InI Logo
InI Needs Your Support!
Subscribe to InI’s Mailing List/Newsletter

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
23 February, 2009

Olmert sacks negotiator in Gaza truce talks after he criticized Israel’s demands
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 2/24/2009
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has suspended his pointman for the Gaza truce talks in Egypt after he launched a scathing tirade against the outgoing premier last week. "The prime minister decided to suspend Amos Gilad from his functions as negotiator with Egypt as he no longer enjoys his confidence," a senior government official told AFP on condition of anonymity. The move came days after Gilad, a senior Defense Ministry official who has shuttled between Egypt and Israel for weeks, blasted Olmert for changing his position in talks to forge a Gaza truce with Hamas. "Gilad had a sensitive role as he carried negotiations with Egypt on a truce and the liberation of [captured Israeli soldier] Gilad Shalit, but unfortunately his behavior, in particular an interview given last week to the daily Maariv, lost him the confidence of his superiors," the official said.

420 acres of Bethlehem taken as 'state land' for settlement expansion
Ben White, Palestine News Network 2/23/2009
It is quite likely that you have not heard of the most important developments this week in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In the West Bank, while it has been "occupation as normal", there have been some events that together should be overshadowing Gaza, Gilad Shalit and Avigdor Lieberman. First, there have been a large number of Israeli raids on Palestinian villages, with dozens of Palestinians abducted. These kinds of raids are, of course, commonplace for the occupied West Bank, but in recent days it appears the Israeli military has targeted sites of particularly strong Palestinian civil resistance to the separation wall. For three consecutive days this week, Israeli forces invaded Jayyous, a village battling for survival as their agricultural land is lost to the wall and neighbouring Jewish colony. The soldiers occupied homes, detained residents, blocked off access roads, vandalised property, beat protestors, and raised the Israeli flag at the top of several buildings.

PLO accuses Israel of 'ethnic cleansing' in Jerusalem
Ma’an News Agency 2/23/2009
Nablus – Ma’an – The International Relations Department of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) released a statement on Monday accusing Israel of “ethnic cleansing” and a displacement policy against Palestinian residents of Jerusalem. The statement added that the plan is an attempt to render Jerusalem “a pure Jewish city and demolish Al-Aqsa Mosque, prior to any negotiations related to Jerusalem. ”The statement read, “The Israeli authorities began implementing a plan to demolish 88 houses in the Bustan neighborhood near Al-Aqsa Mosque, displacing 1,500 Palestinian Jerusalemites. ”“This plan is part of Israel’s aggressive policy, adopted since 1967, which aims at rendering Jerusalem a purely Jewish city and demolishing Al-Aqsa Mosque,” the statement said. This new escalation is aimed at destruction of Bustan neighborhood to build a park for Jewish settlers in. . .

Israeli forces and resistance return fire in Gaza Strip
Ghassan Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/23/2009
The Israeli Army opened fire Monday at a Palestinian civilian’s car near the Israeli Gaza borders in the central Gaza Strip. Israeli forces at the borders also opened fire at Palestinians, as the Israeli Army claimed they were planting a home made bomb nearby the Kissufim military post at the borders. Shortly after Israeli troops invaded the nearby Al Maghazi Refugee Camp and fired at civilian’s homes, causing damage but fortunately no injuries have so far been reprted. The Israeli Army stated that the troops clashed with local resistance fighters. Meanwhile, Israeli sources stated that two homemade shells fired from Gaza landed in Israel, near the coast, causing no damage or injuries. In related news, Palestinian sources said that the Israeli Army allowed a few trucks loaded with cooking gas to enter the Gaza Strip on Monday.

Change in Qalqilya Wall route affects five communities
Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, Stop The Wall 2/23/2009
Occupation forces have announced that the route of the Wall in the Qalqilya district will be modified. This change will affect the southern area, around the Alfe Menashe settlement, cutting off massive amounts of land from three villages and ensuring the expulsion of several Bedouin communities. Several weeks ago, Occupation forces put up announcements on the lands of ar-Rasha and Ras Tira notifying residents that the Wall in the area would be modified. This decision builds on a previous 2006 ruling from so-called High Court of Justice pertaining to the Wall in this area and affects the villages of Wadi ar-Rasha, Ras Tira, and al-Dab’a as well as the ‘Arab ar-Ramadin and ‘Arab Abu Farda communities. The Wall will be extended some three kilometers along the south side of Alfe Menashe. The new path will affect a total of 2,500 dunums, which will either be razed for construction or isolated.

US to donate $900 million in aid to Gaza
Reuters, YNetNews 2/23/2009
State Department official says money for reconstruction of Strip will be transferred via UN; money meant to help strengthen Palestinian Authority, will not go to Hamas, official says -US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton plans to announce a $900 million pledge of US aid for Gaza and the Palestinian Authority at a donors’ meeting in Egypt next week, a State Department official said on Monday. The money, which needs US congressional approval, will be distributed through UN and other bodies and not via Hamas, which rules Gaza, said one official. "This money is for Gaza and to help strengthen the Palestinian Authority. It is not going to go to Hamas," said the official, who asked not to be named. The March 2 donors conference in Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh resort aims to raise humanitarian and rebuilding funds for Gaza after Israel’s offensive at the end of last year.

Hamas insists PA agents helped Israel pinpoint targets in Gaza
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 2/24/2009
GAZA CITY: Hamas on Monday accused Palestinian Authority agents of collaborating with Israel during the Gaza offensive, including using Google Earth to pinpoint targets in the Islamist-run territory. "With the help of the Google Earth program, those groups prepared maps to localize mosques, institutions, tunnels or workshops," said Abu Abdullah, a senior intelligence officer in the Hamas government which rules the Gaza Strip. The targets were then hit by the Israeli Air Force, he told a news conference. Abu Abdullah said the information included plans of Hamas Premier Ismail Haniyya’s home as well as the location of tunnels and weapons caches. Hamas officials showed videos of alleged confessions by men who said they were members of Fatah, the secular archrivals of Hamas and the main faction in the Palestinian Authority. . . . " Officers and members of the Ramallah security services tasked their agents with tracking the movements of the resistance in Gaza. . . "

Israel: End Ban on Human Rights Monitors
B’tselem 2/23/2009
IDF Denies Human Rights Watch, B’Tselem Access to Gaza - Israel continues to obstruct independent investigations into allegations of laws of war violations by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Hamas military forces in Gaza by preventing independent human rights monitors from entering Gaza, Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem said today. After submitting applications for permission to enter via the Erez crossing in January 2009, the groups faced continued delays from the IDF unit reviewing the applications. In February, the IDF told Human Rights Watch that it had rejected its application. The Israeli military denied B’Tselem’s first request to enter Gaza and has failed to respond to a second. “Israel’s refusal to allow human rights groups access to Gaza raises a strong suspicion that there are things it doesn’t want us to see..."

B’Tselem: If Israel has nothing to hide, let us into Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 2/23/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israel is preventing independent human rights monitors from entering Gaza, Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem said Sunday. "Israel continues to obstruct independent investigations into allegations of laws of war violations by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Hamas military forces in Gaza," the groups said in a joint statement to Ma’an. After submitting applications for permission to enter via the Erez crossing in January 2009, the groups faced continued delays from the military unit reviewing the applications. In February, the army told Human Rights Watch that it had rejected its application. The Israeli military denied B’Tselem’s first request to enter Gaza and has failed to respond to a second. “Israel’s refusal to allow human rights groups access to Gaza raises a strong suspicion that there are things it doesn’t want us to see or the world to know. . . " -- See also: B'tselem - Israel: End Ban on Human Rights Monitors

ISRAEL-OPT: Gaza children 'afraid to return to school'
IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2/23/2009
GAZA CITY, 23 February 2009 (IRIN) - School-children in the Gaza Strip face psychological trauma and lack facilities after schools were badly damaged or destroyed during Israel’s three-week assault on the enclave that began in December. Primary and secondary schools in Gaza run by the government and the UN Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) report a shortage of drinking water and textbooks for students, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Restrictions on the amount and type of materials being allowed into Gaza by Israeli authorities are hindering the education system. Many parents and children say they were afraid to return to school after the war. The first attack hit Gaza on a morning while school was in session. “I was afraid to return to school after the war,” said 15-year-old Fatin Na’im, a 10th grader at Ahmed Shawqi Secondary School in the Rimal section of Gaza City.

Israel admits army dog bit elderly Palestinian man
Ma’an News Agency 2/23/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an/Agencies – Israel’s military confirmed on Sunday that an army dog attacked an elderly Palestinian man during a raid on a West Bank village. Salem Bani Odeh was in his bed before being repeatedly bitten by the dog. The 105-year-old man remains hospitalized with a gash on his left ear. The elderly Palestinian man is paralyzed, his family said. The attack occurred in a pre-dawn raid on Friday in the West Bank village of Tamoun. Israel offered no further explanation on the attack, other than that soldiers offered some medical treatment to the man before Palestinian medics arrived. [end]

Sheikh Jarrah home under threat as 'abandoned'
Maisa Abu Ghazaleh, Palestine News Network 2/23/2009
PNN exclusive -- It is not a claim of lack of permit or ownership by Jewish settlers that the occupying Israeli authority is invoking in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah today. Instead the home of the Farhan family will be demolished because the Israelis claim it is deserted. The Farhan’s have paid their taxes, their electricity and water bills, and also pay rent to owners the Committee of the East. But still they received an eviction order issued during a recent judicial decision of the Israeli-controlled Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court. The claim is that the house is abandoned although it has all the makings of any home including dishes, kitchen tools, electrical appliances, furniture and clothes. The house is a total area of 26 square meters with a living room, kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and hallway. Ibrahim Farhan, his wife and mother live there.

Settlers storm Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus
Ma’an News Agency 2/23/2009
Nablus – Ma’an – Palestinian security sources reported on Monday that dozens of Israeli settlers backed by the army stormed the tomb of Prophet Joseph near Balata refugee camp, east of Nablus. Eyewitnesses told Ma’an’s correspondent in Nablus that the settlers who came to the area were backed by Israeli soldiers late on Sunday, around midnight. The settlers, as reported; entered the tomb under the pretext of performing religious rituals. The witnesses added that a number of Israeli military vehicles accompanied the buses by which settlers arrived to the area and waited two hours until they finished their rituals. [end]

Settler says escaped stabbing west of Nablus
Efrat Weiss, YNetNews 2/23/2009
Israeli driver claims two Palestinians attacked him with screwdriver near West Bank settlement of Shavei Shomron after staging accident scene. Security forces launch investigation; incident believed to be of criminal nature -An Israeli driver reported Monday that two Palestinians attacked him near the West Bank settlement of Shavei Shomron, west of Nablus. According to his report, the Palestinians staged an accident scene near the settlement and when he stopped to see if he could help, they attacked him with a screwdriver, tried to steal his car and proceeded to flee the area. The man filed a complaint with the Ariel Police. Security forces were dispatched to the area and began investigating the incident. The settlers claimed the attack was nationalistically motivated, but the defense establishment believes the attempt was of a criminal nature.

Maariv: Mitchell’s plan to open an office in Jerusalem upsets Israel
Palestinian Information Center 2/23/2009
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- An official source in the office of the Israeli war minister said that Israeli security circles have concerns about the intention of US envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell to open a permanent office for himself in occupied Jerusalem with the aim of pushing forward the political process between the Palestinians and Israelis. The Israeli Maariv newspaper quoted Monday the official source as saying that the war minister’s office had received unconfirmed information from sources close to Mitchell about his intention to open an office in Jerusalem which carried a great political significance. The Israeli source added that Mitchell wants to send a message to Israel that he would not deal with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict by remote control. In another context, Maariv reported that outgoing Israeli premier Ehud Olmert dismissed Amos Gilad from his post as an envoy to the Egyptian-sponsored talks with Hamas.

Barak: US dialogue with Iran must be limited
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 2/23/2009
Defense minister attends secret discussion convened by Prime Minister Olmert following IAEA report on Iranian nuclear program. Israel fears Tehran will take advantage of US President Obama’s willingness to launch negotiations in order to ’stall’ - Prime Minister Ehud Olmert convened a secret discussion on the Iranian nuclear threat on Sunday evening following the release of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report on the matter. Defense Minister Ehud Barak addressed the American administration’s plan to launch a dialogue with Tehran, and recommended that it be limited for a short time and will followed by sanctions on Iran. The discussion was attended by Olmert, Barak, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and senior defense officials, and the prime minister imposed a blackout on the details of the meeting. However, the defense minister referred to the discussion before entering

Netanyahu fails to persuade top rivals to join coalition
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 2/24/2009
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Benjamin Netanyahu failed Monday to persuade top rivals to join his cabinet, increasing the chances of a far right-wing Israeli coalition that is likely to put the brakes on the sputtering Middle East peace process. Both outgoing Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, head of the centrist Kadima party, and center-left Labor party leader and current Defense Minister Ehud Barak have waved aside entreaties to enter a Netanyahu cabinet. The intense political horse trading comes as senior envoys from the administration of US President Barack Obama prepare to visit the region to try to advance peace talks, which have been on ice since Israel’s devastating war on the Gaza Strip. The 59-year-old politician vowed, however, to keep trying to cobble together a broad coalition. "I refuse to give up," the Ynet news website quoted him as telling members of his Likud party, adding that he would "take all the steps necessary" to achieve the goal.

’Today shoes, tomorrow guns,’ says IDF officer heckled in Holland
Cnaan Liphshiz, Ha’aretz 2/23/2009
In another copycat shoe-throwing incident against Israelis in Europe, Amsterdam police on Sunday arrested three people who hurled footwear at an Israeli army officer while he was lecturing at a hotel in the Dutch capital. "Today it’s shoes, tomorrow knives and then guns," the officer, Captain (res. ) Ron Edelheid, told Haaretz. "I was on a private visit to see my mother," he said. "As an IDF Spokesperson reservist I volunteered to speak before the Dutch Jewish community about Operation Cast Lead. " Dutch-born Adelheit, who immigrated to Israel many years ago, said he had filed a criminal complaint against the suspected assailants - two men and a woman - whom police arrested at the hotel. "Fifty demonstrators waited for me outside the Apollo Hotel, chanting nasty slogans," he said.

UNRWA: The size of destruction in Gaza raised the ire of visiting US lawmakers
Palestinian Information Center 2/23/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Commissioner-general of UNRWA Karen Abu Zayd on Sunday hailed the unexpected visit made by US lawmakers to the Gaza Strip, noting that they were shocked and expressed resentment and outrage to see the enormity of devastation caused by the Israeli war. In a press statement received by the PIC, Abu Zayd said that this visit provided an important signal from the US government that it was ready to come to Gaza in order to examine humanitarian conditions and formulate an impression which was unlikely before. The UNRWA head expressed optimism that this visit would be followed by positive political moves. US senator John Kerry and members of the house of representatives Brian Bird and Alison Keith had made a tour in different parts of Gaza to see the impacts of the last Israeli war on the besieged Gaza Strip.

Cancer patient dies bringing number of Gaza siege victims to 287
Palestinian Information Center 2/23/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- A Palestinian cancer patient died on Sunday in Gaza after efforts to secure his treatment abroad failed, the PA health ministry in Gaza announced. It said that 31-year-old Shadi Hillis had all necessary papers that facilitated his travel abroad but due to the siege he died in Gaza where there is no advanced treatment for cancer patients. The ministry noted in a statement that the number of victims of the siege thus rose to 287 with 12 of them dying in February so far, warning that the number could increase any time due to the presence of tens of patients in intensive care units waiting for opening of crossings especially the Rafah border terminal with Egypt to enable them travel for treatment abroad. In a related development, Ihab Al-Ghussein, the PA interior ministry spokesman in Gaza, called on the Ramallah government to provide passports for the Gaza Strip to enable those patients to travel for treatment.

Rafah crossing opens for Palestinians to leave Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 2/23/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – The Rafah crossing in southern Gaza was open on Monday, according to a media spokesperson for the de facto government’s Crossings Authority. The official, Adel Zourob, told Ma’an that Egypt had opened the crossing for the day, and that 10 buses transporting patients to Egyptian hospitals will cross over later on Monday, as well as three others. Seven buses reserved for students and foreign-passport holders, if they were not able to make the Sunday or Monday opening, will be permitted to leave on Tuesday, Zourob added. He noted that Egyptian authorities recently denied entry to a number of Palestinians with visas to enter the country. Zourob called on Egyptian officials to look into the situation and allow them to leave. He also said that 500 passengers who crossed over on Sunday is a conservative estimate, but that opening the crossing for three days. . .

Israel allows cooking gas into Gaza Strip
Ma’an News Agency 2/23/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Israel opened commercial crossings into the Gaza Strip on Monday to allow dozens of truckloads shipping humanitarian aid enter the Strip, in addition to industrial fuel. Crossings official Nasser As-Sarraj said that 100 truckloads would enter, including 60 for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and other international organizations, as well as 30 with supplies for the commercial private sector, and 10 for the agricultural private sector. In addition, As-Sarraj confirmed to Ma’an that Karni will be opened for 70 truckloads shipping wheat and feed. Meanwhile, 85 tons of cooking gas and 400 liters of industrial diesel will be shipped through Nahal Oz.

Fuelling conflict: Foreign arms supplies to Israel/Gaza
Amnesty International 2/23/2009
Both Israel and Hamas used weapons supplied from abroad to carry out attacks on civilians. This briefing contains fresh evidence on the munitions used during the three-week conflict in Gaza and southern Israel and includes information on the supplies of arms to all parties to the conflict. It explains why Amnesty International is calling for a cessation of arms supplies to the parties to the conflict and calling on the United Nations to impose a comprehensive arms embargo. Introduction: With fragile ceasefires now in place in Gaza and southern Israel, the full extent of the devastation caused in recent weeks is becoming increasingly clear. Amnesty International researchers visiting Gaza and southern Israel during and after the fighting found evidence of war crimes and other serious violations of international law by all parties to the conflict. -- See also: Full Report (PDF format)

Amnesty International urges arms embargo of Israel, Hamas over war crimes
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 2/24/2009
LONDON: A comprehensive arms embargo must be placed on Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups in the aftermath of the conflict in Gaza and southern Israel, Amnesty International said Monday. The rights group said it had found evidence that Israel and Hamas had both used weapons supplied from overseas to carry out attacks on civilians, accusing both sides of committing war crimes during the three-week conflict at the start of the year. It called for the UN Security Council to impose an arms embargo until mechanisms were put in place to ensure that military equipment was not used to violate international law. "Israeli forces used white phosphorus and other weapons supplied by the USA to carry out serious violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes," said Donatella Rovera, who headed an Amnesty fact-finding mission to southern Israel and Gaza.

VIDEO - Amnesty calls on US to suspend arms sales to Israel
Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem, The Guardian 2/23/2009
Detailed evidence has emerged of Israel’s extensive use of US-made weaponry during its war in Gaza last month, including white phosphorus artillery shells, 500lb bombs and Hellfire missiles. In a report released today, Amnesty International listed the weapons used and called for an immediate arms embargo on Israel and all Palestinian armed groups. It called on the US president, Barack Obama, to suspend military aid to Israel. The human rights group said those arming both sides in the conflict "will have been well aware of a pattern of repeated misuse of weapons by both parties and must therefore take responsibility for the violations perpetrated". The US has long been the largest arms supplier to Israel; under a 10-year agreement negotiated by the Bush administration the US will provide $30bn (£21bn) in military aid to Israel.

Amnesty International calls for arms embargo
Palestine News Network 2/23/2009
PNN - Amnesty International called for an arms embargo today in a new report on the Israeli killing of more than 1,330 Palestinians in 23 days and the Palestinian resistance killing of three Israeli civilians and 10 soldiers during that same period. In a report that the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine referred to as a "gift to the Israelis for the aggression on Gaza," AI said that weapons supplied from abroad were used to carry out attacks on civilians. "Both Israel and Hamas used weapons supplied from abroad to carry out attacks on civilians," Amnesty International said today as it released fresh evidence on the munitions used during the three-week conflict in Gaza and southern Israel and called on the UN to impose a comprehensive arms embargo. "Israeli forces used white phosphorus and other weapons supplied by the USA to carry out serious violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes. -- See also: Fuelling conflict: Foreign arms supplies to Israel/Gaza

Hamas slams amnesty for equating between criminal and victim
Palestinian Information Center 2/23/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement strongly denounced the organization of amnesty international for demanding the UN to impose a ban on sending weapons to the Palestinian resistance factions, saying that this demand is unbalanced and unfair because it equates the criminal with the victim. In a press statement, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum underlined that there is no single country exporting arms to the Movement, while weapons are being exported to Israel in abundance from powerful countries and arms deals are publicly concluded with Israel by these countries. Barhoum added that Israel uses its deadly weapons of mass destruction against the Palestinian people who in turn use simple weapons only to defend themselves as a legitimate right guaranteed by all international lawsThe spokesman expressed his Movement’s concern that the statement of AI could mislead the public opinion and. . .

Israel: Amnesty report on Gaza ignores fact Hamas are terrorists
Amira Hass and Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 2/23/2009
The Foreign Ministry on Sunday lambasted Amnesty International for urging a global freeze on arms sales to Israel, calling the rights group’s assessment that such weapons may have contributed to war crimes in the Gaza Strip "biased" and unprofessional. More than 20 countries sold Israel weapons and munitions whose use during Operation Cast Lead might pose serious infractions of international law, the group wrote in a report to be released on Monday. "Direct attacks on civilians and civilian objects, disproportionate attacks and indiscriminate attacks are war crimes," the report states, describing such attacks during the war in Gaza. The organization recommends that all arms sales to Israel be frozen until "there is no longer a substantial risk that such equipment will be used for serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights abuses.

Amnesty Int’l: Obama must end American arms sales to Israel
Ma’an News Agency 2/23/2009
Bethlehem - Ma’an - Both Israel and Hamas used foreign-supplied weapons to attack civilians, according to fresh evidence released by Amnesty International on Sunday. Munitions from the United States, Israel’s main foreign arms supplier, were used by Israeli forces during the three-week conflict in Gaza and southern Israel. Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups fired hundreds of rockets that had been smuggled in or made of components from abroad at civilian areas in Israel. Amnesty International has called on the United Nations to impose a comprehensive arms embargo on the parties to the conflict. "Israeli forces used white phosphorus and other weapons supplied by the USA to carry out serious violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes," said Donatella Rovera, who headed Amnesty International’s fact-finding mission to southern Israel and Gaza.

Adjusted separation wall’s route isolates five Qalqiliya villages
Ma’an News Agency 2/23/2009
Qalqiliya – Ma’an – The route of the Israeli separation wall south of Qalqilia in the northern West Bank was adjusted to separate five Palestinian villages of Ras Tira, Wadi Ar-Rasha, Ad-Dab’a, Ar-Ramadin and Abu Farda Bedouin hamlets. According to Hadil Haneiti, an activist from the Popular Campaign Against the Wall, the adjustment came after a previous Israeli High Court of Justice decision in May 2006. “The adjusted route leaves Palestinian residents with two bitter choices; either to be isolated between four walls and be subject to humiliation on a daily basis as they have to go through the wall’s gate every day, or to be freed of this isolation, but the price will be losing all their agricultural lands and pastures,” said Haneiti. The route of the wall in that area will be three kilometers long, and 2,500 donums of land will be dug up, of which 70 percent is olive groves and the rest is used as pastures.

Israeli troops remove gate that separated Tulkarem from Nablus
Ma’an News Agency 2/23/2009
Tulkarem – Ma’an – Israeli troops removed on Monday evening an iron gate that was stationed between Tulkarem and Nablus in the northern West Bank. It prevented the movement of pedestrian traffic between the two major Palestinian cities. Ma’an’s correspondent in Tulkarem witnessed the removal of the gate, saying that Israeli vehicles accompanied a bulldozer, which closed the main road linking Tulkarem with Nablus for about 30 minutes to remove the gate. He added that now only the tower and a few Israeli cement blocks remain at the side of the road. [end]

IDF thwarts attack near Kissufim
Ali Waked, YNetNews 2/23/2009
Soldiers spot Palestinians attempting to plant explosive device near border fence, while assault helicopter opens fire at suspicious vehicle approaching fence. Shortly afterwards, Qassam rocket hits open area near Sderot - IDF says thwarted attack against its forces on Gaza Strip border:An Israel Air Force assault helicopter on Monday morning fired at a suspicious vehicle near the Kissufim crossing, on the Gaza Strip border. At the same time, a Golani force entered the Strip and exchanged fire with Palestinian gunmen attempting to plant explosive devices along the border. The ground force directed the chopper to the suspicious vehicle. Shortly afterwards, at around 10:10 am, a Qassam rocket fired from the Gaza Strip exploded in an open area near the southern town of Sderot. There were no reports of injuries or damage.

Israeli airstrike, clashes in eastern Gaza as projectile hits Sderot
Ma’an News Agency 2/23/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – An Israeli airstrike targeted a private car east of Al-Maghazi in the Gaza Strip but no injuries were immediately reported. A spokesperson for the Al-Quds Brigades, which is the militant wing of Islamic Jihad, said the airstrike targeted a group of fighters in a Magnum jeep in eastern Gaza. The spokesperson, Abu Hamza, added that fighters narrowly escaped the blast by leaving the cars moments before the airstrike targeted the car. Meanwhile, an Israeli helicopter fired toward Palestinian fighters attempting to plant an explosive device near the Kissufim crossings into Israel, according to Hebrew-language newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth. Just after 10am, a projectile fired from the Gaza Strip exploded in an open area in the southern Israeli town of Sderot. There were no immediate reports of injury or damage in that attack.

IDF attacks militant cell trying to bomb troops on Gaza border
Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 2/23/2009
An Israel Air Force helicopter on Monday attacked a group of Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip as they attempted to flee the border area where they had been planting explosives aimed against Israeli troops. The Israeli soldiers stationed near the Kissufim border crossing opened fire on the militants laying the explosives, and the IAF subsequently bombed the militants’ car as they tried to escape. Neither the soldiers nor the militants sustained any casualties. Shortly after the incident, a Qassam rocket fired from Gaza exploded in an open field in the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council. Later Monday afternoon, another rocket was fired from the Gaza Strip into the same area. There were no casualties or damages reported in either incident.

Israeli forces and resistance fire in Gaza Strip
PNN, Palestine News Network 2/23/2009
Gaza -- In the Gaza Strip this morning Israeli forces targeted a civilian car. Shortly after, they opened fire on Palestinians allegedly attempting to plant an explosive device near the Kissufim military installation. Fire ensued as Israeli forces entered 500 meters into eastern Maghazi Refugee Camp where they surrounded a number of houses and began shooting. Israeli military sources say they used aircraft while firing at members of the armed resistance. Also today two reports were issued by Israeli sources of a projectile being launched from the Gaza Strip which caused no damage or injury. [end]

Palestine Today 022309
Ghassan Bannoura - Audio Dept, International Middle East Media Center News 2/23/2009
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 Monday , February 23ed , 2009. in the news today calls for protests in the West bank against Israeli demolition orders on homes in Jerusalem and clashes are reported in Gaza , these stories and more coming up stay tuned. The News Cast The Israeli Army opened fire Monday at a Palestinian civilian’s car near the Israeli Gaza borders in the central Gaza Strip. Israeli forces at the borders also opened fire on Palestinians. The Israeli Army claimed they were planting a home made bomb nearby the Kissufim military post at the borders. Shortly after the incident Israeli troops invaded the nearby Al Maghazi Refugee Camp and fired at civilian’s homes, causing damage.

PLO calls for protest against the Israeli decision to demolish a Palestinian neighborhood in Jerusalem
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 2/23/2009
The Palestinian Liberation Organization called on Monday for protests against the Israeli latest decision to demolished Silwan neighborhood in Jerusalem. At a press conference today in the central West Bank city of Ramallah, Yasser Abed Rabo, the head of the executive committee of the PLO called for a general stick next Saturday as a first step of actions to be taken by the Palestinians against the latest Israeli decision. Israeli announced on Sunday that it has plans to evacuate the entire Silwan neighborhood and demolish 80 houses that is the home to 1500 people. A park of flowers and trees, breezeways and cafes: this is the Israeli blueprint to cover the ruins of Silwan, Israeli sources on Sunday said. The issue is not new as reported by Fakhri Abu Diab, a member of the Committee for the Defense of the Territory of Silwan and Director of Al Bustan Center.

Awakf minister asks Arab, Islamic organizations to save Quds, Aqsa Mosque
Palestinian Information Center 2/23/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Dr. Taleb Abu Sha’ar, the PA minister of Awkaf (endowments) and religious affairs, has expressed indignation at the Israeli controlled Jerusalem municipality’s decision to displace 1,500 Palestinians from Bustan area in Silwan suburb, south of the Aqsa Mosque, in occupied Jerusalem. Abu Sha’ar criticized the Israeli occupation authority for trying to evacuate 88 homes at the pretext that they were threatened with demolition, and granting their owners alternative housing. He warned in a statement on Sunday that Jewish colonialist groups, backed by the Israeli government and municipality, were carrying out excavations in Silwan neighborhood in a bid to control the biggest possible number of Palestinian homes in it. The IOA attempt to evacuate Palestinians from their homes in occupied Jerusalem is not a new step but rather is the latest in a series of attempts to judaize. . .

OIC condemns Zionist schemes in occupied Jerusalem
Palestinian Information Center 2/23/2009
JEDDAH, (PIC)-- The Organization of Islamic Conference on Monday strongly denounced the Zionist plan aimed at demolishing dozens of homes in occupied Jerusalem, charging that it fell in line with attempts to judaize the holy city. Dr. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the OIC Secretary General, said in a statement that the Zionist plot aims at changing the demographic status of the city and at tampering with its Arab and Islamic identity. He said that the scheme poses dangers on the future of Jerusalem and leads to uncalculated consequences other than constituting a flagrant violation of the fourth Geneva Convention that does not allow an occupation power to tamper with the demographic conditions in the land it occupies. Ihsanoglu urged the OIC and Quds committee member countries to immediately act to end this aggression and to ask the world community to pressure Israel into desisting from implementing such "illegal schemes".

Islamic Jihad leader condemns Israeli plans for Jerusalem
Ma’an News Agency 2/23/2009
Jerusalem – Ma’an – Sheikh Nafeth Azzam of the Islamic Jihad movement described a recent decision by Jerusalem’s municipality to evacuate 88 houses as “a dishonest choice that intends to deport the real Jerusalem residents from their houses and lands. ”The leader insisted that Israel’s “new attacks” on Jerusalem residents is just a continuation of the Israeli plans, “for years,” to Judaize Jerusalem and “remove its Arab and Palestinian identity. ”He added, “The Israeli policy in Jerusalem makes us determined to solve the internal division and make Palestinians united to face such practices. ”Azzam condemned Israel’s practices, warning “people won’t stand silent in the face of these attacks against Jerusalem and its residents. ”

Archaeologists unearth relics from eras of First and Second Temples
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 2/23/2009
The Israel Antiquities Authority on Monday announced the discovery of a large building dating to the time of the First and Second Temples during an excavation in the village of Umm Tuba in southern Jerusalem. The excavation was conducted by Zubair Adawi on behalf of the antiquities authority, prior to the start of construction there by a private contractor. The archaeological remains include several rooms arranged around a courtyard, in which researchers found a potter’s kiln and pottery vessels. The pottery remains seem to date from the eighth century B. C. E. (First Temple period). According to the antiquities authority, the site was destroyed along with Jerusalem and all of Judah during the Babylonian conquest. Jews reoccupied it during the Hasmonean period (second century B. C. )

Amos Gilad suspended as Israel’s emissary to Egypt
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 2/23/2009
Following clash with Prime Minister Olmert, head of Defense Ministry’s Diplomatic-Security Bureau removed from his position as government’s special delegate to Cairo. Gilad refuses to apologize, prompting Prime Minister’s Office to files complaint against him with Civil Service Commission - Major General (Res. ) Amos Gilad, head of the Defense Ministry’s Diplomatic-Security Bureau, has been suspended from his position as Israel’s special emissary to Egypt following a heated clash with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert last week. As a result, the talks with Cairo are being held through alternative channels, sources in the Prime Minister’s Office said Sunday night. They added that the talks for the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit have not been affected. Gilad refused to apologize to Olmert over remarks he made to the media about the prime minister.

Egypt concerned: Gilad suspension to harm talks
Ali Waked, YNetNews 2/23/2009
Cairo worried that negotiations on Gaza lull, Shalit release to be undermined by Olmert’s decision to suspend special emissary, Palestinian sources say - Egyptian officials expressed their displeasure with the suspension of Defense Ministry representative Amos Gilad from his position as Israel’s special emissary to Egypt, Palestinian sources said Monday. Egypt is said to be concerned that the move may harm the Cairo-mediated talks on a Gaza Strip lull and Gilad Shalit’s release. According to the sources, Egyptian officials expressed concerns that Gilad’s dismissal may prompt a return to "square one" in the talks once his replacement steps in. Major General Gilad, head of the Defense Ministry’s Diplomatic-Security Bureau, was suspended by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert following a heated clash with the PM last week. Egyptian officials reportedly reached agreement with Gilad on an outline for a deal that was acceptable to Hamas as well.

EGYPT: Israel Ditches the Go-Between
Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa al-Omrani, Inter Press Service 2/23/2009
CAIRO, Feb 23(IPS) - Senior Egyptian officials have indicated that the new demands raised by Israel for ceasefire could affect the peace negotiations between Israel and Hamas being brokered by Egypt. Israel abruptly announced its refusal Wednesday last week to sign on to an Egypt-proposed ceasefire deal with Palestinian resistance factions before the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilaad Shalit. The proposed agreement - which Egyptian officials had said was imminent - calls for the phased reopening of the Gaza Strip’s borders. "I don’t think we need to open the (border) crossings until the issue of Gilaad Shalit is resolved," Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was quoted as saying. U. S. -funded Arabic-language television news channel Al-Hurra quoted a high-level Egyptian official as saying Friday that the abrupt change of position would have "a severe effect on Israel’s credibility" as a negotiating partner.

Israel suspends Gaza truce pointman
Middle East Online 2/23/2009
JERUSALEM - Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has suspended his pointman for the Gaza truce talks in Egypt after he launched a scathing tirade against the outgoing premier last week. "The prime minister decided to suspend Amos Gilad from his functions as negotiator with Egypt as he no longer enjoys his confidence," a senior government official said on condition of anonymity. The move came several days after Gilad, a senior defence ministry official who has shuttled between Egypt and Israel for weeks, blasted Olmert for changing his position in talks to forge a lasting Gaza truce with Hamas. "Gilad had a sensitive role as he carried negotiations with Egypt on a truce and the liberation of (captured Israeli soldier) Gilad Shalit, but unfortunately his behaviour, in particular an interview given last week to the daily Maariv, lost him the confidence of his superiors," the official said.

Israeli truce talks envoy replaced
Al Jazeera 2/23/2009
Ehud Olmert, the outgoing Israeli prime minister, has removed his chief envoy to Egyptian-brokered Gaza ceasefire talks. Amos Gilad, an aide to Ehud Barak, the Israeli defence minister, was replaced on Monday after criticising Olmert’s "inconsistent" approach to the truce negotiations. Gilad went on to describe the Olmert government’s handling of the talks as "insulting" to the Egyptians. "Until now, the prime minister hasn’t involved himself at all. Suddenly, the order of things has been changed. Suddenly, first we have to get Gilad," he said, referring to Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held captive by Palestinian fighters. "I don’t understand that. Where does that lead, to insult the Egyptians? To make them want to drop the whole thing? What do we stand to gain from that? "he said during an interview for the Israeli newspaper Maariv.

Israel PM suspends Hamas ceasefire negotiator
Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem, The Guardian 2/23/2009
The Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, has suspended the principal negotiator involved in trying to broker a ceasefire with the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas. Amos Gilad, a civil servant who heads the defence ministry’s political bureau, has spent weeks travelling between Jerusalem and Cairo trying to negotiate an Egyptian-mediated truce and with it the release of an Israeli soldier captured near Gaza nearly three years ago. The move comes after Gilad was quoted in an Israeli newspaper last week making unusually frank criticisms of the Israeli government’s attitude to negotiating with Egypt and its apparent delays on agreeing a prisoner release that would see Hamas hand over the captured soldier, Gilad Shalit, who is believed to be still alive somewhere in Gaza. Contacts with the Egyptians have been suspended, but were expected to restart.

Defense officials say Olmert harming Israel
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 2/23/2009
Conflict between prime minister, head of Defense Ministry’s Diplomatic-Security Bureau Amos Gilad turns into rift between Olmert, Defense Minister Barak. Security officials say despite reports that Gilad has been suspended as special emissary to Cairo, he is still holding talks with Egypt - Defense officials said Monday morning that Major General (Res. ) Amos Gilad, head of Defense Ministry’s Diplomatic-Security Bureau, was still holding talks with Egypt despitePrime Minister Ehud Olmert’s heated conflict with him and the decision to suspend him as the government’s special emissary to Cairo. The officials went on to harshly slam Olmert. "The head of Defense Ministry’s Diplomatic-Security Bureau continues to be involved in the talks with international elements, including Egypt, on behalf of the Defense Ministry.

Olmert: Ousting top mediator won’t hurt Shalit talks
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 2/23/2009
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s bureau on Monday said that the premier’s ousting of Israel’s top mediator in talks on a Gaza truce will not damage negotiations for the release of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. "Following baseless publications, it is our desire clarify that [mediator] Amos Gilad has never engaged, nor was ever authorized to engage in the deal for the release of the abducted soldier Gilad Shalit," the bureau relayed in a communique. The statement came after a group pushing for Shalit’s release lashed out at Olmert, who fired the mediator over his public criticism of the government’s negotiating strategy. Olmert’s bureau also said that contacts regarding Shalit had been handled exclusively by Ofer Dekel, a veteran Israeli negotiator responsible for soldiers’ release.

Al-Qaida No. 2 urges Hamas: Don’t agree to Gaza truce
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/23/2009
Al-Qaida’s No. 2 warned Palestinians in Gaza against accepting a truce with Israel in an audio message posted on extremist Web sites, an Internet monitoring service said Monday. Egyptian-born Ayman al-Zawahiri said Israel’s Arab aides are trying to impose a truce in Gaza to defeat the Palestinians and he called on them to be steadfast while Jewish targets are attacked around the world. "The jihad to liberate Palestine and all the homelands of Islam mustn’t cease, and if the field tightens in one place, it widens in other places, and Crusader and Jewish targets are spread all over the world," he said in a transcript of the speech provided by the U. S. -based SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors Islamic extremist Web sites. Al-Zawahiri described ongoing negotiations for a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip as plots. . .

Bardawil: The PA intends to release 80 political prisoners
Palestinian Information Center 2/23/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Dr. Salah Al-Bardawil, a member of the Hamas parliamentary bloc, stated Sunday that the PA security apparatuses in the West Bank intend to release 80 political prisoners affiliated with the Hamas Movement, stressing that it is a step in the right direction, although it is not enough. Dr. Bardawil told the Quds Press that his Movement believes that the dialog is a strategic choice and not confined to specific stage. He added that dialog is the way to save the Fatah Movement from the dilemma it placed itself in. He said that the issue of political prisoners in the West Bank is essential and necessary for creating a positive atmosphere, adding that the prisoners must not be victims of the PA-security coordination. "We held meetings with Fatah (delegates), where they showed a profound desire for reconciliation, but they also expressed their inability to pressure the PA,. . .

Fatah official: Cairo dialogue to start Monday
Ma’an News Agency 2/23/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – A member of Fatah’s Central Committee said on Monday that a Palestinian national dialogue brokered by the Egyptians would start on Thursday in Cairo. Nabil Sha’ath, who is also Fatah’s delegate to the talks, told Agence France Presse that the “dialogue sessions will start on Thursday, 26 February, and all Palestinian factions will partake. ”Sha’ath explained that after a one-day meeting there would be an agreement on conciliation committees, “which will convene the first week of March in Cairo. ”For his part, senior Hamas leader Isma’il Radwan told AFP that “Hamas is interested in a positive atmosphere for dialogue through the release of political prisoners detained by the PA in the West Bank, and halting incitement media campaigns, as agreed with Fatah before. ”He went on to say that Hamas had not fully committed to participating, but that they. . .

Cairo dialogue on thin ice as row erupts over Fatah delegate
Ma’an News Agency 2/23/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – After a positive atmosphere of optimism prevailed between Palestinian rivals of Fatah and Hamas in advance of talks in Cairo, Hamas responded sharplyto a televised interview on Palestine TV with Fatah leader Samir Mashharawi. Hamas considers Mashharawi one of its opponents in Gaza. Responding to Hamas reservations about his role in the Fatah delegation to Cairo talks, Samir Mashharawi said on Sunday that he is prepared to withdraw from the delegation if his membership impedes dialogue. But he said that “Hamas or others don’t have the right to intervene in the formation of Fatah’s delegation. ”Mashharawi explained that the Palestinian leadership has not yet given the Egyptians a final decision on whether he will partake in the dialogue or not, asserting that Fatah intends to head to Cairo to reach an agreement to restore Palestinian unity.

Hamas: Fatah used Google Earth to pinpoint Gaza targets for IAF
Haaretz Service and News Agencies, Ha’aretz 2/23/2009
Hamas on Monday accused the rival Fatah movement of running a spy ring that used Google Earth to pinpoint targets for the Israel Air Force during Israel’s offensive in Gaza last month, AFP reported. "With the help of the Google Earth program, those groups prepared maps to localize mosques, institutions, tunnels or workshops," the French news agency quoted Hamas official Abu Abdallah as saying. The Islamist militant group has released an audio tape that it claims documents 10 Fatah security officials the coastal strip confessing to collaborating with Israel in exchange for money. A Fatah official in Cairo for reconciliation talks with Hamas said in response that the claim was merely an attempt by the group to sabotage the Egyptian-brokered negotiations.

Hamas leader calls for Palestinian unity to face Israel
Ma’an News Agency 2/23/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – De facto government spokesman Taher An-Nunu called Palestinians to unite and put an end to political detentions so “the resistance can oppose all Israeli practices in Jerusalem. ”An-Nunu said in a news conference on Monday evening that he “condemns the Israeli practices in Jerusalem,” referring to new plans to move hundreds of Palestinians from their homes in order to create a public park, something he said would “have consequences. ”He stressed the need of Arab and Islamic countries to show their support for Al-Aqsa Mosque and the residents of Jerusalem, “who are under threat of being forced out of their homes and lands. ”He added that settlement-building in the West Bank “needs a strong stance from the international community to stop such practices, including the confiscation of land.

Our son is innocent, says family of Gaza man sentenced to death
Ma’an News Agency 2/23/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – The family of collaborator sentenced to death on Sunday insisted that their son is innocent. The 33-year-old Gaza resident, Nasser Abu Freih, was convicted of collaborating with Israel and subsequently sentenced to death over his purported espionage activities by a military court. But members of Abu Freih’s family, a few of whom came to Ma’an’s Gaza office on Monday, insisted that the man is innocent of the charges and subsequent conviction, saying they were “shocked by the execution sentence. ”Their son was not permitted to access a lawyer following the charges, the maintained. “We’re shocked by the sentence since there is no clear evidence that proves collaboration during the recent war,” said one member of the family. Others explained that Nasser was detained at an internal security services building on 30 April 2008 following allegations he. . .

Fatah delegate: Hamas shouldn’t intervene, but I am ready to quit
Ma’an News Agency 2/23/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Responding to Hamas reservations about his role in the Fatah delegation to Cairo talks, Samir Mashharawi said on Sunday that he is prepared to withdraw from the delegation if his membership impedes dialogue. But he said that “Hamas or others don’t have the right to intervene in the formation of Fatah delegation. ”Mashharawi explained that the Palestinian leadership has not yet given the Egyptians a final decision on whether he will partake in the dialogue or not, asserting that Fatah intends to head to Cairo to reach an agreement to restore Palestinian unity. Mashharawi added that Egypt invited all Palestinian factions to send delegations to the Cairo talks. A limited number of representatives from other factions will take part in an opening session on 26 February in order to form different committees and discuss the formation of a Palestinian unity government.

Four Hizb At-Tahrir members detained by PA police in Salfit
Ma’an News Agency 2/23/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Palestine’s Hizb At-Tahrir (Liberation Party) said that four of their members detained by Salfit police for more than 20 days began a hunger strike on Sunday. The party said in a statement received by Ma’an that the parents of the detainees are condemning the arrests. They also said they blame the Palestinian Authority for the detentions and that the government “will be held responsible if anything happens to their sons. ” [end]

Law of Return to be revised
Nurit Felter, YNetNews 2/23/2009
Interior Minister Sheetrit appoints special committee to discuss refining law which he says has been abused, allowing ’people that have nothing to do with Judaism’ to receive automatic Israeli citizenship. Interior Ministry says 1 million illegal immigrants living in Israel - Hundreds of thousands of non-Jews have received Israeli citizenship over the past decade under the Law of Return, which has led Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit and his colleagues to believe the law should either be revised or abolished. A special committee, headed by Professor Yaakov Ne’eman has been appointed to discuss the sensitive issue on how to possibly amend the law, that allows all offspring of a Jew, including a grandchild, automatic Israeli citizenship. On Sunday the interior minister told members of the committee, "The Law of Return is an anachronistic law through which people that have nothing to do with Judaism receive citizenship. "

North American Reform rabbis to meet in J’lem this week
Jerusalem Post 2/22/2009
More than 300 Reform rabbis from North America will convene in Jerusalem this week for their annual rabbinical conference, seeking to bolster the tiny Reform Judaism movement in Israel. The six-day event, which opens Tuesday, aims to strengthen the liberal movement’s ties with Israel and build bridges to its religious and secular communities. Although Reform represents the largest denomination of American Jews, the Orthodox establishment has a virtual monopoly on religious life in Israel, where both the Reform and Conservative movements are largely marginal. The Reform movement in Israel operates 24 congregations, which, like the Conservative movement’s synagogues, are not recognized by the state, and do not receive state funding. "The fact that the largest Jewish community in the world still has not recognized Reform rabbis and. . . "

Officials: Clinton to visit Israel, West Bank
Associated Press, Jerusalem Post 2/23/2009
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will arrive in Israel next week for her first visit to the region as the top US diplomat, Israeli and Palestinian officials said on Monday. The Israeli officials said that Clinton will arrive in Israel on March 2 for two days and will meet with the country’s top leaders. The Israeli officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the visit has yet to be announced by the State Department. The US embassy in Tel Aviv would not comment. A senior aide to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that Clinton will also be visiting the Palestinian territories during her stay. Yasser Abed Rabbo would offer no further details.

’U.S. plans to pledge $900 million for Gaza’
Reuters, Ha’aretz 2/23/2009
The United States plans to pledge more than $900 million to help rebuild Gaza after Israel’s offensive against Hamas and strengthen the Palestinian Authority, a U. S. official said on Monday. The money will be channeled through UN and other bodies and will not be distributed via the militant group Hamas, which rules Gaza, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as U. S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton plans to make the announcement next week at a Gaza donors conference in Egypt. The March 2 donors conference in Sharm el-Sheikh resort aims to raise humanitarian and rebuilding funds for Gaza after Israel’s offensive against Hamas at the end of last year. About 1,300 Palestinians were killed during the campaign, according to Gaza officials, as were 13 Israelis. Preliminary estimates put the damage in Hamas-run Gaza after Israel’s offensive at nearly $2 billion.

Committee to probe status of Gush Katif evacuees
Aviad Glickman, YNetNews 2/23/2009
Former Supreme Court justice to head committee investigating authorities charged with resettlement of Gaza evacuees three years ago -Supreme Court President Dorit Beinish appointed a atate commission of inquirty to investigate the progress made by authorities charged with taking care ofGush Katif evacuees during the Gaza pullout three years ago. The commission will be headed by retired Supreme Court Justice Eliyahu Matza. Matza and his fellow committee members will investigate the authorities’ handling of the evacuees and provide recommendations, if needed, regarding their resettlement. The commission will also probe the evacuees’ employment and welfare situation in line with reports filed by the state comptroller in March 2006 and January 2009. According to the more recent report, filed more than three years after the pullout, 95% of the evacuated. . .

EU worried over Netanyahu’s premiership
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 2/24/2009
BRUSSELS: EU foreign ministers on Monday called on the incoming Israeli government to relaunch the Middle East peace process with the Palestinians, though some voiced fears over having right-winger Benjamin Netanyahu at the helm. "We could have a rough start," warned Alexandr Vondra, vice-premier of the Czech Republic, which holds the European Union’s rotating presidency. "We need to move forward on the peace process," added Vondra, also the Czech minister for Europe, ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels. Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt denounced the conditions that Netanyahu has imposed for parties to join a national unity government, which his Likud party hopes to form with the center-right Kadima party of Tzipi Livni and Labor Party chief Ehud Barak. "He is discussing putting conditions that are clearly incompatible with existing commitments of the peace process," Bildt said as he entered the talks.

EU worried over Netanyahu commitment to peace
News agencies, YNetNews 2/23/2009
Swedish FM says he is worried prime minister-designate’s talks with right-wing parties to form coalition could halt negotiations with Palestinians. Czech deputy PM says he expects ’rough start’ once a new Israeli government takes office - European Union officials have raised concerns over the commitment of Israel’s hardline Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu to pursue genuine peace talks with Palestinians. Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt says he is worried Netanyahu’s talks with other hard-line parties to form a coalition could halt peace talks with Palestinians. Czech Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra says he expects a "rough start" once a new Israeli government takes office, warning a two-state peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians is narrowing now that Netanyahu is likely to form a government.

Holland: Shoes thrown at IDF officer during speech
Roi Mandel, YNetNews 2/23/2009
Captain (Res. ) Ron Edelheit asked to speak to members of Jewish community on situation in Israel and Gaza, gets four shoes hurled at him by three pro-Palestinian protestors before even opening his mouth. Suspects detained; Edelheit tells Ynet, ’Slander is just words - here they crossed the line’ - Pro-Palestinian demonstrators threw shoes at an Israeli reserves officer while giving a speech on the Israel Defense Forces’ operation in the Gaza Strip in an Amsterdam hotel Sunday. "This was an actual physical assault – past the limits of good taste," the officer, Captain (Res. ) Ron Edelheit told Ynet on Monday. According to reports in Dutch media, three demonstrators – two men and one woman in their 20s – managed to get into the room where the lecture was being held and threw shoes at Edelheit, hitting him in the head. The three were arrested under suspicion of assault. Edelheit, an Israeli of Dutch origin, is a reserves officer in the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit’s division, and is in constant contact with European media.

Shoes thrown at Israeli military spokesperson in Amsterdam
Ma’an News Agency 2/23/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an/Agencies – Four shoes were thrown at an Israeli army spokesperson on Sunday night in Amsterdam, according to a Dutch news agency. Three members of the country’s International Socialists (IS) threw four shoes at Israeli army spokesperson Ron Edelheit, who was speaking at the city’s Apollo Hotel on Sunday. About 50 protestors demonstrated against the event outside the hotel, the IS announced. The shoe-throwers, students from Groningen and Leiden, have been arrested, according to the Nieuws Uit Amsterdam news agency. The Centre for Information and Documentation on Israel said the cancellation was the result of threats, but the ANP news agency said police were not aware of threats.

EU: Netanyahu-led government could harm Mideast peace talks
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/23/2009
European Union officials on Monday raised concerns over hard-line prime minister designate Benjamin Netanyahu’s commitment to pursuing genuine peace talks with Palestinians. Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said he was worried Netanyahu’s talks with other right-wing parties to form a coalition could halt peace talks with Palestinians. Czech Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra said he expects a rough start once a new Israeli government takes office, warning a two-state peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians was narrowing now that Netanyahu is likely to form a government. The EU’s 27 foreign ministers were discussing peace efforts in the Middle East at talks Monday. Netanyahu pledged on Sunday to work with United States President Barack Obama for Middle East peace by pursuing the formation of a broad coalition government.

EU leader says in Gaza for fact-finding, not Hamas meetings
Ma’an News Agency 2/23/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – The leader of the European Union’s parliament visited Gaza on Monday. President of the European Parliament and President of the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly Hans Gert insisted on Monday during his visit to the Gaza Strip accompanied by Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary delegation to discover what happened during the Israeli war against the area. Hans said during his trip to Gaza via the Rafah border south the Gaza Strip, ”Our visit aims to support the peace process in case the international community is ready to hold it accountable. ”Regarding the Rafah border issue, Hans said, ”Palestinians should live a normal life and we will do our best to make Palestinians achieve a real peace. ”“We will stay in Gaza to collect information in cooperation with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency,” he said, noting that the delegation was invited. . .

Abbas pushes for more Mideast peace talks
Middle East Online 2/23/2009
PRAGUE - Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Monday called for further peace talks in the Middle East after meeting Czech President Vaclav Klaus, whose country holds the rotating European Union presidency. "The only way to resolve the issue is peace talks," Abbas told reporters, adding it was necessary to ensure the existence of Israel and Palestine as two states. "Both sides must fulfil their obligations, above all those concerning the existence of two states and the halting of (Jewish) settlements in occupied territories," said Abbas, who is on a two-day visit to Prague. Abbas added he wanted the Islamist Hamas movement to be represented in the next Palestinian "government of national unity," which he expects to take "a unique attitude" in the peacekeeping efforts. "Hamas is a part of the Palestinian people," he said.

Why Israel’s Rejection of ’Peace’ Hospital Offer Angered Turkey
Akiva Eldar, MIFTAH 2/23/2009
A Turkish initiative to build an Israeli-Palestinian medical compound on the Israeli side of the Jalameh crossing won the blessing of the Turkish military as well as the support of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, President Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. The Israeli defense establishment, evidently the final arbiter in such matters, is to blame for the project’s premature demise, although final responsibility for the decision lies with the prime minister and defense minister. The project’s impending cancellation has added fuel to the nasty fire that recently erupted between the Jewish state and the important Muslim state, relations which were already screeching to a halt, and it is impeding the prospects for significant positive progress between Israel and the Palestinians. On a more prosaic level, it also blocks an opportunity for a new hospital to be built in Israel, with Turkish funding.

Mousa: We do not trust any Israeli government
Palestinian Information Center 2/23/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Amr Mousa, the secretary-general of the Arab League, said he does not trust any Israeli government, urging the international community to pressure Israel to respect the peace process. Before his departure for Washington on Sunday to participate in the opening of the first Arab arts festival to be held in the US, Mousa underlined that the current Israeli government did not work for peace and showed no seriousness proving its credibility to reach a political settlement, adding that there is no difference between left or right-wing Israeli government. He also reiterated the Arab position taken in the economic summit held in Kuwait that the Arab peace initiative would not last forever. In another context, Palestinian sources said that the Arab League’s legal committee which is composed of international law experts and lawyers arrived Sunday evening in the Gaza Strip. . .

ImageSat in Abu Dhabi talks - report
Shiri Habib-Valdhorn, Globes Online 2/23/2009
The dollar value is low, but the significance is great. "Defense News" reports that Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. (IAI) (TASE: ARSP. B1) subsidiary ImageSat International NVis in talks with the government of United Arab Emirates (UAE) member state Abu Dhabi to provide access to the Eros B commercial high-resolution imaging satellite, launched in 2006. Abu Dhabi already has access to the Eros A satellite, whose operational life will end in 2010. "Defense News" estimates the value of the deal at less than $20 million a year, which is considered fairly low. However, the significance of the deal goes well beyond its financial aspects. Israel and Abu Dhabi have no diplomatic relations, and a deal of this kind suggests a move to closer relations between Israel and the Arab emirate, both of whom feel threatened by Iran.

Mideast’s biggest arms show defies credit crisis
Ali Khalil - ABU DHABI, Middle East Online 2/23/2009
The Middle East’s biggest arms show opened on Sunday in Abu Dhabi, covering a larger area than ever in defiance of the global credit crisis that has hit the weapons-buying power of Gulf states. From handheld stun and smoke grenades to fearsome armoured vehicles, a full range of deadly armaments is on display in the International Defence Exhibition and Conference on a site the size of around 15 football pitches. Nearly 900 exhibitors from 50 countries are taking part in the biennial event which has expanded since the last time it was held, in 2007, with extra features including a newly-dredged area of quay for warships and naval craft. The show, expected to attract some 45,000 trade visitors over five days, kicked off with a military display, including an aerial performance by UAE airforce Mirage and F-16 fighters.

Olmert urges Andy Ram to ’show patriotism’, boycott UAE tourney
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 2/23/2009
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday lambasted the Dubai tennis tournament, for having refused a visa to Israeli player Shahar Peer earlier this month and then granting one to Andy Ram. just a few days later Olmert proceeded to criticize Ram, who received his visa in the wake of the international outcry over Peer’s exclusion and decided to use it. "I was a bit surprised to discover that Andy Ram did intend to go there," Olmert said. "It would be highly worthwhile for someone to advise him to demonstrate patriotism and solidarity and boycott the tournament. "The director of Dubai’s tennis tournament said over the weekend that Ram would have all the security he needs to play in the ATP Tour event, which starts Monday. Salah Tahlak told reporters that Dubai is a safe place and organizers will make sure. . .

Netanyahu: This is a state of emergency
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 2/23/2009
Prime minister-designate states he is undeterred by Kadima, Labor’s initial refusal to join his coalition, paints daunting picture of Israel’s economy and security, vows to keep trying to form unity government. ’This is no time for personal interests,’ he says - Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu seemed more somber than ever Monday, after hearing a definite "no" to his proposal of a unity government from both Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni and Labor Chairman Ehud Barak. Netanyahu’s Monday morning meeting with Barak proved futile, as did his Sunday attempts to convince Livni to join his coalition. "Never have we faced such a state of emergency, with the possible exception of the War of Independence," he told his fellow Likud members in the faction’s weekly meeting at the Knesset. Possibly choosing to take things to the extreme, Netanyahu went on to detail the challenges

Kadima officials: Rejecting Bibi’s offer a mistake
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 2/23/2009
Despite united front pretensions, senior Kadima members slam Livni’s ’aggressive conduct,’ tell Ynet rejecting out of hand Benjamin Netanyahu’s ’very generous offer’ to join government was wrong move - Despite publically backing Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni, behind the scenes tensions appear to be growing over Livni’s declaration that she will not be joining a Likud-led government. In a talk with Ynet Monday, senior Kadima officials slammed Livni’s rejection of Benjamin Netanyahu’s offers. "Netanyahu made a very generous offer, and it’s a mistake to reject it out of hand," one source said, dismissing Livni’s estimation that a narrow right-wing government will be toppled quickly. " This is wrong thinking," the source said. "Netanyahu will have a disciplined government that would be able to conduct itself and vote in unison. "

Israel’s Labor snubs coalition bid
Al Jazeera 2/23/2009
Israel’s Labor Party has rejected an appeal by Benyamin Netanyahu, the man tasked with forming the country’s next government, to join a coalition led by his Likud party. Netanyahu said he was undeterred by Labor’s rejection on Monday and pledged to continue to seek support from Labor and Kadima, Israel’s largest party. "I am not going to give up in this," he said. "I want to try to make every effort to form a national unity government. " But Kadima, led by Tzipi Livni, the foreign minister, has also reacted coolly to Netanyahu’s alliance efforts, putting in doubt Netanyahu’s hopes of a coalition of national unity. Ehud Barak, Labor’s leader and Israel’s current defence minister, said he told Netanyahu that Labor would serve as a "responsible, serious and constructive opposition". "Netanyahu doesn’t seem to be making much progress in securing the kind of broad-based unity government that he’s after," Jacky Rowland, Al Jazeera’s Jerusalem correspondent, reported.

Lieberman auditioning for Foreign Affairs portfolio
Gil Hoffman, Jerusalem Post 2/23/2009
Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman met with his American namesake, US Senator Joseph Lieberman, on Sunday in what sources close to him said was an audition for the role he wants in Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu’s government: foreign minister. Lieberman has told associates in closed conversations that he will request the Foreign Ministry in coalition talks. Former ambassador to Washington and incoming Israel Beiteinu MK Danny Ayalon, who accompanied Lieberman to the meeting, said he was a natural fit. "He’s already prepared to be foreign minister," Ayalon said. " Of course he’s fit for the position. He’s a strategic thinker and analyst. He’s impressive one on one. His English is very good. The more meetings like this, the more people understand his caliber. I’ve been meeting ambassadors, including Arab officials, and no one is raising eyebrows about the possibility of Lieberman being the minister of foreign affairs. "

Lieberman: Civil marriages not my 1st priority
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 2/23/2009
Yisrael Beiteinu leader reportedly prepared to compromise in order to join forces with Shas in Netanyahu-led government -The issue of civil marriages is not a top priority for Yisrael Beiteinu, party leader Avigdor Lieberman said in closed-door sessions Monday, paving the way for joining forces with Shas in a Netanyahu-led government. Lieberman reportedly stressed that his party’s top priority is the granting of legislative and financial preference to discharged soldiers, followed by efforts to change Israel’s system of government, Ynet learned, with the issue of civil marriages only coming next. The Yisrael Beiteinu leader is apparently preparing to reach a compromise on the issue of civil marriages in order to enable his party and Shas to join the next government. Lieberman reportedly made it clear that such compromises may materialize in allowing roughly 100,000 Israelis who are not defined as Jews to marry amongst themselves.

Livni and Netanyahu to meet again
Globes' correspondent, Globes Online 2/23/2009
Yesterday’s meeting to try to hammer out a unity government ended inconclusively. Kadima chairwoman and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni has closed the door entirely to Likud chairman MK Benjamin Netanyahu, who was given the responsibility to form a new government. Following yesterday’s inconclusive meeting in Jerusalem last night, the two agreed to meet again. After the meeting, Netanyahu said, "We agreed to meet again to try to find a common path. " Livni said, "He asked for another meeting, and we arranged it. "She added, "We failed to reach an agreement. There are still substantial differences. Unity, by definition, means a common path, and it is therefore important to examine whether there is a common path, or two separate ones. " Livni said that there were substantial differences over the peace process on the basis of two states for two peoples, and over Netanyahu’s promises to Shas.

Netanyahu meets in private with Barak
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 2/23/2009
After failed meeting with Kadima chairwoman, prime minister-designate continues to look into possibilities for wide unity government, this time with Labor leader. At end of meeting Barak says his party will go to opposition, Netanyahu states will meet with Livni and Barak once again - After his meeting Sunday with Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni was said to have been unsuccessful, Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu met with Labor Chairman Ehud Barak on Monday morning in a bid to look into possibilities for a wide unity government. The two officials met in private at a Jerusalem hotel. Barak said after the meeting, "The voter sent Labor to the opposition, and that’s where we’ll go. "Netanyahu, on the other hand, said, "I have not given up on the efforts to form a wide government in light of the challenges, led by Iran. I will meet with Livni and Barak once again. "

Netanyahu, Livni fail to reach coalition agreement
Ma’an News Agency 2/23/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an/Agencies – Likud leader Benjamin Natanyahu and Kadima chair Tzipi Livni failed to reach an agreement on creating a national unity government on Sunday, according to Israeli news reports. The two agreed on Sunday in Jerusalem to meet again for further talks, Ha’aretz reported. The two said Sunday night at a news conference that their first meeting brought up “profound differences” between Likud and Kadima’s goals vis-à-vis talks with the Palestinians, as well as the peace process, in general. "I will be taking Kadima into the opposition," Livni said. "Netanyahu has asked for another meeting ¬ and I agreed. As far as I am concerned, this meeting has changed nothing. " But according to Netanyahu, "In the coming days, I will make an effort to form a national unity government in light of the significant challenges the State of Israel faces.

Labour unlikely to join Netanyahu government
Middle East Online 2/23/2009
JERUSALEM - Israel’s centre-left Labour party is unlikely to join a coalition led by Benjamin Netanyahu, the right-winger charged with forming the next government, a senior official said on Monday. "I don’t see how the Labour party could join the government that Netanyahu is going to create," Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon told public radio. "We want to become stronger while in opposition," he said, shortly before a meeting between Netanyahu and Labour leader and outgoing defence minister Ehud Barak. Labour, the veteran party that has been the pillar of governments since the founding of the Jewish state in 1948, saw its worst-ever performance in the February 10 election, winning only 13 seats in the 120-member parliament. On Friday, President Shimon Peres tasked former premier Netanyahu of the right-wing Likud with forming the next government.

Netanyahu: The times demand unity
Lilach Weissman, Globes Online 2/23/2009
"We’re facing an economic crisis the likes of which we haven’t seen in years. ""At this moment, the workers at the Vita-Galilee Fruit plant are digging in. The factory is at risk of closing, along with many others. The livelihoods of thousands of families are now in question. We’re talking about the economic soundness of many communities and the economic soundness of the whole country," Likud chairman MK Benjamin Netanyahu told the party’s MKs today. Netanyahu went on, "We’re facing an economic crisis the likes of which we haven’t seen in years. This is a broad and deep crisis, and we’ll have to take many measures to save the likelihoods of thousands of families and to ensure the economic future of Israel’s citizens. We won’t be able to stop this too much. I assume that there will be further deterioration until we’ll be able to turn the economy around. "

Netanyahu to meet Bar-On in apparent bid to bypass Livni
Mazal Mualem , and The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/23/2009
Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to meet Finance Minister Roni Bar-On (Kadima) on Tuesday, in the wake of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s rejection of Netanyahu’s proposal to join the coalition and her decision to take her Kadima party into the opposition. Even though the meeting is officially entitled an "economic briefing," political commentators believe Netanyahu is trying to bypass Livni and persuade Bar-On, a leading Kadima MK, to favor the centrist party’s accession to his cabinet. This assessment is supported by the high-profile rivalry between Netanyahu and Bar-On, especially with regard to economic policies, and the fact that such a session has not taken place even once since Bar-On’s appointment as Finance Minister, more than two years ago. On Friday, Netanyahu accepted the mandate to form Israel’s next cabinet.

Olmert suspends top Egypt negotiator over published remarks
Ma’an News Agency 2/23/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an/Agencies – Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert suspended Amos Gilad, Israel’s special negotiator to Egypt, on Monday over recent comments made to an Israeli newspaper. Earlier last week, Gilad criticized Olmert for his stance on negotiations with the Palestinians over a proposed prisoner swap for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in the Hebrew-language daily Ma’ariv. Gilad is the head of the political-security bureau of Israel’s Ministry of Defense, and the ministry’s top negotiator with Egyptians in talks over both a potential ceasefire agreement in Gaza and talks to release the captured soldier. Gilad had said that Olmert’s stance, which included making Shalit’s release a precondition for any ceasefire, “an insult to Egypt” that undermined national security, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

Palestine Ulama in exile league declared in Beirut
Palestinian Information Center 2/23/2009
BEIRUT, (PIC)-- The "Palestine Ulama (religious scholars) in exile league" was declared Saturday in the Lebanese capital Beirut as an independent body representing the Palestinian Ulama residing outside the occupied homeland Palestine. The new body elected Sheikh Dr. Abdul Ghani Al-Tamimi as chairman, and Sheikh Dr. Abdul Jabbar Sa’aeed as secretary-general of the its executive office. Charter of the league, rules, and regulations were all approved and entered into effect on the same day, one of the founders explained. The founders also exploited the occasion to hail the Palestinian people in the occupied homeland and in diaspora, and to commend the "heroic" Palestinian resistance, urging it to remain steadfast on the national constants and legal rights of the Palestinian people. They also took the opportunity to salute the people of the Gaza Strip for their sacrifices, urging. . .

Courting Syria
Simon Tisdall, The Guardian 2/23/2009
As they review Middle East policy options, Barack Obama’s advisers face two fixed certainties. One is that there is no magic wand, no easy, pain-free way forward. Second, it’s crucial to distinguish between what you want and what you can get. As Bill Clinton and others before him discovered, they are not usually the same thing. That said, all else is fungible. Analysts who assume Obama will somehow let Arab-Israeli peacemaking define his presidency overseas are firing wide. All the indications are that his will be a "realist" foreign policy guided by pragmatism and self-interest, as shown by the hard-nosed message Hillary Clinton in China has just sent to the "free Tibet" movement. If in four years’ time, military confrontation with Iran has been avoided, the Iraq withdrawal has been managed honourably and without internal collapse and some kind of half-credible peace process between Israel and its Arab neighbours is in train, Obama’s people will probably call it a good result. Anything more would be a bonus.

Assad urges UN to enforce resolutions
Middle East Online 2/23/2009
DAMASCUS - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Sunday urged the United Nations to enforce the implementation of resolutions that end wars, in talks with UN General Assembly chief Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann. "UN institutions should have a more intensive role aimed at implementing international resolutions to end wars and aggression against innocent civilians," the state-run SANA news agency quoted Assad as saying. Arab countries have repeatedly criticised the United Nations for failing to force Israel to respect Security Council resolutions aimed at ending the occupation of Palestinian and other Arab land. Assad and the UN official also discussed the global financial crisis, the agency said. D’Escoto arrived in Syria on Saturday as part of a world tour, with regional stops to include Bahrain and Iran, in addition to visits to Britain, China, Finland and Switzerland.

Interest rate cut by 0.25%
Adrian Filut, Globes Online 2/23/2009
Most economists believed that the current economic situation required a greater interest rate cut. Governor of the Bank of Israel Prof. Stanley Fischer today cut the interest rate for March by 25 basis points to 0. 75%. The decision apparently means that he has decided, at least for now, to halt or postpone continued interest rate cuts in order to keep some ammunition in reserve. Most economists believed that the current economic situation required a much greater interest rate cut, given the severe recession coupled with the beginning of deflation, and the still low shekel-dollar exchange rate. Any doubts about the seriousness of the situation ended with the economic figures published over the last couple of days. Central Bureau of Statistics data indicate that Israel has been in recession for five months, and that GDP shrank by 0.

Israeli economy shrank 0.5% in fourth quarter
Adrian Filut, Globes Online 2/23/2009
Consumers put the brakes on spending, while investment also fell, putting the economy on a path of recession. Israel’s gross domestic product (GDP) shrank by 0. 5% in annual terms in the fourth quarter of 2008, according to figures released by the Central Bureau of Statistics today. This follows rises of 0. 9% in the third quarter and 3. 2% in the second quarter. Since macro-economic indicators have only worsened since the end of 2008, and therefore GDP will show a fall in the first quarter of 2009 as well, it can be concluded that the economy is in recession. Recession is usually defined as two successive quarters of negative growth. The figures also show that, at fixed prices and seasonally adjusted, GDP rose an annualized 1. 1% in the second half of 2008, following a growth rate of 4.

Bank of Israel cuts interest rate to all-time low of 0.75 percent
Tal Levy and Nathan Sheva, TheMarker Correspondents, Ha’aretz 2/23/2009
Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer reduced the interest rate by 0. 25 percent to 0. 75 percent on Monday - the lowest level ever seen in Israel. This is the seventh consecutive rate reduction by the central bank since September 2008, when the rate was 4. 25 percent. The Central Bureau of Statistics earlier on Monday released data on the second half of 2008 that showed Israel’s economy has been in a recession since then. In the fourth quarter of 2008, Israel’s growth domestic product decreased by 0. 5 percent, after increases of 0. 9 percent and 3. 2 percent in the third and second quarters, respectively. The overall growth domestic product for the second half of 2008 only increased by 1. 1 percent, following a 4. 8 percent increase in the first half of last year.

Exploration licenses cover over half of Israeli waters
Yael Gruntman, Globes Online 2/23/2009
Petroleum Council recommends granting 20 new gas exploration licenses. The Ministry of National Infrastructures Petroleum Council and Natural Resources Licensing Administration have announced that oil and natural gas exploration licenses cover more than half of Israel’s economic waters. The number of oil and natural gas exploration licenses granted has increased by 235% since 2003. The natural gas discovery at the Tamar-1 well in January, as well as new information about the geology of the Mediterranean seafloor in Israel’s economic waters, have boosted assessments about the high probability of more natural gas discoveries in the area. The Petroleum Council met last Thursday to discuss and review applications for oil and natural gas exploration and production licenses in Israel’s economic waters.

The First Waltz
Nadia Hijab - WASHINGTON, Middle East Online 2/23/2009
Watching Ari Folman’s Waltz With Bashir inevitably reminded me of Eran Riklis’ Cup Final, also an Israeli film about its 1982 invasion of Lebanon. When Cup Final came out in 1992, it made me think that a common future for Israelis and Palestinians was possible. I had expected the same of Waltz. Both films deal with the story of young soldiers during Israel’s horror-filled 1982 war. Both won critical acclaim, though Cup Final won just one award compared to the 10 Waltz scooped up before it hit the Oscars (but lost, surprisingly, to another foreign film, Departures). But there the resemblance ends. By contrast to Waltz, Cup Final gives voice not just to Israeli soldiers but also to the Palestinian guerrillas then based in Southern Lebanon. It starts with an soldier bemoaning his fate: He has to fight instead of going to watch the World Cup matches in Spain for which he’s got tickets.

IAEA douses furor over Iran report
Kaveh L Afrasiabi, Asia Times 2/24/2009
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is increasingly appearing like a dysfunctional fire station - it’s become an agency designed to put out fires triggered by the heat of nuclear proliferation, and yet can’t help but ignite a few flare-ups along the way. The recent handling of Iran’s nuclear issue has been such a brushfire for the United Nations’ watchdog. The latest report by director general Mohammad ElBaradei has instigated a media furor over the disclosure that the IAEA had previously underestimated the volume of enriched uranium at Iran’s nuclear facilities by some 30%. From the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and London’s Mirror, the Guardian and the Financial Times, among other leading international newspapers, the reaction has been a steady stream of alarmist commentaries. Many reports regard this an Iranian "milestone" in reaching "nuclear break-out capability".

Egyptian authorities arrest 3 suspects in bombing
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 2/24/2009
CAIRO: Egyptian police said Monday they had arrested three suspects over a bomb attack at a famed Cairo bazaar that killed a French teenager and wounded 25 people, most of them tourists. Sunday’s attack was the first deadly violence since 2006 against Westerners in Egypt, where the tourism industry is a vital foreign-currency earner. The bomb blast ripped through a square lined with cafes and restaurants in Khan al-Khalili, a market dating from the 14th century that is one of the Egyptian capital’s main tourist attractions. "Three people there were arrested on the scene as suspects after the attack," a police official said. "Around 15 others are being questioned as witnesses," the official added. There has been no claim of responsibility but analysts said the attack could have been the work of an isolated Islamist cell.

Three arrested over Cairo bombing
Al Jazeera 2/23/2009
Egyptian police have arrested three people in connection with a bomb attack in a busy Cairo market, which killed a French teenager and wounded at least 21 others. Investigators were hunting for clues on Monday after cordoning off the area close to the Hussein mosque, one of the capital’s most revered shrines. "Three people there were arrested on the site as suspects after the attack," a police official said. "Others are being questioned as witnesses. " Egyptian, French, German and Saudi nationals were injured during the blast on Sunday night in the popular Khan el-Khalili bazaar. Police said initial evidence suggested a small explosive device, such as a hand grenade, had been thrown from an overlooking balcony. Earlier reports had said bombs were planted under a seat near a cafe just outside the al-Hussein Hotel.

Four killed and 17 wounded in Cairo blast
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/23/2009
An explosion that struck a crowded area in the Egyptian capital of Cairo, on Sunday at 7 o’clock in the evening, led to the death of four people, including a French woman and another foreigner. 17 others were injured, at least six seriously, Israeli Ynet News reported. The Middle East Online reported that only one person, a French woman, was killed in the blast, and that 10 of the wounded were French tourists; three Saudis, three Germans and one Egyptian. Egyptian security sources reported that the explosion was caused by a bomb that went off in al-Hussein neighborhood, which includes al-Azhar and al-Hussein main mosques in Cairo. Investigators stated that it is unlikely that the explosion was planned and carried out by a sofisticated terrorist network, and that the attack was apparently carried out by a smaller cell.

Jordan king swears in new ministers in reshuffle
Middle East Online 2/23/2009
AMMAN - Jordan’s King Abdullah II on Monday swore in 10 new members of Prime Minister Nader Dahabi’s cabinet in a reshuffle that included replacing the foreign and interior ministers, the palace said. Also in the new lineup of the 28-strong cabinet are five ministers who changed their portfolios, according to a palace statement. Nasser Judeh replaced Salah Bashir at the foreign ministry while Interior Minister Eid Fayez made way for Nayef Qadi, who has held the post several times before. Nabil Sharif, who was editor of Al-Dustour Arabic-language newspaper, which reflects government views, takes over from Judeh at the information ministry and also replaces him as government spokesman. Musa Maaytah, a left-leaning political activist, joined the government for the first time by becoming minister of political development.

Hope for US-Iranian Diplomacy
Middle East Online 2/23/2009
About 28 years ago, the United States and the fledgling Islamic Republic of Iran made promises to each other that they put down in writing: “It is now and will be the policy of the United States not to intervene, directly or indirectly, politically or militarily, in Iran’s internal affairs,” stated the 1981 Algiers Accords, the executive agreement signed by Ronald Reagan. In return for that promise (among others) the Iranians released the 52 Americans that they held hostage for 444 inglorious days. The ink was hardly dry before President Reagan and CIA Director William Casey started to fund operations against Iran by different exile groups -- one headed by the shah’s former naval commander, then the Paris-based Front for the Liberation of Iran. While the Reagan administration was in secret negotiations with Iran, the CIA was providing a miniaturized television transmitter to Reza Pahlavi, son of the late Shah, for a clandestine broadcast into Iran.

Iraq’s treasure trove national museum reopens
Ines Bel Aiba - BAGHDAD, Middle East Online 2/23/2009
The Iraq Museum, the pride of the nation known as the cradle of civilisation, reopened on Monday almost six years after its ancient treasures were looted in the chaotic aftermath of the US-led invasion. With its polished marble floors, glass display cases and freshly painted pale blue walls, the Baghdad museum is again home to a wealth of artefacts, some dating back thousands of years. Tourism and Antiquities Minister Qahtan Abbas, before an audience of invited guests including Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, said about 6,000 items had so far been returned from inside Iraq, from its neighbours and around the world. A total of 15,000 statues and other valuable artefacts had been looted in the April 2003 ransacking of the museum once known as the National Museum that has been repeatedly forced by conflict to close its doors.


Al Bustan area of E Jerusalem’s Silwan to be replaced by park
Maisa Abu Ghazaleh, Palestine News Network 2/23/2009
      A park of flowers and trees, breezeways and cafes: this is the Israeli blueprint to cover the ruins of Silwan.
     The East Jerusalem neighborhood is under increasing threat of utter devastation with home demolition orders and forced evictions on the rise.
     When the destruction of the Silwan neighborhood is complete, a park will replace the rubble in Al Bustan.
     Just to the south of Al Aqsa Mosque Silwan is the neighborhood where the floor in the United Nations girls’ school collapsed due to Israeli excavations under the Mosque area. It is the neighborhood where at least 40 homes are sinking due to the same.
     The area of Silwan specifically targeted for the garden is home to 1,500 people and 80 houses. Homes were built decades ago on lands inherited from parents and grandparents. Jerusalemites will be displaced as the takeover of the city becomes more rapid.
     The issue is not new as reported by Fakhri Abu Diab, a member of the Committee for the Defense of the Territory of Silwan and Director of Al Bustan Center. In 2000 the Israelis issued demolition orders for all of the houses on grounds of licensing. However the popular resistance confronted the order including with a solidarity tent, media campaign and demonstrations.
     Abu Diab was among those who engaged in legal proceedings to stop the demolition. With a team of engineers all Israeli requirements were met yet they were still denied.

Behind the walls of Balata camp

Palestine Monitor, Palestine Monitor 2/23/2009
      The Balata Refugee Camp near Nablus is the largest refugee camp in the West Bank by population—but it is the smallest in size. Today, 20-25,000 people live in a camp which is one square kilometer in size. The buildings are so close together and so tall that sunlight does not even reach the ground in many areas of the camp. And in order to get through some alleyways it is necessary to turn sideways or else you will not be able to pass through.
     Residents of the camp recall a raid by Israeli soldiers in the camp when a soldier tried to chase a Palestinian man through the alleyways and actually became lodged in between the walls and unable to move. The Palestinian man was able to escape, and in order to protect the soldier who was stuck the rest of the raiding soldiers had to take positions in the surrounding houses and cover the soldier on the ground. In order to understand why the Balata camp is so overcrowded, it is necessary to learn the history of the camp.
     In 1948, there was a mass exodus of Palestinians because of massacres and the destruction caused by the Israeli military. According to Mahmoud Subuh, the director of International Relations for the Yafa Cultural Center in Balata, “500,000 people became instantly refugees.” The refugees fled wherever they could. Some went to Lebanon, Syria, and the West Bank. Others lived in caves, mountains, and in fields until the violence decreased.

Israeli Soldiers Shoot Deaf Palestinian Farmer, 4th Farmer Shot in 3 weeks

Eva Bartlett -, International Middle East Media Center News 2/23/2009
      (18th February, 2009) The following testimony was written by Eva Bartlett, one of a number of internationals with the Free Gaza movement who have been accompanying Palestinian farmers in Gaza :
     What caused the Israeli soldiers to shoot a deaf farmer today? Was he threatening?
     Was it because the group of farm labourers had successfully worked quickly to harvest their day’s wages? Was the sight of retreating, unarmed, clearly non-threatening civilians too tempting to resist?
     Whatever the motivation, the result is another casualty of Israeli soldiers’ malevolence: a 20 year old deaf farmer, Mohammad al-Buraim, working the land to support his family of 16, may not walk easily again. The bullet which targeted his ankle penetrated straight through and landed in the tire of the truck he’d been pushing.
     Abu Alaa, owner of the land and Mohammed’s uncle, said: “When they first shot, we knew it wasn’t ‘warning’ shots. We started to run away. They shot again.” -- See also: Video - Israeli Military Shoot Palestinian Farmer and Dirty Tricks: Israeli Soldiers Shoot Deaf Palestinian Farmer, 4th Farmer Shot in 3 weeks

Photo Story - Bil’in: four years of nonviolent resistance

Palestine Monitor, Palestine Monitor 2/23/2009
      Bil’in was just an ordinary Palestinian village until four years ago when the villagers decided to organize weekly nonviolent protests against the construction of the Apartheid Wall and the confiscation of their lands. Since then Bil’in has become a symbol of peaceful resistance - first in Palestine, and now across the whole world.
     After the Noon prayer, in which PM Salaam Fayyad, Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi and other Palestinian officials took part, people gathered in front of the village’s mosque and began the peaceful march towards the Apartheid Wall, which is built through Bil’in.
     The presence of PM Salaam Fayyad and Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi attracted many local and foreign journalists, but it should be noted that when the former decided to leave directly after the Noon prayer, the latter actively took part in the demonstration.

EU paying for Gaza blockade

David Cronin, Electronic Intifada 2/23/2009
      BRUSSELS (IPS) - European Union aid has been given to an Israeli oil company which has reduced the supply of fuel to Gaza as part of an economic blockade internationally recognized as illegal, Brussels officials have admitted.
     Almost 97 million euros (124 million dollars) in funds managed by the European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, were handed over directly to the firm Dor Alon between February 2008 and January this year. Under orders from the Israeli authorities, Dor Alon has been rationing the amount of industrial diesel brought into Gaza in order to deprive its 1.5 million inhabitants of electricity. Power cuts have been a regular occurrence in Gaza because of Israeli actions undertaken since the militant party Hamas won an unexpected victory in Palestinian legislative elections during 2006.
     Charles Shamas from the Mattin Group, an organization based in the West Bank that monitors Europe’s relationship with Israel, said that the EU has been helping to accommodate the economic blockade of Gaza. This is despite how the Union’s most senior diplomats, including its foreign policy chief Javier Solana and the external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner, have condemned the blockade as "collective punishment" of a civilian population. Collective punishment constitutes a war crime, according to the 1949 Geneva convention.

Netanyahu’s Three Strategies Against Obama

Patrick Seale, Middle East Online 2/23/2009
      Having been asked by Israel’s President Shimon Peres to form a government, Binyamin Netanyahu, leader of the right-wing Likud party, has until 17 March to try to put together a ruling coalition. Looming over his horse-trading with possible partners is the shadow of Barack Obama, America’s new President.
     As he goes about his task, Netanyahu’s prime concern will be to find a way to defuse the threat from Obama, whose views about Iran, about the desirability of a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestine conflict, and about relations with the Muslim world in general, are diametrically opposed to his own.
     Early indications suggest that Netanyahu will resort to three distinct strategies to reduce, evade and eventually dispel any likely pressure from Washington, especially on the Palestine question, to which, unlike Obama, he intends to give no priority whatsoever.
     His first strategy will be to seek to cobble together a ‘moderate’ coalition of the Likud (27 seats), with Tzipi Livni’s centrist Kadima party (28 seats), and Ehud Barak’s much reduced Labour party (13 seats). Such a coalition could no doubt attract smaller factions, so as to produce a reasonably comfortable majority in the 120-seat Knesset. The only problem is that Tzipi Livni is demanding real decision-making powers in the coalition, which Netanyahu is unwilling to grant her, while Barak seems to think it wiser to rebuild his shattered party in opposition.

The Separate and Unequal Rule

Nadia W. Awad, MIFTAH 2/23/2009
      Israel has managed to do it again. Somehow, they have twisted a distressing event around completely and made themselves look like saints in the process. They have come out looking like the good Samaritans, while making life even more unbearable for about 60,000 Palestinian residents of Jerusalem. You may wonder what I’m talking about.I’m referring to a Jerusalem Post article along the lines of: ‘Israel removes checkpoint to make travel to Jerusalem easier for Palestinians.’ If only they would, but of course they won’t.
     Imagine a wide, main road connecting two cities – Jerusalem and Ramallah. Now imagine somebody builds a large cement wall straight down the middle of it, so that on one side, you’re driving in Jerusalem, when on the other side, you’re driving in the West Bank. Obviously you can’t cross the road, unless you actually want to smash your car into cement. Confused? In an attempt to explain it more clearly, imagine you live in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Dahiyet Al Barid, just north of the city center, but your house happens to be confusingly on the West Bank side of the street and behind the gate. Now, intuitively, to get to the city center, you would drive south. Not according to Israel. If you drive south, you’ll just hit the wall or the iron gate. Instead, what you have to do is drive further north, go through the Qalandia checkpoint, turn around and drive back south again. Still confused? Probably – I still am. It’s one of those situations where you have to see it to believe (and understand) it.

Decommissioning the arms trade

Andrew Beckett, The Guardian 2/23/2009
      When government agencies cloak arms exports to Israel in secrecy, we have a moral and legal right to prevent their damage.
     During the night of January 17 2009, the last day of the Israeli attack on Gaza, six peace activists climbed the fence of a Brighton arms factory EDO MBM. Entering through broken windows and wielding hammers, they systematically smashed computers and machinery, and destroyed records. Hundreds of thousands of pounds’ worth of damage was caused. They then lay down on the floor and waited to be arrested. Prior to the action, the six recorded their motivation in a video briefing. In the words of one protester, Elijah Smith:
     "I don’t feel I’m going to do anything illegal tonight, but I’m going to go into an arms factory and smash it up to the best of my ability so that it cannot actually work or produce munitions ... [which] have been provided to the Israeli army."
     Four of the six are now out on strict bail conditions, while two, including Elijah Smith, are on remand in Lewes prison. While property was damaged, their actions involved no violence to persons.
     What would make someone smash up a factory on an industrial estate and then wait calmly to be taken into custody? Perhaps a belief that the only way to prevent atrocity is not to politely petition the arms traders but to actively disarm them. And perhaps a knowledge that while our government may indulge in public handwringing over civilian casualties, it veils in secrecy a highly profitable arms supply industry to Israel.

Remove Our Grandmother’s Name from the Wall at Yad Vashem

Michael Neumann and Osha Neumann, Counterpunch, Palestine Monitor 2/23/2009
      To the President of the State of Israel and the Director of the Yad Vashem Memorial
     Following the example of Jean-Moise Braitberg, we ask that our grandmother’s name be removed from the wall at Yad Vashem. Her name is Gertrud Neumann. Your records state that she was born in Kattowitz on June 6, 1875 and died in Theresienstadt.
     M. Braitberg delivers his request with excellent reasons and eloquent personal testimony. His words are inspiring, but they give you – and those who stand with you - too much credit. I will instead be brief. Please take this as an expression of my disgust and contempt for your state and all it represents.
     Our grandmother was a victim of that very ideal of ethnic sovereignty in whose cause Israel has shed so much blood for so long. I was among the many Jews who thought nothing of embracing that ideal, despite the sufferings it had inflicted on our own race. It took thousands of Palestinian lives before, finally, I realized how foolish we had been.
     Our complicity was despicable. I do not believe that the Jewish people, in whose name you have committed so many crimes with such outrageous complacency, can ever rid itself of the shame you have brought upon us. Nazi propaganda, for all its calumnies, never disgraced and corrupted the Jews; you have succeeded in this. You haven’t the courage to take responsibility for your own sadistic acts: with unparalleled insolence, you set yourself up as spokesmen for an entire race, as if our very existence endorsed your conduct. And you blacken our names not only by your acts, but by the lies, the coy evasions, the smirking arrogance and the infantile self-righteousness with which you embroider our history.

Book review: Avraham Burg and the denying of denial

Raymond Deane, Electronic Intifada 2/23/2009
      Western liberals have a great need of "good Israelis." Hitherto, the novelists Amos Oz, A.B. Yehoshua and David Grossman have fit the bill: they are against the 1967 occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, they dislike the settlers, they are "for" peace and "against" violence ("on both sides"). In approvingly citing their names, western liberals both attest to their own philosemitic credentials and perpetuate the illusion that Israel is a "vibrant liberal democracy" with a robust diversity of opinion. Of late, however, these bellicose peaceniks have blotted their copybooks by supporting one or two of Israel’s wars too many. A new "good Israeli" was urgently required, and he may have arisen in the shape of Avraham Burg.
     The Holocaust Is Over; We Must Rise From its Ashes (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), published in Hebrew in 2007 as Defeating Hitler and now translated by Israel Amrani, claims that the Shoah (the Nazi holocaust) has been "nationalized" and "privatized" and seeks to reclaim its memory for a universalist vision. Only thus, claims Burg, can Israelis be rescued from their obsession with spurious victimhood, and Hitler finally be defeated. Burg’s concerns, unlike those of, say, political scientist Norman Finkelstein, are ultimately theological: the English title is taken from his penultimate chapter -- "Make God Smile Again" -- which may make the secularist frown.

SA Abandoned White Rule; Will Israel?

Iqbal Jassat – Pretoria, Palestine Chronicle 2/23/2009
      In attempting to analyse the article by Peter Fabricius titled "Two-state solution the only viable option" (Star - February 20, 2009), I fail to understand his logic in dismissing a unitary state.
     The scenario he paints in supporting an argument in favour of a two-state solution is not any different to the exaggerated fears propagated by successive Israeli leaders who thus thrive in pursuing policies of expansion and perpetual dispossession of Palestinians.
     An illustration of his faulty analysis is encapsulated in the following words: "The peace process suffered a huge blow when Israel pulled out of Gaza and was rewarded not with peace and gratitude but with a rain of Hamas rockets".
     That it sounds like text from a script repeated ad-nauseum by Zionist spin-doctors like Mark Regev and others during their regular media appearances in defence of Israel’s brutal slaughter in Gaza is to be expected given that Fabricius has regularly displayed pro-Israeli leanings in his columns.
     And by seeking justification for Israel’s iron-fisted control of the West Bank on the grounds that by “pulling out” Ben Gurion airport may come within range of Hamas’s artillery, Fabricius has unwittingly acknowledged its continued occupation. It’s remarkable how apologists for Israel get caught in their own web of deceit.

Q&A: ’Hamas Won’t Give In To Blackmail’

Mel Frykberg Interviews Hamas Foreign Minister Ahmed Yousef, Inter Press Service 2/23/2009
      RAMALLAH, Feb 23 (IPS) - At the eleventh hour, just as a permanent ceasefire painfully mediated by the Egyptians after weeks of intensive shuttle diplomacy was about to take effect, Israel suddenly changed its preconditions for a settlement with Hamas.
     This has left the Palestinians, especially Gazans, the Egyptians, the Hamas leadership and even some Israeli analysts wondering just what will happen next. The humanitarian crisis in Gaza remains unresolved and the current tentative ceasefire looks increasingly fragile as intermittent violence continues.
     IPS spoke to Dr Ahmed Yousef, the Gaza-based Hamas Foreign Minister and political advisor to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh about the stalemate.
     IPS: What is your understanding of how the ceasefire should have come into effect?
     Ahmed Yousef: It is not only our understanding but also that of the Egyptians, the Israelis prior to their about-face, and the Europeans. After weeks of tough bargaining it was agreed with the Israelis that there would be two stages of negotiations.
     The first stage would involve the permanent opening of some of Gaza’s borders and the implementation of a permanent ceasefire. The second stage would revolve around a prisoner swap and the opening of the other border crossings. The Israelis had previously agreed to this.

Israeli Elections and Politics of Demography

Dr. Haidar Eid and Neta Golan, Palestine Chronicle 2/23/2009
      After very close Israeli elections, many analysts seem to feel Likud head Benjamin Netanyahu will get the nod to form the next Israeli government. Though Likud lost to Kadima by a small number of votes, Likud’s right-wing bloc as a whole won a majority. Many in the international community are holding out hope that Tzipi Livni, the head of Kadima, will prevail and become Prime Minister because they view her as the candidate of peace.
     In reality however, Livni, while speaking of negotiations, represents continuity with past Israeli policies of the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, just as Netanyahu does. Both Likud and Kadima will leave members of the international community who are committed to human rights with only one appropriate response - boycott.
     Tzipi Livni, was recently quoted in The Jerusalem Post warning that if Israel fails to initiate a peace plan after the elections, "We will get the Arab peace initiative." It is crucial to understand why Livni, who participated in leading Israel in its assault on Lebanon in 2006 and on Gaza in 2009, is threatened by an offer from the Arab world to normalize relations with Israel if it withdraws from the territories it occupied in 1967 and agrees to a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem in accordance with UN Resolution 194.

The Great Gamble

Uri Avnery - Israel, Palestine Chronicle 2/23/2009
      Iacta alea est - the die is cast - said Julius Caesar and crossed the River Rubicon on his way to conquer Rome. That was the end of Roman democracy. We Israelis don’t have a Julius Caesar. But we do have an Avigdor Lieberman. When he announced his support the other day for the setting up of a government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, that was the crossing of his Rubicon.
     I hope that this is not the beginning of the end of Israeli democracy.
     Until the last moment, Lieberman held the Israeli public in suspense. Will he join Netanyahu? Will he join Tzipi Livni?
     Those who participated in the guessing game were divided in their view of Lieberman.
     Some of them said: Lieberman is indeed what he pretends to be: an extreme nationalist racist. His aim is really to turn Israel into a Jewish state cleansed of Arabs - Araberrein, in German. He has only contempt for democracy, both in the country and in his own party. Like similar parties in the past, it is based on a cult of (his) personality, the worship of brute force, contempt for democracy and disdain for the judicial system. In other countries this is called fascism.