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Minister: Grant Citizenship To Foreign Laborers


Shas opposition party leader Eli Yishai Sunday expressed adamant opposition to Minister of the Interior (Shinui) Avraham Poraz's plan to grant citizenship to foreign laborers who are in Israel for an extended period of time and plan to serve in the IDF. Yishai also blasted the National Religious Party, a member of the government, for not responding to Poraz's plan and opting to remain silent.

Sharon May Meet New Palestinian Prime Minister

By VOA News

Israeli media reported that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon might soon meet with Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmud Abbas. Reports citing Israeli government sources said the talks would likely come after Secretary of State Colin Powell visits the region.

Laying the groundwork for Powell's visit, Middle East envoy William Burns met with Israeli officials Sunday to discuss the so-called "roadmap" to peace. The international plan envisages ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by 2005. Burns said adopting the roadmap would require steps from both sides, including renewed Palestinian efforts against terrorism.

On Saturday, Powell wrapped up a visit to Lebanon and Syria aimed at gaining both nations' support for the roadmap. He also told Syrian and Lebanese leaders they must reevaluate their support for anti-Israeli Palestinian militant groups. But officials from Hizbullah said they were confident that Beirut and Syria would not give into U.S. pressure to reign in the militant Muslim group.

Israeli Opposition Leader Resigns

By Ross Dunn (VOA-Jerusalem)

The head of Israel's opposition Labor Party, Amram Mitzna, resigned Sunday, three months after leading his faction to its worst-ever electoral defeat. Mitzna, a former army general and strong advocate of peace making with the Palestinians, announced his decision at a hastily convened news conference.

He said he was handing back his "mandate" and resigning as head of the Labor Party. His announcement came three months after he and his faction suffered a humiliating electoral loss to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Likud faction, which easily won a second term in office.

Mitzna blamed senior members of the Labor faction for driving him out of the leadership position. He accused some figures in Labor of incessantly working to undermine him since the January 28 national elections. He said members of Labor were more interested in fighting against his leadership than in "fighting for peace."

While Mitzna did not mention names, it was widely reported in the Israeli media that he was mainly referring to the former defense minister, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer. The two have clashed repeatedly since the elections, and Ben-Eliezer has reportedly used his influence within Labor to block Mitzna's proposals. A former mayor of the northern Israeli coastal city of Haifa, Mitzna was elected head of Labor less than six months ago, ousting Ben-Eliezer.

Among those expected to contest the leadership following Mitzna's announcement are Ben-Eliezer and Matan Vilnai, a former military commander. Mitzna campaigned in the January national elections on a platform pledging to re-start negotiations with the Palestinians, without pre-conditions.

His message failed to appeal to most Israelis, who have shifted increasingly to the right since the start of a violent Palestinian uprising nearly three years ago.

Mofaz: We'll Fight Terror As Long As P.A. Does Not


Defense Minister Sha'ul Mofaz said Sunday that Israel would not agree to end its counter-terrorism military activities until the Palestinian Authority takes its own steps towards that end. He further said that the PA couldn't be said to have accomplished "reforms" until it unites all its military bodies into one organization "not" under the authority of Yasir Arafat.

Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Mazen, however, is not even close to trying to implement the roadmap, according to Israeli sources, and he will not begin efforts in that direction until he stabilizes his authority in the PA. Mofaz noted that there was a significant increase in terror organizations' efforts to perpetrate attacks following the installation of the new PA government. "As long as Israel is subject to violence, and does not see Palestinian actions against terror. Israel will have no choice but to continue to act to thwart and prevent terror as is done today."

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Sunday that he would meet with Abu Mazen after Secretary of State Colin Powell's visit next week, though he did not specify a date. The Yesha Council, representing the Jewish communities of Judea, Samaria and Gaza, released a statement decrying the planned meeting, saying that it contradicts Sharon's policy of not negotiating under fire.

The U.S. has asked the UN Security Council to officially call upon Israel and the Palestinian Authority to adopt the roadmap plan. The US proposal called on both sides to "act together to stop terrorism." Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, who served in the past as a US mediator in the Middle East, met Sunday with Israeli leaders, including Sharon, Mofaz, and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom. He will meet with PA officials Monday.

Sharon, 12 Years Later: Dismantling Sinai Communities Was a Mistake


The 21st anniversary of the dismantling and evacuation of the city of Yamit and neighboring communities in northwestern Sinai was commemorated Sunday in N'vei Dekalim, the "capital" of Israel's southern Mediterranean Coastal communities in Gush Katif.

The ceremony took place in the local hesder yeshiva, which was originally founded in Yamit. Following the signing of a peace agreement with Egypt in 1979, 17 communities were destroyed and some 5,000 residents were removed from their homes in 1981-2.

In 1994, on the 12th anniversary of the withdrawal from Sinai and shortly after the Oslo Agreement was signed, then opposition Knesset member Ariel Sharon - who in 1982 served as Israel's Defense Minister and oversaw the destruction of Yamit - said:

"Every relocation of a point of settlement is a very difficult thing, and I would like to note and emphasize that, in light of what is going on now, and in light of the government's attempt to use what happened in Sinai as a precedent for what it wants to do now in Judea, Samaria and Gaza and the Golan, i.e., the dismantling of communities - this shows that it was a very bad mistake to decide on the dismantling of the communities.

"Because we see now where this is leading to. In light of what happened since - it was very hard at the time, but no one ever thought that an Israeli government would arise and use the precedent of Sinai, which occurred in totally different circumstances, to justify the dismantling of communities in the Golan or Yesha. In light of this, I must say that what we did then was a mistake, seeing that this is where it led to."

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