city, on Israel-Gaza border line. Witnesses added that accompanying bulldozers began razing vast areas of Palestinian-owned farm lands, as local resistance fighters attempted to force the tanks back by opening heavy fire. Israeli media sources sad that one Israeli soldier during today’s invasion was moderately wounded. Israeli army ground invasions and air strikes have increased over the pat week, as the crippling Israeli blockade on the coastal region entered its 12 moth.

PRC vows to strike back against any Israeli army attack
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 6/1/2008
The Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) vowed on Sunday to strike back against any Israeli army attack on Gaza. Abu Ataya, spokesman of the PRC’s armed wing, Annaser Salaheldin brigades, said in a statement, faxed to press, that his committees will not allow any Israeli army’ stupidity’ against Palestinian civilians in Gaza, by striking back against an likely offensive. " the Palestinian resistance has the right to retaliate against the Israeli army actions", the statement read. Abu Ataya also highlighted his group’s recent attacks on Israel, saying that 19 homemade shells have been fired onto nearby Israeli towns. The PRC’s warning came in the backdrop of Israeli officials’ threats to carry out a massive ground military offensive, which Israel says necessary to end homemade shells fire from Gaza onto Israel.

The ongoing struggle in Ni’lin
Palestinian grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, Stop The Wall 5/31/2008
Palestinian grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign - In the past weeks, the village of Ni’lin has been a site of active struggle against the latest Occupation land grab. Frequent protests and confrontations between villagers and Occupation soldiers have occurred on the site where bulldozers are razing land to build the latest segment of the Wall. This new section will isolate 2,500 dunums of agricultural land from Ni’lin. The Palestinians of Ni’lin have been actively resisting this latest annexation scheme. The Popular Committee has mobilized both residents in neighbouring villages as well as international activists, organizing a number of actions against the ongoing construction of the Wall. Weekly Friday protests as well as other actions during the week have slowed construction and brought considerable attention to the local struggle.

Israeli forces release female Palestinian detainee from Nablus
Ma’an News Agency 6/1/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – The media department of the Nafha Association for Defending Prisoners and Human Rights stated on Sunday that the Israeli authorities have released a female Palestinian detainee from Nablus in the northern West Bank. Hanadi Samir Kan’an was released on bail of 5,000 NIS after being held for 40 days at the Petah Tikva interrogation centre. Hanadi Kan’an, 26-years-old, was seized from her home in the centre of Nablus on 27 March 2008. She told the Nafha Association via telephone that Israeli interrogators had abused her and threatened to deport her because she does not hold a Palestinian identity card. They also threatened to send her to administrative detention if she did not cooperate with them. Separately, Israeli authorities released Palestinian detainee Khalid Da’oud Nofel from Qalqilia on 29 May 2008, after holding him in administrative detention for 17 months.

IDF soldier moderately wounded by Palestinian fire in south Gaza
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 6/1/2008
An Israel Defense Forces soldier was moderately wounded on Sunday by Palestinian fire in the southern Gaza Strip. The soldier, from the Givati infantry brigade, was given first aid on the spot. He was then evacuated by helicopter for treatment at a hospital. IDF troops operated early Sunday east of Khan Yunis, as well as in other parts of the coastal strip, against Palestinian rocket squads. According to Gaza sources, two Palestinians were wounded in clashes with the IDF soldiers. Also Sunday, a Grad-type Katyusha and two Qassam rockets struck the western Negev. There were no injuries or damages reported any of the incidents. Dozens of Negev residents demonstrated on Sunday near the Sufa Crossing to Gaza, calling on the government to stop transfer of food to Gaza so long as rocket fire continues.

Nafha Association: Israeli authorities issued 183 administrative detention orders in May
Ma’an News Agency 6/1/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – The media department of the Nafha Association for Defending Prisoners and Human Rights said on Sunday that Israeli authorities issued 183 administrative detention orders against Palestinians during May 2008. The orders imposed detention periods ranging from two to six months, and included both extensions of existing detention orders and first-time orders for recently detained prisoners. Palestinians in Israeli administrative detention are held without charges or trial for renewable terms, and neither they nor their lawyers are permitted to know the evidence against them. Amongst those whose administrative detention was extended was Walid Khalid, director of the ’Palestine’ newspaper in the West Bank. He has been detained in the Ramleh prison since 18 May 2007, and his detention period has been extended three times.

Military wings of Fatah and PFLP-GC fire projectiles at Sderot and Ashkelon
Ma’an News Agency 6/1/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The military wing affiliated to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, the Jihad Jibreel Brigades, claimed responsibility on Sunday morning for firing a homemade projectile at the Israeli city of Ashkelon. Separately, Fatah’s military wing, the Al-Aqsa Brigades, said on Sunday that their fighters launched a homemade projectile at the Israeli town of Sderot in the western Negev. The military groups said in separate statements that their actions came in retaliation for the Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. [end]

2 Palestinian illegal aliens escape from detention facility
Tova Dadon, YNetNews 6/1/2008
Two Palestinians detained for illegally entering Israel escape while being taken in for questioning. Police, Border Guard deploy forces, roadblocks to locate escapees - Two Palestinians who were arrested for illegally entering Israel Sunday morning escaped from a Border Guard detention facility near Beit Guvrin, in the Lakhish Region (some 33 miles southwest of Jerusalem). The circumstances of the two’s escape have yet to be determined. Caught during morning hours, they were scheduled to be questioned Sunday evening, but were able to slip away while being transported to the interrogation facility. Police and Border Guard troops have deployed in the area, setting up roadblocks and using helicopters in order to locate the detainees and prevent them from fleeing into Palestinian Authority territory.

Islamic-era skeletons ’disappeared’ from Elad-sponsored dig
Meron Rapoport, Ha’aretz 6/2/2008
Dozens of skeletons from the early Islamic period were discovered during excavations near the Temple Mount, on a site slated for construction by a right-wing Jewish organization. Contrary to regulations, the skeletons were removed, and were not reported to the Ministry of Religious Services. The Israel Antiquities Authority termed the incident "a serious mishap. "The IAA’s Dr. Doron Ben Ami is directing the excavations at the Givati Parking Lot in Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood, across from the entrance to the Dung Gate. Elad, an association devoted to Judaizing East Jerusalem, is funding the dig at the site, where it plans to build an events hall with underground parking. The IAA is excavating there even though Elad never filed building plans with the planning authorities. In recent weeks, workers excavating at a depth of two to three meters reached a layer from the 8th or 9th century C. E. , some 200 years after the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem.

Fatah’s military wing fire five projectiles at Israeli targets
Ma’an News Agency 6/1/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The Al-Aqsa Brigades, the military wing affiliated to the Fatah movement, claimed responsibility on Sunday morning for launching five homemade projectiles at Israeli targets. Two rockets were fired at the Israeli town of Sderot, and three at Israeli military posts near the Nahal ’Oz crossing. The military group affirmed in a statement that the shelling came in response to the Israeli escalation against the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and emphasized their choice to resist the Israeli occupation. [end]

PFLP military wing fires three projectiles at Israeli targets
Ma’an News Agency 6/1/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The military wing affiliated to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, claimed responsibility on Sunday morning for firing two homemade projectiles at the Israeli town of Sderot in the western Negev and another at an Israeli military post east of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. The military group said in a statement that the operation came in response to the ongoing Israeli atrocities and assassinations in Palestinian cities and villages. [end]

Islamic Jihad’s military wing fires two homemade projectiles at Sderot
Ma’an News Agency 6/1/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The military wing affiliated to the Islamic Jihad movement, the Al-Quds Brigades, claimed responsibility on Sunday afternoon for firing two homemade projectiles at the Israeli town of Sderot in the western Negev. The Al-Quds Brigades said in a statement that the shelling came as part of their retaliation for the ongoing Israeli hostilities against the Palestinian people. They also emphasized that their resistance will continue until the whole Palestinian land is freed. [end]

PLC speaker to appear before court
Palestinian Information Center 6/1/2008
RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- The PLC speaker, Dr. Aziz Dwaik, who has been kidnapped from his home and charged with being a leading member in the Hamas Movement, is scheduled to appear before the Ofer military court on Sunday. MP Samira Al-Halaika was quoted by Wa’ed legal center for prisoners’ affairs as saying that Dwaik, who has been held in Israeli jails for almost two years, would stand trial in Ofer near Ramallah on Sunday morning. The center said that the trial fell in line with the Zionist theatrical play that started with kidnapping Dwaik and other Palestinian MPs in June 2006. It pointed out that the 51 detained Palestinian lawmakers do not recognize legitimacy of the Israeli court or its right to prosecute them.

Acting PLC head calls for ending the siege
IMEMC Staff, International Middle East Media Center News 6/2/2008
The acting head of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Dr. Ahmad Bahar, called on the European Parliament to act on ending the unjust siege on the Gaza Strip and added that the international silence and idleness is also leading to the death of civilians under the siege. The statements of Bahar came during a meeting with seven members of the European Parliament. Palestinian legislators Ismail Al Ashqar, Jamila Al Shanty, Ahmad Al Ghoul and Mosheer Al Masry also attended the meeting. During the meeting, Dr. Bahar called on the EU to sue Israel for its crimes against humanity and added that the EU plays an important role in the international arena. "The European Union does not accept the racist Israeli violations", Bahar added, "The siege is affecting all aspects of live, and led to the death of more than 160 patients".

Palestinian lawmakers rally in Gaza City
Ma’an News Agency 6/1/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Palestinian lawmakers in the Gaza Strip on Sunday condemned the Israeli decisions to speed up the trial of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) speaker Dr Aziz Dwaik and to present female detainee Nora Al-Hashlamoun with the stark choice of exile or lifetime detention. Acting PLC speaker Ahmad Bahar said, "In the name of the PLC, we condemn the Israeli high court decision to speed up Dr Aziz Dwaik’s trial." During a demonstration in front of the PLC headquarters in Gaza City organized by the Wa’ed Association for Prisoners, Bahar stated: "We call upon Arab leaders as well as the Arab League to take into consideration the degree of Israeli criminal acts and their illegal decisions against the Palestinian people. "He highlighted the Israeli closure of Gaza, including all the border crossing points.

Ministers: No use in truce with Hamas
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 6/1/2008
Most National Security Cabinet members oppose Egyptian-mediated deal being formed between Israel, Palestinian terror group - Most members of the National Security Cabinet oppose the Egyptian-mediated truce deal being finalized between Israel and Hamas. During a Kadima ministers meeting Sunday morning, held just before the weekly cabinet meeting, most ministers clarified that they oppose the deal, saying there is no use for such an agreement at the moment. The differences of opinion between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak – who openly became political rivals this week – are delaying the decision, and the discussion at the cabinet, scheduled for Sunday afternoon, has been delayed until the prime minister’s return from the United States. The meeting’s postponement was at the center of discussions, both at the Kadima ministers meeting and among the ministers who entered the weekly cabinet meeting.

Bahar: The truce must be simultaneous with lifting the siege
Palestinian Information Center 6/1/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Dr. Ahmed Bahar, the acting speaker of the PLC, stated Sunday that the truce with the IOF must be simultaneous with lifting the siege on Gaza and opening its crossings, pointing out at the same time that the Israeli captive soldier will not be released until Israel releases Palestinian prisoners. During a march organized by the Wa’ed society for prisoners in solidarity with Dr. Aziz Dweik, the PLC speaker imprisoned in Israeli jails, Dr. Bahar highlighted that Hamas would not give Israel free calm without lifting its siege on the Gaza people. In another context, the acting speaker invited PA chief Mahmoud Abbas to come to Gaza to start immediate comprehensive dialog to restore national unity and face of Zio-American schemes. He also called on him to stop meeting with Israelis in consideration for the blood of Palestinian martyrs, the suffering of prisoners and the besieged citizens in Gaza.

Israeli authorities restrict mail delivery to the Gaza Strip
Ma’an News Agency 6/1/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Israeli authorities intensified the crippling siege they impose on the Gaza Strip by completely preventing mail deliveries in and out of the Strip for an entire week, and then reducing the weight limit on mail packages from 8 to 4 kilograms, Mahmoud Mushtaha, director of the Wasil delivery company, said on Sunday. "Since Hamas took control in the Gaza Strip, Israel began to restrict mail deliveries to and from the Strip after closing the Karni crossing. The restrictions peaked when the Israelis prevented all deliveries except for paper documents and CDs," Mushtaha explained. He added that after the last explosion at the Erez crossing in Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza, Israel completely banned mail deliveries to and from the Strip for one week. Israeli authorities subsequently allowed delivery of paper documents, stipulating that mail packages must weigh less than 4 kilograms.

Hamas: Freedom for our prisoners only price for Shalit’s release
Palestinian Information Center 6/1/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement on Sunday expressed satisfaction at the release of Lebanese prisoner Nassim Nisir, who has been held in Israeli occupation jails since 2002. Hamas MP Mushir Al-Masri said in a press statement that Nisir’s release provides material evidence on failure of the Zionist war option in seeking freedom of its captives held in resistance hands. He asserted that the Palestinian resistance factions, for their part, would not accept any other price than what has been set as a condition for the release of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held in their hands. Masri opined that the Israeli "enemy" had exhausted all means in a bid to secure release of its captives to no avail and had nothing left but to accept conditions set by their captors. He affirmed that Hamas would not accept any political price for Shalit’s release.

Zahhar: Hamas rejects truce without lifting the siege and opening the crossings
Palestinian Information Center 6/1/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Dr. Mahmoud Al-Zahhar, a prominent Hamas leader, reiterated Saturday that the Hamas Movement would never accept truce without lifting the siege, opening the crossings and stopping the aggression on the Gaza Strip. In an interview with Al-Jazeera satellite channel, Dr. Zahhar stated that during the last meeting in Egypt about the calm, Hamas delegation asked the Egyptian mediators to covey questions to Israel including when the crossings would be opened and when and how fuel and other things would be allowed in, adding that the Movement is still waiting for answers. The Hamas leader pointed out that his Movement did not exclude the West Bank from the truce, adding whoever claims this is an accomplice to the Israeli siege because the truce conditions clearly say that the calm will be in the West Bank immediately after Gaza.

News in Brief
Ha’aretz 6/2/2008
A Palestinian human rights group says assailants have beaten up guards and stolen a bus from a Christian school in Gaza. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights says the incident took place early Saturday morning at a school run by the Baptist Church. A Palestinian Christian who worked at the school was killed in October, and a nearby Christian bookshop was firebombed months earlier. Last month assailants detonated a bomb outside another Christian school. No arrests were made in any of the incidents. Since Hamas came to power a year ago, attacks on Gaza’s 3,000 Christians have increased. Hamas denies involvement. (AP) The State Prosecutor’s Office yesterday told the High Court of Justice that Israel would not allow two Gaza Strip students to leave the Strip for the United States, where they had received Fulbright scholarships.

Independent Palestinian dignitaries meet Amr Mousa in Cairo
Ma’an News Agency 6/1/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Independent Palestinian political figures and academics met on Sunday with Arab League Secretary-General Amr Mousa in Cairo. Dr Yasser Al-Wadiyya, who headed the Palestinian delegation, told Ma’an that the meeting was intended to coordinate reconciliation efforts between the rival Palestinian factions of Hamas and Fatah. He affirmed that the meeting is the first of a series of meetings aiming to reunite the Gaza Strip and the West Bank through Fatah-Hamas reconciliation. [end]

German foreign minister to visit Jenin on Monday
Ma’an News Agency 6/1/2008
Jenin – Ma’an – The public relations and media department of the Jenin governorate said on Sunday that German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is scheduled to visit Jenin district on Monday, together with a high-level Palestinian delegation including Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. The delegation will pay a visit to the industrial zone near the borders with Israel at 3:30pm. They will then head to the Jenin police headquarters to announce the donation of four police vehicles. They will also announce a project to refurbish the main road between Jenin city and the nearby village of Al-Jalama. After that, the delegation will inaugurate a vocational training centre in Jenin before meeting with representatives of official and popular organizations the district.

Israel to build over 800 new homes in East Jerusalem areas
Nadav Shragai and News Agencies, Ha’aretz 6/2/2008
Israel announced plans on Sunday to build more than 800 hundred new homes in eastern parts of the Jerusalem municipality, despite U. S. and Palestinian calls to halt settlement expansion. The announcement was issued two days before Prime Minister Ehud Olmert embarks on a three-day visit to Washington. The 2003 peace road map, reaffirmed by Israeli and Palestinian leaders at a conference hosted by U. S. President George W. Bush in November, requires a halt to all settlement activity on occupied land where Palestinians seek statehood. Housing Minister Zeev Boim instructed his office to publish a tender to build an additional 763 housing units in Pisgat Zeev and 121 housing units at Har Homa, an area Palestinians refer to as Jabal Abu Ghneim. Both sites are located on lands captured by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War, and were. . .

Jewish state announces new Jerusalem land-grab
Charly Wegman, Daily Star 6/2/2008
Agence France Presse - OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israel will build 884 more houses in Occupied East Jerusalem, the Housing Ministry said on Sunday, in a move that enraged the Palestinians who have demanded the area as the capital of their promised state. "We will invite tenders for the construction of 121 housing units in Har Homa and 763 others in Pisgat Zeev," ministry spokesman Eran Sidis told AFP, referring to two illegal colonies in Arab East Jerusalem. Israel occupied and annexed the eastern half of the city after the 1967 war in a move not recognized by the international community or the Palestinians, who have demanded it as their capital in recently revived peace talks. Sidis said the timing of the announcement was aimed at coinciding with the 41st anniversary of the conquest of Arab East Jerusalem.

Jerusalem’s demolition derby
Meron Rapoport, Ha’aretz 6/2/2008
Leave the huge and illegal house that the settlers built in East Jerusalem alone, and we won’t touch your authority. This, says the legal adviser of the Jerusalem Municipality, Yossi Habilio, was the deal offered him by the city’s deputy mayor, Yehoshua Pollack. Habilio says he turned it down because the decision to demolish the house had already passed through all possible legal channels - including the High Court of Justice. The deputy mayor denies there was such a suggestion, but what is clear is that the authority of the legal adviser has been significantly undermined. It is not he, but rather political representatives on the city council who will decide which of the demolition orders will be implemented. The settlers’ house in question is apparently at the bottom of their demolition list. The building is seven stories high and is located in the Silwan quarter of East Jerusalem.

European MP: Situation in Al-Khalil is barbaric
Palestinian Information Center 6/1/2008
AL-KHALIL, (PIC)-- David Hammerstein, a member of the European parliament, condemned Saturday the humanitarian situation in Al-Khalil city, southern West Bank, as barbaric, adding that the city is living under the ugliest form of Israeli occupation. This came during a visit made by delegates of the European parliament to Al-Khalil where they saw for themselves the suffering of Palestinian citizens in the old town and met with Ali Al-Qawasmi, the head of Al-Khalil reconstruction committee, who briefed the delegation on the harsh living conditions in the city. For his part, Emad Hamdan, the administrative and financial director of the reconstruction committee, explained to the delegation the Zionist schemes aimed to displace the Palestinian citizens from the old town and expand the Jewish neighborhood in it. In another context, thousands of Sri Lankan citizens in the capital Colombo. . .

PA says building new settlement units in Jerusalem danger to peace
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 6/1/2008
The Palestinian Authority (PA) considered on Sunday the Israeli government’s decision to build 820 housing units in the Abu Ghonaim hilltop in the occupied east Jerusalem, as a ’danger to peace-making’. Spokesman of the PA’s presidency, Nabil Abu Rodaina, said that the settlement plan constinutes a blatant violation of the Geneva Fourth Convention of 1949, and the international court of justice’s verdict that any new building or transformation of a given place is a violation of international law "Such plans are grave Israeli moves that directly impact the underway entire peace process and disclose the Israeli government’s apathy to international legitimacy and even to previous internationally-witnessed signed peace agreements with the Palestinians", Abu Rodaina went into saying. The Palestinian leadership in Ramallah also voiced an outspoken rejection and condemnation of the. . .

Israel to build new homes in occupied West Bank
Reuters Foundation, ReliefWeb 6/1/2008
JERUSALEM, June 1 (Reuters) - Israel announced plans on Sunday to build hundreds of new homes in an area of the occupied West Bank the Israeli government considers part of Jerusalem, despite U. S. and Palestinian calls to halt settlement expansion. There was no immediate Palestinian comment on the announcement, issued two days before Olmert embarks on a three-day visit to Washington. The 2003 peace "road map", reaffirmed by Israeli and Palestinian leaders at a conference hosted by U. S. President George W. Bush in November, requires a halt to all settlement activity on occupied land where Palestinians seek statehood. Housing Minister Zeev Boim instructed his office to publish a tender to build an additional 763 housing units in Pisgat Zeev and 121 housing units at Har Homa, an area Palestinians refer to as Jabal Abu Ghneim.

Israeli forces evacuate illegal settlement outpost in northern West Bank
Ma’an News Agency 6/1/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Israeli forces evacuated late on Saturday evening settlers and right-wing activists from the illegal settlement outpost of Shvut Ami, which had been established on lands belonging to the northern West Bank village of Talfit near the Israeli settlement Kedumim. Shvut Ami was not listed as one of the illegal settlement outposts that Israel had pledged to evacuate. Clashes erupted near the outpost between Palestinian youths and Israeli forces on Saturday evening. Two young Palestinians from Nablus were moderately injured by Israeli forces. The Shvut Ami outpost covers 35 dunums of land belonging to Talfit (one dunum is equal to 1km²), near the settler bypass road leading to the Kedumim settlement. The outpost was occupied by Israeli settlers in 2006.

Moussa: Hamas is ready for unconditional national dialog immediately
Palestinian Information Center 6/1/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Yehya Moussa, the deputy head of the Hamas parliamentary bloc, renewed his Movement’s willingness to resume unconditional national dialog immediately, stressing that any initiative must be based on what had been achieved in the previous agreements starting from the national accord document to the Makkah agreement. This came in response to the initiative suggested by Munib Al-Masri, the head of the Palestine forum and a prominent Palestinian businessman, which is intended for ending the internal discord. Moussa underlined that any initiative which does not recognize the results of the elections and political changes, and not take into account that the state of division was caused by external interference will not culminate with success. The lawmaker said that PA chief Mahmoud Abbas is weak and cannot say no to the American dictates, adding that Abbas can end this. . .

Palestinian security seize three Hamas members in the West Bank
Ma’an News Agency 6/1/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The Hamas movement said on Sunday morning that Palestinian security forces of the West Bank-based caretaker government had seized three people affiliated with Hamas on Saturday evening. The movement released a statement saying that in the Ramallah district Palestinian security forces detained Sa’id Qasrawi, a Birzeit University student and coordinator of the Islamic bloc at the university, after searching his home in Beitunia. The statement added that in Tubas in the northern West Bank, Palestinian security apprehended Wa’il Muhammed Abu Salah after he was summoned for questioning. In the Hebron district in the southern West Bank, Palestinian security forces detained Muhammed Al-Awawdah, principal of As-Siddiq school in the town of Dura.

Israel ’surprised’ to get soldiers’ remains
Barak Ravid Yuval Azoulay and Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 6/2/2008
Israel announced yesterday that Hezbollah’s handover of what it said were the remains of Israeli soldiers killed in the Second Lebanon War was not part of a broader prisoner exchange deal. The Prime Minister’s Office said it was surprised by the handover, which took place after Israel returned Lebanese spy Nassim Nasser to Lebanon. But some Israeli sources said Hezbollah’s handover and Israel’s release of Nasser were both agreed-on, confidence-building steps that constitute the first phase of a more extensive swap that would include Hezbollah’s release of abducted IDF soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser. Other Israeli sources, however, said the transfer of the remains was orchestrated to win over public opinion in Lebanon by giving the impression that it was part of a prisoner exchange, even though Nasser’s release was a technical matter, since he had finished serving his term.

Released from his Israeli jail, spy receives hero’s welcome
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 6/2/2008
NAQOURA, Lebanon - Hezbollah released dozens of white pigeons and yellow balloons yesterday to mark the return of Nassim Nasser, a Lebanese-born Israeli convicted of spying on the Jewish state. The increasingly powerful militant group was quick to tout it as yet another one of their victories. Arriving in the southern coastal town of Naqoura, Nasser grinned and flashed the victory sign as he was showered with rice and rose petals by throngs of cheering supporters. Although he was being released after serving his six-year prison sentence for espionage, Nasser said his release was part of an exchange deal between Israel and Hezbollah. "Mabrouk [congratulations] for Lebanon and Mabrouk for Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. God willing, we will very soon witness the return of all Lebanese prisoners to Lebanon," he said, addressing the crowd of Hezbollah followers.

Israel transferred spy Nassim Nasser to Lebanon, and got body parts from Hezbollah
Yoav Stern and Jack Khoury, Ha’aretz 6/2/2008
Representatives of the Israeli branch of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) were very surprised yesterday afternoon by the many calls they received from journalists, asking whether the rumors were true that a container was on its way to Israel with body parts of Israeli soldiers. Like many others in the country, they did not know then that the release of Nassim Nasser was part of an exchange deal. Events begin to unfold at 8:30 A. M. A police vehicle with black curtains drawn over its windows leaves Nitzan Prison in Ramle, avoiding the media. Local authorities attempt throughout the day to conceal as much as possible concerning the swap. The IDF Spokesman’s Office gives no details of any exchange, nor of the transfer of Nasser to Lebanon. Meanwhile, Al-Jazeera reports live from the border crossing, as does the Hezbollah TV network Al-Manar.

Forensic experts: Identifying body parts could take weeks
Yuval Azoulay, Ha’aretz 6/2/2008
The process of identifying the body parts of Israel Defense Forces soldiers returned by Hezbollah on Sunday will take between a few days and months, depending on the state of the tissue and the availability of DNA samples from family members, medical sources at the Abu Kabir Institute of Forensic Medicine said Sunday. Each body part will be examined to determine its genetic makeup and compared to DNA from family members of deceased soldiers. The closer the blood relation, the easier it will be to identify the remains. Results of such tests are usually obtained within two days. If the remains have already decomposed and no tissue is left then the process of identifying the remains from bone tissue becomes more complicated and may take a few months. "It is possible to extract DNA from bones and it has been done many times in the past,. . .

Families of missing reservists hope deal is a sign of progress
Jack Khoury, Ha’aretz 6/2/2008
The families of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser on Sunday chose not to comment on Hezbollah’s unexpected decision to return the body parts of Israeli troops killed during the Second Lebanon War. Karnit Goldwasser, the wife of Ehud Goldwasser, said she was not interested in responding to the developments at the border crossing between Israel and Lebanon. Last week, she gave a terse response to news of a reported development in negotiations between Hezbollah and Israel. "All I can say is that we hope what is happening signals that progress is being made toward an arrangement and that the two [abducted] soldiers will be back soon," she said. Miki Goldwasser, the abducted soldier’s mother, told reporters she was keeping track of developments through the media outlets.

Not just a gesture
Zvi Bar''el, Ha’aretz 6/2/2008
"Nassim Nasser was freed in exchange for the body parts of Israeli soldiers," said the Web site of the Hezbollah-owned Al-Manar television station, adding that the swap was the first stage of negotiations. In making such a statement, Hezbollah is trying to undermine the Israeli position that it does not negotiate for body parts; the Israeli explanations that Nasser was due to be released anyway for legal reasons are not self-evident in Lebanon. To judge by reports in the Arab press, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has succeeded in selling his take on the prisoner swap, whereby there are no goodwill gestures, just tough negotiations in which Nasrallah is getting a live prisoner in exchange for body parts. Nasrallah’s negotiating tactics should be no surprise.

VIDEO - News / Israel surprised by Hezbollah’s release of the soldiers’ remains
Haaretz Staff and Channel 10, Ha’aretz 6/2/2008
Haaretz. com/Channel 10 news roundup for June 1, 2008. Israel and the Red Cross are surprised by Hezbollah’s release of the remains of Israel Defense Forces soldiers killed in the Second Lebanon War. Yosef (Tommy) Lapid dies of cancer at the age of 77. More than 20 protesters are hurt in an anti-fence protest at the West Bank village of Na’alin [end]

Hizbullah claims it returned remains of soldiers
Globes correspondent, Globes Online 6/1/2008
It said it was returning the remains in exchange for the spy Nissim Nasser. Hizbullah has returned the remains of Israeli soldiers killed during the Second Lebanon War in exchange for the spy Nissim Nasser. Nasser, who was born in Lebanon and became an Israeli citizen, was released this morning from Nitzan Jail. He was convicted in 2002 of passing information to a foreign agent and contacting an enemy force. The IDF spokeperson said that Hizbullah has transferred to the IDF a coffin it claims to contain body remains of IDF soldiers killed during the Second Lebanon War. After the body remains will undergo initial and thorough examinations by the IDF and the Israeli Police, the coffin will be transferred to the Forensic Medicine Institute in Abu-Kabir for further inspection. The spokesperson added that IDF personnel will contact the families of soldiers whose remains are thought to be included.

Release of Lebanese prisoner by Israel raises hopes for prisoner exchange
Ma’an News Agency 6/1/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – As Lebanese prisoner Naseem Nasr arrived home in Lebanon on Sunday following his release after six years imprisonment in Israel, Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails began to hope that a prisoner exchange deal might be imminent. There are currently more than 11,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli custody. Representatives of the prisoners expressed their hope that agreement on a prisoner exchange would be reached in the shortest possible time, and that those serving long-term sentences of more than twenty or thirty years would be included in the deal. The issue of Palestinian prisoners remains one of the most important issues for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian resistance factions, and Palestinian society in general. Abbas has endeavoured to get the prisoners released through negotiations with Israel, while resistance factions have sought. . .

Hizbollah hands over Israeli troop remains as Lebanese spy is freed
Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem, The Independent 5/31/2008
A prisoner convicted of spying for Hizbollah was released to Lebanon by Israel yesterday as the guerrilla group handed over what it said were the remains of dead Israeli soldiers. The cross-border moves raised speculation that Israel could be preparing to trade other prisoners for the two soldiers -- whether dead or alive -- whose abduction triggered the 2006 Lebanon war. The Hizbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, predicted last week that Israel would soon free Lebanese prisoners including Samir Kuntar, who is serving multiple life sentences for murdering four Israelis -- including a 28-year-old civilian and his four-year-old daughter -- in 1979. In Beirut, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German Foreign Minister, who has been mediating between the two enemies, said he was happy with yesterday’s developments and that he hoped "these preliminary steps have created a positive dynamism in these secret talks".

Retired US diplomats meet Hamas leaders in Gaza
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 6/2/2008
GAZA CITY: A delegation of retired US diplomats met deposed Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyya of Hamas in the besieged Gaza Strip on Sunday as part of a Middle East fact-finding mission. The delegation represented the Council for the National Interest, a group of diplomats, analysts, and businessmen who, according to the group’s Web site, seek to counter the "over-zealous tactics of Israel’s lobby" in the US. "It was a very interesting and very frank discussion with the prime minister," Richard Viets, the head of the delegation, told reporters. "He outlined in detail the view of the Gazan government on a number of issues," added Viets, who served as the number two US diplomat in Israel from 1977 to 1979 and ambassador to Jordan in the early 1980s. Viets said the group had not sought permission for the visit from the US government, which along with Israel and the EU considers the Hamas movement to be a terror outfit.

Olmert’s planned visit to US may be last hurrah as premier
Ron Bousso, Daily Star 6/2/2008
Agence France Presse - OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert heads to Washington on Monday weakened by a major crisis at home that cast a shadow over both his political future and the tenuous US-sponsored Middle East peace talks. The three-day visit may offer the embattled premier a brief respite from the turmoil at home where he faces a crescendo of calls for his resignation over suspicions he unlawfully obtained vast sums of money from a US financier. But Monday’s trip may well be his last as premier to Israel’s staunchest ally. Olmert, 62, suffered two massive blows in quick succession last week when a key coalition ally, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, demanded he quit and the Cabinet number two, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, challenged his party leadership. And on Saturday, a close Olmert ally, powerful MP Tzahi Hanegbi, said he thought elections should be brought forward.

Olmert to leave for Washington
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 6/2/2008
Prime minister to leave for week-long US visit Monday night to facilitate latest F-35 fighter jets purchase; relay more intelligence concerning developments in Iran’s nuclear program. Also on itinerary meetings with Bush, Rice; Democratic, Republican presidential hopefuls - Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will leave for Washington Monday night, in order to facilitate the Israeli Air Force purchase of new F-35 fighter jets. Olmert is said to also further several other arm deals for various long-range radars, which will compliment Israel’s multi-layered rocket defense systems. The purchase of the F-35 is expected to upgrade the IAF’s strategic capabilities. A Lockheed Martin Aeronautics jet, the F-35 - or F-35 Lightning II, as it is officially called - is a single-seat, single-engine stealth-fighter jet; meant to eventually take over for the F-16.

A damaging and superfluous trip
Haaretz Editorial, Ha’aretz 6/2/2008
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is scheduled to leave tonight for Washington on a trip that just might be his farewell visit as prime minister to the American capital. The stated reason for the trip is an invitation to address participants at the annual conference of the pro-Israel lobby, AIPAC. As is its practice, the AIPAC conference is planned to showcase Israel and its supporters from across the American political spectrum. This year, the speakers include U. S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, congressional leaders from both big parties and the next president - John McCain, Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton - all three of whom will honor Israel’s supporters and receive their applause. Olmert also has other events scheduled, but wherever he goes, he will be shadowed by the cloud of suspicions of public and criminal corruption that hovers above him.

Police chief: Olmert investigation at pivotal point
Efrat Weiss, YNetNews 5/31/2008
’Investigation team working to seek out the truth while upholding the law and safeguarding the honor of those under investigation,’ Commissioner Cohen says - "The investigation against senior Israeli officials has reached one of its pivotal points," Police Commissioner Dudi Cohen said Sunday in reference to the ongoing corruption probe against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. "Police are relating to the investigation against Olmert, as well as to all other investigations, with the required professionalism and responsibility," Cohen said during the inauguration ceremony of the new head of the police’s Logistical Support Department. "The investigation team will continue to work without bias. I have heard recently that the investigator’s conduct has been called into question; I reject these claims, as I have been closely monitoring the investigation and receive daily updates."

Barak acting to speed up Olmert’s ouster
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 6/2/2008
Labor Party chairman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak can go be minister of strategic affairs in Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet - so Ehud Olmert’s confidants responded yesterday to Barak’s latest moves to spur Kadima to replace the prime minister. Barak’s statements last week created a battleground between Kadima and Labor, while leaving Likud out of the fray, ahead of elections that might take place in November. After calling on Thursday for Olmert to be replaced and threatening early elections, Barak convened activists at Labor headquarters in Tel Aviv on Friday and told them: "If the moral backbone of Kadima’s leadership continues kowtowing to the powers that be or [self-]interest, as it has been doing for years, we will be forced to straighten it out. "Barak called on Laborites "to join hands, put aside our internal differences, and work throughout the country.

Olmert, in swipe at Barak, says Kadima won’t bow to pressure for earlier election
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 6/2/2008
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said yesterday that Kadima would not be pressured into changing the election schedule, in a barb aimed at the Labor Party chairman, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who called last week for Olmert to be replaced and threatened early elections. "As the person who heads Kadima, I believe in its power to lead the State of Israel," Olmert said at the beginning of a festive Kadima meeting on Ammunition Hill to mark Jerusalem Day. "Kadima is not a satellite party - it is the ruling party and will continue to be so. No one will dictate its timetable from the outside. "The remarks were Olmert’s first public, albeit indirect, response to Barak’s statements, which pushed Kadima into primary election mode even without Olmert’s say-so. Olmert also called on the members of his party to stop preparing for elections, in remarks that seemed to target Foreign Minister. . .

Barak: Morals of 1948 veterans no longer self-evident in Israel
Yossi Verter Mazal Mualem and Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 6/2/2008
Defense Minister Ehud Barak lashed back at Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Sunday, hours after the PM criticized Barak and other MKs for calling for him to resign and for the Kadima party to hold primaries. At a ceremony held in honor of War of Independence veterans, Barak told the veterans of the 48 war that the morals they exhibited "are no longer self-evident in Israel," a jibe that could be interpreted as directed at Olmert. Barak told the veterans that the morals they instilled in future generations filled him and many others with "love of the homeland, acknowledgement of the integrity of our national mission, solidarity, steadfast decisiveness, and sincerity." Earlier on Sunday, Olmert dismissed calls by Defense Minister Ehud Barak for him to resign, saying that no one outside his ruling Kadima Party will decide what happens within the party.

Official: Public pressure may force Olmert indictment
Jonathan Lis, Ha’aretz 6/2/2008
A law enforcement official has said over the past few days that he is concerned that public and political pressures over the Olmert-Talansky affair might cause investigators to seek an indictment against Prime Minister Olmert even if the evidence does not warrant it. "It’s clear to everyone that in the present atmosphere, the case can’t end without an indictment. I’m trying to imagine what the public response would be if the investigators decide not to indict because Olmert and other suspects have given satisfactory explanations or sufficient evidence is not found to try the prime minister. How will the investigators deal with the criticism? Who will take responsibility for the public mess this investigation has created? For the fact that a government could fall because of an investigation that produced no results? " The official said the. . .

2009 budget deadlocked by Olmert investigations
Moti Bassok, Ha’aretz 6/2/2008
The flurry of investigations into Prime Minister Ehud Olmert are paralyzing preparations for the 2009 budget, say treasury officials, warning that the budget probably won’t be ready before next year. The prime minister’s office already has postponed two budget meetings with Finance Minister Roni Bar-On and the treasury budgets director, in which Olmert was supposed to participate. The first meeting was about fiscal goals and the state of the economy, and had been scheduled for Monday last week. The second was about the budget composition and structural reforms, and had been scheduled for today. Olmert’s office also canceled informal working discussions about the budget with the treasury chiefs, as meanwhile, investigators investigate allegations of corruption. Also, the sheer weakness of the government, and the possibility of. . .

Gaza communities’ heads warn of impromptu elections
Shmulik Hadad, YNetNews 6/1/2008
Heads of western Negev communities fear early election may prove detrimental to rocket-ridden area. ’Elections at this point are not good for anyone,’ adds Sderot’s Eli Moyal - The political crisis brought on by the police investigation of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the growing certainty of a general election by the end of 2008, have the heads of the Gaza vicinity communities worried. They know all too well the fading value of promises made during an election campaign. "Before (politicians) begin preaching morals whet should take a good long look in the mirror and ask themselves what have they done for us, what have they done for first graders that know no other reality than that of rockets," Haim Yalin, head of the Eshkol Regional Council, told Ynet Sunday. "Before (politicians) begin preaching morals whet should take a good long look in the mirror and ask themselves what have

Not by envelopes alone
Akiva Eldar, Ha’aretz 6/2/2008
According to a Haaretz-Dialog poll conducted last week, Likud led by Benjamin Netanyahu is the biggest beneficiary of the envelope scandal. Forty percent of those questioned listed "an upstanding character" as the most important trait of a prime ministerial candidate. The desire to ensure the security of the state came second (23 percent), and the ability to advance peace trailed along in third place (19 percent). It seems, then, that a significant share of the 35 Knesset seats that the poll forecasts for Likud - twice as many as the Labor Party and Kadima combined - would come its way thanks to its leaders’ cleaner hands. It is worth mentioning, therefore, that when Morris Talansky was pampering Ehud Olmert, he was hoping to anoint him head of Likud. Even the other affairs, such as the Investments Center, are related to the period when Olmert was a member of the government as a representative of Likud.

Olmert pays tribute to Yosef Lapid calling him a ’Jew through and through’
Asaf Carmel, and Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 6/2/2008
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday paid tribute to former cabinet member and close friend Yosef (Tommy) Lapid, who died at age 77 earlier in the day, saying "he was a Jew through and through." "We have lost a dear man, a dear Jew and an irreplaceable friend," Olmert continued. Lapid succumbed to cancer early Sunday. He was hospitalized some six months ago after suffering a heart attack in his home. Lapid was "a Holocaust survivor who lived and breathed Jewish fate, Jewish history and the Jewish future throughout his life," Olmert said. The prime minister met Lapid for the last time on Tuesday when he visited him at Ichilov Hospital. His visit came shortly after the testimony of American fundraiser Morris Talansky, a key witness in the corruption investigation currently underway against Olmert.

Israeli newspaper says foreign ministers of Syria and Israel might meet in August
Ma’an News Agency 6/1/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli and Syrian foreign ministers might hold an unprecedented meeting by the end of August, the Israeli daily newspaper Ma’ariv reported on Sunday. The newspaper quoted Turkish sources as saying that the meeting would be held as the beginning of direct negotiations between the two sides. The same sources stated that the second round of ongoing indirect negotiations through Turkish mediators will continue this Thursday. The Turkish sources quoted in Ma’ariv noted that Israel and Syria have not yet tackled the hot issues between them in the current indirect negotiations, such as the border lines and the alleged relations between Syria and Iran. In an interview published in the American newspaper The Wall Street Journal, Syrian Ambassador Imad Mustafa called on the US to play a more active role in pushing the Israeli-Syrian negotiations forward.

A matter of a few dozen meters
Akiva Eldar, Ha’aretz 6/1/2008
Dan Meridor, who was Yitzhak Shamir’s confidant, told Channel 10 this week that Shamir, too, was completely serious about the possibility of an accord with Syria. He says that in 1991, Shamir asked the Americans to add Syria to the Madrid Conference. Meridor also says that Uri Saguy, who was then head of Military Intelligence, convinced Shamir that the first Gulf War had shifted the regional balance of powers and created ideal conditions for negotiations with Syria. But then Shamir had to make way for Yitzhak Rabin. Though he hasn’t been in uniform for some time, Saguy never abandoned the Syrian channel. From time to time, he gets on a plane, in his current capacity as the defense minister’s adviser on Syrian affairs, and meets with the people whom Assad, Sr. , and then Assad, Jr.

Assad joins UAE leader in backing Doha agreement
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 6/2/2008
ABU DHABI: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and UAE counterpart Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan on Sunday voiced support for the Doha deal on Lebanon, the official WAM news agency reported. The two leaders also called for "stepped up efforts" to bolster Arab unity, the agency reported. It did not elaborate. Syria has had strained ties with Arab heavyweights Saudi Arabia and Egypt over the 18-month political standoff in Lebanon, where it supported the Hizbullah-led opposition against the Western- and Arab-backed government. Assad is in Abu Dhabi on a two-nation tour that will also take him to Kuwait on Tuesday. His trip follows talks in Damascus on Friday with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, whose country last month hosted Lebanese reconciliation talks. The Arab League-brokered talks in Doha led to a deal to end a power strggle that had lasted since late 2006.

German foreign minister sees ’signs of hope’ in Lebanon
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 6/2/2008
BEIRUT: German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told reporters on Sunday after meeting newly elected President Michel Suleiman that he saw "signs of hope" in Lebanon. "The Doha agreement is a very important first step to end the crisis," Steinmeier said, referring to the May 21 accord between rival Lebanese factions that ended a 18-month political crisis that had turned deadly. "The election of a president and the formation of a government are signs of hope," he said, emphasizing that the deal reached in Qatar says that force and weapons should not be used to resolve conflict. Lebanon’s long-running political standoff sparked sectarian clashes last month that left at least 65 people dead. Until Suleiman’s election a week ago, the country had been without a head of state since November. Also on Sunday, Israel freed and then deported to Lebanon Nassim Nisr, convicted. . .

Israel urges EU: Show ’caution’ in contacts with Damascus
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 6/2/2008
Foreign Ministry officials are growing increasingly concerned at what they see as signs that relations between Syria and European countries are thawing following many months during which the Syrian regime was internationally isolated. In view of the restart of talks between Israel and Syria, Israeli diplomatic missions in Europe were issued instructions from Jerusalem to ask European capitals to exercise "caution" in their contacts with Damascus, because it has yet to prove the seriousness of its intent regarding to the negotiations. In recent years Syria had suffered international isolation due to suspicions that the regime of President Bashar Assad was behind the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri and the uprising in Iraq. However, senior European figures recently resumed contacts with Syria, and Thursday. . .

Suleiman touts prospects for diplomatic ties with Damascus
Hussein Abdallah, Daily Star 6/2/2008
BEIRUT: President Michel Suleiman said on Sunday that Syria has shown readiness to establish diplomatic relations with Lebanon. Speaking during a meeting with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Suleiman vowed to work on establishing "the best of relations" with Syria in line with what he said in his inaugural address to Parliament on May 25. Suleiman said that Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem’s presence at the presidential election session was proof of the brotherly relations between the two states. "Both Syria and Lebanon have drawn the lessons of the past, and their future relations will hopefully serve as a model for all neighboring states," he said. Suleiman also told the German minister that the dialogue between the rival Lebanese leaders will kick off shortly after a new government is formed.

IDF soldiers: Nature authority killed dogs cruelly
Yuval Azoulay, Ha’aretz 6/2/2008
Wildlife inspectors have killed at least six dogs suspected of carrying rabies using cruel and unnecessary methods, according to soldiers at an Israel Defense Forces base near Gush Etzion in the West Bank. Israel Nature and National Parks Protection Authority officials shot the animals from a distance of 50 meters and then again from close up to be sure they were dead, soldiers at the base reported. "On Thursday I heard loud barking and noticed it was coming from speakers attached to a green SUV, in order to attract the dogs," one soldier recounted. "A few minutes later I saw the SUV stop and one of its occupants shot at a dog 50 meters away. Then they closed in and shot him again. "The inspectors were originally called in by the army to deal with a suspected outbreak of rabies at the base.

Education Minister comes up with booster plan for Arab schools
Or Kashti, Ha’aretz 6/1/2008
Education Minister Yuli Tamir last week received recommendations for a comprehensive education plan for the Arab community, part of which is to be implemented in the next school year. The plan involves major reforms and a large investment, reflecting "recognition of a multi-year injustice which must be corrected," said the Education Ministry official said. Drafted jointly by the ministry and the education committee within the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, the plan consists of reforms in Arabic instruction and Arabic-language matriculation exams, updating study programs, treating learning disabilities and building numerous classrooms. Its implementation, which will spread over several years, is estimated to cost billions of shekels. The plan was initiated following the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee’s threat to paralyze Arab schools on the eve of the present school year.

Government admission of drought triggers compensation for farmers
Amiram Cohen and Moti Bassok, Ha’aretz 6/2/2008
The Beit She’an Valley and a large portion of the Negev, from Moshav Ahuzam in the north to the Nirim-Mishmar Hanegev area in the south, are beset by drought, Finance Minister Roni Bar-On and Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon said Sunday. The official statement makes it possible for farmers in drought-afflicted areas who planted wheat - the product mainly affected by the dryness - or crops such as barley, chickpeas and safflower to request government compensation for their losses. The Drought Law states that the compensation must be between 80 percent and 100 percent of expenses for growing wheat in the Negev and the Beit She’an Valley, deducting any produce that was harvested. This year the maximum compensation for a dunam of wheat is likely to reach NIS 230. Uzi Matityahu, an Agriculture Ministry official in charge of wheat production,. . .

Africa-Israel profit plummets
Globes'' correspondent, Globes Online 6/1/2008
The company plans to raise $150-200 million in a public offering in which chairman Lev Leviev will participate. Africa-Israel Investments Ltd. (TASE: AFIL; Pink Sheets: AFIVY), controlled by chairman Lev Leviev, published its consolidated financial report for the first quarter of 2008 on Friday. The company posted a net profit of NIS 125 million (NIS 0. 96 per share), down 80% from the NIS 746 million for the corresponding quarter of 2007. Revenue from regular operations fell nearly two-thirds to NIS 465 million for the first quarter from NIS 1. 23 billion from the corresponding quarter, which included NIS 645 million in fair value on investment assets. Profit from real estate developments fell to NIS 122 million for the first quarter from NIS 922 million for the corresponding quarter. Africa-Israel’s consolidated revenue fell to NIS 1.

Big business falls over financing costs
Hagai Amit, Ha’aretz 6/2/2008
"Absence of substantial exits," wrote all too many giant companies, excusing their profits, which unmagically vanished in the first quarter of 2008. What they meant, from Nochi Dankner’s IDB Development and Discount Investment, to Yitzhak Tshuva’s Delek Group to Ilan Ben-Dov’s Tao Tsuot - is that they hadn’t made a mint selling assets during the first three months of 2008. Moreover, many of Israel’s biggest financial and holding companies carry heavy debt and their profits were savaged by the climbing cost of interest as inflation jumped. IDB Development had netted NIS 734 million in the first quarter of last year, from floating Cellcom in New York and selling shares in the Brazilian telco GVT. This year its profit shrank 94% to NIS 55 million in the first quarter, far from a mean figure, but also a mile from last year’s performance.

Gov’t approves Ben Eliezer’s water plan
Lilach Weissman, Globes Online 6/1/2008
The minister said Israel is in the midst of a water crisis that is without comparison. The cabinet today approved Minister of National Infrastructures Benjamin Ben-Eliezer’s proposed emergency program to cope with Israel’s acute water shortage. The program will see the allocation of NIS 120 million on activity aimed at cutting demand and promoting water conservation. It will also include a public information campaign to encourage people to save water, special tariffs for water efficiency practices, fixed water quotas for public parks, and greater enforcement. The program also includes a budget of NIS 915 million towards the building of wastewater plants over the next five years, and increasing the quantity of desalinated water in Israel to 750 billion cubic meters a year. Presenting the program today, Ben-Eliezer said that Israel was in the midst of a water crisis that was without comparison.

A new national service?
Avirama Golan, Ha’aretz 6/2/2008
A strange thing happened last week to Education Minister Yuli Tamir. A few weeks after she slashed some 3,160 national service positions, effectively putting an end to the program for this year, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert instructed Ra’anan Dinur, the director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office, to immediately transfer funding for it, which Dinur did two days later. Dinur attended a meeting called by Olmert, as did Ami Ayalon, the minister in charge of national service. Yet Tamir - who should have rejoiced that her ministry was to receive the missing NIS 18 million to operate the national service project this year, in addition to another NIS 60 million for 2009 - was conspicuously absent. Whether she missed the meeting of her own accord or was not invited, her absence highlighted the extraneous political-coalition tensions that characterized the entire affair from the beginning.

Researchers’ complaints ignored over anthrax vaccine problems
Yossi Melman, Ha’aretz 6/2/2008
Despite the enormous investments in developing an anthrax vaccine, senior employees at the Israel Institute for Biological Research have warned that there are problems with the product. However, institute director Dr. Avigdor Shafferman ignored their claims, and demoted one of the complainants, a senior manager. The Biological Research Institute, one of the most secret institutions in Israel, employs 350 persons and operates with nearly no external supervision. In terms of administration, the institute answers to the Prime Minister’s Office, while physical and field security are handled by Malmab - the body responsible for security in the defense establishment at large. According to foreign publications, the institute conducts research and development on biological and chemical weapons, and also develops antidotes - including medicines,. . .

Victory for the Haredim
Avraham Poraz, Ha’aretz 6/2/2008
The state’s decision to stop employing Rabbi Haim Druckman, who has for several years headed the special conversion administration designed to expedite and alleviate the conversion process, followed a ruling by the Supreme Rabbinic Court. This court nullified a conversion Rabbi Druckman performed 15 years ago, and its ruling applies in effect to all the conversions performed through Rabbi Druckman’s conversion administration, as well as to conversions within the Israel Defense Forces. These sad developments are part of the struggle raging between Orthodox Zionism - whose approach was reflected in Rabbi Druckman’s conversion administration and the one that operated in the IDF - and the ultra-Orthodox. Remember that we are talking about nullifying Orthodox conversions, which are the most strict to begin with.

An offer they must refuse
Haaretz Editorial, Ha’aretz 6/2/2008
Today, the Ministerial Committee on Legislation is slated to discuss a bill proposed by National Religious Party MK Eliahu Gabbay that seeks to change the makeup of the judicial selection committee. The bill was put forth as a privately sponsored initiative after Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann realized he could not amend a clause anchored in the state’s Basic Laws without first reaching consensus among all the members of the coalition. The proposed amendment requires altering the Basic Law on The Judiciary. The amendment’s passage can be ensured by a simple majority of those MKs who vote since this Basic Law does not require a special majority of MKs. The bill is a duplicate of the justice minister’s earlier proposal, which in effect is yet another salvo in his battle with the Supreme Court.

Arab birth rate on decline in Jerusalem
Nadav Shragai, Ha’aretz 6/2/2008
Fertility rates in Jerusalem have been declining among Arabs and rising among Jews in recent years, according to statistics the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies issued to mark Jerusalem Day, today. Among Arabs the rate has dropped to 4 children in 2006, from 4. 3 in 2000, and among Jews it has risen to 3. 9 children in 2006 from 3. 7 in 2000. However, the ratio of Jews and Arabs hasn’t changed - 66 percent Jews (489,480) and 34 percent Arabs (256,820) totaling 746,300 at the end of 2007. The negative migration balance in Jerusalem continued last year as 18,750 residents (most of them Jews) left the city and only 12,360 came to live there. Some 284,850 people moved away from Jerusalem during 1990-2007 and some 174,560 moved in, marking a negative migration of 110,200.

Bethlehem University, local cultural center host right of return festival
Ma’an News Agency 6/1/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Bethlehem University on Saturday evening hosted a festival under the banner "the right of return," organized by the Ad-Doha Children’s Cultural Center. The Palestinian dabka troupe Wishah performed at the festival, as well as the renowned Syrian singer Samih Shqair, who participated via a video link from Jordan. The festival began with the Palestinian national anthem, after which the Wishah troupe performed folk dances from the Palestinian, Lebanese, Syrian, Egyptian and Iraqi traditions. The director of Wishah, Muhammad Ata, said the troupe was established in 2003, and that it has performed at the local level so far. Their first performance abroad will be in Algeria in July, he explained. He affirmed that the group performs Arab folk dances and songs in additional to Palestinian dances because Palestine is one component of the Arab cultural heritage.

UN commissioner for winning hearts
Adi Schwartz, Ha’aretz 6/1/2008
Jorge Sampaio is currently trying to defuse the mine laid 12 years ago by Samuel Huntington. In "The Clash of Civilizations," Huntington argued the world conflict in the post-Cold War era would take place against a cultural and religious backdrop. Sampaio, as the United Nations Secretary’s High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations, has now set out to win hearts in the areas of culture and religion. Sampaio, the former Portuguese president, isn’t crazy about the job title. The crux of the work, according UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s mission statement, is to help bridge the gaps between the Muslim world and the West. But in an interview this week with Haaretz, on the occasion of his visit to Israel, Sampaio says that perception of Islam and the West as monolithic civilizations devoid of any cracks or internal clashes, "is quite mistaken".

Who didn’t attend New York’s Israel march? Israelis
Shlomo Shamir, Ha’aretz 6/2/2008
Some 50,000 people marched up Fifth Avenue on Sunday in the annual Salute to Israel Parade celebrating 60 years of independence. But one group of New Yorkers, according to the New York Times, did not show up: Israeli expats. The organizers of the parade made special efforts to reach out to Israelis living in New York and to Jewish immigrants from Russia, the paper said on Sunday, to no avail. Israelis who have left the country are much more critical of their homeland, it explained, unlike American Jews who have a more positive image of the country. Also, despite the fine weather, there were fewer people marching in comparison to previous years. However, those who weren’t underrepresented were Israeli officials, local politicians and public figures.


The upgrade state
Gideon Levy, Ha’aretz 6/2/2008
      Ehud Olmert isn’t alone. He did what everybody does. The prime minister tried to "upgrade" his life; we all try to do this. There is no dream like the Israeli dream of trading up. It has become our very raison d’etre. The problem starts when we lose all proportion. Olmert upgrades his flights, his luxury suites, his watches and his cigars, but the Israeli desire to upgrade is far more wide-ranging, and all-inclusive.
     Its begins, of course, with how we view ourselves. We’re a normal nation? Just like all the other nations of the world? Get real. "We are a unique people, no less." In truth, we are a society that is far from normal, with our fragile democracy that in many ways veers toward the theocratic. We are levantine in many ways, and no less militaristic. We are an uneasy combination of Western liberalism and totalitarianism, between socialism and cruel capitalism, nationalism and, at times, even racism. Yet, we are a people that declares itself "a light unto the nations.