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Demographer: Holy Land Has Non-Jewish Majority

By Ha'aretz

Haifa University demographer Amnon Sofer said Tuesday that there is already a majority of non-Jews within the total area of Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. "At this very minute, within the western land of Israel from the [Mediterranean] Sea to the Jordan [River], there is already a non-Jewish majority." Asked about the possible influence of future Jewish immigration, Sofer said that the society must also take into account the influence of the burgeoning population of the Holy Land as a whole. "Within 17 years, some six million people will be added to the population, most of them poor Palestinians. This land is entering into a demographic-ecological whirlwind."

Sharon: Israel May Soon Remove Some West Bank Settlements

By Ross Dunn (VOA-Jerusalem)

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said his government might soon unilaterally evacuate some Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Sharon said such a step could take place if there is no breakthrough in reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Sharon for the first time spoke of removing Jewish settlements in the West Bank "to improve Israel's overall security situation." He said that he remains committed to the international "road map" peace plan, which calls for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state by 2005. But in the short-term, he said, his government may take some unilateral steps, including uprooting some Jewish communities in the West Bank and relocating them inside Israel.

Sharon said the move could take place as part of what he called a complex, unilateral security and diplomatic plan, if peace talks with the Palestinians fail. He made the remarks Tuesday at a meeting of the Israeli parliament's foreign affairs and defense committee.

The head of the committee, Yuval Steinitz, a member of Sharon's Likud Party, backed the prime minister's position. He said that, if negotiations fail, then Israel might be forced to replace the road map with its own vision of peace. "If it will be clear that there is no partner evolving from the Palestinian Authority, then in the future we will have to reframe reality unilaterally and to drop the road map."

Other members of Sharon's coalition strongly oppose his plan. The leader of the National Religious Party, Shaul Yahalom, warned his faction would leave the government if settlements were evacuated. "We oppose any unilateral withdrawal and expelling any settlements. If it happens we cannot be a partner in the government."

Israel to Cooperate with World Court Over Security Barrier

By Sonja Pace (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israel said it would cooperate with the International Court of Justice, popularly known as the World Court, despite its opposition to the court's expected investigation into the construction of Israel's security barrier. The reaction follows a vote in the U.N. General Assembly Monday asking the court to look into the legality of the security barrier.

Israeli officials condemned Monday's General Assembly vote as cynical manipulation, and an attempt to politicize the International Court of Justice.

But Ranaan Gissin, spokesman for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said the government would cooperate, if the Court decides to take on the case. "We are going to argue our case in the court. We're not afraid of the international court. We have a solid case of our inherent inalienable right of self-defense," he said. "I suspect that the reason that this happened is because underlying this challenge to Israel's right of self-defense, is a more basic challenge to the very existence of the Jewish state."

The barrier, which is part barbed wire fence, part concrete wall with trenches and lookout posts has been under construction for over a year. In some areas it runs along the so-called Green Line, which marks the boundary between Israel and the West Bank land it captured during the 1967 Middle East war. But, it also dips deeply into Palestinian land in many areas, to include Jewish settlements.

While Israel said the security barrier is vital to keep out Palestinian terrorists and suicide bombers, Palestinians said it's an attempt by Israel to grab as much land as possible, isolate Palestinians inside barbed wire enclaves and pre-empt any negotiated settlement with a new de-facto situation on the ground.

Even though the United States was among the countries voting against the resolution, Washington has criticized the security barrier. The U.S. ambassador to Israel, Daniel Kurtzer, told Israel Radio that the American concerns are quite clear. "We do support Israel's right to defend itself and we allow, in our own minds, that Israel is going to make its own decisions on how to do that. When we noticed that perhaps considerations other than security were going into the route of the fence, that's when the United States began to express a viewpoint to the government of Israel."

In part Israel has downplayed the importance of Monday's U.N. vote. Israel's U.N. ambassador even spoke of a moral victory, saying that those who voted against the resolution or abstained were the vast majority of the world's democracies while those who voted for the resolution were dictatorships and supporters of terrorism.

Mother of Seven Carried Bomb Belt For Attempted Attack


The Israeli government has just allowed for publication the fact that two terrorists were intercepted on their way to carry out a large-scale suicide attack in Rosh Ha'ayin Monday. A 40-year-old Arab mother of seven transported a 19-pound belt of explosives.

Early Monday morning Saliman Abu Ruis, a 20-year old resident of the Balata slums, and his counterpart Tzaber Abu Sris, a 37-year old husband and father of seven from Shechem, set out to carry out a suicide bombing in a central population center. The two were members of Yasir Arafat's Fatah movement.

The men traveled together through the Kafr Kassam checkpoint into pre-'67 Israel while Latifa Abu Doar, a 40-year-old mother of seven, drove in a separate car carrying a 19-pound explosive belt. The terrorists, according to the IDF, took advantage of the fact that soldiers do not normally search Arab women as thoroughly as they do men.

After they passed the checkpoint, the mother accompanied the terrorists by foot through another IDF checkpoint and then handed the explosive belt over to Abu Ruis, the would-be suicide bomber. Latifa Abu Doar then turned around and returned to Shechem.

Abu Ruis and Abu Sarif walked toward the town of Rosh Haayin but turned back when they spotted the stepped-up presence of security forces due to a widespread terror alert that had brought the region to a standstill. Realizing they could not make it back to Shechem the two terrorists decided to hide the explosive belt and flee to the community of Hablah.

They were arrested by security forces near Kalkilya and were transferred for further interrogation to the Shabak (General Security Service). Overnight, Latifa Abu Doar was taken into custody. The 19-pound explosive belt was discovered Tuesday morning as a result of information gained from the interrogation.

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