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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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11 December, 2008

Israel allows cash into Gaza
Al Jazeera 12/11/2008
Armoured lorries containing $25m have arrived in Gaza after Israel allowed the first transfer of cash to the territory since October. The move on Thursday came after the World Bank warned that the liquidity crisis in the Gaza Strip caused by Israel’s siege could cause the collapse of the banking system there. The money, from Palestinian banks in the West Bank, is expected to be used to pay the salaries of civil servants and allow aid groups to provide cash to impoverished people in Gaza. But the funds are much less than the $63m that Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister, has said was necessary to pay salaries. Al Jazeera’s Ayman Mohyeldin, reporting from Gaza City, said: "The $25m will be just a drop in the bucket, enough to eliviate the short-term crisis but not enough to develop sustainable commerce in Gaza.

Livni: ''No place for Arabs in Israel after a Palestinian state is established''
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 12/11/2008
The Middle East Online reported on Thursday that Israeli Foreign Minister, president-elect of the Kadima party, Tzipi Livni, stated on Thursday that Arabs in Israel will not have any place in the Jewish state after a Palestinian state in established. The statements of Livni were considered an exposed project for massive transfer of all Palestinians from their homeland. In a meeting with high school students at a Tel Aviv school, Livni said that "after a Palestinian state in established, we can tell the Arabs ’you have equal rights in the Jews in Israel, but the national solution for you is in a different place’, the principle here is two states for two peoples". The Israeli Army Radio repeated the statements of Livni in its broadcast. Also, Livni said that today marks 900 days since Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, was captured by resistance fighters in Gaza.

Report: Israel arresting West Bank Palestinians by the hundreds
Ma’an News Agency 12/11/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The Palestinian Authority (PA) Ministry of Prisoners and Prisoners’ Affairs on Thursday accused the Israeli government of carrying out multiple arrest operations in West Bank towns and cities. The accusation comes just after Israel announced intentions to release231 Palestinian prisoners as a goodwill gesture to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The release, originally slated to take place before Eid Al-Adha - 8 December - has been postponed until 15 December. In a report obtained by Ma’an, the ministry documents more than 300 incursions and invasions carried out by Israeli forces in Palestinian towns and cities in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. Israel also arrested 390 Palestinian residents, including 87 in the city of Hebron, of whom more than a dozen are patients, bringing the total number of people. . .

Full house arrest for man indicted of shooting Palestinians
Aviad Glickman, YNetNews 12/11/2008
Jerusalem District Court increases restrictions placed on Kiryat Arba settler charged with shooting two Palestinians in West Bank city in Hebron -Many in the police and the State Prosecutor’s Office were amazed at Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court Justice Malka Aviv’s decision to remand Ze’ev Brauda to house arrest. Brauda, a resident of Kiryat Arba, was charged with the shooting of two Palestinians following the eviction of the disputed house in the West Bank city of Hebron last week. Wednesday’s dismay was compounded by Aviv’s harsh criticism of the police’s conduct in the matter; but the State’s appeal of the decision prevailed, as Jerusalem District Court Judge Orit Efal decided on Thursday to slightly change Aviv’s ruling, ordering Bradua be remanded to full house arrest. While Aviv’s ruling allowed Brauda to leave his home for work, Efal’s ruling restricts his movements altogether and forbids him from leaving the house. The court further ordered his wife to post substantial bail in order to secure his remand.

Army readies for Gaza border attacks
Yaakov Katz and Dan Izenberg, Jerusalem Post 12/11/2008
The IDF raised its level of alert along the Gaza border on Thursday amid fears that Hamas may try to launch a cross-border attack to coincide with a demonstration Sunday marking the founding of the organization, sources in Southern Command said. OC Southern Command Maj. -Gen. Yoav Galant ordered forces to prepare for a security incident targeted at Israeli civilians, or at soldiers deployed along the border. IDF officers have called for the resumption of military operations against Hamas in the Gaza Strip following the expiration of the cease-fire next Friday. Defense Minister Ehud Barak has however called for the extension of the cease-fire despite the firing of over 200 mortars and Kassam rockets into Israel in recent weeks. RELATED Living with Rockets: Why the ceasefire never stood a chance. . .

Israeli Military Invades Jenin, Detains Residents in Nablus
IMEMC Staff&Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 12/11/2008
Early Thursday morning, Israeli Military invaded the West Bank city of Jenin. Also, the Israeli Military detained a number of Palestinian residents in Nablus, media sources and witnesses reported. Palestinian security sources said today that a contingent of Israeli troops invaded the downtown area of Jenin city in the occupied West Bank under a barrage of heavy gun fire. The sources added that scores of Israeli soldiers were deployed in main streets under a barrage of sound grenades, causing a state of panic among the local residents, especially children. In related news, Israeli soldiers ransacked several Palestinian-owned homes in Nablus city, detaining at least six Palestinian residents from the Ma’adamma village, one of the city’s suburbs. Witnesses said that a number of Israeli armored vehicles swept into the village late Wednesday night, breaking into several houses and forcing the inhabitants outside amidst low temperatures.

House burned, car destroyed during Israeli raid near Nablus
Ma’an News Agency 12/11/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Israeli forces raided a village near Nablus early on Thursday morning, according to witnesses and a municipality official. Soldiers overran the Burqa village west of Nablus just before dawn on Thursday, where a percussion grenade fired toward a house set fire to a room. The house reportedly belongs to 55-year-old Tawfiq Abdullah Yousef. Ghassan Daghlas, an official in the village’s local council, told Ma’an in a telephone interview that in addition to the house fire soldiers destroyed a car belonging to Muhammad Oddeh Abu Amer, which was parked in front of his home in the village. [end]

Settlers open fire on houses in Sebastia
Ma’an News Agency 12/11/2008
Nablus - Ma’an - Dozens of Israeli settlers opened fire on Palestinian homes near the illegal settlement of Shavei Shomron southwest of Nablus on Wednesday, residents told Ma’an. Sources added that a number of settlers had arrived after the commotion and fired dozens of bullets from automatic weapons before finally withdrawing when the Israeli army arrived in coordination with the Palestinian Liaison Office. [end]

Cash infusion allows civil servants in besieged Gaza to collect salaries
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 12/12/2008
GAZA CITY: Twenty-five million dollars worth of Palestinian funds were allowed into to the Gaza Strip on Thursday to pay civil servants after Israel cleared the transfer amid international warnings a liquidity crisis would bring down the besieged territory’s banks. "Civil servants in the Gaza Strip will be able to receive their salaries as of tonight," a Palestinian Treasury statement said. Withdrawals can be made from ATMs on Thursday and Friday, while banks that had shut down on December 4 because of cash shortages will be open on Saturday, it said. Long lines formed outside ATMs across Gaza City as word of the transfer spread. "Finally," said Shaaban Mohammad, an employee at the Health Ministry. "We’ve been waiting for our salaries for 40 days. We’re going grocery shopping. "The transfer came at the end of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice,. . .

110 trucks of goods to enter Gaza Thursday; military factions’ calm persists
Ma’an News Agency 12/11/2008
Gaza - Ma’an - Israeli officials informed Gazans that the Kerem Shalom crossing in the south of the Strip would be open for the transfer of humanitarian aid for the third day in a row Thursday. Assistant in the Ministry of National Economy Nasser As-Saraj said his offices were informed that 55 trucks of humanitarian aid, 25 trucks for relief agencies and 30 trucks for the private sector would be allowed to pass into the area. The decision to open the crossings comes after a prolonged period of calm from Gaza military factions, which has seen only one projectile launched from Gaza/Israel border areas since the start of Eid Al-Adha on 8 December. On Tuesday, Israel allowed the shipment of 400 tons of industrial-grade diesel into the Strip, which brought the area’s only power plant back online. In addition, 220 tons of cooking gas were sent through, the largest such shipment since a strict closure was imposed on 2 November.

Defense Minister okays Gaza funds per Fischer request
Globes'' correspondent, Globes Online 12/11/2008
The office of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said that she was not a party to the decision. “IDF Radio" (Galei Zahal) cites sources at Minister of Defense Ehud Barak’s office as saying that yesterday’s order to transfer NIS 100 million to Gaza Strip banks was approved at the request of Governor of the Bank of Israel Prof. Stanley Fischer. The sources added that the political security cabinet approved the transfer. In response, dozens of family members of people wounded by kassam rocket attacks from Gaza sent an urgent letter to Barak and Fischer today asking them to immediately halt the transfer. The office of Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni said that she was not a party to the decision.

Gazan man burned in tunnel succumbs to wounds
Ma’an News Agency 12/11/2008
Gaza - Ma’an - A Palestinian burned in a Gaza tunnel three days ago succumbed to his injuries on Thursday, bringing to 50 the number of men killed in the underground pathways. Medical sources confirmed the death of 22-year-old Ghassan Mahmoud Abu Mur, who suffered high-intensity burns and was being treated in the intensive care unit ofRafah’s main hospital. Ghassan was injured along with two other young men, whose conditions are listed as mild to serious. [end]

Palestinian Fighters Clash With Israeli Military in Eastern Gaza
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 12/11/2008
A group of Palestinian fighters clashed, late Wednesday night, with Israeli soldiers near the Johr Eldeik village in eastern Gaza Strip, a press release revealed. In a joint press statement, emailed to media outlets, the armed wing of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Saraya Alquds brigades of the Islamic Jihad, declared responsibility for an armed clash with an Israeli military force in eastern Gaza yesterday night. The statement read that a group of fighters spotted the Israeli force just close to the border fence with Gaza and then opened fire at it, hitting soldiers directly. "Such a clash with the Israeli occupation troops is a part of the Palestinian resistance’s ongoing response to the Israeli army attacks on the Palestinian people", the statement explained. No other sources verified the report.

Israeli Army Awaiting Order for Ground Offensive in Gaza
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 12/11/2008
As the fragile Egyptian-brokered ceasefire between Hamas and Israel is ending in eight days, Israeli military leaders stated on Wednesday that the Army is ready to carry out any military offensive the political leaders order, Israeli Ynet News reported. Military sources said that the army already submitted to the political leadership in Israel several scenarios of action that were, in turn, handed to the cabinet. The army said that Palestinian fighters in the Gaza Strip renewed the firing of homemade shells into an adjacent Israeli area. Resistance groups stated that the act was in retaliation to military offensives and assaults carried out by the army in Gaza. A senior security official in Israel slammed statements made by several members of the cabinet for publically calling for a military offensive in Gaza.

Al-Quds and NRC Brigades announce clash with Israeli forces in Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 12/11/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Islamic Jihad’s Al-Quds Brigades and the National Resistance Brigades announced what they called a joint clash with Israeli troops on Wednesday night east of Juhor Ad-Dik in north-central Gaza. A statement on the clashes from the Brigades’ said the violence proved the militant factions’ unwillingness to tolerate the presence of Israeli military troops on Gaza territory. [end]

Arab League presses Obama to dive into peace process
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 12/12/2008
CAIRO: The Arab League has urged US President-elect Barack Obama to focus on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict after he takes office in January, spokesman Hisham Yussef said on Thursday. The 22-member pan-Arab institution detailed its vision for an end to the decades-old conflict in a letter signed by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal and delivered to Obama via an aide, Yussef told AFP. "The letter explains our stance on the conflict, focusing on the Arab peace proposal," the spokesman said. The league adopted a Saudi proposal in 2002 - though the deal’s major tenants date back to offers made in the 1970s - which called on Israel to withdraw from the territories it occupied in 1967 in return for diplomatic relations with Arab states. All Israeli presence on occupied land violates numerous UN resolutions and is illegal under international law.

’Abbas vows to continue peace talks no matter who is elected Israeli PM’
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 12/12/2008
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has pledged to carry on peace negotiations with Israel regardless of who is elected prime minister in the upcoming elections, the A-Sharq al-Awsat daily reported on Thursday. Abbas told the paper that the domestic political crisis in Israel has hampered progress in the current talks. During the interview, the Fatah leader also attacked the rival Hamas movement for blocking Gaza residents with visas issued by the Palestinian Authority from making the pilgrimage to Mecca this month. He compared the Islamist group to the Shi’ite gangs who captured Mecca a millennia ago and called on the movement to agree to reconciliation talks. He also reiterated his intention to hold elections in the near future and ruled out the possibility of excluding Hamas from the poll.

Abbas: I’ll work with any Israeli leader
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 12/11/2008
Palestinian president admits peace deal delayed because of internal situation in Israel, rejects any possibility of partial ’declaration of principles’ - As the election campaign in Israel heats up – and is mixed with the diplomatic and security-related dilemmas, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas clarifies he will work with any elected Israeli prime minister. "Like I said about (US President-elect Barack) Obama and (presidential candidate John) McCain, here too we’ll work with any elected prime minister – be it (Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi) Livni or (Likud Chairman Benjamin) Netanyahu," Abbas said Thursday in an interview with the London-based Arabic-language al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper. Asked about the complex political situation in Israel, the Palestinian president noted, "(Prime Minister Ehud) Olmert is accused of many things and he now serves as a sort of replacement. But as long as he sits in the prime minister’s chair, I’ll meet with him. "

Palestinian PM Voices Resentment Over Upgrading Israel’s Status at EU
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 12/11/2008
Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, voiced his resentment over a European Parliament (EP) decision to upgrade Israel’s diplomatic ties with the EU. " In our assessment, the EU’s ministerial council’s decision to upgrade Israel’s diplomatic ties with the European Union, has cast a widespread disappointment", the Prime Minister stated. Fayyad explained that this decision would leave a negative impact on Israel’s commitment toward the implementation of rules of international humanitarian law as well as respect for human rights that were supposed to be involved in the Israeli-European partnership agreement. The Palestinian official also denounced the move as contradictory to a previous EP ministerial council resolution that conditioned upgrading Israel’s diplomatic ties with the EU contingent on Israel’s compliance with their peace process obligations.

Detainees slated for release from Israel suffer from government foot-dragging
Ma’an News Agency 12/11/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Recent Israeli flip-flops on the fate of the detainees slated for release from Israeli prisons this month have lead to a deterioration of morale among prisoners and their families. According to the Detainees’ Society, both prisoners and families have been watching the Israeli press with hawk eyes for an indication as to whether the release will indeed take place, or if the ‘postponement’ is a more permanent solution. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had promised Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to release 250 Palestinians in Israeli jails as a goodwill gesture in advance of Eid Al-Adha on 8 December. The move was not Okayed by the Israeli cabinet until the afternoon of 7 December when a list of 231 prisoners was released, and the following afternoon a message indicating the release would occur on 15 December was released.

Dignity boat to carry 16 Palestinian stranded students from Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 12/11/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The solidarity activists who arrived in Gaza on Wednesday have promised to carry back with them 16 Palestinian students who could not travel abroad to complete their academic studies due to the closure of all Gaza Strip crossings. The Free Gaza movement members, who arrived aboard the Dignity boat, had met with a delegation of the popular anti siege committee and a number of those stranded students to discuss their issue. For his part, Mustafa Al-Barghouthi, the leader of the national initiative party, has said that the success of the fourth Free Gaza sea voyage in breaking the siege and reaching Gaza port was a proof of the effectiveness of the popular and international resistance in breaking that siege. He stressed that efforts on the local, Arab and international levels should be doubled to escalate the campaign against the Gaza siege and to save one and a half million Palestinians living under depressing conditions in Gaza.

Blockade Continues as World Marks the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Mada Center and Article19, International Middle East Media Center News 12/11/2008
In a week when the world marks the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Israel’s blockade on Gaza shows no sign of ending. The people of the Gaza strip continue to be deprived of basic human rights such as food and fuel, whilst restrictions on foreign media entering the strip reinforces their isolation"This is an insidious abuse that seeks to suppress legitimate cries for help and depictions of suffering from reaching the rest of the world. The rights to information and expression are fundamental human rights. They underpin all human rights and are central to human development, peace and security. In the context of a conflict, fulfilling these rights takes on particular importance: information can not only ensure that assistance is effective and locally relevant, but it can also save lives and preserve human dignity," says Dr Agnès Callamard, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19.

EUCSG slams Abbas for describing solidarity ships as a ''ridiculous game''
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 12/11/2008
The European Campaign to End the Siege n Gaza (EUCSG) slammed the statements of Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, who described the ships that sail to Gaza to break the unjust Israeli siege and deliver humanitarian supplies as a "ridiculous game"The campaign added that these statements indicate that Abbas does not really want the siege to end as he sounded skepticism in the role of these ships and their effectiveness. Dr. Arafat Madi, head of the EUCSG in Brussels, said on Thursday that the statements of Abbas and describing the ships as a "ridiculous game" indicates that Abbas is part of this unjust siege, as such statements are considered a public call to stop the ships in spite that these ships deliver aid to 1. 5 million Palestinians living in poverty in the besieged Gaza Strip. Dr. Arafat also said that Abbas claimed that the Israeli Embassy in Cyprus is checking the. . .

Dignity Ship leaves Gaza carrying 11 students stuck in Gaza
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 12/11/2008
"Dignity Ship", one of the ships organized by peace activists and the Free Gaza Movement, left the Gaza Strip on Thursday heading to Cyprus carrying the international peace activists and eleven university Palestinian students who were stuck due to the siege. Independent Palestinian Legislator, head of the Popular Committee Against the Siege, Jamal El Khodary, stated on Thursday that the ships sailing to Gaza to deliver humanitarian supplies and challenge the unjust Israeli siege will not stop until the siege is ended. El Khodary thanked the activists and wished the departing students safety and success in their studies while the students expressed joy for being able to return to their universities abroad after the Israeli siege barred them from leaving Gaza. He added that the upcoming shop will carry the name "Parliamentarians" as it will carry parliamentarians from Arab, Islamic. . .

Committee: Gov’t should formally recognize Bedouin villages in Negev
Shahar Ilan and Yanir Yagna, Ha’aretz 12/12/2008
A committee charged with deciding the fate of illegally constructed Bedouin villages in the Negev on Thursday recommended that they be formally recognized by the government. The government appointed former Chief Justice Eliezer Goldberg to oversee the committee, which submitted its report Thursday to Housing Minister Ze’ev Boim. In an attempt to reach a compromise between the Bedouin community and the government, the Goldberg Committee made several other recommendations. They include allowing villages that do not gain formal recognition to move to alternate sites; compensating some Bedouin complainants monetarily and others with land; and establishing a committee to formally recognize illegally constructed buildings in Bedouin villages. Boim said that the committee was formed to try and bridge the gap between the Bedouin community. . .

Report: State should recognize Bedouin villages
Aviad Glickman, YNetNews 12/11/2008
Committee for Regulation of Bedouin Settlements in the Negev presents housing and construction minister with its findings, says Israel must change legal status of at least 46 villages so to ’prevent perpetuation of community’s unbearable state’ - The Committee for the Regulation of the Bedouin Settlements in the Negev, headed by retired Supreme Court Justice Eliezer Goldberg, presented Housing and Construction Minister Ze’ev Boim with its findings on Thursday. The Committee for the Regulation of the Bedouin Settlements in the Negev, headed by retired Supreme Court Justice Eliezer Goldberg, presented Housing and Construction Minister Ze’ev Boim with its findings on Thursday. The committee’s report urged Israel to recognize about 46 villages, which house approximately 62,000 Bedouins. Goldberg noted that the State should give legal standing to the villages, adding that the

FM takes heat over Israeli Arab remark
Abe Selig, Jerusalem Post 12/11/2008
Kadima leader Tzipi Livni signalled on Thursday that she believed Israeli Arabs could best fulfill their nationalist goals by moving to a future Palestinian state. "My solution for maintaining a Jewish and democratic State of Israel is to have two nation-states with certain concessions and with clear red lines," Livni told a group of students at a Tel Aviv high school. "And among other things, I will also be able to approach the Palestinian residents of Israel, those whom we call Israeli Arabs, and tell them, ’your national solution lies elsewhere. ’" Livni went on to emphasize that she preferred Israeli Arabs to remain in Israel as equal citizens with full rights, but with the understanding that they were living in the Jewish homeland. "You are citizens with equal rights, but you are citizens with equal rights in a state that is the national home of the Jewish people," she said.

C’tee calls to legalize Beduin villages
Brenda Gazzar, Jerusalem Post 12/11/2008
The government should officially recognize many of the unacknowledged Beduin villages in the Negev in order to improve their "unbearable situation" and better integrate them with other communities, a government-appointed committee said Thursday. The Goldberg Commission, charged with examining and arriving at a possible solution for the permanent settlement of Beduin citizens in the Negev, delivered its long-anticipated report on Thursday to Housing Minister Ze’ev Boim. Boim said it was "the most significant and important report" in delineating a policy of Beduin settlement in the Negev, calling the 95-page document "an important breakthrough" and "an important moral decision. " More than 62,000 Beduin live in around 45 unrecognized villages in the Negev. Residents in such villages have limited access to services usually provided on a municipal level, such. . .

Human rights activists file international suit against Israeli leaders
Palestinian Information Center 12/11/2008
THE HAGUE, (PIC)-- A group of international human rights activists on Wednesday filed a lawsuit at the international Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague against Israeli political and military leaders for committing crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. Quds Press published content of the lawsuit, which primarily focuses on the Israeli siege on Gaza.  Names on that lawsuit are of Israeli resigning premier Ehud Olmert, his war minister Ehud Barak, deputy war minister Matan Vilnai, minister of internal security Avi Dichter and chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi. The International Alliance for Combating Impunity (IACI), which is a member in the UN economic and social council, is launching the lawsuit in cooperation with legal experts and lawyers from many countries including three lawyers from Spain and a delegation representing North America, Europe, the Middle East and South America.

Hamas Security forces release four reporters detained in central Gaza two months ago
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 12/12/2008
The SKeyes Centre for Freedom of the Media, reported on Thursday that the security forces of the Hamas dissolved government in Gaza, released on Wednesday evening four Palestinian reporters who work with the "Palestine Press". The four were identified as Mohammad Shahin, Yousef Fayyad, Akram Al Loh, and Hani Ismail. They did not face any official charges and were verbally accused of "planning a coup against the regime" and "collaborating with the Ramallah authority" (the Palestinian Authority headed by president Mahmoud Abbas). The four reporters were released without any legal procedures as the authorities did not abide by the law in arresting them and in the procedures that followed the arrest. The SKeyes center said that some reports indicated that the reporters were tortured and were forced to stand for extended periods while their hands were tied.

Deir Yassin Remembered's Annual Fund raising drive
Guest Post, Palestine Think Tank 12/11/2008
Deir Yassin Remembered's Annual Solicitation, a request from Dan McGowan In addition to maintaining two websites that keep alive the memory of Deir Yassin and all that it represents, DYR awarded 5 scholarships in 2008 under the banner of Peace Through Education. All of the money raised was passed through to young Palestinians struggling to get an education while under continued occupation. The organization has no paid staff and took nothing from the gifts we were able to raise. In 2009 we hope to continue this program, which is chaired by Steve Beikirch and directed by Susan Abulhawa, Henry Herskovitz, and Israel Shamir. But we need your help to do it. We are also planning a second Deir Yassin memorial, a bronze uprooted olive tree sculpted by Khalil Bendib. It will be erected near a mosque in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

UN agency for Palestinian refugees faces budget crisis
Ma’an News Agency 12/11/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an/Agencies - The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) is out of money, according to a report released on Thursday and received by Ma’an. UNRWA’s cash reserves are so far depleted that the agency has less than enough for even one day’s average expenditure, the United Nations (UN) News Centre announced. “Effectively we are now running on empty,” UNRWA Deputy Commissioner General Filippo Grandi said at a fundraising meeting in New York on Wednesday. “As everyone can understand, driving a complex machine such as ours on little or no fuel dramatically raises the odds, sooner or later of a breakdown,” he added. The UN is considering “the very real prospect” of making cuts to its most basic education and health services, another top official noted. UNRWA faces a deficit in 2009 in excess of $150 million to its overall budget, with its General Fund requirement for the year at $545 million.

Obama to offer Israel ’nuclear umbrella’ - report
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 12/12/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: US President-elect Barack Obama plans to offer Israel a strategic pact designed to fend off any nuclear attack on the Jewish state by Iran, an Israeli newspaper reported on Thursday. Quoting an unidentified US source close to Obama’s administration, the Haaretz daily said Washington would pledge under the proposed "nuclear umbrella" to respond to any Iranian nuclear strike against Israel with a US retaliation in kind. Iran denies its nuclear program has military designs, noting that it is within its rights as a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to develop a civilian program. A six-year investigation by the UN’s nuclear watchdog has called for more "transparency" but has netted no hard evidence of bomb making by the Iranians. Israel, which has never signed the NPT, is widely believed to posses the only atomic arsenal in the Middle East, with an estimated 200 warheads.

Israel complains to UN of Iranian incitement
Yitzhak Benhorin, YNetNews 12/11/2008
Ambassador Gabriela Shalev launches official letter to UN chief following Iranian VP’s calls to make obliteration of Zionism a worldwide goal. ’Iranian leadership continues to incite destruction of Israel,’ she writes - WASHINGTON -Israel submitted an official letter of complaint to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon Thursday, in which it condemned recent remarks made by an Iranian vice president who said the destruction of Zionism should become a global goal. Esfandyar Rahim Mashaei said Tuesday that "the corrupt and criminal Zionist regime is harming not only the Arab and Islamic world, but humanity in its entirety. "Therefore, he said, the destruction of Israel should be an international demand. Israel has been responding to recent Iranian outbursts of this kind by complaining to the UN.

Netanyahu: Economic crisis opportunity to pressure Iran
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 12/11/2008
Likud chairman tells EU ambassadors global crisis should be taken advantage of in order to dampen Iran’s nuclear plans; adds his government would continue talks with Palestinians -The economic crisis has provided an opportunity to put more pressure on Iran, Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu told the 26 EU ambassadors visiting Israel on Thursday. He said the crisis should be taken advantage of in order to prevent Iran from continuing its nuclear proliferation. He stressed that Iran was responsible for much of the world’s terrorism. Netanyahu also sought to reassure the Europeans that he will continue peace talks with the Palestinians if he wins February’s general election. He spoke to the ambassadors after primaries in the Likud Party catapulted several ultra-hawks into the top 30 places on its slate of candidates.

Israeli forces seize two Fatah members south of Nablus
Ma’an News Agency 12/11/2008
Nablus - Ma’an - Israeli forces arrested two Fatah affiliates south of Nablus on Wednesday, according to local sources. Residents told Ma’an that Israeli forces arrested the two men, 23-year-old Shahid Zyadeh and 19-year-old Mujahed Al-Qet after storming the village of Madama, south of Nablus on Wednesday evening. Sources added that soldiers detained the two men just outside their homes before taking them to an undisclosed location. [end]

Umm al-Fahm invites Jews ahead of rightist rally
Sharon Roffe-Ofir, YNetNews 12/11/2008
Before internal security minister announces whether march organized by extreme rightists Baruch Marzel, Itamar Ben-Gvir will be allowed to take place next week, Arab city opens gates to Jewish supporters for Muslim holiday in display of harmonious ties, hopes of preventing rally -Umm al-Fahm law enforcement bodies have begun preparations for the rightists’ rally that will be held in the Arab city by extreme right-wing activists Itamar Ben-Gvir and Baruch Marzel next Monday. On Thursday, Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter is expected to decide whether or not the rally would be permitted to take place on the scheduled date. Meanwhile, residents of the city have been trying to demonstrate that Jewish-Arab relations don’t always have to be bad. Residents reported that the municipality has been flooded with dozens of calls from Jewish supporters. . .

Settler indicted one week after shooting two Palestinians
Ma’an News Agency 12/11/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an/Agencies – A settler who was filmed shooting two Palestinians in Hebron last Thursday was indicted in a Jerusalem court on Wednesday. Israeli sources early on Thursday indicated the settler has now been charged with the crime of "assault with malicious intent" over the attacks on two unarmed Palestinians. Ze’ev Brauda was released on bail preceding the indictment, leading to erroneous reports from Ma’an that he had been released without charge. In fact, Brauda was released under the condition that he not leave his home, according to the Israeli Magistrate Court’s order. Gabi Bibi, the other settler arrested alongside Brauda, was released without charge on Sunday. In accounts of the court proceedings, Magistrate Justice Malka Aviv describes the Hebron settler, who was filmed brandishing an automatic weapon at a group of over 40 men, women and children. . .

IAF mulls purchase of new smart bomb
Yaakov Katz, Jerusalem Post 12/11/2008
The Israel Air Force is considering purchasing a new and advanced smart bomb with an extended range that would allow fighter jets to hit targets in Damascus and Beirut without leaving Israeli airspace, The Jerusalem Post has learned. The smart bomb Israel is looking into is called the JDAM-ER (Joint Direct Attack Munition-Extended Range) which is under development by Boeing and the Royal Australian Air Force. The JDAM is a low-cost guidance kit produced by Boeing that converts existing unguided free-fall bombs into precision guided "smart" weapons. The JDAM kit consists of a tail section that contains a Global Positioning System/Inertial Navigation System and body improvements for additional stability and lift. The ER version of the JDAM consists of an additional set of wings that are installed on the bomb and extend its range from just 15 nautical miles to 55.

Palestine Today 121108
IMEMC News, International Middle East Media Center News 12/11/2008
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 Thursday, December 11 2008 Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak, endorsed a decision to allow flow of cash into Gaza banks. Meanwhile, Israeli military attacked two Palestinian cities. These news and more are coming up. Stay tuned. Upon a request by Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak, endorsed yesterday a decision to allow cash flows into Gaza banks. The cash-strapped Palestinian banks in Gaza have been forced to shut down over the past weekend due to a lack of Israeli Shekel currency and U. S dollars. Israel has been imposing restrictions on the transfer of funds for the past two months.

Olmert: Israel will continue to transfer shekels to Gaza
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 12/12/2008
Following turmoil over transport of NIS 100 million to Strip, prime minister says Israel must honor commitment made after Oslo Accords to continue transfer of Israeli currency to Gaza -Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced on Thursday that Israel will continue to provide the Palestinian Authority with shekels, even if the money serves the Hamas government, as long as the Israeli currency remains the official currency of the PA. Olmert made the decision following the public turmoil that prevailed on Wednesday after it was decided to transfer NIS 100 million ($25. 5 million) to the Strip from banks in the West Bank. The prime minister approved the transfer of funds through Israel, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered its execution. The move honored an appeal by Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Governor of the Bank of Israel Stanley Fischer.

Israel to Allow Transfer of Cash into Gaza Banks
Rami Almeghari&Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 12/11/2008
In compliance with a request by the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority’s Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak, endorsed a decision yesterday to allow the transfer of any cash into Gaza banks. Israeli radio reported that Barak’s endorsement came following a request by Fayyad to allow the Palestinian Authority to deliver salaries to PA employees in Gaza, following a one-week cash crisis in the Strip after Israel denied the transfer of any funds into Gaza. Over the past two months, Israel has been imposing restrictions on the transfer of funds, such as Israeli Shekel currency and US Dollars, into Gaza banks, under the pretext of homemade Qassam rockets fired from Gaza into nearby Israeli towns. In the meantime, the Israeli committee for releasing captured Israeli soldier, Gil’ad Shalit, called on Barak to reconsider the decision until information concerning Shalit is revealed.

Popular Struggle Front: Tunnels are not the answer, industry killing Gazans
Ma’an News Agency 12/11/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The Palestinian Popular Struggle Front (PSF) called for an end to the “tunnels phenomena at the Palestinian-Egyptian borders” on Thursday, saying they threaten people’s lives and cause political, economic and social problems. The underground tunnel industry has been supplying Gazans with materials unattainable via official crossings after the Israeli siege on Gaza began in 2007. Initially operating as a black market, tunnel trade now operates under de facto government regulations, including paying taxes on goods brought in. At times of total closure, like the recent Israeli lockdown of crossings, tunnels are the only way for Gazans to attain necessary materials such as gas, cooking oil, clothing and food. "We should strive harder to open the borders instead of using these killing tunnels," Anwar Jum’a, a member at the central committee affiliated with the. . .

Gaza mental health program demands international protection for civilians
Palestinian Information Center 12/11/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Gaza Community Mental Health Program has asked the international community to extend immediate protection to the Palestinian citizens especially those besieged in the Gaza Strip. The GCMHP has said in a statement on the occasion of the international day for human rights that Palestine was witnessing a large scale violation of human rights due to the endless Israeli aggressions and the tightening political and economic siege on the Palestinian population. The Israeli hermetic closure of all Gaza commercial crossings had led to paralyzing all aspects of life in addition to an almost complete collapse of the economy, the program said. It added that the ensuing soaring rates of poverty and unemployment had greatly and seriously affected the Palestinian citizens’ physical and mental health. Mental disturbances soared in Gaza as depression, anxiety and physical. . .

Cash shipment arrives in Gaza Strip
Jerusalem Post 12/11/2008
Amid heavy criticism from Israeli lawmakers, an armored truck carrying 100 million shekels arrived in Gaza from Israel on Thursday to ease a cash crunch. The money originated from Palestinian banks in the West Bank. Gilad Schalit captive for 900 days - It marks the first time Israel has allowed money into Gaza since October. It suspended the cash transfers after Gaza terrorists renewed their rocket and mortar shell attacks on Israel, in violation of the truce. Earlier, MK Tzahi Hanegbi (Kadima), the chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, leveled severe criticism over the decision to transfer the cash, which was made by Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Wednesday. "We don’t need to transfer anything," Hanegbi told Army Radio. "Regardless of the rocket fire, as long as Gilad Schalit is being held by them we cannot finance the Hamas regime.

Israel approves transfer of 100 million shekels from West Bank to Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 12/11/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – An Israeli armored car will deliver 100 million shekels from West Bank financial institutions to the dry and mostly closed Gaza Strip banks next week, Israeli media sources reported Thursday. Weeks of appeals from Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, as well as financial and humanitarian bigwigs in Palestine and internationally, fell on deaf ears until joined by governor of the Bank of Israel, Stanley Fischer. Fischer joined with Fayyad and made a “personal request” to Defense Minister Ehud Barak. The transfer, which was Okayed on Wednesday, falls short of the 250 million shekels that Fayyad had requested. He said at least that much was needed if banks were to be able to pay the salaries of some 70,000 government employees in Gaza, as well as ensure that social benefits and pensions were paid to injured and retired workers.

Masri warns of popular explosion in Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 12/11/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- MP Mushir Al-Masri has warned that the continued tightening siege on the Gaza Strip would lead to a popular explosion in all directions. He said in a press statement that trickling assistance to the Strip and leaving it in a state between life and death would not help but would rather aggravate the popular anger. He held all parties to that siege responsible for consequences of such an explosion. The Hamas MP also said that the continued PA leadership’s spate of arrests in lines of Hamas’s supporters and activists in the West Bank would only diminish chances of starting national dialog to end the division in the Palestinian arena. Masri affirmed that Hamas would continue to rule and to resist occupation.

IDF arrests 3 unarmed Palestinians who tried to infiltrate from Gaza Strip Staff, Jerusalem Post 12/12/2008
IDF soldiers on Thursday night identified three unarmed Palestinians who tried to infiltrate Israel from the Gaza Strip near the Kissufim Crossing. The men were detained and will be interrogated by the security forces. [end]

Netanyahu looks to calm EU fears he’ll halt peace talks
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 12/12/2008
Benjamin Netanyahu, the chairman of the Likud and the man polls predict will occupy the prime minister’s chair following the February 10 elections, sought Thursday to reassure Europeans that he will continue peace talks with the Palestinians if he wins February’s general election, despite a rightward tilt in his Party. Netanyahu was speaking to Israel-based EU ambassadors in the wake of Likud primaries, which catapulted several ultra-hawks into the top 30 places on the party’s slate of candidates for the elections. Netanyahu was the guest speaker at a lunch hosted by the European Union and arranged long before Monday’s primaries. He used the occasion to try to quell concerns fueled by the outcome, which delivered significant advances for a wing of Likud seeking to halt peace talks, ban minority Arab citizens of Israel from. . .

Dayton: New PA forces are most capable ever
David Horovitz, Jerusalem Post 12/11/2008
Keith Dayton, the US army general who is overseeing the training in Jordan of the Palestinian Authority’s National Security Force for the West Bank, has praised the new recruits as "the most capable Palestinian security forces that have ever been fielded here," and firmly played down the notion that they might one day come to turn their weapons on Israel. In a rare interview, marking the third anniversary of his arrival here to head the United States Security Coordinator (USSC) hierarchy, Dayton told The Jerusalem Post that the trainees are taught over and again that "you are not here to learn how to fight against the Israeli occupation. " Their focus, rather, he said, is "totally on the lawless elements within Palestinian society. " Unlike many Middle East envoys, who fly in and out, Dayton has spent the three years on the ground here, maintaining thorough oversight. . .

Egyptians chafe at Jewish festival amid brutal Gaza siege
Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa al-Omrani, Inter Press Service, Daily Star 12/12/2008
CAIRO: Jews from around the world come annually to Egypt to celebrate the birth anniversary of Abu Hassira, a 19th-century Jewish 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 Gaza. "The people of Demito, and Egyptians in general, adamantly reject this festival," Mustafa 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? "On Wednesday, UN humanrights envoy to Palestine Richard Falk called the ongoing Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip a "crime against humanity. "Abu Hassira, a Moroccan Jew who was believed to work miracles, came to Egypt in the 19th century.

Cairo protests anti-Israel demos at its Iran mission
Brenda Gazzar, Jerusalem Post 12/11/2008
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry summoned a Cairo-based Iranian diplomatic official into its office Tuesday to express its anger over recent student demonstrations outside the Egyptian diplomatic mission in Teheran, the Iranian FARS news service reported Wednesday. The Foreign Ministry also issued a statement Tuesday voicing its concerns over the demonstrations staged there from time to time, the agency reported. A representative from the Egyptian Foreign Ministry could not be reached for comment late Wednesday, and The Jerusalem Post could not verify the report. According to FARS, dozens of Iranian students demonstrated against Egypt in Teheran on Monday, chanting, "Death to Israel" and "Death to America" and burning an Israeli flag. The students were protesting "the Zionist regime’s severe crimes in Gaza and Egypt’s collaboration in exerting pressure on the Palestinian people," the agency said.

Protesters try to block truck carrying NIS 100 million en route to Gaza
Haaretz Service and The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 12/12/2008
Protesters rallying for the release of the abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit tried to prevent armored trucks carrying NIS 100 million ($25 million) from entering Gaza on Thursday, one day after Defense Minister Barak approved the transfer to ease the Hamas government’s cash shortage. Despite the protests, the truck arrived safely in Gaza and the transfer has funds has been completed. It was the first time Israel has let money enter Gaza since October. Israel suspended the transfer of cash after Gaza militants renewed their rocket and mortar attacks, in violation of a cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas. The money came from Palestinian banks in the West Bank. Yoel Marshak of the lobby for Gilad Shalit’s release said "a humanitarian crisis in Gaza is not what we’re after, but when money is involved. . .

Israeli minister calls for assassinating Hamas leaders
Palestinian Information Center 12/11/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- The Israeli minister of trade and leader of Shas party, Eli Yishai, has called for targeting the Hamas Movement’s leaders in the Gaza Strip and what he called "terrorist activists" in retaliation to the firing of locally made rockets from Gaza on Israeli targets. Yishai addressing the Israeli mini cabinet meeting on Wednesday also advocated tightening the economic siege on the Strip. The minister’s call coincides with he Israeli leadership’s threats to launch a large-scale military offensive against Gaza. Israeli resigning premier Ehud Olmert said during a tour of Sderot settlement, adjacent to the Gaza Strip, that Hamas should know that Israel is capable of attacking and not only defending itself. Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni voiced similar threats on Tuesday during a visit to Askalan, located north of the Gaza Strip, saying that Israel should respond to the firing of missiles from Gaza.

Haaretz: Alzahar of Hamas Says Shalit Can Be Released in a Day
Rami Almeghari&Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 12/11/2008
Israeli online paper, Haaretz, reported Thursday that the Gaza-based senior Hamas leader, Mahmoud Alzahar, said that captured Israeli soldier Gil’ad Shalit could be released in a day if Israel has the courage to release Palestinian prisoners. "What Israel needs is to gather the courage to release jailed Palestinian prisoners", Alzahar was quoted as saying. Over the past two and a half years, Egyptian mediation efforts have failed to bridge the gap between Israel and the ruling Hamas party in Gaza, which holds Shalit, over a list of Palestinian prisoners Hamas wants to see freed from Israeli jails in exchange for Shalit. Also, the influential Hamas leader turned down an Israeli request, via the International Committee of the Red Cross, calling for crews of the ICRC to visit Shalit, as ’ posing a security risk’. However, Alzahhar maintained that his party takes good care of its prisoners.

Bereaved mother to Olmert: Free my son’s Hamas killer for Shalit
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 12/11/2008
Esther Wachsman, the mother of IDF soldier Nachshon Wachsman, who was kidnapped by Hamas gunmen and killed during a commando rescue mission, told outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that she would support releasing prisoners who had a hand in her son’s death. "I told [Olmert] that I cannot sleep at night," Wachsman told Channel 2 on Thursday. "That I am speaking as a mother and not an objective citizen. I cannot imagine what it is like to know how bad things are for your son for 900 days. After I saw what happened to Gilad Shalit, I was actually happy that my tragic story ended quickly. " Wachsman said she told the premier that "if Gilad comes home, give them my son’s murderer. I give up on the murderer of my son. My Nachshon will forgive me. "Despite the difficulty in seeing her son’s killer free, Wachsman said she does not wish to see Shalit’s family suffer any more.

Livni: We can’t always bring troops home
Daniel Edelson, YNetNews 12/11/2008
Speaking on 900th day since Gilad Shalit’s abduction, Kadima chairwoman and premiership hopeful says ’we all want Gilad to come back home, but part of the willingness to fight is the understanding that we don’t have any other choice. ’ Hamas is not a partner, she adds -On the 900th day of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit’s captivity in Gaza, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said, "We cannot always bring all of them (soldiers) home. "In a meeting with students at a Tel Aviv high school on Thursday, the Kadima chairwoman said, "The thought that I can free Gilad and am not doing it is a horrible thought. "We all want Gilad to come back home, but part of the willingness to fight is the understanding that we don’t have any other choice. There is always a risk of casualties, and it’s not always possible to bring everyone back home. "Regarding complications in the Gaza Strip, Livni said, "The long term goal is to bring down the Hamas government. Hamas is not a partner. "

Outrage over Livni’s statements on Shalit
Daniel Edelson, YNetNews 12/11/2008
Public organization dedicated to securing release of kidnapped soldier furious at foreign minister for saying Israel ’can’t always bring everyone home,’ lament decision to transfer 100 million shekels to Gaza Palestinians - "As a leader Tzipi Livni should do absolutely everything to find out what’s happening with Gilad Shalit," an irate Yoel Marshak told Ynet on Thursday afternoon. Marshak, who chairs the Headquarters for the Release of Gilad Shalit, was responding to comments made earlier in the day by Foreign Affairs Minister Livni. "We cannot always bring all of them home," she told students at a Tel Aviv high school during a discussion on Shalit the day the country somberly marked his 900th day in captivity. "The thought that I can free Gilad and am not doing it is a horrible thought.

’Politicization of human rights celebration was disgraceful’
Allison Hoffman, Jerusalem Post Correspondent, Jerusalem Post 12/11/2008
Israel’s UN ambassador accused a top UN official Thursday of trying to block her participation in this week’s 60th anniversary commemoration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Ambassador Gabriela Shalev told The Jerusalem Post she believed General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann broke with tradition and initially decided to limit speeches by regional representatives after learning that Israel would represent Western Europe at the podium. "It was supposed to be something festive and instead it became again a fight from the Israeli mission," Shalev told the Post. She also criticized d’Escoto for leaving Wednesday night’s special plenary session early after agreeing to open the floor to speakers from regional groups, including Shalev, as well as to Egyptian diplomats representing the Arab League and a separate bloc of non-aligned countries.

Praise for Hitler comes back to haunt member of Netanyahu’s party
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 12/12/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: A far-right Likud party member has become a thorn in the side of the ultra-hawkish party’s leader Benjamin Netanyahu, a frontrunner in the race to become Israel’s prime minister, as media reprint comments he made praising the Nazi system and denigrating Arabs. Moshe Feiglin, 46, has a strong chance of winning a parliamentary seat after gaining significant support within Likud, at a time when Netanyahu is seeking to soften the image of the right-wing opposition party. But Likud’s governing body on Thursday pushed Feiglin down to the 36th place on the election slate from the 20th slot following an appeal by a Netanyahu ally citing irregularities in Monday’s party primary. The support that Feiglin and other radical Likud members won at a party election to name parliamentary candidates for February’s legislative elections was a sharp blow for Netanyahu, a former prime minister.

Netanyahu to ’Post’: I’m in charge, I set the policies
Gil Hoffman, Jerusalem Post 12/11/2008
Celebrating the sidelining of his Likud nemesis Moshe Feiglin, Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday night, that only he would determine the party’s policies no matter who was on the list. Netanyahu tries to minimize ’Feiglin effect’ - "I am the Likud’s leader, and the MKs understand that I set the policies," Netanyahu said. "All of the MKs except maybe one will follow my commitment to achieving peace and security with reciprocity. "I will pursue this from a large Likud in a broad national-unity government, which is important for the challenges that lie ahead require the most experienced leadership, which I intend to provide. " Netanyahu’s campaign to block Feiglin from entering the Knesset leaped forward on Thursday night when the party’s election committee demoted Feiglin from the 20th slot on its candidates list to the 36th.

Feiglin uninvited to Likud briefing
Amnon Meranda, YNetNews 12/11/2008
Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu is still under great pressure following hardliner Moshe Feiglin’s election to fill the 20th slot on the party’s new Knesset roster. A special meeting is expected to take place Thursday afternoon at the party’s Tel Aviv offices in order to brief the first 40 candidates on the Likud’s Knesset list. The current Knesset members and Netanyahu himself are not expected to participate in the event, but there is one new candidate who was not even invited – you guessed it, Feiglin. In the event, the movement’s campaign managers are set to present the new candidates with the party’s media strategy in the coming months, and to brief them on how to interact with the media. "I did not receive any invitation to such an event, but I’m already used to their tricks," the excluded candidate told Ynet in response after being informed about the meeting.

Haifa: Hadash supports Yisrael Beiteinu candidate
Sharon Roffe-Ofir, YNetNews 12/12/2008
City councilmen from Arab party support nomination of Yulia Shtraim, whose party leader has previously promoted idea of transferring all Israeli Arabs outside of country. Balad member: ’Hadash must redeem itself before Arab public’ -Members of the Haifa City Council belonging to the Hadash movement supported the nomination of a member of the Yisrael Beiteinu Party to the city council this week. The move surprised a number of councilmen, who wondered at the Arab sector’s representatives showing support for a candidate belonging to a party that has previously voiced the idea of transferring the Arab population of Israel to outside its borders. On Tuesday four of Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav’s deputies were brought before the council for approval. Yulia Shtraim, of Yisrael Beiteinu, was among the candidates approved by the council members by a majority of 21, including two Hadash members.

New regulations to restrict police use of ’Big Brother Law’
Shelly Paz, Jerusalem Post 12/11/2008
Regulations on implementing the Communications Data Law that limit police access to information obtained by cellular and Internet companies were approved by the Knesset Law Committee on Thursday. The Communications Data Law, also known as the "Big Brother Law," was approved in December 2007 and allows the police to easily obtain information about anyone in Israel from the cellular and Internet companies to establish a national data pool. The new regulations determine that from the moment the data pool is established, the police will not be allowed to ask the companies for information that includes names, ID numbers, addresses and phone numbers without a specific court order. The Law Committee learned during its deliberations that the police has been asking for and receiving information from private telephone and Internet companies about certain people without presenting. . .

Netanyahu exalts in triumph over Feiglin
Amnon Meranda, YNetNews 12/12/2008
Few tears were shed by Likud chairman and his associates for hardliner rival after trouncing his ascent in crafty political maneuver. ’Now Bibi can sleep soundly, the Likud has a much better roster now,’ say aides - "We have taken down the flag of rebellion," the Likud Party stated Thursday following the decision of its court to bump hardliner Moshe Feiglin from the 20th slot on the roster to number 36. An associate of Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu added, "Now Bibi can sleep soundly, the Likud has a much better roster. Feiglin, who had announced that he would appeal the decision, later decided against such action, saying, "I don’t believe in the High Court of Justice. They won’t put me in the Knesset. " Netanyahu was informed of the decision shortly after it was made and his associate said, "There were no tears in his eyes regarding the decision and it would be difficult to say he was sorry.

Feiglin won’t appeal bump to 36th spot
Amnon Meranda, YNetNews 12/11/2008
Citing lack of faith in Likud’s internal court system, the proverbial thorn in party chairman Netanyahu’s side waves white flag of defeat after being shoved from coveted 20th slot on roster for upcoming elections to the unrealistic 36th - Moshe Feiglin, the head of the Jewish Leadership Movement who recently landed the 20th slot on the Likud roster for the upcoming general elections, was bumped to the unrealistic 36th spot by the party’s Elections Committee on Thursday. Through his media advisor, Feiglin said he would not appeal the decision in court. "I have no faith in the legal system, the only faith I have is in the Likud voters who will support me wherever I chose to go," Feiglin said on Thursday evening through his media advisor. The statement contradicted his earlier proclamation in which he vowed to appeal the decision to bump him down the list.

4 kids hurt during Eid al-Adha festivities
Hagai Einav, YNetNews 12/11/2008
Safed’s Ziv Medical Center reports of several children suffering eye injuries from fireworks sparks, toys used during Muslim Festival of Sacrifice - Four children aged eight to 14 suffered severe eye injuries in the past 48 hours, after sparks from fireworks used during the celebration of Eid al-Adha, the Muslim Festival of Sacrifice, and toy splinters hit their eyes, Ynet learned Thursday. The children, residents of the northern Israeli villages of Tuba-Zangariyye, Sajor and Salame, have all been admitted at the Ophthalmology Department at the Ziv Medical Center in Safed. Two of the children had to undergo surgery, due to severe risk that they may lose their eyesight. Muhammad Halil from Tuba-Zangariyye, whose 10-year-old son was one of the boys admitted to Ziv, told Ynet about the incident surrounding his son’s injuries: "He asked me for some money on Monday and used it to but a toy gun, like his friends have.

Eid Al-Adha toys injure four children
Ma’an News Agency 12/11/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Four children were injured while celebrating Eid Al-Adha, the Muslim Festival of Sacrifice, with toy guns on Thursday. The children, residents of the Tuba-Zangariyye, Sajor and Salame villages in northern Israel, suffered eye injuries and were taken into the Ziv Medical Center in Safed. Two of them underwent surgery to prevent loss of vision. Toy guns, given as gifts to little boys for Eid Al-Adha, are very popular and in high demand. Muhammad Halil, the father of one of the boys, urged the police and Knesset "to pass a law which would forbid selling such toys, and sanction those importing dangerous toys. ”Despite these injuries, Ziv Medical Center hospital staff noted that public awareness of toy dangers has increased. While 15 children were admitted to the hospital with various extreme injuries in 2007, this year’s children only suffered eye injuries.

Voting among Israeli Arabs estimated to reach all-time low
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 12/11/2008
Israeli Arab activists fear that voting among their sector will reach an all-time low in the upcoming parliamentary elections, which would endanger their representation in the Knesset. A study commissioned by the Association for the Advancement of Democracy in the Arab Sector estimates that 52 percent of eligible Israeli Arab voters are certain they will actually head to the polls, as compared with 53 percent of Israeli-Arabs and 63 percent of Jewish Israelis in the last election cycle. While that is not a significant drop, Wajyah Kayouf, head of the association, said that the actual number of eligible voters that head to the polls will likely be closer to 45 percent. Kayouf said that poll numbers are generally higher than the number of actual voters. He also warned that the immediate repercussions of the lower voting rate would be diminished Israeli-Arab representation in the Knesset.

VIDEO - Palestinian broadcaster in Italy, Rula Jebreal, enjoys increasing acclaim
Haaretz Staff and Channel 10, Ha’aretz 12/12/2008
Haaretz. com/Channel 10 daily feature for December 11, 2008. Palestinian-born Rula Jebreal, one of the most important broadcasters and interviewers in Italy, also happens to be a media darling. Jebreal has become something of a phenomenon in Italy, where she is wildly popular. She is the author of several books, one of which, Miral, is being made into a movie by acclaimed director Julian Schnabel. Jebreal, an outspoken figure on foreign affairs and immigration, is well-known for her tough interviewing style. And while Italy has treated her well, Jebreal, continues to yearn for her family in the occupied territories. [end]

Poll: If elections were held today, Fatah would win over Hamas
DPA, Ha’aretz 12/12/2008
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ secular Fatah movement would beat the radical Islamic Hamas movement if elections were held today, according to a Palestinian public opinion poll published Thursday. Support for Hamas has nevertheless stabilized after months of decline, said the poll conducted by the Ramallah-based Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research. The poll also found out that nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of Palestinians believe that Abbas’ term as president should end on January 9, as Hamas demands, and a larger number demand holding early presidential and legislative elections, as Abbas wants, if internal Palestinian reconciliation talks fail. 74 percent of the respondents support the renewal of the ceasefire between Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, and Israel.

Trade deficit at $1.2b per month
Adrian Filut, Globes Online 12/11/2008
Central Bureau of Statistics data shows that Israeli exports are plummeting. Israel’s trade deficit averaged $1. 2 billion a month in January-November 2008, amounting to an annualized $14 billion, the Central Bureau of Statistics reports. The trade deficit is 37% higher than the $10. 7 billion trade deficit in 2007. Import of goods totaled $4. 7 billion in November, export of goods totaled $3. 8 billion, and the trade deficit totaled $900 million. Central Bureau of Statistics data shows that Israeli exports are plummeting. Exports of goods, excluding diamonds fell by an annualized 9. 5% in trend figures for September-November, after remaining unchanged in June-August. High-tech exports, 42% of total exports of goods excluding diamonds, fell by an annualized 7. 4% in September-November, after falling by 5. 4% in June-August.

Court rules Ramallah loan is Palestinian jurisdiction
Noam Sharvit, Globes Online 12/11/2008
The "natural forum" for hearing a claim is the country with the strongest connection to the dispute. The Hadera Magistrates Court has thrown out a claim by the Palestine International Bank against an Israeli Arab on the grounds that the Palestinian Authority courts were the appropriate forum in which the case should be heard. The "natural forum" for hearing a claim is the country with the strongest connection to the dispute. When ruling on the appropriate jurisdiction for claim, the court takes a two types of considerations into account - convenience, which covers matters such ease of the access by all parties to evidence, the ability to subpoena witnesses and recover any related costs, the difficulty, if any, in enforcing the judgment: and significant considerations relating to the rational expectations of the parties and the impact that the manner of judicial proceedings could have on the claim.

Governor heads Minnesota delegation to Israel
Ran Dagoni, Washington, Globes Online 12/11/2008
Governor Tim Pawlenty will avoid political issues during the visit: "As you know, I am not the vice president. "Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty is heading a 40-person delegation to Israel that arrived today. Pawlenty will participate in next week’s "Globes" Israel Business Conference 2008, where he will try to "market" - his word - the state to Israelis. In an interview with "Globes" on the eve of his departure, Pawlenty said that the goal of his visit was to build strategic relations between Minnesota and Israel, and to seek Israeli investment in venture and companies in the state. "Israel has a healthy economy, which is similar to Minnesota’s in stressing innovation, research, and development," he said. "This visit is an opportunity for companies from Minnesota, especially in high tech, to create ties with potential and promising partners for reseach or trade.

Top executives from Atlanta head to Israel
Globes'' correspondent, Globes Online 12/11/2008
An Atlanta business delegation will travel to Israel, looking to expand Israeli investments, and will attend the "Globes" Israel Business Conference. A delegation of high ranking business executives from Atlanta, Georgia is due in Israel as part of the American-Israel Chamber of Commerce, Southeast Region mission, for a whirlwind week of meetings with local business leaders and government officials. The group anticipates that these meetings will lead to mutually beneficial investment and economic development opportunities. While the group is in Israel, they will participate in the "Globes" Israel Business Conference 2008, and also meet with representatives from the Israel Export & International Cooperation Institute, and the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor. With strong representation from energy, bio-tech, water technologies and. . .

Madas predicts housing prices to drop
Michal Yoshai, Globes Online 12/11/2008
"The property market responds slowly to the economic slowdown", notes the site. "It seems that the income-producing properties market is responding slowly to the general economic slowdown, and prices are not falling in most of the country, and actually rose slightly," says second-hand e-commerce site Madas Madas adds, "The market is responding very slowly to changes in the stock markets, and it will apparently take time for homeowners to decide to lower prices. However, we believe that prices will begin to fall in the coming months. " Madas reports that the apartment rental market is still unstable, with rent falling in some areas, but rising in others. The average rent of a two-room apartment in central Tel Aviv rose 2%, compared with October, to NIS 3,360 a month, and the average rent of a three-room apartment rose by 3% to NIS 4,718.

Treasury enlarges special loan fund
Sharon Wrobel, Jerusalem Post 12/11/2008
The Finance Ministry is planning to increase the government’s loan guarantee fund to NIS 240 million in an effort to encourage banks to lend to small businesses, which are struggling to survive amid the global credit crisis and an economic slowdown. "In particular now during difficult times it is of utmost importance to assist small companies and businesses by increasing the availability of credit sources to this segment," said Shuky Oren, the Finance Ministry’s accountant-general. "Today, the fund offers NIS 200 million of available credit to small businesses and we estimate that the amount will grow to a quarter of a billion shekels. " As part of its economic stimulus package, the government will contribute another NIS 40m. to the fund and the banks will raise the amount to NIS 240m. , out of which 70 percent is state-guaranteed.

Aviv Abutbul arrested as police crackdown on mob continues
Yaakov Lappin, Jerusalem Post 12/11/2008
Aviv Abutbul, the son of alleged Netanya crime family head Charlie Abutbul, was arrested by the National Fraud Unit on Thursday in an operation police say is part of its war on organized crime. Abutbul was charged with possession of an improvised gun loaded with a bullet and a silencer. Shortly aftertwards, Aviv’s brother, Adam, was also arrested by Netanya police after he was found to be in posession of an IDF-owned firearm. Adam was arrested while driving in Netanya together with four other suspects, who were also taken into custody. A gun and fireworks were discovered in the vehcile during a police search. The suspects will be brought before court on Friday for a custody hearing. Aviv and Adam’s father, Charlie Abutbul, was shot and seriously wounded by two gunmen at a Netanya eatery in September, in an attack that also injured three innocent bystanders.

Carter fleshes out offer to monitor Lebanese elections
Daily Star 12/12/2008
BEIRUT: Former US President Jimmy Carter detailed a proposal to send a monitoring mission to oversee next year’s parliamentary elections during a meeting with Interior Minister Ziad Baroud on Thursday. If accepted, a team would be dispatched from the Carter Center in Atlanta to monitor next year’s vote, which is expected to be extremely close. Baroud welcomed Carter’s suggestion but emphasized that he would need Cabinet approval to formally accept the plan. Next year’s elections are due to be held between April and June, but no date has been fixed by the Interior Ministry as yet. Analysts are predicting a tight race between the anti-Syrian March 14 Forces and the Hizbullah-led March 8 coalition. Baroud said he would be pleased to have Carter’s monitoring team in the country when the vote was held. "We have nothing to hide," he said.

Carter might monitor Lebanon election
Associated Press, Jerusalem Post 12/11/2008
Former US President Jimmy Carter offered Thursday to monitor Lebanon’s parliament elections next year - a vote that will be fiercely contested between the militant Hizbullah group and its rival pro-Western parties. Carter proposed a monitoring mission by his Atlanta-based Carter Center during a Beirut meeting with the interior minister, Ziad Baroud, who welcomed the offer but said the Cabinet must approve it. The vote has to be held between April 20 and June 20, though no specific date has been set. The interior ministry is in charge of organizing and overseeing the elections. Carter also met members of parliamentary blocs, but he did not meet with lawmakers from Hizbullah. The Shi’ite terror group is on the US State Department’s terrorist list. Carter said he is ready to meet with Hizbullah but they refuse to meet current or former US presidents.

Think-tank urges rethink of US policy in Lebanon
Daily Star 12/12/2008
BEIRUT: US policy toward Lebanon has failed in its fundamental objectives of bolstering March 14 Forces politicians and weakening Hizbullah, and should be changed as soon as possible, according to a report to be published by an influential think-tank. The report, commissioned by the US-based Century Foundation, says that it is time for America to replace its "anemic and oftentimes counter-productive policies" of the past three years with a more pragmatic approach. The report notes that while the US has been providing military equipment to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), the types of weapons it has supplied have been heavily influenced by consideration for Israel’s security concerns. As a result, the LAF has been unable to develop into a serious military force, and Hizbullah has been able to continue justifying maintaining its huge arsenal on the grounds that Lebanon has no alternative defense system.

At least 55 killed as Iraqi president survives devastating Kirkuk blast
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 12/12/2008
KIRKUK, Iraq: At least 55 people were killed and 95 were wounded in a suicide bomb attack in a restaurant near the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk on the final day of the annual Eid al-Adha holiday. Families having lunch at the Abdullah restaurant in the city were among the victims of the deadliest attack in Iraq for nearly six months. Local tribal leaders and representatives of Iraq’s President Jalal Talabani, who is Kurdish, were meeting at the restaurant, but they escaped injury as they were in a different room, though four bodyguards were hurt, Sheikh Ali Hussein al-Juburi told AFP. The blast hit the roadside restaurant 15 kilometers north of Kirkuk and 255 kilometers from Baghdad, police officer Salam Zengana told AFP. The Abdullah, which was bustling at the time of the blast, is well known for welcoming people from all local communities - Sunnis Arabs, Kurds, Christians and. . .

Scores die in Iraq suicide blast
Al Jazeera 12/11/2008
A suicide bomber has killed at least 55 people in a Kurdish restaurant, about 5km north of the city of Kirkuk in northern Iraq. More than 100 people were also wounded in the explosion on Thursday, police said. Iraqi and US security forces have sealed off the area. The bombing near the ethniclly mixed city came during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha. The restaurant was full of people eating lunch, with more people present than usual due to the four-day holiday, Jamal Tahir, police chief of Kirkuk, said. "Among the dead are women and children as the bomber blew himself up inside the family section," Ahmad Saleh, an Iraqi journalist who was near the scene of the blast, told Al Jazeera. "The restaurant is a very popular one and has many foreign workers.

US general: Iran less active in Iraq
Associated Press, Jerusalem Post 12/12/2008
Iran is no longer actively supplying Iraqi militias with a particularly lethal kind of roadside bomb, a decision that suggests a strategic shift by Iranian leadership, US and Iraqi authorities said Thursday. Use of the armor-piercing explosives, known as explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, has dwindled sharply in recent months, said Army Lt. Gen. Thomas Metz, head of the Pentagon office created to counter roadside bombs in Iran and Afghanistan. Metz estimated that US forces find between 12 and 20 of the devices in Iraq each month, down from 60 to 80 earlier this year. "Someone. . . has made the decision to bring them down," Metz told reporters. Asked if the elite Iranian Republican Guard Corps has made a deliberate choice to limit use of EFPs, Metz nodded: "I think you could draw that inference from the data.

Iraq urges Obama to talk to Iran
Middle East Online 12/11/2008
BAGHDAD - The Iraqi government on Thursday called on US president-elect Barack Obama and his future administration to open a dialogue with Iran to deal with the Middle East’s problems. "I call on the new administration to open a dialogue with Iran to resolve the exceptional problems which are affecting stability in the region," Ali al-Dabbagh, the government spokesman, said in a statement received on Thursday. "The time has come for a new policy respected by all countries and based on principles of non-interference in states’ internal affairs, respect for the wishes of populations, respect of international law and avoiding recourse to force or threats," said the statement issued after an international conference in Washington in which Dabbagh took part. On Sunday, Obama confirmed his intention to hold talks with Iran, stating his readiness to end a 30-year stand-off between Washington and Tehran.

A Syrian embassy in Beirut - but where, exactly?
Daily Star 12/12/2008
BEIRUT: Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh and Syrian-Lebanese Higher Council chief Nasri Khoury exchanged on Thursday memorandums specifying the locations for the headquarters of their respective embassies in Syria and Lebanon. While both officials refused to reveal details about the future locations of the embassies, news reports said that the Syrian embassy would be located in the Beirut area of Ramlet al-Baida and the Lebanese embassy in the Damascus neighborhood of Abu Rummaneh. Following a meeting with Salloukh, Khoury said that the names of ambassadors were discussed "in secret" between the two countries. He added that the locations of the headquarters would be announced after taking the appropriate measures. Asked about the future role of the Higher Syrian-Lebanese Council, Khoury said: "The presence of the council does not contradict the establishment of the embassy.

RIGHTS: U.S. Arms Deployed in Wars Around the Globe
Ali Gharib, Inter Press Service 12/12/2008
WASHINGTON, Dec 11(IPS) - Pundits these days warn of a Middle East arms race if Iran brings its alleged nuclear weapons programme to fruition, while others fear that missile defence in Eastern Europe could spark escalation involving Russia. But despite all the fear in Washington, it turns out that the U. S. need look no farther than its own shores to find the greatest single source of weapons proliferation around the globe. It’s the U. S, according to a new report from the New America Foundation, which "is the world’s largest arms supplier". And with 23 billion dollars in receipts in 2007 and 32 billion dollars in 2008, including only foreign sales, the U. S. is also cashing in. From escalating hostilities to encouraging human rights abuses, these arms deals have a plethora of potential negative effects. "Arms transfers can serve as. . . "

Haredi surfers interfering in new party’s list
Kobi Nahshoni, YNetNews 12/11/2008
Orthodox internet forums call on surfers to influence Habayit Hayehudi’s online elections for Knesset list: ’We have the power to make a difference’ - Following hardliner Moshe Feiglin’s great victory in the Likud primary elections, sources in the right-wing Habayit Hayehudi ("Jewish Home") party fear external elements will try and interfere in the new party’s election procedure as well. In less than a week, a public council is expected to decide on the composition of the party’s Knesset list. In the meantime, the party has published the 80 names the council will be choosing from. In order to get a feel of the public’s opinion, the council invited internet surfers to vote and exert their influence in favor of their preferred candidate on Habayit Hayehudi’s website. Party officials fear that ultra-Orthodox surfers, who are not among the new party’s potential voters, are taking part in the internet vote. According to estimates, the haredi voters seek to prevent the entry of "as many pluralists as possible" into the Knesset.

Abbas: Israeli issues preventing deal
Jerusalem Post 12/11/2008
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Thursday that the only reason Israel and the Palestinians haven’t reached a peace agreement is because of Jerusalem’s internal problems. In an interview with the London-based daily Asharq Alawsat, Abbas said that he was ready to negotiate with any prime minister elected by Israel in 2009. The Palestinian leader expressed his disappointment with Hamas for preventing Gazan pilgrims from making Hajj to Mecca. He went on to compare the terrorist organization’s takeover of the Strip to a Shi’ite sect that attacked Mecca in the 10th century. Abbas called on Hamas to enter talks with the Fatah-led PA and warned it not to trust any possible change in attitude toward the group by the next US administration. Abbas demonstrated his readiness to hold elections at any given time, but said he would not hesitate to exclude Hamas from participating.

Bibi tells EU he will pursue peace
Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post 12/11/2008
Israel must control the airspace of a future Palestinian state, and that entity would have to be demilitarized, Likud head Binyamin Netanyahu has been telling foreign officials in recent days. Bibi to the EU: I will continue talks with PA - Netanyahu, trying to calm concerns abroad about Monday’s Likud primary and the prospect of the diplomatic process were he to win February’s elections, has assured various international officials since the primary that he would continue with the Annapolis process, but with some red lines. Those red lines - in addition to the demilitarization of a Palestinian state and Israeli control of its air and electromagnetic space - also include a unified Jerusalem under Israeli control, and an Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley. In recent meetings with foreign officials, Netanyahu has conveyed the message that he is a responsible and moderate. . .

Top UK diplomat downplays Blair’s role in boosting Palestinian economy
Ma’an News Agency 12/11/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – The UK’s highest diplomatic envoy to Palestine downplayed on Thursday expectations for the role of Quartet envoy Blair in his role of easing Israeli restrictions on the growth of the Palestinian economy. “I think Blair is trying very hard to do a good job, and anybody who believes that bringing one person onto the scene is suddenly going to transform things … no, of course nobody is going to manage to do that. I think he’s shown great staying power and I think he’s determined to make a difference,” said Richard Makepeace, the British Consul General stationed Jerusalem, at a news conference. Blair, the former UK prime minister, was appointed as the Quartet’s envoy in 2007 with a mandate to rebuild Palestinian economic institutions and work to ease the aspects of Israel’s occupation that hinder the economy of the West Bank and Gaza.

EGYPT: Lack of income main problem for Iraqi refugees
Marwa Awad/IRIN, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 12/12/2008
CAIRO, 11 December 2008 (IRIN) - A first official survey of Iraqi refugees in Egypt tentatively puts their number at 20,000. The product of a year’s field work and analysis by Egypt’s Information and Decision Support Centre (IDSC) and the American University in Cairo’s Centre for Migration and Refugee Studies, the survey (not available on the internet) looked at how and why Iraqis came to Egypt, their population profile, socio-economic conditions, and the main challenges they face. There is some uncertainty about the 20,000 figure as there was no sure way of capturing all the refugees due to the transient nature of their residence, and a degree of mistrust among them of the IDSC, a government body. "Some Iraqis were cautious and reluctant to participate in this research," the IDSC’s Said al-Masry told a discussion panel on the survey’s findings in mid-November.

Men’s Rights Party vies for votes
Daniel Edelson, YNetNews 12/11/2008
’Feminists are destroying this country’, says party leader who, despite annual flop in elections, plans to keep fighting for votes until nature’s laws prevail, putting ’men on top’ -Despite having flunked out of the past three elections, the Men’s Rights in the Family Party has decided to offer itself up to the Israeli voter once again this year due to fears that "the feminists are destroying the country. " The party’s chairman, 54-year old Yaakov Schlusser, has adhered stoically to his ideals throughout the years despite his party’s persistent failures. "Seeing as we live in an extremist feminist state, the entire system is unjust, including the courts, welfare services, the police, and the government," he told Ynet. "The feminists are destroying every good part of this country. A country that doesn’t respect its men has no right to exist.

Kadima gambles with computerized race
Gil Hoffman, Jerusalem Post 12/11/2008
Kadima’s 80,000 members will select their Knesset list by computer and not manually despite the problems with computer systems that plagued the primaries in Labor and Likud, Kadima’s election committee decided Thursday. Labor’s system crashed in their December 2 primary, forcing the party to cancel the vote at noon and hold a revote with manual voting two days later. Likud’s system did not crash entirely in Monday’s primary but many computers broke down, and the system was so complicated that it took voters much longer to vote, creating long lines at polling stations. A Kadima spokesman said the decision was made because Malam, the company that provides the computers, offered to boost the number of polling stations to 600 and provide 400 ushers to explain to people how to vote. Malam wanted to redeem its reputation after the problems in the Likud primary.

IDF soldier convicted of peeping
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 12/11/2008
Corporal serving in one of Israel’s most important intelligence facilities sentenced to three months of base labor after spying on soldiers in ladies’ room -An Israeli soldier engaged in a little bit of extracurricular reconnaissance and was sentenced Thursday to three months of military base labor after being convicted of spying on female soldiers. The soldier serves at the IDF Northern Command’s underground intelligence facility, an important facility in which all of the decisions on northern operations are made. A few months ago, the command’s service conditions officer began to receive complaints from the female soldiers regarding a possible peeping tom in the ladies’ bathroom. Just a short while later, Corporal R. was caught red-handed when a soldier saw him escaping from one of the booths into the intelligence facility.

Pen Ultimate / A few no’s don’t mean a yes
Michael Handelzalts, Ha’aretz 12/11/2008
At first it looked like the beginning of a beautiful, negative campaign. On huge billboards (and various Web sites), you could see a picture of the not-very-photogenic face of Ehud Barak, accompanied by two-word phrases in what is Hebrew, more or less, in four different versions: "lo nechmad" ("[He is] not nice," which is incidentally what former prime minister Golda Meir once said about the Israeli Black Panthers); "lo simpati" ("[He is] not likable"); "lo sahbak" (from the Arabic, meaning "[He is] not your buddy") and "lo trendi" (from the English, "[He is] not trendy"). The phrases are written black on white, and at first you may not have noticed the other word, in red lettering, that appears on all the posters: manhig - meaning, "[He is a] leader. " Very soon it turned out that what seemed to be mudslinging was actually sort of a wallowing in the mud. . .

Analysis: A rightward turn
Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post 12/11/2008
Three polls released since the Likud primary all point to an emerging trend: the Likud, even with Moshe Feiglin - maybe precisely because of Feiglin - is increasing its lead over Kadima. Kadima is slipping, even as Labor rises. According to an Israel Radio poll carried out two days after the Likud primary, were the elections held today, Likud would win 34-35 seats, Kadima 20-21, and Labor 14-15. More significantly, the right-wing bloc would win 69-70 seats, and the left-wing bloc 50-51. Were one only to read the papers, listen to the radio and watch the television, this trend would seem almost inexplicable, as the media have - ever since the Likud primary - waxed near-hysterical over the results, warning that the Likud has been hijacked by the extreme Right and that if we’re not all careful, the country would be hijacked by the fanatics as well.

Cabinet, C’ttee expect to approve safety net next week
Lilach Weissman, Globes Online 12/11/2008
Foreign Minister Affairs Tzipi Livni: The ministries’ officials should immediately carry out the government’s decisions. The Cabinet is expected to approve the safety net for pension savings plan at next Sunday’s meeting after Minister of Finance Ronnie Bar-On and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reached a deal on it. Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni has already voiced her support. Livni said, "The test now is fast implementation of both the economic stimulus and the pensions safety net plans. The ministries’ officials should immediately carry out the government’s decisions. " The ministers from the Labor Party, Shas, and Gil Pensioners Party are not expected to cause trouble. Minister of Housing and Construction Zeev Boim will support the plan, but intends to demand the addition of a clause ordering the establishment of an investigative. . .

The great wall between Iran and the US
Mahan Abedin, Asia Times 12/12/2008
As the Iranian revolution enters its fourth decade, the country’s real leaders, the Shi’ite clerics who control the commanding heights of government, can be forgiven for reminding the world of their achievements. In their 30-year quest to consolidate, widen and deepen the Islamic Revolution of 1979, the high priests of the Islamic Republic have secured an impressive list of achievements; from steering the country towards political and economic independence, and securing a solid core of a highly dedicated grassroots support base in the process, to achieving geopolitical dominance in the Middle East. But arguably their biggest achievement has been to emerge as the most serious and effective anti-American force in the world. Simply put, in the global arena, the United States does not recognize a bigger ideological and security threat than the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Tehran calls in French ambassador for lecture on insulting remarks by Sarkozy
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 12/12/2008
TEHRAN: Iran has summoned the French envoy to Tehran to protest at critical comments by President Nicolas Sarkozy about his counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, state television reported on Thursday. Sarkozy said he could not even sit at the same table as Ahmadinejad and that he does not represent the people of Iran. The Foreign Ministry summoned Bernard Poletti on Wednesday to express "its strong objections to the recent interfering comments by the French president," according to a ministry statement. The ministry also said it warned Poletti "about the repercussion on bilateral relations of any repetition of such ill-considered remarks. "The French president said it was "impossible for me to shake hands with someone who has dared to say that Israel should be wiped off the map," and that he would not "sit at the same table [as Ahmadinejad].

Report: Iran arrests nuclear employees suspected of spying
Yossi Melman and Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 12/12/2008
A number of Iranians working for the Islamic Republic’s contentious nuclear program were arrested by state security service agents this week, on suspicion of spying. The arrests were disclosed in a report released Wednesday by Tabnak, an official Iranian news agency with close ties to the Revolutionary Guard - the body overseeing Iran’s nuclear project. The report did not detail how many people were arrested or on behalf of which states they were suspected of spying. Nor did it say which nuclear project or site the suspects were employed with or what positions they hold. Last month, Tehran’s official radio station announced that Iran had dismantled an espionage network allegedly linked to Israel’s Mossad spy agency. General Mohammad Ali Jafari, the chief of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, said the alleged network. . .

Iran arrests blogger who visited Israel
Associated Press, Jerusalem Post 12/11/2008
A well-known Iranian-Canadian blogger who made trips to Israel in the past has been detained in Iran only weeks after he returned to his homeland, according to a family friend. Hossein Derakhshan, who lived in Canada and helped ignite the blog boom in Iran in 2001 by posting simple instructions on how to create sites in Farsi, was arrested on Nov. 1 by six agents who came to his home in Teheran, said Nazli Kamvari, a fellow blogger who lives in Toronto. He has been held at an undisclosed location ever since, she said. Derakhshan has disappeared since that time, but Iranian authorities have not confirmed his arrest. Kamvari said she has been in contact with his family, who gave her permission to announce his detention because the brief calls they were allowed with Derakhshan in custody had stopped about two weeks ago.

Israeli animated feature ’Waltz with Bashir’ nominated for Golden Globe award
Nirit Anderman and Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 12/12/2008
The Israeli animated feature film "Waltz with Bashir" was nominated on Thursday for a Golden Globe Award for best foreign language film. The International Documentary Association named "Waltz with Bashir" best feature-length documentary of the year last Thursday. The animated film, which describes director Ari Folman’s efforts to fill in the gaps in his memories of his military service during the First Lebanon War, shared the prize with the British-American production "Man on Wire," directed by James Marsh. The latter tells the story of tightrope walker Philippe Petit, who captured world attention in 1974 when he walked a wire between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York. However, "Waltz with Bashir" suffered a disappointment two days later, when it competed in four categories of the European Film Academy’s annual awards.

Google reports Israeli’s most-searched terms
Tzahi Hoffman, Globes Online 12/11/2008
Products developed at Google’s Tel Aviv center gave global results as well. Israeli Internet surfers apparently like games; it was the most frequently used search word in the past year on the Google search engine. Google Inc. (Nasdaq: GOOG) today published its annual Zeitgeist survey, which provides a perspective on the year’s important events and trends. The survey covers 36 countries, including Israel. After "games", the most frequently used search words by Israeli surfers were Walla, Nana, Mekusharim (an Israeli social network), and YouTube. The most frequent query in Israel in 2008 was the "Big Brother" reality show, followed by Channel 10, the song "Matai Nitnashek" (When will we kiss), the "Survival" reality show, and iPhone. The most frequent searches in the global Zeitgeist survey were Alaska Governor and former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, and FaceBook.


Illusions in Gaza
Amira Hass, Ha’aretz 12/11/2008
      The first thing that captures your eyes, after two years away, is a visual quiet. Gone are the flags of every color (including green) that once flew everywhere; the billboards commemorating shaheeds with their weapons, new ones popping up nearly every day; the large banners emblazoned with slogans. Yes, here and there you still come across a tattered flag or faded sign, old graffiti on the walls, or a smiling Arafat beaming down from a giant poster that no one took the trouble to remove, the colors dulled by time. But the loud, aggressive, competitive profusion that was frequently replenished is all gone. Pictures of government officials in Gaza don’t impose upon you, they don’t hang on every corner. Instead, one notices bougainvillea, tree-lined avenues, wrought-iron gates, colorful head coverings. The Hamas government doesn’t need external symbols to prove its strength and announce its presence. The conclusion is obvious as it is.
     A somewhat hasty conclusion - or a partial one, to be more precise. When there is no political competition, someone said to me, there’s no need for its outward expressions. Are there really no rivals (Fatah, in other words), or have they been silenced? Around November 11, the anniversary of Yasser Arafat’s death, the Palestinian police in the Gaza Strip worked to conceal any symbols related to the date, the man and the movement - in addition to prohibiting the staging of any memorials.

Testimony: Jewish settlers assault family in Hebron

Report, B''Tselem, Electronic Intifada 12/11/2008
      Raja Yusef Rashid al-Matariyeh, 40, married and a mother of five children, is a homemaker and a resident of Hebron. Her testimony was given to Issa Amro at the witness’ home on 7 December 2008:
     My husband and I live with our five children in Wadi al-Hussein. My brother-in-law Husni al-Matariyeh and his family live in the same building. He has 10 children.
     The building is located about 20 meters from the fence of the Kiryat Arba settlement and 200 meters from the house that the settlers invaded about a year and a half ago ["the House in Dispute"]. Settlers have been assaulting us almost every day for a long time. Since they invaded the house, they’ve been attacking us even more.
     Twenty days ago, when the high court decided that they had to leave the house, settlers cut the wire fence surrounding Kiryat Arba close to our building. The army hasn’t fixed the fence since then.
     On Saturday, 29 November, settlers threw stones at our house. To defend ourselves, we threw stones at them, and they ran away. That same day, an officer from the Civil Administration came to our house and told us: "You are our responsibility, and we’ll protect you." He asked us to file a complaint with the police. We told him, "We’ve already complained a lot of times, and it never helps." But he insisted, so the next day, my husband went to the Israeli police station and filed a complaint against the settlers who attacked our house.

What was wrong in apartheid S. Africa is wrong in Palestine

Ida Audeh writing from Boulder, Colorado, US, Electronic Intifada 12/11/2008
      Try talking in Boulder, Colorado about Israel’s policies in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and you might think you had stepped into a time warp: a time when "foreigners" and their religion could be trashed with impunity, colonialism was something to be proudly embraced, and apartheid in South Africa still had supporters.
     In September, I participated in what was supposed to be a panel discussion following a performance of "My Name is Rachel Corrie." The play is based on the diaries and emails of 23-year-old Rachel Corrie, who was killed by an Israeli bulldozer in the Gaza Strip in March 2003 as she stood to defend a Palestinian home from demolition.
     The play describes the conditions facing Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, whose ability to resist their own destruction was steadily and systematically being undermined by Israel. Today, of course, the situation is much worse. Who would have thought that Israel would be able to hermetically seal the Gaza Strip and prevent food, medicine, fuel and electricity from reaching 1.5 million Palestinian residents -- impose collective punishment on a civilian population, which is a war crime -- for months on end and not face international sanctions.

The house on Hayarkon Street

Gideon Levy, Ha’aretz 12/11/2008
      Human excrement, probably belonging to a homeless person, lies on the floor of my office. There is no flooring, only sand; there are no walls, only the skeleton of a building. This was my office, and across from it was the office of the chairman and the secretary general. On the floor above us was the conference room, below us the foreign liaison department. Only the last vestiges remain, I find among the ruins a yellowish coupon for lunch in the restaurant. With a coupon like that I used to eat, every noontime, every day. Boiled chicken and rice with Shimon Peres, schnitzel with Israel Galili, vegetable soup with Yigal Alon - for four years of my life.
     From 1978 to 1982, this legendary building at 110 Hayarkon Street, Tel Aviv - Labor Party headquarters - was my second home. The no-parking sign at the entrance was removed just at that time; until then parking had been reserved only for the cars of the ministers, with special three-digit license plates, but those were the party’s first days in the opposition and the sign was suddenly removed. Gad Yaacobi and Israel Yeshayahu had to look for parking on the adjacent streets.

Solidarity, not charity, for the people of Gaza

Ewa Jasiewicz, Electronic Intifada 12/11/2008
      International Human Rights Day is observed on 10 December, and it’s time we turned the rhetoric of human rights into reality. Together with the Free Gaza Movement, I am commemorating Human Rights Day this year in Gaza, a tiny strip of land wedged between Israel and Egypt, home to 1.5 million human beings, and subject to an increasingly brutal war being waged against its civilian population by the state of Israel.
     We mounted this mission to give our solidarity to the people of Palestine and to highlight the strangulating conditions Israel causes in besieged Gaza. The inhumane effects of this siege threaten to stunt an entire generation -- both in terms of physical and mental growth due to malnutrition, terrorization by bomb attacks, incursions and the use of sonic booms -- but also in terms of the generation of students who have won places at academic institutions around the world but cannot fulfill them, and those undermined on the ground in Gaza by a lack of food, medicine, electricity, materials and the peace and space to make good use of them in.

Analysis: Cruelty and silence in Gaza

Jonathan Spyer, Jerusalem Post 12/11/2008
      Unremarked upon by the Western media, a systematic campaign of persecution is taking place in the Gaza Strip, and to a lesser extent in the West Bank. The general silence surrounding this campaign aids its perpetrators. The victims are Palestinian Christians, in particular the small Christian community of Gaza.
     The perpetrators are a variety of Islamist groups, all of which are manifestations of a process of growing Islamic militancy and piety taking place across the region.
     The Christian population of the Gaza Strip is small - 2,000-3,000 people. Gazan politics has long been characterized by a conservative, Islamic bent. Gaza’s Christians as a result have tended toward political invisibility.
     Since the Hamas coup of July 2007, this position has become increasingly untenable. Islamist organizations, empowered by the indifference of the authorities, have begun to target Christian institutions and individuals in Gaza with increasing impunity. Intimidation, assault and the threat of kidnapping are now part of daily reality for Christians.

On life support

Editorial, The Guardian 12/12/2008
      Anyone who thinks that the status quo in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is acceptable should talk to a doctor from Gaza. There is an acute shortage of all drugs, and a complete lack of all cancer and cystic fibrosis medication. The hospitals have generators, but often no fuel, and switching from mains to an emergency supply wrecks the equipment. One of the strip’s three CT scanners is bust because of fluctuations in current. This also makes the temperature control of incubators for newborn babies unreliable. There have been some transfers of the sick to Israeli hospitals, but none to Egypt. According to one source, more than 230 patients died last year waiting for a permit to leave.
     The list goes on: the majority of Gaza’s children present the symptoms of mild or severe post traumatic stress disorder. About 45% of children under five have iron deficiency from lack of fruit and 18% of children have stunted growth. There is one other statistic: 71% of children interviewed at a school recently said they wanted to be a "martyr".

A talker, not a doer

Akiva Eldar, Ha’aretz 12/11/2008
      "Not only is the law-enforcement situation in the territories not satisfactory, it is at a very low level." This sharp statement is not the conclusion of an investigation by the Yesh Din human rights organization, which revealed that a mere eight percent of the files concerned with offenses by Israelis against Palestinians ended in indictments. Rather these are the words of the attorney general, Menachem Mazuz, speaking two years ago at a legal conference in Caesarea.
     No Israeli attorney general has succeeded in gaining control of the legal jungle that exists in the settlers’ state. But the shortcomings of his predecessors do not free Mazuz of responsibility: Both as the supreme governmental-legal authority and as the person responsible for the general prosecution, he has contributed a substantial chapter of his own to the story.
     It is therefore not surprising that the settlers of Hebron were amazed last week by the determination of the law-enforcement arm to evacuate the so-called House of Contention. In March 2006, the High Court of Justice ruled that the settlers who had taken over the house belonging to Zakariya al-Bakri in the Tel Rumeida quarter of Hebron must be evacuated. The trespassers left the house, but they were speedily replaced by a new batch of invaders. In response to an appeal from Peace Now, who turned to him for help, Shai Nitzan, the deputy to the state prosecutor, responded in January that the owner "can of course use the civil process to get rid of the squatters."

Middle East Peace Needs Political Bailout

Osama Al-Sharif – Amman, Palestine Chronicle 12/11/2008
      At the crux of things is the Palestinian problem.
     It’s bailout time! As the world economic crisis worsens, banks, mortgage companies, auto giants and other troubled businesses are desperate for government intervention. Multi-billion dollar stimulus packages have already been adopted by European and American governments. China, Japan and other Asian countries have already stepped in to rescue ailing industries and support financial institutions. A number of Arab governments are working to limit the effect of the global financial meltdown on their economies through hefty cash injections, ad-hoc incentives and deposits guarantees.
     President-elect Barack Obama wants to bailout America’s auto industry, which is on the verge of bankruptcy. The Bush administration has pumped $20 billion to save beleaguered Citi Group, the largest bank in the world. A few weeks ago, US Congress approved a $700 billion rescue package to buy risky debts from banks.
     The full extent of the damage to world economy is yet to be measured. This is one storm that refuses to blow away, and it is now clear that the financial crisis will continue for most of 2009.

Music and Peace

Daniel Barenboim – New York, Palestine Chronicle 12/11/2008
      Daniel Barenboim’s West-Eastern Divan.
     The sovereign independent republic of the West-Eastern Divan, as I like to call the orchestra I founded with Edward Said to promote dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians, began as an unpredictable experiment in 1999.
     Over the years, it has grown into an example of how Middle Eastern society could function under the best of circumstances. Our musicians have gone through the painful process of learning to express themselves, while simultaneously listening to the narrative of their counterparts. I cannot imagine a better way of implementing the first and most fundamental article of the United Nations’ declaration of human rights: that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, that they are endowed with reason and conscience and should act toward one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
     Unfortunately, today in the Middle East, not all human beings are granted the same freedom and equality in dignity and rights. The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra is a musical organisation, not a political one, but for the approximately six-week duration of its annual existence it is able to provide its members with one basic need: equality.