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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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13 December, 2008

Lebanese coalition files War Crimes complaint at ICC in The Hague
Ma’an News Agency 12/13/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – A Beirut-based coalition filed an appeal at the Human Rights Court in The Hague charging Israel and five of its leaders with egregious violations of International law and the Rome Statute stemming from Israel’s actions its continuing blockade of Gaza. Filing the complaint was Lebanese lawyer May El-Khansa, who arrived in Holland on 9 December with a delegation of attorneys to meet with International Criminal Court officials. The complaint requests that the ICC conduct the investigatory its work inside Gaza, given that the Rome Statute allows the Court to ’Circuit’ and travel to an area where Rome Statute crimes are alleged to be occurring. The complaint was filed on 10 December, the date that marks the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Those charged with War Crimes in the complaint are:Outgoing Israeli Prime. . .

Tulkarem area sees clashes with Israeli forces; nearby arrest of two farmers
Ma’an News Agency 12/13/2008
Tulkarem –Ma’an – Two incidents in Tulkarem district Saturday saw clashes erupt with Israeli forces and two Palestinians arrested, one of them a young boy. The town of Anabta east of Tulkarem was invaded with three Israeli military vehicles and a number of ground troops Saturday evening, local residents reported. The foot-soldiers became embroiled in clashes with village youth after they threw stones and empty bottles at the soldiers, who retaliated with live bullets and gas bombs. Though the clashes calmed down after an hour the troops remained in the town as of press time. Several kilometers away near the illegal Israeli settlement of Avne Hefez a Palestinian farmer and young boy working alongside him. The 15-year-old Subhi Barqawi and 20-year-old Baha’ Yaseen Saleh were working on lands abutting the settlement when they were arrested, and were taken into the area for questioning.

Madoff Wall Street fraud threatens Jewish philanthropy
Gabrielle Birkner and Anthony Weiss, The Forward, Ha’aretz 12/14/2008
The arrest of Wall Street trader Bernard L. Madoff, who federal agents say defrauded investors of an estimated $50 billion, has had immediate consequences in the Jewish philanthropic world. Madoff was arrested Thursday for allegedly defrauding his clients of $50 billion in a massive pyramid scheme over the course of several years. He was released on a $10 million bond. A lawyer for Madoff told the Wall Street Journal: "Bernard Madoff is a longstanding leader in the financial-services industry with an unblemished record. He is a person of integrity. He intends to fight to get through this unfortunate event. "One charity already closed and insiders are worried that the ramifications of Madoff’s financial demise may extend to the many organizations he supported and the wealthy Jews he advised. -- See also: Yeshiva U. may be a victim of $50b. scam

UNSC nears first Mideast plan in 5 years
Associated Press, Jerusalem Post 12/13/2008
For the first time in five years, the UN Security Council (UNSC) is poised to adopt a resolution calling for collective peace in the Middle East. Council members met Saturday in a closed-door emergency session to discuss a US-drafted resolution, strongly backed by Russia, that appeared to have near-unanimous support. A vote on it by the 15-nation council is expected Tuesday. The two-page draft resolution calls on Israelis and Palestinians "to fulfill their obligations" under last year’s peace deal brokered at Annapolis, Maryland, and for all nations and international groups "to contribute to an atmosphere conducive to negotiations. " The council would reiterate "its vision of a region where two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, live side by side in peace within secure and recognized borders.

Fifty-four trucks enter Gaza, fulfilling 25 percent daily need
Ma’an News Agency 12/13/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - Fifty-four truckloads of goods, including 11 loads of humanitarian supplies, were allowed into Gaza from Israel on Friday while fuel pipelines remained closed. The supplies are 25 percent of pre-siege levels, and even less of predicted need. Gazan officials say between 400-600 truckloads of goods per day are necessary to maintain the region, and during the last year supplies have been egregiously restricted. According to a UN report released Thursday the average number of goods transferred into Gaza in October this year was 123. In May 2007 the average approximately 475 trucks a day. On Thursday the UN reported the transfer of less than 100 truckloads of goods including 21 loads of humanitarian supplies. UN reports also stated that small amounts of industrial fuel was made available for the Gaza power station, though areas served by the facility. . .

Report: Palestinian prisoners in Israel victims of medical neglect
Ma’an News Agency 12/13/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an - Palestinian Prisoners Society confirmed Saturday that many Palestinian prisoners are suffering from different illnesses in the Israeli detention facility of Gilboa Prison in Israel just north of the West Bank city of Jenin. Prisoners say their maladies are caused by medical negligence on the part of the prison administration. The Prisoners’ society released a report on the conditions of life for Palestinians in the prisons shortly several lawyers with the organization visited the facility. Conditions that confronted legal staff lead to a call to allow prisoners to receive checkups from medical personnel, and for those prescribed medication to be granted access to it.

Israeli military court to former PLC member: Come back to prison
Ma’an News Agency 12/13/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - Former Palestinian Minster of Finance Omar Abd Ar-Razeq was asked by the Israeli Military Attorney on Saturday to turn himself into Israeli authorities in order to serve a five month prison term starting Monday. In an interview with Ma’an Ar-Razeq indicated that he would indeed turn himself in on Monday. He said he would be transferred to Ofer prison near the West Bank city of Ramallah, where he would spend an unknown number of months in detention. Ar-Razeq was arrested in 2006 after Palestinian factions in Gaza captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Though many ministers were charged, they are generally seen to be held as collateral for Shalit. Ar-Razeq initially spent 26 months in prison and was released in August 2008 and appeared before an Israeli court again in November, at which point his sentencing was postponed.

Israel holds up over 100 busses of Hajj pilgrims at Allenby Bridge
Ma’an News Agency 12/13/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Hundreds of Hajj pilgrims coming back from Saudi Arabia are waiting for Israeli inspections at the Allenby Bridge crossing en route to the West Bank on Saturday. Ma’an’s Saudi Arabia correspondent said that hundreds of pilgrims were stuck between the Jordanian and Israeli side of the Allenby Bridge as a result of "very slow inspections at the Israeli side. " Pilgrims appealed to the Israeli and Jordanian authorities to speed up inspections in order for them to get home. Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority (PA)’s Crossings and Borders Department announced that the Allenby Bridge Crossing would be open for 24 hours on Saturday to allow the passage of Hajj pilgrims into the West Bank from Jordan. Hajj pilgrims began to arrive on Saturday morning and the crossing will continue receiving pilgrims through the night and into Sunday, the PA announced.

Allenby Bridge open 24 hours on Saturday
Ma’an News Agency 12/13/2008
Jericho – Ma’an – The Palestinian Authority (PA)’s Crossings and Borders Department announced that the Allenby Bridge Crossing will be open for 24 hours on Saturday to allow the passage of Hajj pilgrims into the West Bank from Jordan. Hajj pilgrims began to arrive on Saturday morning and the crossing will continue receiving pilgrims through the night and into Sunday, the PA announced. Meanwhile, hundreds of Hajj pilgrims coming back from Saudi Arabia were waiting for Israeli inspections at the Allenby Bridge crossing en route to the West Bank on Saturday afternoon. Ma’an’s Saudi Arabia correspondent said that hundreds of pilgrims were stuck between the Jordanian and Israeli side of the Allenby Bridge as a result of "very slow inspections at the Israeli side. "

Al-Khudari denounces Livni’s statements; Palestinian unity includes those in Israel
Ma’an News Agency 12/13/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Tzipi Livni’s statements indicating there would be no place for Palestinians in Israel if a Palestinian state is formed reveals Israel’s intentions towards their minority population, said member of the Palestinian Legislative Council Jamal Al-Khaudari on Saturday. Al-Khudari, who is also head of the popular committee against the siege, said Livni’s statements all but called for expelling Palestinians who have remained in the borders of the state of Israel since 1948. He said the incident should remind Palestinians that unity is essential, and must include Palestinians living in the state of Israel as well as Palestinians who are members of rival factions. All Palestinians and the international community should reject statements like Livni’s and push Israel to comply with international law and human rights codes.

Hezbollah slams ‘racist reality’ of Israel
Middle East Online 12/13/2008
BEIRUT - Lebanese Hezbollah accused Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Saturday of wanting to expel Arab Israelis after saying their national aspirations lay outside the Jewish state. "It is not at all surprising that an Israeli official would hold this position, for the Zionist plan is essentially based on expelling an entire population from its land," a Hezbollah statement said. "We point out these comments to the international community, which continues to ignore the racist reality of the Zionist entity. "As long as blood continues to flow in the veins of the resistance, all of Palestine will remain Palestinian," it added. On Thursday, Livni said "my solution for maintaining a Jewish and democratic state of Israel is to have two distinct national entities. " Once a Palestinian state is established, she said she would "be able to approach the Palestinian residents. . .

Local activists vow to block rightist march through Umm al-Fahm ’with their bodies’
Eli Ashkenazi and Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 12/14/2008
When the High Court of Justice decided at the end of October to allow right-wing activists to demonstrate in the northern Arab city of Umm al-Fahm, Menashe Regional Council head Ilan Sadeh asked police to block the protest. Now, one day before the planned rally, Sadeh says it would seriously harm the social fabric of cooperation and tolerance between ethnic groups in the area, and is planning a counter-demonstration. "We plan to physically prevent the right-wing activists from entering Umm al-Fahm," he said. Members of the regional council are expected to join volunteers from the Kibbutz Movement, which called on members "to come and form a human chain against the provocative acts of the extreme right. "Senior police officials have said they have the authority to block the rally in order to maintain public order and prevent a confrontation.

Israeli forces shut down Hebron Eid festival
Ma’an News Agency 12/13/2008
Hebron – Ma’an – Israeli forces prevented a festival commemorating the fourth day of Eid in the West Bank city of Hebron’s Old City on Saturday, according to event organizers. Soldiers shut down a children’s rally for a local scout group that was heading to a park in the Old City, where the activities were scheduled to be held. A member of the Eid Festival Committee, Majed Abu Sbubeih, claimed that the Israeli procedures amounted to “a continued policy carried out against Hebron,” noting that the yard adjacent to the Ibrahimi Mosque is reserved for Palestinians’ use. [end]

Tensions rise as end to Hamas cease-fire nears
Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 12/14/2008
Israeli defense officials are expecting a tense week along the Israel-Gaza border, as the six-month cease-fire (tahadiyeh in Arabic) between the Israel Defense Forces and Hamas comes to an end on Friday. Major General Amos Gilad, the head of political military policy at the Defense Ministry, was expected to fly to Cairo Sunday morning to meet with top Egyptian intelligence officials to discuss the Egyptian-brokered cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, set to expire December 19. The assumption in Jerusalem is that while Hamas will seek to extend the cease-fire, the Islamic organization will try to alter the terms of the agreement to allow it to continue firing rockets and mortars at the western Negev at will. In the coming days, Israeli defense officials expect Hamas to increase the number of provocative attacks against. . .

Barak: Shalit one of reasons for lull
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 12/13/2008
Defense minister responds to Foreign Minister Livni’s remark that not all troops can be returned, saying Israel must do everything to secure kidnapped soldier’s release, should therefore favor truce over wide-scale operation in Gaza. ’In order to bring Gilad back we’ll have to make tough decisions, but I’m willing to take this responsibility. ’ - Defense Minister Ehud Barak responded Saturday to Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s remark that "not all troops can be returned", saying that Israel must do everything to secure kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit’s release. Speaking at an event in the central city of Holon, the Labor chairman said, "We mustn’t kid ourselves. In order to return Gilad we’ll have to make tough decisions, some of which also hold risks, but I’m willing to take the responsibility in order to see him among us. The last think we should do is renounce responsibility. "

Israel in favor of extending Gaza lull
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 12/13/2008
Defense Ministry’s Amos Gilad to travel to Egypt to relay message that State will continue ceasefire in Gaza if Hamas adheres to all terms, ceases its fire towards Israel - Israel supports the continuation of the ceasefire in Gaza – if Hamas adheres to the conditions. This is the message Amos Gilad, the head of the Defense Ministry’s Diplomatic-Security Bureau, intends to relay to Egypt. Gilad will also seek to determine what progress has been made in the negotiations for the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. Gilad is scheduled to leave for Cairo tomorrow, where he will meet with Egyptian Intelligence Minister Omar Suleiman. His trip had been planned as one unrelated to the ceasefire agreement’s expiration on December 19, however the visit will stress Israel’s views on the matter. The Defense Ministry stated that over the last week the artillery fired by terrorist organizations in Gaza has decreased, and that Hamas is assumed to support the extension of the ceasefire agreement with Israel.

Quds Brigades: Calm cannot be extended while IOF aggression persists
Palestinian Information Center 12/13/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Quds Brigades, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad Movement, has warned the Israeli occupation forces of attempting to invade the Gaza Strip, adding that any such adventure would be met with strong resistance. The armed wing said in a communiqué on Friday that extending the calm agreement between the IOF and Palestinian factions in Gaza was no longer acceptable in the light of the IOF continued aggression, crimes and siege against the beleaguered Strip. Israeli threats and calls to launch a large-scale military operation against the Strip and to assassinate resistance leaders reflect "desperation and failure", it said, adding that the threats further reflect the "Zionist arena’s political and military mess". "We will defend our people and leaders and we will resist occupiers with all our might and potentials and we will not be terrorized by such threats," the armed wing asserted.

Zahhar: ''A *Prisoner Swap Deal Can Be Reached in a Day''
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 12/13/2008
Dr. Mahmoud Zahhar, one of the political leaders of the Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip, stated on Friday, that a prisoner swap deal which would see the release of the captured Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, in exchange for releasing Palestinian detainees, could be reached in one day, the Arabs48 news website reported. Dr. Zahhar added that this can be possible if Israel forms a courageous government that agrees to release Palestinian detainees who are sentenced to life terms. The statements of the Hamas leader came in an interview with Israeli Radio on Friday. He said that the Israeli demands to allow the Red Cross to visit Shalit cannot be granted due to security concerns, and added that Hamas is fulfilling its responsibility and taking care of Shalit. The Israeli Ministerial Committee in charge of the affairs of Palestinian detainees approved last Sunday a list of 230 detainees. . .

Barak sends Amos Gilad to Cairo in attempt to extend Gaza truce
Yaakov Katz, Jerusalem Post 12/13/2008
Defense Minister Ehud Barak has dispatched Maj. -Gen. (res. ) Amos Gilad to Cairo for talks on Sunday on extending the cease-fire in the Gaza Strip. Barak supports the extension of the truce, despite the firing of over 200 mortars and rockets into Israel in the past month. Top IDF officers, however, have called for the resumption of military operations against Hamas in the Gaza Strip when the six-month cease-fire expires on Friday. In the latest violation of the faltering truce, Gaza terrorists fired a Kassam rocket into the western Negev on Saturday afternoon. Two rockets were also fired Friday morning. No casualties or damage were reported in the attacks. RELATEDMortar shells, Kassams land in w. NegevOn Thursday, the IDF raised its level of alert along the Gaza border amid fears that Hamas may. . .

PRC spokesperson: ''Shalit deal suspended until Israel fulfills our demands''
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 12/13/2008
Abu Mojahid, the spokesperson of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), one of three groups holding the Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, stated on Saturday that talks on the release of Shalit are suspended until Israel fulfills the demands of the resistance. Abu Mojahid added that the resistance insists that any prisoner swap deal should be based on releasing the detainees from occupation prisons, "therefore, the occupation must her to our demands, and until this happens the case of Shalit will remain closed". He added that the statements of the Israeli Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, regarding the captured soldier, and her threats to displace the Arabs in the country, are an indicator that the Israeli society is heading towards further extremism. Abu Mojahid said that Livni’s statements prove that Israel is the side obstructing prisoner-swap talks.

Barak: Schalit release not at any price
Jerusalem Post 12/13/2008
Defense Minister Ehud Barak reiterated on Saturday the government’s wish to see kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit home safely, but emphasized that this would not be achieved "at any price. " Barak, who made his comments at a ’Shabbat Tarbut’ function in Holon, responded to comments Foreign Minister and Kadima leader Tzipi Livni made on Thursday, when she hinted at the possibility Israel could not secure Schalit’s release by saying the State could not return every soldier. "I’m not too sure that I understand [Livni’s] statement"¦ I have buried many soldiers who were killed and did not return. We have the highest responsibility to return a soldier who is alive and in captivity through suitable and possible methods, but not at any price. "The path to Gilad’s return demands difficult decisions which entail certain dangers.

Scottish pro-Palestinian group ’fabricates’ story of Israeli boycott
Jonny Paul, Jpost Correspondent In London, Jerusalem Post 12/13/2008
A local council in Scotland has emphatically denied the allegation made by a pro-Palestinian fringe group that it had been pressured by the group to boycott and terminate a contract with an Israeli mineral water supplier. West Lothian Council called the claim made by the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC), that they were responsible in part for the termination of contracts for water coolers with Eden Springs, "a total fabrication. " Earlier this month, the SPSC announced that Eden Springs had closed its East Scotland depot in Loanhead, near Edinburgh, after a number of Scottish companies had cancelled contracts with the Israeli company because of "violations of international and human rights law. " They said the closure of the depot and loss of contracts was "widely recognized within the industry to be due in part to a determined publicity campaign by the SPSC. "

A ’rabbi’ in the underground
Zvi Bar''el, Ha’aretz 12/14/2008
Daniel Levi, Daniel Guney or Tuncay Guney? Who is this person whom the prosecution in Turkey last week said it wanted to summon to interrogate? According to reports in the Turkish newspaper Milliyet, he is a Mossad agent who was a member of the right-wing nationalist underground known as Ergenekon. It is alleged that Ergenekon planned to topple the pro-Islamic government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Another Turkish newspaper, Yeni Safak, reported that documents were found in Guney’s apartment that allegedly link members of Israel’s business community with important Turkish figures also involved in the Ergenekon affair. According to other reports in the Turkish press, Guney was an agent of the Turkish intelligence service who penetrated both the ranks of the Turkish police’s intelligence service and the Ergenekon organization so as to expose the identity of its members.

UN Secretary General: End the occupation of Palestine
Ma’an News Agency 12/13/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The UN’s top leader said on Saturday that the need to support peace in Israel and Palestine is “urgent. ”UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon sent a message to the United Nations Latin American and Caribbean Meeting in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace, which was delivered by Alicia Bárcena, executive secretary of the UN Economic Commission of Latin America and the Caribbean, in Santiago, Chile. “The international community recognizes the urgent need to continue supporting the parties in their efforts to reach a comprehensive agreement on all permanent status issues,” he said. Ki-Moon added that “the goal of such an agreement is clear: an end to the occupation that began in 1967, and the establishment of a Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel.

UN chief to host Quartet meeting in New York
Ma’an News Agency 12/13/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon will host a meeting in New York on Monday, “in the search for a solution to the Middle East conflict,” his office said in a statement on Friday. Attendants are expected to be Ki-Moon’s top diplomatic partners engaged in resolving the conflict, “based on the principle of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace. ”Representatives from the US, EU and Russia will join European Commissioner for External Relations Bettina Ferrero-Waldner at UN Headquarters in New York, while French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, representing the EU Presidency, joins Quartet envoy Tony Blair via video-link. The International Quartet – the UN, EU, Russia and US – has been trying to help the parties attain a two-state peace settlement for several years now.

UN Security Council extends Golan Heights mandate
Ma’an News Agency 12/13/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The United Nations Security Council on Friday extended the UN force observing the ceasefire between Israel and Syria on the Golan Heights for another six months, until 30 June 2009. The 15-member body voted unanimously to renew the mandate of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), which was established in May 1974. The latest move was recommended by Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in his latest report on the mission. “The situation in the Israel-Syria sector has remained generally quiet,” he wrote. “Nevertheless, the situation in the Middle East is tense and is likely to remain so, unless and until a comprehensive settlement covering all aspects of the Middle East problem can be reached. ”Under the prevailing circumstances, he Ki-Moon maintained that the continued presence of UNDOF in the area is “essential. ”

UN Security Council to discuss peace process at special session
Ma’an News Agency 12/13/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The UN Security Council announced plans to hold a special session on Tuesday to discuss the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. The meeting is expected to involve top-level government officials, who will ratify a non-binding declaration on the issue. Organizers did not specify what exactly they plan to ratify. US officials hope the special session will encourage both sides to continue their efforts toward achieving a two-state solution, according to statements made by US Permanent Representative to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad at a news conference in New York on Saturday. One of Russia’s UN delegates, Vitaly Ivanovich Churkin, added that the peace process has reached a sensitive stage and that it is essential to carry on negotiations. The Security Council has never conducted joint efforts to support the peace process, Churkin noted.

Hamas: Quartet stand a stab to Palestinian democracy
Palestinian Information Center 12/13/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Hamas has belittled importance of the international quartet committee’s meeting in New York next week, calling on the joint Arab delegation to attend the meeting to demand breaking the siege on Gaza Strip. Hamas MP Mushir Al-Masri told Quds Press that the quartet committee’s stands were a stab to the Palestinian democracy and an attempt to override the Palestinian people’s choice. The quartet committee has asked the Palestinian unity government, grouping Hamas, to recognize Israel, renounce "terror" (resistance) and accept previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements Quartet’s insistence on its "undemocratic" conditions meant that nothing beneficial is expected from it, he asserted, adding that Hamas believes that such meetings were "futile" since nothing is achieved in them. However, the Arab delegates are called upon to try and change the quartet committee’s position. . .

Hamas: UNSC meeting on settlement process deceptive
Palestinian Information Center 12/13/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Hamas described the UN Security Council’s session to support and encourage the peace process between the Palestinians and Israel as a "new deception", and added that continued talk about peace was a waste of time. Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza Strip, said on Saturday that the American UN representative’s statement that the session would be to encourage the Palestinian and Israeli parties to complete the peace process was an attempt to deceive the world public opinion into believing that progress was being made in this process. The step is aimed at renewing confidence in the UNSC, which is under American hegemony, the spokesman said, adding that the UNSC had failed in providing the minimum requirements of security for the Palestinian people or in supporting any of its right and constants and displayed clear bias in favor of Israel despite its crimes against the Palestinians.

Hamas spokesperson slams US call for Security Council session
Ma’an News Agency 12/13/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum on Saturday described the US call for a UN Security Council session to discuss the peace process as “a new trick” aimed at misleading public opinion in the world. “This session comes after Palestinian negotiators’ expectations of any US support for Palestinian rights proved to be false,” Barhoum explained. He added that the session was aimed at renewing confidence in the UN Security Council, which is dominated by the US, after the failure to provide even minimum security for the Palestinian people. “The UN Security Council is one-sided with the Israelis and the crimes they commit against the Palestinian people,” he insisted. Barhoum added that talking about peace efforts would be waste of time, and that the Security Council should take immediate action to lift the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip and provide the Palestinian people their inalienable rights.

UN set to adopt resolution urging Israel, Palestinians to continue talks
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 12/14/2008
The United Nations Security Council is expected to adopt a resolution on Tuesday calling on Israel and the Palestinian authority to continue negotiations on the core issues during the course of 2009, after both the Israeli and Palestinian leaders have completed their terms, in efforts to achieve "two states for two peoples. "The core issues on the negotiations table between Israel and the Palestinians include the fate of Jerusalem, parts of which the Palestinians envision as the capital of their future state, the fate of the Palestinian refugees, and the borders of a future Palestinian homeland. Sources in Jerusalem said that the move was likely to force Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu to commit to the peace deal brokered at the November 2007 Annapolis conference, should he be elected prime minister in February, as polls predict.

Hamas says not planning to appoint next Palestinian president
Ma’an News Agency 12/13/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – A senior Hamas leader denied media reports claiming the movement intends to swear in Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) member Ahmad Bahar as Palestinian President on 10 January. PLC member Salah Al-Bardaweel said in an interview on Saturday that the reports are “incorrect. ”“Hamas does not intend to appoint Bahar president as according to the Palestinian basic law, (current Palestinian President Mahmoud) Abbas’ office ends on 9 January and PLC Speaker Aziz Dweik, who is jailed in Israel, fills the post for 90 days during which he calls presidential elections,” Al-Bardaweel told Ma’an. With regard to the proposed extension of Abbas’ tenure, Al-Bardaweel said it depends on the Cairo dialogue and that the issue is one portion of a comprehensive “package” including restructuring the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Palestinian Authority (PA) security services.

Former intelligence chief calls for unity, disparages Hamas
Ma’an News Agency 12/13/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The former head of Palestinian Authority (PA) Intelligence Services holds Hamas responsible for the current internal division and sees the split between Palestine’s major parties as a force ‘tearing the country apart. ’Giving an interview on Saturday Tawfiq At-Tirawi, who was suddenly shuffled out of the top job of Head of Intelligence to a position in the officer training wing of the forces, said that although he held Hamas responsible for the initial break, he also held Fatah responsible for failing to reunite the country. At-Tirawi traced the current political crisis to June 2007, when Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip. After this political moment, he said, the Palestinian cause became isolated; this isolation and fragmentation only serves Israel. On Hamas At-Tirawi noted that the Party has made many mistakes, starting with the 2007 “coup,” and. . .

MP Barghouthi castigates Abbas for calling for elections in WB only
Palestinian Information Center 12/13/2008
RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- MP Dr. Mustafa Al-Barghouthi has described PA chief Mahmoud Abbas’s call for early general elections in the West Bank without the Gaza Strip as "insane and a crime". Barghouthi in a statement on Friday warned of not holding the elections in all Palestinian areas or else he said it would be serving the "Zionist scheme aimed at endorsing the complete separation of the West Bank from the Strip". He also warned of tampering with those elections, and stressed that extending Abbas’s tenure would weaken his position before Israel that would spread doubts about the presence of a leadership capable of representing all Palestinians. The MP proposed formation of a transitory national government that would prepare for simultaneous presidential and legislative elections and that would ensure integrity of those elections.

Hamas Declares High Alert Ahead of its Grand Festival in Gaza
Rami Almeghari&Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 12/13/2008
The ruling Hamas party in Gaza declared a state of high alert ahead of its grand festival, marking the twenty-first anniversary of its establishment. The Hamas-led police forces began deploying hundreds of personnel on main crossroads and streets in Gaza , in preparation for the festival that is due to be held on Sunday at one of Gaza City’s public squares. A statement by the party read that such a move has been coordinated with the Ministry of Interior and that deploying security forces across the region is aimed at preserving order and security. Hamas wrestled for control over Gaza in June, 2007, amidst factional fighting with the Fatah party, lead by Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas. Last January, the Hamas-led Ministry of Interior prevented a similar festival by the Fatah party in Gaza because of security concerns.

Abbas returns from Saudi Arabia after Hajj pilgrimage
Ma’an News Agency 12/13/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas returned home from Saudi Arabia on Friday after performing the Hajj pilgrimage, according to state news agency Wafa. Abbas was accompanied by Fatah Secretary-General At-Tayyib Abd Ar-Rahim and the Palestine Liberation Organization’s chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, as well as Palestinian Minister of Agriculture and Social Affairs Mahmoud Al-Habbash, the official news agency reported. The report suggested that the current relationship between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia could be described as a “golden era” in bilateral relations. Meanwhile, a Hamas official was quoted as accusing Saudi Arabia and Egypt of political plots against Hajj pilgrims from the Gaza Strip.

Hamas prepares for 21st anniversary celebration
Ma’an News Agency 12/13/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The Hamas movement on Saturday began preparations for a major festival on Sunday commemorating the 21st anniversary of the movement’s founding. The celebration has been titled, “The West Bank and Gaza…Unity and Dignity,” according to a statement. The festival will be held at Al-Katiba Square in Gaza City. De facto government Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh is scheduled to deliver a major speech and de facto government police will deploy officers from Saturday onwards in every district in order to “maintain security and order. ”Hamas said in a statement that the movement submitted an official application to the de facto government’s Interior Ministry for approval to carry out the festival. The Hamas-run de facto Interior Ministry approved the application. Despite the pomp, Hamas denied media reports claiming that the movement intends to swear in Palestinian. . .

Doctors worry about Gazans’ reliance on sedative painkiller
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 12/14/2008
The new drug overtaking the Gaza Strip doesn’t stimulate hallucinations or boost endurance at the dance club. It merely chills you out, which is exactly what many Gazans say they need. Ruled by Islamic hard-liners from Hamas and locked in by Israel and Egypt, Gazans can’t travel outside the strip, have few places to go for fun and are faced with a failing economy. Thus the boom in the popularity of tramadol, a painkiller known here by a common brand name, Tramal. Growing numbers of Gazans have begun using the drug over the past year and a half to take the edge off life in the impoverished seaside strip, pharmacists and residents say. This worries medical personnel, who say the drug can cause dependence. It is a prescription drug in many countries, and the Hamas-run Health Ministry has made efforts to control it, but without much success in a society where medicines available only by prescription elsewhere are often sold over the counter.

Gaza students leave on activists’ ship
Associated Press, YNetNews 12/13/2008
International activists say have helped 11 university students leave blockaded Strip by boat in defiance of Israel, add around 700 students accepted at foreign universities are still stuck in Gaza - International activists say they have helped 11 Gaza university students leave the blockaded territory by boat in defiance of Israel. Ramzi Kysia of the Free Gaza movement said Saturday that the students sailed on the vessel Dignity and reached Cyprus on Friday. He says the students are enrolled at universities in Europe and Canada. Israel and Egypt largely sealed Gaza after the Islamic militant group Hamas seized the coastal territory last year. Some university students have been allowed to cross through Israeli and Egyptian crossings. Activists say round 700 students accepted at foreign universities are still stuck in Gaza.

Palestinian journalists slam Israeli news blackout in Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 12/13/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – A letter from five major players in Palestinian and international media called on Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to lift a ban on journalists in the Gaza Strip. The secretary general and president of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Aidan White and Jim Boumelha, respectively, signed the letter. IFJ is the largest journalists’ union in the world, maintaining some 600,000 members. General Secretary of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) Jeremy Dear and Gerry Morrisey, general secretary of Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph and Theatre Union (BECTU) signed, as well as Betty Hunter, general secretary of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC). The letter read, “We the undersigned support the calls from the biggest news agencies in the world including the BBC, CNN, Reuters and the Foreign Press Association, who are calling on Israel to lift its current ban on foreign journalists.

PLC member says next Free Gaza ship coming from Lebanon
Ma’an News Agency 12/13/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – A ship loaded with medical supplies for the Gaza Strip will depart from the port of Beirut in ten days, according to Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) member Jamal Al-Khudari. The independent member of the PLC told Ma’an on Saturday that Lebanese activists are preparing the ship, which he said represents Arab countries’ solidarity with the besieged strip, or what he called the “Ships Uprising. ”He called on all Arab and Islamic countries, as well as foreign countries, to take part in that “uprising,” as well, asserting that the siege has destroyed the environment, health and economy in the Gaza Strip. He highlighted that a ship with parliamentarians from Israel and another from the Iranian Red Crescent plan to set sail next week. De fact government spokesperson Tahir An-Nunu expressed his government’s appreciation of all the efforts to break the siege on the Gaza Strip.

Abu Zaid lashes out at Israeli violations of Palestinian rights
Palestinian Information Center 12/13/2008
GENEVA, (PIC)-- Karin Abu Zaid, the UNRWA commissioner general, has called for protecting the Palestinian people’s rights, describing continued Israeli violation of those rights as a "shame". In a speech delivered on her behalf at the UN premises in Geneva on the 60th anniversary of the human rights declaration, she said, "Let us materialize the vision of the signatories to the international declaration, continued failure to observe that is an international shame". The inhuman closure of the Gaza Strip, the collective punishment against its inhabitants and the 600 roadblocks in the West Bank are a sorrowful reminder of the world community’s failure to apply article 13 of the international declaration concerning the freedom of Movement, the UNRWA chief underlined. She pointed to the soaring death rate in the Palestinian lands, noting that more than 500 Palestinians died this year including 37 children.

Gaza Strip banks to remain open through Saturday
Ma’an News Agency 12/13/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Banks in the Gaza Strip will remain open on Saturday to continue payments of Palestinian Authority (PA) civil servant salaries that were delayed until Friday due to a cash shortfall. Banks in the Gaza Strip are typically closed on Fridays and Saturdays, yet they opened this weekend due to the exceptional circumstances. Sources told Ma’an that civil servants began withdrawing their salaries on Thursday afternoon through automatic teller machines (ATMs) after Israeli Defense Ministry Ehud Barak approved the delivery of some 100 million shekels from the West Bank to banks in the Gaza Strip. On Friday, sources within the Gaza Strip banking sector indicated that salaries delayed by the currency shortage and Israel’s refusal to allow shekel transfers into the region were available. Israel prevented the transfer of cash into Gaza for two months as a response. . .

Ship smuggles out Gaza students
Al Jazeera 12/13/2008
At least 11 university students from Gaza have escaped out of the blockaded territory by boat in defiance of Israel. Ramzi Kysia, a member of the Free Gaza Movement, said on Saturday that the students sailed on the Dignity ship, which reached Cyprus on Friday. Kysia said the students had been denied exit visas by Israel to attend their universities in Europe and Canada. Some university students have been allowed to cross through Israeli and Egyptian crossings, but activists say at least 700 students accepted at foreign universities are still stuck in Gaza. Israel and Egypt largely sealed Gaza after Hamas, a Palestinian faction, seized the coastal territory from rivals Fatah last year. The Free Gaza Movement has been sailing ships to Gaza for several months, highlighting the plight of the residents and bringing in urgently needed medical supplies.

VIDEO - Gaza… oh beloved Gaza
Sonja Karkar, Palestine Think Tank 12/13/2008
This video describes in pictures and words the shocking details of Israels deliberate ravaging of Palestinian life and society in Gaza. Its purpose is to call attention to the plight of a people under siege, which so far has been chillingly ignored by governments and the world media unwilling to call Israel to account for its criminal execution of the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians from their own land. The video was created by Sonja Karkar for Australians for Palestine on 9 December 2008 using images captured by various courageous photographers on the ground in Gaza, and the haunting sounds of Sada (Echo), composed and played on the oud by Ahmad Al-Khatib. [end] -- See also: Australians for Palestine

Human Rights Anniversary Marred by Violence [Dec. 7 – Dec. 13]
MIFTAH, MIFTAH 12/13/2008
While the settler violence of last week has relatively tapered off, incidents of settlers vandalizing Palestinian homes in Hebron are still being reported. On the eve of December 12, Hebronites in the city’s heart were terrorized by rampaging settlers who slashed their tires and attacked their homes. Furthermore, that same day, 13 year old Yaqoub Qasrawi was shot in the head by Israeli soldiers in Hebron. The boy was seriously wounded and evacuated by the army to Jerusalem’s Hadasseh hospital for treatment. Palestinian sources and eyewitnesses say Qasrawi was standing in front of his house when he suddenly crumbled to the ground. Israeli army sources insist the boy was with a group of youths throwing stones at an Israeli army jeep when he was struck. Rising tensions between Palestinians and settlers in Hebron may very well flair again after a Jerusalem court indicted Zeev Barouda on December 10 on charges of "malicious intent".

Nonviolent Action in Ma’asara Commemorating the First Intifada
IMEMC Staff, International Middle East Media Center News 12/12/2008
The Israeli military suppressed residents from Al Ma’asara village Friday during a popular demonstration against the wall that’s been built on Palestinian lands. This is happening on the 21st anniversary of the first Palestinian Intifada. When the people reached the village entrance, troops fiercly opposed and assaulted them with sticks and the butt ends of their rifles, while forcing the demonstrators away from the confiscated Palestinian lands. Dutch scouts were involved in the demonstration and they played the Palestinian National anthem, while marching on the Palestinian streets as a sign of solidarity with the Palestinian People. A spokesperson for the popular Committee against the Wall said that "today we are standing beside the Greek child that was killed by Greek police in Athens, but who will be standing with us while thousands of our children are killed? "

Israeli Troops Suppress Non Violent Demonstrations in Bil’in and Ni’lin
IMEMC Staff, International Middle East Media Center News 12/12/2008
The people of Bil’in statred a demonstration after Friday’s prayers that included international and Israeli activists, as well as a community from the Bethlehem district. The demonstrators raised Palestinian flags and rang bells for the anniversary of the first Palestinian Intifada that occurred in 1987. The demonstrators marched inside the village, approaching the area where the wall is erected, but the Israeli soldiers stopped them from entering through the main gate. When the demonstrators approached, the Israeli soldiers shot tear gas canisters, sound grenades and rubber-coated bullets at the crowd, which caused many to choke, including Mohamad Basem, an eight year old child, as well as Baasem Abu Rahma, age 30, and Abed Hamamra, age 37. The vilagers of Bil’in have been demonstrating against the wall, non stop, on a weekly basis, for the past three years.

African killed on Israel-Egypt border
Reuters, YNetNews 12/13/2008
Egyptian police shoot dead Togolese man trying to enter Jewish state illegally. Incident brings to 28 number of African migrants killed by Egyptian security on border with Israel this year - For years Egypt tolerated tens of thousands of Africans on its territory but its attitude hardened after it came under pressure to halt rising numbers of Africans trying to cross the border into Israel. - Egyptian police shot dead a Togolese man on the border with Israel late on Friday as he tried to enter the Jewish state illegally, a security source said. The source said a police patrol spotted the 25-year-old man trying to get through the barbed wire on the border and ordered him to stop, opening fire when he did not. He died instantly of a gunshot wound to the head, the source said. His death brings to 28 the number of African migrants killed by Egyptian security on the border with Israel this year. The migrants, mainly from Sudan, Ethiopia or Eritrea, are looking for work or asylum in Israel.

Egypt police kill African migrant on Israel border
Reuters, Ha’aretz 12/13/2008
Egyptian police shot dead a Togolese man on the border with Israel late on Friday as he tried to enter the country illegally, a security source said. The source said a police patrol spotted the 25-year-old man trying to get through the barbed wire on the border and ordered him to stop, opening fire when he did not. He died instantly of a gunshot wound to the head, the source said. His death brings to 28 the number of African migrants killed by Egyptian security on the border with Israel this year. The migrants, mainly from Sudan, Ethiopia or Eritrea, are looking for work or asylum in Israel. For years Egypt tolerated tens of thousands of Africans on its territory but its attitude hardened after it came under pressure to halt rising numbers of Africans trying to cross the border into Israel. In November, U. S. -based rights group Human Rights Watch called on Egypt to stop shooting African migrants.

Carter, in Damascus, predicts improved U.S.-Syria ties under Obama
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 12/14/2008
Former U. S. President Jimmy Carter predicted Saturday an improvement in U. S. -Syrian relations under U. S. President-elect Barack Obama and expressed hope that full diplomatic relations would be restored. Carter spoke to reporters in Damascus following a meeting he held with Syrian President Bashar Assad. He told reporters that the two had discussed the reopening of an American school and a U. S. cultural center in Damascus shut down by Syrian authorities following a deadly U. S. raid in October on a village in northern Syria near the Iraqi border. U. S. officials said the raid targeted a militant leader. Damascus says eight civilians had been killed. Carter said he had full confidence that Obama will carry out the promises he made during his campaign. "I don’t have any doubt that the situation will improve between the United States and Syria after we have a new president," he said.

US demands Syria cooperate on nuke plan
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 12/13/2008
American ambassador to UN nuclear watchdog says Damascus must decide whether it plans to follow in Iran’s footsteps or cooperate on its alleged atomic program. A failure to do so, he warns, would lead to punishment measures - A warning to Syria: US Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Gregory Schulte says Syria has three months – until the United Nations nuclear watchdog’s next governors’ meeting in March – to start cooperating on its nuclear program, or it will be punished. A failure to do so, he warns, will lead to "punishment measures". In an interview published Saturday with the London-based Arabic-language al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper, Schulte said that "the Damascus authorities must decide whether they wish to follow in Iran’s footsteps or cooperate. "Schulte also noted that North Korea has neither denied nor confirmed its involvement in the construction of the Syrian nuclear reactor allegedly bombed by Israel.

Syria’s tepid hope in Obama
Shane Bauer in Damascus, Al Jazeera 12/13/2008
It has been more than a month since Barack Obama was elected US president and with five weeks to go until his inauguration, the excitement in the US is quite palpable. The president-elect continues to make headlines as he begins to outline economic policy and pick known politicians to fill out his cabinet. His latest choices of Clinton-era pundits have created the type of controversy political talk shows crave. However, in conflict regions of the Middle East, which have been a focus of much of America’s foreign policy in the past five years, the reaction ranges from casual indifference to cautious optimism. In a four-part series highlighting Middle East reaction one month on, Al Jazeera looks at the Obama factor in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and the West Bank. The election of Barack Obama may have stirred enthusiasm around the world, but there were no street parties in Damascus on the night of his victory.

Mash’al to meet former US president in Damascus
Ma’an News Agency 12/13/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Hamas leader in exile Khalid Mash’al is scheduled to meet with former US president Jimmy Carter on Sunday in Damascus, a Palestinian political source in Syria said on Sunday. According to the source, the two will discuss a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, as well as the issue of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shallit. Also, Carter said the new US administration should play a role in indirect negotiations between Israel and Syria. He added during a lecture he made at the American University in Beirut on Friday that he hopes the US president-elect will get involved in the Middle East peace process. The former US president went on to say that Iran and Syria could contribute to the ongoing peace efforts in the region. He also expressed his sorrow that Hezbollah officials refused to meet with him during his five-day visit to Beirut.

IAEA to Syria: Cooperate or be punished Staff, Jerusalem Post 12/13/2008
The chief US delegate to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) warned Syria on Saturday that it had until March to begin showing signs of cooperation over its nuclear plan or the country would face punishment. Gregory L. Schulte presented Damascus with the ultimatum ahead of an IAEA meeting scheduled to take place in three months. Schulte told the London-based Arab daily Asharq Alawsat that "Syria must choose whether it plans to follow in Iran’s footsteps or to cooperate. " Schulte said that according to an American investigation, North Korea had not denied involvement in the construction of the alleged Syrian reactor that was reportededly destroyed by Israel in a September 2007 air strike. If Damascus chooses not to cooperate "there will be a negative reaction and serious questions will be raised," the US envoy cautioned.

Carter on mission to improve US-Syria relations
Associated Press, YNetNews 12/13/2008
During meeting with Assad former US president says Israel is sincere in wanting peace with Syria but no ’genuine peace’ can be achieved unless Israel surrenders ’Arab territories it occupies’ - Former US President Jimmy Carter predicted Saturday an improvement in US-Syrian relations under President-elect Barack Obama and expressed hope that full diplomatic relations would be restored. Carter spoke to reporters in Damascus following a meeting he held with President Bashar Assad. Carter said he had "full confidence" that Obama will carry out the promises he made during his campaign. "I don’t have any doubt that the situation will improve between the United States and Syria after we have a new president," he said. The former US president said he hoped a new US ambassador would be sent to Damascus soon.

Jewish settlers shoot, critically wound Palestinian child
Palestinian Information Center 12/13/2008
AL-KHALIL, (PIC)-- A Palestinian child was critically wounded on Friday when armed Jewish settlers encircled a Palestinian house and fired randomly in its vicinity in Al-Khalil city, eyewitnesses reported. They said that the boy was carried to hospital with serious wounds while the Israeli occupation forces command said that the boy was hit with a rubber-coated bullet fired by one of its troops while dispersing a demonstration. It claimed that the boy was throwing stones at the soldiers. Meanwhile, the Bil’in villagers hit the streets of their village following the Friday congregation in their weekly protest march against the Israeli confiscation of their lands to build the separation fence. IOF troops blocked the marchers’ from crossing the main gate in the wall and fired sonic and gas bombs in addition to rubber bullets at them wounding three including an 8-year-old child while tens were treated for suffocation. -- See also: Hebron boy sustains critical head-wound from Israeli fire

Palestinian fighter wounded in IOF shelling, 3 citizens detained in WB
Palestinian Information Center 12/13/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- A Palestinian resistance activist was wounded on Friday evening when the Israeli occupation forces fired a land-to-land missile at a group of resistance fighters in Beit Hanun north of the Gaza Strip. Witnesses reported that the missile exploded near the group of fighters, affiliated with the armed wing of the Popular Front for the liberation of Palestine, injuring one of them. In the West Bank, IOF troops stormed the city of Tulkarem and the towns of Attil and Saida, north of the city, and kidnapped three citizens after breaking into their homes. Local sources said that the pre-dawn raid on Saturday wreaked havoc in the homes of the stormed homes, noting that the civilians were forced out of their homes in the cold weather during the ransacking. A similar raid was reported at dawn Saturday in Nablus city and its refugee camps but no arrests were reported.

Israeli forces seize three Palestinians in Tulkarem
Ma’an News Agency 12/13/2008
Tulkarem – Ma’an – Israeli forces seized three Palestinians from the northern West Bank’s Tulkarem district on Saturday morning, according to Palestinian Authority (PA) security sources. The Palestinians were abducted in two villages near Tulkarem, Atteel and Sayda. PA security sources told Ma’an that the arrestees are 23-year-old Faris Duqqa from Attel, as well as 30-year-old Rasim Raddad and 25-year-old Hamad Ma’roof Hamad from Sayda. Israeli authorities did not immediately announce charges against the men, nor provide any pretext for what the men may have been suspected of doing before they were seized by military forces on Saturday. On Friday, Israeli soldiers seized four Palestinians in the northern West Bank city of Nablus, according to local witnesses. Israeli forces invaded the Ash-Sheikh Imad neighborhood west of Nablus, residents said.

Israeli forces detain, interrogate five Jenin residents
Ma’an News Agency 12/13/2008
Jenin – Ma’an – Israeli forces stormed a village near the West Bank city of Jenin on Saturday, detaining five Palestinians for interrogation before releasing them about an hour later, Palestinian Authority (PA) security sources told Ma’an. Three Israeli military patrols raided the village of Az-Zababida, which is south of Jenin, and seized five residents, who were held at the Salem military base. Local residents told Ma’an that the detainees were questioned about throwing rocks near the separation wall. The same residents claimed that soldiers invade the area “every day,” firing gunshots and percussion grenades. [end]

Israeli soldiers invade Al-Bireh, enter several buildings
Ma’an News Agency 12/13/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – Israeli forces broke into several buildings in the West Bank city of Al-Bireh on Saturday, according to local witnesses. Among the buildings entered in the Ramallah-area town was the Red Crescent Hospital and two banks. Witnesses said Israeli soldiers searched the buildings and took photos of several items inside, including banners. No arrests were immediately reported. [end]

Qurei: Israel continues plan to annex Jerusalem, residents must not be intimidated
Ma’an News Agency 12/13/2008
Jerusalem – Ma’an - Jerusalem residents were warned of an Israeli plan to build synagogues around Palestinian properties and religious sites in the Old City by Senior Palestinian Negotiator Ahmad Qurei. Qurei gave the warning during a tour of the city’s sites vandalized and obstructed by Israeli settlers. He indicated his concern over the plan, especially since it indicated that Qurei’s role as a negotiator was moot, since the plan confirmed Israel’s rejection for a just and comprehensive peace. The systematic changes of the city’ features, as Qurei described them, aroused his skepticism and incredibility towards the peace process. It is a process that will fail without Jerusalem, he said. The siege on Jerusalem is continuing, affirmed Qurei. It is being isolated from other Palestinian neighborhoods and cities; it is surrounded by the wall on three sides.

Qurea: ''Israel is Demanding to Keep 6.8% of the West Bank''
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 12/13/2008
Palestinian negotiator, Ahmad Qurea, stated on Friday that Israel is demanding that it keeps 7% of the occupied West Bank under any permanent peace deal with the Palestinian people. He also said that outgoing Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, proposed that Israel would take in 5,000 Palestinian refugees. Qurea stated that the two Israeli positions are not acceptable to the Palestinian people as Israel should withdraw from all territories it captured after the 1967 war, including East Jerusalem. The right of return of Palestinian refugees is a United Nations resolution, guaranteed under the Fourth Geneva Convention, yet disregarded by Israel. The number Olmert is suggesting does not even represent a fraction of the number of refugees, as estimates revealed that there are nearly seven million refugees in various parts of the world.

Israeli press: Qurei releases information on failed Palestinian-Israeli negotiations
Ma’an News Agency 12/13/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - Details of the Palestinian negotiations with Israel were released on Friday as Head Palestinian Negotiator Ahmad Qurei confirmed Israel would have retained several West Bank settlements and absorbed 5,000 Palestinian refugees if an agreement had been reached. A Friday report by the Israeli daily Haaretz quoted Qurei as saying Israel would have annexed 6. 8 percent of the West Bank including four Israeli settlement blocks, Ariel, Ma’aleh Adumim, Givat Ze’ev and Efrat-Gush Etzion. Qurei said no decision had been reached on the status of Jerusalem. In late August reports that maps for West Bank borders had been drawn up and at least partially Okayed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and confirmation on these maps seems to have been provided by Queri, according to the Israeli press article.

Israel ’wants West Bank land’
Al Jazeera 12/13/2008
Israel has proposed annexing 6. 8 per cent of the illegally occupied West Bank, the chief Palestinian negotiator has said in his first detailed comments about the stalled US-backed negotiations. Israel proposed a swap of some of its own territory in return for the annexed area but the Israeli land was not an equal trade in size and quality, Ahmed Qurei said, adding that the Palestinians rejected the offer. Tel Aviv has also said it would allow 5,000 Palestinian refugees to return to the territories as part of the plan to take the land in the West Bank, Qurei said on Friday. The latest peace efforts were launched a year ago at a US-hosted conference in Annapolis, Maryland, where George Bush, the US president said he wanted to see a deal by the end of his presidency in January 2009.

Gov’t to rethink cash transfers to Gaza
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 12/14/2008
Foreign affairs minister to convene officials from defense establishment, treasury, Bank of Israel to reexamine humanitarian considerations obligating Israel to shuttle shekels from Palestinian banks in West Bank to ones in Gaza - Foreign Affairs Minister Tzipi Livni is scheduled to hold a meeting on Sunday afternoon on the subject of transferring Israeli currency to the Gaza Strip. This in response to the harsh public criticism that arose in the wake of Israel’s to transfer of NIS 100 million to the cash-strapped Strip, still under Hamas rule. The discussion, which will be held after the weekly cabinet session, is expected to include the participation of defense establishment officials, Treasury representatives, Foreign Ministry personnel and representatives from the Bank of Israel. In the initial phase of the meeting Livni will demand an explanation. . .

Hamas’ Zahar: Israeli stubbornness led to Lebanon War
Amira Hass, Ha’aretz 12/14/2008
Israel is a foolish country, according to senior Hamas leader Dr. Mahmoud Zahar. He offered this diagnosis in an interview with Haaretz at his home at the end of November, in response to a question about the fate of the prisoner swap. "What was one of the main reasons the Second Lebanon War broke out? Hezbollah kidnapped and killed Israeli soldiers? What for? To liberate Samir Kuntar. Why? Because Israel refused to release him earlier. And then [Israel] made a war, and was defeated. And then they released Kuntar. Isn’t that foolish? Now they want to repeat the same story: They want to make a laughing stock out of us, or pressure us into striking an undesirable deal. Then the Kuntar experience will be repeated. . . This is something that encourages kidnapping [of more soldiers] because there are a lot of people in jail.

Rocket, mortars land in Negev
Ilana Curiel, YNetNews 12/13/2008
Saturday artillery attacks include Qassam that falls near Sderot, activating Color Red alert, as well as two mortar shells that fall in open spaces. No injuries or damage reported - A Qassam rocket exploded Saturday morning in an open area near the southern town of Sderot. Later two mortar shells landed in open spaces in the Negev. There were no reports of injuries or damage in either case. The Color Red alert system was activated in Sderot and the western Negev at 11:03 am. The residents, who are well accustomed to the daily rocket alerts, entered the reinforced rooms. Western Negev residents reported of an explosion heard near the city. "Fortunately the rocket did not land inside the city," Yehuda Ben Maman, Sderot’s security officer, told Ynet. Two Qassams fired from northern Gaza in the late hours of Friday morning landed in western Negev region.

Israeli author Amos Oz: Arab-Israeli conflict kept alive by fanatics
Haggai Hitron and DPA, Ha’aretz 12/14/2008
Israeli author Amos Oz was presented on Saturday with a top German award for his political and literary work. Oz, 69, was honored by the city of Dusseldorf with the Heinrich Heine Prize for combining "literary creativity with political sensibility and humanistic commitment. " The award, worth 50,000 euros ($66,000), is named after the 19th century German poet. It has been awarded biannually since 1972 to personalities who share Heine’s values of tolerance, human rights and mutual understanding of peoples. Oz, who was born in Jerusalem in 1939, is one of Israel’s best-known authors and political voices. He is a co-founder of the Israeli peace movement and a prominent champion of Palestinian rights. In his acceptance speech, Oz said the Arab-Israeli conflict could only be resolved in the context of European values of tolerance, rationality and pragmatism.

Israel-Palestine panel holds session at UN Latin America meeting
Ma’an News Agency 12/13/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – A panel of five experts on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict analyzed the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, at the headquarters of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in Santiago, Chile on Friday. The panel held talks during the United Nations (UN)’s Latin American and Caribbean Meeting in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace. Speakers at the meeting, which was organized by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and hosted by the government of Chile, spoke of the impact of Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, the effects on Palestinian communities of the construction of the wall in the West Bank, and the need to strengthen Palestinian Authority (PA) institutions.

Palestinian Public Opinion Poll No (30)
Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research - PSR, MIFTAH 12/13/2008
While Hamas Maintains its Popularity Despite Boycott of Reconciliation Talks, and While about Two Thirds Believe that Abbas’s Term Ends in January 2009, Three Quarters of the Palestinians Support Abbas’s Call for New Elections Early Next Year if Reconciliation Efforts Fail and if Elections Can Be Held in Both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip 3-5 December 2008 These are the results of the latest poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip between 3 and 5 December 2008. This period witnessed the collapse of the Egyptian efforts to bring Palestinian factions to reconciliation talks in Cairo due to Hamas’s decision to boycott these talks. It also witnessed serious deterioration in the ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. Total size of the sample is 1270 adults interviewed face to face in 127 randomly selected locations.

Poll: Most Jews feel connection to Hebron
Ynet, YNetNews 12/13/2008
Almost three-quarters of Israeli Jews surveyed feel attachment to West Bank city, with almost half of these attributing this to ’certain Jewish feelings’ -A poll conducted on the heels of the recent eviction of the disputed house in Hebron has revealed that the majority of Israelis, including 61% of the secular population, have some emotional attachment to one of Judaism’s four holiest cities. The survey was conducted forand the Gesher Institute by the Panels Institute, and included 500 respondents that are a representative sample of the adult Jewish population in the country. The margin of error is 4. 5%. Hebron EvictionHebron evacuation completed within hour/ Efrat Weiss (Video) Security forces take settlers by surprise as they storm disputed Hebron house in broad daylight, remove activists barricaded inside.

German Green party received in Ramallah, tours West Bank
Ma’an News Agency 12/13/2008
Ramallah - Ma’an – A German delegation headed by the leader of the nation’s Green Party leader Claudia Ruth arrived in Ramallah for a tour and update on the situation in the West Bank. Receiving the delegation was Head of Fatah bloc in the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC)Azam Al-Ahamad, who highlighted the recent Israeli attacks on Palestinian civilians. Most prominent in his presentation to the group were the events of 4 December when settlers rioted in Hebron and shot two Palestinians. Al-Ahamad told the group such attacks will abort any future opportunities for peace and a two state solution. He demanded the International community and Europe play an expanded role in the peace track, and to put more pressure on Israel to realize a solution for Palestine based on international laws and UN resolutions.

Balad MK Taha announces resignation
Sharon Roffe-Ofir, YNetNews 12/13/2008
Saying time has come to let others have their say, Balad’s Wasil Taha advises current MKs ’you can contribute to society from outside the Knesset too’ - Balad MK Wasil Taha surprised his fellow party members and supporters on Saturday by announcing he does not intend to run in the upcoming general elections. Taha, who served for two terms as a Balad MK, said the time had come for him to vacate his seat and serve society and the party elsewhere. Balad is set to hold its primary elections next week, to determine the party’s roster for the 18th Knesset elections. The support for Taha in the Arab street guaranteed him a surefire top spot on the list, but he chose to step down despite this. "I have served as an MK for two terms, before that I served for 10 years as chairman of a municipality," said Taha, "now I will vacate my seat, the time has come to let others have their say.

Hadash merges with anti-fence movement
Sharon Roffe-Ofir, YNetNews 12/13/2008
Jewish-Arab party’s chairman says union with grassroots ’Tarabut’ movement, which gained reputation by battling separation fence, will help secure more Jewish votes -The Hadash Party’s council approved a merger on Saturday with the socio-political movement ’Tarabut’, in hopes of attracting more voters just before the national elections. "We are a Jewish-Arab political party that has become saddled with the identity of a solely Arab party. We are very proud of all of our Arab members, but we also want to strengthen our image in Jewish circles," Hadash Chairman MK Mohammad Barakeh told Ynet. Tarabut is a grassroots peace movement whose claim to fame rests on its vehement battle against the separation fence. It is also responsible for the establishment of the ’Ir Lekulano’ (A City for All of Us) Party, which gained a considerable foothold in the recent Tel Aviv municipal election.

Meretz to select Knesset list today
Gil Hoffman, Jerusalem Post 12/14/2008
The 1,000 members of the Meretz council will vote for the party’s Knesset list for the February 10 general election on Sunday between 2 p. m. and 9 p. m at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds. Council members will be asked to rank the 22 candidates running for the Knesset. The list’s third, fifth, eighth and 10th slots are reserved for women. The top candidates include current MKs Zehava Gal-On, Avshalom Vilan and Tzvia Greenfield, former MKs Ilan Gilon and Mossy Raz, and new candidates such as Young Meretz head Uri Zaki, handicapped activist Yoav Kreim and human rights lawyer Gaby Lasky. Lasky, 41, was born in Mexico and recently completed an international law degree at Northwestern University Law School in Chicago. She is pregnant with twins. Having been 11th on the Meretz list for the outgoing Knesset, she is now hoping for a higher position.

Fresh faces in the frame as Meretz selects roster
Roni Singer-Heruti, Ha’aretz 12/14/2008
About 1,000 Meretz members who are eligible to vote in the primary are expected to converge on the Israel Trade Fairs and Convention Center at Tel Aviv’s Hayarkon Park this afternoon to choose the list of Knesset hopefuls for their party. The use of the traditional, hand-written ballots will avoid the embarrassment suffered by both Likud and Labor when they opted to introduce computerized voting. The departure of MKs Yossi Beilin and Ran Cohen from the party has enabled the introduction of new blood to the Meretz slate, for the first time in years. In various forums the party’s voters have expressed a desire for fresh faces, regardless of what happens with the partnership shaping up between Meretz and the new leftist movement. Groups of fiveEach voter who reports to the north Tel Aviv polling station today will be given a form for ranking the 22 candidates in groups of five, in order of preference.

Israeli poll favourite Netanyahu reins in right
Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem, The Observer, The Guardian 12/14/2008
Binjamin Netanyahu, leader of Israel’s Likud party and favourite to win the coming general election, has moved quickly in an attempt to head off the sudden rise of hardline right-wingers in his movement. When the Likud held primary elections last week to choose its list of candidates for the February vote, among the successful candidates were men such as Moshe Feiglin, a settler who advocates annexation of the occupied West Bank and who was banned from entering Britain this year because of his extremist views. In public, Netanyahu declared it ’the best team that any party is capable of giving the country’. In private, he was reportedly furious, particularly with the ascent of Feiglin. A successful petition to the Likud election committee has now raised regional representatives up the party list. As a result, Feiglin has been pushed down from 20th place to 36th, which means he may not win a seat. Current opinion polls have Likud well ahead of its closest rivals.

Feiglin promises supporters ’a huge revolution’
Amnon Meranda, YNetNews 12/13/2008
After being unceremoniously bumped to unrealistic spot on Likud roster, Moshe Feiglin prepares his supporters for coup attempt on party leadership. ’It’s important for Bibi and the hidden tyrants that I be kept out of the Knesset,’ he writes to his activists - If Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu thought that bumping Moshe Feiglin from the 20th to the 36th slot on the party’s roster would stymie the latter’s drive - he appears to have been decidedly mistaken. Feiglin hinted at what is to come in a letter sent to his supporters this weekend. A translated version of the letter was also posted to Jewish Leadership Movement’s website, which Feiglin founded and leads. Speaking to Ynet, Feiglin confirmed he intends to run an independent campaign for the Likud - "despite Bibi. "The letter was posted to the Hebrew website under the title - ’Now comes the real test - Bibi’s Likud or the people’s Likud.

Ami Ayalon said to be leaving Meimad
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 12/13/2008
Senior political sources tell Ynet resigning Labor minister, Meimad MK Melchior have reached conclusion cooperation between them not working - Resigning Minister Ami Ayalon, who was set to lead Meimad in the upcoming Knesset elections, is about to leave the left-wing religious Zonist party. Senior political sources told Ynet on Saturday that Ayalon and Knesset Member Michael Melchior, who headed the movement in the past, have reached the conclusion that the cooperation between them was not working, leading to Ayalon’s departure. Ayalon quit the Labor Party several weeks ago. Before joining Meimad, Ayalon also held talks with Meretz. It is unclear if he still plans to run for Knesset and with which party. Only last month, at a Meimad council meeting in Jerusalem, he said that "the surprising combination between me and Rabbi Michael Melchior is the most surprising one in the

Police need NIS 325m to fight mob crime
Jonathan Lis, Ha’aretz 12/14/2008
Two major crime rings are on the verge of collapse after their heads, Yitzhak and Meir Abergil and Ze’ev Rosenstein, were arrested following an extensive American investigation, according to an internal police document obtained by Haaretz. However, the document also states that due to budgetary shortfalls, the police are having difficulty closing intelligence gaps that would help them thwart hits and convict crime bosses. The document, which summarizes the police work of recent years against 11 crime organizations, reveals that the police Investigations and Intelligence Branch needs NIS 325 million to increase their harvest of intelligence information from wire-taps and cellular lines, and for electronic surveillance of rooms, offices, cars and planes used by senior organized crime figures.

Aides to Livni: Get involved in Kadima primary
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 12/14/2008
Senior Kadima officials are calling on party chairwoman Tzipi Livni to be more involved in the primary vote on Wednesday. They say she could in effect find herself facing an opposition faction that would render her nearly powerless, in light of the all-out campaign by rival Shaul Mofaz on behalf of the people who supported his bid for the party leadership, a move aimed at building a power base for himself among Kadima’s MKs. On Thursday, Mofaz put together a list of his recommended voting choices in the primary, and as reported in the Hebrew edition of Haaretz on Friday, he is very involved in trying to influence the party slate for the general election. Reports of his activities whipped up emotions within Kadima. Senior figures close to Livni said they feared Mofaz was trying to take control of the party’s Knesset representation, while Livni. . .

Green Movement elects veteran activists to its Knesset candidates list
Ehud Zion Waldoks, Jerusalem Post 12/14/2008
Green Movement cofounder Eran Ben-Yemini was voted into the top spot on the party’s slate for the Knesset on Friday in a primary at Seminar Hakibbutzim in Tel Aviv. He was followed by cofounder Alon Tal. Ben-Yemini was the founder of Green Course - the national student environmental organization - and currently works at the Heschel Center for Environmental Learning and Leadership in Tel Aviv. Tal founded the Israel Union for Environmental Defense (Adam, Teva, V’din) and the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies at Kibbutz Ketura. No. 3 on the list is Iris Hahn, a city planner affiliated with the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and its Open Landscape Institute. She also represents the environmental organizations on the National Planning and Building Council and various subcommittees.

Yeshiva U. may be a victim of $50b. scam
Allison Hoffman, Jpost Correspondent In New York, Jerusalem Post 12/13/2008
Yeshiva University is trying to determine whether it was among countless investors whose savings may have been wiped out in a $50 billion Wall Street investment swindle that may be the largest in history. Jewish financier Bernard L. Madoff, a legendary investor and longtime university trustee who was the its treasurer and chairman of its business school, was arrested at his Manhattan apartment Thursday on a single count of securities fraud, after being turned in by family members. According to federal prosecutors, Madoff told two senior employees on Wednesday that he had been operating a "giant Ponzi scheme" in which he paid investors out of new funds received from other clients, not from investment returns. Madoff allegedly described his firm’s stellar investment returns as "all just one big lie," saying he had been insolvent for years, and estimated his losses at $50b. -- See also: Madoff Wall Street fraud threatens Jewish philanthropy

More Israelis earn minimum wage as middle class shrinks
Ruth Sinai, Ha’aretz 12/14/2008
The number of Israelis receiving minimum wage or less grew by 22 percent in the past 10 years - from 28. 8 percent of workers in 1998 to 35. 1 last year, according to an annual report being released today by the Adva Center for policy analysis. The middle class also continued to shrink, from 33 percent of all households to 27. 7 percent. This is the tenth such report by the center, which analyzes social equality in Israel. "The decade was marked by decreasing equality and justice in Israeli society," the document states. "On one hand, the government boosted the business sector by transferring pension savings from public to private management, and through tax reductions to corporations and the rich," it said. "On the other hand, the government took steps to undermine some of the most basic socio-economic arrangements including the social safety net, the education system and the public health and housing systems.

Midroog to lower Leumi’s ratings for capital notes
Sharon Shpurer, Ha’aretz 12/14/2008
Ratings agency Midroog is expected to announce it is lowering Bank Leumi’s rating for subordinated capital notes from Aaa,the equivalent of Maalot’s AAA, to Aa1. However, the Leumi’s other ratings, such as for bond issues, are not being changed. Midroog is also expected to lower other banks’ capital note ratings. The agency also provides ratings for Israel Discount Bank, First International Bank, Union Bank and Otsar HaHayal. It does not rate Bank Hapoalim. These subordinate capital notes are similar to bonds, but allow the bank to raise capital counted toward its capital adequacy ratios that it is required to maintain. This capital, and ratio, is the safety cushion the supervisor of banks requires all banks to keep when granting credit. Such capital is considered Tier 2, or supplementary capital, to core Tier 1 capital, which is shareholder’s equity.

High-tech R&D centers facing big cuts
Guy Grimland and Paz Vaysman, Ha’aretz 12/14/2008
When Amdocs decided to close its Jerusalem development center and fire 200 of its workers, it was a very serious sign that the global economic crisis was about to change the Israeli high-tech industry. Even though the billing software giant was born as an Israeli company before turning into an international firm that was traded on the Nasdaq, Amdocs has now decided that it prefers to hire Indian programmers and engineers over Israeli ones (whom it has fired), because they are cheaper. That famous Israeli creativity may be important, but it is certainly no longer an insurance policy against lower-paid overseas workers. Without a doubt, the world economic crisis and recession in the technology industry have hit the big international tech firms operating research and development centers here in Israel.

Obama may make Powell Mideast envoy
Yitzhak Benhorin, YNetNews 12/13/2008
Sources in Washington tell Ynet appointment of Republican statesman as special envoy to Middle East is ’a serious option’. Former chief negotiator Dennis Ross, ex-Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer nominated for role as well - WASHINGTON – A new appointment for the Middle East? US President-elect Barack Obama is considering appointing former Secretary of State Colin Powell as the special peace envoy to the Middle East. Sources in Washington told Ynet on Saturday that Powell’s appointment as special envoy is "a serious option". Powell - a Republican statesman who served as national security advisor under the President Ronald Reagan, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President George H. W. Bush and secretary of state in the George W. Bush administration - endorsed Democratic candidate Obama in the recent US presidential elections.

Obama likely to name special envoy to Middle East
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 12/14/2008
Jerusalem has received various reports in recent weeks indicating that American foreign policy in the Middle East and in Southeast Asia after president-elect Barack Obama takes office will operate on the basis of special envoys who will report directly to Obama and his designated secretary of state, Hillary Clinton. Obama and Clinton’s transition teams are maintaining secrecy and minimal ties with Israeli diplomats. Obama and Clinton also directed their people not to take part in the policy debates of the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center forum, attended by Israeli politicians and officials, which took place earlier this month in Washington, D. C. However, senior government sources in Jerusalem said that the information they have received indicates that the new administration is planning a hierarchy of about five special envoys. . .

Rice: Bush not done working on Israeli-Palestinian issue
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 12/14/2008
United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Friday that the Bush Administration was not done working on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, especially in light of recent, significant diplomatic developments between the two sides. Rice’s comments came during a meeting with the head of the Geneva Initiative and former Meretz party chair Yossi Beilin. Rice added that the situation in the West Bank has changed and Israeli and Palestinian positions are becoming closer, something she says she hopes doesn’t change after Israeli general elections in February. Beilin echoed the comment, telling Rice that the outgoing Bush Administration must find a way to ensure that peace talks between the two sides will pick up where it left off, and won’t need to start from scratch after the general elections.

Beilin: Mideast a top priority for Obama
Yitzhak Benhorin, YNetNews 12/13/2008
Former Meretz chairman meets with senior officials at US president-elect’s office, tells Ynet new American administration to advance peace between Israel, Palestinians and Syrians - WASHINGTON – Former Meretz Chairman Yossi Beilin, who retired from politics recently, met with senior officials in the office of US President-elect Barack Obama in Washington. Beilin told Ynet on Friday night that following the meetings, he has reached the conclusion that in spite of the difficult problems the new American administration will have to deal with, the issue of advancing peace between Israel and the Palestinians and Syrians will be at the top of its agenda. The former minister also met with outgoing US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The outgoing and new administration officials were interested in hearing Beilin’s opinion, as the former deputy. . .

Iran: We have proof U.S. and Britain support terror group
Reuters, Ha’aretz 12/14/2008
Iran has documents to prove the United States and Britain, the Islamic Republic’s two Western arch foes, support a militant group that killed 16 abducted Iranian police officers, Iran’s state radio reported Saturday. Shi’ite-dominated Iran said this month the Sunni group Jundollah (God’s Soldiers) had killed 16 police hostages who were abducted from a checkpoint in the southeastern Sistan- Baluchestan province in June. Tehran, which often accuses Britain and the United States of trying to destabilize the Islamic Republic, has said Jundollah’s head, Abdolmalek Rigi, is part of the Sunni Islamist al Qaida terror network. "There are documents that show that Britain and America are supporting Rigi’s terrorist group with arms and information," the radio quoted Ebrahim Raisi, first deputy to Iran’s judiciary chief, as saying.

Iranians rally for Palestine as leaders demand action on Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 12/13/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Iran called for diplomatic pressure to be placed on Israel to alleviate the suffering of Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip and West Bank on Saturday. Four top level meetings between Iranian and international officials made the issue of the Palestinian situation a central focus and called for simultaneous protests in several of Iran’s cities, where citizens were asked to rally against Israeli aggression in Palestine. Arriving for an official visit to Belarus last week Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Manouchehr Mottaki met in Minsk with the speaker of the Belarusian parliament, Vladimir Kanapolev. Speaking to officials in Belarus, Ahmadinejad said active resistance to superpowers exhibited by the two countries provided an example for the world and helped keep hegemons in line.

Report: Germany planning fresh Iran sanctions
Reuters, YNetNews 12/13/2008
Der Spigel reports German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier pushing to draft series of new sanctions with agreement of other world powers in hopes of giving Obama administration negotiating leverage with Tehran upon assuming office -Germany is preparing a package of fresh sanctions against Iran that US President-elect Barack Obama could use to put pressure on the Islamic Republic when he takes office, a magazine reported on Saturday. Der Spiegel magazine said German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier wanted to agree the package with other world powers to give Obama the means to press Iran into dialogue over its nuclear ambitions. The German Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the report. Steinmeier’s political director had already submitted the idea to French and British officials, Spiegel said.

Iranian university bestows honorary doctorate on Nasrallah
Dudi Cohen, YNetNews 12/13/2008
Isfahan grants Hizbullah secretary-general honorary political science degree; in letter of acceptance Nasrallah thanks Islamic Republic for its support of his organization -Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah received an honorary doctorate in the field of political science from an Iranian university in the Isfahan region, as part of the events to mark the university’s 300th birthday. Sheikh Hassan Hamda accepted the degree on behalf of Nasrallah. In a statement from Nasrallah read at the ceremony, he thanked Iran for its support of Hizbullah’s fight against Israel and expressed the hope that one day the Shiite group would change the face of the Middle East. Nasrallah also thanked the Iranians for "25 years of support and aid for the Hizbullah organization and its warriors in southern Lebanon.

Gates warns US adversaries not to test Obama
Middle East Online 12/13/2008
US Defence Secretary Robert Gates warned on Saturday that US adversaries would be "sorely mistaken" to test president-elect Barack Obama in the Gulf and called for regional pressure to change Iran’s behaviour. "Nobody is after a regime change in Iran," Gates said at an international security conference in the Bahraini capital. "What we are after is a change in policies and a change in behaviour so that Iran becomes a good neighbour of people in the region (rather) than a source of instability and violence. " He said whether the incoming Obama administration broadens the conditions for direct diplomacy with Iran "remains to be seen. " "But one thing I think I can say with some confident is that the president-elect Obama is under no illusions about Iran’s behaviour and what Iran has been doing in the region and is doing in terms of its own weapons programmes," he said.

Report: Group attacks Saudi airline office in Iran to protest Saudi peace plan
Reuters, Ha’aretz 12/14/2008
Iran’s state-run newspaper says a militant group has attacked the office of Saudi Arabia’s state-owned airline in Tehran over a Saudi-backed peace initiative with Israel. Iran newspaper says the group - identified as Ikhwan al-Radwan, or Brothers of Heaven in Arabic - attacked the Saudi Arabian Airlines office with several Molotov cocktails Wednesday, causing minor damage to the building. Saturday’s newspaper report quotes a statement by the group saying the reason for the attack was Saudi Arabia’s support for an Arab peace initiative. The initiative offers Israel normal relations with all Arab countries if it withdraws from lands occupied in 1967 Arab-Israeli war and allows the creation of a Palestinian state with a capital in Jerusalem #newsletterLink a {text-decoration: none; cursor: pointer;} #newsletterLink img {border:0px;} #newsletterLink{width:470; margin-bottom:20px;} .

US military teams to stay on in Iraqi cities
Middle East Online 12/13/2008
Teams of US forces will remain in Iraqi cities after June to advise and train local security forces and provide combat enablers, despite a new security pact, the US commander in Iraq said on Saturday. General Raymond Odierno said negotiations will now start with the Iraqis on implementing the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) that calls for the withdrawal of US troops from cities by the end of June and from the whole of Iraq by the end of 2011. Odierno spoke at an air base in Balad, north of Baghdad, to reporters travelling with US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, who arrived unannounced from Bahrain to meet with commanders to discuss their plans for US forces in the wake of the SOFA. Gates earlier visited Afghanistan where commanders are seeking more forces to combat rising insurgent violence. "It’s important that we maintain enough presence here to help them get through. . .

US: Troops may stay in Iraqi cities
Al Jazeera 12/13/2008
A senior US commander in Iraq has said that some US troops may remain in Iraqi cities after June, contradicting the terms of an agreement between the two countries. General Ray Odierno said troops operating alongside Iraqi forces might remain because the US military believes they are essential to support Iraqi forces. Speaking to reporters on Saturday as he travelled with Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, Odierno said: "We believe that’s part of our transition teams. . . in the Joint Security Stations. "We believe we should still be inside of those [cities] after the summer. " Gates addressed troops on an unannounced visit to a military base in Balad, northwest of the Iraqi capital. Odierno’s comments came as a controversy raged in Iraq over a government spokesman’s suggestion that US forces might not fully withdraw by the end of 2011.

Iraq repeats debt-cancellation plea
Middle East Online 12/13/2008
MANAMA - Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh reiterated on Saturday a call for Iraq’s creditors to cancel the foreign debt of the country that was accumulated by the former regime. "Time has come to relieve Iraq from the burden of the debt inherited from Saddam Hussein’s regime," Saleh told participants in the fifth Regional Security Summit, known as The Manama Dialogue. Post-Saddam governments have all urged oil-rich Arab countries to cancel Iraq’s debt, mostly comprised of Gulf support to Iraq during its war with Iran in the 1980s, as other creditors agreed to cancel debt. Baghdad said earlier this year that its debt stood at 140 billion dollars, excluding interest. However, US Deputy Treasury Secretary Robert Kimmitt said in May that the figure was only 50 billion to 80 billion dollars, with a "significant majority" owed to Arab countries, and nearly 10 billion to China.

Maliki takes revenge over new mandate
Jane Merrick and Raymond Whitaker, The Independent 12/14/2008
British forces in Iraq are facing a humiliating end to their six-year mission in the country as the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, takes his revenge for what he regards as the British surrender of Basra to hardline Shia Muslim militias. Mr Maliki, incensed by Britain’s perceived failure to deal with the Mahdi Army of his bitter Shia rival, Moqtada al-Sadr, is stalling on a deal on Britain’s continuing presence in Iraq, barely a fortnight before the current arrangement expires. Frantic diplomatic efforts are under way to secure a legal framework for British forces after 31 December, when the current United Nations mandate expires. Top-level sources described the situation as "extremely serious". Even if a deal is struck within the next two weeks, the manner in which Iraq has allowed the issue to go right to the wire is a humiliation for Britain’s exit strategy.

Blackwater prosecutors meet Iraqis
Al Jazeera 12/13/2008
US prosecutors have met Iraqi police and civilians in Baghdad to discuss a case against guards working for security firm Blackwater. Five Blackwater employees were indicted earlier in the week on charges of manslaughter for their involvement in a 2007 shooting that left 17 Iraqi civilians dead. Saturday’s visit highlights American efforts to show Iraqis that the case is being taken seriously. Prosecutors met Lieutenant-General Hussein al-Awadi, Iraq’s national police chief, as well as survivors of the September 16 shooting, and relatives of those killed. The killing of Iraqi civilians in the middle of heavy traffic at Baghdad’s Nisoor Square last year sparked international condemnation and launched US congressional hearings into the matter.

8 arrested in murder of Jewish man in Yemen
Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 12/14/2008
Eight men have been arrested in Yemen on suspicion of involvement of the murder Thursday of Moshe Nahari, a father of nine. Nahari was shot to death in a market in the city of Rida, after the alleged murderer called on him to convert to Islam. The alleged assailant, a former Yemeni Air Force pilot released from service due to mental problems, has confessed. Nahari has four sisters living in Israel, who left for Yemen as soon as they heard of the tragedy. A friend of the family in Israel told Haaretz that Narhai had chosen not to leave Yemen, where "they receive everything they need, everything is not hard like it is here. The Yemeni government helps the Jews and so do Jewish organizations. " The independent Yemeni Web site Yemen News reported yesterday that the suspected gunman had confessed, and that about a month ago, the man had told the Jewish. . .

Dutch businessman to launch on-line Mideast encyclopedia
Brenda Gazzar, Jerusalem Post 12/13/2008
A former Dutch journalist and businessman is creating a multilingual on-line encyclopedia of the Middle East that aims to inform while building bridges between Arab and European cultures. Antonie Dake, who is based in The Hague and visited The Jerusalem Post’s offices on Wednesday, is expecting to introduce the "Fenneq" initiative to the public by next summer. The free encyclopedia - which will be translated into English, Arabic and, eventually, Farsi - will target residents of Arab countries between the ages of 18 and 25, he said. These "young people are conscious that their educative system is rather deficient," Dake, 80, said. "They would like to know more not only about the outside world, but also about their own country. That, in our mind, may be an important addition" for them. The Web site will offer basic information on individual countries as well as. . .

Gates: Don’t test Obama administration
Associated Press, YNetNews 12/13/2008
US Defense Secretary speaks before Persian Gulf leaders in Bahrain, warns terrorists: ’Anyone who thought upcoming months present opportunities to ’test’ new administration is sorely mistaken’, adds US seeking to change Iran’s behavior -US Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned the US’s enemies to beware of "testing" president-elect Barack Obama’s administration. He directed the warning at Iran’s leaders as well as terrorist organizations. During a meeting with Persian Gulf leaders in Bahrain, Gates urged them to help fight the spread of violent extremism by funding and training Afghan security forces and reaching out more aggressively to the Iraq government. Gates, who will continue as Pentagon chief under Obama, also warned that "anyone who thought that the upcoming months might present opportunities to ’test’ the new administration would be sorely mistaken.

Torture Trail Seen Starting with Bush
Jason Leopold, Middle East Online 12/13/2008
A bipartisan congressional report traces the US abuse of detainees at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib to President George W. Bush’s Feb. 7, 2002, action memorandum that excluded “war on terror” suspects from Geneva Convention protections. The Senate Armed Services Committee’s report said Bush’s memo opened the door to “considering aggressive techniques,” which were then developed with the complicity of then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Bush’s National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and other senior officials. Three months ago, Rice admitted that she led high-level discussions beginning in 2002 with other senior Bush administration officials about subjecting suspected al-Qaeda terrorists to the harsh interrogation technique known as waterboarding, according to documents released by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, committee chairman.


This Land is Ours Say Israeli-Arabs
Saleh Al-Naemi – Occupied Jerusalem, Palestine Chronicle 12/12/2008
      Israeli-Arabs are reacting with outrage with Foreign Minister and frontrunner for premiership Tzipi Livni’s call for Arab citizens to leave Israel and move into the new Palestinian state.
     "Israeli-Arabs will not leave their land," Arab member of Knesset Abbas Zakour told on Friday, December 12.
     "We are the owners of this land. We have been born here and will be buried in this land."
     Livni, the leader of the centrist Kadima party who hopes to become prime minister after the February 10 polls, said Thursday that Israeli-Arabs should move to the new Palestinian state when it is created.
     "My solution for maintaining a Jewish and democratic state of Israel is to have two distinct national entities," she told a group of secondary school students in Tel Aviv.
     "And among other things I will also be able to approach the Palestinian residents of Israel, those whom we call Arab Israelis, and tell them: ’your national aspirations lie elsewhere.’"

A judicial and moral miscarriage

Editorial, Ha’aretz 12/14/2008
      The arrest of settler Ze’ev Braude, who was filmed shooting Palestinian civilians at close range, sheds more light on the law enforcement system applied to the Jewish population in the occupied territories. Judges in two courts rejected prosecutors’ requests to remand the suspect, accused of serious crimes, until a final decision is made on whether to keep him in custody for the duration of judicial proceedings against him.
     The rulings by Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court Judge Malka Aviv, who released Braude from jail, and District Court Judge Orit Efal-Gabai, who sent him to house arrest subject to restrictions, are not unusual.
     A few days prior, Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court Judge Moshe Drori refused to impose restrictions on Hebron settler Noam Federman, and even castigated the security forces who had evicted the Federman family from the site they had broken into numerous times.
     Two years ago, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz acknowledged that the state of law enforcement in the territories is "very inferior." His predecessor Elyakim Rubinstein branded this phenomenon as "sub-law enforcement on Israelis who reside in Yesha [the West Bank and Gaza.

Bush’s lethal legacy to the Palestinians

Marc J. Sirois, Daily Star 12/13/2008
      Notwithstanding widespread hopes that US President-Barack Obama will save the Middle East from itself, it is increasingly evident that it might will be beyond anyone’s powers to soon repair the damage wrought by eight years of George W. Bush. Regardless of how committed Obama may (or may not) prove to be, the fact remains that many of the conditions necessary for a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are neither present nor close at hand. The Hamas-Fatah feud makes one side too divided to either negotiate a full and fair agreement or properly implement one, and Israel’s voters apparently feel so guilty at having been led by Ehud Olmert that they look set to engage in mass self-flagellation by electing Benjamin Netanyahu, an avowed foe of the entire peace process. All of this threatens to extend the Palestinians’ seemingly interminable season of dispossession.
     My own unease over this state of affairs is piqued by the evident satisfaction that some commentators - particularly American neoconservatives but also some of their fellow travelers in the Middle East - are taking at something that ought to unnerve any reasonable individual. These suggest (as they always have) that Arabs don’t (and shouldn’t) care all that much about the Palestinian cause, argue tacitly that peace is not even worth pursuing until Arab states have democratized, and peddle the familiar line that Hamas is irrevocably hostile to a negotiated solution.

Livni competes with Netanyahu in Racism

Adib Kawar, Palestine Think Tank 12/13/2008
      It is parliamentary (Zionist Knesset) election time, and with an ever increasing trend towards extreme right and racism by the vast majority of the Zionist colonialist population in occupied Palestine; thus the trend of the different Zionist political parties and their masses to express the deep and widespread racism and hate towards the about 20% of indigenous Palestinian Arabs still not ethnically cleansed from their occupied homeland. Livni and Netanyahu as well as the Labor party leader, Ehud Barak, the supposed-to-be Zionist left (who is day and night threatening to fully destroy Lebanon if its resistance dared to object to and challenge an attempted invasion of Lebanon), as well as the rest of the Zionist leaders, are competing in who can express their racism the most.
     Livni speaking to a group of secondary school students in Tel Aviv in remarks broadcast by army radio talked about "democracy" (!!!) "My solution for maintaining a Jewish and democratic state of Israel is to have two distinct national entities."  The woman with Polish roots claiming to be speaking about a "democratic state" wants to complete the uprooting of Palestinian Arabs from their own homeland!!!! This is how school students are raised, fed and smeared with racism and fascism even before reaching their teens.

An Israeli in Gaza

Frank Barat, Palestine Monitor 12/13/2008
      You recently took part in the Free Gaza movement and successfully reached Gaza by boat with others activists, journalists and human rights workers from around the globe. How did you get involved in such an initiative and why was it important for you to take part?
     As an Israeli and the head of an Israeli peace organization (ICAHD – The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions), I was asked by the Free Gaza Movement organizers to take part in their action to Break the Siege of Gaza by sailing two boats from Cyprus to Gaza City port. I agreed because this was a non-violent political action; breaking the siege and by implication highlighting Israel’s responsibility for it (which it tries to shrug) fit into ICAHD’s mission, to end the Israeli Occupation completely.
     Had this been defined as a humanitarian mission I would not have participated, since the so-called “humanitarian crisis” in Gaza is not the result of some natural calamity, but of a deliberate policy of Israel – plus the US, Europe and Japan, it must be said, and aided by Egypt – to break the will of the Palestinians to resist and to replace the democratically elected government of Hamas by a collaborationist regime more amenable to Israeli control.

Telling It as It Is

Mustafa Barghouti, Palestine Chronicle 12/12/2008
      ’We need to provide an alternative view to an audience long monopolised by the lobby.’
     As many speculate about Obama’s future policies in the Middle East, the general Arab reaction is wait-and-see. The new president will likely face a barrage of problems, the economy and Iraq for starters, enough to keep him busy for a whole term. But there is no indication that the "change" Obama likes so much to talk about applies to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The appointments he made so far are not that encouraging either.
     The Israelis, and Tzipi Livni has said as much, want the Americans to stay out of it. They want to keep the Palestinians divided, hold out the carrot of possible negotiations, while expanding settlements and changing the status quo all the time. The Palestinians, meanwhile, seem hapless. Pursuing negotiations that have no chance of success, the Palestinians are holding on to Annapolis like a drowning man clutches at a straw. What are they doing about the Israeli settlements that grew exponentially during the Annapolis talks? Nothing. What are they doing about the Israeli roadblocks that increased from 521 to 630 during the same period? Nothing. What are they doing about the system of apartheid that subsequent Israeli governments appear to reinforce? Nothing.

EU rewards Israel for starving Gazans, expanding colonies

Khalid Amayreh in occupied East Jerusalem, Palestinian Information Center 12/12/2008
      On Monday, 8 December, European Union (EU) foreign ministers decided to boost relations with the apartheid state of Israel.
     The decision opens the way towards a first-ever EU-Israel summit in the coming months, perhaps during the Czech Republic’s presidency of the bloc, in the first half of 2009.
     The EU will also consider inviting Israel to participate in the civilian missions linked to its security and defense policy.
     Czech officials have pointed out that upgrading EU-Israeli relations will be one the Czech Republic’s main priorities when it takes over the EU presidency from France in January.
     Immoral decision
     The plainly immoral decision came as a surprise, not because the EU is a paragon of virtue and morality, but rather because Israel has been behaving and acting very much as a Nazi state would. Hence, the decision can only be viewed as a cheap appeasement and expression of political promiscuity.
     Indeed, it is very hard to think of a single positive factor justifying this grave blunder on the part of the EU.

Avanti populi

Gideon Levy, Ha’aretz 12/14/2008
      The Kadima primary this week is no more than the election of a condo committee. And this is the last chance: The condo is slated for demolition, an urban renewal project. Kadima will not survive. The ideological power of the new Dash has been exhausted, its leadership used up, its job over. The house that arose as an electoral exploit by Ariel Sharon will hardly manage to run one more time, and then it will be evacuated.
     Living together happily in this condo are the representatives of the imaginary Israeli political center, which does not exist; residents who came from the right, but want to feel good about themselves, giving themselves a moderate and enlightened appearance. They are also the most mediocre of political hacks, they and their neighbors across the hall. The most captivating resident, Tzipi Livni, has already been elected chairwoman of the committee in place of the corrupt chairman, who was appointed in place of the elderly chairman who collapsed. Now the residents will put together a list of their friends.

The substance of semantics

Elie Podeh, Ha’aretz 12/14/2008
      The recent debate in the pages of Haaretz over the clause dealing with the question of Palestinian refugees in the Saudi peace initiative (Matti Steinberg on November 30, Daniel Schueftan on December 5 and Alexander Yakobson on December 7) reflects the traditional manner in which Israeli society deals with changes on the Arab side of the table.
     This is a textual, philological approach, which focuses on analysis of the given text - whether an agreement, initiative, letter or just a speech - according to a mistaken understanding that the "correct" interpretation would provide us an answer as to how to deal with the issue in question.
     Still, as a textual approach is by nature open to interpretation, it grants an advantage to those who raise doubts and misgivings. A quick glance at the Arab-Israeli conflict (and the Palestinian issue in particular) teaches us that Israeli society has grappled with these textual conflicts at several key junctures of change over the history of that conflict.

Jenin Trade Fair: A step down - a step forward

Palestine Monitor, Palestine Monitor 12/13/2008
      From resistance stronghold during the al-Aqsa Intifada to role model for development and political stability. How security and trade go hand in hand in city of Jenin.
     On 27 November the Jenin Trade Fair began., which is a trade fair whose aim is to promote and re-establish links between traders, small producers and companies of all sizes and shapes in the Jenin Governorate with Arab Israeli counterparts in particular. In his speech, the Danish Representative to the PA, Rolf Holmboe, stated that the trade fair’s objective is "to achieve an impact on the economy of Jenin Governorate in the shorter term, thereby increase stability and provide a positive outlook to the future."
     The trade fair was opened with speeches from prominent figures such as PM Salam Fayyad, Quartet Representative Tony Blair, the Governor of Jenin, Qadoura Mousa who is organising the event and the Danish Representative to the PA, Rolf Holmboe, who promoted the idea and is funding the event.

Cluster Bomb Treaty and the World’s Unfinished Business

Ramzy Baroud, Palestine Chronicle 12/12/2008
      Deminers scour farmland in the village of Zawtar West in south Lebanon.(IRIN) The United States, Russia and China are sending a terrible message to the rest of the world by refusing to take part in the historic signing of a treaty that bans the production and use of cluster bombs. In a world that is plagued by war, military occupation and terrorism, the involvement of the great military powers in signing and ratifying the agreement would have signaled -- if even symbolically - the willingness of these countries to spare civilians’ unjustifiable deaths and the lasting scars of war.
     Nonetheless, the incessant activism of many conscientious individuals and organizations came to fruition on December 3-4 when ninety-three countries signed a treaty in Oslo, Norway that bans the weapon, which has killed and maimed many thousands of civilians.
     The accord was negotiated in May, and should go into effect in six months, once it is ratified by 30 countries. There is little doubt that the treaty will be ratified; in fact, many are eager to be a member of the elite group of 30. Unfortunately, albeit unsurprisingly, the US, Russia, China, Israel, India and Pakistan -- a group that includes the biggest makers and users of the weapon - neither attended the Ireland negotiations, nor did they show any interest in signing the agreement.