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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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24 November, 2008

Gaza’s desperate population receives restricted amount of aid today – UN agency
United Nations News Service, ReliefWeb 11/24/2008
Israel reopened crossings into the Gaza Strip today, allowing limited supplies to reach the 1. 5 million inhabitants largely dependent on humanitarian aid, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO) reported today. UNSCO said that today’s supplies into Gaza included nine truckloads of goods for the UN World Food Programme (WFP), and eight trucks containing powdered milk and rice for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Some 440,000 litres of industrial gas were also pumped through to Gaza’s power plant, temporarily reducing the number of blackouts threatening Gaza City. UNRWA stressed that it needed to bring almost double the number of trucks into Gaza to be able to continue running its operation at an acceptable level, and requested that 12 trucks of food and three trucks of medicine have access tomorrow.

VIDEO - Israeli activists video police headbutting Palestinian woman
Ali Waked and Reuters, YNetNews 11/24/2008
(Video) B’Tselem footage shows helmeted S. W. A. T. team member headbutting woman who was protesting against demolition east Jerusalem home three weeks ago. Police say incident under investigation - VIDEO - Israeli human rights group B’Tselem on Monday released a video showing a helmeted Israeli S. W. A. T. team member headbutting a Palestinian woman who was protesting against thedemolition of a home in east Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood three weeks ago. B’Tselem said the incident was filmed by one of its researchers during Israel’s November 5 demolition of homes built by Palestinians without permission from the Jerusalem Municipality. Headbutting incident in east Jerusalem (Video courtesy of B’Tselem) The video was sent to the police’s Internal Affairs Unit, which confirmed that a complaint was filed and that the incident was being investigated.

Leaders of Muslim charity in US found guilty of providing funds to Hamas
Daniel Nasaw in Washington and agencies, The Guardian 11/24/2008
A Dallas, Texas jury today convicted a once-prominent Muslim charity and five of its former leaders of financing the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, rejecting the defendants’ assertion the men were aiding Palestinians oppressed by the Israeli occupation. The US government has described the prosecution of the defunct Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development as a necessary action in the US war on terrorism, accusing its leaders of funnelling more than $12m to Palestinian schools and charities controlled by Hamas, which controls the Gaza strip. The US state department declared it a terrorist group in 1995, making such contributions illegal. Prosecutor Jim Jacks described the defendants as "leaders of Hamas in the United States" who revelled in the group’s message of martyrdom, jihad and "killing Jews". The government described the local recipients of Holy Land aid as terrorist recruiters.

Israeli army demolishes Palestinian house in East Jerusalem ’without warning’
Ma’an News Agency 11/24/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The Israeli military demolished a Palestinian house in the town of Al-Ezariya, in East Jerusalem on Monday morning, witnesses and international observers said. The 130 square meter house was owned by Muhamad Mahmoud Mizia’ro. Fieldworkers with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) learned in interviews with the family that the house was completed in 2007. The house was already fully furnished and the 11 person family was preparing to move in. An Israeli military spokesperson told UN workers that the house was destroyed because it was built in Area C of the West Bank without a construction permit. Area C was designated in the Oslo Interim Agreement of 1995 to fall under full Israeli military control. While the military says it issued a demolition order, the family says it saw no such document.

Iran uncovers ’another Mossad spy network’
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 11/25/2008
TEHRAN: Iran announced on Monday it had broken up a spy network linked to arch-enemy Israel’s intelligence service Mossad, accusing it of gathering information on Iranian nuclear and military programs. News of the arrests came amid heightened tensions between the two states over Tehran’s atomic drive and just two days after Iran said it hanged an Iranian telecoms salesman convicted of spying for the Jewish state. "The intelligence bureau of the Revolutionary Guards Corps has recently discovered a spy network linked with the Israeli Mossad," the head of the elite force, Mohammad Ali Jafari, said on state radio. "This network sought to gather important information from the Guards’ military section, the country’s nuclear centers and some security officials," he said, without specifying how many people were detained or where and when the group was arrested.

Settler leader: Hebron evacuation will be met with force greater than Amona
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 11/25/2008
Daniela Weiss, a prominent settler leader and former head of the Kedumim council, said on Monday that activists would resist attempts to evacuate Hebron’s House of Contention with force much greater than ever used in the past. "We will not be like Gush Katif and we will not hug," Weiss told Army Radio. "We will resist the evacuation of the ’House of Peace’ with great force, much greater than what we did in Amona. "Weiss stressed that those who oppose the evacuation "are not Christians who turn the other cheek. "Right-wing activists on Monday announced plans to hold a mass march to the House of Contention - as on Tuesday in an effort to block its evacuation. MK Zevulun Orlev (National Union - National Religious Party) visited the Hebron house on Monday morning and said that despite the High Court ruling to evacuate the site, the state is entitled to use its judgment and not vacate the house of its Jewish residents.

State: Migron won’t be moved for years
Jerusalem Post 11/24/2008
Residents of the illegal outpost of Migron will be able to stay there for years, the state acknowledged on Monday. The state informed the High Court of Justice that it planned to move the 46 families living in Migron, which was built on private Palestinian land, to the nearby settlement of Adam in an area designated for residential housing. But it also made clear that it would take years before the occupants of the outpost, located a short distance north of Jerusalem, actually move. "It must be stressed," the state’s representative, attorney Aner Hellman, wrote in a brief to the court, "that we are not talking about moving Migron in the near future, considering that we must first implement planning procedures and then carry out the actual building at the new site. " The statement was included in the latest response by the state to a petition filed two years ago. . .

’There will be war over House of Peace,’ adamant Hebron settlers guarantee
Haaretz Staff and Channel 10, Ha’aretz 11/24/2008
Haaretz. com/Channel 10 daily feature for November 24, 2008 Hebron has largely emptied of the thousands of Jews who arrived over the weekend to commemorate the death of the biblical matriarch, Sarah. But a few hundred very determined right-wing activists have stayed behind to prepare for what they suggest will be a nasty struggle with Israeli security forces. Hebron’s settlers have only grown steadily more aggressivein rhetoric since the High Court of Justice ruled last week that they must evacuate the so-called "House of Contention," which they call the "House of Peace. " Additional settlers from all over the West Bank have been streaming into Hebron since the ruling to fortify the house and step up what they are trying to paint as legitimate resistance against Israeli state oppression.

Palestinian fighter succumbs to wounds; Israeli forces shoot man in northern Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 11/24/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – A Palestinian fighter died on Monday of wounds he sustained in an Israeli raid in Gaza on 15 November, medical sources said. Fawzi Hamad an activist in the An-Nasser Salah Ad-Din Brigades, the armed wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, died early on Monday. Meanwhile, medical sources said on Monday that Israeli forces shot a Palestinian civilian in the leg near the northern border of the Gaza Strip. The man said he was hunting birds in the Abu Safiyah when he was shot. [end]

Israeli forces seize three Gazans in Tulkarem
Ma’an News Agency 11/24/2008
Tulkarem – Ma’an – Israeli forces seized three young Palestinian men, all of whom were originally from the Gaza Strip, from their house near the West Bank city of Tulkarem on Monday morning. A Palestinian security source reported the names of detainees as follows: Ramzi Dahrouj, Ahmad Al-Loh and Mansour Al-Kanshan. They were arrested in the village of Izbat Al-Jarad, east of Tulkarem. Eyewitnesses reported that a large force of Israeli vehicles and soldiers raided the area at dawn while firing sound grenades. Israeli troops stormed a number of houses, ordering sleeping residents into the street. [end]

Israeli troops kill suspected drug smuggler on Egyptian border
Ma’an News Agency 11/24/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – An Israeli border guard shot dead asuspected drug smuggler on the Egyptian border on Monday morning, south of the Israeli town of Mitzpe Ramon. According to Israeli sources, two other people were wounded in the shooting. Israeli officials told reporters that the group was dropping sacks of drugs on the Israeli side of the border order for accomplices to collect them. According to the official account, Israeli troops began chasing the men, calling on them to stop. When they were ignored, they fired at the lower part of the men’s bodies. Several sacks containing drugs were found at the scene of the incident and were taken for examination. After being shot, the three men were taken by helicopter to the Soroka Medical Center in the city of Beersheba. One of the men was seriously hurt in the stomach, while the other suffered severe wounds to his leg.

UN deplores trickle of aid allowed into Gaza
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 11/25/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: A United Nations spokesman slammed the amount of international food aid Israel allowed into the Gaza Strip on Monday, amid mounting international concern over a deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the besieged, aid-dependent Palestinian territory. "It is most emphatically not enough," said UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) spokesman Chris Gunness. "This drip-drip approach will not allow UNRWA to function. " With stocks running dangerously low, UNRWA had expressed fears it would have to suspend its food distribution for the second time since Israel completely sealed off the territory at the beginning of the month. Israel began its blockade after Hamas won parliamentary elections in 2006. The Jewish state further tightened the noose following the pre-empting by Hamas of what many have described as a US-backed offensive by Fatah to oust the Islamists from the enclave.

Israel lets limited aid into Hamas-run Gaza Strip
Reuters Foundation, ReliefWeb 11/24/2008
(Adds details, Egyptian mediation) By Nidal al-Mughrabi GAZA, Nov 24 (Reuters) - Israel opened border crossings with the Hamas-run Gaza Strip on Monday, allowing in limited amounts of food and fuel for the second time in three weeks after the United Nations warned of a looming humanitarian crisis. Aid groups said the one-day shipment would have minimal impact because border crossings have been closed for so long, depleting reserves of everything from flour to animal feed. "It is just not enough," said Christopher Gunness, spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Israel agreed to let in 45 truckloads of goods through the Kerem Shalom crossing, including 10 for UNRWA, officials said. Gunness said his agency needed about 15 trucks a day. Some 15 truckloads of grain and animal feed went through the Karni crossing for the first time in three weeks, Palestinian officials said.

Israel says it will reopen one of Gaza’s crossings
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 11/24/2008
Palestinian officials in Gaza said on Monday that Israel informed the Palestinian side it would reopen the Kerem Shalom commercial crossing in southern Gaza partially, to allow in humanitarian assistance. The sources added that the cargo will include about 45 trucks , of them 20 belonging to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), while the remaining belongs to the private sector. Over the past three weeks, Israel continues to seal off all Gaza’s commercial crossings including Karni, Sufa, Kissufim, Eritz and Kerem Shalom, under the pretext of continued homemade shells fire from Gaza into nearby Israeli towns. Yesterday, the ruling Hamas party in Gaza revealed that upon an Israeli request, Egyptian mediators called on Hamas for a halt of homemade shells fire. Gaza-based resistance groups were reportedly agreed to cease fire, in return for reopening the crossings.

UN agency says aid to Gaza insufficient
Shmulik Hadad and AFP, YNetNews 11/24/2008
Qasaam fired from northern Gaza coast near southern Israeli city; no injuries reported. UNRWA welcomes Israel’s decision to allow supplies in to Strip, but says ’ It is most emphatically not enough’ -A Qassam rocket launched from northern Gaza Monday evening landed on the coast near Ashkelon, adjacent to an Ashkelon suburb. There were no casualties as a result of the attack. Earlier Monday, following a series of security assessment meetings, Defense Minister Ehud Barak instructed the security establishment to allow some basic supplies into Gaza amid mounting international concern over a deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the Hamas-controlled territory. Thirty-three truckloads of humanitarian and other basic goods were to be delivered to the Strip, a defense ministry spokesman said.

Naim: 180 patients threatened with death if power went off
Palestinian Information Center 11/24/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Dr. Basem Naim, the health minister in the PA caretaker government, has warned that 180 Palestinian patients were threatened with death if electric current was off their life-saving equipment in Gaza hospitals. Naim addressing a sit-in organized by paramedics in Gaza to protest the deteriorating health situation in Gaza, said that 50% of the ambulance cars were out of work because the Israeli occupation authority blocked entry of spare parts. He underlined that 95 types of medicines were no longer found in the Strip as well as the cancer medications, and added that 220 machines used in treating cancer and serious diseases along with dialysis equipment were out of order. He elaborated that CT scanners and the only catheterization equipment in the Strip were also out of order along with many other equipment.

’Lives at risk’ from Gaza fuel cuts
Al Jazeera, Palestine Monitor 11/24/2008
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. 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. Shifa hospital is being forced to run incubators off old generators amid the power outagesPicture: AFP "Officials both here at the hospital and from the Red Cross describe the situation as critical," Ayman Mohyeldin, ’s correspondent in Gaza, said. "Almost every part of the intensive care unit rus 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. "

Olmert ally calls for acceptance of Arab peace plan
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 11/25/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: An ally of Israel’s prime minister called on Monday for the Jewish state to formally accept a six-year-old Arab peace plan for the region, declaring bilateral talks with the Palestinians at a "dead end. "While proposed in its current form in 2002, the major tenants of the deal date back to the late 1970s. To date, Israel, backed by the US, has rejected the offers. The Arab initiative has long found little interest from Israel, but it has been greeted as a positive step by both Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his would-be successor, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, in recent months. Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit, a cabinet veteran who is close to both Olmert and Livni, called the initiative "the best channel to achieve peace in the Middle East," including the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Sheetrit: It’s wise and worthwhile to give up the dream of a Greater Israel
Greer Fay Cashman, Jerusalem Post 11/24/2008
Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit (Kadima) told members of the Foreign Press Association at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem on Monday that according to the polls it looked as though Likud would be forming the next government. Sheetrit, Kadima’s campaign manager, said it was a pity that party leader Tzipi Livni had been unable to form government and called it "a lost opportunity" for reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians by 2010. Sheetrit warned that the peace process would stop if Likud won the elections because Netanyahu had already made it clear that Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and the Jordan Valley were not on the agenda for peace negotiations. "There will be no chance to make peace with Syria or the Palestinians," said Sheetrit. "There will be no peace and no Palestinian state," he added.

Jones proposes deploying NATO force in West Bank
Palestinian Information Center 11/24/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- Gen. James Jones, the American coordinator of Israeli-Palestinian security affairs, has proposed deploying a NATO force in the West Bank to assist in transferring security responsibilities to the Palestinians. Hebrew daily ’Ha’aretz’ quoted Jones as saying that the transfer would pave the way before the establishment of a Palestinian state in the future. Jones, who was described by the paper as influential, was replying to the Israeli view that Palestinians could not be trusted to take over security responsibility. The paper quoted Israeli officials as saying that the PA security apparatuses in the West Bank were doing a "good job" but could not acquire necessary information to avert resistance attacks against Israel. Israel wants to retain control on the Jordan Valley, describing the step as "vital" to block arms smuggling into the West Bank.

US official calls for end to Israeli occupation
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 11/24/2008
General James Jones, the US State Department Security Advisor for Israel-Palestine, has called for a NATO (North American Treaty Organization) force to be deployed in the West Bank to replace the 40-year long Israeli occupation. Palestinian officials have, in the past, expressed support for a NATO deployment in the West Bank. But Israel has refused, saying that only Israeli intelligence forces have the ability to maintain control of the Palestinian population. Jones challenged the Israeli assumption that Palestinians cannot be trusted to run their own country, saying that the NATO force would eventually be replaced by Palestinian security forces that would be in charge of the security of the future Palestinian state. The US Security Advisor, deployed to the region by current US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, is rumored to be US President-elect Barack Obama’s pick for National Security Advisor.

Olmert to Rice: West talking to Hamas
Yitzhak Benhorin, YNetNews 11/24/2008
PM tells US secretary of state Israel plans to continue moving peace process forward in accordance with Annapolis summit guidelines after Obama takes office. Sides agree to stress importance of safeguarding Israel’s interests to new administration - WASHINGTON - During his meeting with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and senior National Security Council officials, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert expressed his concern over what he said were contacts between Western elements and Hamas. Olmert said the talks were being conducted despite the fact that the Islamist group has yet to accept the Mideast Quartet’s conditions, including recognizing Israel, denouncing violence and acknowledging past agreements between Israel and the Palestinians. Olmert told his hosts over breakfast at the Blair House that Israel plans to continue to move forward. . .

PM slams Western overtures to Hamas
Hilary Leila Krieger, Jpost Correspondent In Washington, Jerusalem Post 11/24/2008
Ahead of his meeting with US President George W. Bush, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert expressed concerns to top US officials here Monday morning about Western elements reaching out to Hamas. Rice says failure to reach peace agreement was due to political turmoil in Israel At a working breakfast with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, Olmert stressed the importance of shunning Hamas until it met the international Quartet’s demands of renouncing violence and recognizing Israel. His comments at the closed-door meeting came as European parliamentarians this month invited Palestinian legislators, including Hamas representatives, to visit Brussels. Several European lawmakers have also been among those ferrying humanitarian supplies and transferring Palestinians to Gaza in defiance of the Israeli blockade.

’US warns Israel against large IDF ops’
Jerusalem Post 11/24/2008
The US has requested that Israel refrain from embarking on any large-scale operations during the last weeks of the George W. Bush administration, Time magazine reported Monday evening. The magazine quotes an unnamed Israeli source at the Defense Ministry as saying, "We have been warned off. " IDF officials hinted in the past that a preemptive attack on Iran’s nuclear installations might be timed to take place before the inauguration of US President-elect Barack Obama. Obama is slated to take office on January 20. The request, reportedly relayed to Israeli officials by senior US counterparts, was likely to be reiterated on Monday during Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s last meeting with Bush with both leaders still serving as of heads of state.

Israel allows Palestinians direct int’l calls
Gad Perez, Globes Online 11/24/2008
Palestinians will be able to make international calls without going through Israeli carriers. The Ministry of Communications has decided in principle to forego control over international calls from Palestinian Authority territory. The ministry will allow Palestinian communications operators to provide independent phone links without going through Israeli international calls carriers. The decision is politically significant. Israeli international calls carriers will also suffer substantial losses in revenue, although the exact amounts are uncertain. Currently, the Ministry of Communications distinguishes between voice and data traffic on international calls. The ministry permits Internet service providers (ISPs) to connect directly to Mediterranean Nautilus Ltd. , which operates the undersea communications between Israel and the rest of the world, and buy transmission from it.

Secretary-General, marking International Day of Solidarity with Palestinian People, says progress must be made towards statehood in 2009
United Nations General Assembly, ReliefWeb 11/24/2008
GA/PAL/1102 Committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People - 314th Meeting (AM) - General Assembly President Says Lack of Palestinian State ’Single Greatest Failure’ in United Nations History; Urges Breakthrough in Political DeadlockAfter 60 years of having been deprived their basic rights, the Palestinian people deserved to make progress towards statehood in the coming year, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said as the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People was observed at Headquarters today. Addressing the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, Mr. Ban said that "2009 must be the year that these preparations bear fruit", referring to the negotiations that had been carried on between Israelis and Palestinians since the Annapolis talks one year ago.

Put nation above faction, peace before all else, Secretary-General advises leaders in remarks to mark International Day of Solidarity with Palestinian People
United Nations Secretary-General, ReliefWeb 11/24/2008
Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, in New York today, 24 November: It is a pleasure to join you for this annual observance. Every year on this day, we express our solidarity with the Palestinian people. For my part as Secretary-General, I underscore my commitment to doing my utmost in the search for a just, lasting, comprehensive, and urgent settlement of the question of the Palestinians. The Palestinians have been deprived of their inalienable rights, including the right to self-determination and statehood, for more than 60 years. Israelis live with an ever-present sense of insecurity. There is only one way to address such legitimate rights and fears: a peace agreement that results in an end of occupation, an end of conflict, and the creation of a State of Palestine living side by side in peace with the State of Israel.

UN: Support Palestinians’ rights to self-determination, statehood
Deutsche Presse-Agentur, YNetNews 11/24/2008
’It has been 60 years since some 800,000 Palestinians were driven out of their homes becoming refugees and an uprooted and marginalized people,’ General Assembly president says, adding that the fact that Palestinians still have no state represents UN’s ’single greatest failure’ -The Palestinian people’s rights to self- determination and statehood should be supported after 60 years of deprivation, United Nations officials said Monday. While the UN advocates for Palestinians’ rights, it also defends Israeli’s rights to live in security within their borders. The UN on Monday marked the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, an occasion to reiterate calls for ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Negotiators at last year’s meetings in Annapolis, under the sponsorship of the White House, had hoped for a peace agreement by the end of December.

Attacks on Israel expected as UN marks Solidarity with Palestinian People Day
Shlomo Shamir, Ha’aretz 11/25/2008
A concerted diplomatic attack against Israel is expected in the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday on the second day of the annual debate marking the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. The event is usually observed on November 29, to coincide with the UN’s resolution in 1947 to establish a Jewish and an Arab state in Palestine. The Palestinians, along with a group of Arab states, intend to use Tuesday’s debate, entitled "the Palestinian question and the situation in the Middle East," for a public campaign directed at the international community about the the suffering of the Palestinian people under Israeli occupation. They will also denounce Israel as responsible for the lack of a solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Speakers at the debate are expected to harshly criticize Israel for its policy in the territories,. . .

900 Palestinian troops to deploy in Bethlehem ahead of Christmas
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 11/24/2008
About 900 Palestinian troops will be sent to Bethlehem to maintain order during Christmas celebrations, and the Palestinians are asking Israel to let the reinforcements stay on after the holiday, officials said Monday. In recent months, Palestinian security forces have deployed in the West Bank cities of Nablus, Jenin and Hebron, as part of a law-and-order campaign by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Bethlehem would become the next city on the list if the extra forces are allowed to remain. Diab al-Ali, a senior Palestinian security commander, said negotiations with Israel are continuing and that a decision is expected by the end of the week. Abbas is trying to strengthen his grip on the West Bank and to reassure Israel and the international community that his forces can impose order and rein in militants.

PLO declares Abbas ’president of State of Palestine’
Jerusalem Post 11/24/2008
The PLO’s Central Council decided late Sunday to declare Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas "president of the State of Palestine" in response to Hamas’s opposition to the extension of his term in office beyond January 9. The title had been held previously by Yasser Arafat following the Palestinian "declaration of independence" in 1989. PLO officials said the decision to bestow the title on Abbas was aimed at preventing a situation where Hamas would declare its own "president" after January 9. Abbas has made it clear that he intended to unilaterally extend his term in office for an additional year - a move that Hamas and other Palestinians have dismissed as "unconstitutional. "Abbas was elected for a four-year term in January 2005. He insists that he is entitled to stay in power for another year because of a proposed amendment to the PA’s Basic Law [which was never approved by the Palestinian Legislative Council].

Hamas dismisses new Abbas post
Middle East Online 11/24/2008
GAZA CITY - The democratically elected Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip dismissed on Monday Palestinian Authority president Mahmud Abbas’s appointment as president of Palestine by the PLO. Senior Hamas official Mahmud Zahar told a Gaza City news conference that the move by the Palestine Liberation Organisation Central Council was just a desperate attempt by Abbas supporters to preserve his authority beyond the expiry of his term of office as authority president in January. Sunday’s vote in the Central Council, a key decision-making body of the PLO which established the Palestinian Authority after the 1993 Oslo accords, "bears testament to the crisis which Abbas faces from January 9," Zahar said. "The concept of a state requires a land, a people and a government. And in order to be representative, the president of this state must be elected by the people and not appointed by a body lacking any legitimacy like the Central Council.

Abbas delivers inauguration address as president of the ’State of Palestine’
Ma’an News Agency 11/24/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas delivered his inaugural speech on Monday after being elected the second president of the declared state of Palestine by the Central Council of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). With the Central Council’s vote, Abbas assumed the third title previously held by the iconic Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Abbas was already the chairman of the Palestinian Authority and of the PLO. The PLO leadership declared the independent State of Palestine in 1988 during a popular uprising among Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Palestine has yet to be recognized as an independent state. The speech was given on Monday afternoon and aired on Palestine satellite TV. Abbas pledged to establish a free and independent Palestinian state. He also discussed his deep feelings of responsibility and asserted that he will follow in the steps of his predecessor “the great Yasser Arafat.

Zahhar: Hamas is willing to achieve reconciliation away from Israeli pressures
Palestinian Information Center 11/24/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Dr. Mahmoud Al-Zahhar, a senior Hamas leader, on Monday stated that his Movement has willingness for national dialog and reconciliation under no condition and away from the Israeli pressures, criticizing PA chief Mahmoud Abbas for his threats to hold presidential and legislative elections simultaneously. Dr. Zahhar underlined that the dialog requirements entail the release of all Palestinian leading figures in the West Bank and everyone arrested because of political reasons or for resisting the Israeli occupation, pointing out that no one in the world believes Abbas’s denial of presence of political detention in the West Bank. The Hamas leader castigated Abbas’s negotiations with Israel, saying that these negotiations give the Israeli occupation a cover for committing more crimes against the Palestinian people and land.

Zahhar: Abbas cannot call elections without PLC approval
Ma’an News Agency 11/24/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Senior Hamas leader, Mahmoud Zahhar on Monday said that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas cannot call early parliamentary elections without the approval of the Hamas-controlled Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). At a press conference in his private home in Gaza, Zahhar responded to Abbas’ announcement on Sunday that he would call parliamentary and presidential elections in early 2009 if reconciliation talks between Hamas and Fatah fail. “This indicates that president Abbas is facing a serious political crisis and is trying to find a way out,” Zahhar said. Zahhar added that early elections could not be called except by a majority of the PLC. “This will not take place as long as our leaders are in Israel’s custody and in the West Bank,” he said. Hamas pulled out of a planned Palestinian dialogue conference scheduled for 9 November in protest of. . .

Hamas leader rejects early elections
Ali Waked and AP, YNetNews 11/24/2008
Mashaal says calling early parliamentary elections a violation of Palestinian law; PRC: Abbas already a non-factor - Khaled Mashaal, the Hamas politiburo chief exiled in Syria is dismissing the Palestinian president’s threat to hold simultaneous elections for president and parliament early next year, unless the militant group begins reconciliation talks. The two warring Palestinian factions were supposed to meet in Cairo for a round of Egyptian-mediated talks, but these were canceled after Hamas announced its intention to boycott them in protest of Fatah’s refusal to release 400 operatives imprisoned in the West Bank. Fatah negotiators were hoping that negotiations would be renewed in late November, a hope that has not materialized to date. Pursuant to Fatah threats to move up elections, the Hamas leader warned on Monday that any call for both balloting would be considered a violation of the law.

Documents obtained by Haaretz reveal split among Hamas leaders
Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 11/25/2008
Internal Hamas correspondence intercepted by the Palestinian Authority and obtained by Haaretz reveals a deep divide between the organization’s leadership abroad and its West Bank leadership, on the one hand, and the Gaza leadership on the other. In the documents, the leadership abroad says it does not want "to control Gaza completely while losing the West Bank. " These leaders claim that Hamas in Gaza caused the reconciliation talks with Fatah that had been slated for Cairo to fail. The leaders abroad say their Gaza counterparts thwarted the chances for a Palestinian national unity government by their unwillingness to consider giving up control of the Strip and setting "impossible" conditions. Hamas in the Gaza Strip is led by Mahmoud Zahar, Said Siyam, and Halil al-Haya, while the leadership abroad is headed. . .

Abbas’s security forces to be deployed in Bethlehem with Israeli approval
Palestinian Information Center 11/24/2008
RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- PA security elements in the West Bank will be deployed in Bethlehem before Christmas with the full coordination and approval of the Israeli occupation authority, press reports said. They said that the Palestinian national security forces, affiliated with the PA presidency, would take over security control in the city following "successes" in Jenin, Nablus and Al-Khalil in persecuting resistance elements. However, the reports indicated that upper control and responsibility would be in the hands of the Israeli occupation forces. The Palestinian forces’ main job is to block and abort resistance operations against the IOA. Those forces rounded up a big number of resistance activists in Al-Khalil, Nablus and other West Bank areas ever since their deployment in those areas. Hebrew media reported that Israeli war minister Ehud Barak had sanctioned the step late last week at the request of the PA leadership.

Hamas slams Abbas’s intent to hold presidential and legislative elections
Palestinian Information Center 11/24/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement expressed its rejection of PA chief Mahmoud Abbas’s threats to hold simultaneous presidential and legislative elections if the attempts to reconcile Fatah and Hamas failed, considering this step contrary to the Palestinian law and constitution. MP Mushir Al-Masri, the secretary-general of the Hamas parliamentary bloc, called on the PA chief to abide by the constitution and to call the presidential elections on time, stressing that Abbas would not be a PA chief after the end of his term of office on the ninth of next January. MP Masri pointed out that the PA presidency would be transferred automatically to the PLC speaker who would oversee the presidential elections. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum stated in a statement received by the PIC that the PLO central council which is dominated by Fatah and not democratically elected by the Palestinian people has no right to appoint a president of Palestine.

Palestinian meet in Syria highlights refugees’ right of return
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 11/25/2008
A gathering of radical Palestinian factions and their supporters has highlighted the Palestinian refugees’ right to return to homes in present-day Israel. The two-day meeting in Damascus concluded that Palestinians can resort toresistance - militant jargon for armed fighting - as the fastest way to achieve this return. About 5,000 participants attended, including militant Hamas and other groups. A final declaration Monday says no Palestinian can forgo the right to return and that legal, economic and media campaigns should be used to defend this. The conference meant to show opposition to moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his negotiations with Israel. It called on the United Nations to expel Israel from its ranks.

Palestinian meet stresses right of return
Associated Press, YNetNews 11/24/2008
Radical factions meet in Syria for two-day meeting to advocate violence as fastest way to achieve Palestinian political goals -A gathering of radical Palestinian factions and their supporters has stressed the Palestinian refugees’ right to return to homes in present-day Israel. The two-day meeting in Damascus determined continued support for a campaign of non-compromise and of Palestinian violence against Israel. It concluded that Palestinians can resort to "resistance" - militant jargon for armed fighting, including terror attacks - as the fastest way to achieve this return and other political objectives. About 5,000 participants attended, including militant Hamas and other groups. A final declaration Monday said no Palestinian can forgo the right to return and that legal, economic and media campaigns should be used to defend this.

Shas to seek payout for Jews deported from Arab countries
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 11/25/2008
Shas is launching a campaign to seek compensation for Jewish refugees who came to Israel from Arab states. The campaign, part of the ultra-Orthodox party’s election platform, counters Palestinian demands for the right of return of their refugees. "Israel must state that no peace agreement would be implemented without solving the problem of the Jews from Middle Eastern states, with an emphasis on restituting their property, which is estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars," Religious Affairs Minister Yitzhak Cohen, of Shas, said Monday at Bar-Ilan University. Part of Shas’ plan consists of tracking down and registering Jewish property in Arab states, as a basis for future negotiations or agreements regarding the compensation for the Jewish refugees. Cohen told Haaretz Monday that there are some 850,000 Jewish refugees from Arab states, most of whom are living in Israel.

Israeli forces seize young man in Bethlehem
Ma’an News Agency 11/24/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli forces detained a young man in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Monday, even as the man was on his way to report to Israeli authorities. The man, 21-year-old Ali Moussa Nawawrah, had been summoned to the Israeli detention center in the settlement Etzion, his family said. Nawawrah was headed there when he was arrested. During the arrest, Israeli vehicles surrounded Nawawrah in the Jabal Al-Mawaleh neighborhood of Bethlehem. Israeli forces raided Nawawrah’s house a few days ago and delivered a letter calling on him to surrender. [end]

Settler rustlers steal farmer’s horse
Ma’an News Agency 11/24/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli horse rustlers have deprived a West Bank Palestinian farmer of his livelihood. “While I was busy with one of my daughter’s engagements, settlers from the Efrat settlement came and stole my 1,600 dollar [USD] horse. This horse is my only means of income and I use it to plow people’s land,” Ibrahim Suleiman Muhammad Salah, a 45-year-old Palestinian farmer from Al-Khadr explained. After the incident, Salah rushed to the Israeli police to complain and accuse the settlers of theft. Salah says the police refused to listen to his claim, instead accusing him of “causing problems” at the station. In the end, he was forced to pay a fine of 1,000 Israeli shekels (250 US dollars). Settlers have been trying to take over his land by planting trees, but Salah and his brothers removed them in front of Israeli troops, who menaced them with their guns.

Settlers agree to relocate Migron outpost to nearby settlement
Tomer Zarchin, Ha’aretz 11/24/2008
The state has reached an agreement with the Yesha Council of Settlements to relocate the recently dismantled West Bank outpost of Migron to a the nearby Adam settlement. The state attorney’s office told the High Court of Justice Monday that following intensive negotiations, IDF officials and settlement leaders struck a deal to permanently move Migron to the Adam settlement, in the Binyamina Regional Council. Yesha Council announced in August that it planned to complete the necessary preparations needed to relocate Migron as soon as possible. The Adam settlement - where land is already being prepared for housing - was chosen as an alternative, following consultations in early November with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Some two weeks ago, the Yesha Council told the Defense Ministry it accepted. . .

MKs: Delay Hebron home evacuation Staff And Ap, Jerusalem Post 11/24/2008
Forty-nine MKs signed a letter on Monday sent to Defense Minister Ehud Barak and to Public Security Minister Avi Dichter calling on them "to avoid evacuating the disputed house in Hebron and to show decency and governmental responsibility. " The MKs were referring to a building in Hebron that a group of settlers claims to have purchased and which the Arab owner claims he still owns. The High Court of Justice ruled that the house should be evacuated by Wednesday last week, but the evacuation was delayed for fear of violence at the weekend when thousands of Jews visited the city in honor of the reading of the Torah portion that describes Abraham’s purchase of the Cave of the Patriarchs (Chayei Sarah). The settlers still occupy the property. The letter stated that "evacuation of the house should be avoided at least until after the elections.

Study: Over half of Sderot residents are Qassam casualties
Ilana Curiel, YNetNews 11/24/2008
Research published by trauma center indicates large percentage of residents of rocket-plagued town suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder - Over half of Sderot residents have been hurt - physically or emotionally - during Qassam barrages of the past seven years, determined a research document published by Natal, the Israel Trauma Center for Victims of Terror and War. The study, which was presented by Director of the Natal Community Staff Dr. Rony Berger at a conference on trauma medicine in Beersheva on Monday, shows that almost a third of the beleaguered town’s residents are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. A third of Sderot students, ages 13 to 18, have trauma-related learning disorders. The research, conducted in conjunction with Dr. Mina Zemach and the Dahaf Polling Institute, was conceived in order to compare Sderot to Gaza vicinity communities and to towns out of rocket range.

Mujahedin Brigades say Israeli house demolitions could spur attacks
Ma’an News Agency 11/24/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The Mujahedin Brigades, an armed Palestinian group, said on Monday that Israeli house demolitions could trigger renewed attacks against Israel. “The house demolition policy practiced by Israel makes us realize and be sure that the only way to resist the Israelis is by resistance,” said The Al-Mujahedin Brigades spokesman Abu Bilal. Abu Bilal said in a statement that the group is monitoring Israeli house demolitions in the West Bank and especially Jerusalem. He said his group would not “remain silent” in the face of these demolitions. Israel demolished the sixth Palestinian house in three weeks in East Jerusalem on Monday. [end]

Palestine Today 112408
IMEMC News - Audio Dept, International Middle East Media Center News 11/24/2008
Click on Link to download or play MP3 file|| 3 m 00s || 2. 74 MB || Welcome to Palestine Today, a service of the International Middle East Media Center www. imemc. org for Monday November 24 2008 As the Israeli military continues closure of Gaza’s crossings for the third week consecutively, reports said Israel would reopen one of such crossings partially today. These news and more are coming up stay tuned. Israeli media sources reported Monday that the Israeli military would reopen one of Gaza’s crossings partially today to allow in some food assistance into the besieged Gaza Strip. The sources reveled that the Kerem Shalom crossing would be reopened today as the Palestinian resistance factions agreed yesterday night to stopping homemade shells fire from Gaza into nearby Israeli towns. The Gaza Strip lives a tight closure of commercial crossings for three weeks. . .

US charity guilty of funding Hamas
Al Jazeera 11/25/2008
The verdict came after Holy Land’s first trial last year ended in a mistrial - A US court has convicted a Muslim charity and five of its former leaders of all 108 charges in the largest "terrorism" financing trial in US history. The Texas jury reached its verdict on Monday after eight days of deliberations over whether the former Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, once the largest US Muslim charity, had given money to the Palestinian group Hamas. The charity, which was shut down seven years ago, was accused of giving more than $12m to support Hamas, which was designated a "terrorist organisation" in 1995 by the US government. The hour-long verdict, following a seven-week trial, came after a first trial ended in October 2007 with one man acquitted on 31 charges but jurors unable to agree on verdicts for others.

Foxman slams Zionism entry in ’Encyclopedia of Racism’
Abe Selig, Jerusalem Post 11/24/2008
Announcing that "Zionism has no place in an encyclopedia on racism," the Anti-Defamation League has joined a chorus of condemnation of an article published in an encyclopedia that covers race and racial discrimination. Printed by the Gale publishing company in November 2007, The Encyclopedia of Race and Racism has been awarded reviews promoting it for use in high school and religion classes. But an entry on Zionism featured in the encyclopedia has drawn the ire of Jewish groups, including the Zionist Organization of America and the American Jewish Committee, which called last month for the article to be withdrawn - prompting an apology from the publisher, but no pledge to pull the entry. Gale, a division of Cengage Learning, published the apology on its Web site last week, with links to both the AJC and ZOA Web sites, and a message promising to supplement the. . .

Leeds University referendum threatens to silence Palestinian activists
Release, Leeds PSG, Electronic Intifada 11/24/2008
Leeds University Union agreed last week, by a vote of 12 to 11, to send a motion to referendum which will label anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism and silence pro-Palestinian groups on campus. The motion, shrouded in the language of combating anti-Semitism, is a reversal of a motion passed two years ago which gave Palestinian activists at Leeds University the rights enjoyed by their counterparts throughout the country. If passed, organizations which have an anti-Zionist platform, such as the Socialist Workers Party and the Palestine Solidarity Group, will be prevented from receiving funding from the union and prevented from holding many of their events. The motion claims, without providing any supporting evidence, that "anti-Semitism is increasing significantly both across the country and within universities and student unions" and resolves to adopt the seemingly innocuous EUMC working definition of anti-Semitism.

Gaza: Siege report for the past 20 days
Haitham Sabbah, Palestine Think Tank 11/24/2008
Popular Committee Against Siege PCAS issues a comprehensives report on the latest of siege outcomes which hit all life aspects. The crisis came up strongly as Israel completely closed crossings, banned food stuff, fuel shipments and all products into Gaza Strip. The recent Israeli hazardous siege tightened 20 days ago is considered as a death sentence against Human as well as birds and animals. PCAS chairman, MP Jamal EL khoudary expressed his deep anger towards Israeli policy of collective Punishment. He considered what’s happening as flagrant violations of all international humanitarian accords particularly the Fourth Genva Convention. This new report comes outas a final call before a real collapse hits the life totally. This report uncovers part of enormous repercussions resulted in Israeli inhuman siege. It is also a clear message to United Nations, European Union and International Community to take responsibility immediately and endsiege.

Israel allows basic supplies into Gaza
Middle East Online 11/24/2008
JERUSALEM - Israel allowed some basic supplies into Gaza on Monday amid mounting international concern over a deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the besieged, aid-dependent Palestinian territory. Thirty truckloads of humanitarian and other basic goods were delivered to the Gaza Strip, a defence ministry spokesman said. The Israeli authorities had previously opened the Kerem Shalom border crossing for only one day since a November 4 surge in violence. Israeli authorities on Monday also opened the Karni crossing conveyor belt to deliver wheat and grain as well as the Nahal Oz terminal for the delivery of fuel to Gaza’s sole power plant, spokesman Peter Lerner said. Any decision to open the crossings again on Tuesday would be subject "to the security situation," Lerner said. The closure of the crossings had led to rising international concern over the plight. . .

Israel bars Pope’s representative from visiting Gaza for Sunday services
Palestinian Information Center 11/24/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The IOA blocked father Antonio Franco, the representative of the Pope, and his accompanying delegation on Sunday from entering the Gaza Strip to hold Sunday service despite the arrangements made days ago to facilitate their entry. A statement issued by the information office of the Latin patriarchate in Jerusalem said that the papal delegation which was composed of archbishop Franco, fathers Shawki Boutrian and Hammam Khozoz and the secretary of the Apostolic Nunciature arrived at the Beit Hanoun crossing and waited more than three hours attempting to enter Gaza but to no avail. The statement condemned this Israeli arbitrary measure as another violation of the norms of diplomacy between nations and the freedom of believers to perform their religious rites without restrictions. Meanwhile, Iranian president Ahmadi Nejad called on the world to urgently move to end the. . .

UNRWA warns of food crisis in Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 11/24/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Karen Abu Zaid, the UNRWA commissioner, on Monday expressed regret for her agency’s’ inability to extend aid to the Gaza Strip inhabitants due to the Israeli siege. She said in a press release, "We feel powerless because we have let down the people of Gaza". Abu Zaid warned of famine in the Strip because of the Israelis occupation authority’s continued closure of all Gaza commercial crossings. If the IOA did not allow entry of truckloads of food then the inhabitants would suffer hunger, she underlined, and explained that food stores were completely empty. The UNRWA commissioner finally asked the world community to pressure Israel into ending the "tragic situation" in Gaza. In another development, the health ministry in the Strip said that major hospitals in Gaza were suffering from depletion of cooking gas, which meant they could not serve meals to patients. . .

OPT: Jordan sends humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip
Xinhua News Agency, ReliefWeb 11/24/2008
AMMAN, Nov 24, 2008 (Xinhua via COMTEX News Network)-- Jordan on Monday sent aid convoys to the Gaza Strip to help ease the suffering of Palestinians caused by the Israeli blockade, according to the Jordanian Hashemite Charity Organization (JHCO). Secretary General of the charity group Mohammad Majid Aitan said the 10-truck convoy is laden with medicine and food. The aids will be distributed in cooperation with the Palestinian Red Crescent, United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East(UNRWA) and the Palestinian National Authority. Jordan’s king Abdullah II on Sunday told a meeting of EU ambassadors to Jordan that Israel’s continue blockade creates a " humanitarian catastrophe" with destructive impact on Palestinians He urged international community to move quickly to break the Israeli blockade and facilitate entry of humanitarian aids.

Khudari: Limited quantities of fuel, food did not change the tragic conditions
Palestinian Information Center 11/24/2008
GAZA, (PIC)--MP Jamal Al-Khudari, the head of the popular anti siege committee, on Monday said that the tragic conditions and the people’s suffering in Gaza did not change after the Israeli occupation authority allowed little quantities of fuel and food. How would 30 trucks of food allocated to UNRWA be enough while the agency distributes food to one million people, he questioned in a press release. He demanded the immediate opening of all Gaza commercial crossings and allowing entry of all kinds of fuel, food for private sector and assistance in addition to wheat, fodder and raw materials. Khudari said that the IOA wanted to beautify its image before the world and show as if the Gaza crisis was over. The power authority in Gaza said that the fuel allowed by the IOA into Gaza on Monday was not enough to operate the sole electricity generation station in Gaza.

Israel allows limited aid into Gaza
Al Jazeera 11/24/2008
Israel has briefly opened three border crossings with Hamas-controlled Gaza, allowing some essential food and fuel into the territory for the second time in three weeks. However, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) warned that temporarily lifting the blockade imposed by Israel on the Palestinian territory would not allow enough supplies into Gaza. "It is just not enough," Christopher Gunness, a UNRWA spokesman said, estimating that Gazans need at least 15 lorries worth of UN supplies daily to get by. Around 45 lorries of goods were allowed through the Kerem Shalom crossing on Monday, including 10 United Nations vehicles carrying food and medical supplies. Around 15 truckloads of supplies were allowed through the Karni crossing with an unspecified number also passing via the Nahal Ouz crossing.

Israel allows food and fuel into besieged Gaza Strip
Ma’an News Agency 11/24/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Israel allowed truckloads of food and fuel into the Gaza Strip on Monday, easing momentarily a crippling blockade of the coastal territory. Head of the Products Coordination Committee for the Gaza Strip Ra’ed Fattouh said that 30 trucks carrying food were allowed into the Strip through the Kerem Shalom border crossing. Twenty of the trucks were sent by international organizations, including the United Nations, which had been forced last week to suspend a food aid program for 750,000 Gazans due to the Israeli siege. Another ten trucks containing dairy products were shipped into the area by private sector firms. Also entering the Strip were 230,000 liters of industrial-grade diesel fuel through the Nahal Oz terminal, destined for Gaza’s only power plant whichshutdown last week when fuel ran out.

Israeli Knesset to convene over Gaza
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 11/24/2008
The Israel parliament (Knesset) will convene on Monday over the situation in Gaza, amidst a fragile Palestinian-Israeli ceasefire following a series of Israeli army attacks on the region and homemade shells fire onto Israel. Israeli media sources reported that the Knesset meeting has been called upon by the Likud and Israel Baytona parliamentary blocs. The opposition Likud party had accused the Israeli government of reluctance to respond to homemade shells fire as the Israel Baytona party said Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak, acts in an irresponsible way that harms Israel’s security. This exceptional convention of the Israeli Knesset comes in the backdrop of increasingly deteriorated humanitarian conditions in Gaza as Israel continues its blockade of the coastal territory for the third week consecutively.

120 Palestinians abducted since Israel’s decision to release Fatah inmates
Palestinian Information Center 11/24/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The ministry of prisoner affairs said that the Israel had kidnapped more than 120 Palestinians including a number of children from occupied Jerusalem since outgoing Israeli premier Ehud Olmert announced his intention to release 250 Palestinian prisoners affiliated with Fatah. Riyadh Al-Ashkar, the director of the information office in the ministry, added that there are still 16 Palestinian fishermen and three international activists who were kidnapped by the Israel navy in the Ramla prison. Ashqar underlined that Israel’s intent to release Palestinian prisoners as a goodwill gesture towards PA chief Mahmoud Abbas was an attempt to beautify its ugly face and to cover for its crimes against prisoners. The Palestinian official underscored that the Israeli media had unveiled a serious confidential document prepared by the Israeli intelligence and encouraged by the courts. . .

U.S’s Rice defends her administration’s failure to achieve Palestinian-Israeli peace
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 11/24/2008
The U. S Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, defended yesterday her administration’s failure to achieve Palestinian-Israeli peace by the end of 2008. On her flight back from the World Economic Partnership conference in the Peruvian capital, Mrs. Rice believed that her outgoing administration has laid the foundations for a serious Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The outgoing U. S administration has envisioned a two-state solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, yet such an objective is yet to be realized, as Palestinian and Israeli negotiators have yet failed to agree on contentious issues.

International media heads call for end to Gaza media blackout
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 11/24/2008
In a strongly-worded letter to the Israeli Prime Minister, the heads of the world’s major media organizations have called on the Israeli state to end its two-week long blackout on media from the Gaza Strip. Israel closed the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territory of Gaza to the media when the state began a new attack in violation of the ceasefire agreement with Palestinian armed factions. In the letter, the heads of major media networks, the executive editor of the New York Times, and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon all called on Israel to allow journalists to enter Gaza in order to do their jobs. The Israeli Defense Ministry stated in response that media coverage of the Gaza Strip had been unfairly biased against Israel, and the ban on journalists would not be lifted until the firing of homemade shells by the Palestinian resistance in Gaza came to a complete halt.

Ministries at odds over journalists’ entry into Gaza
Herb Keinon And Yaakov Katz, Jerusalem Post 11/24/2008
The Foreign Press Association in Israel filed a Supreme Court petition on Monday seeking to overturn a government ban on journalists entering the Gaza Strip, as the Defense and Foreign ministries spar over the issue. The court petition was filed after a letter, signed by the heads of the world’s biggest news organizations and sent to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, failed to bring about a reversal of the ban. Since Kassam rockets began falling again on the western Negev in early November, crossings have been closed except for urgent medical cases and a handful of humanitarian aid workers. The court petition sought an urgent hearing over the case. A number of discussions on the matter have been held recently between Defense and Foreign ministry officials. The former have argued that opening the crossings to journalists would endanger the personnel who man them.

OPT: Media protest at Israeli ban on Gaza Strip access
Reuters Foundation, ReliefWeb 11/24/2008
JERUSALEM, Nov 24 (Reuters) - International media groups asked the Israeli Supreme Court on Monday to end a ban on journalists entering the Gaza Strip that was imposed by Israel nearly three weeks ago as violence flared in the territory. The Foreign Press Association in Jerusalem said in a statement its lawyers had filed a petition seeking the reopening to foreign journalists of Israel’s Erez crossing to Gaza, where 1. 5 million Palestinians live under an Israeli blockade. Israel has cited security concerns for stopping journalists entering Gaza, to which it controls all access, save a normally closed border post with Egypt. However, Erez crossing is open to some, notably people needing medical care, officials said. Last week, the heads of international media organisations, including Reuters, wrote to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert urging him to end the ban.

Tehran claims it arrested Israeli spy network
Yossi Melman, Ha’aretz 11/25/2008
Iran yesterday claimed to have uncovered an Israeli spy ring responsible for collecting information about its nuclear facilities. The announcement was made by Mohammed Ali Jaffari, commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. Jaffari said his forces had seized sophisticated communications equipment and other gear from the alleged spies, and that the spies had confessed to having undergone training in Israel. The training covered sabotage as well as espionage, he added. In addition to nuclear facilities, the spies were charged with gathering information on Iranian Army and Revolutionary Guard bases, Jaffari said. Just last week, Tehran executed an Iranian businessman who had been convicted of spying for Israel; that followed hard on the heels of its announcement that it had nabbed a cell of foreign agents as its members tried to cross the border into Iran from Pakistan.

Iran: We smashed spy network linked to Israel
The Associated Press and Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 11/25/2008
Official Iranian state radio on Monday said that Tehran has dismantled an espionage network that allegedly was linked to Israel’s Mossad spy agency. The radio report featured Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, the chief of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, saying the Guards’ intelligence department recently discovered the network. Jafari said the alleged network was trying to collect information on Iran’s nuclear program and the Guards’ military operations as well as details on military and security officials. He added that equipment belonging to the alleged network was confiscated. He didn’t provide more details including whether arrests were made and who belonged to the network. Iran last week executed an Iranian businessman convicted of spying on the Islamic Republic’s military on behalf of Israel, the judiciary said on Saturday.

Iran claims Israel spy ring broken
Robert Tait in Istanbul, The Guardian 11/25/2008
Iran’s revolutionary guards ratcheted up the war of nerves with Israel yesterday by claiming to have broken a spy network run by Mossad, the Israeli espionage agency. The guards’ commander-in-chief, Muhammad Ali Jafari, said they had arrested Israeli-trained agents and seized hi-tech communications equipment. Two days ago, Iran announced it had hanged a businessman who allegedly admitted spying for Israel. Jafari said the latest group arrested had confessed to having been trained in Israel to carry out assassinations and bombings. He did not specify how many people had been held. But he told the semi-official news agency Mehr that the group had sought information about the revolutionary guards, military intelligence officials and Iran’s nuclear programme, which Israel and the west fear is designed to produce an atomic bomb.

’Iran to make big nuke program strides’
Associated Press, Jerusalem Post 11/24/2008
Weakening international pressure on Iran will embolden Teheran to make major strides next year toward developing a nuclear bomb, according to assessments from Israeli intelligence officials obtained Monday by The Associated Press. Delays in activating Iran’s nuclear reactor will not hold up its development of nuclear weapons, because Teheran’s main focus is enriching uranium, the officials said. The intelligence officials agreed to be interviewed only on condition of anonymity because the information is classified. Meanwhile, the chief US delegate to the International Atomic Energy Agency said that the change in administrations in Washington would be a good opportunity for Iran to enter new negotiations to end its uranium enrichment program. With the new administration, Iran should not expect a drastic change in the US position, said Gregory L.

Iran: We uncovered Mossad espionage ring
Dudi Cohen, YNetNews 11/24/2008
Revolutionary Guard chief says security forces exposed spy network working for Israeli intelligence - Commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Mohammad Ali Jafari said Monday that the Iranian security forces have uncovered a Mossad espionage network. Jafari did not say how many suspects were arrested or under what circumstances. " The Revolutionary Guard bureau of intelligence has recently located an espionage ring focused on the military," he told Iranian State television. "The ring was traced back to the Mossad and all of its operatives have been arrested. "This act, he added, "is a severe blow to the Mossad. " According to reports in the Iranian news agency Fars, "the spies were trying to gather intelligence about the Iranian nuclear program, about the working of the Revolutionary Guard and about various people.

Iran media: Mossad network dismantled
Brenda Gazzar, Jerusalem Post 11/24/2008
Iranian state-run media reported Monday that the country had arrested members of an espionage network with ties to the Mossad. Monday’s announcement came two days after government officials announced that Iranian businessman Ali Ashtari, who had been convicted of spying for Israel in June, was hanged last week. "The security and intelligence division of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) recently identified a network that was spying on the country’s military organizations," the Fars news agency on Monday quoted the IRGC chief commander Brig. -Gen. Muhammad-Ali Jafari as saying, according to the Iranian government-owned Press TV. "The network’s link with Mossad was established after extensive intelligence and tracking operations. Members of the cell were arrested during an operation," he said.

TRADE: Report Sees Bonanza for U.S., Iran if Sanctions Scrapped
Abid Aslam, Inter Press Service 11/25/2008
WASHINGTON, Nov 24(IPS) - Think of it as a stimulus package without deficit spending: Were the United States to normalise trade relations with Iran and were the Islamic Republic to liberalise its economy, Washington could cut its fuel costs and add tens of billions of dollars to its economy, say U. S. exporters. Such moves could lower world oil prices by as much as 10 percent, the National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC) says in a report aimed at the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama. Obama, who is to take office in January, has signaled willingness to explore new approaches to his country’s long standoff with Iran. During his election campaign, opponents lambasted Obama for favouring appeasement at a time when Washington seeks to tighten the screws on Tehran for its alleged support of terrorism and nuclear ambitions.

2009 Humanitarian appeal seeks US$ 7 billion to aid 30 million people
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs - OCHA, ReliefWeb 11/24/2008
(Abu Dhabi, 24 November 2008):His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister of UAE and President of the UAE Red Crescent Authority, today hosted a global launch of the 2009 Humanitarian Appeal, in partnership with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). "We are delighted to welcome so many distinguished guests and host this important event with the United Nations, raising our voice on behalf of the millions of needy people across the globe. This demonstrates the UAE’s ongoing commitment, under the leadership of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, President of the UAE, to supporting the joint efforts of the international humanitarian system," said His Highness Sheikh Hamdan in his opening speech. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr. Antonio Guterres, represented the UN system at the event, giving a keynote. . .

UNHCR chief Guterres urges support for 2009 Humanitarian Appeal
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees - UNHCR, ReliefWeb 11/24/2008
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, November 24 (UNHCR) –High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres, representing the United Nations system, on Monday appealed to the international community to help meet the needs of tens of millions of the world’s most vulnerable people. As keynote speaker at the launch of the 2009 Humanitarian Appeal in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Guterres said US$7 billion was needed by UN agencies and some 360 different non-governmental organizations to care for 30 million people in 31 countries around the world next year. "At this moment, millions of people across the world are experiencing insecurity as their daily reality – war and natural disasters – threaten their existence," he said in prepared remarks for Monday night’s appeal launch. "They don’t have access to the essentials of life, including clean water, heath care and shelter.

Panel emphasizes the need for impartial reporting in Palestinian media
Ma’an News Agency 11/24/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Journalists lamented the balkanization of Palestinian media at a symposium in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Sunday. A panel titled “The Role of Journalism in Enhancing Civil Society” was held on Sunday at the Shepherd Hotel in Bethlehem. The panel was organized by the Peace Alliance Foundation. The Director of the Peace Alliance Foundation, Nidal Fuqaha, opened the panel by asserting the important, but dangerous role journalism currently serves in Palestine. He argued that impartiality and professionalism are the way to approach the current crisis. Ma’an’s Chief Editor, Nasser Lahham also addressed the panel, recommending that Palestinian media employ journalists with diverse affiliations. “As long as Hamas media employs only Hamas-affiliated journalists, Fatah media employs only Fatah-affiliated journalists, and communist factions’ media. . .

Policeman filmed head-butting East Jerusalem residents
Jonathan Lis, Ha’aretz 11/25/2008
The Justice Ministry’s Police Investigation Department (PID) recently launched an investigation in efforts to locate a patrol police officer who was documented head-butting two Arab residents of East Jerusalem, a man and a woman, while evacuating homes slated for demolition. The policeman was filmed by an activist belonging to the human rights group B’Tselem during the preparation for the demolition of several buildings in the al-Boustan neighborhood in the Silwan village in the city. The footage was recently handed over to PID. B’Tselem issued a statement saying that the organization welcomes the PID investigation. "Now the prosecution must pursue justice for the attacking officer and send a message that police brutality is not acceptable," the statement said. Related articles:IDF troops film themselves humiliating bound. . .

Barak: Hizbullah has 42,000 missiles
Jerusalem Post 11/24/2008
Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Monday cautioned that Hizbullah had greatly improved its capabilities since the Second Lebanon War and was in possession of rockets that could reach as far south as Dimona. The defense minister also warned Beirut that the Shi’ite militia’s integration into the Lebanese government could lead to extensive attacks on Lebanese infrastructure in the event of a military conflagration. Barak: Hizbullah has greatly improved its capabilities since Second Lebanon War "Hizbullah has three times the ability it had before the Second Lebanon War and now has 42,000 missiles in its possession, as opposed to the 14,000 it had before the war," Barak said in a Knesset speech, warning that Hizbullah’s recent maneuvers south of the Litani River were a liability for Lebanon. "In practice, UN Resolution 1701 isn’t working, and Hizbullah’s integration within the Lebanese. . .

Barak: Hezbollah has 42,000 rockets, some can hit Dimona
Shahar Ilan , and Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 11/25/2008
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Monday that Hezbollah had tripled its strength since the 2006 war in Lebanon, and that the pro-Iranian organization now possesses 42,000 rockets, some of which are capable of striking Ashkelon, Yerucham, and Dimona, Army Radio reported. In a rare speech to the Knesset plenum, Barak defended himself against critics who had called for a massive offensive in the Gaza Strip, saying that Israel would not become hostage to a lone Qassam rocket. "A Gaza operation will not hasten the return of Gilad Shalit," Barak declared in reference to the IDF soldier held captive by Hamas for more than two years. Israel would soon need to make tough decisions on the matter. "Those who are calling for conquering Gaza, should state the consequences out loud.

Report: Iran might offer military aid to Lebanon
Dudi Cohen, YNetNews 11/24/2008
As Lebanese president arrives in Tehran for first official visit, Hizbullah sources claim Iran may offer to provide Beirut with missile systems -Lebanon’s President Michel Suleiman arrived in Iran for a first official visit on Monday. He was greeted by Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki at Tehran’s airport, Iranian news agency IRNA reported. London-based Arabic-language newspaper al-Quds al-Arabi quotedHizbullah sources as saying that Iran may offer Suleiman military aid, including missile systems. Suleiman came to Iran accompanied by a delegation of high ranking ministers, and is scheduled to meet with his counterpart, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mottaki and the Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Saeed Jalili. Tehran attributes great importance to the visit, in light of the major role Iran plays in internal Lebanese politics.

Sleiman ’unlikely’ to accept arms offer from Iran
Daily Star 11/25/2008
BEIRUT: Rumors of an Iranian proposal to visiting Lebanese President Michel Sleiman to help arm Lebanon’s military amount to little more than political maneuvering, as a number of factors would likely keep the Lebanese government from approving defense assistance, several analysts told The Daily Star on Monday. Sleiman began a two-day trip to Iran on Monday, one day after pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat reported that Tehran would offer him heavy weaponry for the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF). Knowing the obstacles to Beirut ratifying such a proposal, Iran is more likely trying to bolster its Lebanese ally Hizbullah by demonstrating that the Islamic Republic’s longstanding support for Hizbullah does not overlap with other significant defense roles for the LAF, said Hilal Khashan, chair of the department of political science and public administration at the American University of Beirut.

Ahmadinejad opens Sleiman visit with praise for Lebanon’s resistance feats
Daily Star 11/25/2008
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday praised Lebanese resistance against Israel, in a meeting with Lebanon’s President Michel Sleiman, the official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported. Ahmadinejad added that the 34-day summer 2006 war with Israel led to "many achievements for the Lebanese people and the region. ""The Lebanese disappointed the enemy forever and crushed the myth of the enemies’ invincibility," Ahmadinejad told Sleiman, who is on a two-day visit to Tehran accompanied by six ministers. "The attack two years ago which was intended to destroy this country became a turning point for recovering Lebanon’s identity and unity," he said. Sleiman described relations between Tehran and Beirut as "good" and said his visit was aimed at "meeting senior Iranian officials and strengthening bilateral ties," IRNA reported.

Police: Tax Authority not helping fight organized crime
Noam Sharvit, Globes Online 11/24/2008
Tax Authority officials are demanding risk bonuses in exchange for their collaboration. Israel Police Investigations and Intelligence Branch deputy commander Brig. -Gen. David Mantzur today said that, for months, the Israel Tax Authority has not been cooperating with the law enforcement agencies in the fight against organized crime. He said that Tax Authority officials are demanding risk bonuses in exchange for their collaboration. Mantzur made the comments to the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee, which met to discuss the police’s measures against organized crime. Committee chairman MK Ophir Pines-Paz (Labor) promised to ask Minister of Finance Ronnie Bar-On and Israel Tax Authority director general Yehuda Nasradishi to solve the financial problem. Mantzur said, "The goal of the police is to destroy organized crime by demolishing its financial infrastructure.

Tax agents avoid ’risky’ anti-mob jobs
Shahar Ilan, Ha’aretz 11/25/2008
The Tax Authority is not cooperating in the fight against organized crime because its workers are demanding high-risk pay, the deputy head of police investigations and intelligence told the Knesset Internal Affairs Committee yesterday. Committee chairman MK Ophir Pines-Paz (Labor) called the meeting to discuss the assassination of crime boss Ya’akov Alperon last week. Brig. Gen. Dror Mantzur told the lawmakers the Prison Service says it has 500 organized crime offenders behind bars. At the beginning of 2006, the cabinet established a steering committee, headed by the attorney general and including law enforcement officials, to fight organized crime. The committee sought to establish 10 teams including police officers and tax officials in order to target the problem. But for the past 18 months, the latter have been refusing to cooperate.

Knesset reapproves Gush Katif inquiry, despite legal opposition
Jerusalem Post 11/24/2008
The Knesset State Control Committee on Monday approved the establishment of a judicial commission of inquiry to investigate the handling of the Gush Katif evacuees according to the mandate it had drafted, despite the attorney-general’s opinion that it had exceeded its authority. On July 30, the committee voted nine to three, with two abstentions, to establish a judicial commission of inquiry after monitoring for more than two years the progress being made by the government regarding problems revealed in a special report by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss on the evacuees in 2006. However, the committee called on the judicial commission of inquiry to investigate more issues than Lindenstrauss had investigated in his report. After the commission’s mandate was formulated by the committee, Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz wrote to its chairman, Michael Eitan, asking him to change his mind and not appoint a commission.

Likud sells latest recruits to Russian-speakers
Lily Galili, Ha’aretz 11/25/2008
With the return of Benny Begin to Likud, the party’s campaign managers for the Russian-speaking community assumed that his last name would work magic even among people not here when his father was prime minister. Menachem Begin earned his stripes with the Russian public for the year or so he spent in the Soviet gulag for his Zionist activities, before he came to pre-state Israel in 1942 and took command of the underground movement the Irgun. This assumption proved only partly correct. Begin is indeed well-liked in the Russian-speaking community and media, but there are people who can be used with greater effect. The most outstanding of these is Likud’s newest acquisition, Misha Smolensky, better known to veteran Israelis by the name Moshe Ya’alon. The popularity of former chief of staff Ya’alon is not only due to his defense background, but because he hails from a kibbutz, comes from a Russian-speaking family and understands the language well.

Armored Corps PR campaign raises recruitment success
Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 11/25/2008
The Armored Corps of the Israel Defense Forces has a new method to persuade new inductees to join its ranks. Recently the corps began allowing new enlistees to serve in the same platoon during basic training and for the duration of their service with their high school classmates. The draft of November 2008, which began this week, included 107 Armored Corps recruits who signed up with their buddies: 38 soldier pairs, seven trios, one quartet and a set of "sextuplets. "The current crop of recruits is particularly large, part of the Armored Corps’ plan to add one company to every battalion. Senior corps officers point to several initiatives that have increased the corps’ popularity among new recruits after a number of years in which new soldiers voted with their feet - into the IDF infantry. In November 2007 only 30 percent of recruits listed the Armored Corps as their first choice.

Kadima officials: Olmert sabotaging our campaign
Yuval Karni, YNetNews 11/24/2008
Senior members of ruling party accuse prime minister of acting irresponsibly during elections. ’First he erased Barak, now he’s erasing us,’ one says - Senior members of the Kadima party have claimed recently that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is sabotaging Chairwoman Tzipi Livni’s election campaign and not behaving as would be expected from a prime minister during elections. The criticism grew stronger over the weekend, after Kadima members read the public opinion polls and realized that their party was losing power, while the Likud and Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu were gaining popularity. "Olmert fails to consider the fact that Kadima has entered an election campaign period," said one senior official, known as the prime minister’s close associate. The criticism was mostly directed at Olmert’s

Livni focuses on Shas - in order to fight Likud
Gil Hoffman, Jerusalem Post 11/24/2008
Kadima leader Tzipi Livni’s recent verbal attacks on Shas were really intended to harm the Likud, according to a haredi strategist working with Kadima who preferred to remain anonymous due to his sensitive position in a party with an anti-haredi message. Livni has escalated her attacks on Shas in recent days, telling the Kadima council on Thursday that she will not "sell out the country to the haredim. " She continued the attacks on Sunday, telling a youth convention in Tel Aviv that anyone who wanted to see the Education portfolio given to Shas should not vote for her. "Kadima’s fight is not with Shas," the haredi strategist said. "The real fight is with Bibi [Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu]. Livni used the opportunity of [Shas mentor] Rabbi Ovadia [Yosef]’s comments [that secular teachers are asses] to arouse potential Kadima voters.

Sheetrit: Bibi has a good chance to form gov’t
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 11/24/2008
Kadima’s campaign bureau head admits right-wing parties likely to win 65 Knesset seats, which would enable Likud chairman to assemble coalition; warns government headed by Netanyahu will lead country to economic stagnation - Head of Kadima’s campaign bureau, Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit, admitted Monday that based on recent polls Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu stands a good chance of forming a government and becoming Israel’s next prime minister. "I predict a dangerous situation in which the rightist bloc would win 65 Knesset seats and Netanyahu would have a greater chance of forming a coalition," he said in a meeting with foreign reporters. "The Labor Party is no longer relevant," Sheetrit added. "The struggle now is betweenKadima and the Likud. The public needs to take into consideration that if Bibi is elected - the peace process will be completely frozen, and this will lead to severe economic stagnation.

3 MKs threatening break from new rightist party
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 11/24/2008
Yitzhak Levy, Uri Ariel and Zvi Hendel demand primary elections to determine Jewish Home’s roster ahead of general elections; public council insists leaving issue to online vote -Three members of the newly formed right-wing ’Jewish Home’ party threatened to leave it Monday, unless primaries were held to determine the party list. Members of the party’s public council have decided not to hold primary elections to determine its roster ahead of the February 10 general elections, and instead leave it to the general public to do so by way of an online vote. "This is a serious problem for us," said Knesset member Yitzhak Levy, speaking also for MK Uri Ariel and MK Zvi Hendel. "Of course we won’t do anything drastic as long as dialogue continues. " Levy said he was considering reestablishing the National Union Party along with MK Arieh Eldad, who currently heads the Hatikva Party.

MKs consider leaving 2-week-old Habayit Hayehudi
Nadav Shragai, Ha’aretz 11/25/2008
Just two weeks after the establishment of the new right wing party, Habayit Hayehudi ("the Jewish Home"), a crisis is looming over the decision of its public council not to hold a primary vote to elect its list of Knesset candidates. The Sunday night decision brought an angry response from MK Uri Ariel, a candidate for the number one spot on the list, who called it "wretched. "MKs Zvi Hendel and Rabbi Yitzhak Levy were also angered by the decision. Their associates said they were now considering their next steps in the party. Sources close to Ariel said he was weighing running on a separate list together with MKS Arieh Eldad and Efi Eitam. Like Hendel, they were members of the National Union-National Religious Party, however, unlike Hendel and Levy, they did not join the new party. The sources said people close to MK Zevulon Orlev, who is also seeking the number one slot, are behind the decision.

Polls open for run-off elections in 31 communities
Roni Singer-Heruti and Eli Ashkenazi, Ha’aretz 11/25/2008
Polls will again open this morning for runoff elections in 31 local councils in which no candidate obtained the 40-percent minimum of the ballots cast during election two weeks ago. Today, the two candidates with the largest number of votes will compete. Most of the locales where a second round of voting is needed are Arab communities, but voters in the cities of Rehovot and Kiryat Shmona are also going to the polls again. In Rehovot, two-time Mayor Shuki Forer is fending off challenger Uzi Salant as well as an imminent indictment over alleged election funding irregularities dating back to his first mayoral campaign in 1998. The pending indictment, which has been brewing for some time, did not stop Forer from announcing his intention to seek reelection whether or not charges were filed against him. Forer led the mayoral poll with 34 percent of the vote, but that was not enough to prevent a runoff against Salant.

ANALYSIS / Elections are Gilad Shalit’s greatest hope
Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 11/25/2008
There has been some behind-the-scenes movement in recent weeks in the negotiations over Gilad Shalit’s release, and Israel is now awaiting Hamas’ response to its latest proposal. Surprisingly, it seems that the upcoming Knesset elections have provided the main spur for greater flexibility in Israel’s stance. This is primarily because Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who must make the final decision, is not running for reelection. Instead, he is busy trying to create a legacy that will not only cause him to be remembered in the history books, but might also provide a springboard for his eventual return to politics. Even if Olmert succeeds in emerging unscathed from the numerous police investigations against him - a necessary precursor to a political comeback - he will still be haunted by the two major failures of his term as premier: the Second Lebanon War and Shalit’s abduction.

Report: Israel willing to release more prisoners for Shalit
Amos Harel Barak Ravid and Jack Khoury, Ha’aretz 11/25/2008
Israel has recently agreed to release 220 of the 350 prisoners convicted of serious crimes whose freedom Hamas is demanding in exchange for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. This represents a significant moderation of Israel’s position, as it had previously agreed to release only 150 of these prisoners. Nevertheless, the gap between the parties remains wide. Altogether, Hamas is demanding the release of 1,400 prisoners in exchange for Shalit, of which it insists that about 450 be people convicted of serious crimes. Of these, it has specified 350 by name; the rest would be at Israel’s discretion. Initially, Israel had refused to release more than 450 prisoners in total, but it has now apparently acceded to Hamas’ demand on the overall number. However, it is still arguing with the Islamic organization over which prisoners will be released.

Figures show crisis spreading in economy as a whole
Ruth Sinai Moti Bassok Tal Levy and Zvi Zrahiya, Ha’aretz 11/25/2008
Government agencies released a series of downbeat economic statistics yesterday, which show that the crisis is spreading from the financial sector to the rest of the economy. The Government Employment Service reported that the number of job-seekers rose by 2,100 people in October, to 193,200, from 191,100 in September. Of these, 15,000 were newly unemployed, including 10,000 who had been fired from their previous jobs. Moreover, the number of unemployed people with a college degree rose by 2,500 over the last six months, the service said. At the same time, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported that gross domestic product grew by only 2. 3 percent in the third quarter, compared to 4. 1 percent in the second quarter, while the business product rose by a mere 1. 9 percent, down from 5. 8 percent in the April-June period.

Fischer cuts interest rate to 2.5%
Globes'' correspondent, Globes Online 11/24/2008
"Data on real activity in Israel indicate a more severe slowdown in the expansion of economic activity. " Governor of the Bank of Israel Prof. Stanley Fischer today cut the interest rate by 50 basis points to 2. 5%. The move follows the mid-month cut of the same amount. The current interest rate is the lowest in Israeli history. TheBank of Israel said, "Against the decline in global economic activity and the increased cost of credit to the Israeli business sector, the data on real activity in Israel indicate a more severe slowdown in the expansion of economic activity. Uncertainty in the global financial markets and in Israel’s financial markets is high. In light of the global financial crisis and the expected continued deterioration in global economic activity, as well as the worldwide reductions in inflation expectations, the capital markets expect central banks around the world to continue to cut their interest rates.

Merrill Lynch warns again on Israeli banks
Globes'' correspondent, Globes Online 11/24/2008
The investment bank has cut 2009 earnings estimates by 40% since Lehman Brothers collapsed. Worsening economic conditions in Israel, and the global credit crunch, lead investment house Merrill Lynch to lower its earnings estimates on Israel’s banks still further. Along with a previous earnings estimates cut, Merrill has reduced its earnings estimates for the industry by 40% since Lehman Brothers collapsed in September. In the middle of October, Merrill cut its 2009 estimate by 14%, but said that the strong fundamentals of Israel’s economy would prevent a further drop in economic activity. Since then, the economy has suffered what the bank calls a "marked deterioration", leading to concerns of recession rather than just a slowdown. News of bankruptcies and layoffs are becoming routine, and the spreads of corporate bonds over government yields have jumped, reflecting investor fears of more bankruptcies.

Jobseeker numbers up
Shay Niv, Globes Online 11/24/2008
Employment Service director general Yosef Farhi: 11,005 people with degrees lost their jobs in July-October. The number of jobseekers rose by 1. 1%, or 2,100 persons, to 195,900 in October 2008, the Israel National Employment Service reports. The number of jobseekers in October was 9. 2%, or 9,200 people, greater than the 186,700 jobseekers in October 2007. Judging by the latest wave of layoffs, the November jobseeker numbers will be worse. The number of newly laid off (people who visited the Employment Service in the past year) actually declined by 0. 1% in October. The increase in jobseeker numbers in October was due to the decline in available jobs, which has made it hard for people laid in recent months to get work. The Employment Service is especially worried by the 2. 6% increase in the number of people with university degrees who could not find work in October, compared with September.

Israel’s growth slows
Avi Temkin, Globes Online 11/24/2008
GDP rose by an annualized 2. 3% in the third quarter and business product rose by 1. 9%. Israel’s growth rate slowed sharply during the third quarter of 2008, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported today. GDP rose by an annualized 2. 3% during the third quarter, after rising 4. 1% in the second quarter and 5. 2% in the first quarter. Business product growth slowed to an annualized 1. 9% in the third quarter from 5% in the second quarter and 5. 8% in the first quarter. Industrial output fell by 7. 8% in the third quarter. The Bank of Israel’s revised outlook predicts 1. 5% GDP growth in 2009; the National Accounts show that Israel’s growth has already slumped to this level. The Central Bureau of Statistics data mainly refers to the summer, before the global financial storm worsened last month, causing a rise in risk, a wave of layoffs, and a slump in credit.

Palestinian economists: conferences key to development
Ma’an News Agency 11/24/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Ma’an TV held a panel on the Palestinian economy in connection to the second Palestine Investment Conference held in the West Bank city of Nablus over the weekend. The panel included Minister of National Economy Kamal Hassouna, renowned Palestinian businessman Munib Al-Masri and former chairman of the Palestine Economic Council for Development Muhammad Ishtayya. The panelists applauded the role conferences play in promoting investment in Palestine. They talked about the 2007 Annapolis conference in the US, the Paris economic conference, and the May 2008 Palestine Investment Conference in Bethlehem and this week’s Nablus conference. Ishtayya argued that Palestinians believe conferences do not have direct influence because it takes time to produce visible results. So far, no economic results have been seen by the public.

Oil Refineries Q3 profit down 99.7%
Yael Schwartzbart, Globes Online 11/24/2008
CEO Ben-Shach: Oil Refineries’ policy is not to hedge its operating inventory. This benefits us when prices rise, but hurts us when prices fall. "Israel Corporation(TASE: ILCO) subsidiary Oil Refineries Ltd. (TASE: ORL) today published its financial report for the third quarter of 2008. The reports show many a slip between the top line and bottom line results. Although revenue doubled to $2. 62 billion from $1. 29 billion for the corresponding quarter of 2007, net profit fell 99. 7% to $42,000 for the third quarter from $18 million for the corresponding quarter of 2007. Despite the plunge in profit, the company announced that it will distribute a $200 million dividend. Refining revenue doubled to $2. 5 billion for the third quarter from $1. 23 billion for the corresponding quarter. Financing expenses were partly responsible for the drop in profit.

Slowing down: Economy grows by only 2.3% in third quarter
Moti Bassok, Ha’aretz 11/25/2008
The Israeli economy is definitely slowing down. Economic growth between July and September reached only 2. 3% in annual terms - far below the 4. 1% reported for the second quarter and 5. 2% for the first, and for all of 2007 for that matter. Growth in the quarter, however, was quite a bit higher than that expected in the near future, when the economy is expected to really start feeling the impact of the world financial and economic crisis. Private sector production rose just 1. 9% in the third quarter after gaining 5. 0% and 5. 8% in the first and second quarters respectively. The preliminary estimates for the period released by the Central Bureau of Statistics yesterday point to a slowing or even shrinking economy in most areas. Investment was down 16. 5%, and exports of goods and services shrank 13. 4%. (These had fallen 2.

Israel included in OECD export credit agreement
Reuters, Ha’aretz 11/25/2008
PARIS - The United States, the European Union, Brazil and Russia will pledge support for export credit under an Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development accord, the OECD announced yesterday. The agreement, finalized over the weekend, includes the 30 OECD member countries, non-members Brazil, Estonia, Romania, Russia and Slovenia, and participants in its arrangement of officially supported export credits - Australia, Canada, the European Union, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland and the U. S. It also includes Israel, which is not yet a member of the OECD, but is in the process of applying for membership. "OECD Member and Non-Member governments are determined to maintain their export credit support and ensure that sufficient capacity is available with the aim of supporting international trade flows, in line with sound underwriting principles, within. . .

Securities Auth. proposing ’distress funds’
Moti Bassok Tal Levy and Zvi Zrahiya, Ha’aretz 11/25/2008
The Israel Securities Authority is to initiate distress funds, whose purpose will be to invest in corporate bonds, thereby injecting liquidity into the capital market. The funds are to be owned by the government and private entities. The ISA has also proposed (although no agreement has been reached) that the state provide guarantees to banks in order to increase the supply of corporate credit. Meanwhile, at internal discussions within the treasury, the cost of the safety net for provident fund members is being estimated at about NIS 10 billion, spread over a number of years. The final amount will be determined after the treasury decides which of the models are to be implemented. Lengthy discussions, some of them led by Finance Minister Roni Bar-On, were held yesterday with the aim of reaching a final decision on the plan, with the participation of all the heads of the ministry and their assisting teams.

Now you can get the Koran on your cellphone
Kobi Ben-Simhon, Ha’aretz 11/25/2008
Pelephone announced a new service last week, inviting subscribers to read the Koran on their cellphones. The service, which costs NIS 5. 90 a month, comes on the heels of the cellular version of the Bible, which the company launched about six months ago. Though you may want to ask what a cellphone has to with sacred texts, it turns out that the service appeals to quite a few people. "A year and a half ago we decided to move closer to the world of texts because technology allowed us to create a unique reading experience; to flip through pages exactly as if they were a book," says the director of Pelephone’s content department, Motti Cohen. "We have thousands of users who enter and read the Bible, and now the Koran too. Apparently we are providing something to subscribers who want to be connected to these texts at any time and any place.

Chief rabbis declare day of prayers on economic crisis
Ynet, YNetNews 11/24/2008
Rabbis urge people to pray, repent and give charity on Thursday, as way to battle implications of global financial meltdown -Chief Rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yona Metzger declared that a special day of prayer will be held on Thursday dedicated to the global financial crisis. In a message published under the title "A Day of Prayer and Outcry", the rabbis wrote: "We ask our brethren to gather at synagogues and places of Torah study on Thursday to say a prayer and ask for mercy following the financial crisis that has swept the world. "Many a good people have already been affected, and the Torah and education institutes are barely coping, with some facing the risk of closing down. " According to the rabbis, "Many factories have shut down, the workers have been let go and have lost their source of livelihood and their ability to provide for their families.

Kuntar: Syrian flag will soon fly over Golan
Hagai Einav, YNetNews 11/24/2008
Lebanese murderer, who was released as part of Israel-Hizbullah prisoner exchange deal, visits ’Shouting Hill’ on Israeli-Syrian border, addresses hundreds of Druze residents rallying on other side - Some 500 residents of the Druze villages of Majdal Shams, Mas’ada, Buq’ata and Ein Quniya gathered on the "Shouting Hill" on the Israel- Syria border late Monday morning, where they were addressed by Samir Kuntar, the convicted murderer of the Haran family from Nahariya and police officer Eliyahu Shahar. Kuntar, who is also a Druze, was released from Israeli prison as part of the prisoner swap deal between the Jewish state and theHizbullah organization in exchange for the remains of kidnapped IDF soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser. Excitedly, he turned to the crowd on the Israeli side and said, "I came to this event from a meeting with (Syrian) President Bashar Assad who promised me he would help you.

’Don’t obey Golan evacuation order’
Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post 11/24/2008
One-third of the country believes it would be legitimate for soldiers to refuse orders to remove settlements from the Golan Heights, according to a poll released on Monday. The poll was carried out by Ma’agar Mohot for a conference entitled "War at home? from disengagement to the Golan Heights" that will be held Thursday at the Kinneret College on the Sea of Galilee. Asked what soldiers should do if ordered in the future to evacuate Jewish settlements from the Golan Heights, 67% of the respondents who had an opinion said the soldiers should carry out the evacuation, while 33% percent said they should not. Among respondents who identified themselves as voters for right-wing parties, the number saying the soldiers should not carry out the orders reached 41%. Udi Lebel, a political scientist at Kinneret College, said this was the first time such a large percentage of the population gave legitimacy to refuse IDF orders.

ElBaradei clashes with US over Syria’s bid for nuclear power
Associated Press, Jerusalem Post 11/24/2008
The chief UN nuclear inspector said Monday that Syria had a right to his agency’s help in planning a power-producing atomic reactor, in what diplomats described as a rejection of US-led efforts to block the aid. The clash reflected tensions between Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the UN nuclear agency, and key Western nations over whether Syria should be given potentially sensitive nuclear guidance at a time when it is being investigated. Russia, China and developing nations also back the aid project, said diplomats who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the International Atomic Energy Agency talks. US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said it was "totally inappropriate, we believe, given the fact that Syria is under investigation by the IAEA for building a nuclear reactor outside the bounds of its international legal commitments.

IAEA governors at odds over Syria bid for atom aid
Reuters, YNetNews 11/24/2008
China, Russia object to ’political interference’ in agency’s aid program for civilian nuclear energy development, while US, France, Canada and the EU say Syria’s bid for UN aid in planning nuclear power plant while it is being probed over proliferation concerns ’inappropriate’ -Western nations clashed with Russia, China and developing states on Monday over whether to grant Syria’s bid for UN aid in planning a nuclear power plant while it is under investigation for alleged covert atomic work. China, Russia and developing nations on the governing board disagreed, objecting to "political interference" in the agency’s aid program for civilian nuclear energy development. The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency urged the policymaking board to clear the project, saying Syria’s IAEA membership rights should not be curbed as long as it was not proved to have pursued nuclear weaponry in secret.

Golan Heights Druze honor freed terrorist Samir Kuntar
Eli Ashkenazi, Ha’aretz 11/25/2008
Hundreds of Druze living on the Golan Heights gathered yesterday at the "Shouting Hill" near the village of Majdal Shams to see and express support for Samir Kuntar. Kuntar, who was released from prison in Israel after 29 years as part of a prisoner exchange in July, is currently visiting Syria. On their way to the hill, large numbers of Druze marched through the center of Majdal Shams. Little girls carried a picture of Kuntar, who in 1979 murdered Einat Haran, 4, and her father Danny, during a Nahariya terror attack. From the Syrian side of the border, Kuntar expressed support for the demand by Golan Druze to return to Syrian rule. Among those participating in the rally, which took place late yesterday morning, were the head of the northern branch of Israel’s Islamic Movement, Sheikh Ra’ad Salah, and MK Said Naffaa (Balad).

Assad makes Kuntar a sergeant
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 11/24/2008
Syrian president honors Lebanese terrorist with military title, during latter’s visit to Damascus -Lebanese terrorist Samir Kuntar, recently released from jail in Israel as part of an exchange with Hizbullah for the bodies of kidnapped soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, was awarded an honorary title of sergeant by Syrian President Bashar Assad, Monday. "Kuntar was not merely the most senior prisoner in jail, but is also senior among free men and honoraries. His being here with us and his determination to promote Arab rights, despite everything he’s been through, has turned him into a symbol of the struggle for freedom across the Arab world and the whole world," Assad said during a meeting between the two in Damascus. Kuntar expressed pride at the honor of meeting the Syrian president. "

A conversation with Uri Gordon
David B. Green, Ha’aretz 11/24/2008
The author of ’Anarchy Alive!’ says the economic meltdown is a sign capitalism has reached its limits and explains why he won’t be voting or serving in any army Over the telephone Uri Gordon does not sound like he’s gloating, but for an anarchist such as himself, the earth-shaking economic developments of the past six weeks have to have provided some satisfaction. After all, today’s anarchists are certain of the wrong-headedness of the modern capitalist system, with its inevitable march toward a greater concentration of the world’s wealth in an increasingly smaller number of hands. Most also see the need for a radical change in humanity’s relationship with the environment, an understanding that seems to have been adopted by at least much of the West in recent months, as the effects of oil depletion and climate change become felt.

Jewish youths jailed for neo-Nazi attacks in Israel
Angela Balakrishnan and agencies, The Guardian 11/24/2008
A gang of Jewish teenagers were today jailed by an Israeli court for a 12-month campaign of neo-Nazi attacks. The sentencing in Tel Aviv, which comes over a year after the arrest of the eight youths, closed a case that has sparked revulsion across the Jewish state. The judge, Zvi Gurfinkel, sentenced the teens, aged 16 to 19, to between one and seven years in prison for a "shocking and horrifying" year-long spree of attacks that focused on foreign workers, gay people, ultra-orthodox Jews and homeless men. The ring posted pro-Hitler video clips and recordings of their attacks on the internet. Its members also planned to attack Arabs. They were arrested in September 2007 and reports said that searches of their homes unearthed Nazi uniforms, knives, guns and the explosive TNT. Gang members had tattoos popular with white supremacists - including the number. . .

Avraham Biran
Lawrence Joffe, The Guardian 11/25/2008
In a nation where archaeology is virtually a national pastime, few matched the expertise of Israel’s Avraham Biran, who has died aged 98. Over his long life he held extraordinarily diverse posts: he was acting governor in Jerusalem, Israeli diplomat in Jordan, consul general to Los Angeles and director of his nation’s department of antiquities and museums, among others. Yet he is best known for spending 33 years excavating Tel Dan, a hillside on Israel’s northernmost border with Syria. Most famously, in 1993, his team uncovered what seemed to be the first extra-biblical reference to King David. On a foot-long basalt slab, they found a ninth-century BC Aramaic inscription in which a king from Damascus boasts of vanquishing the rulers of "Israel" and an entity apparently called "Beit David".

Last-minute scramble over Iraq’s pact
Sami Moubayed, Asia Times 11/25/2008
DAMASCUS - A meeting of the Iraqi parliament scheduled for Monday was postponed until Wednesday, at the request of parliamentarians who wanted more time to study the provisions of the proposed Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) security accord with the United States. The controversial SOFA, which calls for withdrawal of all US troops by 2011 yet gives the US dramatic long-term privileges in Iraq, has caused a stir within the Iraqi political community, dividing Iraqis like never before since the US invasion of 2003. Over the weekend, parliament met for six hours, angrily debating the SOFA. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who was initially not too enthusiastic about the agreement, made it clear that it cannot be forced on the Iraqi people and must be ratified by parliament. A narrow victory or close ballot was unacceptable, he said, because this would deepen political divisions among Shi’ites, Kurds and Sunnis.

Three blasts kill 17 ahead of Iraqi vote on security pact with US
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 11/25/2008
BAGHDAD: Three explosions rocked Baghdad on Monday, killing 17 people two days before Parliament was to vote on a divisive military pact under which all US troops would leave Iraq by the end of 2011. One of the blasts was reprtedly caused by a mentally disabled woman strapped with explosives who blew up at the entrance to Baghdad’s heavily-guarded Green Zone, underscoring the lingering violence in the Iraqi capital. In the first attack, 13 people were killed - nine of them women - when a roadside bomb exploded near a bus carrying Trade Ministry employees during rush-hour in east Baghdad, a medical official at a nearby hospital said. The medic said most of the victims were incinerated inside the bus, and that five other people were wounded. Less than an hour later a woman strapped with bombs exploded in a corridor leading into the Green Zone, where dozens of Iraqi employees were queuing to pass through security checkpoints.

Iran calls Iraq-US security deal a mirage
Middle East Online 11/24/2008
TEHRAN - Iran’s parliament speaker Ali Larijani has denounced the Iraq-US deal on the future of American troops in the war-torn country as a mirage, the semi-official Fars news agency reported on Monday. "The security deal will create numerous problems in the region and for the Iraqi people. This accord is a mirage," it quoted him as saying. The Iraqi parliament is set to vote on the wide-ranging military pact on Wednesday. Under the deal, US troops would remain in Iraq for another three years after their UN mandate expires on December 31. Larijani slammed what he called "immunity from justice" for US troops in Iraq under the pact, and said this violated Iraqi sovereignty. He also said the agreement "does not guarantee that American forces will withdraw" from Iraq. Hassan Ghashghavi, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman, said earlier on Monday he would not pass comment. . .

Iraqi court acquits legislator for making trip to Israel
Reuters, Ha’aretz 11/24/2008
An Iraqi court on Monday acquitted a legislator on Monday whom the government had prosecuted for making a trip to Israel, ruling that his visit was not actually against Iraqi law, the defense lawyer said. The Iraqi government had accused member of parliament Mithal al-Alusi of committing a crime by visiting a country Iraq considers an enemy, in breach of a law it said had been retained since the rule of late dictator Saddam Hussein. Like most Arab countries, Iraq has no diplomatic relations with Israel. Members of parliament voted to strip him of his legal immunity in September, over the trip he made earlier that month for a conference on terrorism and security. The court affirmed that there is no explicit law against visiting Israel, even though passports issued by Saddam’s Iraq warned recipients that they were not allowed to go there.

Women killed in Baghdad blasts
Al Jazeera 11/25/2008
Four bomb explosions in and around the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, have left more than 20 people dead. Iraqi police said as many as 13 women died on Monday after a roadside bomb struck a minibus carrying female employees from the trade ministry to work in eastern Baghdad. One of those killed was a young girl less than 10 years old, security officials said. Seven people were also wounded in the explosion. In the second attack, less than an hour later, a female suicide bomber killed at least five people and injured a dozen others when she detonated her explosives outside the foreign ministry, police said. The US military said the attack at the entrance to the Green Zone in central Baghdad killed two Iraqi army members and three civilians.

Olmert: History will owe Bush for setting Mideast on path to peace
Ha’aretz 11/25/2008
President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert bid each other farewell on Monday, expressing confidence in an eventual Mideast peace deal that won’t materialize on either of their watches. Bush and Olmert met for more than an hour at the White House as their time in office winds to a close. Bush’s two terms end Jan. 20. Olmert plans to resign amid corruption charges and will step down after a successor is chosen on Feb. 10. Bush, speaking to reporters before their talks in the Oval Office, said Olmert kept his word "and in international politics, that’s important. ""We’ve been through a lot together during our time in office," Bush said. "We strongly believe that Israel will benefit by having a Palestinian state, a democracy on her border that works for peace.

Washington Watch: Hillary at State: Why worry?
Jerusalem Post 11/24/2008
No secretary of state will come to that office with stronger pro-Israel credentials or closer ties to the Jewish community than Sen. Hillary Clinton, who President-elect Barack Obama is expected to nominate right after Thanksgiving. Naturally, that doesn’t stop the Jews from worrying. The Left fears the junior senator from New York is too close to the pro-Israel hardliners and won’t aggressively press for Israeli-Palestinian peace, and the right fears she will. Even before Obama has picked his national security team, Washington is awash in speculation about peace plans, new and old. When two former national security advisors in administrations not considered friendly to Israel wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post last week and one met with the president-elect, Israeli pundits panicked, extrapolating that the two were sketching out the Obama administration’s new Middle East policy.

Renewable energy conference looks to US-Israel cooperation
Globes'' correspondent, Globes Online 11/24/2008
A joint US-Israeli program, and a renewable energy park in Timna, could be key announcements at the Eilat-Eilot conference. Organizers of the Eilat-Eilot International Renewable Energy Conference hope that US-Israeli energy cooperation legislation will become a reality at the conference. The conference announced today that the US-Israel Energy Cooperation Act, passed two years ago by the US Congress, could launch at the upcoming Eilat-Eilot energy conference, to be held from February 17-19 in Eilat, Israel. The cooperation act will create a $20 million grant program administered by the US Department of Energy to fund eligible joint ventures between US and Israeli businesses and academic figures, will establish an International Energy Advisory Board, and for other purposes. The act was passed in the US Congress but has not yet actually been launched.

Abbas warns Hamas to accept talks or face polls
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 11/25/2008
RAMALLAH, Occupied West Bank: Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas on Monday gave the Islamist Hamas movement which controls Gaza an end-of-year deadline to resume dialogue with his leadership or face snap elections. "We reiterate today that we are going to set a deadline of the end of the year for the launch of a national dialogue," Abbas said in a televised address. "If our appeal goes unheeded, we will call fresh presidential and parliamentary elections. " Hamas walked out of Egyptian-brokered reconciliation talks with Abbas’s secular Fatah movement earlier this month and has said it will only return if his security forces halts arrests of Hamas members in the Occupied West Bank. The Western-backed president said the new elections would be "based entirely on a proportional representation system," not the half proportional, half constituency-based system used in the last parliamentary elections in 2006 that saw Hamas win an upset victory.

900 PA police to deploy in Bethlehem for Christmas
Ma’an News Agency 11/24/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Some 900 additional Palestinian security officers will be deployed in the West Bank city of Bethlehem by Christmas, Israeli officials said on Monday. Israel will still maintain overall control of the West Bank. The officers who will serve in Bethlehem will be redeployed from the outskirts of Hebron. Israeli approval is required to move the Palestinian forces from one city to another. Ynet, the website of the Israeli Yedioth Ahronot newspaper quotes Defense Minister Ehud Barak announcing the Bethlehem deployment at a security meeting last weekend. Since November 2007, additional US-backed Palestinian Authority forces have been deployed with Israeli approval in Hebron, Jenin and Nablus. "If the Palestinian forces are proven successful in Bethlehem as well, Israel will consider expanding their authority to additional cities,” Israeli defense officials said according to Ynet.

Bethlehem: Nearly 1,000 PA troops for Christmas
Yaakov Katz, Jerusalem Post 11/24/2008
In another step aimed at bolstering the Palestinian Authority, Israel will allow the deployment of close to 1,000 PA policemen in Bethlehem in the run-up to the Christmas period. Brig. -Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the head of the Civil Administration in the West Bank, will meet Wednesday with his Palestinian counterparts to discuss a request to increase the number of PA policemen currently stationed in Bethlehem. Defense officials said Monday that the Palestinians have asked Defense Minister Ehud Barak to permit the deployment of an additional 900 policemen in the city in an effort to bolster PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s rule in the West Bank. Additional policemen were allowed to deploy earlier this year in Nablus and Jenin. The officials said that if the PA forces were effective in cracking down on terrorist infrastructure in the West Bank, Israel would consider. . .

Hamas: Declaring Abbas a president an attempt to defy the Palestinian legitimacy
Palestinian Information Center 11/24/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement on Sunday strongly denounced the central council of the PLO for declaring current PA chief Mahmoud Abbas a president of the Palestinian state, considering this declaration an attempt to challenge the Palestinian legitimacy and to circumvent it.  In an exclusive statement to the PIC, Dr. Salah Al-Bardawil, the spokesman for the Parliamentary bloc, categorically rejected the notion that the PLO central council represents the Palestinian people especially after it was condensed into a group of figures. Dr. Bardawil underlined that the Palestinian state means territorial sovereignty and independence and Abbas did not liberate one inch of land and lives under occupation, adding that the Israeli soldier is the one who has sovereignty over Abbas and his entourage and controls their passage through crossings and checkpoints.

Abbas elected symbolic president
Al Jazeera 11/24/2008
Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, has been elected the president of the future state of Palestine by the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO). The position, largely symbolic because a Palestinian state has not yet been created, has been vacant since Yasser Araraf’s death four years ago. Salim Zaanoun, the head of the PLO Central Council, said an overwhelming majority of its 75 members backed the decision to nominate Abbas. "This proposal passed, and Abu Mazen [Abbas] was elected by consensus, with the opposition of one member," he said. The move is likely to bolster Abbas in his showdown with rival Palestinian group Hamas. Abbas declared on Sunday that he will call for snap elections in 2009 if Hamas fails to come to any agreement with his Fatah faction.

Man sentenced to seven years for for attempted murder of police officer
Ma’an News Agency 11/24/2008
Qalqilia – Ma’an – A Palestinian military court in the city of Qalqilia sentenced a Palestinian man to seven years in prison on Monday for attempting to kill a police officer. Ahmad Adel was accused of trying to stab an officer. The court sentenced him to seven years in addition to a one year suspension of his driver’s license and 200 Jordanian Dinar fine. Two others Mustafa Abu Al-Adel and Adham Abu Al-Adel were accused of disrupting the Palestinian Authority security forces. They each received six month sentences. [end]

Ramallah police arrest man for attempted sexual assault
Ma’an News Agency 11/24/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – Palestinian police detectives in Ramallah arrested a man who attempted to sexually assault a girl. The girl reportedly fled and informed the police of the attempted assault on Monday. According to the police detectives, the assailant lured the girl with the promise of a job at an NGO in Ramallah attempted to sexually abuse her. Police were able to arrest the man after the girl identified him from a lineup. [end]

Knesset News
Ha’aretz 11/25/2008
MKs plan law: One person, one party - The Knesset passed the first reading of a bill yesterday to prevent people from joining more than one party. The bill, presented by Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann, obliges parties to submit their members’ ID numbers to the party registrar twice a year. The registrar will check the party lists to flush out double registrations. Registrar workers will not be allowed to disclose the names on the lists. Every person joining a party will be required to sign a statement that he is not a member of any other party and is aware that double registration is an offense punishable with up to one year in prison. (Shahar Ilan) -- Slogan: Reelect Safed mayor, bring Messiah - A previously unknown religious organization has jumped into the electoral fray in Safed, urging people to vote for incumbent Mayor Yishai Maimon in today’s run-off by claiming that he will help bring the Messiah.

Kuntar: Syrian flag in Golan soon
Herb Keinon, Shelly Paz And Ap, Jerusalem Post 11/24/2008
Samir Kuntar, the Lebanese terrorist released by Israel earlier this year, spoke across the Syrian border on Monday and promised hundreds of Israeli Druse that President Bashar Assad would "soon wave the Syrian flag over the Golan. " Hundreds of Druze residents express solidarity with Samir Kuntar on Golan Heights Earlier - at the same time as Syria rejected American charges that it supported terrorism - Assad awarded Kuntar his country’s highest medal for spending nearly three decades in an Israeli jail. The Syrian News Agency reported that Kuntar had received the Syrian Order of Merit during a meeting with Assad in Damascus on Monday morning. Referring to Assad’s meeting with Kuntar, Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said: "Those who dignify the murderers of little children by shaking their hands lose their own dignity.


The slow death of Gaza
Andrea Becker, The Guardian 11/24/2008
      It has been two weeks since Israel imposed a complete closure of Gaza, after months when its crossings have been open only for the most minimal of humanitarian supplies. Now it is even worse: two weeks without United Nations food trucks for the 80% of the population entirely dependent on food aid, and no medical supplies or drugs for Gaza’s ailing hospitals. No fuel (paid for by the EU) for Gaza’s electricity plant, and no fuel for the generators during the long blackouts. Last Monday morning, 33 trucks of food for UN distribution were finally let in - a few days of few supplies for very few, but as the UN asks, then what?
     Israel’s official explanation for blocking even minimal humanitarian aid, according to IDF spokesperson Major Peter Lerner, was "continued rocket fire and security threats at the crossings". Israel’s blockade, in force since Hamas seized control of Gaza in mid-2007, can be described as an intensification of policies designed to isolate the population of Gaza, cripple its economy, and incentivise the population against Hamas by harsh - and illegal - measures of collective punishment. However, these actions are not all new: the blockade is but the terminal end of Israel’s closure policy, in place since 1991, which in turn builds on Israel’s policies as occupier since 1967.

The Siege on Gaza: We Share the Blame

Akram Awad, Palestine Think Tank 11/24/2008
      As an international community, we all share the responsibility for the ongoing brutal siege on Gaza, and not until we utilise all possible means of peaceful and nonviolent resistance shall we hope for a close end of that siege.
     There is not much to say about the Holocaust of Gaza’s people - assuming that the reader has at least followed the media coverage of what is happening in the traumatised Strip. It comes as no surprise that Gazan’s have resorted to euthanasia to end the lives of thousands of newly hatched chicks, for even Gazan birds would prefer dying with honour over being victims of starvation. There is nothing exceptional about Gazans keeping their children alive with animal feeds, because even those who know the least about Gaza are aware that this is only one of the means used by its people to save the whole region from a definite explosion. The only shocking aspect of the whole current scene is that as much as Gazans are trying to convince their children that this life has at least some goodness that makes it worth clinging to, as much as the world strives to disprove such theories, and establish in the minds of those children that this life and world deserve no more than the curse of Gaza.

Book review: Abdel Bari Atwan’s ''Country of Words''

Atef Alshaer, Electronic Intifada 11/24/2008
      A Country of Words: from the Refugee Camps to the Front Page is a remarkable Palestinian memoir, exceptional because of its abundance of compassion, humor and humility. Its author is Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of the London-based Arabic-language daily al-Quds al-Arabi who also wrote The Secret History of al-Qa’ida. Individuals have their own lives and create their own narratives, and for Atwan, his story begins in Palestine.Born in the Gaza Strip refugee camp of Deir al-Balah in Gaza in 1950, Atwan’s life has been marred by tragic incidents, including the premature death of his father and later his brother, who supported his education.
     Atwan grew up in Gaza, moved to Jordan to continue his education, and then to Alexandria for further schooling. He then moved to Cairo for university, then to Libya, Saudi Arabia and finally for work to London, where he grew in stature as a defender of Palestinian rights and Arab dignity. In his memoirs, Atwan comes across as a sympathetic, principled and international figure all at once, aware of the temptations of power and the universal value of humaneness, which cannot be cheapened or compromised.

’Just Married’ - now the trouble begins

Lana Gerstein, Ha’aretz 11/25/2008
      On July 31, 2003, the Israeli Knesset enacted the Nationality and Entry Into Israel Law, prohibiting any residency or citizenship status to Palestinians who live in the territories and are married to Israeli citizens. The law, initiated in the midst of the second intifada by prime minister Ariel Sharon, impacted thousands of people and forced them to choose between their families and their homes.
     Against this backdrop comes journalist Ayelet Bechar’s first feature-length documentary, "Just Married," which was recently screened at the Other Israel Film Festival in Manhattan. (Full disclosure: Bechar is a recent contributor to the Forward.)
     The film follows two couples, both of whom married shortly after the law was enacted, as they attempt to start their lives together under impossible circumstances.
     The documentary opens with a home video at the wedding of Kifah, an Arab citizen of Israel, and her husband, Yazed, who was born in Gaza. A typical wedding scene, with bride in white, guests clapping and music playing, is interrupted by the acknowledgment that the groom is absent. According to the law, Yazed cannot travel to Israel - not even to attend his own wedding. The couple decides to live in Germany, where Yazed already resides, and so Kifah, after giving up her prestigious job at the Israeli Ministry of Culture, faces a lonely new life in a foreign country.

A new spin on Iran’s nuclear fuel

Kaveh L Afrasiabi, Asia Times 11/25/2008
      As United States president-elect Barack Obama prepares to take over the White House two months from now, the mainstream US media have been awash reports about Iran’s nuclear "threat" that will likely influence the coming Obama administration away from introducing any major change in the US’s hitherto coercive Iran policy.
     The latest anti-Iran spin is that Tehran has accumulated enough nuclear fuel for one nuclear bomb and that given Iran’s rapid progress in installing more centrifuges at its uranium enrichment facility in Natanz, Iran’s nuclear bomb-making capability will substantially increase in the near future.
     Leading the pack in this media endeavor for a Chomskyian "manufactured consensus" on Iran’s nuclear threat is the nation’s leading newspaper, the New York Times. Although known as the voice of the liberal "eastern establishment", the Times is perceived by many as a pillar of support for pro-Israel global public diplomacy and, therefore, it comes as little surprise that the respected newspaper may have been churning out alarmist and misleading articles about Iran’s purported nuclear threat.

A Palestinian action plan to combat Israeli racism

Adri Nieuwhof, Electronic Intifada 11/24/2008
      In October 2008 the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) published a strategic position paper for the upcoming Durban Review Conference, which will be held from 20-24 April 2009 in Geneva, Switzerland. At the Conference, attending nations will assess the progress made toward the Program of Action adopted at the 2001 World Conference against Racism, which called for end racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. However, Western governments have repeatedly sidelined efforts to bring the case of the systematic violation of the rights the Palestinian people forward in the Durban review process. It is incomprehensible how the issue of institutional racial discrimination of Palestinians by the Israeli government cannot be a topic in the UN global process to eliminate racial discrimination.
     The BNC, representing over 170 Palestinian civil society organizations that united around the call for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions initiatives against Israel, is currently the sole unified voice for the Palestinian political parties, unions, associations, coalitions and organizations representing all Palestinians. In preparation for the conference, the BNC has developed a well-documented position paper that is firmly rooted in the language of international law. It presents an overview of practical measures undertaken by international civil society and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and suggests recommendations to work jointly on an effective action program.

A disarmed Palestinian state?

Amitai Etzioni, Jerusalem Post 11/24/2008
      During an off-the-record meeting in Washington, DC on November 10, one of Obama’s senior foreign policy advisers stated that pushing a two-state solution on Israel and the Palestinians had to take place with great urgency, as it was the best way to turn around the Middle East (which he defined as including Afghanistan and Pakistan). Three elements of the plan the United States is to push are well known (no refugee return, a divided Jerusalem, and redrawn 1967 borders), but the fourth is much less often explored. Namely that the Palestinian state be disarmed and that US or NATO troops be stationed along the Jordan River.
     I suggest that this fourth condition is a dangerous trap, despite the fact that such troops played a very salutary role in the DMZ in Korean and - during the Cold War - in Germany. Before I proceed I should note that I am free to quote what was said at the meeting, but not to mention who said what or the name of the organization that hosted the meeting. I should also note that the same ideas are found in a new book America and the World, wholly composed of interviews with Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft, conducted by Washington Post columnist David Ignatius. In the book, both interviewees agreed that "They [Israel and the Palestinians] need a heavier hand by the United States than we have traditionally practiced." Brzezinski suggests "an American line along the Jordan River," and Scowcroft favors putting a "NATO peacekeeping force" on the West Bank.

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