Vice Premier Haim Ramon said last week that troops and police could be deployed as early as this week for a mass-removal of outposts erected in the West Bank without state approval. He indicated that the operation could be timed to coincide with President Bush's visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority .
"I hope and assess that in the coming period and thereafter, during the U.S. president's visit to Israel and afterward, real steps will be taken to remove those outposts," Ramon told Israel Radio.
The U.S.-led peace "road map" obligates Israel to remove all outposts from the West Bank, where the Palestinians want a state. But the government has yet to take any comprehensive actions. Ramon did not say how many of the scores of outposts would be removed, but he predicted the crackdown would mostly take place east of the West Bank security fence, which many Israelis see as a future border with Palestine.
Speaking to Reuters last week, Bush made clear he considers the settlements a serious issue to be raised with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert during his visit.
"I will talk about Israeli settlement expansion, about how that is, that can be, you know, an impediment to success," Bush said.
Jewish Dems Slam Huckabee
Jewish Democrats slammed Mike Huckabee as an "extremist" after he won the Iowa caucuses. The former Arkansas governor's wide margin over other Republicans on Jan. 3 was the surprise of the first vote of the season in the effort to select a candidate.
Huckabee drew strong support from Christian evangelicals who share his adamant opposition to abortion and to church-state separation. His advocacy on behalf of the poor and his break with Republican orthodoxies about reducing the role of government also cultivated independents.
"In choosing a candidate so beholden to the extremist elements in the Republican base, Iowa Republicans have sent a strong message about the role and power of the religious right in GOP politics," the National Jewish Democratic Council said in a statement. "Governor Huckabee's record and rhetoric would certainly not play well with Jewish voters in a general election campaign."
The release quoted Huckabee as once saying: "I got into politics because I knew government didn't have the real answers, that the real answers lie in accepting Jesus Christ into our lives."
Lebanese Rockets Hit Israel
A rare rocket salvo from south Lebanon jarred Israel, though no one was hurt. At least two Katyusha rockets slammed into the northern Israeli border town of Shlomi early Tuesday, causing damage to buildings but no casualties.
Lebanese authorities had no immediate comment on the attack, which for many Israelis aroused memories of Hezbollah rocket barrages during the 2006 war. But Israeli security analysts said Hezbollah was unlikely to have been responsible and that the rockets -- relatively small 107mm Katyushas -- were likely fired by Lebanon-based Palestinian terrorists looking to disrupt President Bush's visit to the region this week.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah's rocket arsenal is bigger now than before its war with Israel, Ehud Barak said.
"Hezbollah has learned the lessons of the Second Lebanon War," the Israeli defense minister told a security conference in Tel Aviv on Monday. "Today, Hezbollah has more rockets than before the war."
The arsenal of more than 10,000 rockets was a strategic asset against Israel during the 34-day conflict, though many of the missiles were destroyed on the ground in air strikes.
An Israeli commission of inquiry into the Second Lebanon War will deliver its final report on Jan. 30 to Olmert and Barak. The commission's interim report, issued in April, was highly critical of Olmert's handling of the war, but stopped short of calling for his ouster. Israeli analysts have said they do not expect the final Winograd report to call for Olmert to step down.
Hillel Joins Conference of Presidents
Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life had been an adjunct member of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which acts as an umbrella group and a convener of the presidents of 51 major Jewish organizations. The Conference of Presidents' membership committee voted unanimously to give the group full membership.
"We see this as a recognition of the need for the conference to include those who will be future leaders of the Jewish community and to give them a voice in our deliberations," Conference chairwoman June Walker and Executive Vice Chairman Malcolm Hoenlein said in a joint statement released Monday.
Anti-Semitic Newspaper Distributed in Tblisi
A newspaper accusing Jews of plotting to "shed the blood" of Georgians was distributed in Tblisi. According to the Tblisi Bureau of the UCSJ: Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union, the newspaper issued by the political movement Axali Sitkva calls for its readers to "say no to Jewish mason spies!" and claims that "other people's property to a Jew is like an abandoned thing, the owner of it is the Jew who will appropriate it. For the Jew to acquire it, Georgians blood should be shed in the streets."
The paper is distributed in the Georgia capital's subway stations. The UCSJ report did not state what reaction, if any, has come from the police or the Jewish community to the distribution of the anti-Semitic newspaper, which violates Georgia's laws against ethnic incitement.
Peer Falls in Australian Tennis
Israel's Shahar Peer lost in the semifinals of a tennis tournament in Australia. Unseeded Belarusian teenager Victoria Azarenka, Peer's doubles partner, defeated the fifth-seeded Peer, 6-4, 6-2, on Friday to reach the Mondial Australian Women's Hardcourts final, a primer for the Australian Open, in Queensland. Azarenka, the world's 30th-ranked player, was beaten in the title match by another nonseed, Li Na of China. Peer entered the tournament ranked 17th in the world. Last year she advanced further than any Israeli in a grand slam event by reaching the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, which begins Jan. 14 in Melbourne.
Radcliffe Giving Specs to Shoah Exhibit
The lead actor in the "Harry Potter" films will donate his first pair of eyeglasses to a Holocaust memorial project. Daniel Radcliffe, whose mother is Jewish, will give the glasses he wore when he was 6 years old to the RESPECTacles Project, where they will join 1,000 pairs. Other celebrities donating include Yoko Ono, Stephen Fry and Jerry Springer. The art project was inspired by a famous photo of a mountain of misshapen and broken glasses taken from Holocaust victims -- a testament to the magnitude of Nazi cruelty and murder. The exhibit will be on display Jan. 21-26 at the town hall in Liverpool, England, as part of the national commemorations leading up to Great Britain's National Holocaust Memorial Day on Jan. 27. At the close of the exhibit, the glasses will be donated to Vision Aid Overseas.
Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
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