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

VTJP Archives | VTJP 2009
11 February, 2009

Fanatic emerges as kingmaker after razor-thin Israeli election
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 2/12/2009
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and hawkish ex-premier Benjamin Netanyahu were locked in a battle for power on Wednesday after a photo-finish election that could send peace talks into limbo. Livni’s centrist Kadima party won 28 seats in the 120-member parliament, just one ahead of Netanyahu’s Likud party, leaving the country facing perhaps weeks of political uncertainty. An overall lurch to the right has made it more likely that Netanyahu will return to the nation’s most powerful post, but Livni immediately started coalition talks, meeting on Wednesday with ultra-nationalist Israel Beitenu chieftain Avigdor Lieberman. "This is an opportunity for unity that can promote issues that are important for our two parties. They agreed to continue their contacts," Livni’s office said after the meeting with Lieberman, who has emerged as a kingmaker after the vote.

Even paper couldn’t escape Israel’s Gaza siege
Middle East Online 2/11/2009
UNITED NATIONS – The top UN official in the Gaza Strip has criticized Israel for blocking shipments of paper to the Palestinian territory to print textbooks for a new human rights curriculum that will be taught to children there. Israel also has refused to allow 12 truckloads of notebooks into Gaza as well as plastic sheeting, which is turned into plastic bags to distribute food that the UN provides to some 900,000 people, John Ging, head of Gaza operations for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. Ging spoke Monday in a videoconference with reporters at UN headquarters. He said 60 percent of the textbooks needed in Gaza have not been printed, so children don’t have the material they need to study. Ging said he was "extremely frustrated" at Israel’s refusal to allow paper into Gaza, "not least because we have a new human rights curriculum which everybody here is very excited to teach the children.

Teenager hospitalized after shot by settlers
Ma’an News Agency 2/11/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Seventeen-year-old Ali Mahfouth Hamamrah, a resident of the village of Husan, near Bethlehem, was transferred to Ramallah Public Hospital on Wednesday after Israeli settlers shot him on Monday. Hamamrah’s family said Israeli settlers shot him on highway 60, an Israeli settler bypass road that cuts through the West Bank. According to the family Hamamrah needs further treatment. According to witnesses, a settler stepped out of a bus and shot Hamamrah in the leg. An Israeli soldiers in a jeep reportedly witnessed the shooting but did nothing. Part of the land of Husan is occupied by the settlement Betar Ellit. [end]

UN investigating civilian deaths and destruction at its Gaza premises during Operation Cast Lead
DPA, Ha’aretz 2/11/2009
NEW YORK - UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appointed yesterday a board of inquiry into incidents that caused deaths and destruction at UN compounds in the Gaza Strip during the recent Israel-Hamas conflict. The board will be headed by Ian Martin, a Briton who has led various crucial UN missions around the world. He has been called on to complete the inquiry and submit a report within one month. Ban said the board will comprise legal advisers and a military expert. The UN agency caring for Palestinian refugees in the Middle East maintains several offices and schools throughout Gaza, which have been used to shelter thousands of people who fled the fighting. The Israel Defense Forces launched airstrikes against one school in January, killing dozens of people and claiming that Hamas used the site to fire rockets into Israel.

Children in crisis after Gaza attacks
PNN, Palestine News Network 2/11/2009
Gaza -- With the Gaza Strip struggling to rebuild while still under siege and acts of nonviolent resistance on the rise gathering aid, investigations into the 23 day attacks are ongoing. Hundreds of children were killed and thousands traumatized. Approximately half of the Strip’s million and a half residents are under 18. Israeli forces killed some 400 Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip beginning 27 December. The Global Movement for the Defense of Children investigated the deaths of 304 children and is currently investigating the circumstances of another 96. Defense of Children has gathered the stories of hundreds of families in the Gaza Strip with the number of victims much higher than the 1,330 people killed. At about five o’clock on the evening of Wednesday, 14 January 2009, 14 year old Amira was at home in southwestern Gaza City’s Tal Al Hawa neighborhood.

Egypt releases German pro-Gaza blogger
Middle East Online 2/11/2009
CAIRO - Egyptian police have released an Egyptian-German student pro-Palestinian blogger who was detained last week after organising a demonstration in support of the Gaza Strip, his family said on Wednesday. "He has been released," Jeannette, the sister of 26-year-old post-graduate student Philip Rizk, said. She declined to elaborate on his condition or whether charges would be pressed against him. A security official confirmed the release and said an enquiry was ongoing into Rizk’s activities. Rizk was detained on Friday in Qalubia, north of Cairo, where he and other activists had organised a protest in solidarity with the Gaza Strip in the wake of Israel’s war on the Palestinian territory. Egyptian rights group Nadim said on Sunday that Rizk had been taken away in a car with concealed licence plates to an unknown destination, saying it "condemns this barbaric, Mafia-style treatment of citizens.

Corpse of Gaza man arrives from Egypt
Ma’an News Agency 2/11/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – The corpse of 32-year-old Hussein Shamiyya, arrived in Gaza on Wednesday after he died in an Egyptian hospital of injuries he sustained in an Israeli airstrike in January, Palestinian medical officials said. Shamiyya, a fighter with the An-Nasser Salah Ad-Din Brigades, died on 2 February. Israeli warplanes launched a missile at his motorcycle in the city of Khan Younis on 29 January. Several children were also injured in the same attack, which took place outside Nasser Hospital, ten days after Israel declared a halt to its offensive on Gaza. “Shamiyya’s death was announced on Monday at Al-Ma’adi Hospital in Egypt after he was seriously injured when he was targeted by Israeli warplanes in Khan Younis. He was treated at Nasser Hospital in the city, then at Ash-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City before he was taken to Egypt,” said Muawiya Hassanein, director of ambulance and emergency service in the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza.

A Palestinian man from Gaza dies in Egypt due to earlier wounds
Ghassan Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/11/2009
A Palestinian man from the Gaza Strip was reported dead at an Egyptian hospital on Wednesday. Fayz Shamiya, 23, from Gaza City was moved to Egypt last week after sustaining severe wounds in the head during the Israeli operation "Cast Lead". According to the Palestinian Embassy in Cairo Shamiya is the Palestinian number 33 to die in Egypt after sustaining wounds in the latest Israeli attacks. [end]

Palestinians Stop Paying Israeli Hospitals for Gaza and West Bank Patients
Ethan Bronner, MIFTAH 2/11/2009
JERUSALEM — Scores of Palestinian patients being treated in Israeli hospitals, a rare bright spot of coexistence here, are being sent home because the Palestinian Authority has stopped paying for their treatment, partly in anger over the war in Gaza. Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem says that for the past week, no payments have come in and Palestinians whose children it is treating have been instructed by Palestinian health officials to place them in facilities in the West Bank, Jordan or Egypt. “Suddenly we have had 57 patients dropped from our rolls,” said Dr. Michael Weintraub, director of pediatric hematology, oncology and bone marrow transplantation at Hadassah. “We have been bombarded by frantic parents. This is a political decision taken on the backs of patients. ”The Palestinian health minister, Fathi Abu Moghli, said he was examining the entire referral procedure because he was

Israeli warplanes cut water supply to northern Gaza Strip
Palestinian Information Center 2/10/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- The water authority in the coastal areas in northern Gaza Strip announced on Monday that an Israeli air strike has destroyed the Atatrah water well that supplies the Atatrah and the Salateen areas, cutting water supply to more than 10,000 Palestinians in the area. In press statement he made over the incident, Munther Shablak, the director of the authority, pointed out that the aerial raid directly hit the well and destroyed it, leaving inhabitants of the two areas fighting for survival. But Shablak underlined that technical teams of the authority were immediately dispatched to the affected area to repair and restore water supplies to the people, adding that the water sector was badly damaged by the Israeli bombardment, causing catastrophic repercussions to many projects in the area. In a related matter, the Quds Brigades, the military wing of the Islamic Jihad Movement,. . .

Palestinian Killed by Israeli Troops
Gulf News, MIFTAH 2/11/2009
Dubai: On the eve of Israeli parliamentary elections, a Palestinian fighter belonging to Islamic Jihad was killed by Israeli troops in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hannoun. The fighter was on a mission to attack Israeli patrol on the border with Israel, according to Islamic Jihad. Earlier in the day, Israel carried out air strikes on a building used by Hamas police, with no casualties reported. The air strikes came in response to continued rocket fire from Hamas on Sunday. Palestinian foreign minister Riad Malki accused Hamas of fostering instability in the region ahead of the Israeli vote. According to Malki, the Palestinian Authority - which is at odds with Hamas - is particularly worried that the attacks will push Israeli voters to vote for a candidate who is against peace with the Palestinians. Final opinion polls placed the the hawkish Likud party ahead of the centrist Kadima party by a few seats.

EGYPT: Blogger Rizk freed after days of interrogation
Jeffrey Fleishman in Cairo, Los Angeles Times 2/11/2009
Philip Rizk’s strange, spooky ordeal is over. The blogger and peace activist was freed early today after having been arrested last week by Egyptian security officials. He was taken into custody following a protest march outside Cairo to raise awareness for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Rizk disappeared in a white mini-bus and was held at an undisclosed location and interrogated for nearly five days. The 26-year-old filmmaker and incessant blogger had wandered into precarious Egyptian politics. The government of President Hosni Mubarak has grown testy over domestic and international criticism that it didn’t do enough to aid Palestinians during Israel’s recent 22-day incursion. Mubarak’s decision to keep Egypt’s border with Gaza largely closed kept humanitarian aid from entering the battered seaside enclave.

Gaza activist is freed by Egypt
BBC Online 2/11/2009
Egyptian police have released a pro-Palestinian blogger who was detained last week during a rally. Egyptian-German student Philip Rizk was held on Friday, north of Cairo, where he helped organise a protest in support of the Gaza Strip. Eyewitnesses said he was bundled into a white van with no licence plates, which then sped off. Ritz says he was "terrified" but not abused physically, according to a local human rights group. A security official confirmed the release and said an inquiry was ongoing into Mr Rizk’s activities. Mr Rizk, who lived in Gaza for two years, writes the blog Tabula Gaza, and has just completed a short documentary about non-violent protest against Israeli operations in the Gaza Strip." I was repeatedly questioned about everything and I was terrified," Mr Rizk said, according to a statement from The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) in Cairo.

UN moves to charge Israel with war crimes
PressTV 2/10/2009
The United Nations moves to set up a commission to look into Israeli war crimes and respond to its human rights violations in Gaza. After the United Nations Works and Relief Agency (UNRWA) compound became the target of GPS-guided Israeli mortars on January 15, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned "in the strongest terms this outrageous attack" and called for an inquiry into suspected Israeli war crimes." I strongly demand a thorough investigation and punishment for those responsible," he told reporters in Beirut after the attack. Japanese Ambassador Yukio Takasu, who currently holds the presidency of the Security Council, said late on Monday that Ban had told a closed-door briefing in the council that the UN had set up a commission as a preliminary step to look into Israeli damage to UN premises. Several diplomats have reported that the commission would be led by the former British secretary-general of human rights group Amnesty International, Ian Martin.

Egypt hinders investigations into Gaza war
PressTV 2/9/2009
Egypt has refused entry into the Gaza Strip to members of an international committee in charge of investigating Israeli war crimes. The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) set up the committee. Four French and Norwegian lawyers comprise the committee. The ICC had earlier started preliminary analysis into alleged Israeli war crimes in the Gaza war. French and Norwegian lawyers from Amnesty International on Thursday had attempted to enter the impoverished Palestinian sliver through Egypt’s Rafah crossing with Gaza. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, as well as B’Tselem, and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, have filed a lawsuit with the International Criminal Court (ICC) against alleged Israeli war crimes in Gaza.

Two brothers denied travel for medical treatment die
Palestinian Information Center 2/11/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Two Palestinian brothers were proclaimed dead on Tuesday in Gaza hospitals after all efforts to provide them with medical treatment abroad failed as a result of the Israeli unjust siege imposed on the Strip. Palestinian medical sources reported that Hasan Abu Tabak, 17, who suffered from severe inflammation in the cerebral fluid and his five-year-old sister Rawan, who died of second-to-third degree burns, were denied travel to receive treatment in hospitals outside Gaza. With the death of these two brothers, the number of the Israeli siege victims rose to 273 patients. The death toll is also likely to increase after the Egyptian authorities decided to close the Rafah border crossing, while the intensive care units are crammed with dozens of patients who need medical care unavailable in Gaza in light of the ongoing Israeli siege.

Israeli rivals Livni and Netanyahu try to woo small parties after inconclusive poll
Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem, The Guardian 2/11/2009
Centrist leader meets far-right’s Lieberman in attempt to form coalition. - Israel’s two contenders for power, Tzipi Livni and her rightwing rival Binyamin Netanyahu, were locked in talks with smaller parties today , each trying to forge enough support to emerge at the head of a new coalition government. Livni, the foreign minister and head of the centrist Kadima party, came out of yesterday’s general elections just one seat ahead of Netanyahu, the Likud leader, with nearly all the votes counted. But Livni only becomes prime minister if she can stitch together a majority coalition, and most analysts said that, given the combined strength of the rightwing parties, she faced an uphill struggle. The rightwing and religious Jewish parties won around 65 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, with the centrist, leftwing and Arab Israeli parties falling several seats short of a combined majority.

Livni wastes no time, meets with Lieberman
YNetNews 2/11/2009
Kadima and Likud fight over who will form coalition. In attempt to thwart rightist bloc being built by Netanyahu, Livni meets with Yisrael Beiteinu chairman in Jerusalem: ’Now is opportunity for unity that can advance issues important to you as well’ - The race for building a supportive political bloc is in full force. Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu met with Shas Chairman Eli Yishai on Wednesday in a bid to pull together a rightist bloc for a coalition. However, this move came at the same time as Kadima Chairman Tzipi Livni, wasting no time, met in the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem with Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman, whose party won 15 seats in the next Knesset, putting them in a key position for building the coalition. At the end of her meeting with Lieberman, Livni said, "The public decided and established who it wants to see as the prime minister.

Will Israel be able to form a unity government?
Donald Macintyre, The Independent 2/11/2009
Why has a possible national unity government with rotating Prime Ministers even been discussed by commentators during the present crisis? - Because after the 1984 elections Shimon Peres, who as President will have to decidenext week whom to invite to form a coalition, found himself as a party leader in a situation - in one respect - similar to Tzipi Livni’s now. The Labour Alignment, which he headed, was the biggest single party - with 44 seats - but proved unable to form a workable coalition. After lengthy negotiations with Yitzhak Shamir, who as leader of Likud had secured 41 seats, Mr Peres reached an agreement for the two men to alternate. Mr Peres would serve as Prime Minister for two years, with Mr Shamir as foreign minister and deputy Prime Minister. After that the two men would swap places. The deal was honoured - and the government functioned.

Israeli leaders battle for power
Alex Sehmer in Tel Aviv, Al Jazeera 2/11/2009
Tzipi Livni, Israel’s foreign minister and leader of the Kadima party, has narrowly won the closely fought election race, but the real political battle is only just beginning as negotiations get under way on forming a ruling coalition. Kadima won the biggest number of parliamentary seats, just one ahead of Likud, but as observers had predicted, the Israeli political scene moved to the right in this election. Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu, made the biggest gains and Likud remains hopeful of uniting the right-wing parties. Even as projections indicated that Kadima would come out on top, Likud supporters at the party’s election headquarters erupted into cheers of "Bibi! Bibi!" believing that their leader, Benyamin Netanyahu, will be the next prime minister. Under the Israeli electoral system, once the results are in, Shimon Peres, the president, will ask the person deemed most likely to be able to cobble together a coalition, to form a government.

Lieberman: We hold the key to the next Israeli government
Haaretz Service and News Agencies, Ha’aretz 2/11/2009
Right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman spoke Tuesday night after exit polls predicted 15 seats for the ultranationalist party, saying that he holds the key to forming the country’s next government. Yisrael Beiteinu scored lower than expected, as early polls predicted 20 seats for Lieberman’s party, but nevertheless, the party’s rise from the 11 seats it currently holds has made it the third largest party in Israel. Lieberman said that the strong showing puts him in a strong position to determine who heads the next coalition government. He said he spoke to the two front-runners, Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu and Kadima leader, Tzipi Livni, and could be persuaded to join either one of them. Lieberman has stoked controversy by saying Israeli Arabs should pass a loyalty test or lose citizenship. In his speech, he also ruled out any cease-fire with Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip. He declared that the group must be toppled.

Advantage Netanyahu After Uncertain Poll
Analysis by Jerrold Kessel and Pierre Klochendler, Inter Press Service 2/11/2009
JERUSALEM, Feb 11(IPS) - Israeli voters went into their polling booths Tuesday uncertain about the government they wanted to lead them over the next four years, only to emerge from their vote even more uncertain about their country’s future. They delivered a surprise by narrowly preferring foreign minister Tzipi Livni over the right-wing former prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. The depth of the surprise was not, however, sufficient to give Livni’s centre-right Kadima party victory. Instead, though finishing behind his rival, Netanyahu will almost certainly be Israel’s next prime minister. This, because of the overall serious shift of voters to the right that gives his Likud party, together with its allies, a narrow, but probably workable majority in the 120-seat Knesset. "Let’s not lose sight of the fact that we on the right have increased our overall strength by 10-12 percent. "

Israel faces gridlock as rivals claim power
By Karin Laub, AP, The Independent 2/11/2009
Analysts said the country was split as the prospects of Palestine and Israel making peace were dimmer than ever. - Will Israel be able to form a unity government? Centrist Tzipi Livni’s Kadima party won the most votes but had little chance of building enough support for a coalition. Right-winger Benjamin Netanyahu can get the support, but analysts said the likely coalition would prove dysfunctional. " I won," read the headline of the country’s biggest newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, next to photos of both leaders. But some commentators said the rival claims showed Israel had lost. "One thing is clear to all Israeli voters," said the paper’s Eitan Haber. "The political system is shattered. " President Shimon Peres must decide whether to call on Livni or Netanyahu, who then has 42 days to form a government. Israeli media said he would have no choice but to tap Netanyahu if rightist parties all back him.

Race for Avigdor Lieberman’s hand underway
Lilach Weissman, Globes Online 2/11/2009
Benjamin Netanyahu and Tzipi Livni are courting the leader of the third largest party, who holds the key to forming a coalition. After the inconclusive results of Israel’s general election yesterday, the race to win Avigdor Lieberman’s support has begun. Kadima leader Tzipi Livni and Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu both began determinedly courting the Israel Beiteinu chairman, each seeking to persuade him to join a government under his or her leadership. Although Israel Beiteinu won only 15 seats, fewer than had been predicted, Lieberman still heads the third largest party in the new Knesset, and he is the one who will determine whether Livni can form a coalition or whether only Netanyahu can do so. Since the election results are not yet final, the party leaders cannot begin coalition negotiations officially, but Livni and Netanyahu each engaged in a round of talks and meetings,. . .

Israeli Analyst: Without Lieberman, Livni has no Government
George Rishmawi, International Middle East Media Center News 2/11/2009
An Israeli political analyst expected a Livni-Lieberman coalition in order for the second expected female, prime minister of Israel to form a government. Tzipi Livni, who managed in the last miniute to win over Benjamin Netanyahu who was top on most of the polls prior to the elections, made a major victory. At least three parties are needed to make the 61 minimum seats in the Knesset in order to form a government. Therefore, groups like Lieberman’s Yesrael Beteinu who won 15 seats and Shass who won 11 seats will have an important weight in the coalition talks. Livni was appointed 13 years ago, by Netanyahu as head of the Israel Government Companies Authority. According to analys Yossi Verter of Haaretz, even with Lieberman Livni would need other parties to in order to form a government. Netanyahu on the other hand, has better chances to form a government as coalition with. . .

Arab MK Tibi: Israel must engage in self-examination after Lieberman’s ’monstrous rise’
Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 2/11/2009
In the wake of Tuesday’s exit poll results, Arab MK Ahmed Tibi said that Israel’s Jewish population must engage in a process of self-examination, after what he called "the monstrous rise of Lieberman and Yisrael Beiteinu. " Exit polls by Israel’s three main television stations on Tuesday night showed Kadima as the leader in the 2009 general elections, with Likud coming a narrow second and Yisrael Beiteinu coming in as the third largest party, with 15 seats. Tibi said that his party Ra’am Ta’al, like other Arab parties, will not support any one candidate for the prime minister’s post. Hadash MK Mohammed Barakeh said his party was satisfied with Tuesday’s election results. "We will spearhead the struggle against racism," said Barakeh from his Nazareth office. "We are encouraged, but we have a significant job ahead of us fighting against Liebermanism and Kahanism. "

Meretz shock: Gal-On not in Knesset
YNetNews 2/11/2009
Many in left-wing party did not wait for election results before pointing finger at union with New Movement. Party leaders to meet on Sunday to discuss their bleak situation - The weak results of the New Movement-Meretz in Tuesday’s elections led party supporters to call for introspection and self-examination. Meretz sources have aimed their criticism mainly at the controversial union with the new left movement led by Chairman Chaim Oron (Jumes). The disappointment on the faces of Meretz party members Tuesday turned quickly to shock on Wednesday morning when it became clear that the party sank to an unprecedented slump of only three seats. Contributing in large part to their astonishment is the fact that MK Zahava Gal-On will not be sitting in the next Knesset. Even though she was already covering up her disappointment on Tuesday night, even refusing. . .

Akiva Eldar / Why did Meretz fare so poorly in the elections?
Akiva Eldar, Ha’aretz 2/11/2009
Just a few weeks ago, recently appointed party chairman Haim Oron rebuked the detractors of the decision to incorporate new faces - Nitzan Horowitz, Talia Sasson and Tzali Reshef - among the party’s top ten candidates. He said with unremitting conviction that the creation of New Movement-Meretz would win the party at least another three seats. Meretz was not in the coalition, and therefore could not be blamed for the government’s shortcomings. It fulfilled its role as a small opposition party decently, and even more than that. But the more dovish circles among the traditional voters accused the party of betraying its basic principles in supporting the Second Lebanon War of 2006 and Operation Cast Lead in Gaza last month. Traditional Meretz voters are unforgiving of indecisiveness and cannot disregard unnecessary wars. Some of these hardcore voters, thus, supported the even more left-wing bi-national party Hadash.

Labor headed to Opposition
Shelly Paz, Jerusalem Post 2/11/2009
Less than 24 hours after Labor Chairman Ehud Barak gave a vague speech on the party’s intention to join a coalition government following its disappointing showing in the elections, Labor MKs and ministers made it clear they thought the party should head to the Opposition. Senior party officials said on Wednesday that Labor could no longer hope to play a significant role in forming the next government, and that it had better focus on its own future rather than try to save Kadima. The party won only 13 mandates in Tuesday’s general election, down from 19 in the outgoing Knesset. "Livni won the battle but lost the war," one of the officials said. "She drew votes [away] from both Meretz and Labor, but couldn’t create a bloc by appealing to the right-wing voters. " On Wednesday, Barak held talks with the party’s lawmakers, and most of them, including MKs Shelly Yacimovich,

Barak to Labor MKs: We’ll sit in opposition
YNetNews 2/11/2009
Labor chairman tells shrinking party’s MKs it will not enter any coalition. Meanwhile, Kadima’s Livni slated to meet Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman for talks, Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu schedules meeting with Shas head -After election results showed the Labor party reaching a new low in popularity, Chairman Ehud Barak announced he would lead the party to the opposition. In a talk with the party’s MKs, Barak said the 13-mandate Labor party was unlikely to be a member of any coalition to be formed, and would move over to the opposition seats. Tuesday night Barak exhibited less resolution, and in his defeat speech at the party’s headquarters said, "The results require us to learn from our mistakes. My mistakes first and foremost, we must learn our lessons and continue to serve the public in the best way possible. . . "

Netanyahu: No rotation with Livni
YNetNews 2/11/2009
Likud leader rejects notion of sharing power with Kadima during faction meeting Wednesday evening; Netanyahu urges Livni to cast aside political considerations, join Likud-led government - The Likud party will form the next government and will not share power with Kadima, Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday evening. "We received a mandate from the people. We shall turn to our natural partners, and later aim to expand the government," Netanyahu reportedly said during a Likud faction meeting. "There will be no rotation. " "Should Kadima cast aside political considerations and spins, and show concern for the government and for the welfare of the State, they shall join our government," Netanyahu said. "I will embark on official contacts following the president’s decision. It’s not simple, yet also not too complicated. "

Livni, Netanyahu both claim the people’s mandate
Globes correspondent, Globes Online 2/11/2009
With almost all votes counted, Tzipi Livni’s Kadima has the most Knesset seats, but the right-wing block will be dominant. With 99. 7% of the votes in Israel’s general election counted, it emerges that Kadima has a narrow lead over Likud. Kadima has 28 of the 120 Knesset seats, Likud 27, Israel Beiteinu 15, Labor 13, Shas 11, United Torah Judaism 5, National Union 4, Ra’am-Ta’al 4, Hadash 4, Meretz 3, Balad 3, Habayit Hayehudi 3. The uncounted votes are mostly those of ballot boxes from army bases, so that, on the basis of voting patterns in previous elections, there is a slight chance that Likud could take one more seat. Both Kadima leader Tzipi Livni and Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu have claimed victory in the election. "The people have decided Kadima. All that remains is to form a broad government under my leadership," Livni declared.

Exit polls: Kadima edges Likud
Haaretz Staff and News Agencies, Ha’aretz 2/11/2009
Television exit polls last night showed that Tzipi Livni’s Kadima party beat Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud in a tight election race, with a projected advantage of two seats. But regardless of which party receives the most votes, Netanyahu may end up being the next prime minister, as all the polls showed the rightist bloc as a whole with a clear advantage over the leftist bloc. Late last night, Netanyahu began contacts with several right-wing parties, including Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu, to form a bloc aimed at preventing Livni from forming a coalition. By law, the president must consult with all the parties as to who they prefer as prime minister, and whoever is recommended by more Knesset members is given the nod. Hence if the religious and rightist parties all recommend Netanyahu, he would get first crack at forming a government.

Success of rightist bloc may propel Netanyahu into PM’s chair
Haaretz Staff and News Agencies, Ha’aretz 2/11/2009
With a clear advantage to the rightist bloc in Israel’s national elections Tuesday, Benjamin Netanyahu could well end up as the next prime minister, regardless of whether his Likud party won the most votes or came second to centrist Kadima and Tzipi Livni. Late Tuesday night, Netanyahu began contacts with several right-wing parties, including Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu. By law, the president must consult with all the parties as to who they prefer as prime minister, and whoever is recommended by more Knesset members is given the nod. Hence if the religious and rightist parties all recommend Netanyahu, he would get first crack at forming a government. In terms of blocs, all three TV exit polls predicted a rightist bloc of 63 or 64 seats out in the 120-strong Knesset, compared to 57 or 56 for the leftist bloc.

Arab parties won’t back Livni
YNetNews 2/11/2009
Hadash,United Arab List-Ta’al and Balad feel they have preserve their relative power in Knesset; All say will sit in opposition because no gov’t will represent their vision -Arab parties in Israel expresses satisfaction that they had more of less kept a hold of their relative power in the Knesset in this election. Exit polls commissioned by Ynet and conducted by Rafi Smith indicate thatHadash has increased its influence to five mandates, United Arab List-Ta’al won four mandates, while Balad has not yet crossed the requisite threshold to obtain Knesset representation. Hadash Chairman MK Mohammad Barakeh said he was "very happy" with the results, as per Tuesday night’s exit polls, and expressed hope that the actual results would be even greater. "However, even if it’s not, this is still serious progress," he said.

Israeli rivals fight for power after tight vote
Patrick Moser - JERUSALEM, Middle East Online 2/11/2009
Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and hawkish ex-premier Benjamin Netanyahu were locked in a battle for power on Wednesday after a photo-finish election that could send peace talks into limbo. Livni’s centrist Kadima party won 28 seats in the 120-member parliament, just one ahead of Netanyahu’s Likud party, leaving the country facing perhaps weeks of political uncertainty. An overall lurch to the right has made it more likely that Netanyahu will return to the nation’s most powerful post, but Livni immediately started coalition talks, meeting on Wednesday with ultra-nationalist Avigdor Lieberman. "This is an opportunity for unity that can promote issues that are important for our two parties. They agreed to continue their contacts," Livni’s office said after the meeting with the Yisrael Beitenu leader, who has emerged as a kingmaker after Tuesday’s vote.

Yisrael Beiteinu doesn’t rule out Livni as PM
YNetNews 2/11/2009
After becoming third biggest Knesset faction, Yisrael Beiteinu knows it holds key for next coalition. Party officials say that while they are inclined to go with Netanyahu, decision on who to recommend to president not final - Yisrael Beiteinu activists responded with ambivalence to the election results for the 18th Knesset. While the party succeeded in becoming the third largest political faction on Tuesday, it was actually hoping to win 20 Knesset seats. Upon receiving the exit polls results on Tuesday evening, many in the party were clearly dissatisfied. " We’re disappointed because the gut feeling was different. Everyone attacked us from Right and Left, haredim and seculars. But that’s okay, we’ll get more in the next elections," one activist declared. Yisrael Beiteinu elections headquarters Tuesday evening (Photo: Gil Yohanan). . .

Lieberman: We determined election agenda
Yael Branovsky, YNetNews 2/11/2009
After emerging as chairman of the third largest party, Yisrael Beitenu’s Lieberman vows first order of business will be defeat of Hamas -Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman said that his party "had determined the agenda of this year’s election" and expressed the desire to continue shaping the national agenda as part of the government. After speaking with Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni and Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu, Lieberman addressed his supporters in Jerusalem, speaking of national values and objectives, and of the triumph of the right. Addressing the fact that his party may be the deciding factor as to whether Livni or Netanyahuforms a coalition, he claimed that Yisrael Beiteinus "had determined the agenda of this year’s election - citizenship and loyalty. "The party chairman said he believed that the primary debate within. . .

Benjamin Netanyahu’s day / Bibi yearns for a ’rain of Likud ballots’
Anshel Pfeffer, Ha’aretz 2/11/2009
Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu adopted the Election Day advice of two of his Likud predecessors: Menachem Begin and Ariel Sharon. Everywhere he ran into voters, he called on them to "Go out and vote" -- just as Sharon did during the 2002 primaries, when he trounced Netanyahu. When the skies opened up and the storm broke loose, Netanyahu was ready to adopt Begin’s mythic speech of the 1981 elections, calling for a "rain of Likud ballots. "He even imitated Begin’s gesture as he placed his ballot in the box at a packed polling station in Ashdod, demonstrating to everyone with his hands what he expected them to do. Netanyahu started his day by having coffee with Channel 2 military correspondent Roni Daniel, an old friend. The two usually spend Election Day sitting together and drinking coffee, and Daniel was waiting in the cold Jerusalem morning on the sidewalk across from Netanyahu’s home at 9 A.

Too early? Kadima throws ’victory party’
Amir Mizroch, Jerusalem Post 2/11/2009
The outer wall at Kadima headquarters in Petah Tikva’s industrial zone is still adorned with a very large poster of the party’s founder, Ariel Sharon, but that could change soon. Inside the bustling building on Tuesday, the Sharon poster hung across the main office room where dozens of party activists were working the phones on Election Day, checking in with their counterparts in the field at polling booths countrywide. Across the wall is an election poster with Sharon on one side and Kadima’s new leader, Tzipi Livni, on the other. Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has been wiped out of Kadima’s literature and PR material. The party that started with Sharon’s "big bang" and struggled through a sex scandal and corruption investigation, as well as failed and unfinished wars, has somehow emerged stronger that it was when Olmert took charge of the party in 2006. The victory party started surreptitiously, moments before the exit polls were broadcast on the three TV channels at 10 p. m.

Q & A: After the Israeli election, who will form government?
Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem, The Guardian 2/11/2009
With no clear winner in the national polls, how will the next government be constituted? - What happens next in Israeli politics? Already the two leading political parties, Tzipi Livni’s Kadima and Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud, are assessing how strong their support is. Both leaders say they want to become prime minister and to lead large coalition governments. Negotiations are under way behind the scenes. Surely the largest party wins? Not necessarily. Israel’s election system is based on proportional representation to elect party lists. With 99% of votes counted, Livni is one seat ahead of Netanyahu. But neither has anything like a majority. So far the rightwing parties have won 65 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, meaning that Netanyahu would probably find it easier to form a coalition. The centre-left parties have only 55 seats, leaving them some way short of a majority.

For the sake of peace, Labor and Kadima must merge
Aluf Benn, Ha’aretz 2/11/2009
The desired outcome of the election is for Kadima and Labor to merge and work together as a single cooperative faction in the 18th Knesset. There is two-faceted logic to them working together: It would mean the construction of a 40-seat bloc that would serve as a central axis for any potential coalition, and would return a measure of stability to the political system currently split between medium-sized parties. There is no ideological difference between Labor and Kadima that could be a stumbling block to the merge. Both represent combinations of diplomatic restraint and offensive security policies. Their time together in Olmert’s Kadima-led government was typified by agreement on the majority of basic issues and differences of opinion mainly centered around personal differences between Olmert and Barak, not ideology. The merge would bolster those who support a two-state solution with the Palestinians and a peace agreement with Syria, and would hurt the right-wing MKs that would seek to block any such deal.

A toxic force rises in Israel
Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian 2/11/2009
The search for silver linings in the murky cloud of yesterday’s Israeli election requires a great effort of the will. There is not much to go on. You could draw comfort from the fact that Likud’s Bibi Netanyahu, who thought he was such a dead cert to win a matter of weeks ago, was rejected, albeit narrowly, in favour of the woman he so consistently patronised, Tzipi Livni of Kadima. Or you might take solace in the notion that the near tie between Bibi and Tzipi would most easily be resolved by the pair rotating the premiership between them, each taking a two-year turn, following the precedent set by Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Shamir after they fought each other to a dead heat in 1984. The virtue of such an arrangement could be the exclusion of the ultra-nationalist hardman Avigdor Lieberman, whose Israel Beytenu – Israel our Home – party surged to third place on Tuesday.

Battle for Israel as Netanyahu claims power despite party loss
By Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem, The Independent 2/11/2009
Exit polls show Livni’s party ahead but facing struggle to form government - Benjamin Netanyahu triggered a convulsive power struggle for the leadership of Israel last night by claiming the right to be Prime Minister despite election exit polls predicting that Tzipi Livni’s Kadima party would be the biggest in the Israeli parliament. All three TV channels reported Ms Livni had won a surprise personal victory by coming from behind in a knife-edge contest to secure two more seats in yesterday’s election than the right-wing Likud opposition led by Mr Netanyahu, who is bidding to return to the office he held from 1996-99. Mr Netanyahu’s determination to lead his country again was based on results from the same polls predicting that strengthened right-wing bloc in the Knesset would command up to 65 seats compared with a maximum of 57 on the centre and left from where Ms Livni would draw to form a coalition.

UN Official Slams Israel for Blocking Textbooks
The Associated Press, MIFTAH 2/11/2009
Head of UNRWA operation in Gaza ’extremely frustrated’ by Israel’s refusal to allow paper into Strip, says new textbooks meant for children’s human rights programThe top UN Official in Gaza criticized Israel on Monday for blocking the shipment of paper to print textbooks for a new human rights curriculum that will be taught to children in all grades in the Palestinian territory. Israel also has refused to allow 12 truckloads of notebooks into Gaza as well as plastic sheeting which isturned into plastic bags to distribute food that the UN provides to some 900,000 people, John Ging, head of Gaza operations for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency which helps Palestinian refugees, said in a videoconference with reporters at UN Headquarters. He said 60% of the textbooks needed in Gaza have not been printed, so children don’t have the material they need to study.

Gaza aid groups run into trouble with Hamas
IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2/11/2009
GAZA CITY, 11 February 2009 (IRIN) - The Hamas government in Gaza has ordered international and local aid organisations providing emergency assistance to coordinate relief efforts with it. Several local NGOs in Gaza say Hamas has prevented aid groups from distributing emergency assistance after they refused to comply with Hamas regulations. "We received information that supplies brought in from abroad were being sold on the market," deputy minister of social affairs Sobhi Redwan told IRIN, saying UNRWA (the UN agency for Palestinian refugees) was bringing in supplies for non-UN institutions and donors. International aid agencies like Oxfam and CARE say the "logistics cluster" coordinated by the World Food Programme (WFP) is the only mechanism under which trucks are sent into Gaza. "We do help other UN agencies and other organisations deliver," UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness told IRIN by phone from Jerusalem.

UNDP survey: 600,000 tons of hazardous rubble need to be removed in Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 2/11/2009
AMMAN, (PIC)-- An initial survey conducted by the UNDP estimated that more than 14,000 homes, 68 government buildings and 31 non-governmental facilities in the Gaza Strip had been totally or partially damaged. As a result, the survey found that 600,000 tons of hazardous rubble must be removed. "This is a top priority," said Jens Toyberg-Frandzen, the UNDP special representative in the occupied Palestinian lands. "The rubble is mixed with poisonous harmful materials and may include unexploded ordnance. It needs to be urgently removed to protect the lives of Palestinians in Gaza and to facilitate immediate access to basic humanitarian and social services. " Rubble removal was included in the UN recovery plan issued on Monday, according to which, the UNDP appealed for $26,750,000 in order to be able only to clear rubble, demolish and clean up sites of damaged buildings, and identify and remove unexploded ordnance throughout Gaza.

Limited amount of aid to Gaza
PNN, Palestine News Network 2/11/2009
Gaza -- Heavy rains are exacerbating the need to repair sewage lines in the Gaza Strip. While three of the Israeli-controlled crossings into the Gaza Strip are partially open today, none will be accepting materials for repairs. The Israeli administration informed Palestinian officials of the openings last night. The Karem Abu Salem, Shajaiyeh and Karni crossings are accepting the import of a limited amount of humanitarian aid and fuel Wednesday. The year and a half siege has prevented exports and imports, leaving the infrastructure of the Strip in shambles. Reconstruction after the major attacks is yet to be undertaken as the Israeli administration continues to ban raw materials and spare parts to repair medical equipment and water treatment facilities. The Chairman of the Coordinating Committee for the Introduction of Goods said today that 70 trucks loaded with wheat and fodder are coming through the Karni Crossing.

Israel opens Gaza crossings after election day closure
Ma’an News Agency 2/11/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – After closing the Gaza Strip’s borders on election day, Israel reopened the borders to allow shipments of humanitarian aid and commercial goods into the territory. A Palestinian border official in Gaza, Ra’ed Fattouh, explained that Israel opened the Kerem Shalom crossing, allowing 86 truckloads of goods to enter including 30 trucks for UNRWA, 22 for the World Food Program, 10 truckloads from Egypt, 3 for the Red Cross and two from the World Health Organization and one truckload for the organization Amira. Fattouh told Ma’an that 70 trucks are scheduled to enter through Karni crossing carrying wheat and animal feed. In addition, 500,000 liters of European-donated industrial diesel will be pumped through the Nahal Oz terminal destined for the Gaza power plant.

Israel reopens three Gaza crossings
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/11/2009
Israel announced on Wednesday that three Gaza commercial crossings will be reopened for humanitarian purposes. The decision came today, after these crossings were closed on the eve of Israeli elections on Tuesday. The Palestinian side announced that the Karem Abu Salem, or Kerem Shalom crossing in southern Gaza, was reopened today , allowing the entry of 86 trucks, including 30 belonging to the UNRWA, 22 trucks belonging to the WFP, 18 trucks from Jordanian assistance, 10 trucks from Egyptian assistance, three trucks from the ICRC and two other trucks belonging to the ANIRA International Organization. Raed Fatouh, of the Palestinian side, said that 70 trucks of wheat and fodder, as well as 150,000 gallons of crude fuel will be entering later today through crossings in eastern Gaza.

Amnesty International accuses Hamas of targeting Fatah rivals during war
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/11/2009
GAZA CITY - Hamas militants or security forces killed two dozen people and beat or tortured scores more during and after Israel’s recent Gaza offensive, Amnesty International said in a report released yesterday. Many of those targeted had been detained on charges of spying for Israel and were killed after fleeing a Gaza prison damaged in Israeli airstrikes, the report said. Others were former security officers for the Palestinian Authority or members of Hamas’ rival Fatah movement, the report said. Many of the victims were abducted from their homes by Hamas gunmen or security officers and later found dead, the report said. Others were beaten or shot through the legs, many permanently injured, Amnesty said. Amnesty’s findings echo recent reports by Palestinian human rights groups.

PCHR Demands Investigations into Violent Deaths of Two Civilians in Gaza
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights 2/10/2009
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) demands immediate investigations into the deaths of Nehad Sa’adi al-Dabbaka, 47, from the al-Maghazi refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip, who died whilst in police detention, and ‘Ata Yousef Abdul Wahhab al-Bur’i, 39, from the al-Shati refugee camp, who died after being severely beaten by gunmen claiming to be police officers. The Centre calls for the results of both investigations to be made public, and for the perpetrators of these crimes to be brought to justice according to the law. According to investigations by PCHR, at approximately 23:00 on Friday, 6 February, masked gunmen arrested Nehad al-Dabbaka at his house in the al-Maghazi refugee camp. On the morning of Monday, 9 February, medical sources at the al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir al-Balah informed the al-Dabbaka family that Nehad’s body was in the hospital.

MP Mansour calls for independent committee to probe Haj’s death
Palestinian Information Center 2/10/2009
NABLUS, (PIC)-- MP Mona Mansour has called for the formation of an independent investigation committee including representatives of legal and human rights institutions, factions and relatives of Mohammed Al-Haj to determine the exact cause of his death in PA custody. She said that all those involved in the "crime" should be prosecuted in the light of the findings of the proposed committee so as to avoid recurrence of this incident. Mansour, a Hamas MP in Nablus, said in a press release on Tuesday that the PA preventive security apparatus’s claim that Haj committed suicide in his cell was a premature investigation result and was unfair to the man, a Hamas activist, and his family. The lawmaker asked for the release of all political detainees in the jails of former PA chief Mahmoud Abbas’s security apparatuses to furnish the atmosphere before initiation of national dialog and real conciliation.

Another political detainee in Abbas’s jails rushed to hospital
Palestinian Information Center 2/10/2009
RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- Palestinian political detainee in the jails of Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas was rushed to Tulkarem hospital on Monday after elements of the preventive security apparatus in the city severely tortured him. Well-informed Palestinian sources identified the tortured man as Esam Dhamiri, adding he was kidnapped three days ago at his Tulkarem home, and that he was now in the intensive care unit under tight security from those militias who denied him family visitation. A couple of days ago, a Hamas political detainee, Mohammed Al-Haj, 30, died after he was tortured at the hands of the same apparatus’s elements in Jenin city. Dhamiri was released from Israeli jails few months ago after he spent two years there. Family of Dhamiri held Abbas and his lieutenant Ibrahim Abu Al-Jazar, the chief of the apparatus in Tulkarem, responsible for the life of their son, urging the. . .

Hamas: Amnesty report unfair and discriminatory
Ma’an News Agency 2/11/2009
Gaza – Ma’an - Amnesty International accused Hamas of waging a violent campaign against its Palestinian opponents in the Gaza Strip, to which the party responded calling the report “unfair” and “discriminative. ”The report is based on false stories and propaganda against Hamas, spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said in a statement Wednesday. “This report directly insults Hamas and its reputation,” the statement said and suggested it was “better for Amnesty to look for the Israeli war criminals that killed hundreds of people in the Gaza Strip instead of tracking Hamas. ”He added, ”Amnesty has to bring real evidence and submit it to the international institutions and to the international court instead of making the entire world busy with Hamas and blinded to the Israeli crimes in the latest war against the Gaza Strip. ”

Hamas: AI report unfair
Palestinian Information Center 2/11/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement on Wednesday strongly criticized the report published by Amnesty International that charged the Movement with committing violations in the Gaza Strip, describing the report as "unfair". Fawzi Barhoum, the Movement’s spokesman in Gaza, said in a press release that the report was built on "fabricated stories". He added that representatives of AI listened to one party and did not listen to the other, "which contradicts the simplest basis of neutrality and professionalism". The report harms Hamas’s reputation and stands while the AI should have rather focused on the Israeli war crimes and massacres in lines of women, children and old people and on the Israel’s violations of human rights and international laws in its war on Gaza, Barhoum said. He added that the AI should concentrate on collecting evidence and testimonies on the Israeli violations. . .

Amnesty Condemns Hamas’ deadly retribution against opponents and critics
Palestine Media Center 2/11/2009
Since the end of December 2008, during and after the three-week Israeli military offensive which killed some 1,300 Palestinians, most of them civilians, Hamas forces and militias in the Gaza Strip have carried out a deadly campaign of abductions, deliberate and unlawful killings, torture and death threats against those they accuse of “collaborating” with Israel, as well as, Amnesty International revealed in a new document today. At least two dozen men have been shot dead by Hamas gunmen and scores of others have been shot in the legs, kneecapped or inflicted with other injuries intended to cause permanent disability, subjected to severe beatings which have caused multiple fractures and other injuries, or otherwise tortured or ill-treated. Most were abducted from their homes and later dumped – dead or injured – in isolated areas, or found in the morgue of one of Gaza’s hospitals. Some were shot dead in hospitals where they were receiving treatment for injuries.

Ramallah police detain student representatives from Birzeit University
Ma’an News Agency 2/11/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – Palestinian police in Ramallah detained Fatah-affiliated head of the Birzeit University student senate Diyaa Qindah and secretary of the senate’s financial committee Salih Al-Maliki on Wednesday. The arrests, said the police, were because the senate students urged their peers to act to suspend classes protesting the administration’s decisions regarding tuition. Sources close to the students said they were detained during an on campus sit-in strike demonstrating against the recent decision to hike up tuition for first year students and stop providing student loans to those in need. In Ramallah police said the two students were summoned and questioned on charges of preventing students from entering the campus. They were released after questioning. The student senate demands that registration rules be adjusted, and a mechanism put in place to help needy students who can’t pay tuition be adopted.

IOA seals off Jerusalem during elections, extremist Jews desecrate the Aqsa
Palestinian Information Center 2/11/2009
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- The Israeli occupation authority on Tuesday sealed off the occupied city of Jerusalem and deployed thousands of police and military elements in the city and at main junctions leading to it alleging it was prompted by the elections. Movement of Palestinian Jerusalemites in the city were monitored and to some extent restricted, especially at checkpoints. Exploiting the hermitic closure of the sacred city and restriction of Palestinian movement there, Israeli fanatic groups sneaked into the Aqsa Mosque desecrating it and chanting racist and religious slogans loudly. The provocative practices of those settlers irked Palestinian worshippers inside the mosque, prompting them to block those settlers before Israeli occupation police and soldiers rushed to rescue the settlers. Two Palestinian worshippers Ahmed Hamoud and Fahmi Abbas were arrested by the police,. . .

’Imad Mughniyya’ group claims shooting attack near Ramallah
Ma’an News Agency 2/11/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – A Palestinain armed organization calling itself the “Imad Mughniyya Groups” after a slain Hizbullah leader has claimed responsibility for opening fire on an Israeli car. Israel has confirmed the attack, which took place near the settlement Bet El, in the Ramallah area on Tuesday night. Israeli soldiers reportedly found bullet cartridges at the scene. No injuries were reported. In a statement the group said the attack was a response to “Israeli aggression. ”In their statement, the Imad Mughniyya Groups claimed allegiance to the Al-Aqsa Brigades, the armed wing of the Fatah movement. Imad Mughniyya was the military leader of the Lebanese resistance movement Hizbullah. He was assassinated in a car bombing in Syria in 2008. Saturday is the one year anniversary of his death. Analysts have predicted that the anniversary would coincide with increased militant activity.

Israeli troops impose curfew on Jayous village
Ma’an News Agency 2/11/2009
Qalqiliya – Ma’an – Several Israeli military vehicles overran the Qalqiliya-area village of Jayous on Wednesday night and imposed a curfew on the area. The troops blasted into the area amid gunfire and sound bombs, announcing a curfew to residents, witnesses reported. As the soldiers entered the village Palestinian youths showered the vehicles with stones and empty bottles, sparking brief clashes. Locals host weekly demonstrations against the building of the separation on village land, and have reported an increase in Israeli military activity since the popular campaign started. [end]

Violence Breaks Quiet of Cease-Fire on Eve of Israel’s National Election
Ibrahim Barzak, MIFTAH 2/11/2009
GAZA CITY - Israeli aircraft struck two targets in the Gaza Strip and a Gaza militant died in a clash with troops on the border yesterday, as an official of the moderate Palestinian government accused Hamas of trying to boost hawkish candidates in Israel’s election. The violence on the eve of the vote occurred as Egyptian mediators continued their efforts to cement a long-term cease-fire between Hamas and Israel, after the three weeks of intense fighting that racked the coastal territory last month. Israel’s military said the two air strikes early in the day targeted militant positions and were a response to rocket fire from Gaza aimed at southern Israel on Sunday. The military also said soldiers spotted an armed militant trying to sneak into Israel from Gaza overnight and opened fire, after which a bomb belt the man was wearing detonated.

Palestine Today 021109
Ghassan Bannoura - Audio Dept, International Middle East Media Center News 2/11/2009
Click on Link to download or play MP3 file || 4 m 00s || 3. 66 MB ||Welcome to Palestine Today, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www. imemc. org, for Wednesday, February 11th, 2009. A Palestinian man from Gaza died from wounds sustained earlier, while Israeli army invasions are reported in the West Bank. The News Cast A Palestinian man from the Gaza Strip was reported dead at an Egyptian hospital on Wednesday. Fayz Shamiya, 23, from Gaza City had been moved to Egypt last week after sustaining severe wounds in the head during the Israeli operation "Cast Lead". According to the Palestinian Embassy in Cairo Shamiya is the 33rd Palestinian to die in Egypt after sustaining wounds in the latest Israeli attacks. Also in the Strip, a Palestinian official announced that the Israeli military declared that three crossings in Gaza will be opened on Wednesday.

Gaza mortar shells strike western Negev; no casualties
Anshel Pfeffer, Ha’aretz 2/11/2009
Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired four mortar shells at the western Negev during the course of the day Wednesday, a day after Israel held general elections, the results of which are likely to influence any future peace deal in the region. A Qassam rocket fired by Gaza militants exploded late Tuesday evening in an open field near the western Negev city of Sderot, just half an hour before the polls were to close. Also Tuesday night, someone opened fire on a car with Israeli license plates near the settlement of Beit El in the West Bank. No injuries were reported in the incident. Security personnel who examined the scene of the shooting found 17 bullet shells on the ground. Nearly 40 Qassam rockets, mortar shells, and Grad missiles have been fired at Israel since a shaky cease-fire with Hamas took effect over two weeks ago, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

3 mortar shells land in Eshkol; no injuries
Ilana Curiel, YNetNews 2/11/2009
Attacks on southern Israel continue Wednesday as mortars fired from Gaza Strip hit in Negev region, causing no injuries or damage - While reports in Egypt continue to focus on progress in talks towards a ceasefire, fire continues to fall on southern Israel. Two mortar shells fired from northern Gaza Wednesday evening landed in Eshkol Regional Council limits. No injuries or damage were reported. Earlier, another mortar launched toward the same region landed in an open area. There were no reports of injuries or damage in that attack either. Tuesday night, half an hour before polling stations closed, a Qassam rocket was fired at the western Negev. The rocket exploded in an open area between the Sha’ar Hanegev and Sdot Negev regional councils. No one was injured and no damage was caused.

Pro-Palestinian Bronx Expressway banner - a Jewish initiative
Natasha Mozgovaya, Ha’aretz 2/11/2009
If drivers on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway were wondering who was responsible for hanging banners over the highway calling to "Free Palestine" - they might be surprised to discover it was an initiative by Jewish activists. Another banner was spotted over New York City’s entrance to the Cross Bronx Expressway, at 179th Street and Amsterdam Avenue in Manhattan on Wednesday morning. The group is calling themselves JATO (Jews against the occupation); some of them also participated in demonstrations against last month’s Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip, claiming that "The occupation is being paid for with U. S. taxpayers’ money," and "Even if foreclosures and unemployment weren’t decimating our neighborhoods, surely there are better uses for $3 billion a year than helping the Israeli government commit war crimes. "

US says will work with any Israeli government
Yitzhak Benhorin, YNetNews 2/11/2009
State Department spokesman Wood says Obama administration intends to pursue robust agenda once new Israeli leadership is established - WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama’s administration responded cautiously to the Israel, saying it is looking forward to working with whatever new government is formed. The Americans said they expect the new Israeli government to pursue the peace process with the Palestinians, with an emphasis on a two-state solution. State Department spokesman Robert Wood told reporters Wednesday that the Obama administration will not speculate on what kind of government will be formed. Wood called Israel a thriving democracy and said the administration intends to pursue a robust agenda once the new Israeli leadership is established. According to Wood, the US special envoy for the Middle East, George Mitchell, still intends to travel to Israel and elsewhere in the region shortly.

White House: Mideast peace process uncertain
Natasha Mozgovaya, Ha’aretz 2/11/2009
Israeli elections signal a strong democracy but until a new prime minister is named, it is unclear what the results mean for peace in the Mideast, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Wednesday. Gibbs added that U. S. President Barack Obama looks forward to working with the next prime minister of the U. S. ally. A few thousand soldiers’ votes remained uncounted following Tuesday’s general Israeli elections. After 99% of the votes were tallied, the centrist party Kadima emerged in the lead, but only barely, with one Knesset seat more than the right-wing Likud Party, who won 27 out of 120 Knesset seats. Though Kadima won more seats, the right-wing bloc gained a substantial majority of the seats, leaving Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu in a better position than Kadima leader Tzipi Livni to recruit a 61-majority to form a stable coalition.

Barhoum: Hamas officials possibly in truce talks
Ma’an News Agency 2/11/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Hamas leaders may arrive in Cairo on Tuesday for further talks regarding a proposed truce with Israel, a Hamas spokesperson said. Spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum said that Hamas leaders may meet with Egyptian intelligence chief Umar Suleiman to hear Israel’s clarifications of a proposal for an 18-month ceasefire. Barhoum told Ma’an that Hamas will only agree to a truce if the movement judges that the agreement is in keeping with Palestinian national ambitions. On Tuesday Hamas representative in Lebanon Usama Hamdan told reporters that the face of the proposed truce would depend on the outcome of Israel’s elections. With the vote now counted, the elections yielded an ambiguous result, with two candidates claiming victory.

Cairo calls for greater role for PLO in regional talks
Associated Press, YNetNews 2/11/2009
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak says Palestinian counterpart must be allowed a wider role in negotiations meant to broker lasting ceasefire between Israel, Hamas; Mideast peace - Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Wednesday called for a greater role for moderate Palestinian factions led by President Mahmoud Abbas following talks with Turkish officials who are keen on engaging Hamas. "I have stressed the importance for the PLO to maintain its historic position," Mubarak told reporters through an interpreter, following a meeting with Turkish President Abdullah Gul. "This organization is the sole, legal representative of the Palestinian people. " The PLO is the internationally recognized representative of the Palestinians and is dominated by Abbas’ Fatah faction. Turkey supports Abbas’ role in the process but has also been advocating a policy of engaging the. . .

Gaza on the agenda for Egypt-Turkey talks
Ma’an News Agency 2/11/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak heads to Turkey on Wednesday to meet with President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Rajab Tayyip Erdogan. During Mubarak’s two-day visit the leaders are scheduled to discuss the Gaza Strip issues especially a proposed Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire and reconstruction efforts in the wake of Israel’s three-week war on the territory. On Tuesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan praised the Egyptian role during war on Gaza. Both Egypt and Turkey have diplomatic relations with both Israel and the Palestinians, and have played the role of mediator in the past. Egypt has taken a leading role recently, brokering a six-month truce between Israel and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza in 2008.

Hamas, Fatah delegations meet in Cairo to clear atmosphere for dialogue
Palestinian Information Center 2/11/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Representatives from the two main Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah have met in the Egyptian capital Cairo in a bid to pave the way for serious talks to bury the hatchet. Well-informed Palestinian sources asserted Wednesday that Jamal Abu Hashim and Ayman Taha, the two political leaders from Hamas, answered a call from Fatah envoys Azzam Al-Ahmad and Ahmed Abdul Rahman for talks. According to the sources, the meeting aims at "clearing" the atmosphere between the two movements in preparation for the anticipated meeting in Cairo called for by the Egyptian government to end the Palestinian political division. Hamas Movement presented a bundle of ideas to pave the way for the talks, including releasing all political detainees from the PA jails in the West Bank, halting all media smearing campaigns, and stopping the adverse policy of cutting salaries of PA employees sympathizing with Hamas, the sources pointed out.

Mousa: The next battle is to achieve national unity based on the resistance
Palestinian Information Center 2/11/2009
KHAN YOUNIS, (PIC)-- MP Yahya Mousa, a senior Hamas leader, stated Tuesday that the next battle after the victory of Gaza is how to achieve the national unity on the basis of the resistance program. This comment was made during a ceremony held by the Hamas Movement in Khan Younis to honor governmental and civil crews which played a significant role in helping and saving civilians during the Israeli war on the Gaza Strip. MP Mousa underlined in his speech that all those who stood by the Palestinian people share their victory in Gaza, expressing his appreciation for all civil servants and agencies which supported the Gaza people in their ordeal.   For his part, mayor of Khan Younis Mohamed Al-Farra said that during the war everyone felt as if they were one united body because their big concern was how to preserve the security and stability, and provide the citizens with all basic services.

Hamas delegation heads to Cairo for crucial talks
Palestinian Information Center 2/11/2009
CAIRO, (PIC)-- A delegation of the Hamas Movement is scheduled to arrive in Cairo on Wednesday night led by Dr. Mousa Abu Marzouk, the deputy political bureau chairman of Hamas, for crucial talks with Egyptian officials. Reliable sources told the PIC that the delegates, comprising Hamas leaders from Gaza and Damascus, would convey the Movement’s reply to the calm proposal that was officially relayed to Hamas in mid last week. The sources said that the meeting to be held with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman would be decisive and would decide whether there would be a new calm agreement or not. They noted that the Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip met on Tuesday and crystallized a unified stand while another meeting was held in Damascus between Hamas leadership and leaders of other resistance factions based in Syria to adopt a final position regarding calm.

DFLP says leftists and Fateh will peg positions in Cairo
PNN, Palestine News Network 2/11/2009
Gaza -- The leftists met with Fateh in Gaza to discuss the issue of a ceasefire with the Israelis and the internal Palestinian reconciliation in advance of the national dialogue slated for 22 February in Cairo. The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine told the press today that agreement was found in advance. DFLP Central Committee member Talal Abu Zarifa echoes the statements of most Palestinian parties that a unified position is crucial in addressing the issue of ceasefire with the Israelis. With the opening of the crossings linked to the ceasefire, the process of reconstructing the Gaza Strip after the major attacks rests on its resolution. The delegations, including the leftist parties Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Palestinian People’s Party, rejected the Israeli imposition of a "500 meter security belt" in the Strip.

Representatives of Fateh and Hamas in Cairo to create atmosphere conducive to reconciliation
PNN, Palestine News Network 2/11/2009
Cairo -- In anticipation of the upcoming comprehensive national dialogue delegations from Hamas and Fateh are again meeting in Cairo. Head of the Fateh bloc in the Palestinian Legislative Council, Azzam Al Ahmed, says he will meet with Hamas leader Jamal Abu Hashem. To the daily "As Sharq Al Awsat" Al Ahmed said that Hamas officials initiated contact with him last nigh to arrange a meeting in Cairo. "We welcome the meeting and any of this kind that support Egyptian efforts to arrange the Palestinian house. " Abu Hashem returned to Cairo from Gaza on Monday along with Hamas delegation leader Ayman Taha for the final answer on an agreement for ceasefire with the Israelis mediated by Egyptian Security Minister Omar Suleiman. Al Ahmed and Abu Hashem met a few weeks ago in hopes of accelerating the adoption of a resolution for national reconciliation.

Four Palestinian factions discuss Palestinian unity, ceasefire in Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 2/11/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Representatives of Fatah, the PFLP, DFLP and the Palestinian People’s Party held a meeting in Gaza City and discussed a proposed ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday evening. The meetings, which also tackeled the issue of Palestinian national unity talks scheduled to begin in Cairo on 22 February, was part of a coordination effort prior to the Cairo talks, senior DFLP leader Talal Abu Dharifa told Ma’an. He asserted that the four factions expressed their own views on the Egyptian proposal for a Palestinian unity governmentAmong the comments made at the meeting, it was suggested that parliamentary elections should be based on proportional representation, and that committees formed to oversee the transition to a new government “should have legitimate reference. ”

Fayyad’s government embezzles 16 million dollars donated by West Bankers to Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 2/10/2009
RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- Sources in the "National Campaign" for the relief of Gaza that was formed by the Ramallah authority have accused the unconstitutional government of Salam Fayyad of embezzling 16 million dollars donated by the West Bankers to their brethrens in Gaza Strip. According to a member in the campaign who refused to be identified, Fayyad’s government deposited the money in private bank accounts and banned the transfer of any amount to the beleaguered Strip. He said that the campaign which is chaired by Fayyad’s economy minister Fathi Abu Maghli and sports minister Tahani Abu Dakka collected 16 million dollars from the public and private sectors in the West Bank, but the government of Fayyad refused to remit the money to Gaza, insisting to transfer them through "private channels". The source added that Fayyad’s government pledged to the donors that the money will be in. . .

Umm al-Fahm residents fed up with politicians’ provocation in their town
Yoav Stern and Eli Ashkenazi, Ha’aretz 2/11/2009
Dozens of Arab protesters confronted police yesterday at the Al Ghazi school in Umm al-Fahm after they learned that MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union) was there to serve as the town’s ballot box chairman. Five people were arrested for disturbing the peace, assault and throwing stones. Major General Shimon Koren, Commander of the Northern Police District, ordered the police to show the demonstrators "zero tolerance. " The clashes began in the morning when rumor spread that MK Eldad was in town. During the disturbances at the school, demonstrators threw stones at police and civilians. One journalist was lightly injured in the leg. "Politicians are using Umm al-Fahm for publicity and that is wrong," one of the protesters said. A Druze police officer responded: I am from Beit Jann. Beit Jann is a lot more respectable. "His comments only intensified the confrontation.

African asylum-seekers still detained, harassed in Israel
Middle East Online 2/11/2009
TEL AVIV - Several African asylum-seekers with temporary documents issued by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) have been detained by the Israeli immigration police over the past few months, prompting fear and agitation. The temporary papers state that the person carrying them is in the process of status determination and should not be detained. Marie from Côte d’Ivoire told IRIN: “They are arresting people in the streets, even those who have [valid] papers; we are afraid to leave our homes. ” B. , a Ghanaian foreign worker, told IRIN: “This is just like it was four years ago. They [the immigration police] are hunting down asylum-seekers. ” Immigration police were established in 2002 to handle the large migrant workers’ community in Israel. They were criticised by rights groups and sections of the media for their brutal methods in 2003-2005 during which nearly 50,000 illegal migrant workers were deported.

Education revolution: Jewish students to study Mohammed, Arab pupils to learn about Herzl
Or Kashti, Ha’aretz 2/11/2009
In order to advance co-existence, each of the sectors -- Jewish and Arab -- must be taught about the other’s culture, history, beliefs and heritage, from pre-school to grade 12. Instruction hours should likewise be devoted to learning the "narrative of the other side. "These are the conclusions of the public committee established to investigate this issue, and Education Minister Yuli Tamir has adopted its conclusions. The proposed curriculum for the co-existence education program was formulated at Tamir’s request, by Israel Education Prize Laureate Prof. Gabi Salomon of Haifa University and Dr. Mohammed Issawi, head of the Al Qassemi College of Education, in conjunction with other education experts and representatives of the Education Ministry. According to the committee’s recommendations, the education system must nurture the "recognition of the. . . "

Arab researcher appointed to head Middle East studies dept.
Ofri Ilani, Ha’aretz 2/11/2009
For the first time in the history of Israel’s academy, an Arab lecturer, Dr. Mahmoud Yazbak, was elected president of the Middle East & Islamic Studies Association of Israel (MEISAI), the main association of researchers of the Middle East and Islam in Israel. The election brings to an end a long period during which Arabs did not hold key university positions in Israel in the field of Middle East studies. Yazbak, a lecturer at Haifa University, specializes in Palestinian social history. He will replace the outgoing president, Dr. Dror Ze’evi, of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. In most universities in the west, Arabs and Muslims occupy senior positions in departments of Middle East studies. But since the state’s establishment, Arabs and Muslims were never well placed in departments researching Arabs and Islam in Israeli universities.

Fayyad: PA will make ‘pragmatic’ demands of any Israeli government
Ma’an News Agency 2/11/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – The Palestinian Authority will make practical, tangible demands of any Israeli government that emerges from Tuesday’s election, the caretaker Palestinian prime minister in Ramallah, Salam Fayyad said on Wednesday. “There are just merits they must fulfill immediately such as halting settlement construction in Jerusalem; changing Israel’s security policy which means stepping back to 28 September 2000 locations, ending the siege on the Gaza Strip and removing military checkpoints in the West Bank,” said Fayyad. Fayyad made these comments as rival Israeli politicians scrambled to muster the support they need to form a ruling coalition. Israel’s foreign minister, Tzipi Livni came in first place in an election which was dominated by the right wing. Livni is the leader of Kadima, a party considered more centrist than the rival Likud.

Abbas says he is ready to make 'peace' with any Israeli government
Palestinian Information Center 2/11/2009
WARSAW, (PIC)-- Former PA chief and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas has expressed readiness to pursue peace negotiations with any Israeli occupation government produced by the elections. Abbas’s announcement came while blood of Palestinian children and innocent civilians that was shed by the Israeli war machine was still visible in the streets of Gaza Strip. In a press statement he made from the Polish capital Warsaw on Monday, Abbas said, "I don’t know who will win the elections in Israel, but we will cooperate with any Israeli government produced by those elections based on the bilateral agreements and international resolutions issued till now". "We expect the new Israeli government to halt construction and expansion of settlements (in the West Bank)"¦if they don’t stop those activities I wonder what would happen to the peace process"¦ I want Israel to fulfill all its obligations,. . .

Erekat: Quartet should shun an Israeli government that rejects two state solution
Ma’an News Agency 2/11/2009
Jericho – Ma’an – The international community should shun any Israeli government that rejects the two-state solution, argued chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat on Wednesday. Erekat was making reference to the oft-cited conditions applied by the international Quartet on the Middle East (a grouping of the US, UN, EU, and Russia) in reference to Palestinian governments. The Quartet chose to boycott the Hamas-led government that emerged from democratic elections in 2006. Israel’s national elections on Tuesday raised the possibility of a right-wing coalition. The charter of the mainstream rightist party Likud, which came in a close second in the election, calls for eternal Israeli dominion over all of its occupied territory. Erekat made these remarks during a meeting with US Consul General Jake Walles at Erekat’s office in Jericho.

Palestinians gloomy as Israel moves right
YNetNews 2/11/2009
Palestinian Authority officials express concerns over Right’s apparent majority in next government, say no matter who leads it, Israel must meet international obligations -Palestinians reacted gloomily to Israeli election results on Wednesday, as the likelihood rose of a more right-wing government opposed to returning land for a Palestinian state. But the self-rule Palestinian Authority said the next Israeli cabinet would be obliged to continue peace talks and meet international obligations. "The ascent of the Israeli Right does not worry us," President Mahmoud Abbas told Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper. "In whatever form, the government, once in power, will ultimately end up with responsibility, pragmatism prevailing. "Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party and Tzipi Livni’s centrist.

Can we have peace in the Holy Land?
Democracy Now, Middle East Online 2/11/2009
[The following is a transcript of an interview with former US President Jimmy Carter by Amy Goodman from Democracy Now!] AMY GOODMAN: President Carter, it’s good to have you on Democracy Now! JIMMY CARTER: Well, thank you, Amy. It’s good to be with you and your millions of viewers and listeners. AMY GOODMAN: Well, you’ve written a new book. It’s called We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land: A Plan that Will Work. What is that plan? JIMMY CARTER: Well, the plan is a diametric opposite from what is the trend now by Israel in the West Bank—and that is to make one state, one nation, all the way from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River—and that is the two-day solution, which is generally adopted by the United States government, the road map for the international community, the United Nations resolutions, and also unanimously by all twenty-two Arab nations.

Israeli goods boycott in Wales
Stop The Wall 2/11/2009
In Wales, a group of activists staged an action in front of a large Tesco supermarket, calling for a boycott of Israel. The action targeted Israeli settlement produce that Tesco, the largest retailer in the UK, sells in its stores with a “West Bank” label. Several activists filled shopping carts with settlement produce before pushing the carts out of the store without paying. The items was then strewn on the ground in front of the supermarket and covered with fake blood. The group proceeded to speak about the situation in the West Bank and Gaza, handing out flyers to customers explaining the action and calling for BDS before being removed by the police. The boycott of Israeli produce has been spreading since the attacks on Gaza. Sales dropped dramatically in Jordan, the UK as well as in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark.

Strathclyde University bows to student pressure
Stop The Wall 2/11/2009
Last week, students from Strathclyde University in Glasgow, Scotland scored a victory for the BDS movement when they occupied the main administration building overnight. Activists forced the university to agree to several of their demands, including a boycott of Eden Springs. The occupation began after a rally for Gaza, when students entered the McCance building and refused to leave, despite heavy-handed attempts by security to remove them from the premises. The students were able to remain in the building overnight, and they presented a list of demands to university authorities. Following the occupation and another rally the next day, the university agreed to provide scholarships for students from Gaza, post the DEC appeal on the official website as well as across the campus, and issue a press release reiterating Strathclyde University’s longstanding relationship with the Islamic University of Gaza.

Lords give hope in battle to force BBC to publish Middle East report
Oliver Luft and Leigh Holmwood, The Guardian 2/11/2009
The law lords have today ruled that a freedom of information campaigner can continue his legal battle to force the BBC to publish an internal report on its coverage of the Middle East conflict. In their judgment today the five law lords ruled three to two in favour of overturning a previous high court judgment, which itself overruled the decision of the Information Tribunal from August 2006 that the report should be published. The case now returns to the high court for further argument before a final decision is made. Steven Sugar, a London solicitor, has been campaigning for the past four years for the BBC to publish the report, which was written in 2004 by the former editor of the Nine o’Clock News, Malcolm Balen. The report examined the organisation’s radio and television output on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Timeline: The battle to make BBC publish Middle East coverage report
Afua Hirsch, The Guardian 2/11/2009
8 January 2005 – Steven Sugar submits a request to the BBC under the Freedom of Information Act asking for a copy of the report by Michael Balen regarding the BBC’s news coverage of the Middle East and in particular of the conflict between Israel and Palestine. 11 February 2005 – BBC responds to Sugar’s request, stating that it is under no obligation to disclose the information. The BBC relies on an exception under the Act which allows it not to disclose information "held for the purpose of journalism, art or literature", claiming that the Balen Report is held for the purpose of journalism. 18 March 2005 – Sugar writes to the Information Commissioner, arguing that the Balen report is not held for the purposes of journalism. 24 October 2005 – The Commissioner rejects Sugar’s request, upholding the view that the Balen report is held for the purpose of journalism and so falls outside the BBC’s obligations under the Act.

Hamas: Israeli elections produced three heads of 'terrorism'
Palestinian Information Center 2/11/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement said on Tuesday that primary results of the Israeli elections have showed that three Israeli heads of "terrorism" were gaining ground in the Israeli arena. Spokesman of Hamas Movement in Gaza Strip Fawzi Barhoum stressed that Hamas will remain steadfast and firm on the national constants and aspirations of the Palestinian people regardless of who would rule in the Hebrew state. Three Israeli fanatic parties, Kadima of Tzipi Livni, the Likud of Binyamin Netanyahu, Yisrael Beiteinu of the ultra-rightist figure Avigdor Lieberman, reaped most of the seats in the Israeli Knesset (parliament).    In a press statement he made Tuesday night in reaction to the elections, Barhoum pointed out that the Israeli community has chosen the most "extremist, the terrorist, and blood-thirsty figures and war-mongers to rule them".

Gazans apathetic about elections
DPA, Ha’aretz 2/11/2009
GAZA - Residents of the battered Gaza Strip, still recovering from Israel’s military offensive in January, did not follow yesterday’s elections closely, making do only with what they heard on news reports. As far as they are concerned, there is no difference between the two front-runners, the centrist Kadima party, headed by Tzipi Livni, and the hardline Likud, headed by Benjamin Netanyahu. "Livni and Netanyahu are two sides of the same coin," said Abdel Qader al-Shamali, a Palestinian store owner, who was watching the Israeli vote on television. For Elham Assaker, a 23-year-old student, while Israel’s left-wing, centrist and right-wing parties have "different and conflicting platforms, they all share a common goal - drawing Palestinian blood. "She predicted that the direct result of the election would be a new Israeli offensive in Gaza, to prevent a cease-fire. . .

Hamdan: The win of Kadima reflects the tendency of the Zionist community
Palestinian Information Center 2/11/2009
BEIRUT, (PIC)-- Osama Hamdan, the representative of the Hamas Movement in Lebanon, stated that the win of the right-wing Kadima party in the Knesset elections reflected that the Zionist community is right-wing oriented, adding that this tendency would undoubtedly leave its impact on the entire future of the political process. In a statement to Quds Press, Hamdan said that the declared results of the Israeli election were not a surprise to Hamas, highlighting that these results constitute a message to the illusioned, who bet on the peace process, that they have to deal with the Zionist right-wing. For his part, Dr. Ismail Radwan, a prominent Hamas leader, underlined Wednesday that his Movement does not care about who would be the winner in Israeli elections because it considers all the Zionist parties "murderers" trying to score victories through the shedding of Palestinian blood.

Salon Radio: Dr. Mustafa Barghouti on Israeli elections
Glenn Greenwald, Salon.com, Palestine Monitor 2/11/2009
Glenn Greenwald: My guest today on Salon Radio is Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, who was a former candidate for the presidency of the Palestinian Authority in 2005, finishing second to the ultimate winner, Mahmoud Abbas. He’s also held various positions in the Palestinian Authority and is a physician as well. Dr. Barghouti, thanks so much for joining me today. Mustafa Barghouti: Thank you. It’s nice to talk to you. GG: The Israelis are holding a national election tomorrow, and most polls, if not all, predict that the winner of the election will be Likud, or at the very least, that the next prime minister of Israel will be Benjamin Netanyahu. You’re a long-time advocate of a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians; what do you see as the implications for a Netanyahu victory in terms of Israeli-Palestinian relations? MB: Well, unfortunately, I must say that the election of. . .

Palestinian media pessimistic after Israel vote
Middle East Online 2/11/2009
JERUSALEM - Palestinian media voiced concerns on Wednesday over the future of the already teetering Middle East Peace process after Israel shifted to the right in parliamentary elections. "Diplomatic activity in general and the peace process in particular will be frozen," said Al-Quds, the main daily in the Palestinian territories. With most votes from Tuesday’s election counted, the hawkish Likud party was one parliamentary seat behind the centrist Kadima but appeared in a better position to form a government coalition. And the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party could play the role of kingmaker after placing third. "There will be a continuation of the political paralysis that has characterised the government of (Prime Minister) Ehud Olmert since the (2006) Lebanon war, and all the Arab and international initiatives will be shelved for the time being," said Al-Quds.

Palestinians expect little change under any Israeli coalition
Ma’an News Agency 2/11/2009
Bethlehem - Ma’an - Palestinians are unfazed by what many analysts are calling an Israeli election catastrophe which saw the majority of votes go to a smattering of right wing and orthodox political parties. The results, Kadima 28, Likud 27, Labor 13, Yisrael Beiteinu 15, Religious parties 18, Arab candidates 13, Meretz 3 and the National Union 3, mean Kadima will have first shot at putting together a coalition. Though the final outcome of the election and now coalition building will determine whether or not the Israeli government will continue with peace talks, settlement construction and the siege on Gaza, Palestinians see little change regardless of the ruling coalition. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has said he will continue peace negotiations with whatever coalition is built, told Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper that "In whatever form, the [Israeli ]government,. . .

Arabs: Israeli election ’victory for extremism’
Charles Onians - CAIRO, Middle East Online 2/11/2009
Arab newspapers and analysts voiced pessimism about Israel’s indecisive election on Wednesday, with many voicing fears that the real winner was the extreme-right wing party of Avigdor Lieberman. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s Kadima won 28 seats in the 120-seat parliament, well short of a majority, and just one seat more than hawkish ex-premier Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party amid a resurgence of the right. "How is it possible that a society aspiring to peace can give a fascist like this such broad support, giving him the possibility of one day becoming prime minister of Israel? "Egypt’s state-owned Al-Ahram daily wrote of Lieberman. Opinions of Netanyahu, who has campaigned as a security hardliner pledging to topple the Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip, little better. "For those who don’t know him, Benjamin Netanyahu feels the Arabs only understand the language of violence," Egypt’s state-owned Al-Gomhuriya wrote.

Islamic Jihad: The Israeli elections reflect more hostility towards the Arabs
Palestinian Information Center 2/11/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Islamic Jihad Movement said that the results of the Israeli elections reflected that extremism of the Zionist community increased towards the Palestinian people in particular and all Arabs in general, calling on both the Palestinians and Arabs to settle their internal issues in order to be able to confront the coming challenges. Sheikh Nafedh Azzam, a senior Islamic Jihad leader, underscored that the election of Kadima was an expression of more hostility towards the Palestinian people and the Arab and Islamic world, and also bore out that the existing Israeli policy of denying the Palestinian cause and rights would continue. Sheikh Azzam also warned of portraying the labor party as if it was going to achieve something regarding the peace process if it had won the elections because the labor party did not respect its obligations and pledges stipulated in the agreements signed with the PA when it was in power.

Jordan hopes new Israeli government will halt settlement construction
Ynet, YNetNews 2/11/2009
FM Bashir says Amman will use its good relations with Israel for the good of the Palestinian people, to promote regional peace. Abbas aide: We’ll present clear demands to new prime minister -In response to the inconclusive results of Tuesday’s general elections in Israel, Jordanian Foreign Minister Salah Bashir said Amman hopes the next Israeli government will be committed to conducting "serious and efficient" negotiations with the Palestinians. Bashir was quoted by the Petra news agency as saying Wednesday that the Hashemite Kingdom also hoped the new government in Jerusalem would halt settlement construction in the West Bank and Jerusalem, which, according to him, is a prerequisite for a comprehensive peace agreement based on a two-state solution. The top Jordanian diplomat said his government would use its good relations with Israel for the good of the Palestinian people and to promote regional peace.

Palestinian officials on Knesset results: Israeli society tends toward extremism and violence
Amin Abu Wardeh, Palestine News Network 2/11/2009
PNN exclusive - With the announcement of the results of the Israeli Knesset elections the Palestinian street did not show significant interest in the winner. Palestinian pundits, political forces and theorists are filling the airwaves but much of the public is not watching. The people who are do not register a difference in the effects on their lives as the occupied population. Forty-two year old Jamal Imran said he did not follow the Israeli elections at all. "There is no difference between one party and the others. They are all part of a march of murder against our people. "Dr. Sa’eb Erekat, the head of negotiations in the Palestine Liberation Organization, commented, "Israeli voters did not vote for peace. " Kayed al-Ghoul said, "Israeli voters chose extremism at a time when Arabs are promoting peace. "Political analyst Hani Al Masri said the Palestinian street is particularly

Arabs fear rise of hard-right in Israel
Associated Press, YNetNews 2/11/2009
Arab world fears rise of Israeli right will impede peace process with Palestinians, put more pressure on US President Barack Obama. Former Egyptian ambassador to Israel predicts Netanyahu to lead government, says coalition with extreme right will send peace talks back to square one - Arabs on Wednesday saw little hope for peace from whatever government emerges from Israel’s inconclusive elections, and they expressed fears over the rising power of Israel’s far right. With the prospect of a hard-line Israeli government, some in the region said any progress in Arab-Israeli negotiations will now rely even more on pressure from President Barack Obama, who has said his administration will take an active role in pursuing a Mideast peace. "Everybody knows that peace is in the hands of the Americans, and that the US Iis capable of practicing pressures on any given government," said Saudi

Blue-and-white listed
Zvi Bar'el, Ha’aretz 2/11/2009
The Foreign Ministry’s Hebrew Internet site has served over the past week as a flash point for a battle between Arab pundits. That is because during the war in Gaza, articles highly critical of Hamas by prominent intellectuals and journalists from the Arab press were published there without their permission. Among them are the well-known columnists Turki al-Hamad, Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed, Nidal Noaisah and Tarek al-Hamid. Radical Islamic Internet sites, some controlled by Arab governments, have called them "Zionist journalists in the service of Israel. " "The publication of these articles on the Israeli Foreign Ministry site did great damage to these writers and hurt the legitimacy they enjoyed among a large readership," Fuad Ibrahim, a researcher of political Islam, said in a newspaper interview.

Europeans fearful over rise of right wing in Israeli elections
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/11/2009
Andrew Gwynne, a Labour Party legislator in Britain who chairs a pro-Israeli group, said he was disappointed by the results, which he said are likely to bring Netanyahu’s rightwing Likud Party back to power. "That seems the most realistic outcome, sadly, although I would like to see a progressive government committed to the peace process," said Gwynne, chairman of Labour Friends of Israel. In the past, Netanyahu has strongly resisted compromising with the Palestinians. The rising influence of Avigdor Lieberman, whose ultranationalist party won enough seats to become the third-leading force in Israel’s Parliament, also caused alarm. His party pushed Israel’s once formidable Labor Party, which has often pursued peace, into fourth place. "Can you imagine anything further from the proposals of Barack Obama than the. . . "

Netanyahu: No Return of Golan Heights to Syria
Asharq Alawsat, MIFTAH 2/11/2009
JERUSALEM, (AP) – Benjamin Netanyahu, the front-runner in polls ahead of Israel’s election this week, declared Sunday he would not give up the strategic Golan Heights for peace with Syria, an apparent attempt to toughen his right-wing credentials after a last-minute charge by a hardline party. Israelis go to the polls Tuesday after one of the calmest campaigns in the nation’s history, despite the vital issues facing Israel — war, peace, terrorism and economic recession. The electorate has appeared fatigued after Israel’s three-week offensive against Gaza’s Hamas rulers last month. Netanyahu has been leading in the polls since shortly after the Feb. 10 election was called in November, but his lead has been shrinking in recent weeks as another hawkish party, Yisrael Beitenu, or "Israel is our home," surges with its campaign against Israel’s minority Arab citizens.

Mauritania says it has closed its embassy in Israel
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/11/2009
The head of Mauritania’s military junta says the West African country has closed its embassy in Israel. Gen. Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz made the announcement late Tuesday. He did not say that Mauritania was severing its ties with Israel. Last month, Mauritania said it was suspending ties over the fighting in Gaza. Mauritania, which is overwhelmingly Muslim, has been one of only three Arab League countries to have diplomatic ties with the Jewish state. Tens of thousands of people took to the sandy streets of Mauritania’s capital, Nouakchott, to protest Israel’s military action. [end]

Director of Agriculture: with rain comes hope
Hiba Lama, Palestine News Network 2/11/2009
PNN exclusive - After an unseasonably dry 2008, the Palestinian governorates were soaked for 24 hours from Tuesday through Wednesday mornings. Although still well below the yearly average, the Director of Agriculture in the Bethlehem Governorate said that the rainfall has awaked hope. Farmers feared that lands would not remain fertile during the dry spell predicted for summer 2009 after this winter’s losses, said Agriculture Director Magdi Omar. "Many winter field crops have dried up due to the absence of rain. However hopes are high," Omar told PNN on Wednesday, "of saving spring crops, tree horticulture and groundwater. "Water shortages in homes and farms have caused damage for nearly a year from both the high Israeli consumption and the lack of precipitation. "The amount of rain that fell during the past 24 hours is not enough to save the season but it has renewed hope," he said.

West Bank teachers declare strike over delayed salaries
Ma’an News Agency 2/11/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Teachers in the West Bank will go on strike on Thursday in protest of a delay in disbursement of salaries by the Palestinian Authority. The Secretary-General of Palestinian Teachers’ Union, Jamil Shihadah, told Ma’an that teachers are also demanding a pay increase in order to account for the rising cost of living, as reported by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. The teachers’ strike coincides with a strike declared by the public employees union, also protesting the delay in payment. That strike is scheduled to begin on Sunday. [end]

Israeli bomblets continue to harm Lebanon
Middle East Online 2/11/2009
BEIRUT - Waning international interest and funding is harming efforts to rid southern Lebanon of its hundreds of thousands of remaining cluster bomblets, posing a continuing threat to farmers and children, according to mine clearance organisations. Israel dropped a large number of cluster bombs on southern Lebanon during the July 2006 war with the Shia guerrilla and political group Hezbollah. Each bomb can release hundreds of individual bomblets, and about a quarter failed to explode on impact, effectively becoming landmines that can kill or maim. “For almost all the organisations, it’s a continuous struggle to generate enough interest and funding to keep the teams on the ground working, which obviously has an impact on the amount of cluster bombs [bomblets] they can clear,” said Tekimiti Gilbert, the UN Mine Action Coordination Centre’s (UNMACC) acting programme manager.

When will Hizbullah avenge Mughniyeh assassination?
Daily Star 2/12/2009
BEIRUT: Thursday marks the one-year anniversary of the assassination of Imad Mughnieyh, the mysterious Hizbullah commander killed by a car bomb last February in Damascus, and the question remains if and how the group will fulfill is vow to avenge his death. Although no one claimed responsibility for killing Mughniyeh, long on US and Israeli most wanted lists, Hizbullah was quick to point the finger at Israel. But even as Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah renews his call for vengeance and Israel warns its citizens of a potential strike, defense and political analysts in Lebanon question how feasible a Hizbullah response is, at least in the near future. "The decision is not entirely in Hizbullah’s hands, although there is pressure from within to respond," defense analystand retired army general Elias Hanna told The Daily Star.

African American poets sing praise of Abu Dhabi’s KALIMA
Middle East Online 2/11/2009
ABU DHABI - A number of American poets expressed their admiration for KALAMA, a huge translation project launched by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH). Award-winning Remica L. Bingham was delighted to hear that her poetry will be translated into Arabic. “What an honor, to be placed among the likes of some of the world’s most influential and important voices. What a joy, to know a vast body of readers will make their way to the page and find your words waiting in their own tongue!" said Bingham, who is a native of Phoenix, Arizona. "What better communion is there than the intersection of eager readers discovering work that once was nearly unimaginable and eager writers granted a burgeoning, new voice!” she added. “The KALIMA Project is historic in its undertaking and its magnitude.

Al-Quds cultural events to be broadcast across Arab League states via satellite
Ma’an News Agency 2/11/2009
Jerusalem – Ma’an – Events for the celebrations of “Al-Quds Capital of Arab Culture,” (QCAC) will be broadcast live on Palestinian and Egyptian Satellite television so they can reach all state-members of the Arab League. The announcement was made Wednesday following a meeting of the administrative council for the Al-Quds celebrations. Broadcasting will commence at 1pm on 27 February, and cover an Open Day of events around Jerusalem and Palestinian areas as a primer for the events themselves, set to start mid-March. The television programming will include documentaries and short films on topics relating to the life of Palestinians and particularly Jerusalemites, with an eye to how the Israeli occupation challenges the realization of Arab culture. Also on the program will be a speech by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Secretary General of the Arab League Amr Moussa. . .

Cartoon of the day
Palestine Think Tank 2/10/2009


Three killed in a land mine explosion in Egypt
Associated Press, Jerusalem Post 2/11/2009
A land mine in the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt exploded on Wednesday, killing three teenagers and wounding two others, a medical official said. Ibrahim Ali, head of the Emergency Unit in South Sinai, said that the five were working in a farm near the Suez Canal when the land mine detonated. He said that the bodies of the three teenagers were badly maimed by the explosion while the others were seriously wounded. They were transferred to a hospital in the port city of Suez. Egypt estimates that millions of land mines were planted on its northern coast and on the Sinai Peninsula during War World II and its wars with Israel. [end]

Peres, Obama discuss ’successful’ general elections
Jpost.com Staff, Jerusalem Post 2/11/2009
US President Barack Obama called President Shimon Peres on Wednesday night, and praised Tuesday’s "successful democratic elections. " During their conversation, the two leaders discussed Israel’s system of forming a government, and Peres outlined the legal process involved. Obama wished Peres luck, and said that though the process appeared complicated, he was confident it would prove successful. [end]

ADL: ’Third of Europeans blame Jews for the economic crisis’
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/11/2009
MADRID - The Anti-Defamation League said Tuesday that a survey it commissioned found nearly a third of Europeans blame Jews for the global economic meltdown, which has spread from the financial sphere into the broader economy. An even greater proportion feel that Jews have too much power in the business world, said the league. First International Resources was commisioned by the ADL, which aims to stop the defamation of Jewish people, to interview 3,500 people from December 1, 2008 through January 13, 2009 in seven nations: 500 each in Austria, Britain, France, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Spain. The margin of error for each country was plus or minus 4%. It said in Spain, 74% of those asked say they feel it is probably true that Jews hold too much sway over the global financial markets.

Two is better than one
Shimon Peres, The Guardian 2/10/2009
There is no shortage of opinions when it comes to Middle East affairs, and the recent events in Gaza have not muted them. A minority of Middle East pundits have recently emerged as advocates for a one-state solution, which would undermine Israel’s legitimacy and internationally recognised right to exist as a sovereign Jewish state in the land of my forefathers. Having personally witnessed the remarkable progress we have made with the Palestinian Authority in recent years, I believe that a two-state solution is not only the best resolution to this age-old conflict, but one within our reach. The one-state solution has enough intrinsic flaws to render it no solution at all. From Israel’s perspective, it is not possible for the Jewish people to accept an arrangement that signifies the end of the existence of a Jewish state.

Victory for the block vote
Petra Marquardt-Bigman, The Guardian 2/11/2009
In an election that featured more than 30 parties competing for votes, it’s perhaps only fitting if the three parties that come out on top all declare a victory of sorts: Kadima leader Tzipi Livni based her claim of victory on the fact that her party managed to emerge as the strongest party, narrowly beating the Likud by one mandate. But Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu saw no reason to concede defeat: he claimed – rightly (pun intended) – that the "nationalist camp" won a big victory over the left, and that he was therefore the party leader entitled to be charged by the president with the task of forming a new government. And then there was the leader of the third-strongest party: Avigdor Lieberman of Yisrael Beitenu, who noted with great satisfaction that his party with its 15 seats was holding the key to the formation of Israel’s next government.

Personal security guards for haredi party’s leaders
Uri Gilhar, YNetNews 2/11/2009
On backdrop of conflicts in ultra-Orthodox world following MK Meir Porush’s run for Jerusalem mayor, leaders of United Torah Judaism party hire personal security details - Personal security guards are becoming a regular installment in the United Torah Judaism party. Three of the party’s leaders - Meir Porush, Yossi Deutsch, and Yaacov Berger - have been assigned personal security details recently. The security details have been supplied by the police. Sources in the haredi community claim that the backdrop for this move is the Jerusalem municipal elections, in which the haredi bloc lost the mayor seat. The Gur Hasidism movement, led by MK Yaakov Litzman, opposed the election of Porush to the position of mayor. During the time of elections, anti-Porush propaganda was published. Gur Hasidism was accused of printing the propaganda, but the claims have never been proven.

Sderot / In shadow of Qassams, Sderot turns to right
Yanir Yagna, Ha’aretz 2/11/2009
Many residents of the Qassam-battered southern communities said they would vote for the right-wing parties as they headed to vote yesterday. "The left has abandoned us," said Shai, a resident of Sderot. "Shas, Likud and [Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor] Lieberman are competing for our votes. "During the last elections, Sderot locals largely voted for Labor, which was headed by local resident Amir Peretz. As Peretz came to his polling station yesterday morning, there were no signs supporting his party anywhere in sight. Not everyone in town backed the right: Sderot Mayor David Buskila, for one, was campaigning for Kadima leader Tzipi Livni. "Mo one here would vote for Livni if it weren’t for Buskila," residents said. "He’s worked hard for her. "Meanwhile, voters at nearby Kibbutz Baram remained loyal to the traditional Kibbutz Movement choice, Labor.

United Torah Judaism hints: Support of Netanyahu not definite
YNetNews 2/11/2009
Haredi party’s no. 2 man says Likud leader has better chance of forming stable coalition, but adds ’eventually we will do what Torah sages say’ -United Torah Judaism’s (UTJ) Moshe Gafni told Ynet Wednesday that his party was still undecided on its steps towards coalitional negotiations, and hinted that its support of Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu was not definite. "We haven’t made any decision, and with us, nothing is a given. First of all we would like to see how the blocs come together," Knesset Member Gafni said, adding that he was in contact with Netanyahu as well as Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni and Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman. Gafni, placed second on UTJ’s Knesset roster, said his party and Shas, the two haredi parties, do not constitute one ideological bloc.

Yishai hints Shas might join coalition with Lieberman
YNetNews 2/11/2009
Netanyahu meets Shas leader in bid to garner support for Likud-led coalition. Yishai doesn’t rule out sitting in government with old rival Yisrael Beiteinu, saying ’we’ve seen more far-fetched combinations in the past’ - Shas Chairman Eli Yishai and Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu met on Wednesday at the Likud Knesset offices to discuss Shas’ support for Netanyahu in his efforts to form a Likud-led coalition. According to Yishai, the two exchanged views, analyzed the election results and spoke about the various options for a coalition. "Clearly Netanyahu wants a wide government based on the national camp," Yishai said. "I hope this will be possible, but as long as the president hasn’t tasked him with forming the government, I cannot go into details or agreements," he added. -- See also: Shas' Rabbi Yosef: Voting for Lieberman gives strength to Satan

Likud officials reject rotating coalition power with Kadima
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 2/11/2009
Likud officials on Wednesday rejected the possibility of rotating coalition authority between party leader Benjamin Netanyahu and Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni, after a tight election race left the two parties practically neck-to-neck. Israel last saw a rotating coalition in 1984 under the leadership of Yitzhak Shamir and Shimon Peres, and Kadima on Tuesday proposed the same arrangement for the coming government. Likud members, however, said there was no chance of such an agreement considering that the right-wing bloc carried 65 seats compared to only 55 for the center-left. " There won’t be a rotation," MK Silvan Shalom told Army Radio on Wednesday. "That method is chosen when there is a 60-60 balance between the blocs, and that just is not the case now ? the victory is clear.

Bar-On says Netanyahu getting ahead of himself
YNetNews 2/11/2009
Kadima’s Ronnie Bar-On slams Likud chairman’s plans to start talks with Shas towards rightist government before announcement of final election results. ’What is Netanyahu thinking? That he can determine the fate of the State in one day? ,’ asks Bar-On - Final results for Tuesday’s elections are yet to be announced, but Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu is not wasting any time. Netanyahu was scheduled to meet with Shas Chairman Eli Yishai on Wednesday for initial talks towards the formation of a rightist bloc. YIshai has said in the past that he would support Netanyahu for prime minister. Netanyahu on Wednesday appointed advocate Yaakov Ne’eman to head a small team that would handle direct coalitional negotiations. Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On (Kadima) told Ynet on Wednesday, "It’s legitimate for Netanyahu to try, but this is unprecedented.

Surface squabbles, underlying unity
Jonathan Spyer, The Guardian 2/11/2009
With the final count nearly complete, it is now possible to draw some tentative conclusions regarding the 2009 Israeli elections. The coalition arithmetic remains painfully complex. It is impossible presently to predict with certainty what type of government will finally emerge from the frantic alliance-building efforts now being undertaken by Kadima leader Tzipi Livni and Likud’s Binyamin Netanyahu. Both leaders declared themselves the victor at rival rallies last night. However, some more substantive trends may already be gleaned from the figures. First, the elections represented a very significant defeat for the traditional Israeli left. Between them, parties representing the historic Israeli left now command only 16 seats in the 120-member Knesset (13 for the Labour party, and three for the Meretz list). Israeli party loyalties have become fluid.

Israeli elections: time for a re-run?
Uri Dromi, The Guardian 2/11/2009
Who will be the next prime minister of Israel? Surely Tzipi Livni, because she came out as the leader of the biggest party; or maybe Binyamin Netanyahu, because he can amass more Knesset members to support him; or wait – why not both, in rotation, in a national unity government? The only thing agreed upon by all, following Tuesday night’s confusion, is that a country like Israel, facing such awesome challenges, desperately needs an election system better than the present, flawed one. Raising the threshold will surely limit the number of parties in the Knesset and will enable the forming of more stable coalitions. Other measures will be needed to augment future governments, so that they will not be toppled so easily, and that prime ministers, instead of worrying only about their political survival, should be allowed, for a change, to govern.

Rival Israeli parties claim victory
Al Jazeera 2/11/2009
The leaders of the centrist Kadima party and the right-wing Likud party have both declared victory in Israel’s general election. With all the votes counted on Wednesday, the Kadima party led by Tzipi Livni, the foreign minister, had won 28 parliamentary seats, one more than the Likud party of Benyamin Netanyahu, a former prime minister. But it was the far right Yisrael Beiteinu party, led by Avigdor Lieberman, who campaigned on a platform to deny citizenship to Israeli Arabs he considers disloyal, that emerged as kingmaker with its strong showing. It won 15 seats in the 120-member Knesset, pushing the Labor party back into fourth place with just 13 seats, its worst ever election performance. Livni declared victory in the early hours of Wednesday, saying: "Today the people chose Kadima. "She appealed to rival Netanyahu to join a national unity government led by her.

For Green Movement-Meimad’s Tal, home isn’t always where the votes are
Raphael Ahren, Ha’aretz 2/11/2009
While Green Movement-Meimad head Rabbi Michael Melchior spent much of his day in a car, visiting dozens of voting stations across the nation, the American-born Alon Tal - number three on the list - adopted a different strategy. From seven in the morning until 10 P. M. , the Harvard-educated environmentalist stood in front of the Maoz Hamaccabim school in Modi’in, which happens to be located about 200 meters from his house. "I go up to every single person who comes to vote and say that I want to be their congressman," Tal told Haaretz while handing out flyers. "My advantage is that I live around here and my daughters go to this school, so sometimes people stop and start talking. " Dressed in jeans, a party T-shirt and a black baseball cap, the 49-year-old emphatically went up to every voter, trying to give them a flyer while simply saying the name of the party.

Rafi Eitan laments downfall of his Pensioners Party
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 2/11/2009
Pensioners Affairs Minister Rafi Eitan on Wednesday tried to find reasons for the electoral failure of his Pensioners Party, which had won unprecedented 7 seats in the 2006 elections. "We were wiped off the map," Eitan said. "Our party went through a hard time recently [when three Pensioners MKs split from the faction], but eight months ago we began reconstructing the party. We were very close to make it into the Knesset again, but the makeover wasn’t enough and most pensioners voted either for Lieberman or Kadima. "Eitan said that he would try to make sure that the Pensioners Affairs Ministry, which he set up upon joining Ehud Olmert’s coalition in 2006, outlives the party. " We thought old people need a party to look after their interests," Eitan said.

Akiva Eldar / What draws the masses in Israel to Kadima?
Akiva Eldar, Ha’aretz 2/11/2009
Click here for exclusive Haaretz coverage of the elections in Israel The next line could have been written a while before the voting closed: Kadima is not merely a surprise, Kadima is a phenomenon. Three years ago, when its founder, Ariel Sharon, fell into a coma not long after creating it, some people predicted that it would disappear into the abyss of history. They said Ehud Olmert came to power by holding onto Sharon’s coattails. They explained that leaving the Gaza Strip and the relatively quiet evacuation of Gush Katif were what propelled Kadima to the top. Well, today, Tzipi Livni, a woman who only recently entered politics, has led Kadima wisely to the finals. She forced Benjamin Netanyahu, who only two weeks ago led in the polls, to sweat all the way to the ballot box.

VIDEO - Israel is the loser
The Guardian 2/11/2009
Jonathan Freedland on the aftermath of elections in Israel and how the party with the largest share of the vote could still end up on the losing side.

Netanyahu / The biggest loser
Aluf Benn, Ha’aretz 2/11/2009
Benjamin Netanyahu is this election’s big loser, even if he manages to restore his position and become prime minister. At the start of the election campaign four months ago, his victory appeared certain. All the polls and the analysts predicted that Bibi would make a big comeback, and that Likud would crush Kadima and re-establish itself as the big, powerful ruling party. Netanyahu’s behavior only bolstered this image: He adorned the party’s Knesset list with stars, some new and some not, he showed discipline during the campaign and he made nearly no mistakes. The elections looked like they were in his bag. The moment the polls showed him at the top, Netanyahu tried to preserve his lead with proper, stately behavior while ignoring his rivals.

VIDEO - Kadima and Likud claim victory in Israel poll
The Guardian 2/11/2009
Israeli elections produce the tightest of races with early results putting Tzipi Livni only narrowly ahead of Binyamin Netanyahu. [end]

VIDEO - ’This is the speech of a kingmaker’
The Guardian 2/11/2009
Jonathan Freedland goes to Avigdor Lieberman’s campaign party in Jerusalem to watch the Israeli election results come in. [end]

Audio Report: The Israeli Elections 2009
Ghassan Bannoura - Audio Dept, International Middle East Media Center News 2/11/2009
With 99% of the votes counted, the Kadima party led by Tzipi Livni is leading the race after winning 28 out of 120 Knesset seats. The rival Likud party, headed by Benjamin Netanyah is only one seat behind, while the Labor party’s representation dropped to 13 seats. The Arab parties attracted similar support as the 2006 elections; they controlled 11 seats this year. The final results well be announced on Thursday afternoon, according to the Israeli elections committee The extremist right wing party Yisrael Beiteinu of Avigdor Lieberman managed to obtain 15 seats, and thus is expected to have a bigger influence of government coalitions. Michael Warchavsky, an Israeli political analyst, says that the elections outcomes were expected: "it was obvious if the currant discourse is a discourse of no compromise and brutality against Palestinians. . . " -- See also: Click on Link to download or play MP3 file

Tzipi Livni’s day / ’Not out of fear, but in hope’
Noah Kosharek, Ha’aretz 2/11/2009
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni started Election Day by voting at the Yisgav School in Tel Aviv’s Ramat Hahayal neighborhood, near her house. She slipped her ballot into the box as heavy rain pounded the city. "I did what I expect every citizen to do. First of all to leave the house - rain or no rain, hot or cold - go out and vote. Stand in the booth and decide not out of fear, but in hope. I voted for Kadima today, and I know many others will vote like me," she said. A large number of supporters and campaign staffers were waiting for her when she left the school. Livni was very optimistic. "We will do it today. Kadima is going to win, I know it, and the public knows that today," she said. She told reporters she was not worried about the wintry weather. "I saw in America how people turn out in the freezing cold.

Avigdor Lieberman’s day / Rain can’t dampen Yvet’s spirit
Dana Weiler-Polak, Ha’aretz 2/11/2009
Neither the bad weather nor the general feeling of lethargy managed to dampen Avigdor Lieberman’s spirit when he arrived at 9 A. M. to vote in his hometown of Nokdim, "the holy city" as his media adviser calls it. The quiet West Bank settlement had only 500 eligible voters, and showed few signs of life when the numerous reporters showed up at the almost empty polling station. The size of the press turnout surprised even Lieberman. " Since the days of Josephus Flavius, the Judean Desert has not seen so many reporters," he said, while his wife Ella stated she was happy Nokdim was finally receiving a little bit of publicity. After voting, Lieberman went out to encourage supporters, heading southward. His first stop was Kiryat Gat, where he was greeted at party headquarters with hugs and handshakes.

Don’t expect to hear much more English in Knesset as most Anglos miss out again
Raphael Ahren and Cnaan Liphshiz, Ha’aretz 2/11/2009
Several native English-speakers sought to be elected to the Knesset in yesterday’s election, and United Torah Judaism’s Yaakov Litzman, who grew up in New York before he became one of Israel’s most powerful Anglo politicians and, was a lock to retain his seat as the first on his list. Nonetheless, exit polls show most new Anglos won’t make it past Knesset doors. Chicago-born Uri Bank, who holds the fifth spot on the National Union list, was the only new Anglo with a realistic chance of being elected. When voting stations closed last night, Bank’s voting station-tour had long passed its 15th stop. The 40-year-old politician, a resident of the West Bank settlement Neveh Daniel, had a compelling incentive. "I’m probably right on the cusp," he said in explaining at least part of his motivation.

Netanyahu meets Lieberman in bid to feel out coalition deal
Mazal Mualem Yair Ettinger and Lily Galili, Ha’aretz 2/11/2009
Click here for exclusive Haaretz coverage of the elections in IsraelFollowing an inconclusive election on Tuesday, Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu met with Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman in Jerusalem on Wednesday in efforts to forge a coalition deal that would pave Netanyahu’s path to the premier’s seat. Kadima won 28 of 120 Knesset seats in Tuesday’s vote, putting it narrowly ahead of the rightist Likud, which garnered 27 seats. The chairs of both Likud and Kadima claimed victory Tuesday night, each arguing the right to form and lead the next government. The two parties began intensive efforts Wednesday to form rival coalitions. Lieberman, whose Yisrael Beiteinu Party won 15 seats, is seen as the pivotal coalition partner, without whom neither party will be able to form a stable coalition.

Ehud Barak’s day / Not a leader, a pal at the poll
Jonathan Lis, Ha’aretz 2/11/2009
Ehud Barak’s campaign posters declared "He’s not a pal. He’s a leader. "But yesterday, the Labor Party chairman belied the slogan: He shook hands with voters at Tel Aviv polling stations, hugged party activists and even picked up several bewildered babies. The party’s Tel Aviv headquarters resembled a buzzing beehive yesterday. Dozens of young volunteers were on the phone urging potential voters to go to the polls. "We will make 100,000 phone calls from here today," Welfare Minister Isaac Herzog told the visiting Barak. In an adjacent room, Herzog showed Barak the list of problems that had already been reported by Labor observers at polling stations nationwide, including suspected vote-buying in Dimona, Carmiel and Nahariya. "Ehud, I want you to know the response has been amazing," Herzog said.

Treasury: A huge deficit in 2010 could destroy us
Moti Bassok, Ha’aretz 2/11/2009
When the new government forms after yesterday’s elections, it will receive an economy in crisis. Moreover, treasury officials are terrified, not of the giant deficit this year, but of giant deficits in the following years, which would be the road to ruin. The figures are frightening. Tax collection in 2009 will fall as much as NIS 40 billion short of earlier estimates. The budget is already short about NIS 10 billion to meet costs because of Operation Cast Lead and other past and future demands from the defense establishment. Almost a third of that NIS 10 billion comes from the military campaign in the Gaza Strip, and never mind that it’s over. It cost NIS 3 billion, which has to come from somewhere. Then there is an amount to be allocated to the leverage funds, which are supposed to be joint government-private. . .

ANALYSIS / Israel’s new PM must stop the economic crisis before it burgeons
Guy Rolnik, Ha’aretz 2/11/2009
Greetings to Israel’s next prime minister, the person who has to lead Israel through the economic crisis, which is gaining momentum as you read. We still don’t know who you are, even though the election is over. But it doesn’t matter. The economic challenges you face don’t depend on your identity, and in any case the economic platforms of the contenders was uniformly vague and, at some levels, indistinguishable. The American economy and financial system will dramatically affect local fortunes. The policy that U. S. President Barack Obama institutes over the weeks and months to come will shape the economic dialog in Israel and the rest of the world. Israel’s prime ministerial candidates would have liked to be Obama: he swept America and the rest of the world, promising change as the worst financial crisis since 1929 lashes at the globe.

Bank of Israel sees much wider deficit in 2009
Adrian Filut, Globes Online 2/11/2009
In September-December 2008, the slowdown in economic activity became more severe, and inflationary pressures eased. "In September-December 2008, the slowdown in economic activity became more severe, and inflationary pressures eased," says theBank of Israel in its review of the fourth quarter of 2008, "Recent Economic Developments No. 123, September to December 2008", published today. The Bank of Israel adds, "The decline in world trade was reflected by the first drop in Israel’s good exports after a long upward trend. The negative impact on the public’s wealth, increased employment insecurity and the erosion of the real wage undermined consumer confidence and resulted in a slower rise in private consumption. "Signs of the slowdown were evident in the labor market too, as the rise in employment in the business sector halted and. . .

Merrill Lynch sees weaker shekel if Likud forms govt
Globes correspondent, Globes Online 2/11/2009
Analysts Haim Israel and Micha Goldberg believe the next government is liable to be short-lived. After the indecisive result of yesterday’s general election in Israel, Merrill Lynch analysts Haim Israel and Micha Goldberg ask whether the country will not find itself going to the polls again within a couple of years. The Kadima party led by Tzipi Livni won the most Knesset seats, with 28, but Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu, whose party won 27 seats, is believed to stand a greater chance of forming a coalition. Such a coalition, however, is liable to be short-lived, in Israel and Goldberg’s view. "With no clear majority, the coalition is likely to include as many as six or even more parties, once again making it fragile and founded on lots of minority demands," the analysts write. "It is just three years since the last elections, and. . . "

The watchword: Fiscal discipline
Avi Temkin, Globes Online 2/11/2009
The new government’s economic policy will be to ask Stanley Fischer what to do. Another Israeli election campaign has ended in which economic issues were pushed to the margins, even thought the local economy is at the start of a recession and the economic ground is burning under our feet. It is doubtful whether even a single voter took the economy and the parties’ stances on economic matters into account. However, the next government will serve for its first year or two in the shadow of the great economic crisis, of a recession, of a weakened financial system, and of growing unemployment. It is also possible that, at the same time, the government will run into clashes with the US administration, which will not add to the confidence of investors, Israeli or foreign. All these things are not immediate worries.

Tamar-1 has five trillion cubic feet of gas, says Noble
Avi Bar-Eli, Ha’aretz 2/11/2009
The rumors can stop now. There are definitely commercially viable amounts of natural gas at the Tamar 1 exploration site, 90 kilometers off the Haifa shoreline, new tests show. There are at least 142 billion cubic meters, at leats 60% above initial forecasts. The discovery at Tamar 1 was announced last month, leading to galactic leaps in the stocks and participation units of the companies involved. On Monday more tests were completed, and initial assessments are believed to have proved the presence of commercially feasible quantities. Tamar 1 was initially believed to have a capacity of no less than 30 billion cubic meters to 40 billion BCM. Around two weeks ago Noble Energy, the American partner in the exploration, gushed that the site seemed to have at least 88 BCM.

Luz II parent co wins huge California deal
Shmulik Shelah, Globes Online 2/11/2009
BrightSource Energy will supply SCE 1,300 megawatts of solar thermal power. Luz II Ltd. parent company BrightSource Energy Inc. has signed a contract with Southern California Edison (SCE) for 1,300 megawatts of clean solar thermal power, enough to serve nearly 845,000 homes. The California Public Utilities Commission has to approve the deal. BrightSource will develop seven projects altogether, with the first 100-megawatt plant due to come online in early 2013. The company said that this "was the largest energy procurement contract ever signed with a utility. " BrightSource did not disclose the size of the new contract, but its scale can be judged by the fact that it will generate over a tenth of Israel’s total annual electricity production of 11,000 megawatts. The company hopes to complete construction of all the power plants by 2017, at which point they will produce 3.

Top lawyer, accountant may be charged over tax breaks for tycoons
Tomer Zarchin, Ha’aretz 2/11/2009
The state prosecution is considering indicting prominent lawyer Yaakov Weinroth and accountant Zev Feldman in connection with allegations that a top tax official was responsible for irregularities in the income tax assessments of prominent Israeli businessmen. Weinroth is accused of charging the tax official, Yehoshua Vita, a low rate for his legal representation in exchange for getting breaks in the tax assessments of some of Weinroth’s other clients, including businessman Arcadi Gaydamak. Feldman is suspected of acting on Weinroth’s behalf. Police are also investigating suspicions that tax clerks violated regulations and committed irregularities in the income tax assessments of businessman Lev Leviev and convicted crime kingpin Ze’ev Rosenstein. The clerks are suspected of offering deals orchestrated by Vita that included tax benefits.

Iran denies Cyprus-docked ship was bringing weapons to Hamas
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/11/2009
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman on Wednesday denied reports that a ship detained off Cyprus was carrying Iranian weapons destined for the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Spokesman Hassan Qashqavi said that Cypriot authorities have inquired about the ship’s cargo, but insisted that accusations of weapons on board werebaseless. Cypriot Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou said Tuesday that the ship has breached a United Nations ban on Iranian arms exports. Cyprus inspected the Monchegorsk twice after it arrived Jan. 29. The U. S. military stopped the ship last month in the Red Sea and said it found artillery shells and other arms on board. But it could not legally detain the ship.

Iran charges 7 members of Baha’i faith with spying for Israel
Yossi Melman, Ha’aretz 2/11/2009
Seven people belonging to the Baha’i faith are scheduled to stand trial in Iran over charges of "spying for Israel," among other charges, the Iranian ISNA news agency reported Wednesday. The news agency quoted Tehran’s Deputy General Prosecutor Hassan Hadad as saying that the seven defendants also face charges of "desecrating Islam and campaigning against an Islamic republic. " The deputy prosecutor and the news agency did not specify the nature of the espionage the seven are suspected of having engaged in. The disciples of the Baha’i faith, founded in 1863, are considered infidels in Iran and are subject to persecution which has gained momentum since the rise of the Islamic Republic 30 years ago. At the end of 2008 it was reported that Iran had hanged a Baha’i man on charges of adultery and rape.

Disenchantment with Iraqi politics mars poll
Middle East Online 2/11/2009
BAGHDAD - Iraqis who shunned the country’s first election in over three years said they were disillusioned with politics and felt their votes would not make a difference. Fewer people voted in last week’s provincial elections than in any other election since the US-led invasion. Turnout was higher when Iraqi voters faced daily car bombs and sectarian killings. Last week’s record low turnout took place despite improvements in security and a combined effort by the electoral commission, candidates and the media to encourage voters. Many Iraqis informally polled by IWPR in Baghdad, Basra, Anbar and Karbala said they were hesitant about casting ballots in future polls, indicating a deep-seated mistrust of Iraqi politics. Ahead of the election, polls and officials predicted voter turnout ranging between 70 and 80 per cent.

RIGHTS: Violations Privatised Away
David Cronin, Inter Press Service 2/11/2009
BRUSSELS, Feb 10(IPS) - The intimate involvement of the private sector in the U. S. -led invasion of Iraq received international attention in September 2007, when staff with the security firm Blackwater shot dead 17 civilians in the vicinity of Baghdad’s Nisoor Square. Though the U. S. has made the most extensive use of such companies in the history of modern warfare, it is in Europe where they originated. Back in 1967, senior political and military figures in Britain formed Watchguard International as a response to a left-wing coup in Yemen five years earlier. Now recognised as the world’s first private security firm, its original intention was to shore up governments that could otherwise be overthrown. Four decades later, the European Union is being urged to introduce regulations so that better oversight of private security firms can be guaranteed.

Twin car bombings kill 16 at Baghdad bus terminal
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 2/12/2009
BAGHDAD: Twin car bombings ripped through a Baghdad bus station killing 16 people on Wednesday, as violence across Iraq claimed at least 26 lives and shattered a relative lull marked by largely peaceful polls. Shiite pilgrims traveling by foot to the central shrine city of Kerbala, meanwhile, came under attack in two areas of Baghdad, leaving one devotee dead and 14 wounded, security officials said. Defense and Interior Ministry officials said the parked cars blew up in almost simultaneous attacks near the bus station in the Shiite district of Bayah in western Baghdad. Most of the 16 dead and 43 wounded were men. Iraqi police and US troops cordoned off the scene of the attack, a busy shopping area where blood and body parts were scattered across the streets, amid several burnt-out cars. The force of the blasts blew the roofs off roadside stalls, leaving wreckage strewn across the. . .

Deaths in Iraq bomb attacks
Al Jazeera 2/11/2009
At least 21 people have been killed and dozens more injured in a series of attacks in Iraq. The explosions, which targeted civilians and security personnel, took place in Baghdad and in the northern city of Mosul on Wednesday, police sources said. In Baghdad, sixteen civilians were killed and 45 others injured after two simultaneous car bombs exploded. Security and medical sources said that the bombs were planted in parked cars at a bus station in the Shia district of Bayah. A separate roadside bomb in northern Baghdad killed a civilian and wounded six others as they were heading towards Karbala to mark the religious rite of Ashura, police said. In another incident, an explosion hit pilgrims in southern Baghdad, killing at least one civilian. A bomb exploded on the main road in Zaafaraniya district, killing a Shia pilgrim and wounding eight others," a security official confirmed.

Sahel states call for anti-poverty fund
Middle East Online 2/11/2009
RABAT - The 28-nation Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD) on Tuesday called for the creation of a 250-million-euro (325-million-dollar) fund to fight poverty in the Northern African region. Representatives from the bloc agreed on the proposal -- which had been suggested by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) -- during a meeting in the Moroccan capital of Rabat. The 25 member states attending the meeting also called for a regional improvement in food security, which it said was fundamental to ensuring economic development. "The executive council underlined the crucial question of food security and the management of natural resources and water for the economic and social development of the community," a report from the bloc said. The council recommended "putting into effect a strategy for rural development and management of natural resources" and called for increased scientific research.

Syrian mobile schools keep pace with nomad tribes
Middle East Online 2/11/2009
DAMASCUS - Dozens of kilometers away from the nearest village school, a group of children file into a rusty caravan parked amidst a sea of Bedouin tents. This is a mobile school, designed to follow groups of Arab nomads as they move across the desert. The current encampment where this school has stopped is 130 kilometers from the city of Al-Raqqah in northern Syria. “Please, teacher, let me answer this question,” says one of the children, Sultan Muhammed al-Ijl. “I can tell you where the Arab homeland is on the map. ” At this, fellow-pupil Yousif Muhammed al-Sahil stands up angrily to complain, “Sultan has answered most of your questions. Why don’t you give me a chance, teacher? ” After the class was over, the teacher, 25-year-old Mazin al-Khidhri, said he continued to be surprised by how passionate his students were about learning.

MEDIA: Climate of Fear Pervades Many Newsrooms
Haider Rizvi, Inter Press Service 2/11/2009
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 10(IPS) - In Latin America, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, journalists are becoming increasingly vulnerable to physical violence as a result of their work, says a U. S. -based media watchdog in a new report released Tuesday. "Today, the greatest threats to freedom of the press are more insidious than a generation ago because they are intended to induce a climate of fear and intimidation," said Carl Bernstein, a well-known investigative reporter, at the launch of the report by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Bernstein told reporters that violence against journalists had "become more and more routine, because it is the one effective way of stopping the press under the most horrible of circumstances. " Last year, at least 41 journalists were killed and more than 100 lived behind bars, according to the 341-page CPJ report, "Attacks on the Press in 2008".

On the streets of Tehran, even the hardliners are weary of presidential platitudes
Katherine Butler, The Independent 2/11/2009
It should have been the high point of festivities for the glorious 30th anniversary of Iran’s revolution. But 15 minutes or so into President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech, people began to leave. These were supposedly the hardliners, the most loyal and conservative of the President’s constituents, out in big numbers to honour the 1979 uprising. These are the people for whom the "death to America" rhetoric has played best over the years and who, we in the West assume, blindly back an uncompromising Iranian approach to the rest of the world. Yet among the crowds as Mr Ahmadinejad returned a tentative olive branch to Barack Obama, there was a strong sense that even these people were weary with the ritual denunciations and might be ready to contemplate a reconciliation with the US. There was also a firm hint that at least some, even in this flag-waving throng, were underwhelmed by Mr Ahmadinejad himself.

Iran hints at US dialogue as it hails the revolution
Katherine Butler in Tehran, The Independent 2/11/2009
After 30 years of hostility, the Iranian President says he is ready for ’real talks’. - After 30 years of hostility, enmity and poisoned rhetoric, Iran and the US moved a tentative step closer to rapprochement yesterday when President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced he would welcome dialogue, provided America agrees to talk to Iran on an equal footing. His remarks came a day after the US President, Barack Obama, said he was looking for opportunities to open direct talks with Iran. Indicating that he expects movement leading to face to face talks within months, he urged Iran to "send some signals that it wants to act differently". In what could be seen as a direct response to the new American overture, Mr Ahmadinejad – a hardline populist whose time in power has been marked by a sharp deterioration in relations with the West over Iran’s nuclear ambitions – went some way towards sending those signals.


Articles


Behind the violence in Gujarat, Gaza and Iraq is the banality of democracy
Pankaj Mishra, The Guardian 2/11/2009
      In his memoir, Secrets, Daniel Ellsberg describes how he decided to risk years in prison by leaking the Pentagon Papers, the top-secret record of American decision-making on Vietnam, to the New York Times. Hoping that his wife, Patricia, would help him make up his mind, Ellsberg showed her a few memos on bombing strategies crafted by his former superiors at the Pentagon. She was horrified by some of the phrases in the documents: "a need to reach the threshold of pain"; "salami-slice bombing campaign"; "the objective of persuading the enemy"; "ratchet"; "one more turn of the screw". "This is the language of torturers," she told Ellsberg. "These have to be exposed."
     I recalled this scene while reading about Israel’s objectives in its assault on Gaza, as defined by the country’s political and military leaders and its western supporters. Speaking to a delegation from the Israeli lobby Aipac, President Shimon Peres confirmed that "Israel’s aim was to provide a strong blow to the people of Gaza so that they would lose their appetite for shooting at Israel". Writing in the New York Times, Thomas Friedman, who had previously explained that the US invasion of Iraq was meant to say "suck on this" to the Muslim world, agreed that "the only long-term source of deterrence is to exact enough pain on the civilians".
     Perhaps it is no longer shocking that elected leaders and mainstream journalists in democracies seem to borrow their tone and vocabulary from Ayman al-Zawahiri and Hassan Nasrallah - after all, the war on terror, now officially declared a "mistake", unhinged some of our best writers and thinkers. What is more bewildering and dispiriting than the moral deviancy of our political elites is its tacit endorsement by large democratic majorities.

UN Envoy: Gaza’s Children Traumatized by War, Despite Ceasefire

Deutsche Presse Agentur, MIFTAH 2/11/2009
      Children in the Gaza Strip continued to suffer and feel insecure despite a ceasefire that has mostly ended three weeks of intense fighting between Israel and Hamas, the UN special envoy for children and armed conflict said Monday.
     Radihika Coomaraswamy said grave violations of child rights had been committed during the fighting that began on December 27 when Israel Defense Forces launched airstrikes against Hamas militants who had been firing rockets and mortars into southern Israel.
     She said those violations included killing and maiming, and denial of humanitarian access. Fifty-six per cent of Gazans are children under 18.
     "During the recent hostilities, there were no safe space for children and the crossings out of Gaza were, and remain, virtually sealed," she said.
     The fighting killed more than 1,300 people in Gaza, one-third of them children and women. Thousands of people were injured.
     Turning to children in Israel, Coomaraswamy said: "There is no doubt that children live in constant fear of missile attacks in southern Israel. The need for psycho-social support has increased recently."

Israelis vote for more of the same

Marc J. Sirois, Daily Star 2/12/2009
      Israelis have had their say at the ballot box, and their verdict is the clearest indication yet that the great majority of them have no more of a vision for their country’s future than their morally and ideologically bankrupt leaders do. Media reports are full of pap about a "lurch to the right" because while Benjamin Netanyahu’s openly bellicose Likud seems to have finished a close second to Tzipi Livni’s slightly less bellicose Kadima, Avigdor Lieberman’s radically bellicose Israel Beitenu came in third, ahead of Ehud Barak’s Labor, whose own rank on the bellicosity scale varies with the waxings and wanings of its popularity. Forget left and right: Tuesday’s vote was a contest between the perpetrators of the recent slaughter in Gaza (Livni and Barak) and critics who think Israel should kill and starve even more people for no good reason (Netanyahu and Lieberman).
     Even in general, much of the left-right model for defining the nature of a political program breaks down when it is applied to Israel. It is, after all, an apartheid state that makes no secret of extending substandard citizenship rights to individuals who happen not to be "Jewish" according to a bizarre formula that has nothing to do with what anyone actually believes, only with how his or her mother was classified - often by a brutal police state in Eastern Europe.

Israeli Elections Prove Things Really Can Get Worse

Joharah Baker, MIFTAH 2/11/2009
      This year’s general elections in Israel will go down in history as one of the tightest races ever. While Kadima head and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s centrist party has claimed a slight lead over Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu by one Knesset seat, this is by no means an all out victory for her. Without delving into the often confusing details of the Israeli electoral system, it suffices to say that both party leaders have a gargantuan task before them – forming a strong enough coalition – one that would guarantee 61 Knesset seats required by any prime minister to form a government.
     As proven at the polls, it is still unclear which way the pendulum will swing in terms of what shape Israel’s next government will take. One thing is for sure though. Much to the chagrin of the Palestinians, the one key player in this year’s elections is neither Livni nor Netanyahu. It is Avigdor Lieberman.Should either Livni or Netanyahu be called on by Israeli President Shimon Peres to form a government, both will likely lean heavily on Lieberman and his Israel Beitenu party to help them out.

Mitchell’s First Mission Does Not Inspire Optimism

Hasan Afif El-Hasan, Palestine Chronicle 2/10/2009
      ’Mitchell visited the region .. but refused to include Gaza on his itinerary.’ (Getty) Former Senator George Mitchell has been assigned by President Obama to revive the so called peace process. Mitchell is no stranger to the region and he is not the first to be appointed for assessing the situation and make recommendations. In September 2000 and at the beginning of al-Aqsa intifada, Mitchell chaired an investigative commission that included former senator Warren Rudman, the former president of Turkey, Suleiman Demirel, the former foreign minister of Norway, Thorbjorn Jaland and Javier Solana, a Spanish diplomat. Eight months later, the Mitchell commission published a report that blamed Arafat for countenancing terror bombing and the Sharon government for its harsh military retaliation against the Palestinians and for supporting Jewish settlements.
     Mitchell report included recommendations to be implemented by the Palestinians and the Israelis to create a "confidence-building" environment, but the Israeli Prime Minister Sharon supported by President George W. Bush ignored the report all together. Israel continued its settlement activities, forced curfews on the Palestinians, re-occupied Palestinian cities, invaded refugee camps in Gaza and the West Bank, bulldozed Palestinians’ homes and destroyed their olive groves. Palestinian casualties in 2001 exceeded 1,300 dead and 9,700 wounded victims of the Israeli attacks. The Palestinians retaliated with suicide bombings in Israel.

Here Comes the Four-State Solution

Rami G. Khouri, Middle East Online 2/11/2009
      BEIRUT -- The Israeli elections Tuesday are expected to usher in a Likud-led right-of-center coalition. Regardless of the final result (I write this Tuesday morning, as the voting begins), one thing is already clear: Whoever wins, the chances of a negotiated peace based on a two-state solution are slim, and becoming more difficult every year.
     But they are not impossible for two main reasons. The difficulties that plague peace prospects today are all man-made ones that can just as easily be reversed and removed by new men and women leaders who act with courage and wisdom. And, the resort to violence by all parties has emphasized the limits of militarism, and clarified that only a political resolution will bring peace and security. Neither side will surrender, or be eliminated.
     Here is the very complex and challenging political context in which we operate today: The two-state solution is difficult but still possible, the one-state solution is often proposed by many Arabs but is not realistic in the near future, and the current configuration on the ground is in fact a three-state solution: Israel, Gaza and the West Bank.

Few Peacemakers in Israel’s Knesset

Neve Gordon, Middle East Online 2/11/2009
      Israelis have had their say at the polls, and now it is up to the world, and particularly the Obama administration, to respond.
     Thirty-three parties ran for the Knesset (the Israeli parliament), ranging from the well-known Kadima, Likud and Labor to a variety of lesser known parties that ran on an array of platforms from the rights of the disabled to legalizing cannabis. However, only twelve parties managed to garner enough votes to secure seats in the Knesset.
     The incoming Knesset will have a solid right-wing bloc, made up of Likud with twenty-seven seats, Yisrael Beiteinu with fifteen seats, two ultra-Orthodox parties with sixteen seats and two smaller nationalist parties with seven seats. This bloc has four more than the sixty-one-seat threshold needed to form a coalition.
     The center bloc was able to muster forty-one seats. This bloc consists of Kadima with twenty-eight seats and Labor with thirteen seats. The remaining fourteen seats were won by liberal, leftist and Arab national parties.
     The results clearly testify to the fact that a large majority of the elected politicians are against an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement based on the two-state solution. Moreover, some parties have blatant neo-fascist tendencies. Yisrael Beiteinu, for example, ran under the banner of "no citizenship without loyalty," and would like to strip any person who is critical of Israeli policies towards the Palestinians of their citizenship. People like me.

More roadblock than roadmap in the Middle East

Benjamin Pogrund, The Guardian 2/11/2009
      As the coalition-building begins, the only certain thing that can be said of Israel’s election result is that peace was not the winner.
     A dark cloud hangs over peace prospects as a result of Tuesday’s elections in Israel. As widely anticipated, there was a discernible move to the right and that will determine the nature and policies of the new government. The bottom line is that there will not be any sustained drive to end the occupation of the West Bank or, perhaps, to relieve pressure on the Gaza Strip. Pursuing a peace deal with Syria is also unlikely.
     Next week, President Shimon Peres will start to call in leaders to decide who will lead the government. Even if he gives Tzipi Livni of the more centrist Kadima a crack at it, she will have no choice but to turn to the right. Indeed, she speaks of a "national unity government" and has been making overtures both to Binyamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman.
     Netanyahu has repeatedly made clear that he opposes creation of a Palestinian state. Instead, he speaks of economic development – "economic peace" he calls it. That is obviously desirable, but it is less obvious how it can be achieved when the West Bank is throttled internally and at the borders by hundreds of checkpoints and barriers to free movement. Nor is it explained why Palestinians can be expected to sit still and put away their demands for political and personal freedoms while waiting for a promised economic heaven. Netanyahu has also declared himself against any withdrawal from the Golan Heights. That halts any progress towards a peace deal with Syria, which insists on getting back the land which it lost when it went to war with Israel in 1967.

Shallow celebration for a hollow victory

Gideon Levy, Ha’aretz 2/11/2009
      Three minutes before the results of the television channels’ exit polls were announced, the applause had already started.
     Rhythmic, planned, mechanical, almost automatic. Someone pulled a Kadima flag out - yes, there is such a thing - and waved it. Advertisement
     In the banquet hall of the luxury hotel, with more photographers than party members, there was not even any tension.
     Four, three, two, one, just like before a launch, and then the exciting news: A two seat advantage for Kadima on all the channels.
     A wave of joy? A river of happy tears? Not at all.
     A group of party hacks, minor leaguers all, from this party of refugees broke out in a Hassidic-like circle dance.
     Someone passed out small Israeli flags, another broke out in song - but it all seemed to be overdone.
     An embarrassing election campaign came to its end with a hollow joy, a small comfort. Such an embarrassing campaign could not end any other way.
     Slaps on the back, hugs and kisses.
     "What a victory," cried the hacks. The loudspeakers blared out the party’s theme song continuously, but even the wretched tune could not lift anyone’s spirits, it just reflected on the party itself.

Israeli 'investigation' whitewashes West Bank execution

Report, Al-Haq, Electronic Intifada 2/11/2009
      On 2 February 2009, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported the findings of an "investigation" into an incident in which, that morning, "a Palestinian gunman opened fire at an [Israeli army] Patrol Force near the Community Yatir [sic], south of Hebron." As a result of the investigation, the Israeli military Central Command "assumes" that the "terrorist," who was shot dead by Israeli soldiers, "was intending to execute a terror attack against Israeli civilians."
     After a full field investigation, Al-Haq has determined serious factual inaccuracies and false assumptions in the Israeli authorities’ version of events, and reports the following findings:
     On the morning of Monday, 2 February 2009, an infantry unit of the Israeli occupying forces was deployed to Janba, southeast of Yatta in the Hebron district of the southern West Bank. Between 7:30 and 8:00am, the Israeli soldiers stopped a total of three vehicles on a dirt road in the Marah al-Tabaka area of Janba. This road is close to the West Bank’s southern border with Israel, and is used by Palestinian merchants who travel to Israel to sell their goods. Two of the three vehicles were returning from Israel, while the other was traveling towards Israel from Yatta. The Israeli soldiers had not set up a visible "flying" checkpoint on the road, but rather each time a vehicle arrived, the soldiers jumped out from positions of hiding off to the side of the road, ordered the drivers to turn off their engines, took the IDs of those in the vehicles, and forced them to wait at the side of the road. By the time the three vehicles had been stopped, a total of 11 Palestinians were being kept by the Israeli soldiers at the side of the road.

Victory in the Scales of Factual Numbers

Hassan Al-Battal, MIFTAH 2/11/2009
      Experts like to clutch statistics in their hands, but there are some statistics which grab journalists by the throats, especially some “marginal” statistics from the last Gaza War. These less-known statistics include the fact that 88% of the population of the Gaza Strip has become dependent on food assistance, and that 600,000 tons is the approximate weight of the rubble from destruction.
     Why did I describe those numbers as “marginal?” One of the most obvious is that they are quoted among the smaller news headlines whereas the “main” statistics are the number of the dead and injured. As of the latest counts, these are 1,440 dead and 5,380 wounded and still rising.
     Beneath the folds of the headlines of some national newspapers, I read a somewhat cynical calculation which is that the number of Palestinian births in Gaza during the weeks of the war exceeded the number of deaths. If a poet were to write the epic of the noble struggle of the Palestinian life, it might be bracketed between the roles of the midwife and the executioner. In revolutionary political slogans they say that “blood triumphs over the sword,” and in the literature praising the resistance they talk about “the hand that resists the awl.”

Gaza 2009: Culture of resistance vs. defeat

Dr. Haidar Eid, Electronic Intifada 2/11/2009
      The ongoing bloodletting in the Gaza Strip and the ability of the Palestinian people to creatively resist the might of the world’s fourth strongest army is being hotly debated by Palestinian political forces. The latest genocidal war which lasted 22 days, and in which apartheid Israel used F-16s, Apache helicopters, Merkava tanks and conventional and non-conventional weapons against the population, have raised many serious questions about the concept of resistance and whether the outcome of the war can, or cannot, be considered a victory for the Palestinian people. The same kind of questions were raised in 2006 when apartheid Israel launched its war against the Lebanese people and brutally killed more than 1,200 Lebanese.
     At the beginning of the Gaza war, we were told by certain sectors of the Palestinian political leadership that "the two sides are to blame: Hamas and Israel" and that "Hamas must stop the launching of the rockets from Gaza." Resistance in all its forms, violent and otherwise, was considered, by these same people, "futile." Now that there are fewer bombs raining down on Gaza, the conflict focuses on whether the outcome of the war was one of victory or defeat. For the Israeli ruling class the answer is clear -- in spite of the fact that none of the objectives announced at the beginning of the war have been achieved. It is clear because they, like the defeatist Palestinian camp, simply use the numbers of martyrs, disabled and homeless to determine victory and defeat.