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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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23 November, 2008

Abu Kamel of the al-Kurd family has died two weeks after Israel forcibly evicted him from his home of 52 years
International Solidarity Movement 11/23/2008
Jerusalem Region - Abu Kamel of the Al-Kurd family, evicted by Israel from their home in Occupied East Jerusalem on the 9th November, has died after suffering from a severe heart-attack. This comes two weeks after he was taken immediately to hospital following the night-time invasion and forcible eviction from his home of 52 years by Israeli forces. The funeral will be held at 11am, 23rd November in Sheikh Jarrah, Occupied East Jerusalem. Suffering from dangerously high blood pressure, in the aftermath of his family’s eviction from the emblematic house in Sheikh Jarrah and consequently being left homeless, 61 year-old Abu Kamel suffered from a deterioration with his long-term health problems and was re-admitted to hospital at around 10pm, Saturday 22nd November. It was soon announced that he had suffered from a heart-attack and died.

’Lives at risk’ from Gaza fuel cuts
Al Jazeera 11/23/2008
Patients at the largest hospital in the Gaza Strip could die if Israel continues to prevent fuel and essential supplies to the territory, doctors have told Al Jazeera. Shifa hospital in Gaza City is using a faulty generator to operate essential equipment since Gaza’s main power plant restricted supplies due to a lack of fuel from Israel. "Officials both here at the hospital and from the Red Cross describe the situation as critical," Ayman Mohyeldin, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Gaza, said. "Almost every part of the intensive care unit runs on electricity which comes from Gaza’s main power plant. . . that plant is run on fuel from Israel, but no supplies have reached the plant for well over a week now. "Hassan Khalaf, director of Shifa hospital, said the intensive care unit could be rendered useless and lives were being put at risk.

Israeli army attacks children’s demonstration in Ni’lin
International Solidarity Movement 11/23/2008
On November 20th at 1pm a demonstration for the children of Ni’lin against the construction of the illegal annexation wall gathered in the centre of the village. The demonstration was organised to mark the Universal Children’s Day The children of Ni’lin had made signs saying "no to the wall" and "we will never forget what you did to Yousef and Ahmed". The last, referring to 10 year old Ahmed Mousa, who was shot and killed by Israeli soldiers at close range with live ammunition earlier this year close to the construction site of the annexation wall outside of Ni’lin. Yousef Amaira, 17, was killed as the Israeli army shot him twice in the head with rubber-coated steel bullets as they attacked Ahmed’s funeral. The demonstration was joined by international and Israeli solidarity activists. As the demonstration non-violently moved towards the construction site of the wall, Israeli. . .

In reversal, Abbas says he will call elections if talks with Hamas fail; Hamas rejects snap poll
Ma’an News Agency 11/23/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced on Sunday that he will call for parliamentary and presidential elections at the beginning of 2009 if talks the Hamas movement fail. The announcement is a reversal for Abbas, who had previously sought an extension on his term in order to stay on through 2010. Hamas, holds a majority of seats in the Palestinian parliament, has insisted that Abbas step down at the end of his term in January. The most recent attempt to reconcile Abbas’ Fatah faction with Hamas failed when Hamas pulled out of planned talks in protest of a campaign of arrests against Hamas members in the West Bank. Fatah’s refusal to commit to elections in 2009 also contributed to Hamas’ decision to boycot the Egyptian-sponsored summit. Abbas made this statement during a meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Central Council. . .

Ya’alon: Israel must ’consider killing Ahmadinejad’
Haaretz Staff and Agencies, Ha’aretz 11/24/2008
Former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Moshe Ya’alon was quoted as saying by an Australian newspaper this week that the West must consider all options necessary to stop Tehran’s nuclear program, including assassinating Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. "We have to confront the Iranian revolution immediately," Ya’alon said in an interview with The Sydney Morning Herald, published this morning in Australia. "There is no way to stabilize the Middle East today without defeating the Iranian regime. The Iranian nuclear program must be stopped. " When asked whether "all options" included a military deposition of Ahmadinejad and the rest of Iran’s current leadership, Ya’alon told The Herald: "We have to consider killing him. All options must be considered. "Israeli media, meanwhile, quoted an aide to Ya’alon as saying the former chief of staff never suggested assassination, just defeating the Iranian regime.

Official Israeli study recommends deal with Syria, blocking of Palestinian polls
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 11/24/2008
The NSC report. . . urges Israel to "prevent an election in the Palestinian Authority, even at the cost of a confrontation with the United States and the international community. "- OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israel should pursue peace talks with Syria next year to help contain perceived threats from Iran’s nuclear program and Hamas, says an internal Israeli government report, which also highlighted the need to halt Palestinian democracy. Compiled by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s National Security Council (NSC) and published in part by an Israeli newspaper on Sunday, the report argues for "paying the heavy price" of an accord with Syria - the return of the Occupied Golan Heights in line with international law. All Israeli presence on occupied land violates numerous UN resolution as well as international law. A senior Israeli official involved in preparing the report said US President-elect Barack

Two Palestinians wounded in an Israeli shelling to Gaza
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 11/23/2008
Palestinian medical sources in the Gaza Strip reported on Saturday at night that two Palestinians were wounded in Israeli artillery shelling to Beit Hanoun town, in the northern part of the Gaza Strip. The sources added that one of the wounded residents suffered moderate wounds. The Palestinian News Agency, WAFA, reported that the army fired a surface-to-surface missile at the town. Furthermore, the army shelled several homes in Al Qarara town, east of Khan Younis, in the southern parts of the Gaza Strip. Also, WAFA reported that soldiers stationed east of Khan Younis, opened fire at a number of homes in the area causing damage; no injuries were reported. Meanwhile, Israeli sources reported that Palestinian fighters fired two homemade shells at Sderot town, and one shell at (Asqalan) Ashkelon; no injuries were reported.

The Palestinian Medical Relief Society and Physicians for Human Rights - Israel
Palestinian Medical Relief Society - PMRS, Palestine Monitor 11/23/2008
"Access to healthcare for all - solidarity with the Gazans" ’’Staying silent is being complicit. Speak out!’’During the past week, The Gaza Strip has been -harsher than usually- cut off from the rest of the world and its residents deprived from their most basic rights. For a week, the entry points of the Strip have been closed, isolating Gaza from heath care access, electricity and fuel supplies and humanitarian assistance. The Israeli siege that has started in 2006 has already lead to the death of 260 patients as Gaza Strip hospitals ran out of medical supplies while Israel barred the patients from leaving the area for medical treatment abroad. . . . . Background - Since 2006, 1. 5 million of Gazan citizens are facing a serious humanitarian crisis, when the western donors cut their financial help to the people. Since 2006, PMRS has intensified its emergency activities in the Gaza Strip in response to the overwhelming need for primary and emergency healthcare services.

Medical relief groups call for action against Gaza siege
Ma’an News Agency 11/23/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an - The Palestinian Medical Relief Society and the Israeli group Physicians for Human Rights called for a demonstration in the West Bank city of Ramallah to protest the closure of the Gaza Strip. In a joint statement the groups said, “Prolonged border closures and the fuel and electricity cuts are having a direct and very negative effect on primary, emergency and specialized healthcare services. ”“Stocks of medicines are depleted or exhausted, fragile equipment needs repairs and spare parts, and electricity cuts prevent the reliable operation of life-saving equipment (incubators, dialysis machines, etc),” they added. Israel has imposed a total blockade on Gaza since 4 November, intensifying months of closure. At least 90 medical equipments, including 31 dialysis machines, are out of order as they need parts not found in Gaza.

Meshaal chastises Arabs for silence on Gaza
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 11/24/2008
DAMASCUS: The exiled political chief of the Palestinian Hamas movement on Sunday slammed Arab and Islamic states for keeping silent over Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip. "What is happening in the Gaza Strip is a tragedy. Shame on those who stay silent on the criminal blockade that has been imposed on Gaza. Shame on Arab and Islamic regimes and on the international community," Khaled Meshaal told a meeting in Syria on the right of return for Palestinian refugees - a right enshrined in international law. "Every Arab country could send a boat to Gaza" to break the blockade imposed since Hamas won parliamentary elections in 2006, Meshaal said. Boats from Cyprus carrying international peace activists have been able to do so three times in the past three months. Israel tightened the siege after Hamas pre-empted what many have described as a US-backed offensive by the rival Fatah. . .

Hamas-run ministry says Alshifa hospital runs out of cooking gas
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 11/23/2008
The Hamas-run health ministry announced on Sunday that cooking gas the Alshifa hospital, one of the largest Gaza hospitals, has run out due to the continued Israeli closure of the coastal territory for three weeks now. In a statement, emailed to media outlets, the ministry warned of an imminent crisis at the hospital , as hundreds of patients are going to be deprived of proper food services on daily basis. " the most significant part of the impact for lack of cooking gas is the hospital’s laundry, especially for the operation rooms’ tools, the satatement explained. The ministry’s statement called on the free world to intervene immediately to prevent a humanitarian crisis across the Gaza Strip, home to 1. 5 million residents, as Israel continues closure of the territory under the pretext of homemade shells fire into nearby Israeli areas.

Gaza bakeries resort to ''secondary'' wheat used to feed birds
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 11/23/2008
Abdul-Nasser Al Ajrami, head of the Association of Bakeries in the Gaza Strip, reported on Saturday that all bakeries in the coastal region resorted since Saturday morning to grinding "secondary wheat" which is used to feed the birds and certain animals. As the unjust and illegal Israeli siege emptied the Gaza Strip from the basic and fundamental needs, including wheat, food products and medicine, the bakeries in the Gaza Strip had to fine-grind the secondary wheat in order to bake bread. Al Ajrami stated in a press release that "Gaza bakeries had to resort to bad wheat, used in feeding birds and animals, in an attempt to provide the residents with bread". All bakeries had to stop working two days ago due to the absence of wheat. The bakeries also had to stop working due to the power blackout and fuel shortages which forced more that 25 bakeries to shut down.

Gaza Strip tunnel collapses with Palestinian workers inside
Ma’an News Agency 11/23/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – A tunnel in the Gaza Strip collapsed on Sunday morning, trapping Palestinian workers underground, Ma’an’s correspondent reported from the scene. According to the correspondent, de facto civil defense authorities and medical personnel are in the area, "struggling to rescue the people from under the debris. " De facto civil defense personnel and medics pulled three people from the debris of a tunnel collapse on the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip on Sunday, sources announced. Palestinians were working inside the tunnel on Sunday morning, when it suddenly collapsed, trapping several under the debris in the As-Salam neighborhood of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Palestinian medical sources said the three were taken to Abu Yousif An-Najjar Hospital, but that only one had sustained critical injuries.

IOA keeps Gaza borders shut for 19th day
Palestinian Information Center 11/23/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Israeli war minister, Ehud Barak, decided at an early hour on Sunday to retain all Gaza Strip’s commercial crossings closed for the 19th consecutive day at the pretext that resistance missiles were still being fired at Israeli targets adjacent to the Strip. The Hebrew radio quoted Israeli officials as claiming that preparations were under way to open the crossings but the fall of more missiles led to their continued closure. Dr. Ekmeleddin Ä°hsanoÄŸlu, the secretary general of the organization of Islamic conference, severely criticized the international community for remaining silent towards the Israeli occupation authority’s practices against Gaza. He urged the world and the quartet committee to act against the Israeli "intransigence", and to pressure the IOA into ending its "oppressive siege" of Gaza.

The Popular Committee Against the Siege starts collecting medicine to send to Gaza
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 11/23/2008
The Arabs48 news website reported on Saturday at night that the Popular Committee Against the Siege started collecting medicine and medical supplies from a number of European countries in order to send medical aid to the Gaza Strip. The strict and internationally barred siege was imposed on the Gaza Strip nearly three years ago and border crossings only opened for sporadic periods. The Israeli army is barring the residents from leaving the Gaza Strip for medical treatment abroad and is also denying the entry of medicine and medical supplies into the coastal region. Anwar Al Gharbi, a founding member of the Committee, said that a campaign was launched earlier this month in order to collect donated medicine and medical equipment from different parts of Switzerland, Italy and a number of other European countries.

Gaza Catholics without Sunday mass: Pope’s diplomatic envoy barred from Strip
Ma’an News Agency 11/23/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The Catholic faithful in Gaza had no mass on Sunday when Israel barred a senior church envoy and several priests from entering the Strip. In a statement the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem said Papal Nuncio in Israel Archbishop Antonio Franco and priests Shawki Baterian and Humam Khzouz arrived at the Erez border crossing at 8:15 on Sunday morning expecting to be permitted to enter the Strip. The Latin Patriarchate said it had been in contact with the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and senior Israeli Army command regarding the visit since Tuesday. Red Cross and United Nations teams were allowed to enter Gaza on Sunday while the Catholic delegation waited at the border. The clerics were en route to Gaza to celebrate mass “at the Holy Family Church in Gaza with local faithful the last Sunday before advent season begins, to highlight that the Holy. . .

Mishaal: What is happening to Gaza is big shame on the Arabs
Palestinian Information Center 11/23/2008
DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- Head of Hamas’s political bureau Khaled Mishaal has condemned Sunday the unexplainable Arab and international indifference to the suffering of the Palestinian citizens in Gaza, describing what is happening in Gaza as "big shame on the Arab Ummah". Mishaal’s straight remarks were uttered as he spoke to participants in the international Arab conference for the Right of Return that was held in the Syrian capital Damascus, criticizing Egypt’s insistence to keep the Rafah crossing point sealed off despite the looming catastrophe in Gaza Strip. "Don’t leave the sea to foreign sympathisers"¦. all Arab states could send boats to Gaza"¦. ," underlined Mishaal. Futile negotiations: Reacting to the unfruitful Israeli-PA negotiations, Mishaal said that Hamas strongly condemns those negotiations, and puts big question mark on them, especially that it continues amidst the Palestinian political division.

Mash’al: Arab states should challenge Gaza blockade
Ma’an News Agency 11/23/2008
Damascus - Ma’an – Exiled Hamas political leader Khalid Mash’al appealed to the consciences of Arab states on Sunday to challenge the Israeli blockade of Gaza. "What happens in Gaza is shame on Arabs and Muslims as well as on international community," said Mash’al, speaking at the opening of a conference on the rights of Palestinian refugees in Damascus. "Each Arab country can send a ship through the sea to Gaza," he added. He also said that the blockade is against Arab and Islamic law. Mash’al also called on the newly-elected US President Barak Obama to take action to improve the Palestinian situation. He said that Obama’s election signifies a ‘big change. ’He also called for Arab countries notto engage in normalization with Israel, referring to the 2002 Arab peace initiative, which offers Israel full diplomatic relations in exchange for an end of its occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and the Syrian Golan Heights.

Hamas: factions agreed to stopping homemade shells fire
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 11/23/2008
Gaza-based Palestinian factions agreed yesterday night to stopping homemade shells fire from Gaza into Israeli areas after Israel requested Egyptian mediators that such fire stops in return for reopening Gaza’s crossings, Hamas sources revealed. Hamas spokesman in Gaza, Ayman Taha, told media outlets that the chief of Egyptian intelligence, Omar Suleiman, contacted Hamas’s leadership on Friday overnight, conveying the Israeli request. " representatives of the various factions met yesterday night in Gaza and agreed to stop the homemade shells fire in return for reopening the Gaza Strip’s crossings, which Israel closed three weeks ago", Taha made clear. Meanwhile, Israel kept the crossings closed on Sunday, under the pretext of firing two homemade shells into nearby Israeli areas. For the third week now, Israel places Gaza. . .

Barak: We’ll open Gaza crossings if Hamas holds its fire
Roni Sofer and Ali Waked, YNetNews 11/23/2008
Armed Palestinian groups say agreed to Israeli proposal it would open Gaza crossings after calm is maintained for 24 hours; Jerusalem officials continue to reject claim Strip in midst of humanitarian crisis - Ehud Barak’s office said Sunday that if Hamas upholds the ceasefire and refrain from launching Qassam rockets for 24 consecutive hours, the defense minister will instruct the security establishment to open the goods crossings between Israel and Gaza. Hamas said earlier in the day that it had accepted an official ceasefire proposal from Israel, which the Islamist group said was relayed via Egyptian mediators. Sources in Jerusalem stressed that prior to opening the crossings Barak will consult with senior security personnel, including IDF and Shin Bet officials. Meanwhile, Israel is continuing to deny that reports coming from Gaza according. . .

Barak orders Israeli army to continue Gaza blockade
Ma’an News Agency 11/23/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak decided to keep the Gaza Strip crossing points closed on Sunday. Israeli authorities were preparing to reopen the crossing points, yet after Palestinian fighters launched homemade projectiles last night towards Israeli targets, it was decided that the borders would remain closed. Later on Sunday, an agreement was reached between Palestinian resistance factions in the Gaza Strip and Israel, according to an announcement from Hamas. The agreement centers around a pledge to stop firing on Israeli targets in return for Israel opening crossing points into the besieged strip, a top Hamas leader said. ***Updated 12:25 Bethlehem time

Egypt reportedly brokers Hamas-Israel ceasefire, easing blockade of Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 11/23/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – An agreement has been reached between Palestinian resistance factions in the Gaza Strip and Israel, Hamas announced on Sunday. The agreement centers around a pledge to stop firing on Israeli targets in return for Israel opening crossing points into the besieged Strip, a top Hamas leader said. Hamas official Ayman Taha announced that he had received a telephone call from Egyptian intelligence on Friday, which delivered a message from Israel asking that operations be scrapped in exchange for opening the crossing points. There was no comment from Israel regarding the reported agreement. Israel has maintained a near-total closure of Gaza since 4 November. The Strip’s 1. 5 million residents are facing widespread food and electricity shortages. “We met with factions in the Gaza Strip and told them about the request.

Pilgrims protest at Rafah crossing holding pictures of Saudi king
Ma’an News Agency 11/23/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Dozens of Palestinian pilgrims protested on Sunday afternoon at the Rafah Crossing in the south of Gaza Strip after being prevented from leaving for Saudi Arabia. The pilgrims held pictures of King of Saudi Arabia Abdallah Ibn Abd Al-Aziz and chanted slogans calling on Egypt and Saudi Arabia to ease travel regulations in order to allow them to go on the Hajj, the once in a lifetime Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca. These travel restrictions preventing Gaza residents from crossing into Saudi Arabia have been in effect since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in June 2007. The Director of the Religious Affairs Ministry in the central part of Gaza, Yousef Farahat, announced on Sunday that the ministry has completed all preparations for Hajj this year, and called on Saudi Arabia to issue the pilgrims their required visas.

The military implications if the Gaza cease-fire collapses
Jeffrey White, Jerusalem Post 11/23/2008
Clashes, rocket fire, and threats of escalation are challenging the five-month-old cease-fire between Hamas and Israel in Gaza. In the past two weeks, Israeli forces have reportedly killed 17 Palestinian fighters, while militant groups in Gaza have fired more than 140 rockets into Israel. Despite the benefits of the cease-fire - for Israel, the end of cyclical clashes, rocket attacks and civilian casualties, and for Hamas, a reprieve from Israel’s intense military and economic pressure - there is no guarantee it will hold. As such, it is worth considering how the cease-fire might end, what renewed conflict might look like, and what this means for Israel’s long-term confrontation with Hamas. Hamas’s military buildup - Hamas’s military capabilities have grown since 2005 as a consequence of four major developments: Israel’s August 2005 disengagement from Gaza,. . .

A group of fighters survive an Israeli military attack in Gaza
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 11/23/2008
A group of Gaza fighters survived today morning an Israeli military attack in northern attack, media sources reported. A large explosion was heard in the southern entrance of the northern city of Beit Hanoun, witnesses said. Witnesses added that a group of fighters were seen in the scene of the explosion , as an apparently Israeli land-to-land missile was fired in the place. Spokesman of the Israeli army, Afihay Ader’y, was quoted by Palestinian media outlets as saying that the attack targeted a group of ’militants’. " we confirm targeting a group of missiles launchers in northern Gaza, who fire missiles toward the areas, close to northern Gaza", the Israeli army spokesman explained. Meanwhile, Israeli media sources reported that three homemade shells landed earlier in the day into the southern Israeli towns of Ashkelon (Almajdal) and Sderot, with no causalities reported.

Hamas: IOF commitment to calm articles pre-condition to stabilize ceasefire
Palestinian Information Center 11/23/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement on Sunday said that maintaining the calm agreement with the Israeli occupation forces in the Gaza Strip was linked to the IOF commitment to all conditions of the agreement. Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said in a press statement that ending the siege on Gaza was an important factor in stabilizing the calm. He added that another important article is opening all crossings including that of Rafah and a complete halt to attacks. He noted that a meeting was held between PA premier Ismail Haneyya in Gaza and all factions including Hamas to discuss the Israeli request to stabilize the calm in return for opening the crossings. Barhoum said that all were in agreement that the IOA was the one that violates the calm and does not abide by it, and added that all factions said that they would abide by the calm in the event the IOF abided by all its articles.

PLC & gov’t renew appeals for Gaza pilgrims
Palestinian Information Center 11/23/2008
RAFAH, (PIC)-- Dr. Ahmed Bahar, the acting PLC speaker, has renewed an appeal to the Saudi monarch and his crown prince to issue instructions to issue visas for the Gaza pilgrims to perform Haj (pilgrimage) in Saudi Arabia. Bahar, addressing a march near the Rafah crossing afternoon Saturday, said that the Palestinian people in Gaza are deprived of all life necessities and now they are even deprived of the right to perform Haj. He asked all Arab leaders and the world at large to open the Rafah crossing before pilgrims, students, patients and the stranded. The acting speaker underlined that the Palestinian people would never surrender rights and constant or bow to blackmail and were demanding their rights and needs in absolute dignity. For his part, Dr. Taleb Abu Sha’ar, the Awakf minister in the caretaker government in Gaza, addressed an urgent appeal to the Saudi leadership to expedite facilitating travel of Gaza pilgrims.

Report: Gaza militants agree to cease rocket fire if Israel opens crossings
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 11/24/2008
Hamas announced on Sunday that militant groups in Gaza have agreed to cease cross-border rocket attacks if Israel opens crossings into the coastal territory, Ma’an news reported. The Palestinian news agency quoted Hamas official Ayman Taha as saying that the militant groups reached the deal with Israel after it was the proposal was relayed to them by Egypt. According to Ma’an news, Taha said: "We met with factions in the Gaza Strip and told them about the request. They agreed in order to ease the influence of the siege. " The reported move came amid a flare up in cross-border violence that has threatened to scupper the five-month truce between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. In the latest violation of the fragile cease-fire, Palestinian militants in Gaza fired two Qassam rockets into the western Negev on Sunday evening, according to Israel Radio.

IDF: Retaking Gaza will cost NIS 17 million a day
Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 11/24/2008
Reoccupation of part of the Gaza Strip, should the government agree to it, will cost NIS 17 million per day, according to the Israel Defense Forces. That sum would only be enough to cover the immediate humanitarian needs of the Palestinian population that would be under the control of Israel, the IDF said during a recent defense establishment discussion of the options regarding the Strip. That assessment relates only to the specific section of Gaza the IDF is liable to capture if a major operation takes place. The amount was calculated about a year ago, when Israel was preparing for the possibility of recapturing the Strip during an escalation of violence there. The basic needs covered by the money are those an occupying force is obligated to provide for under international law, such as baby formula, diapers and a basic food package for all residents.

Israel’s Wall puts Emad Burnat of Bil’in and his children in hospital.
International Solidarity Movement 11/23/2008
Bil’in Village - At 5:20 pm on Saturday 22nd November, Bi’lin Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements member, EmadBurnat, was admitted to hospital in very serious condition after his tractor flipped over against Israel’s Apartheid Wall. The wall - which in Bil’in is composed of metal fence and barbwire - cuts through the village’s farmland. The video documenter of the Bi’lin’s anti-wall struggle was returning with his children from plowing his fields when he was forced to detour down a steep hill in order to return to the village because the wall separates his home from his land. Loosing control of the tractor on the sharp decline, it overturned directly into the metal mesh and razor wire. While his children were taken to hospital in Ramallah, the army medic who treated Burnat decided to send him to the Tel Aviv hospital out of fear that he wouldn’t make to Ramallah alive.

Three people injured as Israeli forces attack demonstration against Homesh settlement
International Solidarity Movement 11/23/2008
Nablus Region - Photos - Three people were injured near Homesh settlement on Friday 21st November, when Israeli military force fired tear gas and rubber bullets into a non-violent demonstration. For the second week in a row, approximately 100 Palestinians from the villages of Burqa, Sebastiya, Beit Imreen, Talluza, Deir Sharaf and Silat adh Dhahr, as well as international activists, were stopped by more than 40 Israeli soldiers and police as they marched towards the evacuated settlement. Israeli military forces had blocked the road with coils of razor wire, behind which soldiers and police lined up with weapons readied, despite the clearly non-violent nature of the demonstration. Prevented from entering their lands by the Israeli forces, the Palestinian villagers held Friday prayers by the razor wire, before they were viciously attacked with tear gas and rubber bullets in response. . .

Six people injured as Israeli forces attack Ni’lin prayer demonstration
International Solidarity Movement 11/23/2008
Ramallah Region - On Friday 21st of November a prayer demonstration was held in Ni’lin. During the demonstration 6 people were injured including one international activist who was shot by a teargas canister in his arm. Other demonstrators suffered by gas inhalation and rubber coated steal bullets. During the prayer, two jeeps parked out in the fields close to the site where the prayer was being held. As the demonstrators tried to enter the field on their way to the construction site, the army directly started firing teargas and rubber coated steal bullets in attempt to hit peoples bodies. The army kept close to the village, firing also at people standing on balconies and rooftops during a couple of hours. After the army pulled back the demonstration was able to enter the fields but was again violently attacked by the army and shot at with live ammunition despite an international presence, violating their own military order.

Over 500 villagers of Jayyus and internationals destroy part of the apartheid Wall surrounding the village
International Solidarity Movement 11/23/2008
Qalqilya Region - On Friday 21 November over 500 villagers from Jayyus and international activists gathered to take part in a peaceful demonstration against the apartheid Wall that for 6 years has separated them from their land and vital olive crop. Villagers destroyed sections of the Wall, sparking confrontations with the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) and the invasion of the village. Following the Friday prayer, more than 500 protesters advanced on the Wall’s gate in the south of the village. The IOF was not present, and villagers proceeded to destroy the gate and the surrounding Wall and enter their lands. Occupation forces arrived on the scene after the Wall was destroyed, firing on the crowd with tear gas and sound bombs as well as rubber coated steel bullets and live ammunition. Upon pushing the villagers away from the Wall, the army forced its way into the village, where the demonstration continued in the village.

Palestinian expert says Israeli torture of Palestinian prisoners is ‘routine’
Ma’an News Agency 11/23/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – It came as no surprise to Abdun-Nasser Farawna when the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronot published a report about a “top secret” Israeli intelligence document authorizing the use of torture against Palestinian prisoners. Farawna, a former prisoner and an expert in prisoners’ affairs, said torture “began in 1967 as a policy which later got legal coverage and judicial immunity. It aims at destroying Palestinian and Arab prisoners both physically and psychologically. ”To Farawna, Israel’s use of torture is neither secret nor new. Farawna said the legalization of torture in Israel dates back at least to thereport of a government commission headed by Supreme Court President Moshe Landau in 1987. Landau was charged with examining government interrogation techniques. His committee came up with a two-part report.

Jailed activist accuses Israeli prison guards of torture
Ma’an News Agency 11/23/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - An International Solidarity Movement (ISM) activist detained in an Israeli jail condemned Israel on Saturday for conditions that he said qualified as "real torture. " Vittorio Arrigoni accused Israel of treatment "manifestly violating every human and civil right" during his ongoing detainment in an Israel jail in Ramle, calling Israeli actions toward himself and two others "against every international law. " Arrigoni is an ISM activist detained in an Israeli prison since his arrest on a Gaza fishing boat. He apparently gave up on a previously announced hunger strike in exchange for his telephone, according to the activist. "In order to report these regrettable events I had to stop my hunger strike so that I could have back my telephone," he said. In a statement received by Ma’an, Arrigoni wrote that he had spent recent hours "locked in a piggish toilette full of fleas and parasites and without drinking water.

Soldiers invade Burqa demanding fingerprints on unknown Hebrew documents
International Solidarity Movement 11/23/2008
Nablus Region - Photos - On 8th November 2008, at 1:15am, more than 20 Israeli soldiers invaded the village of Burqa, near Nablus, throwing over 100 sound bombs throughout the area. The soldiers entered fifteen houses in the village, forcing villagers at gunpoint to fingerprint mysterious documents written in Hebrew. Gharib Saif stands in front of his house, looking slightly embarrassed as he recalls the night almost one week ago when Israeli soldiers invaded his home, dragging all of his family out into the cold night, with a gun to his wife’s head. At 2am the soldiers woke the family with sound bombs, before entering the house through the small convenience store the family run underneath. Gharib had been out harvesting olives for many days, and explains that he was very, very tired. Initially, explains his wife, Nihaya, four soldiers entered the house, screaming that they wanted to. . .

Israeli forces seize three Palestinian youths near Jenin
Ma’an News Agency 11/23/2008
Jenin – Ma’an – Israeli forces arrested on Saturday evening three Palestinian youths from the northern West Bank village of Zabbuba, west of Jenin, after ransacking their homes. Palestinian security sources named the arrestees as 20-year-old Bilal Zaghal, 17-year-old Munir Jaradat and 19-year-old Adnan Sha’ban. Local sources told Ma’an that Israeli military patrols besieged the three homes and forced residents to evacuate "for inspection" before arresting the three youths. [end]

Army chief: We must uphold rule of law in Hebron
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 11/23/2008
During visit to IDF induction base, Gabi Ashkenazi says most West Bank settlers good people but ’small part are not’, vows to deal with lawbreakers -After a relatively peaceful weekend at the disputed house in Hebron which the High Court of Justiceordered be evacuated, IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi said Sunday, "It is very important that we uphold the rule of law. "Speaking at the IDF induction base in Tel Hashomer, Ashkenazi added that most of the residents of the West Bank were good, quality people. Nonetheless, Ashkenazi said, "Unfortunately, a small part is not like that. "We will deal with the lawbreakers. I am also sorry for some of the things that were said, that even contradict the Jewish tradition, and we are still committed to upholding the rule of law and so we shall"¦we will prefer talking and will utilize every way we can, because at the end of the day the law is the law and we will uphold it.

NY resident: We’ll stay in Hebron till the end
Efrat Weiss, YNetNews 11/23/2008
Settlers living in Hebron’s disputed house pledge nonviolence, but warn forcible eviction will meet fierce resistance. Among those who moved into building recently are Brooklyn residents Nahum and Revital Almagor, their 15-year-old daughter - The disputed house in the West Bank city of Hebron saw a tense, but quiet weekend, during which only a handful of clashes erupted between security forces and members of the city’s Jewish community. On Sunday, thousands of worshipers who arrived on the premises as a show of support left Hebron, as only 20 families and about 300 youths chose to stay in the house, ahead of its evacuation. The controversy surrounding the house stems from opposing proprietary claims: The settlers claim the house was bought by a member of the community, while its Palestinian owner denies the sale, claiming the Jewish settlers living in the house are squatters.

Hebron family faces threat of displacement by settlers
Ma’an News Agency 11/23/2008
Hebron – Ma’an – The Hebron Rehabilitation Committee called on the UN and other humanitarian organizations to protect the Palestinian population of the old city of Hebron, currently under Israeli control, on Sunday. Highlighting the Fourth Geneva Convention which states that civilians under occupation must receive appropriate treatment by their occupiers, the Committee appealed to these organizations to place pressure on Israel to stop human rights violations against civilians. “Fifty-seven-year-old Khalifa Da’na and his 17 family members are facing the threat of displacement from Jewish settlers in the Givat Harsina settlement, [a settlement] illegally built on Palestinian land,” the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee explained. They also pointed out that the family is facing a life threat now that settlers have demolished long portions of the fence surrounding their home.

Iran hangs Mossad spy, promises more vigorous intelligence war
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 11/24/2008
TEHRAN: Iran has hanged an Iranian telecoms salesman convicted of spying for arch-enemy Israel, a senior official said on Saturday, warning that a "more serious intelligence war" had begun with the Jewish state. "Ali Ashtari, who spied for the Zionist regime intelligence service [Mossad], was hanged on Monday November 17," the state news agency IRNA said, quoting the Intelligence Ministry’s counter-espionage director, whose name was not given. "He had spied for Mossad for three years," the official said, adding that "his espionage was so evident," that there had never been any hope of a successful appeal against the verdict. Ashtari, 45, had been accused of involvement in a plot run by the Israeli secret services to intercept the communications of Iranian officials working in the military and its contested nuclear program.

U.K. urges Gulf states to press Iran over nuclear program
Reuters, Ha’aretz 11/24/2008
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband will urge Gulf Arab states on Monday to step up pressure on Iran over its nuclear program by imposing financial restrictions and tightening export controls. In a speech in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Miliband will say that the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran poses the most immediate threat to Middle East stability. He will say Britain is keen to work with Gulf countries on dealing with the Iranian nuclear question, according to an advance text of his speech. "You offer serious incentives for economic cooperation - in terms of closer economic ties or preferential trade arrangements - if Iran plays by the rules," Miliband will tell an event hosted by the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research, a think tank.

Report: Yaalon said Israel should consider killing Ahmadinejad
YNetNews 11/23/2008
Sidney Morning Herald quotes former IDFA chief as saying ’all options’, including killing Iranian leader, must be considered to defeat regime in Tehran -"We have to confront the Iranian revolution immediately. There is no way to stabilize the Middle East today without defeating the Iranian regime. The Iranian nuclear program must be stopped. All tools, all options, should be considered," former IDF Chief of StaffMoshe Yaalon was quoted as saying by the Sidney Morning Herald on Sunday. According to the report, asked whether "all options" included the decimation of the Iranian leadership by military strikes, including on President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Yaalon replied, "We have to consider killing him. " Sidney Morning Herald reporter Paul Sheehan, who interviewed Yaalon at Jerusalem’s Shalem Center last week, further quoted the new Likud Party member. . .

Ya’alon quoted suggesting Israel should mull killing Ahmadinejad
Yaakov Katz And Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post 11/23/2008
Israel should consider assassinating Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, former IDF chief of General Staff Lt. -Gen. (res. ) Moshe Ya’alon reportedly told an Australian newspaper. "We have to consider killing him," Ya’alon told the Sydney Morning Herald. "All options must be considered. " Ya’alon’s aide denied Sunday that the former chief of staff had made those statements to the Australian paper. "He said that Israel needs to defeat the Iranian regime," the aide said. The paper’s reporter was not immediately reachable for comment. Last week, Ya’alon announced his candidacy for the Likud list in the upcoming Knesset elections. He is being touted as a possible candidate for defense minister if Likud wins the elections. "We have to confront the Iranian revolution immediately," the paper quoted Ya’alon as saying.

Iran holds defense drills, warns on oil route
Reuters, YNetNews 11/23/2008
Exercises organized by student members of Basij militia held at hundreds of schools across Islamic Republic to prepare for any hostile air strikes; Navy Commander: Foreign forces in region being closely watched -An Iranian militia held civil defense drills on Sunday to prepare for any hostile air strikes and the military said it could close a waterway crucial for world oil supplies if Iran was attacked. The exercises organized by student members of the Basij militia were held at hundreds of schools across the country and involved transporting wounded people and putting out fires after a fictitious bombardment by enemy planes. The United States and Israel have hinted they could take military action if Iran presses ahead with a nuclear program they believe is aimed at making atomic bombs.

Italian president arrives with 100 business leaders
Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post 11/24/2008
Italian President Giorgio Napolitano is scheduled to arrive Monday night for a three-day visit during which Iran is expected to figure prominently in discussions. Napolitano, in an interview with Yediot Aharonot prior to his departure, admitted that Italy had "important economic relations with Iran, similar to its ties with other countries in the Middle East. " Diplomatic officials in Jerusalem said that Italy and Germany were the European countries with the greatest amount of trade with the Islamic republic. Nevertheless, the official said, while Napolitano would undoubtedly hear from his Israeli interlocutors that much tougher economic sanctions were needed to stop Teheran’s nuclear march, there was also a realization that he - in the symbolic role of president - was not the proper address for complaints against Italian business dealings with Iran, and that those should be addressed to Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Abbas admits no progress in peace talks with Israel
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 11/24/2008
RAMALLAH, Occupied West Bank: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas expressed frustration at US-backed Middle East peace talks on Sunday on the eve of a White House meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President George W. Bush, saying that not one issue has been resolved. He also pledged to call snap presidential and parliamentary elections if there is no agreement with the Islamist Hamas movement, which controls Gaza, to end the rift in Palestinian ranks. "So far we have not reached agreement on a single question - every issue remains up for discussion," Abbas told a key decision-making body of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) under whose auspices the year-old negotiations with Israel are being held. "Even if [US Secretary of State] Condoleezza Rice or someone speaking in her name says, even if [Israeli Foreign Minister] Tzipi Livni or someone speaking. . .

Rice: Peace deal delayed due to political situation in Israel
Associated Press, YNetNews 11/23/2008
Bush, Olmert to meet in Washington Monday to discuss Iranian nuclear program, Israel-PA peace talks. PM aide: He wants to leave process in best possible shape -President George W. Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, two lame-duck leaders, look to their final meeting to leave a blueprint for fulfilling their ambitious but unrealized Mideast agendas. The White House session Monday evening was expected to focus on Iran’s nuclear program and progress in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Just a year ago, Olmert and the Palestinian president,Mahmoud Abbas, proudly announced the resumption of peace talks after a seven-year hiatus at a summit hosted by Bush in Annapolis, Maryland. The three set an ambitious target of wrapping up a final peace deal by the end of 2008. Despite frequent negotiating sessions, two trips to the region by Bush. . .

Mashaal denounces Abbas peace ads
Associated Press, YNetNews 11/23/2008
Hamas politburo chief says Palestinian rights can only be regained through resistance, not advertisements - The leader of Palestinian group Hamas has denounced Hebrew-language newspaper ads published by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Israeli papers. The organization’s politburo chief, Khaled Mashaal, says Palestinian rights can only be regained through resistance, not advertisements. In Sunday’s speech in Damascus, Mashaal criticized continued contact between Abbas and Israeli leadership despite ongoing Israeli "crimes" in Gaza and settlement building in the West Bank. The full-page ads published by Abbas in three Hebrew-language newspapers this week explained to Israelis that a withdrawal from Palestinian territories would bring full recognition by the Arab world.

Abbas Calls on Obama to Immediately Deal with Peace Process
Palestine Media Center – PMC, Palestine Media Center 11/23/2008
‘Our Hands Are Still Extended to Achieve National Unity’ - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday opened the Palestine Investment Conference - The North Forum, a two-day event, at the amphitheater of An-Najah National University in the northern West Bank city by affirming that “sustainable development is not possible under occupation,” but the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) nonetheless “is seriously working on the reforms,” confirmed that "our hands are still extended to achieve a national unity,” and called on US President-elect Barack Obama to immediately get involved in Middle East peace efforts once he takes office. "We call on President Obama to begin immediately dealing with the peace process based on the relevant. . .

Palestinian police to soon enter Bethlehem
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 11/24/2008
Barak confirms PA police officers to assume security responsibilities in West Bank city by Christmas Day, but overall responsibilities to remain Israel’s -After already having been deployed in the West Bank cities of Hebron, Jenin and Nablus, Palestinian police are expected to assume security responsibilities in the Bethlehem area by December 25, but the overall responsibilities will remain Israel’s, Defense Minister Ehud Barak confirmed during a security meeting at his office over the weekend. The Israeli security establishment is pleased with the success of the Palestinian police’s deployment in the West Bank. The officers, who were trained in Jordan, successfully secured two business conferences that were recently held in Bethlehem and Nablus. The Palestinian officers designated for Bethlehem will apparently be allocated from the forces currently patrolling the outskirts of Hebron.

Right of return congress kicks off in Syria
Palestinian Information Center 11/23/2008
DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- Palestine has been plagued with a racist, colonialist invasion that usurped its lands and displaced its people and turned them into refugees, Dr. Talal Naji, the PFLP-GC assistant secretary general, said on Sunday at the inauguration of the Arab international congress for the right of return. Naji, who is chairing the congress, stressed that the congress is held in the Syrian capital to assert the Palestinian refugees’ right of return to their homeland from where they were forcibly evacuated by Zionist gangs. He underscored that attempts to wipe out or drop the right of return were rejected by the Palestinian people, and added that defending that right is a must and should be included in any national program. Thousands of Palestinian, Arab and international figures flocked to Damascus to attend the congress that opened at noon Sunday.

European Parliament condemns eviction of Jerusalem family
Ma’an News Agency 11/23/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The European Parliament voiced deep concern on Friday about the eviction of a Palestinian family from their East Jerusalem home. In the resolution, the EU said the eviction of the Al-Kurd family, and similar actions on the part of Israel, could have consequences for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. "These operations, which seriously affect the lives of the residents of these areas, contravene international law," the resolution states. The Al-Kurd family was forcibly removed from their home in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem by members of the Israeli police and armed forces on the night of Sunday 9 November 2008. Immediately after their eviction, settlers were allowed to enter the house where the family had lived for more than 50 years. "Under international law East Jerusalem is not subject to the jurisdiction of Israeli courts," the Parliament pointed out.

Palestinian Jerusalemite dies after Israeli police assault
Palestinian Information Center 11/23/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- The 62-year-old Palestinian, Mohammed Al-Kurd, died in occupied Jerusalem on Saturday night, after two weeks of the Israeli policemen’s assault on him in his home and forcing him out of it along with his elderly wife. Medical and local sources said that Kurd was beaten by the Israeli policemen who forced him and his wife out of their home two weeks ago in Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in occupied Jerusalem. The sources said that the old man was assaulted despite being crippled and suffering several diseases, and noted that the policemen prevented the ambulance from carrying him to hospital and left him in the cold for long hours, which further worsened his condition. Kurd’s funeral is scheduled to take place on Sunday. He had pitched a sit-in tent along with his wife in front of their confiscated home, which was delivered to Israeli settlers, but were repeatedly driven away by the occupation police.

Zahhar: Abbas not entitled to call for presidential, legislative elections
Palestinian Information Center 11/23/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- MP Dr. Mahmoud Al-Zahhar, the prominent Hamas leader, on Sunday said that PA chief Mahmoud Abbas is not entitled to call for simultaneous presidential and legislative elections. Zahhar in an exclusive statement to the PIC said Abbas is apparently trying to practice "the same pressure and blackmail exercised on him by Zionist occupation". Abbas said that he would call for early elections early next year in the event inter-Palestinian dialog failed. The Hamas leader said that the PA chief was trying to extend his term in office, which is only possible through two thirds majority in the PLC. Any violation of this procedure would add to the record of violations Abbas has committed over the past few months, he explained. Zahhar also charged that Abbas’s insistence on denying political detention in the West Bank and holding Hamas responsible for failure of the dialog fell in line with justifying the American veto on the dialog.

Abbas: We’ll go to elections unless Hamas reconciles
Ali Waked, YNetNews 11/23/2008
Palestinian president calls for more dialogue with rival faction Hamas, but says he will go to general elections if efforts fail. Hamas, which has said it won’t recognize Abbas’ rule beyond January 9th, accused him of sabotaging talks - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Sunday that if the negotiations between the warring Palestinian factions fail to produce a genuine result by the end of the current year, he will call for a general election - meaning both for parliament and the presidency - in the Palestinian Authority in early 2009. Abbas made the comments at a meeting held by the central committee of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), which convened to discuss the political crisis in the PA and the schism between Fatah and Hamas. Meanwhile most are expecting Hamas to appoint a president of its own in the Gaza Strip after ceasing to recognize Abbas.

Zahhar: Abbas aborted dialog
Palestinian Information Center 11/23/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- MP Mahmoud Al-Zahhar, one of the prominent Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip, has charged PA chief Mahmoud Abbas with aborting the national conciliation dialog that was scheduled to open in Cairo early this month. Zahhar explained in a TV interview aired on Saturday that Abbas continued to allow political detention in the West Bank despite his calls for dialog, which meant that he says one thing but practices another. Hamas was and still is ready for dialog, the MP asserted, pointing out that his Movement wants a suitable atmosphere to facilitate success of the dialog. He described Abbas’s call for forming a government away from Palestinian factions as "an American wish" and the wish of many other parties which were shocked by the results of the January 2006 elections. "Abbas wants a weak government and a government that would implement American and Zionist goals", he elaborated.

If dialogue fails, I will call for early elections, says President Abbas
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 11/23/2008
Palestinain president Mahmoud Abbas, said on Sunday that if ongoing efforts for national unity between the rival Palestinian parties fail, he would call for early presidential and parliamentary elections. Abbas’s statement came during a meeting of the central council of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in the West Bank city of Ramallah. " we are keen to continue our efforts for national unity among the Palestinian people and for this purpose we will call early next year for early elections", the pointed out. Abbas made clear that the reasons , on which Hamas has asked for call off of the November scheduled Cairo conference for dialogue, were not realistic, saying that the Arab peace initiative was the best as a basis for conciliation. Rival Hamas and Fatah parties were about to attend a Cairo-hosted conference for reconcilaiatio in November9, yet Hamas demanded. . .

Hamas: Abbas’s speech in PLO meeting lacks political protocol
Palestinian Information Center 11/23/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Hamas Movement has asserted Sunday that the speech of PA chief Mahmoud Abbas before the PLO’s central council, in which he undermined the Palestinian resistance, lacked political etiquette, and did not befit a Palestinian president. Fawzi Barhoum, the spokesman of Hamas Movement in Gaza Strip, described Abbas’s speech as "the most dangerous thing to the Palestinian national unity and the resistance", explaining that Abbas started his speech by stressing his adherence to implementing the security part of the US-sponsored roadmap plan. "It is clear that the speech of Abbas harmonizes with the US-Zionist project that aims at destroying the Palestinian resistance project, retaining the political division among the Palestinians, and to preserve security of the Israeli occupation", underlined Barhoum in press release, a copy of which was received by the PIC.

PLO Central Council to convene in Ramallah at two-day summit
Ma’an News Agency 11/23/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The Central Council of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) is scheduled to convene in the central West Bank city of Ramallah for two days starting on Sunday. Among the topics to be discussed is the stumbling national conciliation dialogue, the sixth conference of the Fatah movement, the peace process and the ongoing discussions about extending Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s tenure. Fatah Central Committee-member Nabil Sha’th told Ma’an via telephone from Cairo that the PLO’s Central Council would convene unanimously in order to revive the national dialogue, which Hamas cancelled, and to maintain legitimacy of the PLO. With regard to extending Abbas’s tenure, Sha’ath said, “Hamas does not recognize the president, and they violate Palestinian law and the constitution because for them the president has no authorities.

Abbas threatens snap elections
Al Jazeera 11/23/2008
Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, has said he would call for elections in 2009 if his Fatah movement and its rival Hamas do not reconcile by the end of this year. "If the dialogue does not begin, and if we fail, I will issue a presidential decree early next year calling for simultaneous presidential and parliamentary elections," Abbas told members of the Palestine Liberation Organisation on Sunday. Elections could be held 90 days after his decree, but there was no hint of when that might be. Hamas immediately denounced Abbas’s remarks. "We reject the calling of the elections because it is illegal and unconstitutional," Fawzi Barhum, a Hamas spokesman, said. Taher al-Nunu, another Hamas spokesman, said: "The law does not give any authority to the president on parliament and nobody can dissolve it before" elections are due in 2010.

PLO unanimously elects Abbas president of future Palestinian state
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 11/24/2008
In a largely symbolic show of support for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas,the Palestine Liberation Organization’s highest legislative body unanimously elected him on Sunday as president of a future state, a post held previously by the late Yasser Arafat. Earlier Sunday, exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshal suggested in a speech at the opening session of a Palestinian conference that Abbas was a merchant selling Palestinians’ rights, after the rival militant group denounced the president for publishing Hebrew-language newspaper ads outlining a proposed Arab peace deal in Israeli papers. Meshal did not mention the president by name in the speech, in which he said: "Our people’s legitimate rights are not goods to be marketed, and national leaders are not merchants who announce their goods through paid ads in Israeli newspapers.

Abbas calls for unity talks or early elections
Jerusalem Post 11/23/2008
Threatening to call early presidential and parliamentary elections in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday sought the backing of a key decision-making body for his plan to extend his term in office by a year. Abbas’s decision to convene the PLO Central Council in Ramallah came after the failure of Egypt to broker an agreement between Abbas and Hamas over the extension of the PA president’s term, which expires on January 9. Hamas and several other Palestinian groups have announced that they will not recognize Abbas as president after that date. Hamas has even declared that it intends to appoint the speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), who happens to be a top Hamas official, as interim PA president. Addressing the PLO representatives, Abbas said he would call early elections if efforts to end the dispute with Hamas did not succeed by the end of the year.

Gaza government seeks to bypass PA on death penalty
Amira Hass, Ha’aretz 11/24/2008
GAZA - The Hamas government is planning to send Gaza’s High Court of Justice the petitions of families calling on the government to impose death sentences on people convicted of murdering their kin or of being accessories to their murder. Last Tuesday’s government decision to approach the court circumvents the legal authority of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to sign the death warrants. In sending the matter to the court, the Gaza government also frees itself of immediate pressure from the families. A Gaza government official said the victims’ families have been applying serious pressure on the system, sending the government complaints about the delay in carrying out the executions. There is a lot of public support for the death sentence, which some regard as a better alternative to blood vengeance carried out by the victims’ families.

Unions end university strike
Ma’an News Agency 11/23/2008
Nablus - Ma’an – Striking Palestinian university workers will go back to work on Monday, a union official announced on Sunday evening. Khaled Hijazi head of the employees union at An-Najah University in the West Bank city of Nablus that classes will begin again after the unions have struck a deal with university administrations across the West Bamk. Hijazi told Ma’an that an agreement was reached on Sunday evening after meetings with university administrators. The talks were brokered by members of the Palestinian Legislative Council in Ramallah in which directors of universities were present. The details of the settlement were not immediately available. University employees have been engaged in an escalating series of strikes demanding increased pay.

PLO Central Council elects Abbas President of Palestine
Ma’an News Agency 11/23/2008
Ramallah - Ma’an – The Central Council of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) elected Mahmoud Abbas the president of Palestine at their meeting on Sunday. Abbas’ reelection means that he will continue to hold the symbolic title of president of the declared but yet unrecognized State of Palestine. Abbas is also the chairman of the Palestinian Authority. At the Central Council’s meeting in Ramallah on Sunday Abbas said he is considering early parliamentary and presidential elections in 2009. The PLO declared independence in December 1988 amid the first Intifada, the popular uprising among Palestinians in the occupied territories that eventually forced Israel to the negotiating table.

Israel prevents DFLP leader from leaving Gaza for PLO meeting
Ma’an News Agency 11/23/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Israeli forces prevented a leader in the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) from leaving the Gaza Strip on Sunday, DFLP officials said. Saleh Zeidan, a member of the DFLP’s political office was reportedly prevented from travelling en route to a meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Central Council. “Such arbitrary Israeli restrictions are nothing but a continuation of the Israeli violations against Palestinian people’s rights and confirmation on the imposed blockade,” said a DFLP official, calling for human rights institution to force Israel to end such violations.

Egyptian guards shoot and kill Sudanese migrant at Israel border
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 11/24/2008
A Sinai medical official on Sunday said Egyptian border guards shot and killed an African migrant trying to cross illegally into Israel earlier in the day. Imad Kharboush, head of the Northern Sinai ambulance department, said the man was shot Sunday after he ignored warning shots fired by the guards and continued toward the barrier separating Egypt and Israel south of the border crossing of Rafah. Hundreds of Africans seeking political asylum and jobs try to cross from Egypt into Israel every year. Human Rights Watch recently urged Egypt to stop using lethal force against migrants. The group says since June 2007 Egyptian border guards have killed nearly three dozen migrants including a 7-year-old girl. Many more have been wounded in shootings.

Foreign journalists seek access to Gaza
Gili Izikovich, Ha’aretz 11/24/2008
The board of the Foreign Press Association (FPA) is expected today to petition the High Court of Justice against the Israeli government’s decision two weeks ago to prohibit the entry of journalists and association members into the Gaza Strip. While the government has prevented foreign journalists from entering the area for these past two weeks, Israeli journalists have been barred from Gaza for two years. Last week, the FPA released an open letter protesting the closure, which ran in news outlets across the world including The New York Times. Last Wednesday, the organization sent an official letter of protest to the Prime Minister’s Office, signed by 20 prominent foreign journalists, including ABC News president David Westin, BBC News director Helen Boaden and Parisa Khosravi, senior vice president and managing editor of CNN.

Haaretz Editorial: Open Gaza to Media Coverage
Haaretz Editorial, Palestine Media Center 11/23/2008
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon was among those who lent their voices to the international protest against Israel’s tightening siege on the Gaza Strip. This past weekend, the heads of the world’s most important media organizations joined the group, protesting in a letter to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert against the closure of the Strip to international journalists. "We are gravely concerned about the prolonged and unprecedented denial of access to the Gaza Strip for the international media, [which contradicts] the spirit of Israel’s long-standing commitment to a free press," said the letter, which bears the signatures of the chiefs of international news agencies, the presidents of important television networks and the executive editor of The New York Times. In response, the Defense Ministry said the closure of the Strip will be. . .

Olmert wants to generate ’final tailwind’ on Syria, says aide
News Agencies, Ha’aretz 11/24/2008
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert began a visit to Washington on Sunday to bid farewell to President George W. Bush before the two lame-duck leaders leave office without the Palestinian statehood deal they had sought. An aide to the outgoing prime minister said that besides taking stock of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, Olmert’s talks with Bush would also focus on Iran’s nuclear program and indirect negotiations Israel has been holding with Syria. "The prime minister wants to generate a final tailwind for the Syrian track," one of the aides said on condition of anonymity. A report compiled by Olmert’s National Security Council and published in part in Haaretz on Sunday said Israel should pursue a U. S. -backed breakthrough in talks with Syria next year to help contain threats from Iran’s nuclear program.

Report: Israel preparing for PA collapse; will prevent elections
Ma’an News Agency 11/23/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - Israel wants to prevent upcoming Palestinian elections "even if this means a confrontation with the United States," according to a military strategy report published in Israeli media outlets on Saturday. Israel is working toward "preventing new elections in the Palestinian Authority" and planning for the collapse of the PA, "which will effectively kill the two-state solution," Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported. The paper warned that when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s term ends on 9 January 2009, "he might disappear from the political arena," causing the PA to "disintegrate" and making a two-state solution highly unlikely. Due to the risk that Hamas could win Palestinian elections to replace Abbas, Israel should try "preventing elections in the PA, even at the cost of a confrontation with the US and international community," according to a quote lifted from the report.

’Ceding Golan not too high a price’
Jerusalem Post 11/23/2008
A report compiled by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s National Security Council recommends Israel pursue negotiations with Syria in 2009 to counteract threats from Iran and Hamas, Reuters reported Sunday. The Reuters report quoted a senior Israeli official, who was instrumental in compiling the report, as saying that US President-elect Barack Obama should oversee such peace talks. "The most important actor for Israeli-Syrian peace talks speaks English, and his name is Obama. Without very positive and significant US involvement, the Syrian track, like the Palestinian track, will go nowhere," he said. The official was also quoted as saying that ceding the Golan Heights to Syria would not be "too high a price to pay" if Syria were to agree to cutting ties with Hamas, Hizbullah and Iran. Last week, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who made the highest-level. . .

Hamas’ Meshal denounces Abbas’ peace ads in Israeli newspapers
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 11/24/2008
DAMASCUS, Syria - Exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshal yesterday denounced Hebrew-language newspaper ads outlining a proposed Arab peace deal that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas published in Israeli papers. Meshal, in a speech at the opening session of a Palestinian conference, did not mention Abbas by name but suggested he was a "merchant" selling Palestinians’ rights. "Our people’s legitimate rights are not goods to be marketed, and national leaders are not merchants who announce their goods through paid ads in Israeli newspapers," said Meshal. Palestinian rights, he added, can only be regained through resistance, not advertisements. The full-page ad published by Abbas in three Hebrew-language newspapers this week explained to Israelis that a withdrawal from Palestinian territories would bring full recognition by the Arab world - in line with a peace initiative first proposed in 2002 and relaunched at an Arab summit last year.

Projects announced at Palestine Investment Conference II
Ma’an News Agency 11/23/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Participants at the second Palestine Investment Conference ongoing in the northern West Bank city of Nablus signed a package of projects estimated at US $494 million on Sunday, Ma’an’s correspondent reported from the event. Amongst the projects agreed on is an "economy revival fund," at the cost of US $50 million. It will be funded by private sector and donor countries, investors told Ma’an. Another planned project is the establishment of an industrial zone in Nablus, which will cost US $25 million and is a cooperative project funded by the Palestine Investment Conference Fund and the Nablus municipality conference, it was reported. A third project is the establishment of a power station in the northern West Bank, at the cost of US $300 million. Investors established plans to build an iron factory, priced at $US 100 million, with an opening allocation of US $15 million, participants said.

UN draft resolution affirms Palestinian right to self-determination
Ma’an News Agency 11/23/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - A planning committee within the United Nations (UN) approved a draft resolution affirming Palestinians’ right to self-determination to be voted on in the international body’s General Assembly meeting. The text is as follows:"The General Assembly,"Aware that the development of friendly relations among nations, based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, is among the purposes and principles of the United Nations, as defined in the Charter,"Recalling, in this regard, its resolution 2625 (XXV) of 24 October 1970 entitled ’Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations,’"Bearing in mind the International Covenants on Human Rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Declaration on the. . .

Olmert in Washington for ’farewell’ talks with Bush
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 11/24/2008
Olmert wants to clinch new commitments on Iran from Bush - WASHINGTON: Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert arrived in Washington on Sunday ahead of a farewell meeting with President George W. Bush, with Iran’s nuclear drive set to overshadow stagnant Middle East peace talks. The Monday meeting is likely to be their last face-to-face exchange before Bush, who had once hoped to seal a Palestinian-Israeli deal in 2008, hands president-elect Barack Obama the keys to the White House on January 20. With Bush leaving office and Olmert heading a caretaker government ahead of February elections, the two leaders were unlikely to take any major decisions on any of the outstanding issues. "The prime minister wants to use the meeting as an opportunity to express his appreciation for President Bush’s friendship and support for Israel," Olmert spokesman Mark Regev said. The two will discuss "a range of bilateral issues, the peace process as well as issues of regional stability," he said, referring to Iran.

Olmert, Bush to share farewell dinner
Aluf Benn, Ha’aretz 11/24/2008
At the top of the list is $30 billion in military aid over the coming decade. - WASHINGTON, D. C. - Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his wife Aliza are to dine this evening at the White House with President George W. Bush and his wife Laura. The farewell dinner for the outgoing leaders and their wives is to be the centerpiece in Olmert’s visit here, which is being conducted with less media fanfare than usual. Most of the media outlets in Israel chose not to send reporters on Olmert’s plane, and there is little interest in his reactions to events in Israel. Olmert had dinner last night with Eliott Abrams, the deputy national security adviser who holds the "Israel portfolio" at the White House. This morning he is to meet with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, to prepare for his meeting with the president. Olmert will also meet with Vice President Richard Cheney.

Olmert meets Abrams ahead of Bush
Hilary Leila Krieger, Jerusalem Post 11/23/2008
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert arrived here Sunday, and was set to meet with Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams later in the day to kick off his farewell visit with US President George W. Bush. The parley with Abrams was one of a number of preparatory meetings before a working meeting and private dinner with Bush that Olmert will hold Monday night. Iran, Syria and the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are expected to dominate the conversations, as Olmert looks to secure policies and priorities worked out with the Bush administration before both he and the US president leave office at the beginning of the next year. While Bush and Olmert have enjoyed good relations and have seen eye-to-eye on many issues, they have struck different postures when it has come to negotiating with Syria, which Israel has been doing indirectly for many months.

Peres slams UK law jeopardizing IDF officers
Jonny Paul, Jpost Correspondent, London, Jerusalem Post 11/23/2008
President Shimon Peres met with British Foreign Minister David Miliband on Thursday evening and expressed Israel’s displeasure over the Universal Jurisdiction law, which has been exploited by pro-Palestinian activists to try to arrest former IDF personnel on "war crimes" charges when they visit the UK. "The Israeli army is peace-seeking and makes huge efforts not to harm civilians," Peres protested to the foreign minister. "Britain and the US use similar tactics [to Israel’s] in their operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. " In 2005, Maj. -Gen. (res. ) Doron Almog, former OC Southern Command, avoided arrest at London’s Heathrow Airport. He was warned not to disembark from his El Al flight as British detectives were waiting to arrest him for allegedly ordering the demolition of Palestinian homes in Gaza in 2002.

Israel appoints first Arab female professor in country’s history
Ofri Ilani, Ha’aretz 11/24/2008
The Appointments Committee of the Higher Education Council on Sunday bestowed the title of professor on Haula Abu-Bakar, a teacher and lecturer at Jezreel Valley College, making her the first ever female Israeli-Arab professor in Israel. Dr. Abu Bakar, 53, a resident of Acre, is seen as a trailblazing figure in the study of mental health in the Arab sector, focusing on how the issues of gender, mental health and sexual violence affect the community. Abu Bakar also authored the book "On an unpaved path", dealing with the female Arab political leaders, and "The Upright Generation", which dealt with the lives of Palestinian youths in Israel. [end]

State given another year to scrap ’discriminatory’ education budget system
Jack Khoury, Ha’aretz 11/23/2008
The High Court gave the state on Sunday another year to scrap an education budget allocation system it had earlier ordered to be replaced for being discriminatory to Israeli Arabs. But the justices, headed by Service Supreme Court president Dorit Beinisch, blasted the state’s lack of adherence to the court’s 2006 decision as "taking liberties. "In February 2006, the court ruled that the use of "national priority areas" in determining education budgets discriminated against the country’s Arab sector. It ordered the state to replace the system within a year. The court’s decision came in response to a petition submitted by Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel. At the end of the period set by the High Court, however, the state petitioned for a further five years to change the system, claiming that it lacked the necessary budget to do so at once.

Shas MK: Only white people exist in Kadima
Ronen Medzini, YNetNews 11/23/2008
Battle between ruling party, ultra-Orthodox movement heating up. Shas faction chairman Yakov Margi slams Livni’s advisors, comparing them to Nazi propagandists. ’Those who portrayed the haredim as extortionists grew up in habitat of those who painted Jews as mice,’ he says - Shas faction chairman, Knesset Member Yakov Margi, harshly slammed theKadima party on Sunday, comparing the conduct of the ruling party’s election campaign advisors to that of Nazi propagandists. Speaking in a closed meeting with Shas activists in Herzilya, Margi said, "Kadima’s strategists would be made members of honor in any newspaper editorial board in Europe in the 1930s. " According to the MK, "We can only imagine what the cartoons look like in Kadima’s newspaper, expressing the messages emerging from their chairwoman’s office. "

Supreme Ct. slams Education Min. delays in applying budget ruling
Or Kashti, Ha’aretz 11/24/2008
The Supreme Court yesterday sharply criticized the Education Ministry for delaying implementation of a High Court of Justice ruling to stop tailoring the education system’s budget allocations to the map of "national priority" areas. In the statement, supported by all seven judges, Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch wrote: "The matter before us is a grave expression of the freedom the respondent [Education Ministry] has granted itself by not applying the court’s ruling. "In contrast to the ministry’s plan to carry out the decision in a gradual manner over four to five years, the judges ordered it to be fully implemented within nine months, before the start of next year’s academic year. In February 2006, following eight years of hearings, the High Court of Justice accepted the appeal by attorney Hassan Jabareen on behalf of Adalah - The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, against the use of the priorities map.

Court gives state another year to abandon ’discriminatory’ budget system
Aviad Glickman, YNetNews 11/23/2008
High Court slams government for not implementing February 2006 ruling ordering cancelation of education budget allocation system that it says discriminates against Arab population -The High Court of Justice on Sunday gave the government another year to terminate an education budget allocation system it previously deemed discriminatory against Israel’s Arab population. The court cast harsh criticism on the state for not implementing its order to scrap the system. In February 2006, following an appeallodged by the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, the court ruled that the use of "national priority areas" in determining education budgets discriminated against Israel’s Arab population and determined that the state abandon the system by February 2007. However, the state asked for an additional seven months to implement the ruling, saying it had already begun the process. . .

Barak, Peretz join forces to try to beat Likud
Shelly Paz, Jerusalem Post 11/24/2008
Labor chairman Ehud Barak and his predecessor Amir Peretz have joined forces in a campaign against Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu’s economic agenda. "The slogan ’Let your money work for you’ turned out to be ’Your money is gone,’ because someone played with our money," Peretz told hundreds of supporters at a rally in the party’s Tel Aviv headquarters Sunday evening. The former Labor chairman opened the rally by saying this evening was meant as an attempt to remove all doubts and to send a "message of unity" to the various camps within the party. He noted the olive branch he had offered political rival Barak two weeks ago at the party’s central committee meeting in Tel Aviv, a peace gesture Barak had accepted. "What started in the Labor central committee as a unity between leading figures becomes unity for all Labor’s groups and camps for the sake of the party and for the sake of the State of Israel," Peretz said.

Kadima to portray Netanyahu as ’sweaty populist’
Shelly Paz, Jerusalem Post 11/24/2008
Kadima will run a personality-based campaign that highlights the differences between party leader Tzipi Livni and front-running Likud candidate Binyamin Netanyahu, Kadima strategists said Sunday. The campaign’s steering committee met for the first time on Sunday at the party’s Petah Tikva headquarters. Political consultants Reuven Adler, Lior Chorev, Eyal Arad and Kalman Geyer discussed strategy with Livni, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit, Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik and Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman Tzahi Hanegbi. Sources who were present at the closed-door meeting said the goal of the campaign would be to "take off Netanyahu’s costume. " They said they would not run a campaign of personal attacks against Netanyahu, but would present him as "a sweaty populist who gives into. . .

Jabotinsky’s grandson joins Likud
Amnon Meranda, YNetNews 11/23/2008
Namesake of founder of Revisionist Movement decides to join right-wing party. ’Things have come full circle. It is a privilege for the Likud to have such a man in its ranks,’ says Netanyahu -The grandson of Ze’ev Jabotinsky, founder of the Revisionist Movement, announced Sunday he will be joining the Likud. Party Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu seemed elated Sunday, at a press conference held in the Likud headquarters in Tel Aviv: "I’m a little overwhelmed. (The Likud) was founded by Ze’ev Jabotinsky. I consider myself his disciple in many ways. " I’m very happy that he decided to take time out from his busy life to join us"¦ Things have come full circle. It is a privilege for the Likud to have such a man in its ranks, contributing to both the party and the country," added Netanyahu. "I admit I’m excited. "

Livni pledges to find solutions to conversion, marriage hurdles
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 11/23/2008
Kadima chairwoman meets with reps for Russian immigrants, says ’the idea is to find an answer that isn’t anti-religious, but can still provide a proper solution. ’ On Labor’s front Barak, Peretz demonstrate unity as they slam government’s handling of financial crisis - Labor Chairman Ehud Barak and his predecessor Amir Peretz demonstrated rare unity on Sunday, in an effort to boost Labor supporters’ morale. In a Labor rally held in Tel Aviv, both men slammed Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu and the Kadima-led treasury for they way they are addressing the financial crisis and the threat looming over the public’s savings in pension funds. Peretz called on the people to "remember who took away thousands of shekels from your salaries every month and has done nothing to protect them. Look to the Likud and to Kadima - we can’t forget that for one moment. "

Livni recruits Makov to formulate economic policy
Yael Gruntman, Globes Online 11/23/2008
Stef Wertheimer will also join Livni’s economic team. Hebrew daily "Ma’ariv" reports that Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni has asked former Teva president and CEO Israel Makov to form a special taskforce to work on the party’s economic policy platform, amid mounting concerns over the state of the economy and the dominance that Likud MK chairman Benjamin Netanyahu has over this issue. Makov has already agreed to join Livni’s team and is already holding meetings with a view to forming an economic policy task force with a remit to formulate a long-term program. The team will also propose a serious of measures that should be adopted to help the Israeli economy successfully weather the global crisis. So far, Stef Wertheimer, who announced his support for Livni last week, is known to have agreed to join the task force Makov is forming, and other key business leaders and economists are likely to follow.

Knesset Speaker: Kadima’s candidates not recycled
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 11/23/2008
Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni holds press conference, introduces heads of future election campaign to media -This campaign will be about who leads Israel and how, Kadima ChairwomanTzipi Livni said Sunday, as she opened the party’s first election headquarters’ meeting. The meeting introduced reporters to those tasked with key roles in the campaign: Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik and Knesset Member Tzachi Hanegbi were named co-chairmen of the campaign, Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter will head all of its PR efforts and Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz - along with Livni and Itzik - will be on the campaign’s brainstorming team. The team also includes Vice Premier Haim Ramon, as the campaign manager, Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter, who will lead the headquarters on Election Day and Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On, who will head the campaign’s strategic team.

Barak: Who will save the economy, Netanyahu? He took your pensions
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 11/24/2008
Defense Minister and Labor Chairman Ehud Barak on Sunday lambasted his political rival Benjamin Netanyahu, the Likud Chairman, as being incapable of ensuring Israel’s economic wellbeing. "Who will take care of your economic future, Bibi? Bibi took your pensions," he said, using Netanyahu’s nickname. Barak made the comments at a Labor gathering held by MK Amir Peretz, a former party leader. The defense minister also laid into his coalition partners in the ruling Kadima party over economic policy. "Who will repair [the situation], [Kadima Chairwoman] Tzipi Livni? [Finance Minister] Roni Bar-On? That bunch of flipflopers in Kadima? "added Barak, speaking at a party gathering. Barak’s comments came as politicians were intensifying their campaigning efforts ahead of February’s general elections.

Likud to invest half of campaign budget online, Meretz recruits Obama’s e-team
Roni Singer-Heruti and Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 11/24/2008
The campaign for the upcoming Knesset election is moving online, as parties set aside major chunks of their campaign budgets for Web development and look to Barack Obama’s successful model. Meretz has even recruited two of Obama’s leading campaign consultants, David Fenton and Tom Mazzei, who arrived in Israel last week. Fenton and Mazzei "came to Israel at our invitation to advise us on this matter. We intend to wage a massive campaign on the Internet, and we see the social networking sites and blogs as a serious tool that we intend to use widely," said Meretz campaign headquarters chair MK Avshalom Vilan. The party is considering using most of its campaign budget online. Likud is also investing major resources online - 50 percent of its budget will go to developing two Web sites, in Hebrew and in Russian.

New national-religious party lets supporters choose name online
Nadav Shragai, Ha’aretz 11/24/2008
The new national-religious party formed by the merger of the National Religious Party, Moledet and Tkuma made the most of online technology last week, as supporters logged into its Web site to select a name for the new party - "Habayit Hayehudi," or Jewish Home. Some 10,000 people accessed the site last week to suggest names, drawn there by extensive advertising. The party’s public council is also conducting an online dialogue with voters. On the site, www. 111. org. il, the council asked voters to suggest and choose a logo and a name for its Knesset list. The public relations firm headed by Yehoshua Mor Yosef, who was spokesman for the Yesha Council of Settlements and foreign minister Silvan Shalom, will represent the new party. Mor Yosef said a significant portion of the party’s election budget would be devoted to online publicity.

Worst Israeli Water Crisis in 100 Years, Palestinians Drained
Julie Stahl,, Palestine Media Center 11/20/2008
The Sea of Galilee, Israel’s largest fresh water source, is drying up. - Four consecutive years of drought, increased consumption stemming from population growth, and what some are calling mismanagement have contributed to the worst water crisis in Israel’s history. Israel’s three main water sources – the Sea of Galilee and the mountain and coastal aquifers – are almost empty, Uri Schor, spokesman for Israel’s Water Authority, told. The Sea of Galilee alone is nearly 18 feet below its full level. “This is the worst crisis there ever was [since measurements were taken],” Schor said. The crisis may be particularly acute next summer, if this winter doesn’t bring a lot of rain. Israel’s rainfall comes only during the winter months. The rest of the year is dry.

Poverty at ’10-year low’, but nearly 1 in 4 Israelis still poor
Ruth Sinai and Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 11/23/2008
For the first time in ten years, the National Insurance Institute’s poverty report, presented Sunday by Welfare Minister MK Isaac Hertzog, indicates a decline in the level of poverty in Israel. The number of poverty stricken people has dropped from 1,674,800 in February 2007 to the current 1,630,400. This accounts for a decrease of 44,000, and a poverty level of 23. 8 percent for 2007 as opposed to last year’s 24. 5 percent. The report indicates a very slight general improvement that is mainly due to the rise in the number of employees in the economy and the increase in payment that was registered in 2007. The number of poverty stricken children has decreased for the first time in years, falling from 35. 8 percent to 34. 2 percent. The number of poor children this year is 774,000, says the report, whereas the previous report published in February this year presented a higher number of 804,000.

Welfare Min.: Expect spike in welfare cases, crime and violence
Ruth Sinai, Ha’aretz 11/24/2008
Due to the economic crisis, 100,000 to 150,000 people will require welfare services, and crime, family violence and divorce rates will go up, Welfare Ministry Director General Nahum Itzikovich said yesterday. Meanwhile, the Finance Ministry is working on a plan to spare the elderly from some of the pain: Minister Roni Bar-On is preparing a "safety net" for pension assets belonging to people aged 60 and up. Unemployment is likely to rise from 6 to 8 percent, Itzikovich said. International studies have found that a 1-percent increase in unemployment leads to an increase of 6 to 7 percent in murders, 6 to 8 percent in divorces, 5 to 6 percent in heart attack deaths and 4 percent in suicides. The Welfare Ministry is preparing a plan to address the problem, in part by implementing an assistance program for food banks.

Israeli banks’ exposure to Citigroup: $500-600m
Eran Peer, Globes Online 11/23/2008
Exchange Traded Funds are also exposed to the troubled US banking giant. The aggregate exposure of Israel’s banks to Citigroup Inc. (NYSE: C) is $500-600 million, after the banks drastically reduced their exposure in recent weeks. In addition, Israeli Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) have an aggregate exposure of around $600 million to Citigroup. Citigroup’s share fell 50% last week, including 20% on Friday to just $3. 77, giving a market cap of $20 billion. The share has lost nearly 90% from its 52-week high of $35. 30. Banking sources today estimated Bank Hapoalim’s(TASE: POLI; LSE:80OA) exposure to Citigroup at $40 million, and the exposure of Bank Leumi(TASE: LUMI) and Israel Discount Bank(TASE: DSCT) at $200-250 million each. Past notices to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) by the four largest ETF firms - KSM ofExcellence Investments Ltd.

Sun: Banks drag TASE sharply lower
Yael Schwartzbart, Globes Online 11/23/2008
The Tel Aviv 25 Index moved below 600 points as Bank Hapoalim fell 7. 9% and Bank Leumi slumped 9. 7%. Israel Chemicals gave up 9. 5% but Makhteshim Agan was up 4. 5%. The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) fell today. The Tel Aviv 25 Index fell 6. 57% to 592. 07 points; the Tel Aviv 100 Index lost 6. 59% to 517. 73 points, while the Tel Tech Index fell 5. 82% to 115. 92 points. Turnover totaled NIS 1. 051 billion. Trading on Wall Street ended last week on a positive note, spurred on by the announcement by President elect Obama of his choice for Treasury Secretary, New York Federal Reserve Bank chief Timothy Geithner, but the same could not be said for trading on the TASE today, with the leading indices slumping yet again. Trading on the bond market provided slight consolation, with the yield on Shachar series 217 bonds ending up 0.

Barak: Israel is working day and night to bring Shalit home
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 11/24/2008
Defense Minister Ehud Barak pledged on Sunday that Israel would do everything in its power to ensure the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been in Palestinian captivity for more than two years. "We will implement every appropriate and possible process, not for every price and not just through negotiations to release Gilad Shalit," Barak told student participants at the "Israel for the Youth" conference Tel Aviv University. "This is a matter of ethical obligation and we are preoccupied with this issue day and night," he added. The defense minister emphasized that he was steadfast in his determination to bring about Shalit’s release and stressed that the defense establishment would work on the matter even if it meant making "difficult decisions and complicated operations.

Barak: We’re committed to bringing back Shalit
Yaheli Moran Zelikovich, YNetNews 11/23/2008
Defense minister says Israel has ’moral obligation’ to free kidnapped soldier, ’but not at any cost, and not just through negotiations’. Adds: Draft-dodging undermines egalitarian nature of society -"We have a moral obligation to carry out any possible and suitable operation that could bring back (kidnapped IDF soldier) Gilad Shalit, but not at any cost, and not just through negotiations. "Defense Minister Ehud Barak said during a conference at Tel Aviv University on Sunday. "The State of Israel’s finest - military, defense services and intelligence - are working on this issue. We will have to make difficult decisions, but I am not afraid if this is what will bring Gilad home," Barak said. A Palestinian source affiliated with Hamas recently told the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper that the negotiations on the kidnapped soldier’s release have been. . .

’Not only negotiations can free Schalit’
Yaakov Katz, Jerusalem Post 11/23/2008
Following months of failed negotiations, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Sunday that talks with Hamas were not the only way to secure the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Schalit. "We have a moral responsibility to do everything possible to bring Gilad Schalit home," Barak said during a meeting of Israeli youth at Tel Aviv University. "This does not mean at any price but it does mean that it can be done not just through negotiations. " The "best minds" in the IDF and the intelligence community are working on the Schalit issue, Barak said. He added that "difficult decisions" will need to be made to release Schalit, who was abducted by Hamas in June, 2006. The defense minister said that he personally had overseen operations to release IDF captives. "As a field commander, and a combat soldier, I led people to battle.

Poverty report / The many faces of destitution
Ruth Sinai, Ha’aretz 11/24/2008
Every time the National Insurance Institute’s poverty report is released, the question that arises is how much it actually represents the situation in the field. The tendency of economists, like Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer, is to argue that the situation isn’t as bad as the data show, while others, like social-welfare organizations, say reality is worse than the dry statistics. In an effort to improve the resolution of this picture, the NII’s deputy director general of research, Daniel Gottlieb, added several additional measurement tools to the report published yesterday. For instance, the report examined the pay rate of the working poor, who constitute 46 percent of all impoverished Israelis. The report found that 63 percent of full-time employees earned an amount between the minimum wage (about NIS 3,700 a month) and the nation’s average salary (about NIS 7,500), but nonetheless did not manage to rise above the poverty line.

Histadrut declares public work dispute Staff And Sharon Wrobel, Jerusalem Post 11/23/2008
The Histadrut declared a work dispute in the public sector on Sunday, after the Finance Ministry refused to give in to the union’s demand for a pension safety net. Histadrut rejects finance minister’s plan to protect citizens over 60 The decision is currently informal, as it awaits the approval of the Histadrut’s management on Tuesday, Israel Radio reported. The work dispute decision was announced on the weekend; a revised economic plan submitted by the Treasury to Attorney General Menahem Mazuz on Sunday included some provisions for pension plans but the Histadrut announced the work dispute nevertheless. "Over the past few months we have been in talks with the Finance Ministry in an effort to find a solution to the problem, but without success. The Finance Ministry is acting irresponsibly, forcing us to take this difficult action," said Ofer Eini, chairman of the labor federation.

Fischer set to cut interest rate again
Adrian Filut, Globes Online 11/23/2008
Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer is expected to cut the interest rate, already the lowest in the country’s history, either tomorrow or next week. Some market sources expectBank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer to cut the interest rate by 0. 25% tomorrow to 2. 75% - the lowest level ever in the country’s history. Israel’s investment houses estimate that by the end of 2008, the Bank of Israel will make an additional cut of 0. 25% meaning that 2009 will start with an interest rate of just 2. 5%. According to other experts in the market, Fischer won’t make the cut this week but will cut the interest rate by 0. 5% by Monday of next week, due to the difficult figures regarding lower expected growth and the sharp falls on the TASE. Sources in the capital market expect a continuation of the new "surprise tactics" in monetary policy that Fischer has adopted over the past two months.

Treasury submits new ’safety net’ plan
Sharon Wrobel, Jerusalem Post 11/23/2008
Bowing to public pressure, the Finance Ministry and the Bank of Israel have advanced the approval of a plan to boost investment in the capital market, including a limited pension safety net, as the Histadrut Labor Federation on Sunday declared a work dispute in the public sector. "The last thing we want is a general strike," said Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini. "For months we have urged the Finance Ministry to provide a broad safety net for pension savings and deal with the problem of layoffs. Unfortunately the finance minister has pushed us into a corner, forcing us to declare a work dispute. " The Histadrut met on Sunday to declare the work dispute, which will officially go into effect on Tuesday following approval by the labor federation’s management. By law, the Histadrut can call a strike within two weeks of a dispute being formalized.

Lebanon seeks weapons, aid from Iran
Brenda Gazzar, Jerusalem Post 11/24/2008
Lebanese President Michel Suleiman starts a two-day trip to the Islamic republic on Monday on what Iranian officials are calling "a historic visit" meant to accelerate economic, cultural and political cooperation between the countries. Teheran is expected to offer Lebanon military assistance for its army during the visit, according to the pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat, which quoted unnamed sources on Sunday. "Suleiman’s visit to Teheran and the willingness of the latter to provide Lebanon with ’heavy weapons’ and possibly rockets, is within the context of a growing number of countries that have offered to contribute in the arming of the Lebanese Army," according to the report. For example, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon and his defense minister, Hervé Morin, discussed the needs of the Lebanese military with Lebanese Defense Minister Elias Murr a few days ago,. . .

Gemayel issues new call for Hizbullah to disarm
Daily Star 11/24/2008
BEIRUT: Former President Amin Gemayel called on Sunday for the disarming of Hizbullah and Palestinian factions inside and outside refugee camps. The Phalange Party leader issued the call during a speech at a memorial service to mark two years since the assassination of his son, MP and Industry MinisterGemayel. "The state cannot allow any illegal military presence on any of its territories. . . not the weapons of Palestinian factions. . . not the weapons of Hizbullah," he told the party faithful and senior members of the March 14 Forces of which the Phalange is a part. " The time has come for all these arms to be handed over to the state. "He added that "illegitimate" arms in Lebanon have exposed the country to the threat of Israeli attack and reflected negatively on the economic situation. "We can build our economy through Paris I, II, and III and not through Zelzal 1, 2, and 3,". . .

Effort to oust militant from Ain al-Hilweh hits snags
Daily Star 11/24/2008
BEIRUT: Moderate Palestinian groups in the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp are "having trouble" persuading their Islamist rivals to hand over fugitive militant Abed Awad to Lebanese authorities, a security source has told The Daily Star. The source said that Fatah and its allies were worried about the effect that the capture of the Palestinian militant, who has been linked to deadly explosions in Tripoli and Damascus, would have on public opinion in the camp. Awad, a senior member of the Fatah al-Islam militant group, is known as the "Prince of Al-Qaeda" for his radical ideology and links to international Islamist networks. He is thought to be hiding in Ain al-Hilweh, Lebanon’s largest Palestinian refugee camp, where he is said to enjoy the protection of Islamist groups sympathetic to his cause. But many believe that his continued presence in the camp could be a catalyst for violence.

VIDEO / Shas Rabbi Ovadia Yosef: Secular teachers are ’asses’
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 11/24/2008
Spiritual leader of the Ultra-Orthodox Shas Party, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef called secular teachers in Israel "asses" on Saturday during his weekly sermon. Yosef has previously voiced his desire that the Education Ministry be handed over to Shas’ authority. In his sermon, the rabbi said that the teachers in the secular education system know nothing, "neither Shabath, nor holiday", and teach only "nonsense", and added that people whose parents placed them in the secular education system are unfortunate. "What do they teach? They teach history and all sorts of nonsense about world nations, that’s all," he said. Education Minister Yuli Tamir responded harshly to Yosef’s remarks, demanding that he publicly apologize for the "ugly comment. "She added that the rabbi’s sermon was "rude, baseless, and offensive to tens of thousands. . . "

Israel jails neo-Nazi gang members for up to seven years
Ofra Edelman, Haaretz correspondent, Ha’aretz 11/24/2008
The Tel Aviv District Court on Sunday sentenced eight neo-Nazi gang members exposed last year in Petah Tikva from one to seven years in prison. The court stated that the phenomenon revealed during the investigation of the case is extremely severe, shocking and horrifying - particularly in light of the fact that the suspects were all youths and immigrants from the Commonwealth of Independent states. According to the original indictment, filed last September, the eight defendants - mostly immigrants from the former Soviet Union between the ages of 17 and 20 - perpetrated violent hate crimes against Asians, religious Jews, drug addicts and homosexuals. The indictments included charges of conspiracy to commit a crime, assault, racial incitement and the distribution of racist materials.

Poll: 70% of Israeli Arab women think slaps are not domestic abuse
Ruth Sinai, Ha’aretz 11/24/2008
Some 70 percent of Arab women in Israel believe women who are pushed, slapped or struck by their male partners are not victims of domestic violence, according to a poll conducted by the Na’amat women’s organization. The organization conducted the survey to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Some 73 percent believe women whose partners curse or humiliate them are not victims of violence. Asked whether they agree with the claim that "sometimes a man acting violently toward a woman is justified and she understands this," 23 percent of the respondents said yes, compared to 71 percent who said they did not. [end]

Poll shows more Israelis fear for their jobs
Yael Branovsky, YNetNews 11/23/2008
Social resilience survey shows majority of country’s citizens concerned they won’t be able to save enough for old age; public’s faith in IDF up 11% from last year -The past year has seen a sharp increase in the number of Israelis who fear for their jobs, according to a social resilience survey published Sunday ahead of the Sderot Conference for Social and Economic Policy. Social resilience is measured by the public’s sense of belonging, financial ability, access to social rights such as public housing, a sense of job security and faith in public and governmental systems. The poll indicated that the number of citizens who rate their job security as being mediocre or less has increased by 4% in 2008, and stands at 41%. According to the survey, 61% percent of Israelis aged 25-54 are concerned that they will not be able to save money in the future, as opposed. . .

Damascus and Washington trade barbs at Iraq security talks
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 11/24/2008
DAMASCUS: Iraq’s neighbors should crack down on networks which are allegedly facilitating terrorism in the war-torn country, a US diplomat told a high-level meeting in Damascus Suday on security in Iraq. "Terrorist facilitation networks operating throughout the region remain a threat to the stability of Iraq," Maura Connelly, charge d’affaires at the US Embassy in Damascus, told the Border Security Working Group. "Militant groups that were driven out of Iraq continue to receive weapons, training, funding and guidance from abroad," Connelly said. "We encourage neighbors to refrain from tolerating these groups as they pose a threat not only to Iraq but also to their own country," she added. The United States says a raid by helicopter-borne US soldiers on a Syrian village on October 26 targeted a "facilitator" of foreign fighters entering Iraq.

Nixing US deal would risk Iraq’s finances - minister
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 11/24/2008
BAGHDAD: Iraqi Finance Minister Baqer Jabr Solagh on Sunday warned that Parliament’s rejection of a divisive US security pact could endanger the country’s finances and hamper reconstruction efforts. The wide-ranging military pact has sparked a heated debate in Parliament, which is expected to vote on it this week. The pact would allow US troops to remain another three years after their UN mandate expires on December 31. The accord was approved by the cabinet a week ago but has drawn fire from hard-line nationalists who would prefer to see American troops out sooner. But Solagh said that the agreement was necessary to preserve Iraq’s development and reconstruction funds, which enjoy special UN and US financial protection. "Iraq’s finances will be in danger if the agreement with Washington is not adopted," he said at a joint Baghdad news conference with Planning Minister Ali Baban.

We talk or go to polls, Abbas tells Hamas
Ben Lynfield in Jerusalem, The Independent 11/24/2008
The Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, who is facing a growing challenge from Hamas to the legitimacy of his rule, threatened yesterday to call elections unless the Islamic militant group agreed to a reconciliation with his Fatah movement. Hamas, which staged an armed takeover of Gaza in June 2007, and Fatah, which controls the West Bank, were to hold talks earlier this month in Cairo to try to resolve their differences. But Hamas decided not to take part, citing continued arrests of its followers by Mr Abbas’s security forces. "We are determined that there be a continuation of the dialogue and will make every effort for it to succeed but if not, there will be a presidential decree at the onset of next year for simultaneous presidential and legislative elections," Mr Abbas, pictured below, told a meeting of Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) committee members.

NII report shows drop in number of kids living in need
Ruth Sinai, Ha’aretz 11/24/2008
The proportion of children under the poverty line in Israel has dropped for the first time in many years amid an overall decrease in the poverty rate, from 24. 5 percent of the population in 2006 to 23. 8 percent in 2007, primarily due to the increase in the workforce and the rise in the minimum wage, according to the annual poverty report released yesterday by the National Insurance Institute. Poverty declined particularly among the Arab population, dropping from 54 percent to 51. 4 percent. The biggest change is among families with at least four children, most of them apparently Arab families with one or two parents who entered the workforce last year. Gross income among Arab families rose 9 percent per capita between 2006 and 2007. The proportion of poor families remained stable last year, at one out of five, but following a 60-percent jump over the past decade, there was a drop in the proportion of poor children, from 35.

Gaydamak doesn’t intend to sell Bikur Holim ’for now’
Judy Siegel-itzkovich, Jerusalem Post 11/23/2008
Although furious about the meager supporthe received from his targeted haredi community for his run for Jerusalem mayor, billionaire Arkadi Gaydamak says he does "not intend for now" to sell Bikur Holim Hospital in the center of town that he purchased a year ago because "it is not a good time for business deals. " When he bought the hospital, many of whose patients are from the haredi community, he told the official receiver officially that he would run it as a general hospital for at least five years and had the intention of doing so for "at least 15 years. " Gaydamak, whose main interest in buying the then-bankrupt hospital was allegedly to garner haredi votes, bought the property for $35 million, some of which has gone to pay pensions to retirees after the previous management (a non-profit organization headed for some time by mayoral candidate MK Meir Porush) failed to make all necessary deposits to pension funds and the tax authorities.

Histadrut threatens strike over pensions
Motti Fogel, Globes Online 11/23/2008
Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini: The Finance Ministry is gambling with savers’ funds. The Histadrut (General Federation of Labor in Israel) Trade Unions Division will convene at 11: 30 am today to declare a general labor dispute. The Histadrut’s reason is "the refusal of the Ministry of Finance to provide a safety net for pensions savings and to properly deal with the problem of layoffs. " After the mandatory two-week cooling off period, the Histadrut can declare a strike. Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini told “IDF Radio" (Galei Zahal), "In the past two months, we’ve been negotiating with the Ministry of Finance over the deployment of a safety net for the management of savings. The Ministry of Finance has turned the market into a wild market, gambling with savers’ money. " Eini added, "I see the finance minister coming to his senses and talking about deploying a safety net.

Treasury proposes limited safety net
Adrian Filut and Stella Korin-Lieber, Globes Online 11/23/2008
The Ministry of Finance has bowed to public pressure and has sought approval from the Attorney General for a plan to assist those who will soon become pensioners. After marathon discussions, which began on Thursday, senior officials at the Ministry of Finance, together with their counterparts at the Bank of Israel and Israel Securities Authority, will complete formulation of an initial package to assist Israel’s capital market. As "Globes" revealed last Friday, the plan does not include a single measure but rather a package of measures that together will encourage investors on Israel’s capital market and lower the level of panic that currently reigns. The assistance package has today been submitted for approval by the government’s Attorney General, Menachem Mazuz, to ascertain that the plan cannot be perceived as "election economics.

Poverty Report shows fewer poor children
Shay Niv, Globes Online 11/23/2008
However, the figures don’t account for the recent wave of layoffs and market volatility. The National Insurance Institute today published its 2007 Poverty Report, which shows a slight decline in the prevalence of poverty across most measures examined. However, as the report refers to last year, it does not take into account the economic crisis that has erupted. The recession into which the economy has slipped and the wave of layoffs over the past couple of months will be reflected in the 2008 Poverty Report. Israel’s poverty rate was 19. 9% in 2007, compared with 20% in 2006. For the first time in years, the 2007 Poverty Report shows a decline in the proportion of children living in poverty, to 34. 2% in 2007 from 35. 8% in 2006. However, the proportion of elderly living in poverty increased to 22. 6% in 2007 from 21.

Soldier jailed for yawning during Rabin ceremony given pardon, early release
Fadi Eyadat, Ha’aretz 11/24/2008
An Israel Defense Forces soldier who was jailed for yawning at a memorial ceremony for slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin was pardoned by Israel Air Force commander Ido Nehoshtan over the weekend and released after spending 10 days in jail. He is expected to return to his base today. Sgt. Almog Amran’s commanders shortened his 21-day jail term after he submitted a pardon request. Amran was sentenced on charges of showing contempt for the memorial ceremony after base commander Col. Ilan Bodinger caught him yawning during his speech at the Ramat David air force base and stopped speaking for several seconds. Amran, an aircraft technician who was sitting in the fourth row, said his yawn was not meant insultingly or maliciously. "The commanders realized that my son didn’t have any malicious intent, and the base commander played a decisive role in his release, and I appreciate. . .

Bronfman slams ultra-Orthodox conversion system
Moshe Ronen, YNetNews 11/23/2008
Former WJC leader and current Hillel chairman, billionaire Edgar Bronfman says Judaism must be more open, accept all those who wish to become part of it, or else Judaism would cease to exist - The strict approach to conversions advocated by the rabbinic institutions in Israel and abroad infuriates Jewish billionaire Edgar Bronfman, the man who for nearly three decades led the World Jewish Congress. Anyone who declares himself Jewish should be accepted to the Jewish people, he says. Or else the Jewish people would cease to exist. With Bronfman at its helm, the WJC has fought anti-Semitism, helped open the gates of the Soviet Union for aliyah and extracted funds belonging to Holocaust survivors from Swiss banks. Last year Bronfman was forced to hand over the leadership of the powerful organization to billionaire Ron Lauder.

Gaza’s hospitals struggle to save lives amid Israeli siege
Rami Almeghari, International Middle East Media Center News 11/23/2008
      Over the past two weeks, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have faced a sharply deteriorating humanitarian situation as Israel further tightened its closure of the border crossings. Virtually no food, medicine or other vital supplies have been allowed in to the territory that is home to 1.5 million people. The impact of the siege is most directly observed in Gaza’s health sector. Despite desperately needed medication, equipment, supplies, and spare parts, doctors continue to try to save lives and look after their patients at the European Gaza Hospital, one of territory’s largest medical centers.
     Dr. Zaki Azzaq Zouq, an oncologist, explained, "There is a widespread shortage of essential medicines which we used to give to patients prior to the blockade. Currently, there are no tools for physicians to treat patients who suffer from lung, stomach, colon or brain cancers."

Eyes Wide Shut

Uri Avnery, Palestine Media Center 11/23/2008
      THE DAY before yesterday, two documents appeared side by side in Haaretz: a giant advertisement from the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and the results of a public opinion poll.
     The proximity was accidental, but to the point. The PLO ad sets out the details of the 2002 Saudi peace offer, decorated with the colorful flags of the 22 Arab and the 35 other Muslim countries which have endorsed the offer.
     The public opinion poll predicts a landslide victory for Likud, which opposes every single word of the Saudi proposal.
     THE PLO ad is a first of its kind. At long last, the PLO leaders have decided to address the Israeli people directly.
     The ad discloses to the Israeli population the exact terms of the all-Arab peace offer: full recognition of the State of Israel by all Arab and Muslim countries, full normalization of relations - in return for Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders and the establishment of the Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its capital, in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The refugee problem would be solved by mutual agreement – meaning that Israel could veto any solution it considered unacceptable.

Obama Opens Door to Resolving Palestinian Issue

Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Washington Post, Palestine Media Center 11/23/2008
      The election of Barack Obama to be the 44th president is profoundly historic. We have at long last been able to come together in a way that has eluded us in the long history of our great country. We should celebrate this triumph of the true spirit of America.
     Election Day celebrations were replicated in time zones around the world, something we have not seen in a long time. While euphoria is ephemeral, we must endeavor to use its energy to bring us all together as Americans to cope with the urgent problems that beset us.
     When Obama takes office in two months, he will find a number of difficult foreign policy issues competing for his attention, each with strong advocates among his advisers. We believe that the Arab-Israeli peace process is one issue that requires priority attention.

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