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

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18 November, 2008

Israel slams UN call to end blockade
Tovah Lazaroff And AP, Jerusalem Post 11/19/2008
Israel on Tuesday harshly condemned a call by the United Nation’s top human rights official to immediately end its blockade of the Gaza Strip, which she said breached international and humanitarian law. "These statements she made were shocking, biased and misinformed," said Israel’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Aharon Leshno-Yaar, in a press statement he released to respond to the one issued by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay. In that statement, issued from her Geneva-based office, Pillay urged Israel to allow the flow of aid - including food, medicines and fuel - to resume, and to restore electricity and water service in the Hamas-controlled territory. "Some 1. 5 million Palestinian men, women and children have been forcibly deprived of their most basic human rights for months," Pillay said.

ISM: Israeli Navy kidnapped 14 Palestinians, 3 Internationals in Gaza Strip
IMEMC News, International Middle East Media Center News 11/18/2008
The International Solidarity Movement, (ISM) issued a press release in which it indicated that the Israeli naval vessels have kidnapped 14 Palestinian fishermen and 3 international peace activists from the Gaza shore Tuesday morning. The ISM has reactivated its presence in the Gaza Strip after some of its members managed to enter the Strip with the Free Gaza boats that sailed from Cyprus to the coastal region in bid to break the siege imposed on Gaza for 17 months. The ISM had two of its members murdered by the Israeli military in march and April 2003. The two were Rachel Corrie, from the US and Tom Hurnmdal from UK. Following is a full text of the Press Release Fourteen Palestinian fishermen and 3 international Human Rights Observers (HRO’s) were surrounded by the Israeli Navy and taken from their boats 7 miles off the coast of Deir al Balah, Gaza Strip.

East Jerusalem home demolished; Israel to build new road in its place
Ma’an News Agency 11/18/2008
Jerusalem – Ma’an – Israeli forces demolished the home of Jamal Dahoud Abu Sneineh in the Al-Isawiya neighborhood of East Jerusalem on Tuesday. Troops of Israeli police and military border guards descended on the area in the early afternoon and closed off the streets. A number of armed guards entered the home and threatened the Abu Sneineh family at gunpoint to leave the home or they would be shot. The Israeli army forcibly pushed back bystanders and forbid anyone to approach the area as the bulldozer went to work on the building. Abu Sneineh said Israeli officials notified him that his home would be demolished because it was too close to the Hebrew University and the municipality wanted to build a road on the site where his home is. Israeli police demolished three houses in Silwan and one in the Shu’afat neighborhood on 5 November, provoking clashes with Palestinian youths that left seven injured.

Israeli military invades Rafah city in southern Gaza
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 11/18/2008
Israeli military bulldozers, backed by armored vehicles, swept early on Tuesday morning into the eastern borders of Rafah city in southern Gaza Strip. Witnesses said that the Israeli bulldozers began razing farm lands just 50 to 100 meters depth into Palestinian areas, mainly in the Alnahda neighborhood. Witnesses added that the Israeli armored vehicles moved towards the Gaza international airport, and that they also razed farm lands in the area. Meanwhile, the Alqassam brigades, the armed wing of the ruling Hamas party, fired a Qassam homemade shell at the invading force, witnesses confirmed. Such a development comes as Israel continues to close the Gaza border crossings today, and Gaza-based resistance factions continue to respond with homemade shells fire onto nearby Israeli towns. Some Israeli officials were reported as warning of carrying out a large military offensive against the Gaza Strip.

In night of mass arrests Israeli forces detain at least 30 across West Bank
Ma’an News Agency 11/18/2008
Hebron – Ma’an – Israeli forces launched a wide-scale arrest campaign against Palestinian youth in the West Bank before sunrise on Tuesday. More than 30 individuals were taken, mostly from the Al-Fawwar refugee camp south of Hebron in the southern West Bank, and mostly men under thirty. Dozens of Israeli military vehicles carried out the biggest invasion of the Al-Fawwar camp in six months. Several houses were inspected and ransacked, and families were forced at gunpoint to leave their homes to the street. Israeli forces claimed two hunting rifles were seized from the camp as well as 100 bullets and military equipment. Local sources estimated that 20 youth from the camp were detained. Those identified were:13-year-old Ashraf An-Najjar18-year-old Ahmad Abu Awwad18-year-old Ahmad Awad18-year-old Mousa Al-Azza18-year-old Muhannad. . .

Gaza will run out of wheat Thursday; handful of mills working to process remaining grain
Ma’an News Agency 11/18/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Flour mills in Gaza will shut down on Thursday because there is no more wheat in the Strip with which to make flower. Gaza has experienced wheat shortages since June 2007, said the head of products coordination in Gaza Ra’ed Fattouh. Fattouh said shipments of wheat were totally stopped two weeks ago. He said that there was a signed agreement with Israel to allow 450 tons of wheat daily into the Strip. For most of the siege there were 300 tons a day shipped into the area. “No ton is shipped now,” Fattouh lamented. Fattouh added that most flour mills in the area shut down when fuel and power ran out, but that some with back-up supplies were able to continue running. According to Fattouh, however, even these few mills will shut down by Thursday since all of the wheat supplies in Gaza will have been used up.

OPT: Gazan hospitals may become without power - authority
Kuwait News Agency - KUNA, ReliefWeb 11/17/2008
GAZA, Nov 17 (KUNA)-- The health ministry of the dismissed Palestinian cabinet on Monday appealed for aid for the main hospitals in the strip. The ministry said the hospitals were expected to stop functioning very soon after back-up power generators broke down. Israeli authorities have barred entry of the spare parts and oil, necessary for keeping the generators operating, it said in a statement. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been relentlessly seeking to secure entry of the materials since two months ago, the statement added, warning that lives of many patients were at stake due to the looming problem. -- Meanwhile in Cairo, the Arab Doctors Union warned of a looming "humanitarian catastrophe" in Gaza as a result of the servere shortage of fuel, and said the Gazans would suffer complete blackout quite soon.

Oxfam slams British foreign secretary and UK government for neglecting Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 11/18/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – In a damning statement released Tuesday morning Oxfam’s Great Britain Chief Executive Barbara Stocking slammed British Foreign Secretary David Miliband for neglecting to mention Gaza on his recent trip to Israel and Palestine. “Only the bare minimum of goods have entered Gaza in the past couple of days and Oxfam fears a serious worsening once again of the humanitarian situation if urgent action is not taken,” Stocking said in a statement. “David Miliband and the UK government must not continue to remain silent in the face of such human desperation,” the statement continued. Stocking’s letter outlined the worsening situation in Gaza and said British complacency was not acceptable and urged British leaders to “to put more emphasis on resolving the crisis as a matter of urgency. ”

Israel closes Gaza crossings
Al Jazeera 11/18/2008
Israel has closed its crossings into the Gaza Strip, a day after it allowed trucks carrying aid into the besieged coastal territory. An Israeli defence ministry spokesman said that rocket fire from Gaza towards Israel had prompted the decision to reseal the crossings on Tuesday. Humanitarian aid groups have warned that the Gaza Strip is dangerously short of essential supplies, despite the delivery of aid on Monday. Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR), urged Israel to allow the flow of aid including food, medicines and fuel to resume, and to restore electricity and water services in Gaza. Pillay said in a statement: "1. 5 million Palestinian men, women and children have been forcibly deprived of their most basic human rights for months.

Israel arrests Fatah leader for possession of hunting rifle
Ma’an News Agency 11/18/2008
Nablus - Ma’an - Israeli forces arrested a Fatah leader in a village near the West Bank city of Nablus on Tuesday for possession of a hunting rifle. Palestinian sources told Ma’an that Israeli troops seized 22-year-old Jamal Thabet, a member of the local Fatah committee, from his house in the village of Azmut. israeli troops in eight military vehicles also attacked a student’s house with in the same area. [end]

Settlers block road near Nablus, stone Palestinian cars
Ma’an News Agency 11/18/2008
Nablus - Ma’an - Israeli settlers blocked the bypass road linking the West Bank cities of Nablus and Qalqilia, near the village of Madama on Tuesday night, witnesses said. Hassan Zyadeh a municipal council member in Madama said the settlers prevented Palestinian vehicles from passing into the village and pelted their cars with stones. Madama is bordered to the south by the Yizhar settlement, which has been the source of dozens of violent attacks on Palestinians over the months, including beatings and stonings. [end]

Youth arrested, stripped at Beit Iba checkpoint for allegedly carrying explosives
Ma’an News Agency 11/18/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli forces closed the Beit Iba checkpoint west of Nablus on Tuesday after suddenly surrounding a young boy claiming he was in possession of an explosive device. Ma’an’s cameraman captured the incident as Israeli soldiers forced the boy to strip in the road then transfer him to a military vehicle. Soldiers brought out an explosives detector and claimed to detonate a pipe bomb that the youth was carrying. Bystanders doubted whether the boy was indeed carrying any explosives, since several incidents have been recorded in the Nablus governorate of boys being falsely accused and detained. On Monday Israeli forces closed the other major road to the Nablus governorate to the south of the city. Two young boys were detained at the Huwwarah checkpoint south of Nablus after they Israeli soldiers claimed they were carrying knives; the boys were transferred to an unknown location and remain in Israeli custody.

Six Palestinians wounded in an Israeli invasion to Bethlehem
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 11/18/2008
Palestinian medical sources in Bethlehem reported on Tuesday at night that six Palestinians were mildly wounded by Israeli military fire during an evening Israeli military invasion to the city. Israeli soldiers, supported by at least twenty armored military vehicles and jeeps, invaded Bethlehem from several directions while under-cover forces of the Israeli military invaded Al Saff Street in the center of the city. Soldiers then surrounded for four hours the house of Khalid Al Doury, and forced the residents out before violently searching the property causing damage. Dozens of Palestinian youth hurled stones at the invading forces while the army fired live rounds, rubber-coated bullets and gas bombs. Six residents were mildly wounded and received the needed medical treatment. The army and the under-cover forces withdrew from the city later on without abducting any resident, local sources reported.

Palestinian fighters say they fired six projectiles from Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 11/18/2008
Gaza - Ma’an – Palestinian fighters claimed to have fired six homemade projectiles at Israeli targets from the Gaza Strip on Tuesday evening. The Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, the armed wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the An-Nasser Brigades, the armed wing of the Popular Resistance Committees claimed responsibility for launching two projectiles at the Israeli border town of Sderot. Separately the Al-Quds Brigades the military wing of Islamic Jihad claimed to have launched four projectiles at the town of Nahal Oz on Tuesday. The Al-Quds Brigades said the attack was “in response to Israeli crimes. ”No one was injured. [end]

Rockets, mortar shells hit south
Shmulik Hadad, YNetNews 11/18/2008
Attacks continue as Palestinians fire rockets, mortar shells on Shaar HaNegev Regional Council; no injuries or damage reported -Tension rose in the south once again on Tuesday as three Qassam rockets were fired from Gaza. The rockets landed in open areas in Shaar HaNegev Regional Council. Two mortar shells followed the rocket barrage. No injuries or damages were reported. On Sunday two Qassam rockets were fired at Sderot, causing a scare among residents of the Negev as they landed after the "Color Red" anti-rocket alert system failed to go off. No injuries were reported in the attack. The IDF said that the attack was unusual as it came from deep within the Strip, as opposed to the area close to the border fence. More than 10 rockets were fired throughout Sunday. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said over the weekend that "there is no such thing. . .

Israeli tanks, bulldozers invade southern Gaza; blockade resumes
Ma’an News Agency 11/18/2008
Gaza/Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli tanks and bulldozers invaded the southern end of the Gaza Strip, near the city of Rafah at 9am on Tuesday and began razing agricultural lands. Three tanks and two bulldozers breached the Gaza border and went 50-100 meters into the An-Nahdah neighborhood east of Rafah, just meters away from the ruins of Gaza International Airport. Bulldozers remained in the area at press time. The Al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military branch, reported launching a projectile at the military vehicles as they rolled across the border. Separately, the military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades , said it spotted, then exchanged fire with undercover Israeli forces at the northern end of the Gaza Strip, in the Al-Bura neighborhood of Beit Hanoun.

Statement by Bureau of Committee on Palestinian rights on situation in Gaza Strip
United Nations General Assembly, ReliefWeb 11/17/2008
The following statement was issued on Friday, 14 November, in New York: The Bureau of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People expresses its utmost alarm about the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip. The Bureau strongly condemns Israel’s decision to seal the borders between the Gaza Strip and Israel, preventing the delivery of essential humanitarian assistance, including food, medical supplies and fuel. The United Nations agencies on the ground, including the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), have warned that the tight Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip was forcing the suspension of food aid distribution to some 750,000 Gaza residents, because its warehouses had run out of food. As a result of the closure and the lack of fuel supplies, parts of Gaza experienced blackouts that affected many homes and hospitals.

OPT: Gaza Humanitarian Situation Report 17 Nov 2008
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs - OCHA, ReliefWeb 11/17/2008
KEY POINTS - Since 5 November, Israel has blocked all commercial and humanitarian goods from entering into Gaza with the exception of two days when some industrial fuel was allowed in. Civilians continue to pay the price of conflict and violence and their access to humanitarian assistance is at stake. Today, Israel allowed 33 truckloads including 21 for humanitarian aid agencies to enter Gaza today. UNRWA, which was allowed to enter eight trucks, announced that as of Tuesday, it will resume its food distribution. The agency needs a minimal of 15 trucks/day to sustain normal humanitarian operations. While this is a positive step, the amount entered is insufficient to meet the needs of all the civilians dependant on humanitarian assistance. Efforts need to be redoubled to ensure that humanitarian organizations have unimpeded access to enter and deliver assistance to all those in need in the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian flour mills company stops working
Palestinian Information Center 11/18/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Palestinian flour mills company stopped working on Tuesday after it ran out of wheat stock due to the continued Israeli closure of the Gaza crossings for the 15th day running. Qassem Al-Farra, director of the company’s board, said that the company stopped functioning since Sunday 16/11 because it was not supplied with wheat since Tuesday 4/11. He said that the company used to receive around 500 tons daily of wheat before the Israeli occupation forces shut down all crossings. Farra pointed out that the company used to produce around 270 tons for the local market and around 100 tons to the UNRWA on daily basis, but added that the company came to a complete halt after it ran our of stock and could not meet the local market’s daily demand.

IOA blocks entry of international delegation into Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 11/18/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Israeli occupation authority on Tuesday blocked the entry of an international relief delegation into the Gaza Strip to inspect the worsening humanitarian conditions as a result of the IOA tight siege. The spokesman of Oxfam International, Michael Bailey, said in a press statement that the IOA prevented the team, which represented 20 international humanitarian institutions, from entering Gaza. He said that the representatives were forced to hold a meeting at the Erez crossing north of Gaza in the presence of tens of solidarity activists. The spokesman said that the 8-member delegation would try to enter Gaza again next week to meet with local institutions and the inhabitants to get acquainted with their suffering as a result of the siege.

Demonstrators march on Erez crossing in protest of Israeli blockade
Ma’an News Agency 11/18/2008
Gaza - Ma’an – Hundreds Palestinians and their international supporters marched towards the Erez border crossing in the northern Gaza Strip to protest Israel’s ongoing blockade of the territory. The protesters sounded a siren, carried banners and wore the Palestinian scarf, the Kuffiyeh, during the demonstration. Gaza has been suffering rolling blackouts and food shortages as Israel sealed its borders for the last two weeks. International journalists have been barred from entering and Palestinian patients have been prevented from leaving the territory. Palestinian lawmaker Jamal Al-Khudari said the demonstration singled out the now-sealed Erez checkpoint, normally used as a passageway in and out of Gaza, as a symbol of the Israeli blockade. Al-Khudari urged Israel to immediately open the border crossings and end the suffering of the Palestinians in Gaza.

Khudari warns: Gaza population might march towards crossings
Palestinian Information Center 11/18/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Alarm sirens wailed in northern Gaza on Tuesday as the popular anti siege committee members and foreign solidarity activists marched near the Beit Hanun (Erez) crossing to protest the Israeli occupation authority’s continued closure of all Gaza commercial crossings for 15 consecutive days. MP Jamal Al-Khudari, the head of the popular committee, took part in the march along with activists of the free Gaza movement and hundreds of citizens who wore the traditional Palestinian Kufiyya (headdress) and anti siege placards. Khudari addressed a press conference at the end of the march stressing that sounding the sirens in this particular place, which is one of the symbols of the oppressive siege, was intended to point to the danger threatening Gaza. He warned that the Palestinian people would not remain silent in face of the continued closure of all crossings and might. . .

British government spokesman: the Israeli settlements a stumbling block to peace
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 11/18/2008
British government spokesman, Mr. Jon Wilks , stated on Tuesday that the Israeli settlements in the West Bank constitute a stumbling block in the road to peace in the region. Wilks’s statement came during a press conference in the Ramallah city, in preparation for the British foreign minister’s upcoming visit to Palestine and Israel. In a related note, the British diplomat confirmed that his government never regards these settlements as part of Israel, but rather a barrier in the face of normal Arab/Palestinian-Israeli relations. On a different issue, Wilks emphasized the need that Israel reopens all border crossings with the Gaza Strip, closed for the past two weeks, in order to avert a humanitarian disaster. At the internal Palestinian level, the British spokesperson noted that the Palestinians are in need for a national unity and that his government has backed the Egyptian. . .

Norwegian groups demand apology for government cooperation seminar with Israeli partners
Ma’an News Agency 11/18/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Norwegian civil society groups were outraged that their government went ahead with a seminar on trade and research aimed at enhancing Norwegian cooperation with Israel. The seminar was held on 3 November and hosted by State Secretary of the Norwegian Foreign Ministry Raymond Johansen in Oslo amidst protests from The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), the Socialist Youth League of Norway and several Norwegian unions. One of the Israeli participants in the seminar was the Israeli company Housing and Construction Group which is heavily involved in construction of illegal settler colonies on the occupied West Bank, as well as construction of the Israeli separation wall. A Norwegian boycott call against Israel for their "brutal and systematic violations of Palestinian human rights" has been signed by The Transport Workers. . .

Palestinian PM: Settlement building will destroy peace process
Akiva Eldar, Ha’aretz 11/19/2008
Palestinian Prime Minister and Finance Minister Salam Fayyad called on the international community to up the pressure on Israel to suspend all construction in the settlements and implied that the Palestinian Authority could apply to the International Court of Justice in this regard, adopting the example of the separation fence. In an interview with Haaretz Monday, Fayyad warned that Israel’s refusal to cease construction in the settlements immediately would spell the end of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s negotiations with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. He said he was amazed that instead of working toward halting the construction, Livni on Sunday protested to her British counterpart, David Miliband, about London’s decision to tighten restrictions on importing goods produced in the settlements.

Israeli troops go home after caught in act of violating Blue Line
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 11/19/2008
BEIRUT: An Israeli Army patrol crossed into Lebanon Tuesday but withdrew after being detected by UN peacekeepers, the Lebanese Army said. "In continuance of the ongoing violations of UN [Security Council] Resolution (UNSCR) 1701, an Israeli enemy patrol consisting of eight soldiers crossed the line of Israeli withdrawal between the [Lebanese] villages of Kfar Shouba and Halta. . . 60 meters into Lebanese territory," a statement said. The Indian contingent of the UNIFIL peacekeeping force in the area "made the patrol withdraw," the statement added. An army officer told AFP the patrol told the Indian contingent the breach was unintentional. UNSCR 1701 brought an end to the summer war of 2006. A beefed-up UN force watches the so-called Blue Line, which defines the point of Israel’s 2000 pull-out, after its decades-long occupation of the South.

Ashkenazi to appeal for greater cooperation at NATO meet
Yaakov Katz, Jerusalem Post 11/18/2008
IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. -Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi will offer NATO members a chance to study and use Israeli counter-terror tactics and military technology during a two-day conference the military alliance is convening in Brussels starting Wednesday. Ashkenazi will meet with the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, on the sidelines of the conference. A meeting with the Russian military chief was canceled, as Moscow has decided not to participate in this year’s conference - a decision Israeli officials said was likely due to Georgian participation. In his talks with his international counterparts, Ashkenazi will focus on the Iranian nuclear program, the volatile situation in the Gaza Strip and the need to enhance United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, which Israel claims is not being enforced in southern Lebanon.

MIDEAST: On Top of Humanitarian Disaster, A News Blackout
Cherrie Heywood, Inter Press Service 11/19/2008
RAMALLAH, West Bank, Nov 18(IPS) - Israel has imposed a virtual news blackout on the Gaza Strip. For the last ten days no foreign journalists have been able to enter the besieged territory to report on the escalating humanitarian crisis caused by Israel’s complete closure of Gaza’s borders for the last two weeks. Steve Gutkin, the AP bureau chief in Jerusalem and head of Israel’s Foreign Press Association, said that he personally "knows of no foreign journalist that has been allowed into Gaza in the last week. " Gutkin said that "while Israel has barred foreign press from entering Gaza in the past, the length of the current ban makes it unprecedented. "He added that he has received no "plausible or acceptable" explanation for the ban from the Israeli government. AP has relied on reports from two of its journalists who were able to enter Gaza days before the closure began and are currently stuck there.

Israel bans foreign journalists from entering besieged Gaza
Cherrie Heywood, Electronic Intifada 11/18/2008
RAMALLAH, occupied West Bank (IPS) - Israel has imposed a virtual news blackout on the Gaza Strip. For the last ten days no foreign journalists have been able to enter the besieged territory to report on the escalating humanitarian crisis caused by Israel’s complete closure of Gaza’s borders for the last two weeks. Steve Gutkin, the AP bureau chief in Jerusalem and head of Israel’s Foreign Press Association, said that he personally "knows of no foreign journalist that has been allowed into Gaza in the last week. " Gutkin said that "while Israel has barred foreign press from entering Gaza in the past, the length of the current ban makes it unprecedented. "He added that he has received no "plausible or acceptable" explanation for the ban from the Israeli government. AP has relied on reports from two of its journalists who were able to enter Gaza days before the closure began and are currently stuck there.

15 Palestinian fishermen, three internationals seized by Israeli Navy in Gazan waters
Ma’an News Agency 11/18/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The Israeli navy seized three fishing boats and arrested 15 Palestinian fishermen and three international peace advocates during a major military operation within Gaza’s territorial waters on Tuesday. A spokesperson for the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) in Gaza said that Andrew Muncie from Scotland, Darlene Wallach from the United States and Vittorio Arrigoni from Italy were taken into Israeli custody along with the fishermen. The three volunteers were taken to Ben Gurion detention center and are likely to be deported. Muncie announced on Tuesday evening that he will ’nonviolently resist’ deportation and would engage in a hunger strike until the 15 fishermen are released. According to ISM, the Palestinians were ordered to strip naked and swim to meet the ships. They are being held separately from the international volunteers, in a detention center in the city of Ashdod.

Israeli navy kidnaps three int’l activists and 16 fishermen in Gaza waters
Palestinian Information Center 11/18/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The ministry of agriculture reported Tuesday morning that three international activists and 16 Palestinian fishermen have been kidnapped in Palestinian waters by the Israeli navy. In a statement received by the PIC, the ministry explained that the three activists were aboard three fishing boats with Palestinian fishermen when they were attacked by Israeli gunboats at 10:00 am local time. The three internationals are Andrew Muncie from Scotland, Darlene Wallach from the US and Victor Arrigoni from Italy. The ministry held Israel fully responsible for the lives of the activists and the fishermen, denouncing the repeated Israeli assaults on them during their work. "They were fishing seven miles off the coast of Deir Al-Balah, clearly in Gaza fishing waters and well within the fishing limit detailed in the Oslo accords of 1994," the Free Gaza Movement said.

UPDATE: Fifteen Palestinian fishermen still being held by Israeli authorities, three internationals fighting deportation with at least one engaging in a hunger-strike
International Solidarity Movement 11/18/2008
British politicians, MP Clare Short and Baronness Jenny Tonge, both issue statements regarding the arrests made by Israeli forces today - Update: The fifteen Palestinian fishermen abducted from Palestinian waters this morning (10am 18th November) are still being held by Israeli authorities in Ashdod, while their boats have been confiscated. Legal proceedings were initiated today that petition for their immediate release. The three international Human Rights Observers who were arrested while accompanying the fishermen have been taken to Ben Gurion detention facility as Israeli authorities starting deportation proceedings. Andrew Muncie, a British citizen who was one of the three internationals arrested has made it clear that he will non-violently resist any attempt to deport him and that he is engaging a hunger-strike until all fifteen of the Palestinian fishermen are released.

Gazan lawyers receive training course in Human Rights violation reporting
Ma’an News Agency 11/18/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Seventeen Gazan lawyers were given a two day course on monitoring and recording Human Rights violations in order to support the proper recording of Israeli aggression during the heightened blockade. The course was given jointly by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Gaza, the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) and the Bar Association (BA) in the Gaza International Hotel and began on Tuesday. Speaking in advance of the course Human Rights Officer in OHCHR Gaza Office Dr Tariq Mukhaimer stressed the importance of developing the capabilities of lawyers and human rights activists in documenting and monitoring Human Rights violations. The first section of the course will focus on monitoring mechanisms, a theoretical review of Human Rights and then a practical component on writing and documenting violations.

Fifteen Palestinian fishermen and three internationals abducted from Palestinian waters off the coast of Gaza
International Solidarity Movement 11/18/2008
Gaza City, 10 a. m. - Fifteen Palestinian fishermen and 3 international Human Rights Observers (HRO’s) were surrounded by the Israeli Navy and taken from their boats 7 miles off the coast of Deir al Balah, Gaza Strip. The fishermen and the HRO’s were transferred from 3 separate boats to the Israeli warships. Other Palestinian fishermen reported that the 3 boats were seen being taken north by the Israeli Navy. The Human Rights Observers are Andrew Muncie, a Scottish British citizen, Vittorio Arrigoni, an Italian citizen, and Darlene Wallach, an American citizen. They have been volunteering with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) since they entered Gaza on ships with the first Free Gaza Movement voyage on the 23rd August 2008. All internationals have previous experience working with the ISM in the West Bank.

3 leftist activists detained off Gaza shore
Ali Waked, YNetNews 11/18/2008
IDF adopts tougher attitude: Three foreign leftist activists to be deported after accompanying Gaza fishermen into restricted waters; British activist begins airport hunger strike in protest - Tougher Israeli attitude? A British leftist activist has embarked on a hunger strike at Ben Gurion International Airport to protest Israel’s decision to deport him. The man was arrested Tuesday morning along with two other activists and 15 Palestinian fishermen just off the Gaza shore. The activists were visiting Gaza, and decided to join the fishermen on their boat in order to prevent the IDF from stopping the vessel. Nonetheless, the Navy proceeded to block the boat and detained all those onboard. The Palestinian fishermen were taken into custody in the Ashdod harbor, and the three international activists were taken to the airport to be deported from the country.

Weed pulling threatens armed Israeli soldiers
Donna Wallach, International Solidarity Movement 11/17/2008
Gaza Region - Al-Faraheen, Abasan Al-Kabeera, Gaza Strip, Palestine, 12th November 2008 - On Wednesday 12th November, five international volunteer Human Rights Observers, most of them members of ISM Gaza Strip, went to Al-Faraheen, east of Khan Younis to pull weeds in the radish garden at the farm of Jaber Abu-Rageliyah and Leila Abu-Daga and their five children, and to establish an international presence. They live on a farm just 700 meters from the fence which separates Gaza Strip, Palestine from Israel. It is a very dangerous area for them to live and farm. On 1st May 2008 Israeli occupation force soldiers invaded Al-Faraheen Abasan Al-Kabeera and destroyed all the trees, crops and chickens on Jaber’s farm - ruining his livelihood and denying him and his family the healthy organically homegrown food they eat.

Abdul-Qader: ''Israeli is launching an open war against the Palestinians in Jerusalem''
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 11/18/2008
Hatim Abdul-Qader, Jerusalem Affairs advisor to the Palestinian President, stated on Tuesday that Israel is waging an open war against the Palestinians and their homes in Jerusalem, and is encouraging hostile activities against the Palestinians in order to force them out of city. Abdul-Qader added that the Palestinians in Jerusalem are facing ongoing illegal Israeli activities while the world stands still, which encouraged Israel to increase is hostilities against the residents. "Israel feels that it can do whatever it wants in Jerusalem, it feels that the international policies are granting it a suitable environment to carry it plans", he stated. Abdul-Qader added that the Palestinian Authority will do whatever it can to support the Palestinians in the Holy City. "Israel cannot end the case of Jerusalem by demolishing the Palestinian homes", Abdul-Qader stated, "The Palestinians in Jerusalem are facing a battle of existence".

Israeli Authorities demolish a Palestinian house in East Jerusalem
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 11/18/2008
The Israeli Authorities demolished on Tuesday a Palestinian home in Al Esawiyya town, in east Jerusalem, arrested three residents and attacked seven others including a number of women. The demolished home belong to Najah Abu Sneina. Israeli soldiers and policemen surrounded the town and barred the residents from approaching the house of Abu Sneina before demolishing it. The policemen threatened to arrest any resident who approaches the area and violently attacked several residents injuring seven, including a several women. Tareq Abu Sneina, the son of Najah, stated that the Jerusalem Municipality decided on November 16 that the house should be demolished, and gave the family thirty days to demolish it. The court gave Abu Sneina 30 days to demolish his home, but less than 30 hours after the court’s decision, Israeli bulldozers demolished most of the house without even allowing the family to remove the furniture.

IOA exploits world’s preoccupation with economic crisis to judaize Jerusalem
Palestinian Information Center 11/18/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- The PA Islamic Christian authority formed to support Jerusalem and holy shrines has warned that the Israeli occupation authority was exploiting the world’s preoccupation with the economic crisis to launch an all-out war on occupied Jerusalem. Dr. Hassan Khater, the authority’s secretary general, said in a press release that the Israeli offensive on Jerusalem was now clear more than ever before. He drew the attention to the fact that the IOA was launching a large-scale demolition process of Arab buildings and suburbs that started in Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. He explained that the IOA started to flatten Arab homes in the suburb and displace its inhabitants in preparation for wiping it off the map of Jerusalem and build Jewish quarters on its ruins to tighten the noose o the Old City and to disintegrate the Arab suburbs northeast of the occupied city.

Solidarity with the Al-Kurd family
International Solidarity Movement 11/17/2008
Jerusalem Region - On the 15th of November a music festival was held at the protest tent in Sheikh Jarrah. A Palestinian musician played to a crowd of local residents, international activists and journalists to show support for the evicted Al-Kurd family and at the same time send a message of protest to the Israeli authorities. A crowd of approximately 150 people gathered at the tent where Fawzieh Al Kurd and local residents have been living since the eviction. Film showings and football matches have also taken place at the tent as local residents, along with international activists rally together, in a show of friendship, support and solidarity for the Al Kurd family. Since the erection of the tent the Israeli authorities have repeatedly tried to intimidate and harass protesters by ordering tents to be taken down, and Palestinian flags and banners to be removed.

Trade fair to showcase handicrafts of UNRWA’s cash-for-work beneficiaries in Jenin, West Bank
United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in, ReliefWeb 11/17/2008
East Jerusalem, 17 November 2008 - Under the auspices of the Jenin Governorate and Municipality – and in cooperation with UNRWA’s Cash-for-Work Project – the Refugee Affairs Committee will be holding a Palestinian handicrafts fair on 18 – 20 November 2008 in Jenin. The event will showcase handicrafts produced by former and current beneficiaries of the project, who were trained in embroidery at the Jenin municipality and received a subsidy for their work. The refugees who gained work at the Jenin municipality will present their work and talk about the impact that the project has had on their lives. All income generated through this handicrafts fair will be donated to impoverished refugee families. The launch of the fair will be held on 18 November at the Jenin Municipality, starting at 10:00.

Army preparing to evict Hebron house
Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 11/19/2008
The Israel Defense Forces are gearing up to forcibly evacuate the so-called "House of Contention" in Hebron, presuming its Jewish residents continue ignoring a court order to vacate the premises within three days. The deadline expires at noon today. The settlers have threatened to resist the eviction forcefully, and yesterday, right-wing activists began moving into the house in preparation. According to army sources, the eviction will take place sometime in the next 30 days, with the exact date being chosen by Defense Minister Ehud Barak on the IDF’s recommendation. The goal is to surprise the settlers and thereby minimize resistance - a tactic the IDF has used successfully in a few illegal outpost demolitions recently. Nevertheless, surprise seems unlikely in this case, since relatively large forces will be required.

MK moves into disputed Hebron building
Tovah Lazaroff, Jerusalem Post 11/18/2008
Lugging a red suitcase and calling on other politicians to join him, MK Nissim Ze’ev (Shas) defied an evacuation order by the High Court of Justice and moved Tuesday afternoon into the disputed four-story Hebron building, whose tenants have until Wednesday morning to vacate the premises. "I will stay here as long as I need to, until the army comes. I hope that if we are here, the army won’t come," said Ze’ev, as he came to take up residence at Beit Hashalom. The eviction order was issued Sunday, spurring the Hebron Jewish community and right-wing activists throughout the country to launch protest actions. They have pledged not to abandon the structure, located on the main road between Kiryat Arba and the Cave of the Patriarchs. On Tuesday night, some 1,000 activists gathered in Kiryat Arba to listen to rousing speeches against the eviction, after which four new. . .

Israeli Court Orders Colonists to End Takeover of Hebron House
Agence France Presse, MIFTAH 11/18/2008
Israel’s High Court on Sunday gave Jewish settlers three days to evacuate a house in the Occupied West Bank town of Hebron whose ownership is contested. The ruling, which was slammed by settler leaders, follows a series of violent clashes between Israeli security forces and hard-line Jews seeking to erect unauthorized outposts in the Occupied West Bank. All Israeli presence in the Occupied West Bank is illegal under international and stands in violation of numerous UN Security Council resolutions. The court rejected an appeal by two right-wing organizations against an order issued by the state to evacuate the Hebron house, which the settlers claim they had purchased from a Palestinian, who denies selling the house. The house was occupied by dozens of hard-line Jewish settlers in March 2007. They have remained in the four-story building, which they dubbed "the house of peace" despite the evacuation order.

Cyclers against the Wall tear down the Apartheid Wall
Stop The Wall 11/18/2008
On November 16, Forum Palestina and Palestinian solidarity activists in Rome built a mock wall across the main street, Via dei Fori Imperiali, in the center of Rome to protest the Apartheid Wall being built in Palestine. A critical mass group called Cyclers Against the Wall participated in the event, and with the wave of the “starting” flag – a Palestinian flag – the cyclists drove at the mock wall, and broke it down. In addition to this main event, activists also handed out leaflets, put posters around the city, and spoke on a loudspeaker, in an effort to raise awareness about the Occupation of Palestine. The event came as part of the 6th annual Week Against the Apartheid Wall. Since the Via dei Fori Imperiali is closed to vehicles on Sundays, hundred of pedestrians and tourists walk through the area, and as such, the mock wall demonstration was hailed as a success that drew much interest and attention.

Ontario Coalition Against Poverty: Boymelgreen out of Toronto, Brooklyn and Palestine!
Stop The Wall 11/18/2008
On November 15, as part of the International Week Against the Apartheid Wall, the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) erected a reinforced cement wall in front of the Toronto building ’50 On the Park’ at 50 Portland Street. This building is owned by wealthy real estate developer Leviev-Boymelgreen, which has projects in Toronto and Brooklyn, and which also builds illegal settlements in the West Bank. Boymelgreen is expanding the illegal settlement of Mod’in Illit that is built on the land of the Palestinian village of Bil’in. 60% of Bil’in’s land has been stolen by the Occupation in the expansion of settlements and by the building of the separation Wall. Bil’in is a village that is being strangled – made into an open air prison surrounded by settlements, Occupation forces and military, and enclosed by the Apartheid Wall.

Ynet: NY - Rights groups protest Hebron settlement fundraiser
International Solidarity Movement 11/18/2008
International Actions - Hebron Region - Adalah-NY, Brooklyn for Peace rally outside Marriott Marquis hotel against fundraiser held there by settlement group, chant ‘Hebron’s settlers, Klu Klux Klan, racist groups go hand in hand’ - Thirty-five rights advocates from Adalah-NY and Brooklyn for Peace rallied Monday evening outside the Marriott Marquis hotel in New York’s Times Square to protest a fundraiser held there by the Brooklyn-based Israeli settlement group the Hebron Fund, the right groups said in a statement. The fundraiser was held while tensions escalated in Hebron, as the Israeli High Court ordered Hebron’s settlers to temporarily evacuate a disputed home in the West Bank city. Standing on 45th Street near New York’s Broadway theaters, the protesters’ chants included: “Mamma Mia Marriott, you support a racist lot” and “Hebron’s settlers, Klu Klux Klan, racist groups go hand in hand. ”

Palestinian, Israeli kids find peace on basketball court
Reuters, Ha’aretz 11/19/2008
Israeli and Palestinian youngsters are finding some common ground on a school playground. Basketball games, hosted in Jerusalem by Hand in Hand, one of the few Israeli public schools where Jews and Arabs study together, are giving youths aged 10 to 16 a chance to try to bridge a wide political and religious divide. "I’m not afraid but I’m tense," said Azeza Shiquart, 15, of the village of Jabal Mukaber, in the West Bank on the edge of Arab East Jerusalem, preparing for her first basketball game against Jewish teenagers from west Jerusalem. "I want to let the Jewish girls know we are peaceful. "Last March, a Palestinian gunman from Jabal Mukaber killed eight Israelis in an attack on a Jewish seminary in west Jerusalem before he was shot dead. In July, another Palestinian from the same village rammed a bulldozer. . .

PA: ’Hamas is staging Gaza blackouts’
Jerusalem Post 11/19/2008
Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah accused Hamas on Tuesday of staging the latest blackouts in the Gaza Strip in a bid to win sympathy and incite the Palestinian public against Israel and the PA. The officials said that contrary to Hamas’s claim, there is no shortage of basic goods, medicine and fuel in the Gaza Strip, largely thanks to the many underground tunnels along the border with Egypt. This is not the first time that Palestinians have accused Hamas of staging Gaza blackouts under the pretext that Israel had cut off fuel supplies to the district’s power grid. Earlier this year, Palestinian journalists in Gaza City told The Jerusalem Post that scenes of Palestinian children and women holding lit candles in the dark had been staged by Hamas and some Arab satellite TV stations. "There’s no shortage of fuel in the Gaza Strip and the Electricity Company is continuing to function normally," said a PA official.

Palestinian Foreign Affairs Ministry suspends work in Gaza office after alleged attack
Ma’an News Agency 11/18/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an – The Ramallah-based Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that it suspended work in its office in Gaza City after an alleged attack by Hamas members on Tuesday. In a statement the ministry said Hamas members invaded the office and seized equipment and documents. Hamas made no immediate comment on the allegations. "The closure decision came after the harassment practiced by Hamas and the continuous threats,” the statement said. ”We decided to stop our work at the Gaza Office of Consular Affairs temporarily but we will develop specific mechanisms in a few days to solve the problems of citizens and facilitate their affairs without any delay,” the ministry added. After Hamas took full control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007, it also assumed control over many Palestinian Authority institutions.

Abu Marzouk: Hamas will attend the meeting of Arab foreign ministers
Palestinian Information Center 11/18/2008
DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- Dr. Moussa Abu Marzouk, the deputy head of the Hamas political bureau, stated that Amr Moussa, the secretary-general of the Arab League, understood Hamas’s request to participate in the meeting of Arab foreign ministers to be held in Cairo on the 26th of this month. In a statement published Tuesday by the Palestine newspaper, Dr. Abu Marzouk said that Moussa promised that both Palestinian rivals would attend the meeting. Dr. Abu Marzouk had attended the meeting between Khaled Mishaal, the head of the Hamas political bureau, and the secretary-general of the Arab League that was held last Sunday in Syria. The meeting focused on the reconciliation efforts since they started and the reasons behind Hamas’s last minute decision to boycott the dialog sessions in Cairo, which prompted Egypt to postpone the dialog.

University workers protest at prime minister’s office in Ramallah
Ma’an News Agency 11/18/2008
Ramallah - Ma’an – Palestinian university workers and legislators staged a sti-in in front of the Prime Ministers’ Office in the West Bank city of Ramallah to bring attention to their fight for increased pay. Unions at universities in the West Bank and Gaza have waged a series of strikes, saying that the Palestinian Authority’s Council on Higher Education, has not addressed their concerns. Another two-day strike began on Tuesday. Union spokesman Musa Ajweh said: "We came today to express our solidarity with all workers, employees and the unions of the Palestinian universities in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip against the Higher Education Council, which rejects the demands of the union, and their refusal to raise the salaries of the staff which are not sufficient to meet the needs of the staff. ”Ajweh added that because of low wages, Palestinian workers, particularly in education, are leaving the country seeking employment elsewhere.

Collaborator in Gaza sentenced to 15 years in prison
Ma’an News Agency 11/18/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – A suspected collaborator in the Gaza Strip was sentenced to 15 years in prison by the de facto government’s Court of First Instance. According to the court decision, 12 years were given for “contacting security affiliated to a foreign entity” and 3 years for “weakening resistance morale. ”The court convened several hearings to examine evidence against the man, and the court decided the material proved his guild of collaborating with Israel. Last week in a Bethlehem military court a collaborator was sentenced to death. Human Rights institutions appealed to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to stay the sentence. [end]

PA to publish ads in Israeli media
Ali Waked, YNetNews 11/18/2008
Ads detailing principles of Arab peace initiative aimed at informing Israeli public of possible path for peace ahead of general elections - The Palestinian Authority will try to influence public opinion in Israel ahead of the general elections in February by publishing advertisements in Israeli newspapers. The ads, which outline the Saudi peace plan, will appear in the papers as of this Thursday. This is the first time that the PA is using this channel to communicate with the Israeli public. A source said that similar ads will be published in American and European newspapers as well. The Saudi peace plan, which was adopted by the Arab League Summit in 2003, calls for a comprehensive peace agreement and the establishment of full diplomatic ties between Israel and the Arab world, in exchange for an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders.

Fifteen new ambulances donated by Turkey unveiled in Ramallah ceremony
Ma’an News Agency 11/18/2008
Ramallah – The Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency (TIKA) unveiled 15 new ambulances for the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Ramallah on Tuesday. The ceremony was held at the Central Public Health Laboratory and Turkish Deputy Consul General Ali Ghuniya was thanked heartily be Palestinian Minister of Health for the caretaker government in the West Bank Fathi Abu MoghliAbu Moghli explained that ten ambulances would be used in West Bank hospitals, and five would be sent to the Gaza Strip. The ambulances are part of a larger Turkish project in Palestine that will see the construction of new hospitals; they are also supporting the construction of the teaching hospital at An-NAjah University in Nablus which is currently under construction.

Abbas said to ask Olmert to free Barghouti as goodwill gesture
Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Service and Reuters, Ha’aretz 11/19/2008
Ramallah-based paper Al-Ayyam reported Tuesday that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas asked outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday to release Fatah militant leader Marwan Barghouti a goodwill gesture. The paper reported that Abbas asked that Barghouti be freed ahead of next month’s Eid al-Adha festival, making the request during a meeting with Olmert on Monday. Abbas also reportedly asked the prime minister to release Popular Front Secretary General Ahmad Sadat, and Palestinian Legislative Council Speaker and Hamas member Aziz al-Dweik. Olmert, however, promised Abbas torelease 250 prisoners , an Israeli spokesman said. "The 250 prisoners will be released in advance of the upcoming Muslim holiday," said the spokesman, describing the move as a goodwill gesture towards Abbas, who revived peace talks with Israel after breaking with Hamas Islamist rivals last year.

Hamas welcomes the release of any prisoner from occupation jails
Palestinian Information Center 11/18/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement welcomed the release of any Palestinian prisoner from Israeli occupation jails although warning that Israeli premier Ehud Olmert’s goodwill gesture of releasing 250 Palestinian prisoners posed as a desperate attempt to stabilize the "illusionary peace process". Dr. Salah Al-Bardawil, the spokesman of Hamas’s parliamentary bloc, said on Monday evening in a press release that all parties to the peace process were in need of such a propaganda act, which is also a kind of political bribe to PA chief Mahmoud Abbas to help him in his popular and political crisis. He warned that the release of the Fatah prisoners was meant to deepen the inter-Palestinian rift, but hoped that the released would be of those serving high sentences and oldest serving prisoners. He opined that the release was also meant to picture that Abbas’s negotiations with the Israelis. . .

Noam Shalit: Freeing Palestinian prisoners not working in Gilad’s favor
Goel Beno, YNetNews 11/18/2008
Kidnapped soldier’s father slams PM Olmert’s recent gesture to Abbas, says ’Hamas has only doubled and tripled its demands’. Shlomo Goldwasser: Government gave up on Gilad -"So far the release of Palestinian prisoners has not led to any positive reaction from Hamas regarding Gilad’s release," Noam Shalit said Monday afterPrime Minister Ehud Olmert announced Israeli would release an additional 250 Fatah prisoners in honor of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha. "On the contrary, Hamas has doubled and tripled its demands time after time," the kidnapped soldier’s father was quoted as saying by Yedioth Ahronoth as saying. "The necessary conclusion is that the release of Palestinian prisoners is not working in Gilad’s favor. The father of slain Israeli soldier Ehud Goldwasser, whose body was returned to Israel last July in the framework of an exchange. . .

Hamas: We’re ready to fight Israel after cease-fire
Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 11/19/2008
Hamas’ military wing announced Tuesday it was "prepared for a confrontation with Israel" and for the end of the cease-fire with Israel. But political sources said the cease-fire was expected to go on. Hamas’ Iz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades threatened to "turn the cease-fire tables on the heads of the Zionists," they said in a statement. Abu Obeida, the alias of a spokesman for the military wing, threatened that Hamas would "retaliate fiercely" should Israel resume its targeted-killings policy, as some defense officials have said were advisable after the cease-fire. By contrast, Mahmoud Al-Zahar, a Hamas leader in Gaza, said that since the cease-fire was not a unilateral move, both sides should honor their part. Meanwhile, in what could be seen as an indication of relative calm in the area, the Gaza regional division of the Israel. . .

IDF Home Front links Ashdod up to rocket-warning system
Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 11/19/2008
The Home Front Command connected the city of Ashdod to the Color Red rocket warning system in recent days, following an Israel Defense Forces estimate that Hamas now possesses long-range rockets capable of reaching the coastal city. Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai visited the city Monday to supervise preparations, noting that "the cease-fire is crumbling. " At least 13 Qassam rockets and three mortars were fired on the western Negev Monday from the Gaza Strip. No one was injured. Seven rockets were fired in a single morning barrage at the communities of the Eshkol regional council, located along the southern border of the Strip. Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ehud Barak visited Sderot Monday along with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband.

Analysis: Hamas, Israel Trying to Rewrite Truce
Karin Laub, MIFTAH 11/18/2008
A June truce between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers comes up for renewal next month and it looks like both sides are trying to dictate more favorable terms. That would explain why Israel and Hamas have been trading rocket fire and air strikes for two weeks, even as they keep saying they’re interested in a continued cease-fire. But the attempt to establish new ground rules could easily spin out of control, especially if there are civilian casualties. Domestic concerns further complicate the situation. Israel is holding general elections Feb. 10 and the cross-border violence has become campaign fodder. Over the weekend, the hard-line opposition party Likud predictably portrayed the government as weak for not responding more harshly to the rockets. Put on the defensive, the leaders of the ruling Kadima and Labor parties delivered tough speeches, warning Hamas that Israel would strike a punishing blow if necessary.

Livni holds Hamas responsible for Israel’s breach of truce
Palestinian Information Center 11/18/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni threatened the Hamas Movement with retaliation to the Palestinian rocket attacks carried out in reprisal for the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip, alleging that Hamas was responsible for breaching the truce. "The Israeli response to rocket fire will be directed against Hamas," Livni said during a meeting of the Kadima parliamentary bloc. Israeli transport minister Shaul Mofaz had called days ago for suspending negotiations and resuming the policy of assassinations against Hamas leaders, adding that a plan must be prepared and tabled with the security cabinet. In response to Livni statements, MP Mushir Al-Masri, the secretary-general of the Hamas parliamentary bloc, held Israel fully responsible for breaching the truce, stressing that the truce does not mean that the Palestinian resistance stays passive towards the Israeli violations and crimes.

New IDF Gaza commander to take post
Yaakov Katz, Jerusalem Post 11/18/2008
A changing of the guard at the helm of the IDF’s Gaza Division is to take place Wednesday morning, despite the continued Hamas rocket attacks on Israel. IDF tanks enter northern Gaza; Ashdod preparing for rockets attacks Last week, Chief of General Staff Lt. -Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi postponed the ceremony, at which Brig. -Gen. Eyal Eizenberg is to replace Brig. -Gen. Moshe Tamir. That move was interpreted as a possible indicator that Israel was considering launching a wide-scale operation inside Gaza. "This is not the case," a senior IDF source said Tuesday. "Israel is working to keep the cease-fire alive and Hamas ultimately wants the same. " RELATEDOver 10 Kassams fired at South on MondayLivni: Hamas to blame for Gaza’s fate On Tuesday, Palestinians fired at least three Kassam rockets and two mortar shells. . .

Hamas government signals it is reconsidering Gaza truce
Ma’an News Agency 11/18/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The Hamas-run government in Gaza signaled that it is losing patience with Israel and reconsidering a five-month-oldtruce agreement after two weeks of Israeli military action and an ongoing siege of Gaza. Ihab Al-Ghussein, the spokesman of the Interior Ministry in the Gaza-based government, urged all Palestinian factions, who signed onto the truce along with Hamas, to reconsider the agreement. “The Israeli violations to the truce in the Gaza Strip [confirm] that the Israelis never wanted any truce. ”Al-Ghussein said Israel is endangering Gazans’ lives by sealing the borders and stopping Palestinians from seeking medical treatment outside of the Strip. He also slammed the “silence” of the Arab world and the international community for allowing Israel to continue its blockade. Abbas’ reportedly urged Israel to renew the ceasefire agreement.

Palestinian military groups continue projectile launches towards Israeli targets Monday night
Ma’an News Agency 11/18/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Several homemade projectiles and mortar shells were launched from the Gaza Strip overnight Monday, most hit targets near Israeli towns in the western Negev according to statement from Palestinian military groups. The Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, the military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), said in a statement that the group’s fighters fired three homemade projectiles and three mortar shells at Sderot and Kfar Sa’d in the western Negev. The Brigades’ statement said the shelling was meant to assert that “resistance would continue. ”Separately, the Al-Mujahidin Brigades, affiliated with the Fatah party, launched two homemade projectiles towards Sderot. They announced in a statement that the ceasefire agreement would not prevent them from continuing to resist Israeli aggression.

Palestine Today 111808
IMEMC News - Audio Dept, International Middle East Media Center News 11/18/2008
Click on Link to download or play MP3 file|| 3 m 00s || 2. 74MB || Welcome to Palestine Today, a service of the International Middle East Media Center www. imemc. org for Tuesday November 18 2008 The Israeli military invaded today the eastern parts of Rafah city in southern Gaza as the Israeli troops detained scores of Palestinian residents from various West Bank areas. This news and more are coming up, stay tuned. Israeli troops invaded earlier today the southern parts of the Gaza Strip, just east of Rafah city. The troops, accompanied with bulldozers, razed some arable lands in the area. The Alqassam brigades, the armed wing of the ruling Hamas party in Gaza, announced its fighters defended the invaded area with firing homemade shells onto the Israel troops. Israeli officials, including the prime minister, the foreign minister and the defense minister, had. . .

Israeli military detains scores of Palestinians from the various West Bank areas
International Middle East Media Center News 11/18/2008
The Israeli military detained on Tuesday 32 Palestinian residents from different parts of the occupied West Bank, media sources and witnesses reported. Palestinian security sources said earlier today that the Israeli military invaded the Alfawar refugee camp in the southern Hebron city last night and that the Israeli soldiers rounded up 11 residents from there. Also, the sources added that the Israeli troops took prisoners four other residents from the Nablus city. Two out of these detainees were rounded up at the Hewarra checkpoint in southern Nablus. [end]

Al-Aqsa Brigades claim shooting attack on settler near Qalqilia
Ma’an News Agency 11/18/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – The Al-Aqsa Brigades, the military wing of Fatah claimed to have opened fire on an Israeli settler’s car near the West Bank city of Qalqilia on Tuesday afternoon. In a statement the organization claimed that the settler was “seriously wounded” in the attack. The group said the attack was a response to “endless Israeli aggression against Palestinians. ”An Israeli military spokesperson had no information the attack.

UN rights chief implores Israel to lift illegal siege of Gaza Strip
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 11/19/2008
GAZA CITY: The top United Nations human rights official on Tuesday called on Israel to immediately lift its blockade of the Gaza Strip, as invading tanks from the Jewish state sparked retaliatory rocket fire from the coastal territory. "By function of this blockade, 1. 5 million Palestinian men, women and children have been forcibly deprived of their most basic human rights for months," the High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in a statement. "This is in direct contravention of international human rights and humanitarian law. It must end now," she said. Israel first imposed a large-scale blockade on the Gaza Strip after the Hamas movement won legislative elections in 2006. The Jewish state further tightened its siege of the impoverished territory after the Islamists ousted their Fatah rivals following reports in the Arab press of an impending US-backed offensive by the secular party to topple Hamas in the strip.

UN rights chief urges Israel to end ’illegal’ Gaza blockade
Ma’an News Agency 11/18/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The United Nations’ highest-ranking human rights officer urged Israel to end its blockade of the Gaza Strip on Tuesday. "By function of this blockade, 1. 5 million Palestinian men, women and children have been forcibly deprived of their most basic human rights for months," said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay in a statement. Pillay said the blockade is illegal under international human rights and humanitarian law, and "must end now. " According to UN officials in Gaza, Israel has allowed virtually no supplies of food, fuel or medicine into Gaza since 4 November. The siege has caused widespread blackouts and forcedUNRWA, the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees, to suspend a food program that serves 750,000 Palestinians for three days. Israel allowed 33 truckloads of goods into Gaza on Monday, allowing the UN to resume food distribution, but officials say the Strip is still on the brink of crisis.

Statements of UN High Commissioner regarding the siege ''anger'' Israel
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 11/18/2008
Israeli was "angered" by the statements of Navanethem "Navi" Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights; as she called on Israel to immediately lift its blockade over the Gaza Strip as this siege violates the international and humanitarian law. Pillay issued a statement from her office in Geneva urging Israel to allow the entry of food, medicine and fuel into the Gaza Strip and called on Israel to restore electricity and water supplies. In her statement, Pillay said that Israel is depriving 1. 5 million Palestinians from the basic human rights and called on Israel to halt its air strikes and invasions to the impoverished Gaza Strip. She also called on Palestinian fighters to stop the firing of homemade shells into adjacent Israel areas. The Israeli ambassador to Geneva, Aharon Leshno-Yaar, was angered by the statement of Pillay and accused her of being "shortsighted and repeating blatant information".

Israel tells UN Hamas to blame for Gaza situation
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 11/18/2008
Israeli ambassador to Geneva slams United Nation’s forgiving attitude to Palestinian violence, blasts ’short-sighted’ statement by top human rights official who earlier called on Israel to end Gaza blockade - The latest statement by the United Nation’s top human rights official regarding the situation in Gaza is "short sighted," Israel’s new ambassador in Geneva wrote Tuesday, slamming the UN’s forgiving attitude to Palestinian violence. The dismissive manner in which the UN addresses Palestinian belligerence is particularly distributing, Roni Leshno Yaar wrote in a letter, drafted in response to an earlier statement by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay. Palestinian residents of Gaza "have been forcibly deprived of their most basic human rights for months" Pillay said, referring to Israel’s blockade of the Strip.

Al-Khudari: Thirty aid trucks for 1.4 million reveals Israeli indifference to international pressure
Ma’an News Agency 11/18/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The Israeli decision to open the Karem Shalom crossing for only 30 truckloads of food was an evasion of international calls for the cessation of the blockade of the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian leader said Tuesday. Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) Jamal Al-Khudari rejected outright Israel’s decision to deal with the Palestinian people as a group who only receive bare-minimum aid when conditions become dire. He called for the full opening of all crossing points into Gaza so supplies from the international community, and goods bought and paid for by Gazans can reach their destination without interference from Israel. Al-Khudari estimated that 2,000 truckloads of goods need to come through the Gaza crossings if the area is ever to recover from the two-year siege and blockade.

Egyptian court orders halt to Israel’s natural gas supply
Avi Bar-Eli, Ha’aretz 11/19/2008
A Cairo court yesterday ruled against an Egyptian government resolution to sell natural gas to Israel, and issued an injunction halting the supply. Legal sources in Egypt say however that the court did not put a timeline on its ruling, and meanwhile the gas continues to flow. Opposition members argue that the contract to sell gas to the Israel Electric Corporation is not legal, because it never underwent approval by the Egyptian parliament. Yesterday’s court ruling follows a motion by private lawyers, asking that the contract with the Israeli utility be revisited. The Merhav group, which is the Israeli partner of Egyptian supplier EMG, stated that according to its sources in Cairo, the Egyptian government will be appealing the ruling within a matter of days. Meanwhile the supply continues normally and no change is expected, stated Merhav, which is controlled by Israeli businessman Yossi Maiman.

Egyptian court bans natural gas exports to Israel
Reuters, Ha’aretz 11/19/2008
A Cairo court on Tuesday overruled the Egyptian government’s decision to allow exports of natural gas to Israel, judicial sources said, although there was no word on whether or when the government would act on the ruling. The Egyptian administrative court accepted a challenge to the decision filed by a group of lawyers opposed to the exports, arguing that the 15-year fixed-price agreement signed between Egypt and Israel in 2005 lacks any mechanism for Egypt to adjust prices to reflect current market conditions. Egyptian natural gas began flowing to Israel through a pipeline for the first time in May under an agreement signed in 2005 with the East Mediterranean Gas Co (EMG) for the supply of 1. 7 billion cubic meters a year over 20 years. Some Egyptian leftists and Arab nationalists oppose the sale of gas to Israel, which fought. . .

Egypt’s natural gas deliveries to Israel in jeopardy after court ruling
Lior Baron, Globes Online 11/18/2008
The Israeli government is confident that gas will continue to flow despite an Egyptian court order to halt gas exports. "Reuters" reports that an Egyptian administrative court earlier this week overruled a government decision to allow natural gas exports to Israel. The court accepted a challenge to the decision filed by a group of lawyers opposed to the exports. The petitioners claim that Egypt’s natural gas reserves are not sufficient enough to justify exports. They also oppose the exports because of the low price Israel pays for the natural gas. Energy sources claim that the court ruling only applies to the contract that was the subject of the case, and will have no effect on Egyptian natural gas deliveries to Israel. "Reuters" noted that the court ruling is subject to appeal, and that the Egyptian government sometimes ignores rulings it does not like.

Egypt court freezes Israel gas deal
Al Jazeera 11/18/2008
An Egyptian court has overruled a controversial 20-year deal on gas exports to Israel. Judges ruled in favour of Ibrahim Yousri, a lawyer who says that Egypt is losing $9m for each day that Cairo upholds the fixed-price agreement with Tel Aviv. Many Egyptians view the gas deal with their former enemy as a betrayal, although Tuesday’s court ruling can be appealed against by the government. "Ibrahim was supported by other political activists who think that exporting gas to Israel helps the Israeli army continue its occupation of Palestinian territories," Amr el-Kakhy, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Cairo, said. Egypt began to pipe natural gas to Israel in May, in line with a 2005 agreement to deliver 1. 7 billion cubic metres of gas per year.

Peres: Obama ’very impressed’ by Arab League peace plan
Anshel Pfeffer, Ha’aretz 11/19/2008
LONDON - U. S. President-elect Barack Obama proclaimed himself "very impressed" with the Arab League’s peace plan when he discussed it with President Shimon Peres during a brief visit to Israel four months ago, Peres said Tuesday. Peres, who had just arrived in London for an official visit, made the comment in interviews to be published in the British media. He was responding to questions about whether he thought Obama would advance the Middle East peace process in general and the Arab League’s plan in particular. But he denied a Sunday Times report earlier this week which claimed that Obama had said Israel would be "crazy" to reject the Arab initiative. On Monday, former American envoy to the Middle East Dennis Ross, who has been advising Obama on the subject, also denied reports that Obama had said while visiting Israel in. . .

Peres confident about peace after Obama takes office
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 11/19/2008
LONDON: Israeli President Shimon Peres said Tuesday he felt confident about the prospects for a Middle East peace deal next year following the election of Barack Obama as leader of the United States. On the first full day of a three-day visit to Britain, Peres said there was a "fair chance" Israel would reach an agreement with the Palestinians in the next 12 months. "I feel confident we’re at the same camp, I don’t see any contradiction," Peres said, when asked what he thought of Obama’s views on the Middle East. "There is no need to press Israel to go for peace, Israel is going to peace out of her own choice, out of her own will," he told BBC radio. He added: "I think there is a fair chance to have an overall peace in the Middle East once we shall conclude our negotiations with the Palestinians. "We made some headway, it has not yet concluded, but there is a chance that in the coming year we shall conclude the agreement.

VIDEO - Clinton to accept offer of secretary of state job
Ewen MacAskill in Washington, The Guardian 11/18/2008
Hillary Clinton plans to accept the job of secretary of state offered by Barack Obama, who is reaching out to former rivals to build a broad coalition administration, the Guardian has learned. Obama’s advisers have begun looking into Bill Clinton’s foundation, which distributes millions of dollars to Africa to help with development, to ensure there is no conflict of interest. But Democrats believe the vetting will be straightforward. Clinton would be well placed to become the country’s dominant voice in foreign affairs, replacing Condoleezza Rice. Since being elected senator for New York, she has specialised in foreign affairs and defence. Although she supported the war in Iraq, she and Obama basically agree on a withdrawal of American troops. Clinton, who still harbours hopes of a future presidential run, had to weigh up whether she would be better placed by staying in the Senate, which

Preparations for the London economic forum on Palestine underway
Ma’an News Agency 11/18/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – The Palestinian Ambassador to the UK Manuel Hassassian met with Palestinian minister of public works, housing, national economy and information technology, Kamal Hassuna in Ramallah on Monday for an update on plans for the Palestine Investment Conference London Forum. The London Forum on Palestine investment will be held in the British capital on 15 and 16 December based on the recommendation and support of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown after his summer visit to Palestine. Hassuna explained that coordination between the ministry and private sectors via committee and a special investment joint taskforce is ongoing. He added that the Palestinian representative in London has been key in planning and preparations. Prof Hassasian asserted the importance of encouraging investment in Palestine and the positive effect that the London investment conference is sure to have on the Palestinian economy.

Second Palestine Investment Conference will announce 700 million in projects
Ma’an News Agency 11/18/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Over 1,000 participants are registered for the second Palestine Investment Conference including 300 Palestinian and Arab businessmen, 50 Palestinians living in Israel, representatives from the International Monetary Fund, Gaza Strip investors and media. The second Investment Conference will be held in the northern West Bank city of Nablus, and will propose over 700 million US dollars in projects for potential business partners. Deputy coordinator of the conference Sufyan Al-Barghouthisaid more than 70 projects will be outlined at the conference in the agricultural, industrial, tourist and infrastructure sectors across the northern governorates of the West Bank. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad are slated to attend the conference and will take part in discussions on discuss investment in infrastructure, and a new initiative. . .

UK seeking to curb settlement imports, sparking diplomatic row with Israel
Ma’an News Agency 11/18/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – The British government is forging ahead with a plan to crack down on imports of goods produced in illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, a British spokesperson said on Tuesday. “Israeli settlements in the West Bank are illegal and are a major obstacle before the peace process and a barrier to establishing relations between Israel, the Palestinians and the Arab countries,” said John Wilks, the official Arabic spokesperson of the British government. Wilks’ made this reaffirmation of British policy at a press conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah held a day after a visit by British Foreign Secretary David Miliband. Wilks also said that the British government is seeking to apply European Union tariffs to goods produced in settlements as a way of cracking down on the illegally-build communities.

Israel may cede Ghajar control to UN
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 11/19/2008
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is expected to call several senior defense officials today to discuss the possibility of pulling out of the northern part of the border village of Ghajar and relinquishing control to UN forces. The discussion, which will include Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, is aimed at formulating an official Israeli response to the United Nation’s proposal for regulating the situation in Ghajar, which is split between Lebanon in the north and Israel in the south. Olmert is expected to decide in favor of pulling out of Ghajar and engaging in dialogue with the UN about setting a timetable for the move. Israel is reportedly seeking to complete the move in a way that would make it difficult for Hezbollah to claim the pullout as a victory. One possibility discussed was to sign a three-way agreement with the UN and Lebanon regarding the town.

Report: Suspected Lebanon spy made frequent visits to Israel
Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 11/19/2008
A Lebanese citizen who was recently arrested over espionage charges made frequent visits to Israel during which he was trained in espionage techniques, the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar reported on Tuesday. The suspected spy, who has been identified as Ali Jarrah, was taught on the trips how to operate surveillance equipment and a radio transmitter, according to the paper. The report stated that Jarrah’s Mossad espionage agency handler would contact him via his mobile phone and ask him to travel to neighboring countries such as Jordan, Egypt and Cyprus. Jarrah would receive there a fake Israeli passport, which he used to enter Israel. During the visits, which usually lasted for one or two days, the Mossad would pay for Jarrah to stay in a hotel, according to the daily.

Report: Lebanese ’spy’ trained in Israel
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 11/18/2008
Al-Akhbar daily claims Ali al-Jarah entered Israel from neighboring Arab countries with fake passport given to him by Mossad handler, received training in operation of surveillance equipment, radio transmitters -Lebanese citizen Ali al-Jarah, who was recently arrested over espionage charges, made frequent visits to Israel at the Mossad’s request, Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar reported on Tuesday. According to the report, al-Jarah led a double life and was secretly married to two different women. His visits to Israel, the newspaper claimed, usually lasted for one or two days and included training on how to operate surveillance equipment and a radio transmitter. Spy GamesReport: Lebanon uncovers espionage ring working for Israel / A-Safir: Man arrested on suspicion of employing network of agents working with Israeli intelligence to map out sensitive. . .

Miliband: Syria vital to peace in Middle East
The Independent 11/19/2008
David Miliband said that his talks with Syria’s President, Bashar al-Assad, focused on ways of achieving a comprehensive peace in the Middle East. The British Foreign Secretary said 2009 would be "an important year" in the region. "We all now have choices to make on how to fulfil comprehensive peace," he said after the talks. Relations between the West and Damascus have been strained by US accusations that Syria has turned a blind eye to Islamist fighters infiltrating Iraq, but diplomatic contacts between Europe and Damascus have increased in recent months. The Syrian Foreign Minister, Walid Muallem, said the talks laid down the foundation for strong ties between the two countries. Mr Miliband told BBC Radio: "Syria has a big potential role to play in stability in the Middle East. It can be a force for stability or for instability.

UK foreign minister meets Assad
Al Jazeera 11/19/2008
David Miliband, the British foreign minister, has held talks with Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, in Syria’s capital, Damascus. Miliband’s direct talks with the Syrian leader on Tuesday are the first by a British foreign secretary since 2000. During the talks, Miliband said Syria can be "constructive" in helping to build comprehensive peace in the Middle East. "We all now have choices to make on how to fulfil comprehensive peace," Miliband told a news conference in Damascus after the talks. Miliband’s visit marks a slight thaw in relations between London and Damascus, which deteriorated in the wake of the February 2005 killing of Rafiq al-Hariri, a former Lebanese prime minister. Syria has been accused of involvement in al-Hariri’s assassination in order to maintain control over Lebanon.

Peres: ''Withdrawal from the Golan will only be under Israeli conditions''
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 11/18/2008
Israeli President, Shimon Peres, said that if Syria wants the Golan Heights back it must proof that it is ready for peace, and must change its policies, such as its relation with Iran and Hezbollah. Peres added that any withdrawal from the Golan Heights will only be done under Israeli terms,and that Egypt and Jordan signed peace deals with Israel and retrieved their lands. The statements of Peres came as he was receiving honorary doctorate at London’s Mansion House. "If Syria changes it path, proves willingness to peace, then it knows what it will get", Peres added. He also said that a comprehensive peace with the Palestinians is nearly possible, except that there will be no peace with Hamas. Peres further stated that there will be no peace with Iran and Hezbollah. The Israeli president claimed that most of the obstacles surrounding peace with the Palestinians are now resolved.

Peres: Damascus must cut ties to Hizbullah for peace
Jonny Paul, The Jerusalem Post, London, Jerusalem Post 11/18/2008
Making peace with Syria depends on whether it is prepared to rein in Hizbullah, President Shimon Peres said on Tuesday. Damascus cannot expect Israel to withdraw from the Golan Heights while Syria continues to help Iran further its influence in Lebanon, Peres said in a BBC radio interview. Israel is not prepared to tolerate an Iranian presence on its border, he said, referring to Hizbullah. "If Syria will understand that they can’t have the Golan Heights and keep Lebanon as a base for the Iranians, then the decision will be clear. But if she wants the Golan Heights back and keeps her bases in Lebanon - which are really controlled and financed by the Iranians - no Israeli will agree to have Iranians on our borders," he said. Peres, who will be in London through Friday for a series of engagements, including talks with Prime Minister Gordon Brown, stressed Israel’s. . .

Syria dismisses IAEA report of uranium traces
Associated Press, Jerusalem Post 11/18/2008
A Syrian official disputed on Tuesday that the UN nuclear agency’s discovery of uranium traces at a bombed site was an indication that Syria was building a nuclear reactor. Buthaina Shaaban, an adviser to President Bashar Assad, also said in a CNN interview that Damascus had nothing to hide, and was waiting for the International Atomic Energy Agency to release a report on its investigation into Syria’s purported nuclear activities. "They (Americans) said it is a building under construction," said Shaaban. "I don’t know how a building under construction could have uranium. " "I would rather say that we wait to see the (IAEA) report, and we would like the world to stand against aggression to which our country was subjected to. " RELATEDElBaradei: Uranium found at Syrian site IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei. . .

Peres’ speech in U.K. disrupted by anti-Israel protesters
Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz Service and News Agencies, Ha’aretz 11/19/2008
LONDON - President Shimon Peres, on the first day of a state visit to Britain on Tuesday, devoted part of his speech on the issues of peace and globalization at Oxford University to United States’ President-Elect Barack Obama. Peres’ speech was then disrupted by anti-Israel protesters. Zionism started because of anti-Semitism and racism, and the election of Obama to be president of the United States might just be the end of this racism, Peres said during his speech. However, his speech was repeatedly interrupted by a group of students who vociferously protested Israel’s policy in the territories. These students were silenced by a majority of the audience, while the president carried on with his speech. Earlier, Peres said that Syria understands that it would benefit from the return of land in a peace deal with Israel,. . .

Britain sees ’constructive role’ for Syria
AP, The Independent 11/18/2008
Britain’s foreign secretary says Syria can play "a constructive role" in the stalled Middle East peacemaking process. David Miliband also warns that rocket attacks by the militant Palestinian Hamas group on Israel will hurt Syria’s role in the region and diminish chances of achieving a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East. Miliband spoke to reporters in Damascus today after holding talks with Syrian President Bashar Assad and Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem. Miliband is the first senior British official to visit Syria since former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s visit in 2001. Syria is a major player in the Palestinian conflict as it hosts the exiled leaders of radical Palestinian groups, like Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Miliband: Syria can help kickstart Middle East peace process
Ian Black, James Sturcke and agencies, The Guardian 11/18/2008
Syria should play a "constructive role" in the search for Middle East peace, David Miliband urged on his groundbreaking visit to Damascus today. But the foreign secretary said that rocket attacks by Hamas, supported by Syria, were harming that process. Speaking after talks with the country’s president, Bashar al-Assad, Miliband mixed flattery with a warning that a commitment to peace was not compatible with backing for the Palestinian Islamists who now control the Gaza Strip. "Syria is a very important country with important responsibilities," the foreign secretary told reporters at a joint press conference with his Syrian counterpart, Walid al-Muallem. "Syria has the opportunity to play a constructive role for peace in the region.

Settler rabbi: State of Israel is an enemy of the people
Nadav Shragai, Ha’aretz 11/19/2008
"The state of Israel has become the enemy of the people and the land of Israel," settler rabbi Shalom Dov Wolpe said Tuesday during an emergency meeting on the state’s plan to evacuate a house in Hebron whose ownership has been at the center of a bitter dispute for over a year. The four-story building became a flash point for tensions when settlers moved in early last year after claiming to have purchased it from a Palestinian. But the Palestinian denies the claim and Israeli authorities have not recognized the sale as legal. "Anyone who tries to raise a hand at the peace house in Hebron will long for Amona, and will find that Amona was nothing," MK Aryeh Eldad of the National Union- National Religious Party said, referring to the violent riots during the 2005 disengagement when Israeli authorities evacuated the Gush Katif settlement of Amona.

Berri urges Kuwait to mediate between Syria, Saudi Arabia
Daily Star 11/19/2008
BEIRUT: Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri urged Kuwait’s emir on Tuesday to play a role in achieving a rapprochement between Syria and Saudi Arabia. Following talks with Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah in Kuwait City, Berri said that relations between Arab states should improve, stressing that a "Syrian-Saudi rapprochement is a must. " The speaker made his remarks before heading to Qatar later in the day. Kuwaiti Speaker Jassem al-Khorafi, who attended the meeting, praised Berri’s concern for Arab unity as well as the "resistance’s victory against Israel in the summer war of 2006. " Late on Monday, Berri told members of the Lebanese community in Kuwait that he was confident that the situation in Lebanon would improve, adding that Lebanese parties were committed to forging political reconciliations. "Reconciliations should continue with the aim of supporting national dialogue,. . .

Writers trip expands to non-Americans
Cnaan Liphshiz, Ha’aretz 11/19/2008
This year, for the first time in 20 years, participants from countries outside the United States - including Israel - took part in the World Zionist Organization’s General Assembly workshop for aspiring Jewish writers. The Do the Write Thing program, launched two decades ago, at once offers an insider’s view of Israel and underscores the lines that separate European, American and Israeli coreligionists. During the five-day program, 30 journalism students and aspiring writers toured Israel and attended sessions of the United Jewish Communities General Assembly, which is taking place in Jerusalem this week. The WZO writers program coincides every year with the GA. On Monday, the participants hosted a panel discussion attended by Meretz legislator Avshalom Vilan and the Hatikvah party’s Arieh Eldad. The writers later attended a lecture given by former chief of staff Moshe Ya’alon on the regional threats Israel is facing.

Tours, tears and Tel Aviv at the GA
Raphael Ahren, Ha’aretz 11/19/2008
While several hundred participants in the United Jewish Communities General Assembly appeared to thoroughly enjoy last night’s party to celebrate Tel Aviv’s upcoming 100th birthday, Ilana Frankel had not yet gotten over the first part of her day. Frankel had participated in one of the GA’s "seminars on wheels" - which took the participants on about 65 different themed trips all over the country, from an ecological farm near Modi’in to youth villages in the Galilee and Bedouin villages in the Negev - before culminating at "Cafe Tel Aviv. ""It was a very moving and controversial day; it really hurt," the 21-year-old Frankel said of her trip, which was called "Breaking the Barriers through coexistence and cooperation" and took a busload of participants to the Arab city of Umm al-Fahm. "I cried today," Frankel said, "because I heard both our tour guides defending the Arabs,. . . "

Jewish Agency resolutions ire liberals, conservatives
Cnaan Liphshiz, Ha’aretz 11/19/2008
The Jewish Agency has upset both liberals and hardliners this week by urging Israel toform new, "moderate" conversion bodies. The Agency’s assembly, which met in Jerusalem this week, rejected a more sweeping proposal calling for Israel to recognize converts of all streams as Jews. "It was the only pragmatic path," Richard Pearlstone, chair of the Agency’s Board ofGovernors, said yesterday in an interview with Haaretz about two separate resolutions onconversion, which the Agency’s assembly passed on Sunday. The resolutions called for Israel toset up a new, independent conversion authority and more liberal courts of Jewish law. Pearlstone is also in Israel to attend the United Jewish Communities General Assemblyconsidered the world’s largest gathering of Jewish leaders which this year partly coincidedwith the JA’s assembly.

Worried West Bank settlers try wine and a bus tour
Associated Press, YNetNews 11/18/2008
Settlers woo foreign journalists with visit to home overlooking site where biblical Israelites housed Moses’ stone tablets; ’Arabs already have enough states,’ they say, ’governments come and governments go. What we’re doing here is something that’s permanent’ -Israel’s West Bank settlers have been ratcheting up their violence, defying their own government and flouting international public opinion. But on Monday a settler group tried another tack - wooing foreign journalists with a bus tour featuring a glass of merlot and a visit to a home overlooking the site where the biblical Israelites housed Moses’ stone tablets. "Here you see the miracles and the prophecies actualized in front of you," said settler Tamar Yonah Feld, portraying Jewish settlement in the West Bank as a fulfillment of God’s will.

Bank of Israel expected to nix bank exits from Gaza
Eran Peer, Globes Online 11/18/2008
The Bank of Israel cannot compel Israeli banks to do business with banks in Gaza, but it can prevent them from suspending clearing activity. Commercial banking sources believe that the Bank of Israel will reject the request by Bank Hapoalim (TASE:POLI ; LSE:80OA), and Israel Discount Bank (TASE:DSCT ) to cease their banking activity with banks in the Gaza Strip. Although the Bank of Israel cannot compel the Israeli banks to do business with banks in Gaza, it can prevent them from suspending clearing activity. The Bank of Israel is acting in its capacity as the clearance regulator, which has the authority to forbid commercial banks from withholding clearance services. The Bank of Israel and the Ministry of Finance consider the activity of Israeli banks with their Palestinian counterparts in Gaza as a political matter with broad ramifications,. . .

Underworld strikes? Bomb hurled at police offices
Eli Senyor, YNetNews 11/18/2008
Is underworld targeting police? Day after assassination of reputed mobster Alperon, explosive device hurled at Central Police Unit’s offices - Is underworld targeting police? An explosive device was hurled early Tuesday at one of the Central Police Unit’s offices in the city of Ramle, near Tel Aviv, Ynet has found. The bomb did not explode, apparently because of a technical malfunction. The attack took place while senior police officials were convened at a nearby office in order to discuss the response to the assassination of reputed mobster Yaakov Alperon in Tel Aviv Monday as well as future moves aimed to counter organized crime. The Central Police Unit, which was apparently targeted in the attack, stands at the forefront of the battle against some of Israel’s major crime families.

Israeli police out in full force for funeral of mob boss
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 11/19/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Police deployed in strength on Tuesday for the funeral of underworld kingpin Yaakov Alperon who was assassinated in a Tel Aviv car bombing that has prompted fears of a gangland war in Israel. Alperon’s son Dror, who is on trial on charges of blackmail and extortion, was granted temporary release from custody to attend the funeral in Ranana, on the outskirts of Tel Aviv. His father was returning from attending a hearing in the trial when he was killed on Monday. "We want to prevent any more hits like Monday’s which we are treating very seriously as innocent lives were put in danger," police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP. "Since the end of 2006, our number one objective has been to eradicate organized crime. "Rosenfeld said police had set up a dedicated force dubbed Unit 443, with its own intelligence, forensic and investigation sections as well as a. . .

Mob swears vengeance as it buries boss
Donald Macintyre in Ra''anana, The Independent 11/19/2008
For a moment, as the first few of the hundreds of mourners came up the cypress-lined avenue to the main cemetery on the edge of this prosperous satellite town outside Tel Aviv, the menfolk donning kippas, you could have mistaken it for any Israeli funeral. But that was before the advent of a disproportionate number of BMWs driven by men in large shades and, after the obsequies had begun, the principal mourner being hidden in a six-van police convoy, complete with a motorcycle escort from the elite special unit of the prison police. Dror Alperon buried his father, Yaakov, yesterday after armed police led him unceremoniously through a gap between bushes and the cemetery wall. And he left the same way. The dead man’s brothers, Nissim and Salman, had also been among the last to arrive, embraced by well-wishers as they walked towards the cemetery and guarded by 30 well-built men who. . .

Bank stocks battered as investors fret over mounting dubious debt
Sharon Shpurer, Ha’aretz 11/19/2008
Analysts covering Israel’s banks have been repeating the mantra for weeks: shares in this sector are cheap, for long-term investors. Their equity multiples have sunk to record-low levels, they argue. Yet investors seem uncharmed and the selloff of bank shares has continued, sending the Tel Aviv Banks-5 index plummeting as much as 20% a week. From the year’s start, the Banks-5 has lost 54%. The banks’ equity multiples - calculated by dividing their market capitalization by their equity - are now even lower than during Israel’s last economic crisis, in 2002. The equity multiple formula is an accepted method for examining bank shares. Shareholders equity is the base for their lending, which is their main money maker. During the economic crisis of 2002, which saw big write-offs at local banks, equity multiples fell to 0.

Killing of crime boss Alperon seen as ’earthquake’ for Israel underworld
Yuval Goren, Ha’aretz 11/19/2008
The assassination of crime kingpin Ya’akov Alperon Monday was "an earthquake for the underworld," said senior police sources. Alperon, 54, was killed Monday afternoon when his private vehicle passed over a bomb at the corner of Pinkas Street and Namir Road in north Tel Aviv. He was on his way home from court, where two of his sons had their remand extended for alleged threats and extortion. Police expressed concern Monday over a potential confrontation between the country’s major crime syndicates in the wake of the hit. The father of seven children, Alperon stood at the head of a vast crime network and was considered one of the most recognized and influential criminal figures in Israel. Shortly after 9 A. M. , Alperon arrived at the courthouse on Weizman Street and parked his rented Volkswagen in an adjacent parking lot.

Hundreds attend underworld figure Ya’akov Alperon’s funeral
Yuval Goren, Ha’aretz 11/19/2008
Not a single suspect was interviewed yesterday by the Tel Aviv Police in connection to Monday’s killing of crime boss Ya’akov Alperon, but certain family members have already said that revenge is just a matter of time. His brother Zalman and his widow, Ahuva, however, said it is God who will deal with the perpetrators. Hundreds of acquaintances and business partners of Alperon, including ones labeled by police as major criminals and intelligence targets, rolled up to the family home in Ra’anana yesterday in flashy cars and SUVs to pay their respects. These included Rico Shirazi and his son Shai, brother Roni and Yossi Harari, and Shlomo "Sheli" ("king of the gray market") Narkis, accompanied by his attorney, Ilan Azolay. Just before 1 P. M. an ambulance containing the coffin holding Alperon’s body arrived at the family home.

Consumer Council finds disparity in new water fees
Globes Online 11/18/2008
The Consumer Council claims weaker sectors of society will have to pay more. An examination conducted by the Israel Consumer Council of the new water fees proposed by the Water and Sewage Authority has found disparities of up to 23% between the lowest and highest fees. Ahead of a hearing on the subject on Thursday, the Consumer Council submitted its critique to the Water and Sewage Authority, and claims that the proposed tariffs will create a situation whereby the disadvantaged sectors of the population will be required to pay higher fees than consumers living in middle class areas. According to the new regulations, various water tariffs will be collected according to regional divisions. At the head of the fees table, according to the Consumer Council’s examination, are locations with a concentration of disadvantaged residents: large families, regions with high unemployment, Arab citizens and mixed villages.

Bread price cut
Yael Gross-Englander, Globes Online 11/18/2008
Bakers threaten to head to court. The Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor has cut the price of the price controlled breads by 2. 7%. The ministry cited the drop in the price of wheat and crude oil on global commodities markets. The price cut will come into effect when Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor Eli Yishai and Minister of Finance Ronnie Bar-On sign the order. The Ministry of Industry said its calculation of the cost of producing the standard white bread loaf found that the price justified a cut of 7. 42%. However, bakeries lose 4. 59% on each loaf. The ministry’s price cut is the differential. The price of a 750-gram standard white bread loaf will now cost NIS 4. 64, down from NIS 4. 75. The cost a 500-gram challah will fall to NIS 5. 07 from NIS 5. 20. Israel Bakeries Association chairman Yohanan Aharonson said in response, "The drop in the price of raw materials offsets past losses.

Alperon’s sister: Whoever killed Ya’akov, the same will be done to his children
Jack Khoury, Ha’aretz 11/19/2008
At around 1 P. M. Tuesday afternoon the funeral procession of underworld kingpin Ya’akov Alperon, who was killed in a car bombing in Tel Aviv Monday morning, set out from his home in Ra’anana. Hundreds of people accompanied his coffin to the cemetery at Kfar Nahman. Ya’akov Alperon, 54, was killed Monday afternoon when his private vehicle passed over a bomb at the corner of Pinkas Street and Namir Road in north Tel Aviv. He was on his way home from court, where two of his sons had their remand extended for alleged threats and extortion. Alperon’s sister Shoshana, considered for many years to have been at the head of the crime family, lingered at the gravesite long after the funeral, saying "these people are evil murderers," referring to the unknown assailants that apparently triggered a bomb planted in Alperon’s rental car by remote control.

Iran aims to launch nuclear plant in 2009
Reuters, Ha’aretz 11/19/2008
Iran is aiming to commission its first nuclear power plant in 2009 after years of delays, the official IRNA news agency reported on Tuesday. Russia has already delivered nuclear fuel under a $1 billion contract to build the Bushehr plant on the Gulf coast in southwest Iran. But the start-up timetable has frequently been put back because of issues such as a row over payments. Russia agreed to build the plant in 1995 on the site of an earlier project begun in the 1970s by German firm Siemens. The Siemens project was disrupted by Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution and the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. "The commissioning stage of Bushehr nuclear power station has begun and we are hopeful the power station will be commissioned in 2009 as per the agreement we have had with the Russian party," the spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Mohsen Delaviz, was quoted a saying.

Meir Porush’s son beaten as haredi confrontations continue
Matthew Wagner, Jerusalem Post 11/18/2008
In another incident demonstrating the escalating tensions between rival camps within the haredi community, the son of United Torah Judaism MK Meir Porush was beaten and knocked to the ground Monday. Yisrael Porush confirmed that he had been attacked but added that he did not want to provide details of the incident for fear it would lead to the desecration of God’s name. The Ger hassidic sect, the nation’s largest, has been embroiled in a serious dispute with a constellation of smaller hassidic sects represented by Porush’s Shlomei Emunim faction in Agudat Yisrael. The tension between the two groups intensified after Rabbi Ya’acov Aryeh Alter, the Gerer Rebbe, did not support Porush in the Jerusalem mayoral elections. Many Ger hassidim actually voted for his secular rival, Nir Barkat, helping him win. Porush’s followers, who feel the Ger hassidim broke an unwritten. . .

J’lem still worried Bush will open interests section in Teheran
Tovah Lazaroff And Hilary Leila Krieger, Jerusalem Post 11/19/2008
Israeli officials still fear that President George W. Bush will open a American interests section in Teheran, despite the strong message US official Stuart Levey carried to them this week that the outgoing administration intends to stay the course of isolating Iran diplomatically. The issue of an office in Teheran, which could deal with cultural matters and issue visas, came up in recent talks Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni held with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Levey, who is the under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence in the Treasury Department. Livni’s spokesman would not reveal what Rice or Levey said regarding an interests section. In a conversation with The Jerusalem Post, the spokesman would only say, "We are still not certain whether they are going to go for it or not.

Iraq, US differ on Iran’s role in military pact
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 11/19/2008
BAGHDAD: Senior US and Iraqi officials differed on Tehran’s role in nailing down a military accord that will allow US troops to remain in Iraq until 2011 as Iran Tuesday sent mixed signals on the deal. The Iraqi Cabinet approved the agreement on Sunday and Parliament was expected on November 24 to take a vote on the wide-ranging pact, which would replace the troops’ UN mandate - acquired after the fact of the 2003 invasion - when it expires on December 31. After months of wrangling, the agreement was eventually accepted by all the major political blocs representing Iraq’s Shiite majority and its Sunni and Kurdish communities. But two senior US officials involved in the protracted negotiations leading up to the deal insisted on Monday that mostly Shiite Iran had done everything it could to pressure Iraqi leaders into refusing the agreement.

Iranian blogger who visited Israel arrested for spying
Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 11/19/2008
Hossein Derakhshan, the Iranian blogger who visited Israel in 2007, was recently arrested in Teheran upon his return from Canada. The Iranian blogger, who also holds Canadian citizenship, admitted to being involved in espionage for Israel, the Iranian news Website Jahan News reported Monday. Jahan News is affiliated with the Iranian intelligence community. The report, citing "credible sources", revealed that Derakhshan’s confession included several "intricate" points. The site noted that Derakhshan attended various conventions in Israel, and quoted Haaretz and Jerusalem Post articles stating that Derakhshan is a friend of Israel. Following his visit to Israel last year, there was a change of tone in Derakhshan’s blog posts, which had previously been supportive of Israel.

’IAF is ready for Iran’s nuclear sites’ Staff, Jerusalem Post 11/18/2008
"We are ready to do whatever is demanded of us" in order to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, IAF commander Maj. -Gen. Ido Nehushtan told German magazine Der Spiegel in an interview published Tuesday. Nehushtan told the magazine that whether a military strike is eventually decided upon is a political question and not an issue of Israel’s military capabilities. A strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities "is a political decision," the IAF commander said, "but if I understand it correctly, all options are on the table"¦ The Air Force is a very robust and flexible force. We are ready to do whatever is demanded of us. " When asked by the paper whether the Israeli military was able to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities, which are spread around the country and partly located underground, Nehushtan said, "Please understand that I do not want to get into details.

NRP votes self out of existence, approves merger with right
Nadav Shragai, Ha’aretz 11/19/2008
The National Religious Party voted itself out of existence yesterday, when an overwhelming majority of delegates to its convention approved a merger with two other parties to form a new religious Zionist party. The other two parties, Moledet and Tekuma, had approved the merger earlier. Prior to the vote, NRP chairman MK Zevulun Orlev urged the several hundred delegates to approve the move. "It would be very easy to remain in our small, comfortable house and perhaps win three to five seats," he said. "But that’s a risk I’m not willing to take. Numbers like that no longer count in Israeli politics. We must become the State of Israel’s third largest party. "Orlev compared yesterday’s decision to the historic merger 52 years ago that formed the NRP out of two other parties, Hamizrahi and Hapoel Hamizrahi. He also stressed that the new, merged party would focus on education and the state’s Jewish character.

For national religious, the party’s over
Nadav Shragai, Ha’aretz 11/19/2008
When the National Religious Party will be asked to issue its own death certificate today, it will be Abraham Marmorstein who will shed a tear. Marmorstein, 87, is one of the party’s founding fathers. NRP’s disappearance into a new, unified rightist party is a painful experience for him. Marmorstein remembers the "historical moment of unification," he says, when the representatives of the Mizrahi and the Hapoel Hamizrahi movements hugged some 52 years ago, after announcing the formation of the NRP - or "Mafdal," as it is known in Israel, after its Hebrew acronym. Marmorstein goes on to say that his eight grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren were all brought up in the spirit of that movement and its institutions. Uri Elitzur, the son of renowned bible scholar Yehuda Elitzur and children’s author Dvora Elitzur, also grew. . .

As NRP folds to create united front, signs of dissent emerge
Matthew Wagner, Jerusalem Post 11/19/2008
More than 1,000 crocheted kippa-wearing members of the National Religious Party voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday evening to disband the 52-year-old party and create a new right-wing list in its stead. Although the vote effectively erased a symbol of religious Zionism from the political map, the atmosphere was festive in the auditorium at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan. "The NRP is returning to its original political line with a new framework and agenda that puts education and Jewish identity at the forefront," said NRP chairman Zevulun Orlev, who led the move. "Creation of a new list will revitalize the party and reinstate the political power it enjoyed in the NRP’s heyday. " A public council of about 40 members will be created and tasked with choosing the new list’s candidates for the 18th Knesset.

Leftists say ’no choice’ but to seek new political leadership
Akiva Eldar, Ha’aretz 11/19/2008
In order to understand the significance of the decision by Gilead Sher and Yossi Kucik to give a hand to the establishment of a new left-center movement, it is worth imagining the following scenario: A few years from now, Yoram Turbowicz, Ehud Olmert’s bureau chief and the Prime Minister’s representative to the negotiations with Syria, and Raanan Gissen, the director general of the Prime Minister’s Office, announce that Kadima, under Olmert’s leadership, "has failed in advancing the ideas in which I believe. "Therefore, the two will say, we are seriously considering a run for the Knesset on a competing list. A similar exercise had been done with Dov Weissglas versus Ariel Sharon. It is no wonder that Kucik and Sher were among the first whom Defense Minister Ehud Barak called following the publication of the report in Haaretz about their joining the expanded Meretz.

New Dovish Faction Shaping up in Israel
Amy Teibel, MIFTAH 11/18/2008
A group of high-profile Israeli politicians, intellectuals and business leaders have banded together to form a new dovish faction ahead of February elections, worried by polls that give hardline opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu a strong chance of winning. The new movement hopes to breathe new life into Israel’s moribund peace movement. But its gains could come at the expense of the mainstream Labor Party, which dominated Israel’s political and economic life for its first three decades. Many of the members are leaving Labor, saying it no longer stands for social equality and isn’t vigorously promoting a peace agenda. " I hope the expanded leftist movement will become a replacement for the Labor Party," the Haaretz daily on Sunday quoted the author Amos Oz as saying. "The Labor Party has finished its historic role, it isn’t putting forward a national agenda and it joins any coalition. "

Defense officials shocked by F-35 price jump
Ran Dagoni, Washington, Globes Online 11/18/2008
"Defense News": The IAF and Defense Ministry are trying to reduce extra features. "Defense News" reports that Ministry of Defense and Israel Air Force officials are "stunned by projected program costs for their Israel-unique version of the F-35" Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), manufactured by Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE: LMT). IAF and Ministry of Defense officials are struggling to pare a hefty list of customized subsystems and add-ons that threaten to ground the aircraft as unaffordable. "Defense News" states that, in September, US F-35 program officials gave rough price and availability data to their Israeli counterparts, who reacted with sticker shock to the price tag of $200 million per plane. Since then, both sides have been seeking a new configuration that can meet IAF performance and budget requirements.

Israel outraged at UN remarks urging end to Gaza blockade
Barak Ravid and Amos Harel and News Agencies, Ha’aretz 11/19/2008
Israel reacted angrily to comments made Tuesday by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, in which she called for an immediate end to its blockade of the Gaza Strip, which she said breached international and humanitarian law. In a statement from her Geneva-based office, Pillay urged Israel to allow the flow of aid including food, medicines and fuel to resume, and to restore electricity and water services in the Hamas-controlled territory. Pillay was also quoted as saying that 1. 5 million Palestinian men, women and children have been forcibly deprived of their most basic human rights for months. She also called for Israel to end airstrikes and incursions in Gaza, and for Palestinian militants to stop firing rockets into Israel.

The man who carried millions in a shopping bag
Yossi Melman, Ha’aretz 11/19/2008
An escaped criminal from France who worked as a money courier for business tycoon Arcadi Gaydamak is hiding in Israel, Haaretz has learned. Gaydamak and his former business partner, Angolan Pierre Falcone, are currently embroiled in the so-called "Angolagate" controversy, currently being tried in Paris. The escaped criminal has been named as 79-year-old Samuel Mandelsaft, who upon arriving in Israel in 2001 Hebraized his name to Shmuel Shaked. Mandelsaft fled France that year after a judge there opened an investigation into the Angolagate affair, a hugely publicized trial involving $790 million of arms sales to Angola during the country’s civil war in the 1990s, and a colorful cast of characters including Jean-Christophe Mitterand, son of former French president Francois Mitterand. In August 2005, France issued an international arrest warrant for Mandelsaft and asked Israel to extradite him.

A tiring cleanup
Zafrir Rinat, Ha’aretz 11/19/2008
It’s been more than a year since the law on tire recycling went into effect, and it was supposed to have solved one of Israel’s worst environmental hazards. However, despite the success reported by the Environmental Protection Ministry, huge open spaces, especially in the south, are still overflowing with tire piles. Under the law, tire manufacturers and importers must collect at least half of all tires sold in Israel, shred them, and send them to landfills or to be recycled. This is the first law in Israel that makes manufacturers and importers directly responsible for the waste created by their product. The manufacturers and importers claim they are collecting nearly 60 percent - even more than currently required. However, operators of large waste and recycling sites say they are receiving too few tires to justify investing in the shredding and recycling operations required by law.

Emergency economic plan stuck fast
Zvi Zrahiya and Moti Bassok, Ha’aretz 11/19/2008
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said this week that he’d support the Finance Ministry’s emergency economic plan if it passed the hurdle of the Knesset Finance Committee. Well, it hasn’t yet. Finance Minister Roni Bar-On’s program has incurred intense opposition in the parliamentary panel, not only among members of the opposition but among Knesset members belonging to the coalition as well - including representatives of the Shas and Labor parties. "It’s an illusion," said Avishay Braverman, Laborite and chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee yesterday. "The [emergency] program has nothing new to offer. It merely recycles old ideas in a new cover. "Knesset sources surmise that Shas will tip the balance one way or the other. Its support won’t be free: Members of the religious party are demanding inflated budgets for day care and other social issues, such as broader assistance and training for the unemployed.

Netanyahu loads Likud list with generals for elections
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 11/19/2008
Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu, who two years ago almost faced a party slate without a general after former defense minister Shaul Mofaz left him for Kadima, is now plush with ex top-brass. He has not one, but three generals in pocket. On the eve of the election, Netanyahu will seek the public’s confirmation with at least one former chief of staff, Moshe Ya’alon, who announced his decision to join Likud on Monday, and two major-generals: Yossi Peled and Uzi Dayan. Labor used to be the generals’ party of choice. But with the resignation of Ami Ayalon, former commander of the Israel Navy, the party has been left with only two ex-military men: Party Chair Ehud Barak, a former Lieutenant General and chief of staff, and his second in command, Major-General (ret. ) Matan Vilnai. Meanwhile, Ya’alon’s entry into Likud puts him at an excellent position to become Netanyahu’s top choice for defense minister.

Strapped parties have to tighten their belts
Zvi Zrahiya, Ha’aretz 11/19/2008
As the parties gear up for primaries, they have to contend with the grim reality. Not the recession seizing much of the developed world: the fact that they’re broke and laden with debt, and that donors seem few and far between. They’ll have to spend less than the law allows, probably around NIS 250 million altogether, because they can’t afford to spend more. The law would allow them to spend about NIS 340 million. As for donations, the law lets the parties tap each household for up to NIS 1,700, and they can’t touch corporate money. As layoffs spread and consumer confidence wanes, the chance of households ponying up 1,700 shekels - or even 1,700 agorot - is growing dimmer. The Knesset allocates NIS 1. 2 million per Knesset member to finance party primaries, but the amount is the average of the number of seats the party had in the outgoing and incoming Knesset.

Alleged sex for favors, bribes uncovered at Lands Administration
Hila Raz, Ha’aretz 11/19/2008
Serial fraud and sex for favors, among other crimes, have been uncovered at the Israel Land Administration. Four ILA workers were remanded Monday on suspicion of serious offenses, including taking graft, fraud and breach of trust and forgery in aggravated circumstances. In total police questioned more than 20 suspects Monday, including lawyers and land surveyors, who are suspected of giving and brokering bribes. The ILA workers are suspected of abusing their powerful position in the ILA, exploiting their access to records and deeper understanding of the ILA’s methods and procedure to commandeer cases outside their area of responsibility or authority. All of the suspects have denied the allegations against them: some admit to the facts but not to culpability. The police also raided the ILA Central and Tel Aviv District offices, and homes of suspects.

Tzipi Livni blasts opposition to economic plan
Lilach Weissman, Globes Online 11/18/2008
"It is infuriating to see political parties trying to make partisan gain at the public’s expense. "Kadima chairwoman and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni today slammed the Labor Party and Shas over their opposition to the Ministry of Finance’s economic recovery plan. She said that their opposition was partisan motivated. Livni said, "It is infuriating to see political parties trying to make partisan gain at the public’s expense. The opposition of the Labor Party and Shas to the emergency plan demonstrates why people should not vote for sector-based parties. " Livni added that opposition to the plan will prevent billions of shekels in investment in infrastructures and support for businesses. "The plan is essential for dealing with the economic crisis and the possible recession, irrespective of the question whether the government should provide remedies to the financial and savings issue," she said.

Likud MKs give Ya’alon cold shoulder
Gil Hoffman, Jerusalem Post 11/18/2008
The Likud’s political acquisitions ahead of its December 8 primary and the February 10 general election concluded on Tuesday when former IDF chief of General Staff Lt. -Gen. Moshe Ya’alon formally announced that he would seek a Knesset seat with the party. Former IDF chief Ya’alon joins Likud Ya’alon accompanied Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu into the press conference room on the 14th floor of the party’s Tel Aviv headquarters wearing a green shirt, reminiscent of the uniform he wore for so many years in the IDF. His entering politics so close to the primary evoked criticism from Likud MKs, whose goal of returning to the Knesset posed more of a challenge as the field of Knesset candidates became even more crowded than before. One Likud MK even compared Ya’alon to much-maligned former Labor MK Ami Ayalon, who left Labor in anger on Sunday a year after failing to win its leadership.

Prominent businesswoman Albin enters Kadima primary race
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 11/18/2008
’I am not a political person by nature, but I couldn’t go on telling myself that life is great,’ Galia Albin tells Ynet. Former Israel Prison Service head Aryeh Bibi to also vie for spot on party’s roster ahead of general elections -Prominent businesswoman Galia Albin and former Israel Prison Service head Aryeh Bibi announced Tuesday their plan to vie for a spot on Kadima’s roster ahead of the February 10 general elections. The party’s primary elections are scheduled for December 17. " I am not a political person by nature, but I couldn’t go on telling myself ’life is great’; as someone who has promoted women’s rights for years, I called on the country’s women to vote for (Kadima leader) Tzipi Livni as early as two weeks ago," Albin told Ynet. Albin, 59, who was one of the first to register as a Kadima member with the party’s foundation in 2005,. . .

Executive, journalist, cop join Kadima
Gil Hoffman, Jerusalem Post 11/18/2008
Kadima played catch-up to the Likud on Tuesday in the battle over well-known figures for the parties’ Knesset lists, drafting a top businesswoman, a Russian-language journalist and a police chief. The new Kadima politicians will compete in the December 16 party primary. Kadima officials said more well-known figures would be revealed in upcoming days, joining recent additions like Jewish Agency chairman Ze’ev Bielski, UJC Israel director-general Nachman Shai and Israel Beiteinu MK Yisrael Hasson. The highest-profile figure Kadima brought in on Tuesday was Galia Albin - a businesswoman, philanthropist and activist for women’s rights, peacemaking and advancing the welfare of children. According to a recent profile on the Israel 21C Web site, Albin holds a slew of titles and positions in both public and private sectors here and abroad.

Yaalon: Withdrawals must end
Amnon Meranda, YNetNews 11/18/2008
Newest addition to Likud holds press conference with Netanyahu, says decision to enter politics followed lengthy deliberation, but he ’couldn’t just sit idly by’ -Israeli territorial withdrawals must stop, former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe (Bogie) Yaalon said Tuesday after officially announcing that he would be joining the Likud Party. During a press conference summoned by Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu, Yaalon said, "My deliberation was not whether to join this or that party, but whether to enter politics. "The former army chief said political life would require him to pay a heavy price, but "because I know the challenges this country faces, I couldn’t allow myself to just sit idly by. " "The challenges Israel faces require a drastic change, considering the feeling of crisis," he said.

POLITICS: Pact Will End Iraqi Dependence on U.S. Military
Analysis by Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service 11/19/2008
WASHINGTON, Nov 18(IPS) - The text of the U. S. -Iraq Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) signed by U. S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari Monday closes the door to a further U. S. military presence beyond 2011 even more tightly than the previous draft and locks in a swift end to Iraqi dependence on the U. S. military that appears to be irreversible. The agreement ends the George W. Bush administration’s aspiration for a long-term military presence, aimed both at projecting power in the region from bases in Iraq and at maintaining that Iraqi military dependence on U. S. training, advice and support. The agreement represents an acute embarrassment for the Bush administration, which had taken the position through most of the summer that the agreement would be consistent with its demand for a "conditions-based" withdrawal.

Iraq hopes pact will see US shift priorities
Middle East Online 11/18/2008
BAGHDAD - Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh hopes the United States will shift its priorities from security to post-war reconstruction as its forces prepare to move out of Iraq. "There should be no more concentration on the military issues, it should be moved to new areas, which is the economy," he said, after the cabinet on Sunday approved a military pact that would see US troops withdraw by the end of 2011. "I think what the Americans have to do now is attract the investor, to bring the investor, and the Iraqi government would have to help them to start the reconstruction here," he said in an interview at his Baghdad residence. The wide-ranging military accord approved by the cabinet, if accepted by Iraq’s parliament and presidential council, would govern the status of over 150,000 US troops in the country after December 31.

No man’s land: Iraqi-Palestinians in Al Tanf camp
Refugees International - RI, ReliefWeb 11/17/2008
Al Tanf camp for Palestinian refugees from Iraq has to be in the top five of worst situated refugee camps in the world. It violates every principle of proper camp siting. In the no man’s land between Syria and Iraq, it is within the border zone itself. It is completely exposed on one side to a highway, where trucks alternately speed by or sit idle for hours at a time waiting to make the border crossing. A 20-foot high concrete wall forms a second boundary. The site itself is in a culvert about 10 feet below the highway, making it a flood plain when it rains heavily. Refugees live in tents in the exposed area, forced to endure summer temperatures that climb well over 100 degrees and winter weather that drops near zero. Last winter, tents collapsed under a heavy snow fall. The only good thing to say about Al Tanf is that it is small --- about 780 people endure life there.


James Zogby and the Politics of Perception
Remi Kanazi, Palestine Chronicle 11/18/2008
      ’Wouldn’t Arab Americans expressing their concerns be a good thing?’
     James Zogby isn’t just an Arab American with an opinion. He is the president of the Arab American Institute (AAI), a well known writer, and an esteemed leader within the Arab American community. Many non-Arab Americans highly regard his analysis and look to his articles as a resource to understand the Middle East.
     This is precisely why his latest article, "Rahm Emanuel and Arab Perceptions" is so disturbing. In the piece, Zogby tries to calm the fears of Arab Americans about Barack Obama’s first appointment, Rahm Emanuel, to White House Chief of Staff. Zogby expressed shock and dismay that his constituency, once euphoric over the election of Obama, was now sending him angry and cynical letters. Zogby described the emails and calls to his office as "troubled and troubling—because much of the reaction was based on misinformation and because of what the entire episode reveals about the larger political dynamic."
     Zogby immediately followed up with what he calls "the facts" (i.e. a long list of Rahm Emanuel’s accomplishments), while conveniently leaving out any of his troubling positions related to the Middle East, namely that he was a staunch supporter of the war in Iraq and he has expressed hawkish pro-Israel views. The forcefulness of Zogby’s tone is elucidated in phrases such as "he knows how to get the job done" and "it’s as simple as that." Right off the bat, Zogby informs his readers that if they don’t understand what a gem Emanuel is, they either cannot properly discern the facts, or their judgments are based on wild misinformation.

Israeli forces arrest Gaza fishermen and solidarity activists

Press release, Al Mezan, Electronic Intifada 11/18/2008
      At around 9am on Tuesday, 18 November 2008, Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) attacked Palestinian fishing boats off the central Gaza Strip’s shore. IOF continued to seal off the Gaza Strip for the thirteenth day in a row, allowing only a limited number of trucks loaded with commodities and food to enter the Strip. The IOF continue to ban the entry of fuel supplies, especially the industrial diesel necessary to run Gaza’s power plant, causing blackouts across the Strip.
     According to Al Mezan’s sources, Israeli gunboats opened fire towards three Palestinian fishing boats. Fishermen and one foreign supporter were aboard each fishing boat. The Israeli gunboats surrounded the fishing boats and arrested Andrew Muncie, 34, an Irish supporter, and four Palestinians. In the last phone call with Vittorio Arrigoni, 33, an Italian colleague of Muncie, he said that the IOF arrested Muncie and the Palestinian fishermen and that another force boarded another fishing boat, which Darlene Wallach, 57, a US supporter, was aboard. He also said that there was another force heading towards the boat he was on before the phone call with the Center was disconnected.
     The three fishing boats sailed today at around 7am from Gaza’s seaport and headed towards the south. The IOF attacked them nearly six nautical miles off al-Nusseirat shore, central Gaza Strip.

Putting a final end to the Israeli soldiers’ arbitrary humiliations on our people

Palestinian National Initiative, Palestine Monitor 11/18/2008
      Ramallah, 18-11-08: Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi MP, the Secretary General of the , strongly condemns the public humiliation carried out by the Israeli army on a Palestinian youth this Tuesday.
     The young man was arrested and stripped publicly at Beit Iba checkpoint, West of the city of Nablus. Dozens of soldiers surrounded the boy and searched him, while he was standing naked in the eye of the crowd. The Israeli army claimed he was in possession of explosive devices.
     However, bystanders are reported as having had doubts regarding the youth actually being in possession of explosives, as the Israeli army often falsely accuses young men in the Nablus directorate as an excuse for public humiliation.
     "The international community and the foreign media should focus and report on those -dramatically common- events. As long as the daily humiliations of the Palestinian people will be kept unreported, the State of Israel will not feel pressurised and will surely not stop its mistreatments", the deputy said. "The most devastating thing is not the daily harassment, but the indifference."

Caught in Bed with Evil

Gilad Atzmon, Palestine Think Tank 11/18/2008
      Crossing points into Gaza have been shut down for almost two weeks, forcing the only power plant there to stop functioning, due to the lack of fuel. Last week, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency ran out of food and stopped rations’ deliveries to 750,000 residents of Gaza.
     Though the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is now immanent, Western media refrains from reporting about the emerging disaster. Apparently, there are far more interesting things to write about, much more interesting than millions of Palestinians who are being starved by the Jewish state.
     However the press was kind enough to report that British foreign minister David Miliband spent some time in Israel this week. He had been very concerned with issues concerning the Avocado and other ethical grocery matters. He wanted to propose a clearer method of labeling food products that are sourced in the occupied west bank and sold to consumers in Britain. This could as well be an opportunity for Britain and the EU to restrain Israel’s lethal enthusiasm, but Miliband failed short, far too short. At the end of the day, Miliband is what you may call a grocery humanist.  His ethical thinking is orientated around nutrition and ethical digestion. This is apparently the most deteriorated and probably the lowest form of left thinking. At least I really want to believe that left cannot go any lower than that.

Ramallah Palestinian Authority blocks website reporting on corruption

Report, Electronic Intifada 11/18/2008
      The Palestinian Authority (PA) in Ramallah has blocked access to a popular news website because of the site’s reporting on widespread corruption among the entourage of PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
     For several days, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have been unable to view the website Donia al-Watan ( ) as access has been blocked through the PA-controlled telecom company. Readers outside Palestine and a few inside the country using proxies are still able to access the site.
     The Electronic Intifada confirmed that several users attempting to access the website in Ramallah and other parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank could not do so and instead saw a message in English stating "We are sorry, the site was blocked based on attorney General instructions [sic]."
     Donia al-Watan operates from the Gaza Strip which is under a tight Israeli siege that has led to severe shortages of food and long periods of darkness as fuel for the territory’s only power plant runs dry. Israel has imposed a news blackout on the Gaza Strip, preventing journalists from entering the territory, hence indigenous Palestinian media are one of the few ways for the outside world to know what is happening in the besieged territory that is home to 1.5 million persons.

Palestinian banks are better than Israeli banks

Sami Peretz, Ha’aretz 11/19/2008
      Jihad al-Wazir, governor of the Palestinian Monetary Authority, was 25 years old when his father, Khalil al-Wazir - better known as Abu Jihad - was assassinated. It happened in their Tunis home in April 1988.
     Foreign press reports accused Israel of his assassination. At the time of the strike, Abu Jihad’s wife and their two young children, Nidal and Hanan, were in the home. Jihad himself, the eldest son of five children, was studying in the United States at the time.
     Abu Jihad was Yasser Arafat’s deputy and the head of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s military operations at the time, and was responsible for several murderous attacks in the 1970s.
     I heard about the assassination on BBC Radio. I came home right away and began to make the arrangements for the funeral in Damascus," he says, in his first interview with Israeli media.
     Asked about his family history and their fate, he said dryly, "I’m a pragmatic person. My interest is that the Palestinians realize their hope for the establishment of an independent state."

A time to speak out

Joel Schalit, The Guardian 11/18/2008
      "Of course it’d happen in the UK first," said the veteran American Jewish peace activist. "They create a diverse – however temporary – coalition, and get a major newspaper to do their publicity for them. We’d never be able to pull something like that off here." For anyone involved in Israeli-Palestinian peace advocacy in the US Jewish community, such statements were all too common as word began to filter out about the emergence of Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) last year.
     Already familiar with the work of a number of the contributors to the IJV series being published at the time in The Guardian, my colleague concluded rather glumly: "It’s not like we don’t have the same drive. The American Jewish left is just too factionalised, and will never get similar support from mainstream national media." The activist’s words held particularly strong significance for me, having just stepped down after two-and-a-half years as the managing editor of the US Jewish left’s original flagship publication, Tikkun.
     Ever since the height of the conflict in Vietnam, American Jews have sought to connect the dots between their liberal politics and their relationship to Israel. Following every major Middle East war there had been a number of attempts to create similar organisations to IJV, none of which achieved any reasonable mass until the early 2000s, when my former employer helped create the Tikkun Community, and other likeminded activists founded parallel national organisations such as Brit Tzedek veh Shalom and Jewish Voice for Peace in light of the collapse of the Oslo process, and the intensification of the settlement enterprise in the occupied territories.

Meet the Lebanese Press: Strategic defense or strategic shift?

Hicham Safieddine, Electronic Lebanon, Electronic Intifada 11/18/2008
      Civil strife usually ends when there is truth and reconciliation. In Lebanon, it subsides when a truce poses as reconciliation. Top Lebanese leaders are doting over each other, calling for a new pact of political rivalry that is confined to the arena of democratic and peaceful confrontation. Meetings between top March 14 and March 8 officials have calmed fears of further clashes on the streets. With the notable exception of Christian leaders, all sectarian heads are trying to unite their ranks in the run up to next year’s parliamentary elections. The combination of the Bush Administration’s exit from the White House and an incoming United States president unlikely to take aggressive measures on the foreign front in the first few months, has forced the pro-US parties to reconsider their options in terms of relations with Syria. It is too early to say whether Lebanon is entering yet another stage of a stronger alliance with Syria but that is the direction in which things have been going lately. Pre-election developments in Lebanon, an upset of Syrian relations with the West or another Arab-Israeli war could tip the balance back. For the time being, questions of border security with Syria, dealing with Salafi groups in Lebanon, and devising a strategic defense policy as an entry point to disarming Hizballah are the hot topics of the press.

Who Will Evict Israel from Lebanon?

Franklin Lamb - Northwest of Ghajar Village, South Lebanon, Palestine Chronicle 11/18/2008
      Hezbollah’s pressure on Israel will likely reward it at the polls.
     "We, as Lebanese, are here to confirm that we cling to freeing every grain of our soil. We will not abandon the great national cause, which is the continuation of the liberation of our land. The resistance looks forward to hoisting the flags of victory again over the Kfarshuba hills, Shebaa Farms, Ghajar and Abbasieh where 80 percent of the land is still occupied" -- Sheik Nabil Qwork, Hezbollah leader addressing villagers at Abbasieh Village, 10/2008 Under pressure from the lame duck Bush Administration to withdraw from territory that the Lebanese Resistance did not liberate during its May 2000 rout of the Israel army and its surrogate SLA militia, Israel to date remains unwilling to budge. One reason is that it claims the Bush Administration reneged on secret pledges to bomb Iran.
     As the unseeing eyes everted by five consecutive US administrations from Israel’s 22 year brutal occupation of South Lebanon (1978-2000) make plain, Israel remaining on Lebanese territory normally would not be of much concern to Washington even as it is learning that its own hard-line policy in the region did not succeed.

President-elect Obama and the prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace

Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada 11/18/2008
      United States President-elect Barack Obama’s election victory has revived hopes that stalled Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations could finally lead to a two-state solution. Few new presidents have been greeted with such optimism and associated high expectations.
     However, the chances for progress depend on more than a new American president. There are several interrelated factors: US engagement, the availability of a viable peace agreement, Israeli and Palestinian internal politics and the broader international situation.
     An examination of these factors indicates that the optimism is unjustified and that President Obama will not be more successful in bringing about a two-state solution to the conflict. This does not however mean that the situation will remain static or that those pursuing a just peace have no recourse for action.
     Early US engagement is not enough Days after Obama’s election, speaking on CNN, Brent Scowcroft, national security advisor to President George Herbert Walker Bush, advised the President-elect to start early on reviving peace negotiations as a way to "psychologically change the mood of the [Middle East] region" and "because the Palestinian issue ... gives the members of the region a deep sense of injustice" (Fareed Zakaria GPS, 12 November 2008). Former US President Jimmy Carter echoed these views, urging Obama to avoid the mistakes of other presidents who waited until their final year in office to push for an agreement (see "Obama will waste no time pursuing Middle East peace," Haaretz, 12 November). In a June speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the pro-Israel lobby, Obama himself pledged, "to do all I can to advance the cause of peace from the start of my administration."