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

VTJP Archives | VTJP 2009
12 February, 2009

PWA: No building supplies in Gaza means no water purification; donor projects failing
Ma’an News Agency 2/12/2009
Ramallah- Ma’an – Emergency drinking water projects initiated by Palestinian Authority (PA) funds in Gaza are close to failure on account of the total lack of materials getting into Gaza, said deputy to the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA), Rebhi Ash-Sheikh said on Thursday. Israel has refused to allow any building or repair equipment into the Gaza Strip, citing security concerns. Several international projects have now been canceled due to the restrictions and the PWA is increasingly concerned that no aid will be allowed in to ensure safe water throughout Gaza. There is a current PA initiative extending the work of the Italian organization Cooperation South-South, which was set to build a station for water purification in Rafah city, as well as execute desperately needed repairs on the water distribution system.

The Israeli military kidnaps 21 Palestinians during morning invasions in the West Bank
Ghassan Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/12/2009
21 Palestinians where kidnapped by the Israeli military during morning invasions on Wednesday that targeting several areas in the West Bank, Palestinian sources reported. In Fahma village, near the northern West Bank city of Jenin, Israeli troops kidnapped 15 men. Villagers reported that troops stormed the village, placed a curfew and then searched homes, then took 15 men and left. Five men where kidnapped when Israeli troops searched and ransacked homes in villagers near the central West Bank city of Ramallah, local sources said. Meanwhile, another two men were taken from the village of Marda, located near the northern West Bank City of Tubas. [end]

AF: Land might collapse in the Aqsa Mosque
Palestinian Information Center 2/12/2009
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- The Aqsa Foundation for Waqf (endowment) and heritage has warned that the unending Israeli excavations under the Aqsa Mosque and in its vicinity could lead to land collapses in the holy site. The Foundation, in a report, recalled that the land caved in at the UNRWA school for girls in occupied Jerusalem early February, only few meters away from the southern area of the holy site. It said that field and inspection visits by its members proved that the Silwan summit after ten years of constant Israeli digging in its vicinity has turned into a hollow summit that could lead to its complete disintegration. The Foundation said that its report monitored the real conditions in Silwan hoping that the Palestinian, Arab and Islamic people would seriously and swiftly move to save Jerusalem in general and the Aqsa Mosque and its vicinity in particular.

Netanyahu holds best hand for PM’s office - analysts
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 2/13/2009
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Hawkish Benjamin Netanyahu is running ahead of centrist Tzipi Livni in the fight to take Israel’s helm after an election whose shift to the right raised concerns over the future of peace talks, observers said on Thursday. "The chances of Livni forming a government amount to zero," said Avraham Diskin, a political scientist with Hebrew University in Occupied Jerusalem, a sentiment echoed in the media. Livni’s Kadima narrowly emerged as the top party in Tuesday’s election with 28 seats, but the foreign minister does not have the support needed for a governing coalition of at least 61 MPs in the 120-member Parliament. Netanyahu, a hawkish former premier whose Likud party won 27 seats, could count on a total of 65 seats with the backing of right-wing factions, which dominated the vote. Both Livni and Netanyahu claimed victory immediately after the cliffhanger election,. . .

Hampshire! First US college to divest from occupation
Palestine News Network 2/12/2009
Hampshire College in Amherst, MA, has become the first of any college or university in the United States to divest from companies on the grounds of their involvement in the Israeli occupation of Palestine. This landmark move is a direct result of a two-year intensive campaign by the campus group, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). The group pressured Hampshire College’s Board of Trustees to divest from six specific companies due to human rights concerns in occupied Palestine. Over 800 students, professors, and alumni have signed SJP’s "institutional statement" calling for the divestment. The proposal put forth by SJP was approved on Saturday, 7 Feb 2009 by the Board. By divesting from these companies, SJP believes that Hampshire has distanced itself from complicity in the illegal occupation and war crimes of Israel.

Egypt cracks down on smugglers near Gaza
Associated Press, YNetNews 2/12/2009
Security official says Egyptian police arrested 40 suspected smugglers, seized contraband goods worth about $1 million in new crackdown on smuggling along country’s border with Strip - Egyptian police have arrested 40 suspected smugglers and seized contraband goods in a new crackdown on smuggling along the country’s border with the Gaza Strip, an Egyptian security official said Thursday. The official said hundreds of security forces have been deployed in and around the town of Rafah, located along the sensitive border with the Palestinian Hamas-run coastal area. The goods seized in the latest raids are worth about $1 million, he said but did not elaborate. The campaign reflects the government’s intention to curb border smuggling through Rafah, which has been the main artery for both commodities and weapons to Palestinians in the battered Gaza, mostly through a maze of underground tunnels along the boundary.

Tulkarem to boycott Israeli commercial goods starting 1 March
Ma’an News Agency 2/12/2009
Tulkarem – Ma’an – The city of Tulkarem will begin a total boycott of Israeli goods starting March, the chamber of commerce announced Thursday. The chamber, in conjunction with several local merchants and organizations, decided to launch the campaign, called “Keeping Tulkarem Clean of Israeli Goods. ” The city will have assistance in organizing popular awareness of the efforts from coordinators from the popular anti-wall campaigns including Jamal Jum’ah. Member of the local coordination committee Jamal Barham stressed the importance of unifying efforts to ensure the success of the campaign. This will include helping shop owners identify non-Israeli goods to replace common items like milk, flour, juice and chocolate. The goal of the Tulkarem project is to increase the production of Palestinian goods from supplying 15% to 25% of consumer goods in Palestinian areas.

Irish trade unionists plan boycott of Israeli goods in aftermath of Gaza op
Cnaan Liphshiz, Ha’aretz 2/12/2009
Irish trade unionists said this week that they plan to launch a boycott of Israeli goods in 2009. Meanwhile, Manchester University Student Union adopted a resolution supporting a boycott of Israel. In moving ahead with plans to boycott Israel, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) says it is relying on "evidence" left in the aftermath of the Israeli invasion into Gaza in December. It also said to be drawing from a "fact-finding mission" to Gaza by a dozen of its senior members more than a year ago. Leaders within the Irish Congress of Trade Unions are to hold a conference this year to act as "a springboard" for their campaign. "The trip was over a year ago but its campaign will move up a gear this year with a major conference to highlight the Palestinian/Israeli situation, while research on. . .

South African dockworkers refuse to unload ship carrying Israeli goods
Stop The Wall 2/12/2009
South African dockworkers from the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) achieved a victory when they stood firm by their decision not to offload the Johanna Russ, a ship carrying Israeli goods to South Africa, despite both threats to COSATU members from sections of the pro-Israeli lobby and severe provocation. The Johanna Russ, flying an Antigua flag, is owned by M. Dizengoff and Co. , an established "pioneer of the modern era of shipping business in the Middle East" and shipping agent for the Zim Israel Navigation Company. The workers action took place despite attempted subterfuge on the part of the owners of the shipping company. There was an attempt to confound the plan by arriving earlier than originally scheduled, with dates for the berthing of the Johanna Russ constantly changing. Dockworkers were told that the ship would dock 8 February, but soon discovered. . .

Sheetrit: Kadima won’t join far-right government
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 2/12/2009
Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit said Thursday that Kadima would not join an extreme right-wing government led by Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu is expected to ask Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni to join his coalition, and may offer the rival party portfolios of foreign affairs and defense. In an interview with Army Radio, Sheetrit said that Kadima would not allow itself to be persuaded into joining a government with values opposing the party lines. "We will join a Netanyahu government only if it is not an extreme right-wing government," he said. "We are not afraid to sit in the opposition. "The interior minister also said that Livni was still making every effort to form a coalition under her authority, despite Netanyahu’s own efforts to lure Kadima into joining his government. Sheetrit told Israel Radio in a separate interview that if he were Netanyahu,

British students occupy campus buildings in protest at Israeli siege
Palestinian Information Center 2/12/2009
LONDON, (PIC)-- Students of three most prominent universities in Britain continue their occupation of main campus buildings in protest at the continued Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip. They also demand their universities to sever relations with Israel. The students called on their universities to respond to their demands and provide a number of scholarships for Palestinian students, and deplored the Israeli bombing of the Islamic University in Gaza. A statement issued by the students of the university of Edinburgh and a copy of which was received by the PIC said that the students have been occupying the lecture theater of George Square since Tuesday to demand their university to sever ties with the Zionist institutions and issue a clear condemnation against the Israeli siege on Gaza. Students of the university of Glasgow are still occupying one of the main buildings in their university. . .

Basque Country rises up in support of Palestine
Stop The Wall 2/12/2009
In recent weeks, the Basque Country has seen a significant amount of BDS activities. Collectively, people throughout the country have come together and sent out the message that BDS is the most effective manner of pushing for the dismantling of apartheid in Palestine. Demonstrations calling for BDS have taken place in at least 30 cities, with some 30,000 people taking part in them. The actions have involved cooperation between all strata of Basque civil society, creating links between various social movements, and intertwining the Basque and Palestinian national struggles. Trade unions have also been heavily involved in the mobilization, will all trade unions in the Southern Basque Country taking part in a demonstration in Bilbao calling for a boycott of Israel. The demonstrators also demanded that the municipality of Bilbao sever its contract with Veolia, which would have the French company managing the city’s bus service.

UN to Probe IDF Damage to Gaza Premises
The Jerusalem Post, MIFTAH 2/12/2009
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Security Council Monday he was about to establish a commission to look into Israeli damage to UN premises during the recent Gaza conflict, Reuters quoted diplomats as saying. Japanese Ambassador Yukio Takasu, the current council president, told reporters that during a closed-door briefing, Ban had promised to provide the council with details on the panel’s mandate and the names of its members in the coming days. Several diplomats said the commission would be led by Ian Martin, a Briton who until recently was UN special envoy to Nepal. From 1986-92, Martin served as secretary-general of Amnesty International. Several UN buildings were damaged during Operation Cast Lead. On January 6, Israeli fire reportedly killed more than 40 people outside a school run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

Palestinians Press for War Crimes Inquiry on Gaza
Marlise Simons, MIFTAH 2/12/2009
The Palestinian Authority is pressing the International Criminal Court in The Hague to investigate accusations of war crimes committed by Israeli commanders during the recent war in Gaza. The Palestinian minister of justice, Ali Kashan, first raised the issue during a visit to the court’s chief prosecutor late last month, and he and other officials are due back again in The Hague this week, court officials said. Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the prosecutor, had initially said he lacked the legal basis to examine the case. But since the Palestinian Authority signed a commitment on Jan. 22 recognizing the court’s authority, the prosecutor has appeared more open to studying the Palestinian claim. “The prosecutor has agreed to explore if he could have jurisdiction in the case,” said Béatrice Le Fraper, the director of jurisdiction for the prosecution.

’Comprehensive probe into Gaza war needed’
Daily Star 2/13/2009
UNITED NATIONS: UN chief Ban Ki-moon’s announcement that he would conduct a probe into attacks on UN facilities in Gaza is welcome yet insufficient unless a comprehensive inquiry is established, Amnesty International (AI) said Thursday. "The UN’s investigation must not be so limited as to look only at recent attacks by Israeli forces on UN schools, staff and property in Gaza. It is not only the victims of attacks on the UN who have a right to know why their rights were violated and who was responsible, and to obtain justice and reparation," said AI chief Irene Khan. "What is needed is a comprehensive international investigation that looks at all alleged violations of international law - by Israel, by Hamas and by other Palestinian armed groups involved in the conflict. " AI researchers who visited both Gaza and southern Israel during the fighting and in its immediate aftermath found compelling. . . -- See also: Listen to the Article

Weekly Report: On Israeli Human Rights Violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory 05 - 11 Feb. 2009
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights 2/12/2009
Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) Continue Systematic Attacks against Palestinian Civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) and Continue to Impose Total Siege on the Gaza Strip - Four Palestinians were killed by IOF in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. *One of the victims was extra-judicially executed by IOF. *Five Palestinians, including one child, were wounded by IOF gunfire in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. *IOF warplanes continued to bombard targets in the Gaza Strip. *Intensive air strikes also continued on the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, forcing local people to evacuate their homes. *IOF conducted 32 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank, and one into the Gaza Strip. *IOF arrested 30 Palestinian civilians, including 10 children.

Dead Gazan leukemia sufferer denied permit for treatment in Israel since August
Ma’an News Agency 2/12/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Seventeen-year-old Maher Ash-Sheikh died in Gaza Thursday waiting for the okay to leave the Strip for leukemia treatment in Israel. Ash-Sheikh had permits to enter Israel to for treatment at Beersheva’sTelhashomer hospital that regularly treat Palestinian patients. The permits are coordinated between Israel, the West Bank Health Ministry and the Gaza Health Ministry. The young man was denied permission to leave the Erez crossing into Israel. Minister of Health for the Ramallah-based caretaker government Fathi Abu Moghli said Ash-Sheikh was first referred to Telhashomer on 17 June 2008. He was referred a second time on 31 August 2008 and a third on 21 January 2008. On all three occasions health officials requested a permit from Israeli authorities, but the requests were ignored. According to Abu Moghli there has been no response from the Israeli government as to why Ash-Sheikh was not granted a permit until today.

PA ministry urges world community to expedite relief to Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 2/12/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- The public works ministry in the Gaza Strip has appealed to the world community to immediately expedite relief assistance to thousands of Palestinian families whose homes were destroyed in the Israeli war and were now living in tents or under the remains of their collapsed houses. The ministry in a statement on Wednesday said that those families’ living conditions have worsened after heavy rains swamped their makeshift shelters, adding that its teams have done whatever they could to alleviate the suffering of those families. The ministry held Israel and the international community responsible for the human tragedy in Gaza as a result of the Israeli war and the world’s continued silence on the Israeli closure of crossings, which if opened do not allow entry of basic reconstruction equipment and tools or even ready made houses to provide shelter for those families.

Israeli forces seize 20 Palestinians in West Bank raids
Ma’an News Agency 2/12/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – Israeli forces seized at least 20 Palestinians from their homes across several regions in the West Bank on Wednesday night. In the Umm Ash-Sharayet neighborhood of Ramallah, Palestinian security sources said Israeli troops seized Muhammad Qasem, origninally from Gaza. In the village of Silwad, northeast of Ramallah Israeli soldiers detained Fathi Jaber Ayyad, 21, Abdel Qader Hammad, 22, and Abdel Rahim Salah, 22. In the village of Marda, in Salfit district, Israeli soldiers seized two young men, Nael Khafsh and Ihab Ibdah, from their homes at 4am. According to witnesses, Israeli forces raided several houses in the village. A number of residents recieved documents summoning them for interrogation by the Israeli security services. According to the military, Israeli soldiers found a pistol and ammunition in one man’s house in Jenin.

Israeli helicopters attack Khan Younis
Ma’an News Agency 2/12/2009
Gaza – Ma’an/Agencies – An Israeli helicopter fired two missiles at a Palestinian security compound in the city of Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip early on Thursday. The Hamas-affiliated de facto government compound was damaged, but no injuries were reported. The building had already come under fire during Israel’s three-week war on the Gaza Strip that left 1,373 Palestinians dead. The Israeli military confirmed the strike, saying that it was in response to mortars fired from Gaza into Israel on Wednesday. According to Israel, three mortar rounds were fired into the Eshkol Regional Council area, east of the Gaza Strip Wednesday. The first mortar was fired at around 3 pm, and was followed by two others shortly before 7 pm. On Tuesday, Palestinian fighters launched a homemade projectile into the desert east of Gaza just before polls closed in Israel’s national election.

IDF strikes Hamas post in south Gaza, after ’day’ of mortar fire
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 2/12/2009
Israeli warplanes on late Wednesday night struck a Hamas post in the southern Gaza Strip town of Khan Younis. An Israel Defense Forces spokesman said that the strike before dawn Thursday came in response to mortar fire Wednesday on the western Negev. There were no reports of casualties in the attack. "As the sole authority in the Gaza Strip, Hamas bears full responsibility for all terror activities originating within its area of control," the IDF said. Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired two mortar shells at the western Negev over the course of 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.

Israeli helicopter strike on besieged Gaza
Middle East Online 2/12/2009
GAZA CITY - An Israeli helicopter attacked an area in the southern Gaza Strip on Thursday, but no one was injured in the raid, witnesses and Palestinian security services sources said. The helicopter fired two missiles on the Khan Yunis headquarters of the security services of the democratically elected Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip. They caused further damage to the building that was already attacked during Israel’s 22-day military offensive against the territory. Israel’s war on Gaza killed 1,330 Palestinians, mainly civilians, and wounded 5,450 others. Among the dead were 437 children, 110 women, 123 elderly men, 14 medics and four journalists. The wounded include 1,890 children and 200 people in serious condition. The war also left tens of thousands of houses destroyed, while their residents remained homeless in the winter cold.

IOF warplanes shell Palestinian police station
Palestinian Information Center 2/12/2009
KHAN YOUNIS, (PIC)-- Israeli warplanes at dawn Thursday shelled a police station in Khan Younis city, south of the Gaza Strip, which was already targeted in previous air raids. Security sources told PIC reporter that Israeli F-16s fired two missiles at the premises inflicting more damage on it. The sources pointed out that the abandoned police station was previously bombed several times. The IOF spokesman claimed that the shelling was in reprisal to the firing of mortar shells from Gaza at Israeli settlements adjacent to the Strip. [end]

Israeli warplanes attack a Hamas target in southern Gaza
Rami Almeghari, International Middle East Media Center News 2/12/2009
Israeli warplanes attacked on Thursday a Hamas target in southern Gaza Strip, with no injuries reported. Witnesses said that a n Israeli warplane fired two missiles at the headquarter of Hamas-led security forces in Khan Younis city. The said building was damaged during the last Israeli war on Gaza , which lasted 22 days. [end]

National and Religious Institution in Jerusalem to hold a protest Saturday
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 2/11/2009
National and Religious Institutions issued a press release stating that they are planning to hold a protest against the ongoing Israeli siege on Gaza, and to demand a boycott against Israel for its ongoing violations, in addition to demanding the release of 11. 000 political detainees imprisoned by Israel. The protest would be conducted at noon Saturday, February 14, at the Damascus Gate in East Jerusalem. The protest is entitled "Lift the Blockade on Gaza Now", "Boycott Israel Now". There are hundreds of Palestinian detained who were kidnapped and imprisoned by Israeli before the first Oslo agreement was sign between the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israel in 1993. The agreement was entitled Gaza-Jericho First. More than 200 prisoners died in Israeli prisons due to torture and medical negligence. Hundreds of women and children and also detained by Israel. [end]

Barghouthi: The prisoners ready to remain in jails without waiving one demand
Palestinian Information Center 2/12/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Dean of the Palestinian prisoners Na’el Al-Barghouthi stated that the prisoners in Israeli jails are willing to stay in captivity for the rest of their lives without the Palestinian resistance relinquishing one demand regarding the prisoner swap deal.  In a letter sent through the Wa’ed society for detainees and ex-detainees, Barghouthi expressed the Palestinian prisoners’ rejection of the Israeli attempts to link the issue of captive soldier Gilad Shalit with the opening of crossings, calling on the Palestinian resistance not to be swayed by any Arab or Israeli pressures trying to ignore or extract concessions on the issue of Palestinian prisoners. In another related context, Israeli military analyst Aluf Ben opined that a prisoner swap deal between the Hamas Movement and Israel might come to light soon, noting that Hamas is insistent on clinging to its demands regarding. . .

Israel releases 25-year-old Palestinian woman after seven years in prison
Ma’an News Agency 2/12/2009
Bethlehem- Ma’an – Israeli authorities released 25-year-old A’reen A’wad Husein Shu’eibat from prison on Thursday. The young woman was detained in 2002 during the Israeli siege of Bethlehem. The young woman, from the Bethlehem suburb of Beit Sahour spent her seven-year imprisonment in the Israeli Ad-Damun prison in northern Israel. The young woman prepared to launch a suicide bomb attack against the Israeli soldiers occupying Bethlehem in 2002. She left her home prepared to carry out the mission but had a change of heart and returned home. Israeli intelligence surrounded her home two days following the event. Forces imposed a curfew on the entire town, raided the home and arrested her. A’reen was in her second year of a Business Administration degree at Bethlehem University when she was detained. She was charged with attempting to carry out a suicide attack.

Hamas: Gaza truce deal expected in next 3 days
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/12/2009
Hamas said on Thursday a truce agreement with Israel on the Gaza Strip would most likely be announced in the next three days. "Most of the obstacles that prevented us from reaching an agreement were resolved and an announcement of a deal is expected within three days," said Taher al-Nono, a member of Hamas’s negotiating team in Cairo. Nono said the agreement would ensure the end of all violence in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and the opening of the territory’s border crossings. AdvertisementHamas demands any Gaza truce include full opening of its borders. Israel wants guarantees Hamas will be prevented from smuggling weapons into Gaza. Earlier on Thursday, Egyptian state news agency MENA said Hamas’ strongman from Gaza, Mahmoud Zahar, and deputy chief Moussa Abu Marzouk from the group’s Damascus branch were taking part in the negotiations in the Egyptian capital.

Hamas leaders in Cairo for talks on truce, relations with Fatah
Ma’an News Agency 2/12/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Key Hamas leaders from Gaza and the movement’s political bureau in Damascus traveled to Cairo on Wednesday for another round of indirect talks with Israel regarding a proposed 18-month truce, and meetings with the rival Fatah movement. The expanded Hamas delegation includes the deputy chief of the political bureau in exile, Musa Abu Marzouk, the group’s foreign minister, Mahmoud Az-Zahhar from Gaza as well as leaders Imad Al-Alami and Nizar Awad Allah, Muhammad Nasser and Taher An-Nunu. Az-Zahhar said at a press conference in Cairo that the talks with Egypt would also address relations with rival Palestinian factions, and the status of Gaza’s borders. Hamas and Fatah officials held a rare face-to-face meeting in Cairo on Wednesday evening to clear any obstacles before a 22 February summit of Palestinian parties in Cairo aimed at restoring political unity.

Fatah fighters warn Israeli election could spark escalation
Ma’an News Agency 2/12/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – A Fatah-aligned Palestinian armed group in Gaza warned that the Israeli elections could trigger an escalation in Israeli-Palestinian violence. The Palestinian Eagles organization said in a statement received by Ma’an, ”what dominates the Israelis is discrimination and the coming days will witness an escalation in the situation. ”Israel’s national election cast uncertainty on indirect talks with the armed factions in Gaza regarding a proposed 18-month truce. The ruling Hamas movement said on Monday that the fate of the ceasefire would hinge on the outcome of the elections, in which right-wing candidates dominates. The group also called on Palestinian factions to unite, arguing that “without Palestinian unity all talks regarding the truce will fail,” adding that a truce with Israel should include an end to the blockade of Gaza.

Egyptian authorities to keep funds seized from Hamas leader
Ma’an News Agency 2/12/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Egyptian authorities have deposited in a special bank account millions of dollars in cash account seized from Hamas leaders last week. A source at the Al-Ahli Egyptian Bank told the newspaper Al-Ahram that the cash “will be disposed according to Egyptian authorities’ orders,” in the bank’s branch in the town of Al-Arish, on the border with the Gaza Strip. Hamas leader Ayman Taha was detained at the Egypt-Gaza border last Thursday when Egyptian officers found him in possession ofnine million US dollars and two million Euros. Taha was returning with other Hamas leaders to Gaza from talks in Cairo. An Israeli ban on cash transfers to Gaza has caused a severe shortage of banknotes in the tiny territory.

Israel Must Meet International Obligations: Fayyad
Reuters, MIFTAH 2/12/2009
The Palestinian Authority said Wednesday the next Israeli government should meet international obligations to continue with peace talks. " Regardless of the form of government that will emerge. . . we have the same expectations," Prime Minister of the self-rule Palestinian Authority Salam Fayyad told reporters. " We imagine that the expectations of the international community (toward Israel) will be the same as ours. " Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party and Tzipi Livni’s centrist Kadima party both claimed victory late on Tuesday night after a tight election result. But the bloc of right-wing parties appeared to have secured a majority, including Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party which surged into third place on anti-Arab rhetoric. " Steps have to be taken to end the occupation that began in 1967. This should mean immediate implementation of key provisions and obligations that the government of Israel had assumed previously," Fayyad said.

Abbas: Isolate Netanyahu gov’t like Hamas
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 2/12/2009
Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas has conducted an international campaign in recent weeks aimed at the diplomatic isolation of a right-wing government headed by Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu. Abbas has been trying to convince the international community that such an Israeli government must face conditions similar to those faced by the Hamas government. A senior political source in Jerusalem said yesterday that the leaders of France, Britain and Italy have promised Abbas that they would not allow any new Israeli government delay or freeze the peace process. The same source said that Netanyahu’s statements on continuing the peace process and on "economic peace" are perceived by Abbas and his aides as "empty promises. " As such the Palestinian Authority prepared a plan for "diplomatic resistance" to Israel.

Israel eases travel for PA politicians with VIP status
Ma’an News Agency 2/12/2009
Jerusalem/Ramallah – Ma’an – Israeli authorities granted dozens of “VIP cards” to Palestinian politicians, granting greater ease of movement to senior West Bank officials on Thursday. Palestinian sources told Ma’an that dozens of Palestinian Authority (PA) officials will be able to use the cards to move more easily through Israeli military checkpoints in their cars. The PA’s chief liaison with Israel on civil affairs, Hussein Ash-Sheikh, told Ma’an that “all the Palestinian people deserve such cards,” as they face more than 500 military checkpoints throughout the country. He pledged the PA is doing its best to increase freedom of movement for ordinary civilians.

Hamas Raising Money to Rebuild Mosques
Doron Peskin, MIFTAH 2/12/2009
The Hamas government in Gaza announced Sunday it would start raising money to rebuild the mosques destroyed by IDF strikes during Operation Cast Lead. Dr. Taleb Abu Shaar, minister for religious affairs, launched the fundraising campaign at a special press conference that was held on the ruins of the al-Taqwa mosque in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood. Abu Shaar stated that according to experts’ estimates, the damage to the mosques totals some $25 million. He said that 45 mosques had been completely destroyed during the war, while 55 were partially damaged and could not currently serve worshippers. Dozens of other mosques sustained slighter damages. The minimal donation for the rehabilitation project will stand at $400. Meanwhile, the smuggling of goods through the tunnels on the Philadelphi Route goes on uninterrupted despite the IAF’s strikes on the area in recent days.

Egypt invites Palestinian factions to hold national dialog
Palestinian Information Center 2/12/2009
CAIRO, (PIC)-- Egypt has extended invitations to all Palestinian factions to meet in Cairo on 22/2/2009 so as to discuss the formation of the five committees, which they have agreed upon, and nature of their work. The invitation said that Cairo asks general secretaries of all Palestinian factions or their representatives to attend the meeting in Cairo to discuss formation of those committees, which would later meet to discuss a document of national consensus ending the internal Palestinian rift. The committees are slated to meet starting on Saturday 28/2/2009 for three days to conclude the national concord document. The invitation proposed that all factions would meet in the committee concerned with the PLO while Fatah and Hamas along with other five agreed upon factions would join in each of the other committees dealing with the government, security apparatuses, elections and internal conciliation.

Banks asked to honor bounced checks due to salary delays
PNN, Palestine News Network 2/12/2009
Ramallah - The Monetary Authority issued a circular to banks operating in Palestine requesting leniency with customers who work in the public service sector. Due to another lengthy delay in the disbursement of salaries for the month of January 2009 most employees cannot meet their obligations. Payments of premiums on loans are in arrears and checks are bouncing. The Teachers Union in the West Bank is striking today in government schools in protest of nonpayment of salaries. In the Gaza Strip store shelves are empty even if salaries are paid or if there is currency in the banks to pay them. The Monetary Authority asked that banks honor this "exceptional circumstance" and not deduct fees from accounts because of returned checks.

Pre-Valentine’s Day protest against Leviev in New York
Stop The Wall 2/12/2009
Fifty-five New York rights advocates called on the city’s shoppers to boycott Israeli diamond mogul and settlement-builder Lev Leviev. The pre-Valentine’s Day protest was the 13th demonstration held in front of Leviev’s Madison Avenue jewelry store since it opened in November, 2007. Many New York shoppers paused to look at the heart-shaped signs and a Dating Game skit featuring a protester playing Leviev, and to listen to the noisy chants and the song "Lev’s Diamonds are a Crime’s Best Friend. " The protesters oppose Leviev’s construction of settlements as well as his abuses of marginalized communities in Angola, Namibia and New York. Riham Barghouti of Adalah-NY explained, "The campaign to boycott Leviev is part of a growing international movement to boycott Israeli businesses due to their involvement in human rights abuses.

PCHR Condemns Continued Detention of Journalists by Preventive Security Service in the West Bank
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights 2/12/2009
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) condemns the continued detention of a number of Palestinian journalists by the Preventive Security Service (PSS) in the West Bank. PCHR is dismayed that journalists are being abused as a part of the continuing conflict between the Fatah and Hamas movements. The Centre believes these detentions constitute assaults on press freedoms and the right to freedom of expression, which are both enshrined in the Palestinian Basic Law as well as international human rights instruments. According to investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately 12:30 on Saturday, 24 January, Samer Ameen Khwaira, 27, a correspondent of the Lebanon-based al-Quds Television, received a call on his mobile phone from a PSS officer in Nablus.

Jenin governor: Video evidence exonerates PA police from torture accusations
Ma’an News Agency 2/12/2009
Jenin - Ma’an - A video of Mohammad Abed Jamil Al-Haj hanging himself should put to rest accusations that Palestinian Authority (PA) police tortured to death the Hamas-activist while in custody, Jenin governor, Qadura Mussa announced Thursday. The 30-year-old Jenin area resident was arrested by PA forces on 5 February and died in custody on 8 February. His family accused police of torturing the man, and said there were bruises around his waist when his body was delivered for burial. Mussa, however, claims there is now “clear evidence” that Al-Haj committed suicide by hanging himself. Hidden cameras, he said, were installed in “several corners” of the building and an eyewitness has testified that Al-HAj “hung himself up. ” There was not offer to release the tape for public scrutiny, or comments as to where the camera was placed in relation to Al-Haj.

Gaza authorities end seven-month ban of Al-Ayyam newspaper
Ma’an News Agency 2/12/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – The Hamas-run de facto government in Gaza has decided to allow the Palestinian daily newspaper Al-Ayyam to resume distribution in Gaza on Thursday, ending a seven-month ban. The director of the newspaper’s Gaza branch, Sami Al-Feshawi said, “We received a call from the media office of the de facto government saying that ‘we do not mind in re-distributing the newspaper’”“This decision after a meeting from Hasan Abu Hasheesh head of the media office and Ihab Al-Ghusien spokesperson of the Ministry of the Interior,” he added. Al- Feshawi described his meeting with the two government officials as “democratic,” adding that no restrictions were placed on Al-Ayyam’s resumed distribution. Al-Ayyam is one of three main daily newspapers in the Palestinian territories.

Norwegian doctor says Israeli media blackout designed to discredit Palestinian journalists
Hussam Izzadin, Palestine News Network 2/12/2009
PNN exclusive -- Text messages coming from Dr. Mads Gilbert read: "The situation in Gaza is intolerable and terrible" and "Do something to help the people and children of Gaza. " He was one of the few foreign doctors working inside the Gaza Strip during the 23 days of major attacks that began on 27 December. Dr. Gilbert was on staff in Gaza City’s Al Shifa Hospital from where he reported on burns on the bone and smoking wounds due to the Israeli use of white phosphorus. During a conference to which PNN was an attendee regarding Norwegian media coverage it was noted that although Gilbert was a doctor, reports from journalists inside did not differ from his as he documented nothing other than the unfolding reality. What he communicated through a friend in Oslo during the major attacks on Gaza was quickly passed on to hundreds.

Mousa: Arab League will participate in internal Palestinian dialogue in Cairo
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/11/2009
Amro Mousa, Secretary-general of the Arab League, stated Wednesday that the Arab League will participate in the February 22 Cairo talks between the Palestinian factions. The Arab League also intends to participate in rebuilding Gaza. Mousa stated that the Higher Arabic Coordination Committee will determine the means of participation in rebuilding Gaza after the latest Israeli offensive, and the different organizations with a variety of specialties will be part of reconstruction efforts. Egypt will be holding a donors conference next month in order to gather financial support for rebuilding Gaza. Mousa added that he will tour several Arab countries in the coming days in order to hold talks with a number of Arab leaders in order to revive the Saudi initiative for reconciliation between Fateh and Hamas parties. Mousa stated that he held talks recently with Arab leaders during. . .

DFLP: Palestinian fighters unite
Ma’an News Agency 2/12/2009
Gaza – Ma’am – The military wing of the leftist Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) called on Thursday for the creation of a unified Palestinian military front to confront Israeli incursions. National Resistance Brigades said in a statement, “the Brigades proposed to establish one united brigade and they are keen to make it happen to oppose the Israeli troops and all their aggression. ”The group said that Palestinian resistance fighters had “learned lessons” from the three-week Israeli offensive on Gaza in December and January. [end]

Hamas says it replaced Gaza police chief killed by Israeli bombing
Ma’an News Agency 2/12/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – The Palestinian de facto government in Gaza said on Thursday it replaced the Gaza police chief who was killed on the first day of the Israeli offensive in Gaza. A spokesperson for the security forces in Gaza, Islam Shahwan, said that a security officer named Jamal Aj-Jarrah (known as Abu Ubaidah) was appointed police chief to replace the late Tawfiq Jaber. On 27 December Israel launched a massive, simultaneous campaign of airstrikes against targets in Gaza including dozens of police stations and security intallations. According to comments Shahwan made on a Hamas-affiliated website, Jaber had in his last days of life told then Interior Minister Said Siyyam, who was also killed during the war, that he intended to resign. Ma’an was unable to confirm this independently.

De facto government gives 1.4 million for injured via Gaza charity
Ma’an News Agency 2/12/2009
Gaza- Ma’an – The de facto government’s Ministry of Social affairs approved the delivery of 500 Euros to 2,231 injured Gazans registered as beneficiaries via the charitable society of As-Salamah (safety). Head of the society Abed Al- Majed Al-A’lul announced the 1. 1 million Euros (1. 4 million US dollars) in aid on Thursday, following what he called an extensive survey project that evaluated the needs some of the 5,450 injured in Israel’s war on Gaza. The list of names to receive the emergency aid donations was published at the agency headquarters as well as on their website. The society called on all those who believe they are entitled to aid to come to the offices to review the matter, noting they must bring their papers including picture, a photocopy of their ID card and entrance and exit reports to the Gaza north governorate office.

VIDEO - Soldier who fired gunshots in Hebron to be jailed
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 2/12/2009
(VIDEO) Corporal Nahum Ben-Yaakov of Givati Brigade arrested after Ynet publishes video showing him threatening, firing in air during clash between settlers, Palestinians. Plea bargain states soldier to serve five months in prison - VIDEO -An Israel Defense Forces soldier, who fired gunshots in the air during a clash between settlers and Palestinians near the West Bank Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba adjoining the city of Hebron, will serve five and a half months in prison, according to a plea bargain which will be presented to the court in the coming days. "The soldier’s actions were severe, so the punishment must deter all those holding weapons in their hands," a military source involved in the affair said Thursday. Initial ReportSoldier recorded firing gunshots in Hebron / Exclusive video obtained by Ynet reveals IDF ununiformed soldier. . .

The Israeli military arrested a soldier who opened fire on Palestinians while off-duty
Ghassan Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/12/2009
The Israeli Army decided to jail an Israeli soldier after he opened fire on Palestinian farmers while he was off-duty, Israeli media sources reported on Wednesday. The soldier was captured on camera by the Israeli human right group B’Tselem, the picture reveals that the soldier was in civilian cloths, and he opened fire twice at Palestinian farmers. The Israeli Army identified the soldier as Nahom Bin Yakove and he is a soldier serving near the illegal settlement of Kryat Arba, located in the southern part of the West Bank. The army added that the soldier will face court in a few days, and he will be sentenced. An Israeli Army spokesman told reporters that the soldier had behaved in a very careless manner, and he added that the soldiers and the settlers was not in any danger, so there was no reason for him to open fire.

Israeli troops seize four Palestinians, electronics east of Bethlehem
Ma’an News Agency 2/12/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli troops raided homes and detained four Palestinians in areas east of Bethlehem before sunrise Thursday. Security sources said that the Israeli troops raided Al-Asakreh village and detained 3 19-year-old Palestinians identified as:Iyad Ali Ibrahim Asakreh, Abed Khaled Awad Jaber Asakreh, and Abdel Karim Omar Asakreh. All three were taken to an unknown destination. In Bet Ta’mar the Danoun home was raided, and 25-year-old Ziyad Muhamad Khalaf Danoun detained. His computer and mobile phone were seized and taken from the home. [end]

Israeli army arrests two boys following Qalqiliya clashes
Ma’an News Agency 2/12/2009
Qalqiliya – Ma’an – Israeli forces arrested two boys in the West Bank city of Qalqiliya Thursday night following clashes between youth and Israeli soldiers in the city. Israeli soldiers took13- year-old Mu’men Abu Shareb and12-year-0ldAmin Jebrilto an unknown location. [end]

Palestine Today 021209
Ghassan Bannoura - Audio Dept, International Middle East Media Center News 2/12/2009
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 Thursday, February 12th, 2009. The Israeli military bombs targets in Gaza and kidnaps civilians from the West Bank. These stories and more coming up, stay tuned. The News Cast 21 Palestinians where kidnapped in Israeli military invasions on Wednesday morning that targeting several areas in the West Bank, Palestinian sources reported. In Fahma village near the northern West Bank city of Jenin, Israeli troops kidnapped 15 men. Villagers said that troops stormed the village, put a curfew in place and searched homes, taking 15 men with them when they left. Five men where kidnapped when Israeli troops searched and ransacked homes in villages near the central West Bank city of Ramallah, local sources added.

News in Brief - Former Gush Katif settlers moved to occupied Golan
Ha’aretz 2/12/2009
Moshav Avnei Eitan on the Golan Heights has gained 30 plots of land to accommodate the arrival of former Gush Katif residents, who were evacuated from the Gaza Strip in 2005. The new residents will join 22 families from the Gaza community who already live on the moshav. Most worked in agriculture, and continue to do so. Some have abandoned farming, others have managed to grow the same crops in the Golan, which they farmed in Gush Katif: lettuce, cabbage and broccoli. They have built greenhouses to help adapt the crops to the cooler Golan climate. (Eli Ashkenazi) Thousands of students at teacher-training colleges, who participate in the Perach tutoring program, have not received their scholarship payments. The delay stems from a dispute between Perach and the Education Ministry over the terms of their agreement. The tutoring project pairs college students with schoolchildren of all ages from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Egypt: Secretary of State Clinton to attend Gaza donors meet in Cairo
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/12/2009
A senior Egyptian official says Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will attend an international donors conference in Cairo next month to raise money to help rebuild Gaza after Israel’s recent military operations against Palestinian militants there. Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit told reporters on Thursday that Clinton had accepted his invitation to go to the March 2 meeting. The State Department has not yet announced the trip but says the United States will be represented at a high level. The meeting will focus on reconstructing Gaza after Israel’s 22-day offensive and on ways of sending aid into the area. " The secretary will be coming to Cairo on the second of March," Aboul Gheit said. "We expect lots of commitments from everybody, lots of commitments for reconstruction.

High-powered Hamas team in Cairo to discuss Gaza truce
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 2/13/2009
CAIRO: A senior Hamas team led by the Islamist movement’s deputy leader Mussa Abu Marzuk held talks with Egyptian mediators on Thursday aimed at bolstering ceasefires in the Gaza Strip. The delegation is the highest-ranking Hamas team to hold talks in Cairo since Egypt began mediating for a lasting truce after Israel’s devastating three-week war on the Gaza Strip. The two sides each declared ceasefires which ended the Israeli offensive on the Hamas-ruled territory on January 18-19 but they have been tested by Israeli air strikes and sporadic Palestinian rocket attacks. Since the end of the war, Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman has met a number of times with Israeli and Hamas officials to try to bolster the fragile calm. Hamas is demanding that Israel end the punishing blockade it imposed on Gaza after the Islamists won legislative elections in 2006.

Israel allows Gaza to export 25,000 flowers to Europe in time for Valentine’s day
Ma’an News Agency 2/12/2009
Jerusalem – Ma’an – For the first time in over a year Israeli authorities approved the export of 25,000 carnations from the Gaza Strip to the European market, at the request of the Dutch government. According to the Israeli Ministry of Defense, thflowers will leave through the Kerem Shalom cargo terminal on Friday and arrive in Europe in time for Valentine’s Day. There are more than 400 acres of flower farms in the Gaza Strip, some of which were damaged during Israel’s war on the Strip in December and January. On Valentine’s day 2008 flower farmers intentionally destroyed their crops in protest of the ongoing Israeli closure of Gaza which makes it impossible to ship their crops. In some cases carnations and other blooms were feed to sheep as feed. In addition, 60 flower farms refused to plant crops this season, having received no guarantees that their products would reach the market.

’Just in time’ for Valentine’s Day, Gaza exports flowers to Europe
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/12/2009
Israel is relaxing its blockade of the Gaza Strip to let through 25,000 carnations headed to Europe for Valentine’s Day. But the head of the Gaza flower growers’ association said that was "nothing" compared to the 40 million flowers a year that came out of the territory before the blockade. The flowers will be Gaza’s first exports in a year. Israel has blockaded Gaza since Hamas militants seized control of the territory in June 2007. Israeli military spokesman Maj. Peter Lerner said Israel agreed to let the flowers through at the request of the Dutch government and Gaza farmers. Lerner called the move an Israeli gesture and said it did not indicate any change in the overall policy toward Gaza. But Mohammed Khalil, head of the Gaza flower growers’ association, dismissed the move as "nothing". -- See also: Ban lifted on Valentine flower exports: an Israeli ruse

For the first time in two years, Israel allows export of flowers from Gaza
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/12/2009
In three years, Israel allowed on Thursday the export of a small quantity of flowers from the Gaza Strip into abroad. According to Mahmoud Khalil, head of the Palestinian society for flowers producers in Gaza, the flower producers in Gaza can produce 40 millions flowers every year. Just two years ago, the Palestinian farmers have lost their source of income due to the Israeli blockade of Gaza, Khalil added. The quantities allowed for export today were estimated at 25,000 flowers, a very small quantity, compared with the period before the Israeli closure of Gaza in June2007. Last season, farmers of flowers had to damage large quantities of their products due to the Israeli closure of the region. -- See also: Ban lifted on Valentine flower exports: an Israeli ruse

Israel allows aid into Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 2/12/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Israel briefly opened two border crossings with the Gaza Strip on Thursday morning to allow vital goods to enter the otherwise besieged costal territory. Palestinian border official Raed Fattouh told Ma’an that Israel allowed 130 trucks through the Kerem Shalom crossing, 80 of them sent by international organizations such as UNRWA,Another 37 trucks loaded with milk, cheese, oil, blankets, diapers and other products for the private sector, and 13 with fruits, eggs and other produce also crossed through Kerem Shalom. Seventy truckloads of grain and animal feed crossed through the Karni terminal. There was no word on whether desperately-needed diesel, gasoline, and other liquid fuels would be allowed in. Also on Thursday Israel said it would allow farmers to export 25,000 carnations to the European market, the first such shipment in over a year.

With election over, Israel’s leaders focus on Shalit
Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 2/12/2009
The results of the Knesset elections allow two of the three senior Israeli leaders to focus on their final task before their tenure ends: returning Gilad Shalit home. What was obvious for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who did not run in this election, may also be true for Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Most analysts argue that the election results will remove Barak from the Defense Ministry and put him on the Knesset’s opposition benches. In his television address Tuesday night after the results were announced, Barak (and Kadima leader Tzipi Livni) made sure to mention Israel’s obligation to bring Shalit home. This is a position he has reiterated publicly in recent months. Behind closed doors it is being voiced with even greater urgency. Barak believes that the Shalit case must be quickly brought to a close,. . .

Israeli military analyst expects prisoner exchange within three weeks
Mustafa Sabri, Palestine News Network 2/12/2009
PNN exclusive -- The release of the Israeli soldier captured in Gaza in June 2006 is expected soon, within a few weeks according to the calculations of the Israeli Channel 10 military analyst Aluf Ben. Negotiations for the truce include the release of a fluctuating number of Palestinian political prisoners. But the number was finally agreed upon, according to the Israeli military analyst. Conditions include the opening of the crossings in the Gaza Strip and a lifting of the siege. Negotiations are said to have been "lifted from the shackles of three weeks of Israeli electoral propaganda," according to Ben. The first development on the Palestinian side within the past few days was the agreement by Hamas to deal with the issue of the captured soldier at the same time as the truce although standing firm on not linking them.

Erekat: Boycott any Future Israeli Government that Rejects Two State Solution
Palestine Media Center 2/12/2009
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. Erekat pledged to the Americans that the Palestinian side is nonetheless committed to peace and to the peace process.

Fayyad speaks to Christian Orthodox group on prospects for peace between peoples
Ma’an News Agency 2/12/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an - “It’s time to put an end of one people controlling another confiscating their land, national ambition and their natural rights to peace,” said Palestinian Prime Minister of the caretaker government Salam Fayyad on Thursday. Addressing the 15th International Conference of the Christian Orthodox in Bethlehem, Fayyad spoke of the current prospects for religious organizations and their roles in searching for peace, particularly in the Middle East. “Holing this conference in Palestine during these difficult and painful moments…[shows] support and solidarity against injustice,” Fayyad told his audience. He described Palestine as a place of historical coexistence despite its concurrent history as a place of injustice for many. “Tolerance and coexistence among religions is a necessity,” he said, adding that in order for Palestinians to achieve this arrogance. . .

’This time it was Gaza, but we’re next’
Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 2/12/2009
He is 26 years old, a resident of Umm al-Fahm. He didn’t manage to say his name before running back to the crowd of demonstrators that gathered in the city on Election Day. He was standing near the police vans that were taking away those who had been arrested, in front of the Al Razi School, the hub of the tension. MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union) had arrived about an hour earlier, to serve as chairman of the local polling station committee, and upon hearing of his arrival, hundreds of angry young men thronged to the school. They clashed with the police, in the middle of the pouring rain, until Eldad was escorted away. The young man complains that right-wing Jewish politicians had decided to exploit his city to win cheap points among their public. The ones who have been hurt by this are the residents, simple people like himself, he says.

Marginal standing
Nurit Wurgaft, Ha’aretz 2/12/2009
A few immigrants from Ethiopia were standing together at the side of the road on election day, confused. "I cast my first vote in Israel and you want to write about that in the newspaper? "asked Brano Mulualem, who came here two years ago. Apparently, the election only marginally impacted the lives of Mulualem and others residing in the country’s largest absorption center, in Mevasseret in Jerusalem. "The politicians did not come here," said Almaio Marsha. "What would they have gained from it? "How could I explain that ever since the state’s founding, politicians have usually invested much effort in courting new immigrants, trying to secure their votes. Indeed, one Kadima MK in the previous Knesset was of Ethiopian origin, and in the 1996 elections, the Labor Party assigned a realistic slot to an Ethiopian immigrant, so he could represent his community.

Resistance is not Terrorism! De-Listing Campaign
PFLP, Palestine Think Tank 2/11/2009
[In the] European Union, Canada and the United States, numerous organizations - including many national liberation movements and organizations - are listed as "designated terrorist organizations. " This status is used in an attempt to criminalize popular resistance and national liberation movements, equate those movements with "terrorism," frighten and silence communities' support of their national movements, and potentially penalize supporters of the Palestinian cause, as well as other national liberation movements. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine is, alongside a number of other Palestinian political organizations, listed and designated as a "terrorist organization. " This designation, while doing nothing to change the fundamental character of our movement, is an attempt to isolate the resistance, strike fear in the hearts of our people, and enact U. S. foreign policy of massive support for Israel through the false use of a "terrorist" designation.

Call Livni or Netanyahu? Go With Peres
Analysis by Jerrold Kessel and Pierre Klochendler, Inter Press Service 2/13/2009
JERUSALEM, Feb 13(IPS) - Who wins a tie? That was U. S. President Barack Obama’s dilemma Wednesday on whom to congratulate as the winner of Israel’s general election. Benjamin Netanyahu and Tzipi Livni both continue to claim victory. The outcome of Tuesday’s election was indeed almost a tie - in terms of votes and in seats won. This was confirmed when the final results were announced Thursday evening: Livni’s Kadima 28, Netanyahu’s Likud 27. The final results do not alter Israel’s political make-up that was already determined by the voting which showed a major surge to the right - to Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud and its allies further to the right. That means, most probably, Netanyahu alone can form a viable coalition. So, the scramble to win the right to form a coalition looks oddly like the election campaign itself is simply continuing.

Israeli elections: Kadima emerges with most seats
Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem, David Batty and agencies, The Guardian 2/12/2009
Final results in Israel’s general elections were announced today, confirming that the centrist Kadima party of the foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, won only one seat more than Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud party. With military and overseas ballots counted,Kadima had 28 seats - far short of the 61 needed to govern alone. Likud won 27 seats, while the far-right Israel Our Home party won 15 seats, making its leader, Avigdor Lieberman, a likely kingmaker. The final results, which include the votes of several thousand soldiers and Israelis living abroad, were unchanged from the preliminary results. As Israeli leaders tried to break out of their political deadlock, a senior figure in Livni’s Kadima party said today that it would not join an extreme rightwing government led by Netanyahu. Livni is struggling to form a majority coalition that would see her become only the second female prime minister in Israel’s history.

Likud may offer top spots to Kadima, Lieberman in bid to form quick coalition
Mazal Mualem Yair Ettinger Lily Galili and Yossi Verter, Ha’aretz 2/12/2009
Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to offer the finance portfolio to Yisrael Beiteinu Avigdor Lieberman, in order to pull the latter immediately into pledging to join a government under his authority. Netanyahu will then ask Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni to join his coalition, and may offer the rival party portfolios of foreign affairs (Livni) and defense (Mofaz). Former prime minister Ariel Sharon offered Labor’s Shimon Peres and Benjamin Ben Eliezer these portfolios in 2001, immediately after he was elected prime minister in a similar bid to forge a quick coalition. The Likud leader told Haaretz on Wednesday that he planned to tell opposing parties to put aside their political differences and join his government, for the sake of national unity. "I plan to create a wide coalition and I will tell the other parties, ’if you’re worried about national interest, lay aside your political interests and join a government under my leadership,’" he said.

Rival leaders court the ’kingmaker of the right’
Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem, The Independent 2/12/2009
Lieberman wooed as horse-trading begins, while Netanyahu takes pole position in race to lead coalition - Both claiming to have won Israel’s general election, foreign minister Tzipi Livni and Likud opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday each began intensive efforts to court the hard-right populist Avigdor Lieberman as a coalition partner. Mr Lieberman has emerged as one of the main beneficiaries of Tuesday’s vote, with a probable 15 seats and considerable power to make or break each leader’s chances of forming a government. He met each of them in Jerusalem yesterday, without committing to either. His apparent indispensability casts serious doubt on whether any government capable of negotiating a peace deal with the Palestinians can emerge from the current political imbroglio. His support is indispensable especially to Ms Livni, who faces a much tougher battle to form a workable government, despite her impressive personal showing in keeping the centrist Kadima party intact.

Shas seeks ultra-Orthodox bloc to counter Lieberman
Yair Ettinger, Ha’aretz 2/12/2009
Shas Chairman Eli Yishai said Thursday he is not ruling out the possibility of sitting in a government with Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu. Nevertheless, the leader of the ultra-Orthodox party is already trying to form a bloc of religious parties to counter Lieberman’s anti-religious stance. " We’ve already sat [in a coalition] with him," Yishai said of Lieberman during an address to Shas members in Jerusalem. The Shas leader stressed that should the party choose to sit in a government with Yisrael Beiteinu it would stand firmly on its desire to maintain the status quo on issues of religion and state. He said that the results of Tuesday’s general elections showed that the next Knesset would be frail. "We must form a government based on the nationalist camp," Yishai said. "The nation has chosen the right. "Shas is now trying to curb Yisrael Beiteinu’s power by cobbling together an ultra-Orthodox bloc of its nine seats with the United Torah Judaism, which won five seats.

Labor, Meretz consider merger to create largest opposition party
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 2/12/2009
Labor is considering uniting with Meretz to create a 16-seat Knesset faction as it heads for the opposition benches. "We’re going to the opposition. The election results mean we must unite and rehabilitate ourselves in the opposition in order to resume the state’s leadership," outgoing Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog said. "Labor will do some soul searching. " Other senior Labor figures also spoke of the opposition as a foregone conclusion. Sources close to Labor and Meretz leaders said Wednesday that if Yisrael Beiteinu were also in the opposition, the merger would position Labor chair Ehud Barak as opposition chairman, as head of the largest faction. "If Lieberman does not join the government then I assume we will discuss a merger of sorts," Meretz chair MK Haim Oron said Wednesday. Meretz chair MK Haim Oron said that since Labor would probably be in the opposition, the two factions should cooperate on economic and social issues and

Haredi parties join forces against Lieberman
Ronen Medzini, YNetNews 2/12/2009
Shas, United Torah Judaism leaders to meet Thursday in bid to form obstructive bloc against Yisrael Beiteinu ahead of coalition talks. Their demands: Maintaining Israel’s Jewish identity, guaranteeing budgets for ultra-Orthodox sector - Leaders of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism and Shas parties were expected to meet Thursday in a bid to form an obstructive bloc against the Yisrael Beiteinu party ahead of the coalition talks with the Likud. Together, the two parties have 16 Knesset seats (Shas’ 11 and UTJ’s five), one more seat than Avigdor Lieberman’s party gained in Tuesday’s elections. Shas Chairman Eli Yishai was asked about the issue by Ynet during a faction meeting at the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry. He replied, "We are working in cooperation and coordination with the United Torah Judaism party, in a bid to be partners in a stable government based on the basic guidelines which we shared in the past. "

Wary Netanyahu in Driving Seat
Analysis by Jerrold Kessel and Pierre Klochendler, Inter Press Service 2/12/2009
JERUSALEM, Feb 11 (IPS) - Israel’s foreign minister Tzipi Livni clung precariously to a narrow lead over her right-wing rival Benjamin Netanyahu as vote counting neared conclusion from Israel’s Tuesday general election. Both would-be prime ministers continue to claim victory: "I won," read the headline of the country’s biggest newspaper, Yedioth Ahronot, alongside the photos of the two. Some pundits predict Israel is plunging into political gridlock. But, while there is almost total parity in terms both of votes cast and Knesset seats won, in reality there are not two winners. One man is fairly firmly in the driving seat - Netanyahu, though his Likud has garnered only 27 seats compared to Kadima’s 28 in the 120-seat Knesset. Most ballots had been counted by Wednesday morning, but final results will not be known until Thursday afternoon when soldiers’ votes and other absentee ballots are included.

Peres’ residence prepares to play host
Yuval Azoulay, Ha’aretz 2/12/2009
Staff at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem yesterday began preparing for next week’s coalition talks between President Shimon Peres and representatives from every Knesset party. These talks are part of the process of selecting a Knesset member tasked with forming the next government. The meetings will take place in the reception hall, where the chairs that are customarily used during visits by foreign dignitaries will be temporarily replaced by a large conference table. During the meetings, Peres will sit at the head of the table, with party representatives seated along one side and presidential staff, including President’s Residence Director-General Efrat Duvdevani and the president’s counsel, on the other. Duvdevani is responsible for scheduling the meetings. Kadima chairwoman is expected to be the first, as the head of the largest party, followed in descending order by the remaining parties.

Livni wins Israel final vote tally
Al Jazeera 2/12/2009
Final results from Israel’s election have kept the Kadima party, led by Tzipi Livni, with a slight lead over Benyamin Netanyahu’s Likud. The official results, released on Thursday after all votes were counted, gave Kadima 28 seats in the 120-member parliament and Likud 27 seats. These figures were in line with preliminary results released after Tuesday’s election, which also gave most of the remaining seats to rightist parties. The majority of the remaining seats went to other parties of the right, with the hard-right Yisrael Beitenu of Avidgor Lieberman taking 15 and Labor slipped into fourth place with 13 seats. Israel’s election commission released the final results after counting votes by soldiers, prisoners and diplomats, about 100,000 out of a total of 3. 3 million cast. The additional votes did not change the allocation of seats in the parliament tallied after the election.

’I explain - I don’t apologize’
Lily Galili, Ha’aretz 2/12/2009
American political consultant Arthur Finkelstein, who advised Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu in his 1996 campaign for prime minister, was wrong. According to the in-depth polls he conducted four days before this week’s election, on behalf of Yisrael Beiteinu, the party was going to garner 18 Knesset seats. On Wednesday, when Finkelstein (who is recovering from heart surgery) was off crowning kings in Eastern European, his partner George Birnbaum had to explain why the results were lower than the forecasts. In the United States, Finkelstein’s services would available only to Republicans. In Israel, it’s the right wing as whole that’s eligible to employ his partner, who immigrated here in 2000 and is married to an Israeli. Like Finkelstein, Birnbaum has his limits: He would not work with Labor leader Ehud Barak, although he would have worked with Ariel Sharon’s Kadima party - but not Tzipi Livni’s Kadima.

Meretz chief: Women’s groups support of Livni harmed us
Eli Senyor, YNetNews 2/12/2009
Chaim Oron tries to come to terms with worst electoral results in party’s history, rejects demand he forfeit his Knesset seat in favor of Faction Chairwoman Gal-On. ’Women’s organizations cannot expect to have a say on any person’s position on the party’s roster,’ he says - Two days have passed since the general elections, and Meretz Chairman Chaim Oron still finds it hard to fathom the results. Deemed one of the closes political campaigns of recent years, Tuesday’s elections gave Kadima 28 mandates, the Likud 27 and indicated a substantial overall rise in the Right’s political power. The Left’s Labor won only 13 mandates and Meretz experienced its worst campaign to date, winning only three mandates. The fiasco proved greater, when after 99% of the votes were tallied, the party realized that long-time faction chairwoman Knesset Member Zahava Gal-On was left out of the Knesset.

Yet-uncounted soldiers’ votes expected to create Kadima-Likud tie
Shahar Ilan, Ha’aretz 2/12/2009
Click here for exclusive Haaretz coverage of the elections in Israel The results of Tuesday’s election will be finalized Thursday after the votes of Israel Defense Forces soldiers are tallied. These additional ballots could nab Yisrael Beiteinu or the Likud party another Knesset seat, which would put Likud and Kadima on equal standing in terms of Knesset representation. Knesset seats are allocated after a party’s votes are divided by 120, the number of parliament seats. About 28,000 votes are required per seat. Parties must garner at least 2 percent of the vote to be represented in parliament. The party closest to approaching the 2 percent minimum, the Green Movement-Meimad, is not expected to make the cut, as it would need more than 40,000 additional votes. Excess voting arrangements allow parties with more than the necessary minimum to enter parliament, but less than the votes needed to nab an extra seat, to allocate "excess" votes to an allied party.

Rightist MK: Election results show Israelis agree with Rabbi Kahane
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 2/12/2009
National Union MK Rabbi Dr. Michael Ben-Ari on Thursday said the recent election results prove that Israelis agree with the extreme right-wing views of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane. Ben-Ari was recently quoted as calling himself a Kahane disciple, declaring that Israeli Arabs should be expelled to places like Venezuela and Turkey. He was also quoted as saying that IDF soldiers were obligated to refuse orders to evacuate settlements. "Rabbi Kahane made long inroads and I think the Israeli public in these elections gave an unequivocal answer as to where it is turning," said Ben-Ari in an interview with Army Radio. Ben-Ari confirmed reports that claimed he will employ far-rightists Baruch Marzel and Itamar Ben-Gvir as his assistants in the Knesset, calling them great lovers of Israel. Ben-Ari also told Army Radio that he would be happy to serve as Interior Security Minister.

Israel’s tricky electoral arithmetic
The Independent 2/12/2009
There is good news and bad news from the Israeli elections. The good news is that, despite leading in the opinion polls for several weeks, the right-wing Likud party, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, was pipped at the post by thecentrist Kadima party, led by the former foreign minister, Tzipi Livni. There is, as Ms Livni said when she claimed victory, still a moderate centre in Israeli politics. There is still a quorum that favours continuing the peace process. It is true that Kadima emerged as the largest party by the narrowest of margins -- just one Knesset seat -- but it defied early forecasts of defeat. The rest of the news, alas, is less good. One reason why Likud may have been deprived of its expected victory was the strong performance of Avigdor Lieberman’s ultra-nationalist party, Yisrael Beiteinu. Between them, these two parties comecloser to having the necessary 61 seats to form a government than Kadima and Ehud Barak’s Labour.

Druze in Golan vote Lieberman out of ’protest’
Hagai Einav, YNetNews 2/12/2009
Youssef from Masad’e tendered his own explanation for why Golan Druze did not support the larger parties. "These parties come to power and only support the state of Tel Aviv. They don’t care about the periphery, and certainly don’t care about non-Jewish citizens. "- Yisrael Beiteinu leader receives nearly half of votes in Druze villages Majdal Shams and Buqata. More than half of votes in Masad’e go to Shas. One Druze in northern Golan explains phenomenon: ’It is protest vote or support of parties with tough leadership’ - Not Labor, Meretz, United Arab List-Ta’al or even Kadima. No, the Druze in the Golan voted overwhelmingly for Yisrael Beiteinu and Shas. In the recent elections, 50% of Majdal Shams voters cast their ballots for Yisrael Beiteinu. In neighboring town Masad’e, 53% of voters voted for Shas, and 38% for Yisrael Beiteinu.

Extremism Dominates Israeli Polls
Mel Frykberg, Inter Press Service 2/12/2009
RAMALLAH, Feb 12(IPS) - "The peace process is based on three false basic assumptions," said Avigdor Lieberman, leader of Israel’s extreme right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party, which will dictate the formation and political course of the next Israeli government. "These include the assertion that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the main cause of instability in the Middle East, that the conflict is territorial and not ideological, and that the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders will end the conflict. " Lieberman’s politics and ideology fly in the face of international law, various UN Security Council resolutions, the basis of all Israeli peace agreements with the Palestinians, moderate Israelis, and the U. S. government. Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu emerged from Tuesday’s Israeli elections the big winner even though it came in third behind. . .

Lieberman: I’ve made up my mind between Livni, Netanyahu
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 2/12/2009
Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman, a key variable in Likud and Kadima’s battle to forge a coalition, said Thursday that he has already decided who he would like to see at the helm of the government. Lieberman told Israel Radio that his stance on whom he would recommend President Shimon Peres appoint had become clear after meeting with Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni and her rival Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday. "I know exactly who I will recommend to the president, but I am not telling because it is too early," he said. Livni has said she could offer Lieberman support for two issues that are crucial to him: passing a law that would enable couples barred from religious Jewish marriage to marry in a civil union, and making changes to the system of government. Netanyahu, meanwhile, is expected to offer him the finance portfolio.

Lieberman seeks finance or foreign affairs
Lilach Weissman, Globes Online 2/12/2009
Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini: I extend my hand to Netanyahu for dialogue. Israel Beiteinu, led by Avigdor Lieberman, may demand the Finance portfolio in any coalition agreement. Political sources believe the party will demand the Finance or Foreign Affairs portfolio for Lieberman, a senior economic portfolio for Stas Misezhnikov Housing or Industry, Trade and Labor the Tourism portfolio for Yitzhak Aharonovitch, a security portfolio for Uzi Landau, and the Justice portfolio to remain with Daniel Friedman. The party may also seek the Interior portfolio. While Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu and Kadima leader Tzipi Livni vie for Lieberman’s support, Misezhnikov, who heads Israel Beiteinu’s coalition negotiations team, told "Globes" today that his party did not rule out the possibility of recommending Lieberman to the president as the most suitable candidate for prime minister.

Lieberman may recommend - Lieberman for PM
Globes' correspondent, Globes Online 2/12/2009
The Yisrael Beiteinu chairman: Our position is clear, and I know exactly what I’m going to tell President Shimon Peres. "We haven’t yet decided. We’ve only just begun to negotiate with the two candidates, and both are worthy," Yisrael Beiteinu chief negotiator MK Stas Misezhnikov told “IDF Radio" (Galei Zahal) today. He added, "We can recommend Yisrael Beiteinu chairman MK Avigdor Lieberman as our candidate for prime minister. " Lieberman told the "Voice of Israel" today, "Our position is clear, and I know exactly what I’m going to tell President Shimon Peres. We’ll wait six days before stating who we’ll recommend. I think that it’s premature, and there’s no point in saying now who we support. " Lieberman added, "I’ve met with both [Kadima chairwoman Tzipi] Livni and [Likud chairman Benjamin] Netanyahu, as well as other people in. . .

Final Distribution of Knesset seats
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/12/2009
Following are the final results of Knesset seat numbers each party won in the Israeli elections held on February 10. The Kadima party achieved a slight majority over the Likud party with 28 seats to 27. The results brought to surface the extremist Yisrael Beteinu party as a top candidate for coalition. The following numbers are the number of seats for each party and the number of seats garnered in the previous elections. -Kadima party, headed by Tzipi Livni; 28 seats, previous elections 29. -Likud party, headed by Benjamin Netanyahu; 27 seats, previous elections 12. -Yisrael Beteinu Party, headed by Avigdor Lieberman, 15 seats, previous elections 11. -Labor party, headed by Ehud Barak, 13 seats, previous elections 19. -Shas party, 11 seats, previous elections 12. -Yahdout Ha-torah, 5 seats, previous elections 6.

Histadrut head sees Netanyahu as prime minister
Globes' correspondent, Globes Online 2/12/2009
Ofer Eini: He’s already become half a socialist, and I hope that in his next term he’ll become a full socialist. "We’ve all seen the election results, and I think that Benjamin Netanyahu will be the next prime minister," Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini told “IDF Radio" (Galei Zahal) today. Eini added, "In his last campaign, Netanyahu presented a socialist platform. He’s already become a half a socialist, and I hope that in his next term he’ll become a full socialist. " Eini also expressed the hope that, as prime minister, Netanyahu and the finance minister that he will appoint will give workers priority. "The main thing is that there’s an economic crisis, and I hope that they’ll take care to meet with us and the employers to create a stronger and healthier economy. I’m a natural optimist, and I hope it will happen. "

In unprecedented move, Histadrut ousts train strike starters
Shay Niv, Globes Online 2/12/2009
The action paves the way for Israel Railways management to prosecute the six workers committee members as if they were regular employees. Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini has accepted the recommendation of the Trade Union Disciplinary Committee and ousted the members of the Israel Railways northern district workers committee over last week’s wildcat strike. The unprecedented measure by the Histadrut (General Federation of Labor in Israel) paves the way for Israel Railways management to prosecute the six workers committee members as if they were regular employees. A deal between Eini and Israel Railways CEO Yitzhak Harel allows Israel Railways to carry out a number of sanctions against the employees, but not to fire them, because of the severe punishment approved by the Histadrut. Sources inform ’’Globes’’ that Israel Railways management. . .

Against all odds, Palestinians still make films
Simon Coss - RENNES, France, Middle East Online 2/12/2009
Formal funding is practically non-existent, film-making is difficult, and there’s only one decent cinema for almost four million people -- yet against all odds Palestinian filmmakers struggle on. "Our films say we are here and we exist. Israel was built on the phrase ’a land without people for a people without a land. ’ But there was and there is a people," said Nadine Naous, a Paris-based Palestinian director. Naous, a Lebanese national whose grandparents fled the 1948 war that followed the creation of the state of Israel, is typical of a new generation of Palestinian filmmakers. Visiting this western French city for a festival dedicated to films linked to the city of Jerusalem, her 2006 documentary "Everyone Has Their Own Palestine" was filmed in a refugee camp in Lebanon and looks at how young Palestinians feel about their future.

Movies can’t change Middle East crisis
Simon Coss - RENNES, France, Middle East Online 2/12/2009
Movies may be able to stimulate debate on the Middle East conflict but a lasting resolution can only be made in the real world, say leading Israeli and Palestinian film directors. Avi Mograbi, one of Israel’s most outspoken documentary makers and a harsh critic of his government’s military campaigns, said during a film festival in this western French city that he was well aware of the limits of his art. "I started making films thinking about changing the world. Now I am not so sure about that possibility," said the 53-year-old director. "Cinema can make a difference, but it’s an extremely minor difference. " Yet Mograbi’s latest documentary "Z32" is a hard-hitting work, the true story of a young Israeli soldier sent on a revenge mission that left two Palestinian police officers dead. Like much of his work, it highlights the brutality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

2 Druze sent to jail for giving Syrian officers information on IDF
Ahiya Raved, YNetNews 2/12/2009
Two Druze residing in Golan Heights plead guilty to multiple counts of contacting enemy agents during Second Lebanon War. Court opts for lenient sentence, sends them to three, four years in jail - Cleared for publication: The Nazareth District Court sentenced two Druze men to jail Thursday, for a slew of grave security-related offenses. 2 Druze sent to jail for giving Syrian officers information on IDFBoth defendants claimed their actions were not meant to harm Israel’s security interests, and were done as part of their commercial relations with Syrian elements. Farhat also claimed that he was only performing his journalistic duty. - Two Druze residing in Golan Heights plead guilty to multiple counts of contacting enemy agents during Two Druze residing in Golan Heights plead guilty to multiple counts of contacting enemy agents during Second Lebanon War.

U.S. Senator Kerry to meet with Syrian President Assad next week
Reuters, Ha’aretz 2/12/2009
John Kerry, chairman of the U. S. Senate’s foreign relations committee, will meet Syrian President Bashar al-Assad next week during a Middle East trip as Washington works to keep a dialogue between the two countries despite years of tension. Assad said recently Syria wanted to have a constructive dialogue with the United States, and President Barack Obama, who took over from President George W. Bush last month, said during his campaign he wanted to reach out to Syria. Kerry’s spokesman Frederick Jones said the senator would be traveling to Syria, Egypt, Jordan and Israel as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and not as an emissary of the Obama administration. Kerry, who ran an unsuccessful campaign for president against Bush in 2004, was due to meet President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, but his other appointments were not yet clear.

Two Israeli Druze jailed for spying for Syria
Eli Ashkenazi, Ha’aretz 2/12/2009
Military censors have permitted Israeli news organizations to reveal on Thursday that two Israeli Druze have been recently convicted of providing military information to Syria. The two Druze maintained lines of communication with two Syrian army officers, providing him with information during the course of the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006. Nazareth District Court sentenced Yusef Shams to four years in prison and his relative, Ata Farhat, to three years behind bars. Prosecutors say that the defendants were in contact with the Syrian officers between June 2006 until the time of their arrest in July 2007. Shams and Farhat were well aware that their contacts were with Syrian military officials. Authorities say Shams and Farhat coordinated their contacts with the officers and communicated messages between them which were sent by the Syrian officers.

Yesha Council revels in Lieberman’s success
Efrat Weiss, YNetNews 2/12/2009
’Elections proved consensus regarding two-state solution nothing more than corrupt spin,’ settler leader says, adding Yisrael Beiteinu chairman ’will be one of the strongest supporters of the settlement enterprise’ -Despite the inconclusive results of Tuesday’s general elections, it is clear that the political Right will have a majority in the 18th Knesset, leading Yesha Council head Danny Dayan to say that Israeli voters made "an obvious and unequivocal ideological decision. " Speaking to Ynet Thursday, Dayan said "for years we’ve been hearing of a consensus within the Israeli public regarding the two-state solution and the need for the establishment of a Palestinian state, but the recent elections have proven this to be nothing more than a corrupt spin. "Voter’s ChoiceDruze in Golan vote Lieberman out of ’protest’ / Hagai Einav Yisrael. . .

Obama officials ’despair’ as poll outcome puts focus on US-Israeli links
Ewen MacAskill in Washington, The Guardian 2/12/2009
Obama administration yesterday looked in despair at the Israeli election results, seeing their hopes for peace in the region fast receding. In public US officials adopted a neutral stance, but in private there is regret that the elections proved inconclusive, with divisions and deadlock on the Palestinian side now replicated on the Israeli side. Professor Paul Scham, a specialist in Israeli-Palestinian affairs at the Washington-based Middle East Institute, said he found it difficult to find any basis for optimism. "Maybe Obama can put it together, but the pieces do not seem to be there. " The election result complicates the review of Middle East policy under way in the US state department. Among questions up for discussion are the closeness of the US to Israel and whether that will undercut Obama’s overtures to Iran and, potentially, Syria, and relations in general with Arab countries.

Noam Shalit: Blair promised to press Hamas
Ronen Medzini, YNetNews 2/12/2009
Father of kidnapped soldier meets Quartet envoy in Jerusalem, asks him to use his influence to advance prisoner exchange deal -Noam Shalit, father of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit met Thursday afternoon in Jerusalem with Quartet envoy to the Middle East, Tony Blair. During the meeting Shalit asked Blair to work toward securing a prisoner exchange deal with Hamas that would see his son returned to Israel. "The Quartet is a key player in the Middle East, and I asked Mr. Blair that, in addition to the pressure he is exerting on Israel to take humanitarian steps for the benefit of the Palestinians in Gaza, he also work diligently to advance the exchange deal and see to it that Gilad is set free from his horrible captivity," Shalit said following the meeting. "We believe the Quartet has the means and channels - be they direct or indirect - to pressure Hamas.

Masri: Lieberman’s talk about eliminating Hamas is part of Israelis’ illusions
Palestinian Information Center 2/12/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- MP Mushir Al-Masri, the secretary-general of the Hamas parliamentary bloc, said that the statements of Zionist right-winger Avigdor Lieberman about the elimination of the Hamas Movement are part of the illusions which the Zionist leaders and parties live in. In a press statement, MP Masri added that Israel sapped all its military and political options during its war on the Gaza Strip and failed to topple Hamas, which became the strongest popular, political movement in the region. The lawmaker underscored that such statements raise the popular rallying around the option of resistance and is considered an implicit recognition that the Zionists have been defeated by the legendary steadfastness of the Palestinian people and their resistance during their aggression on Gaza. Masri affirmed that the results of the Israeli elections proved beyond any doubt that the Zionist. . .

Zahhar: Despite the fierce war, Israel failed to impose its will on our people
Palestinian Information Center 2/12/2009
DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- Dr. Mahmoud Al-Zahhar, a prominent Hamas leader, stated Wednesday in Damascus that the Israeli occupation was not able to impose its will on the Palestinian people despite the harshness of its fierce war which claimed lives of civilians and destroyed homes. During his meeting with Syrian vice president Farouq Al-Shara, Dr. Zahhar said that the Palestinian resistance factions in Gaza understand the implications of the results of this Israeli war and the aims of the war, and that their political moves are being made with a clear vision. The Hamas leader hailed the role played by some Arab countries especially Syria as well as the Arab peoples who were the most supportive of Gaza in the face of the Israeli war. For his part, the Syrian vice president underlined that what happened in Gaza was a start of a new historic stage in the region, adding that the results of. . .

Noam Shalit tells Blair: This may be last chance to free my son
Yair Ettinger Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 2/12/2009
Noam Shalit, the father of captive Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, met on Thursday with the Quartet’s envoy to the Middle East, Tony Blair. Following the meeting, Shalit refused to comment on the recent reports of significant progress on a prisoner exchange deal with Hamas involving his son. He did note, however, that Israel has been given a window of opportunity that may not present itself in the future. Shalit said Blair did not give any promises on the matter though he did say that he would continue to make determined efforts to bring about Gilad’s release. Shalit noted that he asked Blair to exert his influence in helping to clinch a deal "in addition to the pressure that the Quartet puts on Israel to take steps towards the Palestinians in Gaza. "As such, the Knesset elections results are likely to advance a prisoner exchange deal.

ISRAEL: New report highlights child abuse risks
NCC, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2/12/2009
TEL AVIV, 12 February 2009 (IRIN) - Israel’s National Council for the Child () published a report on 8 February in which it said 309,141 children had been described by social services as being at risk of abuse. In most cases the main risk factors were to be found in the family environment. At-risk children faced threats, hunger, beatings, and lack of education and medical care. Some were taken out of their homes and placed in foster care or boarding schools but most were unable to get the help they needed and remained in abusive family settings, the report said. The families of at-risk children often have financial problems, dysfunctional parents, elderly parents or they are recent immigrants - some without a regularised status. The report said some 2,000 children were hospitalised in 2008 due to physical and/or sexual abuse in the family.

Pope condemns Holocaust denial as ’intolerable’
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 2/13/2009
VATICAN CITY: Pope Benedict XVI said Thursday it was "intolerable" to deny the Holocaust as he confronts controversy over a bishop who claimed the mass killings did not involve Nazi gas chambers. "Any denial or minimization of this terrible crime is intolerable and altogether unacceptable," he told leaders of the Conference of American Jewish Organizations when he also confirmed plans to visit Israel. "This should be clear to everyone, especially to those standing in the tradition of the Holy Scriptures," the pope said in a veiled reference to Richard Williamson, the ultra-conservative bishop has denied that Jews died in Nazi gas chambers. "The [Roman Catholic] Church is profoundly and irrevocably committed to reject all anti-Semitism and to continue to build good and lasting relations between our two communities," the German pontiff said.

Livni, the princess of the tribe
Ari Shavit, Ha’aretz 2/12/2009
The outcome of the 2009 election is clear: Tzipi Livni beat the left and was beaten by the right. Kadima’s leader made a dramatic achievement by breaking the Labor Party and crushing Meretz. However, she failed to bite chunks out of the right-wing bloc. Thus the right will have a solid majority in the Knesset, allowing it to form the next government. Livni’s sweeping victory campaign not only empowered Avigdor Lieberman, ruined Ehud Barak and destroyed Haim Oron, it shaped an unprecedented government system ruled by three parties headed by Likud graduates. A government system with no left. Nobody killed the left; it just committed suicide. In a sudden outburst of tribal frenzy it voted for the party of two wars rather than parties of restraint - for Daniel Friedmann’s party, not for the rule-of-law parties.

National Union says may not support Netanyahu
Kobi Nahshoni, YNetNews 2/12/2009
Likud chairman meets with right-wing party’s representatives, asks them to recommend to president to let him form new government. ’No one will recommend him so that Livni can sit in his government,’ says party leader Yaakov Katz - Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu met Thursday morning with representatives of the National Union and asked them to recommend that President Shimon Peres task him with forming the new government, but the right-wing party has apparently decided to keep all options open. "We are not in anyone’s pocket and may not recommend anyone to the president," National Union Chairman Yaakov Katz told Ynet before the meeting. A scheduled meeting between Netanyahu and representatives of the Habayit Hayehudi party has been postponed to next week. In addition to the National Union’s demand not to evacuate settlements and concede parts of the Land of Israel, the party says it will support Netanyahu only if he raises the child allowances and the budgets of religious and ultra-Orthodox educational institutions.

Sanhedrin calls to abolish laws that contradict Torah
Kobi Nahshoni, YNetNews 2/12/2009
Rightist rabbis issue statement following elections calling on religious parties to unite, promote legislation based on Torah law and turn Chief Rabbinate into supreme court of entire Jewish people - The religious and ultra-Orthodox parties won 23 Knesset seats in this week’s elections; will they form a united front that will translate their political power into significant influence on the next government? The Sanhedrin rabbis have issued a letter following the elections, calling on all parties that represent "God fearing voters" – Shas, United Torah Judaism, National Union and Habayit Hayehudi – to be generous and flexible towards one another, "so that they could unite for the sake of their common goals. "The new Sanhedrin is a body founded by rabbis in 2004 that aims to eventually serve as a supreme court and an upper house of the Knesset. However, it is considered controversial and has never been granted legitimacy by the State.

Pensioners Party, Green-Meimad fall short of Knesset
Shahar Ilan, Ha’aretz 2/12/2009
The Green Movement-Meimad and the Pensioners Party failed to pass the vote percentage threshold and will not be represented in the next Knesset. The Pensioners Party received a mere 0. 5 percent of the vote, while Meimad, which formerly ran as part of Labor’s list, received 0. 8 percent. Ephraim Sneh broke off from the Labor Party to try to establish the anti-crime party, Strong Israel. Pundits believe that most of centrist and left wing voters, from which the bulk of these two parties’ supporters came, went to Kadima chair Tzipi Livni, while the fighting in Gaza rendered them irrelevant. Meimad leader Michael Melchior, one of the outgoing Knesset’s prominent members, could not find a larger faction to join this election campaign and ran on a joint list with the Green Movement. Flash in the pan - Despite the list’s high-profile Internet campaign, it failed to garner a sufficient number of votes.

Soul-searching on the left
Editorial, Ha’aretz 2/12/2009
Labor’s identity crisis has been known for many years. Ever since Yitzhak Rabin’s murder, the differences between this party and Likud have been indiscernible. - Despite the lack of clarity about the next government, one thing is becoming painfully clear - the entire left-wing bloc has suffered a crushing defeat in the election. The Labor Party, whose founders achieved great things in the state’s early days, has dwindled to 13 Knesset seats and is now the fourth largest party after Yisrael Beiteinu. Meretz, which had hoped to thrive in its new incarnation, was dealt a bitter disappointment, cut down to a mere three Knesset seats - barely enough to get into parliament. This sweeping downfall can of course be explained by the support of many left-wing voters for Tzipi Livni, to halt Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu. This explanation should not be dismissed out of hand, but it is not the only reason.

Religious Zionism lost
Yehudah Glick, Ha’aretz 2/12/2009
We lost these elections and we lost big. We, the religious and Torah-observant public in Israel, lost. We, the national religious public, lost. We the religious Zionists, lost. We lost because we were not smart enough to unite. The parties attacked one another; and the man on the street is really not interested in who or what is responsible for the divide, Uri Ariel, Yaakov Amidror or the politics of Zevulun Orlev. We lost because we were perceived as irrelevant. Habayit Hayehudi did not manage to generate the customary public search for a traditional Zionist home; and the National Union did not manage to present itself as an alternative to the large group of lovers of the Land of Israel, who do not pray in the synagogues of Ofra and Beit El. We lost because we could not manage to force the Likud party to place Moshe Feiglin and Effi Eitam in respectable slots among senior party members.

Suspect in bribe probe turns out for Lieberman celebration
Jonathan Lis and Lily Galili, Ha’aretz 2/12/2009
Israeli businessman Michael Chernoy showed his support last night for his good friend Avigdor Lieberman, whose nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party finished third in Tuesday’s Knesset elections. Relations between Chernoy and Lieberman have been a focus of a police investigation into Lieberman since he entered Israeli public life at the end of the 1990s. "I am happy for my friend and hope that his new team will change the country for everyone’s benefit," Chernoy told Haaretz, adding that he himself had no political aspirations. Recently, in the probe into Lieberman, the police investigated whether Chernoy played a role directing funds to companies suspected of money laundering. They also investigated alleged transfers of bribes to Lieberman. A Haaretz investigation revealed that in May 2001, three months after Lieberman’s appointment as national infrastructure. . .

Major reforms are unlikely, but electoral threshold could be raised
Shahar Ilan, Ha’aretz 2/12/2009
Experience teaches that it is very difficult to legislate even small changes to the Israeli electoral system, not to mention a major upheaval. So if an agreement can be reached on electoral reform, it will not be over something so dramatic as switching to a presidential system, but rather over relatively minor tweaks: raising the minimum vote threshold, preventing MKs from serving on the cabinet and vice versa, and raising the bar for dissolving the government. It bears remembering that the new coalition is likely to include small parties, such as United Torah Judaism, that fear any change to the system. When politicians or academics talk about electoral reform, they are talking about many different things, often totally unrelated. They might mean changing the form of government, or the form of elections (like a switch to geographic-based representation).

Financial advisors prefer Netanyahu as finance minister
Roee Bergman, Globes Online 2/12/2009
A survey showed 84% of respondents preferred a Likud candidate to run the ministry. An SMS survey of hundreds of financial advisors byMeitav Investment House Ltd. found that they strongly prefer Likud chairman MK Benjamin Netanyahu as minister of finance. Two days after the election, it appears that Netanyahu will be asked to form the next government, although the task will be far from easy. Regardless of whether Netanyahu or if Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni becomes prime minister, one of the first orders of business in the current circumstances will be the appointment of a finance minister, given the global economic crisis and its impact on Israel. Meitav asked financial advisors which of four candidates they would prefer as minister of finance: current Minister of Finance Ronnie Bar-On, Meir Sheetrit of Kadima, Netanyahu and. . .

Licking its wounds, Meretz looks for culprits to blame for poor showing
Roni Singer-Heruti, Ha’aretz 2/12/2009
Having gone to bed Monday night with four Knesset seats only to wake up yesterday with three, Meretz is licking its wounds and searching for someone to blame. Some Meretz members denounced the failed strategy that paired them with the New Movement. Others said they needed to join Labor and create a new, larger left wing movement. Even though some party members are still counting on the uncounted votes of soldiers, it is clear the brunt of the loss is being borne by MK Zahava Gal-On, who was fourth on the party list. Gal-On said she "is hurt on a personal level and on a political level. " Meretz has already found many culprits: the war in Gaza; the confused election campaign; Kadima’s election campaign, which drew many Meretz supporters to vote Livni; and the decision by party head MK Haim Oron to link up with the New Movement.

Entire political system shifting rightward
Shahar Ilan, Ha’aretz 2/12/2009
40 percent of Kadima’s voters chose party in final 3 days - How did the right grow by 15 seats while Kadima maintained its strength? The entire political system has shifted rightward, it turns out. Labor, the Pensioners Party and Meretz lost a total of 16 seats. Many Kadima voters also moved rightward, but they were replaced by new voters from the left. That is how the right swelled to 56 seats, while the leftist Zionist parties were left with only 16 Knesset members. Statistician Rafi Smith of the Smith Institute says that left-wing voters supported prime ministerial hopeful Tzipi Livni and not her party, Kadima. Forty percent of people who voted for Kadima decided to do so during the last two or three days of the campaign. " Livni took a third of Labor’s voters and more than a third of Meretz’s voters.

Parties jack up coalition price
Zvi Zrahiya, Ha’aretz 2/12/2009
The new coalition is almost certain to cost an extra NIS 2 billion to NIS 3 billion a year as parties - Shas, Yisrael Beiteinu and United Torah Judaism - extort budgets in exchange for joining the government. Knesset sources project that regardless of whether Kadima leader Tzipi Livni or Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu builds the government, he or she will have to accede to the parties’ demands in order to create a stable coalition, however sorry Israel’s economic condition. In October 2008 Livni elected to brave elections rather than succumb to the demands of Shas. But the religious party isn’t going to relent on any of its demands, Shas sources insist. Shas is demanding an extra NIS 1. 5 billion for child allowances. In September Livni agreed to NIS 800 million, no more, and NIS 150 million for other purposes.

Final election results: Kadima 28 seats, Likud 27, Yisrael Beiteinu 15
Shahar Ilan , and Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 2/12/2009
Click here for exclusive Haaretz coverage of the elections in Israel Members of Israel’s central elections committee said on Thursday the apportionment of Knesset seats would remain as is following the final tally of Israel Defense Forces soldiers’ ballots. Kadima led by Tzipi Livni captured the largest number of Knesset seats - 28 - edging the Likud’s 27 seats. Yisrael Beiteinu made history on Tuesday, becoming the third-largest party in the Knesset with 15 seats. The Labor Party finished with a disappointing 13 seats; Shas with 11; United Torah Judaism won six seats; the National Union captured 4; United Arab List - Ta’al - 4; Hadash - 4; Meretz - 3; Balad - 3; and Bayit Hayehudi ("The Jewish Home") - 3. The results of Tuesday’s election were finalized Thursday after the votes of IDF soldiers were tallied.

Party leaders begin initial coaliton talks with rivals
Mazal Mualem Yair Ettinger Lily Galili and Nadav Shragai, Ha’aretz 2/12/2009
Leaders of the three largest parties after Tuesday’s election began meeting with their rivals and other party heads yesterday in a bid to build a coalition. Yesterday morning, MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima) said a team would begin immediate negotiations to forge a coalition led by Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni. Livni told Yisrael Beiteinu’s Avigdor Lieberman that she was the people’s choice for prime minister, and they agreed to hold further talks. Speaking before the meeting, Livni vowed to fight to become the next prime minister. "The people chose me in droves. I feel a great responsibility to translate the power vested in me into action, to advance the country and to unify the people," said Livni from her Tel Aviv home. Earlier in the day, Lieberman said he was leaving his options open.

Merrill Lynch sees Likud in charge
Tal Levy, Ha’aretz 2/12/2009
The general election on Tuesday may have failed to produce a decisive majority, but Merrill Lynch has decided who’ll be forming the next government. And it isn’t Tzipi Livni, who led Kadima to a narrow victory, seat-wise. Analysts Haim Israel and Micha Goldberg think that the Likud will be building the next coalition, but that itwon’t last long. "The coalition is likely to include as many as six or even more parties, once again making it fragile," they wrote, elaborating that the government will therefore be vulnerable to minority demands. The two describe the Israeli electoral system and balance of power among the parties. They also cover several possible government coalitions, but stress that whoever winds up building a government, all of the parties have about the same economic platform.

Likud blasts Kadima’s victory declaration as ’pathetic’
Politico, Ha’aretz 2/12/2009
Click here for exclusive Haaretz coverage of the elections in IsraelWhoever thought that the announcement of the final election results would put an end to the bickering over which party emerged the winner - and which should form the next governing coalition - was mistaken. After tallying the ballots cast by soldiers, the physically challenged, and diplomats from abroad, the central election committee confirmed that the apportionment of Knesset seats would remain as was announced on election night. " Tonight the campaign led by Bibi (nickname of Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu) and the wheeler-dealers of the Likud aimed at stealing power and the will of the voter in Israel must come to an end," read a statement released by Kadima minutes after the official results were announced.

Livni: I’ll fight on to form coalition, despite poor odds
Yossi Verter, Ha’aretz 2/12/2009
Despite her slim chance of being able to form a government, Kadima leader Tzipi Livni on Wednesday pledged to make every effort to do so "for my voters. "However, she said she would not pay "an exorbitant price" for other parties agreement to join her. Livni, who met Yisrael Beiteinu head Avigdor Lieberman in Jerusalem Wednesday in a bid to build a coalition, said she could offer Lieberman support for two issues that are crucial to him: passing a law that would enable couples barred from religious Jewish marriage to marry in a civil union, and making changes to the system of government. Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who commands a right wing ultra-Orthodox bloc of 65 Knesset members, cannot support either issue due to opposition from the Haredi parties.

Kadima: Netanyahu’s campaign to ’steal’ the government must end Staff, Jerusalem Post 2/12/2009
In light of the final election results presented on Thursday evening, according to which Kadima received 28 mandates while Likud followed with 27 mandates, Kadima urder Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu to stop trying to ’steal’ the government. "This evening, the campaign led by [Likud chairman Binyamin] Netanyahu and the Likud to steal the government of Israel must come to an end," the party said in a statement. It is now clear that Kadima won the elections, and as it is the biggest party, Netanyahu must accept Kadima’s offer to join a national unity government led by Tzipi Livni, the party said.

US ’committed’ to aid for Lebanon - USAID
Daily Star 2/13/2009
BEIRUT: A senior US official said on Thursday that President Barak Obama’s administration will continue the economic support program for Lebanon. "The US is still committed to help Lebanon economically and both the Republicans and Democrats are keen to sustain support for the country," George A. Laudato, the administrator’s special assistance for the Middle East at the US Agency for International Development (USAID), told reporters at the US Embassy in Awkar. The US government agreed during the Paris III donor conference in January 2007 to provide Lebanon with $250 million in assistance to help reduce the public debt which now stands at more than $47. 5 billion. The program is based on the Lebanese government’s economic reform plan and is supported by the International Monetary Fund. Another $50 million has been earmarked for the continuation of a school repair program, scholarships to American educational institutions and governance programs.

Obama reiterates support for Special Tribunal
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 2/13/2009
WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama on Thursday vowed to support UN moves to bring to justice the killers of slain Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri ahead of the fourth anniversary of the assassination. "As we share our grief with the Lebanese people over the loss of Prime Minister Hariri, we also share our conviction that his sacrifice will not be in vain," Obama said in a statement ahead of Saturday’s anniversary. "The United States fully supports the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, whose work will begin in a few weeks, to bring those responsible for this horrific crime and those that followed to justice. "The UN tribunal to try Hariri’s alleged killers is due to open its doors on March 1, housed in a former headquarters of the Dutch intelligence service on the outskirts of The Hague. The tribunal will try suspects in a series of attacks on Lebanese political and media personalities,. . .

Clinton Reiterates US commitment to Hariri court
Daily Star 2/13/2009
BEIRUT: Parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri received on Thursday a telephone call from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who stressed "the international community’s commitment to implement justice and put an end to assassination crimes in Lebanon. "Clinton also reiterated the "US full support of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon" as well as the United States’ "adherence to Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence. " She also said that the US was keen on promoting its relations with Lebanon, "for the interest of both countries. "Also Thursday, the March 14 Forces and government supporters put out the call for a "massive" demonstration in Downtown Beirut on Saturday to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the murder of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. While the March 14 forces issued an open call for all Lebanese - "and their supporters in particular" - to show massive. . .

Washington dishes out mixed portrait of Lebanese economy
Daily Star 2/13/2009
BEIRUT: The United States Department of Commerce’s 2009 Country Commercial Guide for Lebanon highlighted the country’s favorable investment climate and its liberal economic system, but said that red tape and an unpredictable operating environment are some of the issues hurting Lebanon’s image as a country open for investment, as reported by Lebanon This Week, the economic publication of the Byblos Bank Group. It said the country has very few restrictions on the movement of capital across its borders, foreign investors are allowed to manage and hold business and private assets without any restrictions, and the government does not require investors to engage in any particular sector or project. The guide indicated that starting a new business in Lebanon is relatively simple and open to all. It said petty corruption remains an issue, adding that corruption is more extensive in government. . .

Israeli security on high alert on assassination anniversary
Ma’an News Agency 2/12/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an/Agencies – The Israeli military and security continued a heightened state of alert on Thursday declared in advance of the anniversary of the assassination of a senior Hizbullah leader. Hizbullah military chief Imad Mughniyya was killed by a car bomb in Damascus, Syria in February 2008. Israel was blamed for the assassination but it was never proven who was responsible. The state of alert applies especially to Israel’s northern border with Lebanon. [end]

In aftermath of Gaza drama, new TV shows focus on the IDF
Ruta Kupfer, Ha’aretz 2/12/2009
"On my father’s grave I’ll don a uniform," protests the recruit and the company commander responds in sharp army lingo that does not distinguish between past, present and future: "Everyone, and I mean everyone, is here at the time I specify. Am I clear? " This conversation comes from a new show premiering Saturday on Channel Eight called "Yes, Ms. Commander. "It is familiar, more or less, to anyone who served in the army. Everyone seems to have his designated role. This exchange took place at Havat Hashomer, a base for recruits with criminal records who don’t fit into society. "Yes, Ms. Commander," a three-part series by Danny Siton and Itzik Lerner, follows a basic training course there. It is interesting not only because it is a study in contrasts, but also because of its proximity to another show about the Israel Defense Forces, "Reserve. . .

Bank of Israel: Slowdown intensified in last quarter
Tal Lev, Ha’aretz 2/12/2009
The slowdown of economic activity became more severe in the months September to December 2008, and inflationary pressures weakened substantially, the Bank of Israel reports in its Review of Recent Economic Developments published yesterday. The report draws a grim picture, with a decline in economic activity in nearly all industries, the public’s wealth negatively impacted, increased employment insecurity and erosion of real wages undermining consumer confidence and slowing the rise in private consumption - one of the economic indicators. The central bank notes that signs of the slowdown in the labor market during this period were also evident, as the rise in employment in the business sector halted and the number of job seekers (particularly university graduates) and the number of claims for unemployment benefit increased considerably.

IRAQ: The River Too Tells the Story
Dahr Jamail, Inter Press Service 2/12/2009
Before the U. S. invasion of Iraq, Majit says, it was common to catch several dozen fish daily. Now, "we are lucky to catch ten. "- BAGHDAD, Feb 12(IPS) - There is less water now in the Tigris, and it is less clean. The river has fewer fish, and rising fuel and other costs mean they are more costly to catch. It’s not, as Hamza Majit finds, a good time to be a fisher. "It’s getting worse everyday," Majit told IPS on board his fishing boat. "You see the low water level," Majit said, touching the bottom of the river, just two metres down, with a wooden pole. "We need higher water to hold our nets up. And this is the deepest point in the Tigris in this area. With the water this low, it makes it difficult to catch any fish. " Plastic bottles, grocery bags and other garbage are now more commonly seen floating down the once clear river. "Fish are a treasure from God, but now so much is preventing us from reaping our treasure," said Majit.

Iraq’s ’Teflon Don’
Dahr Jamail, Middle East Online 2/12/2009
Reconstruction has yet to really begin in Sunni areas and the movement, sheiks and all, only works as long as the US continues funneling ’reconstruction funds’ to tribal leaders. What happens when that stops, as it surely must with time? Will the people of Fallujah be better served? Or has this process merely laid the groundwork for future bloodshed? Fallujah, Iraq -- Driving through Fallujah, once the most rebellious Sunni city in this country, I saw little evidence of any kind of reconstruction underway. At least 70% of that city’s structures were destroyed during massive US military assaults in April, and again in November 2004, and more than four years later, in the "new Iraq," the city continues to languish. The shells of buildings pulverized by US bombs, artillery, or mortar fire back then still line Fallujah’s main street, or rather, what’s left of it.

Iraq MPs seek reparation for 1981 Israeli attack on nuclear reactor
News Agencies, Ha’aretz 2/12/2009
Iraqi parliamentarians are demanding Israel pay billions of dollars in reparations for a 1981 Israeli attack on an Iraqi nuclear reactor, Baghdad’s daily al-Sabbah reported Thursday. Mohammed Naji Mohammed, a member of parliament with the United Iraqi Alliance coalition, is leading a campaign for a parliamentary resolution obliging the Iraqi foreign ministry and courts to seek billions of dollars in reparations for an Israeli air strike on the Osiraq nuclear reactor, the newspaper reported. The organizers reportedly said they will argue their case based on a UN Security Council resolution passed in the wake of the attack. UN Security Council Resolution 487 "strongly condemns" Israel’s air strike against Iraq’s Osiraq nuclear reactor in June 1981, and "considers that Iraq is entitled to appropriate redress for the destruction it has suffered, responsibility for which has been acknowledged by Israel. "

The Endless Non-Departure from Iraq
Tom Engelhardt, Middle East Online 2/12/2009
Already it’s begun -- the endless non-departure from Iraq. The Obama plan, restated many times during the presidential campaign, involved a 16-month schedule for withdrawing not all US forces, but only US "combat troops. "Now, his (and, of course, George W. Bush’s) generals are showing visible evidence of dragging their combat boots in the sand on the subject. We were given fair warning. Over the last two years, numerous military figures have claimed that, as fast as they got into Iraq, it would be hell just getting all the US stuff now embedded there out -- and that’s without even taking into account the political situation in that country. Recently, according to military leaks to the media, "US military planners" have come up with two alternate scenarios to Obama’s 16-month plan. One is reportedly 19 months long, the other 23 months long, and -- here’s a shock -- the two top generals. . .

Blast kills six Shiite pilgrims in Iraq
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 2/13/2009
KERBALA, Iraq: Six people were killed and 35 wounded in an explosion near a Shiite shrine in the central Iraqi holy city of Kerbala on Thursday, medical sources said. "Six people have been killed and 35 wounded," an ambulance driver told AFP, although accounts of the explosion varied. It was not immediately clear if the cause was an attack or an accident, witnesses said. A police officer told AFP a suicide bomber had triggered the blast, causing the casualties, but others at the scene said a gas pipe had exploded. Millions of Shiite pilgrims are traveling from across Iraq to Kerbala for Arbaeen, a ceremony next Monday that marks 40 days after the Ashura anniversary of the killing of Imam Hussein by Sunni caliph Yazid’s armies in 680. Four Iraqi policemen were killed in a car bombing in Mosul on Thursday, police said, the day after a string of deadly attacks in the restive northern city.

Mohammad Khatami criticizes rival Ahmadinejad over Iran’s isolation
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/12/2009
The top reformist candidate in Iran’s presidential race has criticized hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over the country’s international isolation. The comments were the first by Mohammad Khatami about the president since Khatami entered the race last weekend. They signaled that his campaign will likely focus on Iranians’ worries that Ahmadinejad’s fiery anti-Western rhetoric has worsened the country’s status in the world at a time when Iran is suffering economic woes. Khatami, a liberal cleric who was president from 1997-2005, told a group of his supporters that the current situation in the country is not desirable, according to Khatami’s Web site. Khatami warned at the meeting late Wednesday that if the situation continues, the country’s social capital and international reputation will be damaged even more.

Iran’s Khamenei congratulates Islamic Jihad on ’victory in Gaza’
Ma’an News Agency 2/12/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an/Agencies – Supreme Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared Palestinian “victory” over Israel in the war in Gaza a “miracle” on Wednesday. “What really happened in Gaza was truly like a miracle,” Khamenei said in a meeting with Palestinian Islamic Jihad chief Ramadan Shallah, who visited Tehran. “The Gaza events were in fact at the hands of God which came true through the faith and firm determination and the jihad of resistance forces and the Gaza people,” the leader added, according to the Tehran Times. “Truly, the people of Gaza took a good test and the officials and managers also emerged successful in this test for their good performance and decisive and united position,” he added. More than 1,300 Palestinians were killed in Israel’s three-week onslaught on the Gaza Strip in December and January.

Iran may be running out of yellowcake
Middle East Online 2/12/2009
WASHINGTON - Iran may be close to exhausting its supply of uranium oxide, or yellowcake, raising questions about the commercial viability of its nuclear program, a new study said Wednesday. The study by the Institute for Science and International Security said there was scant evidence that Iran had supplemented its dwindling supply of yellowcake with domestic uranium mining. "The current uranium ore shortfall illustrates a fundamental inconsistency between Iran’s stated intentions -- a commercially viable, indigenously fueled, civil nuclear power industry and its capabilities," the report said. "If Iran’s objective is a latent nuclear weapons capability, it need not invest resources in the further development of its mining industry," it said. "But if it wants to meet the requirements of even a single Bushehr-type reactor, it will need to do much more to develop its own. . . "

Sarkozy: I want Obama to engage in Iran talks with `spirit of firmness`
Reuters, Ha’aretz 2/12/2009
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Wednesday he wanted U. S. President Barack Obama to act firmly in any direct talks with Iran over its nuclear programme. Sarkozy said during a visit to Kuwait that the new U. S. administration should be resolute in its dealings with Iran. "I strongly hope that the new U. S. president, Mr. Barack Obama, launches these talks with a spirit of dialogue, of course, and with a certain firmness," Sarkozy told a news conference after holding talks with Kuwaiti officials on closer ties and the possible sale of Rafale combat jets and warships. In a break from the policy of former President George W. Bush, Obama has said he is willing to start talks with Iran, which Washington and allies such as France and Britain believe is amassing the capability to produce nuclear weapons.

No help from Elie Wiesel
Ha’aretz 2/12/2009
"I contacted Elie Wiesel, a Nobel Prize winner, in 2002, after I read that he had been put in charge of a million-dollar Holocaust memorial fund," says Dahlia Virtzberg-Rofe’. She requested assistance in publishing a new edition of her father’s book. "In his response, Wiesel made the far-fetched claim that he supposedly had ’close ties’ with my father. On June 26, 1966, Wiesel wrote to my father: ’I read the summary of your book very carefully. The story sounds interesting, dramatic and shocking, as such a story should. Of course, I would be happy to read the manuscript. But I do not think it would be fair on my part to entertain you with hopes or promises. . . I may be coming to Israel in September-October. I will try to contact you and perhaps, when we talk, we can think about what can be done. ’" Did your father send him a copy of the book? "Certainly. . . . " -- See also: Mengele's errand boy

VIDEO - WATCH: Israeli TV show depicts Lieberman as Darth Vader-esque dictator
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 2/12/2009
Anticipating a massive surge for far-right party Yisrael Beiteinu, Israel’s popular satire TV show Eretz Nehederet (Wonderful Country) took aim at party leader Avigdor Lieberman on Tuesday night. Aired before the results were announced, the show depicts Lieberman as a dictatorial-style leader, whose entrance is accompanied by heavyset bodyguards and fierce looking dogs, and the Darth Vader music theme from the Star Wars movies. Following translation of the clip is courtesy of blogger and journalistLisa Goldman: The clip starts with Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu and Kadima chair Tzipi Livni claiming that each won the election. In identical speeches delivered simultaneously, both urge President Shimon Peres to give him/her the first crack at forming a government.


Under a white cloth, darkly
Amira Hass, Ha’aretz 2/12/2009
      "We thought the army would let us keep going because we raised a white flag." At 1 P.M. on Monday, January 5, 2009, near Rajib Mughrabi’s garage on Saladin Street, in the Zeitoun neighborhood of Gaza City, a man of about 60 was pushing an elderly woman in a wheelbarrow. A 15-year-old boy walked at their side, waving a white cloth. Behind them, some 80 people were walking northward, their hands in the air. The day before, during Israel Defense Forces advances under cover of heavy fire, Palestinian inhabitants began their great flight westward, inward, into the Strip’s urban centers. If they thought they were in the soldiers’ line of sight, they waved white flags and raised their hands aloft.
     The man pushing the wheelbarrow was Mouin Joha, his mother was sitting inside and his son Ibrahim accompanied them bearing the flag.
     "On the night between Saturday and Sunday, between January 3rd and 4th," Joha recalled a few weeks later, "there was shelling just all around us. They were firing from all directions, and inside the house we were dying of fear. With every shell we thought it was the end. We heard the stones quaking. We ran from room to room. We lay the children down on the floor in the innermost room, like fish, one next to the other."

Building the case of war crimes

Kristen Ess, Palestine News Network 2/12/2009
      Successfully prosecuting the Israelis for war crimes stands a good chance this time due to the scale of the recent attacks on the Gaza Strip, the undeniability of the horror.
     Hours of direct footage filmed by journalists from Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya are providing some of the proof required to garner international support, Professor of Politics at Gaza’s Al Azar University Dr. Mochamar Abu Sada said on Thursday.
     "It is often difficult to prosecute crimces against humanity cases because of the political reality: the Americans don’t want to see this happen and the Israelis are not signatories. But there has been a lot of European and Arab effort to bring these recent cases to court," he said in Gaza City. "The Israelis kept trying to say that they weren’t targeting civilians, but a third of the Palestinians killed were children under the age of 15."
     Dr. Abu Sada added today that for the killing of 43 civilians in the UN school in the northern Strip at least some in the Israeli forces will most likely see a war crimes tribunal.

A People Abandoned

Serge Halimi, Middle East Online 2/12/2009
      By 14 January Israeli troops had killed more than a thousand Palestinians confined to a narrow strip of land and subjected to land, sea and air bombardment by one of the most formidable armies in the world.
     A Palestinian school converted into a United Nations refuge had been bombed, a resolution -- issued by the only organisation that really represents the “international community” people are so fond of talking about -- had called in vain for a halt to the military operations in Gaza. So, on 14 January, the European Union showed just how firmly it was prepared to react to this mixed display of violence and arrogance. It decided to suspend the process of rapprochement with Israel! But to lessen the impact of what might, even so, have been seen as gentle reproach to Tel Aviv, it explained that this was a “technical” measure, not a “political” one. And that the decision was taken by “both parties".
     Israel is free to do as it likes. Its army had already destroyed most of the Palestinian infrastructure funded by the EU and there had been little or no reaction, no legal action, no call for reparations. It then imposed a blockade on people already living in poverty, with no water, food or medical supplies. Still no response, only endless admonitions and a general refusal to become involved in the argument, on the pretext that violence of the strong is not always accompanied by submission of the weak. So why should Israel suppose that it cannot continue to act with impunity?

Ban lifted on Valentine flower exports: an Israeli ruse

Hiba Lama, Palestine News Network 2/12/2009
      The Israeli ban on the export of Palestinian flowers from the Gaza Strip was lifted today for the first time in three years. Twenty-five thousand flowers left the Gaza Strip en route to Europe after years of calls from farmers whose livelihoods are devastated by siege.
     The agricultural sector has suffered heavy losses from the Israeli bulldozing of land, two and a half years of siege and also from the recent three weeks of major attacks.
     A limited amount of exports allowed in the midst of the Valentine’s Day holiday is merely a ruse, Gazans say. Owner of the Green Garden market in Rafah, Majid Abu Hadeed, told PNN Thursday, "This is a fake. Export season is near an end. Farmers have declared bankruptcy. What is this now?"
     He said the limited opening of the crossing for 25,000 flowers comes "too little, too late."
     Abu Hadeed told PNN, “We are at the start of the end of the export season. Usually we stop exporting toward the end of April and so we only have one month left and that month is not long enough for us to put in all of our efforts to take care of the farmland and to use the pesticides and bring workers because the work stopped before. We lost all hope because these flowers require full attention. They need total care and we did not care for them properly because of the war and we did not want to spend our money on them for nothing.&rdquo.

Book review: Un-erasing the erasure of Palestine

Gabriel Ash, Electronic Intifada 2/12/2009
      I read Jonathan Cook’s new book Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s experiments in human despair before Israel committed its most recent massacres in Gaza. Israel’s massive disregard for Palestinian life and the clearly deliberate destruction of life-sustaining infrastructure shocked many poorly informed observers, but few of those acquainted with the knowledge contained in this book would have been taken by surprise. Cook is a British journalist who made the Palestinian city of Nazareth his home. Over the last six years Cook published a series of highly informative and original articles that broke with the Western tradition of stenographic journalism. Although previously a staff journalist of the liberal British paper The Guardian, few of his recent articles were featured in the mainstream Western press. He knows too much.
     This book is in fact two short books for the price of one. The second half comprises a selection drawn from these articles Cook published over the last six years in a variety of websites and newspapers. The first half is an outstanding essay that seeks to distill the so-called "Israeli-Palestinian conflict" and to trace within it the overarching principle that guides Israel’s policies. Cook’s thesis is that "the goal of Israeli policy is to make Palestine and the Palestinians disappear for good."

Israel lurches into fascism

Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada 2/12/2009
      Whenever Israel has an election, pundits begin the usual refrain that hopes for peace depend on the "peace camp" -- formerly represented by the Labor party, but now by Tzipi Livni’s Kadima -- prevailing over the anti-peace right, led by the Likud.
     This has never been true, and makes even less sense as Israeli parties begin coalition talks after Tuesday’s election. Yes, the "peace camp" helped launch the "peace process," but it did much more to undermine the chances for a just settlement.
     In 1993, Labor prime minister Yitzhak Rabin signed the Oslo accords. Ambiguities in the agreement -- which included no mention of "self-determination" or "independence" for Palestinians, or even "occupation" -- made it easier to clinch a short-term deal. But confrontation over irreconcilable expectations was inevitable. While Palestinians hoped the Palestinian Authority, created by the accord, would be the nucleus of an independent state, Israel viewed it as little more than a native police force to suppress resistance to continued occupation and colonial settlement in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Collaboration with Israel has always been the measure by which any Palestinian leader is judged to be a "peace partner." Rabin, according to Shlomo Ben-Ami, a former Israeli foreign minister, "never thought this [Oslo] will end in a full-fledged Palestinian state." He was right.

Israel’s perilous political stasis

David Hearst, The Guardian 2/12/2009
      With the prospect of a return of Binyamin Netanyahu as prime minister, the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas according to Haaretz , has being drawing up plans for "diplomatic resistance" to Israel. The Palestinian Authority wants the international community to put Israel under as much pressure to negotiate the creation of a Palestinian state as Hamas was put under to accept the existence of Israel. I think we have some way to go before we will see the US Sixth Fleet enforcing an international blockade off the port of Haifa.
     But, again according to Haaretz, Sarkozy, Brown and Berlusconi, apparently told Abbas they would not accept a freeze in the peace process and the abandonment of the vision of a Palestinian state. Note the let-out clauses in that formulation. The French and British foreign ministers , Bernard Kouchner and David Miliband, went further: "We will not allow Israel to perpetuate the occupation in the West Bank under the guise of economic gestures of good will." If that is exactly what Miliband said, it could lead to an interesting conversation with his political father, Tony Blair. According to those close to Netanyahu, Blair is the man the rightwing Likud leader is pinning his hopes on, to deliver economic – but not political – improvements to life in the West Bank.
     However unrealistic Abbas’s expectations are, they represent an obvious truth, and probably the most important lesson to be drawn from Tuesday’s election. The international community, not just President Obama, is going to have to get stuck into the search for a solution to the conflict in a more robust way than it has done for a decade. Until now, the Quartet has largely accepted Israel’s narrative about Hamas, and has been quiescent to the point of being torpid about forcing the pace of negotiations with Abbas....

Israeli 2009 Election Winner: Herzl (1895)

William A. Cook, Palestine Chronicle 2/12/2009
      ’We should try to spirit the penniless Arab population across the borders by procuring employment for it in transit countries, while denying it any employment in our own country. Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly.’ (Herzl, founding father of Zionism,1895)
     The mind of Israel’s “decider” in yesterday’s election, Avigdor Lieberman, Head of the Yisrael Beiteinu Party, comes out of the late 19th century, a veritable verbal parallel to Herzl: “They (Palestinian leaders) have to disappear, to go to paradise, all of them, and there can’t be any compromise.” This is the same man that casually remarked that Israel should do to the Palestinians what the United States did to the Japanese in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, drop the atomic bomb on them. This man will decide who speaks with President Obama about “peace in the mid-east.” This man will control the right-wing agenda that will be Israel’s agenda under its newly formed government, whether Tzipi Livni or Bibi Netanyahu hold the title of Prime Minister. This man will see to it that there is no end of the occupation of Palestine, no Palestinian state, and no evacuation of the settlements, in short, no progress toward peace. This man, a Russian immigrant to Israel, will determine the fate of the indigenous people if and when Israel decides what to do with the Palestinians. This man, who won 12% of the vote, determines for Americans what their vote for Obama’s “change” really means.

PLO: Why an Alternative and Why the Panic?

Ramzy Baroud, Palestine Chronicle 2/12/2009
      ’Why an alternative to the PLO, and why the fury over a call for a new leadership?’
     When Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal declared before a cheering crowd in Doha, Qatar, on January 28, the need for a new leadership, his words generated panic amongst leaders of the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority as well as traditional Palestinian leadership elites stationed in various Arab capitals.
     The reaction to Mashaal’s call was more furious than most of the statements issued by the PA and its backers during the 23-day Israeli onslaught against the Gaza Strip, which killed and wounded thousands of innocent Gazans.
     Mashaal, who spoke triumphantly in Qatar exhorted that the PA "in its current state is no authority." "It expresses a state of impotence, abuse and (it is a) tool to deepen divisions," he stressed. He called for the creation of a new leadership structure that would include all Palestinians.
     Mashaal intentionally remained ambiguous regarding the nature of the new structure, perhaps to examine the reactions to his call before moving forward with any tangible plans.

The Left and Support for Islamist Resistance

Nadine Rosa-Rosso - Brussels, Palestine Chronicle 2/11/2009
      (Editor’s Note: The following is the text of a speech delivered by Nadine Rosa-Rosso at the Beirut International Forum for Resistance, Anti-Imperialism, Solidarity between Peoples and Alternatives, held from January 16 to 18, 2009.)
     The massive demonstrations in European capitals and major cities in support of the people of Gaza highlighted once again the core problem: the vast majority of the Left, including communists, agrees in supporting the people of Gaza against Israeli aggression, but refuses to support its political expressions such as Hamas in Palestine and Hezbollah in Lebanon.
     The Left not only refuses to support them, but also denounces them and fights against them. Support for the people of Gaza exists only at a humanitarian level but not at the political level.
     Concerning Hamas and Hezbollah; the Left is mainly concerned with the support these groups have amongst the Arab masses, but are hardly interested in the fact that Israel’s clear and aggressive intention is to destroy these resistance movements. From a political point of view we can say without exaggeration that the Left’s wish (more or less openly admitted) follows the same line as the Israeli government’s: to liquidate popular support for Hamas and Hezbollah.

Obama’s ’War on Terror’

Stephen Lendman – Chicago, Palestine Chronicle 2/11/2009
      ACLU’s executive director: ’The Obama administration’s position is not change.’
     The language is softened and deceptive. The strategy and tactics are not. The "war on terror" continues. Promised change is talk, not policy. Just look at Obama’s "war cabinet," discussed in an earlier article. It assures:
     -- the "strongest military on the planet" by outspending all other countries combined; -- continued foreign wars; -- possible new ones in prospect; on February 7, vice-president Joe Biden outlined continuity of the Bush administration’s policy toward Iran, including "preventive" wars under the National Security Strategy; demands also that Iran abandon its legal nuclear program meaning nothing going forward will change; -- permanent occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan is planned;
     -- a reinvented "Cold War" with Russia; perhaps also with China; "draw(ing) a new ’iron curtain’ (between these) formidable Eurasian powers" to prevent their alliance from challenging America, according to F. William Engdahl;
     -- an "absolute" commitment "to eliminating the threat of terrorism (with) the full force of our power;"...

Church of England: Dumping Caterpillar

Stuart Littlewood - London, Palestine Chronicle 2/12/2009
      ’What took the Church of England so long to catch onto the Caterpillar scandal?’
     God whispered in the Church of England’s ear and it dumped its shares in Caterpillar. This House of God had about £2.5m invested in a company that manufactures one of Israel’s weapons of mass misery and destruction. After saying for years that they couldn’t see anything unethical about it, Church bosses finally agreed with the rest of us that Caterpillar’s D-9 bulldozer, which is used in the Holy Land for the ugly purpose of demolishing Palestinian homes, uprooting olive groves and destroying civilian infrastructure, is more like a vicious weapon in Israel’s hands than a civil engineering tool.
     Caterpillar simply didn’t look good on the Church’s ethical investments list any more.
     The wholesale destruction of Palestinian homes, and Caterpillar’s part in it, has been going on for a very long time. At the Jenin refugee camp in March/April 2002 Israel’s massive, armoured D-9 Caterpillar bulldozers - driven by army reservists - worked non-stop for three days and nights. More than 300 homes in the densely packed camp were flattened. The bulldozer drivers were instant heroes and showered with medals for valour.

Hampshire College first in US to divest from Israel

Press release, Students for Justice in Palestine - Hampshire College, Electronic Intifada 2/12/2009
      Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, has become the first of any college or university in the US to divest from companies on the grounds of their involvement in the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
     This landmark move is a direct result of a two-year intensive campaign by the campus group, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). The group pressured Hampshire College’s Board of Trustees to divest from six specific companies due to human rights concerns in occupied Palestine. More than 800 students, professors and alumni have signed SJP’s "institutional statement" calling for the divestment.
     The proposal put forth by SJP was approved on Saturday, 7 February 2009 by the Board. By divesting from these companies, SJP believes that Hampshire has distanced itself from complicity in the illegal occupation and war crimes of Israel.
     Meeting minutes from a committee of Hampshire’s Board of Trustees confirm that "President Hexter acknowledged that it was the good work of SJP that brought this issue to the attention of the committee." This groundbreaking decision follows in Hampshire’s history of being the first college in the country to divest from apartheid South Africa 32 years ago, a decision based on similar human rights concerns. This divestment was also a direct result of student pressure.