Rassegna stampa estera del 28 settembre.

By Joshua Mitnick
Christian Science Monitor
September 28, 2006

By Tony Karon
Time Magazine
September 26, 2006

By Uri Avnery
September 28, 2006

By Howard Berman
September 29, 2006 Issue

By David Dreilinger and IPF Staff
Israel Policy Forum
September 28, 2006

By Donald Macintyre
Independent (UK)
September 28, 2006

By Charles Levinson
Agence France Presse (France)
September 27, 2006

Daily Star (Lebanon)
September 27, 2006

By George S. Hishmeh
Gulf News, Opinion (UAE)
September 28, 2006

By Shmuel Rosner and Yoav Stern
Haaretz (Israel)
September 28, 2006

By Shahar Ilan
Haaretz, Opinion (Israel)
September 28, 2006


By Joshua Mitnick
Christian Science Monitor
September 28, 2006

Fassuta, Israel – As war raged over the heads of residents of this Arab border village
last month, resident Rayek Matar hoped that when the fighting stopped the country’s Arab
minority would be viewed as equals to Israeli Jews after absorbing the same rocket

But when the building contractor and his lawyer realized that businessmen in neighboring
Jewish towns near Lebanon were eligible for about 60 percent more government
compensation, they decided to file a petition with Israel’s Supreme Court charging
anti-Arab bias. The court will hear the case of Fassuta and three other Arab border
villages next month.

"We’re saying, what’s the difference between here and there? The army sat in the middle
of the village," says Mr. Matar, referring to the Israeli cannons stationed at the
entrance to Fassuta during the war. "It’s unthinkable that we pay income tax and social
security, and the ones who benefit are Jews, while we aren’t eligible."

Israeli politicians were quick to point out during the war that Hizbullah’s rockets
didn’t distinguish between Jew and Arab, a statement backed up by the grim statistic that
both groups suffered an almost equal number of civilian fatalities during the war.

Now that the fighting has ended, Israel’s Arab citizens say the government is making a
distinction in handing out recovery aid projected to reach $1 billion.

Instead of fostering a sense of shared solidarity, the war and the recovery effort is
aggravating decades-old tensions between Jews and Arabs here. Though they became citizens
after Israel’s independence, the Arab minority has experienced decades of institutional
discrimination and suffered from a minuscule government investment.

Many Israeli Jews, meanwhile, consider the Arabs’ sympathies for Palestinian brethren in
the West Bank, Gaza, and Lebanon as traitorous.

But Israeli Finance Minister Avraham Hirshensohn recently promised that aid for northern
Israel would be distributed equitably. Taken together with new efforts to reach out to
Israeli Arab towns by diaspora Jewish donors – who want to contribute about $300 million
to the recovery effort – some say there’s cause for optimism.

"The trend is laudable. It’s about time, but we still haven’t seen execution," says
Mohammed Darawshe, director of development for The Abraham Fund, which promotes
Jewish-Arab coexistence in Israel. "The road is still long. Even though they want
egalitarian policy, there are a lot of gaps to close."

Indeed, Arabs and civil rights activists remain skeptical that the pledge will be
translated into policy that would amount to a reversal of decades of ingrained bias.
"Despite laws forbidding distinguishing between Jews and Arabs, the government still
does," says Samuel Dakwar, the lawyer bringing the petition to the high court on behalf
of the villages of Fassuta, Aramshe – where three people were killed from a Katyusha –
Meilya, and Jish. "Even though Arabs paid a dear price in loss of life, it hasn’t
prompted the government to wake up and act responsibly."

The court case is so far the highest profile case alleging aid discrimination, but civil
rights advocates worry it’s likely to be one of many. After turning away loan
applications by Arab entrepreneurs, a small-business development arm of Israel’s Industry
and Trade Ministry was forced by government legal counsel to retract the policy and
return the money of a donor who had requested it go to only Jews and military veterans.

"Civil society organizations will have to work very hard in the next few years in
monitoring the government actions," says Shalom Dichter, the codirector of civil rights
watchdog Sikkui. "The patterns of discrimination in government actions are deeply rooted
in the government services."

The four villages are fighting to be designated as a sfar, Hebrew for border community,
which is a 40-year-old category that makes businesses based in the municipality eligible
for full compensation of profit and overhead costs from border wars. Noting the sfar
villages have been determined based on their proximity to the border, Arab lawyers will
argue to the high court judges that villages like Fassuta have been excluded from the
category solely on grounds of racial bias.

"We argue that when you have a list that’s geographically based, you have to include all
of the settlements in that area," says Towsan Zahar, a lawyer for Adallah, a civil rights
group that has joined the petition. "All of the settlements in the north were exposed to
the same missile risk."

An official in the finance ministry who wanted to remain anonymous acknowledged that the
border community designation was based on an outdated list. But if the ministry updated
the list with four Arab villages, it would expose itself to claims from municipalities as
far south as Haifa and bust the treasury’s budget.

Beyond the justification of bureaucrats of policies, Israeli Arabs have come under fire
for criticism of the war. Last month, Environmental Minister Gideon Ezra even suggested
that Israeli Arab towns be made ineligible for aid.

Arab community activists complain that the Jewish majority fails to appreciate that the
criticism reflects concern about the fate of Lebanese relatives. It’s unfair, they say,
to dismiss an entire community as traitors for what should be considered legitimate
political criticism.

"It’s an excuse to continue the policy of discrimination," says the contractor Matar.
"You feel unconnected. You feel that they’re doing you a favor by letting you stay here."

By Tony Karon
Time Magazine
September 26, 2006

Palestinian Muslims are currently joining the faithful the world over in denying
themselves food between sunrise and sundown. But while most Muslims elsewhere break their
Ramadan fast with sumptuous iftar meals, those unfortunate enough to live in the West
Bank and Gaza are finding that they have less and less to put on the table come
nightfall. That’s because they remain under a financial siege imposed by Israel, the U.S.
and Europe, in the hope of forcing Hamas, the Palestinian ruling party, to recognize
Israel. The premise of the siege strategy appears to be that by increasing Palestinian
misery, domestic pressure will mount on Hamas to submit or quit.

But such collective punishment may be as misguided as it is cruel; even if it did work,
any "recognition" achieved this way would mean little in the pursuit of peace. An
authoritative Palestinian polling organization last week released telling findings on
Palestinian public opinion in the West Bank and Gaza. It found 54% of voters dissatisfied
with Hamas’s performance in government, the figure rising to 69% when it came to
financial matters such as payment of salaries. Only 38% would vote for Hamas in an
election now. But when asked whether Hamas should submit to the Western demand that it
recognize Israel, 67% said no.

Clearly, it’s not simply some extreme Islamist fringe that favors withholding recognition
� it’s a majority consensus that includes many of the voters of President Mahmoud Abbas’s
own Fatah party. In part, as Israeli commentator Danny Rubinstein notes, that reflects a
widely held belief among Palestinians that "Yasser Arafat and the PLO recognized the
State of Israel in the Oslo agreement and what did they gain from that? Only suffering
and misfortune." In fact, as Rubinstein notes, the settler population in the West Bank
actually doubled during the Oslo years.

Even the Arab League proposal that Abbas is demanding Hamas accept as the basis for a
unity government offers only conditional recognition � the Arab states would normalize
relations with Israel if it agrees to withdraw to its 1967 borders. Hamas likes to dodge
the issue by pointing out that Israel has no intention of doing that.

The question of recognizing Israel is difficult for Hamas or any other Palestinian
organization, ultimately, because of the meaning of Israel in the Palestinian national
story. In the Western and Israeli narrative, Israel’s creation is seen as redress for
centuries of Jewish suffering in Europe culminating in the Holocaust. In the Palestinian
and Arab narrative, Israel’s creation meant the violent displacement of hundreds of
thousands of people from their homes and another Arab humiliation at Western hands. So,
while May 15 is celebrated by Israelis as Yom Haatzmaut (independence day), the
Palestinians mark the same day as the somber anniversary of Al-Nakbah (the catastrophe),
the moment when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians lost everything.

The idea of the triumph of one people being the tragedy of another is eloquently captured
in Sandy Tolan’s book, The Lemon Tree � essential reading for anyone seeking to
understand the difficulty in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Tolan chronicles
the true story of Dalia Eshkenazi, whose family flees post-Holocaust Bulgaria in 1948 to
live the Zionist dream of building a Jewish state in the Holy Land. The new Israeli
government provides them with an abandoned Arab house in the town of Ramla, in which she
grows up. One summer morning in 1967, she’s sitting in the garden near the old lemon
tree, when Bashir Khairi knocks on the gate. Khairi is the son of the man who planted the
lemon tree; he was born in the house and lived there until age 4, when he and his family,
and hundreds of others, were forced onto buses by Israeli soldiers and driven to the West
Bank, where they have lived as refugees ever since. The fraught and complex friendship
that ensues between Dalia � a committed Zionist who wants justice for the Palestinians �
and Bashir, a Palestinian militant who insists on his right of return to his home, allows
for a rare frank dialogue based on mutual respect and an honest acknowledgment of the
past, and of the difficulty of resolving the present. There’s no happy ending or
resolution, but their mutual recognition offers some sort of hope. It’s the clash of
narratives described by Tolan that ultimately fuels the controversy over Hamas
recognizing Israel. Hamas’s dramatic election victory came precisely because the
Palestinian electorate judged Fatah to have failed. To simply demand, as Israel and the
Western powers are doing, that Hamas now echo Fatah’s symbolic recognition of Israel and
renunciation of violence is pointless. Fatah recognized the State of Israel only because
it had become clear to them that Israel was an irreversible historical fact. But that
certainly did not stop Fatah’s rank and file from taking up arms during the intifada that
began in September 2000. Ask Mahmoud Abbas or any other moderate Palestinian leader
whether they would rather Israel had not come into being in 1948, and there can be no
doubt of the honest answer.

Many intelligence professionals eschew torture because they know that it tends to yield
the answers that the suspect thinks his interrogators want to hear � not necessarily the
truth. In some respects, there may be a similar effect in trying to throttle the
Palestinians into submission. It’s not inconceivable that at some point Hamas might find
a formula for recognizing Israel in order to put food on Palestinian tables. But such a
recognition would speak more to the boot on their necks than to any change in their

By Uri Avnery
September 28, 2006

Had hamlet been a reserve soldier in the Israeli army, he might now declare: "Something
is rotten in the State of Israel!"

And indeed, something is rotten –

* The President of the State refuses to suspend himself, in face of eight individual
accusations of sexual harassment. He whines about a monstrous conspiracy against him and
points at Netanyahu’s men in the Likud.

* The Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense refuse to resign, in spite of the
overwhelming majority of the public’s expressed lack of confidence in Ehud Olmert (70%)
and Amir Peretz (82%). Instead of agreeing to the establishment of an independent
judicial commission of inquiry, they have set up an examining committee that has already
lost the confidence of the majority of the public–even before it has started to
investigate the events of the Lebanon War.

* The Chief-of-Staff, under attack from retired and serving generals, declares that he
"will not take off his uniform until somebody tears it off."

* The chairman of the Knesset Foreign and Military Affairs Committee is indicted for
fraud and perjury.

* The Minister of Justice is on trial for pushing his tongue into the mouth of a female

According to the polls, the overwhelming majority of the population is happy with their
personal situation (80%) but depressed about the situation of the state (59%).

So what to do?

Simple: just change the system.

This is a typical Israeli reaction. Perhaps typically human.

When a crisis threatens to upset the foundations of our perceptions, we tend to turn away
from the main issue and concentrate all our attention on some detail. Thus we are
relieved from questioning our basic beliefs and the world-view we are accustomed to. We
take some detail, as small as possible, and put all the blame on it. That’s it! Found it!
That’s the guilty part!

As the old song goes: "All because of a small nail!" So when a major disaster occurs, we
find the small nail that caused it, and we need not look further.

For example: the Yom-Kippur war. Why did this bloody war break out at all? Why didn’t we
accept President Anwar Sadat’s earlier offer of peace in exchange for the return of the
Sinai? Why did our Ship of Fools blithely sail from the Six-day war to the Yom-Kippur war
on a sea of arrogance?

No, such questions were not asked. But what was asked? Things like: Why didn’t the army
intelligence department warn us that the Egyptians and Syrians were about to attack? Why
weren’t the reserve units called up in time? Why weren’t the "instruments" (tanks and
artillery) moved to the canal?

It was called "The Omission". That was the slogan of the mass protest movement that
sprang up and swept away Golda Meir and Moshe Dayan.

That’s like emptying the ashtray when a car breaks down. Now something similar is

The polls show that the public has no confidence in the leadership. But the public does
not say: We voted for these leaders, so we are to blame. That would be an unpleasant
admission. What they say is: It’s not our fault. So who is to blame? The "system", of

That’s because our parliamentary democracy does not assure the Prime Minister a full term
of four years. He can fall before that. It also compels him to include in his government
leaders of the coalition parties, even if they are quite incompetent to direct their
ministries. The Prime Minister cannot plan long-term policy, nor put capable experts in
charge of the ministries.

That’s very bad. Therefore, we must adopt the American system. The people will elect a
president, who will serve at least four full years. He will choose a cabinet composed of
outstanding personalities, each one an expert in his field. Thus Zion will be redeemed.

This is the purest snake oil–one bottle to cure all illnesses, without pain and without

First of all, one cannot simply transfer a political system from one country to another.
Every state has its own tradition, its own specific culture, its own social set-up. A
political system must grow from within. It cannot be imposed on another people. When one
tries to do that, the society adapts it to its own requirements and changes it beyond
recognition. (Japan after World War II springs to mind.) Only out-of-touch professors in
ivory towers could imagine that the illnesses of a society can be cured by an ideal
political system copied from another country.

That has already been proven in Israel: under the influence of some professors, our
"system" was changed some years ago. It was decided that the Prime Minister would be
elected directly, separately from the Knesset elections. But soon it became obvious that
this system was worse than the one before it. So the Wise Ones took counsel and changed
the whole thing back again.

But there’s no need for us to go through that experience ourselves. In order to
appreciate the advantages of the presidential system, it’s enough to look at the
situation in its homeland: the United States.

What has this system achieved there? Indeed, the president has at least four full years,
but many would add "alas!" When it is discovered that a complete idiot has been elected
and embroils his country in disastrous adventures, he cannot be removed. In our
parliamentary system, as in the United Kingdom, a Prime Minister can be removed with
comparative ease. Tony Blair will be gone within a year, while George Bush serves out his
full term.

Are the American ministers more competent than ours? Is Donald Rumsfeld less of a
disaster than Amir Peretz?

Moreover, in order to be elected president, a candidate needs huge sums of money. Such
heavy money can come only from interest groups, lobbies and large corporations. The
American system is corrupt to the core–a corruption so deep and wide, it makes the sins
of Olmert & Co. look innocent.

But logic is not the key to this discussion, because the demand for system change is
serving as a cover for something much more sinister: the call for a Leader.

Such calls always arise in times of crisis. When there is a feeling of defeat and a
climate of distrust of the old leadership, people long for a strong father. Democracy
looks weak and rotten, especially faced with the legend that the politicians have
"prevented the army from winning." A strong leader solves problems with an iron fist. A
policy of dialogue and agreements is something for weaklings.

It must be clear: the proposal to adopt the presidential system is nothing other than a
disguised call for an all-powerful leader. One has only to look at those who propose it.

The foremost advocate of "system change" is Avigdor Liberman, the leader of the "Israel
Our Home" party, composed mainly of immigrants from the former Soviet Union. This is a
party of the radical Right–to use an understatement. In other countries, they might be
called by another name.

"Israel Our Home" stands for unbridled nationalism and xenophobia. It is more radical
than Joerg Haider in Austria and Jean-Marie Le-Pen in France. It calls for all
Palestinians to leave the country, including the Arab citizens of Israel proper, who
constitute 20% of the population. That does not prevent Ehud Olmert from declaring
publicly that he would like to have this party in his government. (When Haider joined the
Austrian government, Israel recalled its ambassador from Vienna.)

Liberman, who wants to be Minister of Defense, has set five conditions for joining the
government, headed by the demand for the adoption of the presidential system. It is quite
clear who his candidate for president is: Avigdor Liberman.

The polls say that if elections were held now, Liberman’s party would get 16 seats in the
120-seat Knesset (compared to 11 seats in the present assembly). To this, one must add
the nine seats occupied in the present Knesset by the "National Union", whose leader, a
knitted-kippa-wearing general, publicly demands the expulsion of all Arabs from the
occupied Palestinian territories, and the withdrawal of democratic rights from the Arab
citizens of Israel itself. When such parties constitute a fifth of the voting public,
there is certainly cause for concern.

I believe in Israeli democracy. It is an incredible phenomenon, considering where most
Israeli citizens or their parents came from: Czarist and Communist Russia, the Poland of
Pilsudsky and his heirs, Morocco, Iraq, Iran and Syria–in addition to those born in
colonial Palestine under the rule of the British High Commissioner. Like the resurrection
of the Hebrew language, which has no parallel in the world, this democracy is a miracle.
(This means, of course, democracy in Israel proper. In the occupied territories, a very
different situation prevails.)

I don’t believe that there is a concrete danger of the rise of fascism at present. But we
have to be on our guard, every day and every hour. Several factors may promote fascist
tendencies here: the feeling of defeat in war, the legend of the "the stab in the back of
the army", lack of confidence in the democratic system, a widening gap between rich and
poor, incitement against the national minority described as a Fifth Column.

That is more than a small nail.

By Howard Berman
September 29, 2006 Issue

Over the last month, the Republican Jewish Coalition has placed ads in Jewish newspapers
across the country making the outrageous and ridiculous assertion that Democrats are
�turning their backs on Israel.� At the same time, the accusation has been made by
individuals who have sent out thousands of e-mails to all those in their inboxes.

That the Republican Jewish Coalition is deliberately distorting the facts is bad enough.
But it is even worse when it is done as part of a reckless strategy to politicize support
for Israel � a strategy that will have negative long-term consequences for the vital
American-Israeli relationship.

President Bush, former House speaker Newt Gingrich and many other Republicans have
certainly been reliable friends of Israel. But they have been no better friends than the
great majority of Democratic leaders � including former president Bill Clinton, Senate
Democratic Leader Harry Reid and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi � all of whom are
unwavering supporters of the Jewish state.

Democrats have a long and proud tradition of supporting Israel. It was a Democratic
president, Harry Truman, who recognized Israel just minutes after David Ben-Gurion
proclaimed the founding of the Jewish state.

When Democrats controlled Congress, we passed legislation prohibiting American contact
with the Palestine Liberation Organization until it recognized Israel�s right to exist,
approved massive increases in aid for Israel, blocked certain arms sales to Israel�s
enemies in the Middle East and took other steps to enhance Israel�s security.

As members of the minority, Democrats have played an integral role in legislative efforts
to cut off funding for Hamas and stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Both of those
legislative efforts have, unfortunately, been blocked by the Bush administration.

I�m not even going to make the case � and there is a strong case to be made � that a
number of Bush administration actions and blunders in the international sphere have hurt
America�s credibility and have therefore weakened America�s effectiveness in its support
for Israel.

The Republican Jewish Coalition chose to feature former president Jimmy Carter in its
political ads, but notwithstanding his comments to the contrary, he is an outlier on this
issue and does not represent the mainstream of Democrats. Even more ludicrous is the
notion that Cindy Sheehan speaks for any meaningful number of Democrats on the subject of
Israel. If Democrats wanted to sink to the Republican Jewish Coalition�s level, we could
just as easily trot out statements made by a number of prominent Republicans and claim
that the GOP is therefore hostile to Israel.

In the increasingly polarized American political system, support for Israel is one of the
few issues that remains truly bipartisan. This gives Israel confidence that no matter
which party occupies the White House or controls the House and Senate, the United States
will always be committed to Israel�s security and right to exist free from terrorism. The
Republican Jewish Coalition is making a conscious effort to destroy that bipartisan
consensus in the pursuit of illusory short-term political gains. But it is not acting on
behalf of Israel when it sets one party against the other. This cheap ploy will inject
uncertainty into the American-Israeli relationship � and ultimately make Israel less

If Republican leaders really care about Israel�s wellbeing, then they should renounce the
Republican Jewish Coalition�s dangerous campaign and devote their energies to
strengthening the longstanding bipartisan consensus on supporting Israel.

Rep. Howard Berman, a California Democrat, is a member of the House International
Relations Committee.

By David Dreilinger and IPF Staff
Israel Policy Forum
September 28, 2006

Four years after it was introduced, the Saudi Plan � the ambitious and controversial
initiative for a comprehensive Israel-Arab peace � might be back on the international

The Saudi plan � offered as a comprehensive solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict — was
introduced in 2002 and a tougher version was endorsed by the Arab League at its summit in
Beirut. Its stated goal was the achievement of full peace and normalization between
Israel and all the member states of the Arab League (i.e., the entire Arab world).

Although recognizing the significance of the offer of normalization, the Israelis
rejected the plan out of hand. For them, the Arab League plan was a non-starter because
(1) it called for Israel to withdraw from the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan Heights as a
precondition for negotiations leading toward normalized relations and peace and (2) it
demanded the right of return for Palestinian refugees from 1948 and 1967 which Israelis
believe would destroy their state. Also, it did not allow for territorial compromise or
land swaps on the West Bank. In other words, the settlement blocks adjoining Jerusalem
would have to be handed over to the Palestinians, something that even Yasir Arafat
understood would not happen.

But the plan died not so much because of its terms � they might have been negotiable �
but because, at the same time it was being presented in Beirut, a suicide bomber killed
30 Israelis at a hotel in Netanya. That attack led to Israel�s far-reaching military
incursion into the West Bank, the most fighting between Israelis and Palestinians in

But the plan may be ready for a second coming.

According to media reports, Saudi Arabia and other moderate Arab states, are looking to
revisit the plan, but in an amended form (withdrawal from territory would be a goal of
negotiations rather than a precondition for them). These reports indicate that the aim is
to have the plan codified in the form of a United Nations resolution that will be
presented to the Security Council. An alternative is to convene a Geneva or Madrid-like
international conference with the new Arab League plan on the table.

It is this developing process that makes the stories in the Israeli press about a secret
meeting between Prime Minister Olmert and an official �close� to Saudi King Abdullah all
the more tantalizing.

According to the Israeli press, the meeting took place two weeks ago in an undisclosed
location. The reports claim that Olmert and his interlocutor discussed ways to deal with
the shared danger from Iran and from Islamic radicalism in general, including Hamas. If
the meeting took place, it is inconceivable that the Saudi initiative and the state of
the peace process with the Palestinians did not come up as well.

So could this be a turning point in the peace process? It�s possible. Israel and Saudi
Arabia find themselves facing the same set of regional challenges in the long-term and
may view cooperation as mutually beneficial.

Additionally, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is scheduled to visit the region in the
coming weeks, amid reports that President Bush is considering a visit to the Middle East
soon after the November midterm elections.

Why Now?

The war in Lebanon was an eye-opener not just for Israel and the US, but for the whole
Middle East.

Analysts in Arab capitals are saying that Iran interpreted Hezbollah�s military
resilience as a validation of its strategy to export its radical Shiite ideology and
terrorism to the western reaches of the Middle East. Furthermore, President Ahmadinejad
conceivably views the Hezbollah success (relative success that it was) as having produced
a shift in the regional power balance that may allow him to achieve his goal of a nuclear

For Egypt, Jordan and other moderate Arabs, the perceived validation of Iran�s strategy
is a direct threat to their moderate regimes. Saudi Arabia is feeling the heat too, as
even there Hezbollah and other radicals are growing in popularity. Saudi Arabia�s initial
condemnation of Hezbollah�s attacks at the start of the war perhaps indicates an
understanding in Riyadh that Saudi Arabia and Israel may be sharing part of the same

For Israel, the war reinforced the danger from Iran-sponsored terrorist groups and the
unfeasibility of maintaining the status quo in the West Bank. Many analysts suggested
that Israel�s defense of the territories may have come at the expense of defending the
north from Hezbollah, Syria and, ultimately, Iran.

The war also weakened Olmert�s political position at home and pretty much eradicated
support for his �realignment plan� � a proposed unilateral withdrawal that could have
decisively altered the status quo in the West Bank.

There is little surprise, then, that Olmert would consider expanding his range of
contacts by consulting with the Saudis as he searches for a political breakthrough. It is
worth noting that Israelis of all political stripes support Olmert�s decision to seek
contacts with Saudi Arabia, even those who bitterly criticized his handling of the war in
the north. Former Foreign Minister and Likud MK Silvan Shalom called the meeting a
�tremendous achievement.� On the other end of the spectrum, Yossi Beilin also welcomed
any dialogue with the initiators of the Arab League initiative.

Meanwhile, polls this week show a strong majority of Israelis and Palestinians in favor
of resuming bilateral negotiations. Palestinian pollster Khalil Shikaki found that more
than 70% of Palestinians support immediate negotiations between Abbas and Olmert, and an
Israeli poll conducted by researchers at Hebrew University found that 67% of Israelis
want talks with the Palestinians, including Hamas if necessary.

The bottom line is that as Israelis look forward to a new year, a number of forces are
coalescing toward a new consensus on the need for diplomatic action. On issues ranging
from Lebanon to Iran to the Palestinians, Israel is finding likeminded partners in
unlikely places. The United States should exploit this constellation of events to move
the process forward. The good news is that it appears ready to do just that.

By Donald Macintyre
Independent (UK)
September 28, 2006

Jerusalem – The air strike on Gaza’s only power station that has left most residents with
half their normal electricity supply three months later was a war crime, according to the
Israeli human rights group B’tselem.

A 34-page report says the cuts in power are: harming health care; drastically limiting
water supplies to three hours a day; plunging sew-age treatment to near crisis levels;
limiting the mobility of high-rise dwellers by halting lifts; and threatening residents
with food poisoning because of interruptions to refrigeration.

The report, entitled Act of Vengeance, says the cuts in power have also seriously
disrupted small businesses in Gaza, deepening an economic crisis already far worse than
that faced by Gaza’s 1.3 million residents at the peak of the Palestinian uprising three
years ago.

B’tselem says the Israeli missile strike, which disabled the US-insured power station by
destroying six transformers three days after the abduction of the Israeli corporal Gilad
Shalit by Gaza militants, is in breach of international law because it deliberately
targeted a "civilian object".

The agency says Article 54(2) of the Geneva Protocol states that: "It is prohibited to
attack, destroy, remove or render useless objects indispensable to the survival of the
civilian population." Article 52 of the protocol says lawful attacks are limited to,
"military objects", defined as those, "whose total or partial destruction… offers a
definite military advantage".

Arguing that no such advantage resulted from the strike, B’tselem says the Israel Defence
Forces (IDF) supported the strike on the power station and three bridges in the Gaza
Strip on 28 June by saying that, "the actions are intended to make it difficult and to
disrupt the activity of the terror infrastructure related directly and indirectly to the
abduction of Cpl Gilad Shalit".

After B’tselem wrote to Israel’s Defence Minister about the strikes an official wrote
back on behalfof the Judge Advocate General’s office saying that "the infrastructure
targets… assist the illegal activity of the terror organisations in the Gaza Strip".

The B’tselem report says: "The fact that both the IDF spokesperson and the Judge Advocate
General took special care not to mention how the attack on the power plant, or power
stoppages resulting from it, would ‘disrupt the activity of the terror infrastructure’ or
the ‘launching of Qassam rockets at Israeli communities’ speaks for itself."

B’tselem adds that it is still waiting for a reply to a request of the Judge Advocate
General to explain the connection. The agency says even if the "doubtful" claim that the
attack provided a military advantage, the attack breached international law by being

B’taselem wants Israel to prosecute those responsible for ordering the strike, to fund
rehabilitation of the plant, to upgrade electricity supplies from Israel and allow
compensatory claims by Gaza’s residents.

The IDF said last night said it had no comment to make on the report.

* The Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister, Naser al-Shaer, a senior Hamas official, was
freed from detention yesterday by an IDF court. His lawyer said there was no evidence
against him.

By Charles Levinson
Agence France Presse (France)
September 27, 2006

Jabaliya Refugee Camp – Khalil Madhouni, a balding, middle-aged baker in this
particularly squalid patch of the Gaza Strip, goes from militant to peacemaker in the
time it takes him to scratch his round belly with flour-caked fingernails.

"War forever," the angry-eyed bread maker growls when asked if the ruling Hamas movement
should recognize the Jewish state it has sworn to destroy. "No peace with the Jews ever.
There is no peace. Only surrender."

He sighs. He reconsiders. He softens his scowl.

"No. OK. I want peace, but I want a just peace."

The opposing worldviews of Madhouni and other Palestinians in the Jabaliya refugee camp
offer a glimpse into the difficult choices that confront their leaders and that have left
people here facing an uncertain future.

A six-month old international aid boycott aimed at weakening the Hamas government has
made life for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank as desperate and hopeless as it has
ever been and made governing nearly impossible.

Now, amid efforts to form a unity government with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas,
Hamas must decide whether to accede to Western demands and back off its long-held vow to
throw Israel into the sea or stay true to its founding principles.

If Hamas is looking for guidance from the Palestinian masses, who in January voted the
hardliners into power, it should look elsewhere.

In this tangled maze of narrow pedestrian alleyways, among the most densely populated
places on earth, teenagers hurled the first stones of the Palestinian uprising in 1987.

Today, residents of the Jabaliya refugee camp, a Hamas stronghold that has long been a
hotbed of anti-Israel activity, Palestinians are openly conflicted.

A short walk from Madhouni’s bakery, Hossam Surour slumps over the sales desk of a
deserted satellite TV shop. Last month, the 22-year-old got engaged. He waves a silver
band on his ring finger as proof.

He says he needs 3,000 dollars to marry, but adds, plangently, that he hasn’t a penny.
With his future wedded bliss at stake, Surour is closely following Palestinians’
declining fortunes and is eager to share his thoughts on what needs to be done.

"Hamas must compromise because things are very difficult for us now," he says adamantly.
"They should join a unity government."

But when asked if that includes recognizing Israel, abiding by past peace deals, and
renouncing violence — the three conditions Hamas must meet for the West to resume direct
aid to the government and for Abbas to sign on to a Hamas-led unity government — the
young storekeeper changes his tune.

"No way," he says. "I’m totally against that. These compromises are impossible for me to
accept. This is our right."

When pressed on what exactly it is he wants his elected leaders to do, Surour throws up
his hands.

"I don’t know. Allah will help us."

Recent public opinion surveys have reflected the Palestinians’ conflicting views.

According to a September poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research
and another one by Najah University, two-thirds of Palestinians think Hamas should not
bow to the demands of the donor community.

Yet 85 percent of Palestinians also want Hamas to enter a unity government that would
almost certainly entail bending to those very demands, the polls found.

"The problem is the Palestinians are confused," says Abdel Majed Sweilem, a political
science professor at Al Quds University. "On the one hand, they want compromise and a
political solution. On the other hand, they haven’t seen any results from 10 years of

Khalil Shikaki, director of the Palestinian think tank that conducted one of the polls,
disagrees. There is no inconsistency in the Palestinians’ stance of being pro-peace and
opposed to compromise at this time, he says.

"Three quarters of the Palestinians would be happy to recognize Israel but only as part
of a final settlement," says Shikaki. "For most Palestinians, recognition of Israel is a
negotiating asset. They are saying to Hamas don’t do it, because they think it is wrong
to do it now.

"But if and when there is a peace agreement they will definitely go for it and they will
oppose Hamas on this issue."

Madhouni, the portly baker, reconciles his conflicting world views with similar logic.

"I’ll support recognizing Israel, when Israel recognizes Palestinians’ rights," he says.

Daily Star (Lebanon)
September 27, 2006

A great deal of optimism was expressed when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime
Minister Ismail Haniyya first announced that they would begin talks aimed at forging a
national unity government. The talks, it was said, would pave the way toward the lifting
of crippling sanctions and the resumption of financial aid to the Palestinian
territories. The prospect of an Abbas-led unity government was also welcomed by the
European Union and the Quartet of Middle East negotiators as a potential step toward
restarting the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.

But as the international community looks ready to loosen the stranglehold on the
Palestinians, the Israeli government has been tightening the noose. In recent weeks,
top-level Israeli officials have made clear that no matter what the Palestinians do, they
intend to continue and expand the Jewish state’s policies of occupation and oppression.
Earlier this month, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert approved the construction of
another 690 homes in the occupied West Bank, after announcing that there are no plans to
leave the occupied West Bank in the foreseeable future. And this week, Olmert said that
as long as he is prime minister, Israel will not return the occupied Golan Heights, which
he called "an integral part of the State of Israel." Israeli Trade Minister Eli Yishai,
who is also a member of Israel’s Security Cabinet, went even further this week when he
openly suggested that the Jewish state should evacuate Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and
then raze their villages one by one in order to stop militants from firing rockets into
http://www.dailystar.com.lb Olmert’s government is effectively telling the
Palestinians that Israel aims to continue occupying Palestinian territory and brutally
oppressing Palestinian civilians indefinitely. Such a hard-line message hardly fosters an
environment in which moderates can prevail. No one could blame the Palestinian people for
thinking that Olmert’s government simply does not want a peace process. On the contrary,
Olmert’s agenda appears to be avoiding the resumption of peace talks at all costs.

The Israeli premier and others still believe the myth that they can pound the
Palestinians into submission through the use of strong-arm tactics. But this strategy,
which has been practiced in various forms since the creation of Israel, does not appear
to be working. Recent polls suggest that instead of empowering moderates, Israel is
cultivating a new generation of extremists.

The only way for Palestinians and Israelis to break the cycle of violence that has
gripped their societies for decades is to resume a peace process that is based on the
principle of reciprocity, in which both sides take simultaneous steps that build
confidence and create trust. The international community has demanded that much of the
Palestinians. Perhaps the Israelis, too, will need some prodding.

By George S. Hishmeh
Gulf News, Opinion (UAE)
September 28, 2006

There was a lot of plain talking between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and top US
officials, including President George W. Bush, during their private meetings during the
UN General Assembly session in New York last week.

The rosy statements told only part of the stiff exchanges that took place; some US
officials left the meetings with raised eyebrows wondering what Abbas was trying to sell

Abu Mazin, as the Palestinian president is popularly known, came to New York hoping that
he could have the Bush administration buy his plan for a new unity government that will
include Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic group that was swept to power last year.

The European members of the Quartet as well as the United Nations, unlike the US, seemed
initially supportive of the new Palestinian move.

This would feel like a breath of fresh air from the doomsday atmosphere that the
penniless Hamas-led cabinet has introduced in the impoverished Gaza Strip and West Bank,
two regions that have been denied any western financial assistance because of Hamas’s

The unity government, Abbas explained in his private meetings with American officials,
would have a clearer programme that would go more than half the way towards meeting the
conditions of the Quartet’s so-called Roadmap, namely, acceptance by the projected
Palestinian government of Israel’s right to exist, renunciation of violence and
acceptance of all previous agreements with Israel.

Instead of Hamas’s direct recognition of Israel, Abu Mazin indicated that Hamas would
endorse the Arab peace initiative of 2002, a camouflaged way of saying Hamas would go
along the remaining Arab countries and recognise Israel, provided it withdrew from all
Arab territories occupied in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

In effect, Israel would be implementing UN resolutions 242 and 338 which called for
Israeli withdrawal from the two Palestinian regions including East Jerusalem.

However, Hamas apparently had second thoughts and pulled the rug from under Abu Mazin
while on his way to the United Nations when Palestinian Prime Minister Esmail Haniya, a
senior Hamas leader, declared that his organisation would not recognise Israel.

An adviser of Haniya, Ahmad Yousuf, explained, "We have a different approach, to offer a
ceasefire for five or 10 years. It is a different tool to achieve peace and security in
the region."

Next Step

The next step is anyone’s guess. Conceivably, Hamas could withdraw from the government
and open the way for a government of technocrats thus allowing Abu Mazin, in his capacity
as chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, to negotiate with Israel’s Prime
Minister Ehud Olmert.

But it is unlikely that Hamas would forgo this golden opportunity to make its weight felt
in a likely Palestinian-Israeli settlement especially after the memorable "divine
victory" that Hezbollah scored in its 33-day battle against Israel’s lacklustre invasion
of southern Lebanon.

Furthermore, it is unlikely that Hamas would sign on the Quartet’s dotted line,
particularly that its Damascus-based wing is led by Khalid Mesha’al, a hardliner, but
more importantly, his Syrian backers are also anticipating a piece of the Quartet pie.

Considering the stalemate within the Palestinian ranks and the continued isolation of the
Syrian regime, which is a key player in any regional settlement, the ball remains in the
Israeli and/or American court.

Israel must be aware that, for example, the separation wall that it is building in the
Israeli-occupied West Bank now appears to be worthless in the face of the Katyusha
rockets as Hezbollah demonstrated.

So it remains in it own interests to extend its hand to the Palestinians, Syrians and
Lebanese to reach a settlement, a step that many Israelis apparently favour according to
some opinion polls.

There is nothing more that could restore America’s good image in the region than
seriously helping to find an Arab-Israeli settlement. Washington is at present buzzing
with rumours that Bush would himself like to initiate a move towards this end, either
through a visit or inviting leaders to Washington for a Madrid-like conference.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is apparently planning a trip to the Middle East
shortly. The Bush administration has neglected the Arab-Israeli conflict for six years, a
factor that has contributed to the looming humanitarian tragedy in the biggest prison on
the Eastern Mediterranean Gaza.

And this is not to belittle the appalling disaster that the US has implanted in Iraq
where the weekly death rate has sometimes matched the Twin Towers tragedy.

Bush has two more years in office which should be enough time for him to hold a candle
and lead all out of this gloomy tunnel.

By Shmuel Rosner and Yoav Stern
Haaretz (Israel)
September 28, 2006

Washington – U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to embark on a tour of
the Middle East next week, according to sources in the American capital.

Details of her visit have yet to be finalized; however, the State Department will hold
meetings in the coming days in order to set the final agenda of the trip.

One possibility is that Rice will hold a conference with moderate Arab leaders in Riyadh,
Saudi Arabia, where the secretary of state will seek to reach understandings on efforts
to block the Iranian nuclear program along with ways of possibly moving forward on the
Palestinian issue.

In the wake of talks between Arab leaders and U.S. officials in recent weeks, the view in
the Bush administration is that the war in Lebanon has led to growing concern in Arab
capitals over the threat posed by Iran to the stability in the region. As such, the
Americans would like to take advantage of this attitude and convert ideas into diplomatic

Secretary Rice said on Tuesday that "moderate states do not wish Iran to gain too much
power in the region," and explained that the United States intends to continue working
with moderate states in the Middle East "in order to block Iran’s ambitions."

Meanwhile, the administration has decided to give more time to talks with Iran, before
renewing its efforts at the UN Security Council in support of sanctions against Tehran
for its refusal to freeze its nuclear program.

At a press briefing in the State Department yesterday, Sean McCormack said that the
administration had accepted the request of Javier Solana, European Union special foreign
policy troubleshooter, for more time for another round of talks with the Iranian
negotiating team.

Solana held talks yesterday in Berlin with Iran’s chief negotiator on the nuclear issue,
Ali Larijani.

An American official said yesterday that Rice’s tour of the Middle East "is meant to give
a practical expression to the speech of President Bush at the United Nations."

Bush said that he believes that a new and intensified effort may bring about a
breakthrough in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

However, for the time being, the American government is having a difficult time
developing an overall plan as a result of the lack of certainty concerning the future of
relations with the Palestinian government.

Rice intends to ask the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan to pressure the
government of the Palestinian Authority to accept the conditions set by the Quartet – the
United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia – regarding Hamas. In
return for international recognition and aid, the Hamas government, elected earlier this
year, was asked to recognize Israel, relinquish the use of force, and accept all previous
agreements between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Meeting these conditions, Rice said, would allow talks to take place with the Palestinian
government. "As long as there is no partner for negotiations, it is not clear what
precisely we can gain," an American official said yesterday.

Meanwhile yesterday, the Shi’a speaker of the Lebanese Parliament, Nabi Beri, described
the American administration’s view of the Middle East as "superficial."

Beri also accused the United States of what he described as its aim to control the
natural resources in the area through its support for Israel, a "terrorist state."

Referring to comments by Secretary Rice that the Shi’a community in Lebanon was divided,
Beri said that the Shi’a community was united.

By Shahar Ilan
Haaretz, Opinion (Israel)
September 28, 2006

Can a person have a family unification with himself? Seemingly, nothing could be more
absurd, because family unification by definition is a process intended to unite a citizen
or resident with a person who is neither. If someone is a citizen or resident, he does
not require family reunification. And if he is not, how would he invite himself to unite
with himself?

This is not an exercise in logic. "Self family unification" has become a common term in
East Jerusalem’s Population Bureau over the last two years. In the past, when Israel
deprived Arab residents of Jerusalem of their status as residents after a few years’
absence, they could ask to reinstate it via a simple process. Today, they are required to
apply for something called "self family unification" and start a process similar to
family unification, which could take up to a year or two.

In June 2005, Hamoked – the Center for the Defense of the Individual, a human rights
organization that helps Palestinians, asked the Interior Ministry for the "self family
unification" procedure. "Recently, our office has encountered a new trend in your bureau
– demanding that permanent East Jerusalem residents whose residency was revoked apply for
self family reunification in order to get it back," the center wrote. "In a conversation
with officials in the East Jerusalem bureau, it emerged that this is a new procedure
introduced about two months ago."

About a year later, when it had still not received a reply, Hamoked asked the Interior
Ministry again for details of the procedure. Attorney Yotam Ben Hilel of Hamoked wrote
that the "self family unification" process is a deviation from the policy in place for
many years, under which requests to restore residency rights were not treated as requests
for family reunification. In June, a year after the first letter, the Interior Ministry
official in charge of Freedom of Information, Shalom Benamo, replied: "Self family
reunification is an internal term we use that means asking for a permit to live
permanently in Israel … There is no procedure for self family reunification.

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