Thursday, December 15, 2005

A7news: Activists Halt Construction of Gush Etzion Partition Wall

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Activists Halt Construction of Gush Etzion Partition Wall
Activists in Gush Etzion won a small victory against the Partition Wall Thursday, preventing the destruction of a nature preserve and winning a court-order freezing construction of the wall.
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 1. Activists Halt Construction of Gush Etzion Partition Wall
 2. Rockets and Attempted Car-Bomb; No Casualties
 3. Kadima Leaders Worried: Support Dropped 17% in One Week
 4. Shalom, Running for Likud Chief, Blames "Rebels," Not Sharon
 5. More Election Tidbits
 6. Students Expelled From School System for Classroom Violence
 7. Saudi Prince: Terrorism Not Caused by Poverty
 8. Muslim Editor Against Rampant Anti-Semitism
 9. On A7radio: Israel, Iraq and The Palestinian Authority
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Thursday, December 15, 2005
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1. Activists Halt Construction of Gush Etzion Partition Wall
By Ezra HaLevi

Activists in Gush Etzion won a small victory against the Partition Wall Thursday, preventing the destruction of a nature preserve and winning a court-order freezing construction of the wall.

Citizens of Gush Etzion were alerted that Defense Ministry contractors intended to begin construction of the Partition Wall Thursday morning in the Suda Forest, adjacent to the Gush Etzion Junction. They arrived this morning with signs decrying the building of the wall they say will cut off and constrict Gush Etzion’s communities.

In mid-protest, the Supreme Court ordered work on the wall to be halted for five days. Demonstrators stayed in the forest until the Defense Ministry representatives acknowledged receipt of the order, at which point the crowd dispersed.

The Partition Wall, confirmed by Justice Minister Tzippy Livni as the current government’s planned border of the State of Israel, is being built around the eastern side of Gush Etzion. A second barrier, referred to by some as the “security fence,” is being constructed along the 1967 Green Line.

Gush Etzion residents are divided on whether to oppose only the route of the wall, or to reject it outright, telling the government to suffice with the fence already being constructed along the Green Line. As of now, both walls are being built – one along the 1967 border, and one slated to closely hug many of Gush Etzion’s communities and leave others out altogether.

At the protest Thursday, both approaches were represented, working together to prevent the construction of the wall in the middle of the nature preserve.

Click here for a photo essay of the protest

The Defense Ministry chose to start construction in the middle of the pastoral Pine trees of the Suda Forest (pictured above) in order to avoid Supreme Court petitions from local Arabs, who are unable to claim a nature preserve as their farmland.

The Defense Ministry suspected that petitions would be filed by Jewish groups – one was indeed filed by the Kfar Etzion Field School and joined by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel – but attempted to begin work before a court-order to halt work could be issued. A group of six Arab workers, accompanied by two Jewish security guards, were revving their chainsaws and heading toward a large pine tree when the protestors, who had gathered at the Gush Etzion Junction, crossed Highway 60 (the Jerusalem-Hevron Road) and climbed the hill to the nature preserve.

An off-duty soldier rushed to the threatened pine – planted by Jews prior to the founding of the State – and stood up against it. The Arab workers, seeing the 300 protestors entering the forest, put down their chainsaws and moved away from the trees.

Soon after, police vehicles pulled up and 50 border police with riot gear, wearing the notorious black uniforms used during the Gaza expulsion, began climbing the hill toward the forest.

It became clear that the police would either back down or forcibly raze the forest - pending the imminent response of the Supreme Court.

While both sides awaited word on the verdict, Yaron Rosenthal, of the Kibbutz Kfar Etzion Field School, gave a history lesson about the Gush Etzion region to the riot police gathered. At one point - with a nod of approval from the commanding officer - he even told them to get up, and brought them on a short walk through the forest, explaining its significance.

Rosenthal told those gathered, “Our goal is to prevent, by any means, the building of this fence. There are many red lines regarding the route of the fence to which we object. In some cases the very lives of the residents are at stake, putting them in sniper range and worse. Here, it is a matter of simply drawing the line elsewhere. Why cut down a [British] Mandate-period forest in order to include a few meters of vineyard, especially when a new road is being built that will cut into the current route and render it useless in just a few months?"

Rosenthal also said that the forest is home to hundreds of large oak and cedar trees, in a region where trees are scarce. A range of rare plants grow in the forest as well, due to the unusually cold climate.

Meanwhile Nadia Matar, of Women in Green, addressed the handful of adults and hundreds of youth and said that the wall must not be built around Gush Etzion at all. “We will fight against this fence whether it is here or a kilometer and a half south. The route fences out Hevron, Kiryat Arba, Karmei Tzur and other communities – but even if those communities were not there, we would still oppose it. A mother does not give away parts of her baby, and the Jewish people don’t fence out parts of the Land of Israel.”

Some of the youth held signs decrying the cost of the wall while poverty is rampant in Israel. Each mile of the Partition Wall costs the state $3.5 million.

A tour of the route of the Partition Wall in the region of Efrat and Migdal Oz will take place Friday morning at 8:30, starting from the Gush Etzion Junction.

“Thank you all for coming out,” Matar told the crowd, “but in five days, they will be back, and we will need you to bring your parents, friend and siblings from all over to stand in the way of the division of the Land of Israel.”

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2. Rockets and Attempted Car-Bomb; No Casualties
By Hillel Fendel

A massive car-bomb attack was thwarted in the Tunnels Highway, and four Kassam rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza. No one was hurt.

The IDF thwarted what could have been a catastrophic car bomb attack this afternoon. Israeli forces discovered a car packed with explosives parked near Beit Jala, on the Jerusalem-Gush Etzion Tunnels Highway. Inside the car were gas canisters, a pipe bomb, and gas-soaked tires and other materials.

It is assumed that the terrorists planned to send the car rolling down into one of the highway's two tunnels, and detonate it there.

Arab terrorists in Gaza fired three Kassam rockets at the western Negev this afternoon. No one was hurt. It was also reported that a Kassam was fired at the city of Ashkelon, landing in the city's southern industrial zone. Some reports said, however, that the explosion in the industrial zone was not caused by a rocket.

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3. Kadima Leaders Worried: Support Dropped 17% in One Week
By Hillel Fendel

Internal polls by Ariel Sharon's Kadima party show a drastic drop in its public support. Its showing last week translated to 41 Knesset seats; this week - only 34. Netanyahu speaks about Jerusalem.

Investigative journalist Yoav Yitzchak reports on that the controversial defections by Likud leaders Tzachi HaNegbi and Sha'ul Mofaz to Kadima have hurt Sharon's party, rather than helped. Both HaNegbi and Mofaz were widely accused of opportunism for their sudden moves. HaNegbi left last Thursday, and Mofaz - on Sunday.

Ariel Sharon will apparently compile his party's list of Knesset candidates within two weeks. Yitzchak reports that Sharon has refrained from doing so until now in order to avoid stirring up rivalries among the members. One problem he has is how to juggle between Mofaz and Avi Dichter, both of whom wish to be Defense Minister.

According to the not-yet released polls, support for both the Likud and Labor is increasing. Likud is showing 15-16 seats, while Labor, led by Amir Peretz, is up to 24.

Another poll, by Haaretz/Channel 10, shows Kadima dropping to 35 seats, with Labor receiving 24, and the Likud only 12.

The Likud is to choose its leader this Monday in nation-wide party primaries. If no candidate receives at least 40% of the vote, a run-off between the top two candidates will be held the Monday afterwards, Dec. 26. It is widely felt that after a leader is chosen and the party begins to recover from the blows it has recently suffered - namely, the departure of its leader Ariel Sharon and a third of the MKs - support for the Likud will further increase.

At present, four candidates are running for Likud party leader: front-runner ex-Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, Agriculture Minister Yisrael Katz, and Jewish Leadership faction leader Moshe Feiglin. Netanyahu is supported by leading Likud figures MKs Ruby Rivlin, Uzi Landau, Natan Sharansky, and others. No MKs have endorsed any of the other candidates.

According to a Channel Ten survey, the most recent published Likud poll, Netanyahu receives 40%, Shalom - 23%, Feiglin- 9%, and Katz - only 2%. If a second round occurs, the poll shows Netanyahu handily defeating Shalom.

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4. Shalom, Running for Likud Chief, Blames "Rebels," Not Sharon
By Hillel Fendel

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom is running second to Binyamin Netanyahu in the race for Likud leader - but is refraining from attacking their common "enemy," Ariel Sharon.

Shalom's strategy appears to be to sharply criticize Netanyahu, while going easy on Sharon. Asked about this today, Shalom's press advisor Ilan told Arutz-7 that Shalom's policy is not to attack people, but rather to speak to the issues.

However, Shalom in fact mentioned Netanyahu's name more than once in an interview this week with INN Arutz-7 TV. "Binyamin Netanyahu lowered the social flag to half-mast," Shalom said, and on another issue added, "The question is who can stop the erosion [within the Likud] towards Sharon and Peretz. There is no doubt that Bibi [Netanyahu] cannot. People are moving towards Sharon and Peretz because of Netanyahu. Only I can stop this..."

However, regarding Ariel Sharon, Shalom is stepping lightly. IMRA reports that when Shalom was asked "to comment on the Newsweek report that Sharon plans to unilaterally withdraw from half of Judea and Samaria so that a Palestinian state could be formed in the vacuum and then divide Jerusalem in a final negotiated settlement, Shalom would only say that there are former Labor Party members now inside his Kadima Party who present a problem."

Shalom's press advisor claimed that Shalom had been more forceful against Sharon regarding his Jerusalem stance on last night's Channel Ten London/Kirschenbaum program.

In the INN-TV interview, Gabi Newman asked Minister Shalom, "What's your attitude towards Sharon? Many blame him for the Likud's poor state now." Shalom responded just that Sharon had "made a mistake," and blamed the Likud's anti-expulsion camp.

"There's no doubt that Sharon made a major mistake by leaving," Shalom said. "I even once told him that technically, he won't be able to establish the government, because the right-wing and religious will recommend the Likud candidate [to the President], and the left and Arabs will recommend Amir Peretz; who will recommend Sharon? But beyond that, I think that the whole way the Likud worked was wrong. [I tried very hard] to prevent the split. Many in the Likud simply didn't want to see - there were elements who tried to get the NRP and Ministers Landau and Netanyahu and others to quit the government, and this caused Labor to join.... I very much supported the Livny compromise [which prevented the anti-disengagement ministers from voting against the disengagement]..."

Quite contrarily, columnist Haggai Segal wrote in this week's B'Sheva newspaper, published today, that Shalom once told him the opposite. Shalom said that during the deliberations over the Livny compromise, "I proposed to Netanyahu and [Minister Limor] Livnat that we should all [reject the Livny compromise and] resign that night, but they didn't want to."

Asked whether Minister Shalom blames Sharon or the anti-expulsion MKs for the split in the Likud, Shalom's press advisor said, "The extreme elements in the Likud. They refused to accept Sharon's desire to appoint two [pro-disengagement] ministers to the Cabinet, and this caused the split."

A-7: "The popular perception is that Sharon left not because of the ministers, but because of the disengagement and the opposition it aroused in the Likud."

Press Advisor: "Are you a reporter or an analyst?"

A-7: "Even Ehud Olmert, Sharon's #2 man in the Likud, just said this to Newsweek. The article states: '[Sharon is] prepared for a major accommodation in the [occupied] territories that Likud could not accept,' Olmert told Newsweek."

Press Advisor: "I haven't seen that yet. We'll look at it and see."

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5. More Election Tidbits
By Hillel Fendel

Sharon denies Jerusalem report - but not withdrawl reports... Netanyahu says concessions are a bad negotiating tactic... Omri's sentencing request was turned down... and more.

The Newsweek article in which Ariel Sharon's poll consultant Kalman Gayer said that Sharon would accept a compromise in Jerusalem and a PA state in 90% of Judea and Samaria in the framework of a permanent agreement continues to make waves. Sharon himself vociferously denied any plan to accept a compromise in Jerusalem - but said nothing about Gayer's other remarks.

Sharon issued a statement of denial, saying, "The remarks attributed to Kalman Gayer absolutely contradict my positions and my views... they are complete nonsense. United Jerusalem will remain Israel's capital forever. The Road Map is the diplomatic plan that will lead Israel in the coming years, and whoever says otherwise does so on his own behalf and in complete contradiction of my position."

Gayer was also quoted in Newsweek as saying that Sharon essentially plans another unilateral disengagement from half of Judea and Samaria. The article states: "In the meantime, Sharon wants to 'lay the contours of an agreement with the Palestinians,' according to Gayer, by creating a Palestinian state in half the West Bank and implementing confidence-building measures." Sharon did not relate to this in his denial.

The Newsweek article has touched off a media debate on Jerusalem. Binyamin Netanyahu, the front-runner in next week's vote for Likud Party leader, was asked today if he believes that the Arab-populated neighborhoods of Jerusalem should remain Israeli. Netanyahu responded, "Should the Arab neighborhoods of Acco [Acre] remain Israeli? ... Yes, certainly they should. There is no purpose in volunteering concessions at this point, because if you do, you know where you begin, but you have no idea where you might end."

Netanyahu further said that Sharon and Kadima "are planning the mother of all retreats."

Chaim Ramon, a Knesset Member who left the Labor Party to join Kadima, told Army Radio that he believes Israel should not control the Arab-populated neighborhoods adjacent to Jerusalem under the final-status agreement.

Justice Minister Tzippy Livny, a senior member of Kadima, refused to relate to the question, saying that the borders will be drawn in an agreement between the two sides, not in radio interviews.

IMRA reported that the Israel Broadcasting Authority's Washington correspondent Yaron Dekel explained on Israel Radio that the Newsweek item will not hurt Prime Minister Sharon - because the Israeli public thinks Sharon is a liar. "Those on the Right will think that his talk about a Palestinian state and Jerusalem is a lie, and the Left will think his denials are a lie," Dekel said. With everyone preferring to hear what they want to hear, Sharon will not lose votes, Dekel theorized.

In other election news, Omri Sharon's request to have his sentencing postponed until after the election has been turned down. Sharon, an MK of Kadima and son of the prime minister, was convicted last month in a plea bargain arrangement of violating the campaign finance law and of lying under oath. He faces a possible jail sentence, and asked that the sentencing be postponed so as not to hurt his father's electoral chances. Tel Aviv District Court Judge Edna Beckstein rejected the plea.

In other good news for the Likud, the Justice Ministry released a clarification today stating that the criminal investigation against illegal appointments in the Health Ministry has nothing to do with the Likud's Health Minister Danny Naveh. The investigation, which was announced earlier this morning, is directed against Health Ministry employees. Naveh originally responded with surprise to news of the investigation, saying he had made no political appointments.

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6. Students Expelled From School System for Classroom Violence
By Hillel Fendel

Four 10th grade students who beat up a substitute teacher in a Be'er Sheva high school have been thrown out of the school system altogether, by order of the city's Deputy Mayor.

The incident occurred on Tuesday, when a young English teacher from the nearby Negev University commented to one of the four that he should consider studying more intensively. The boy, a 10th-grader, began hitting the teacher. While the latter was defending himself against the onslaught, another three students began hitting and punching him as well. The victim was finally rescued by other teachers.

Deputy Mayor Rubik Denilovitz, who also serves as the city councilman responsible for education in the city, immediately ordered the permanent expulsion of the four students from the city school system. The four, who were charged criminally in the municipal juvenile court on Wednesday, the day after the incident, will be placed in a special institution.

"I'm not willing to simply pass over the fact that four students wantonly beat a teacher who came to help them in a special class of only 20 students," Denilovitz later said in one of several media interviews he granted. "This is real red line that was crossed. I could have passed over it quietly - after all, Be'er Sheva is not one of the most violent places. But if we don't pay attention to incidents like this, then the situation will simply get worse. People think they have only rights - but the fact is that they also have obligations."

Asked on Israel Radio if this was the only way to deal with the problem, Denilovitz said, "There are two planes - one is to view it as a problem on all the levels: municipal, state, teachers, Education Ministry, special arrangements and comprehensive solutions, extra classes, making sure to fill the students' time, etc. But on another plane, we also need deterrence, plain and simple. In these exceptional cases, we must really put our foot down. What will the students say if they see these students returning to school in a week or two or three? They'll say that no one really cares. We can't allow that to happen."

Just the day after the incident in question, Be'er Sheva police arrested two pairs of students who were involved in stone-throwings on buses in the city. In at least one of the cases, the boys admitted that they had done it just for fun. The windshield of one of the buses was smashed, but no one was hurt.

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7. Saudi Prince: Terrorism Not Caused by Poverty
By Hillel Fendel

"Osama Bin-Laden is one of the richest people [in the world]," said Prince Turki Bin Talal Bin Abdel Aziz, taking a maverick stance within the Muslim world.

In an interview with the London-based Arabic-language A-Sharq Al-Aussat newspaper, the Saudi prince said he does not accept the thesis that poverty is one of the causes of terror attacks.

Prince Turki is the personal representative of Prince Talal Bin Abdul Aziz, chairman of the AGFUND regional developmental institution.

The thesis that poverty breeds terrorism is a familiar claim, though not necessarily backed up by facts. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said after his recent visit to the U.S. that "poverty is one of the major reasons for terrorism," while Hamas Gaza leader Mahmoud a-Zahar has said, "It is enough to see the poverty-stricken outskirts of Algiers or the refugee camps in Gaza to understand the factors that nurture the strength of the Islamic Resistance Movement."

The chief of Jordanian Army Intelligence, referring to problems such as militant Islam, said, "Economic development may solve almost all of our problems... The moment a person is in a good economic position, has a job, and can support his family, all other problems vanish." Even former U.S. President Bill Clinton has said that "forces of reaction feed on disillusionment, poverty and despair.

Research shows the opposite, however. A graduate student at Princeton found that among Palestinian terrorists, those who came from poor backgrounds were relatively fewer by far than the number of poor in the PA population as a whole, and were also significantly more educated.

Researchers Alan Krueger and Jitka Malechova examined the backgrounds of some 130 Hizbullah suicide bombers between 1982-1994, and found that these terrorists were more educated and better off economically than the general Lebanese population.

In what is possibly the most famous study on the topic, Harvard economist Alberto Abadie researched terrorism in almost 200 nations (NBER Working Paper No. 10859), and concluded, "In the past, we heard people refer to the strong link between terrorism and poverty, but in fact when you look at the data, it's not there."

The Saudi prince who has now publicly adopted this approach also said in his interview that the solution does not lie in education. "Terrorism does not nourish its values from public education," he said, "but rather from a unique doctrine that it developed for itself. Terrorism has its own educational system, its own concepts, its own books and its own message."

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8. Muslim Editor Against Rampant Anti-Semitism
By Debbie Berman

Dr. Tashbih Sayyed, editor of the weekly Pakistan Today, expressed support for Israel and his belief that anti-Semitism presents the greatest challenge for the Muslim world today to overcome.

Press "Play" to listen to interview with Dr. Sayyed

Dr. Sayyed is editor-in-chief of two California-based weekly newspapers, Pakistan Today and Moslem World Today; in addition he is the President of the Council for Tolerance and an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute. Dr. Sayyed's analyses as a respected historian and a current affairs expert have been instrumental in shaping policy in the Middle East today.

Sayyed is keenly aware that his controversial views are in sharp contrast with the majority of the Moslem world. "I had a chance to be liberated from the collective clerical hold that keeps the Moslem world in the darkest corner of the intellectual mind. My faith rests in the premise that as long as there is anti-Semitism in this world, the world will never be able to see peace," Sayyed explained in an interview with Israel National Radio's Tovia Singer.

"People don’t recognize that whatever trouble the world is confronted with today is because of anti-Semitism. People hide anti-Semitism under different guises or title. Some call it anti-Zionism, some call it anti-Americanism, some say we are leftists, liberals, Moslems...but the crux of the matter is that they are anti-Semites. Anti-Semitism is a disease, an affliction that has troubled the mind of this world for the last 2,500 years," Sayyed stated.

Sayyed believes that supporting Israel and ridding the Islamic world of its anti-Semitic ideologies is the only way to save Islam from being overrun by the forces of evil. "As a Moslem, I am concerned for the welfare of my community for the future of my children. I do not want Moslems to continue living in the bottomless epic of darkness and evil. I found the symbol that I can hold onto in order to liberate the Moslem community from the hold of evil is that of Israel. Israel, after coming into existence in 1948, has been something that refuses to submit to evil and darkness," said Sayyed.

Sayyed says that he was predisposed to anti-Semitism as a result of his earliest educational experiences in the framework of religious Moslem institutions. "I was born an anti-Semite. Like most children from traditional communities, I was taken to a religious school at the age of four or five years old. The first word I learned from a cleric, like the ABC's, in my mother tongue was Allah, The Moslem God. The cleric defined that Allah stands for justice; he does not stand for disobedience to divine power. The people Allah is most angry with are the Jews; they betrayed him, they betrayed his prophet, they are evil people," Dr. Sayyed explained.

According to Dr. Sayyed he was able to overcome his initial anti-Semitic ideology because of his search for truth, fueled by a love of reading and exposure to a more enlightened philosophy. "I was not faced with an anti-Semite in my family; my father was a very enlightened person. He kept telling me do not believe anything unless you hear the other side. I am not a physically tall or strong person and was not welcomed into groups that were good at games; I remained in the confines of my house. Instead of being bitter about these circumstances I fell in love with books. I have found Jews to be people who love books, love reading and researching," said Sayyed, adding, "I used to wonder who these people are? What's wrong with them? Why do people hate them? That gave me a passion, a desire that I have to find reasons. I got confused: on the one hand, I had my Moslem sociology. On the other hand, I had the ideas from these books challenging all the standing theories that I had been depending on."

Sayyed was critical of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's policies, including the recent disengagement and the potential creation of a Palestinian state. "As Prime Minister today, Sharon is under so much pressure that he is destroying the very dream that will keep Israel intact," said Sayyed.

Sayyed described his first visit to Israel as a pilgrimage, and voiced his unconditional support for the Jewish State. "The State of Israel is an incarnation of the original truth. I hope to keep visiting this holy land. If Israel is not secured, then the world will not be secure," he stated in conclusion.

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