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

VTJP Archives | Newslinks Archives  
3 December, 2008
Maan: House set ablaze as settlers continue Hebron riots
International Solidarity Movement 12/3/2008
Hebron Region - Hebron - Israeli settlers set fire to a Palestinian house in the West Bank city of Hebron on Wednesday, continuing two weeks of violence. On Tuesday, hundreds of Israeli settlers attacked Palestinians in the West Bank city of Hebron on Monday night and Tuesday, throwing stones and beating residents with clubs while Israeli soldiers and police looked on. Palestinians and their property were attacked in the Ar-Ras, Wadi Al-Hussain and Al-Ja’bari neighborhoods. Settlers also released dogs to attack the Palestinians. Israeli soldiers also fired tear gas and sonic bombs towards Palestinian houses. Dozens of Palestinian citizens were injured. Witnesses reported that the settler mob numbered in the hundreds. Settlers groups have descended upon Hebron over the last two weeks since Israel’s High Court of Justice ordered 13 settler families to leave the Palestinian-owned. . .

Blockade-breaking voyages to Gaza planned from Qatar, Israel, Yemen, Cyprus, Jordan
Ma’an News Agency 12/3/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – A series of ships sailing Qatar, Israel, Yemen, and Cyprus, and Jordan will challenge the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip over the next two months, said Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) Jamal Al-Khudari on Tuesday. On Friday a ship sailing from Qatar is scheduled to make landfall in Gaza. On Saturday, a ship sailing from Haifa, in northern Israel will reach Gaza carrying five tons of humanitarian aid, including medicine, said Al-Khudari, who is the leader of the Popular Committee Against the Siege of Gaza. The ships will further test Israel’s willingness to block shipments of vital goods to the coastal territory. After allowing a group of international and Palestinian activists to sail to Gaza three times since August, Israel gunboats forced a Libyan ship carrying 3,000 tons of aid to turn back on Tuesday.

Palestinian man stabbed in ultra-orthodox neighborhood in Jerusalem
Ma’an News Agency 12/3/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an/Agencies - A 31-year-old Palestinian man was stabbed by Jews in the ultra-orthodox Meah Shearim neighborhood in Jerusalem on Wednesday. Local sources identified the victim as Hamid Abid Hamid from the Wadi Al-Joz neighborhood of East Jerusalem. According to police and medics who spoke to the victim, the attack was politically motivated. The Magen David Adom ambulance service took the man to the city’s Shaare Zedek Hospital in serious condition. Magen David Adom paramedic Mordechai Harush told the Israeli news site Ynet: "The man told us he works nearby and that while he was on his way home, several Jews that he didn’t know attacked him. "We were called onto the scene by the police. We found him lying on the sidewalk covered in blood. He was fully conscious and we found that he had been stabbed in the back three times," he added.

Israeli authorities announce that Azzun is to be walled in
International Solidarity Movement 12/3/2008
Qalqilya Region - Photos - Azzun villagers’ fears were confirmed when they were delivered a notice that Israeli authorities intend to build a wall between their village and the main road that runs along its northern edge - Road 55. At 6:30pm on Friday 28th November Israeli military vehicles entered the village, with personnel delivering the notice of the planned wall to the Sheikh at the central mosque, asking him to pass it on to the municipality. The documents give "prevention of stone throwing at Road 55″ as the official reason for the construction of the wall, with maps showing the route of the wall extending along the southern side of Road 55 from Izbit at Tabib to the illegal Israeli settlement of Maale Shomeron. Residents inform that a high-ranking member of the Israeli Civil Administration visited the villagers and farmers on 30th November advising them that the wall. . .

Lebanon among first states to ban cluster bombs
Daily Star 12/4/2008
BEIRUT: Lebanon was one of the first countries to sign an international treaty outlawing cluster bombs on Wednesday, with more than 100 others expected to sign up by the end of a two-day conference being held in Oslo this week. In an acknowledgment of the suffering that cluster bombs have caused in Lebanon, Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh was one of the first to sign the ambitious convention, which outlaws the production, stockpiling and use of cluster bombs. Lebanon has had a special interest in the creation of the treaty. It was Israel’s use of the controversial weapons in the summer 2006 war that sparked the Norwegian-led campaign to have them banned, and diplomats have described the convention as "Lebanon’s treaty. " In the last days of 2006 conflict, the Israeli military dropped thousands of cluster bombs on South Lebanon, spreading millions of deadly sub-munitions, many of which failed to detonate.

IDF opposes plan for NATO in W. Bank
Yaakov Katz, Jerusalem Post 12/2/2008
A day after President-elect Barack Obama chose retired general James Jones as his national security adviser, Israeli defense officials said Tuesday that they were opposed to the deployment of a NATO force in the West Bank following an Israeli withdrawal, a plan Jones supports. A former commander of NATO, Jones has for the past year served as a security envoy to Israel and the Palestinian Authority. During his meetings with Israelis, Jones has proposed that a NATO-based international force deploy in the West Bank in the interim period between an Israeli withdrawal and the Palestinian forces becoming able to curb terror activity. "This plan was proposed in order to ease our concerns," explained one official who had met with Jones on one of the latter’s many visits to the region. "In reality though, it isn’t likely to work. "

Hebron colonists vow to resist eviction by court ’till the end’
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 12/4/2008
HEBRON, Occupied West Bank: Jewish settlers prepared on Wednesday to battle a forceful eviction after Israel declared a closed military area around a house in Hebron they occupy in defiance of a court order. The military decree followed violent protests on Tuesday involving colonists and their far-right supporters who hurled rocks at Palestinians, security forces, homes and cars and desecrated Muslim tombstones. "The sector around the house has been decreed a closed military zone," a military spokesman said, adding that Israelis are now barred from entering the Palestinian areas of the Occupied West Bank city. But security forces did nothing to prevent hundreds of supporters from heading to the house in solidarity with the 100 or so settlers defying the November 16 High Court decision that the premises be vacated.

Israeli settlers violently attack Israeli soldiers, Palestinian residents, in Hebron
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 12/3/2008
Extreme Israeli settlers are still refusing to evacuate the Palestinian house they illegally occupy and have dubbed it as "the house of contention" in the southern West Bank city of Hebron. On Tuesday, the settlers clashed with dozens of Palestinian residents, Israeli soldiers and policemen; Israeli Ynet News reported several injuries. Settler leaders insist on remaining in the house and threaten further violence. The increased violence carried out by young settlers was not denounced by their leaders and elders. Settler leader Daniela Weiss refused to denounce the violence and said that "the settlers are not Christians, and will not turn the other cheek". Weiss, the former mayor of Kedumim settlement, said that the "struggle" of the settlers is legitimate and that she will not attempt to control them. Weiss moved to the Palestinian house three weeks ago, and nearly two months ago, she was accused of assaulting a police officer.

PM: Hebron rioters a threat to democracy
Jerusalem Post 12/3/2008
The settlers barricaded in Beit Hashalom in Hebron and clashing with Palestinians and security forces are a threat to democracy in Israel, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Wednesday, asserting that the disputed house would be evacuated. "There are phenomena that cannot be tolerated and which the government headed by me cannot accept," Olmert said at a memorial for Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben Gurion in Sde Boker. "The dispute over the Land of Israel is legitimate and the desire to maintain a Jewish presence in the holiest and most important of our cities is understandable. However, this desire cannot be stronger than the decision of the Supreme Court. " The prime minister went on to say that he "loves" Hebron and "harbor[s] boundless respect for its lovers, residents and guards," but asserted that "now that the High Court of Justice has decided that a house in the city must be evacuated, it will be evacuated.

Barak in talks with Hebron settlers, seeking to end crisis
Ma’an News Agency 12/3/2008
Hebron – Ma’an – Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak will hold last minute talks on Wednesday with right-wing settlers occupying a Palestinian house in the West Bank city of Hebron in hopes of ending two weeks of violence in the city. Israeli Public Security Minister Avi Dichter said he hopes the settlers will leave voluntarily, but said Israel would use force if necessary to remove the settlers. Also on Wednesday Israeli settlers reportedly set fire to a Palestinian house in Hebron, and Israeli forces broke up a pro-Palestinian demonstration in the city. On Tuesday, hundreds of Israeli settlers attacked Palestinians in the West Bank city of Hebron on Monday night and Tuesday, throwing stones and beating residents with clubs while Israeli soldiers and police looked on. Palestinians and their property were attacked in the Ar-Ras, Wadi Al-Hussain and Al-Ja’bari neighborhoods.

Border Police reverses arrest policy
Yaakov Lappin, Yaakov Katz And Tovah Lazaroff, Jerusalem Post 12/3/2008
Settlers temporarily took over two empty structures in Hebron and Border Police in riot gear blocked the road by the disputed Beit Hashalom building on Wednesday, as a fourth day of clashes with far-Right activists led to some 20 arrests, includingone 15-year old girlarrested for attacking a police officer. Violent clashes burst between settlers and border police in Hebron - A large number of Wednesday’s arrests were made during clashes, in what a senior Border Police source said was a reversal of an earlier decision that officers must wait until the situation calmed down before hauling people away. The source said that the new policy of making arrests on the spot even in the middle of a riot was a direct response to "pogroms against Palestinians" by far-Right activists and attacks on police officers. "All incidents of rock-throwing, blocking roads, and unlawful conduct. . .

PA: Growing tensions in Hebron could erupt
Jerusalem Post 12/3/2008
The Palestinian Authority on Wednesday called on the Israeli government to pull all the settlers out of Hebron and warned that the growing tensions in the city could erupt into an all-out confrontation. PA officials in Ramallah said that PA President Mahmoud Abbas might request an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the situation in Hebron, following the recent attacks by settlers against Arab residents. In a message to the members of the Quartet, Abbas condemned the assaults as a "despicable crime" against innocent civilians and demanded that the international community exert pressure on Israel to remove the settlers from the city. "The presence of the Jewish settlers in the city is a serious provocation," the PA officials said. "Unless the [Israeli] government removes them from the city, there will be a big explosion.

Barak expected to evacuate Beit Hashalom soon
Tovah Lazaroff And Yaakov Katz, Jerusalem Post 12/3/2008
Defense Minister Ehud Barak insisted Wednesday night that he plans to evacuate Hebron’s disputed Beit Hashalom even as settler leaders tried to negotiate a compromise and politicians, including those on the Right, sharply criticized the violent tactics of the activists who have streamed into the city to defend the structure. "We will not allow a small group of extremists to undermine the state’s authority," Barak told Channel 2. "The [High Court of Justice’s eviction] order will be implemented within the time frame set by the court. " Defense officials said that Barak was determined to evacuate the four-story building within a week. On Thursday morning, the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip is set to meet with Barak in hopes of reaching a compromise that would avert an evacuation.

Israel closes off parts of Hebron
Al Jazeera 12/3/2008
Israel has declared parts of the West Bank city of Hebron a closed military area, following a forceful removal of settlers who have defied an eviction order and staged violent protests. The order on Wednesday affects the immediate vicinity of the house in which at least 100 Jewish settlers have lived since 2007, but which the Israeli high court ordered evacuated on November 16. "The sector around the house has been decreed a closed military zone," a military spokesman said. He said that Israelis are barred from entering the Palestinian areas of the city. The Haaretz daily suggested the order was part of preparations for a forceful eviction, which it said could be carried out by the end of the week. Clashes frequently occur between both sides due to the enclave in Hebron [AFP]. . .

Palestinian negotiator condemns West Bank settler attacks
Ma’an News Agency 12/3/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – The head of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)’s Negotiations Affairs Department on Wednesday condemned Israeli settler attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank. Former Prime Minister Ahmad Qurei said that attacks by settlers in the West Bank cities of Jerusalem, Hebron and Nablus were "illegitimate and illegal" at a Wednesday meeting in Ramallah. He called on the International Quarter to stop Israel’s settlement activity, including construction and illegal outposts, as well as put an end to attacks by settlers on Palestinians.

Palestinian journalist stoned by Israeli settlers
Ma’an News Agency 12/3/2008
Ramallah - Ma’an – A Palestinian journalist was stoned by Israeli settlers in Hebron on Tuesday. The victim, Amer Abdeen, a 28-year-old photojournalist for Palmedia, was also shot by Israeli forces last year. The Palestinian Ministry of Information condemned the repeated attacks on Palestinian journalists and media in the Palestinian territories, calling the attacks an attempt to impose a media blackout and ignore Israeli attacks and settlers’ crimes. [end]

Israeli military detains a dozen Palestinian residents in the West Bank
International Middle East Media Center News 12/3/2008
On Wednesday, Israeli military detained 14 Palestinian residents from various West Bank cities, including Jenin and Bethlehem. Witnesses said that Israeli soldiers broke into the Arraba and Barqin towns in the northern West Bank city of Jenin, detaining three residents. Witnesses added that the soldiers forced all inhabitants out of their residences into the open air, before ransacking their homes and detaining them. In the West Bank city of Bethlehem, the Israeli military detained four youth from the Azza refugee camp and from the town of Al-Obaidiya. Palestinian security forces in the city said that a large Israeli contingent swept into these areas early on Wednesday and broke into several homes, detaining several residents. Witnesses said that the homes of the detainees were ransacked and that all inhabitants inside were forced out of their homes before the detention took place.

Israeli forces seize 14 Palestinians in West Bank raids
Ma’an News Agency 12/3/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli forces seized 14 Palestinian during overnight raids in the West Bank, the army announced on Wednesday. Among them four Palestinians were detained in and near the city of Bethlehem. Witnesses told Ma’an that seven Israeli military vehicles stormed Al-Azza refugee camp and ransacked several homes before seizing three teenagers: 17-year-old Iyad Abu Sha’ira, 19-year-old Abdul-Aziz Da’ajna, and 18-year-old Abd-ar-Rahman Al-Qaysi. Separately, ten Israeli military vehicles invaded the village of Al-Ubaydiyya, east of Bethlehem, and stormed the home of the Abu Sarhan family, damaging the house’s interior, before arresting 25-year-old Huthayfa Abu Sarhan. Israeli forces also raided the northern West Bank towns of Arraba and Burqin, west of the city of Jenin, arresting three young men.

Police: Stabbing of E. Jerusalem man motivated by nationalism
Jonathan Lis, Ha’aretz 12/4/2008
Police in Jerusalem suspect that the stabbing of an East Jerusalem man yesterday in the capital’s Mea Shearim neighborhood was nationalistically motivated. Hamad Hamad, 31, from the Wadi Joz neighborhood in north Jerusalem, approached a patrol car on Shivtei Yisrael Street, on the outskirts of the ultra-Orthodox quarter, bleeding from numerous knife wounds. He told police that four Jews wearing skullcaps had attacked him. Hamad was evacuated to Shaare Zedek Medical Center with moderate to severe injuries. The hospital said his condition has now stabilized. Jerusalem police commander Maj. Gen. Aharon Franco said yesterday the attack was likely to have been nationalistically motivated, but the possibility has not been ruled out that the attack was committed during an attempted robbery or previous bad blood between the victim and his attackers.

Israeli settlers stab, seriously wound, a Palestinian resident of Jerusalem
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 12/4/2008
A group of extremist Israeli settlers attacked and stabbed a Palestinian resident of Jerusalem on Tuesday at night in an area close to Me’ah Sh’arim neighborhood in the city. The resident was moved to Hadassah Ein Karem Israeli hospital suffering from serious wounds. The Israeli police conducted initial investigations in the attack, and stated that four fundamental Jews asked the Palestinian youth about the time, and when they found that he was an Arab they stabbed him several times in his back. The police did not conduct any arrests and is awaiting, according to Israeli sources, the outcome of the claimed probe. Last April, several settlers violently attacked two Arab youths in Pisgat Zeev neighborhood.

Israeli settlers stab Palestinian Jerusalemite youth
Palestinian Information Center 12/3/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- Four Jewish fanatics on Tuesday night assaulted and stabbed a Palestinian Jerusalemite called Hamed Abed Hamed, 31, in Jerusalem, Hebrew press reported on Wednesday. Daily ’Yediot Ahronot’ said that paramedics found the young man conscious but was bleeding of wounds in different parts of his body and took him to Shaari Tzedek hospital. Hamed said that he was on his way home near a suburb inhabited by Jewish fanatics when four Jewish youths approached him and asked for the time and when he replied they stabbed him three times and fled the scene. Medical sources at the Shaari Tzedek hospital said that the youth arrived in a difficult condition and was treated in the emergency ward, adding that his condition was currently stable. Eight Jews were arrested last May after stabbing two Arab young men in Pisgat Ze’ev suburb in occupied Jerusalem.

Libya urges UNSC to pressure Israel to allow humanitarian ship into Gaza
Kuwait News Agency - KUNA, ReliefWeb 12/3/2008
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 3 (KUNA) -- Libya on Wednesday urged the Security Council to take "urgent" action in order to allow its ship Al-Marwa to enter the port of Gaza after the "zionist entity" prevented it from delivering humanitarian aid to Gaza which is suffering from a three-week blockade. Libyan envoy Giadalla Ettalhi told the council president in a letter that Libya is ready to allow the UN and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent to inspect the ship to verify that it is on a humanitarian mission. He said the cargo consists of 360 tons of flour, 40 tons of rice, six tons of medicines and some 2,000 boxes of oil and condensed milk. He said two Israeli gunboats intercepted the Libyan ship and threatened to destroy it should it enter the port of Gaza. Libya is the only Arab member in the council.

El Khodary: ''Decision of Arab leaders in Israel to send a ship to Gaza, positive step against the siege''
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 12/4/2008
Palestinian Legislator, head of the Popular Committee Against the Siege (PCAS), Jamal EL Khodary, stated on Wednesday that the decision of Arab leaders in Israel to send a ship filled with aid to the besieged Gaza Strip carries two messages; all Palestinians are one nation, and a call to the Arab world to act and end this unjust Israeli siege. El Khodary thanked a welcomed all efforts conducted by the National Democratic Assembly in Israel, and its leaders Dr. Azmi Bishara and Jamal Zahalaka. He added that this planned ship, which will carry food and medical supplies, is a positive step against the unjust Israeli siege. In an interview with the Arabs48 news website, El Khodary said that "sending the ship from the Jaffa port carries more than one message; the first message states that we should not forget our people, and the second is a call to the Arab nations to move and act against the siege which is devastating the lives of more than 1.

Swiss expert: The western world went wrong when it boycotted Hamas governments
Palestinian Information Center 12/3/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Swiss expert Gabriel Galis stated that the western world committed a mistake when it boycotted the two Palestinian governments formed after Hamas won elections, adding this aggravated the crises more in Palestine. In a news conference held at the UN headquarters, Galis underlined that the Oslo agreement was no longer effective, pointing out that the Palestinians on the streets said that their pre-Oslo life was better than nowadays. The conference, which was originally on the water crisis in Palestine, underscored that the Oslo agreement miserably failed to resolve any problem especially the water crisis. In another context, the Hamas Movement deplored the fabricated story published on Wednesday in the Egyptian Al-Ahram newspaper about assaults on pilgrims and alleged accusations against Egypt, saying that the newspaper quoted such lies from the Fatah-affiliated Palestine TV without investigating the truth.

Smuggled Egyptian goods dominate Gaza Strip markets
Ma’an News Agency 12/3/2008
Gaza – Ma’an Exclusive – In advance of the annual Islamic Eid Al-Adha celebrations, Palestinian shoppers in Gaza Strip markets are finding that the majority of available goods for this year’s festivities are Egyptian, according to a Ma’an investigation. As a result of the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip in recent weeks, Palestinians’ choices for Eid are limited to whatever has been recently smuggled underground from Egypt, residents told Ma’an. Ma’an’s investigative team toured Gazan markets, where they discovered that Egyptian products are plentiful but that Palestinian and Israeli goods are almost nonexistent. Khaled Samara, a Gazan merchant, said that the only alternative to the lack of imports is the Egyptian products that are smuggled through tunnels. Samara said that the products are limited, as the clothes, dresses and shoes brought in from Egypt are of lower quality despite their higher price tags.

Israeli-Arabs plan to sail to Gaza from Jaffa
Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post 12/3/2008
Two days after the Navy turned back a Libyan ship heading to the Gaza Strip to break the blockade of that Hamas-ruled territory, a Qatari charity group announced Wednesday that it, too, will send a boat to Gaza. Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor, acknowledging the intensified efforts to send boats into Gaza, reiterated what the Israeli government has said prior to each such sailing: the government will respond to each case on an individual basis. Since September, three boats sponsored by the US-based Free Gaza organization were allowed in after setting sail from Cyprus, while the Libyan vessel was turned away. Palmor said there is a difference between a boat coming from Libya, which is hostile to Israel and boycotts it, and one coming from Qatar, with whom Israel has diplomatic relations, and in whose capital it has a small trade representation.

Karen Abuzayd Calls for End to Gaza Siege
http://mathaba.net, Palestine Media Center 12/3/2008
December 02, 2008 - The commissioner general of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Tuesday called for international pressure to end the humanitarian crisis in Gaza caused by Israel’s ever-tightening blockade. Karen Abuzayd also revealed that Israel had been further violating international law by refusing to allow UNRWA’s diplomatic pouches in or out of what has been described as the world’s biggest prison. The situation is the "worst" during the last eight years of the Palestinian intifada, said Abuzayd, who is in London after meeting Foreign Secretary David Miliband on Monday to see what can be done about the humanitarian catastrophe. "We are barely getting enough food to distribute day by day. There are only a few trucks a week to do that and there is nothing else," she said. "There has to be some opening of borders. . . "

Palestinian PM Fayyad: Gaza Banks Face Unprecedented Liquidity Problems
Palestine Media Center – PMC, Palestine Media Center 12/3/2008
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad warned on Tuesday that civil servants in Gaza Strip will not receive their monthly salaries unless Israel authorizes cash transfers to the besieged territory. "The Palestinian authorities will pay out the salaries of civil servants in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip tomorrow but because of the Israeli measures, the banks (in Gaza) face unprecedented liquidity problems," he told journalists in the West Bank town of Ramallah. "If Israel does not authorize the entry of bank notes, the Gaza salaries cannot be cashed," he said, adding that the issue was all the more pressing as Muslims prepare to celebrate religious holidays next week. He said that banks in Gaza, home to some 1. 5 million people, have only 47 million shekels (11. 5 million dollars) on hand, according to estimates.

Khudari: Ships will continue to sail to Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 12/3/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- MP Jamal Al-Khudari, the head of the popular anti siege committee, on Wednesday stressed that the ships trying to reach Gaza would continue to attempt to break the siege that is increasing in ferocity. Khudari said in a press statement that a Qatari ship would arrive in Gaza within the few coming days along with a ship from Haifa carrying five tons of relief material and medical supplies from Palestinians in the 1948 occupied lands. He said after phoning Rashid Al-Alawi, the director of the foreign offices of the Qatar charity foundation, that the Qatari ship would carry preliminary medical assistance to the tune of two million dollars. The MP noted that a number of Qatari charity officials would be on board and would tour the Strip during the Eidul Al-Adha and would visit the projects financed by Qatar.

UNRWA: ''World should be embarrassed'' by Gaza situation
Ma’an News Agency 12/3/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – “The world should be embarrassed” when it sees the deteriorating living situation in the Gaza Strip, UNRWA Director of Operations in the Gaza Strip asserted at a conference on Wednesday. The conference, which adopted the slogan, “Hand in hand towards unified Palestine,” was held in Gaza City under the supervision of the Catholic Relief Services and the Federation of Youth Foundations. Calling on the world to stick to its responsibilities toward Gaza, Ging said that “despite dire conditions, I am still convinced it is necessary to go ahead for the sake of a better future. ”“When we talk about the Gaza Strip, we feel frustrated, yet we shouldn’t give up hope; neither should we let these conditions destroy this people’s ambitions, especially the youth,” Ging said.

Officials slam WHO over alleged bias
Jerusalem Post 12/3/2008
A group of Israeli public health experts have blasted human rights organizations for alleged bias regarding their criticism of Israel’s policy on allowing sick Gazans to enter or pass through Israel to receive hospital care. The attacks came in a letter of protest sent by Prof. Elliot Berry, Elihu Richter and Ted Tulchinsky and Dr. Ronny Shterksall to the director of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Dr. Margaret Chan, as well as in an article published in October by The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. In his article, Richter wrote that the WHO regional branch and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I) charge that the state is denying sick Gazans access to hospitals in Israel, Jordan and the West Bank by blocking them at the Erez crossing. In fact, however, the number of permits granted to Palestinians to exit Gaza for medical treatment. . .

Israeli forces kill two children in Gaza air strike
Press release, Al Mezan, Electronic Intifada 12/3/2008
The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) have escalated their aggression against the Gaza Strip. IOF yesterday killed two children and injured two others in an air strike on the southern Gaza town of Rafah. This escalation comes amid a continued tight blockade of all Gaza border crossings, which threatens of a humanitarian crisis in the Strip. According to Al Mezan’s field investigations, at approximately 2:25pm on Tuesday, 2 December 2008, an Israeli scouting drone fired a missile towards a group of children who were playing near their houses, which are located north to the Gaza International Airport in al-Shouka area, east of Rafah. As a result, two boys were killed: 16-year-old Ramzi Ibrahim al-Dehini and 15-year-old Omar Mosa Abu Udeh. The first was killed by shrapnel wounds to different parts of his body while the latter was blown up into pieces.

Um Kamal Al Kurd taking the Right of Return
Palestine News Network 12/3/2008
Occupied Jerusalem / PNN -- The Kurd family is again making news after being forcibly expelled from their home in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. Now Um Kamal Al Kurd intends to return to her original home in West Jerusalem with a massive nonviolent action planned for Thursday. Last month the family moved to a tent nearby which Israeli forces destroyed three times. It became a beacon of popular resistance with hundreds of people sitting-in in solidarity. The father, Abu Kamal, died in a Jerusalem hospital after being evicted from the home he lived in since the 1950s when Jordan and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency created the neighborhood housing. The Kurd family was among thousands of East Jerusalem residents driven from their West Jerusalem homes by Zionists in 1948. Um Kamal is working to return to her original home in West Jerusalem with the support. . .

Scores of children protest against Israel’s siege of Gaza Strip
Daily Star 12/3/2008
SIDON, Lebanon: Palestinian children in the Southern refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh protested Tuesday in solidarity with their fellow children who are living under Israeli siege in the Gaza Strip. Dozens of children participated in the protest, which fell within the "Week of solidarity with the Palestinian people," organized by Hamas. "We the children of Ain al-Hilweh, the children of Palestine demand an end to the siege over Gaza and urge all Arabs and Muslims to rise and help their brothers," said a Palestinian boy. One of the protesters portrayed the agony of Palestinian children in Gaza by playing the role of a sick child suffering amid a shortage in medicine. Other children wore loaves of bread as masks to protest against hunger in Gaza. Women affiliated with Hamas said in a statement which was distributed at the protest that the Israeli siege was aimed at pressuring the Palestinian people to abandon the resistance.

PRC wing claims launch of three projectiles from Gaza Strip
Ma’an News Agency 12/3/2008
Gaza - Ma’an - The An-Nasser Salah Ad-Din Brigades, the military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), claimed responsibility for launching three homemade projectiles at the Israeli town of Kfar Azza, east of Gaza City on Wednesday. In a statement the Brigades said the attack was in response to an Israeli airstrike that killed two Palestinian teenagers in the southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday. According to Israeli sources, mortar shells landed in the same general area of Wednesday’s claimed projectile attack, causing no damage or casualties. [end]

Hamas and Islamic Jihad debate the future of ceasefire in Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 12/3/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Hamas and Islamic Jihad officials held the first of a series of meetings regarding the fate of the Gaza ceasefire on Tuesday evening at the home of Hamas leader Ayman Taha. Hamas announced the meeting as the beginning of a series of consultations about the ceasefire with other Palestinian factions in Gaza. The truce, already shaken by three weeks of siege, deadly Israeli incursions, and Palestinian rocket fire, expires on 19 December. Earlier in the day, an Israeli airstrike killed two Palestinian teenagers in southern Gaza. On behalf of Hamas, Khalil Al-Hayya, Jamal Abu Hashim, Isma’il Radwan and Isma’il Al-Ashqar joined the meeting, while the Islamic Jihad was represented by Nafith Azzam, Dawood Shihab, Khadir Habib, Jamil Yousuf and Ibrahim An-Najjar. “Two weeks remain, and the ceasefire comes to an end.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad discuss fate of the truce deal
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 12/3/2008
The ruling Hamas party in Gaza and the Islamic Jihad group discussed overnight the fate of a six-month truce deal with Israel that Egypt brokered in June. The meeting, which was held at the office of Hamas’s spokesperson , Ayman Taha, did not decide the future of the ceasefire deal, but rather deliberated advantages and disadvantages of the deal, based on the last period. Khalil Alhaiya, representative of Hamas, was quoted by media sources as saying " two weeks are left for the end of the truce, by then the truce’s future will be determined". He maintained that the issue needs to be studied thoroughly before taking any decisions, whether to end or extend such a ceasefire deal, saying that the ’Israeli occupation’ has not committed to the deal’s provisions’. The Islamic Jihad’s representative , Nafed Azzam, from his position, stated that his group has not taken a final decision. . .

Haneyya gov’t: The Israeli assaults are a hopeless bid to take concessions
Palestinian Information Center 12/3/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Palestinian government headed by premier Ismail Haneyya on Tuesday strongly denounced the Israeli military aggression on the Rafah governorate which claimed the lives of two children, stating that the ongoing Israeli assaults on the Palestinian people are a desperate attempt to extract concessions from them. In a statement issued following its weekly cabinet meeting, the government held the Israeli occupation responsible for the consequences of its assaults. In another context, the statement hailed Libya for sending a ship loaded with humanitarian aid to the besieged Gaza Strip and condemned the Israeli interception of the ship as an act of piracy and ugly crime committed in full view of the whole world. The statement underlined that the continued closure of crossings is considered a war crime which warrants international intervention especially from the UN and. . .

Hamas and Islamic Jihad hold consultations to assess truce with Israel
Palestinian Information Center 12/3/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Movements of Hamas and Islamic Jihad on Tuesday conducted bilateral consultations on the calm issue within the efforts to develop a final position unanimously approved by the Palestinian factions involved before the truce officially expires on the 19th of this month.  Dr. Ismail Radwan, a prominent Hamas leader, stated that the two Movements evaluated the truce with the Israeli occupation in light of the Israeli violations, adding that Israel did not fulfill its obligations towards the truce. Dr. Radwan pointed out that the Movements also agreed on continuing to hold meetings bilaterally and with other Palestinian factions to crystallize one unified and accurate assessment of the truce. For his part, Islamic Jihad spokesman Dawoud Shihab said that the conclusion reached during the meeting with Hamas leaders that the truce with Israel did not achieve the desired. . .

Egypt MP: We won’t let Hamas form an Islamic emirate in Gaza
Ha’aretz 12/4/2008
A ranking Egyptian official on Wednesday lashed out at Hamas, saying the militant Palestinian group won’t be allowed to set up an Islamic emirate in the Gaza Strip, the coastal territory which it controls. Mustafa el-Fiqi, who heads the Egyptian Parliament’s foreign relations committee, said Egypt wouldn’t tolerate an Islamic state on its eastern border. Egypt is increasingly displeased with Hamas - especially after it boycotted Egypt-mediated Palestinian reconciliation talks in Cairo last month. El-Fiqi’s comments Wednesday indicate that Egypt plans to continue efforts to isolate the Gaza Strip. Hamas security frees three reporters in Gaza - Hamas security forces freed three Palestinian journalists on Wednesday whom they had arrested last month under accusations that they had fabricated news critical of the Islamist group, officials said.

EU contributes €4.8 million to pay salaries and pensions of Palestinian beneficiaries
IMEMC Staff, International Middle East Media Center News 12/3/2008
Today, 77,951 Palestinian public service providers and pensioners will receive a total contribution of over €14. 8 million (NIS 75,612,470) towards the payment of their monthly salaries and pensions, through PEGASE, the European mechanism for support to the Palestinians. "This contribution illustrates the ongoing support of the European Union, through PEGASE, to the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people," said Mr. Roy Dickinson, the European Commission Head of Operations in Jerusalem. "This long-standing partnership between the European Union and the Palestinian people makes a difference on a daily basis to the quality of life of thousands of families in the West Bank and Gaza. " The EU’s PEGASE contribution will be added to this month’s payment of salaries and pensions by the Palestinian Ministry of Finance, thus helping to ensure the continued delivery of essential public services to the Palestinian population.

EU helps cash-strapped PA make payroll with 42 million euro donation
Ma’an News Agency 12/3/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an - The European Union announced on Wednesday a new donation of 42 million euros (53. 4 million US dollars) to help the financially struggling Palestinian Authority make payroll. The funds include a one million euro contribution from the Government of Austria, with the remainder being provided by the European Commission. The funds will pay for salaries and pensions, and fuel for the sole power plant in the besieged Gaza Strip. The PA entered the fourth quarter of 2008 facing a budget deficit, in part because some donor states failed to make good on pledges made at an international conference in Paris in 2007. In addition, the PA has been repaying wage arrears to its workers faster than expected. The Palestinian Economy also suffered this year because of Israel’s continued closure of the Gaza Strip and an increase in movement restrictions in the occupied West Bank.

Egyptian paper slams Hamas over Hajj delays
Ma’an News Agency 12/3/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an/Agencies – The largest newspaper in Egypt condemned Hamas for the movement’s handling of Hajj pilgrims en route to Saudi Arabia in an editorial published on Tuesday. The leading paper, Al-Ahram, took Hamas to task for what it called the movement’s "banning pilgrims from traveling to Mecca for prayers despite that Egypt opened the border for busses. " "Egypt opened the border for three days but unfortunately Hamas banned pilgrims, by force, from access and attacked and assaulted old pilgrims, injuring 13," the editorial went on to say. "Hamas exposed their own truly ridiculous face and their deeds proved it. "The paper also noted that Israel "does not dare assault pilgrims--yet Hamas did. " The paper also asked how Hamas can reconcile that the movement banned pilgrims from prayers, "yet consider themselves conservatives? "In response, Hamas called. . .

Nassif: Abbas has to free political inmates to confront Israeli assaults in WB
Palestinian Information Center 12/3/2008
RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- Rafat Nassif, a prominent Hamas leader, called on PA chief Mahmoud Abbas to issue immediate orders to his security apparatuses to release all political prisoners and resistance fighters in the West Bank so that they can assume their duties in defense of the Palestinian people against the Israeli assaults. Nassif said that the security apparatuses in the West Bank must take their role in protecting the Palestinian people and their properties from the assaults committed by the IOF troops and Israeli settlers especially in Al-Khalil, Nablus and Tulkarem. The Hamas leader underlined that the trial of PLC speaker Dr. Aziz Dweik, the head of the Palestinian legitimacy, is blatant aggression on every Palestinian and a blot on the alleged advocates of democracy in the world who kept silent on such Israeli violations.

Palestinian Religious Affairs Minister: Hamas deprived Gazan pilgrims of Hajj
Ma’an News Agency 12/3/2008
Mecca – Ma’an – Palestinian Minister of Waqf and Religious Affairs Jamal Bawatnah on Tuesday held Hamas responsible for preventing Gaza Strip pilgrims from leaving to Saudi Arabia for Hajj this year. “Pilgrims from the Gaza Strip have been victims of piracy by Hamas’ Executive Forces despite the [Palestinian Waqf and Religious Affairs] Ministry’s arrangements and coordination with Egypt who opened the Rafah crossing for four consecutive days to receive pilgrims,” Bawatnah explained. Many Palestinian pilgrims registered for Hajj, the once in a lifetime Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, but only those who registered with authorities in Ramallah were granted Saudi visas. Those who registered in the Gaza office, which was able to issue permits last year, were not given visas. In condemning Egyptian and Saudi failure to coordinate with the Gazan de facto government officials on the. . .

OPT: European Union contributes €3.25 million for the construction and refurbishment of the Police Training Centre in Jericho
European Commission, United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS, ReliefWeb 12/3/2008
The European Commission office in Jerusalem has today announced a €3. 25 million contribution towards the construction and refurbishment of the central Training Centre of the Palestinian Civil Police (PCP). "After more than a year of continuous improvements in the performance of the Palestinian Civil Police, providing more adequate facilities for the training of both new and experienced officers is now a high priority both for the PCP and for the European Union, in order to keep up the momentum and ensure that progress is sustained," said Mr Roy Dickinson, the Head of Operations at the EC office. The buildings will be spacious enough to accommodate up to 600 trainees, although initially only a maximum number of 480 trainees will attend at any one time, to allow the PCP to reach their training goals without pulling too many staff out of circulation. Currently, the centre only caters to 150 students and the facilities are inadequate.

USAID, Palestinian Ministry of Health Launch $57m Project
United States Agency for International Development - USAID, Palestine Media Center 12/3/2008
December 02, 2008 - RAMALLAH, West Bank – Today, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Palestinian National Authority Ministry of Health launched the Palestinian Health Sector Reform and Development Project, which aims to strengthen the Ministry of Health’s ability to respond to the priority health needs of the Palestinian people. The event, held under the auspices of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad at the Central Public Health Laboratory in Ramallah, was attended by Minister of Health Dr. Fathi Abu Moghli, U. S. Consul General Jake Walles, USAID Mission Director Howard Sumka, Health Ministry officials, and international donors. The new $57 million program, also called the Flagship Project, is the largest health initiative funded by USAID in the West Bank and Gaza.

PA Attorney General asks INTERPOL to arrest former PA official
Ma’an News Agency 12/3/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The Palestinian Attorney General asked INTERPOL on Wednesday to arrest Sami Ramlawi, a former PA official who fled Palestine after being accused of corruption. Attorney General Muhammad Al-Mughanni began legal proceedings against Sami Ramlawi, the former director general in the Palestinian Finance Ministry. The PA has now classified Ramlawi as a fugitive, and is asking INTERPOL to hand him over to the PA, sources close to Al-Mughanni said on Wednesday. Ramlawi has been accused of embezzling millions of dollars from the PA. [end]

Ghoul: Dweik is the next PA president according to law
Palestinian Information Center 12/3/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Minister of justice Mohamed Al-Ghoul stated that according to the Palestinian basic law, PLC speaker Aziz Dweik will be the next PA president after current PA chief Mahmoud Abbas’s term of office expires in the eighth of next January. In an exclusive interview with the PIC, Ghoul explained that the this issue is constitutional and article 36 of the basic law says the duration of the PA presidency is four years without one additional day and thus the PA chief’s mandate ends on 8/1/2009. The minister also added that under the power of the Palestinian basic law, the PLC speaker could be the president of the Palestinian authority and exercise his jurisdiction fully even if he was in detention. The minister underlined that Abbas is an obstacle to the enforcement of law especially regarding the endorsement of death sentences where he still refuses to approve them.

No action against Be’er Sheva cops accused of beating confession from suspect
Tomer Zarchin, Ha’aretz 12/4/2008
The Justice Ministry’s Police Investigation Department (PID) recently closed the case of a youth who was allegedly beaten by four policemen in Be’er Sheva, causing him serious injuries. Although the assault was witnessed by the boy’s father and four friends, and the injuries the youth complained of were confirmed by medical records from Soroka Medical Center, the PID earlier chose not to investigate the incident According to officials, in February 2007 police entered the home of a 17-year-old youth and asked if he had carried out a robbery. After the youth denied any involvement, the police were alleged to have taken him into his room to search him, he wrote in his complaint. The youth claims he did not resist or provoke the policemen, who sat him down and handcuffed him. The complaint states that one of the policemen then kicked him in the face, causing blood to spurt out from his face and rupturing his palate.

Getting their goat
Yanir Yagna, Ha’aretz 12/4/2008
The winds of change are blowing through Israel’s Bedouin sector. For hundreds of years, Bedouin men tended their flocks, while women cooked and raised the children. Now a new initiative is threatening to disrupt this ancient balance. A joint venture between the Agriculture Ministry and the Danish Foreign Ministry will teach women from Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt and Jordan to raise flocks of dairy sheep and develop sheep’s milk product businesses. This idea, however is facing stiff opposition from the mayor of the Bedouin town of Rahat, who contends that women are to help their husbands only in educating their children. There are some 2,400 sheep farms in Israel, with about 520,000 sheep and goats. The farms are owned by about 550 Jewish farmers and about 1,850 minority group farmers. In 2006, the sheep and goat sector was estimated at about NIS 740 million.

Israel starts to realize it’s too easy to jail Palestinians without trial
Akiva Eldar, Ha’aretz 12/4/2008
The supposedly legal procedure known as "administrative detention" is meant, as everyone knows, to save the security forces from having to reveal to the accused the evidence against them, and from having to face their attorneys in court. For years it was customary for the commander of the Israel Defense Forces in the West Bank to peruse confidential material and sign an order for six months of administrative detention. In many cases, orders were extended over a number of years. Even though the procedure is supposed to be used only in emergency cases, and even though the High Court of Justice repeatedly mentions the need to be meticulous about every point in this procedure that severely limits the right to freedom, there are nearly 600 Palestinians being held under administrative detention.

S. Africa Jews slam anti-Israel petition
Haviv Rettig, Jerusalem Post 12/3/2008
The South African Zionist Federation blasted the country’s president, Kgalema Motlanthe, this week for signing a petition equating Israel with apartheid. The petition, titled "We fought against apartheid; we see no reason to celebrate it in Israel now," ran in the country’s Mail & Guardian newspaper on November 21 and carried over 120 signatures from senior public figures. The SAZF, the local Jewish community’s pro-Israel umbrella, called on Motlanthe "to distance himself as a signatory from this appalling and abusive petition and to confirm that not only does he not share its sentiments, but that he, too, condemns it as being counterproductive to any moves towards peace which are vital for the well-being of the region. " According to the SAZF, a spokesman for Motlanthe tried to shrug off the issue, insisting the president had signed the petition "in his personal. . .

European campaign organizes sit-ins before Egyptian embassies in Europe
Palestinian Information Center 12/3/2008
BRUSSELS, (PIC)-- The European campaign to lift the siege on Gaza has announced that it would organize sit-ins before Egyptian embassies in a number of European countries next Saturday to demand opening the Rafah border terminal with Gaza. The campaign in a statement in Brussels on Tuesday said that the rallies would reflect the European popular rejection of the Egyptian role in the siege on Gaza, demanding a daring Egyptian decision to open the crossing and ending the suffering of one and a half million Palestinians. It urged the Egyptian president and government to order the immediate opening of the crossing to save the Gaza inhabitants from an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe. The campaign underlined that opening the crossing would end the three years old oppressive siege especially when certain countries had declared readiness to supply Gaza with fuel free of charge.

Funds crisis threatens winter birthright
Haviv Rettig, Jerusalem Post 12/4/2008
Birthright israel has notified trip operators that it cannot guarantee funding for trips scheduled for later this winter, The Jerusalem Post has learned. In a letter to the operators, the organization assured them the trips in December and January were fully funded, but said the organization was "presently working to ensure we can run our February and March trips. " A final answer on these trips is expected sometime this month. "We are aware that some of you have already informed your applicants they have a spot during this month," the letter stated. "Should we have to cancel these trips, we will assist you in dealing with this situation. " The letter also tells operators to hold off on making summer plans. "Usually at this time of year, we set our projected numbers for the summer round," it read. "Unfortunately, we are not yet able to project our summer numbers.

Child victims bring home cruel reality of cluster bombs
Pierre-Henry Deshayes, Daily Star 12/4/2008
Agence France Presse - OSLO: Ahmad never got a chance to blow out his candles. On a sunny day in February 1999, the small boy was torn to pieces by a cluster bomblet as he celebrated his fifth birthday in a park in southern Lebanon. "His last words were: ’Dad, help me. ’ He died after four long hours of suffering," Ahmad’s father Raed Mokaled, an optician in the town of Nabatieh near the Israeli border, told AFP. While his parents were setting up his birthday picnic with little thought for the battles and wars that had raged in the area in years gone by, Ahmad was playing nearby with his elder brother Adam. "We heard a big explosion. My wife knew at once that it was our son," Mokaled said, adding: "Adam later told us that he saw his little brother grab a colorful object that looked like a toy. The young child with big brown eyes was in all likelihood killed by a bomblet that failed to explode when Israeli cluster bombs were dropped over southern Lebanon years earlier.

Big powers refuse to sign cluster bomb treaty
Anne Penketh, Diplomatic Editor, The Independent 12/3/2008
America and Russia are two major holdouts in the signing of a landmark agreement banning cluster bombs which both nations have used in the past with lethal effect to kill and maim children in Afghanistan. Britain -- a convert to the treaty -- is among the 107 nations committed to signing the treaty which opened for signature today in Oslo. It was the result of a determined "coalition of the willing" whose campaign to ban the bombs began after Israel’s 2006 war against Hezbollah in Lebanon. According to the UN, the Israeli cluster bombs used in that conflict scattered 4,000,000 bomblets which can be triggered by children attracted to their bright colours. However, cluster bombs have been used in recent conflicts despite the drive to ban them. Both Russia and Georgia -- equipped by Israel -- are accused of having used cluster bombs in the Georgia conflict last summer.

Cluster bomb treaty: Signing of ban on production begins
Richard Norton-Taylor, Peter Walker and agencies, The Guardian 12/3/2008
Governments from around the world today began signing an international convention banning the production of cluster bombs, millions of which lie unexploded across dozens of countries and have killed and maimed thousands of civilians. At the Oslo signing ceremony, Norway, which has led the efforts to ban cluster munitions, was the first country to sign. It was followed by Laos, where cluster bombs dropped by US planes more than 30 years ago are still killing civilians; and Lebanon, which was attacked with the weapons by Israel. By the end of tomorrow, around 100 of the United Nations’ 192 members will have signed up. Once 30 countries have ratified the convention, it will become part of international humanitarian law. There are a number of notable absentees, including the US, China, Russia, India and Pakistan, as well as Israel, which fired cluster bombs during the 2006 Lebanon war.

US, Israel refuse to ban cluster bombs
Middle East Online 12/3/2008
Some 100 nations began putting their names Wednesday to a landmark treaty banning cluster bombs, amid calls for major arms producers such as China, Russia and the United States to join them. Norway -- which played a key role in hammering out the worldwide ban on using, producing, transferring and stockpiling of cluster munitions -- was the first country to sign the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM). "The world is a safer place today," said Richard Moyes of the Cluster Munitions Coalition, an umbrella group that comprises some 300 non-governmental organisations. "This is the biggest humanitarian treaty of the last decade. " Dropped from warplanes or fired from artillery guns, cluster bombs explode in mid-air to randomly scatter hundreds of bomblets, which can be just eight centimetres (three inches) big.

Treaty signed to ban cluster bombs
Al Jazeera 12/3/2008
A landmark treaty to ban some forms of cluster bomb has been signed by more than 100 nations in Oslo. Norway, which played a key role in hammering out the worldwide ban on using, producing, transferring and stockpiling cluster munitions, was the first country to sign the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) on Wednesday. Jonas Gahr Stoere, the Norwegian foreign minister, said: "This is a historic day when a majority of states are committing to ban cluster munitions, making a new international norm that will make a considerable difference for thousands and thousands of people all over the world. "Nations at the conference also called on major arms producers such as China, Russia and the United States to join them in signing the treaty.

VIDEO - Cluster bomb treaty: 100 countries set to sign
The Guardian 12/3/2008
Norway initiates negotiations on a treaty outlawing cluster munitions, which about 100 nations are due to sign. [end]

Palestinians place little faith in Obama - poll
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 12/4/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Most Palestinians think theelection of Barack Obama as US president will have no impact on the chances of a solution to the conflict with Israel, said an opinion poll published on Wednesday. It found that 57. 5 percent of respondents thought that Obama’s election "will make no difference" from the outgoing US administration in terms of Middle East peace talks with Israel. The poll reported that 20. 2 percent of Palestinians were "more optimistic," 17. 7 percent were "more pessimistic," and the rest were undecided. A massive majority of 75. 7 percent said they were "not at all satisfied" over the role of the United States in the Middle East peace process, with just 8 percent saying they were happy with Washington as sponsor. Middle East peace talks were relaunched in November 2007 after a near seven-year hiatus, with the current US administration saying it hoped for a resolution before President George W.

A travelogue through the Palestinian condition
Daily Star 12/4/2008
Review - CAIRO: Rashid Masharawi has written an entertaining moment of crisis into his film "Laila’s Birthday," an emotional meltdown for Enlightenment stalwarts, for whom the last resort famously attributed to frustrated postal workers ("Buy a gun and kill ’em all") won’t do. Abu Laila (Mohamed Bakri), exhausted by the litany of insults and disasters that have kept him from his one self-appointed task of the day, pulls his taxi into a gas station. He surveys the chaos of incivility on the street before him. Unable to absorb any more, he strides over to a police 4-by-4 at the next pump, turns on its public-address system, and begins to hector Ramallah’s residents. "You two," he says to two chatting drivers whose cars are blocking traffic, "the street is a place to drive, not to make conversation. "He shouts at some boys to walk on the sidewalk, not the street.

Poll: Palestinians pessimistic about peace
Ma’an News Agency 12/3/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an - A majority of Palestinians are pessimistic about peace and the possibility of establishing a Palestinian state according to the results of a study released on Tuesday. The public opinion poll was conducted on the 20th anniversary of the Palestinian Declaration of Independence by the Jerusalem Media and Communication Center in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Thirty-seven percent of respondents said they have no confidence about the possibility of establishing an independent Palestinian state with 34. 8% have little confidence. Pessimism also prevailed among a majority (52. 6%) with regard to the success of Egypt’s effort to end the Palestinian internal split. Those in the Gaza Strip were the most pessimistic (59. 5%). Palestinians blamed Hamas (35. 3%) more than Fatah (17. 9%) for the failure to hold a national unity dialogue.

Extremist settler youths escalate their attacks in Hebron, Barak to meet their leaders on Thursday
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 12/4/2008
Extremist settler youths who fortified themselves in Al Rajabi Palestinian home, in the southern West Bank city of Hebron, escalated on Wednesday their attacks against the Palestinian residents and vowed further violence if the Israeli army forcibly evacuates them. Israeli sources reported that Israel’s Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, intends to hold a meeting with settler leaders in Hebron on Thursday in an attempt to reach an agreement before the scheduled evacuation date. The Israeli High Court of Justice issued the evacuated order last months and gave the army three days to implement it. The settlers occupied the property in 2007 and claimed that they purchased it from its Palestinian owner, Fayez Al Rajabi. Resident Al Rajabi denied the claim. Nearly 300 riot policemen were deployed in the city while dozen of settlers hurled stones at them and at Palestinian residents and homes near Al Rajabi home.

Barak warns Hebron riots could spread
Amos Harel Avi Issacharoff and Nadav Shragai, Ha’aretz 12/4/2008
Defense Minister Ehud Barak is meeting today with the Yesha Council of settlers to discuss the evacuation of the so-called House of Contention in Hebron. But he said yesterday that despite the last-ditch effort to postpone the house’s evacuation, "we might be facing a wave of violence that could spread to the entire West Bank. " Sources in Barak’s office say the chances the proposal will be accepted are not great. Meanwhile, senior officials in the Palestinian Authority expressed concerns that the vandalism by settlers against Muslims, mosques and Muslim cemeteries could provoke a revenge attack by Palestinians. The meeting between Barak and the Yesha leaders is scheduled for 8:30 A. M. at Barak’s office in Tel Aviv. According to the proposal, the Yesha Council and the state would ask the court to expedite its hearing on the dispute regarding the ownership of the house.

Year-old report urges IDF not to respond to settler violence by groveling
Uri Blau, Ha’aretz 12/4/2008
A good part of recent settler violence resulted from the fact that extremists among the settlers saw an "opportunity" and were not met with a determined enough response by the army, according to a report by the Israel Defense Forces’ organizational consultant. In a report prepared last year by Major Yotam Amitay for GOC Central Command Gadi Shamni when he took up his post, Amitay warned against giving in to settler leadership. "Reality also demands that we adopt a unified, clear and determined policy against law-breakers, [involving] preventive action against the leaders of violence, such as significant penalties," he wrote. Amitay, who is leaving his post soon, wrote the Central Command must clearly define its relationship with the settlers’ formal leadership, and that, "as long as good will on our side is perceived at best with indifference and at worst with dismissal,. . .

The Hebron standoff / No stopping the evacuation
Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 12/4/2008
The Hebron affair refuses to die. The violence may have decreased yesterday, but the operation by the police and military to evacuate the House of Contention was postponed at the last minute because of another attempt to solve the crisis through an agreement. The chances of reaching a compromise do not look good, but the appeal by the Yesha Council of settlers to Defense Minister Ehud Barak yesterday may gain the settlers another weekend in the house before evacuation. The relative easing of the situation did not happen by accident. As soon as the leaders of the settlers in Hebron understood that the public was turning against them, they tried to limit the wild behavior of the Jewish youths. The intensive media coverage of the rioting on Tuesday led, as expected, to aggressive articles in the newspapers and even roused the politicians from their slumber.

Olmert: Palestinians in Hebron also have rights and a heritage
Shahar Ilan and Eli Ashkenazi, Ha’aretz 12/4/2008
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert yesterday said the House of Contention in Hebron would be evacuated and he will not allow anyone to "raise a hand against Israeli democracy. . . The Palestinians are also people with rights and a heritage. " Olmert spoke at the official memorial ceremony for Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, held at his grave at Sde Boker in the Negev. He praised Ben-Gurion for establishing the authority of the state, and also praised former prime minister Menahem Begin for the stand he took: Jews do not harm other Jews. Further, Olmert condemned the "disgrace and contempt, and the wild and inciteful voices against the authority of the state and the rule of law. "He added: "I pray and hope that the State of Israel will know to make difficult and heart-rending decisions without a civil war.

Hebron settlement leader: Remove non-resident extremists
Ma’an News Agency 12/3/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an/Agencies - A Hebron settlement leader demanded that Israeli forces remove non-resident extremists from the city, warning that their presence could "result in disaster," according to Hebrew press reports on Wednesday. Yesha Council Chairman Danny Dayan appealed to the Israeli military to take action against "youths who are not permanent residents of Hebron," insisting that they be "sent away from the city," according to Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth. Violent clashes were reported on Tuesday over an occupied home in Hebron, taken over by Israeli settlers. Israeli police arrested three right-wing activists on Tuesday night, apparently for throwing stones at Israeli police in Hebron’s Jabel Johar settlement neighborhood. No injuries were reported. But another settlement leader, former leader of the Kedumim settlement Daniela Weiss, told the paper that. . .

Nunu: Zionist settlers exercising racial cleansing against Palestinians
Palestinian Information Center 12/3/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The PA caretaker government in Gaza on Wednesday charged that the assaults launched by "Zionist settlers" in Al-Khalil in particular and the West Bank in general constituted a kind of racial cleansing. Taher Al-Nunu, the government’s spokesman, said in a statement that the government was closely monitoring the Jewish settlers’ attacks on Palestinian citizens in Al-Khalil and Nablus districts that wounded tens of civilians, desecrated mosques with anti-Islam graffiti and burnt homes, vehicles and property. The government strongly condemns such racist aggressions and holds the Israeli occupation authority fully responsible for consequences of such attacks, he elaborated. Nunu said that the government noted that the attacks occurred in the districts which were under the security control of the PA in the West Bank.

Palestine Today 120308
IMEMC News - Audio Dept, International Middle East Media Center News 12/3/2008
Click on Link to download or play MP3 file || 3 m 30s || 3. 22 MB || Welcome to Palestine Today, a service of the International Middle East Media Center www. imemc. org, for Wednesday December 03 2008 The ruling Hamas party in Gaza held a meeting yesterday night with the Islamic Jihad group in order to discuss the fate of a six-month ceasefire deal with Israel. Meanwhile, Israeli military detained a dozen of residents from the West Bank. These stories and more are coming up, stay tuned. A meeting between Hamas and Islamic Jihad group in Gaza yesterday discussed the fate of a ceasefire deal with Israel. Hamas said Israel didn’t commit to the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire agreement of June, but confirmed that extension or termination of the truce should be pre-determined by a consensus of the other Gaza-based factions.

Britain to host Fayyad and Olmert for separate talks this month
Ha’aretz 12/4/2008
Britain will host a meeting of Israeli and Palestinian leaders this month to discuss the political and economic situation in the region, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said on Wednesday. "We are bringing Israeli and Palestinian leaders to London later in December to establish how best we can use 2009 to make real progress towards political and economic solutions in the region," Brown told parliament. A spokesman for Brown said he had invited Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to visit London on Dec. 15. Brown would hold separate talks with the two leaders but they would not meet each other, he said. "They will discuss the economic regeneration of Palestine and the prospects for peace in 2009," a Foreign Office spokeswoman said. Brown’s spokesman said Fayyad was coming to London for a Palestinian. . .

Blair urges Obama to press hard for progress in Mideast talks
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 12/4/2008
Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, offered praise Wednesday forU. S. President-elect Barack Obama’s selections to lead his national security team, and he expressed hope that Obama’s administration will press hard and immediately for progress in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Blair, the envoy to the Middle East on behalf of the Quartet of Mideast peace negotiators, told a meeting of the Council on Foreign Relations that the time was right for a fresh push for progress. "Much will be riding on what Obama does," Blair said. "What the president-elect has put together is a very, very strong team; not just with Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, but also retired Gen. James L. Jones as Obama’s national security adviser," Blair said. Noting that he has worked with Jones in the retired Marine’s role as U.

PLO: West Bank Palestinian State a Non-Starter
Palestine Media Center – PMC, Palestine Media Center 12/3/2008
The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) refuses to accept the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank only, head of the PLO negotiations affairs department, Saeb Erekat, said on Tuesday. Erekat was responding to a report in Tuesday’s Washington Times indicating that a Palestinian state could be established even before Hamas and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) resolve the internal feud between them. Maen Rashid Areikat, a Palestinian negotiator, was quoted in the Washington Times as saying that the PNA would agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, which the Gaza Strip could join later if Hamas gives up control there. “It will be difficult. We would prefer to see a situation where there is national unity. We are not trying to eliminate Hamas. It’s a force to be reckoned with…but if we don’t agree, the PLO is mandated to continue negotiations,” Areikat was quoted as saying.

PLO: Israel failed to implement first phase of Road Map
Ma’an News Agency 12/3/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an - Although the Palestinian Authority (PA)’s obligations under the US-backed Road Map peace plan have been achieved, a PLO report issued on Monday accused Israel of violations and failure to implement its Phase-One commitments. The ten-page report, “Summary of Israeli Road Map Violations since Annapolis,” was issued by the Negotiations Affairs Department of the Palestine Liberation Organization on Wednesday. It reportedly documents Israeli violations that have occurred in the past year, with respect to settlement activity, attacks against Palestinians and their property, internal closures and the closure of Jerusalem institutions, among others. “Israel’s political leadership must decide whether it will pursue the path of peace and security or the perpetuation of the conflict through collective punishment, dispossession and destruction,” said Saeb Erekat, Chief Palestinian Negotiator.

Israel’s Livni: ''We are not going to build new settlements''
Ma’an News Agency 12/3/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni insisted on Tuesday that Israel seeks a final-status settlement with the Palestinians, according to comments made at a European Union (EU)-sponsored summit in Brussels. Speaking to the EU’s Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday, Livni said that it is no longer official Israeli policy to expand settlements in the West Bank, insisting, "I can assure you that we are not going to build new settlements; we are not going to confiscate land or extend settlements. " "These were policies of the past that don’t represent the opinions of the vast majority of Israelis today," Livni added. She also said that continuing negotiations that began in Annapolis is essential to achieving peace, but claimed that too much international intervention "can only lead to failure, a failure that nobody can afford--Israel, Palestine or the international community.

A Year After Annapolis, Report Shows Israeli Road Map Violations Continue To Accelerate
Palestine Liberation Organization - PLO, Palestine Media Center 12/3/2008
Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) - Negotiations Affairs Department a Ramallah, occupied Palestinian territory - PRESS RELEASE - December 01, 2008- One year after the Annapolis Conference, Dr. Saeb Erekat commended the international community for its sustained efforts in support of the negotiations process that was revived last year after a long hiatus. Dr. Erekat expressed particular gratitude for the assistance provided to the Palestinian Authority for reform and capacity building throughout this critical period. “We thank the international community for the success of the Paris and Berlin conferences, and all the work that has gone into helping build the Palestinian economy, institutions, and security sector in accordance with our Road Map commitments and for the benefit of all our people,” he noted.

Israeli FM promises to continue direct peace talks with Palestinians
Xinhua News Agency, ReliefWeb 12/2/2008
BRUSSELS, Dec 02, 2008 (Xinhua via COMTEX News Network) -- Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni promised on Tuesday that the Israeli government intends to continue direct peace talks with the Palestinians, which have been conducted in the framework set up by the Annpolis Mideast peace conference last year. Speaking during a hearing at the Foreign Affairs’ Committee of the European Parliament in Brussels, Livni also called for European Union (EU) support for the ongoing Israel-Palestinian talks, stressing that they "do not need intervention from the international community. " Livni, who is likely to replace outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in the February elections, also told the EU lawmakers that Israel would reduce Jewish settlement construction on the West Bank to "a minimum," saying that it was no longer official Israeli policy to expand Jewish settlements.

NATO: Diplomacy to determine int’l force in Mideast
Amir Oren, Ha’aretz 12/4/2008
BRUSSELS - Diplomatic, not military, considerations will determine whether or not NATO decides to deploy forces along the Israel-Syria border, or in the Israeli-Palestinian sector, according to the Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, Admiral Giampaolo di Paola. He was speaking yesterday to Haaretz in Brussels. When asked whether the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was preparing contingency plans, in the event that member states express willingness to deploy a peace force to the regions, as well as whether NATO had sufficient forces for such a mission, Di Paola noted that only three conditions, laid down by NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, were needed to deploy NATO forces: a diplomatic agreement, an invitation from the parties and the agreement of the United Nations Security Council. A senior NATO official added it would be easy to allocate units for such a mission out of NATO’s approximately three million uniformed troops.

Report: Obama advisors want NATO troops in West Bank
Ma’an News Agency 12/3/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an/Agencies - US President-elect Barack Obama is considering a deployment of NATO forces to the West Bank as part of a plan for resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict, an American newsmagazine reported on Wednesday. Former US-national security advisors Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski reportedly endorsed the strategy in recent days. Meanwhile, Obama’s nominee to head the National Security Council, Gen. James Jones, apparently favors the idea, all according to Newsweek, a weekly American newsmagazine. "A principle that appeared to be out of bounds I think is now in bounds," said Tony Blair, the Middle East envoy from the International Quartet countries. Israel has long argued that the country cannot deal with Palestine until the Palestinian Authority (PA) manages to control militants.

International media seminar on Middle East peace holds panels on new regional dimensions, future for peace process
United Nations - UN, ReliefWeb 12/2/2008
Participants Underscore Need to Find Comprehensive Regional Solution - VIENNA, 2 December -- The sixteenth International Media Seminar on Peace in the Middle East, organized by the United Nations Department of Public Information in cooperation with the Government of Austria, continued its meeting in Vienna this afternoon with two panel discussions -- one looking at new regional dimensions and the role of neighbouring countries in the peace process, and another examining prospects for the future of the peace process itself. Introducing the panel on "New Regional Dimensions: The Role of Neighbouring Countries in the Middle East Peace Process", Kiyo Akasaka, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, and moderator for the two panels, drew attention to the Arab Peace Initiative. . .

Likud to target Livni with negative ads
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 12/4/2008
Likud is preparing to launch a negative campaign against Kadima leader Tzipi Livni to try to crack her squeaky-clean image and paint her as an inept politician. Among other things, the anti-Livni campaign will feature excerpts from her interview on Army Radio earlier this week which was interrupted by a Shin Bet intrusion alert on the home phone line she was using. Livni continued the interview while a man’s voice repeatedly summoned police to her house in Tel Aviv. Likud’s campaign will say that Livni cannot even understand what is going on in her own house and question her ability to run the country. Likud’s strategic team deliberated whether to attack Livni on a personal basis or stick to a theme. But after Kadima aired its campaign slogan "Bibi, I don’t believe him," about Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu, they decided to go for Livni personally.

Likud MKs to target Feiglin supporters in ads, letters
Shelly Paz, Jerusalem Post 12/4/2008
A group of Likud MKs hope to stop central committee member Moshe Feiglin from making the party’s Knesset list in Monday’s party primary by appealing directly to his likely supporters. The veteran lawmakers, who call themselves "The Land of Israel Faithful in the Likud," are launching an advertising campaign on Thursday geared toward haredim and settlement supporters. Via religious newspapers, billboards in haredi neighborhoods and letters to the homes of settlement-backers, the group will ask for their votes in the primary and remind them that they also opposed the 2005 disengagement from the Gaza Strip. Among the Likud MKs involved are Gilad Erdan, Reuven Rivlin, Yuli Edelstein, Moshe Kahlon and former MKs Ayoub Kara and Michael Ratzon, who are also running in next week’s primary. The ads will appear in the Makor Rishon, Besheva and Yediot Yesha newspapers, among others.

Rivlin: Likud won’t approve stimulus without safety net
Moti Bassok, Ha’aretz 12/4/2008
Finance Committee member Reuven Rivlin of the Likud stated yesterday that his party would not support any economic stimulus plan that did not address pension savings. The reported cancellation of a "safety net" for pension savings, he said, contradicts the Likud party’s position. "Likud isn’t demanding immediate, full details of the safety net from the Finance Ministry, whether it will apply to people over the age of 55 or 60 or more, but it should be perfectly clear - even a partial plan presented to the finance committee should address the issue of pension savings," Rivlin said. "A clear and unequivocal message must be sent, in order to create some sense of certainty among the public and the capital market," he added. Chaim Oron of Meretz-Yahad, also a member of the Finance Committee, asked Finance Committee Chairman Avishay Braverman (of the Labor party) to hold an urgent. . .

Bar-On: Linking stimulus to safety net is brutal
Moti Bassok, Ha’aretz 12/4/2008
Top treasury officials spoke out yesterday in no uncertain terms about the conduct of the political echelon regarding the various rescues and stimuli under consideration. "The link made by the Finance Committee between the Finance Ministry’s economic stimulus program and the ’safety net’ is political and brutal," Finance Minister Roni Bar-On thundered yesterday. Speaking at the annual conference of the ministry’s Budget Department, Bar-On called the linkage "pointless" because ministry officials had never said they weren’t considering how to protect pension savers. The Finance Ministry’s desperately needed plans to stimulate the economy through investment in infrastructure and the financial system are lying dead in the water in the Finance Committee - "like hostages in the political battlefield," Bar-On said.

Finance Minister: Bloated egos holding up vital plans
Avi Temkin, Globes Online 12/3/2008
Minister of Finance Ronnie Bar-On accused the Knesset Finance Committee of imperviousness to the economic situation. Minister of Finance Ronnie Bar-On launched a scathing attack on his fellow politicians today, accusing them of being impervious to what was going on, of blocking vital programs, and of being swayed by extraneous considerations in dealing with the economy’s problems. Bar-On said that plans vital for the economy were meeting "an impervious political establishment, incapable of seeing beyond its nose or beyond the next election date. "The minister was speaking at a seminar organized by the Ministry of Finance Budgets Division. "Everyone knows how to lay blame and come out with declarations when there’s a crisis, but when there are successes, everyone will want to get on the bandwagon, until there’s no room for those who actually do the work.

Treasury wins: Safety net fraying
Moti Bassok and Meirav Arlosoroff, Ha’aretz 12/3/2008
The concept of a safety net for Israel’s pension savers is fraying. A meeting of representatives from the Finance Ministry, the Bank of Israel and the National Economic council last night ended in consensus that more efficient economic stimuli should be considered first. Only if none can be found should the "safety net" concept be revisited, based on the ideas of the Finance Ministry (as opposed to other parties), and made more efficient while about it. The conclusion is a clear triumph for the Finance Ministry, which had opposed the concept of a safety net from the get-go. Its representatives managed to persuade their colleagues in government that if one must be spread, at least it should be based on the treasury’s model. The prime minister’s office, which has been urging support for pension savings and had certain guidelines. . .

At campaign rally, Shas pledges ’to take care of everyone’
Yair Ettinger, Ha’aretz 12/4/2008
Shas chairman Eli Yishai attacked Likud and Kadima at a campaign rally yesterday and said only his party could take care of the weak. "Netanyahu and Livni will hurt the weak, and Shas promises to send them hundreds of millions of shekels. Yes, we can return the child allowances, yes, we can ensure a minimum wage of NIS 5,000 [a month], and you can win us 18 seats," Yishai said in Jerusalem’s International Conference Center, addressing the hundreds of people gathered. "I know Likud and Kadima will not give us the education [portfolio], but with the help of God we will reach 18 seats, and we will take the most important ministries and take care of everyone. "The party’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, said every supporter must "bring 10 people who will vote for Shas, everyone should write it down, write down the names and then give it to the principal of the religious school, and we will bless everyone.

Labor sweats over postponed primaries
Roni Singer-Heruti, Ha’aretz 12/4/2008
Labor Party general secretary Eitan Cabel barely slept Tuesday night. The uproar over the failure of the computerized voting system and the subsequent two-day postponement of the Tuesday primaries placed him in the eye of the storm. Throughout Tuesday, and continuing into yesterday, Cabel attempted to respond to the flood of phone calls and text messages from friends who sought to encourage him and party workers wanting to register protests, all the while overseeing the military-like operation of changing the election day. Voting begins at noon today with party members casting old-style paper ballots. "There’s never been anything like this in the entire world, having to arrange for a primary within 24 hours, but in truth we’ve already done most of the work," Cabel said at around noon yesterday. Asked to respond to the harsh criticism aimed at him on Tuesday night from his party colleagues. . .

Low-tech Labor primary means return to paper ballot
Roni Singer-Heruti, Ha’aretz 12/4/2008
Labor Party primary voting is set to resume for the second time this week, overshadowed by a computer glitch that led to voting being suspended on Tuesday. Sources in the party say they are more concerned about possible voter fraud than anything else. "Ninety-nine percent of the voters are law-abiding but the one percent that is not could do us a lot of damage," party secretary general MK Eitan Cabel said yesterday. Cabel’s choice to go with electronic voting this year stemmed from just such vote fraud in previous elections. Cabel recorded a message yesterday that went out to voters’ phones in which he called on them to vote and apologized for the disruption of the primary vote earlier this week. Voting will begin at noon today at 175 polling stations throughout the country, which will remain open until 10 PM.

Income Tax employees to strike
Hadas Magen, Globes Online 12/3/2008
From Monday, all Tax Authority offices will be closed until further notice. Income tax employees have voted to strike starting from next Monday. All Israel Tax Authority offices will be closed until further notice. Income tax workers committee chairman Talchum Fridlov said that employees had received no additional pay for the extra tasks they have had to perform following the repeated changes in legislation over the years. He added that a labor dispute had been declared long ago, and that he had been in talks with the Ministry of Finance throughout this period on improving pay conditions for staff carrying out extra tasks. Fridlov said he had been willing to reach a compromise with the Ministry of Finance but did not see any willingness on the part of the ministry to respond in kind. He added that in his view the gaps between the sides were not great, but "no one wants to talk to me.

Shoval: World will learn to embrace Netanyahu
Gil Hoffman, Jerusalem Post 12/3/2008
Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu has spent the last few years cultivating his relations with world leaders in preparation for a return to the premiership, according to Zalman Shoval, who heads the Likud’s foreign affairs bureau and serves as a diplomatic adviser to Netanyahu. Shoval, a former ambassador to the United States, participated in Netanyahu’s meeting in July with then-US presidential candidate Barack Obama. He said that there had been genuine chemistry between them and that the same had been true in meetings he attended between Netanyahu and the leaders of France, England and Germany. "When Menachem Begin took over as prime minister, the international press was horrible," recalled Shoval, who was a Likud MK at the time. "A German newspaper even said he would break off his relations with Germany and that there would be a war soon.

Rightist MK Yitzhak Levi announces resignation from politics
Nadav Shragai Haaretz correspondent, Ha’aretz 12/3/2008
MK Rabbi Yitzhak Levy on Wednesday announced his resignation from political life, declaring he will not run for a place on the right-wing Habayit Hayehudi party list. "I’m not ’slamming the door’ as I leave, but rather hope and pray for [the party’s] success," said Levi, a former education minister National Religious Party chairman. The hardline politician made the announcement following the new party’s recent decision not to hold primary elections for its Knesset list and leadership. Levy said that, "holding primary elections would light the way. I thought the public should be involved. We eventually settled on holding primary elections only for party leadership, but the party’s public council rejected this decision as well. " The party council’s decision not to hold primary elections was almost unanimous, but nevertheless. . .

Aoun opens new page of ties with Syria
Middle East Online 12/3/2008
DAMASCUS - Lebanese Christian opposition leader Michel Aoun on Wednesday predicted a "bright future" for ties between Lebanon and his former foe Syria after talks in Damascus with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. "We are turning a new page where there is no victor and no loser. This is a return to normal relations," Aoun told a news conference on the first day of a visit to the Syrian capital. "Our discussions hold the promise of a bright future" for the two countries, he said of his meeting with Assad, voicing confidence that any problems between Damascus and Beirut would be resolved. During the 1975-1990 civil war in Lebanon, Aoun as the head of a disputed Christian government waged a fierce "war of liberation" against Syrian forces deployed in the country. Forced out of the presidential palace in October 1990, he went into exile in France and only returned to Lebanon. . .

Aoun’s trip to Syria seen as bid to corner more votes in Lebanon
Daily Star 12/4/2008
Analysis - BEIRUT: Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun traveled to Syria on Wednesday in a bid to position himself as supreme leader of Lebanon’s Christians ahead of next year’s pivotal elections, but questions remain whether his sojourn will win him any more votes or followers, a number of analysts told The Daily Star. "He is putting himself as the sole speaker of the Christian community in Lebanon," said retired General Elias Hanna, who teaches political science at Notre Dame University. "He is putting himself above all parties in Lebanon, including the presidency. "Aoun will spend several days in Syria, against which he declared a war of liberation when he headed the Lebanese Armed Forces in 1989. Aoun fled to France after losing that conflict in 1990, but he returned in 2005 and since 2006 has aligned himself with Syria’s allies in Lebanon, in particular with Hizbullah.

Lebanon’s future depends on regional situation - Merkel
Daily Star 12/4/2008
BEIRUT: German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday that the situation in Lebanon depended on the resolution of political problems in the Middle East. After meeting with President Michel Sleiman in Berlin, Merkel said: "Saying that Lebanon will witness a good future depends on resolving the pending problems in the Middle East. " "Lebanon is going through a difficult situation and these problems affect the people’s everyday life," she added, noting that Germany was deploying all efforts to "push the peace process forward. "Merkel said that she hoped the new US administration would "preserve what has been achieved so far. " She added that there were new faces who "are aware of the importance of this process for the region as a whole, for the relations with Iran and for stability in Iraq and Afghanistan. "The German chancellor said her country encouraged peace talks between. . .

New evidence fingers suspects in Hariri killing
Middle East Online 12/3/2008
UNITED NATIONS - Fresh evidence may help identify new suspects in the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri, a report from the UN’s international inquiry team said Tuesday. The International Independent Investigation Commission "has acquired new information that may allow it to link additional individuals to the network that carried out the assassination," said the report. The inquiry’s eleventh report on the February 2005 assassination notes UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon decision last week to have a special tribunal on Hariri’s assassination begin work on March 1, 2009, and asks that its mandate be extended until February 28. The commission also made "further findings that help to identify the possible geographic origin of the suicide bomber" who targeted Hariri, the report said.

Lebanon’s Aoun visits Syria
Al Jazeera 12/3/2008
Michel Aoun, leader of Lebanon’s National Patriotic Movement, has been holding meetings with Syrian officialsin Damascus. Speaking before he departing for Damascus on Wednesday, Aoun said that his visit is justified because diplomatic ties have been set up between the Lebanese and Syrian governments. "They are welcoming me with admiration and respect. . . I was a rival and the rivalry has ended and I may become a friend," he said. Aoun said he saw no reason not to go to Syria given that Damsacus withdrew its troops from Lebanon in 2005 and that diplomatic ties between both countries were officially launched in October. "This is a friendly and introductory visit," he said. Under fire Aoun’s move has come under fire from members of Lebanon’s March 14 coalition, who accuse. . .

U.S. court upholds $156 million judgment against Palestinian charities
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 12/4/2008
A federal appeals court has upheld a $156 million judgment against three Palestinian charities accused of bankrolling terrorism. But it has dropped the lone individual from the long-running civil suit. The opinion was filed over the killing by Hamas terrorists of American-born student David Boim. It says donors to charities are liable if those charities engage in terrorist acts. But the court is dropping donor Muhammad Salah from the case. It says he was in jail when an anti-terrorism charity law was passed so he could not have violated it. Boim was fatally shot in May 1996 while standing at a bus stop in a West Bank town near Jerusalem. Last week, the U. S. government won a terrorism conviction against what had been the country’s largest Muslim charity and five of its leaders for funneling millions of dollars to the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

IDF preparing options for strike at Iran without US assent
Yaakov Katz, Jerusalem Post 12/4/2008
The IDF is drawing up options for a strike on Iranian nuclear facilities that do not include coordination with the United States, The Jerusalem Post has learned. While its preference is to coordinate with the US, defense officials have said Israel is preparing a wide range of options for such an operation. "It is always better to coordinate," one top Defense Ministry official explained last week. "But we are also preparing options that do not include coordination. " Israeli officials have said it would be difficult, but not impossible, to launch a strike against Iran without receiving codes from the US Air Force, which controls Iraqi airspace. Israel also asked for the codes in 1991 during the First Gulf War, but the US refused. "There are a wide range of risks one takes when embarking on such an operation," a top Israeli official said.

Neo-cons still preparing for Iran attack
Robert Dreyfuss, Asia Times 12/4/2008
What, exactly, does president-elect Barack Obama’s mild-mannered choice to head the Department of Health and Human Services, former senator Tom Daschle, have to do with neo-conservatives who want to bomb Iran? A familiar coalition of hawks, hardliners and neo-cons expects Obama’s proposed talks with Iran to fail - and they’re already proposing an escalating set of measures instead. Some are meant to occur alongside any future talks. These include steps to enhance coordination with Israel, tougher sanctions against Iran, and a region-wide military buildup of US strike forces, including the prepositioning of military supplies within striking distance of that country. Once the future negotiations break down, as they are convinced will happen, they propose that Washington quickly escalate to war-like measures, including a US Navy-enforced embargo on Iranian fuel imports and a blockade of that country’s oil exports.

Voices raised for engagement
Jim Lobe, Asia Times 12/4/2008
WASHINGTON - The incoming administration of president-elect Barack Obama should move quickly to engage Iran without preconditions and promote an Israeli-Syrian peace accord, according to two veteran Middle East experts whose views are likely to have influence over Obama’s just-announced foreign policy team. Obama should also "make a serious effort from the outset to promote progress between Israel and the Palestinians", propose its own solutions to the parties "sooner rather than later", and enlist the active support of the Arab League in its success, according to Richard Haass and Martin Indyk, senior Middle East aides under presidents George H W Bush and Bill Clinton, respectively. They also called for Obama to consider providing nuclear guarantees and enhanced anti-ballistic missile defense capabilities to Israel if negotiations to curb Iran’s nuclear programme fail or do not achieve

Think-tank comments on Iran worry Israel
Hilary Leila Krieger And Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post 12/3/2008
Israeli officials expressed concern Wednesday about some of the recommendations in a report top American experts have prepared on Middle East policy for the Obama administration, including expanding engagement with Iran and possible responses should Teheran acquire nuclear capabilities. The report, drafted by the Council on Foreign Relations and the Brookings Institution, will be a major focus of the latter’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy forum this weekend for top US and Israeli officials, as Washington heavy hitters try to play a role in shaping the policies of the next administration. Foreign Ministry officials weren’t thrilled about the report’s recommendations, but downplayed its significance. "We have nothing to be afraid of," one official said, refuting those who expressed fear that this report would become Obama’s diplomatic road map.

Cairo against Tehran ’developing nuclear arms’
Middle East Online 12/3/2008
CAIRO - Egypt supports international efforts aimed at preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit said on Wednesday. But he also warned against taking military action against Tehran, which is accused by the US of wanting to develop the bomb. Iran insists that its nuclear programme is peaceful. "Egypt supports international efforts to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons," Abul Gheit said, backing an international diplomatic solution to Iran’s disputed programme. His statement was read out by ministry official Wafa Bassim to a foreign relations council meeting in Cairo. Abul Gheit said that Egypt supports every country’s right to use nuclear energy peacefully. Egypt last year announced the planned resumption of its own nuclear energy programme. In apparent reference to Israel, the region’s only nuclear-armed state, Abul. . .

Iran’s Ahmadinejad acknowledges economy in danger
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 12/3/2008
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has acknowledged publicly for the first time that tumbling oil prices are gouging the country’s fragile economy. The official IRNA news agency has quoted the increasingly unpopular president as saying Iran will be forced to trim spending and generous subsidies and raise taxes. It’s a sensitive admission for the Iranian president, who is seeking re-election in June. Oil prices have plunged from $147 a barrel in July to under $50, adding to the pain of Iran’s rising inflation and unemployment. Wednesday’s report quoted Ahmadinejad as saying the government budget would have to be readjusted to base it on an oil price of around $30 a barrel.

Report: Argentina to halt trade with Iran over Jewish center bombings
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 12/4/2008
Argentina has decided to suspend trade with Iran over the Islamic Republic’s links to a a string of deadly terror attacks targeting Jews in Buenos Aires in the 1990s, the Argentine Jewish News reported this week. Argentina’s Justice Minister Anibal Fernandez announced the suspension of ties during talks with leaders of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), the AJN reported Tuesday. According to the BBC, howvever, Buenos Aires has denied calling for a suspension in trade and said it has made no such statement. Argentina and Iran now trade more than $1 billion annually. AJC officials praised the alleged suspension, telling the Argentinian paper that such a move was crucial to aiding ongoing investigation of the terror attacks. Argentina has charged six former Iranian officials with involvement in the bombings, which left over a hundred people dead, but no convictions have been issued so far.

Market report / Property index falls hard as stocks sag
Yuval Maoz, Ha’aretz 12/4/2008
Tel Aviv stocks lost ground yesterday, in a session marked by the wildly swinging real estate index. The TA-25 index lost 1. 5% to 637 points and the TA-100 index fell by 1. 7% to 564 points. The Tel Tech-15 index, heavy with dual-listed shares, dropped 1%. The real estate-15 index lost more than 9%. Total turnover remained paper thin at less than a billion shekels, half the average turnover in 2007. Reports that the state’s revenue from taxes fell in November provided another reminder that the financial crisis has seeped through to the real economy. Also in November, for the first time this year, the government slipped to an accrued deficit from the year’s start - of NIS 300 million. At the same time last year, the government was running a surplus of NIS 8 billion. Meanwhile, the debate in government circles over the "safety net" reached a turning point on Tuesday night, albeit. . .

Exports drop 7% from August-October
Sharon Wrobel, Jerusalem Post 12/3/2008
Industrial exports, a major growth catalyst for the country’s economy, fell 7 percent in real terms in the August-October period as factories and companies felt the blow from an ever-increasing drop in international demand and signs of a global recession. Ruby Ginel, head of the economics division at the Manufacturers Association of Israel, said the global crisis was hurting industrial exports. He attributed the drop in exports to the slowdown in global demand and partly to the work disruptions at Israel’s ports during August and the beginning of September. From August through October industrial exports dropped 7% in real terms, or $9. 3 billion, compared with the previous three-month period. The fall in industrial exports during the three-month period was led by a sharp decline of 9% in hi-tech exports, the biggest drop since the second quarter of 2003, and a 19% fall. . .

Auto imports down one-third
Hadas Magen, Globes Online 12/3/2008
However, despite the slowdown, imports of durable goods, such as refrigerators and TVs, rose in November. The Israel Tax Authority reports that car imports were down 31% in November 2008 compared with November 2007, and imports of commercial vehicles were down 29%. 9,666 private cars and 854 commercial vehicles were imported in November. The Tax Authority added that vehicle imports have been declining steadily since April, and that the downward trend intensified in the past two months. Part of the decline can be attributed to the cut in the purchase tax, due to come into effect on January 1, 2009. 183,557 vehicles were imported in January-November, 6. 1% more than in the corresponding period in 2007. Imports rose by 20% in value terms partly because of changes in exchange rates and higher import prices. Despite the economic slowdown, however, imports of durable goods, with. . .

Jerusalem high-speed train back on track
Sharon Wrobel, Jerusalem Post 12/3/2008
The social-economic cabinet renewed approval for the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem high-speed railway on Tuesday. The cabinet’s decision, part of the government’s national infrastructure stimulus plan, comes despite concerns over the economic viability of the link. "The high-speed railway is a national project of strategic importance. The most important consideration in the decision was the good of the city of Jerusalem. Accessibility to the capital needs to be improved," said Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On, who jointly heads the social-economic cabinet together with Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz. "The project will strengthen the city’s economic ties and create greater opportunities for its residents and employees," he added. The Finance Ministry was concerned that canceling the project would cost the state hundreds of millions of shekels in compensation for canceled contracts with private companies involved in the project.

Africa Israel admits: no deals in J’lem
Ranit Nahum-Halevy, Ha’aretz 12/4/2008
Africa Israel Residences yesterday admitted that indeed, its third-quarter report hadn’t mentioned that NIS 22 million worth of sales in a Jerusalem project had been cancelled. TheMarker reported yesterday that the firm had booked 12 transactions at its HaNevi’im Street project that never closed. Following the report in TheMarker, the Israel Securities Authority demanded that Africa Israel Residences clarify the status of the project, and reimbursements if any. Yesterday the company clearly stated that all 12 of the transactions in the pipeline that had been reported for the HaNevi’im Court project have been cancelled. As of September 30 there have been no sales in the project, it said. That was why the HaNevi’im Court project had been deleted from its quarterly report, the firm said. Africa Israel Residences customarily includes transactions in the pipeline. . .

Suspect in Alperon hit held for 5 more days
Yuval Goren, Ha’aretz 12/4/2008
The leading suspect in the murder of crime boss Ya’akov Alperon was yesterday remanded in custody for five more days by the Tel Aviv District Court. The court overturned a Magistrate’s Court ruling a day earlier, releasing alleged underworld kingpin Amir Mulner to house arrest. A police representative told the court yesterday that the police feared a gangland war in the wake of Alperon’s murder. Mulner, who specializes in explosives, is directly involved in a major case now under investigation by the Tel Aviv Police’s Central Unit, he said. He said that Mulner, who was arrested last week in a police raid on a Ramat Gan residence, was meeting several of his associates to prepare more strikes against other crime organizations and to plan their defense following Alperon’s murder. "We have reasonable doubt about a dispute between the respondents and other people that requires. . .

Fischer may head NY Federal Reserve
Allison Hoffman, New York And Sharon Wrobel, Jerusalem Post 12/3/2008
Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer may be a dark-horse candidate for the presidency of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday included Fischer - a former MIT professor who supervised US Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke’s doctoral thesis - on its short list of prospects to replace Timothy Geithner. Geithner, who was named Treasury secretary last week by President-elect Barack Obama, is expected to leave his post in "the next several weeks," according to a statement from the New York Fed. Fischer, 65, a former deputy managing director at the International Monetary Fund and chief economist at the World Bank, also worked as a senior executive at Citigroup prior to his appointment to Israel’s central bank in 2005. When asked in a recent interview with The Jerusalem Post if he would consider leaving his post to either return to the. . .

Palestinian ‘Bisan Systems’ Gets Arab GoldenChip Award
Palestine Media Center – PMC, Palestine Media Center 12/3/2008
Bisan Systems, a leading Palestinian software development firm based in the West Bank city of Ramallah was awarded the Arab GoldenChip Award for best online application for commerce for its financial management package on its 20 year anniversary, http://www. ameinfo. com reported on Monday. The award was granted at the MENA ICT Conference 2008 which was held in Beirut, Lebanon from November 19-23. Samia Totah said: “I am honored to accept this prestigious award on behalf of Bisan Systems and all the dedicated team that made this possible. This award reconfirms our firm commitment to produce a quality Palestinian software solution that meets regional and global standards. We look forward to re-doubling our efforts as we plan to launch the Enterprise Edition across the region. ” The MENA ICT Conference was held under the High patronage of His Excellency the President of. . .

VIDEO - New film by ’Or’ director promises to make waves in Israel and abroad
Haaret Sta, Ha’aretz 12/4/2008
Haaretz. com/Channel 10 daily feature for December 3, 2008. European film crews have recently taken over Givataim and Jaffa for the making of a new film that is seems destined to be a hot item in Israel and abroad. Ronit Elkabetz and Moni Mushonov star in a new Israeli-French production called Jaffa, directed by Keren Yedaya. Jaffa tracks the upheavals experienced by an Israeli couple whose lives are disrupted when their daughter, played by Dana Ivgy, falls in love with the Arab son of her father’s employee. [end]

Beirut hip hoppers sound out the rhythm of peace
Raphael Thelen, Daily Star 12/4/2008
BEIRUT: "Hip Hoppers for Peace" was the slogan under which 11 artists of all political and religious backgrounds met Saturday night at the Student Lounge in Hamra to present and perform songs of their new album "Peace Beats. "Lebanon’s small but emerging hip hop scene flocked into the apartment-like rooms of Student Lounge, a space dedicated to intercultural understanding and dialogue, to see the latest project of the Permanent Peace Movement (PPM), a Lebanese peace-building NGO. Supported by the United States Agency for International Development and executed by the members of the PPM, the project aimed to "bring together hip hoppers of different backgrounds and find ways to promote peace," Shant Kabakian, assistant project coordinator of the PPM, told The Daily Star. "The PPM was born in the midst of the 1975-1990 Civil War, and since then has been dedicated to promoting peace in. . .

Guantanamo ex-prosecutor slams system
Middle East Online 12/3/2008
LONDON - Tribunals used to try suspects at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp were defective, immoral and "sullied" the US constitution, a former US military prosecutor said in an interview Tuesday. Former Lieutenant-Colonel Darrel Vandeveld told the BBC in his first interview since resigning earlier this year that the way detainees were treated at the camp on Cuba was "appalling, wrong, unethical and finally, immoral". "I was convinced. . . that it was impossible to guarantee that they would get a fair trial," he told the British broadcaster. Vandeveld was a reservist called up as a military lawyer after the September 11 attacks on the United States, and served in Iraq, Bosnia and Afghanistan. In 2007, he became a prosecutor for the military commissions set up to try suspects in the US ’war on terror’ who were being held at Guantanamo.

RIGHTS: Ret. Officers Urge Obama to Expunge ''Stain of Torture''
William Fisher, Inter Press Service 12/4/2008
NEW YORK, Dec 3(IPS) - As a group of retired military leaders prepared to urge U. S. President-elect Barack Obama to quickly put an end to the harsh interrogation practices inflicted on security prisoners, a new United Nations report charged that Iraqi authorities were committing "grave human rights violations" in their treatment of thousands of detainees. "Grave human rights violations. . . remain unaddressed," the U. N. report said. It cited "ongoing widespread ill-treatment and torture of detainees by Iraqi law enforcement authorities, amid pervasive impunity of current and past human rights abuses. " The U. N. report cast doubt on whether Iraq will be prepared to professionally manage control over thousands of security detainees now in U. S. custody under a new security pact that would end the U. S. mission there by 2012.

Iraqi PM refuses to suspend tribal councils
Middle East Online 12/3/2008
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Wednesday refused a request from the presidential council to suspend tribal councils that have sparked a bitter debate among the country’s top leaders. Maliki insisted the so-called Support Councils were necessary to improve security in the war-torn country, and rejected accusations from President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, that they were illegal militias. "We see no practical or legal justification for abolishing these councils after they have succeeded in establishing security and stability and aiding national reconciliation efforts," Maliki said in a statement. "We have not distributed a single rifle, pistol, or bullet to the Support Councils, so we find it strange that you describe them as militias," he added. Maliki has long insisted that the groups are a natural outgrowth of the "Awakening" movement launched in 2006, when tribes. . .

Shin Bet clips wings of Israeli company flying to Africa
Zohar Blumenkrantz, Ha’aretz 12/4/2008
The Shin Bet security service has prohibited Sun d’Or airlines from flying charter flights to Zanzibar, Tanzania and Kenya, due to terror warnings. Sun d’Or, a subsidiary of El Al, had wanted fly to Africa as part of its newly expanded destination list. Israeli security authorities also limited Sun d’Or’s flights to Turkey to thwart terror threats against Israeli airlines abroad, particularly shoulder-launched missile attacks. The Shin Bet did approve flights to Nigeria, but planes have yet to take off in that direction due to objections by Nigerian authorities to Israel’s demand to post its own security personnel at the local airport. Flights to the Seychelles Islands have also been approved. Sun d’Or CEO Bezalel Karvat responded that he "understands the position of the Shin Bet, but the situation is harmful to our activity and allows foreign airlines to continue to fly. . .

Ido Pollak appointed CEO of TheMarker
TheMarker, Ha’aretz 12/4/2008
Ido Pollak is to become the new CEO of the Haaretz group, which includes the Haaretz group’s internet news websites, it was announced Wednesday. Pollak served as thegroup’s deputy technology head from 1999 to 2002, and has lived in London over the last seven years, where he held several positions in the media. Pollak will be replacing Hadas Goldstein who announced her resignation last month in order to found a new online initiative with the Haaretz group. also announced Wednesday the appointment of Eyal Saloniki as the deputy CEO of the company. Saloniki had previously worked as the vice president of marketing and development for. Saloniki originally joined the company as commercial manager for Haaretz. com #newsletterLink a {text-decoration: none; cursor: pointer;} #newsletterLink img {border:0px;} #newsletterLink{width:470; margin-bottom:20px;} .

Stanley Fischer reportedly on shortlist to lead New York Fed
TheMarker Staff and Reuters, Ha’aretz 12/3/2008
Stanley Fischer, the governor of the Bank of Israel, is reportedly again a candidate to replace Timothy Geithner as president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, according to media reports. Geithner has been nominated for Treasury Secretary of the Barack Obama administration. The New York Fed is the most important of the 12 regional Fed banks. The instuitution serves as the U. S. central bank’s most direct link to Wall Street as well as its chief crisis manager. The New York Fed is moving ahead with seeking a permanent replacement for Geithner, its chairman Stephen Friedman said last week. Apart from Friedman, Geithner and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke will likely have the most say in who is selected, economists said. Among the top contenders for the job, Fed watchers say, are Fed Governor Kevin Warsh and New York Fed official Bill Dudley.

Israel must start reducing greenhouse gas emissions in 2012
Ehud Zion Waldoks, Jerusalem Post 12/3/2008
Israel will apparently be bound by the follow-up to the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, set to go into effect in 2012, Environmental Protection Ministry Chief Scientist Dr. Yeshayahu Bar-Or told The Jerusalem Post Wednesday by phone from Poznan, Poland. Israel ratified the Kyoto Protocol but does not currently have any binding limitation on its greenhouse gas emissions, since it had been classified as a developing country. The new protocol will obligate both developed countries and developing countries alike to reduce greenhouse gases. The world is meeting this week and next in Poznan in an effort to lay out the guidelines for greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions, country by country. The debate is expected to grow heated, as developing countries and developed countries argue over who must take more responsibility.

Study: Haredi stores are 20 percent cheaper than other stores
Nati Toker, Ha’aretz 12/3/2008
General retail stores catering to the ultra-Orthodox sector are about 20% cheaper than their parallels serving the secular community, the Nielsen research institute found. Nitzan Holzberg, marketing and sales director at Nielsen, presented the data at a conference on marketing to the ultra-Orthodox sector at the Israeli Management Center this week. A kilo of savory snack foods costs NIS 51. 50 per kilo at the regular stores, Nielsen found. However, a kilo of the same snack will set back consumers NIS 40. 90 in ultra-Orthodox stores. That’s a difference of 20. 6%. Moving on to family-sized packages of soup powder, the institute found that the secular sector sells it for NIS 89. 50, but retailers selling to the ultra-Orthodox sector charge NIS 65. 10, a gap of 27.

Revealed: Britain’s torture of Obama’s grandfather
Owen Bowcott, The Guardian 12/3/2008
The past usually finds a way of catching up with us. Could Britain’s colonial sins pose a risk to our relationship with the soon-to-be most powerful person on Earth? According to the Times, Barack Obama’s grandfather was imprisoned and tortured by the British during Kenya’s Mau Mau uprising. The claim is spread across three pages of the newspaper and illustrated with black and white photographs of detention camps operated by British soldiers in the 1950s. Hussein Onyango Obama, the president-elect’s paternal grandfather, had served with the British army in Burma during the second world war and later found work back in Kenya as a military cook. Like many army veterans, he returned to Africa hoping to win greater freedoms. But his aspirations soon turned to resentment of the occupying British. He became involved in the Mau Mau independence movement and was arrested as early as 1949, probably on charges of membership of a banned organisation.


Articles

''We are slowly dying''
Sameh A. Habeeb writing from the occupied Gaza Strip, Electronic Intifada 12/3/2008
      Israel has further tightened the screw on Gaza, where some areas have been completely plunged into darkness as fuel shortages shut down Gaza’s sole power plant 25 days ago.
     The power cuts affect all activities dependent on electrical power as the remaining power sources provided by Israel and Egypt cannot serve the needs of the whole of the Gaza Strip.Access to drinking and irrigation water is affected, as well as sewage treatment, risking disease.Already, this means that millions of liters of sewage water pollute the Mediterranean Sea on a daily basis.
     Israel is also denying food to the 1.5 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.According to the Popular Committee Against the Siege, basic food items like milk, flour, cooking oil, meat, rice and legumes are not sufficiently available.Some figures indicate that only 15 percent of Gaza’s food needs are getting in through the Israeli-controlled borders.
     Palestinians in Gaza are also being denied the right to access medical treatment.Basic medicines have vanished from the Strip, including those for the treatment of diabetes, heart conditions, asthma and other chronic diseases.There are also shortages of medicine to treat cancer and renal and liver diseases.Sterilization and disinfectant supplies, as well as other needs for the safe treatment medical patients, are in short supply.Machines that mean life or death for Gaza patients are breaking down because Israel is not allowing the import of spare parts.Doctors will have a hard time even diagnosing patients because the power cuts have damaged CT and x-ray equipment at Gaza’s hospitals.

A psychological siege

Safa Joudeh writing from the occupied Gaza Strip, Electronic Intifada 12/3/2008
      Israel’s siege on Gaza, now in its 19th month, has wreaked havoc on all aspects of life and significant attention has been paid in particular to the economic consequences of border closures and blockade. However, an overlooked epidemic threatens the social and familial ties that bond the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza. Living under a constant state of crisis in which their livelihoods have been denied, the people of Gaza’s once exemplary resilience and determination are giving way to an unfathomable sea of depression and psychological illnesses.
     According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, as a direct result of Israel’s siege, 65 percent of households in Gaza struggle to obtain basic needs such as food, clothing and medicine. Among those struggling is Fouzan Salah, a 35-year-old father of four. Fouzan, who owned a tailoring factory with his brother, began selling his sewing machines in January of this year in order to feed his family. Since Israel began restricting the entry of goods and raw material into Gaza, an estimated 55 percent of private sector establishments have shut down and 97 percent of industrial establishments ceased their operations. Such was the fate of Fouzan’s factory, which received all of its fabric from Israel. The family now has no income and is in danger of losing its home. They Salahs currently rely on charity and the assistance of others, surviving on one, sometimes two small meals a day.

Charity is Not a Crime: Fallacy of Justice

Dr. Elias Akleh, Palestine Chronicle 12/3/2008
      ’Feeding hungry children is a divine act, not a crime.’
     When twelve good American jurors acquit a group of defendants from all charges, and twelve other good American jurors convict them of all the charges in a second trial, one cannot help but wonder what kind of judicial system we have. And when the defendants are a group of compassionate Americans, who raise funds to feed hungry families, to open schools to educate young minds, and build clinics and hospitals to care for the sick, the disabled and the elderly, one wonders what had happened to compassionate America, who offers aid to poor nations. The trial case of the Holy Land Foundation, a charity that provided aid to impoverished families in other countries as well as some American families, raises such wonders.
     After the attacks of 911 and the enactment of the American Patriot Act, the US government was granted unchecked total power to designate any organization as a terrorist entity, shut it down, freeze its assets and prosecute its members as "enemy combatants". Since then the government had shut down thousands of Middle Eastern and Islamic organizations, but failed to produce any tangible evidence to prosecute any one individual.

Perverse justice

Wajahat Ali, The Guardian 12/3/2008
      The Bush administration’s "war on terror" paraded a feather in its tattered cap with the Holy Land Foundation convictions delivered last week. Most observers accurately characterised this legal charade as a witch hunt, using Muslims and Arabs, specifically Palestinians, as its targets. In doing so the administration shamelessly abuses to advance its failed security measures and pro-Israel policy initiatives that systematically punishes Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank.
     Five leaders from the once highly-respected charity group Holy Land Foundation, which gave nearly $12m to non-violent, Palestinian institutions to build hospitals and feed the poor, were convicted on 108 charges of supporting terrorism by funneling money to Hamas. A US official proudly declared: "Today’s verdicts are important milestones in America’s efforts against financiers of terrorism." However, Linda Moreno, a defence lawyer for one of the HLF leaders, said she disagreed, and told me: "This was a political, ’win at all costs’ prosecution."

Try Tough Love, Hillary

Roger Cohen, MIFTAH 12/3/2008
      Imagine Ehud Olmert, the outgoing Israeli prime minister, saying this to Barack Obama:
     “The United States has been wrong to write Israel a blank check every year; wrong to turn a blind eye to the settlements in the West Bank; wrong not to be more explicit about the need to divide Jerusalem; wrong to equip us with weaponry so sophisticated we now believe military might is the answer to all our problems; and wrong in not helping us reach out to Syria. Your chosen secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, said during the campaign that ‘the United States stands with Israel, now and forever.’ Well, that’s not good enough. You need to stand against us sometimes so we can avoid the curse of eternal militarism.”
     Perhaps that seems unimaginable. But Olmert has already said something close to this. In a frank September interview with the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, reprinted this month by The New York Review of Books, the Israeli leader chose to exit with a mea culpa for his country’s policies.

Revoking Israel’s UN Membership

Snorre Lindquist and Lasse Wilhelmson – Stockholm, Palestine Chronicle 12/3/2008
      Israel membership at the UN is conditional on its respect for international law.
     The Gaza Strip is now the largest concentration camp in the world. The situation grows steadily more insufferable for the 1.5 million Palestinians who live there. Deliveries of food, medicine and fuel are made difficult or stopped altogether. Child malnutrition is increasing. Water supplies and drainage have ceased to function. Children die for lack of healthcare. Tunnels to Egypt, dug by hand, are the only breathing space. Journalists and diplomats are denied entry. Israel is planning more military efforts. The Palestinians in Gaza are now to be starved into surrender and become an Egyptian problem.
     The UN should use the word apartheid in connection with Israel and consider sanctions with the former South Africa serving as a model. Miguel dÉscoto Brockman, president of the UN General Assembly, conveyed this message at a meeting on November 24th 2008 with the UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon present.

How Zionists Occupy Two Nations: America and Palestine

Mohamed Khodr, Palestine Think Tank 12/3/2008
      Thankfully, several prominent Jews have formed a new lobby, J Street, to oppose the influence of the Israel Lobby and its stranglehold on US foreign policy that emphasizes force over diplomacy. J Street supports a peaceful negotiated settlement of the Israeli Palestinian conflict and the formation of two independent states although it avoids delineating the borders of such states; for example, by supporting the 1967 borders.
     From America’s “Jewish Triangle” to Iraqi’s “Sunni Triangle - Government Job Notice: No Gentiles Need Apply - “The Modern Age is the Jewish Age, and the twentieth century, in particular, is the Jewish Century.” –Yuri Slezkine, Professor of History at University of California, Berkeley, “The Jewish Century”; Princeton University Press (Russian Jewish immigrant to the U.S.)
     No, America, there is no Zionist Conspiracy running our nation; just well funded organized Zionist Coincidences - From Truman, to Clinton, to Obama, to…..
     In a Nov. 10, 1945 meeting with American diplomats brought in from their posts in the Middle East to urge Truman not to heed Zionist urgings to recognize Israel, Truman bluntly explained his motivation:
     “I’m sorry, gentlemen, but I have to answer to hundreds of thousands who are anxious for the success of Zionism: I do not have hundreds of thousands of Arabs among my constituents” - Harry Truman, 33rd President

Jerusalem’s Status: To Be Determined

Nadia W. Awad, MIFTAH 12/3/2008
      Last week, approximately 100 American Orthodox Jews gathered in Jerusalem’s Talpiot district in conjunction with a national convention for the Orthodox Union, an American Jewish group. The choice of location was significant to them, as it was the site designated by the US for the building of a future embassy in Jerusalem. The main objective of the rally was to call for the US government to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the ‘undivided capital of Israel’. The title of the convention was also telling: Keep It One, Keep It Ours.
     Despite the significant fact that there are no embassies, only consulates, in Jerusalem, most people around the world are ignorant of one detail: Jerusalem has never been officially recognized as the capital of Israel. On the contrary, most countries consider its status as yet to be determined, with Israel’s control of east Jerusalem considered a very illegal military occupation. As such, recognizing the de facto control of Israel over Jerusalem does not equate to recognizing its sovereignty over the city.
     Following the 1948 War, Jerusalem was divided into two parts. East Jerusalem was under the control of Jordanian rule while west Jerusalem was captured by the Israelis. This status did not continue, when, after the Six Day War in 1967, Israeli forces entered east Jerusalem, occupying it by force and immediately demolishing hundreds of Palestinian homes in the Old City’s Maghrebi Quarter in order to facilitate the expansion of the Jewish Quarter. UN Resolution 242, possibly one of the most oft-quoted resolutions when discussing Middle East politics, deals with the aftermath of the 1967 War, and specifically calls for: “The withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.” Unfortunately, Israel has yet to comply.

ISRAEL-OPT: How Gaza gets power - analysis

IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 12/4/2008
      GAZA, 3 December 2008 (IRIN) - Gaza’s sole power station supplies about 30 percent of Gaza’s electricity; 10 lines from Israel supply about 62 percent; and two lines from Egypt about 8 percent.
     The station supplies about 65MW of electricity, and is functioning at half capacity after its transformers were bombed by Israel in June 2006, according to UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) field officer Hamada al-Bayari in Gaza.
     The plant supplies roughly 40MW to Gaza City, 10MW to northern Gaza and 15 MW to middle Gaza.
     The sole source of industrial fuel for the power station is funded by the European Commission via a European aid programme called PEGASE, covering development projects in partnership with the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank, bypassing Hamas.
     Theoretically, Israel allows the transfer of 2.5 million litres of industrial fuel to over 200 distribution points in Gaza each week via PEGASE, monitored on the ground by financial firm Price Waterhouse Coopers.

More transnational companies divest from illegal industrial settlements

Adri Nieuwhof, Electronic Intifada 12/2/2008
      The movement in Europe to put pressure on companies that benefit from the occupation is growing. Over the last few months, European, Palestinian and Israeli activists have won significant victories toward the 2005 call by Palestinian civil society for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. In early October, Barkan Wineries, a subsidiary of Tempo Beer Industry Ltd., decided to divest from an illegal settlement in the Barkan Industrial Park. Dutch Heineken has a 40 percent share in Tempo Beer Industry and as a member of the United Nations Global Compact, it has promised to support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights and to make sure they are not complicit in human rights abuses. According to the Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq, Heineken played a positive role in this decision by adhering to its corporate social responsibility policies.
     Diakonia Sweden released in October a critical report on Swedish Assa Abloy, owner of Mul-T-Lock which has a production unit in the Barkan Industrial Park. In response to the report, Assa Abloy announced its removal of the production unit, and it expressed its "regret that the inappropriateness has not been noted internally, during the eight years of ownership, of having a production unit on the West Bank."

The believers and the kingdom of evil

Shlomo Avineri, Ha’aretz 12/4/2008
      The fact that two opposite interpretations to religious tradition could lead to a radical delegitimization of Israel’s existence should raise a number of thoughts. First, it appears that at least as far as the Jewish public is concerned, the deepest undermining of Zionism and Israel’s legitimacy does not come from the extreme left wingers dubbed "post Zionists," but from religious groups with deep faith. It is possible to be both a believing Jew and a meticulous enemy of Israel.
     When Herzl wrote in his diary, the day after the First Zionist Congress, "...in Basel I founded the Jewish state," it was clear to him that the state hadn’t really been founded in those summer days of 1897. Rather, the infrastructure that provided a basis for a political framework for the Jewish people for the first time in 2000 years had been formed.
     Or as Herzl said, he gave people "the feeling that they were the national assembly." Until they met, the Jews lacked not only territory, but an institutional authority that could speak in the nation’s name and demand a state.
     That was the significance of convening the congress, holding elections, electing an executive committee, charging a voluntary tax (the shekel), creating financial instruments - which in later days would be called "the state in formation."