Wednesday, November 30, 2005

A7news: DM Mofaz Threatens Closure of Gaza Crossings

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DM Mofaz Threatens Closure of Gaza Crossings
Defense Minister Sha'ul Mofaz warned the Palestinian Authority Wednesday that if control over the Egypt-Gaza border is not tightened, then Israel will close the Israel-Gaza border.
Full Story Below

 1. DM Mofaz Threatens Closure of Gaza Crossings
 2. Peres Expected to Join Sharon´s Party
 3. After Row Over Drones, Israel and US Resume Strategic Talks
 4. Tali Fahima to Confess in a Plea Bargain
 5. Manhigut Yehudit Study Reveals What Likudniks Want
 6. Former Agudat Yisrael MK Promoting Right-Religious Coalition
 7. Always the General, Sharon Leaves Trojan Horse in Likud
 8. A Jewish Perspective on the Christian World

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Editor: Nissan Ratzlav-Katz
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
28 Cheshvan 5766


1. DM Mofaz Threatens Closure of Gaza Crossings
By Nissan Ratzlav-Katz

Defense Minister Sha'ul Mofaz warned the Palestinian Authority Wednesday that if control over the Egypt-Gaza border is not tightened, then Israel will close the Israel-Gaza border.

After a visit today to the Rafiach and Kerem Shalom checkpoints between Gaza and neighboring Egypt, the defense minister commented, "Control of the crossings is reasonable, but it is still partial and not complete. There are still gaps, and I hope that they will be filled very soon."

However, Mofaz also warned, "If the situation does not improve and the Palestinians don't cooperate, we will close the Erez and Karni Crossings [between Gaza and Israel]. They will become international borders, with all that that entails. I hope that the Palestinians understand the significance of such a step."

During a tour of the Egypt-Israel border yesterday, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told IDF soldiers stationed in the region, "The mission of the forces in the field is to put an end to border infiltrations." The prime minister was escorted by Defense Minister Mofaz. Both leaders were shown IDF observation posts along the border and heard intelligence reports of the efforts made by smugglers to bring weapons, ammunition, drugs and people into Israel from Egypt.

On other fronts in the struggle against Arab terrorism, IDF forces operating in Shechem Wednesday morning successfully convinced two wanted Hamas terrorists to turn themselves in. A Fatah terrorist was also arrested in the operation, during which Palestinian Authority gunmen opened fire and threw firebombs at Israeli forces. There were no injuries among IDF soldiers, while PA sources reported ten injuries.

During the night, IDF soldiers arrested at least eleven terrorists in the vicinities of Bethlehem, Hevron and Jenin. Suspects in custody include Hamas, Fatah and Islamic Jihad members.

In Jenin, soldiers involved in counter-terrorism efforts were targeted by terrorist gunfire several times. In Bethlehem, on Tuesday, PA security forces opened fire on an elite IDF undercover team that was involved in the apprehension of wanted terrorists. The force was extricated unharmed by IDF backup troops. There were no injuries during operations in either city.

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2. Peres Expected to Join Sharon´s Party
By Nissan Ratzlav-Katz

Veteran Knesset Member Shimon Peres is expected to announce his departure from the Labor party on Wednesday, ending a 46-year affiliation.

Sources close to Peres have indicated he will announce his decision to join Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Kadima party upon his return from Barcelona Wednesday. While he is not expected to seek a parliamentary seat in the next Knesset, the 82-year-old former Labor party chairman is likely to be promised a senior, custom-tailored post should Sharon end up drafting the next government coalition.

Peres rejected reports while overseas that he had already decided to join Sharon's party, saying that he will make his decision only upon his return home. A formal announcement is expected some time Wednesday night or Thursday.

In statements to the media in recent days, Peres said that he will make his final decision based upon a single parameter: the opportunity to continue contributing to the state. Party affiliation, according to Peres, carries only historical and emotional weight.

Some political observers in Barcelona believe that Peres was attempting to downplay the decision regarding his political future while in Spain so as not to overshadow a soccer game organized by the Peres Center for Peace. The game brought Israeli and Arab players together in one team to play against Barcelona's soccer team, regarded as among the best in the world.

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3. After Row Over Drones, Israel and US Resume Strategic Talks
By Scott Shiloh

After Israel reportedly agreed to subject defense exports to American approval, the US has resumed strategic security talks with Israel.

After a three-year hiatus, the United States and Israel resumed strategic security talks on Monday. The discussions, which began in 2001, were put on hold over Israel’s decision to upgrade “Harpy” drones originally sold to China in 1994.

American worries that the drones could potentially be used against U.S. forces brought about the cancellation of the deal with China. A memorandum signed between Israel and the United States last August paved the way for a resumption of the strategic talks.

In that memorandum, Israel agreed to subject weapons exports to third countries to guidelines which protect U.S. interests. According to some reports, the U.S. must consent to such exports.

While the U.S. and Israel have a wide-range of diplomatic, commercial, and military ties, the Harpy issue jeopardized strategic cooperation between the two countries. In addition to canceling the strategic talks, the U.S. precluded Israeli companies from participating in the development of next-generation U.S. fighter aircraft.

When asked why the talks had been suspended for so long, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said only that they had not taken place for “logistical” reasons.

According to reports, Tzachi HaNegbi (Likud), who serves as a minister without portfolio, and the directors-general of the foreign affairs and defense ministries headed the Israeli delegation to the talks. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns headed the U.S. delegation.

Another development opening the way for a resumption of the talks was the retirement of former Defense Ministry Director-General Amos Yaron. U.S. officials had refused to meet with him, claiming he had misled them in regard to the Harpy upgrade agreement with the Chinese.

The U.S. – Israel strategic forum was set up to provide a means for discussing strategic long-term issues between the two countries. The forum stressed discussion of regional threats and changes in global security.

Prior to the Harpy deal, U.S. officials were displeased when the contents of the confidential talks had been leaked to the press.

News agencies have already reported that Monday’s talks focused on the Iranian nuclear threat and other regional issues, such as tensions along Israel’s border with Lebanon.

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4. Tali Fahima to Confess in a Plea Bargain
By Nissan Ratzlav-Katz

Left-wing activist Tali Fahima, a 29-year-old Israeli Jewess, is expected to admit contact with a foreign agent, in exchange for which she will not be charged with aiding the enemy in war time.

Fahima originally faced a multi-count criminal indictment that included charges of aiding the enemy in a time of war. She allegedly passed information to Arab terrorists to facilitate the commission of one or more terror attacks or to avoid capture by Israeli security forces. However, Fahima’s lawyers stated Wednesday that a plea bargain is currently being arranged, according to which she will admit to having maintained contact with a foreign agent, but the more serious charge of abetting the enemy will be dropped.

If this deal is accepted by the court, Fahima will be released from jail in around a year, because she will have, by then, served the entire three-and-a-half-year term specified in the plea bargain.

While she remains in jail, however, the Palestinian Authority (PA) is making monthly payments to Fahima, according to a Channel 2 TV News report earlier this year. The stipend, authorized at the behest of the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade, comes out of a PA fund for imprisoned terrorists and their families.

Fahima was reportedly a girlfriend of Zakariya Zubeidi, commander of the Fatah-affiliated Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade in Jenin. Seeking to exploit her relationship with the terrorist leader, the Israeli General Security Services at first approached Fahima seeking to recruit her as an agent. According to testimony at her trial, recruitment efforts commenced in 2003, but Fahima rejected the intelligence agency's offers.

Zubeidi, on Israel's most-wanted list for his role in several murderous attacks on civilians, told reporters in June of this year that he joined the Palestinian Police. When asked if this meant he would now arrest or fight terrorists acting against Israel, Zubeidi said, "I'm not going to stop any Palestinian activist.... There is no difference whether I'm a field agent fighting for the Palestinian people or if I'm a man of law."

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5. Manhigut Yehudit Study Reveals What Likudniks Want
By Ezra HaLevi

Moshe Feiglin of the Manhigut Yehudit (Jewish Leadership) faction within the Likud, commissioned a study to find out what the Likud voter is looking for and was pleasantly surprised.

Speaking with Israel National Radio's Eli Stutz and Yishai Fleisher Show, Feiglin spoke about the faction's new efforts. "We decided that this time we are going to need to work much more professionally…We hired political campaigners, but told them right from the beginning 'you are going to have a hard time with us. You are going to serve us and find out how to deliver Manhigut Yehudit's ideas to the public, and not how to mold our ideas in accordance with what you think is in the public's mind.' "

According to Feiglin, the campaign managers were encouraged by the ideals of Manhigut members but embarked on an extensive study to determine which of those ideals are most important to the average Likud voter. "When they came back to us with these four points, we were very encouraged, as it showed that the Likud voters are in fact very healthy.

The four Manhigut points most valued by Likud members were:

1. Family values. "As odd as it sounds, nobody is mentioning family values," Feiglin said. "People don't know, but today, if you decide to build a family in Israel, you are punished to the tune of thousands of shekels a month." Feiglin provided an example of an unmarried couple, with three or four kids even, paying about a tenth of the taxes a married couple in the same situation would pay. He said Manhigut members have long spoken and written about preserving family values and that legislation to address the specific law discriminating against married couples was already being put forward by Manhigut's Michael Fuah.

2. Education. Feiglin said the average Likud member answered in the affirmative to the following question. "Do you think that every Israeli kid – not necessarily religious – should have one hour a day of Jewish tradition, Jewish history or Jewish values – not religious learning, but Jewish learning?" He said the pollsters were stunned by the results. "If I would ask NRP voters or Hareidi voters I could understand, but these are Likud voters," Feiglin marveled.

3. Security. "We are not only talking about completely erasing the Oslo process, the Oslo direction, but going back from that direction," Feiglin said. "[The Likudniks] all agreed that only Moshe Feiglin can really go away from that direction. Not only that, but our platform that talks about annexing the land and declaring sovereignty over all parts of the Land of Israel still in our hands gets a very good response as well."

4. Supreme Court. "Manhigut Yehudit is talking about coming out with a new law that judges of the Supreme court will be elected by the people, not by themselves, as is the current practice," Feiglin said. "It can either be directly or through the Knesset, but definitely elected by the people and representing the people's values."

"From these four points, we saw that the people of Israel are really waiting for this message," Feiglin said. "Only Manhigut Yehudit is bringing it."

Asked by interviewer Fleisher what Manhigut Yehudit's relationship with rabbinic leadership is, Feiglin said that while questions of Jewish law would always be brought before the faction's rabbis, questions of policy and strategy would only give rabbinic opinions the same weight as any other experts. "We have a rabbinical committee of rabbis who are members and volunteers in Manhigut Yehudit and identify completely with our ideas," Feiglin said. "Any time we get to any Jewish legal question we ask them and do exactly what they say. These are only halachic (Jewish legal) questions, though, we don't ask them political questions about which direction to take or ideology to draw from. In these issues these rabbis' ideas are very important to us, just like everybody else. We have no Manhigut Yehudit Council of Torah Sages. "

Host Eli Stutz asked Feiglin what he would reply to the assertion that every issue is relevant to the dictates of Jewish law.

"When I first started Manhigut I asked my personal rabbi and close friend about joining the Likud," he answered. "His answer was that it doesn't look like a good idea, but he understands that in this issue, I may understand more than he does. Later on he agreed very much with what I did. These are the kind of rabbis we consult with. They understand what their expertise is. It does not mean they don't have a say in policy, but their say in policy is not halacha, but rather the input of a very wise person."

Feiglin believes that the upcoming Likud primaries, which are to take place in less than three weeks, present an incredible opportunity to take control of the Likud Party and bring about a change in the direction of the State of Israel. "We have now an unbelievable opportunity to get Manhigut Yehudit ahead," he said. "We need a little miracle, smaller than what Amir Peretz [who beat incumbent Shimon Peres contrary to all predictions] had, to get to the second round and maybe even win. Everybody must get to work and get all of the Likudnikim he knows to get to the polls to vote the right way. People should call 1-800-200-613 to get involved. There are only two and a half weeks ‘til the primaries and I am telling you, we can do what Peretz did in the Labor Party and bring about a great change in Israeli and Jewish History."

To learn more about Jewish Leadership, its platform and plan for Israel's future, visit

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6. Former Agudat Yisrael MK Promoting Right-Religious Coalition
By Nissan Ratzlav-Katz

Rabbi Yisrael Eichler, formerly representing Agudat Yisrael in parliament, is working to draft joint "red lines" for all right-wing and religious political parties.

In an interview with Arutz Sheva Radio on Tuesday, Rabbi Eichler said that his efforts are aimed at foiling a divide-and-conquer approach from being effective against the religious and right-wing parties. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon used such an approach successfully after the last elections, according to Eichler, ultimately destroying both the Torah world and the Jewish communities of Gaza and northern Samaria. "And his hand is still outstretched for more," the former MK warned.

Rabbi Eichler said that he is working on drafting key non-negotiable positions for all religious and right-wing parties to agree upon ahead of coalition negotiations for the next government. He is seeking to prevent a situation in which, among the right-wing and religious parties, "in order to get some extra kneideleh [matzah ball], one [party] will enter [the coalition] at the expense of another."

Ideally, Eichler would like to see a joint commitment by the right-wing and religious parties that any future coalition must include all or none of them. However, barring that, he is working on a minimal agreement that the religious Zionist parties will fight legislation that could harm the interests of Hareidi Torah institutions and the Hareidi parties will fight legislation that harms the interests of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.

The first stage in forming his envisioned right-religious coalition, Rabbi Eichler said, is forming a single Hareidi bloc including Shas, Agudat Yisrael and Degel HaTorah. However, Eichler admitted that such a bloc is difficult to generate. Shas, he said, is concerned about losing traditionalist, but not Orthodox, voters to the secular parties should the Sephardic movement agree to join Ashkenazi Hareidim in one party.

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7. Always the General, Sharon Leaves Trojan Horse in Likud
By Scott Shiloh

Ariel Sharon, former general and master tactician, who broke away from the Likud to form his own party, Kadima, may have left behind hundreds of supporters who remain loyal to his cause.

These supporters, making up an army of potential Trojan horses, may severely affect the Likud’s ability to maintain political independence from the party’s former leader and founder.

Sharon’s supporters, for example, still comprise a substantial proportion of the Likud’s governing body, the Central Committee. That committee can influence the format of the party’s Knesset list, including the position of each individual candidate, and ultimately whether that candidate gets elected.

While the prime minister’s supporters may have a moral duty to follow his footsteps and leave the party he abandoned, such a move has yet to occur. They also have the option of timing their move to the benefit of Kadima’s party interests.

Some Likud members are worried that Sharon’s supporters will attempt to fashion a list of party candidates that will appear unattractive to potential Likud voters. Another possibility is that Sharon’s backers will attempt to form a list favorable to joining a coalition led by Sharon’s new party, Kadima.

Despite the threat looming over the viability of the Likud as an independent party, many senior party officials, however, are sanguine, convinced that Sharon’s loyalists will not deliberately harm the party.

However, representatives of MK Binyamin Netanyahu, who is a candidate to head the Likud, have voiced their concerns over the Trojan horse issue to INN. They said that the party has not formulated a plan to deal with the problem.

Since resigning from the government last August just before Sharon carried out the disengagement plan, Sharon and Netanyahu, who served as finance minister, have become bitter electoral rivals.

On the other hand, another candidate for the Likud leadership, Moshe Feiglin, was unperturbed by the issue. “In my estimation, this is nothing more than a tempest in teacup,” said Feiglin.

“Every telephone call Omri Sharon makes to a Likud activist will be recorded and exposed,” he said cynically.

Sharon’s son, Omri, who was convicted last week of committing fraud and of violating election campaign laws, was the Likud’s kingpin, before departing to join his father’s new party.

Feiglin believes that Sharon’s supporters simply will not be bothered to vote in the Likud’s primary elections scheduled for January. More practically, however, Feiglin said that Likud members who publicly endorse Sharon should be denied the right to vote in party elections. Feiglin said that aside from using this sanction, there was no other reasonable solution to the problem.

Another candidate for the party’s top spot, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, predicted that Sharon’s supporters “will move over to his new party.” He said the fuss is over Likud members who had supported Sharon over his rival, Netanyahu, but have decided to remain in the Likud sans Sharon.

Party stalwart, MK Yuval Steinitz, head of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee is also not worried about a potential Trojan horse problem. “Such worries are exaggerated,” he said. “Likud Central Committee members are patriots who would not want to harm the Likud.”

Steinitz cited his own particular experience, saying that he had the support of party officials and activists, despite the fact that he did not support Sharon’s policies.

Steinitz said that Sharon will not attempt to influence the party’s primaries because “the overwhelming majority never took his orders in the past.”

In contrast, another party stalwart, MK Michael Eitan, Chairman of the Knesset Constitution and Law Committee, said he was worried that Sharon’s men will try to intervene in internal Likud politics, but that “there is nothing that can be done to stop this phenomenon.”

He said, however, that he did not think that Sharon’s supporters would have a significant impact on selecting the party’s Knesset list. “Likud Central Committee members are not robots,” he said. An attempt by Sharon to influence the list would affect “200-300 Central Committee members” at most, said Eitan, pointing out that such a number would be insignificant in a committee with 3000 members.

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