April 24, 2008
Briefs: Some West Bank settlers would agree to leave, Israel OKs Palestinian police stations
Some West Bank Settlers Would Leave If Offered Government Support, Poll Finds
Some West Bank Settlers Would Leave If Offered Government Support, Poll Finds
Approximately one in five Israelis living east of the West Bank security fence would leave if offered government support, a poll found. According to an internal government study, whose results were leaked Tuesday to Yediot Achronot, approximately 15,000 of the 70,000 settlers whose communities are not taken in by the fence would accept voluntary relocation packages.
The poll was conducted at the behest of Deputy Prime Minister Haim Ramon and Minister Ami Ayalon, who want Israel to group settlers within the fence on the assumption that it will serve as the de facto border with a future Palestinian state. The newspaper did not provide details on how many people were polled or the margin of error.
Israel's failure to satisfactorily rehabilitate many of the 8,000 Jews it removed from the Gaza Strip in 2005 has raised speculation that West Bank settlers would think twice about accepting government relocation offers.
Israel OKs Reopening of 20 Palestinian Police Stations in West Bank
Israel will allow the reopening of 20 West Bank police stations under Palestinian control. The stations will have a staff of approximately 500 and are located in a zone under Israeli security control and Palestinian civil control. This is the first time Israel has permitted such a move since 2001. It is part of commitments made last week by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak to ease the lives of ordinary Palestinians.
"This aims to enhance security and impose law and order under the Abbas security plan," Hussein al-Sheikh, head of the Palestinian Authority's Civil Affairs Ministry, told Reuters.
Al Qaeda Assails Hamas' Purported Willingness to Support Peace Accord
Al Qaeda came out against Hamas' purported willingness to support a future Israeli-Palestinian peace accord. Osama bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, issued a statement on the Internet Tuesday attacking the Palestinian Islamist group after its leaders told former U.S. President Jimmy Carter that they could support a future peace accord if it passes a Palestinian referendum.
"As for peace agreements with Israel, they spoke of putting it to a referendum, despite considering it a breach of shariah," Zawahiri said, referring to Muslim law. "How can they put a matter that violates shariah to a referendum?"
Hamas has made clear, however, that it would continue in its refusal to recognize the Jewish state, no matter what peace terms Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas reaches with the Israelis. The referendum demanded by Hamas also would have to include millions of "exiled" Palestinians, many of them radicalized refugees, making it a nonstarter in terms of logistics and of the possibility of endorsing a vision of two-state coexistence.
Rising Anti-Semitism in Muslim Countries Fueling Hostility to Israel, Study Finds
Official anti-Semitism is on the rise in Muslim countries of the Middle East, fueling long-term hostility to Israel, a study found. Israel's Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center published a study this week arguing that in Iran and Arab states -- even those that have recognized the Jewish state -- officially sanctioned statements of anti-Semitism with a Muslim slant are increasing, often as a means of diverting internal dissent from the government.
One salient example is Holocaust denial twinned with allegations that Israel is practicing a "real" holocaust against the Palestinians. Anti-Semitism tends to rise in parallel to progress in diplomatic rapprochement between Arab regimes and Israel, calling into question the long-term efficacy of such accords.
The study singled out Iran as a country whose anti-Semitism poses a potential threat to Israel's existence, given Tehran's supposed nuclear program.
"Anti-Semitism supported by a state, which publicly adheres to a policy of genocide and is making efforts to arm itself with nonconventional weapons which will enable it to carry out that policy, is unprecedented since Nazi Germany," the study said.
IDF Investigating Cameraman's Death
Israel announced an investigation into the killing of a Reuters cameraman by its forces in the Gaza Strip. Following calls for a probe by Reuters and international watchdog groups, the Israeli military said Sunday it was gathering information to determine the circumstances behind the death of Fadel Shana.
Shana was killed while filming a central Gaza combat zone, and film from his camera showed an Israeli tank firing in his direction. An autopsy revealed that he had been hit by a kind of dart used in Israeli shells.
Some critics have suggested the tank crew targeted Shana, although it knew he was a journalist. The Israeli military rejected this.
"The IDF wishes to emphasize that unlike terrorist organizations, not only does it not deliberately target uninvolved civilians, it also uses means to avoid such incidents," the IDF said in a statement. "Reports claiming the opposite are false and misleading."
Israel Foils Two Hamas Border Attacks
Israeli forces foiled a massive Palestinian assault on a key Gaza Strip border crossing. Using an armored car and two explosives-laden jeeps painted to resemble Israeli military vehicles, Hamas terrorists rammed the Kerem Shalom border terminal before dawn last Saturday. Israeli soldiers at first responded with small-arms fire, but took cover as the jeeps were blown up by their drivers.
In parallel, another Hamas armored car tried to smash through the Gaza-Israel border fence north of Kerem Shalom but was destroyed by tank fire. Thirteen soldiers were wounded in the Kerem Shalom incident, and four Hamas gunmen were killed.
Israel's top brass said Hamas had been denied its objective of killing a large number of troops and abducting others in a blow to the Jewish state's morale on Passover eve. Six Hamas gunmen and another Palestinian were killed in later Israeli air strikes in Gaza.
Israel Upgrades Dress Code for Official Meetings
A more formal dress code is being adopted in the halls of Israel's government. Cabinet Secretary Ovad Yehezkel sent ministers and other top Israeli officials an advisory that following the Passover vacation, they will be expected to dress formally at government-level meetings, Yediot Achronot reported Tuesday. This means suits with ties for men, according to the newspaper. For military personnel, field fatigues will be replaced by dress uniforms.
Under Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, a career politician and former lawyer with a taste for Western mores, formal Israeli functions have been coming more into line with international standards of protocol.
Streisand Cancels Israel Appearance
Barbra Streisand canceled her appearance at Israel's 60th anniversary celebration. Streisand was scheduled to perform the Hebrew prayer, "Our Father Our King," at a star-studded convention hosted by President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem on May 13. Peres' office reportedly said the singer gave no reason for her cancellation.
Seder Marks Failure to Free Three Kidnapped IDF Soldiers
Friends of three captive Israeli soldiers held a protest seder outside Ehud Olmert's residence. Around 40 friends of Gilad Shalit, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev set up a table on the pavement near the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem Saturday night for a special Passover seder.
Instead of the standard haggadah, the assembled read out and sang from a specially composed text deploring the Israeli government's failure to recover the soldiers, who have been in Hezbollah or Hamas captivity since the summer of 2006.
Olmert has said intensive efforts are under way behind the scenes to repatriate the three, although he has balked at the ransom demands made by their captors.
Israeli Arab Wins Haggadah Art Contest
An Israeli Arab teenager won a national contest for her illustrations of the Passover haggadah. Malek Sharkiyeh, a Muslim ninth-grader from Acco, took the $300 prize in a competition by Israel's ORT school system for haggadah illustrations.
"The subject of the haggadah exhilarated me," Malek told Ma'ariv last week. "I like to draw, and that's why it was natural for me to take part in a drawing contest."
Mohammed Hajuj, principal at Malek's school, noted that the Exodus story appears in the Quran -- albeit with some differences.
"It's about what happened to Pharaoh in Egypt," he said. "It isn't a victory over the Arabs, so the students didn't find anything in it that was against them."
P.A. Scraps Plan to Honor Five Terrorists
The Palestinian Authority called off a plan last week to honor five terrorists jailed in Israel. Relatives of five Palestinians serving lengthy prison terms in Israel for terrorist outrages were to have received the Jerusalem Medal -- the highest honor that can be bestowed by Mahmoud Abbas' administration. Abbas, who was abroad, had no comment, but unnamed aides told Israeli media that awarding of the prize was a "humanitarian gesture."
The reports provoked outrage in Jerusalem. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's office said she raised the "grave and problematical issues arising from this" with visiting U.S. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley. Later, the Palestinian Authority announced that the ceremony had been postponed.
Among the planned recipients were Amana Muna, who lured an Israeli teenager to his death with the promise of sex in 2001, and Ahlam Tamimi, who helped a Hamas suicide bomber kill 15 people at Jerusalem's Sbarro pizzeria that same year.