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

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9 December, 2008

Israel to Open Commercial Crossings into Gaza on Tuesday
Justin Theriault, International Middle East Media Center News 12/9/2008
Commercial crossings into the Gaza Strip are to be open, Tuesday, according to Israeli Radio. On Monday, Israeli Army Minister, Ehud Barack, issued a decision to open the commercial crossings on Tuesday to let much needed humanitarian aid into the impoverished Gaza Strip. Forty trucks carrying foods and other humanitarian aid will enter Gaza through the Karm Abu-Salem Crossing, while thirty other trucks carrying grains are to enter through the Al-Mintar Crossing. In addition, quantities of diesel and cooking gas are to enter the strip through the Nahal Oz Crossing. This decision comes in the wake of an announcement from the Free Gaza Movement that they will be sending, at 11pm on Monday, December 8, a fourth Free Gaza ship, called the Dignity, to the impoverished territory that has been under a literal siege by Israel since the elected Hamas Government took control of the territory, through military measures, in June of 2007.

Dignity to Gaza: ''We’re Back!'' - Fourth Successful Voyage Breaks Through Siege of Gaza
Press Release by Free Gaza Movement, International Middle East Media Center News 12/9/2008
The Free Gaza Movement ship "Dignity" successfully broke through the Israeli blockade for the fourth time since August, arriving in Gaza Port at 2:45pm, Tuesday 9 December. The ship carried one ton of medical supplies and high-protein baby formula, in addition to a delegation of international academics, humanitarian and human rights workers. Three earlier missions made landfall in Gaza in August, October, and November through the power of non-violent direct action and civil resistance. The Free Gaza ships are the first international ships to reach the Gaza Strip in over 41 years. Ewa Jasiewicz, a Free Gaza organizer, journalist, and solidarity worker, pointed out that, "Tomorrow is International Human Rights Day, and it’s high time the world turned its rhetoric on human rights into reality.

Rights group to Mazuz: Probe IDF targeted killings in West Bank
Tomer Zarchin, Ha’aretz 12/10/2008
The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel is demanding the attorney general order a criminal investigation to determine whether any crimes were committed in the planning and execution of past targeted assassinations. Attorneys Avigdor Feldman and Michael Sfard wrote Attorney General Menachem Mazuz a letter, asking him to clearly and unconditionally prohibit assassinations when detention is an alternative, and to prohibit giving advance approval to harming innocent bystanders. They also demanded Mazuz establish a committee to examine the constitutionality of past assassinations, as the High Court of Justice called for in a 2006 ruling. Two weeks ago, Haaretz Magazine published an investigation by Uri Blau that revealed the Israel Defense Forces approved assassinations in the West Bank even when detention appeared to be a viable alternative.

Umm el-Fahm plans to block march
Brenda Gazzar, Jerusalem Post 12/9/2008
The municipality of Umm el-Fahm and its supporters plan to construct a human chain at the city’s entrances to block leaders of an outlawed, far-right Jewish movement from marching inside its city limits on Monday, the city’s new mayor said on Tuesday. Israeli Jews, from the left and right of the political spectrum, "always come" and are welcome to Umm el-Fahm, Israel’s largest Muslim city, said Mayor Khaled Hamdan. "They walk around Umm el-Fahm. They eat in the restaurants of Umm el-Fahm. . . This happens every day. But this (march) is a provocation. This is a challenge. " In October, the High Court of Justice approved the march inside the city’s limits, organized by leaders of the former Kach movement, despite opposition by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) that it could trigger disturbances.

AI: Siege in Gaza leaves people barely alive
Palestinian Information Center 12/9/2008
LONDON, (PIC)-- London-based Amnesty International has warned that the Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip was gravely affecting the life of its inhabitants in an unprecedented manner. Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s chief researcher for the Arab-Israeli conflict zone, said in a report that last month the humanitarian aid assistance to Gaza along with other basic necessities were reduced to the minimum requirements to keep those inhabitants alive. She pointed out that the siege was more stringent than any time before ever since the ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian resistance factions took place over five and half months ago. Israel allows entry of whatever is necessary to keep the people in Gaza barely alive, Rovera charged, adding that Gazans are deprived of basic food materials and at certain times do not even find bread.

Israeli Occupation Forces Assault Two Palestinians in the Village of Mardah
Justin Theriault, International Middle East Media Center News 12/9/2008
SALFIT, December 9, 2008 (WAFA)- Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) attacked, Tuesday, the Palestinian village of Mardah, north of Salfit, in the West Bank, and beat two Palestinian citizens. Eyewitnesses from the village of Mardah reported that two Israeli soldiers were harassing a group of young children playing in their neighborhood. The two unnamed soldiers, for no apparent reason, began to shout and yell at the children, which scared the children. Hearing the terrified screams of the neighborhood children, Shaker Sulaiman, age 26, ran out to see what was happening. Israeli soldiers grabbed him, and started beating him. When his brother Mujahed, age 23, came to the location, the soldiers also beat him. The two unnamed Israeli soldiers beat the two brothers in an Israeli military vehicle for several hours. Afterwards, the IOF unit released the two brothers, who suffered moderate injuries from the assault.

UN to Israel: Free Palestinian prisoners, lift Gaza blockade
Jerusalem Post 12/9/2008
UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday called on Israel to lift its blockade on the Gaza Strip, Israel Radio reported. After two days of discussions, the council, which consists of 47 member states, passed a list of 99 ’recommendations’ of gestures for Israel to make to ease Palestinian suffering, including freeing all prisoners. Tuesday’s discussion was the third time the Palestinian situation has been discussed since 2006. Israel’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Aharon Leshno Yaar, was quoted by Reuters as saying that "Israel remains committed to reinforcing areas in which we are succeeding and bettering those areas that need improvement. " He called the discussion in the Human Rights Council "positive and productive. " According to the report, representatives from Syria, Egypt and Iran condemned Israel during the discussion, regarding its policies on Palestinian prisoners and settlement construction.

Livni calls for a large-scaled military offensive in Gaza
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 12/10/2008
Israeli Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, stated on Wednesday that the Israeli army should carry a large-scaled military offensive in the Gaza Strip in retaliation for what she described as "the violation of the truce". The statements of Livni came during a meeting in Tel Aviv University on Tuesday morning. She also slammed the Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, as she said that Barak was calling for a truce while Hamas was firing homemade shells. She claimed that this issue gives the impression that Israel recognizes Hamas. Livni also said that Israel should not accept the Authority of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and should intensify its military operations in the coastal region. She stated that when Israel accepted the truce, it wanted to create a temporary period of calm, and added that an extended truce or long term calm "harms the Israel strategic goal, empowers Hamas, and gives the impression that Israel recognizes the movement".

Olmert, Livni, Barak to meet in morning for discussion on Gaza
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 12/10/2008
Foreign minister presses for more decisive response to rocket attacks while defense minister advocates maintaining restraint, but both positions are best viewed through prism of upcoming elections. And so again, no dramatic decisions expected from the prime minister this time around either - Stick to the policy of restraint or launch a military offensive in Gaza? The question is expected to dominate the agenda at Wednesday morning’s meeting between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Affairs Minister Tzipi Livni. The narrowest forum in the Israeli government will convene at 11:00 am to discuss the current policies employed in regards to the Palestinian Authority. This ahead of several key events on the horizon - the approaching expiration of the truce with Gaza’s armed groups on December 19th, the possible elections in the Palestinian. . .

Army sources: IDF told to execise restraint in face of escalating rocket fire from Gaza
Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 12/10/2008
Despite the recent escalation in the volume of rocket fire at southern Israel from the Gaza Strip, the Israel Defense Forces have been ordered to maintain a policy of restraint, army sources told Haaretz. As a result, the IDF is embarking on very few operations against the rocket-launching crews. Since the Gaza border flared up again on November 4, following an IDF operation to destroy a tunnel near the border in which six Hamas operatives were killed, more than 200 rockets have been fired at Israel. This includes 32 Grad Katyushas fired at Ashkelon over the course of a few days. The IDF views this as proof that Hamas and Islamic Jihad have large stockpiles of rockets, including sizable numbers of the longer-range Katyushas. While Hamas was directly responsible for some of the earlier launches, over the last two weeks, it has largely left the firing to other factions.

We know how to strike, Olmert tells southern residents
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 12/9/2008
PM, Deputy Defense Minister Vilnai visit Gaza vicinity communities that are under almost daily rocket attacks. In meeting with children, Olmert says he shares their fears, Israel cannot tolerate attacks - Prime Minister Ehud Olmert visited Gaza vicinity communities on Tuesday and met with children of the Qassam-stricken areas in schools and kindergartens. No Qassam rockets were fired at Israel Tuesday morning. Sixth-grader Oren Sagai of Sderot read a note she wrote to the prime minister at her school. "I want to share my feelings with you, mister prime minister. When a Color Red alarm is sounded, it’s very difficult. It’s not a normal reality for a child to live between one bomb shelter and another. "You have to live here to understand the situation and see how you can help. I know that everything that has a beginning has an end as well, and hope this situation comes to an end.

Livni ’ashamed’ of state of Gaza truce Staff, Jerusalem Post 12/9/2008
Hours after Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered the border crossings with the Gaza Strip opened to allow the passage of humanitarian aid, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni warned on Tuesday that the consequences of renewed Palestinian rocket into Israeli territory may be much tougher than yet another closure. "A [military] response is important; even if it doesn’t automatically end the Palestinian rocket fire, there is something important in the impression, and Israel’s deterrence ability," she said during a conference in Tel Aviv. "The strategic goal in my eyes is to prevent the establishment of an extremist Islamic terror state along Israel’s southern border," Livni continued. "If Hamas knows that Israel won’t be quiet when missiles fall on Ashkelon, they will feel the responsibility on their shoulders," she said, adding that she is "ashamed to call what is currently happening a ceasefire.

Olmert refuses to rule out Gaza offensive ahead of key discussion
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 12/10/2008
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is due to meet with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni today to discuss the future of the Gaza lull, a day after Olmert threatened that Israel would lash out against Gaza militants in response to a recent escalation in rocket and mortar fire from the Gaza Strip. "We will never flee from our homes," Olmert said yesterday while speaking to children during a tour of rocket-battered communities bordering the Gaza Strip. "We won’t defend, but will attack - and stop once and for all what threatens our daily lives. ""I say, with full responsibility, that we know what needs to be done, but we also know when to act so that you won’t be scared and won’t need to run breathlessly to the shelters," he said. Olmert, Barak, Livni and top defense officials will discuss whether to extend the six-month-old lull, which officially ends December 19.

Local official: We’ll block rightists’ entry to Arab town ’physically’
Eli Ashkenazi, Ha’aretz 12/10/2008
The head of the Menashe Regional Council vowed on Tuesday that his constituents would "physically" block the entry of a rightist march into the Israeli Arab town of Umm al-Fahm next Monday. Ilan Sadeh, the official, branded the march as "explosive. " "Right wing activists are likely to drag the area and the entire state into a violent clash, and bloodshed between Jews and Arabs. We must not let a handful of extremists ruin the fraternal relations between us in the area," he said. In late October, The High Court agreed to allow right-wing activists Itamar Ben-Gvir and Baruch Marzel lead the march through Umm al-Fahm. Ben-Gvir had petitioned the court after police rejected a permit for the activists to parade through the city waving Israeli flags. The initiative has been met by strong opposition in the city and throughout. . .

oPt: Israel opens Gaza borders to humanitarian aid shipment
Deutsche Presse Agentur - DPA, ReliefWeb 12/9/2008
Tel Aviv_(dpa) _Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak ordered the military to open the country’s border crossings with Gaza on Tuesday to allow trucks with basic humanitarian supplies to enter the strip for the fifth time in more than one month. Some 40 trucks with basic food products and medical supplies of the United Nations and other aid organizations were passing through the Kerem Shalom crossing with southern Gaza, Israel Radio reported. Israel also opened the Karni crossing for commercial goods with central Gaza to some 30 more trucks transporting grains. Cooking gas and industrial diesel for Gaza’s power plant would be allowed in through the Nahal Oz fuel crossing as well, the radio said. Israel made the move after a lull in rocket attacks from the strip Monday. An Israeli military spokesman said militants launched one rocket from the strip Monday, but it did not fall inside Israel.

Gaza: Silence is not an option
United Nations Human Rights Council, ReliefWeb 12/9/2008
The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights on Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Richard Falk, issued the following statement: GENEVA-- In recent days the desperate plight of the civilian population of Gaza has been acknowledged by such respected international figures as the Secretary General of the United Nations, the President of the General Assembly, and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Last week, Karen AbyZayd, who heads the UN relief effort in Gaza, offered first-hand confirmation of the desperate urgency and unacceptable conditions facing the civilian population of Gaza. Although many leaders have commented on the cruelty and unlawfulness of the Gaza blockade imposed by Israel, such a flurry of denunciations by normally cautious UN officials has not occurred on a global level since the heyday of South African apartheid.

Half Gaza children suffer from anemia
Palestinian Information Center 12/9/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- A Palestinian human rights commission has warned that 46% of Gaza children were suffering from anemia due to their parents’ inability to feed them properly as a result of the siege that deprived those parents of work. The independent commission for citizens’ rights said in a report that the Israeli collective punishment against the people of Gaza had greatly affected the children’s health. It said that the lives of 23 children suffering kidney failure, 58 children with cancer and 43 children suffering heart diseases were in great danger in the event power outage affected the medical machines on which they depend to remain alive. Meanwhile, in the West Bank Israeli occupation forces detained nine Palestinian in Bethlehem, Al-Khalil and Ramallah districts on the first day of Eidul Adha on Monday.

Carter says willing to meet with Hizbullah
Associated Press, YNetNews 12/9/2008
Former US president in Lebanon, confirms he would sit down with terror organization’s leaders if they are willing to meet him. Carter was widely criticized for meeting with Hamas’ politburo chief in April during visit to Syria - Former US President Jimmy Carter said Tuesday he is ready to meet with Hizbullah officials if the Lebanese militant group agreed to see him. Carter made his comments upon arrival in Lebanon where he will assess whether his Atlanta-based Carter Center would take part in monitoring next year’s parliamentary elections. Asked whether he would meet with Hizbullah officials during his five-day visit, Carter told reporters that it was up to the militant group, which the United States considers a terrorist organization. "I am going to meet with all of the political parties as possible," Carter said.

Carter ready to meet Hizbullah officials
Associated Press, Jerusalem Post 12/8/2008
Former US president Jimmy Carter said Tuesday he is ready to meet with Hizbullah officials if the group agrees to see him. Carter made his comments upon arrival in Lebanon, where he will assess whether his Atlanta-based Carter Center will take part in monitoring next year’s parliamentary elections. Asked whether he would meet with Hizbullah officials during his five-day visit, Carter told reporters that it was up to the group, which the United States considers a terrorist organization. "I am going to meet with all of the political parties as possible," Carter said. "I understand that several leaders of Hizbullah said they were not going to meet with any president or former president of the United States, so I don’t know yet. " RELATEDCarter to publish new peace bookA Hizbullah official told The. . .

Egypt praises Morocco for promotion of Mideast peace
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 12/9/2008
State-owned paper commends Moroccan kingdom for its role in ’persuading Israel to accept Arab peace initiative’, says Arab states will accept Israel as neighbor if it ’retreats from occupied land, allows for Palestinian state with Jerusalem as capital’ -A state-owned Egyptian paper praised Morocco Tuesday for its commitment to assisting the Israeli-Arab peace process. "It’s time to develop talks in order to further the peace process and persuade Israel to accept the Arab peace initiative," Al-Ahram Weekly said. The editorial was referring to reports on Morocco’s preparations for a visit by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. It said the visit was intended to "promote cooperation and empower the Israeli-Palestinian process. " It went on to say that "the Arab states have agreed on the presentation of the Arab initiative in order to find a peaceful solution to the Palestinian issue and reinstate the Arabs’ rights.

US arms may be reaching Chad via Israel
Middle East Online 12/9/2008
PARIS - French authorities are investigating a US aviation firm, Griffon Aerospace, on suspicion of selling arms illegally to Chad, a judicial official said Tuesday. According to investigators, the firm -- which has a branch near Paris -- purchased decommissioned US military planes in 2007, had them refitted in Israel and sold them to Chad, which was battling a rebel onslaught. Acting on a tip off, the Paris prosecutor’s office launched a probe in July to find whether the company’s French office played a role in the deal, in which case it could be in violation of French law, the official said. France bans the sale of military equipment without prior government authorisation. Le Parisien newspaper reported that Griffon Aerospace applied for an arms sales permit from the French defence ministry in April 2007 but was turned down in July this year.

UN’s recipe for peace, in just 99 steps
Reuters, YNetNews 12/9/2008
Human Rights Council lists recommendations for improvement of human rights in Israel, including lifting of Gaza blockade, release of Palestinian prisoners. ’Israel committed to bettering areas that need improvement,’ says ambassador -The UN Human Rights Council called on Israel on Tuesday to take 99 measures, from lifting its blockade on Gaza to releasing Palestinian prisoners. The 47-member-state Council adopted the list by consensus at the end of a two-day review of Israel’s human rights record. Under a new mechanism, known as the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), the records of all United Nations member states are to be subjected to scrutiny every four years. "Israel remains committed to reinforcing areas in which we are succeeding and bettering those areas that need improvement," said Israel’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Aharon Leshno Yaar.

Abbas asked for postponing release of prisoners
Palestinian Information Center 12/9/2008
NAZARETH, (PIC)-- PA chief Mahmoud Abbas has asked Israel to delay the release of 230 Palestinian prisoners from its jails for one week to enable him to participate in a celebration marking their release, a Hebrew paper said. Ha’aretz said on Monday that the Israeli government decided to postpone the release of those prisoners from 10/12 to 15/12. It quoted Israeli sources as saying that Abbas, who is currently in Saudi Arabia to perform Haj (pilgrimage), wants to exploit the celebrations to mark their release next week as a publicity stunt. Abbas’s request was met with absolute dismay in lines of those prisoners and their relatives who hoped to re-unite during the Eidul Adha celebrations. The Hebrew radio also on Monday quoted Israeli officials as saying that the delay was at the request of Abbas who did not clarify reasons for this request.

Abbas demands release of all Palestinian prisoners
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 12/9/2008
Speaking in Mecca, PA president says peaceful solution to conflict will not be reached until all 11,000 Palestinian prisoners are released by Israel; condemns Hamas for blocking Fatah men from making hajj pilgrimage -As Israel prepares to release 230 Palestinian prisoners, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is claiming that a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot be reached without the release of all 11,000 prisoners currently imprisoned in Israel. Speaking in the city of Mecca on Tuesday in honor of the hajj pilgrimage, Abbas said, "I would like to take this time to announce to our people that in a short while a small number of prisoners will be released. However as we all know, over 11,000 prisoners are currently suffering behind bars in Israeli prisons. "We ask Allah that they all be released. . . . "

Fourth protest boat sails into Gaza, breaching Israeli blockade
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 12/10/2008
A small boat carrying pro-Palestinian activists has sailed into Gaza’s port, in the fourth such violation of an Israeli blockade on the coastal territory. Three other protest boats have reached Gaza from Cyprus since Israel imposed the closure on the Hamas-ruled territory in response to rocket fire by Palestinian militants. The activists said they wanted to highlight the damaging effects of Israel’s blockade. Israel has recently halted two other boats bound for Gaza - one from Libya and one carrying Israeli Arab activists from Israel. Among the new arrivals Tuesday were British activists who advocate a boycott of Israel’s universities. Also on board was a Gazan man who left the territory years ago. His wife and children wept with joy as they embraced him.

Pro-Palestinian activists sail to Gaza, again
Associated Press, YNetNews 12/9/2008
Navy allows boat of British activists supporting boycott of Israeli universities to sail into Strip despite earlier police seizure of Arab MKs’ boat, which attempted to sail from Jaffa Sunday -A small boat carrying pro-Palestinian activists sailed into Gaza’s port Tuesday in defiance of the Israeli blockade on the Strip. It’s the fourth boat of activists to reach Gaza from Cyprus. They say they want to highlight the damaging effects of Israel’s blockade. Among the new arrivals Tuesday were British activists who advocate a boycott of Israel’s universities. Also on board was a Gazan man who left the territory years ago. His wife and children wept with joy as they embraced him. Relatives refused to say why he had left, or why he had been unable to come back. On Sunday a similar sail to Gaza was prevented when police seized a boat set to leave the Jaffa Port with several Arab Knesset members on board.

Activists break Gaza siege for fourth time
Middle East Online 12/9/2008
GAZA - A boat carrying humanitarian peace activists arrived in Gaza on Tuesday on a fourth mission to break an Israeli-blockade of the territory. The "Dignity," a small yacht, docked in Gaza City carrying British academics, a British surgeon travelling to Gaza to volunteer in hospitals, international human rights workers and journalists. The mission was intended to highlight the plight of hundreds of Gaza students who have been unable to attend their classes abroad because of the blockade. "We came here to help some students to get out so they can continue their studying. We will bring some back with us," said Mike Cushman, a professor at the London School of Economics (LSE). When asked how many students the activists plan to sail out with, he replied "As many as we can. " A Palestinian man who has been denied the right to return to his family for the past two years. . .

Navy lets another boat into Gaza port
Yaakov Katz And Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post 12/9/2008
Dignity, a small boat carrying activists, was allowed to sail into Gaza on Tuesday, less than a week after the navy stopped a Libyan cargo ship from entering the Palestinian port and after police prevented a group of Israeli Arabs from embarking for the Strip from Jaffa. The boat left Cyprus on Monday night, and was organized by the Free Gaza Movement, which has successfully sailed three ships into the Strip in recent months. The group heralded Tuesday’s arrival as a milestone in breaking Israel’s blockade of the territory. The ship was reportedly carrying a ton of medical supplies and high-protein baby formula. Defense officials said the decision to allow the boat into Gaza was made by Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. The reason the Libyan boat was not allowed into Gaza last week, the official said, was because Libya is at war with Israel.

Fourth free Gaza sea voyage sets sail from Cyprus
Palestinian Information Center 12/9/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Free Gaza movement announced that the "Dignity" ship has set sail from Cyprus on Monday to the Gaza Strip with one ton of medical supplies along with solidarity activists. In a statement released by Drs. Jonathan Rosenhead and Mike Cushman of the London School of Economics, the academics stated that they were pleased to be traveling to Gaza aboard the Dignity. In addition to the British academics, this fourth voyage will include a British surgeon traveling to Gaza to volunteer in local hospitals for the next several weeks, as well as international human rights workers and journalists. Lubna Masarwa, one of the Free Gaza organizers, stated that, "Gaza doesn’t need charity. What Gaza needs is sustained political action aimed at overcoming this vicious siege. We are unarmed civilians carrying desperately needed supplies to other unarmed civilians.

Boat docks in Gaza for 4th time to defy Israel blockade
Agence France-Presse - AFP, ReliefWeb 12/9/2008
by Mehdi Lebouachera GAZA CITY, Dec 9, 2008 (AFP) -Israel allowed a boat carrying pro-Palestinian activists to sail to the Gaza Strip on Tuesday in the fourth such voyage in protest at an Israeli blockade of the Hamas-ruled territory. The "Dignity," a small yacht, docked in Gaza City carrying British academics, a British reconstructive surgeon travelling to Gaza to volunteer in hospitals, international human rights workers and journalists. The mission was intended to highlight the plight of Gaza’s 1. 5 million residents, with special attention to the hundreds of Gaza students who have been unable to attend their classes abroad because of the blockade. "We came here to help some students to get out so they can continue their studying. We will bring some back with us," said Mike Cushman, a professor at the London School of Economics (LSE).

Work in Gaza continues amid closure
Mercy Corps, ReliefWeb 12/8/2008
Mercy Corps’ humanitarian programs in Gaza are struggling to operate amid Israel’s ongoing closure of Gaza’s border, which has led to fuel rationing, electricity and water shortages, people waiting in long lines to buy bread, and rising prices for needed materials such as fabric and painting supplies. For example, our program that employs out-of-work Gazans to sew gowns and linens for local hospitals has slowed due to a lack of electricity to run the sewing machines. Staff are also paying two to two-and-a-half times more for fabric that’s of a lower quality than was available before the closure, according to Isdud Al Najjar, who manages ’ work in Gaza. Al-Najjar described an atmosphere of "panic" in Gaza, with bakeries rationing bread, banks running short of cash and power outages most of the day. (Electricity is needed to pump Gaza’s water wells, so no electricity means water is unavailable in many residences.

Palestine today 120908
IMEMC News - Audio Dept, International Middle East Media Center News 12/9/2008
Click on Link to download or play MP3 file|| 4 m 00s || 3. 66 MB || Welcome to Palestine Today, a service of the International Middle East Media Center www. imemc. org, for Tuesday, December 09 2008 Independent Palestinian Legislator and head of the Popular Committee Against the Siege, Jamal El Khodary, stated on Tuesday morning that another ship carrying activists, physicians, university teachers and aid supplies is on its way to the Gaza Strip. These stories and more are coming up, stay tuned. Commenting on the Israeli threats to obstruct the ship, El Khodary said that Israel does not have any legal right to do so as the ship is sailing towards regional Palestinian waters, similar to the three previous ships. He also added, that "the Israeli threats will not stop the Intifada of ships".

State orders money back from Federman
Aviad Glickman, YNetNews 12/9/2008
Prosecution claims extreme-right activist owes State money he was awarded according to verdict that has since been reversed by High Court -The State has once again sued extreme rightist Noam Federman, this time for funds he is said to owe following the court’s reversal of a verdict. According to the suit filed in Jerusalem Tuesday, Federman owes the State NIS 60,000 ($15,200). The prosecution stated that in October of 2005, the court ordered the State to pay Federman NIS 100,000 ($25,400) in compensation for reneging on an indictment filed against him in 2002. The State had accused him of a number of weapon felony counts. The court granted Federman compensation, and the State began to transfer the funds while simultaneously appealing for a reversal of the verdict with the High Court of Justice.

Haneyya renews call for national unity, breaking siege
Palestinian Information Center 12/9/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Ismail Haneyya, the premier of the PA caretaker government in Gaza, has renewed his call for unity of national lines and reiterated calls for breaking the siege on Gaza. Haneyya, speaking to reporters after the Eid prayers on Monday, said that his government and the Hamas Movement were keen on achieving national unity without any conditions attached. He also asked the Arab countries to break the siege on Gaza and to immediately intervene to end the catastrophic conditions in the Strip that are badly affecting the lives of one and a half million Palestinians. The premier said that Egypt should urgently open the Rafah border terminal. He vowed, however, that the Israeli siege and aggression would not subdue the Palestinian people or dissuade them from insisting on their rights and constants.

Lebanon: ANERA at Nahr el-Bared refugee camp
American Near East Refugee Aid - ANERA, ReliefWeb 12/8/2008
In the spring of 2007, Nahr el-Bared, a refugee camp of 40,000 Palestinians in northern Lebanon, was devastated by three months of fighting between Fatah Al-Islam militants and the Lebanese army. The violence and heavy bombing left in its wake an almost empty refugee camp, where 60% of the buildings and 80% of the homes were severely damaged or completely destroyed. Almost all of the families living there were displaced for the second time in their lives, for many it was the third or even fourth time. ANERA is helping families return to Nahr el-Bared as they struggle to resume normal lives while living in temporary shelters or patched-up buildings. ANERA’s response to date includes five different activities aimed at improving the environment in the camp and helping residents to return and rebuild their lives.

History haunts Saudi strategy with Syria
David B Roberts, Asia Times 12/10/2008
It is possible to look at the history of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as a long struggle with religious forces. The very existence of the country is premised on a Faustian bargain of sorts between Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab (1703-1792) and Muhammad Ibn Saud (head of the House of Saud from 1744-1765), where each one was (and their descendants still are) utterly reliant on the other. The al-Sauds provide the base for the Wahhabis to practice and proselytize their religious doctrine, and the Wahhabis, in turn, provide the al-Sauds with the necessary religious sanctification as well as a proven ability to whip the masses into a religious fervor when needed. As the powers of the al-Sauds and Wahhabis waxed and waned relative to each other, so did their relative influence over each other. For example, the Wahhabis found themselves in a strong position just before Operation Desert Shield when United States troops were moved into Saudi Arabia on August 7, 1990.

VIDEO - Recent signs point to new era of Syrian influence in Lebanon
Haaretz Staff and Channel 10, Ha’aretz 12/10/2008
Haaretz. com/Channel 10 daily feature for December 9, 2008. Relations between Damascus and the Hezbollah-led Lebanese opposition appear to be warming by the day, and prevalent anti-Syrian sentiment in Lebanon seems to be making way for a new phase in relations between the two countries. Lebanese General Michel Aoun visited Damascus this week in a move that some say marked the end of Lebanese independence. After 15 years in exile due to his anti-Syrian activities, Aoun returned to Lebanon in 2005 singing an entirely different tune. Syrian President Bashar Assad greeted Aoun warmly at his hilltop palace in a meeting underlining the dramatic shift in the position of the former general who was defeated in battle by Syrian forces at the end of Lebanon’s civil war between 1975 and 1990.

Peres: Military option against Iran unnecessary
Ahiya Raved, YNetNews 12/9/2008
Tehran won’t be able to invest as much in nuclear program due to drop in price of oil and western countries’ united stance against its policies,’ president says -The union of western countries against Iran’s policies and the drop in oil prices has rendered the military option against the Islamic Republic unnecessary at this point, President Shimon Peres said during his visit to the Arab town of Sakhnin on Sunday. "Iran’s leadership will also have to get up tomorrow morning and give food to their children. What will they give them? Enriched uranium? "he said. According to the president, following the election of Barack Obama and the International Atomic Energy Agency’s report indicating that Iran was moving forward with its nuclear program, "the United States, Europe and China must cooperate to lower the price of oil in order to curtail Iran’s frenzy, which did not stem from the West’s conciliatory efforts but rather from its divisiveness.

Peres: Iranians can’t feed their kids uranium
Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 12/10/2008
President Shimon Peres said yesterday that the global economic crisis and falling oil prices would hinder Iran’s nuclear program, and that Iranian leaders could not feed their children "uranium for breakfast. " Peres, visiting the Israeli Arab town of Sakhnin to mark the Islamic Feast of the Sacrifice, also commented on U. S. President-elect Barack Obama’s remark that he would be willing to open talks with Tehran. Peres said Obama’s goal should be international cooperation and unity among Western powers with respect to Iran. "The leaders of Iran cannot give their children uranium for breakfast," Peres said, adding that the world financial crisis would hamper Iran’s progress in its nuclear program. "As the price of oil declines, Iran doesn’t have as much money to invest in uranium, missiles and terrorism. "According to Peres, the American president-elect should concentrate his Iran efforts on consolidating the policies of the West.

’Iran’s kids can’t eat enriched uranium’
Elana Kirsh, Jerusalem Post 12/9/2008
Attaining nuclear weapons will not further the Iranian cause, President Shimon Peres said on Tuesday. Speaking during an official visit to the northern city of Sakhnin to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, Peres said, "[Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad needs to wake up tomorrow morning and give food to Iranian children. What will he give them to eat? Enriched uranium? " "Iran needs to understand that the path of nuclear weapons and war will bring only harm," he added. Captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit’s grandfather, Zvi Schalit, was present at the event, and the president addressed him directly, saying, "I pray that you will be able to celebrate this coming holiday of Chanukah already with your grandson, Gilad. The responsibility remains upon all of us to return Gilad home. " Before being thanked by Sakhnin Mayor Mazen Genaim, Peres gave a traditional. . .

’Obama can settle Iranian nuke standoff’
Associated Press, Jerusalem Post 12/9/2008
A panel of former top international officials voiced hope Tuesday for a progress in settling the Iranian nuclear standoff after US President-elect Barack Obama takes office. Hans Blix, the former head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog, said he expects the new US administration to take a fresh approach to the deadlocked international talks on Iran’s nuclear ambitions. "I hope that the Obama administration in the United States will be more imaginative" on the issue than its predecessors, Blix said after a session of the Luxembourg Forum on Preventing Nuclear Catastrophe. The forum, which includes former top officials and leading academics, focuses on challenges to the global security. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has sent congratulations to Obama, the first time an Iranian leader has offered good wishes to a US president-elect since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Lawyers lobby against Iran’s incitement
Tovah Lazaroff and Allison T. Hoffman, Jerusalem Post 12/9/2008
A new grassroots initiative to diplomatically isolate Iran and its leader, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for incitement to genocide was unveiled Tuesday by attorneys in Canada, the United States, England and Israel. The initiative calls for criminal charges and travel bans to be issued against Ahmadinejad and has demanded that the United Nations suspend Iran’s membership and levy stiffer economic sanctions against Teheran. The push for these measures was timed to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the United Nation’s Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Canadian MP Irwin Cotler told The Jerusalem Post as he sat in the lobby of a Jerusalem hotel Tuesday. Cotler said lawyers in Montreal, along with renowned attorneys Anthony Julius in London and Alan Dershowitz of Harvard University in Massachusetts, were simultaneously holding. . .

Moscow: Iran not capable of building nukes
Middle East Online 12/9/2008
MOSCOW - Iran does not currently have the capability to build a nuclear weapon, a senior Russian diplomat was quoted as saying by Interfax and ITAR-TASS news agencies Tuesday. "One cannot say today that Iran can create nuclear weapons and the means of delivering them," Vladimir Voronkov, head of the Russian foreign ministry’s department of European cooperation, was quoted as saying. "This information is confirmed by all the services responsible for the collection and analysis of information," he added, in an apparent allusion to Russian intelligence agencies. Contrasting the stances of Russia and the US on Iran’s nuclear programme, he said that "the difference is that our partners want to use instruments of pressure. We do not consider such instruments to be always effective. " Russia has resisted tougher sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme.

Iranian VP calls for Israel’s destruction
Dudi Cohen, YNetNews 12/9/2008
Esfandyar Rahim Mashaei, who caused a stir recently by saying Iran is friend to Israel, decides to reiterate President Ahmadinejad’s calls for obliteration of Zionism. ’Corrupt Zionist regime harming Islamic world, all of humanity,’ he says -Iranian Vice President Esfandyar Rahim Mashaei believes the destruction of Israel should become an international goal and a global demand, the state-owned IRNA reported Tuesday. The agency quoted Mashaei, who several months ago called his country "a friend of Israel", as blaming the "Zionist regime" for the world’s ills. Mashaei, currently in Mecca for the hajj pilgrimage, met with Sudanese President Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir and told him, "The corrupt and criminal Zionist regime is harming not only the Arab and Islamic world, but humanity in its entirety.

’German research center ignores Iran’
Benjamin Weinthal, Jerusalem Post Correspondent In Berlin, Jerusalem Post 12/10/2008
Anti-Semitism experts in Germany, the US and Israel are leading an escalating assault on Berlin’s Center for Research on Anti-Semitism, accusing the center and its director, Wolfgang Benz, of equating Islamophobia with anti-Semitism while ignoring Iran’s genocidal threats toward Israel and trivializing the Holocaust. What started as a row among scholars triggered by the center’s conference on Monday, "Concepts of the Muslim Enemy - Concepts of the Jewish Enemy," has turned into a heated public debate over the center’s work. Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel expressed misgivings to The Jerusalem Post: "If indeed the Berlin Center for Anti-Semitism downplays the Iranian anti-Semitic threat, it surely is deplorable. " More than 200 people attended the one-day conference, which focused on ways German society marginalizes Muslims through biased media reporting, community anti-mosque initiatives, and anti-Islamic Web sites.

Turkish foreign policymaker: Iran poses threat to Turkey
Zvi Bar''el, Ha’aretz 12/10/2008
"I don’t think that a military option against Iran will work," visiting Turkish politician, Murat Mercan, told Haaretz on Sunday. "Sanctions against Iran will be effective if they are applied efficiently. But the truth is, I don’t know whether it is realistic to expect full sanctions when countries are still prepared to veto these sanctions. "Mercan is visiting Israel, not for the first time, as a guest of the Shalem Center’s Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies, headed by former minister, Natan Sharansky. Mercan, a member of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), is one of Turkey’s most influential foreign policymakers. He chairs the Turkish Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, is a close adviser of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and served in the past as AKP deputy chairman.

Israel signs OECD convention to fight bribery
Ruth Eglash, Jerusalem Post 12/9/2008
Israel on Tuesday became the first Middle Eastern country to sign the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Anti-Bribery Convention. According to information released by the organization, following meetings held by OECD’s Working Group on Bribery in Paris, Israel’s signing of the convention and its participation in the meetings is "an important step in its accession to OECD membership. " The 38th country to sign the convention, Israel was one of five states - with Chile, Estonia, Russia and Slovenia - that were formally invited last year to open membership talks with the OECD, as part of the its drive to "broaden and deepen its involvement with emerging new players in the global economy," said the organization. The OECD, which currently has 30 members, is an influential policy forum that aims to bring together world governments that are committed to democracy and boosting the market economy.

$25,000 grant for U.S. olim settling in north
Cnaan Liphshiz, Ha’aretz 12/10/2008
As of this week, families who immigrate to Israel from the U. S. will be eligible for a $25,000 grant, if they choose to settle in the Golan and Galilee. The grant will come from the immigration-assistance organization Nefesh B’Nefesh and the Russell Berrie Foundation of Teaneck, New Jersey, which yesterday announced their new $10 million project, "Go North. "The initiative seeks to bring more than 1,000 newcomers to the north over the next few years. According to the Ministry for the Development of the Negev and the Galilee, which is cosponsoring the project, the first stage of the plan is to bring a nucleus of 30 families to a new community in the Galilee. "That community will form the basis for a much larger Anglo town or villages in the area," the ministry’s director general, Orly Yechezkel, told Haaretz yesterday.

EGYPT: Many Oppose Jewish Festival
Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa al-Omrani, Inter Press Service 12/10/2008
CAIRO, Dec 9(IPS) - Jews from around the world come annually to Egypt to celebrate the birth anniversary of Abu Hassira, a 19th century holy man buried in the Nile Delta. But many local people oppose the celebrations, and this year particularly because of Israel’s ongoing siege of the Gaza Strip. "The people of Demito, and Egyptians in general, adamantly reject this festival," Moustafa Raslan, a lawyer who has campaigned since 1995 to ban the event, told IPS. "Why should Egypt host Israeli Jews while Israel starves Gaza and murders Palestinians on a regular basis? " Abu Hassira, a Moroccan Jew who was believed to work miracles, came to Egypt in the 19th century. He settled in the Nile Delta village Demito in the modern province of Beheira, roughly 150 km north of Cairo. He died there in 1880. Ever since the signing of the Egypt-Israel Camp David Peace Agreement in 1979, religious. . .

Japanese, Israelis to do joint research
Judy Siegel-itzkovich, Jerusalem Post 12/10/2008
For the first time, the Japanese and Israeli governments have agreed to pursue joint scientific research. A total of $1. 8 million has been allocated over three years for projects in the life sciences. Fumikai Takahashi, the director-general of the Japan Science and Technology Agency, will sign a memorandum of understanding for scientific cooperation at Beit Belgia on the Hebrew University’s Givat Ram Campus on Thursday. He will be accompanied by a delegation headed by Prof. Hiroyuki Abe, vice president of the agency. Gal Dai, director-general of the Science, Arts and Sports Ministry, will sign for the Israeli side. In about three months, the fields and criteria for research that will receive grants will be announced by a joint Israeli-Japanese team. Israel is now only one of nine countries with which Japan had signed such an agreement; the others are China, India, South Korea, the US, the UK, France, Germany and Sweden.

Diplomats ordered to cut costs by flying coach class
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 12/10/2008
Senior Israeli diplomats are furious over a recent decision by the Foreign Ministry to downgrade staffers’ flights from business to coach, Haaretz has learned. The new policy, according to the ministry, stems from the effects of the world financial crisis. Fifteen vice directors-general, who are in charge of the ministry’s various directorates, will be downgraded to economy class. "Surely you do not think we are so stupid as to believe that a decision, which affects no more than 15 people, will have a significant effect on the Foreign Ministry’s expenditure," one affected staffer wrote to Yaron Israeli, the ministry’s accountant general. In a circular written last Tuesday about business-class flights, Israeli wrote: "In light of the expected budget cut, and regarding the Foreign Ministry’s operational budget for 2009 for traveling abroad, because of the financial crisis. . .

Grapevine: A dynasty of service
Greer Fay Cashman, Jerusalem Post 12/9/2008
DECEMBER 2008 is a happy time in the families of the sisters Ambache, who have made significant contributions to boosting Israel’s image. On December 24, Aura Herzog, the younger of the two sisters will celebrate a milestone birthday, which this year coincides with Hanukka. On the last day of Hanukka, Suzy Eban will officially launch her book, A Sense of Purpose: Recollections that was so intelligently reviewed by Colin Shindler in the UpFront section of last Friday’s Jerusalem Post, as well as by Ina Friedman in Haaretz. In addition to that, Isaac Herzog, the son and nephew of the two sisters, scored the highest number of votes in the Labor primaries last week. According to The Marker, Herzog also garnered the most financial backing in his campaign, with contributions totaling slightly in excess of NIS 207,000, and contributors including Michael Steinhardt, Daniel Abraham, Charles Bronfman and David Kolitz.

Israeli hardliners score well in Likud vote
Middle East Online 12/9/2008
TEL AVIV - Israel’s right-wing Likud party, widely favoured to win an election in February 10, has elected a candidate list dominated by hawks who believe in a ‘Greater Israel’ which includes the Palestinian lands: Arab east Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. While two relative moderates took second and third place behind party chairman and former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the list was heavily weighted towards hardliners, results showed on Tuesday. Among the strong performers were a former parliament speaker Reuven Rivlin, Benny Begin, the son of former premier Menachem Begin, and ex-army chief Moshe Yaalon -- who are all opposed to the peace talks with the Palestinians. "Likud was and remains a right-wing party that will lead Israel to isolation and to the hard days we wanted so badly to leave behind," said outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of the governing Kadima party.

Kadima: Likud held captive by extremist Right
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 12/9/2008
Ruling party, Meretz quick to criticize Netanyahu’s roster for upcoming general elections. Olmert says Likud will lead Israel to ’solitude’, while MK Vilan says Bibi’s party has united new anti-peace front -"From this evening on it can’t be covered up anymore, once again the Likud is held captive by the extreme Right, which is trying to get to power and realize its extremist policies together with (Chairman) Benjamin Netanyahu," the Kadima party said with the publication of the results from the Likud primary elections in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Labor Chairman Ehud Barak said in response to the Likud party’s primary elections "we woke up this morning to a rightist list - even an extreme rightist list, that makes it clear what awaits us. " Today it is clearer to everyone that at the center of any future government will stand the Labor. . .

Begin: Kadima and the Left pushed Israel into corner
Yael Levy, YNetNews 12/9/2008
After winning fifth place in Likud primaries, Benny Begin lashes out against coalition and says he is confident public ’will know to tell the difference between those who entangled Israel in Lebanon and Gaza and those who warned against it’ - "For months we were force-fed the assumption that there is nothing more important to the citizens of Israel during this time than integrity, honesty and candor. Kadima can’t compete on these issues with the Likud’s list - and so immediately informs us that from now on the important thing is policy," former MK Benny Begin said on Tuesday in response to Kadima’s accusations that the Likud roster is too right-wing. "Now Kadima will latch on to the claim that Likud’s policies are extreme right-wing. Now they will drop the matter of Livni’s integrity and they’ll decide that the import thing is policies.

PM: Radical Likud will isolate Israel
Shelly Paz, Jerusalem Post 12/9/2008
The political path the Likud is taking would isolate Israel from the international community, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned Tuesday. Former defense minister Moshe Arens praises new Likud list - "The Likud was, is and will remain a right-wing party that will isolate Israel and return us to times that we wanted to escape from," Olmert said of the party list elected Monday in the Likud primary. "If [Binyamin] Netanyahu, [Bennie] Begin, [Moshe] Ya’alon and [Moshe] Feiglin come to power, it will cause significant diplomatic damage to Israel," Olmert continued. "The Likud was a party of peace when I was part of it, and now it is, unfortunately, a right-wing extremist party. " Kadima leader Tzipi Livni said the Likud list will weigh down Netanyahu.

Despite Netanyahu’s fears, latest poll shows Likud gaining strength
Yossi Verter, Ha’aretz 12/10/2008
Despite Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu’s concern about the right-wing character of the party’s Knesset candidates selected early on Tuesday, a Haaretz-Dialog poll shows Likud to be gaining strength among voters. The poll, conducted on Tuesday under the supervision of Tel Aviv University statistics professor Camil Fuchs, found that if the general election were held today, Likud would win 36 seats, Kadima would place second with 27 seats, and Labor would trail behind with 12. Further analysis indicates Likud winning two seats from right-wing parties (one from Shas and one from Yisrael Beiteinu) and Labor winning one from Meretz-Yahad and one from Kadima. Meretz-Yahad fell to six seats from seven in the previous poll. Previous polls ordered by Netanyahu showed that the list’s inclusion of Moshe Feiglin, the leader of a right-wing faction within Likud, was liable to cost the party four or five seats.

Likud’s immigrant slot moves from Ethiopian to Russian
Lily Galili, Ha’aretz 12/10/2008
An Ethiopian immigrant who was yesterday narrowly elected to Likud’s 30th slot in the party’s primary will apparently have to step down in favor of a Russian immigrant, who received fewer votes. Likud regulations hold that the party’s 30th slot must be reserved for immigrants who arrived in Israel after 1985 - Eleli Adamasso, however, immigrated from Ethiopia in 1983. He will probably be replaced by former Beitar Jerusalem chairman, Vladimir Shkalar, who lost to Adamasso by 50 votes. Technical stipulations aside, Adamasso’s achievement yesterday surprised many of Likud’s Russian immigrants, who expected a member of their community to be automatically voted into the slot. The surprise was well reflected in yesterday’s lead headline of Izerus, a local Russian-language daily. "Benjamin Netanyahu’s failure: The Russian slot went to an Ethiopian!"Besides Shkalar, the number. . .

Feiglin’s manifesto: Israel should quit UN, cut off water to Palestinians
Yair Ettinger, Ha’aretz 12/10/2008
An extreme right-wing text by Likud member Moshe Feiglin disappeared on Tuesday from the Web site of his Jewish Leadership movement. In the piece written five years ago, Feiglin says Israel should cut off water and electricity service to the Palestinian territories, withdraw from the United Nations and boycott the Olympics. The text, written by the man who captured 20th place on Likud’s Knesset list yesterday, is called "the day after" and details the radical policies he would pursue if he became prime minister. The manifesto was removed hours after the party’s primary results were announced. Haaretz, however, obtained a copy. In the piece, Feiglin wrote that his first action after becoming prime minister would be to summon his government to give thanks in prayer on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, an extremely sensitive site holy to both Jews and Muslims.

Netanyahu camp seeks to oust far-rightist Feiglin from Likud line-up
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 12/10/2008
An associate of Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu planned to submit an appeal on Tuesday to the party’s election council that would likely deprive far-rightist Moshe Feiglin of a place in the next Knesset. Netanyahu’s former media adviser, Ophir Akunis, planned to petition the body to advance the positions of regional representatives on Likud’s Knesset line-up. Before the primary, the 10 and 20 slots were reserved for women, and the those from 21 to 37 were reserved for regional representatives. But after three women - Limor Livnat, Tzipi Hotobli and Gila Gamliel - were elected to slots below number 20, there was no need to reserve the positions. Feiglin currently holds the number 20 slot. By handing it over to a regional representative, as Akunis will request, the council will push the far-rightist back to a position somewhere past 30.

Eini calls for Bar-On’s resignation
Shay Niv, Globes Online 12/9/2008
Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini: Instead of discussing the crisis, we’re discussing how to crack Bar-On’s ego. Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini today launched an unprecedented attack on Minister of Finance Ronnie Bar-On over the Ministry of Finance’s pension safety net plan. In an interview with "Globes", Eini said, "Everyone sees how tough the situation is, but the finance minister is standing on his ego and nothing helps. I recently met a well-known accountant, and instead of discussing the crisis, we’re discussing how to crack Bar-On’s ego. " Eini added, "Bar-On is a prisoner of his officials. Trapped. The finance minister needs a crane to give him a vision. He should think outside the box. Everything is business as usual, as if there were no crisis. There’s a wave of layoffs, amounting to tens of thousands of workers.

Bar-On takes aim at the banks
Tal Levy and Ora Coren, Ha’aretz 12/10/2008
The government is preparing an economic stimulus plan and soon the banks will be out of excuses not to lend money, Finance Minister Roni Bar-On said yesterday in a blistering attack on Israel’s banking system. "The banking system must unclench its fists," Bar-On said at a convention on economic matters yesterday. The government is readying a plan to secure lending to corporate Israel. "Then there will be no more excuses," he said. The minister accused the banks of exploiting the crisis to undermine the alternative loans market that developed in recent years - the capital market. The government will not allow the banks to damage the non-bank market, or to hold back economic growth, Bar-On threatened. Until just a few years ago the banks had been the only source of credit.

Fischer tells politicians: Stop wasting time
Adrian Filut, Globes Online 12/9/2008
"This has been going on for three months, and we don’t have three months. Governor of the Bank of Israel Stanley Fischer delivered a stiff warning today to the political leadership over the delays in the introduction of the government’s rescue plan. Speaking at the annual conference of the Association of Publicly Traded Companies Fischer said, "The Israeli economy is clearly feeling the repercussions of the global crisis, both in the financial sector and in general. The slowdown in growth in the Israeli economy is expected to continue but it will be still positive, as opposed to the marked slowdown and even recession that we are now seeing in advanced economies. " Fischer was critical of the political leadership. "Unfortunately, the measures put forward by the Ministry of Finance remain stuck in the Knesset and are not being put into effect despite the consent of the prime minister," said the central bank governor.

New national-religious grouping promises pluralism
Nadav Shragai, Ha’aretz 12/10/2008
Prof. Daniel Hershkowitz, the head of Habayit Hayehudi ("The Jewish Home"), vowed yesterday to uphold pluralistic political views within the newly-created national religious movement. "Habayit Hayehudi will not be a niche party," said Hershkowitz, a math lecturer at the Technion and a newcomer to the political scene. "While the six observant candidates voted into the Likud’s Knesset list are politically homogenous, Habayit Hayehudi will accept differing opinions. "The party, which aims to represent a sector usually associated with the political right and Jewish settlers in the West Bank, was formed by former supporters of the defunct National Religious Party. It is supported by three MKs: Binyamin Elon, Zevulun Orlev and Uri Ariel. Hershkowitz said he opposed the 2005 Israeli pullout from the Gaza Strip on moral and state security grounds, yet added that he did not travel to that territory to protest against its evacuation.

Habayit Hayehudi opts for Hershkowitz
Matthew Wagner, Jerusalem Post 12/9/2008
With at least six religious candidates in realistic positions on Likud’s Knesset list, the Habayit Hayehudi (Jewish Home) Party launched its campaign Tuesday with an attempt to distinguish itself as unique on the political playing field. Rabbi Professor Danny Hershkovitz elected as head of Habayit Hayehudi "Habayit Hayehudi is not just a party made up of religious people," said Prof. Rabbi Daniel Hershkovitz, a mathematician from the Technion, who was chosen Monday night to head the new party, which was created from the fusion of the National Religious Party with the National Union. "Our supporters include graduates of religious schools, people who wear black kippot, crocheted kippot and also invisible kippot," Hershkovitz said. "There are also secular Israelis, a large group of people whose very being and soul is tied to the people of Israel, the land of Israel - and for these people Habayit Hayehudi is their home.

Netanyahu still pushing to oust Feiglin
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 12/9/2008
Election of rightist list and propulsion of Moshe Feiglin to realistic slot on Likud roster have party brass, including Netanyahu, losing sleep. Efforts to run Feiglin off continue though court appeal -Moshe Feiglin may be celebrating his achievement in the Likud primaries, but that won’t be the case for long if Benjamin Netanyahu has any say in the matter. Ynet has learned a close associate of the Likud chairman, Ophir Ekonis, intends to appeal Feiglin’s victory to the party’s internal court. If the court accepts the appeal, the Likud’s highly contested right-wing marker could find himself ousted from the realistic placement he currently has on the party’s Knesset roster to an irrelevant slot far lower than the 20th he now holds. Ekonis, who carried the Tel Aviv district in Monday’s primary elections, will appeal through attorney Yaakov Ne’eman, and. . .

Who will guard the guardians?
Moshe Negbi, Ha’aretz 12/9/2008
Hagvardia hashehora (The Blackguard), by Yaron Zelekha; Zmora-Bitan (Hebrew), 332 pages, NIS 94 - According to former accountant general Yaron Zelekha, two years ago, on the eve of Rosh Hashana 5767, then-state prosecutor Eran Shendar added a very unusual compliment to his routine "Happy New Year" phone call: "I wanted to tell you that you have balls of lead, and I greatly admire your behavior. "Anyone reading Zelekha’s fascinating but depressing book will be convinced that "balls of lead" are indeed essential for success in the fight against government corruption, and that their scarcity among our senior civil service officials in general, and the enforcement authorities in particular, make this struggle futile. The book jacket promises readers that the volume will reveal "everything we are not supposed to know about the sacking of the public coffers.

State Comptroller urges quick handling of corruption cases
Hadas Magen, Globes Online 12/9/2008
"Legal proceedings against the country’s leaders should be completed. "State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss today called on the Office of the State Prosecutor, Israel Police, and the courts to expedite the handling of corruption cases. His comments implicitly referred to the ongoing cases against outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Lindenstrauss said, "Legal proceedings against the country’s leaders should be completed, as well as against those whose actions set a bad example for the entire nation. "He made the comment at a special session of the Knesset State Control Committee. Lindenstrauss added, "The State Prosecutor and the Police should make every effort to complete the investigation of serious crimes as quickly as possible, and not wait too long, which exhausts the public and sometimes gives the accused or the suspects a chance. . .

Sa’ar tops extended Likud primaries
Globes'' correspondent, Globes Online 12/9/2008
Computer problems dogged the primaries and affected turnout. MKs Gideon Sa’ar, Gilad Erdan, and Reuven Rivlin won the top three slots in yesterday’s Likud party primaries. They will fill the leading places after Party chairman MK Benjamin Netanyahu, who will head the list that will run in the February 2009 general elections. Activist Moshe Feiglin, who is challenging Netanyahu from the right, won 20th place. Benny Begin, the son of late Prime Minister Menachem Begin, will be 5th on the Knesset list, followed by MK Moshe Kahlon, former foreign and finance minister MK Silvan Shalom and former IDF chief of staff Lt. -Gen. Moshe Yaalon, who will be sixth, seventh and eighth on the Knesset list respectively. During the day, party officials deliberated whether to extend the voting, or even continue the primaries the following day.

Habayit Hayehudi head says party open to all
Kobi Nahshoni, YNetNews 12/9/2008
In first press conference of new party and following Likud primary elections, Chairman Rabbi Daniel Hershkowitz says Habayit Hayehudi not religious party, has place for all Jews whose ’souls are linked to land of Israel’. Meanwhile, party members express concerns over battle with Likud over voters - Members of the new right-wing party Habayit Hayehudi (The Jewish Home) admitted on Tuesday that the Likud party’s Knesset roster that was elected Monday night could pose as a threat to them in the upcoming general elections. The Likud’s roster includes many prominent right-wingers including Moshe Feiglin and Benny Begin, and has no less than six religious candidates holding top positions. Tuesday afternoon Habayit Hayehudi held its first press conference with Chairman Rabbi and Professor Daniel Hershkowitz.

State comptroller: Corrupt leaders must be brought to justice
Aviad Glickman, YNetNews 12/9/2008
Knesset’s State Control Committee holds special session on corruption in government, public service. AG Mazuz: Israel in midst of disengaging from governmental corruption, fight can be won - State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss spoke before the Knesset’s State Control Committee and said that deterring punitive action is mandatory when in comes to white-collar crimes and public officials’ breach of trust offenses. The Committee held a special session on corruption in the government and public service, Tuesday. Lindenstrauss further called on the courts to give such cases a priority. The State comptroller went on to admonish the State Prosecutor’s Office, saying both bodies must "conclude their investigations as soon as possible" and "not allow corruption suspects to plant doubt in the public’s mind.

’One in 5 needy considers suicide’
Ruth Eglash, Jerusalem Post 12/10/2008
One in five poor people has considered ending their life because of their economic situation, according to the Alternative Poverty Report published Tuesday by the humanitarian aid organization Latet. The report, which takes a more personal approach than the statistical perspective of the National Insurance Institute’s annual poverty report, found that more people than ever are requesting food aid and a growing number of those supported by nonprofit organizations say they are fearful of experiencing extreme hunger. "The situation in 2008 is only a preview of what will happen in 2009," warned Latet’s general manager Eran Weintraub, who said the entire charity system supporting thousands of people could completely collapse if the government does not step in. "Without help, these charities will either be forced to close or severely cut back their activities, and. . .

Charity: One in five Israelis on food aid has considered suicide
Ruth Sinai Haaretz correspondent and Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 12/10/2008
One in five Israelis living on food aid has considered suicide due to economic hardship, according to an "alternative" poverty report published Tuesday. The report, released by the charity Latet, came after one published by the National Insurance Institute indicated that poverty had actually declined in Israel for the first time in ten years. The charity reported that poverty-stricken Israelis cannot afford to buy the minimal amount of food purchases necessary for a healthy diet. Latet, which distributes food to more than 100 charity groups serving needy Israelis, also stated that 80 percent of Israelis living on support provided by aid groups are below the hunger line. "There is certain numbness, an impervious wall and a lack of understanding of the need to assist families, individuals and weaker socioeconomic classes," said. . .

25% of poor can’t meet housing costs
Shay Niv, Globes Online 12/9/2008
NGO Latet: The poor don’t need a security net because they have already fallen. They need an immediate rescue plan. The 2007 National Insurance Institute poverty report, which was published last month, showed a slowdown in the growth of poverty and improvements in many factors, including a fall in the rate of child poverty. But when examining the situation of those defined as poor, it becomes clear that poverty may not have widened, but it has deepened. According to the Alternative Poverty Report for 2008, which was published today by Latet Israeli Humanitarian Aid, there has been a 24% rise in the number of people requesting food from various NGOs. There has been an 8% increase in the number of NGOs reporting that they are unable to grant assistance to all those who ask for it. In addition, there has been a 25% rise in the number of needy who reported that they are not able. . .

Student test scores show decline in math, science
Abe Selig, Jerusalem Post 12/9/2008
In yet another indication of the country’s troubled education system, results of an international education survey released on Tuesday showed that Israel’s scores in math in science have dropped significantly since 2003. In September, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a group of Westernized countries that measures growth and modernization around the world, placed Israel near the bottom of its report on the state of education systems around the world. Now the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) exams have placed Israel 24th out of 49 nations, five places lower than its ranking in 2003. In an additional round of science exams, Israel was placed 25th, two spots lower than it had been ranked in those tests previously. While the the low findings are certainly an indicator of work that needs to be done, they may also. . .

Math tests show standards falling, gaps growing in Israeli schools
Or Kashti, Ha’aretz 12/10/2008
Junior high school students’ math scores are declining, according to Education Ministry findings published yesterday. According to the ministry’s proficiency index, which gauges test scores, the average Israeli eighth-grader scored 44. 1 out of 100 for math. Participants received poor yet slightly better grades in science and technology as well as English, scoring 56. 6 and 58. 4 points respectively. These figures are consistent with the latest rankings issued by TIMSS, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, published last Monday. They show Israel has dropped five spots since the 2003 rankings. This year, Israel was rated 24th in mathematics (down from 19th in 2003) and 25th in science (23rd in 2003). The rankings list a total of 49 countries. The findings attest to wide gaps between Jewish and Arab students, as well as students of different socioeconomic backgrounds.

VIDEO / Israeli eighth graders receive failing marks in math
Or Kashti, Ha’aretz 12/10/2008
The Education Ministry on Tuesday published findings which show a decline in math scores among middle school students. According to the ministry’s proficiency index which gauges test scores, the average math score for Israeli eighth graders in the last year stood at 44. 1. These figures are consistent with the latest rankings issued by TIMSS, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, which show that Israel has dropped five spots in comparison with the 2003 rankings. This past year, Israel was rated 24th in mathematics (down from 19th in 2003) and 25th in science (23rd in 2003). The rankings list a total of 49 countries. Education Ministry proficiency reports also indicate low scores in science and technology, where students posted a 56.

Public’s financial assets drop by NIS 218b
Avi Temkin, Globes Online 12/9/2008
The public held more than NIS 2 trillion in financial assets at the end of 2007. The public’s financial assets shrank by NIS 218 billion in January-October 2008, theBank of Israel reported today. The public’s financial assets fell from NIS 2. 03 trillion at the end of 2007 to NIS 1. 88 trillion at the end of October, a drop of NIS 146 billion. In addition, since February, the Bank of Israel has included in its financial assets statistics the government’s financial obligation to the old pension funds (founded before January 1, 1995), which now totals NIS 72 billion. This accounting measure brings the total drop in the public’s assets in January-October to NIS 218 billion. Most of the drop in value was due to plunge in the value of the public’s Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) stock portfolio, which lost NIS 227 billion in value from NIS 490 billion in January to NIS 263 billion in October.

Bank of Israel questions banks’ ability to value MBSs
Eran Peer, Globes Online 12/9/2008
Bank of Israel: Sell ASAP what you can’t value. TheBank of Israel is deeply worried that the commercial banks are unable to value their mortgage backed securities (MBS), and calls them "a systemic weak point". Supervisor of Banks Rony Hizkiyahu has sent a draft circular to the banks, which stipulates regulations for valuing financial instruments. "Globes" has obtained a copy of the circular. The Bank of Israel will require the banks, beginning with their full-year 2008 financial reports, which will be published in March 2009, to provide full disclosure on how they determine the values of their financial instruments, and to internally audit the calculations. The Banking Supervision Department and the Institute of Certified Public Accountants in Israelwill discuss the circular. The draft circular states that the Bank of. . .

Appraisers head: Real estate prices can collapse
Ariel Rosenberg, Globes Online 12/9/2008
"The economic stimulus plan is pointless, useless, and worthless. Real Estate Appraisers Association in Israel chairman Erez Cohen predicts a 20% drop in apartment prices nationwide over the coming year, including in high demand areas, unless the government does not immediately address the worsening crisis in housing and infrastructures. Cohen said, "Immediate and thorough handling of the crisis might prevent this slide, and moderate it to a drop in prices of 4-8%. " A general survey by the Real Estate Appraisers Association since Minister of Finance Ronnie Bar-On unveiled his economic stimulus plan a couple of weeks ago concluded that the plan was pointless, useless, and worthless. The Ministry of Finance proposes spending NIS 21. 7 billion on infrastructures. However, the Real Estate Appraisers Association notes that most of this. . .

Regulator warns: Israel cannot afford a bank collapse
Yael Pollak and Tal Levy, Ha’aretz 12/9/2008
Banks Supervisor Rony Hizkiyahu says we haven’t seen the worst of the current crisis. "Intervention in the markets is absolutely imperative," he said on Monday at the New Financial Order conference sponsored by TheMarker. "Israel simply can’t afford a bank failure. "In an economy as small as Israel’s, this could create a domino effect, he said. "Our goal is to protect all of the banks in the banking system, which are an integral part of the overall financial system," said Hizkiyahu. Many countries, foremost the United States, have taken extraordinary steps to deal with the crisis, Hizkiyahu said. Economies that had been considered stable found themselves floundering, and have been forced to take unusual steps. The problem will be with countries whose large institutions have debts larger than what the state can provide.

Why bondholders are nervous
Sarit Menahem, Ha’aretz 12/10/2008
More and more companies are walking away from liabilities - During the good times, the corporate bond market exploded. Every piddling firm could raise millions upon millions, never mind what it did. Now chastened chickens are coming home to roost and NIS 1. 4 billion of the investing public’s debt hangs in the balance. PMS Group has been sending depressing messages to investors all week, and Monday it officially joined the black list. Kaupthing Bank Sverige, which financed part of the company’s operations, has become the direct owner of all the company’s assets. That concludes the bad news for the company’s shareholders, but this is only the beginning for its bondholders: PMS has announced it will not be able to meet its obligations. Many other publicly traded companies have defaulted, including Carmel Holdings, Afik Hayarden Holdings, Direct Capital and Oren Investments.

Rector bars law clinic from acting against other schools
Ruth Sinai, Ha’aretz 12/10/2008
The rector of Tel Aviv University has forbidden its law clinics from representing anyone filing a complaint against any of the country’s seven universities or affiliated institutions. The university senate - the institution’s highest academic authority, whose acting chairman is the rector - will meet today to discuss the issue. The ban, which has generated controversy in Israel and abroad, came after the Weizmann Institute of Science protested that one of Tel Aviv University’s law clinics was representing Weizmann Institute workers seeking to unionize. The university’s rector, Dany Leviatan, ordered the law clinics to stop representing the workers. "I protest that in an unprecedented move, you ordered. . . a halt to the representation of workers who realized their universal human right of freedom to organize in order to improve their employment conditions," Israel Prize laureate. . .

Foreign banks imperil TA rail project
Avi Bar-Eli, Ha’aretz 12/10/2008
Funding for the Tel Aviv light rail project is in jeopardy after the banks slated to finance the project advised the tender winner, the MTS group, that they cannot meet their obligations. The Royal Bank of Scotland, and KfW and Bayern banks of Germany, were to have lent ? 1. 4 billion through a consortium. The widening financial crisis is believed to be a major culprit in the banks’ decision to withdraw from the project. Another culprit is the banks’ experience with the rail project in Jerusalem. Representatives of the banks and of MTS are discussing a new idea: a "club deal" that would include additional banks and not have any single leading bank. It would also transfer the financing risk to the tender winner. However, given the credit crisis jolting world markets, the process can be expected to hit a wall.

Israel pilots electric car network
Rory McCarthy in Ramat Hasharon, The Guardian 12/9/2008
An electric transport company is to install thousands of recharging points for electric cars across Israel ready for commercial use by 2011 in the first such nationwide network. The firm, Better Place, showed off its first charging spot yesterday at a car park above a shopping centre in Ramat Hasharon, near Tel Aviv. In a pilot project, it will install 500 of the charging points by the end of this year in cities, including Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem. It expects to have 500,000 charging points by the time the first cars are marketed. Moshe Kaplinsky, head of Better Place Israel, said the firm believed it presented a fundamental challenge to petrol-driven cars. "This vision is to stop this addiction to oil," he said. "The profits of oil, we know where they go," he told a news conference. "Unfortunately a great part of the resources of oil are held by countries. . .

Ma’ariv announces further cuts
Yael Gaoni, Globes Online 12/9/2008
The firm also noted that many companies would spend more on advertising special sales in the print media, increasing Ma’ariv’s revenue. Struggling media group Ma’ariv Holdings(TASE: MARV) is to make further cuts in manpower and operating costs totaling NIS 24 million, on top of the NIS 25. 2 million in streamlining measures it has already announced. The company disclosed the move in a notice yesterday to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE), following the cash flow forecast it released on November 24. Ma’ariv released yesterday’s statement at the request of theIsrael Securities Authority. The company sounded a note of optimism despite the crisis, noting that many companies were having to spend more on advertising special sales in the print media, and that it expected to see an increase in advertising revenue because of this.

Internet series reveals truth about settler-media relations
Nadav Shragai, Ha’aretz 12/9/2008
In "Giva 769" ("Hill 769"), currently serialized on settler radio station Arutz Sheva’s web site, Director Yehezkel Lang’s viewers are bombarded with the truth about relations between settlers and the media, from the settlers’ point of view. Take for instance this dramatic scene, where radio reporter Yaron Meged contacts Yaakov, a hilltop dweller with long sidelocks and tsitsit (ritual fringes) blowing in the wind. Only a few moments earlier, the settler had thrown Meged out of his house and vehemently refused to be interviewed, but once Meged is attacked by a terrorist at the Hawara junction, he begs Yaakov to come and save him, and the settler obliges. Only a few minutes elapse and the two men find themselves hiding behind the journalist’s car as the terrorist, firing nonstop, closes in on them.

Nothing to enjoy
Avi Waksman, Ha’aretz 12/9/2008
West of the Jordan by Laila Halaby, Beacon Press, 200 pages, $15 (paperback). (Hebrew version translated from English by Daphna Rosenblitt, Resling, 241 pages, NIS 84) - In a melancholy 1984 essay called "Reflections on Exile," Edward Said told of a friend whose Armenian parents fled Turkey in 1915 after their families had been slaughtered. They traveled to Aleppo, and from there to Cairo. In the 1960s, when "life in Egypt became difficult for non-Egyptians," they and their four children were sent to Beirut with the help of an international aid organization; then to a stopover in Glasgow, Scotland; from there they continued to Canada before ending up in New York. It was in New York that the aid agency decided to put them on a bus to Seattle. "Seattle? "Said asked his friend in puzzlement over the destination that was chosen for his place of residence.

Racial test
Orna Coussin, Ha’aretz 12/9/2008
Gizanut beyisrael (Racism in Israel), edited by Yehouda Shenhav and Yossi Yonah. Hakibbutz Hameuchad and the Jerusalem Van Leer Institute, 484 pages, NIS 96 - Read the description of the following case - taken from real life - and answer the following questions: Two Israeli women want to have a child. They apply to a sperm bank. Due to the shortage of sperm currently available at public stocks, they choose a private bank operating out of Rishon Letzion. For a fee of several hundred shekels, they are allowed to browse a catalog of donors. The first detail they learn about an anonymous donor is his parents’ ethnic origin. Subsequent details in the entry include height, weight, hair color, skin tone and eye color. The catalog the couple received by e-mail lists the details of 22 donors.

Cartoon: The new EU flag
Mary Rizzo, Palestine Think Tank 12/9/2008
The new EU flag [end] -- See also: Kouchner Reverses Morgantini''s Decision in the European Parliament

Haredi listeners fear séance involved in album production
Yoav Friedman, YNetNews 12/9/2008
(Audio) New CD featuring digitally mastered tracks based on old recordings of dead cantors prompt concern among buyers fearing producers ’raised the dead’ to record album - AUDIO - A recently released album containing songs performed by legendary cantors has been causing turmoil among the ultra-Orthodox community due to the simple fact that the performers are all dead. Record company AMC, which produced the album titled "In Those Days, At This Season," used old recordings, had the sound digitally improved and added background music performed by a philharmonic orchestra. This process of audio manipulation has apparently disturbed many buyers, who flooded the company with questions and complaints: "How is it that the cantor knows to wait for the orchestra? There must be some sort of spell here - is this séance? Does the Halacha allow tampering with the voices of. . .

Two-tier Israel
Seth Freedman, The Guardian 12/9/2008
Last week, Israeli TV reported the findings of a major survey which suggests that the rate of cancer cases diagnosed in soldiers who serve in Tel Arad is 2. 5 times higher than that of soldiers serving in the Infantry Corps as a whole, thanks to the plethora of carcinogens emanating from the chemical and industrial plants dotted around the Negev. Parents of new recruits currently training at Tel Arad are furious that they were not alerted to the dangers sooner, especially since – according to one parent – "the data’s existed since 2002, and no one bothered to mention it to the soldiers. "- My alma mater was demolished shortly after I left its prison-like gates for the last time and, if families get their way, the base where I received my military education will soon suffer a similar fate. Situated deep in the Negev desert, Tel Arad seemed an ideal place to undergo basic training health-wise,

Babylon’s history swept away in US army sandbags
Middle East Online 12/9/2008
BABYLO, Iraq - Fragments of bricks, engraved with cuneiform characters thousands of years old, lie mixed with the rubble and sandbags left by the US military on the ancient site of Babylon in Iraq. In this place, one of the cradles of civilisation, US troops in 2003-2004 built embankments, dug ditches and spread gravel to hold the fuel reservoirs needed to supply the heliport of Camp Alpha. Today, archaeologists say a year of terracing work and 18 months of military presence, with tanks and helicopters, have caused irreparable damage. The Americans remained five months in Babylon and then handed over to the Poles who pulled out 16 months later. Hands on hips, and wearing a seemingly permanent air of dismay, Maithem Hamza, director of the -- totally empty -- museum on the site, points to the soil: "Look at this land, it is packed with remnants. . . "

Majority of citizens in 25 nations oppose torture on moral grounds
Allison Hoffman, The Jerusalem Post, New York, Jerusalem Post 12/9/2008
A majority of people surveyed in 25 nations oppose the use of torture in all circumstances because it is immoral, according to data released Tuesday. The French and the British are likeliest to support clear rules banning the practice, with 82 percent of respondents in both countries saying any use of torture weakens human rights standards. Indians were the likeliest to support the use of torture in circumstances where innocent lives could be saved, at 59%, while majorities in Kenya, Nigeria, South Korea and Turkey agreed. "Some people were ready to make exceptions, but very few said they were ready to abandon the prohibition against torture - it’s not limitless," said Steven Kull, director of World Public Opinion, a project of the University of Maryland-based Program on International Policy Attitudes.

Bush Doctrine’s Defeat in Somalia
Patrick Seale, Middle East Online 12/9/2008
The announcement from Addis Ababa that Ethiopian troops are withdrawing from Somalia by the end of this month means that the U. S. has suffered a defeat in the Horn of Africa -- to add to the long list of U. S. foreign policy failures in the Arab and Muslim world. With American backing, small numbers of Ethiopian troops entered Somalia two and half years ago in July 2006, growing into a force of some 30,000 men over the following moths. Their aim was to drive from power the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) -- a coalition of Islamist insurgents -- which had taken control of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, the previous month. The Islamists had managed to put to flight corrupt and extortionate warlords and, after years of anarchy in Somalia, had set about restoring some form of law and order. But for President George W Bush, Islamic rule in Somalia could not be allowed to stand.

Criticism of US heard at UN session on terrorism
Associated Press, Jerusalem Post 12/10/2008
At a daylong session on counterterrorism Tuesday, Croatian President Stipe Mesic said the global fight has been "compromised" by the pre-emptive approach of President George W. Bush’s administration. Mesic, a staunch opponent of the US-led war in Iraq, said solidarity with the US diminished after it adopted "a kind of exclusive competence of one country, or of a group of countries which it led. " "The fight against terrorism as a global project was also compromised by the way in which it was waged," he said. Bush defended his pre-emptive "Bush Doctrine" in a speech that coincided with the council session Tuesday. He told cadets at the U. S. Military Academy in West Point, New York, that a strong offense was needed to prevent Americans from being attacked again.

Clowns bring comic relief to streets of Beirut
Middle East Online 12/9/2008
BEIRUT - Clowns and street performers danced in the rainy streets of Lebanon’s capital on Tuesday bringing holiday cheers to the traffic-jammed Hamra shopping district. Thirty performers from Germany, Italy, Morocco and Lebanon donned rainbow-coloured wigs and red plastic noses to put on a show, as frustrated drivers blasted their horns. Some clowns walked on stilts as others danced, juggled, blew balloons and took pictures with the crowd that gathered to watch the show under pouring rain in west Beirut. Tuesday’s performance, which fell on the second day of the Muslim holidays of Eid al-Adha and in the runup to Christmas, was the culmination of a week-long workshop in Beirut on street performances. "It is meant to introduce street performances and comic relief as a way to deal with tense situations and conflict," said Tonnie Selwood Choeiri, one of the organisers.

Dichter gives ousted senior cop 2nd chance
Jonathan Lis, Ha’aretz 12/10/2008
Public Security Minister Avi Dichter yesterday proposed a compromise that would prevent the dismissal of Southern District commander Uri Bar-Lev over a dispute he had with Police Chief David Cohen. Dichter informed Bar-Lev that if he goes on a long sabbatical, he will not be fired. Bar-Lev has two weeks to consider the offer. Last month, Cohen decided to oust Bar-Lev from the force, a move that needed Dichter’s approval. A senior police officer told Haaretz that Bar-Lev was being dismissed because he "does not recognize Cohen’s authority as head of the organization. "But even before the dismissal, police sources said Cohen had it in for Bar-Lev from the start, since the charismatic district commander and media darling often overshadowed his boss. In Dichter’s letter offering the comprise, he implied that should Bar-Lev insist on staying with the force, he would be dismissed.

Netanyahu lauds ’best possible’ list, fears influence of far right
Haaretz Staff, Ha’aretz 12/10/2008
Likud Party Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu’s bid to cast the Likud as Israel’s moderate consensus party was dealt a blow in a hard-fought primary, which saw hardliners dominate the top 10 slots and far-right rival Moshe Feiglin score well enough to be all but assured a place in the next Knesset. Of the 10 candidates Netanyahu presented as new faces and returning Likud leaders - dubbed his "stars" by most of the media - only two hardliners, former Likud MK Benny Begin and ex-army chief Moshe Ya’alon, made the top 10. By contrast, all of the top five candidates in the Monday contest, MK Gideon Sa’ar, MK Gilad Erdan, and former MKs Reuven Rivlin, Moshe Kachlon, and Begin, had won Feiglin’s explicit endorsement. Despite Netanyahu’s strenuous efforts to sideline him, Feiglin won the 20th slot on the list. Netanyahu had hoped that moderates like ex-MK Dan Meridor and former senior. . .

Haaretz investigation: Holocaust restitution fund burns through budget, but fails to restore assets
Tomer Zarchin, Ha’aretz 12/10/2008
The Company for Location and Restitution of Holocaust Victims Assets has burned through an operating budget of NIS 30 million in less than two years, but it is refusing to say just how much it has managed to turn over to victims and their heirs. The company was established by a law passed in December 2005, to locate and distribute assets in Israel belonging to Holocaust victims, survivors and their heirs. Some of the assets were to be distributed directly to needy survivors and survivor welfare organizations, on the assumption that only some of the owners and heirs would be found. As of the end of June, the company had located about NIS 750 million in assets. Meanwhile, in under two years it managed to burn through more than NIS 30 million. Most of the budget came from assets the company held in trust for their owners, with the treasury contributing a small amount.


No Eid celebration in Gaza
Eva Bartlett writing from the occupied Gaza Strip, Electronic Intifada 12/9/2008
      On Saturday, banks in Gaza were thronged by lines of disappointed Palestinians who were expecting to receive part of their salaries before the Eid al-Adha holiday, which begins on Monday. Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian Authority’s appointed Prime Minister based in Ramallah, foresaw the cash crisis earlier in the week and urged Israel to allow the transfer of shekels to Gaza, citing a needed 250 million shekels ($63 million) to pay the salaries.
     Palestinian sources put the last transfer of shekels to Gaza as at the end of September, when a comparatively inadequate amount of 50 million shekels ($12.5 million) was allowed in, just a fraction of what Fayyad says Gaza needs to pays its 77,000 government workers.The World Bank is warning of severe ramifications from Israel’s blockade on banknotes, citing a potential "collapse of the commercial banking system in Gaza" and "serious humanitarian implications" as some of the consequences.
     Standing outside of Gaza City’s closed Palestine Bank on Saturday morning, expectant employees voiced their frustration."I was expecting my salary today," said 34-year-old Mahmoud Saleh, a father of two. "I was putting all my hopes on this money as Eid is coming and I’d wanted to buy clothes for my daughter. I still hope that somehow I’ll get the money before Eid. What else can I do? It’s all I can do to hope."

Activists, Physicians, University Teachers Onboard Ship Heading to Gaza

Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 12/9/2008
      Independent Palestinian Legislator and head of the Popular Committee Against the Siege, Jamal El Khodary, stated on Tuesday morning that another ship carrying activists, physicians, university teachers and aid supplies is on its way to the Gaza Strip.
     "Two Jewish academics from the UK, Emeritus Professor Jonathan Rosenhead and Research Fellow Mike Cushman, both from the Department of Management at the London School of Economics, have joined the latest ’Free Gaza’ boat in an attempt to enable Palestinian university students to pursue their studies abroad", the British Committe for the Universities of Palestine reported.
     El Khodary said that "the Intifada of ships" is ongoing in spite of the Israeli aggression and obstructions.
     The new ship will sail for Larnaka port in Cyprus at eleven on Tuesday morning and is determined to reach the Gaza Strip in order to deliver humanitarian supplies.

Encountering Peace: Who owns the water?

Gershon Baskin, Jerusalem Post 12/8/2008
      The current water crisis is extremely serious. Years of mismanagement and irresponsible water policies are now being investigated by the state comptroller. This is not the first time that the water sector is under the scrutiny of a public investigatory committee. In June 2001 the Knesset conducted a similar investigation and reported on serious dysfunctionality, but it seems that very little has changed since then.
     ....THE WATER crisis on the other side of the separation barrier is even more severe than in Israel proper. The Israeli-Palestinian water agreement that was signed in 1995 provided the Palestinians with increased quantities of water. The agreement was supposed to be "interim" to be followed by a permanent status agreement several years later. In the meantime, 13 years have passed, the population has grown, yet no additional allocations have been permitted.
     The annex on water in the interim agreement also created a joint water committee (JWC), one of 26 joint committees that were created in the Oslo agreements. When those committees were created, there was a great deal of hope and perhaps naïveté on both sides. It was hoped that the joint committees would provide the mechanism for building and strengthening cooperation and interdependence. When the violence erupted in the end of September 2000, all of the joint committees ceased to function, with the exception of the JWC.

Kouchner Reverses Morgantini’s Decision in the European Parliament

Justin Theriault, International Middle East Media Center News 12/9/2008
      BRUSSELS, December 9, 2008 -- Despite the scathing remarks by European Parliament (EP) Vice-President last week, in regards to Israel’s human rights abuses and incessant disregard for International law and Geneva Conventions, today, the EP’s 27 foreign ministers voted unanimously to upgrade EU foreign relations with Israel.
     Last week, after being denied a vote altogether by EP Vice-President, Luisa Morgantini, Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tzipi Livni, decided to do some more lobbying with the EP’s foreign ministers, but in particular Bernard Kouchner of France, who currently sits as the EU’s rotating president.
     "At one point, she asked everyone else in the room to leave so that she could speak with Kouchner privately. During that conversation, the two agreed that there would be no linkage, but the EU would issue a separate statement stressing the need to continue the final-status talks." It seems obvious, although difficult to actually find a formal report on the powers of EU President, that Kouchner overrode Morgantini’s earlier decision to hold Israel accountable to international law before a vote would take place in order to “upgrade” EU-Israeli relations.

Border Control / Having Feiglin to kick around

Akiva Eldar, Ha’aretz 12/9/2008
      If Moshe Feiglin did not exist, Benjamin Netanyahu would have to invent him. Every headline that talks of the all-out war against the man who represents the right fringe of the party brings the Likud leader closer to the point marking the center. And that point is the ultimate goal of the Likud chairman’s election campaign. In order to remove Kadima, headed by Tzipi Livni, and what remains of the Labor Party, headed by Ehud Barak, from the government, Netanyahu needs more than simply Dan Meridor who zig-zagged to the center and back. For that purpose, he had to find someone of Feigin’s ilk, who is perceived even among right-wingers as an extremist, if not downright delusional, and on whom an attack does not automatically cast suspicion back on the attacker as having left-wing tendencies.
     A modest achievement by Feiglin in the Likud primary, which will not have too great an influence on the internal balance of power in the party leadership, will make it possible for Netanyahu to continue to treating him like a punching bag all the way to the polling booth on February 10.

Feiglin, his cronies are fascists by any definition

Yossi Sarid, Ha’aretz 12/10/2008
      Each list of candidates is tinted with its own characteristic hue. Sometimes, one drop is enough to paint a whole list. Likud’s list offers quite a few rotten drops, and with each drop the cup overflows.
     The list’s color is as brown now as that brown house in Hebron. Likud’s official spokespeople did try to console and be consoled yesterday, when they said that the devil isn’t all that bad now that it’s been pushed down to number 20 on the list. But full revulsion is better than partial consolation in this case.
     Moshe Feiglin has been described as a radical rightist but that’s not his main problem - which has now become the Likud’s problem and our problem. In certain respects, he’s less legitimate than Meir Kahane and far less so than Rehavam Ze’evi, the man who Benny Begin once defined as "a moral infection." Those were the days in old Jerusalem.

Young israelis who refuse to serve the occupation need our support

Omer Goldman, Palestine Think Tank 12/8/2008
      A note from Shministit Omer Goldman.
     Dear Mary,
     My name is Omer Goldman. I am 19 years old. I am one of the Shministim. Thank you for signing the Shministim letter to support me and my friends.  
     I first went to prison on September 23 and served 35 days. I am lucky, after 2 times in jail, I got a medical discharge, but I’m the only one. By the time you read this, many of my friends will be in prison too: in for three weeks, out for one, and then back in, over and over, until they are 21. The reason? We refuse to do military service for the Israeli army because of the occupation.
     I grew up with the army. My father was deputy head of Mossad and I saw my sister, who is eight years older than me, do her military service. As a young girl, I wanted to be a soldier. The military was such a part of my life that I never even questioned it.
     Earlier this year, I went to a peace demonstration in Palestine. I had always been told that the Israeli army was there to defend me, but during that demonstration Israeli soldiers opened fire on me and my friends with rubber bullets and tear-gas grenades. I was shocked and scared. I saw the truth. I saw the reality. I saw for the first time that the most dangerous thing in Palestine is the Israeli soldiers, the very people who are supposed to be on my side.