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

VTJP Archives | Newslinks Archives  
20 June 2008

Gaza residents enjoy respite on second day of truce
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 6/21/2008
GAZA CITY: Gaza residents looked forward to a first weekend of calm after months of bloodshed in the impoverished Palestinian enclave as a tenuous truce with Israel entered its second day on Friday. Families and young men with towels over their shoulders headed to the beaches of Gaza City, where children flew kites in the stiff breeze and young men played volleyball under a pale blue sky. "We all hope for a cease-fire but the people are afraid. It has never worked in the past. At any time they can strike us," said Gaza dentist Nasri al-Faranji as his three young sons played in the sand near the crashing waves. His wife Rima, wearing a long dark robe and a white headscarf and sitting next to him under a rainbow-colored umbrella, was even less optimistic. "There have been many cease-fires before and the Israelis have never kept them. "

3 injured in West Bank shooting attack
Efrat Weiss, YNetNews 6/20/2008
Five hikers touring wadi near settlement of Neve Tzuf, northwest of Ramallah, report two terrorists opened fire at them. Wounded settlers conscious; shooters manage to flee scene of attack - Three settlers were injured Friday afternoon in a shooting attack at a wadi near the West Bank settlement of Neve Tzuf, northwest of Ramallah. The incident took place as five people toured the area and encountered two terrorists who they said opened fire at them. Later Friday, the Battalions of Struggle and Return, affiliated with the Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, claimed responsibility for the attack. Magen David Adom rescue services reported that all the injured were fully conscious. One of the settlers was injured in the leg, one in the stomach and the third in the back. One sustained serious wounds, one was moderately injured and the third was lightly hurt.

Israeli settlers launch Qassam projectile at Palestinian village
Ma’an News Agency 6/20/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - Palestinians are not the only ones producing homemade projectiles: Israeli settlers now also have Qassam rockets, according to the Hebrew daily newspaper Ma’ariv. On Friday the newspaper published details of Israeli settlers from the Yitzhar settlement near the West Bank city of Nablus launching projectiles at a nearby Palestinian village. Two weeks ago a religious school student made a Qassam rocket and launched it at a nearby Palestinian village, but it landed in an open area, the newspaper added. The newspaper confirmed that the student, along with the school’s headmaster, was detained on Thursday evening and is being questioned over the incident. Minutes before launching the projectile a group of settlers told Yitzhar residents that they were carrying out an experiment and not to worry about the sound of an explosion.

Israeli exercise sends ’signal’ to Iran of possible attack - US
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 6/21/2008
WASHINGTON: US officials say a major military exercise carried out by Israel earlier this month seemed to be a practice for a potential strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, American media reported Friday. More than 100 Israeli F-16 and F-15 fighter jets took part in maneuvers over the Eastern Mediterranean and Greece in the first week of June to gear the military for long-range strikes and demonstrate Israel’s serious concern over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the New York Times cited US officials as saying. A Pentagon official briefed on the exercise said one goalwas to send a message that the Jewish state was prepared to act militarily if diplomatic efforts failed to halt Tehran’s enrichment of uranium. "They wanted us to know, they wanted the Europeans to know, and they wanted the Iranians to know," the Pentagon official was quoted as saying.

Demonstrators injured, two detained in Al-Ma’sara village weekly protest
Ma’an News Agency 6/20/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - A number of demonstrators were injured and two were detained by Israeli forced during the weekly protest in the West Bank village of Al-Ma’sara on Friday against the Israeli separation wall. Demontrators headed from Al-Ma’sara, Um-Salamouna and Marah M’alla villages, in the south of the Bethlehem governorate towards the separation wall. Israeli forces launched a number of sound bombings towards the demonstrators and attacked them with weapons and batons, injuring a number of them, as well as arresting two members of the International Solidarity Movement. Media spokesman of the popular campaign against the wall Mohammad Brejiyyeh said that the peaceful demonstration was organized on World Refugee Day as a show of solidarity with refugees and to assert that Palestinians have the right to return to their lands.

UNICEF severs ties with Israeli patron Lev Leviev
Reuters, Ha’aretz 6/21/2008
The UN children’s fund UNICEF has severed ties with an Israeli billionaire and financial backer due to his suspected involvement in building settlements in the West Bank, UNICEF said on Friday. Lev Leviev, a real estate and diamond mogul who is one of the richest men in Israel, has supported UNICEF with direct contributions and indirectly by sponsoring at least one UNICEF fund-raiser. He is chairman of Africa Israel Investments, a conglomerate whose units include Danya Cebus, which the Arab rights advocacy group Adalah-NY charges has carried out settlement construction, considered illegal by the United Nations. UNICEF decided to review its relationship with Leviev after a campaign by Adalah-NY and found "at least a reasonable grounds for suspecting" that Leviev companies were building settlements in occupied territory, a UNICEF official said.

Israel attempting to scuttle $400 million U.S.-Lebanon arms deal
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 6/21/2008
Israel is reportedly attempting to block a $400 million arms deal between the United States and Lebanon that would reportedly include hundreds of anti-tank missiles. Israeli authorities have stated that recent events in Lebanon, including Hezbollah’s resurgence in the south, have led them to believe that the arms transfer could pose a security threat, namely if future clashes cause government forces to splinter, possibly causing the arms to fall into the hands of the Lebanese Shi’ite militia Hezbollah. The Head of the Defense Ministry’s Diplomatic-Security Bureau. Amos Gilad has reportedly held talks recently with officials from the Pentagon, in order to convey Israeli reservations about the deal. The United States is reportedly interested in the deal out of the belief that it will help the Lebanese Army better deal with the range of factions in the country, especially Hezbollah.

Haniyeh: The blockade will be lifted ten days after the truce went into effect
Ma’an News Agency 6/20/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Isma’il Haniyeh, the deposed Palestinian prime minister and head of the de facto government in the Gaza Strip, said on Friday that the Israeli blockade on the Strip will be lifted completely after ten days of the Hamas-Israel truce, which went into effect on Thursday. During his speech at the Friday noon prayers in Gaza City, Haniyeh said "Yesterday the truce went into effect. After 72 hours goods will begin to move through the crossings, and after ten days, the siege will be lifted completely. The commercial crossings will be opened and all kinds of goods that were prevented from reaching the Strip because of the siege will enter, in accordance with the understandings reached under Egyptian sponsorship. " Haniyeh said Hamas had refused Israel’s demands to stop smuggling and release captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit as conditions for the truce.

IOF troops breach truce in Gaza, shoot at Palestinian fishermen
Palestinian Information Center 6/20/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- At least three Israeli violations of the fresh truce that was sponsored by Egypt in the Gaza Strip were recoded few hours after that truce started on Thursday as IOF troops opened their machinegun fire at Palestinian fishermen, and farmers. Local Palestinian sources said that Israeli gunboats fired at Palestinian fishermen trying to earn a living, no casualties were recorded. East of the southern city of Khan Younis, Israeli tanks and artillery fired at Palestinian farmers in the Khuza’a town who were, according to the sources, exploiting the truce to harvest their crops, in addition to another attack at homes of Palestinian villagers in Qarara town, east of the city,  but no casualties were reported in both Israeli attacks. The Hebrew media acknowledged the IOF troops’ violation of the truce, alleging that the Palestinian fishermen were fishing in a "prohibited". . .

Under rules of calming Israelis now allow themselves only limited shooting at Palestinians in Gaza
Palestine News Network 6/20/2008
PNN - Israeli forces are stationed well within the Gaza Strip, within all of the boundary lines. And although that is an afront, some Palestinians have been able to reach their lands that would have gotten them killed just days ago. Now, due to the ’calm,’ Israeli forces have been instructed to shoot "only on a limited basis. " This means that if the soldiers see Palestinians who they deem are "too near the fence" they are to shoot in the air, and not shoot to kill unless given permission by a higher ranking officer. Israeli warplanes are not allowed to fire missiles into the Strip unless they are specifically targeting someone they think is about to launch a projectile. But like the ground troops that are omnipresent in the Strip, the warplanes can still fly overhead as they like. Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in Ramallah said on Friday that he welcomed this period of ’calm’ and asked that it be extended to the West Bank.

Friday nonviolent Palestinian demonstrations continue despite injuries and arrests
Palestine News Network 6/20/2008
Bethlehem / Najib Farrag -- The Palestinian nonviolent resistance continued its weekly demonstrations against the Wall, settlements and land confiscation. On Friday in Bethlehem’s town of Al Khader dozens of Palestinians prayed on the ground as they do every week. Israeli forces prevented them from moving forward toward the latest site of confiscation and Wall construction. Instead, Israeli soldiers began beating the crowd, which included foreign supporters, and injured two elderly Palestinians who are now hospitalized. In the neighboring southern Bethlehem towns of Um Salamuna and Al Masara the weekly march began as it does every week, with dozens of villagers and foreign supporters gathering at the secondary school. They chanted and held banners, waved Palestinian flags. Israeli soldiers beat several people to prevent them from reaching the Wall site, causing contusions. . .

Farmers in Zawata refuse to let Israeli miliatry keep them from their land
International Solidarity Movement 6/20/2008
Nablus Region - Photos - For the past three weeks, international human rights workers (HRWs) have been accompanying farmers from the village of Zawata near Nablus to their lands, in order to care for their olive trees. Ordinarily farmers from this village are too scared to go to their lands, because passing through them, 1 kilometre from the centre of the village, is a 6 kilometre long, Israeli military-only road, forbidden to Palestinians. For 200 metres either side of this road, Israeli authorities have imposed a "closed military zone" - in theory an area that is only accessible to Israeli military; in practice a space that prohibits Palestinians. Residents of the village advise that to go to this area is to risk being shot at, or beaten and forcibly ejected from their lands. Especially in danger are the farmers whose land lies beyond the military road that curves through the northern. . .

Massive amounts of tear gas fired at peaceful protesters in Bil’in, burning olive trees
Ma’an News Agency 6/20/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – Israeli forces fired tear gas bombs and rubber-coated metal bullets at protesters in the weekly demonstration against the separation wall in Bil’in village, northwest of Ramallah, on Friday, injuring two and starting a fire which burned about ten olive trees belonging to village residents. Together with international and Israeli solidarity activists, Bil’in residents marched after noon prayers on Friday, carrying Palestinian flags and banners denouncing Israeli policies including construction of the separation wall, settlement construction, the closure in the West Bank and the siege on Gaza. Other banners condemned the Israeli use of violence and live bullets against unarmed civilians demonstrators, and participants also carried pictures of Ibrahim Burnat, who was hit in the leg by a live bullet fired by Israeli forces one week ago and is still hospitalized.

F.F.J - Bil’in: ''Despite the hatred of your bullets, we will uproot your wall''
International Solidarity Movement 6/20/2008
Bil’in Village - Video - F. F. J June 20 2008-The Israeli army has used almost every weapon in their arsenal to impose their apartheid on the Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank. In many cases these weapons, which are often lethal, are used on the whole of the Palestinian population regardless of whether they are simply trying to lead a private family life or if they are resisting the occupation. The village of Bilin in particular has been struggling against the apartheid wall and the occupationin a three and a half year nonviolent campaign to save our land using peaceful resistance. Bilin has been holding weekly demonstrations with the participation of local villagers, internationals, and Israeli supporters. In return, the Israeli army has used all manner of violent methods and weapons to silence the Bilin Resistance, even though Bilin’s approach has been non-violent. -- See also: Bil''in''s new website

Al Khader village stage its weekly protest against the Israeli illegal Wall
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 6/20/2008
The village of Al Khader, located near the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem, organized on Friday midday its weekly protest aginest the illegal Israeli wall being built on the village land. At least 150 Palestinians from the village of Al Khader along with Israeli and international supporters staged the protest at the nearbu settlers road. The march started with midday prayers held near the army checkpoint there, then speeches were delivered by local organizers. Samier Jaber of the local committee against the Wall and settlement said that today protest was to commemorate the world day for refugees, he said" because of the Israeli illegal wall and settlement all Palestinians will be refugees. " Jaber added that "we call on the international community to stop Israeli of doing the daily violations against our people.

Um Salamunah near Bethlehem protest the Wall
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 6/20/2008
Scores of Palestinian villagers from Um Salamunah, located near Bethlehem city protested on Friday morning the illegal Israeli wall being built on the village land. The villagers supported by international and Israeli peace activists marched towereds the near by settlers road. As soon as the protesters arrived to the settlers’ road, troops blocked it using barbed-wire , speeches were delivered by the organizers calling for the removal of the illegal wall. Later a group of protester tried to remove the military blockade, soldiers stopped them and detained two Israeli activists for 30 mints then released them. [end]

PCHR Weekly Report: 15 Palestinians killed, 18 wounded
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 6/20/2008
In its weekly summary of Israeli attacks for the week of 12 - 18 June 2008, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) reports that Israeli forces killed 15 Palestinians, including 6 who were killed in extrajudical assassinations in direct violation of international law and signed agreements. In addition, 18 Palestinians and an Israeli human rights defender were wounded by Israeli forces in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Israeli attacks in the West Bank:Israeli forces conducted 29 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank this week. During those incursions, Israeli forces abducted 28 Palestinian civilians, including 3 children. 2 Palestinian civilians, including 2 children and a woman, were abducted by Israeli forces at military checkpoints in the West Bank. 1,334 Palestinian civilians have been abducted by Israeli forces in the West Bank since the beginning of 2008.

B’Tselem’s ’Shooting Back’ program beginning to deter attacks by settler
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 6/21/2008
HEBRON, Occupied West Bank: As a deterrent against armed Jewish settlers it does not look much. But the video camera has become a frontline defense for ordinary Palestinians living between Hebron and the Jewish settlement of Kyriat Arba in the Occupied West Bank. "I always keep the camera at my side; it’s the only thing which prevents the settlers from hurling stones at us or coming into my shop," says Bassam al-Jaabari as he stitches a pair of shoes in his dusty and poorly stocked grocer’s shop. He jerks his head toward a three-story house that can be seen about 100 meters away through the grill protecting his store windows. More than a year ago, several families of Israeli settlers, who claim they had bought the property, moved into the building in the Palestinian district of Al-Ras. The Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem immediately provided the four Palestinian. . .

To violent Jewish settlers: Beware of cameras!
Middle East Online 6/20/2008
HEBRON - As a deterrent against armed Jewish settlers it does not look much. But the video camera has become a frontline defence for ordinary Palestinians living between Hebron and the Jewish settlement of Kyriat Arba in the West Bank. "I always keep the camera at my side; it’s the only thing which prevents the settlers from hurling stones at us or coming into my shop," says Bassam al-Jaabari as he stitches a pair of shoes in his dusty and poorly stocked grocer’s shop. He jerks his head towards a three-storey house that can be seen about 100 metres (yards) away through the grill protecting his store windows. More than a year ago, several families of Israeli settlers, who claim they had bought the property, moved into the building in the Palestinian district of Al-Ras. The Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem, immediately provided the four Palestinian families living. . .

Two Injured in Bilin Weekly Protest
Abedallah Abu Rahma - Bil''in, International Middle East Media Center News 6/20/2008
On Friday, villagers from Bilin, located near the central West Bank city of Ramallah, along with their international and Israeli supporters marched in their weekly nonviolent protest against the illegal Israeli wall built on the village’s land. Protesters carried banners demanding the removal of the Israeli wall and settlements and calling upon the international community to help Palestinians retain Jerusalem. Protestors also carried photos of Ibrahim Burnat who was injured during last week’s protest by three live bullets fired by an Israeli soldier at a close range. Burnat He is still receiving treatment in the hospital. The protests started after the mid-day Friday prayers were finished in the mosque, participants marched towards the separation Wall which separates the village from its land. Immediately after the protest reached the gate of the Wall, soldiers showered the protestors with tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets.

Narratives Under Siege - Sofa Crossing
Palestine News Network 6/20/2008
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights "Narratives Under Siege. "- 11am, Thursday, June 19. The Tahdiya, or ’Lull’ between Hamas and Israel started just hours ago, at six ’clock this morning. At Sofa Crossing, in the south eastern Gaza Strip, it looks like business as usual for the Gazan drivers who are patiently waiting to collect their cargo so they can start distributing across the Gaza Strip. "It is too early to say what will happen next" says Wael. "But we hope the Tahdiya will go well. I usually wait here for twenty four hours to collect five tons of fruit. I just hope all the Gaza borders will open, and then we’ll be able to work properly -- and to live. "Wael is one of the approximately seventy drivers waiting at Sofa this morning: he arrived here at 4pm yesterday, so he’s already been at Sofa for almost twenty hours.

Palestinians increasingly donor-dependent
Report, Electronic Intifada 6/20/2008
JERUSALEM (IRIN) - The European Commission (EC) on 16 June announced a 24 million euro donation to humanitarian programs 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 will go for cash for work programs, water and sanitation projects, health support and protection work," said Herve Caiveau, from the EC’s Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) in Jerusalem.

Settlers riot over removal of mobile home from outpost
Nadav Shragai, Ha’aretz 6/20/2008
A clash between settlers and police in the West Bank settlement Yitzhar ended with 19 injuries yesterday after police came to tear down a mobile home built without a permit. The injured included 11 settlers and eight police officers. In addition, after the destruction of the mobile home, dozens of Yitzhar residents rioted in nearby Palestinian areas, damaging property and cars and setting a wheat field on fire. Eight settlers were detained. After several hours of clashes and after the mobile home had been dismantled, Yitzhar residents blocked the police, poured oil on the road and locked the gate. Police had great difficulty leaving the site. One officer who is religious refused a direct order and was detained by fellow officers. The incident began in the morning when police came to destroy a storage facility and put up eviction notices on two residences.

Large group of Israeli settlers attempt to enter Palestinian town of Halhul
Ma’an News Agency 6/20/2008
Hebron – Ma’an – Israeli military sources reported that one hundred Israeli settlers gathered on Friday morning at the entrance of Halhul, a Palestinian town near the southern West Bank city of Hebron, and attempted to enter the town for a tour that was not coordinated with the Israeli army. Israeli sources described the settler gathering as violating the order issued by the Israeli military’s central command forbidding Israeli citizens from entering Palestinian Authority territories (Area A under the Oslo Accords), as well as an order declaring the specific area of the gathering a closed military zone. Israeli sources added that a large number of Israeli soldiers, police and border police were deployed in the area to prevent the settlers from entering the Palestinian town.

Three settlers detained near Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus
Ma’an News Agency 6/20/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - Israeli forces detained three settlers trying to enter Joseph’s Tomb near the West Bank city of Nablus on Thursday evening, Israeli sources said. The sources added that an Israeli military force noticed the settlers as they were undertaking routine operations. They detained them, handing them over to Israeli police for questioning. Joseph’s Tomb is a holy site for both Jews, Muslims and Christians but since the start of the second Intifada in 2000 Israelis are banned from visiting the site. Since 2003 the tomb has been repeatedly vandalized. In February 2008 Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared the tomb a Muslim holy site, and downplayed reports of joint Israeli-Palestinian cooperation on restoring the tomb

Hamas spokesman voices rare optimism regarding Gaza truce
Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 6/21/2008
"Nothing is impossible," said Palestinian parliament member and Hamas’ spokesman in the Gaza Strip, Salah al-Bardawil, about the possibility of a peace agreement between Israel and his organization in wake of the cease-fire, or tahadiyeh, that took effect Thursday. While many in Israel are pessimistic about its chances of success, things look a little different on the Palestinian side, and in Hamas in particular. Unlike some of his Hamas colleagues, Bardawil does not act horrified when hearing the words "peace" and "Israel" put together. "The Arab world has already outstretched its hand for peace with the Israelis in the past," he says. "The ideas of Ahmed Yassin [Hamas’ founder and former leader], who supported a cease-fire for some 15-20 years, focused on peace, not war.

How often temporary solutions become permanent
Palestine News Network 6/20/2008
Cairo / PNN -- After being informed on Friday that the Israeli-imposed siege on the Gaza Strip will in fact not be lifted until after a prisoner exchange, meaning the release of the Israeli soldier captured while invading the south, Egyptian sources said that at least Karem Abu Salem Commercial Crossing will open within the next 10 days. The Egyptians said they expect that commercial trucks carrying materials and basic supplies will be able to come and go for import and export. Some people may even be able to use it. The Israelis attempted in the past to exchange this crossing for the function of Rafah’s crossing with Egypt so that they would have complete control over all movement, but the Egyptians and Palestinians refused. The Egyptian sources said today that the Karem Abu Salem Crossing would not be a substitute for the Rafah Crossing, but is to be a "temporary solution to alleviate the suffering to the people of Gaza Strip".

Hamas denies reports it accepted Karm Abu Salem crossings instead of Rafah
Palestinian Information Center 6/20/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas movement has denied a report published in the Lebanese al-Safir newspaper that Hamas accepted the use of the Israeli controlled Karm Abu Salem crossing for the travel of individuals. Dr. Sami Abu Zuhri said in an exclusive statement to PIC on Friday "this is out of the question, besides this matter was not even discussed during the meetings with the Egyptian officials in Cairo. " Abu Zuhri stressed that there will be only one border crossing that can be used by the residents of Gaza to travel in and out of the Strip and that is the Rafah crossing. He pointed out that the Rafah crossing is currently partially open for emergency cases and will continue until agreement between Hamas, the PA presidency and the Europeans on a formula for reopening the crossing. Al-Safir news report which made the claim about Hamas’s acceptance of using Karm Abu Salem instead of Rafah failed to mention its source of information.

Despite calm, no goods at Karni on Sunday
Fadi Eyadat, Ha’aretz 6/20/2008
Despite the terms of the temporary truce, goods will not be allowed through the Karni border crossing in Gaza on Sunday, according to a senior official from the Israel Airports Authority. Under the tahadiyeh agreement, shipments of seeds, cement, metal, beef and fuel are to enter the Gaza Strip through the Karni crossing from the beginning of next week. However, the official said it will take at least several days for Karni to become operational again, after being abandoned a year ago. The staff have been under defense establishment orders not to go there. Furthermore, computers, cameras and other security equipment have to be reinstalled, and personnel recruited. No operational decisions have been made regarding opening Karni next week, the official added. Since the siege on the Gaza Strip began, only seeds and fuel have been allowed to pass through Karni.

Gazans stranded in Egypt appeal to Mubarak to reopen Rafah crossing
Ma’an News Agency 6/20/2008
Gaza - Ma’an - Hundreds of Gazans stranded in Egypt appealed to Egyptian President Husni Mubarak on Friday to reopen the Rafah crossing to allow them to return to the Gaza Strip. They said in a statement that they missed last Wednesday’s reopening of the crossing as they were not informed by the coordination sides and the media did not announce it. Stranded students and medical patients said that they hope Egypt, its President and all the Egyptian officals in understand their plight and their need to return to their homes and families. They added that they appreciate the Egyptian efforts in support of the Palestinians, including the recent truce between Israel and the Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip. They explained that they suffering from psychological hardship due to being unable to visit their families for three years.

Solana: ''EU ready to send observers to monitor the Rafah Border Crossing''
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 6/20/2008
European Union foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, stated on Friday the EU is ready to act as an observer at the Rafah border terminal if an agreement to open the crossing was achieved. Solana welcomed that truce deal between Israel and the Palestinians and expressed hopes that this truce would last. He also welcomed the Egyptian role and efforts which led to this deal and called on all parties to abide by the truce in order to ensure its success. The EU chief added that he hopes that this deal will be a positive factor which would boost peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. Meanwhile, Ismail Haniyya of Hamas, said on Friday that Egypt will call for a meeting which would bring together Hamas, the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah and European officials in order to discuss the opening of the Rafah terminal.

Hamas says smuggling to go on despite Gaza truce
Reuters, YNetNews 6/20/2008
Despite truce deal, Haniyeh says putting an end to smuggling beyond Hamas’ ability - Hamas’ leader in the Gaza Strip Ismail Haniyeh said on Friday the group would not stop smuggling activities in the territory. Stopping smuggling is a central Israeli demand in an Egyptian-brokered Gaza ceasefire agreed between Israel and Hamas that came into force on Thursday. Palestinian groups smuggle arms and ammunitions into Gaza through tunnels across the border with Egypt and on boats along the coast. Israel has also demanded Egypt step up efforts stop the flow of arms into Gaza. "We cannot talk about stopping smuggling because it is something beyond our ability as a government and we did not give a commitment in this regard," Haniyeh told worshippers before Friday prayers in Gaza City.

Solana renews EU’s readiness to send observers to the Rafah crossing
Palestinian Information Center 6/20/2008
Brussels, (PIC)-- European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana on Friday renewed the EU’s readiness to play an observer role at the Rafah border crossing if and when an agreement to reopen it is reached. He welcomed the truce between the Palestinians and Israel and hoped that the truce could hold. Solana congratulated Egypt on its efforts to reach this agreement and called on parties to abide by it: "Our main concern is about how the truce will hold," he said. He also expressed hope that the truce would push the peace talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis forward. Ismail Haneyya, the Prime Minister of the Gaza government, said that it was agreed with Egypt to call for a meeting between Hamas, the PA in Ramalla and the Europeans to discuss the re-opening of the Rafah crossing.

Rafah tunnel smugglers fear truce may be bad for business
Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 6/20/2008
Smugglers in charge of tunnels in the Rafah region told visiting reporters Wednesday they are worried the temporary truce will put an end to their enterprise. The smugglers said it costs thousands of dollars to dig a tunnel, and that most of their income in recent months has come not from weapons but rather ordinary goods, such as soft drinks, cigarettes, toys and clothing. Shipping all this merchandise from Israel to the Gaza Strip, under the new agreements, will render smuggling tunnels unnecessary. According to reports from Gaza, arms smuggling has decreased recently because the Strip is already flooded with arms. Tunnel operators said it takes just a few days to construct a tunnel. Each tunnel has many others leading from it, so if one is shut down, the others remain operational.

Gazans get much-needed calm, as Hamas works to preserve cease-fire
Catrin Ormestad, Ha’aretz 6/20/2008
GAZA - A few kilometers from Erez was the first sign of the tahadiyeh: A group of Hamas policemen had set up a checkpoint. This is a Qassam launching area, and they were here to make sure no militants approach the border crossing. It was the first day of the cease-fire, and Hamas seemed committed to keeping the calm. "They really need it," said A. , our translator. "They are beginning to lose support, they can feel it. People became fed up with the whole situation, no gas, no oil, no jobs. . . They had to do something to lift the embargo. " Early Thursday morning, most of the gas stations in Gaza were still closed and the roads were practically empty, due to the fuel shortages. But a fuel tanker was slowly wriggling its way through the narrow streets of Gaza City.

VIDEO - Palestinian contraband smugglers offer an inside look
Haaretz Staff and Channel 10, Ha’aretz 6/20/2008
Haaretz. com/Channel 10 daily feature for June 19, 2008. The cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas went into effect Thursday morning at 6 A. M. , and should the truce hold, Israel will gradually reopen Gaza’s border crossings, allowing goods to enter the coastal territory that has been all but closed off since Hamas seized power in June 2007. But regardless of the security situation on the ground, Palestinian militants under ground, in so-called "downtown Rafah," have been busy smuggling contraband and weapons into the Strip from Egypt. They recently allowed television cameras to join them in one of the tunnels, which is 20 meters deep and 900 meters long, to document some of their activities.

Israeli army detain two Palestinians crossing from Gaza to Israel through electric fence
Ma’an News Agency 6/20/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - The Israeli army said on Friday that three Palestinian young men crossed illegally into Israel through the electric fence surrounding the Gaza Strip. The army confirmed that they detained the two infiltrators and troops are searching for a third. The army spokesman said the men were not armed. [end]

Shebaa moves into local, international spotlights
Anthony Elghossain, Daily Star 6/21/2008
BEIRUT: Talk of a prospective Israeli pullout from the occupied Shebaa Farms intensified on Friday, with Hizbullah officials reiterating that a withdrawal would not mean their group disarming and Lebanon’s prime minister agreeing that the two issues were separate - albeit for very different reasons. On the international scene, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday in order to discuss the way forward on the matter, while State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said the United States would be "supportive" of any direct Israeli-Lebanese negotiations over the Shebaa area. On Friday, the US charge d’affaires in Lebanon, Michele Sison, confirmed her government’s interest in working out a solution to Shebaa question as part of an international push "to ensure all the conditions for stability in Lebanon," placing the US stance in line with that taken by France a day earlier.

Syrian source: We won’t opt for immidiate solution to Shebaa Farms
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 6/20/2008
While Syria is reluctant to concede to US, French proposal to hand over farms to UN, Hizbullah’s Hassan Fadlallah promises ’any Zionist withdrawal from Shebba Farms will signify a great achievement for the resistance’ -A Syrian source affiliated with the indirect talks between Damascus and Jerusalem says Friday that Syria was in no rush to find a solution to the Shebaa Farms sovereignty issue. The source was quoted by the London-based Arabic-language al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper, following reports that the US and France support the transferal of the area at the foot of Mount Dov to the United Nations’ control. Later on, the area is to be divided between Syria andLebanon. "How can Lebanon negotiate over Shebba Farms while it doesn’t even have documentation supporting its rights to it? "  the Syrian source said over the phone.

Report: Israel held military drill as prep for attack on Iran
Reuters, Ha’aretz 6/21/2008
U. S. officials say Israel carried out a large military exercise this month that appeared to be a rehearsal for a potential bombing attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, The New York Times reported on Friday. Citing unidentified American officials, the newspaper said more than 100 Israeli F-16 and F-15 fighters took part in the maneuvers over the eastern Mediterranean and Greece in the first week of June. It said the exercise appeared to be an effort to focus on long-range strikes and illustrates the seriousness with which Israel views Iran’s nuclear program. The newspaper said Israeli officials would not discuss the exercise. A spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces would say only that the country’s air force "regularly trains for various missions in order to confront and meet the challenges posed by the threats facing Israel," according to the Times.

Israel’s dry run ’attack on Iran’ with 100 jet fighters
Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem, The Independent 6/21/2008
Israel has mounted a major long-range military air exercise -- involving more than 100 F15 and F16 fighters -- as a rehearsal for a potential strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, American officials have indicated. The fighters, along with refuelling tankers and helicopters able to rescue downed pilots, were mobilised during the first week of June over the eastern Mediterranean and Greece in an exercise monitored by foreign intelligence agencies. The tankers and helicopters flew 900 miles from their bases in Israel -- roughly the same distance as that between Israel and Iran’s uranium enrichment plant at Natanz, the US officials said. Israeli government officials declined to give details yesterday and referred inquiries to the statement by the Israeli military carried in yesterday’s New York Times, which broke the story of the exercise.

Oil prices jump after report of Israeli drill for Iran attack
Reuters and Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 6/21/2008
Oil prices rose more than $3 on Friday after the New York Times reported that Israel held a military drill in apparent preparation for a bombing raid on Iran’s nuclear facilities. A hardline Iranian cleric said on Friday that Israel and its U. S. ally would receive a "slap in the face" if they speak of using force against the Islamic Republic, a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Energy experts are concerned any conflict in Iran could lead to a shutdown of the Strait of Hormuz, a waterway separating Iran from the Arabian Peninsula, through which roughly 40 percent of the world’s traded oil is shipped. Friday’s spike was not the first caused by tensions between Israel and Iran. Oil prices soared $11 on June 6, after former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff and Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz. . .

US says Israel exercise seemed directed at Iran
Middle East Online 6/20/2008
WASHINGTON - US officials say a major military exercise carried out by Israel earlier this month seemed to be a practice for any potential strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, US media reported Friday. More than 100 Israeli F-16 and F-15 fighter jets took part in maneuvers over the eastern Mediterranean and Greece in the first week of June to gear the military for long-range strikes and demonstrate Israel’s serious concern over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the New York Times cited US officials as saying. The exercise also included helicopters, which could be used in rescuing downed pilots, with the helicopters and refueling tankers flying over 900 miles (1,440 kilometers), roughly the same distance between Israel and Iran’s uranium enrichment plant at Natanz, the Times website reported. A Pentagon official briefed on the exercise said a goal of the practice flights was to. . .

Report: Israel appears to rehearse Iran attack
Reuters, YNetNews 6/20/2008
US officials say Jewish state carried out large military exercise this month in preparation for potential bombing on Tehran’s nuclear facilities, The New York Times reports. Pentagon official: Goal is to send clear message that Israel is ready to act militarily - US officials say Israel carried out a large military exercise this month that appeared to be a rehearsal for a potential bombing attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, The New York Times reported on Friday. Citing unidentified American officials, the newspaper said more than 100 Israeli F-16 and F-15 fighters took part in the maneuvers over the eastern Mediterranean and Greece in the first week of June. It said the exercise appeared to be an effort to focus on long-range strikes and illustrates the seriousness with which Israel views Iran’s nuclear program.

Atomic agency chief: I’ll quit if Iran attacked
AP and Reuters, YNetNews 6/20/2008
IAEA Chief ElBaradei: Military strike on Iran’s nuke sites would turn region into a ’fireball’; US: We told Israel we want diplomatic solution - The chief of the United Nations nuclear watchdog said in remarks aired on Friday that he would resign if there was a military strike on Iran, warning that any such attack would turn the region into a "fireball". "What I see in Iran today is a current, grave and urgent danger. If a military strike is carried out against Iran at this time. . . It would make me unable to continue my work," International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Mohamad ElBaradei told al-Arabiya television in an interview. [end]

Barak: Only U.S. can help Israel-Syria talks; Syria: No chance of Assad-Olmert handshake
News Agencies, Ha’aretz 6/20/2008
Israel and Syria are unlikely to hold direct peace negotiations before the end of the year, especially without the involvement of the United States, Defense Minister Ehud Barak was quoted as saying yesterday. Barak told the French newspaper Le Monde that indirect talks between the neighboring countries, which are currently being mediated by Turkey, amounted to "preliminary contacts," not negotiations. "I don’t think we will have negotiations before the end of this year without the contribution of the Americans, who alone can help bridge the gaps," he said, adding he believed the United States would get involved in the future. But he said a meeting between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Syrian President Bashar Assad could provide a psychological boost that could move the process forward. The interview came amid speculation Olmert and Assad may meet during a July 13 summit of European and Mediterranean leaders in Paris.

IAEA inspectors heading to Syria
Middle East Online 6/20/2008
VIENNA - The UN’s atomic watchdog is sending a team of top-level experts to Damascus from Sunday to probe allegations of a clandestine nuclear facility in the remote Syrian desert. Inspectors led by the International Atomic Energy Agency’s number two, Olli Heinonen, are flying out to examine a building which the United States alleges was a covert nuclear reactor built with North Korea’s help, until it was destroyed in an Israeli air attack last September. The trip - from June 22-24 - was announced by IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei at the regular summer meeting of the watchdog’s 35-member board of governors earlier this month after the US passed on intelligence suggesting the building was a covert nuclear reactor close to becoming operational. Damascus, a US foe and ally of Iran, has dismissed the allegations as "ridiculous" and insists the edifice was a disused military building.

Barak rules out full negotiations with Syria in 2008
Ma’an News Agency 6/20/2008
Bethelehem – Ma’an – Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Thursday ruled out the possibility of full peace negotiations between Israel and Syria before the end of 2008, or without the involvement of the United States. During his visit to France, which is expected to host the leaders of Israel and Syria in the context of a regional summit in July, Barak said that the current indirect talks mediated by Turkey between the two enemy states represent "initial contacts" which may lead to peace negotiations in 2009. He told the French newspaper Le Monde, "I do not think that we will begin negotiations before the end of this year. There will be no negotiations without US involvement, since the Americans are the only ones who might be able to help in bridging the gaps. "Barak added that he thinks the US will participate in the future.

UN seeks $445 million to rebuild Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon
United Nations News Service, ReliefWeb 6/20/2008
The United Nations and the Lebanese Government will be seeking $445 million to rebuild the devastated Nahr El-Bared Palestinian refugee camp during an international donor conference to be held in Vienna on Monday. The camp, situated in northern Lebanon, was the scene of heavy fighting from May to September 2007 between the national army and Fatah el-Islam gunmen. The violence left 30,000 Palestinian refugees and Lebanese homeless. Matthias Burchard of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) told reporters in Geneva that 70 countries and international organizations had been invited to the conference, which is being hosted by Austria in cooperation with Lebanon, the European Commission and the Arab League. The reconstruction of the Nahr El-Bared camp represents the largest undertaking in UNRWA’s history, and will require the building of. . .

Jordan prevents Israeli delegation from attending economic meeting with Palestinians
Ma’an News Agency 6/20/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - Israeli sources said on Friday that Jordanian authorities prevented an Israeli delegation from entering Jordan to attend a joint Palestinian-Israeli-Jordanian economic meeting last Sunday. The sources added that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss economic cooperation between the three countries, especially in the Dead Sea region. The meeting went ahead without the attendance of the Israel side. A member of the Israeli delegation said "the Israeli delegates sat in the bus for four and half hours. It is not true that in a State like Jordan this was because of an administrative error. I think that there is something else other than that. " He added that he thought this was a clear signal from Jordan that they do not wish to cooperate with Israel in such projects. Other Israeli delegates said that the Jordanian authorities informed them that. . .

Jordan bars entry to Israeli economic delegation
Ora Coren TheMarker Correspondent, Ha’aretz 6/20/2008
Jordan prevented an Israeli delegation from crossing the Allenby Bridge on Sunday to attend an economic cooperation conference with Jordanian and Palestinian colleagues. What had been planned as a tripartite gathering to discuss economic issues concerning the Dead Sea became a bilateral, Jordanian-Palestinian parley only. "People sat politely on the bus and chatted for four and a half hours," a member of the Israeli delegation related. At one point everyone concluded that in a state like Jordan, the claim that this was a bureaucratic foul-up doesn’t hold, and that something else was going on. "The would-be conference-goer said the assumption is that the action was a sign from Jordan that it is not willing to cooperate with Israel on strategic projects at this stage.

High noon for PA Civil Police
Colin Smith, Ha’aretz 6/20/2008
The Palestinian Civil Police training center in Jericho is a humble set of installations by any standard. One of its dormitories is commonly known as the "Africa Building," due to the poor state it is in. The characterizationmay not be politically correct, but it does accurately convey to many people, including in the Middle East, an image of hardship. On top of the Spartan facilities, the heat in Jericho is unforgiving. During the summer months, the temperature is more often than not over 40 degrees Celsius. Training has to take place in shifts to avoid the midday sun. Palestinian officers start their day at 5 A. M. , take a break at midday and resume in the afternoon, after 5 P. M. End of play is often close to midnight. Since last September, our French police adviser - who lives under the same roof with the trainees - has instructed more than. . .

By U.S. decree, Abbas begins overhaul of his security service
Reuters, Ha’aretz 6/20/2008
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is pushing through an overhaul of his security forces by decree, retiring old-guard commanders and giving broad law enforcement powers to a secretive special unit. Several thousand top officers who rose through the ranks under the iconic late guerrilla leader Yasser Arafat have so far given up command with Abbas offering pre-retirement promotions and pensions equal to their full wages, according to interviews and presidential orders seen by. The U. S. -backed overhaul, which envisages shedding about 30,000 security jobs and building a more streamlined gendarmerie as part of Washington’s drive for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, has picked up pace in recent months, following Abbas’s loss of the Gaza Strip to Hamas Islamists a year ago.

Iqbal Tamimi - Changes in Palestinian Demographics
Iqbal Tamimi, Palestine Think Tank 6/20/2008
85% of the Palestinian population has been expelled by Israel since the Nakba. This has transformed Gaza into the most densely populated area in the worldThe number of the Palestinian population has increased seven fold since the Nakba in 1948 despite the plight and the tragic circumstances as stated by the Head of Palestinian Statistics Dr. Lwai Shabana. The Palestinian plight is a dark stage in modern history. The Palestinian population was expelled from its homeland, the people deprived of their lands, homes and properties. They were forced to seek refuge all over the world, facing all kinds of suffering and woes. Since The Catastrophe (Nakba) in 1948 Israel has occupied more than three quarters of Palestine, and has destroyed 531 groupings of population. The occupation of Palestine has lead to the expulsion and displacement of 85% of the Palestinian population.

Israel’s Messianic Jews: Police indifferent to threats against us
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 6/21/2008
Safety pins and screws are still lodged in 15-year-old Ami Ortiz’s body three months after he opened a booby-trapped gift basket sent to his family. The explosion severed two toes, damaged his hearing and harmed a promising basketball career. Police say they are still searching for the assailants. But to the Ortiz family the motive of the attackers is clear: The Ortizes are Jews who believe that Jesus was the Messiah. Israel’s tiny community of Messianic Jews, a mixed group of 10,000 people who include the California-based Jews for Jesus, complains of threats, harassment and police indifference. The March 20 bombing was the worst incident so far. In October, a mysterious fire damaged a Jerusalem church used by Messianic Jews, and last month ultra-Orthodox Jews torched a stack of Christian holy books distributed by missionaries.

PMO: Prisoner exchange with Hezbollah not likely next week
Amos Harel and Jack Khoury, Ha’aretz 6/21/2008
Sources at the Prime Minister’s office said Friday that a prisoner exchange deal involving the return of two Israel Defense Forces soldiers held captive since July 2006 will likely not be carried out next week, channel 10 reported. The deal, rumored to involve the release of Lebanese terrorist Samir Kuntar to the hands of Hezbollah in exchange for IDF soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, has been described as imminent recently by families of prisoners on both sides of the deal. Tzvi Regev, father of missing IDF soldier Eldad Regev, on Friday said that Israel is on the verge of a deal with Hezbollah to return soldiers seized by the militant group in July 2006. "We are on the threshold of a deal with Hezbollah and everything depends on the government," Regev said after a meeting held with Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

Palestinian prisoner: Release rumors killing us
Ali Waked, YNetNews 6/20/2008
Palestinian detainees anxious ahead of possible release in framework of prisoner swap - Palestinian prisoners say they are on edge in the face of rumors regarding their possible release as part of a deal to free Israel’s abducted soldiers, Gilad Shalit, Ehud Goldwasser, and Eldad Regev. The Palestinian detainees are making an effort to elicit any trace of information in the hopes their name will end up on the list of released prisoners. "We watch all television stations in order to gather any piece of information possible," one prisoner told Ynet. "We hear things that sometimes make us happy and other times disappoint us. The entire day we shift from one report to another and from one rumor to the next; it’s killing us. " The prisoner, who is a resident of Nablus, is due to be released only five years from now, but is clinging to hopes for an earlier discharge.

Former MIA’s father: Release Kuntar in exchange for our troops
Hagai Einav, YNetNews 6/20/2008
Parents of ex-MIAs abducted by Hizbullah say Israel must finalize latest prisoner swap - The Israeli government must finalize a prisoner swap with Hizbullah despite the heavy price of such deal, the fathers of soldiers returned to Israel in the previous such swap told Ynet Friday. The families of abducted soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev must "hang in there during the tough and nerve-wrecking moments ahead," said Haim Avraham, whose son Benny was kidnapped by Hizbullah in 2000. His body was returned to Israel four years ago in the framework of a swap with Hizbullah. Addressing reports that another swap, this time for Goldwasser and Regev, is close to completion, Avraham said their relatives can do no more than hope for the best. "I would tell the families that at the end of the day it doesn’t depend on them," Avraham said.

Sarkozy: France will always be by Israel’s side
Middle East Online 6/20/2008
JERUSALEM - French President Nicolas Sarkozy signalled support for Israel in an interview published on Friday ahead of his trip to the region but said it was crucial for peace that it freeze building settlements in the occupied West Bank. Sarkozy, who arrives in Israel on Sunday, said that France "will always be by Israel’s side when its existence and security are at stake. " "Those who call, in a outrageous way, for the destruction of Israel will always find France facing them and blocking their path," he said, according to the transcript of the interview he gave to the Yediot Aharonot and Maariv dailies. The French president stressed that "the best security guarantee for Israel is the creation of a viable and democratic Palestinian state. " He noted that Israel had taken steps to ease life in the West Bank, where a number of roadblocks were removed in recent weeks.

PNI calls new EU position encouraging of racism and occupation
Palestine News Network 6/20/2008
Nablus / Amin Abu Wardeh -- The European Union is drawing the ire of the Palestinian National Initiative. The political party of leftist intellectuals and activists strongly criticized the EU decision to "upgrade relations with Israel in the economic, scientific, academic and political realms without linking it to Israel ending its occupation of Palestine, or halting settlement activity and violations of human rights and the policies of racism practiced in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. " The PNI expressed sincere regret and disapproval of this decision "which severely prejudices any position of balance adopted by the European Union in the past. Instead it reflects an unacceptable and unjustified bias in favor of Israel when just a year ago the EU would not recognize the Palestinian National Unity Government by taking an independent stand against Israeli positions.

Security pact with US would mean ’slavery’
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 6/21/2008
BAGHDAD: An Iraqi Shiite cleric on Friday denounced as "eternal slavery" a proposed security deal between Baghdad and Washington that outlines the long-term military presence of American forces in the country. "The suspect pact would be eternal slavery for Iraq. It is against the constitution," said Sheikh Asad al-Nasri, a member of the movement led by cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. "The government has no right to sign the pact which has been rejected by every political party," he told worshippers at Friday prayers in the holy city of Kufa. US President George W. Bush and Iraqi Premier Nuri al-Maliki agreed in principle last November to sign a Status of Forces Agreement by the end of July. Last week, Maliki warned that talks on the agreement, which would spell out the rules for Iraq-based US military operations, had hit an impasse over Iraqi concerns about national sovereignty.

’Breakthrough’ in Iraq pact
Mohammed A Salih, Asia Times 6/21/2008
WASHINGTON - Despite apparent serious disagreements reflected in a series of incongruent statements by senior officials of the United States and Iraqi governments, they appear to have made a breakthrough in negotiations for a new security pact. The fate of the pact appeared especially uncertain when, on June 9, the Associated Press quoted an unnamed senior George W Bush administration official as saying that it was "very possible" that the two countries would not reach a deal and that they would have to extend a United Nations mandate authorizing the presence of US troops on Iraqi soil. Four days later, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki gave unexpected weight to speculation about the deal’s failure when he said during a visit to neighboring Jordan, "We have reached a dead end, because when we started the talks, we found that the US demands hugely infringe on the sovereignty of Iraq, and this we can never accept. "

Three Israeli hikers hurt in shooting attack near Ramallah
Jonathan Lis Amos Harel and Yuval Azoulay, Ha’aretz 6/21/2008
Three Israeli hikers were wounded on Friday, one seriously and two lightly, in a drive-by shooting in Zarka valley near the West Bank city of Ramallah. Unknown assailants in a passing vehicle apparently opened fire at the group of hikers, hitting three of them. Security and rescue personnel arrived at the scene and located thevictims, who were hiding in the area after the attack. An initial report from the Magen David Adom emergency medical staff on the scene indicated that one of the victims had been shot in the back and another had sustained gunshots to the stomach. One of the hikers was in serious condition and two others sustained minor wounds. According to paramedics, the victims were fully conscious. Additional hikers that were with the victims suffered from dehydration as they waited for rescue teams in hiding.

Three Israelis wounded in shooting attack north of Ramallah
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 6/20/2008
Israeli military sources reported on Friday that three Israelis were wounded, one seriously, in a drive-by shooting that took place on Friday afternoon in Al Zarqa Valley near the central West Bank city of Ramallah. Return and Struggle Brigades, one of the off-shoots of Fateh movement claimed responsibility for the attack. The Israeli sources stated that the gunmen opened fire at a group of Israeli hikers in the area and wounded three of them. The Israeli army rushed to the scene and evacuated the hikers. Medical crews of the Magen David Adomemergency medical response said that one Israeli was wounded in his back while the other was wounded in his stomach. One hiker is currently in a serious condition, while the other twosuffered mild injuries. Army sources stated that the hikers should have coordinated three outing with the Israeli authorities as required by law when Israelis hike in the occupied West Bank.

IDF: Shooting attack victims saved by miracle
Meital Yasur-Beit Or, YNetNews 6/20/2008
Military officials slam settlers hurt in West Bank shooting attack Friday for failing to coordinate their trip with authorities; attacked yeshiva student: We suspect Arabs in area reported our presence to terrorists - The Israelis targeted by terrorists near Ramallah were saved "by miracle," IDF officials said Friday evening. The army slammed the settlers attacked earlier in the day for failing to report their trip to authorities. The hikers, however, said they coordinated the trip with the security chief in their West Bank community. Following an initial inquiry into the incident, an IDF officer characterized the settlers’ trip as an "irresponsible act," saying that only a miracle prevented the attack from ending on a much grimmer note. "Recently there have been several cases on Fridays. . . "

Three Israeli settlers injured in shooting north of Ramallah
Ma’an News Agency 6/20/2008
Ramallah - Ma’an - Three Israelis were injured when a group of armed Palestinians opened fire on them near the Israeli settlement of Neve Tsof, north of Ramallah, on Friday. Israeli planes evacuated the injured to hospital. Israeli medical sources reported that one was in serious condition, and the other two sustained moderate injuries. The Israeli army are carrying out an extensive search for the armed Palestinians who fled the scene. Later on Friday afternoon, the Al-Aqsa Brigades, the military wing affiliated to the Fatah movement, claimed responsibility for the shooting. In a written statement, the brigades said that one of their groups ambushed a group of Israeli settlers near the illegal Israeli settlement of Neve Tsof and opened fire on them. *** updated at 18:15 Bethlehem time

UN humanitarian chief welcomes Israel/Gaza cessation of violence
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs - OCHA, ReliefWeb 6/20/2008
(New York, 20 June, 2008):The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has welcomed the announced Israel/Gaza Cessation of Violence. ‘This development offers particular hope for the ordinary people of Gaza, who have so far borne the brunt of the problems, but also for people in southern Israel,’ said John Holmes, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. ‘I hope that this halt to the violence will result in rapid improvement of the humanitarian situation in Gaza, and in a sustained opening of the Gaza crossings for both humanitarian and commercial purposes,’ he emphasized. The humanitarian situation in Gaza had seriously deteriorated over the last year, after Hamas took control of the area by force, and Israel subsequently imposed severe restrictions on the entry and exit of goods to and from Gaza.

Football as a sign of calm: Israeli and Palestinian press coverage of the Gaza truce
Ma’an News Agency 6/20/2008
Jerusalem – Ma’an exclusive – Palestinian media remained sceptical about Israel’s intentions concerning the Gaza truce on Friday, although some reports highlighted the changed atmosphere in Gaza and partial opening of the border crossings. The main headline of the Palestinian daily Al-Quds newspaper read, "Ceasefire in effect in the Gaza Strip amidst doubts on its sustainability. " Another headline in Al-Quds reported the killing of a Palestinian hit by an Israeli rocket in Gaza just before the truce came into effect at 6am on Thursday morning. But the newspaper also reported Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s description of the truce as "a positive step. " Another Palestinian newspaper, Al-Ayyam, published a headline in red that clearly demonstrated the pervading scepticism over the truce - "Gaza: the truce holds for its first day, the Israeli tanks are stationed on the borders.

IDF to scale back troop numbers around Gaza in next stage of cease-fire
Amos Harel Avi Issacharoff and Yuval Azoulay, Ha’aretz 6/20/2008
Military sources said yesterday that if the one-day-old Gaza cease-fire holds, the army will redeploy some of its troops near the Strip to other sectors or for training. At the moment, the troops are on high alert. No unusual incidents took place yesterday after the agreement took effect at 6 A. M. The Israeli military believes that Hamas is enforcing its will on the smaller Palestinian factions and preventing - at least for now - rocket fire from the Gaza Strip. At 5 A. M. , an hour before the cease-fire went into force, the Israel Defense Forces killed a Hamas militant in central Gaza. Negotiations for the release of captured soldier Gilad Shalit are scheduled to resume next week in the Egyptian-brokered deal. Politicians and high-ranking army officers are due in the next few days to discuss approving a prisoner swap with Hezbollah for abductees Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev.

Resheq: Israeli leadership not serious about lasting peace
Palestinian Information Center 6/20/2008
DAMASCUS , (PIC)-- Ezzat Al-Resheq, member of the Hamas Movement’s political bureau said on Thursday the calm agreement with the Israeli occupation will ease the pressure on the Palestinian people who reeled for two years under a crippling economic blockade. He added that it was not the first time that a truce has been declared by the Palestinian resistance factions, but it is the first time that Israelcommits to a truce by signing and declaring an agreement and he considered this development as one of the achievements of the resistance. He also stressed that resistance remains an option for Palestinians to regain their rights if they cannot regain them peacefully. Resheq explained that the agreement was needed by the Israelis as much as it was needed by the Palestinians. It will mainly serve to ease the blockade on the Gaza Strip, alleviate the suffering of the 1.

Sderot life edges toward normal, as residents poised for next Color Red
Fadi Eyadat, Ha’aretz 6/20/2008
Elyasi Aziz permitted himself to stroll along Sderot’s streets yesterday. He has worked for the city’s sanitation department for 15 years, and this past year has been disruptive. "I work under pressure, sweep fast and move to the next spot. Always next to a migunit for shelter," Aziz says, referring to the hollow concrete structures dispersed throughout the city for protection against rocket fire from Gaza. "I keep looking upward, don’t wear earphones so I can hear the Color Red alert. I’m slightly calmer today," he said, but added: "I’ll be relaxed until the next Color Red. I don’t believe in the tahadiyeh. "Sderot’s city center was swarming yesterday with Israeli and foreign press. Everyone wanted to hear what the locals had to say about "the peace that has arrived," as one foreign journalist put it. But the Sderot folks sounded pessimistic, like they didn’t want this agreement.

VIDEO - News / First day of Israel-Hamas truce offers respite from violence
Haaretz Staff and Channel 10, Ha’aretz 6/20/2008
Haaretz. com/Channel 10 news roundup for June 19, 2008. In this edition:The Israel-Hamas cease-fire gets under way, and offers both sides a respite from the ongoing violence. Sderot residents and IDF soldiers take advantage of the first quiet day along the Gaza border. Miki Goldwasser is angered by some army chiefs’ reluctance to free Samir Kuntar in exchange for her son and Eldad Regev. Related articles:New dawn for kids who only know Qassams? Families of missing soldiers briefed ahead of Hezbollah dealHead of Lebanese terrorist’s village: We’re preparing for Kuntar’s homecoming Sunday Also on Haaretz. com TV:Palestinian contraband smugglers offer an inside look at one of their underground tunnels Environmentalists win decade-long war against Eilat fish farmsRetail shops and hotels. . .

Hamas rejects a multinational Arab force in the Gaza Strip
Palestinian Information Center 6/20/2008
DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- Hamas has renewed its rejection of the idea of deployment of  a multinational Arab forces to the Gaza Strip as a final phase of the truce with the Israeli occupation. In statement he made to Quds Press news agency, Ezzat al-Resheq, member of Hamas’s political bureau, called for talks between Hamas and Fatah to end the internal rift and to agree on the rebuilding of the PA security on professional basis rather than factional basis and for that to happen there is no need for a multinational Arab force to be sent to the Gaza Strip. He added that those who promote such an idea do not aim to help the Palestinian people to liberate their land, but they want to return Mahmoud Abbas and his security to control the Gaza Strip under Arab protection; "This will not do, the only way forward is inter-Palestinian dialogue. "

Haniyya: ''Gaza siege will be fully lifted after 10 days of truce''
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 6/20/2008
Prime Minister of the dissolved government n Gaza, Hamas political leader, Ismail Haniyya, stated on Friday that the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip will be fully lifted after ten days of truce between Hamas and Israel. The truce took effect on Thursday. In a speech after Friday prayers at a local mosque in Gaza, Haniyya said that food supplies will start flowing into Gaza 72 hours after the truce and that after 10 days of truce the siege will be fully lifted and Israel will start opening the crossings. The Hamas leader added that this deal was achieved through Egyptian intervention and mediation. Haniyya added that the success of this truce depends on the Israeli commitment to it, and refused to accept Israeli demands to condition the release of the captured Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, with the success of the truce.

India tiptoes to the new Middle East
M K Bhadrakumar, Asia Times 6/21/2008
DELHI - The Middle East took a great leap forward this week to the post-George W Bush era. Israel’s dramatic shift of glance to the forces of political Islam sums it up. "Today we have concurrent peace negotiations with both the Syrians and the Palestinians and there is no logical reason why there should also not be talks with the Lebanese," Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s spokesman Mark Regev said in Jerusalem on Wednesday. Israel’s announcement hinting at peace with Hezbollah followed hours after agreeing a landmark truce with Hamas in Gaza. Separately, Israeli and Lebanese politicians confirmed a deal in the making between Israel and Hezbollah regarding the exchange of prisoners. The deal, brokered by Germany, may be announced next week. Shifts in regional setting The cynics may argue that Olmert is diverting attention from the corruption scandals that threaten to hound him out of power.

Jerusalem & Babylon / A blessing in disguise
Anshel Pfeffer, Ha’aretz 6/20/2008
"What can we do? Every time the dollar goes down another ten agorot, that’s another $3 million of our budget. "That was the neat equation Jewish Agency Chairman Zeev Bielski offered members of the Knesset Immigration Committee this week to explain his organization’s financial woes. How simple - it’s not us, it’s the weak dollar. And Bielski, of course, is not making it up. Across the Jewish spectrum, organizations are griping about the greenback’s descent. If you raise funds in America in dollars, and spend shekels in Israel or rubles in Russia, your spending power has just gone down by almost a quarter. It is not only the Jewish Agency that is hurting; the Joint Distribution Committee just announced a series of cutbacks, including firing 60 of its staff. The Jewish Agency will announce similar measures next week at its Board of Governors meeting in Jerusalem, and Bielski will certainly try to use his currency tactic there as well.

Sarkozy: France will confront those calling for Israel’s destruction
Shimon Shiffer, YNetNews 6/20/2008
On eve of his visit to Jewish state, French president tells Yedioth Ahronoth of honeymoon-like relations between two countries, but says settlements are ’an obstacle towards peace’ - France will do everything in order to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons, French President Nicolas Sarkozy vowed in an interview with Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth ahead of his upcoming visit to the Jewish state, scheduled to begin Sunday. "Those who outrageously call for Israel’s destruction will be confronted by France and will be blocked," he added. Sarkozy called for fresh sanctions on Tehran if the Islamic republic continues its efforts to develop nuclear weapons, but did not spare his criticism of Israel. "You must freeze the constructions in the settlements in the territories, which are the main obstacle towards peace with the Palestinians," he said.

Israeli government at odds over release of Samir Al-Quntar
Ma’an News Agency 6/20/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - The German-brokered prisoner swap deal between Hizbullah and Israel which was due to take place within days is likely to be delayed as Israeli ministers are at odds over the details, the Israeli daily newspaper Ma’ariv reported on Friday. The main difference of opinion is regarding the release of Samir Al-Quntar, who is considered the main bargaining chip in solving the mystery of missing Israeli pilot Ron Arad. The 50-year-old weapons systems officer has been ’missing in action’ since 1986. Many Israeli ministers are demanding information on Arad’s fate before the deal is struck. Israel has indicated Samir Al-Quntar will get his freedom along with other four Lebanese prisoners and dozens of bodies of Hizbullah fighters, killed in the 33-day war between Israel and Hizbullah in 2006. Seven Hizbullah prisoners have been held by Israel and two Israeli soldiers have been in the custody of Hizbullah since the war ended.

Lebanon: Information on Ron Arad to delay swap deal
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 6/20/2008
Diplomatic sources in Beirut tell Ad-Diyar newspaper prisoner exchange between Israel, Hizbullah to take place within days. Only thing which may delay deal is Israeli demand to receive information on missing navigator’s fate, they say - Diplomatic sources in Beirut have said that a prisoner swap deal between Israel and Hizbullah is expected to take place within several days, Lebanese newspaper Ad-Diyar reported Friday. According to the sources, the only thing which may delay the implementation of the deal is if Israel demands to receive information on the fate of missing navigator Ron Arad. Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Friday morning summoned the families of kidnapped soldiers Ehud Goldwasser, Eldad Regev and Gilad Shalit for a meeting at his Tel Aviv office, ahead of the implementation of the deal with swap Hizbullah.

Zvi Regev: Swap deal depends on ministers
Roni Lifschitz, YNetNews 6/20/2008
Families of kidnapped soldiers meet for briefing with Defense Minister Barak. ’We are on the verge of a deal with Hizbullah for our sons’ return, and are now waiting for its completion and approval by the Israeli government,’ says Eldad Regev’s father. Gilad Shalit’s parents leave meeting ’unsatisfied’ - Briefing ahead of possible prisoner swap deal. Defense Minister Ehud Barak met Friday morning with the families of kidnapped IDF soldiers Ehud Goldwasser, Eldad Regev and Gilad Shalit in order to brief them on the recent developments in the negotiations with Hizbullah and Hamas. Eldad Regev’s father Zvi said following the meeting that the implementation of a prisoner exchange deal with Hizbullah depends on the decision of the government ministers.

Poll: 61% of Israelis in favor of releasing Kuntar
Ynet, YNetNews 6/20/2008
On eve of potential prisoner swap between Israel and Hizbullah, public expresses support for deal even in return for bodies of kidnapped soldiers Goldwasser and Regev. Defense Minister Barak to meet with captives’ families Friday - On the eve of a potential prisoner exchange between Israel and Hizbullah, the Israeli public has expressed its support for a deal which would include the release of Samir Kuntar, who murdered the Haran family in Nahariya in 1979 and is considered a key bargaining chip in theRon Arad affair. According to a poll conducted by the Dahaf Institute and published by Yedioth Ahronoth on Friday, 61% of the respondents support Kuntar’s release, even if kidnapped Israeli soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Godlwasser are no longer alive.

Families of abducted soldiers to tell Barak: Swap prisoners with Hezbollah
Jack Khoury, Ha’aretz 6/20/2008
The families of abducted soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev will meet Friday with Defense Minister Ehud Barak to demand a prisoner exchange deal with Hezbollah. On Sunday, the families will meet with the other cabinet ministers, who also may need to ratify the deal. "I am not taking any chances," Ehud Goldwasser’s mother, Miki, said Thursday when asked if she thinks a prisoner swap may not be approved. Miki Goldwasser demands a prisoner swap with Hezbollah even if that means releasing Lebanese terrorist Samir Kuntar. Goldwasser told Haaretz yesterday that she cannot imagine the government or cabinet not approving a deal. Goldwasser wrote to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert late Wednesday night after meeting with the coordinator of the prisoner exchange, Ofer Dekel.

Europe raises contribution ahead of Vienna donor conference
The Daily Star and Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 6/21/2008
VIENNA/BEIRUT: International donors will meet in Vienna on Monday to collect funds for the reconstruction of the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, the Austrian Foreign Ministry announced on Friday. The conference, which convenes at the request of the Lebanese government, will be attended by Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, Arab League chief Amr Moussa, EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner and Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik. The European Commission announced on Friday it was giving another 8 million euros ($12. 5 million) for the rebuilding plan to be presented in Vienna on Monday, bringing the commission’s contributions to the Nahr al-Bared recovery effort to about $43. 8 million, said a statement from the commission’s delegation to Lebanon. About 31,000 refugees were relocated from the camp after deadly clashes raged for more. . .

Lebanon: Commission increases its aid to the victims of the Nahr Al Bared crisis to €28 million
European Commission - Humanitarian Aid Office - ECHO, ReliefWeb 6/20/2008
Brussels, 20 June 2008 -Benita Ferrero-Waldner, European Commissioner for External Relation and Neighbourhood Policy, will co-chair the International Donor Conference for the Recovery and Reconstruction of the Palestinian Refugee Camp at Nahr Al Bared taking place on 23 June in Vienna. The Commission remains among the biggest donors helping the victims of last year’s fighting between Lebanese armed forces and the Islamic movement Fatah al Islam in and around this Palestinian refugee camp in Northern Lebanon. Nahr el Bared has been largely destroyed and remains partly inaccessible almost one year after the cessation of hostilities. Approximately 31,000 displaced refugees still need international support to meet their basic needs. The Lebanese population living in the direct neighbourhood of the camp suffered also greatly from the military operation.

OPT/Lebanon - Plassnik: ''Concrete support for the positive momentum in Lebanon''
Government of Austria, ReliefWeb 6/19/2008
Foreign Minister on the Reconstruction Conference for Nahr el-Bared in Vienna - "The reconstruction of the Nahr El Bared refugee camp is an important political and humanitarian cause. Together, the Lebanese government, Austria, and the international community wish to enable the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon to live a humane existence. Therefore, this conference is also making a concrete contribution to stability in Lebanon,"said Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik in the run-up to the international donor conference, which will take place in the Vienna Hofburg on 23 June 2008 on the reconstruction of the Palestinian refugee camp Nahr el-Bared in Northern Lebanon destroyed in 2007. "Especially during the still unstable internal situation in Lebanon, visible signs of encouragement and support are important," stressed Plassnik.

Getting Google to work for us
Cnaan Liphshiz, Ha’aretz 6/20/2008
A communications overload brought down the internet connection on Tuesday at Jerusalem’s Hebrew Union College. The surge came from room 104, where the summit’s 20 computer fanatics were trying to simultaneously connect their laptops to the Web to demonstrate their online inventions. After finally connecting, the computer lovers pitched ideas on how to eclipse online anti-Semitic content, use Anglo blogs to have fun in Jerusalem, help organizations maintain a more professional-looking online presence, and use computer animation to get African-American rap singer and retired drug dealer 50 Cent to teach about Passover. The session was part of the Third Annual ROI Global Summit for Young Jewish Innovators - a week-long conference for 120 people from 28 countries deemed to be "engaged in projects with potential to change the face of the world," as stated in the invitation.

Foreign investors were behind last month’s leap in the shekel-dollar rate
Eytan Avriel, Ha’aretz 6/20/2008
Foreign investors engaged heavily in speculation in Israel’s currency market in May, selling $870 million worth of dollars in net terms. The intense acquisition of shekels was responsible in no small measure for the Israeli currency’s appreciation against the dollar. Over the course of the month, the shekel gained 5. 7% against the dollar, according to Bank of Israel figures. The statistics indicate that foreign investors, mainly banks and hedge funds, were a major trend-setter for the shekel’s behavior last month. Central bank figures show that foreign investors sold more than $1 billion during May, half of it through the sale of foreign direct investments (FDI). In parallel, the foreign investors sold $370 million worth of shekel-denominated holdings in Israeli government bonds, mostly fixed-income Shahar paper.

Feuding camps move dispute from cabinet to electoral law
Hussein Abdallah, Daily Star 6/21/2008
BEIRUT: The dispute over distributing portfolios in the new cabinet has started to recede in importance as rival factions enter a fresh debate over the proposed new electoral law. A source close to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri told The Daily Star on Friday that failing to form a national unity cabinet will allow all parties to accept the formation of a transitional government that would be in charge of conducting next year’s parliamentary elections. The source said the parliamentary majority was delaying the formation of the new cabinet in an attempt to abandon its commitment regarding the new electoral law. But the March 14 Forces were quoted by the Central News Agency as saying Berri and Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun were setting a trap for Christian members of the March 14 bloc by calling to adopt the electoral law agreed upon in Doha ahead of the formation of the national unity government.

Religious Zionism: Cut funding of haredi institutions
Kobi Nahshoni, YNetNews 6/20/2008
Former Tzohar managing director Rabbi Hagai Gross calls national religious community to fight against ultra-Orthodox monopoly by refusing donations, making new rules for participation in haredi-led events - Nearly two months have passed since the High Rabbinical Court annulled Rabbi Chaim Drukman’s conversions, but the religious Zionism refuses to forget:After conducting solidarity rallies, the national-religious public is encouraged for the first time to fight back, by cutting off donations to the ultra-Orthodox yeshiva institutions. In a an article written by former Tzohar Rabbinical Organization’s Director-General Rabbi Hagai Gross, he proposes to close the door on Orthodox fundraisers, explaining that "this is mandatory in order to make the Orthodox community understand that the spiritual war they have waged on the religious Zionist world bears a financial price as well.

Seeking general - to elect party
Lily Galili, Ha’aretz 6/20/2008
On Monday of this week, Arcadi Gaydamak sat in his office at his Social Justice party headquarters in Jerusalem. The big conference table looked as though it had just arrived from the store, the shelves and walls bare except for a huge photograph of Menachem Begin and a tattered Beitar soccer team banner, which was damaged when a Qassam rocket struck the home of a boy in Sderot. All the rest - souvenirs, thank-you letters, certificates of appreciation - are piled up in large stacks in a distant room. Six months after the establishment of his party, six months before the expected elections, the Social Justice party is on the map. The meeting Gaydamak held on Wednesday with Major General (Res. ) Giora Eiland, in an effort to recruit him to formulate the party’s security platform, is the latest stage not only in preparations for elections but also in the effort to "kosher" the party.

Likud warns Shas: Betray us and you’ll be out of next gov’t
Yossi Verter, Ha’aretz 6/20/2008
Likud leaders have warned Shas that the Sephardi, ultra-Orthodox party will not be part of any future Likud government if it supports an alternative administration headed by Kadima. "If Shas betrays Likud again, it will remain outside Benjamin Netanyahu’s government when we return to power," a senior Likud source told Haaretz. The source was referring to Shas’ "betrayal" in 2000, when the party voted against Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s demand to dissolve the Knesset and move up elections. Shas’ vote led to Ariel Sharon’s becoming prime minister. Senior Likud figures have made it clear to Shas that Likud will "not forgive or forget" if Shas gives its support to Minister Shaul Mofaz if he is elected Kadima chairman. Supporting Mofaz would cause an irreversible rift between Shas and Likud and end the alliance between them, the Likud sources said.

Prisoner of the procedure
Yossi Verter, Ha’aretz 6/20/2008
About two weeks ago, Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann told Prime Minister Ehud Olmert: "You have to go public with your version of the allegations against you. " "I want to," Olmert replied, "but my lawyers tell me that it might be considered an obstruction of justice. "Friedmann consulted with an authoritative legal source, and got back to Olmert: "In principle, it’s alright," he told the prime minister. "You can make your appeal to the public, but on condition that the content of your remarks be vetted by the judicial authorities beforehand. "Olmert, of course, dropped the idea. The deposition of Morris Talansky in large measure sealed the prime minister’s fate vis-a-vis the public. It started when the story broke and a sweeping gag order was issued for about a week.

This Week In Palestine - Week 25 2008
Ghassan Bannoura - Audio Dept, International Middle East Media Center News 6/20/2008
Click on Link to download or play MP3 file || 12 m 0s || 10. 9 MB ||This Week In Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www. IMEMC. org, for June 14th, through June 20th , 2008. As the truce deal between Hamas and Israel was reached this week, Israeli attacks on the coastal region has left 17 Palestinians killed. These stories and more, coming up, stay tuned. Nonviolent Resistance We begin our weekly report with the nonviolent actions in the West Bank. IMEMC’s Jay Sheridan has the details: Bil’in On Friday, villagers from Bil’in, located near the central West Bank city of Ramallah, along with their international and Israeli supporters marched in their weekly nonviolent protest against the illegal Israeli wall built on the village’s land. Protestors carried photos of Ibrahim Burnat who was injured during last week’s protest by three live bullets fired by an Israeli soldier at a close range.

Canadian citizen assaulted and forcibly deported by Israeli authorities
International Solidarity Movement 6/20/2008
Photos - Harmeet Sooden, travelling on his Canadian passport, was forcibly deported from Israel on June 18th after being held incommunicado for 4 days in Israeli detention. Harmeet was refused entry into Israel after being told by airport officials that he was a ‘threat to the security of the State of Israel’. Harmeet, along with Tom Fox, Norman Kember, and fellow Canadian James Loney, was kidnapped in November 2005 and held in captivity for four months while working with the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in Iraq. Tom Fox was executed by his kidnappers. When asked about his experience attempting to enter Israel, Harmeet replied, "It dredged up some old feelings. I told them (honestly) that I had come to revisit Yad Vashem, visit historic sites and volunteer for the ISM [International Solidarity Movement].

Humanitarian assistance to Gaza since Feb 27 escalation in terror - 18 Jun 2008
Government of Israel, ReliefWeb 6/18/2008
Ministry of Defense Unit of Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Total (June 16, 2007 - June 18, 2008): 24,644 trucks; 585,902 tons "No humanitarian crisis and no hunger in the Gaza Strip"500,061 tons) 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,. . .

UNICEF Rejects Support From Israeli Billionaire Known for Constructing Settlements on Palestinian Lands
Adalah-NY: The Coalition for Justice in the Middle East, International Solidarity Movement 6/20/2008
Diamond Mogul, Lev Leviev, Facing Increasing Pressure for Human Rights Violations - New York, NY, June 19, 2008 - A senior advisor to UNICEF’s Director said in a letter today that UNICEF will reject all partnerships with, or financial support from, Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev. Leviev had previously provided UNICEF with support by sponsoring fundraising events in France. Leviev’s past support for UNICEF is featured in a number of places on his company’s website. UNICEF’s rejection of Leviev’s support followed meetings with Adalah-NY, letters from organizations and Palestinian communities advocating a boycott of Leviev’s companies, and a visit by UNICEF officials to Jayyous, one of the Palestinian communities where a Leviev company is building Israeli settlements.

INTERVIEW Iran and religious diplomacy
Asia Times 6/21/2008
Bishop John Bryson Chane Interview by Kaveh L Afrasiabi Bishop John Bryson Chane, a leading voice of religious diplomacy, is the eighth Episcopal bishop of Washington, a diocese that encompasses 93 congregations and about 45,000 church members in the district of Columbia, and the Maryland counties of Prince George’s, Montgomery, Charles and Saint Mary’s. He has traveled to Iran on two occasions at the invitation of former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami and has spoken with numerous religious leaders and at numerous cultural events as well as at seminaries and universities in the cities of Tehran and Qom. Kaveh Afrasiabi:You have recently stated that "finding common grounds is critical at a time when the world is at risk". Please elaborate. Bishop Chane:Well, I look at this not from a strictly diplomatic or political perspective but rather from a faith-centered approach that focuses

Is peace really breaking out in the Middle East?
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 6/21/2008
CAIRO: A truce in Gaza, a president in Lebanon, peace talks between Israel and Syria: The Middle East’s myriad of crises seem to be calming, but analysts warn the respite will only last until a new US president is elected. A fragile Hamas-Israel truce began in Gaza on Thursday, two years after Egypt first sought to mediate such a deal and less than a month after Qatar oversaw an accord in Lebanon that ended a months-long constitutional crisis. At the same time, Syria and Israel announced the resumption of indirect peace talks, broken off eight years ago, under Turkish mediation. And while the region’s potentially most volatile crisis, over Iran’s nuclear program, might yet explode, analysts say Washington’s absence has allowed the region’s "enemies" to speak among themselves for a change. "The US is absent because of the [presidential] election campaign, which has allowed actors. . .

Arab investors urge dismantling of trade barriers
Osama Habib, Daily Star 6/21/2008
BEIRUT: Leading regional investors on Friday urged Arab countries to speed up the creation of free-trade zones and the removal of trade barriers. The investors, who concluded the 12th Arab Businessmen and Investors Conference in Beirut on Friday, said that Arab governments need to liberalize their economies and implement more privatization programs. Participants at the conference, organized by Al-Iktissad Wal-Aamalmagazine, stressed that the removal of all trade barriers should precede the creation of a proposed Arab-wide free-trade zone. They added that inter-Arab trade cannot grow if governments complicat the entry of certain goods. The conference, which was attended by more than 500 investors and bankers from 10 Arab countries, also called for broader investments in agriculture in an attempt to secure sufficient food supplies for the Arab world.

IRAQ: Refugees could fuel regional instability, experts say
Phil Sands/IRIN, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 6/21/2008
Stuck between the Iraqi and Syrian border, al-Tanf is now home to nearly 700 Palestinian refugees who fled violence in Iraq but were denied access to Syria. BAGHDAD, 20 June 2008 (IRIN) - As World Refugee Day is marked on 20 June, Iraqi experts have been urging the government and international community to do more to help the large number of Iraqi refugees in the Middle East. "Day after day Iraqi refugees in neighbouring countries are getting more frustrated by the harsh conditions in which they live. Sooner or later they are going to have a negative impact on the stability of the whole region," said member of parliament (MP) Abdul-Khaliq Zankana, head of parliament’s Migration and Displacement Committee. "Most of them are unemployed and deprived of health care and education, even though their country is oil-rich.

N.Y. Mayor urges Jewish voters to denounce Obama Muslim rumors
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 6/21/2008
New York mayor Michael Bloomberg urged Jewish voters to denounce the whisper campaign that for months has pushed the false rumor that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is secretly a Muslim. Bloomberg warned a Jewish group in Boca Raton, Florida, on Friday that the attempt to portray Obama as a shadowy Muslim with a hidden agenda often targets Jewish voters online and with e-mails. The deceptive campaign against Obama, who is Christian, "threatens to undo the enormous strides that Jews and Muslims have made together in this country," the New York mayor said. The lies are "cloaked in concern for Israel, but the real concern is about partisan politics," said Bloomberg, who is Jewish. "This is wedge politics at its worst, and we’ve got to reject it- loudly, clearly and unequivocally".

Muslim world speaks out on Obama
Middle East Online 6/20/2008
US Senator Barack Obama represents a phenomenon that has drawn global attention and captivated the minds of Muslims around the world as he wages a spirited campaign to become the next president of the United States. In spite of the campaign’s heated debate and some controversial rhetoric regarding Islam, large segments of Muslims remain fascinated with the election and have become big fans of Obama. This level of support for an American presidential candidate is unprecedented in the Muslim world. The fact that it comes amidst an almost unanimous feeling of indignation and rage towards US foreign policy – particularly in Iraq and Palestine – makes it even more noteworthy. The simple explanation is that many Muslims see new reason for hope in the political approach of Obama and his advisors. His apparent eagerness to rally more international support for US policy, and even talk to America’s "enemies", is cause for optimism.

Oil giants return to Iraq
Patrick Cockburn, The Independent 6/20/2008
Nearly four decades after the four biggest Western oil companies were expelled from Iraq by Saddam Hussein, they are negotiating their return. By the end of the month, Royal Dutch Shell, BP, Exxon Mobil and Total will sign agreements with the Baghdad government, Iraq’s first with big Western oil firms since the US-led invasion in 2003. The deals are for repair and technical support in some of the country’s largest oilfields, the Oil Ministry in Baghdad said yesterday. The return of "Big Oil" will add to the suspicions of those in the Middle East who claimed that the overthrow of Saddam was secretly driven by the West’s desire to gain control of Iraq’s oil. It will also be greeted with dismay by many Iraqis who fear losing control of their vast oil reserves. Iraq’s reserves are believed to be second only to Saudi Arabia in the Middle East, but their exploitation has long been hampered. . .

Will mutual suspicions hinder Saudi call for interfaith dialogue?
Asma Hanif – BRUSSELS, Middle East Online 6/20/2008
Saudi Arabia’s call for an ongoing interfaith dialogue has raised a few eyebrows in the West. The kingdom has long been perceived as a piece of desert ruled by an ultra conservative clergy with radical interpretations of Islam. Women are oppressed, it is often alleged; Wahhabi scholars want to convert the world over; and non-Muslims are banned from practicing their faith on Saudi soil – among other claims. My Saudi friend calls these sheer misperceptions. "We are a people like all others in the world," she says. "We support reform, respect human values, and cherish modernity. " Incidentally, she – like other religious Saudi women – seems to enjoy her life as much as any of my Western female friends. Their conservative interpretation of Islam does not prevent education, shopping, fashion and parties from being part of their lives.

The Englishwoman who ran an oasis in the heart of the conflict
Yair Ettinger, Ha’aretz 6/20/2008
A few weeks ago, when the doctor instructed her to go to the hospital, Valentine Vester insisted on remaining in her apartment in the American Colony Hotel. "I want to die with my girls," said Vester, proprietor and manager of one of the Middle East’s most celebrated hotels. She died earlier this week at the age of 96. Vester who ran the Jerusalem hotel for the past 45 years, had two sons - one living in England, the other in the United States. But everyone knew that when she said "my girls" she meant her three close assistants and caretakers - a religious Jew, a Christian and a Muslim. British-born Vester (nee Richmond) died with her girls in the hotel she had turned, with her husband, into one of Jerusalem’s most international spots, on the seam between the city’s east and west. "She turned this place into an oasis in the heart of the conflict," said her son, Nicholas Vester.

Jazz is my Jihad
Haitham Sabbah, Palestine Think Tank 6/20/2008
Jazz musician Gilad Atzmon reflects upon his roots and his inspiration and how his activities as a supporter of the Palestinian cause and his art influence one another. His music can be seen as an integral part of his political message. It’s not sloganeering or repeating formulas, but it can be seen as a weaving and unweaving of threads, digging into the reservoir of personal and collective dreams, hopes and fears. This British documentary, "Jazz is my Jihad" presents a viewpoint into the artistic and personal journey undertaken by Gilad Atzmon. [end]


Articles


Israeli forces terrorize Deheisheh refugee camp
Dr. Marcy Newman writing from Deheisheh refugee camp, occupied West, Electronic Intifada 6/20/2008
      It started out as a normal Saturday morning. We were hanging out in Ibdaa Cultural Center in Deheisheh refugee camp in Bethlehem. I had plans to leave later to visit friends in Jerusalem and was hanging out with friends here. We were all sitting in the cafe at Ibdaa, which is on the fourth floor and has windows around three sides of the building. We were drinking coffee, chatting, watching television and all of a sudden there was a loud sound like a grenade or a bomb. We rushed to the window and all we could see at first was smoke rising up from the street about a block away. One by one we watched Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) invade the street surrounding Deheisheh and then across the street in the Doha neighborhood where a few of the IOF jeeps parked in front of a house and then went inside, to arrest someone from the Abu Akar family (fortunately, he escaped).
     Much of this was obscured from our view. We could only see the soldiers enter and then park their jeeps out front. Then several of these tanks and jeeps came down the main Jerusalem-Bethlehem road and stopped in front of Deheisheh. The youth started throwing stones at the Israeli army jeeps and then the shooting started. For five hours the youth threw stones at the jeeps and the occupation soldiers fired live ammunition, including steel rubber-coated bullets (which can be just as lethal as the regular kind) and tear gas grenades, all of which injured five people from the camp. In the middle if all this a huge Caterpillar bulldozer came down the road and went up towards the house in Doha, which we thought was going to be used to demolish the house (thankfully, it did not). But the soldiers were in there for the entire five-hour period and they took some political prisoners away.

A life trapped

Najwa Sheikh writing from the occupied Gaza Strip, Live from, Electronic Intifada 6/20/2008
      In 2000 the UN General Assembly declared 20 June "World Refugee Day," a day during which the world can focus on the experience and plight of refugees. It is a day that not only recognizes Palestinian refugees but also other unfortunate people whose lives have been disrupted by war and injustice.
     I am a Palestinian refugee; my parents as well as my grandparents are refugees too, who fled from our village al-Majdal and settled in one of the eight refugee camps in the Gaza Strip. My grandparents passed away 15 years ago, without any chance for them to see their homeland again. My parents are old and sick now, and probably will face the same destiny as their parents and die without any chance of having a look to what was once their homeland. Looking at the hard lives of my grandparents and my parents brings me nothing but a bleak vision of my future and the future of my children as refugees for life.
     Sixty years have passed since the Nakba -- our forced displacement -- and we, the Palestinians, are still called refugees. Knowing this fact -- and recognizing the lack of privileges and denial of rights that a refugee must endure -- being identified as a refugee in general, and as a Palestinian refugee in particular, means that there is no open horizons, no path for the future. There are only limited images that flow around one’s head. From the lives of one’s ancestors, where they lived and died in the same refugee camp, under the same circumstances, and how they face the same sufferings and injustice by Israel and the indifference of the world at large.

Rays of hope from the Gaza ceasefire

Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada 6/20/2008
      After the unremitting hell that Israel has inflicted on Palestinians in Gaza, one can only feel relief and even joy at the ceasefire agreed between Hamas and the Jewish state that took effect this week. Its significance extends well beyond Gaza and opens new possibilities as the disastrous Bush Doctrine begins to lose influence.
     Since the beginning of this year, Israeli occupation forces and settlers have killed over 400 Palestinians, including dozens of children and several babies, already exceeding the entire death toll for 2007. One hundred and fifty were killed during a few days of Israeli bombing of Gaza in early March. This year seven Israelis have been killed in conflict-related violence, including four by mortars or rockets fired from the Gaza Strip.
     Some have sought to exclusively blame Hamas for the high Palestinian death toll, saying that the rockets resistance fighters were firing into Israel were "useless" and "toys," and gave Israel the excuse to "retaliate" implying that resistance itself was to blame for the occupier’s violence. But the fallacy of this claim is exposed by the fact that the absence of rockets fired from the West Bank and the renunciation of resistance by the US-backed Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, has not spared Palestinian communities there from daily and escalating Israeli violence.

Exile, Exclusion and Isolation: the Palestine Refugee Experience

Karen AbuZayd, Commissioner-General, UNRWA, ReliefWeb 6/20/2008
      To Mark World Refugee Day: 20th June 2008
     The horrors of the Second World War gave impetus to a quest for universal peace, justice and human dignity, with the United Nations at the fore. It is a disturbing commentary on our quest that as we commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Palestinians mark six decades of what they refer to as the Nakba, or catastrophe, with many languishing in conditions of exile, exclusion and isolation. This is a testament to our collective failure to give meaning to human dignity for Palestinians and to achieve a lasting, just peace in the Middle East. We who serve Palestine refugees believe that there is time to make amends.
     Exile: for sixty years, Palestine refugees have been in exile from their ancestral lands. Nowhere is this more starkly visible than in the West Bank, where the illegal barrier, hundreds of checkpoints and physical obstructions daily reinforce the exile. And in Gaza, the policies of closure and indiscriminate punishment devastate lives, causing mass despair, threatening to destroy hopes for peace..

Anything for a bath, anything for fuel

Mohammed Omer, Electronic Intifada 6/20/2008
      GAZA CITY (IPS) - The girl, about 16, is wandering about Jabaliya refugee camp, picking up anything she thinks can burn. She cannot find enough bits of wood, so she gathers plastic bags, old notebooks and even a pair of broken plastic sandals.
     "I want to heat some water," she said. "I want a bath."
     Not far away, Mohammed Abu Elenin, 23, exhaustion all over his face, prepares for a fourth night outside a gas station to refill his canister. His brother Nour has sat up with him. Earlier he could get half a fill. Now he doesn’t know what may come, but waits.
     "Some weeks ago, I managed to get a half cylinder of cooking gas," he says. "It lasted just one week. Now we have nothing to cook with."
     His family, like others, have turned to cooking over makeshift fires. That fills houses with smoke, and it is dangerous. And now firewood too is scarce.
     Umm Othman, 43, mother of nine, waits like the others. "It’s become impossible for me to feed and take care of my children and my husband," she says. Her sons are not at home, she has sent them to wait for gas.

Politics mostly responsible for Palestinian food insecurity - UN

Report, Electronic Intifada 6/20/2008
      JERUSALEM (IRIN) - Lower incomes and the increasing cost of food have contributed to higher food insecurity in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. However, without a change in the political situation the only solution remains emergency humanitarian aid, a new UN report has said.
     "The main driver of Palestinian food insecurity is of a political nature," said a joint food security survey conducted by the World Food Program (WFP), the Food and Agriculture Organization and the UN agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA). It cited Israeli-imposed restrictions on movement, and land and water access, as well as the extension of the West Bank wall and Israeli settlements as the main causes.
     Israel has said restrictions on movement and the wall are needed for security purposes and efforts are being made to make life easier for Palestinians.
     Food insecurity was up four percent in 2006, affecting 38 percent of the population, though in Gaza it extended to more than half the people. Some 44 percent of UNRWA-registered refugees, the report said, were food insecure.

Humiliation redefined

Ramzy Baroud, Al-Ahram Weekly 6/19/2008
      Conflicts between Palestinian factions are being allowed to overshadow the plight of Palestinians.
     A six-year-old Palestinian girl from Gaza was killed by Israeli fire on 12 June. "Medics say the girl was decapitated by a [tank] shell," Associated Press (AP) reported the next day. The Israeli military said the soldiers opened fire in retaliation against "militants launching rockets into Israel". AP dispassionately elaborated that, "Gaza militants fire rockets and mortars into Israel almost daily." The story of a few lines ended with another corroboration of the claims made by the Israeli military: "The shelling occurred near the border where militants fired 30 rockets into Israel on Tuesday."
     This is not another tirade about dehumanising media reporting in which the death of innocent Palestinians is so often blamed, one way or another, on the "militants". Neither is the evoking of this freshest tragedy -- the child victim is later named Hadeel Al-Smeiri -- intended to underscore the daily crimes committed by the Israeli military against Palestinians in the occupied territories, crimes that largely go unnoticed, buried in the not-so-important news items, nor to accentuate cold-hearted assertion that the Palestinians are to blame for forcing Israel to carry out such tragic "acts of retaliation".

Twilight Zone / The Gypsies of Jerusalem

Gideon Levy, Ha’aretz 6/19/2008
      A filthy yard, pungent cooking smells wafting out of the shabby dwelling, snot-nosed children, a one-legged man wandering aimlessly, flies everywhere - this is a Gypsy home in the heart of the Old City of Jerusalem. It’s the perfect setting for a Nissim Aloni play, but this is not "The Gypsies of Jaffa" by the renowned Israeli playwright. This home contains nothing of the mysterious, the romantic or the magical, no violin strings and no sorcery. It’s just another rundown building in the Old City whose occupants, apart from one worker, are "Nawari," as the Gypsies of Jerusalem are called in Arabic.
     There are 400 to 500 by one unofficial count, about 200 households by a different count, belonging to four clans - Sleem, Nimr, Shakr and Ba’rana. Until recently they married only within the community, but they have begun to open up to intermarrying with their Palestinian neighbors. Many are sanitation workers - this week one man rushed off to repair a blocked sewer drain; another was off to haul garbage for a municipal subcontractor.
     Very little of the Gypsy cultural heritage has been preserved here, although one young woman is trying to salvage what she can. But she is shunned by the community, which is unwilling to accept activism on the part of a woman.

Nuclear find raises the ante against Iran

Ehsan Ahrari, Asia Times 6/18/2008
      If the world had any doubts that the genie of advanced nuclear weapons proliferation was out of the bottle, those doubts have been removed by a report that American and international investigators have found the electronic blueprints for an advanced nuclear weapon on computers that belonged to the nuclear smuggling network run by the father of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, Abdul Qadeer Khan.
     What is not yet known is whether Iran or other countries have purchased that blueprint from the nuclear smuggling network. The United States-led pressure on Iran, the 21st century version of "nuclear brinkmanship", is likely to be further intensified as a result of this new disclosure.
     The US is an old practitioner of nuclear brinkmanship, a term coined by president Dwight D Eisenhower’s secretary of state John Foster Dulles. Under this practice of diplomacy, pressure tactics and ambiguous threats to use nuclear weapons - short of firing a nuclear weapon - were used to bring about results to America’s liking. Its detractors called this exercise pushing a dangerous situation to the brink of disaster. British philosopher Bertrand Russell likened it to a "game of chicken", whereby one party is forced to "chicken out".
     In a similar situation, the administrations of presidents Bill Clinton and George W Bush exercised more of a policy of carrots and sticks than of nuclear brinkmanship against North Korea. The chief reason for that was a general understanding that Kim Jong-il already possessed nuclear weapons.

The Fallacy of Islamic ’National Suicide’

George Bisharat, MIFTAH 6/16/2008
      A new buzzword is arising from the network of Israeli think tanks and security-oriented academic departments bent on instigating a US attack on Iran: "national suicide." The term describes a supposed Arab Muslim tradition of politically motivated suicide at the national, not just individual, level. Arab Muslim regimes have purportedly launched ruinous wars they could not have reasonably hoped to win, condemning their nations to destruction.
     The notion of an "irrational" and thus untrustworthy Iranian regime has already been widely discussed in the US. It is regularly invoked by Sen. John McCain on the stump. The term "national suicide" advances the notion and gives it a patina of academic respectability.
     Israeli jurist and former Knesset member Amnon Rubinstein recently editorialized on "national suicide" in The Jerusalem Post. Citing Israeli army Lt. Col. Ari Bar Yossef, Rubinstein offered Saddam Hussein, Yasser Arafat and the Taliban in Afghanistan as exemplars of this new construct. Hussein could have avoided overthrow by giving UN arms inspectors free rein to search his country. Arafat, after the failure of the Camp David peace talks, could have continued negotiating but resorted to violence. Finally, the Taliban could have given up Osama bin Laden to the US but instead invited self-destruction. All this because, per Rubinstein, these leaders prefer dying to "negotiating with infidels."

Bomb Iran? What’s to Stop Us?

Ray McGovern, Middle East Online 6/20/2008
      It’s crazy, but it’s coming soon – from the same folks who brought us Iraq.
     Unlike the attack on Iraq five years ago, to deal with Iran there need be no massing of troops. And, with the propaganda buildup already well under way, there need be little, if any, forewarning before shock and awe and pox – in the form of air and missile attacks – begin.
     This time it will be largely the Air Force’s show, punctuated by missile and air strikes by the Navy. Israeli-American agreement has now been reached at the highest level; the armed forces planners, plotters and pilots are working out the details.
     Emerging from a 90-minute White House meeting with President George W. Bush on June 4, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the two leaders were of one mind:
     “We reached agreement on the need to take care of the Iranian threat. I left with a lot less question marks [than] I had entered with regarding the means, the timetable restrictions, and American resoluteness to deal with the problem. George Bush understands the severity of the Iranian threat and the need to vanquish it, and intends to act on that matter before the end of his term in the White House.”

Just make-believe

Akiva Eldar, Ha’aretz 6/20/2008
      When civilians on both sides are getting killed and 1.5 million people are under siege, a cease-fire is good news. But a cease-fire is not an end in itself; especially when one side declares in advance that it does not believe it will endure over time.
     The declared goal of the current government is to reach a permanent-status agreement with the Palestinians. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has even warned that without a two-state solution, there will be no more Jewish state. Therefore, he should gauge his steps based on how much they contribute to this important strategic goal. In other words, if the temporary arrangement with Hamas jeopardizes the effort to reach a permanent agreement with Fatah, then the cease-fire should have been obtained in another way.
     A few years ago, Ehud Barak told Gideon Levy in an interview that if he had been a Palestinian, he would have joined a terrorist organization. Who would Barak have joined this week? Hamas? - which has once again proved that force is the only language Israel understands. Or Fatah? - which once again watched the Egyptian-sponsored game between Israel and Hamas from the sidelines, as though there were no Oslo Accords, no Palestinian Authority, no road map and no Annapolis.