Thursday, January 12, 2006

A7news: US Intervenes in Israeli Election, Backs Olmert

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US Intervenes in Israeli Elections: Administration Backs Olmert
Acting PM Olmert has been invited to visit Washington next month, and a PA newspaper reports that the U.S. has asked the PA and Arab countries to make Olmert-supporting gestures.
Full Story Below

 1. US Intervenes in Israeli Elections: Administration Backs Olmert
 2. Mini-Crisis of Leadership in the Likud
 3. Report Details Plight of Gush Katif Families
 4. Olmert Mulls Major Cabinet Changes
 5. Stabbing Spree in Moscow Synagogue Leaves Several Injured
 6. A7radio:Moslem Cleric: Stay in Yesha When IDF Tries to Kick Out

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Editor: Hillel Fendel
Thursday, January 12, 2006
12 Tevet 5766
Beit Orot


1. US Intervenes in Israeli Elections: Administration Backs Olmert
By Hillel Fendel

Acting PM Olmert has been invited to visit Washington next month, and a PA newspaper reports that the U.S. has asked the PA and Arab countries to make Olmert-supporting gestures.

Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who has replaced Ariel Sharon as the Kadima Party's prime ministerial candidate, is to visit Washington in February, just a month before Israel's national elections. Visits of this type invariably add to the invitee's stature in the perception of Israel's domestic public, and this will therefore help Olmert as the elections approach.

Olmert is also expected to become Israel's Prime Minister in the coming days, when Attorney General Menachem Mazuz declares that Sharon has become permanently incapacitated.

In addition, the U.S. has informed the PA and Arab countries that Olmert's stature must be strengthened as the elections approach in order that he "continue the process that Sharon started." So reports the PA's Arabic-language Al-Manar newspaper.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice issued a statement last night, commending Olmert on his apparent decision to permit eastern Jerusalem Arabs to participate in the PA elections later this month.

Most reports do not note that the Israeli decision stipulates that Hamas ballots will not be allowed into the Jerusalem post offices in which the voting will take place. Olmert informed Rice of this on Tuesday. In any event, the Israeli decision must be finalized at Sunday's Cabinet meeting.

Rice, in her statement praising Olmert's decision, stated the United States' view that there is no place in the political process for groups or individuals who espouse violence and reject Israel’s right to exist. “To participate in a peace process of Israelis and Palestinians," she said, " the Palestinian partner must at least accept Israel's right to exist. To implement agreements on movement and access for the Palestinian territories, the Palestinian partner must be committed to preventing violence."

The Al-Manar newspaper reported that the U.S. is conducting secret contacts with the Palestinian Authority and Arab countries in an effort to have them help strengthen Olmert's stature. The U.S. informed them that it is interested in having Olmert head Kadima and "continue the process that Sharon began to solve the Palestinian-Israel conflict." The paper further reports that the Americans feel that Olmert is a "smart leader who will be able, with his advisors, to lead the peace process and rebuff the political machinations against him."

The U.S. even informed Olmert, according to the paper, that it would like him to keep Sharon's advisors on his team, especially Dov Weisglass and Shimon Peres.

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2. Mini-Crisis of Leadership in the Likud
By Hillel Fendel

Amidst conflicting reports of intra-party tensions, Netanyahu has finally convinced the Likud ministers to resign from the government. Holdout Foreign Minister Shalom will quit on Sunday.

The still-developing story began last night with the report that Likud Party leader Binyamin Netanyahu had informed the four Likud government ministers that they must quit the government.

The four ministers in question are Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, Education Minister Limor Livnat, Health Minister Danny Naveh, and Agriculture Minister Yisrael Katz. Netanyahu himself resigned as Finance Minister this past August - shortly before, and in protest of, the expulsion from Gush Katif and northern Shomron.

Netanyahu told the four that he was reinstating his original decision of last week that the Likud must quit the government. That decision, however, was suspended for reasons of "national responsibility" when Prime Minister Ariel Sharon took ill. "We have a responsibility to the country," a senior Likud source said at the time, "and this not the time to discuss resignations." Netanyahu himself said then that all politicking should be put on hold for a few days.

However, in light of the fact that Kadima Party leaders themselves have already resumed politicking, Netanyahu decided that the Likud need no longer hold back from political moves. "Kadima is taking actions that mean the division of Jerusalem," he explained last night, "and the Likud cannot be an alternative to the regime while sitting in the government and carrying out its policies."

The four ministers, led by Netanyahu's rival Foreign Minister Shalom, decided not to accept the decree so fast. They first announced that they would not resign, and were greeted with threats that Netanyahu would instruct his many supporters in the Central Committee not to vote for them in today's party primaries.

The ministers then said, later this morning, that they would resign - but only on Sunday, after today's party primaries. Reports of a rebellion within the Likud filled the news reports.

By 11 AM, the Likud ministers apparently decided that they had gone too far. First Yisrael Katz, then Ministers Livnat and Naveh, deposited their resignation letters with Netanyahu or with the Cabinet secretariat, or said they would do so within a short time.

Naveh gave a letter to the Cabinet, stating his intention to resign but adding, "The time of the resignation is not yet known, and will be determined by MK Binyamin Netanyahu."

The lone hold-out was Minister Shalom, whose #2 place on the Likud list was reserved for him after the internal elections for party leader several weeks ago. In addition to flexing his muscles against Netanyahu, he was said not to want to resign from the Foreign Ministry at this time, with many foreign dignitaries scheduled to arrive and other prestigious events on schedule.

However, at 2 PM, he too announced that he would resign, but only this Sunday. He is scheduled to meet with Netanyahu at 4 PM.

Likud Party primaries for the list of Knesset candidates are being held today at the Tel Aviv Exhibition Grounds.

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3. Report Details Plight of Gush Katif Families
By Hillel Fendel

Latest report: Of the 1,750 families expelled from Gush Katif, over 400 are still living in the most temporary of dwelling arrangements, such as hotels, tent cities and yeshiva dormitories.

photo: Ezra HaLevi

The numbers are dynamic and constantly changing, but a report prepared by the Gush Katif-L'maan Acheinu Task Force at the end of last week shows the following figures:

* 284 families, for reasons such as illness or other, have found individual solutions. Many of them plan to rejoin their communities when their permanent homes are built.

* 1,466 families are still seeking communal solutions with their long-time neighbors, according to the following division:

* 445 are in hotels, tent cities, and yeshiva dormitories, though this number is constantly decreasing.

* 1,021 are in their medium-term temporary homes, scheduled to remain there for approximately two years, until their permanent homes and communities are ready. The residents say they're far from convinced that it will be only two years. Close to 500 families are living in the pre-fab community of Nitzan, just north of Ashekon, and roughly 200 are in Yad Binyamin, between Ashdod and Beit Shemesh.

A map (in Hebrew) of the dispersal of the expelled residents can be seen on the Gush Katif-L'maan Acheinu website. An English version of the site is being prepared.

The Gush Katif-L'maan Acheinu Committee report details the problems facing the expelled residents. Aside from the general anxiety, uncertainty and lack of stability, the difficulties include the following:

* Much of the residents' personal property has been damaged as a result of its storage in large containers. Much property was destroyed and some was even stolen. Many families are having trouble storing it in their new locations.

* Education and Youth: Although the Education Ministry is felt to have prepared efficiently for the expelled children, several critical problems have still not been solved. These include school drop-out rates that are three times higher than Gush Katif experienced back "at home," as well as the lack of informal education programs, the lack of a satisfactory arrangement for offering social services, and more. A detailed Arutz-7 report can be seen here.

* Compensation payments: The families had their homes destroyed, yet many of them continue to pay mortgages - and all of them face increasing expenses related to their relocation - yet more than half the families have received nothing at all of the promised compensation. The remaining families have received an average of 50,000 shekels (just over $10,000). Only some 5% have received the entire compensation payment.

* Continued bureaucracy on the part of the Disengagement Administration, forcing the families to produce documentation that is either buried in their storage containers or got lost in the process of the expulsion. "Much of the information demanded by the Authority can be found at the click of a button on other government ministry computers," the report states.

* Unemployment: 2100 Gush Katif residents and others lost their jobs as a result of the disengagement, including 150 Negev residents and 150 northern Shomron residents. Some 220 people have thus far found jobs, and 50 small businesses have returned to operation.

Owners of independent businesses who have requested to re-open in Nitzan have been turned down, receiving the explanation that small-business structures cannot be placed on the site.

* Agriculture: Out of 176 farmers, 20% have returned to work. 25 people found work independently, and 11 were helped by the Disengagement Authority.

Laurence Beziz, formerly of Gadid in Gush Katif, is working on behalf of the expelled residents in the Gush Katif-L'maan Acheinu Committee. She explained that most of the body's efforts are now being made in two directions: "Alleviating unemployment, and for the youth, many of whom have fallen through the cracks and are not in school. We are trying to establish a youth club, complete with psychological help and the like. We now have a total number of about 160 youths who are categorized as 'at risk' - about three times higher than what we used to have."

Ms. Beziz emphasized that most residents agree that the extreme extent of the government's failure to help is proof that "they simply want to break us. What the government has done, or failed to do, is much more than mere bungling or ineptitude. Can there be any other explanation for the fact that it took four months to put six measly bus stops here in Nitzan so that our children don't have to wait in the rain to go to school? How else can it be explained that we don't even have one grocery store for the hundreds of families here? There are no basketball courts or normal soccer fields. It was so easy for them to destroy our homes, but they didn't think about how to build up. It is simply criminal and evil."

Asked how people can help, she said, "I can tell you that there is a group from the Jewish communities south of Hevron, such as Susia, that comes here every ten days to volunteer for a few hours and give treatments in reflexology and other methods of alternative medicine. Others have come to volunteer their services in other ways, and some people came to give Torah classes, on Sabbaths or during the week - things like these give us encouragement and are very helpful."

For information on how to help or donate, send email to

This Saturday night, at the Yeshivat Beit Orot dinner in New York, Gush Katif spokesperson Anita Tucker will deliver an update on the plight of the Gush Katif families and the danger of further disengagement.

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4. Olmert Mulls Major Cabinet Changes
By Hillel Fendel

Acting PM Olmert, who currently holds 12 ministerial portfolios, is set to name at least six new ministers - but considerations of Sharon's health, and legal and political issues, are in the way.

The resignation of three Likud ministers - Katz (Agriculture), Livnat (Education), and Naveh (Health) - will take effect on Sunday afternoon. Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said he would submit his resignation at the Sunday morning Cabinet meeting, and it will take effect Tuesday morning. The resignations may hasten Olmert's decision to name new ministers, but may also have the opposite effect, given the fluid political situation.

In any event, Olmert is just about ready to appoint at least three new ministers - all of whom, like Olmert, left the Likud with Ariel Sharon to form the Kadima Party nearly two months ago. Two of the three, Ze'ev Boim and Roni Bar-on, received promises by Ariel Sharon to appoint them as ministers nearly a year ago, because of their loyal support of his plans to abandon Gush Katif and northern Shomron. However, he was unsuccessful in having their appointments passed in the Knesset, though he tried more than once. The third minister-to-be, Yaakov Edry, was also a loyal supporter of Sharon.

In addition, Olmert wishes to appoint as government ministers the three former Labor MKs who joined Kadima - Shimon Peres, Chaim Ramon and Dalia Itzik. Here, however, he faces legal troubles.

Olmert's 12 portfolios include the two that he held before Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered his massive stroke, Finance and Industry/Trade. They also include five portfolios that he inherited from Sharon, who in turn inherited them from the Labor Party members who resigned from the government two months ago.

Ynet reports that Dr. Suzy Navot, an expert on constitutional law from the College of Management, says that according to Clause 6A of one of the Basic Laws - the "Knesset Law" - a Knesset Member who quits his party faction but remains in the Knesset cannot run for the next Knesset on behalf of a previously-existing party.

The purpose of the law is to prevent MKs from being enticed to change parties in exchange for political favors.

If Peres, Ramon or Itzik - who recently quit Labor and joined Kadima - are named ministers, this could easily be construed as a political favor that would justify a Supreme Court challenge, Navot feels. The Court could then ban them from running for Knesset on the Kadima list.

It should be noted that the clause does not apply to the Likud members who joined Kadima. This is because they did not "resign" from the Likud faction and join another existing faction, but rather "split off" from the Likud to form an entire faction of their own.

The exact language of the relevant clause (translated into English) is, "An MK who resigned from his faction and did not resign [from the Knesset] within a short time of his quitting, will not be included, in the next Knesset election, on the list of Knesset candidates submitted by a party that was represented in the outgoing Knesset." Navot says the law was meant to prevent MKs from receiving political benefits, and that therefore, as long as the MKs in question are not appointed ministers, there is no problem. The problem only begins once they join the government, and in such a case, she feels, the Supreme Court might not approve their candidacies for Knesset seats on the Kadima list.

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5. Stabbing Spree in Moscow Synagogue Leaves Several Injured
By Hillel Fendel

Approximately 10 people were wounded, including some in serious condition, in an anti-Semitic stabbing attack in a Moscow synagogue Wednesday night. One elderly man lost a large amount of blood.

The attacker, a drunk 20-year-old skinhead, entered the Lubavitch Bolshaya Bronnaya Synagogue in the Russian capital, and began slashing worshipers with his knife. The attack occured as the worshipers were preparing for evening prayers.

Six people were lightly wounded - eight, according to some reports - including an American and two non-Jews.

Yossi Kogan, son of the congregation's rabbi, Yitzchak Kogan - who lived in Israel for several years - said that the attacker first stabbed the guard and then started stabbing congregation members in another room. "I heard yells, and I ran over there and jumped on him, until guards came and handcuffed him," Yitzchak said. His shirt was blood-stained, though he was not seriously hurt.

Other witnesses said the attacker had yelled out Hitler's name and, "I have come to kill Jews!"

Russia's Chief Rabbi Berl Lazar cut short his visit to Israel and returned to Russia following the attack. In an official statement, Rabbi Lazar said the attack was "a consequence of militant and unpunished anti-Semitism and open propaganda of extremism and fascism for which no one has ever been brought to justice... It’s here. It is fascism."

Many other official Jewish and Russian bodies expressed shock and outrage at the attack. Anti-Semitism in Russia is widely felt to be on the rise. An Israeli government report has ranked Russia third, after France and Britain, in instances of anti-Semitic violence.

In 1999, an attempted bombing of the same Moscow synagogue was thwarted when a young boy accidentally discovered the bomb. The building was crowded with children at the time.

The lone Israeli who was wounded in the attack, 19-year-old Aharon Yechezkeli of Kiryat Malachi, was originally listed in serious condition after having been stabbed in the neck. He underwent an operation, however, and his life is no longer in danger. A 34-year-old Los Angeles rabbi, Michoel Mishulovin, who had recently returned to Russia, was stabbed in the stomach and hand, and underwent surgery last night.

A statement by Russian Jewish Congress President Vyacheslav Kantor reads, "The incident causes more than just pain and indignation. Blood spilled in the very center of Moscow is another alarming signal for Russian society. The danger of militant nationalism cannot be overlooked... [Modern Russia does not have] a state policy of anti-Semitism, yet there is engrained domestic and political anti-Semitism. The indifference of law enforcement agencies is no less dangerous."

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6. A7radio:Moslem Cleric: Stay in Yesha When IDF Tries to Kick Out
A7 Radio's "Yishai Fleisher and Alex Traiman Show"
Sheikh Abdul Hadi Palazzi, a prominent Moslem Cleric from Rome speaks out in favor of the Jewish birthright in the entire land of Israel.

Yekutiel Ben-Yaakov speaks from the conference of the Judean Initiative seeking to create a new, autonomous Jewish entity in Judea and Samaria.

INN correspondent Ezra HaLevi reports live from Sde Boaz where the IDF destroyed a home built by Jewish hands on Jewish land.

David Wilder gives us an update from Hevron where expulsion efforts are also being prepared.

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