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Israeli Security on Worldwide Alert


In light of recent intelligence warnings of continued terrorist attacks on Jewish and Israeli targets around the world, Israeli international security services have increased their activities. Israel is arranging for stepped up security measures for both Israeli and non-Israeli Jewish potential targets.

Israel Arrests Palestinians Planning to Bomb School

By VOA News & Ha'aretz

The terrorists apprehended near the West Bank town of Jenin Wednesday afternoon by security forces were planning to carry out a suicide bombing attack in a school adjacent to the Yokne'am commercial center. The would-be suicide bomber is a 23-year-old from Gaza who was being driven to the site and assisted by a 20-year-old from the Jenin district. Security forces also recovered a 22-pound bomb belt intended for use in the attack.

The Israeli military said one of the two men arrested, Munir Rabeia, 23, from the Gaza Strip, was wearing an explosives belt like those used in previous suicide bombings. The army had been on alert for planned terrorist attacks in the area. An initial investigation of the two revealed they were members of the Palestinian National Security forces, in addition to being Islamic Jihad activist. The two told investigators they were on their way to a school in Yokne'am, east of the port city of Haifa.

The two also told investigators that they chose to infiltrate Israel from the West Bank, via the northern Jordan Valley, because the separation fence has yet to be constructed in this region.

Troops also arrested 17 suspected members of the hard-line Islamic Jihad movement in the West Bank before dawn on Wednesday morning. Separately Wednesday, the military said soldiers arrested four armed Palestinians in a car near the West Bank town of Hebron. A statement said the men had rifles and were on their way to carry out an attack. The West Bank raids came as Palestinian militant groups held informal talks in Egypt on a possible suspension of attacks against Israel. The official opening of the talks is set for Thursday.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia hopes to present a truce offer to Israel as a way to resume stalled talks on the U.S.-backed road map peace plan.

Earlier Wednesday, Israeli peace activists and Palestinian protesters scuffled with riot police during an attempt to stop construction of a new Jewish settlement in east Jerusalem. Dozens of protesters tried to block bulldozers with their bodies before police were able to disperse them. Witnesses said at least one person was injured. Protesters said the construction, which began earlier this week, violates the U.S.-backed "road map" peace plan, which calls for a freeze on Israeli settlement construction on occupied territory.

Powell Invites New Ideas for Middle East Peace

By Greg LaMotte (VOA-Cairo)

Secretary of State Colin Powell said the internationally-backed "road-map" for Middle East peace is not dead, but he is also meeting the architects of a separate, unofficial peace plan.

Speaking in Morocco Wednesday, Powell said he would meet, possibly on Friday, with the former Israeli and Palestinian officials behind what is known as the Geneva Accord - despite Israeli government objections. The secretary said the United States still believes in the U.S.-backed "road map," which calls for Palestinians to halt terrorist attacks and Israelis to stop settlement activity as first steps toward peace and a Palestinian state. Each side accuses the other of violating the road map, and official peace efforts have been stalled for months.

Powell said his planned talks with the authors of the Geneva Accord -former Israeli minister Yossi Beilin and former Palestinian minister Yasser Abed Rabbo - would not undermine support for the road map. And he adds U.S. officials welcome the opportunity to hear from anyone with ideas about achieving peace. Powell said that he would meet with anyone who has ideas on achieving Middle East peace.

Vote on Bill Punishing Recalcitrant Husbands


The Knesset is scheduled to vote on a bill introduced by Knesset member Gila Finkelstein (National Religious Party) that would allow more severe penalties against husbands who refuse to issue their wives a get (religious bill of divorce) under order of the court.

According to the provisions of the proposed amendment to the existing law, refusal to issue a get could entail imprisonment in solitary confinement for up to 12 days at a time, and the court would have the right to impose several penalties during a single session. Current provisions of the law require a new court date for the imposition of each penalty and allow solitary confinement for up to five days.

Finkelstein said that the amendment is critical to efforts to spare thousands of women unnecessary suffering, as a recalcitrant husband's refusal to issue a get is a legal obstacle to remarriage under Jewish law. The penalties under Israeli law for such refusal range from imprisonment to financial sanctions.

Book Review: Love Story Set Amid Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

By Laurie Kassman (VOA-Washington)

Setting a love story in a land of conflict can sometimes transform the novelist, as Canadian-Israeli writer Edeet Ravel discovered. She says politics was not on her mind when the idea for the love story came to her.

"I was driving in my car and the first sentence came to me, which is 'a long time ago when I was 20, I was involved with an interrogator'," she said. "And once that sentence came to me I had the characters, their names and some sense of what happened to them." Ravel says the Israeli-Palestinian conflict soon cast its shadow across the novel and its characters.

The book describes a love story between a student of English literature and a former actor who is an Israeli army interrogator of Palestinian prisoners. Although he is opposed to his government's policies, he continues his work, which casts a shadow over their relationship. An Israeli army sniper later kills him mistakenly when he tries to defuse a crisis involving the son of a Palestinian friend.

She said that she also uses the novel to probe the impact of language on political conflict. Is the barrier being constructed by Israel a security fence, as Israel describes it, or a wall as the Palestinians call it? "How do we use language to interpret and even create reality? And of course language can be used politically in all sorts of ways," she said. "Of course writers are always obsessed with words. But in this novel, I was really interested in showing that aspect of just how we live. We look at the world through language among other things and how do we really deal with this particular conflict through language."

The novel, Ten Thousand Lovers, is set in the 1970s in Israel. Ravel says she drew on her childhood in Israel for descriptions of that period. But when she started writing the book 2.5 years ago, she traveled from her home in Canada to Israel to research different aspects of the book. The experience, she says, opened her eyes to life outside the realm of fiction. Ravel now spends part of the year in Israel working for Checkpoint Watch, which monitors Israeli treatment of Palestinians at checkpoints and barriers set up around Jerusalem and the West Bank.

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