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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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14 December, 2008

Gaza-Israel truce in jeopardy
Al Jazeera 12/14/2008
The shaky six-month ceasefire between Gaza and Israel is unlikely to be extended, the Palestinian group Hamas has said in a statement attributed to exiled leader Khaled Mashaal. Hamas officials told Al Jazeera that earlier reports on Sunday quoting Mashaal as saying there would definitely be no renewal of the truce were inaccurate. Sources stress that while an extension of the truce is unlikely, a final decision is yet to be taken. The ceasefire is due to expire on December 19. Osama al-Muzaini, a Hamas spokesman based in Gaza, said: "It will not be renewed as long as there is no real Israeli commitment to all of its conditions. "There is nothing that encourages us to continue with a deal that did not achieve the results we hoped for. "David Regev, spokesman for the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, told news agency AP that Israel was committed to the truce but "it’s clear there can’t be a one-sided ceasefire.

Abbas planning to extend his own term
Jerusalem Post 12/14/2008
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas plans to unilaterally extend his term in office by a year when it expires on January 9, PA officials in Ramallah said Sunday. The officials told The Jerusalem Post that Abbas has won the backing of the Arab League for his decision, noting that the Arab foreign ministers who met in Cairo recently had urged the PA president to remain in power until an agreement is reached with Hamas on holding new elections. Moreover, they pointed out that veteran PLO leaders who met in Ramallah recently had also expressed support for Abbas’s plan. They added that the US and most of the EU countries had also promised to back Abbas. Hamas, however, reiterated on Sunday that it would not recognize Abbas as president after his four-year term expires next month. The movement said it would name the speaker of the Palestinian Legislative. . .

Israeli Military Invades Jenin , Detains 10 Residents
IMEMC Staff & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 12/14/2008
On Sunday, Israeli military invaded several neighborhoods in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin, including Alyamoun and Zabouba. Witnesses said that a large Israeli contingent swept into the Arraba and Fahma villages and erected checkpoints, preventing the movement of the village residents. On Saturday, in the Zabouba village, Israeli soldiers detained 10 residents from the village overnight, Palestinian security sources reported. Meanwhile, the sources said that the Israeli troops deployed patrols across the Kufer Ra’y village, with no casualties or detentions reported. [end]

State: Sealing terrorist’s home essential
Jerusalem Post 12/14/2008
The state has been forced to change its mind and renew the policy of demolishing or sealing the homes of terrorists as a deterrent measure because of a wave of terrorism from east Jerusalem which began in 2007 and increased in 2008, the state told the High Court of Justice on Sunday. The state’s representative, attorney Aner Hellman, was replying to a petition against the sealing of two of the four stories of a residential building in the Jebl Mukaber neighborhood filed by the father of Alah Dahim, the terrorist who killed eight students at Yeshivat Merkaz Harav Kook on March 6. "According to the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency)," wrote Hellman, "in view of the wave of terrorist attacks that began in 2007, attacks perpetrated by east Jerusalem residents, a wave that increased in 2008, and in view of information that has accumulated regarding the intention of. . .

Arabs slam police rationale for delay of rightists’ march in Umm al-Fahm
Sharon Roffe-Ofir, YNetNews 12/14/2008
Town’s leaders say Department’s fear that residents may open fire on Jewish marchers unfounded. ’Our problem is not with the small group of Marzel’s supporters, but rather with the increasing level of racism in Israeli society,’ MK Zahalka says -Umm al-Fahm residents lauded the Northern District Police’s decision to postpone a right-wing activists’ march planned for Monday in the Arab town, but cast criticism over the stated reason for the delay: Fear of injuries due to Arab extremists’ plans to fire at the marching activists. "The (police) premise which led to the postponement of the march is even more provocative than the march itself," said Amir Mahoul, chairman of Ittijah-the Union of Arab Community-Based Associations, the umbrella organization of the Arab NPOs in Israel. "Instead of dealing with this group of terrorists they are trying to lay the. . .

C’tee says: Legalize unrecognized Bedouin villages
Shahar Ilan, Ha’aretz 12/15/2008
A government committee on the status of the Negev Bedouin is recommending legalizing as many unrecognized villages as possible, and transferring residents of the remainder to agreed-upon locations. "The Bedouin in the Negev are not illegal aliens, are not transparent and are not without rights," said retired justice Eliezer Goldberg, a former state comptroller. The Goldberg Committee also recommends normalizing the status of thousands of illegal structures and offering the Bedouin monetary and land compensation. Housing Minister Zeev Boim appointed the committee last December. In appointing this committee, where government representatives are not a majority, the government essentially waived its right to determine the nature of the land arrangement with the Bedouin. The report submitted yesterday has three main recommendations. . .

Bedouin disappointed; rightists critical
Ha’aretz 12/15/2008
Both Bedouin and Jews are disappointed with the Goldberg Committee’s conclusions. "Over the last two months they sold us gold-coated words, but the committee’s recommendations have taken us back 60 years," said Hasain al-Rifaya, head of the council of unrecognized Bedouin villages. The head of the Ramat Hanegev Council and the chairman of the Negev Development Authority, Shmulik Riefman, said, "All the fuss was for nothing. The report dumps the decision on the government and the Knesset, and that is a guarantee for failure. "Even the Recognition Forum, an umbrella organization fighting for Bedouin rights in the Negev, expressed deep disappointment with the report, because it did not recognize full Bedouin ownership of the lands. Nuri al-Uqbi, who has lived for two years in his car after claiming the state stole his lands, said yesterday, "The committee proposed what the Israel Lands Administration proposed a long time ago.

Lack of electricity endangers sick child
Ha’aretz 12/15/2008
Yassin al-Athmiin, 3, suffers from severe shortness of breath. Ever since he was born, he has lived with his parents and his three older siblings in the illegal village of Hashem Zana. Because of his illness, doctors advised his parents to leave an inhaler next to his bed at night. But the village has no electricity, and therefore his father, Talal, has to take him to Soroka Hospital three times a week, and in emergencies, to a doctor in Segev Shalom. "I need electricity for at least a refrigerator, so that I can store Yassin’s medication. I don’t think the state treats the Bedouin the way it should - even an ambulance can’t get to this place. What will happen if there is a serious problem and I’m not home and the boy starts palpitating? Just getting to the doctor in Segev Shalom take an hour," Talal said. Not far from Hashem Zana is the community of Omer, whose residents have no electricity problems.

Olmert warned Gaza banks could collapse
Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 12/15/2008
Representatives of the Quartet, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are asking Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to continue sending funds to the Gaza Strip in a bid to avoid the collapse of the banking system there. Suspending the money transfer and cutting ties between banks in Israel and Gaza would undermine the sustainability of the Palestinian banking sector, wrote Quartet envoy Tony Blair, World Bank president Robert Zoellick and IMF managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn in a letter to Olmert, which was sent Friday. The letter, a copy of which has reached Haaretz, states the signatories understand and respect Israel’s legitimate security concerns, but says a joint analysis conducted by the three institutions indicates those steps would also drastically reduce Israeli-Palestinian trade and divert resources from the banks to the unregulated black market, which is already active in the Strip.

Lieberman to Arabs: You’re welcome to forgo Israeli citizenship
Yael Branovsky, YNetNews 12/14/2008
Yisrael Beiteinu officially launches election campaign; chairman says ’those who are inciting against us feel protected’ -"To all (the Arab-Israelis) who wish to forgo their Israeli citizenship I say do it as soon as possible. If you are having doubts, we’ll help you," Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman said Sunday during an event held in Katzrin to mark the official launch of his party’s election campaign. "Unfortunately, the situation on the ground is such that those who are inciting against us feel protected, while those who want to fit in feel threatened," he said, "it must be made clear to everyone that they are better off being our friends than our enemies. " Those who want rights must also accept the obligations. Without national service there is no social security. "

Charges: Men planned to fly model plane bomb into base
Ofra Edelman and Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 12/15/2008
Two men from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Isawiyah were indicted yesterday for planning to fly an explosive-packed model airplane into an army base near their home. The indictment, issued by the Jerusalem District Court against Iyad Abid, 20, and Abdullah Abid, 21, states that they tried out the model airplane over the base, where it crashed. The indictment also states that the pair were planning to slam a tractor into an army jeep and abduct the soldiers in the jeep along with their weapons, to bargain for the release of members of Iyad Abid’s family who are serving life sentences in Israel. According to the charges, the men had already obtained two bayonets and two clubs, an electric stun device, a tear-gas pistol, two face masks and two pairs of gloves. They also tried to purchase an M-16 machine gun and a pistol.

East J’lem residents indicted of planning abduction
Aviad Glickman, YNetNews 12/14/2008
Two inhabitants of village of Issawiya suspected of planning to kidnap IDF soldiers in bid to carry out hostage exchange in return for their relatives sentenced to life terms in Israel - Two east Jerusalem residents were indicted Sunday of planning to kidnap and harm Israel Defense Forces soldiers in a bid to carry out a hostage exchange deal in return for their family members, who have been sentenced to life terms in Israel. According to the indictment, the two - Ayad Aabid, 20, and Abdullah Aabid, 21, relatives from the village of Issawiya - planned to drive a tractor, crash into a military jeep stationed near their neighborhood and abduct the soldiers from inside the jeep. The indictment, filed by Attorney Jenny Ginsburg, states that the two purchased equipment in order to implement their plan, including two knives, two clubs, two masks, gloves and an electric shocker.

Two East Jerusalem men arrested for plotting to kidnap Border Police officer
Haaretz Staff, Ha’aretz 12/14/2008
A Jerusalem District Court on Sunday indicted two Israeli Arabs from East Jerusalem who were allegedly plotting to kidnap Border Police officers from a checkpoint in the West Bank. The two defendants, Abdallah Abid, 21, and Iyad Abid, 19, were arrested as part of a joint investigation carried out by the Shin Bet Security Service and the Israel Police. Both men carry Israeli identity cards. The two confessed to being members of Hamas and of planning to attack a Border Patrol jeep with a tractor and abduct a patrolman to use to barter for the release of Hamas prisoners held in Israeli jails. The two men had pooled money to buy a pistol and a search of their homes turned up a taser, clubs, knives, masks, and gloves. The two men also confessed to torching polling stations in East Jerusalem during municipal elections in November. . .

2 J’lem Arabs nabbed for kidnapping plot
Jerusalem Post 12/14/2008
Two Arab residents of east Jerusalem were indicted on Sunday for allegedly plotting to kidnap Border Police officers from a checkpoint on the outskirts of the capital to use as bargaining chips for the release of Hamas prisoners, police said. The suspects, Abdallah Abid, 21, and Iyad Abid, 19, of the Isawiya neighborhood were arrested last month following an investigation carried out by the Shin Bet (Israeli Security Agency) and Jerusalem Police. The two men confessed to being Hamas activists and planning a series of attacks against security personnel in and around the city, police said in a statement. According to the indictment, the two men, who are relatives, planned to drive a tractor into a jeep stationed near their neighborhood and then abduct the security personnel inside the vehicle.

IOF troops round up 14 Palestinians in a single village
Palestinian Information Center 12/14/2008
JENIN, (PIC)-- Israeli occupation forces at dawn Sunday raided the village of Zabuba west of Jenin city in tens of armored vehicles and rounded up 14 villagers including three boys. Locals reported that the IOF soldiers raided the village firing in the air and imposing a tight curfew shortly after midnight Saturday. They noted that the soldiers, coming from the nearby Salem military base, used flare bombs and police dogs during their storming of homes that ended with arresting eight Palestinians. The soldiers returned at dawn and kidnapped five other villagers including three boys 13 to 15 years old and two brothers, the local sources pointed out. The town of 2,000 inhabitants is located near to the separation wall that has eaten up most of its lands and is adjacent to the Salem army camp, which makes it a favorite target for daily army harassment.

Israeli forces attack demonstration in Jayyous
International Solidarity Movement 12/14/2008
Qalqilya Region - Photos - On Friday December 12th, Israeli soldiers once again entered the village of Jayyous in order to prevent demonstrators from protesting against the Apartheid Wall. 150 residents from the village marched against the new route of the Apartheid Wall that threatens to annex almost 6000 dunums of Jayyous land, but were prevented from leaving the village by Israeli soldiers, who blocked every exit from the village. Protesters confronted soldiers with chants and flags for over half an hour, before demonstrators dispersed. Local youth, however, objected to the Israeli army’s continued presence in the village with rock-throwing, which sparked a barrage of tear gas, sound bombs and rubber-coated steel bullets, as soldiers invaded the village. Two people were injured by rubber-coated steel bullets; another broke his leg falling whilst running from soldiers’ fire; and many. . .

Settlers torch Palestinian property as violence continues in Hebron
International Solidarity Movement 12/14/2008
Hebron Region - On the night between the 11th and the 12th of December, settlers burnt and damaged Palestinian cars and attempted to torch a Palestinian house in the city of Hebron. The Tel Rumeida neighbourhood was attacked by settlers from 11. 30pm until 3am in the morning. The settlers burnt and damaged at least two Palestinian cars, and also tried to burn down the house of the Adeis family, setting trees situated next to the house on fire. During their attack the settlers shot at the Palestinians, their houses and other Palestinian property. The Palestinians in Hebron are being harassed, attacked and shot at by settlers on a daily basis. The aggression from settlers has become worse than usual during the last couple of weeks since the settler-occupied house, "Beit Rajabi", was evicted on the4th of December. Since then, settlers all over Hebron have been engaging in a ‘price-tag’ campaign.

Barak weighs compensating Palestinians for damage caused by settlers
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 12/15/2008
He cited the case of Rabbi Israel Ariel, who was convicted of assaulting major general Elazar Stern, but got a mere two-month suspended sentence. "This is only one example of countless rulings that point to a trend of leniency toward law breakers. This damages our ability to deter potential offenders and prevents us from eradicating the phenomenon," Barak said. The defense minister stressed that the Israel Defense Forces has recently begun implementing a tough stance against rioters, which includes detaining violators until the police arrives to make an arrest. "The defense establishment has cracked down on illegal outposts," Barak continued, adding that "over the last two years, no new outposts have been established. Three were evacuated and attempts to set up new ones were quickly foiled, like the Shvut Ami outpost, which was dismantled 20 times amid struggles against the settlers," the defense minister said.

Barak: Justice system too easy on lawbreaking settlers
Barak Ravid and Tomer Zarchin, Ha’aretz 12/15/2008
Defense Minister Ehud Barak yesterday accused the justice system of impeding efforts to enforce the law in the territories by treating lawbreaking settlers too leniently. He also said his office is considering paying compensation to Palestinian victims of settler riots in Hebron earlier this month. Speaking at yesterday’s cabinet meeting, Barak cited the suspended sentence meted out to Rabbi Ya’akov Ariel, who was convicted of assaulting Maj. Gen. Elazar Stern, as an example of the courts’ problematic leniency in meting punishments. "This is merely one example in a long list of verdicts that demonstrate a lenient line against lawbreakers," he said. "This greatly undermines deterrence against potential lawbreakers and does not enable us to uproot this phenomenon. "In contrast, Barak insisted, the Israel Defense Forces are now taking a hard line against settler lawbreaking.

Barak: Judicial system too lenient on lawbreakers
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 12/14/2008
During cabinet meeting discussing law enforcement in West Bank, defense minister says judicial system’s leniency towards Jewish rioters undermines defense establishment’s deterrence. Appraisers to be sent to Hebron to asses possible compensation to Palestinians, he adds - Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Sunday that the judicial system is Israel was being too lenient with West Bank lawbreakers and therefore undermining deterrence and preventing the defense establishment from being able to nip the phenomenon at the bud. " Harsher penalties should be given to lawbreakers in the West Bank," Barak said at cabinet meeting on law enforcement in the West Bank. "This is the attempt of an extremist minority group to undermine the State’s authority. West Bank ViolenceProsecutor’s office appealing release of Hebron shooter / Aviad Glickman Jerusalem District Attorney’s. . .

Israeli defense minister considers compensating Palestinian victims of settler violence
Xinhua News Agency, ReliefWeb 12/14/2008
JERUSALEM, Dec 14, 2008 (Xinhua via COMTEX News Network) -- Israeli defense minister considers compensating Palestinian victims of settler violence Israeli defense minister considers compensating Palestinian victims of settler violence Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak is pondering a plan to compensate Palestinian victims for their loss caused by rampaging Jewish settlers in the West Bank city of Hebron, local news service Ynet reported Sunday. Barak was quoted as saying at a weekly cabinet meeting that he had instructed the defense establishment to send appraisers and a legal committee to Hebron to examine the possibility of such a soothing effort. The ancient city, home to the traditional burial site of Abraham, the shared patriarch of both Jews and Muslims, has been haunted by settler violence after Israeli security forces expelled some 250 settlers from a disputed. . .

Barak: Lawless settlers punished lightly
Herb Keinon and Tovah Lazaroff, Jerusalem Post 12/14/2008
Defense Minister Ehud Barak called on the judicial system to hand down harsher sentences against Jewish lawbreakers in the West Bank, saying at Sunday’s cabinet meeting that light sentences damaged the state’s ability to fight the phenomenon. "The disturbances in the West Bank are an attempt by a small extremist group to undermine the authority of the state to apply law and public order within its boundaries," Barak said. His comments came some two weeks after he ordered the evacuation of the disputed home in Hebron, a move that sparked violence there against Palestinians. In the event’s aftermath, settlers allegedly set fire to a nearby Palestinian home and shot two Palestinians. The settler allegedly involved in the shooting has claimed he acted in self-defense. "We must be more severe in punishments meted out to lawbreakers in Judea and Samaria," he said,. . .

Palestinian prisoner release raises risk of renewed violence, says terror victims group
Tomer Zarchin, Ha’aretz 12/15/2008
Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein ruled late Sunday night that the state must reply to a petition against the release of Palestinian prisoners. The Israeli government is expected on Monday to free hundreds of Palestinian prisoners as a gesture to President Mahmoud Abbas. Rubinstein decided Sunday that the state must explain its position after terror victims advocate organizations and a West Bank settler council filed a legal motion seeking to halt the release. State attorneys have until 7:45 A. M. local time on Monday. The justice also ruled that the actual release will be put on hold until after the appeal has been heard and ruled on. The appeal is ultimately expected to be rejected, and the prisoner release is likely to go ahead as scheduled. The petitioners argue that the release of jailed Palestinians places the region at risk of renewed conflagration.

Ahmad Qurei: Israeli Transformation of Jerusalem Casts Doubts Over Peace Process
Rami Almeghari&Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 12/14/2008
Top Palestinian negotiator, Ahmad Qurei, believed that ongoing Israeli transformation of occupied East Jerusalem casts doubts over the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. During a field visit to the old city of Jerusalem, Qurei warned of what he termed "Israeli schemes to take over Arab-owned real estate for the sake of constructing a synagogue around the Al-Aqsa mosque". He believed that such transformation of East Jerusalem on the ground would cast doubts over Israeli’s intentions toward a comprehensive, just peace, and that a peace process accompanied by such Israeli actions would be illegitimate. The Palestinian official also pointed to Israel’s isolation of the occupied Palestinian city of Jerusalem, saying that this move is intended to force the Palestinian inhabitants out of the holy city. He called on all concerned Arab and Islamic nations to take a firm stance toward what. . .

Palestinian prisoners’ release may be delayed
Aviad Glickman, YNetNews 12/14/2008
Supreme Court orders State to reply to petition against release of 250 Palestinian prisoners as gesture for Muslim Festival of Sacrifice; rules release postponed pending future court ruling - Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein ordered the State to reply to a petition filed against the release of 250 Palestinian prisoners by 7:45 am on Monday. The petition was filed by the Gush Etzion Regional Council and the legal center for terror research and challenged Israel’s pledge to release the prisoners as a goodwill gesture to the Palestinian Authority, in honor of Eid al-Adha, the Muslim Festival of Sacrifice. The petition included the list of prisoners slated to be released, claiming the process as a whole was flawed. The petitioners also asked the court for a temporary injunction to stop Monday’s release.

Swiss human chain delivers protest note to Egyptian embassy over Rafah closure
Palestinian Information Center 12/14/2008
BERN, (PIC)-- A human chain was formed in Switzerland on Saturday that ended at the Egyptian embassy in Bern and handed the embassy staff a protest note against the continued closure of the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip. Anwar Al-Gharbi, the chairman of  Rights For All society in Switzerland, said in a press release on Saturday that the human chain started from the Place de la Monnaie - Bel Air towards the Egyptian embassy. He asked the Egyptian presidency, government and parliament to immediately lift the siege on the Strip through opening the Rafah terminal to enable the Palestinians to secure their basic supplies. He added that another human chain and a massive rally would be organized next Saturday also in Bern to denounce the siege and to hand other protest notes to the Egyptian and Israeli embassies.

PFLP-GC calls on the people of Gaza to break the siege
Palestinian Information Center 12/14/2008
DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine -General Command on Sunday called on the people of Gaza to break the siege imposed on them after failure of repeated attempts to lift it. Ahmed Jibril, the PFLP-GC secretary general, asked the besieged Palestinians in Gaza to open the Rafah border terminal with Egypt through amassing thousands of men, women and children and breaking the Rafah barriers even if they were confronted by the Egyptian security forces. He appealed, in this regard, to the Egyptian security men not to listen to their foreign minister’s call to break the legs of Palestinians who attempt to break the Rafah border crossing. Meanwhile in Gaza, relatives of Palestinian patients being treated abroad appealed to Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak to allow their relatives who completed their treatment to return back to the Strip and not to use them. . .

Prisoners minister: Detaining MP Abdel Razak anew serious precedence
Palestinian Information Center 12/14/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Minister of prisoners in the caretaker government Mohammed Al-Ghoul on Sunday said that the Israeli court’s decision to renew detention of MP Dr. Omar Abdul Razak after releasing him was a serious precedence and a political decision. He said in a press release that the Salem military court had sentenced the MP, who also served as finance Minster in the PA tenth unity government, to 26-month imprisonment term before releasing him after spending five months and a week. He added that the Israeli courts proved their subjugation to the intelligence orders and re-imposed an additional five-month sentence on him along with a financial fine. The kidnapping of MPs and ministers is a political decision to blackmail the Palestinian people and to use those detainees as a bargaining chip in return for releasing the Israeli captured soldier in Gaza, Ghoul elaborated.

As truce nears end, Israel tells Hamas: We will respond to Gaza fire
Avi Issacharoff Amos Harel Barak Ravid and Jack Khoury, Ha’aretz 12/15/2008
Israel warned Hamas on Sunday that any rocket fire emanating from the territory will be met with a military response as both sides ratchet up the rhetoric ahead of an expiring ceasefire along the Gaza frontier. "There will be no unilateral fire from Gaza at Israel," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s office declared in a press statement. "If Hamas is interested in continuing the lull, it will be only on the terms of the original agreement" meaning that Hamas must enforce the truce on other factions. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni echoed these sentiments at a meeting with her Austrian counterpart, saying: "All fire from Gaza will obligate us to respond so as to defend our citizens. We will not leave Gaza in Hamas’ hands. ""If Hamas continues to foment terror from Gaza, Israel will act via the means at its disposal," she added, without elaborating.

Meshal: Cease-fire ends this week
Avi Issacharoff Amos Harel Barak Ravid and Jack Khoury, Ha’aretz 12/15/2008
Hamas does not plan to extend its truce with Israel beyond this Friday, December 19, which is when the organization claims it is due to expire, the Damascus-based head of Hamas’ political bureau, Khaled Meshal, said yesterday. The truce has all but collapsed, with rockets and mortars being fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip almost daily. However, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Gaza was less definite. And even Meshal, while declaring in a television interview to mark the 21st anniversary of Hamas’ founding that "there will be no renewal of the calm after it expires," added that the organization would monitor events in Israel before resuming full-scale hostilities. Haniyeh, who was addressing a massive anniversary rally in Gaza, attended by almost 200,000 people, sounded as if he were leaning strongly against extending the truce.

Hamas says truce in Gaza Strip will end on Thursday
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 12/15/2008
GAZA CITY: The Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas which controls the Gaza Strip said on Sunday that a troubled Cairo-brokered truce with Israel will not be renewed when it runs out later this week. But a spokesman for outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert insisted his government remained keen to see the six-month-old truce extended beyond Thursday provided Hamas halted rocket and mortar fire against southern Israel. "The truce was limited to six months and ends on December 19," Hamas political leader Khaled Meshaal said in a television interview from Damascus with Hamas’ Al-Quds satellite television. "Given that the enemy is not respecting its commitments and the blockade is still in place against our people, for Hamas, and I think for the majority of forces, the truce ends after December 19 and will not be renewed," he said.

Analysis: Why Israel prefers the cease-fire in Gaza
Yaakov Katz, Jerusalem Post 12/14/2008
On Thursday, after a grueling weeklong maneuver spanning the Golan Heights and the Upper Galilee, Col. Avi Peled summed up his first brigade-level exercise as commander of the Golani Infantry Brigade: "The capabilities that were demonstrated here instill within me confidence that the brigade is prepared for any challenge that awaits it. " By the end of the month, Peled will lead the Golani Brigade in its return to operational duty on the Gaza front following four months of training. It will replace the Paratrooper’s Brigade, which has been there since July. Following Khaled Mashaal’s announcement Sunday that Hamas will not extend the cease-fire, chances are that Golani will lead military operations in the Gaza Strip after Friday, when the six-month truce expires. Peled is no stranger to Gaza and was commander of the Southern Gaza Brigade when Gilad Schalit was taken captive by Hamas 904 days ago near Kerem Shalom.

Livni: ’We won’t be able to leave Gaza in Hamas control’ Staff, Jerusalem Post 12/14/2008
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Sunday hinted that Israel would need to use military options to solve the situation in the Gaza Strip. Mideast expert Menachem Klein says war with Israel is not in the interest of Hamas Speaking during a meeting with her Austrian counterpart, Michael Spindelegger, Livni said, "Every [rocket] fired from Gaza requires us to respond in order to protect civilians. " "If Hamas continues to encourage terror in Gaza, Israel will use [all] means at its disposal" to respond, she said, adding that the Israeli "government is responsible for its citizens. " "We will not be able to leave Gaza in Hamas control. " RELATEDAnger against Livni grows within Kadima Hamas conflicted on extending ’calm’Livni spoke after senior Hamas officials in Syria announced that the Gaza cease-fire with Israel, set to expire on December 19, would not be extended.

Hamas conflicted on extending ’calm’
Yaakov Katz, Khaled Abu Toameh And Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post 12/14/2008
Despite the mixed messages coming from Hamas, senior defense officials believe the terror group will ultimately agree to extend the cease-fire with Israel. Mideast expert Menachem Klein says war with Israel is not in the interest of Hamas The Gaza cease-fire that Israel and Hamas implemented on June 19 expires Friday. Defense Minister Ehud Barak favors extending the truce and on Sunday dispatched his top aide Amos Gilad to explore the possibility with Egyptian officials. Hamas officials said that their final decision depended on whether Israel and Egypt would agree to reopen the border crossings to the Gaza Strip. The announcement came amid reports of divisions among the Hamas leadership regarding the truce. RELATEDBarak’s envoy in Cairo to extend truceEditorial: Repugnant HamasThe Hamas leadership. . .

Hamas and Israel to Formulate Positions on Ceasefire
Rami Almeghari&Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 12/14/2008
The ruling Hamas party in Gaza along with Israel are to formulate positions on an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire deal the two sides committed to in June. The six-month ceasefire will come to an end on December 19, as Hamas’ leadership is set to declare its position on Sunday during a grand festival, marking the party’s 21 anniversary since it’s establishment. Hamas’ representative in Lebanon, Usama Hamdan, said yesterday that the party opted for the truce to maintain Palestinian national interests. In the meantime, Israeli political sources reported that Amos Gil’ad, head of the political and security committee of the Israeli army, will head for Cairo on Sunday to discuss the ceasefire with Egyptian officials. Sources believe that Gil’ad-Egyptian talks are aimed at extending the period of the truce. However, Israeli foreign minister, Tzipi Livni and other Iraeli minister Eli Shai,. . .

Haniya of Hamas: The Tahdiya Did Not Serve Palestinians
Rami Almeghari, International Middle East Media Center News 12/14/2008
Palestinian Prime Minister, Ismail Haniya of the ruling Hamas party, stated on Sunday that Palestinians did not benefit from a six-month ceasefire deal with Israel, which Egypt brokered in June. "Israel did not commit to the Tahdiya (lull), as 20 Palestinians were victimized in one month. Other Palestinian factions have a negative impression about such a ceasefire, as Hamas has not observed a genuine supervision of the truce deal", Haniya told crowds of supporters in Gaza city. However, the Palestinian Prime Minister did not announce an outright position whether or not to renew the ceasefire, or terminate it unilaterally, addressing Egyptian mediators by saying "you Egyptian brothers must remember that you have Palestinian brothers and sisters in Gaza who continue to suffer under the Israeli siege". Haniya’s open speech came on the twenty-first anniversary of Hamas’ establishment,. . .

Haniya, no ceasefire without lifting the siege
Palestinian Information Center 12/14/2008
From Khalid Amayreh in occupied East Jerusalem In a triumphant speech marking Hamas’s  21st anniversary, Ismael Haniya, the Prime Minister of the Gaza-based Palestinian government,  said  the Islamic movement and other Palestinian resistance groups wouldn’t extend the present fragile truce with Israel unless the Israeli occupation army  lifted its harsh  blockade of the Gaza Strip and allowed Gazans free movement from and to the coastal territory. The six-month-old  truce,  or  "the calm," is slated to expire on Friday, amid fears that violence and bloodshed  on a larger scale would break out in the absence of a new agreement or understanding to renew the ceasefire. He pointed out that last month alone, the Israeli occupation army killed more than 20 Palestinians in addition to tightening the blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Hamas leader warns Israel of end of Gaza truce
Nidal al-Mughrabi, ReliefWeb 12/14/2008
GAZA, Dec 14 (Reuters)- Hamas leaders said on Sunday they did not expect to extend a six-month ceasefire with Israel in the Gaza Strip when it expires this week, although it remained unclear whether this would mean an immediate surge in violence. Israel, which has traded fire with Palestinian Islamists in the enclave in recent weeks, sent a senior official to Cairo and said it was ready to prolong the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire which began on June 19. and runs out on Friday. In an interview in Damascus, where he lives in exile, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal told Al-Quds Television: "We in Hamas, and in most of the factions, think that after Dec. 19 the truce ends and it will not be renewed. " He complained that Israel had not eased its blockade on the territory, as Hamas had hoped when it agreed to end rocket fire.

Hamas says Gaza truce with Israel to end
Middle East Online 12/14/2008
GAZA CITY - The democratically elected Palestinian resistance movement Hamas said on Sunday that a truce with Israel will not be renewed when it runs out later this week. "The truce was limited to six months and ends on December 19," Hamas political supremo Khaled Meshaal said in a television interview from Damascus with Hamas’s Al-Quds satellite television. "Given that the enemy is not respecting its commitments and the blockade is still in place against our people, for Hamas, and I think for the majority of forces, the truce ends after December 19 and will not be renewed," he said. “The truce will not be renewed as long as there is no real and full Israeli commitment," one Gaza official said in response to the report of Meshaal’s remarks to Al-Quds Television. But he added: "If the occupier’s position changes, it will be studied.

Hamas’ Mashaal says group will not renew truce with Israel
Roni Sofer and Reuters, YNetNews 12/14/2008
Exiled leader says Islamist group won’t renew ceasefire after its scheduled end date later this month, but Hamas spokesman says no final decision reached. Official in Jerusalem: ’If there is fire from the other side, it will not be one-sided’ - The Palestinian group Hamas will not renew a six-month old truce with Israel in the Gaza Strip that expires later this month, said a statement issued by the group in the Syrian capital on Sunday. "There will be no renewal of the calm after it expires," the statement quoted Khaled Mashaal, the Islamist group’s exiled leader, as telling a Hamas television station. However, shortly after Mashaal’s statement was published, Hamas spokesman in Gaza Iman Taha said that prior to reaching a final decision on the matter the group’s leaders would consult with the remaining armed Palestinian factions in the Strip.

Israel keeps Gaza crossings closed on Sunday
Xinhua News Agency, ReliefWeb 12/14/2008
GAZA, Dec 14, 2008 (Xinhua via COMTEX News Network)- Israeli authorities decided not to open cargo crossing points into Gaza on Sunday, citing security concerns after recording rocket attacks from Gaza into Israeli communities. Late on Saturday, two home-made rockets and three mortar shells were fired at Israeli posts beyond Gaza borders, Israeli sources said. No Palestinian group claimed responsibility for the attack. Ra’ed Fatouh, a Palestinian official, said Israel told his committee, which liaises the flow of cargo into Gaza, that it will close Kerem Shalom and Karni crossings which were supposed to be open before several trucks carrying food supplies. The closure of the crossings Sunday also came as Hamas celebrates its 21st anniversary in a huge rally in Gaza city. Israel opens the crossings from time to time to allow limited convoys of aid in.

Livni: We’ll respond to Gaza fire with military measures
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 12/14/2008
Following Mashaal’s statement regarding possible end to ceasefire, FM says ’Israel will use all means necessary if Hamas continues implementing terror’ -"Any fire emanating from Gaza compels us to protect our citizens," Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Sunday, "if Hamas continues implementing terror Israel will have no choice but to use the means at its disposal. " Speaking after a meeting with Austrian Foreign Minister Dr. Michael Spindelegger, she added that "the government has a responsibility to the people and it must use military measures in order to respond to terror acts portrayed against it. We cannot leave the Gaza Strip to Hamas. "Hamas’ leader in exile Khaled Mashaal said the Islamist group will not renew a six-month old truce with Israel that expires December 19, but a Hamas spokesman in Gaza said the group has yet to reach a final decision on the matter.

2 mortar shells land in Sha’ar Hanegev region; no casualties
Jerusalem Post 12/14/2008
Palestinians in the Gaza Strip fired two mortar shells at the South on Sunday night. The shells landed in an open area near a kibbutz in the Sha’ar Hanegev region. No casualties or damage were reported in the attack. [end]

Rightists arrested outside officer’s home
Avi Cohen, YNetNews 12/14/2008
Seven protestors, including extreme right-wing activist Noam Federman, detained for questioning while demonstrating opposite Tel Aviv home of Judea and Samaria Division commander - Extreme right-wing activist Noam Federman and six other protestors were detained for questioning by the police Saturday night on suspicion of causing a disturbance outside the home of Judea and Samaria Division Commander Brigadier-General Noam Tibon in north Tel Aviv. The rightists arrived at the house as they had done last week. At a certain stage, they began rioting and clashing with Tibon’s neighbors. Police officers were dispatched to the area and detained seven protestors for questioning. Three of them - Federman and two others - were released on bail and ordered to stay away from the house. Four young girls who refused to cooperate were to be brought before a Juvenile Court judge later Sunday.

Police delay rightists’ Umm al-Fahm march
Sharon Roffe-Ofir, YNetNews 12/14/2008
Right-wing activists’ Monday parade in northern Arab town postponed following information on violent riots expected, fear of injuries. Rightist Ben-Gvir: This is a shame on the rule of law - The Northern District Police have decided to postpone a right-wing activists’ march planned for Monday in the Arab town of Umm al-Fahm. The decision was made following an evaluation of the situation held Sunday. In recent days, the police have received intelligence information on violent riots expected to break out in the area and fear of injuries due to Arab extremists’ plans to fire at the marching activists. Noise Before the StormUmm al-Fahm invites Jews ahead of rightist rally / Before internal security minister announced whether march organized by extreme rightists Baruch Marzel, Itamar Ben-Gvir would be allowed to take place next week, Arab city opened. . .

Police postpone ’Jewish Pride’ march
Yaakov Lappin And Brenda Gazaar, Jerusalem Post 12/14/2008
Acting on intelligence pointing to the possibility of rioting, police decided Sunday to postpone a controversial "Jewish pride" march planned for the Arab town of Umm el-Fahm on Monday by far-right activists Baurch Marzel and Itamar Ben-Gvir. The intelligence, some of which came from police informants, strongly indicated that violence would result if the march was held as planned. In a statement, Amakim Police said "operational considerations" had been weighed by senior officers during a situation analysis, resulting in a decision to postpone the march. "We will reexamine the situation soon. The march is merely postponed," a police spokesman told The Jerusalem Post. Arab and Jewish leaders near Umm el-Fahm praised the police decision and called on authorities to cancel the event altogether.

Hamas: Massive rally affirms popular backing to resistance
Palestinian Information Center 12/14/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Hamas on Sunday said that the huge masses that took part in its celebration marking the 21st inception of the Movement indicated failure of economic and political siege to weaken Hamas. Dr. Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said in a press release that the massive participation in the celebration pointed to failure of the negotiations course and success of resistance project. He said that the hundreds of thousands who attended the rally also indicated that Gaza was steadfast despite the siege and that the Palestinian people were still backing Hamas. The huge rally further poses as the de facto response to the "rabid" campaign against Hamas, the spokesman elaborated. For his part, Ra’fat Nassif, the West Bank Hamas leader, said that his Movement decided not to organize a similar rally in the West Bank due to the restrictions and the harassment against the Movement there at the hands of the PA in Ramallah.

Nassif: Ballot boxes to show that Hamas is still popular
Palestinian Information Center 12/14/2008
RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- Ra’fat Nassif, one of the prominent Hamas political leaders in the West Bank, has affirmed that his Movement was confident of winning any elections in the Palestinian lands provided that they are held on legal time. Nassif, in an interview with ’Palestine’ newspaper published on Sunday, refuted claims that Hamas was afraid of early elections, explaining that his Movement was only against changing its legal timing. He underlined that PA chief Mahmoud Abbas’s term in office expires on 9th January 2009 and hence presidential elections should be held accordingly, but, he noted, legislative elections are due in 2010. "When the legal time for the legislative elections are due we will prove to the world that we back election and we will secure a sweeping victory," he elaborated. Elections will prove that the Palestinian people reject those who deviate from the national. . .

Haneyya delineates five pillars for reconciliation, says siege will be broken
Palestinian Information Center 12/14/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Sound and clear, Palestinian prime minister Ismael Haneyya has affirmed Sunday that Hamas Movement was and still is willing to end the inter-Palestinian political rift, delineating five main pillars to achieve such reconciliation. Haneyya was speaking to hundreds of thousands of Hamas supporters in Gaza Strip commemorating the 21st anniversary of the Movement in Gaza city, where he also reiterated Hamas’s position of liberating the entire Palestinian soil from the Israeli occupation. The siege: The prime minister also spoke about the unjust economic siege that the Israeli occupation government has been imposing on the tiny Strip for nearly three years, but intensified it 18 months ago after Hamas took control of Gaza security. "This is a not a siege on the people only, but it is a siege against the entire Palestinian project"¦ they [enemies of the Palestinian. . .

VIDEO - Thousands of Gazans gather for Hamas anniversary
Associated Press, YNetNews 12/14/2008
(Video) Hamas supporters rally to celebrate group’s 21st anniversary in Gaza, show play featuring mock Gilad Shalit begging for freedom - VIDEO -Tens of thousands of Hamas supporters marked the Islamic group’s 21st anniversary with an outdoor rally Sunday, and the show of strength included a play featuring a mock-captive Israeli soldier begging for his freedom. Hamas was founded in Gaza in December 1987, and seized control of the territory by force in June 2007. Sunday’s rally was further evidence of Hamas’ unchallenged control over 1. 4 million people, with thousands of Hamas policemen securing Gaza City streets. The huge crowd filled an outdoor area that can hold at least 150,000 people, and nearby streets were also thronged with Hamas supporters. Many wore baseball caps and waved flags in Hamas’ signature green color.

Hamas: We will declare Dr. Dwaik PA president on 9th January
Palestinian Information Center 12/14/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Hamas renewed on Sunday its assertion that Dr. Aziz Dwaik, the speaker of the Palestine legislative council, would be declared president of the PA on 9th January. Dr. Salah Al-Bardawil, the spokesman of Hamas’s parliamentary bloc, told Al-Quds TV satellite channel, that according to the Palestinian basic law Dwaik would be declared president on 9th January for 60 days during which preparations should be made for new presidential elections. The Hamas leader advised the Arab foreign ministers after their meeting last month that recommended retaining PA chief Mahmoud Abbas in his post to return to the language of unity. The basic law is the only one that can decide who is to be PA president, Bardawil said, adding that the Arab foreign ministers’ decision is a recommendation and does not constitute a law.

Police postpone rightist march planned for Umm al-Fahm
Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 12/15/2008
The mayor of Umm al-Fahm said yesterday that even if rightist demonstrators march through his city at a later date as planned, residents will turn out in force to prevent it. The march, scheduled for today, was postponed yesterday until further notice amid police fears it could result in life-threatening violence. At a press conference yesterday, newly elected mayor Sheikh Khaled Hamadan said that "even in the future, we’ll prevent them from entering Umm al-Fahm in that way. "Another municipal official said, "We won’t let them march even one meter within the city’s territory, and certainly not 800 meters," referring to the planned length of the procession. "It doesn’t matter what the reasons are for the cancellation, what matters is that this is the right decision," added Hamadan, who represents the Islamic Movement.

Sleiman and Jordanian king agree on need for full implementation of 1701
Daily Star 12/15/2008
Jumblatt and Wahhab exchange rare overtures - Jordan and Lebanon on Sunday called for "full implementation" of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended hostilities in the 2006 war between Lebanon and Israel. King Abdullah and visiting President Michel Sleiman "stressed the importance of the full implementation," the royal palace said in a statement, without elaborating. "It is important to intensify all efforts in order to face any possible threat to Lebanon’s security, stability and sovereignty," it quoted the pro-American king as telling Sleiman. The resolution demanded the pullout of the Israeli Army from South Lebanon and its replacement by a UN-backed Lebanese Army deployment. It also called for the disarming of all armed groups in Lebanon - an allusion to Palestinian resistance groups as well as Hizbullah - and a halt to arms smuggling.

Carter holds new round of talks with Meshaal
Daily Star 12/15/2008
Former US President Jimmy Carter met with the exiled leader of the Palestinian resistance group Hamas for the second time this year on Sunday. The meeting in Damascus is part of Carter’s regional discussions on Middle East conflicts which has seen the former US leader meet with a wide variety of regional powerbrokers. Hamas officials kept reporters away from the venue for the talks, and no news conference was scheduled. Carter first met with the head of Hamas’ policy-making body, Khaled Meshaal, in April. That meeting drew sharp criticism from the Bush administration, which labels Hamas a "terrorist" group. Carter said on Saturday, however, that he intends to continue meeting with Hamas leaders because peace requires dialogue with all sides. Syrian President Bashar Assad on Saturday praised Carter for seeking peace , the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported.

Arab MK faces trial for meeting Mashaal
Jerusalem Post 12/14/2008
Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz may initiate legal proceedings against MK Said Nafa (Balad) on counts of contacting an enemy agent and visiting an enemy country without permission, according to a notification sent to Nafa Sunday. Nafa traveled to Syria in 2007, where he met with Hamas politburo Khaled Mashaal, as well as the second in command in the PFLP terror organizations. Also, according to suspicions, Nafa also tried to obtain Syrian visas for some 300 Israeli citizens. He has been summoned to attend a hearing with Mazuz pending a decision to prosecute him. The Druse Nafa, who in his youth served several prison sentences after refusing to enlist in the IDF, became an MK in April 2007 after Balad’s leader Azmi Bishara was forced to resign following suspicions that he had spied for Hizbullah during the Second Lebanon War.

Mazuz considering indicting Balad MK for Syria visit
Aviad Glickman, YNetNews 12/14/2008
AG may charge Said Naffa with visiting enemy state, contacting a foreign agent, in light of unauthorized visit to Damascus in September 2007. Decision pends hearing; Naffa claims political persecution -Attorney General Menachem Mazuz informed Knesset Member Said Naffa (Balad) that his 2007 visit to Syria may result in a criminal indictment. The decision is pending a hearing. Naffa was told Sunday that he may face charges of contacting a foreign agent, aiding a visit to an enemy state and visiting an enemy state. The Balad MK told Ynet that Mazuz’s decision was nothing but political persecution: "I helped Druze clergymen exercise their legitimate right to visit the holy places (in Syria). I guess it’s still a taboo as far as the government is concerned. " Naffa visited Syria in September of 2007, and according to suspicions met with Talal Naji. . .

Mazuz considers indicting Arab MK who met Hamas leaders in Syria
Tomer Zrahin and Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 12/15/2008
Attorney General Menachem Mazuz on Sunday told Israeli Arab MK Said Naffaa (Balad) that he may face indictment for a trip he took in September 2007 to Syria, where he met with senior members of Palestinian terror organizations. Naffaa could face charges of unlawful travel to an enemy country, contact with a foreign agent, and aiding a visit to a foreign country. While in Syria, Naffaa met with Hamas Political Bureau Chief Khaled Meshal, as well as Talal Naji, deputy head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Naffaa on Saturday denied having met or spoken with the parties in question, and called the allegations against him baseless and "lies. " Naffaa is also suspected of helping nearly 300 Israeli Arab citizens travel to Syria, which he said Saturday gave him a sense of pride.

Mazuz to indict Balad MK over illegal Syria visit
Tomer Zarchin, Ha’aretz 12/15/2008
Attorney General Menachem Mazuz plans to indict MK Said Naffaa (Balad) for making an illegal trip to Syria last year, unless a hearing with the MK’s lawyers convinces him otherwise, Mazuz informed Naffaa yesterday. However, he has decided to close similar cases against MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List), who traveled illegally to Lebanon in 2005, and MKs Jamal Zahalka and Wasal Taha (Balad), who made unauthorized trips to Syria and Lebanon in 2006. Naffaa is being indicted because, in addition to traveling illegally to Syria, he allegedly committed two other offenses while there. First, he met with two senior officials of terrorist organizations: Khaled Meshal, the head of Hamas’ political bureau, and Talal Naji, deputy secretary-general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. For this, he will be charged with contact with a foreign agent.

Gazans reflect on Hamas legacy
Motasem Dalloul in Gaza, Al Jazeera 12/14/2008
On December 14, 1987, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and Mohammad Taha, two prominent members of the Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza, formed the Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiya, Hamas, as an alternative to the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). From the outset, Hamas wove its way into the socio-economic Palestinian fabric by operating social welfare programmes, running hospitals and schools, and providing for the families of killed fighters. Since the first and second intifadas (1987 and 2000, respectively), Hamas has gained political power culminating in its surprise 2006 parliamentary elections win. However, Israel, the EU and the US refused to recognise Hamas’ electoral win and heavily favoured dealing with the Fatah movement of the PLO. . . . Al Jazeera spoke to Palestinians in Gaza about Hamas’ 21 years in power and what lies ahead.

Muslims have low expectations that US will create Palestinian state
Max Socol, Jerusalem Post 12/14/2008
A massive World Public Opinion survey that took the temperature of perceived relations between the United States and the Muslim world revealed Sunday that out of 21 countries polled, only in the Palestinian territories did a plurality of respondents say the US definitely intended to create a Palestinian state. The global survey of 21,740 participants spanned North American, Asian, African, and European countries, as well as Azerbaijan, Egypt, Jordan, Turkey and the Palestinian territories. In each of the questions, which focused on military and diplomatic policy, as well as popular perception, the US took a significant bruising, with most respondents critical of the world leader’s efforts to reach out to the global Muslim community. The survey’s first question concerned the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, asking whether "the creation of an independent and economically viable Palestinian state"¦ is or is not a US goal.

Besieged and stressed Gazans fall victim to black market painkiller
Toni O''Loughlin in Jerusalem, The Guardian 12/15/2008
Crisis blamed on tensions created by Israeli blockade - Thousands of young men in Gaza are becoming addicted to a prescription painkiller used to alleviate the stress of living in the besieged Palestinian territory. Students, labourers and even professionals are buying large quantities of tramadol, a synthetic opioid painkiller similar to morphine, although milder, on the black market. There are no exact figures, but one researcher estimates that up to 30% of males between 14 and 30 use it regularly, and that as many as 15,000 are addicted. "Every day I see them with symptoms of withdrawal from this drug," said Dr Mahoud Khozendar, of Shifa hospital in Gaza city. "Dozens come to emergency telling me that they are suffering vomiting, drowsiness and lack of concentration. "Professor Mazen al-Sakka, a pharmacologist at Gaza’s al-Azhar university who researched the epidemic, said the problem mushroomed after Israel blockaded the tiny coastal territory in June last year. -- See also: Doctors worry about Gazans'' reliance on sedative painkiller

’Smarter bombs’ will allow Israel to hit Lebanon with impunity
Daily Star 12/15/2008
BEIRUT: Israel is set to buy a "smart-bomb" system that will allow its pilots to strike Lebanese cities without leaving Israeli airspace, defense industry insiders from the Jewish state have said. Military acquisition chiefs in Israel are considering buying a bolt-on-kit that converts ordinary bombs into satellite-guided "smart" weapons which can be launched up to 80 kilometers away from their target. This would bring vast swathes of Lebanese territory into range for Israeli bombers without them having to leave their own airspace. The news comes months after rumors that Hizbullah has acquired advanced anti-aircraft capabilities prompted fears in Israel that one of their planes could be shot down. The system, known as JDAM-ER, is a conversion kit which contains a set of wings and a GPS system built into a specially designed tail section. -- See also: IAF mulls purchase of new smart bomb

Greece asks Israel for teargas grenades
Itamar Eichner, YNetNews 12/14/2008
Ongoing riots throughout country, depletion of teargas inventory prompt Athens police to ask Israel for urgent delivery of crowd dispersal means - Greek authorities contacted Israel this weekend with an urgent request for teargas grenades to be used against the wave of riots that broke out in the country last week, Athens police reported on Sunday. A similar request was made to other countries, including Germany. It was reported that the country’s entire teargas grenade inventory of 4,600 units was depleted. This is not the first time the Greeks turn to Israel in an emergency. Last year Israel sent 55 firefighters to aid the Greeks in putting out the massive wildfires that spread out through the country. A few days ago the Greek president presented the Israeli firefighters with merit awards in a ceremony held at the Greek Embassy in Israel.

Israel negotiating Gaza ceasefire extension
Deutsche Presse Agentur - DPA, ReliefWeb 12/13/2008
Tel Aviv/Gaza_(dpa) _ A top Israeli defence official is expected to meet Sunday in Cairo with an Egyptian intelligence chief for talks about a possible extension of Israel’s six-month-old ceasefire with Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, Israeli media reported. Amos Gilad, chief of the Israeli Defense Ministry’s Security-Diplomatic Bureau, was to meet with Omar Suleiman, head of Egyptian intelligence. Egypt has previously acted as a go-between for Israel and the Palestinian militant groups. A ceasefire struck in June for Israeli forces and Gaza militants, including the Islamic movement Hamas, which rules the territory, is due to expire Friday. The halt in the militants’ rocket and mortar fire toward Israel and Israeli retaliation strikes has held, despite flare ups in the cycle of violence including an outbreak in early November.

Ya’alon: Every prisoner swap encourages more kidnappings
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 12/15/2008
Former IDF chief of staff Moshe Ya’alon on Sunday criticized recent calls to broker the release of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit "at any price", saying such calls were not appropriate, adding that previous prisoner exchanges encouraged additional kidnappings. Ya’alon explained his hesitance to comment on the matter by saying that in past prisoner exchanges "we have backed ourselves into a corner, where every deal we make encourages kidnappings. In addition, those murderers who we release, go on to murder more Israelis. " Ya’alon told Army Radio the issue of returning Shalit "must remain above politics, and I am wary of making statements on the issue. "Ya’alon’s added that he agreed with Kadima Chair Tzipi Livni, who caught fire last Thursday for saying it isn’t possible to bring every IDF soldier home.

Ya’alon defends Livni remarks on Schalit
Jpost Staff And Gil Hoffman, Jerusalem Post 12/14/2008
Despite coming under a slew of criticism for her comments last week in which she raised the possibility that captive IDF soldier Gilad Schalit would not be released, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni received some unlikely support on Sunday from former IDF chief of general staff and current political rival Moshe Ya’alon. "Are you willing to give up the State of Israel for a prisoner? " Ya’alon, who is number 8 on the Likud Knesset list, asked while speaking to Army Radio. "The expression, ’at any price’ is not appropriate. " "I think that the issue of Gilad Schalit needs to be above politics, and I am cautious about expressing myself on this subject," Ya’alon continued, adding that he agrees "with what Tzipi Livni said and also with what [Defense Minister] Ehud Barak said - not at any price. " "We have brought ourselves to a point where it’s worthwhile [for the enemy] to kidnap soldiers," he said.

Mock-Schalit paraded in Hamas rally
Jerusalem Post 12/14/2008
During Sunday’s massive Hamas rally in Gaza City to mark 21 years since its founding, a Hamas member masquerading as kidnapped IDF soldier St. -Sgt. Gilad Schalit was led to the stage by Hamas militiamen. Thousands of Gazans gather to mark 21 years of Hamas The "show" was aimed at exerting pressure on Israel to succumb to Hamas’s demand to release some 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in return for Schalit. The activist, who was dressed in an IDF uniform, pleaded for his life in Hebrew and begged the Israeli government to do its utmost to return him home. "Shalom to my father and mother, I miss my father, I miss my mother," the "soldier" declared as hundreds of thousands of Hamas supporters shouted, "We will never recognize Israel. " RELATEDBarak’s envoy in Cairo to extend truceEditorial: Repugnant Hamas. . .

Ayalon: Free terrorists for Shalit
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 12/14/2008
Resigning minister bids farewell to government, says Israel’s ’commitment to soldiers going on battle exceeds any other duty’ - Minister Ami Ayalon bid farewell to the government on Sunday, shortly after submitting his resignation to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. "This is my last statement as a minister in your government – Gilad Shalit must be brought home," he told Olmert during the cabinet meeting. Ayalon announced Saturday that he was leaving the left-wing religious Meimad movement and would not run for Knesset in the upcoming elections. He left the Labor Party about a month ago, and accepted its demand to quit his post following his departure. In his farewell speech, the former Shin Bet chief chose to focus on the State of Israel’s duty to return the kidnapped soldier, who has been held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip for 903 days now.

Rights group: Freeze cash transfer to Gaza
Shmulik Hadad, YNetNews 12/14/2008
As Qassam rocket lands in western Negev on Sunday, Shurat HaDin organization, Sderot Security Headquarters file petition to High Court of Justice against transfer of $25 million to Strip -A Qassam rocket fired from the northern Gaza Strip landed in an open field in the Eshkol Regional Council Sunday morning. No one was injured and no damage was caused. Eshkol Council head Haim Yalin said, "We are preparing our residents for every possible situation, including a military operation and a continued truce. But I think that during a transit government, the only thing we can do is pass the time. " The Shurat HaDin human rights institute on Sunday filed a petition to the High Court of Justice against Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer demanding the transfer of NIS 100 million ($25. 7 million) to the Strip be halted immediately.

Legalize them
Editorial, Ha’aretz 12/15/2008
The committee tasked with resolving the dilemma of Bedouin settlement in the Negev, which is headed by former Supreme Court justice and state comptroller Eliezer Goldberg, submitted its recommendations last week, providing an opening to a solution of one of the most charged issues in Israeli society. The panel recommended legalizing the unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev while relocating the villages that cannot be recognized to agreed-upon locations. It also suggested legally recognizing unauthorized buildings and offering the Bedouin property deals that would include compensation, partly in cash and partly in land. "The Bedouin in the Negev are not illegal loiterers," former justice Goldberg said in submitting the report. "They are not invisible and they are not without rights. . . "

Fourteen year old boy shot in the head by Israeli forces in Hebron
International Solidarity Movement 12/14/2008
Hebron Region - A fourteen year old boy was shot in the head by the Israeli military, in the city of Hebron, on Friday the 12th of December. At around 3pm, Jacob Yahia Alqasrawi was leaving a store, where he had gone to get bread for his family, near the centre of Hebron, when soldiers from on top of a building near by called on him to stop walking. They then proceeded to shoot the twelve year old boy in the head with a rubber-coated steel bullet. The Palestinian ambulance that tried to take the wounded boy to the hospital was refused to do so by the Israeli army. Instead the boy was taken by the Israeli army. He was taken to the Israeli hospital in the Beer Sheva, south of Hebron. He was later transferred to a hospital in Jerusalem where he is still being treated. This is yet another example of the daily, brutal violence from the Israeli army in Hebron towards the Palestinian civilian population of the city.

Cabinet votes to implement safety net
Jerusalem Post 12/14/2008
The cabinet approved on Sunday a limited pension safety plan, paving the way for the long-awaited implementation of the Finance Ministry’s economic and financial stimulus package. Cabinet approves limited pension safety plan - The vote passed with 20 ministers voting in favor, and one minister, Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On, voting against. Once functional, the plan is set to provide protection over pensions retroactively to November 30. Cabinet members had spent the start of the day discussing whether to activate the safety net immediately, or whether to delay its implementation until a later date; Prime Minister Ehud Olmert supported the former position, while Bar-On supported the latter. "Our central concern is for the individual pensioner who saved for years to get to the age of retirement, as opposed to other nations which worry about economic companies, the wealthy,. . .

Bar-On may delay pension safety net
Lilach Weissman, Globes Online 12/14/2008
The Finance Minister could defy the government’s decision to implement the plan immediately. A struggle between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On may result in the implementation of the pension fund safety net being delayed by 45 days. This delay will occur even though the government decided today to implement the pension safety net immediately. The delay will be because the Ministry of Finance has 45 days in which to prepare a detailed plan for the safety net, which must be approved by the Knesset Finance Committee. Although the delay is technical, supporters of the pension fund safety net fear that the Ministry of Finance, which has already been playing for time on the issue, will use this as an excuse to - in the words of Knesset Finance Committee chairman Avishay Braverman "drag their feet. "

Ex-MK testifies against Bar-On in double-voting case
Jonathan Lis, Ha’aretz 12/15/2008
Former MK Inbal Gavrieli testified to the police yesterday against Finance Minister Roni Bar-On as part of a new inquiry into the 2003 Knesset double-voting case. Officially, police stressed that they have not opened a formal investigation against Bar-On; rather, this is a preliminary inquiry to see whether such a probe is warranted. However, a police source said it seems clear that "the material uncovered is likely to serve as the basis for a broader investigation. "The inquiry was sparked by a picture published in Yedioth Ahronoth last month that appeared to show Bar-On voting for Gavrieli during a vote on the economic emergency plan of 2003. Police plan to present their findings to Attorney General Menachem Mazuz soon, so that he can decide whether to order a formal investigation against Bar-On. Two other then-MKs, Michael Gorlovsky and Yehiel Hazan, were investigated and ultimately convicted of double-voting on the bill.

Ballots close in Meretz elections; high voter turnout recorded
Eli Senyor, YNetNews 12/14/2008
Some 87% of eligible voters turn up at only polling station in Tel Aviv; ’Meretz has shown what democracy is all about,’ election committee chairman says -Meretz-Yahad’s primary elections concluded Sunday night, as votes were being tallied to determine the leftist party’s Knesset roster ahead of the upcoming general elections. Some 87% of the eligible voters (871 out of 995) showed up at the only polling station in Tel Aviv’s Exhibition Grounds, which opened at 2 pm. The high voter turnout, particularly in comparison with the recent Likud and Labor primaries, can be attributed to the fact that the vote was not open to all registered Meretz members, but only to a select and relatively active group. Chairman Chaim Oron said he was "very pleased" with the high voter turnout, and even more so with "the manner in which the elections were conducted.

Anger against Livni grows within Kadima
Gil Hoffman, Jerusalem Post 12/14/2008
Kadima will choose its Knesset list on Wednesday amid growing anger in the party over Kadima leader Tzipi Livni’s failure to take advantage of the hawkish list the Likud elected to narrow the gap in the polls between the two parties. Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu succeeded in getting his nemesis, Moshe Feiglin, demoted to the 36th slot on the party’s list last Thursday, but there is still a chance he could return to the 20th slot in which he was initially placed, due to appeals filed by former Likud MKs Michael Ratzon and Ehud Yatom, who were demoted along with Feiglin for technical reasons. Kadima officials had hoped that Kadima would grow in support due to the placement on the Likud list of Feiglin and former Likud rebel MKs. They also hoped that Netanyahu’s obsessive behavior against Feiglin would cause him to lose support.

Rabbis threaten to split from new party
Kobi Nahshoni, YNetNews 12/14/2008
Public council to determine composition of Habayit Hayehudi’s Knesset list on Wednesday, but religious leaders and right-wing activists enraged over new chairman’s moderate approach -Three days before a public council is slated to determine the composition of Habayit Hayehudi’s Knesset list, rabbis and right-wing activists are threatening to split from the new religious party. A recent statement by the movement’s new chairman, Rabbi Daniel Hershkowitz, that the party’s Knesset members would be free to vote on political matters as they like, has sparked sharp criticism from the Right, including the movement’s moderate members. "On the issue of the Land of Israel, Habayit Hayehudi must put a red line prohibiting freedom of vote," some 50 rabbis and activists affiliated with the new party’s right-wing section stated Saturday night.

Kadima recruiters hoping for Knesset seats themselves
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 12/15/2008
Several Kadima activists responsible for recruiting new members will be running for a spot on the party’s Knesset ticket during Wednesday’s primary. Despite polls indicating that the ruling party will lose seats in the next Knesset, some Kadima activists and ministerial assistants are viewing the young party’s first primary as an opportunity to represent Kadima in the Knesset. Eighty-five people, including nearly all the current Kadima ministers and Knesset members, are running for a spot on the party list. The roster is expected to include names that may be new to the general public but are familiar to party insiders. The recruiters - who tend to be affiliated with specific candidates, typically using membership drives to drum up support for their nominee - are among the most sought-after people in the party in the days before a primary.

Channel 10’s Horowitz may join new left-wing bloc
Roni Singer-Heruti, Ha’aretz 12/15/2008
Journalist and Channel 10 television analyst Nitzan Horowitz is reportedly considering joining the new left-wing movement, which is slated to join forces with Meretz. Meretz chair Haim Oron met with Horowitz recently to offer him a position with the new bloc, but the broadcaster has yet to make a decision. Sources at Meretz said yesterday the choice of Horowitz as a potential candidate stemmed from his position as a leading journalist concerned about ecological and green issues. Horowitz’s name is one of a long list mentioned as possible new additions to the movement, including broadcasting figure Meirav Michaeli. It remains unclear which of the latest additions to the alignment intend to run on its Knesset list. Yesterday prominent left-wing figure Tzali Reshef, one of the founders of the new bloc, was announced as one of the candidates to represent the movement on its Knesset list.

Peres presents economic plan at ''Globes'' conference
Erez Wollberg, Globes Online 12/14/2008
The core of president Shimon Peres’s plan is a tax exemption of five major industries, including stem cells and renewable energy. "No one knows how long the crisis will last, but it’s clear that the coming year will be decisive," said President Shimon Peres at the opening plenum of the "Globes" Israel Business Conference today. Peres also outlined his own economic plan. "If Israel marshals all its creativity, chutzpah, and wisdom, this crisis could become a new opportunity to become a new republic of creativity, rather than a republic of pure consumption. " The core of Peres’ plan is a tax exemption of five leading industries: renewable energy, creation of new water sources, stem cells, advanced teaching equipment, and antiterrorism equipment. Peres said, "Israel has a global, almost legendary, reputation in all these fields, so it has a chance of keeping its leadership position.

J’lem fire chief suspended over brothel claims
Jonathan Lis, Ha’aretz 12/15/2008
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat has temporarily suspended the municipal fire chief, Moshe Suissa, after police recommended to the State Prosecutor’s Office that Suissa be charged with attempting to run a brothel, employing firefighters in private renovation work, taking bribes, fraudulent receiving and obstruction of justice. Following a hearing Barkat held for Suissa, the mayor suspended him until the end of January. In a letter to Suissa, Barkat wrote that during the fire chief’s 33 years with the service, he had shown "courage in saving lives," and that "your devotion is not in doubt and is very much appreciated. Personally, I have seen you command rescue operations during terror attacks. However, unfortunately, this is not the question when it comes to a decision on suspension of a city employee, especially a senior one.

Barkat sweeps 30 of 31 city councilors
Jerusalem Post 12/15/2008
In a major political feat, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat has finalized his city council coalition with wall-to-wall support from all the major political parties in the city council, his spokesman announced late Sunday. The secular mayor’s coalition, which includes Shas, makes good on Barkat’s post-election pledge to try to create an all-encompassing coalition that will work toward the economic betterment of the city. The accord with Shas will allocate the Sephardi haredi party, which has four seats on the city council, the title of vice-mayor - a non-paying position - with the promise of receiving a deputy mayor post if Barkat can convince the government to increase the number of deputy mayors from six to eight. Shas, which will also receive responsibility for various municipal portfolios related to the haredi public, had previously demanded at least one deputy mayor in the city council.

$50b ’Ponzi scheme’ stings Jewish philanthropy groups
Natasha Mozgovaya, Ha’aretz 12/15/2008
WASHINGTON - An alleged $50 billion fraud by Wall Street financier Bernard Madoff has caused deep ripples in the Jewish philanthropic world, forcing the closure of a charity aimed at reversing assimilation and intermarriage and triggering losses by prominent donors. The Robert I. Lappin Charitable Foundation, which financed trips for Jewish youth to Israel, said the money that supported its programs was invested with Madoff, a former Nasdaq chairman. Madoff, who allegedly told his employees he was running a "giant Ponzi scheme," was arrested Thursday in New York hours after the collapse of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC, and released on a $10 million bond. United States authorities accuse him of running a phony investment business that lost at least $50 billion. Federal regulators reached a deal Friday to freeze the company assets and appoint a receiver to manage the firm’s financial affairs.

Rich investors ’wiped out’ by Wall Street fraud
David Randall, The Independent 12/14/2008
Some victims of Wall Street’s biggest fraud -- planned and carried out over decades by one of its most respected figures -- are as yet unaware that their entire savings have been wiped out, financial experts in New York said yesterday. Such is the extent of Bernard Madoff’s alleged $50bn (£34bn) swindle, and so convoluted its paper trail of derivatives, that this weekend there will be Americans under the impression they are rich who are oblivious that their wealth had been placed in Mr Madoff’s apparently criminal hands, and is therefore now lost. Enough details of the fallout were emerging yesterday to begin to judge the mayhem this one-time chairman of Nasdaq, and Democratic Party and Jewish charity benefactor, has wreaked. Those likely to have lost everything include a Jewish charity that had its $7m assets lodged with Mr Madoff’s firm, and had to lay off its staff on Friday, and Manhattan and Florida socialites.

Farmers to lose 100 million cubic meters of water, ban on garden watering may be next in line to go
Amiram Cohen, Ha’aretz 12/15/2008
The Water Authority announced yesterday it would reduce the amount of water available for agricultural use by 22 percent, or 100 million cubic meters. The cuts are expected to dry up 60,000 dunams of groves and orchards, and 40,000 dunams of greenhouses in the southern coastal plain and Negev. In response, Galilee farmers said they have begun preparations for diverting streams to their fields and orchards. Ahikam Bar Levi, director-general of the Galilee Development Authority, is coordinating efforts among farmers in the north to oppose the cuts. If the government does not compensate the farmers, he said, "there won’t be water in the streams of the Galilee throughout the summer. "The result, he said, would be "the destruction of the livelihood of an entire area, which forms the northern front of the country’s defense.

Manpower: Demand for high-tech workers drops 12.9%
Globes'' correspondent, Globes Online 12/14/2008
Manpower sees high-tech suffering from a deep freeze in recruitment felt across all companies in the sector. The latest figures released by Manpower Israel Ltd. show that overall demand for workers in November fell by 6. 6% compared with October, and by 11. 6% compared with the corresponding month last year. In the high-tech sector an even sharper fall of 12. 9% in demand for employees was recorded in November compared with the previous month, and a drop of 16. 2% compared with November 2007. Manpower compiles this index from the number of job ads in newspapers, and it is possible that some of the "wanted" ads are for the purposes of the company’s image and not genuine vacancies. Manpower sees high-tech suffering from a deep freeze in recruitment felt across all placement companies in the sector. The commercial sector saw a 6.

Insurance firms, Technion among losers in Madoff investment scam
and News Agencies, By Sharon Shpurer and Yoram Gabison, Ha’aretz 12/15/2008
The huge $50 billion fraud allegedly perpetrated by Bernard Madoff, possibly the largest in history, has reached Israel, too. Among those invested in Madoff’s funds and Ponzi scheme are an impressive list of Israeli insurance companies: Harel, Clal and the Phoenix. Estimates of the insurance firms exposure are NIS 40 million for Harel, tens of millions of shekels for the Phoenix and approximately NIS 12 million for Clal. The Technion also has lost money from its own exposure to Madoff and his scheme. It invested funds it raised from donations with Madoff and may have lost NIS 25 million. Madoff, 70, was the former chairman of the Nasdaq, and treasurer of the board of trustees at Yeshiva University and chairman of the university’s business school; he managed investment funds with over $17 billion in assets.

Junior faculty sign employment agreement with university heads, ending several years of conflict
Ofri Ilani, Ha’aretz 12/15/2008
University junior faculty representatives signed an employment conditions agreement last night with the committee of university heads, ending a struggle they had been waging for several years. The agreement covers the terms of employment for adjunct faculty, who until now were employed as contract workers with virtually no social benefits. The Technion - Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, was the only university that did not sign the deal. An abbreviated version of the agreement was signed last May, but a full version was only compiled last night. At the center of the agreement are 5,000 adjunct instructors who are not classified as lecturers. Most hold doctorate degrees, but are not part of the university’s permanent faculty. The deal turns these instructors into "teaching associates," or non-tenure track faculty members.

Barkat hopes Hollywood can come to J’lem
Jonathan Lis, Ha’aretz 12/15/2008
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat recently met with six major Hollywood producers in an effort to persuade them to begin producing films in the capital. He and the visitors discussed methods of attracting the film industry that have been successfully used by cities in Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and Australia, and at the end of the meeting, the parties agreed to set up working groups in Jerusalem and Los Angeles to draft a plan of action. The Jewish Federation of Los Angeles has agreed to support the project. The credits of the producers in question include box-office hits such as "Mission Impossible" and "The Sixth Sense" and major television series such as "Lost. "Members of the delegation included Darren Star, producer of the smash television series "Sex and the City," "Beverly Hills 90210" and "Melrose Place," and Steve Warren, who represents. . .

Pitango partner Peres: Up to 8,000 high-tech layoffs
Shmulik Shelah, Globes Online 12/14/2008
"The investment banking crisis has shut down the stock market, which is bad news for investors. "Pitango Venture Capitalmanaging general partner Nechemia (Chemi) Peres predicts that 10-15% of Israel’s high-tech labor force will lose their jobs. "We’re talking about 7,000 to 8,000 people who will be fired in high tech by the end of 2009. "He made the comment during a conference at Tel Aviv University. Peres also noted, "Anyone who thinks that it is now possible to float a company is mistaken. The investment banking crisis has shut down the stock market, which is bad news for investors. The second bad thing is that buyers are taking advantage to buy companies at low prices. " Peres called on the government to take a position on credit provided by Israeli banks, deal with education, and to participate in high-tech expenditure through the Office of the Chief Scientist or other corresponding agencies.

Int’l energy giants mull natural gas imports
Lior Baron, Globes Online 12/14/2008
The Israeli government touted the project in Houston. The Israeli government has chalked up an early success in its road show for its liquid natural gas (LNG) import and distribution preliminary tender, due to be published in the first quarter of 2009. 20 international energy companies attended a conference with the Ministries of Finance and National Infrastructures in Houston last week. Sources inform ’’Globes’’ that participants included representatives of ExxonMobil Inc. (NYSE: XON), Chevron Inc. (NYSE: CVX), Noble Energy Inc. (NYSE: NBL) (which is a shareholder inDelek Group Ltd. (TASE:DLEKG ) natural gas company Yam Tethys), Gaz de France SA (Euronext: GAZ), Total SA (NYSE; Euronext: TOT), and Italy’s ENI SpA (NYSE: E; Milan: ENI). The Israeli officials also intend to meet representatives of BG Group plc (NYSE: BRG; LSE: BG) and Russia’s Gazprom.

Adva Center: Israeli growth lower than other countries
Globes'' Correspondent, Globes Online 12/14/2008
The Adva Center’s report also found wide differentials in the average salaries of Israeli population sectors. A report issued today byAdva Center Information of Equality and Social Justice in Israel has shown that the rate of growth in Israel over the past decade falls significantly below that of other western countries. The report showed that while Israel has enjoyed 5% annual growth in recent years, considerably more than other developed countries, if the past decade is viewed, then the Israeli economy grew by only 40%, compared with 60%-63% in most developed countries, and more than 100% in China and India. The Adva Center report also reflects major differentials in the pay of Israelis according to population sectors. The average salary of an urban Ashkenazi family is, according to the Adva Center, 37-39% higher than the average national salary.

Messianic Jews detained at Ben-Gurion
Matthew Wagner, Jerusalem Post 12/14/2008
A director of the US Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations and his wife were detained Sunday at Ben-Gurion Airport by Interior Ministry officials amid allegations he is involved in illegal Christian missionary activity. It is illegal in Israel to proselytize among minors. It is also prohibited to engage in missionary activities among adults when economic incentives are offered. After over eight hours of detention, Jamie Cowen, a former president of the union, and his wife, Stacy, were permitted to enter Israel only after they agreed to sign a document that they would not engage in missionary activities during their stay. The Cowens are in Israel to visit their two daughters, one of whom is an Israeli citizen. The other is in the process of obtaining citizenship after she and a group of other Messianic Jews won a Supreme Court case against the state.

Anti-Defamation League joins YouTube to fight online hate
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 12/15/2008
The widely popular video sharing website YouTube has reached out to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) for its expertise in dealing with hate on the Internet. As a result of this partnership, the League is now a contributor to YouTube’s newly launched Abuse & Safety Center, where users are empowered to identify and confront hate, and to report abuses. The YouTube Abuse & Safety Center features information and links to resources developed by ADL to help Internet users respond to and report offensive material and extremist content that violates YouTube’s Community Guidelines on hate speech. "YouTube is an incredible tool for sharing videos and giving individuals an opportunity to broadcast themselves, but like other social networking sites it can be abused or used for sinister and dangerous purposes," said Abraham H. . . . -- See also: YouTube Partners with MOSSAD - ADL

Yemeni rabbi: Jewish community is threatened
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 12/15/2008
RAYDAH, Yemen - Muslim extremists in this northern Yemeni town are still harassing the small Jewish community after one of its members was gunned down last week, a local rabbi said yesterday. Rabbi Yahia Yaish bin Yahia said he felt alienated in his own village after a Jewish teacher was gunned down Thursday by a suspected Muslim extremist. "Raydah is no longer like the old days," he toldoutside his home in the village some 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of the capital San’a. "Raydah today is full of monsters. " Bin Yahia is one of the roughly 400 remaining Jews still living in Yemen, mostly in Raydah. Yemen was once home to about 50,000 Jews in the early 1950s, but most emigrated to Israel. Yemen’s Jews are thought to be descended from Roman-era Jewish merchants from Persia and Mesopotamia who traded in the south Arabian region.

US report paints Iraq reconstruction as fiasco
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 12/15/2008
WASHINGTON: An unpublished US government report says American-led efforts to rebuild Iraq were crippled by bureaucratic turf wars, violence and ignorance of the basic elements of Iraqi society, resulting in a $100 billion failure, The New York Times reported on its website late Saturday. The newspaper said it had gotten hold of a copy of the 513-page federal history of the reconstruction effort that is circulating in Washington in draft form among a tight circle of technical reviewers, policy experts and senior officials. The document cites former Secretary of State Colin Powell as complaining that after the 2003 invasion, the Defense Department "kept inventing numbers of Iraqi security forces - the number would jump 20,000 a week! We now have 80,000, we now have 100,000, we now have 120,000. ’"The overarching conclusions of the history is that the US government has in place neither. . .

Journalist hurls shoes at ’dog’ Bush during surprise Iraq visit
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 12/15/2008
BAGHDAD: US President George W. Bush was met with an unorthodox reception during a surprise visit to Iraq on Sunday, with an Iraqi journalist throwing his shoes at the lame-duck leader and calling him a "dog" at a joint news conference with the Iraqi premier. As the two politicians met and shook hands in Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s private office, an Iraqi journalist sitting in the third row jumped up, shouting: "It is the farewell kiss, you dog," and threw his shoes, one after, the other toward Bush. Maliki made a protective gesture toward the US president, who was not hit. The journalist, Muntazer al-Zaidi from Al-Baghdadia channel which broadcasts from Cairo, was frogmarched from the room by security staff, an AFP journalist said. Some Iraqi journalists stood up to apologize. The White House said Bush ducked to avoid the first shoe, while the second narrowly missed the president.

Sadrists see ’proof’ that US won’t honor pullout pact
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 12/15/2008
NAJAF, Iraq: US plans to keep support troops in Iraqi cities beyond a June 2009 pullback target date were cited by a Shiite party on Sunday as proof of Washington’s intention to cheat on a landmark security deal with Baghdad. The top US commander in Iraq, General Raymond Odierno, said on Saturday that troops would remain in Iraqi cities in a support and training role even after the June 30 target date for the withdrawal of combat troops set by a security agreement signed last month. The Shiite movement of Muqtada Sadr, which strongly opposed the agreement, said Odierno’s remarks showed that Washington had no intention of sticking by any of the deadlines set in the deal. "As we predicted, the comments fly in the face of the security agreement," the head of the movement’s political bureau, Liwaa Sumeissim, told AFP in the central shrine city of Najaf.

Iraq reconstruction ’a failure’
Al Jazeera 12/14/2008
The US-led coalition’s $100bn effort to rebuild Iraq has failed amid bureaucratic quarrels, ignorance of Iraqi society and violence in the country, the New York Times has quoted a US government report as saying. The newspaper said on its website on Saturday that it had obtained a draft copy of Hard Lessons: The Iraq Reconstruction Experience, which is circulating among senior officials. Compiled by the Office of the Special Inspector-General for Iraq Reconstruction, led by Stuart Bowen Jr, a Republican lawyer, the draft text concluded that the US defence department issued false reports to cover up poor progress of the reconstruction effort. Colin Powell, the former US secretary of state, is quoted as saying that the Pentagon gave inflated figures on the number of Iraqi security forces on the ground.

Shoe attack mars Bush’s Iraq visit
Al Jazeera 12/15/2008
George Bush, the US president, has had a pair of shoes hurled at him at a press conference during his last surprise visit to Iraq before leaving office in January. An Iraqi reporter called Bush "a dog" and shouted out "this is the end" at Sunday’s news conference in Baghdad, before throwing his shoes at the US leader. Bush, who had been giving a joint press statement with Nuri Al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, ducked behind a podium as the shoes narrowly missed his head. He was reported to be unhurt after the attack by Muntadar al-Zeidi, a correspondent for Al-Baghdadiya television, the Associated Press news agency reported. The outgoing US leader had just told reporters that while the war in Iraq was not over "it is decisively on its way to being won," when al-Zeidi got to his feet and hurled abuse - and his footwear - at the US president.

Iraqi reporter throws shoe at Bush during president’s farewell visit to Baghdad
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 12/15/2008
An Iraqi television news reporter threw his shoes at U. S. President George W. Bush and called him a "dog" in Arabic, during a press conference in Baghdad on Sunday, U. S. television station ABC has reported. Iraqi security officers and U. S. secret service agents leapt at the man and dragged him struggling and screaming out of the room where Bush was giving a news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. The shoes missed their target about 15 feet away. One sailed over Bush’s head as he stood next to Maliki and smacked into the wall behind him. Bush smiled uncomfortably and Maliki looked strained. "It doesn’t bother me," Bush said, urging everyone to calm down as a ruckus broke out in the conference room. When asked about the incident shortly after, Bush made light of it.


While Livni promises Arab deportation, Obama offers "nuclear umbrella" to Tel Aviv - that's what friends are for!
Michele Giorgio, il manifesto, Palestine Think Tank 12/14/2008
      Jerusalem - Everyone is pointing their finger at Benyamin Netanyahu, guilty of being the leader of a Likud full of rightist extremists like Moshe Feiglin. And yet, yesterday Tzipi Livni, the candidate as the Premier of the "centrist" Kadima in the coming elections held next 10 February who is currently serving as Foreign Minister, proved to hold opinions that are very close to those of the nationalist extremists. Leaving no room for possible misinterpretations, Livni told a group of high school students in Tel Aviv that the Israeli Arabs (Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, one fifth of the Israeli population) should go and live in the Palestinian state when it has been set up.
     “Once a Palestinian state is established”—Livni claimed—“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.’” Livni didn’t specify which steps she would take in order to have the Arab Israelis transferred into the future Palestinian state while the Arab Israelis will go on demanding the foundation of an Israeli state belonging to all its citizens and not to its Jewish majority alone.

Gaza Haunts the EU

Dr. Saeb Shaath, Palestine Think Tank 12/14/2008
      While Gaza defies Zionist-imposed death, in simple direct words, the "˜civilised’ world praises the killers. The EU is rewarding the Zionist vultures by upgrading its relationship with the Zionist entity (through a proposal by the European Union Commission and Council for the draft recommendation to conclude a Protocol to the EU-Israel Association Agreement and on the general principles governing the State of Israel's participation in Community programs). This means that more European taxpayers’ money will be made available to pour into the only entity on earth that is refusing to comply with UN and Security Council resolutions. Violating most international laws and basic Human Rights, a very advanced and sophisticated Israeli Army is attacking civilians and aiding settlers to attack unarmed defenceless Palestinians.
     Last Wednesday, the European Parliament (EP) postponed a vote that could largely upgrade EU-Israeli relations. The vote, originally scheduled for Thursday, December 11, was postponed to another date yet to be determined, the majority of European Parliamentarians ruled on Wednesday.

Rewarding Israel’s Criminal Behaviour

Stuart Littlewood, Middle East Online 12/14/2008
      Members of the European Parliament recently took a critical view of proposals to upgrade the EU-Israel Association Agreement and put down amendments designed to toughen up the conditions. "It’s time for the Israeli government to stop considering itself above the law and start respecting it,” warned Luisa Morgantini, the Parliament’s vice-president.
     As a result, the vote was postponed – “a political stunt”, said the frustrated Israel lobby. In the meantime, all 27 EU ministers voted unanimously to approve the upgrade. However, it is not a done deal just yet. The EU Parliament still has to vote on this.
     Most citizens, myself included, are baffled by the way the EU operates. One thing is certain: it has little to do with democracy. I seem to remember that when they voted in 2002 to suspend the EU-Israel Agreement on account of Israel’s continual violation of human rights, they were ignored by the Commission and Council of Ministers – that’s Western democracy for you.

The Chickens Come Home to Roost

Paul J. Balles, Middle East Online 12/14/2008
      Thirty-nine women and children and eight teenagers at a wedding could hardly be mistaken for militants. Yet that’s what the US military said about the 47 civilians murdered in an air strike in Afghanistan (BBC 11/07/08). Do we imagine, for a minute, that anyone vaguely knowing these people would forgive their tormentors and murderers?
     When a superior officer ordered three of his US marines not to take time to process the prisoners according to the rules, the threesome took turns blowing their prisoners’ brains out in Fallujah in 2004 (Los Angeles Times 11/07/08).
     How many of us would seriously think that stories of these atrocious misdeeds weren’t broadcast by word of mouth through all of the Arab and Islamic worlds?
     "We did a study on 3,000 children in Gaza," says, Dr Eyad al Saraj, a child psychologist. "45 per cent of them said the worst thing they have witnessed was the beating of their fathers by the Israeli soldiers. That was the symbol of security and power for them and it was shattered."

I am ashamed

Hadassa Ben-Itto, Ha’aretz 12/15/2008
      I always tried to integrate public activity into my personal life. I felt a special obligation to do so, as someone who had the good fortune to grow up here and to take part in the magnificent Zionist enterprise of establishing the Jewish state. I eschewed the political and media tracks: I do not denigrate their importance and centrality, but I decided they were not appropriate for me. Instead, I chose to join the justice system, as I believe it makes a vital contribution to shaping the face of a democratic country, and to be active on behalf of the Jewish people, whose future is intertwined with the future of the State of Israel.
     Recently, I was invited to give the keynote speech at a major event in Bern to mark the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht. The crowd included members of the clergy, ambassadors and other state representatives.
     .... I am ashamed of my silence. I saw the uprooting of olive trees, the overturning of market stalls, the attacks on property, and sometimes on innocent people, and I kept silent. I heard the words of incitement, I identified the messages and I was ashamed, but I kept silent.

Tzipi’s Nation-State

Uri Avnery, Middle East Online 12/14/2008
      It sounds like an invented story. And indeed it is.
     In this tale, an American politician gets up and declares: The United States was founded by British Protestants who were persecuted in Europe for their Puritan beliefs. Therefore, the United States is an Anglo-Saxon Protestant state.
     And he goes on: the United States is also a democratic state. Therefore, people with another background – such as Native Americans, Africans, Latinos, Asians and Jews – enjoy full equality. But they must know that the United States is an Anglo-Saxon nation-state, while they belong to other nation-states.
     Sounds far-fetched? Indeed it is. No American politician would dream of uttering such a statement, even if he might feel it in his heart.
     Here in Israel one can say such a thing, and nobody gets excited.
     This week Tzipi Livni did just that.

Radio Interview with Gilad Atzmon

Don Bustany, KPFK, Palestine Think Tank 12/14/2008
      For our first podcast transmission, Palestine Think Tank is happy to invite you to listen to this entertaining and informative radio interview Don Bustany made with Gilad Atzmon for the radio station KPFK. Topics covered in the show are those that many of Gilad’s readers will be familiar with, and they include Jewish Identity Politics, the contradiction in speaking tribal and thinking universal, the smearing and labelling that he has had to undergo for expressing his ideas, and naturally, bringing things back on focus, to the role that the West plays in covering up a humanitarian crisis and crime against humanity that Israel is conducting in Gaza. Enjoy! More podcasts to come! [end]