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Gush Etzion: "We Are Fighting for Our Homes"


Shaul Goldstein, head of the Gush Etzion Regional Council, said: "We are fighting for our homes. Today they took over empty mobile homes, tomorrow they will take over communities and family homes." He made the comments at an emergency meeting of the Judea, Samaria and Gaza Council Monday evening, during which it was decided to begin a determined struggle against the evacuation of Jewish outposts and neighborhoods. Goldstein called on the Jewish residents of Judea, Samaria and Gaza to carry out their struggle free of violence.

Israel Begins Taking Down Some West Bank Outposts

By VOA News & Ha'aretz

The Israeli army has begun tearing down unauthorized Jewish settlements in the West Bank - a move dismissed by Palestinian officials as insignificant. Palestinian Cabinet Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo says the dismantling of uninhabited outposts is "just a symbolic step."

Israeli military officials have not said which outposts they are removing. But earlier Monday soldiers dismantled the Amona outpost, consisting of a single water tower. More than 100 settlers blocked troops who tried to remove the tower after the army tore it down. Settlers warned they would stage demonstrations if soldiers try to tear down inhabited outposts. Removing Jewish settlements is a key point in the road map plan for Middle East peace.

Military sources said that the army intended to remove a total of 94 outposts in the near future, and that in the coming days populated outposts would also be evacuated. The order to began dismantling the outposts was issued about an hour after a meeting between Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and Yesha Council leaders, during which the sides failed to reach an agreement.

The dismantling proceeded without any major incidents, but hundreds of settlers - including many children - came to Amona and attempted to prevent the movement of military forces and formed a human blockade to prevent IDF trucks from moving.

The army said that many valuable lessons were learned from such evacuation operations in the past, and that this time the IDF is dismantling several outposts simultaneously in different areas, in order to prevent thousands of settlers from gathering at every site to be cleared.

At last week's peace summit in Jordan, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said some of the outposts would be torn down as part of efforts to advance the "road map" plan for Middle East peace.

Meanwhile, Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas said he would not use force against Palestinian militant groups Israel wants disarmed before going ahead with the peace plan. He said he wants a dialogue with the groups, which have refused to stop their attacks on Israelis. Palestinian militants killed five Israeli soldiers on Sunday.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Palestinian militants who attack Israeli targets are not just the enemies of peace, but also of the creation of a Palestinian states.

The United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia drafted the "road map" plan, which calls for Israelis and Palestinians to take a series of steps leading to an independent Palestinian state by 2005, living side by side in peace with Israel.

Yesha Council spokesman Yehoshua Mor-Yosef said that settlers would do everything they could to avoid clashes with soldiers, but "if we are evacuated, and I assume that the army will use force to evacuate us in the end, then we will return the next day to 10 hilltops. We will do everything we can to torpedo, obstruct, and to prolong this step." He accused Sharon of "hiding behind the army and had not shown even the minimal amount of courage to look us in the eye and tell us, 'Guys, we're about to evacuate you.'"

He said the prime minister was "cynically and manipulatively" exploiting settlers in an effort to place them in conflict with the IDF. "We will not fall into Ariel Sharon's trap."

President George W. Bush said he remained optimistic about the Middle East peace process, despite a new round of violence in the region. The president made clear he is undeterred by the violence and will continue to push the peace process forward. He said he left the summit in Aqaba convinced that Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas were prepared to work for peace.

"I am optimistic that responsible leaders have now got the message that we must combine to work to fight off the terror attacks, so that a peaceful Palestinian state can emerge," said Bush.

Bush added that he knows the process will not be quick or easy. "I understand there is going to be a lot of work to do," he acknowledged. "But I am prepared to lead."

Kahane Books Offered Free

By Israel Faxx News Services

A number of copies of Meir Kahane's "Story of the Jewish Defense League" are being offered free to Jewish libraries. This is the first edition (1975), however the books were not stored properly and have "minor" signs of dampness. The donor is willing to pay for postage within the U.S. Libby Kahane 14/8 Kotler St. - Jerusalem, Israel - Tel-Fax 02-6540217

A note regarding this offer was received by the HaSafran listserv: "Please be very cautious about adding these books to your collection. If the books were stored under damp conditions, no matter how "MINOR" the signs, it means that there are activated mold spores in the pages and covers. Spores exist everywhere, of course, but the problem here is that they are very likely no longer in a dormant state.

"Unless the books are properly treated to kill off the active mold, there's a very good chance that the mold can spread to adjoining books which were previously clean. It is to the credit of the donor that the condition of the books has been made known." B'shalom, Bernard Katz, former Head, Special Collections and Library Development McLaughlin Library, University of Guelph (Ontario).

Israel Commences Privatization of El Al

By Sharmila Devi (Financial Times)

The long-delayed privatization of El Al Israel Airlines gets under way on Tuesday when the government starts to sell its 97 per cent stake in the country's flag carrier on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.

The government is issuing combinations of stock and options, which can be converted within nine months to four years. The state and El Al employees will retain just more than half of the company after the flotation until options are converted.

After years during which the government failed to find a strategic investor for the airline, the issue marks a boost for privatization. With little interest expected from international investors, the government appealed to domestic investors, saying the low price was a key selling point.

Soon after privatization, the company is expected to authorize flights on the Jewish Sabbath, which runs from Friday to Saturday evening. Such a move is deemed vital to reverse losses of $23.7 million in 2002 and debts of $900 million.

On offer are five combinations of stocks, options and warrants. Kobby Finkelstein of Investec Israel said that, if the first and cheapest package was chosen, the government would retain 76 per cent of El Al. At the end of the process, the government was planning to reduce its stake to 1 per cent.

Immediately after Tuesday's sale, if one group wins at least 31 per cent of the company, it would be able to gain control if employees voted with them. A group of investors led by Arkia, a domestic airline, was considering such a stake.

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