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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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18 June 2008

Olmert casts doubt over durability of Gaza truce on eve of scheduled implementation
Patrick Moser, Daily Star 6/19/2008
Agence France Presse - OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned on Wednesday that his country’s imminent truce with Hamas in and around the Gaza Strip could be short-lived and said the military stood ready to act if it failed. "We have no illusion but that this truce is fragile and could be short-lived. Hamas has not changed its skin," Olmert said at a conference in Bet Yehoshua north of Tel Aviv. His warning came shortly before the truce was due to take effect at 0300 GMT on Thursday, after Egypt mediated for months between Israel and the Hamas to end the bloodshed in and around the impoverished Palestinian territory. "If terror continues, Israel will have to work to remove the threat," Olmert said, stressing amid skepticism over the truce that the Israeli Army was ready to act if the cease-fire failed.

150 people in Ras Tira refused right to live in their village
Palestinian grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, Stop The Wall 6/18/2008
The Occupation administration has refused to issue entry permits to Ras Tira to 150 people who carry Ras Tira, ad-Dab’a, and Wadi ar-Rasha identity cards. These Palestinians are effectively barred from accessing their village, lands and homes, all of which are isolated behind the Wall. Ras Tira, which is located southeast of Qalqilya, is completely caged in, surrounded on three sides by the Wall and on the fourth by the Alfe Menashe settlement. At least five population centres, among them Daba and Wadi al-Rasha, are also completely isolated inside this pocket. The permit applications were refused at the beginning of this month. The village council had demanded that the Occupation administration issue permits for 150 persons with “Ras Tira” listed in their identity cards.

Israeli settlers attack Palestinians, burn agricultural lands in Nablus
Ma’an News Agency 6/18/2008
Nablus - Ma’an - Israeli settlers attacked Palestinian civilians and burnt three dunums of agricultural lands near the Israeli settlement of Yatsahar south of Nablus. Eyewitnesses said that around 200 settlers attacked civilians, destroying property and setting fire to agricultural lands. They also threw stones at houses causing a large amount of damage to the house owned by ’Atallah Taqo, a resident of Huwwara. The settlers disrupted the movement of pedestrians, erecting checkpoints. They also attacked Arab cars passing through the area. [end]

Egypt opens Gaza border one-way for medical cases
Agence France-Presse - AFP, ReliefWeb 6/18/2008
EL-ARISH, Egypt, June 18, 2008 (AFP) - Egypt opened its border with the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, a security official said, to allow Palestinians to return to the Hamas-ruled territory after receiving medical treatment. The move came the day after a truce between Hamas and Israel was announced to begin on Thursday, including a loosening of Gaza’s border closures, but the "exceptional" opening was one-way only for sick Gazans to return home. Since the Islamist Hamas movement seized power in Gaza a year ago, Israel has sealed the territory to all but very limited humanitarian assistance. In a similar exceptional opening, Egyptian authorities allowed hundreds of sick Palestinians to cross into Egypt for treatment in May. Between 300 and 400 Palestinians were expected to cross through the Rafah terminal, which was opened at 11 am (0800 GMT), Palestinian liaison officer Hani Jabbur said.

Rocket barrages day before truce: Sderot house hit; IDF retaliates
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 6/18/2008
At least 29 Qassam rockets land in western Negev less than 24 hours before ceasefire agreement between Israel, Hamas goes into effect. House in Sderot directly hit, residents suffer shock. IDF retaliates by striking rocket-launching cells, injuring 3 gunmen - Despite the formal announcements from Jerusalem, Gaza and Cairo announcing the ceasefire agreement will go into effect at 6:00 am on Thursday, it was the routine of incessant attacks Israel’s South awoke to on Wednesday. In the most recent attack a house in Sderot was hit directly, and ten residents suffered from shock. A woman lightly injured her leg while running for cover. The Air Force (IAF) attacked two different rocket-launching cells in the northern Gaza Strip, which Palestinian sources said were responsible for the rocket barrage. The IDF stated that in both cases hits were identified.

First in a series of demonstrations by villages of Tammoun and Khirbet Atuf
International Solidarity Movement 6/18/2008
Nablus Region - Photos - On Wednesday 18th June, approximately forty farmers from the villages of Tammoun and Khirbet Atuf, near Nablus, along with internationals, made a symbolic protest at the Israeli-imposed barrier that prevents them from entering their lands, in the first of what is to be series of protests against the discrimination they face. Looking out over the fields to the illegal Israeli settlements of Beqa’ot and Roi (known by local Palestinians as Al Hadidiya, after the Palestinian village it abuts), as well as the Israeli military base, villagers held up a banner proclaiming "This is Apartheid!", as they stood on the earthmound that demarcates the area in which Palestinians are forbidden to enter. They advise that if they attempt to cross this artificial boundary, they will be shot at. Or they will be arrested and held in the checkpoint of Al Hamra for anywhere between four and twenty-four hours.

Al Mezan Center issues a report on the use of civilians as human shields in the Gaza Strip
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, ReliefWeb 6/17/2008
A new report on the use of Palestinian as Human Shields in the Gaza Strip was issued bytoday. The report documents the occurrences of this crime by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF), and calls for international protection of civilians under Israel’s occupation in Gaza in accordance with international law. The report describes the IOF take over of civilian homes, during which homes are used as military posts and their occupants are used as human shields to deter attacks on soldiers. The inhabitants are placed commonly in one room of the home while the IOF continue its military operations in the area. IOF soldiers break holes in walls, or snipers take off floor tiles to use them as cover over windows. Residents are forced in some cases to perform acts for IOF soldiers. The report monitors the IOF conducts against civilians that include forcing them to walk at gunpoint in front of the soldiers to protect them.

Israel calls for direct peace talks with Lebanon
Middle East Online 6/18/2008
JERUSALEM - Israel on Wednesday called for direct peace negotiations with Lebanon, saying it was ready to discuss all contentious issues. "We favour direct, bilateral negotiations in which all issues of dispute are up for discussion," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s spokesman Mark Regev said. The Lebanese government had rejeted the suggestion last week after Israeli Minister Ehud Olmert hinted Israel would be interested in direct talks with Beirut. On Monday, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a surprise visit to Beirut where she called for UN action on the disputed Shebaa Farms, an area Israel captured from Syria in 1967, and which is now claimed by Lebanon. A UN resolution that ended a devastating 34-day war between Israel and the Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia in 2006 called for the UN secretary general to propose a border demarcation for the Shebaa Farms.

Beirut reiterates rejection of bilateral talks over Shebaa
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 6/19/2008
The Lebanese government on Wednesday rejected Israel’s call for direct peace negotiations. "Lebanon’s position is clear to all and there is no place for bilateral negotiations between Lebanon and Israel," Premier Fouad Siniora’s media office said in a statement late Wednesday. The statement stressed that Lebanese territories occupied by the Jewish state are subject to "UN resolutions that do not require any negotiations. " The statement released by Siniora’s press office also said that "Lebanon did not receive any message from any side through US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. ""However," it added, "the Lebanese government has spared no effort nor missed any opportunity for over three years to ask friendly states and the UN to pressure Israel into withdrawing from the Shebaa Farms. " "There is no room for bilateral negotiations between Lebanon and Israel, and Lebanon’s. . .

U.S. pushes for deal on Shaba Farms
Barak Ravid and Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 6/19/2008
The United States has begun mediating between Israel and Lebanon in an effort to resolve their dispute over Shaba Farms in the hope they would then start peace talks. U. S. President George Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice informed Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of this during his visit to Washington two weeks ago, and Rice repeated it during her visit here earlier this week. According to a senior Israeli official, Rice gave Lebanon a message from Olmert on this issue on Monday. The London-based Arabic daily Al-Hayat reported yesterday that during her brief visit to Beirut on Monday, Rice told Lebanese officials that the U. S. was working to obtain an Israeli withdrawal from Shaba. "Our efforts are continuing, and will be stepped up in the coming weeks," the paper quoted Rice as saying. Next month, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will brief the Security Council on. . .

Noam Shalit threatens to appeal Gaza truce in court
Amos Harel and Jack Khoury, Ha’aretz 6/19/2008
The father of abducted soldier Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit sent letters on Wednesday to top government officials, including Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, asking for clarification on all matters pertaining the Egyptian-brokered truce agreed to by Israel and Hamas. In letters to Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Shalit did not conceal his disappointment in the fact that Israel agreed to a truce before consolidating a deal on the release of his son. Gilad Shalit was kidnapped by Gaza militants in a cross-border raid in June 2006. Haaretz has learned that Shalit consulted with judicial officials and considers these letters the first step in future legal proceedings he plans to initiate for his son’s release, including a possible appeal to the High Court of Justice against the implementation of the cease-fire.

Top Defense Ministry official: If Shalit is not released, Rafah stays closed
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 6/19/2008
Hours before ceasefire kicks in, Amos Gilad grants Ynet interview in which he stresses kidnapped soldier definitely part of truce agreement with Hamas. ’Ceasefire only way to bring about Shalit’s release,’ Gilad says - "If Gilad Shalit is not released, Rafah crossing does not open," said Senior Defense Ministry Official Amos Gilad during an interview with Ynet on Wednesday night. Gilad is currently representing Israel in talks negotiating the ceasefire with Hamas and the other Gazan terror organizations in Egypt. Gilad’s statement validated an earlier statement made by the kidnapped soldier’s father, Noam Shalit, according to which Israel’s government had neglected his son during the negotiations of a truce. Shalit claimed that the opening of border crossings would cause Israel to lose leverage in the negotiations, therefore putting his son at risk.

Chief of staff Ashkenazi: Cease-fire with Hamas will be ’short and brittle’
Shahar Ilan, Ha’aretz 6/19/2008
Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi expressed skepticism regarding the long-term prospects of the truce being negotiated between Israel and Hamas yesterday at a meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. The calm currently being negotiated between Israel and Hamas will be "short and brittle," Ashkenazi told the MKs, adding that it is important for Israel to make the most of the expected lull in hostilities to prepare for a ground offensive. "We’re on a collision course," he warned. He claimed that the surmounting pressure of repeated IDF attacks played a part in making the cease-fire possible. Discussing the situation in Lebanon and Hezbollah, Brigadier General Yossi Baidatz, head of the research division of Military Intelligence said that "they are playing a game of cat and mouse with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon.

DFLP weighing options; Islamic Jihad committed to ceasefire
Ma’an News Agency 6/18/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an – The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), one of the groups that had approved in principle a ceasefire with Israel, expressed reservations about the conditions of the truce ratified by Hamas and Israel. Saleh Nasser, a member of the DFLP central committee, said on Wednesday that "partial solutions" would not help the ceasefire succeed. He also said that having the ceasefire take effect before Gaza’s borders are opened, while excluding the West Bank entirely, would hinder the agreement’s implementation. The agreement, which goes into effect on Thursday morning, calls for a period of calm before Israel begins to ease its year-old blockade of the Gaza Strip. Nasser said the DFLP had consented to a comprehensive, bilateral, and concurrent ceasefire. He added that the group would weigh its options regarding the current agreement, and announce its response.

US sceptical of Hamas deal
Al Jazeera 6/18/2008
The Bush administration has reacted sceptically to news of an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. "We’ll see first of all whether there is actually an agreement," Tom Casey, a US state department spokesman, told reporters in Washington on Tuesday. "Even if this is a true report, I think unfortunately it hardly takes Hamas out of the terrorism business," Casey added, referring to the Palestinian group that controls the Gaza Strip. US officials have rejected contact with Hamas because they view it as a terrorist organisation. Egypt and Hamas said earlier the ceasefire would come into effect on Thursday. ’Important role’ - The truce aims to end rocket and mortar bomb attacks on Israel from Gaza, as well as halt Israeli raids and air strikes in the Palestinian territory.

VIDEO - Negev students initiate cross-border dialogue
YNetNews 6/18/2008
Kol Aher initiates phone calls between Gaza Strip residents and Israeli college students to ’reinforce human contact and mutual understanding’ (06. 18. 08) Video: infolive. tvAuthor: Infolive. tvEditor: infolive. tv [end]

Knesset to vote on Golan referendum
Amnon Meranda, YNetNews 6/18/2008
Special committee approves bill proposing referendum on any territorial concessions be brought to Knesset plenum vote -While Israel continues to hold indirect negotiations with Syria through Turkish mediation, lawmakers have taken another step to make ceding the Golan Heights much more difficult. A joint committee comprised of representatives from the Knesset’s House Committee and Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committeeapproved Wednesday a motion calling for a referendum to be held in Israel should the government have to make any decision pertaining to territorial concessions be brought before the Knesset plenum for approval. According to the bill proposal, which the plenum is expected to vote on as early as next week, Israel would only be able to withdraw from any given territory with the explicit approval of the general public.

MKs back referendum on Golan, East Jerusalem withdrawals
Shahar Ilan, Ha’aretz 6/18/2008
A special Knesset committee approved in its first reading a bill Wednesday mandating that any government decision to withdraw from parts of sovereign Israeli territory - including the Golan Heights and Jerusalem - be subject to a national referendum, elections, or two-thirds majority approval in the parliament. The committee approved the measure thanks to support from the Labor Party. MK Collette Avital said Labor has consistently backed the referendum proposal since the Rabin era. The bill stipulates that a referendum be held 90 days following Knesset approval of a government decision to withdraw from territory. The day of the referendum would be given the status of a statutory holiday and political advertisements and campaigning would be restricted by election laws.

Adalah goes to court to allow families from Gaza to visit their relatives in Israeli detention
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 6/18/2008
On Tuesday, 17 June 2008, Adalah, The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel filed a petition to the Israeli Supreme Court on behalf of eight family members of Palestinian political prisoners from the Gaza Strip. The Al Mezan Center for Human Rights and the Association for the Palestinian Prisoners demanding that residents of Gaza be permitted to visit their relatives being held in Israeli prisons on a regular basis. The case was filed by Adalah Attorney Abeer Baker against the Defense Minister, the Commander of the Israeli Army for the Southern District and the Interior Minister. Adalah says that since June 2006, following the capture of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit by Palestinian resistance in Gaza, the Israeli security authorities began to impose even greater obstacles and constraints than in the past on family visits to prisoners from the Gaza Strip.

Israeli siege deprives 900 Gaza families from visiting their relatives in jails
Palestinian Information Center 6/18/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Red Cross and the Wa’ed society for the defense of detainees stated that the unjust Israeli siege deprives 900 families in the Gaza Strip from visiting their relatives imprisoned in Israeli jails at the pretext of the comprehensive closure imposed on the Strip. The Red Cross called on the IOA to allow Gaza families to visit their relatives in Israeli jails immediately, noting that the Israeli security fears do not justify the total suspension of prison visitation program. The Red Cross also pointed out that such Israeli restrictions exacerbate the daily suffering of the Gaza people and deprive prisoners and their relatives alike from one of the vital component of human life. For its part, the Wa’ed society explained that this Israeli measure against Gaza prisoners and families is contrary to international charters and norms, citing that Article no.

IOA decides to deport Palestinian prisoner to Brazil
Palestinian Information Center 6/18/2008
NABLUS, (PIC)-- The Israeli occupation authority has decided to deport the Palestinian prisoner Suhaib Ulayan, who is currently held in the Negev desert prison, to Brazil, the Ahrar legal center reported. The center quoted the mother of Suhaib, 20, as saying that her son was kidnapped by the Israeli occupation forces since 14/7/2007. She said that Suhaib, a resident of Einata village in Jerusalem district, was charged with involvement in activities "hostile" to the Hebrew state and since he did not have an ID of a Jerusalem resident and because he holds a Brazilian passport the IOA decided to banish him to Brazil. The mother said that she and her family were shocked at the Israeli judge’s decision, which also included reducing his sentence by six months before deporting him a matter that was rejected by him and his family.

After caught on tape: The Israeli parliament to discuss Settlers’ attack on a Palestinian family
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 6/18/2008
The Israeli Knesset - parliament- agreed this week to conduct a an urgent session to discus the attack of settlers on a Palestinian family living in a village near the southern West Bank city of Hebron earlier this month. A group of Israeli settlers located near Sousia village attacked al Nawa’jah family home on June 8th, settlers attacked 70-year old Khalil, his wife Tammam, 68, and their relative Yousif, 32. Tammam was transported to an Israeli hospital for the seriousness of he wounds. The attack was caught on tape and was handed to media agencies. The Israeli parliament decision to discuss the case was based on a petition filed by the Arab member of the Parliament Jammal Zahalka. He said that this is just a fraction of what the Palestinians have to face by the Israeli settlers. Human right groups working in the Hebron areas say that settlers attacks against Palestinian farmers happens daily, but rarely get to be caught on video.

The Guardian: Shooting back at the settlers
Mustafa Qadri, International Solidarity Movement 6/18/2008
Last week the BBC carried video footage of a Jewish settler attack on Palestinian farmers in the West Bank. The attack was filmed thanks to a video advocacy project arranged by the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem. The aim of the project is to empower Palestinian families and increase public awareness of their harassment. The over 100 cameras distributed by B’Tselem give Palestinian communities the opportunity to document attacks by Israeli soldiers and settlers in a medium that is less likely to be ignored or disputed by Israeli authorities than oral testimony. The video depicts three people, an old couple and their nephew, being lynched by four youths near the village of Susia, south of Hebron. The BBC should be applauded for giving the story major coverage on its World News service. Jewish settler violence towards Palestinians is widespread but is rarely given widespread media coverage.

Israeli forces assault and forcibly deport New Zealand peace activist once kidnapped in Iraq
International Solidarity Movement 6/18/2008
Denial of entry Harmeet Sooden. Picture taken in January 2005 on a farm outside Jenin where he was helping to plant olive trees. Harmeet Sooden, a peace activist from New Zealand, was forcibly deported from Israel on the 18th of June at 1 am, after four days in jail. Sooden was told he was being deported because he was a ‘threat to the security of the State of Israel’. Sooden, along with Tom Fox, Norman Kember, and James Loney, was held in captivity for four months while working with the Christian Peacemaker’s Team (CPT) in Iraq. "I am still reeling from this experience. It dredged up some old feelings. I told them honestly that I had come to revisit Yad Vashem, visit historic sites and volunteer for ISM. They never disclosed the official reason for denying me, the Ministry of Interior official told me that I was a ‘threat to the security of the State of Israel’," Sooden said of his time in Israeli captivity.

UN: human rights situation in occupied Palestinian territory remains grave
Marian Houk, Ma’an News Agency 6/18/2008
Jerusalem - “The human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory remains grave," the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour informed the members of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva this week. Three new reports on the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory were discussed at the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday. Arbour told the Council that there must be urgent implementation of her earlier recommendations, made in a previous report last March, for ending human rights violations caused by Israeli military attacks and incursions -- including “the establishment of accountability mechanisms,” and the ending of the closure of Gaza. Three months ago, Arbour had reported that “the protection of both Palestinian and Israeli civilians requires immediate action by all parties and by the international community.

J-Post: Court to hear petition on Silwan digs
Elana Kirsh, International Solidarity Movement 6/18/2008
Jerusalem Region - The High Court of Justice in Jerusalem will hear a petition on Wednesday on the issue of archaeological excavations being carried out in tunnels under the village of Silwan. According to Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR), the National Parks Authority gave almost all control of one of the most important and sensitive archaeological sites in the area to the non-profit organization Elad, a group which operates exclusively at the City of David archaeological site. Technically, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) carries out excavations at the site; however the Elad group organizes and finances them. The IAA excavated a tunnel under land and houses of residents of Silwan in recent months, and RHR claims that the digs were carried out without residents’ awareness, causing damage to houses and roads, and disregarding residents’ rights.

OPT: Gaza Strip inter-agency humanitarian fact sheet, Jun 2008
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs - OCHA, ReliefWeb 6/18/2008
Israeli restrictions on fuel and good deliveries to Gaza continued in May, resulting in shortages and power cuts averaging three hours per day. Hamas authorities took control of fuel supplies and started distributing fuel to priority groups such as health services and taxi drivers. On May 17-19, the Gaza power station shut down because of a lack of industrial diesel. The reduced supply of cooking gas led one poultry farmer to slaughter around 165,000 chicks who could not survive without heating. The short supply of petrol and diesel made movement and the operation of generators difficult. Many farmers who need diesel to pump water from irrigation 70 per cent of Gaza’s agricultural wells harvested crops prematurely or lost crops completely. On May 22, a large truck bomb was detonated at Erez checkpoint. No one was injured apart from the driver of the truck who was killed but some of the protective walls at the checkpoint were damaged.

OPT: Palestinians get EC aid, but water and sanitation underfunded
ICRC, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 6/18/2008
Sewage and pollution in the Khan Younis area of southern Gaza. Water and sanitation projects continue to be underfunded in Gaza - JERUSALEM, 18 June 2008 (IRIN) - The European Commission (EC) on 16 June announced a 24 million euro donation to humanitarian programmes in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). About half of the money would go to the West Bank and half to the Gaza Strip, a senior EC official said, noting that even though only about a third of the population lives in the coastal enclave, the humanitarian situation there was more severe. This was the second half of the EC’s humanitarian contribution to the oPt for 2008: in January 29 million euros were allocated for food aid and food security projects. Of the 53 million euro total, 54 percent went directly to meet the funding needs outlined in the multi-agency Consolidated Appeal for 2008"The 24 million euros. . .

Humanitarian assistance to Gaza since Feb 27 escalation in terror - 15 Jun 2008
Government of Israel, ReliefWeb 6/15/2008
Ministry of Defense Unit of Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Total (June 16, 2007 - June 15, 2008): 24,375 trucks; 579,491 tons "No humanitarian crisis and no hunger in the Gaza Strip" The Unit for Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories reports daily on the general humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip. The data for the supplies transferred via the Karni and Sufa crossings are based on the reports of Palestinian merchants. Two-way traffic at the Erez Crossing of international organizations’ staff, Gaza residents seeking medical treatment together with the people accompanying them ("medical evacuations"), and Palestinian civilians has been permitted for humanitarian and medical aid since 18 January 2007 and occurs almost daily. Via the conveyor at the Karni Crossing, hundreds of tons of grain - wheat, barley, soy. . .

Palestinians hit by higher food prices and falling incomes
United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in, ReliefWeb 6/18/2008
Three United Nations agencies have warned of a decline in Palestinian living standards as a new report shows that high food prices and falling incomes are forcing Palestinian families to manage with less and lower quality food. The main driver of Palestinian food insecurity is of a political nature, as key elements in vulnerability are rooted in the military and administrative measures imposed by the Israeli occupation - closure regime, permits, destruction of assets - as well as the settlement expansion and derived infrastructure multiplication - access to land and water and the construction of bypass roads. Global food prices, combined with a contracting economy and the effects of Israel’s security measures, are making Palestinians more dependent on relief aid. At the same time, rising food and fuel prices mean international aid agencies are finding it increasingly expensive to deliver aid to the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Haniyeh: Abbas is welcome in Gaza; Palestinian factions embrace ceasefire
Ma’an News Agency 6/18/2008
April 2007 [Ma’anImages] Gaza - Ma’an – Isma’il Haniyeh, the de facto prime minister in the Gaza Strip, said he would welcome Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Gaza. Speaking during a meeting with members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), Haniyeh said, "Gaza welcomes anybody and if Abbas wants to come, he is welcome. " He confirmed that a ceasefire with Israel would go into effect on Thursday"At 6. 00am on Thursday ceasefire will begin and Israeli aggression will end, crossings will be reopened, blockade will end as well and Palestinian factions are committed," he said"This ceasefire is meant to offer security, accomplish interests, and decrease Palestinians’ sufferings as well as granting comfort to Israelis if they commit to it," he added. Haniyeh also said that "if Israelis violate the agreement, Palestinians will have the right to defend. . .

Hamas calls on Abbas to release 36 political prisoners in his jails
Palestinian Information Center 6/18/2008
RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement called Wednesday on PA chief Mahmoud Abbas to prove the credibility and seriousness of his calls for holding internal dialog to restore the national unity through issuing immediate orders to his security apparatuses to release 36 political prisoners in the West Bank jails. In a statement received by the PIC, Hamas deplored the big discrepancy between the statements of the PA leadership which talk about national dialog while its actions deepens the chasm and division in the Palestinian arena. The statement urged the Palestinian factions to move seriously and effectively to get the political prisoners released. It also included the names of the Hamas-affiliated political prisoners to refute allegations that deny the existence of those prisoners in PA jails. Colin Smith, the head of the EU training program and a senior British security official,. . .

Hamas: ''Abbas’ calls for dialogue must be accompanied by the release of all political prisoners''
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 6/18/2008
Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, issued a press release on Wednesday stating that the calls of President Mahmoud Abbas for a comprehensive dialogue with Hamas must be accompanied by the release of all Hamas members and supporters imprisoned by his security forces, in the West Bank". The movement stated that 36 of its members are still imprisoned by the Palestinian security forces in the West Bank which contradicts the statements of the Palestinian Authority and its calls for unity and dialogue. Hamas released the names of 36 prisoners imprisoned by Abbas’ security forces in the West Bank and demanded Abbas to issue direct orders for their immediate release. Hamas also called on all national and Islamic factions to act for the release of all political prisoners in order to advance in unity talks. Meanwhile, Hamas media sources reported on Wednesday that Palestinian security. . .

Negev communities ’break off from Israel’
Matan Zuri, YNetNews 6/18/2008
Enraged by perceived lack of support from government, Gaza-vicinity residents launch tax strike, propose forming independent ’Western Negev State’ - Hundreds of residents from Israeli communities suffering from Gaza rocket barrages have launched a campaign to actively oppose what they call the State’s ’disengagement’ from the western Negev. Their first order of business was staging a tax strike. Yedioth Ahronoth reported on Wednesday that those behind the initiative seek to protest the government’s inaction in the face of daily attacks from Palestinian terror groups. The residents fear the situation may continue to escalate despite the ceasefire agreement. " We are not the one’s breaking away from the State, it is the government that has led us to this," said members of ’The Parliament’ - a group of over 20 residents of communities in the western Negev who have come to lead the protest.

Hezbollah swap ’coming together’
Amos Harel , and Reuters, Ha’aretz 6/19/2008
Israel prisoner swapAlthough the outlines of the prisoner swap now being brokered with Hezbollah seems to indicate Israel’s assessment that the kidnapped soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser are dead, their families have received no official word. Regev and Goldwasser’s parents told Haaretz and other news outlets in recent interviews that they have no new information, and as far as they are concerned their sons are alive unless proven otherwise. In the previous prisoner exchange in 2004, a similar problem arose regarding the fate of the three soldiers abducted at Shaba Farms in October 2000 - Adi Avitan, Benny Avraham and Omar Sueid. Then, too, Hezbollah refused to divulge any information to Israel on the condition of the three soldiers. However, at an advanced stage of talks over a swap, Israel learned that the three were dead and the situation was treated as such.

Families of missing soldiers briefed ahead of Hezbollah deal
Amos Harel and Jack Khoury , and Reuters, Ha’aretz 6/19/2008
The families of kidnapped soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser were summoned for a briefing on Wednesday with Ofer Dekel, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s negotiations coordinator, in the Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv. Earlier, Dekel arrived from Berlin, where he met with German officials who are mediating contacts with Hezbollah. The families will be updated on the latest developments in the talks. Shlomo Goldwasser, Ehud’s father, told Haaretz not to expect any dramatic developments before this weekend. Although the outlines of the prisoner swap now being brokered with Hezbollah seems to indicate Israel’s assessment that Regev and Goldwasser are dead, their families have received no official word. Regev and Goldwasser’s parents told Haaretz and other news outlets in recent interviews that they have. . .

Israel, Hizbullah close to prisoner swap, Lebanese official says
Ahiya Raved, YNetNews 6/18/2008
Government official appointed to oversee prisoner exchange negotiations with Hizbullah calls meeting with parents of kidnapped soldiers Regev, Goldwasser to brief them on burgeoning deal. Lebanese source says ’two sides putting final touches on exchange deal’; Jerusalem official says swap deal ’won’t happen tonight or tomorrow’ - A Lebanese political source said on Wednesday that Hizbullah and Israel are putting the final touches on an agreement to exchange prisoners. " The two sides are putting the final touches on the swap deal," the source said. "There are some minor details that must be completed and afterwards logistical preparations would be needed. " The source, who requested anonymity, said it would take at least 10 days before the swap happens. He gave no further details. However, an official in Jerusalem familiar with the negotiations on the prisoner exchange deal told Ynet that "it will take time.

VIDEO - Stories of Two Little Girls From Gaza
Posted by Haitham Sabbah, Palestine Think Tank 6/18/2008
Here are two stories from two very bright young ladies from Gaza, Occupied Palestine. The first one is a moving clip taken from an Arabic TV show where she tells her story. Watching it made me and my family cry, so I decided to translate it and share it with you. The second touching story is from Hanen Zaqout who is only 16. This is her letter to the world: A Girl from Gaza Identified by her ID - We all spend a lifetime trying to figure out what makes someone who they are, and what defines them. Is it their characteristics, appearances, or behaviors? It may be a combination of all…for regular people. [end]

PM Salam Fayyad and EU sign financial agreement to help improve Palestinian institutions
Palestine News Network 6/18/2008
Jerusalem / Alix de Mauny - Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and European Commission Representative in Jerusalem John Kjaer today signed, Wednesday, a financing agreement for €14 million (over 73 million NIS) under the European Union’s PEGASE mechanism, through which the EU is helping to build the institutions of a future Palestinian State. The €14 million will help to finance improvements in key areas outlined in the Palestinian Reform and Development Plan. European Commission Representative John Kjaer today said "the Palestinian Authority has underlined in its Reform and Development Plan for 2008-10 that better institutions are critical for economic recovery, democratic development and for building the foundations for a future Palestinian state. This is important in terms of enhancing the day-to-day quality of life for Palestinian people.

Building the future Palestinian state: EU to help improve Palestinian institutions through PEGASE
European Union - EU, ReliefWeb 6/18/2008
PR/023/2008 Jerusalem -Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and European Commission Representative in Jerusalem John Kjaer today signed a financing agreement for €14 million (over 73 million NIS) under the European Union’s PEGASE mechanism, through which the EU is helping to build the institutions of a future Palestinian State. The €14 million will help to finance improvements in key areas outlined in the Palestinian Reform and Development Plan. European Commission Representative John Kjaer today said "the Palestinian Authority has underlined in its Reform and Development Plan for 2008-10 that better institutions are critical for economic recovery, democratic development and for building the foundations for a future Palestinian state. This is important in terms of enhancing the day-to-day quality of life for Palestinian people.

Czech leader pledges to advance EU-Israel relations
Assaf Uni and Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 6/19/2008
BERLIN - Czech Republic Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Vondra said yesterday that his country intends to use its term as president of the Council of the European Union to improve the organization’s relations with Israel. The six-month term begins on January 1,2009. Speaking at a conference here yesterday, Vondra said he intends to organize a business meeting in Prague between Israeli leaders and their EU counterparts. He said that the meeting will coincide with the 400th anniversary of the death of Judah Loew ben Bezalel (the Maharal), the rabbinical leader who lived in that city, and who remains associated with the mythical creature he is said to have created, the Golem. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who also attended the conference, reiterated his country’s commitment to Israel’s security.

Khudari in Austria, rallies the world to lifting Gaza siege
Palestinian Information Center 6/18/2008
VIENNA, (PIC)-- Palestinian lawmaker and head of the Gaza-based anti-siege popular committee MP Jamal Al-Khudari is in Austria with the aim to rally the popular and official support for ending the unjust Israeli economic siege on Gaza Strip. The blockade was imposed more than two years ago after Hamas Movement won most of the seats in the PA parliament in transparent and democratic elections witnessed by more than 1000 observers headed by former US president Jimmy Carter among other prominent personalities. The Palestinian official met with prominent Austrian figures, including chairman of the Green Peace group, and head of the Arab-Austrian friendship in addition to many Austrian officials supporting the Palestinian people’s cause, where he briefed them on the brutal Israeli policies against the Palestinian people, and the bad repercussions inflicted on the Palestinian people as a result of the Israeli sanctions.

Italy FM: EU stance on Israel in past swayed by intolerance of Jews
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 6/19/2008
Italy’s newly appointed foreign minister said Tuesday that the European Union has in the past taken an unbalanced stance on Israel, at times blurring the line between legitimate criticism and anti-Semitic sentiments. Speaking before a forum on Israel-European relations in Berlin, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said: "I have to admit, if I look at the past, EU has taken on some occasions an unbalanced stance visa vis Israel, even by making an unacceptable confusion between the legitimate political criticism of the Israeli gut and the sentiment of intolerance against Jewish people that can become anti-Semitism. "Frattini, who was appointed by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, is considered a supporter of Israel. His predecessor, Massimo D’Alema, often took a harsh line against Israel, particularly with regard to the Second Lebanon War and the situation in the Gaza Strip.

Jazz musician Branford Marsalis urged to cancel Israel concert
Open letter, BRICUP, Electronic Intifada 6/18/2008
The following is an open letter to jazz musician Branford Marsalis, sent by the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine on 17 June: Dear Branford Marsalis: Inventive and independent musician that you are, it seems to us that you’re constantly exploring aspects of black American experience. And jazz is one of the most triumphant expressions of African Americans’ resistance to forced removal, ruthless suppression, and murderous racism. Yet you are reportedly going to play a concert in a country whose government and army are even now inflicting similar cruelties on another people. Is it possible that when you agreed to play in Tel Aviv on 17 July, you did not think what message this would send to the indigenous inhabitants of Palestine, many of whom now live in refugee camps outside their homeland, or in exile across the world? They were driven out en masse in 1948 and 1967, and no Israeli government has ever allowed them, their children, or their children’s children, to return.

Itamar Cohen vs. the US
Roi Mandel, YNetNews 6/18/2008
Security guard fired from US Consulate wins wrongful termination suit but latter’s failure to pay results in writ of execution against American property in Israel; AG called in to stop case from deteriorating into diplomatic incident -Attorney General Menachem Mazuz is faced with an unusual situation - a writ of execution issued against US government property in Israel. The order was issued as part of an unlawful dismissal case involving an Israeli who was fired from his position as a security guard at the American Consulate in Jerusalem. Itamar Cohen, 29, was fired from the consulate three years ago. He served as a security officer for two years before applying for a promotion. After his request was denied, he complained he’d been discriminated against. He also lodged a complaint after vandals sprayed swastikas on a consulate wall and nothing was done to apprehend the perpetrators.

Barhoum: Mishaal’s visit to UAE aims to restore Arab depth
Palestinian Information Center 6/18/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The visit of Khaled Mishaal, the political bureau chairman of Hamas Movement, to the Untied Arab Emirates aimed to restore the Arab depth to the Palestine cause, a Hamas spokesman said. Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said in a press statement on Wednesday that the visit falls in line with Hamas and Mishaal’s efforts to brief the Arab countries on Palestinian developments and the importance of amalgamating Arab efforts in support of the Palestinian people to boost their steadfastness and to support their rights and constants. Barhoum underlined that UAE president Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al-Nahayyan’s invitation to Mishaal reflected the depth of relations between the two parties. Mishaal met with Sheikh Khalifa in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday and discussed with him political developments in the Palestinian arena in the first such visit by a Hamas delegation to the UAE for ten years.

Islamic Movement in Jordan warns of ''Jordanian option'' idea raised by McCain
Palestinian Information Center 6/18/2008
AMMAN, (PIC)-- The Islamic Movement in Jordan warned of the gravity of what was stated by John McCain, the republican candidate for the US presidential elections, about adopting the Jordanian option to get rid of the burden placed by the Palestinian cause on the public policy of his country in the Middle East. An advisor to McCain said that the latter adopts a strategy to resolve the conflict in the Middle East based on the Jordanian option which states that Jordan is the natural home for millions of Palestinians and the best solution to the issue of the Palestinian refugees. Irheel Gharaibah, the secretary-general of the Islamic action front party in Jordan, underlined that such statements reflect a very serious juncture in the American official discourse and an inauguration of a new stage calling for disengaging from any commitments to international laws regarding the Palestinian land and refugees.

Torture techniques linked to top Bush officials
Middle East Online 6/18/2008
WASHINGTON - Harsh interrogation techniques used at US "war-on-terror" prisons in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay were sanctioned by top US government officials in 2002 against the advice of lawyers from all branches of the military, a senior US senator alleged Tuesday. In a hearing Carl Levin, the Democratic head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, tied US interrogation policies -- which critics say have included torture -- to Donald Rumsfeld, the powerful defense secretary from 2001 to 2006, and other top officials in President George W. Bush’s administration. Counter to the Bush administration’s argument that mistreatment at the prisons arose from simply a handful of out-of-control military jailers, or a "few bad apples," Levin said a high-level debate raged in the US defense and intelligence community from mid-2002 over techniques such as waterboarding, sexual humiliation, menacing dogs and sensory deprivation.

IOA demolishes 3 Palestinian homes in Jerusalem
Palestinian Information Center 6/18/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- Bulldozes of the Israeli-controlled municipality of occupied Jerusalem on Tuesday razed to the ground three Palestinian homes in Beit Hanina and Wadi Kaddoum at the pretext of lack of permit. The Israeli occupation authority sanctioned the demolition of the home of Ihab Al-Tawil north of Beit Hanina north of occupied Jerusalem for the second time. The 50-square-meter house provided shelter for Tawil’s family that comprised five children the eldest being only nine years old and the youngest five months old. Israeli security escorting the municipal team forcibly evacuated the house and kept the family members 100 meters away before starting the demolition that damaged the electricity wires and water network. Tawil, who reported the incident, said that he was surprised at the presence of the municipal team and security men without prior notice.

Mizan: IOF troops still use civilians as human shields
Palestinian Information Center 6/18/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Mizan center for human rights stated Tuesday that the IOF troops still flout the rules of international humanitarian law in their dealing with the Palestinian people, where they commit war crimes in the Gaza Strip and use civilians as human shields during their military operations. In a report received by the PIC, the center reviewed part of the violations committed by the IOF troops such as turning houses into military barracks, confining the Palestinian families to one room and using them as human shields against any counterattacks.   The report said that the invading IOF troops force Palestinian citizens to work on their behalf such as making gaps in walls or removing floor tiles inside their houses to use them as barriers when they take vantage points at windows to shoot at anything moving in the invaded area.

The Israeli army kidnaps 8 Palestinian civilians from the West Bank
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 6/18/2008
Israeli sources said that the Israeli army has kidnapped 8 Palestinian civilians during pre dawn invasions targeting West Bank cities and towns on Wednesday. The sources said that all those kidnapped have political affiliations with Palestinian political factions. Meanwhile Palestinian sources said that those kidnapped are civilians, the sources added that the kidnappings took place in the northern West Bank city of Hebron, and in the central West Bank city of Ramallah, in addition to Nablus and Jenin in the northern part of the West Bank. The army said that those kidnapped were taken to detention camps for questioning and gave no further details. [end]

Israeli forces storm house in Hebron
Ma’an News Agency 6/18/2008
Hebron - Ma’an - Israeli force stormed the house of Diab Shaker Al-Qudsi located in As-Salam street in Hebron on Wednesday afternoon. Al-Qudsi told Ma’an that an Israeli force entered his home and detained fifteen men in one room and twenty women and children in another room. According to the house owner, soldiers destroyed furniture in the seven apartments in the building and took photographs of all family members before leaving. [end]

Lebanon PM: There’s no place for bilateral talks with Israel
Barak Ravid and Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 6/19/2008
Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora rejected Israel’s call for direct, bilateral talks to reach a peace deal between the two bordering countries. "Lebanon’s known position before this government is that there is no place for bilateral negotiations between Lebanon and Israel," Siniora’s media office said in a statement late Wednesday. Hezbollah legislator Nawar al-Saheli told The Associated Press that the Israeli offer is :ridiculous propaganda. "Government spokesman Mark Regev said earlier Wednesday that Israel is interested in talks that would bring every issue of contention to the table. He said the talks would also cover a key border dispute over the Shaba Farms, a small piece of land controlled by Israel, the dispute over which is a key sticking point between Israel, Lebanon and Syria.

Stones greet US envoy in south Lebanon
Middle East Online 6/18/2008
NABATIYEH - The US charge d’affaires to Beirut was greeted with stones and chants of "Death to America" on Wednesday as she met with a local Shiite official in south Lebanon, a security official said. "Some 200 people, including women and children, surrounded the house of Abdullah Bitar, who is opposed to Hezbollah, as he met in Nabatiyeh with charge d’affaires Michele Sison and they began throwing stones," the official said. He said the crowd also shouted "Death to America, Death to Israel, we don’t want you in south Lebanon", as extra Lebanese police converged on the site. The official said Sison’s car was hit by several stones as she was being evacuated from the area, but she emerged unharmed. The US embassy in Lebanon had no immediate comment on the incident. US President George W. Bush earlier this month selected Sison as ambassador to Lebanon but her nomination requires the Senate’s approval.

Israel ’favours’ talks with Lebanon
Al Jazeera 6/18/2008
Israel has called for direct peace talks with Lebanon, saying it is ready to discuss all issues with its neighbour. "We favour direct, bilateral negotiations in which all issues of dispute are up for discussion," Mark Regev, the Israeli government spokesman, said on Wednesday. Israel wants peace with Lebanon. "The government in Beirut last week rejected the idea of talks when Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, suggested that he was interesting in beginning a dialogue. Fouad Siniora, Lebanon’s prime minister, has previously said that his country would be the last to make peace with Israel. Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, made an unannounced visit to Beirut on Monday where she called for UN action on the disputed Shebaa Farms, an area Israel captured from Syria in 1967 and which is now claimed by Lebanon.

VIDEO - Israel urges Lebanon to talk peace
Associated Press, YNetNews 6/18/2008
(Video) Government spokesman Mark Regev says Jerusalem interested in ’direct, bilateral’ talks and is ready to put ’every issue of contention on the table’, including Shebaa Farms dispute - VIDEO -Israel on Wednesday urged Lebanon to open peace talks, the latest move in a flurry of developments aimed at easing the multiple conflicts in the region. Israel’s most explicit overture yet toward Lebanon comes just weeks after Israel and Syria confirmed they had relaunched indirect peace talks, ending an eight-year breakdown. Video courtesy of infolive. tv Earlier this week, a senior government official confirmed Israel was pursuing a prisoner swap withHizbullah guerrillas in Lebanon, and on Thursday Israel and Gaza Strip militants are to enter into a truce after long negotiations.

Hezbollah supporters hurl stones at U.S. envoy’s car in Lebanon
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 6/18/2008
The party of the United States charge d’affaires was attacked with stones on Wednesday by Hezbollah supporters during a visit to southern Lebanon, a Lebanese security source said. "Some 200 people, including women and children, surrounded the house of Abdullah Bitar, who is opposed to Hezbollah, as he met in Nabatiyeh with charge d’affaires Michele Sison and they began throwing stones," a Lebanese security source said. "Death to America, death to Israel - we don’t want you in southern Lebanon", the crowd chanted as the Lebanese police rushed to the areaw here Sison was having lunch. The source said Sison’s car was hit by several stones as she was being evacuated from the area, but she emerged unharmed. A U. S. embassy statement made no mention of the incident.

Sderot residents fear Hamas rearmament during truce
Shmulik Hadad, YNetNews 6/19/2008
Negev skeptical of imminent ceasefire between Israel, armed organizations in Gaza. ’During the last Hudna a Qassam fell near my house,’ resident says. ’Those who believe in the possibility of a ceasefire should be committed to a mental hospital,’ another resident adds -The ceasefire between Israel and armed Palestinian terror groups is expected to go into effect on Thursday at 6 am, but the residents of Sderot, who have suffered from near incessant rocket fire over the past seven years, remain skeptical of Hamas’ intentions and say they will continue to sleep in secure rooms. Furthermore, sources in the municipality said the emergency measures will not be lifted, in accordance with security establishment directives. "Apparently the army also knows a thing or two about the real essence of this truce," one of them said. The western Negev was

Egypt: Cease-fire to start tomorrow
Amos Harel and Jack Khoury, Ha’aretz 6/19/2008
Egypt and Hamas announced yesterday that a cease-fire (tahadiyeh) between Israel and the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip will go into effect at 6 A. M. tomorrow. Israel has not officially confirmed the information; however, security sources said an accord is in the offing. Defense Ministry official Major General (res. ) Amos Gilad left yesterday for Cairo to conclude the final agreement. Senior Hamas officials, among them Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and the deputy head of the organization’s political bureau in Damascus, Mohammed Nazal, announced the timetable, confirmed by news agencies with officials in Cairo. "Both sides have pledged to halt all hostilities and all military activities against each other," Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki said in Cairo yesterday. Gilad met yesterday with Egyptian intelligence chief General Omar Suleiman.

The cease-fire deal / Hamas in charge
Zvi Bar''el, Ha’aretz 6/19/2008
The main points of a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas grant the Islamic organization a political and diplomatic achievement that will also give it a lever in its reconciliation talks with Fatah, which are slated to begin at the end of this week. According to the Egyptian-mediated proposal, Israel will no longer be able to monitor the Rafah crossing, on the Gaza-Egypt border, once it reopens, and a deal to free kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit will be discussed separately from the truce, as Hamas wanted. Israel will receive quiet in the south, along with an Egyptian pledge to monitor the border closely, but Hamas will be the main party in control of the Rafah crossing. Palestinian Authority officials and European observers will be present, but both will have limited authority. Moreover, the truce gives Hamas, rather than PA President Mahmoud. . .

EU Commissioner welcomes truce between Israel and Hamas
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 6/18/2008
Benita Ferrero -Waldner, European Commissioner for External Relations and Neighborhood Policy, issued a statement on Wednesday welcoming he announcement of truce between Israel and Hamas movement. In her statement, Ferrero-Waldner said that she welcomes this truce which was brokered by Egypt and expressed appreciation to the Egyptian efforts and role in facilitating this agreement which "would end the suffering of the people of Gaza and southern Israel". She added that she is awaiting the implementation of this deal which should take effect on Thursday morning and expressed hopes that this deal would lead to "a lasting peace" which would enable the opening of border crossings in the Gaza Strip in order to ensure a regular flow of humanitarian aid and commercial goods. Ferrero-Waldner added that the EU is willing to resume its mission in monitoring the Rafah Border Crossing, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip as soon s the conditions allow.

Shalit’s father demands clarifications on the truce deal
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 6/18/2008
The father of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli army soldier who was abducted by Palestinian fighters in June 2006, sent on Wednesday several letters to senior Israeli officials, including Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, demanding them to provide clarifications on the Hamas-Israel cease-fire deal which was brokered by Egypt. The father, Noam Shalit, said that he is disappointed that Israel agreed to a truce deal before reaching a deal on the release of Gilad. Israeli online daily, Haaretz, stated that Noam consulted with judicial official and considers his letters as the first step before heading to the legal system including the High Court of Justice in order to appeal against the truce deal. He said that officials in Israel did not inform him on the details on the truce deal and added that he doubts that this deal will go into effect or if it will even advance the talks on the release of his son.

Israel confirms Hamas ceasefire deal
AP, The Independent 6/18/2008
Israel officially confirmed today that a ceasefire with Hamas militants will begin this week in an effort to end a year of fighting that has killed more than 400 Palestinians and seven Israelis. The truce is due to begin tomorrow morning and would be followed next week by an Israeli easing of its blockade of Gaza. "Thursday will be the beginning we hope of a new reality where Israeli citizens in the south will no longer be on the receiving end of continuous rocket attacks," an Israeli government spokesman said. "Israel is giving a serious chance to this Egyptian initiative and we want it to succeed. " As part of the deal Egypt has promised to stop the smuggling of arms and weapons from its territory into Gaza. If Israel agrees the Egyptian efforts are serious, Hamas, Egypt and European officials will begin talks on opening Gaza’s main gateway, the Rafah crossing into Egypt.

Israel-OPT: European Commissioner statement on announcement of ceasefire
European Commission - EC, ReliefWeb 6/18/2008
Following the announcement of a truce between Israel and Hamas, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, European Commissioner for External Relations and Neighbourhood Policy, has said: "I welcome the news of the agreement between Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian factions brokered by Egypt on a mutual cease-fire in the Gaza Strip. I appreciate Egypt’s efforts to facilitate this agreement because the people of Gaza and southern Israel have suffered too long. I am awaiting now the ceasefire to take effect on Thursday morning. I hope that it will lead to a lasting peace so that the Gaza crossings can be reopened for the regular flow of both humanitarian and commercial goods. The EU has indicated that it is ready to consider resuming its border assistance mission at Rafah as soon as conditions allow. Complete cessation of hostilities will no doubt create an environment which is more supportive. . .

Fayyad welcomes the truce deal between Hamas and Israel in Gaza
Najeep Faraaj, International Middle East Media Center News 6/18/2008
The Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad of the care taker government welcomed on Wednesday the truce deal between Hamas, which controls Gaza, and Israel. Fayyad made his comments during a speech in the opening of the Development of Small Projects conference being held today in the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem. Israel has announced late on Tuesday that it accepted the truce deal with Hamas that was mediated by Egypt. Fayyad welcomed the truce and said that it will relieve the residents of Gaza that have been living under the Israeli siege since June 2007. The Egyptian-mediated ceasefire stipulates that Hamas will halt the fire of homemade shells into Israeli territory, in exchange for Israel lifting the 12 month-blockade and ceasing all military attacks against the Gaza Strip. Israel set two further demands; the release of the captured Israeli soldier Gilad. . .

Hamas: The truce agreement will be implemented according to national consensus
Palestinian Information Center 6/18/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement stated Wednesday that the truce agreement with Israel is scheduled to take effect at six o’clock on Thursday morning according to the Palestinian national consensus and under the auspices of Egypt. In a press release received by the PIC, Dr. Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, said that the Israeli approval to the calm means that both parties became bound by the agreement, hoping that the Israeli occupation will translate this agreement on the ground. Dr. Mahmoud Al-Zahhar, had explained Tuesday in a press conference that the Palestinian and Israeli sides agreed on the first phase of the Egyptian-brokered truce agreement which states that the calm will be implemented mutually and simultaneously first in the Gaza Strip. According to Dr. Khalil Al-Haya, a prominent Hamas leader, some of the agreement items between Hamas and Israel stipulate that all. . .

EU supporting period of calm in the Gaza Strip
Palestine News Network 6/18/2008
Jerusalem / Alix de Mauny - Following the announcement of a ’truce’ between Israel and Hamas, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, European Commissioner for External Relations and Neighbourhood Policy, said, "I welcome the news of the agreement between Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian factions brokered by Egypt on a mutual cease-fire in the Gaza Strip. " She continued, "I appreciate Egypt’s efforts to facilitate this agreement because the people of Gaza and southern Israel have suffered too long. "Going on in her diplomatic tone, Ferrero-Waldner said, "I am awaiting now the ceasefire to take effect on Thursday morning. I hope that it will lead to a lasting peace so that the Gaza crossings can be reopened for the regular flow of both humanitarian and commercial goods. The EU has indicated that it is ready to consider resuming its border assistance mission at Rafah as soon as conditions allow.

Noam Shalit threatens High Court petition over ’government’s deception’
Ynet, YNetNews 6/18/2008
Kidnapped soldier’s father says ’we are concerned that the opening of border crossings will cause Israel to lose the only leverage it has on the issue of Gilad’s release. ’ Shalit family attorneys to Olmert: Truce agreement conflicts with a list of explicit commitments given to our clients by heads of State -"The cabinet’s decision specifically mentioned that a ceasefire agreement would include Gilad (Shalit’s) release," the kidnapped IDF soldier’s father told Channel 2 Wednesday evening amid statements by senior Hamas figures according to which Israel’s truce with armed groups in Gaza, which is expected to go into effect Thursday at 6 am, will not involve his son’s release. PM’s StatementOlmert: Shalit included in ceasefire agreement / Raanan Ben-Zur A few hours before truce with terror organizations takes hold, PM warns: Hamas bloodthirsty terrorists. . .

Gazans eagerly awaiting ceasefire
Ali Waked, YNetNews 6/18/2008
Palestinians nervously await Hamas ceasefire with Israel in besieged Strip. ’We hope this lasts, we deserve a few weeks of normal living,’ they say -Weary, and wary - Gaza’s residents are counting the hours until the ceasefire between Israel and the armed groups in the Strip comes into effect (6:00 am on Thursday). The overall feeling in the streets is of satisfaction mixed with disbelief that the truce will last. After all, the region has known its share of failed truces. " The people here are very happy. Some even allowed themselves to go out in the city last night," Ahmad al-Najar, a resident of the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis, told Ynet. Ceasefire? Day before truce, Gaza barrages continue/ Hanan Greenberg Over 10 Qassam rockets land in western Negev less than 24 hours before ceasefire agreement between Israel, Hamas goes into effect.

Prime Minister in Bethlehem praises calm in hopes it will: alleviate the suffering of our people
Palestine News Network 6/18/2008
Bethlehem / Najib Farrag / exclusive -- The Palestinian Prime Minister appointed by President Abbas, Dr. Salam Fayyad, was welcomed at a conference of small developers in Bethlehem Wednesday. Dr. Fayyad gave his praises for the negotiating efforts of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and everyone on the Egyptian team for all of the work to bring about the period of "calm" in the Gaza Strip slated to begin tomorrow morning at dawn. When asked by reporters on the sidelines of the small business development conference about the specifics, he replied, "We welcome the announcement of this ’calm,’ which we hope will contribute to alleviating the suffering of our people in the Gaza Strip and lift the Israeli siege on the other part of the homeland. "He also said that ’calm’ in Gaza "strengthens our position," and called for the opening of all crossings in the Strip.

Olmert: Shalit included in ceasefire agreement
Raanan Ben-Zur, YNetNews 6/18/2008
A few hours before truce with terror organizations takes hold, PM warns: Hamas bloodthirsty terrorists with whom negotiations cannot be conducted; IDF has instructions to be prepared for necessary action. Also clarifies kidnapped soldier part of deal - Just a few hours before the ceasefire with the terror organizations of the Gaza Strip takes effect, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has clarified his views onHamas and emphasized that Israel would continue to view it as an enemy of the State. He also mentioned that kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit would remain part of the deal, which he termed "fragile". "I believe the south will have peace, but we have no illusions. The thing we call a lull is very fragile, and it may well be short-lived," Olmert said during a convention held by the philanthropic Sheatufim Center for Civil Society on Wednesday.

Secretary-General welcomes Israel/Gaza cessation of violence
United Nations Secretary-General, ReliefWeb 6/18/2008
SG/SM/11645 The following statement was issued today by the Spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: The Secretary-General welcomes the announced Israel/Gaza cessation of violence. The Secretary-General hopes that these efforts will both provide security and an easing of the humanitarian situation in Gaza, and end rocket and mortar attacks against Israeli targets. He also hopes that this cessation of violence will lead to a controlled and sustained opening of the Gaza crossings for humanitarian and commercial purposes. The Secretary-General looks forward to all sides acting with care and responsibility in ensuring that this cessation of violence endures. The Secretary-General congratulates Egypt on its persistent efforts to achieve calm through this agreement. For information media • not an official record

Hamas denies connection between calm and Shalit, renews rejection of Arab force
Palestinian Information Center 6/18/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement on Wednesday denied any connection between the issue of calm between Israel and Palestinian resistance factions and the question of the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Dr. Ismail Radwan, one of the Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip, in a press statement said that the issue of calm is linked to halting hostilities and opening crossings while that of Shalit is hinged on releasing Palestinian prisoners. He pointed out that Cairo pledged to invite all concerned parties to the issue of the Rafah crossing one week after the calm to discuss administrative procedures on opening the Rafah border terminal. The spokesman said that an Egyptian-Palestinian committee would be formed to discuss opening the crossing after contacting the PA presidency in Ramallah, the Europeans and the PA caretaker government in Gaza.

Israeli PM warns Gaza cease-fire may not last
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 6/18/2008
Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, stated on Wednesday that Israel is committed to its part in implementing the cease-fire deal in the Gaza Strip, but also warned that this deal is fragile and may not last. The deal is slated to take effect on Thursday at 6 A. M. The statements of Olmert came shortly after Israel officially announced it had agreed to the ceasefire deal which was proposed and medicated by Egypt. Olmert said that while Israel will implement its part of the deal, the army will remain ready to retaliate should Palestinian armed groups fire homemade shells from Gaza into Israel. He added that Hamas is in charge of the Gaza Strip and it is responsible for everything which is happening there. Olmert also said that the release of the captured Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, is a natural condition of the cease-fire deal.

World welcomes Gaza truce, urges sides to fulfill obligations
Haaretz Service and Reuters, Ha’aretz 6/18/2008
The Egyptian-brokered cease-fire deal reached Wednesday between Israel and Hamas was welcomed by the international world and accompanied with calls for both sides to fulfill their obligations. The United States said it hoped the truce, which goes into effect at 6 A. M. on Thursday, would put an end to Qassam rocket fire as well as fuel peace talks between Israel the Palestinian Authority. "We hope this means no more rockets will be fired by Hamas at innocent Israelis as well as lead to a better atmosphere for talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority," White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said. British Foreign Secretary David Miliband praised the deal and commended Egypt on its mediation efforts. "Reports of a ceasefire in Gaza are very welcome for a region that has seen so much conflict in recent months.

Hamas, Israel placing onus on each other for success of ceasefire
Ma’an News Agency 6/18/2008
Jerusalem – Ma’an – Israeli officials are worried that armed Palestinian groups will carry out an attack on Israeli forces before the newly announced ceasefire comes into effect in the Gaza Strip at 6am on Thursday. Palestinian leaders, such as exiled Hamas political chief Khalid Mesh’al, believe the onus is on Israel to restrain its military if the ceasefire is to succeed. The ceasefire was announced just hours after Israeli warplanes struck the Gaza Strip, killing six Palestinians. Palestinian military organizations also continued to launch homemade projectiles from Gaza into Israel. An Israeli official source told Israeli reporters: "the Palestinians [will use] the moments before the truce so as to show off and be the strongest in front of the public but if that took place Israel will end the truce immediately.

Abu Zuhri: We did not sign calm out of weakness
Palestinian Information Center 6/18/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement on Wednesday affirmed that it signed the calm agreement out of strength and not out of weakness and that it would abide by all articles of the agreement as mediated by Egypt. Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, said in a press statement that the Palestinian people’s steadfastness and resistance’s weapons are the guarantees for continuation of this agreement. He said that both parties are committed to the agreement after approving it, adding that three days after the ceasefire goes into effect Israel would gradually open the commercial crossings and within two weeks they would be completely open. The spokesman said that Egyptian sponsorship of the agreement was an important element in stabilizing it, adding that Hamas considers the agreement one of the fruits of resistance.

Damascus ’backs’ Hamas-Israel truce
News agencies, YNetNews 6/18/2008
Syrian foreign minister says regime supports Gaza ceasefire agreement. ’We are waiting to see whether the Israelis are going to fulfill their part of this truce,’ says Minister Muaellem. Meanwhile Hamas remains unconcerned about Syria’s loyalty - Syria said Wednesday it supported a truce between Hamas and Israel, calling on the latter to lift its blockade of the Gaza Strip. "We support this agreement. We support the lifting of the boycott of Gaza, and we hope and we are waiting to see whether the Israelis are going to fulfill their part of this truce," Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said. Israel confirmed Wednesday it had agreed to a truce in and around Gaza, but at the same time showed little enthusiasm for the Egyptian-brokered deal with Hamas, which it boycotts as a terror group.

Hamas: Egypt will supervise implementation of truce
Ma’an News Agency 6/18/2008
Gaza – Ma’an - Sami Abu Zuhri, an official Hamas spokesperson, said that the parties are now involved in a binding agreement, and that "the ball is now in the occupation’s court" regarding the success or failure of the truce. Abu Zuhri confirmed that the implementation of the agreement will take place under the Egyptian supervision, in conjunction with the beginning of a national reconciliation dialogue between Hamas and Fatah. Abu Zuhri stressed that in spite of the ceasefire, Hamas is a resistance movement, and would protect Palestinian land in the face of occupation. [end]

Peres, King Abdullah meet in Petra
Ronen Medzini and AFP, YNetNews 6/18/2008
President in Jordan ahead of Nobel Peace Laureates conference, briefs king on peace negotiations with Palestinians, situation in Gaza Strip and relations with Syria - President Shimon Peres arrived in Petra on Wednesday morning, where he met with King Abdullah II ahead of the a global conference for Nobel Peace Laureates named ’Petra IV: Reaching for New Economic, Scientific and Educational Horizons. ’The leaders discussed a series of political and defense-related issues, including the peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the indirect negotiations with Syria and the complex situation in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. Peres is also seeking to promote the ’Valley of Peace’ project and the joint Israeli-Jordanian-Palestinian canal.

Report: IAEA has proof Syria built nuclear reactor
Ynetnews, YNetNews 6/18/2008
French news agency reports UN watchdog has evidence proving Syria was developing nuclear reactor. Report contradicts IAEA chief’s speech, claiming agency has no evidence to suggest Syria had means for such an endeavor - The website of the French news agency Le Monde reported that information originating in different countries other than the US and suggesting that Syria did indeed build a nuclear reactor in Al Kibar, was handed over to the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) recently. This report contradicts the most recent statement made by the UN’s nuclear watchdog, in which it denied having any knowledge leading to the conclusion that Syria had the knowledge and means to build such a reactor. According to the French report, the new information confirms earlier claims that North Korea had assisted Syria in its nuclear endeavors.

Olmert to French daily: Israel, Syria not far from direct talks
Yoav Stern and The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 6/18/2008
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was quoted as saying Wednesday that Israel is not far away from direct peace talks with Syria. Israel and Syria, bitter enemies, have recently renewed indirect discussions, with Turkish-mediation. Olmert, in an interview with France’s Le Figaro newspaper, was quoted as saying that direct talks could be opened once Israel and Syria agree on a precise agenda and issues to discuss. "We aren’t far away," Olmert was quoted as saying. "If the two parties are serious, we should soon sit down at a table for talks. "Both Olmert and Syrian President Bashar Assad are expected in Paris at a summit of European and Mediterranean countries on July 13 and there has been speculation that they may meet on the sidelines. Claude Gueant, French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s chief of staff, toldEurope-1. . .

Syria sources deny reports that Olmert, Assad will share table in Paris
Jerusalem Post 6/18/2008
Syrian sources denied reports saying there was an option tha Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Syrian President Bashar Assad will meet in Paris, Wednesday. A conference hosted by France on July 13 is scheduled to include both Israel and Syria in the group of countries attending. "Israel is attending the conference, but this does not mean Syria will sit with it in the same table," the sources, speaking to a Syrian TV network, said. "The reports claiming the two countries’ envoys will sit at the same table in the meeting have not even a grain of truth in them," the sources added. [end]

A New Kid on the Peacemaking Block
The Middle East Times - Editorial, MIFTAH 6/18/2008
There is a relatively new group on the Middle East peacemaking block who go by the name of The Israeli Palestinian Confederation. The Los Angeles-based IPC has been kicking around the idea for the last three years of a confederation between Israelis and Palestinians as a means to resolve the 60-year-old dispute that has been at the center of the Middle East’s turmoil. Their solution to the Arab-Israeli crisis calls for the Palestinian and Israeli governments to remain independent and sovereign, with the same authority they have held in the past. (At least as far as the Israeli government is concerned; one would hope that in a future Palestinian state the Palestinian government would wield greater authority. )In any case, the IPC blueprint for peace has each government continuing to have jurisdiction over their peoples and institutions.

Jordan king warns against failure to create Palestinian state
Middle East Online 6/18/2008
PETRA - Jordan’s King Abdullah II warned on Wednesday that failure to create an independent Palestinian state this year would be a "serious mistake," calling for a stable Middle East. "It would be a serious mistake to miss the opportunities we have this year to establish, finally, a sovereign, independent and viable Palestinian state along with a secure and recognised Israel," the king said at the opening of a conference of 29 Nobel laureates whose main focus is the global food crisis and other development issues. "The Middle East must move out of this threat zone. The single most important step is peace - a comprehensive settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict. " Israeli President Shimon Peres, and Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa are among those attending the two-day meeting in the world heritage site of Petra, alongside Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade.

Peres confronts Arab League leader at Jordanian convention
Ronen Medzini, YNetNews 6/18/2008
President exchanges harsh words with Amr Moussa about Middle East peace in spontaneous heated debate during Petra Convention. Moussa: Israel all talk, doesn’t want peace; Peres answers: How will Arab League prevent rocket fire? - Open mic night Jordanian-style: President Shimon Peres on Wednesday confronted Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa during the Petra Convention in Jordan. The two exchanged accusations, inciting the audience. When Peres concluded his speech, Moussa stood up suddenly and insisted on addressing the audience. He got on stage, seized the microphone and turned to President Peres, saying "I have listened to your speech. I admire you, love you and am your friend; but "Israel is all talk. In reality, you don’t want peace, nor do you do anything to promote it. " 

Bank Leumi UK chief, 13 others arrested in fraud, bribery probe
Amit Benaroia, Ha’aretz 6/19/2008
Bank Leumi Britain CEO Menachem "Miki" Friedman was arrested yesterday morning on suspicion of fraud and bribery of involving loans worth NIS 25 million during his tenure as the bank’s central branch manager. Thirteen other prominent businessmen suspected of involvement in the bribery, including the CEO of a furniture company, a former soccer player, owners of well-known Tel Aviv restaurants and the CEO of an airline, were arrested along with Friedman. Bank Leumi is said to be shocked by the affair, and is finding it difficult to accept that the staid banker of 35 years is suspected of such blatantly criminal activity. And, indeed, suspicions concerning bribery and irregularities in the granting of bank loans relate to just a few months during 2007, toward the end of Friedman’s five-year tenure as branch manager. He was appointed CEO of Leumi Britain in September 2007.

Eilat fish farms, which helped destroy Red Sea coral reefs, close down
Haaretz Staff and Channel 10, Ha’aretz 6/19/2008
Haaretz. com/Channel 10 daily feature for June 18, 2008. The final chapter in the most important victory for environmentalists in the history of Israel concluded this week, when the Eilat fish farms finally closed their doors. Human activity in and around Eilat has drastically contributed to the environmental degradation of the Red Sea. That impact has caused irreversible damage to the sea’s reefs, some of the most biologically diverse in the world, which house hundreds of species of corals and fish and attract scuba divers from all over the world. Marine biologists agree that the fish farms, which introduced nonnative species to the delicate ecosystem of the Gulf, were a primary contributing factor. Related articles: Environmental groups warn of damage from Dead Sea canalAG Mazuz rejects PMO petition to. . .

A blue-and-white answer to the greens on the Dead Sea
Shahar Ilan, Ha’aretz 6/19/2008
Within a few decades, the Dead Sea will become the lowest salt wilderness in the world. It may even be the lowest salt puddle in the world. Visitors fond of ecological disasters will go on special tours to see the fields of sinkholes and the flooded hotels. And everyone will probably blame the government for letting it happen. However, some of the main contributors to the demise of the Dead Sea are likely to be certain organizations fighting for the environment. There is today only one practical option for saving the Dead Sea: the canal connecting it to the Red Sea and the surrounding "Peace Valley," whose creation President Shimon President and French President Nicolas Sarkozy intend to announce next week. But environmental organizations, led by Friends of the Earth-Middle East (FoEME), are fighting the project.

Israel’s defense tech draws int’l crowd
Yuval Azoulay, Ha’aretz 6/19/2008
Interest is marked in the many reps from around the world who have been visiting the Israeli defense industry booth this week at Eursatory 2008 in Paris, billed as "the Premier International Land, Airland, Homeland Defense Exhibition. "Drawing attention is a new unmanned ground vehicle called the Guardium that was codeveloped by Elbit and Israel Aerospace Industries. The armored vehicle, which can reach a speed of 120 kph and is equipped with an array of weapons, has drawn attention from many potential buyers. An Israel Defense Forces official said the vehicle will be incorporated into the army over the next year. According to the official, it will help patrol areas around the Gaza Strip fence. One of its features will enable it to identify intruders and transmit pictures of them to a control room.

Shekel-dollar rate continues drop
Yael Gruntman, Globes Online 6/18/2008
Easy Forex: Domestic inflationary pressures mean interest rate hikes ahead. The shekel-dollar exchange rate is continuing yesterday’s drop, when the exchnage rate fell over 2% against leading currencies. The shekel-dollar exchange rate is down 0. 33% to NIS 3. 33/$ inter-bank trading this morning, after an early gain. However, the shekel-euro exchange rate is up 0. 15% to NIS 5. 18/€, after retreating from a stronger gain at the opening. Yesterday’s shekel-dollar representative exchange rate was set at NIS 3. 34/$, a drop of 2. 28% on the day before; the shekel-euro representative exchange rate was set at NIS 5. 17/€, down 1. 9%; and the shekel-pound representative exchange rate was set at NIS 6. 508/₤, down 2. 74%. "Globes" analyst Avi Temkin notes, "A strengthening of 2. 5% by the shekel within the space of just a few hours cannot be considered a normal occurrence, not for a properly functioning market.

Los Angeles joins Israel on water research
Merav Ankori, Globes Online 6/18/2008
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa signed a deal with incubator Kinarot. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has signed a cooperation agreement withKinarot-Jordan Valley Technology Incubator , which focuses on water technologies. Villaraigosa led a delegation of top municipal officials, which includes Los Angeles Department of Water & Power CEO H. David Nahai. The collaboration will be of great interest to Israeli water technology start-ups, which will be able to use Los Angeles Department of Water & Power facilities for pilot projects. Israel Venture Association chairwoman Dr. Orna Berry arranged the contact between Kinarot and the Los Angeles municipality. Villaraigosa told "Globes", "Israel is a global leader in high-tech and environmental solutions. As such, we intend to utilize the know-how of our Israeli friends to deal with the challenges we face from drought and global warming.

Israeli-held o’seas assets increase by $2b
Globes'' correspondent, Globes Online 6/18/2008
However, overseas portfolio investments fell due to falling global markets. Israelis held $190. 3 billion in assets overseas at the end of March 2008, $2 billion more than at the end of 2007, the Bank of Israelreports. Direct investment overseas grew by 4%, or $2 billion, during the first quarter, to $47. 8 billion, but portfolio investment fell by 5%, or $2 billion to $43 billion, mainly due to falling prices in foreign financial markets. The balance of other investment, which includes mainly deposits and credit, grew by 2%, or $1 billion to $69. 7 billion, mainly as a result of the banking sector’s increased deposits abroad. (Reserve assets rose to $30 billion). Israel’s external liabilities totaled $204. 9 billion at the end of March, 1%, or $2 billion, less than at the end of 2007. Nonresidents’ direct investment grew by $2 billion during the first quarter to $61.

IEC workers refuse to operate plant
Lior Baron, Globes Online 6/18/2008
The workers’ refusal has caused tensions within IEC. Sources inform ’’Globes’’ that the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) workers committee yesterday ordered employees at the Gezer power plant in Ramle not to resume operations until a new salary agreement is signed. IEC was due to begin the flow of natural gas to the power plant, which has been converted from diesel. IEC shut down the Gezer power plant yesterday in order initiate the conversion, but the workers committee ordered the plant’s employees not to restart it. "Globes" has found that no order has yet been given to the workers committee to restart the plant. The workers’ refusal has caused tensions within IEC, because continuing operation of power plants by diesel is costing the company hundreds of thousands of shekels a day. At the same time, the company is already paying East Mediterranean Gas Co.

Fuel protests to bring road chaos
Ran Rimon and Dubi Ben Gedalyahu, Globes Online 6/18/2008
Thousands of buses, taxis, and trucks will converge on central Israel Thursday. Thousands of bus, taxi, and truck drivers will make their way to central Israel Thursday in the opening round of the battle to abolish the duty on diesel, the Israel Road Transport Board has said. Vehicles from all over Israel will form a convoy of trucks, buses and taxis on the Haifa-Tel Aviv highways. At the same time, hundreds of taxis are also set to begin their descent from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, and another large convoy will make its way from Tel Aviv southward. Taking part in the demonstration will be 4,000 privately owned buses and minibuses, 22,000 taxis, heavy duty and lightweight truck fleets, and the Israel Tour Guides Association. The convoy is expected to bring traffic on the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv to a standstill at around 5 pm.

PA security forces hand over Israeli man who was ’abducted by employees’
Ma’an News Agency 6/18/2008
Nablus - Ma’an – Palestinian security forces handed over a Palestinian citizen of Israel to the Israeli authorities on Wednesday after retrieving him from the custody of his own Palestinian workers, who reportedly abducted him. The source told Ma’an that the 36-year-old Wissam Qassem’s employees, Palestinians from the village of Beit Furik, outside the West Bank city of Nablus, "kidnapped" man as a result of a financial dispute. The source said that Israeli officials contacted the Palestinian security forces after learning about the alleged abduction. The Palestinian forces searched for Qassem, eventually finding him and handing him over to Israel. The Palestinian security source said that the case was not "security" related, and that Qassem’s captors were civilians.

Where is the stability?
Avi Temkin, Globes Online 6/17/2008
A 2. 5% drop in the exchange rate cannot be normal in a sophisticated market. The Bank of Israel is not the only one that should be concerned at what has been happening on the foreign currency market over the last 24 hours. A strengthening of 2. 5% by the shekel within the space of just a few hours cannot be considered a normal occurrence, not for a properly functioning market. The dollar has lost considerable ground worldwide yet within this movement, the shekel’s strengthening against both the dollar and the euro stands out above the rest. There are two "conventional" explanations for the shekel’s strengthening and they are not necessarily contradictory. The first is that the strengthening of the local currency has been driven by the expectation of an interest rate hike in Israel at the end of the month. The second lies in the weakening by the dollar against leading currencies and the belief that this is set to continue.

Shas MK: 300,000 Jews still in Ethiopia eligible for immigration
Anshel Pfeffer, Ha’aretz 6/19/2008
Shas MK Mazor Bahyna has claimed that over 300,000 people remain in Ethiopia who are eligible to immigrate to Israel due to the forced conversion of Ethiopian Jews in the past. "We have historical evidence and letters of Kessim [Ethiopian Jewish religious leaders] on the fact that forty years ago, there were more than 50,000 converts who were forced to change their religion," said Bahyna, an Ethiopian Israeli himself. Another MK of Ethiopian origin, however, has called for an end to immigration of the Falashmura, the descendents of Jews who converted to Christianity in the past. MK Shlomo Molla (Kadima) said this should occur in accordance with a 2005 government decision which ruled that the last of the community would come to Israel in the coming weeks. "Because of mistakes made in the Interior Ministry, there are still 5,000. . .

Livni blasts culture of corruption in Israeli leadership
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 6/19/2008
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Wednesday that Israel’s leaders should be bound by the state’s values and morals, referring to an ongoing corruption investigation currently underway against fellow Kadima Party member and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. "I find it unacceptable that whatever is not criminal is tolerable," Livni said at a conference held by the Movement for Quality Government in Jerusalem. Livni added that a system of socials conventions must be established, and that any elected politician who breaks them will be pay the price. S peaking in Jerusalem at a memorial service for David Raziel, the commander of Etzel - the militant Zionist group that operated in Palestine between 1931 and 1948, Livni said: "The state has a vision and values that obligate both its citizens and its leaders.

Attorney general: Corruption exists in government
Ronen Medzini, YNetNews 6/18/2008
’Past few years have seen several attempts by various groups to purposely weaken law enforcement agencies,’ Mazuz tells Movement for Quality Government conference. Comptroller: Public figures must take responsibility when they have acted immorally. Ramon terrorizing government -Attorney General Menachem Mazuz said during a Jerusalem convention of the Movement for Quality Government on Wednesday that "corruption exists in the government, and it’s difficult to fight those with capability and immunity. "All those who violate the law have an interest in concealing their actions," he said, "the past few years have seen several attempts by various groups to purposely weaken the law enforcement agencies. " Mazuz specifically cast criticism on Vice Premier Haim Ramon, saying "a senior minister who was convicted ofsexual offenses two years ago is heading a systematic crusade against the law enforcement system.

Knesset rejects Lieberman bill that would tax draft-dodgers
Shahar Ilan, Ha’aretz 6/18/2008
The Knesset on Wednesday rejected a bill proposed by Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman, which would add one percent to the income tax of anyone who did not serve in the army or in national service of any kind. Lieberman was looking to adopt a Swiss model, which employs a similar tax. He said that anyone who does not contribute to society should compensate it "in order to help provide it a sense of equality. " Lieberman also criticized Kadima and Labor, saying their reasons for rejecting the bill were not topical, since, he said, 90 percent of voters support it. Regarding the bill proposal, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai said that the best way to deal with draft-dodging is through educational initiatives, incentives and compensation for soldiers, citing the Military Reserve Law, which regulates benefits for Israel Defense Forces reservists.

IDF request for NIS 2 billion surprises treasury
Zeev Klein, Globes Online 6/18/2008
Finance Ministry officials say the IDF has been constantly looking for ways to obtain more funds ever since the Brodet report was published. The battle between Minister of Finance Ronnie Bar-On and Minister of Defense Ehud Barak over the defense budget for 2009 has intensified further, amid threats by Barak that the Labor party will vote with the Likud for the bill to dissolve the Knesset next week. Senior IDF officials surprised the Ministry of Finance today with a demand for an extra NIS 2 billion for the defense budget following rises in prices of food and oil. The officials claimed higher fuel costs have significantly increased the cost of operating motorized weapons systems such as aircraft and naval vessels. They also claimed that rises in food prices and the ongoing weakening of the dollar was stretching the army’s budget resources.

Katsav could face civil suits over sexual assault charges
Tomer Zarchin, Ha’aretz 6/18/2008
Two of the women allegedly molested by former president Moshe Katsav are considering filing civil suits against him in parallel to the criminal proceedings. The first woman, A. , worked under Katsav when he was tourism minister, and she is the focus of the amended indictment that will soon be submitted against Katsav. She recently met with attorney Boaz Arad to discuss the chances of a civil suit against Katsav. However, Arad refused to comment on what was decided at that meeting, and other people close to A. said she was waiting to see the outcome of the criminal trial. The second woman, also known as A. , worked under Katsav at the President’s Residence. Thus far, her complaints have not been included in the indictment against Katsav, because the prosecution believes the evidence is insufficient.

Police: Ex-soldiers fraudulently used IDF funds
Yaakov Lappin, Jerusalem Post 6/18/2008
Police arrested two men on Wednesday on suspicion of encouraging at least 20 former soldiers to fraudulently apply for IDF funds. Shimon Ivgi, 23, of Kiryat Gat, and a second man were arrested after police learned that they instructed the released soldiers to say they were starting new businesses or purchasing apartments, in order to qualify for the money, which is designated to provide financial assistance to conscripts who complete their military service. The soldiers were interrogated by police, and cooperated during the questioning sessions, police said. One soldier said he returned the cash after feeling guilty for obtaining it under false pretenses. Further arrests are expected, police said.

Army of Islam leader killed in Gaza
and AP, By Avi Issacharoff and Yuval Azoulay, Ha’aretz 6/19/2008
At least seven Palestinians were killed yesterday in three Israel Air Force strikes in the Gaza Strip that seemed to target the radical Army of Islam organization. Six militants were killed when the IAF attacked a blue Subaru in the southern Gaza Strip town of Khan Yunis. The strike destroyed the car and the Palestinian Health Ministry said all of its occupants were killed. Among the dead was Muataz Durmush, the second in command of Army of Islam, an organization that was involved in the 2006 kidnapping of Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit. The other casualties were also apparently members of the group. Muataz’ half-brother Mumtaz is considered the commander of the Army of Islam. Another militant was killed in an attack on the central Gaza town of Deir el-Balah. The dead man was also identified as a member of the Army of Islam.

Negev battered by dozens of Qassams, mortars as Gaza truce deadline nears
Mijal Grinberg, Ha’aretz 6/19/2008
Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired some 40 Qassam rockets and 10 mortar shells at the western Negev over the course of Wednesday, just hours after Israel and Hamas agreed to a temporary cease-fire deal. Tensions remained high a day before the truce was to go into effect, with an especially high one-day total of fire from Gaza. No serious injurieswere reported. One of the Qassams scored a direct hit on a house in the western Negev town on Sderot and several people were treated for shock. Most of the rockets struck open fields in the western Negev, and one caused light damage to a nearby greenhouse. Palestinian militants also opened fire on Israel Defense Forces troops operating near the Gaza-Israel border fence, but none were wounded.

VIDEO - News / Hours before truce takes effect, Israel-Gaza violence continues
Haaretz Staff and Channel 10, Ha’aretz 6/19/2008
Haaretz. com/Channel 10 news roundup for June 18, 2008. In this edition:Hours before a cease-fire takes effect, violence between Israel and Gaza Strip militants continues. The families of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldiers are briefed on a deal that would see them released. Attorney General Menahem Mazuz has harsh words for Vice Premier Haim Ramon. [end]

Palestinians Killed in Gaza Raids
Al Jazeera English, MIFTAH 6/18/2008
Six Palestinians have been killed in three Israeli air strikes targeting the Gaza Strip, according to medics and witnesses. Five people were killed and several others were wounded on Tuesday in one air raid near Qarara village east of the southern town of Khan Yunis, Muawiya Hassanein, the head of Gaza emergency services, said. " The number of dead has risen to five and a number of civilians have been wounded in an Israeli air strike that targeted a civilian car in the Qarara area," he said. The Israeli army confirmed carrying out air raids, saying that one attack - carried out in southern Gaza - destroyed a blue Subaru. Islamic Jihad said all the five victims were its members. Another two Israeli air attacks in the nearby town of Deir al-Balah killed a sixth person and wounded five people, local Palestinian hospital officials said.

Israeli forces extrajudicially execute six in Gaza
Report, Al Mezan, Electronic Intifada 6/18/2008
The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) escalated their aggression against the Gaza Strip by launching several attacks yesterday, 17 June 2008, which killed six Palestinians in separate attacks in Khan Younis and Deir al-Balah. According to data collected and compiled by Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, the number of Palestinians killed by IOF since the start of 2008 has reached 357. Since 1 June 2008 25 Palestinians have been killed by IOF. According to Al Mezan investigations, on Tuesday, 17 June 2008, at approximately 2:10pm, an IOF drone launched one missile at a car traveling on Brouk Road in Deir al-Balah. The rocket landed beside the green Honda and all passengers were able to escape. Three young men riding a donkey cart were hit by shrapnel as they were passing by when the missile struck. About 15 minutes later, the drone launched another missile at the passengers who had fled the targeted car.

Palestine Today 061808
Ghassan Bannoura - Audio Dept, International Middle East Media Center News 6/18/2008
Click on Link to download or play MP3 file || 3 m 0s || 2. 75 MB ||Welcome to Palestine Today, a service of the International Middle East Media Centre, www. imemc. org, for Wednesday June 18th, 2008. As Israel and Hamas agrees on truce deal in Gaza the Israeli army kidnaps 8 civilians from the West Bank, these stories and more coming up stay tuned. The News Cast The Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad of the care taker government welcomed on Wednesday the truce deal between Hamas, which controls Gaza, and Israel. Fayyad made his comments during a speech in the opening of the Development of Small Projects conference being held today in the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem. Israel has announced late on Tuesday that it accepted the truce deal with Hamas that was mediated by Egypt. Fayyad welcomed the truce and said that it will relieve the residents of Gaza that have been living under the Israeli siege since June 2007.

Palestinian armed groups in Gaza launch barrage of projectiles at Israeli towns
Ma’an News Agency 6/18/2008
Gaza - Ma’an - The Al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of Islamic Jihad, claimed responsibility for launching nine homemade projectiles at the Israeli town of Sderot, which borders the northern Gaza Strip, on Tuesday night. Later on Wednesday morning, the Al-Quds Brigades claimed responsibility for launching four more projectiles at Sderot and the Negev desert. The group said that the barrage of homemade rockets was a response to Israeli military attacks on Palestinian. Israeli fire killed ten Palestinians in Gaza on Monday and Tuesday. Also on Monday night the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, the armed wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) claimed responsibility for launching two homemade projectiles at Sderot and Kfar ’Azza, both Israeli towns that border the Gaza Strip. Both attacks came after news leaked that Israel and Hamas, the governing party in Gaza, had agreed to a truce.

Before calm begins Israeli forces and armed resistance take their last shots
Palestine News Network 6/18/2008
Gaza / PNN -- On the fourth day of consistent air attacks on the Gaza Strip, Israeli forces injured two Palestinians. They were in Jabaliya, northeast of Gaza City. The period of "calm" is just hours away, slated to begin at dawn Thursday, yet the armed resistance has not stopped, nor have Israeli forces. The Israeli military threatened this afternoon to conduct a major attack on Gaza between now and tomorrow morning. Saraya Al Quds of Islamic Jihad claims to have 12 launched projectiles at Israeli military targets and towns, while Al Qassam says it launched 17. Over the past three days Israeli forces killed nearly 20 Palestinians in the Strip, including a four-month of girl, and injured about a dozen people. Eyewitnesses confirmed that the two Palestinians injured were members of the Al Qassam Brigades, the armed resistance wing of Hamas, and that the Israeli air strike targeted a group of fighters.

Hours before ceasefire starts 6 injured in Israeli airstrikes; projectiles target Sderot and Ashkelon
Ma’an News Agency 6/18/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - Six Palestinians were injured, including four resistance fighters, on Wednesday evening in a series of Israeli airstrikes on different areas of the northern Gaza Strip. Head of ambulance and emergency services in the Palestinian Health Ministry Mu’awiyya Hassanein said that six Palestinians, including four resistance fighters, were hit in three different Israeli air strikes on Qleibo, Ash-Sheikh Zayed and As-Sudaniyyeh areas of the northern Gaza Strip. He said two of the injured are in a serious condition. Islamic Jihad’s military wing, the Al-Quds Brigades announced that three activists were injured in Qleibo north west of Jabalia. They also claimed they shelled an Israeli kibbutz in the western Negev with dozens of projectiles, just hours before the ceasefire between the Palestinian resistance factions and Israel is due to start.

Projectile salvos continue, PFLP and Islamic Jihad say
Ma’an News Agency 6/18/2008
Gaza - Ma’an – The Abu Ali Mustafa brigades the military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), claimed responsibility for launching two homemade projectiles at Israeli targets in the Western Negev desert on Wednesday afternoon. Also on Wednesday afternoon, the Al-Quds Brigades the military wing of Islamic Jihad, claimed responsibility for launching eight homemade projectiles at Sderot, east of Gaza, and Ashkelon, north of Gaza on Wednesday afternoon. The brigades confirmed that these projectiles came in retaliation for ’ongoing Israeli atrocities’ against Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. [end]

Al-Aqsa brigades claim launched two projectiles at Ashkelon and Zikim military base
Ma’an News Agency 6/18/2008
Gaza- Ma’an- Al-Aqsa brigades the military wing of Fatah claimed responsibility for launching two homemade projectiles at Ashkelon city and the Israeli military base of Zikim on Wednesday evening. The brigades said that this came in retaliation for ongoing Israeli atrocities. [end]

Egypt lets ailing Palestinians back into Gaza
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 6/19/2008
AL-ARISH, Egypt: Egypt opened its border with the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, a security official said, to allow Palestinians to return to the Hamas-ruled territory after receiving medical treatment. The move came the day after a truce between Hamas and Israel was announced to begin on Thursday, including a loosening of Gaza’s border closures, but the "exceptional" opening was one-way only for sick Gazans to return home. Since the Islamist Hamas movement seized power in Gaza a year ago after winning democratic elections and trouncing gunmen loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction, Israel has sealed the territory to all but very limited humanitarian assistance. In a similar exceptional opening, Egyptian authorities allowed hundreds of sick Palestinians to cross into Egypt for treatment in May. - AFPTags: Egypt, Hamas, Israel, Palestinian Printable VersionSend to a friend. . .

Some Palestinians allowed in from Egypt, but still no one is allowed out of the Gaza Strip
Palestine News Network 6/18/2008
Arish, Egypt / PNN - Egyptian security sources said that the country opened the Rafah Crossing "on a limited basis" on Wednesday. The southern Gaza Strip crossing is the only outlet for Gazans to the outside world. Egypt said that Palestinians who have "exceptional" cases are being allowed to cross. This comes on the eve of the Egyptian-brokered period of "calm" that is slated to begin Thursday morning. Part of the calming includes opened the crossings, but Egypt does not include its own in that package, having agreed with the Palestinians to stick to the agreement on that particular passage made in 2005. A Palestinian liaison officer on the Egyptian side of the Rafah Crossing reported that between 300 and 400 Palestinians crossed into Gaza via the Rafah border with Egypt beginning today at 10:00 am.

Haaretz: Civil Administration officials indicted in West Bank land steal
Akiva Eldar, International Solidarity Movement 6/18/2008
Two senior officials in the Civil Administration allegedly illegally collaborated with Jewish land dealers to take over land in the West Bank, according to an indictment issued Tuesday in the Jerusalem District Court. Lieutenant Colonel Yair Blumenthal and Major Ehud Brosh have been charged with taking bribes and favors from the dealers, brothers Yosef and Yaakov Amram. Blumenthal, who headed of the Civil Administration’s infrastructure department, is charged with helping the brothers further fraudulent business deals by providing them with internal documents and equipment belonging to the Civil Administration in exchange for over $40,000. Brosh, who was head of the lands department in the unit providing legal counsel to the Israel Defense Forces’ Judea and Samaria division, stands accused of taking bribes in the form of vacations abroad and in Israel, in return for furthering the Amram brothers’ business ventures.

United Nations meeting to mark 60 years of dispossession of Palestine refugees to be held at headquarters on Friday, 20 June
United Nations General Assembly, ReliefWeb 6/17/2008
GA/PAL/1094 Background Release The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People will convene the ’United Nations special meeting to mark 60 years of dispossession of Palestine refugees’ on Friday, 20 June, in accordance with its mandate under General Assembly resolutions 62/80 and 62/81 of 10 December 2007. The meeting will start at 10 a. m. in the Economic and Social Council Chamber. The objective of the special meeting is to draw the attention of the international community to the fact that it has been 60 years since hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forced to leave their homes and property as a result of the 1948 hostilities. Those Palestinians have remained refugees until today. The Committee remains deeply concerned that the unresolved question of Palestine continues to prevent the Palestinian people from exercising their inalienable. . .

Mixed US messages to Iran
Kaveh L Afrasiabi, Asia Times 6/19/2008
Officially, Javier Solana, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, is authorized to negotiate with Iran on behalf of the "Iran Six" nations that include the United States, France, China, Russia, England and Germany, yet one would not know that seeing how Washington constantly undermines Solana’s efforts toward the Iranians. Call it bad-faith diplomacy or apprehensions about outsourcing Iran policy, or a basic distrust of Solana’s intentions, whatever it is it does not bode well for the unity of "Iran Six" diplomacy, in light of repeated episodes of counter-productive US actions that contradict Solana’s Iran moves. Two years ago, the White House deliberately torpedoed the noticeable progress in dialogue between Solana and Iran’s nuclear negotiator at the time, Ali Larijani, by forcing a United Nations sanctions resolution precisely at the time Solana and Larijani had tentatively reached an agreement on some 10 items on their nuclear plate.

Attacking Iran: The last resort
David Isenberg, Asia Times 6/19/2008
WASHINGTON - Conventional wisdom about the drawbacks of striking Iran to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons is wrong, or at least greatly exaggerated, according to a new report. The report says the wrong questions are being asked in the debate over whether to undertake "preventive" military action against Iran’s nuclear program. Instead of asking whether US intelligence is good enough to hit the right targets or whether the United States has the means to hit hardened targets is not as important as whether Iran decides to rebuild after an attack. The report, by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) [1] says that accepted wisdom ignores context. For example, preventive action that follows steps deemed provocative, such as Iran leaving the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, could have a much different effect than action not linked to a perceived Iranian provocation.

INTERVIEW A missed opportunity with Iran
Omid Memarian, Asia Times 6/19/2008
US Representative Henry A Waxman - Interview by Omid Memarian - WASHINGTON - Last week, the European Union offered Iran an incentives packageto stop enriching uranium to initiate negotiations with the West. Mere dayslater, and before Tehran had responded, British Prime Minister Gordon Brownannounced that the Europeans planned to freeze the assets of Iran’s largestbank in a bid to discourage Tehran from developing "nuclear weapons". Iran has since withdrawn about US$75 billion from European banks to prevent theassets from being blocked - although it is unclear when they will actually beimposed, and several rounds ofeconomic sanctions in the UN Security Council have been largely ineffectual. With US President George W Bush leaving office in January 2009, many inWashington - particularly Democrats with an eye on the White House - believe anew approach is needed toward Iran.

’Updated’ Western offer to Iran highlights energy, trade
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 6/19/2008
WASHINGTON: Iran would receive benefits in nuclear energy, trade, finance, agriculture and high technology if it halted uranium enrichment as demanded by several major powers, according to a document released on Tuesday by the US State Department. The package presented to Tehran on Saturday offers Iran a chance to return to the international fold after years of isolation over its sensitive nuclear work, according to a copy of the proposed deal. Among key provisions, Iran was offered support in building "a light-water reactor based on state-of-the-art technology" as well as "legally binding" guarantees for nuclear fuel supplies. It will also benefit from support for research and development in nuclear energy "as international confidence is gradually restored" and help in managing its spent fuel and radioactive waste.


Half of Palestinians in West Bank and Gaza malnourished
Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem, The Independent 6/18/2008
      Around 46 per cent of Gaza and West Bank households are "food insecure" or in danger of becoming so, according to a UN report on the impact of conflict and the global boycott of the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority.
     The unpublished draft report, the first of its kind since the boycott was imposed when the Hamas government took office last March, says bluntly that the problem "is primarily a function of restricted economic access to food resulting from ongoing political conditions".
     The report, jointly produced by the UN’s World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organisation, paints a bleak picture of the impact on food consumption and expenditure throughout the occupied Palestinian territories. It says that the situation is "more grim" in Gaza where four out of five families have reduced their spending - including on food - in the first quarter of last year alone.

The urgency of 1948

Hannah Mermelstein writing from occupied Palestine, Live from Palestine, Electronic Intifada 6/18/2008
      I’ve been thinking about the urgency of 1948. One of the most repeated quotes among Palestinian refugees is: "The old will die and the young will forget," words reputedly spoken by Israel’s founding prime minister David Ben-Gurion. However, the young have not forgotten. Everywhere I have traveled in the Arab world -- Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria -- Palestinian children tell me the names of their original villages that they still hope to see someday.Even the youngest of children will say things like, "If I don’t return to my village, then my children or their children will."
     Perhaps this is the nature of displacement, that the desire to return is compounded as long as the right to return is denied. But how to explain the urgency? Those who were young at the time of the Nakba, 60 years ago, are dying. Just as the Holocaust generation of Jews is slowly passing away, so is the Nakba generation of Palestinians. The difference is in the collective world memory of each tragedy. The Nazi Holocaust is denied by very few today (and even fewer with any kind of world power), whereas the Nakba continues to be denied by the powerful, as it has been for 60 years. Each time I visit with Nakba survivors who currently live inside ’48 (Israel) and have Israeli citizenship, I am astounded that the desperation in their voices far exceeds most of what I hear from Palestinians in the West Bank (Gaza, currently, is another story). Why is this? In all superficial ways, Palestinians with Israeli citizenship have a better standard of life than those in the West Bank. West Bank Palestinians, however, while continuously besieged and attacked, rarely find themselves face to face in conversation with people who deny their identities, their histories, and their experiences. Palestinians with Israeli citizenship face this every day.

Superiority and separation

Priyamvada Gopal, The Guardian 6/18/2008
      In a world divided and made unequal by economic and military subjugation we need to think about points of commonality. From the series, ’Orientalism at 30’
     Is all enquiry into other cultures problematic? Though Edward Said’s original text of Orientalism was evasive on this question, in a later preface, Said made the clear distinction between knowledge "that is the result of understanding, compassion, careful study and analysis" and "knowledge that is part of an overall campaign of self-affirmation".
     Self-affirmation of this kind is everywhere and it is not harmless. Thirty years after Orientalism identified this phenomenon as one that was used to justify imperialism and invasion, "liberal" white British commentators still make magisterial pronouncements plucked from nowhere on the plight of Asian/Muslim/non-western women with no awareness of or, indeed, the slightest interest in, the history of women’s activism in these regions. Others call for war-ravaged societies to be partitioned on religious lines, oblivious to complex histories of co-existence, oblivious to the ways that polarities get sharpened by invasion and imperialism and, of course, the disastrous consequences of partitions in various former colonies. Then there are the endless encomiums to freedom and progress as distinctively "western" values to be protected as such. (Why do they let residual political correctness stop them short of making a genetic case?)

Opening young eyes

Tamar Rotem, Ha’aretz 6/18/2008
      Bedlam reigns in the Ramle kindergarten yard as the 5- and 6-year-olds await a visit by their peers from an Arab kindergarten in a distant neighborhood of the city. Their excitement is palpable as their diminutive guests finally enter the kindergarten gate, lined up one behind the other. The Jewish Bar Kokhba and Arab Danny Mas kindergartens will put on a play together, based on Ephraim Sidon’s adaptation of the biblical story of Noah’s Ark.
     This is the children’s first rehearsal of their roles as the animals that entered the ark in pair before the flood, roaring, yowling, making every sound imaginable. As they all run to take their places - children, parents, kindergarten teachers and one photographer - one girl leaves the line of children to practice her giraffe walk. On the tips of her toes, with chin in the air, she makes a futile attempt to attract her teacher’s attention. But the teacher is no less worried than she would be if this were a premiere.
     The kindergarten rehearsal on a recent morning was the culmination of year-long activities to promote reading in Ramle kindergartens. More than 80 Jewish and Arab kindergartens in the city participated in activities that incorporated theater. The Ramle Municipal Library initiated and sponsored the project with a budget of nearly NIS 80,000.

Reason to Believe?

Joharah Baker, MIFTAH 6/18/2008
      The question lingering in the air right now is, "What will make this time any different?" Ceasefire agreements between Israel and Hamas have been reached before, all of which have flown right out the window with the slightest provocation. Nevertheless, it is nearly impossible for the Palestinians not to get their hopes up at the news that a "tahdiya" agreement has been reached through Egyptian mediation between the two warring parties, effective as of June 19.
     The agreement has been months in the making, with both Hamas and Israel copping out at the last moment, both citing the other side’s intransigence. This time, the deal went through, with an announcement on June 17 that both sides have agreed to "halt all hostilities and all military activities" in the Gaza Strip. According to the agreement, trade crossings will be opened and the blockade lifted off of essential goods. In week two of the ceasefire, Egypt will host representatives from Hamas, the Palestinian presidency and European parties to Cairo to discuss a mechanism for reopening the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. Ostensibly, the ceasefire is to last for six months and will then be implemented in the West Bank, according to Egypt.

Crossing the Line interviews professor Nasser Aruri about AIPAC conference

Podcast, Crossing the Line, Electronic Intifada 6/18/2008
      This week on Crossing The Line: Lawmakers made their annual pilgrimage to the the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference to show their unyielding support of Israel. US presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama claim to both want a change in policy from the Bush Administration, but how will this apply to foreign policy, and more specifically the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Noted author and professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, Naseer Aruri, speaks with host Naji Ali about the importance of AIPAC in the US presidential elections.
     Also this week, as the humanitarian crisis in Gaza worsens by the day, residents of the world’s most densely populated area are suffering from a lack of fuel, food, water and medical supplies while Israeli politicians talk of another full-scale invasion into the coastal region. Crossing The Line contributing producer and investigative journalist Nora Barrows-Friedman speaks to Ali from the Gaza Strip.

A law that must not pass

Haaretz Editorial, Ha’aretz 6/19/2008
      The Basic Law on the Knesset is meant to be a law that is not touched, changed or suited to the spirit of the moment or the changing desires of Knesset members. It is the Basic Law that ensures the fundamental right to vote and to be elected.
     But restraint is not a hallmark of the members of the present House, which is not overflowing with real parliamentarians. It is no surprise that MKs Zevulun Orlev and Esterina Tartman are the ones whose names are on this proposed amendment.
     The bill, which is to be presented to the legislature for its second and third readings in the coming days, would amend the Basic Law on the Knesset so that a person who has visited an enemy country would not be able to stand for election to the Knesset. Such a visit would be considered "supporting the armed struggle against the State of Israel".

Israel has won the European cup: a special relationship

Arjan El Fassed, Electronic Intifada 6/18/2008
      During her sixth visit to Israel since last November’s Annapolis summit, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice complained that the thousands of new housing units, built in Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land were damaging the peace talks with Palestinians. Meanwhile, at a joint press conference with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in Luxembourg, the same day, Slovenia’s Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency, announced that the EU had decided to upgrade its political and economic relations with Israel. Rupel, who chaired the EU-Israel Association Council meeting, the body overseeing the relationship, stated that the EU and Israel are "elevating" their relations to a new level of "more intense, more fruitful, more influential cooperation." Israel has now been granted the highest level of relations available to a non-member state.
     The cooperation is based on the European Neighborhood Policy Action Plan, an initiative launched under the Dutch EU Presidency in 2004, aimed at bringing the neighboring countries closer to the EU. This European move might seem surprising since a progress report on the implementation of the European Neighborhood Policy stated clearly that "little concrete progress" has been made on issues raised between Israel and the EU, such as restrictions on movement, the construction of the West Bank wall (its route ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice), administrative detentions, the dismantling of settler "outposts," and the expansion of Israeli settlements.

An Apology

Uri Avnery, Middle East Online 6/17/2008
      We cannot ignore anymore the fact that in the war of 1948 - which is the War of Independence for Israel - some 750 thousand Palestinians were compelled to leave their homes and lands.
     This week, the Prime Minister of Canada made a dramatic statement in Parliament: he apologized to the indigenous peoples of his country for the injustices done to them for generations by successive Canadian governments.
     This way, White Canada tries to make peace with the native nations, whose country their forefathers conquered and whose culture their rulers have tried to wipe out.
     Apologizing for past wrongs has become a part of modern political culture.
     That is never an easy thing to do. Cynics might say: nothing to it. Just words. And words, after all, are a cheap commodity. But in fact, such acts have a profound significance. A human being - and even more so, a whole nation - always finds it hard to admit to iniquities performed and to atrocities committed. It means a rewriting of the historical narrative that forms the basis of their national cohesion. It necessitates a drastic change in the schoolbooks and in the national outlook. In general, governments are averse to this, because of the nationalistic demagogues and hate-mongers who infest every country.

Critique of Avnery’s ''Apology''

Henry Lowi, Palestine Think Tank 6/18/2008
      Gush Shalom is hosting a protest on the sea, coordinated with allies in besieged Gaza. Like usual, Gush Shalom does not demand that the siege be ended unconditionally. It wants a “ceasefire”, whatever that means in the context of ongoing Israeli oppression and domination of Palestine. The same week, Uri Avnery wrote an article entitled “An Apology”, taking as his reference point the dramatic events in the Canadian Parliament last week.
     It would have been good to reproduce, or at least review, the text of the apology delivered by the Prime Minister of Canada, and that of the Leader of the Opposition, on behalf of the Liberal Party (that has been the governing party for most of Canada’s history). [Links in article]
     The Canadian apologies to the aboriginal peoples are too little, and too late. Much will have to be done — much struggle will be required — to give the Canadian apologies any substance. But, all can recognize that these apologies are infused with the spirit of compassion and are an affirmation of democratic values. Furthermore, the Canadian apologies are framed not as the end of this issue, but as the introduction to a new beginning. The Canadian political leaders were not heard to be saying: “Here, you have our apology, now leave us alone and move on.” On the contrary, they hold open the promise, or at least the prospect, of a fresh start, of re-establishing relations on a new basis. As such, these apologies can be employed as levers for the struggle of the First Nations, and for all who want an inclusive Canada based on solidarity.