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Sharon Urges Palestinians to Make Peace

By Ross Dunn (VOA-Jerusalem) &

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has warned that he will unilaterally cut his country off from the Palestinians if they do not start working towards peace soon. He said he intends to complete the construction of a controversial security barrier in the West Bank to help facilitate a policy of separation.

Sharon said Israel wants direct negotiations with the Palestinians under the international "road map" to peace plan. At the same time, he said Israeli society would not wait indefinitely for the Palestinians to make peace. He said that if there is no progress in talks towards a settlement of the conflict within the next few months, and then Israel will initiate the "unilateral security step to cut itself off from the Palestinians."

Sharon began by saying that aliyah (Jewish immigration to Israel) was central to the state of Israel's existence. He outlined his vision in a long-awaited speech on Thursday, at a conference on security in Herzliya, north of Tel Aviv. Under his plan, Israel would evacuate some Jewish settlements in the West Bank and bring the residents inside the Jewish State. Israel would also speed up the building of a security barrier inside the West Bank to prevent more Palestinian terror attacks. Sharon indicated that the barrier would "reduce friction with the Palestinians."

Sharon introduced a new term to replace the term "dismantling settlements." Instead, the Prime Minister referred to the "relocation of settlements" throughout his speech. "I know you would like to hear names," said Sharon, referring to the specific Jewish towns he intends to uproot, "but we should leave some things for later."

The Palestinian leadership rejected Sharon's plan. The Palestinian Minister for Negotiations, Saeb Erekat said unilateral moves are intended to win Sharon's domestic support and would never achieve peace. Palestinian militant groups also said Sharon's plan would not end the conflict.

The Islamic Jihad, a group that carries out suicide bombings and other terror attacks, said violent resistance would continue against the Jewish state as long as Israeli occupation of what it calls Palestinian land remains.

There was great tension in the political and defense establishments in Israel and abroad as Sharon delivered his speech that was aired live on television across the world - even on the Arab Al-Jazeera network.

Lapid Decries/Advocates Transfer of Arabs/Jews


Israel Justice Minister Yosef Lapid (Shinui) accused Jewish residents of Yesha (Judea, Samaria and Gaza) of wanting to transfer the Arabs and later in his speech advocated the transfer of Yesha's Jews. Lapid told the Herzliya Conference Thursday that the Jewish residents of Yesha "in their heart of hearts dream of transfer."

Lapid was not referring to the proposed transfer of Jews out of Judea and Samaria, but to the "transfer of Palestinians to the [Eastern] bank of the Jordan [river]." Lapid called such a proposal, "not only barbaric but also utterly impossible."

Lapid proceeded to claim that Yesha's Jewish population controlled the Israeli government. "Even though Israel is an exemplary democracy, it is de facto controlled by a small minority of Yesha settlers who represent a minority within the settlers themselves."

The Justice Minister continued to lambaste the Jews of Yesha, taking a cynical tone toward the recent rise in North American aliyah. "Their answer to the demographic problem is for another million immigrants to arrive in the country, although no one knows from where," he said.

Lapid made the comments about demographics a day after Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu stated that Israel's demographic threat comes from its Israeli Arab population, not the Arabs of Yesha. "If there is a demographic problem, and there is, it is with the Israeli Arabs who will remain Israeli citizens," Netanyahu said, adding that efforts must be made to attract Jewish immigrants.

Netanyahu said that there is essentially no demographic problem with the Arabs of the PA, in that they are already under PA control, "even if the army sometimes goes into the cities." However, he said, "Regarding the Israeli-Arabs, who will remain Israeli citizens, here we have a problem... In our Declaration of Independence, we say that our raison d'etre is that we are a Jewish state, and this means that we must guarantee a Jewish majority. But we are also a democracy..."

He said that if the Arabs become a minority of 40 percent, the State will cease to be Jewish - but if we remain with 20 percent, or even less, but with tough and violent relations, then this harms the State's democratic nature. "We therefore need a policy that will first of all guarantee a Jewish majority - I say this with no hesitation, as a liberal, a democrat, and a Jewish patriot - ... and one that will balance between these two needs."

92 Percent of Israelis Likely to Light Chanukah Candles


The Chanukah holiday begins Friday evening, with the lighting of one Chanukah candle in every home in addition to the Sabbath candles. An additional candle is lit each night thereafter, culminating with eight on the last night.

The holiday commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, in 164 BCE, after its desecration by King Antiochus of the ruling Seleucid (Syrian-Greek) Kingdom; the re-establishment of religious freedom for the Jewish people after a period of harsh repression; and the supremacy of Jewish tradition over Hellenist assimilationism.

Two Divine miracles in particular are remembered on Chanukah: the burning of the lone flask of kosher oil for eight full days in the Temple, and the victory of the "few against the many" in the Maccabees' revolt against the Syrian-Greeks.

The Gesher (Bridge) organization, which works on behalf of religious-secular dialogue and understanding, has found that fully 92 percent of Israelis polled say they will or are likely to light Chanukah candles this year. "Even more amazing to us," Gesher Chairman Rabbi Dr. Daniel Tropper told Arutz-7, "was that 90 percent of those who are secular said that they are likely to light.

This puts Chanukah at the top of the list in terms of Jewish identification with holidays, even more than Passover or Yom Kippur." Tropper said he understands from this finding that "the secular public is looking for a bond with tradition... In light of the impression that we all have of widening social gaps, this is important news."

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