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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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15 June 2008

Israel wounds AFP, Reuters photographers
Middle East Online 6/15/2008
BETHLEHEM, West Bank - At least seven Palestinians were wounded on Saturday when hundreds of people clashed with Israeli troops near Bethlehem, in the occupied West Bank, Palestinian security officials said. The fighting broke out when around a dozen Israeli military jeeps surrounded an apartment building in Al-Doha village and closed off nearby roads, according to Palestinian witnesses. Hundreds of Palestinians massed in the area and hurled rocks at the soldiers, who responded with gunfire and called in another dozen vehicles, including armoured bulldozers, they said. The seven wounded were hit by live rounds and rubber bullets, a security official said. Later the soldiers began throwing rocks at the protestors, hitting several people, including an AFP photographer, whose camera was broken, and a photographer from the Reuters news service.

Olmert tells Rice Israel to continue building in Jerusalem
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 6/16/2008
Prime minister meets with visiting US secretary of state, responds to latter’s harsh criticism against housing construction in east Jerusalem. ’We are building in Jewish neighborhoods which are expected to remain in Israeli hands,’ he says - "We are not confiscating additional Palestinian lands but building in Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem which are expected to remain in Israeli hands," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told visiting US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Sunday evening. The two met in Jerusalem after Rice slammed Israeli construction projects in the eastern part of the city. The two-hour meeting covered recent regional developments but primarily centered on the ongoing negotiations with the Palestinians. Regarding building endeavors in the settlements, the prime minister stressed that Israel’s policy has not changed.

Plan approved to build 40,000 housing units in East J’lem
Jonathan Lis, Ha’aretz 6/16/2008
The proposal of Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski for the construction of 40,000 residential units in various Jewish neighborhoods of the capital was approved yesterday by the District Planning and Building Committee. The plan includes construction in neighborhoods over the Green Line. Lupolianski has said in recent weeks that the plan aimed to deal with the serious shortage young couples face in hunting for affordable housing. For the first time this will include housing for Arabs in East Jerusalem, in the northern neighborhoods of A-Tur, Issawiyeh and Shuwafat. To date, Arabs in East Jerusalem experienced serious housing problems forcing them to resort to build without permits. The new plan is meant to legalize some of that illegal construction. "Jerusalem is not a settlement and construction in the capital will continue with the aim of encouraging young [persons] to live there," Lupolianski said yesterday.

Israel pressed to reveal why army killed cameraman
Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem, The Independent 6/15/2008
The Israeli military has come under renewed pressure to explain why its tank shells killed a Reuters cameraman and eight other Palestinians on a road in Gaza two months ago. Reuters is pressing for immediate release of the military’s internal inquiry findings after an independent report for the London-based news agency found that there had been was no militant activity in that area. Fadel Shana, 24, was killed on 16 April by flechette darts that burst from a tank shell as he was filming about a mile away from the tanks and in clear view of them. Eight bystanders aged between 12 and 20 were also killed, involving two tank shells. Mr Shana’s car and body armour carried press markings, and none of the other casualties were armed. The Israeli army has not yet produced a detailed account but has said its soldiers did nothing wrong.

No murder charges for suspects in lynch of Jewish terrorist
Jack Khoury and Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 6/16/2008
The 12 suspects in the death of Jewish terrorist Eden Natan-Zada, who was lynched by an Israeli Arab mob in 2005 will be charged with violent assault rather than murder, it emerged on Sunday. AWOL Israel Defense Forces soldier Natan-Zada, 19, was killed after murdering four Israeli Arabs on a bus in the northern town of Shfaram in August 2005, days before Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. The suspects were instructed Sunday to appear at a court hearing on July 13, where they will be indicted. Hadash chairman MK Mohammed Barakeh, slammed the court’s decision to charge the suspects with any sort of crime. "The whole world knows that the citizens of Shfaram were the victims and targets of an abominable massacre," Barakeh said. "I emphasize the need to indict those same military officials that knew of the danger of the terrorist as well those who allowed him a warm home as a army deserter.

Israeli official optimistic on prospects for Gaza truce
Ron Bousso, Daily Star 6/16/2008
Agence France Presse OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: A top Israeli official on Sunday reported "significant progress" toward a possible truce with the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, although it would not include the release of a captured soldier. "There has been significant progress in the negotiations on the cease-fire agreement," the official said on condition of anonymity, adding: "The release of Gilad Shalit will not be part of the cease-fire agreement. " Shalit was captured nearly two years ago in a joint raid by three militant groups, including the armed wing of Hamas, and has since been held at a secret location in the densely populated territory. A Hamas delegation was in Cairo on Sunday to receive Israel’s response to the truce proposal from Egyptian security chief Omar Suleiman, who heads the mediation efforts.

Hamas and Israeli official agree: Shalit release not part of calm
Palestine News Network 6/15/2008
PNN -- An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Sunday that any agreement of ’calm’ between Hamas and the Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip has nothing to do with the captured soldier. Gilad Shalit was captured in June 2006 while invading the southern Gaza Strip. He is the only Israeli prisoner that the Palestinians have. The Israelis have some 11,000 Palestinians. Hamas leader Mahmoud Az Zahaar said that the only way Shalit will be released is as part of a prisoner exchange, a position that Hamas has not faltered from for years. The Israeli source said, "Considerable progress has been made in negotiations to reach a cease-fire agreement, the period of "calm," but the release of Gilad Shalit will not be part of the agreement. "He said that the results of the negotiations will be undertaken in two phases, if the negotiations turn out to be successful.

UN: Israel restricting our Palestinian staff in West Bank
Reuters, Ha’aretz 6/16/2008
Israel has tightened rules for Palestinian staff of the United Nations who travel in and out of the occupied West Bank, increasing tensions with the world body, internal UN emails and aid workers said on Sunday. The Israel Defense Forces informed UN officials in Jerusalem that Palestinians using the main checkpoint for the West Bank city of Ramallah were required to cross on foot through a terminal for inspection rather than drive through in their UN vehicles, a UN email said. The message, sent to employees last week and obtained byon Sunday, directed Palestinian staff members to use another crossing. UN Palestinian staff have also been asked at three checkpoints to sign a form used by police in conducting searches and making arrests. Another internal UN email told staff not to sign the form.

Israel says Shalit part of any ceasefire agreement
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 6/15/2008
Officials in Jerusalem refute reports saying Israel persuaded to separate demand to release kidnapped solider from negotiations on truce with Palestinian terror groups. Olmert to meet with Arad family, inform them of possibility that Kuntar will be released as part of prisoner exchange deal with Hizbullah - Officials in Jerusalem clarified on Sunday that the release of Gilad Shalit is a prerequisite to any future ceasefire agreement with Palestinian terror groups in Gaza, thus refuting recent reports suggesting that Egyptian intelligence chief General Omar Suleiman persuaded Israel to separate the demand to release the kidnapped solider from the negotiations. Truce NegotiationsReport: Israel persuaded not to include Shalit in truce deal / Ali Waked London-based paper reports Israel persuaded to separate demand for release of kidnapped soldier from truce negotiations.

Médecins du Monde working in Gaza despite blockade
Ma’an News Agency 6/15/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The Medical coordinator of the French organization Médecins du Monde MDM ("Doctors of the World") in the Gaza Strip, Dr Ahmad Abu Tair said on Sunday that his organization has delivering aid to the Gaza Strip despite Israel’s blockade of the territory. Since MDM began working in Gaza in 2002, it has been offering treatment, medicine, supplies, and assistance in evacuating the wounded to hospitals during Israeli incursions. He explained that MDM recently provided the X-ray department to Ash-Shifa Hospital in Gaza with 20 vests to protect health workers from the rays. Abu Tair said that Israeli authorities at first prohibited the import of the protective vests, alleging that they could be used in hostile activity. However, after MDM made contact with the Israeli government, the vests were allowed into Gaza.

Rice scolds Israel for adding to colonies in East Jerusalem
Sylvie Lanteaume, Daily Star 6/16/2008
Agence France Presse RAMALLAH, Occupied West Bank: US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned on Sunday that Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories must not block any final Middle East peace agreement. "No party should be taking steps at this point that could prejudice the outcome of the negotiations," Rice told reporters after meeting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. "The US will not consider these activities to affect any final-status negotiations including final borders," she said about the expansion of Israeli settlements in the Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. Israel decided last week to build another 1,300 houses for Jewish settlers in occupied and illegally annexed East Jerusalem, infuriating the Palestinians who want the mostly Arab sector of the city as their future capital.

Rights group: Shin Bet lied about interrogations
Shahar Ilan, Ha’aretz 6/16/2008
A human rights group has accused the Shin Bet of giving false information about its method of interrogating suspects, in order to prevent its procedures from being documented. According to attorney Eliyahu Avram of the Public Committee against Torture, the Shin Bet’s alleged prevarication came to light when one of its officials told the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on Tuesday that it carried out its interrogations with police. Prior to this, the security organization had claimed that police were not present during interrogations in order to bypass a law that requires documenting procedures, Avram said. "I was surprised they admitted it," Avram said. "They claimed at an earlier hearing that there were two different stages of interrogation. Now they are saying the opposite: that it’s a joint interrogation. "

Rice to Israel: ’Extremely important’ to grant exit visas to Gaza Fulbright students
Reuters, Ha’aretz 6/16/2008
U. S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Sunday it was "extremely important" Israel allow three Palestinians to leave the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip to take up prestigious U. S. fellowships. Earlier this year the U. S. government was embarrassed when it became public it had withdrawn Fulbright fellowships for seven Gaza students because Israel had not granted them exit permits from the blockaded territory. Israel tightened its cordon of the Gaza Strip after the Hamas Islamist group took control there nearly a year ago. Israel gives few Palestinians, other than some who are gravely ill, permission to leave. After media reports about the students’ case, the United States restored the fellowships and formally asked Israel to allow them to leave Gaza. Israel subsequently allowed four of seven Palestinians to leave Gaza to apply. . . .

Olmert denies large-scale military operation in Gaza imminent
Ma’an News Agency 6/15/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli press sources reported that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Sunday that the security cabinet has decided not to undertake a military operation in the Gaza Strip at this stage, and will instead pursue a ceasefire agreement without political considerations. Olmert added that recent reports concerning an imminent large-scale Israeli military operation in Gaza are without any basis. He also commented that statements made last weekend by Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak, which linked the issue of a ceasefire to internal elections in the Kadima party, had delayed a decision on the truce. At the same time, Olmert stressed at the weekly Israeli cabinet session on Sunday that continued rocket fire from the Gaza Strip will not be tolerated. Olmert expressed his hope that the security cabinet decision would stop what he described as "terrorism," but. . .

Olmert: Barak delaying Gaza op
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 6/15/2008
PM rebuts Barak’s accusations suggesting decision on Kadima primaries is behind postponement of Gaza incursion, shifts blame back to defense ministry. ’Barak only one preventing operation,’ says Olmert -Prime Minister Ehud Olmert slammed Defense Minister Ehud Barak Sunday, saying "he is the only one preventing a Gaza operation. If he were to support such an incursion - we would go for it. " Olmert’s remark came in view of a statement made by Barak on Friday, saying it was the pending decision on the Kadima primaries that is preventing a decision on a military operation in the Strip. Barak’s aides said in response that the defense minister is doing all he can to push for a ceasefire in order to secure Gilad Shalit’s safe return. "We cannot repeat the mistake made with

Israeli authorities release PLC deputy Mariam Salih after seven months imprisonment
Ma’an News Agency 6/15/2008
Bethlehem – Tulkarem – Ma’an – Israeli authorities released Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) member Dr Mariam Salih on Sunday afternoon, after holding her for seven months in administrative detention. The freed detainee was received by her children and a number of Palestinian journalists and citizens at the Jabar military checkpoint south of Tulkarem. Salih told journalists that she carried a message from female Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails demanding intervention for their immediate release. She stressed that her fellow prisoners are eagerly awaiting the moment of their release from Israeli prisons. She added, "Palestinian woman are strong and dignified, and should not be detained as prisoners in Israeli jails. " A member of the PLC representing the Hamas-affiliated "Change and Reform" bloc, Salih is 54 years old.

Masri: Hamas will never agree to a gratis calm
Palestinian Information Center 6/15/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement on Sunday asserted that it would never agree to calm with the "Zionist occupation" unless the latter accepted the conditions set by the resistance factions. MP Mushir Al-Masri, the secretary of Hamas’s parliamentary bloc, said in a press statement that the ball was now in the Israeli court, affirming that his Movement would not retreat from its position under Zionist pressures. He said that Hamas had clearly announced its stand regarding calm mainly that it should be coupled with ending aggression and siege on Gaza. Israel would bear the consequences of its choice either calm or escalation, Masri said, adding that Hamas alongside all resistance factions are ready for all options. The lawmaker reiterated his Movement’s rejection to link between calm and the prisoners’ swap issue.

Abbas condemns Israeli settlement expansion, Rice deflects statement, US ups military aid to Israel
Palestine News Network 6/15/2008
Ramallah / PNN - President Abbas met with US Secretary of State Rice on Sunday during her third recent visit to the region. She has, according to many observers, not helped even at the simplest level of a single point in negotiations. President Abbas stressed during a joint press conference after the Ramallah meeting that the biggest obstacle to any "peace process" is Israeli settlement expansion and building. Rice responded by saying, "It is something that must be discussed during the negotiations with Israel. "All Israeli settlements exist in direct contravention to international law and the President is not keeping silent on the issue as East Jerusalem’s Beit Hanina is loosing thousands more acres for Ramot settlement and the Israelis announced they would add 1,300 new units. Rice seemed to be referring to the settlements when she but expressed regret for the existence of decisions that have negative affects on these negotiations.

Yesha council: Rice comments ’impertinent and shameless’
Efrat Weiss, YNetNews 6/15/2008
Visiting US secretary of state’s harsh condemnation of settlement construction draws ire of Yesha council, though mostly against Israeli leadership. Council chairman: ’Israel has been spat at in the face and the government treats it as raindrops’ - Israel’s Right is up in arms over statements made by visiting US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who earlier on Sunday said that Washington does not consider current building efforts as belonging to Israel. Danny Dayan, chairman of the Yesha council, called Rice’s rhetoric "impertinent and shameless. "Dayan also had harsh words the Israeli government’s lack of response. "An ambassador for a foreign country comes to Jerusalem and scolds Israel for providing housing for its citizens at the heart of its capital city. But the blame lies with (Prime Minister) Olmert and (Foreign Affairs Minister) Livni, who consent to this.

Yishai: Jerusalem no different from Washington
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 6/15/2008
Deputy prime minister slams US secretary of state’s statements condemning housing project in Jerusalem neighborhood. ’Rice wouldn’t ask for anyone’s permission to build anything in the United States,’ he tells Ynet - "What would it look like if someone told the US administration that it had no authority to develop Washington," Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) told Ynet on Sunday following harsh statements made by visiting US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice against construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. An outraged Yishai said Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem was no different than American’s over Washington D. C. Any attempt to smother development efforts had no legitimacy, said Yishai. "Any construction in Israel is legal, and policy rhetoric hasn’t the power to turn entire communities and regions into something imaginary," he said.

Israel sanctions construction of 40,000 housing units in occupied Jerusalem
Palestinian Information Center 6/15/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSASLEM, (PIC)-- The Israeli-controlled municipality of occupied Jerusalem has sanctioned a plan tabled by its mayor Uri Lupolianski to build around 40,000 housing units in a number of suburbs in the holy city. Lupolianski told the Hebrew radio on Sunday that Jerusalem is not a settlement and that construction would continue in all its suburbs in order to encourage Israeli youths to settle in it. He elaborated that the new units would be established in the suburbs of Tur, Eisawia, and Sha’fat in addition to the settlement suburbs of Jilo and Ramot. The Hebrew daily Ha’aretz had quoted a report by IR AMIM, a society dealing with Israeli-Palestinian relations in Jerusalem, as revealing that Israel had authorized the construction of 7,974 housing units since the Annapolis conference in November 2007 other than the ones announced today.

PM aides: Direct talks with Syria possible soon
Barak Ravid and Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 6/16/2008
Israel and Syria will soon be able to hold direct talks, according to aides of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert involved in the two countries’ indirect negotiations. Shalom Turgeman, Olmert’s chief diplomatic aide, told foreign diplomats that talks which have so far been conducted via Turkish mediation may soon move to another stage. Turgeman said he does not believe the talks will be affected by the latest corruption investigation against Olmert. Israel and Syria announced last month that they were resuming negotiations using Turkish mediators. Turgeman and another Olmert adviser, Yoram Turbowicz, have taken part in a number of meetings in Istanbul over moving the negotiations forward, but no progress has been announced. Talks in Turkey may resume at the end of the week. Syrian President Bashar Assad gave a lengthy interview to the newspaper The Hindu published Friday and made comments on the talks.

Assad: Israel wants to talk due to war failures
Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 6/16/2008
Damascus suspects Israel decided to return to negotiations due to its failings in the Second Lebanon War and the realization that it could not live securely among its neighbors without peace, Syrian President Bashar Assad told an Indian newspaper. "The Israelis used to think that with time they were going to be stronger and any opposition to their policies would be weaker, but actually what happened was the opposite," Assad told The Hindu, in an interview published Friday. "Now, the Israelis learned that without peace they cannot live safely and Israel cannot be safe. " "I think this is true especially after the war on Lebanon and because of the result of that war inside the Israeli society; this is the main incentive for the Israelis to move toward peace," he added. Assad also said that Israel never asked Syria to cut its relations with Hamas, Hezbollah or Iran as a precondition for peace negotiations.

Number of people denied entry into Israel up 61 percent since 2005
Shahar Ilan, Ha’aretz 6/16/2008
The number of people who have been refused entry into Israel rose by 61 percent in two years, from 1,828 in 2005 to 2,941 in 2007, according to the Interior Ministry’s Population Administration. The Central Bureau of Statistics, meanwhile, shows a rise in the number of entries into Israel during that period, but by a much smaller rate of only 19 percent - from 1. 92 million entries to 2. 29 million. The Entry to Israel Law grants the Interior Minister extensive powers to prevent foreigners from entering the country. It does not require the minister to elaborate on the reason for the refusal, but it is assumed that most people refused entry were those the authorities feared would remain here illegally either to seek work or join family members from the former Soviet Union.

Farmers for slavery
Ruth Sinai, Ha’aretz 6/16/2008
Over 12 million people, including millions of children, are sold into slavery and prostitution every year, according to a U. S. State Department report published last week. The report, which is published annually, also ranks countries according to the efforts they undertake to fight the phenomenon. The list indicates that while Israel has been making such efforts, they have not been sufficient. The report accuses Israel, among others, of allowing middlemen to charge fees amounting to small fortunes for bringing foreign workers into the country. As a result, these workers find themselves caught in what is known as debt bondage - they become indebted to agents, employers, banks and the gray market. Hundreds of thousands of workers have been brought to Israel via this system over the years, thereby making hundreds of millions of dollars for their foreign and Israeli agents.

Lebanon terrorist’s lawyer: No word to us on imminent release
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 6/16/2008
The attorney representing jailed Lebanese terrorist Samir Kuntar told Haaretz on Sunday that his client has not received any information regarding his imminent release, despite reports to the contrary circulating over recent weeks. Kuntar is serving multiple life sentences for killing four Israelis in a 1979 infiltration of an apartment building in northern Israel. Among the victims were a 28-year-old man and his four-year-old daughter, whose head Kuntar repeatedly smashed against a rock before crushing her skull with a rifle butt. Her mother, who was hiding in a crawl space, accidentally smothered her other daughter to death while trying to silence the two-year-old’s cries. A senior government official confirmed earlier Sunday that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has concluded that Israel should swap the perpetrator of this particularly. . .

EU ready to boost Israel ties, wants peace progress
Reuters, YNetNews 6/15/2008
Diplomats say member states agree on readiness to enhance ties with Israel in social policy, access to the EU market and regulatory issues, but will also urge Jewish state to make progress on Mideast peace -European Union states will say on Monday they are ready to deepen ties with Israel but will urge the Jewish state to make progress on Middle East peace, diplomats said. EU foreign ministers are expected to give the green light to the upgrade at talks in Luxembourg, hours before a scheduled meeting there with Israeli counterpart Tzipi Livni. Diplomats said EU member states had agreed a text on their readiness to enhance ties with Israel in social policy, access to the EU market and regulatory issues, including reference to the need for progress in peace steps with the Palestinians. The wording of any linkage between moves to deepen ties and progress in the peace process was not immediately available.

EU backs Israel upgrade, but differs on peace link
Middle East Online 6/15/2008
BRUSSELS - European Union states support upgrading relations with Israel but some want the move to be linked to progress on Middle East peace, EU diplomats said before talks with Israel on Monday. Diplomats said all EU member states supported the idea of upgrading relations with Israel in areas such as social policy, regulatory issues and access to the EU single market. "The point of disagreement has been whether and to what extent to link closer EU ties to progress in the Middle East Peace Process," one EU diplomat said, adding that envoys would seek to overcome differences before EU foreign ministers meet their Israeli counterpart Tzipi Livni in Luxembourg. Last year Israel proposed a range of possible upgrades in relations, including regular summits of EU and Israeli leaders, and meetings with EU sectoral ministers in addition to the current single annual session at foreign minister level.

Palestinian economy minister: occupation is main obstacle to economic development
Ma’an News Agency 6/15/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – Palestinian Minister of National Economy Kamal Hassouna said on Sunday that the Israeli occupation is the main cause of the deterioration of the economy in the Palestinian territories. At a press conference in Ramallah, Hassouna said that Israel is attempting to deprive the Palestinians of their natural resources and the benefits of their own capabilities. If the Palestinian people lose control over their economic and social destiny, he said, they will automatically lose their right to political determination. "We realize that economics and politics can’t be separated since they are interrelated. Despite the fact that economic development in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are the cornerstone of the peace process, the basic development in the Palestinian economy which followed the peace process has begun to retreat as unemployment rates increased and poverty rates as well," Hassouna said.

Programming for peace / Israeli hi-tech companies outsource to West Bank
Guy Grimland, TheMarker Correspondent, Ha’aretz 6/16/2008
After turning to China, India, Eastern Europe and ultra-Orthodox Israeli women as low-cost sources of software programmers, some local tech companies have begun outsourcing their coding needs to West Bank Palestinians. John Bryce Training, the training and deployment division of Matrix, is currently negotiating with the managing director of ASAL Technologies, Murad Tahboub. The company is based in El Bireh and provides software development services to companies and organizations the world over. And Cisco Systems Israel is also planning to hire about 20 Palestinian information technology workers. Meanwhile, seven Palestinian engineers are already working for the Israeli design center of the chip manufacturer Winbond Electronics Corporation, which also trained them. They work out of ASAL’s Ramallah offices.

Haneyya: We strive for a mechanism to ensure the success of dialog
Palestinian Information Center 6/15/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- In a press conference held in Gaza, Ismail Haneyya, the premier of the PA caretaker government, stated that his government and the Hamas Movement do not seek to hold bilateral meetings with the Fatah faction as much as they are striving for a mechanism to create an appropriate atmosphere for the success of national dialog.  In his reply to the questions of journalists, Haneyya said that he sent a message to PA chief Mahmoud Abbas telling him that Hamas may take unanticipated favorable steps if he let the dialog begin. The premier underlined that the dialog should address all aspects of the crisis without overriding any issues or postponing them after the signing especially the security institution which triggered the events in the Palestinian arena, adding that the Arab sponsorship for any agreement between Hamas and Fatah must take place even after the signing to ensure the parties’ commitment.

Haniyeh: On unity, Abbas changed his tone, not his attitude
Ma’an News Agency 6/15/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The Prime Minister of the Hamas-led de facto government in the Gaza Strip, Isma’il Haniyeh, said on Sunday that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of Fatah, has yet to back up his call for dialogue between the rival Palestinian movements. "President Abbas’ attitude has not changed; there was change in his tone only, and we welcomed that new tone since we want to see the glass as half full," Haniyeh said. He added that he sent a message to president Abbas two weeks ago reading, "We will surprise you with steps that you don’t expect if we begin dialogue. " With regard to President Abbas, Haniyeh said, "We hope an agreement [between Hamas and Fatah] will be reached before the end of his term, and if not, we will decide what to do. We will not discuss what to do six months earlier. " As for a ceasefire with the Israelis, he said, "It is dependent on Israeli behavior.

MP Mousa: Dahalan isn’t eligible to sit for national dialogue
Palestinian Information Center 6/15/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Deputy-head of Hamas’s parliamentary bloc in the PA legislature MP Yahya Mousa has accused Sunday certain parties and media outlets in Fatah faction of attempting to abort the call for national dialogue by suggesting the name of Mohammed Dahalan for that dialogue. Dahalan was one of the main leaders and financiers of the mutiny trend in Fatah faction that spread corruption and crime in the Gaza Strip before Hamas Movement put an end to his suspicious activities, and routed that trend out of the Strip a year ago. "The attempt of certain parties and media outlets in Fatah faction to present Dahalan as a man for national dialogue was a provocative act that meant to poison the atmosphere of the national dialogue", asserted Mousa in an interview with the Quds Press. The Hamas’s political figure, furthermore, explained that Dahalan had accepted to become " a tool in the. . .

Hamas, Fatah prisoners call for expediting dialogue
Palestinian Information Center 6/15/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Fatah and Hamas prisoners in the Israeli Negev jail have called on their movements to expedite opening national dialogue to avert more dissension in the Palestinian arena and not to allow foreign intervention in the issue. The prisoners blessed the call by PA chief Mahmoud Abbas to restore national unity and to open comprehensive, national dialogue. They also appreciated the immediate positive response of the Hamas Movement as voiced by Ismail Haneyya, the premier of the PA caretaker government. In a statement leaked from prison on Saturday, they called on Arab and Muslim brothers and friends all over the world to patronize the dialogue and ensure its success. They also hoped that the dialogue would be serious and effective leading to implementation of all initiatives tabled by the Arab brothers. The prisoners asked all Palestinian factions and loyalists to start. . .

Disunity worsens Gaza plight
Al Jazeera 6/14/2008
One year after Hamas, the Palestinian movement, seized control of the Gaza Strip from President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party, leaders say Palestinian unity remains an elusive dream. Ghazi Hamad, a senior aide to Ismail Haniya, the leader of Hamas in Gaza, has acknowledged that the infighting has damaged the Palestinian cause. "This is a catastrophe, a disaster. We have to go back to national unity," Hamad said on Saturday. On the first anniversary of the Hamas takeover, Palestinian newspaper colunmists echoed similar sentiments, calling on leaders to settle their differences through talks. Hussein Hijazi, a columnist with the Palestinian Al Ayam newspaper, said: "It is clear today that the sharp polarisation between the two historic forces, Hamas and Fatah, has to be resolved. . .

Reporters Without Borders: EU must pressure Israel to investigate death of Fadil Shana’a
Ma’an News Agency 6/15/2008
Ma’an – Bethlehem – The press freedom group Reporters Without Borders (RWB) released a letter calling on the EU to raise the issue of Israeli attacks on journalists in the Palestinian territories at the Israel-EU Association Council meeting in Luxembourg on Monday 16 June 2008. The letter to European Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner was prompted by RWB’s concern that two months after Reuters cameraman Fadil Shana’a was killed by an Israeli tank shell in Gaza, the Israeli military has yet to release the results of its investigation into his death. Reporters Without Borders noted that as part of the EU-Israel Association Agreement, Israel committed itself to respecting international human rights and humanitarian law, and to investigating and prosecuting violations. However, Israeli authorities show no sign of readiness to initiate proceedings against the. . .

Israeli forces seize Palestinian lawyer in Jenin
Ma’an News Agency 6/15/2008
Jenin – Ma’an – Israeli forces seized a Palestinian lawyer from the northern West Bank city of Jenin on Sunday, Palestinian security sources said. The sources told Ma’an’s reporter that more than 15 Israeli military vehicles invaded the city at dawn, shooting into the air and detonating sonic bombs. The soldiers ransacked homes of residents Ghazi As-Sa’di and Tariq Abu Ghalia and several other homes before they seized lawyer Farid Hawwash from his home. Sources said the Israeli soldiers surrounded Hawwash’s house and ordered the family through loudspeakers to leave the house. The soldiers destroyed the interior of the house. Hawwash is a lawyer who works for an office that defends Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons and detention centers.

Foundation laid for museum of Palestinian history and culture in Bethlehem
Ma’an News Agency 6/15/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Funds donated by Norway and the United Nations will transform the musty basement of a cultural center in the West Bank city of Bethlehem into a museum of Palestinian cultural heritage, Palestinian and international officials pledged on Sunday. UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura, who ended a two-day visit to Palestine on Sunday, joined Bethlehem Mayor Victor Batarseh and Governor Salah Ta’mari in the basement of Bethlehem’s Peace Center, which neighbors the Nativity Church for a stone-laying ceremony for the planned museum. The Palestinian Minister of Tourism and Antiquities was sent to represent Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who was busy meeting with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Norway donated 700,000 US dollars for the project. Mayor Batarseh, noting that an additional half million more are needed, appealed to Norway for the rest of the money.

Izbat at Tabib threatened with a collective punishment
International Womens’ Peace Service 6/15/2008
Place: Izbat at Tabib, Qalqilia - Date of incident: 13 June 2008 - Witnesses: Villagers - Description of incident: On June 13 at approximately 3 p. m. four Israeli military jeeps entered into the village of Izbat at Tabib. According to the mayor of Izbat at Tabib, the soldiers invaded several houses under a pretext of looking for unknown stone throwers from the village. Allegedly a settler car on the settler by-pass road, in front of the village, had been hit by a stone thrown from the village. Families in the invaded houses were disturbed and frightened by the Israeli soldiers threatening them and demanding to know who the alleged stone throwers might be. [end]

LEBANON: Refugee children chronicle life in camps
Nourhan Khaled el-Sabeh/IRIN, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 6/16/2008
A girl on the roof of a house in a refugee campBEIRUT, 15 June 2008 (IRIN) - A photograph of the sea, perfectly framed by the ragged window of a gutted building, illustrates the contrasts of Lebanon. Hanging in Medina Theatre as part of an exhibition in Beirut’s fashionable Hamra district, it could easily be the work of a professional. But the photographer is seven-year-old Manah Moustafa Diab from Rashidieh, one of the 12 camps for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. The picture, along with the 70 others that make up the exhibition, and accompanying book "˜Lahza’ (meaning ’glimpse’ in Arabic) are the result of a project run by Lebanese non-governmental organisation (NGO) Zakira aimed at highlighting the conditions of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. The organisers selected. . .

Armed Palestinian groups claim responsibility for projectile attack
Ma’an News Agency 6/15/2008
Gaza - Ma’an - The Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, the armed wing of the left-wing Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and the An-Nasser Brigades, the armed wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, claimed responsibility on Sunday for attacking the Israeli city of Ashkelon with two homemade projectiles fired from the Gaza Strip. The Brigades affirmed in a statement that the attacks were in response to "the Israeli escalation and massacres against the Palestinians. " [end]

Brigades claim responsibility for firing homemade rockets at Sderot
Ma’an News Agency 6/15/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The National Resistance Brigades and the Al-Aqsa Brigades, the military wings of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) and Fatah parties respectively, on Sunday evening announced firing two homemade rockets at the Israeli town of Sderot in the western Negev. The brigades told Ma’an in a joint statement that this shelling came as a response to the Israeli daily attacks on Palestinians. [end]

VIDEO - Israeli farmers try to block transport of goods to Gaza
YNetNews 6/15/2008
More than 100 farmers from Gaza-vicinity communities rally near Sufa crossing in attempt to block transporting of goods from Israel into Strip to protest ongoing rocket fire (06. 15. 08) Video: infolive. tvAuthor: Ynetnews [end]

Israeli forces have warning system in place
Palestine News Network 6/15/2008
Gaza / PNN -- After an agreement was reached between US President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Olmert to increase military aid to Israel, including fighter planes that defy detection and advanced radar systems, Israeli radio reported Sunday morning that they now have projectile detectors and warning systems in place. Israeli forces have killed over 20 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip in the last two weeks. Meanwhile, Israelis are protesting against a small shipment of fuel and food that is being allowed in through the Sofa Crossing to the 1. 5 million residents living under closure. The "southern region command" of the Israeli military has begun to operate a warning system is a mortar is launched toward military installation or if projectiles are launched by the armed resistance from the Gaza Strip toward the surrounding Israeli settlements.

IDF to withdraw new recruits from Zikim
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 6/16/2008
Army says decision unrelated to Qassam threat -The army is preparing to remove all new recruits from the Zikim base near Gaza within several short months, Ynet has learned. IDF officials denied decision is unrelated to the threat of Qassam rockets from the Gaza Strip, even though the Zikim base has already been struck in the past. Other troops will be stationed at the base, the army said. The final decision on the matter was made several days ago in a meeting chaired by IDF Deputy Chief of Staff, Maj. Gen. Dan Harel. The proposal to stop training recruits at Zikim is part of a wider program seeking to minimize the number of younger soldiers in the ’archetypal’ recruit bases. The new policy would see soldiers being assigned directly to their designated units immediately after being drafted, and those units would also be responsible for their basic training.

Meeting in Jordan on current regional projects bringing representatives from throughout the world
Palestine News Network 6/15/2008
Jordan / PNN -- Along the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea are five-star resorts, hotels, checkpoints and men with mirrored contraptions to check underneath cars before allowing some entrance into the parking lots of the hotels. There are also public sidewalks and beaches where the less wealthy set up barbeques and chairs, spending the days there, next to the salty sea. The swimmers, or floaters rather, hope only to keep the salt out of their eyes as they cover themselves in the plentiful mud that goes for far too much money in Europe and the United States. But this is also the site of several conferences, popular with the Jordanians and their guests. Today, Sunday, is no different as three-days get underway. This is a regional conference to study ways of consolidating cooperation between the Palestinians, Jordanians and Israelis in the areas of agriculture, tourism, energy, industry and infrastructure.

Rhetoric and reality: the Iraqi refugee crisis
Amnesty International - AI, ReliefWeb 6/15/2008
1. Introduction - The displacement crisis caused by the US-led invasion of Iraq and the subsequent internal armed conflict has reached shocking proportions. Millions of people at risk – Sunni and Shi’a Muslims, Christians, Mandean-Sabeans, Palestinians and others – have fled their homes and most are now struggling to survive. The crisis for Iraq’s refugees and internally displaced is one of tragic proportions. Despite this, the world’s governments have done little or nothing to help, failing both in their moral duty and in their legal obligation to share responsibility for displaced people wherever they are. Apathy towards the crisis has been the overwhelming response. Governments have tried to promote a brighter interpretation of the situation in Iraq and the displacement crisis to justify their lack of response.

Study: Israelis rank fourth in list of world workaholics
Moti Bassok TheMarker Correspondent, Ha’aretz 6/16/2008
Five percent of Israeli salaried workers earning more than NIS 30 per hour work more than 60 hours a week, a study compiled by the Bank of Israel found. The incidence of 60 hour or more work weeks in Israel is higher than in all but three OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) member states. Of the 30 OECD members, only South Korea, Japan and Mexico have a higher incidence of work hours, the study revealed. The phenomenon characterizes mainly educated Jewish males between the ages of 35 and 44. They are employed mostly as managers (18 percent), academics (23 percent) and engineers or technicians (21 percent). Many of them work in public service, in hi-tech and research and development. The study, which is slated to be included in a publication named "financial developments of recent months," concludes. . .

Shfaram residents blast state for ’turning the victims into the accused’
Jack Khoury, Ha’aretz 6/16/2008
Shfaram residents and Arab MKs slammed the judicial system yesterday for planning to indict Israeli Arabs accused of lynching Jewish terrorist Eden Natan-Zada after he opened fire on a bus heading toward Shfaram in August 2005, killing four and wounding 14. Twelve suspects in Natan-Zada’s death were instructed yesterday to appear at a court hearing on July 13, where they will be charged with violent assault. It emerged yesterday that prosecutors had decided against charging them with murder. Faiza Turki, whose two daughters were killed in the attack, said the Shfaram residents should not be punished for acting in self-defense. "My wound is still bleeding, but nonetheless, such a decision just adds pain," Turki said with tears in her eyes. "If they want to indict someone, they should indict the government and the army, those who let a deserter with the most radical views wander around freely with a gun, and not the residents of Shfaram.

Natan-Zada family: Those responsible for Eden’s death should be charged with murder
Yuval Azoulay, Ha’aretz 6/16/2008
Family members of Eden Natan-Zada, who was lynched by an Israeli Arab mob in 2005 after he killed four passengers on a bus in the northern town of Shfaram, condemned the decision by the State Prosecutor’s Office not to indict the people who killed Natan-Zada for murder. The lawyer representing Natan-Zada’s family said the parents, Yitzhak and Dvora, heard about the decision not to indict the 12 Shfaram suspects for murder through the media. "A murder was perpetrated here," attorney Yaakov Menken said. "We are outraged because Eden never went there to kill himself and it isn’t at all certain that he shot the people who got shot. He did not deserve to die at the hands of an angry mob. "The father, Yitzhak, complained about the police performance in the case. "Why did they cuff him and put him on the bus, at the mercy of the crowd," he said in a radio interview yesterday.

Haifa prosecution considering new indictments in death of Eden Natan Zada
Ahiya Raved, YNetNews 6/15/2008
Haifa District Prosecution subpoenas 12 men allegedly involved in lynching Zada, who killed 4 people in Shfaram in 2005. ’If prosecution indicts they’ll have riots on their hands,’ warns Balad chair -The Haifa District Prosecution subpoenaed Sunday 12 of Shfaram’s residents to a pre-trial hearing in connection with the killing of IDF soldier Eden Natan Zada. Zada, a military deserter, boarded a bus in Shfaram in August of 2005 and began shooting its passengers, killing four people and wounding nine, before he was apprehended by some of the passengers. He was later captured by a local mob and beaten to death. [end]

Israel awaiting Egypt’s answer to remaining issues of Gaza truce deal
Amos Harel Avi Issacharoff and Fadi Eyadat, Ha’aretz 6/16/2008
Israel is awaiting Egypt’s answer to the remaining questions regarding the temporary cease-fire, the tahadiyeh, between Israel and Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip. The Egyptian reply is expected later this week. A Hamas delegation from Gaza held talks over the past two days in Cairo with the heads of Egyptian intelligence. Israel and Egypt have yet to finalize two issues: Defining the connection between the tahadiyeh and a deal for the release of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, and determining the degree of Egypt’s commitment to countering arms smuggling from Sinai into Gaza. Defense sources in Israel said Sunday night that "it is important to understand that the meaning of the agreement with the Egyptians is that within several days after the cease-fire goes into effect, intensive negotiations begin over Gilad Shalit’s release.

Sources: Israel agrees in principle to cease-fire proposal with Hamas
Amos Harel Yossi Melman Avi Issacharoff and Yuval Azoulay, Ha’aretz 6/16/2008
Israel has agreed in principle to an Egyptian-mediated proposal for a cease-fire and the opening of intensive talks for the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, security and government sources said yesterday. The sources said that Defense Ministry official Major General (res. ) Amos Gilad has relayed Israel’s positions to Egyptian intelligence chief General Omar Suleiman. A delegation of Hamas leaders is to meet today in Cairo with Suleiman to hear Israel’s position. The delegation is headed by the Damascus-based deputy chief of Hamas’ political wing, Musa Abu Marzuk, and senior Hamas leaders from Gaza. According to the outlines of the deal, Egypt will announce that Hamas and the other armed groups in Gaza have decided on a cease-fire, and Israel will stop responding to fire from Gaza.

VIDEO - News / Olmert: Kadima affairs aren’t blocking Gaza cease-fire
Haaretz Staff and Channel 10, Ha’aretz 6/16/2008
Haaretz. com/Channel 10 news roundup for June 15, 2008. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert rejects allegations that Kadima affairs are standing in the way of a Gaza cease-fire. Government officials head to Turkey for a second round of peace talks with Syria. Israeli Arab suspects in the death of Jewish terrorist Eden Natan-Zada won’t face murder charges. [end]

Khudari: Europe bears great responsibility for breaking the siege
Palestinian Information Center 6/15/2008
ROME, (PIC)-- MP Jamal Al-Khudari, the head of the popular committee against the siege, stated in Italy that Europe bears great responsibility for breaking the Israeli siege by virtue of its influential role in the international decisions, stressing the importance of activating the anti-siege activities at the popular and political levels. In an address at a rally in the Italian city of Siena, MP Khudari underlined that such public meetings come in the forefront of priorities aimed at supporting the steadfastness and fortitude of the Palestinian people and showing solidarity with the besieged Gaza people. The rally was attended by hundreds of people including mayors and members of municipal councils in addition to politicians and activists working for pro-Palestinian organizations in Italy. The Palestinian lawmaker explained to the audience the challenges that the Palestinian cause is facing especially the siege.

Hamas leaders to discuss truce with Israel in Cairo
Ma’an News Agency 6/15/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Senior Hamas officials are scheduled to meet with Egyptian intelligence chief ’Umar Sulaiman in Cairo on Sunday in order to hear Israel’s response in the latest round of ceasefire negotiations. Hamas’ delegation will include the deputy head of Hamas politburo in exile, Mousa Abu Marzouq, and another member of the politburo, Muhammad Nasr. Sulaiman has been attempting to mediate a ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian groups, led by Hamas, in Gaza since February. Knowledgeable Egyptian sources told the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper that Israel agreed in principal to accept the Egyptian ceasefire proposal. They added that Egypt promised the Israelis to broker a prisoner exchange deal as soon as a ceasefire is reached. According to the same sources, the Egypt also told the Hamas leadership that they will consider opening the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza.

Abu Marzouk: Israeli threats aim at terrorizing Palestinians
Palestinian Information Center 6/15/2008
DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- Dr. Mousa Abu Marzouk, deputy chairman of the Hamas political bureau, has ruled out an Israeli large-scale invasion of the Gaza Strip, opining that Israeli military threats were meant to terrorize the Strip. He said in a press statement on Saturday that the Israeli occupation forces might launch "qualitative, painful strikes" against resistance factions but would not risk a long confrontation with the Hamas Movement in the Strip. The Hamas leader said that the high population density in Gaza and the defensive preparations by the Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, would make Israel think twice before sending its troops into the Strip. Shifting to the issue of internal dialogue, Abu Marzouk called on PA chief Mahmoud Abbas and his entourage not to put hurdles before the dialogue, stressing that it should be direct and unconditional.

Herzog: Calm with Gaza best available option
Palestinian Information Center 6/15/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Yitzhak Herzog, an Israeli cabinet minister, has said that a calm agreement with the Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip is presently the best possible option before his government. The minister said in a radio interview on Sunday that Hamas was also interested in having calm because it was under pressure. However, Herzog underlined that Israel would resort to a big military offensive against the Strip in the event the situation did not change. He pointed out that the operation might not lead to freeing the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit while calm could achieve progress in this direction. Meanwhile, other Israeli officials continued to voice threats of a large-scale military operation in Gaza. Israel’s deputy war minister Metan Vilnai said on Sunday that a military strike was apparently inevitable against the Strip.

Israel releases senior female Hamas official
Ali Waked, YNetNews 6/15/2008
Dr. Maryam Salah arrested in December 2007, charged with belonging to terror organization. After being released she calls on Arab, Muslim worlds to help free all female Palestinian prisoners - Seven months after being arrested, Hamas’ representative to the Palestinian Legislative Council, Dr. Maryam Salah, was released from Israeli custody on Sunday afternoon. Salah was jailed after being charged with belonging to a terror organization. Speaking with journalists after her release, Salah called for the release of all Palestinian parliamentarians and all Palestinian prisoners in general. She also called on the Arab and Islamic world to work towards securing the release of female prisoners. The conditions of her imprisonment, she said, were catastrophic. Salah served in the first Hamas government as minister of women’s affairs.

Egypt: Iran has ’negative effect’ on Palestinians
Reuters, YNetNews 6/15/2008
Cairo foreign minister accuses Tehran of acting out of motives detrimental to good of Arab world - Egypt sees Iran "on a surge" in the Arab world, playing many political and diplomatic cards regardless of Arab interests, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said in an interview. " The political cards which Iran holds. . . it holds out of a desire to defend Iranian interests. It might be Iran’s right to try, but Egypt has a right to defend Arab territory," he added. "You now find that Iran is on a surge and it imagines that it is able to influence the region. Perhaps they can influence the region, but we always say to our friends in Iran: ’Let the influence on the region be positive,’" he said. Aboul Gheit was speaking to the newspaper Rose El Yousef and the state news agency MENA carried the text on Sunday.

Abbas: Israeli settlements obstructing peace talks
Ma’an News Agency 6/15/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reiterated on Sunday that Israeli settlement construction represents the major obstacle to peace negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. At a press conference in at the presidential compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Abbas nonetheless said that the Palestinian Authority (PA) is committed to the US-backed Road Map plan and the negotiations, in hopes of reaching an agreement before the end of this year. He highlighted Egyptian efforts to broker a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip between Hamas and Israel. Abbas also reiterated his adherence to the Yemeni initiative for talks between his PA and the rival Hamas movement that controls Gaza. Abbas said he believes the ball is now in Hamas’ court after he issued a call for renewed dialogue between the competing factions.

UNESCO director general visits restoration project in Nablus old city
Ma’an News Agency 6/15/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura on Sunday morning visited the UNRWA headquarters in the old city of Nablus to view a refurbishment project funded by the European Union and supervised by UNESCO. The 700,000 Euro project is being implemented by the Nablus municipality, An-Najah National University and the Centre for Developing Society’s Resources. Matsuura told journalists and Ma’an’s reporter that additional money and time would be needed to complete the project. He also emphasized that UNESCO would intensify its work in the Palestinian territories and especially in the old city of Nablus. Matsuura explained that UNESCO strives to support the most important sectors and projects in the Palestinian territories in its areas of expertise. Education, higher education, and culture are top priorities, he said, noting that he updated Palestinian President Mahmoud. . .

Hamas deplores Abbas’s statements following his meeting with Rice
Palestinian Information Center 6/15/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement strongly denounced Sunday PA chief Mahmoud Abbas for the statements he made after meeting US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice in which he said that ball is now in Hamas’s court regarding the dialog issue. In a statement received by the PIC, Dr. Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, stated that the Movement has been keen on dialog since the beginning and Abbas was the one who had always rejected it until he responded to it recently. Dr. Abu Zuhri added that what is required now either an Arab sponsorship of this dialog or an agreement between Hamas and Fatah to initiate this dialog, noting that the Movement has not received any official Arab invitation in this regard. In another context, the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of Fatah, warned Sunday that the meeting between Salam Fayyad, the head of the unconstitutional government in Ramallah,. . .

Hamas: Rice runs a grave project based on creating disputes in the region
Palestinian Information Center 6/15/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement stated Saturday that US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice is leading a dangerous project based on reinforcing disputes and divisions among the peoples and the countries in the region in order for US to be able to seize their capabilities and impose its control over them.   In a press release received by the PIC, Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, underlined that Rice worked on igniting a civil war in the Palestinian arena to liquidate the democratic choice of the Palestinian people in the bud, so her visit to the Palestinian lands will not bring any good for the Palestinians; besides, it always carries a bad omen for them. Barhoum also underscored that the PA chief, Mahmoud Abbas,  will undergo a new test either to succumb to the pressures of the American administration or to work on strengthening the internal front and the Palestinian legitimacies. . .

VIDEO - Rice: Israeli settlement building may harm negotiations
Ronen Medzini, YNetNews 6/15/2008
(Video) US secretary of state arrives in Israel for sixth visit since year’s onset, expected to meet with top Israeli, Palestinian officials. ’Continued settlement activity has potential to harm talks,’ she says - VIDEO - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Sunday Israel’s continued settlement building could hurt Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. Video courtesy of infolive. tv "I am very concerned that at a time when we need to build confidence between the parties, the continued building and the settlement activity has the potential to harm the negotiations going forward," Rice said during a meeting with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in Jerusalem. ReflectionsRice: Hamas’ power must come with responsibility / Yitzhak Benhorin US secretary of state reflects on situation in Gaza, Middle East peace talks, claiming. . .

Rice singles out Israel for the first time for not meeting its Road Map obligations on settlements
Marian Houk, Ma’an News Agency 6/15/2008
Jerusalem - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the Muqata’a Presidential Compound in Ramallah at noon on Sunday. The main message Rice heard from Palestinian officials was a demand, yet again, to put pressure on Israel to stop its settlement activities on occupied Palestinian land. But this is one argument that seems to have been won in advance – though how much pressure will be put, and how effectively, remains in question. In her opening statement at the press conference, Rice said, "It’s important to have an atmosphere of confidence. . . Actions and announcements are having a negative effect. "She did not specify which actions, or which announcements, but from the apparently satisfied reactions of President Abbas and members of his team, it seems she was referring to something Israel had done or said.

Abbas: Settlements biggest obstacle to peace
Associated Press, YNetNews 6/15/2008
US Secretary of State Rice holds press conference in Ramallah, says US administration concerned over effect continued settlement construction has on negotiations - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Sunday that Israeli settlement-building is having a "negative effect" on peace talks with the Palestinians. At a news conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Rice said, "It’s important to have an atmosphere of confidence and trust. "She said Israeli announcements on settlement construction weren’t fostering that kind of atmosphere. Israel announced last week it would build 1,300 new housing units in east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as their future capital. Israel has approved more than 3,000 new apartments for construction in east Jerusalem and the West Bank since peace talks renewed last year.

President Abbas meets with UNESCO’s Director-General
Ma’an News Agency 6/15/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met on Saturday in his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah with the Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura. President Abbas updated Mr. Matsuura on the latest developments in the Palestinian territories, focusing on his efforts to push forward with negotiations with Israel towards a peace agreement. Abbas heard from Matsuura some details about UNESCO’s activities in the Palestinian territories, especially those dedicated to developing educational and cultural institutions in Palestine. Before meeting with Abbas, Matsuura visited the tomb of late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, also in Ramallah. [end]

Israel promises Syria: Talks to proceed despite domestic crises
Barak Ravid and Zvi Bar''el, Ha’aretz 6/16/2008
The negotiations between Israel and Syria through Turkish mediation resumed yesterday in Ankara. Israel is represented in the talks by senior advisers to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Yoram Turbowicz and Shalom Turgeman, who left for Ankara on Saturday night and began talks yesterday. The current round of talks is expected to last until this evening. The two senior Olmert aides will deliver a message to the Syrians that Israel is interested in continuing the talks notwithstanding the complex domestic political situation at home. The departure of the two senior officials to Ankara was not readily apparent since they had been scheduled to attend meetings in Paris in preparation for the visit to Israel of French President Nicolas Sarkozy. However, the absence of the two aides at the cabinet meeting yesterday revealed that their early departure had another purpose.

Syria and Israel aiming for direct talks by next month
Barak Ravid and Zvi Bar''el, Ha’aretz 6/16/2008
The peace talks between Israel and Syria through Turkish mediation resumed on Sunday in Ankara, with negotiators aiming to prepare an agenda for a possible direct meeting next month. Israel is represented in the talks by senior advisers to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Yoram Turbowicz and Shalom Turgeman, who left for Ankara on Saturday night and began talks on Sunday. A senior Turkish source familiar with the talks said that at this stage there is still no talk of a meeting at the highest levels between Olmert and President Bashar Assad. "It is still early to talk about diplomatic agreements between the two sides since there are many technical issues remaining since the previous meeting for which Damascus and Jerusalem offered answers around which the current discussions will revolve," the Turkish source said.

Second round of talks with Syria begins in Turkey
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 6/15/2008
Indirect negotiations between Israel, Syria renewed in Ankara as prime minister’s envoys touch down in Turkey - Senior Israeli representatives are participating on Sunday in a second round of talks with Syrian counterparts through Turkish mediation. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s envoys to the ongoing negotiations - his chief of staff, Yoram Turbowitz, and senior diplomatic advisor, Shalom Turgeman - are currently in Ankara for the resumption of talks. Olmert’s office declined to comment on the report and would not confirm the meeting. The talks resume a mere day after Syrian Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Faisal al-Miqdad warned that Damascus retains several options to reclaim the Golan Heights, including options of a less-than diplomatic nature. In an interview with Jordanian daily "˜al-Dustour,’ Al-Miqdad went on to address Israeli. . .

Peres: If Assad is serious - let him meet with Olmert
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 6/15/2008
President calls for direct Israeli-Syrian talks as necessity if both sides genuinely interested in forging trust. ’Had Sadat not come to Jerusalem, we would not have had peace with Egypt,’ said Peres - "If the Syrians are genuinely seeking peace, then they must hold a summit meeting between Syrian President Bashar Assad and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert," President Shimon Peres said on Sunday in a meeting with New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. The two met at Peres’ official residence in Jerusalem. Such a meeting could take place either in Jerusalem or Damascus, said Peres, but it is an absolute necessity to break the psychological barrier and build trust between both sides. " ’Had Sadat not come to Jerusalem, we would not have had peace with Egypt," said Peres, recalling then-Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s historic visit to Israel in 1977.

Friedmann fails to garner support for limit to High Court
Tomer Zarchin, Ha’aretz 6/16/2008
Reform step defeated by ministerial panel for legislation The ministerial committee for legislation yesterday rejected a private member’s bill aimed at limiting the right of the High Court of Justice to intervene in laws concerning entry into Israel and citizenship. The only member of the committee to vote in favor of the bill was the panel’s chairman, Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann. "The minister’s position was to hold a discussion on the substance of the proposal, and he was prepared to express support for the law, for the purpose of a temporary order concerning the Israel entry law, but most members of the committee opposed a discussion that involves changing a Basic Law and all the elements of the coalition had not agreed to it," said a source close to Friedmann. Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon (Labor) said he was glad the bill, which was proposed by MK Michael Eitan (Likud), was off the table.

Olmert fires a volley at Barak
Ha’aretz 6/16/2008
In a veiled attack on Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert yesterday denied that political considerations were delaying a decision on whether to agree to a proposed truce with Gaza militant groups or to launch a broad military operation in the coastal Strip. Olmert stated that whoever claims political considerations are preventing any type of action in the Gaza Strip is simply projecting his own faulty perceptions. Olmert was hinting at Barak’s recent linking of the political crisis engulfing Olmert’s Kadima party with a delay in the agreement on a cease-fire with Hamas. "Last Wednesday the Security Cabinet made decisions regarding the Gaza Strip. As you know, this issue has topped our agenda for a very long time," Olmert added, speaking at yesterday’s weekly cabinet meeting. Olmert also reiterated that advancing the release of captive Israeli soldier. . .

Lieberman ups the price for joining with Netanyahu
Lily Galili, Ha’aretz 6/16/2008
MK Avigdor Lieberman, chair of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, recently said he would not join a government headed by opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu if the ultra-Orthodox Sephardi Shas party was part of that government. "Shas has consistently thwarted legislation that Yisrael Beiteinu views as essential," Lieberman told Haaretz in explaining the stipulation. "This includes legislation aimed at simplifying conversion procedures, civil marriage solutions and efforts to change the system of government. "This latest demand is the second condition that Lieberman has specified vis-a-vis the hopeful Likud politician’s future government, if he wins a general election. Three weeks ago, Lieberman said he would not join a Netanyahu-led government unless he received the defense portfolio. Netanyahu’s associates say the defense demand and the Shas condition - which Lieberman first. . .

A Russian MK is hard to find
Lily Galili, Ha’aretz 6/16/2008
Leaders from the right wing are lining up to courtKadima lawmaker Marina Solodkin in the run-up to the next elections Forget about Bar Refaeli and leave Marina Kavishar to her own devices. The most desired woman in Israel today is MK Marina Solodkin of Kadima. The hottest guys - Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu, Yisrael Beiteinu chief Avigdor Lieberman and oligarch Arcadi Gaydamak - are courting her enthusiastically. Solodkin, in the way of women who know their worth, is maintaining the right suspense; she isn’t counting anyone out, but she isn’t making any commitments either. First of all, it seems, she has to get out from under the shadow cast by Ariel Sharon, whom she followed from Likud to Kadima. The relationship, short though it was because of the tragic circumstances, has attained mythical proportions as it recedes into the past.

A license to kill
Haaretz Editorial, Ha’aretz 6/16/2008
Tags:Knesset Shai DromiIsrael Last Wednesday, the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee approved the "Shai Dromi law" for a second and third reading in the plenum. The law grants an exemption from criminal responsibility to anyone who harms a person who has broken into his home, his business or a fenced-off farm. The proposal was approved with the support of the ministerial committee on legislation, and pressure came from the powerful farmers’ lobby. It is difficult to find anyone in the law-enforcement system who is not opposed to the text that was approved. For example, at a meeting last November of the Knesset law committee, a representative of the Internal Security Ministry’s legal adviser warned that the bill greatly increased the risk that a person "would take the law into his own hands. "

Hezbollah first
Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 6/16/2008
Out of the plethora of diplomatic-security issues keeping Prime Minister Ehud Olmert busy these days, the discussions on the freeing of the two IDF soldiers held by Hezbollah appear to be the most promising. The price being demanded for the the return of Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser is not impossibly high, and the chances that the deal can be done are reasonable. What is no less important, is that a deal could be struck in a relatively short period of time, perhaps to the point of bringing to an "end" the Lebanese affair at a date near the second anniversary of the rushed decision to go to war. As his cabinet ceased to function, and while he waits for the crucial cross-examination of Morris Talansky in court next month, bringing home the two soldiers kidnapped by Hezbollah appears to be a goal that can be achieved, from Olmert’s point of view.

News in Brief - Rice, Settlements, Hezbollah, UN Staff
Ha’aretz 6/16/2008
U. S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice yesterday warned that Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank will not affect final-status talks, including over future borders of the Palestinian state. Speaking at a press conference in Ramallah with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Rice added: "The actions and the announcements that are taking place are having a negative effect on the atmosphere of the negotiations. " (Avi Issacharoff) The government’s point man on hostage negotiations with Hezbollah and Hamas, Ofer Dekel, is in Europe for talks with the German mediator, to advance a deal in which Israel would free several Hezbollah operatives and the Palestine Liberation Front terrorist Samir Kuntar, in return for Hezbollah’s releasing the abducted Israeli reservists Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser.

Greens doubt serious environmental study will precede Med-Dead Canal
Zafrir Rinat, Ha’aretz 6/16/2008
Environmental organizations in Israel and Jordan, as well as representatives of communities in the Dead Sea area, caution against ecological damage that may be caused by constructing a canal linking the Gulf of Eilat and the Dead Sea. They argue that caution should be exercised with regard to the environmental impact of the plan to develop the Arava and of the construction of this canal. Friends of the Earth-Middle East, whose members include, in addition to Israelis and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) Jordanians and Palestinians recently called on President Shimon Peres and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is expected to visit Israel this month, to refrain from supporting the project before its impact has been studied. The two presidents are scheduled to announce the launch of the Peace Valley project, whose focus is the Dead Sea-Red Sea canal and large-scale tourist development of the Arava region.

Down to his last 1%
Amit Benaroia, Ha’aretz 6/16/2008
The Bank Hapoalim money-laundering investigation cost him billions, says Arcadi Gaydamak He’s lost billions because of the money-laundering investigation at Bank Hapoalim, he says. "Banks won’t work with me because they won’t work with anybody who’s suspected of money laundering," Arcadi Gaydamak told TheMarker in an interview last week, adding that today he has perhaps 1% of what he used to have. Gaydamak also points a finger at the press for ruining his businesses with its reports. Nor are the police spared: The international crimes unit invented the Bank Hapoalim affair, he says. Everybody who had been implicated in the Bank Hapoalim affair simply moved their money from Israel, says Gaydamak: "Nobody wants to invest in Israel. "In short, the police cost the economy billions, he sums up. Gaydamak’s incentive in granting the interview was to admonish.

Israel paying heavy economic price for occupying Palestinian territories
Middle East Online 6/15/2008
JERUSALEM - The occupation of the Palestinian territories is exacting a high price from Israel, a local think-tank said. "The prolonged conflict with the Palestinians is a millstone around Israel’s neck," Adva, a social justice NGO, said in a 4 June report, The cost of the occupation Israel’s poor carry much of the burden as inequality within the country grows. The percentage of families considered poor has doubled since the 1970s, the report said, noting this was due to the conflict and partially the result of immigrants from Ethiopia and the former Soviet Union being unable to integrate in Israeli society. Government spending cuts in recent years have targeted social services. "[From] 2001 through 2005, child allowances were cut by 45 percent, unemployment compensation by 47 percent, and income maintenance by 25 percent," causing increased suffering for the poorest.

First stage of Road 431 opens to Modi’in
Yael Gruntman, Globes Online 6/15/2008
Danya Cebus will receive a bonus for completing the section ahead of schedule. Africa-Israel Investments Ltd. (TASE: AFIL; Pink Sheets: AFIVY) contractor subsidiary Danya Cebus Ltd. (TASE: DNYA) has completed the first section of lateral Road 431 between Modi’in and the Aneva Junction with the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway, Road 1. Traffic from Tel Aviv to Modi’in will begin tomorrow. The company has therefore completed its contractual obligation four months ahead of schedule. Danya Cebus will therefore receive a NIS 95 million bonus within 45 days, as well as NIS 1 million a month in royalties for operating the road. The company spent NIS 190 million on building this section of the road. The 23-kilometer Road 431 links the Ayalon Highway (Road 20) and Geha (Road 4) by Rishon LeZion in the west to Modi’in in the east.

CPI expected to show highest May figure since 2002
Zeev Klein, Globes Online 6/15/2008
Inflation in the first half of 2008 may reach an annualized 5. 4%Government officials and analysts at investment houses predict that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) will rise by 0. 6% in May, the highest increase for this month since 2002. The Central Bureau of Statistics will publish the May CPI at 6:30 pm today. The CPI rose by 1. 5% in April and by 0. 3% in March, suggesting that the rise for the past three months could exceed 2. 4%. Analysts also predict that the CPI will rise by a fairly high 0. 5% in June. Inflation in the first half of 2008 could reach 2. 7%, reflecting an annualized rate of over 5. 4% (inflation was zero in January and the CPI fell by 0. 2% in February). This is the highest rate for seven years. Nonetheless, there are Ministry of Finance and Bank of Israel economists who predict low inflation for both May and June.

Sadrists announce boycott of local elections
Hassan Abdul Zahra, Daily Star 6/16/2008
Agence France PresseNAJAF, Iraq: In a fresh blow to Iraq’s embattled political process, hard-line Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s group said on Sunday it will boycott October elections which Washington sees as critical to stabilizing the country. The decision comes two days after the powerful cleric decided to restructure his feared Mehdi Army militia and ahead of an expected military assault on his militiamen in the southern Shiite province of Maysan. "The Sadr group will not take part in the [provincial] elections as we did in the parliamentary election," said Sheikh Salah al-Obeidi, a spokesman for Sadr in the holy city of Najaf. "This is the decision as of now by Moqtada and the Sadrists. We want to avoid making the same mistakes of being part of the sectarian divisions. " Iraq is due to hold elections on October 1 in its 18 provinces, a key benchmark set by Washington. . .

Maliki readies new crackdown on militias in southern province
Ammar Karim, Daily Star 6/16/2008
Agence France PresseBAGHDAD: Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has given militiamen in the southern province of Maysan four days to surrender their weapons ahead of a planned military assault in the Shiite bastion. "Those who have heavy and medium weapons, explosives or sniper guns, must hand them over to the security forces over the next four days until June 18 in return for cash," Maliki said in a statement issued lateSaturday. He said those who are accused of crimes but "do not have blood of Iraqis on their hands" must also report to the security forces within four days. Maliki said that after the deadline expires the military will start search operations June 19. "As part of our continuing efforts to impose security and law and putting an end to the chaos of crimes, we have decided that from today the province of Maysan should be without arms," he said.

IRAQ: IDPs demand government return them home
Afif Sarhan/IRIN, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 6/16/2008
BAGHDAD, 15 June 2008 (IRIN) - Nearly 500 internally displaced persons (IDPs) took to the streets of central Baghdad on 14 June demanding the government secure their return to their homes and pay compensation to those with damaged properties. "We have been displaced for nearly two years now and we don’t see any serious action being taken by the government to end our suffering," said Emad Taha Ali, a 39-year-old father-of-two who took part in the demonstration in Baghdad’s Jadiriyah area. Sectarian violence in the summer of 2006 forced Ali, a Shia Muslim, to flee his home in the Sunni-dominated al-Adil area of western Baghdad. Since then he and his family have moved from house to house. "We demand the government launch a security crackdown against militants in Baghdad’s western areas, just as what happened in Basra and Baghdad’s Sadr City," Ali said.

Bush: Stopping Iran key to solving Mideast problems
Ynet, YNetNews 6/15/2008
’United States, Europe must work to provide security or Mideast countries will find ways to secure themselves, and what the region does not need is a nuclear arms race,’ president tell The Observer ahead of UK visit -"When you go to the Middle East and you sit in my seat and listen, yes, there’s concern about the Palestinian state. But the dialogue has shifted dramatically from ’solve the Palestinian state and you’ve solved the problems in the Middle East’ to, now, ’solve the Iranian issue and you solve the problems in the Middle East’," US President George W. Bush said during an interview with The Observer, published on Sunday. Bush told the British newspaper ahead of his scheduled visit to the United Kingdom that additional sanctions were needed to curtail the Iranian nuclear threat. "The next step is for the Europeans and the United States and Russia and. . .

With millions displaced, foreign countries take increasingly hardline stance
Kim Sengupta, The Independent 6/15/2008
The plight of Iraqi refugees is now worse than ever, with millions struggling to survive in desperate conditions and with little hope of finding sanctuary. While the crisis continues, the world community, especially Western countries, have not only failed to help but are also erecting fresh obstacles to prevent the dispossessed men, women and children from settling on their shores, says a new report by Amnesty International. Many governments have attempted to justify their hardline stance by citing supposed improvements in the security situation in Iraq. But after a marked decline, the level of violence is rising again. The numbers killed each month fell from 1,800 in August 2007 to 541 in January 2008. However, in March and April alone, more than 2,000 people, mostly civilians, died during clashes between US and Iraqi government forces and the Shia militia Mehdi Army.

Sadr group to ’boycott’ Iraq polls
Al Jazeera 6/15/2008
Supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr, the Iraqi Shia leader, have said they will boycott provincial elections due in October. The announcement by Sheikh Salah al-Obeidi, a spokesman for al-Sadr in the city of Najaf, is the latest blow to the embattled Iraqi political process. "The Sadr group will not take part in the [provincial] elections as we did in the parliamentary election," al-Obeidi said. "This is the decision as of now by Muqtada and the Sadrists. We want to avoid making the same mistakes of being part of the sectarian divisions. " Iraq is due to hold elections in its 18 provinces on October 1, a move intended to give more power to local provincial councils. The provincial elections law was passed in February, amid criticism that some aspects of it were in contradiction with the Iraqi constitution.

Gore Vidal: US will take 100 years to recover from George Bush
Middle East Online 6/15/2008
MADRID - It will take the United States a century to recover from the damage wreaked by President George. W. Bush, US writer Gore Vidal said in an interview published Saturday. "The president behaved like a virtual criminal but we didn’t have the courage to sack him for fear of violating the American constitution," Vidal told the El Mundo newspaper. The author, a trenchant critic of the US-led invasion of Iraq, said it would take the United States "100 years to repair the damage" caused by Bush. "We live in a dictatorship. We have a fascist government. . . which controls the media," he said. Vidal also said presidential aspirant Barack Obama was "intelligent" adding that it would be a "novelty" to have an "intelligent" person in the White House.

UK High Court to rule on detention of two men held in what lawyers say is a Guantanamo-style legal black hole
Robert Verkaik, Legal Editor, The Independent 6/15/2008
Britain is accused of holding Iraqi prisoners of war in a legal black hole after it emerged that two men accused of killing British soldiers have been detained without trial for more than five years. The suspects, the last two Iraqis held in British custody, were arrested by UK forces at the end of the war and then moved between three different prison camps in southern Iraq. They claim to have been secretly detained without charge and refused legal representation. In a letter smuggled out of Iraq, the two men call on the British government to release them or give them a fair trial.

French delegation touts talks with leadership in Damascus
Roueida Mabardi, Daily Star 6/16/2008
Agence France Presse DAMASCUS: Two senior French envoys held "constructive" talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Sunday aimed at bolstering diplomatic ties which soured over the crisis in Lebanon. The meeting came ahead of a planned visit next month by Assad to Paris, the former colonial power in both Syria and Lebanon. Jean-David Levitte, chief diplomatic adviser to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and Claude Gueant, secretary general of Sarkozy’s office, held talks with Assad and then Foreign Minister Walid Muallem. The meeting with Assad was "useful and constructive" and focused on diplomatic ties and Middle East developments, namely Lebanon and Israeli-Syrian track of the peace process, the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) said. The talks "reflected a common view on the need to reinforce French-Syrian relations to serve the interests of both countries," SANA added.

Bush, Sarkozy pressure Syria over Lebanon
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 6/16/2008
PARIS: The United States and France on Saturday jointly called on Syria to establish "friendly" diplomatic ties with Lebanon. A joint statement following talks in Paris between President George W. Bush and President Nicolas Sarkozy called on the two countries to "quickly establish full diplomatic relations" based on "respect, equality, security and sovereignty. "Syria, the former power broker in Lebanon, withdrew its troops in 2005 in the aftermath of the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, ending a military presence of nearly three decades. The absence of formal diplomatic relations between Lebanon and Syria is seen by some Lebanese as a sign of Syrian designs on their country. The United States and France also called for "supporting the international investigation and creation of a special tribunal" to try the perpetrators of Hariri’s assassination.

Arab tourists shying away from Lebanon
Daily Star 6/16/2008
BEIRUT: Figures released by the Ministry of Tourism indicate that the number of tourists visitng Lebanon totaled 277,054 in the first four months of 2008, up by 2. 6 percent from the same period of 2007. "This increase is not necessarily an indicator of a revival in the tourism sector because the latter’s performance during the said period of 2007 was already sluggish, as it was hit by the political stalemate," Bank Audi’s Weekly Monitor said. It added that when compared to the first four months of 2006, during which the sector witnessed a boom, a 20. 9 percent plummet in the number of tourists hs been experienced. It added that Lebanon relies heavily on Arab tourists, and with political setbacks hindering the sector’s productivity in Lebanon, Arab tourists have been gradually shying away from Lebanon as a destination since the summer 2006 events.

Moussa sees ’glimmer of hope’ in forming cabinet
Hussein Abdallah, Daily Star 6/16/2008
BEIRUT: Arab League chief Amr Moussa on Sunday expressed hope that a new national unity government will be formed soon in Lebanon. Moussa spoke to reporters Sunday after talks with Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and top leaders from the opposition. The talks focused on attempts to form a cabinet in line with an Arab League-brokered agreement that ended Lebanon’s 18-month political stalemate. "We are talking at this stage only about the formation of the cabinet. I hope that Lebanon will get the happy news of an agreement on the formation. . . soon," Moussa said at Beirut’s airport after wrapping up a three-day visit to Lebanon. Refusing to give details on whether obstacles holding up the formation of a new cabinet have been resolved, Moussa said: "Yes, there is a glimmer of hope. There is an atmosphere with a ray of hope.

Bush, Sarkozy criticize Syria, threaten Iran
Middle East Online 6/15/2008
PARIS - US President George W. Bush and French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Saturday jointly urged Syria to break with Iran and said that they would not let Tehran obtain nuclear weapons. "Iran getting a nuclear bomb is unacceptable, that’s clear. It’s an unacceptable threat," Sarkozy said, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Bush at a press conference after talks in Paris. "A nuclear-armed Iran is incredibly destabilising," Bush said hours after Tehran rejected new world demands to halt uranium enrichment in return economic and diplomatic rewards. Bush and Sarkozy played down differences over France’s newly warm outreach to Syria. The French president, who has invited Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to attend France’s national "Bastille Day" celebrations next month, defended his decision on Saturday, saying that he had promised to restore high-level ties with Syria if the Lebanese presidential election ran its course.

Arab League chief sees new Lebanon government soon
Reuters, YNetNews 6/15/2008
Arab League Sec. -Gen. Amr Moussa says newly elected Lebanese president to assemble new cabinet soon, return country to political stability -Lebanon will soon form a national unity government in line with a Doha agreement to end the country’s political crisis, Arab League Chief Amr Moussa said on Sunday. The Doha deal, brokered by Qatari-led Arab mediators last month, led to the election of President Michel Suleiman and pulled the country back from the brink of a new civil war. The agreement stipulates the formation of a government where theHizbullah-led opposition holds veto power. Security incidents and bickering over cabinet portfolio has held up the mission of Prime Minister-designate Fouad Siniora and raised questions whether the deal would be implemented in full. But Moussa, ending a three-day visit to Beirut that included talks. . .

Report: Assad offered incentives to reexamine ties with Iran
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 6/15/2008
Syria received offer for series of financial incentives from US, European Union in exchange for agreeing to reexamine its ties with Iran, Hizbullah and other terror groups, Qatari newspaper reports -Syria has received an offer for a series of financial incentives from the US and the European Union in exchange for agreeing to reexamine its ties withIran, Hizbullah and other terror groups, Qatar’s Al-Watan newspaper reported Sunday. The deal reportedly did not include an offer by the EU not to pursue an international tribunal in the case of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri’s assassination. However, Al-Watan quoted Syrian diplomatic source as saying that Damascus made it clear to mediators that "the national issues and the resistance in the face of the American-Zionist plans in the region are not for sale.


The only hope for the people of the village of Beit Hanina
Maisa Abu Ghazaleh, Palestine News Network 6/15/2008
      Jerusalem -- Israeli forces are not only confiscating land from Beit Hanina for the Wall, but have now issued a new decision to confiscate even more land.
     The latest confiscation order will take large tracts of land into the Ramot Settlement. This will include the uprooting of olive trees that are thousands of years old and from which hundreds of Palestinians make their livelihoods.
     Ramot Settlement is situated on the opposite side of the East Jerusalem suburb of Beit Hanina. The resolution was issued one day before the Hebrew newspaper Ha’aretz revealed the addition of hundreds of new housing units to the settlement of Ramot.
     In turn, Adviser to the Prime Minister for Jerusalem Affairs, Hatem Abdel Kader, confirmed to PNN that the Palestinian government will not stand idly by and let the Israelis continue to loot Palestinian land, destroy the trees and lives of the people in Beit Hanina.

A dubious Israeli spring in Europe

Gideon Levy, Ha’aretz 6/16/2008
      How pleasant it is to be an official representative of Israel in Europe right now. It hasn’t been so pleasant for a long time. And not just because of the spectacular spring in the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris, the crowded pubs in Athens or the young people sunbathing nude in Stockholm. This is about the fresh sympathy for Israel blowing in from almost every capital. French newspapers went all out for our 60th anniversary, Israeli women soldiers starred on the covers of magazines, and even the Swedish papers lost a little of their interest in the Palestinians’ suffering, which had for years won such deep sympathy.
     Last week, when the Olof Palme International Center in Stockholm held a symposium on peace in the Middle East, a scandal broke out because the organizers dared invite a professor of Islamic studies, Azam Tamimi, a Hamas sympathizer from London. Even in Sweden. This sympathy for Israel, along with seething antipathy for Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims, includes, of course, active European participation in the boycott of Gaza and Hamas, which may reach new heights this week. The Council of Foreign Ministers of the European Union is slated tomorrow to discuss upgrading Israel’s standing in the EU, and later in the week ministers of the EU member states will also do so. It only takes opposition by one country to prevent the upgrade of ties, which would have significant economic ramifications for Israel.

Getting fed up

Akiva Eldar, Ha’aretz 6/16/2008
      Shaul Mofaz is not the first star to cast Iran in a part in the political game in Israel. Twelve years ago, in May 1996, on the eve of an election, the then head of Military Intelligence, Moshe Ya’alon, voiced an "assessment" that the rulers of Iran were hoping that the Likud headed by Benjamin Netanyahu would take over the government from Shimon Peres. At that time, there were those who assumed that the Labor Party would follow in the footsteps of Yitzhak Rabin, who had set up the goal of extending the circle of peace with the Arabs before Iran was able to complete its nuclear plans. Rabin believed this to be a more sensible policy than the method of simply shouting "gevalt."
     Since then, Iran has turned into a land of refuge for politicians who are rich in screwups and short on accomplishments. When Mahmoud Ahmadinejad threatens to wipe us off the map, how can one disturb the prime minister with trifles such as the Arab peace initiative? Can anyone expect the defense minister to free himself to take care of the hooligans manning the settlement outposts when a nuclear bomb is ticking in our ears? And how can Condoleezza Rice talk nonsense to us about building in East Jerusalem? She’d be better off spending her time assisting her president, George W. Bush, in enlisting the world’s support in combating the Israel-bashers.

Hitler Youth in the West Bank

Khalid Amayreh, Palestine Think Tank 6/15/2008
      Last week, the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem released video clips showing masked Jewish settlers ganging up on and severely beating elderly Palestinian peasants near the town of Yatta, southwest of Hebron. At least three Palestinians were wounded in the unprovoked assault, including a man and his wife, both in their early sixties.
     The latest act of settler terror was not an isolated incident, as official Israeli spokespersons would often claim. It represents a disturbing and persistent phenomenon as young and usually heavily armed settlers continue to attack Palestinian farmers, peasants and shepherds and vandalize their property in an effort to drive them away from their lands and villages.
     We who live in the West Bank know too well what it means to live next to a Jewish settlement. It means constant harassment, unending vandalism and perpetual terrorism, both psychological and physical. -- See also: ''Jewish settler attack'' on film

What Exactly is pro-Israel?

Marc Gopin, Middle East Online 6/15/2008
      WASHINGTON—The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, one of the most powerful lobby groups in the United States, just concluded its annual Washington conference. It drew a long line of administration officials and the presidential candidates to its doorsteps, all touting orthodox lines on what it means to be pro-Israel—messages carefully crafted to please the lobby.
     Now is a good time to ask, what exactly does ‘pro-Israel’ mean, and who is pro-Israel in the United States today? The ones who twist every arm in Congress to be silent, to suppress what they know is right to do in terms of a fair Israeli-Palestinian deal? We have before us now a hair-trigger set of confrontations from Lebanon to the Persian Gulf, with long-range missiles, chemical and nuclear capable, aimed at Israel from a country in the Persian Gulf that has no business in Gaza. And yet, due to the unending festering of the Palestinian tragedy, Shiite Iran has stepped into Sunni Gaza, in addition to Iraq and Lebanon, primarily because the United States failed to engage fairly or at all in the last eight years.

There is no archaeological peace

Meron Benvenisti, Ha’aretz 6/16/2008
      The unsuccessful attempt to breathe life into the deflated balloon of the peace process has given rise to reports on a plethora of initiatives for the resolution of the different issues comprising the morass of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Teams of Israeli and Palestinian professionals, funded by international foundations specializing in the peace industry, hold meetings, usually abroad, and work on drafts of agreements that profess to resolve problems in such sensitive matters as Palestinian and Israeli educational curricula, determination of sovereignty, the setting of borders, economic arrangements, and the like.
     Those behind the drafts acknowledge that the chances of their influencing the decision makers is not great, but they argue that the significance of the meetings lies in the very fact they are being held, and that they offer hope that a solution is possible, and only a matter of intellectual effort and goodwill.