Newsletter : 3fax0512.txt
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Volunteers For Israel
More than 40 members of "Volunteers For Israel" will arrive in Israel from all over the U.S. Monday to begin their annual 3-week stint on an army base. They will live and work with Israelis, performing non-combat, civilian duties such as repairing and maintaining equipment, kitchen duties, and packaging military and medical supplies. Their hands-on work relieves reservists and saves Israel millions of shekels each year in work hours and salaries. All programs are administered in Israel by Sar-El (www.vfi-usa.org)
U.S. Tells Israelis, Palestinians To Accept 'Road Map'
By VOA News, Reuters & IsraelNationalNews.com
Secretary of State Colin Powell has urged Israelis and Palestinians to take steps
toward implementing the so-called "road map" peace plan. But Powell said no one should
underestimate the challenges ahead. He spoke after meeting separately Sunday with Israeli
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his new Palestinian counterpart, Mahmoud Abbas.
Powell said Palestinians must dismantle the terrorist infrastructure or peace will
fail. He said Israel must also take steps to ease Palestinians' lives and make it possible
for Palestinians to work. Powell added that the United States would provide an additional
$50 million to build roads and create jobs in the Occupied Territories. Abbas said his
talks with Powell were "deep, serious and positive".
Powell urged the Palestinian leadership to crack down on militant groups that carry out
violent attacks against Israelis.
He made the appeal at a joint news conference in Jerusalem with Sharon. "We must also see
rapid, decisive action by the Palestinians to disarm and to dismantle the terrorist
infrastructure. Without such actions, our best efforts will fail."
Sharon said Palestinian violence was the main obstacle holding back peace efforts.
"What is needed now are actions that should be taken against the [Palestinian] terrorist
Israel has asked for 15 changes to the road map but the Palestinians said they accept
the plan as written. Abbas urged Israel to accept it. Earlier, Sharon said Israel is
prepared to make concessions for peace. Palestinian officials said Abbas and Sharon plan
to meet later this month.
Powell then traveled to Jericho in the West Bank for talks with Abbas. In a joint news
conference after their talks, Powell said that, while the Palestinians must fight
terrorism, the Israelis also have to take steps to improve the lot of the Palestinians.
"We have to take steps on the Israeli side that give hope to the Palestinian people and
ease their lives, and make it possible for them to get to their workplaces, and for them
to begin to live normal lives and for their children to do so."
Abbas said the Palestinian Authority is willing to fight terror, but also had demands
on Israel. He said Israel must put an end to Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza
Strip, halt assassinations of Palestinian leaders and free Palestinian political
prisoners. He also demanded that Israel allow freedom of movement for Palestinian chief
Yasir Arafat to leave and return to the West Bank.
On Monday, Powell will meet with representatives from Russia, the European Union and
United Nations, who along with the United States wrote the road map.
The road map plan calls for Palestinians to stop violence, and for Israel to stop
building settlements in the Palestinian territories. If followed, the plan would lead to
the creation of an independent Palestinian state by 2005. Late Saturday, Israel's army
announced it was easing some travel restrictions on Palestinians to allow workers to enter
Israel, starting Sunday.
Israel will readmit about 25,000 Palestinian workers after an extended ban and free
about 180 prisoners in goodwill gestures. Israeli diplomatic sources initially said around
120,000 Palestinians with pre-existing work permits would have the right to re-enter
Israel from Monday. But Israeli security sources told Reuters later that the initial
number would be around 25,000.
Israeli officials said the Defense Ministry made the decisions after discussions with
Powell on ways to begin implementing confidence-building measures prescribed by the "road
map" plan. They said 63 prisoners had been freed on Sunday and about 120 more would be
released on Monday. Thousands of Palestinians are in Israeli jails for alleged bomb and
gun attacks on Israelis during a 31-month-old uprising for independence.
Israel had banned tens of thousands of Palestinians from crossing into Israel to work
in security clampdowns since shortly after the September 2000 start of the uprising in the
West Bank and Gaza.
Officials said Israel had also decided to restore a flow of goods between Palestinian
territories and neighboring states, specifically crossing points from the Gaza Strip to
Egypt and the West bank into Jordan.
The official called the move to restore working rights for Palestinians in Israel
"unprecedented" during the conflict. No details were available on the practicalities of
the step. There was no immediate comment from Palestinian officials.
Israeli leaders had held out the prospect of humanitarian gestures such as restoring
working rights and freeing detainees, but Palestinians said it was not enough because
Israeli army roadblocks remained around Palestinian cities.
Yediot: Housing Ministry to Construct Prestige Neighborhoods in Negev
The Yediot Achronot Hebrew daily reported that the Ministry of Housing and Construction
is planning 5,000 private housing units in build-your-own-house plan luxury neighborhoods
in the Negev.
The apartments are designed for the families of Israel Aircraft Industry (IAI) and
Israel Defense Forces (IDF) training base employees, who will be relocated to the south in
the coming years. Minister of Housing and Construction Effie Eitam said this would also
attract wealthy people from the central region.
The project will cost an estimated NIS 1 billion. Construction of the neighborhoods
will be modeled on the Omer, Lahavim, and Meitar communities, which house the wealthiest
people in the Beersheva valley. Social and economic data place them among the six leading
Negev communities in their standard of living.
One disadvantage is that the land in the Negev is not immediately available.
Build-your-own-house plots are in short supply, and planning and approval processes there
encounter a great deal of red tape.
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