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Report: Israel Holding Secret Contacts with Sudan, Libya

By Ha'aretz

Israel is holding secret and indirect ties with Sudan and Libya, Army Radio reported. According to the report, a U.S. Jew met last month with Sudan's President Omar el-Bashir in Khartoum and delivered a message to him that Israel was interested in holding meetings that would eventually lead to the establishment of formal relations between the two countries. At the same time, Sudan's ambassador to Washington met with Jewish delegates and said that his country was willing to hold an indirect dialogue with Israel, the report said. It added that a senior Libyan intelligence official met recently in Italy with Jewish representatives, and that similar meetings were held elsewhere in Europe and in the United States.

PM Sharon Trying To Rush Withdrawal


While the right-wing parties said they would stymie the disengagement plan in the Cabinet, Ariel Sharon continued efforts to turn the program into "facts on the ground." Israel Resource News Agency reports, based on "highly placed sources in the U.S. Defense Department," that Sharon has informed the U.S. government that he intends to implement the retreat from Gush Katif as of May 1, 2004. Thursday, three U.S. envoys will arrive in Israel to hear further details about the disengagement plan from Sharon.

Many countries have been brought into the circle of those supporting the pullback in one form or another. Jordan, Egypt, and France have lately expressed various measures of support for an Israeli retreat from Gaza. Close to 8,000 Jews live in close to 20 communities in Gaza.

A report prepared by the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff after the Six Day War concluded that for self-defense reasons, Israel should retain the entire Gaza Strip, which "serves as a salient for introduction of Arab subversion and terrorism." "Subsequent U.S. security assessments since then have supported the same conclusion," writes Dr. Menachem Kovacs of Montgomery College in Maryland, "as have independent Israeli assessments - including then-IDF Chief of Staff Ehud Barak, who said in 1993, 'The 1967 Joint Chiefs of Staff memorandum is still applicable ... If Israel has to retake the territories proposed to be given up, we cannot do it without tremendous casualties.'"

Prime Minister Sharon himself said in 2002 "evacuating Netzarim [in Jewish Gaza] will only encourage terrorism and increase the pressure upon us."

Sharon, Qureia to Meet Next Week

By Larry James (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israeli and Palestinian officials shave reported that their prime ministers could meet as early as next week. The meeting would be the first between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Ahmed Qureia since Qureia became the Palestinian prime minister last October.

Since then, officials from both sides have met several times to prepare for a summit, but have not been able to agree on an agenda. Ha'aretz said on its web site Wednesday that the agenda for the March 16 meeting would be worked out next Sunday, in a discussion between bureau chiefs of the two prime ministers.

Secretary of State Colin Powell told a news conference in Washington Tuesday that the Bush administration has many questions about the Sharon plan including how the Gaza Strip would be administered once Israel leaves. At the same news conference visiting Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Muashar said the Israeli pullout could be a positive development provided Israel coordinate with the Palestinian Authority.

There are growing fears that an Israeli withdrawal would lead to a violent power struggle between armed Palestinian groups and the Palestinian Authority over control of the territory. Comments this week from Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin suggested that it would be wrong to assume control would fall automatically to the Palestinian Authority. He said the Palestinian Authority should meet with rival factions including Hamas and Islamic Jihad factions to decide the matter.

Qatar: Zionists Plan to Settle Jews in N. Iraq!


The Ash-Sharq newspaper of Qatar carried a report earlier this month of a Zionist settlement project - in northern Iraq.

The Ash-Sharq newspaper of Qatar carried a report earlier this month of a Zionist settlement project - in northern Iraq. This follows a paranoid obsession fomented by the Iraqi press with alleged land purchases by Jews in the newly liberated Iraq, particularly by expelled Kurdish Jews.

According to an Islamic fundamentalist website, the newspaper quoted "Turkoman sources" in northern Iraq who claimed that Israel has begun to take control of a 200 sq. km. area along the Syrian border and stretching to Iran. This objective, the newspaper's sources say, is to settle more than 150,000 Jews in the area that Kurdish nationalist parties define as Kurdistan.

Playing on the paranoia regarding "the Zionists" and their own fears of a resurgent Kurdish nationalism, the Turkoman sources told the Arabic newspaper that the "Zionist plot" was part of a greater effort to "create a zone of armed strife" among Iraq's various ethnic and religious groups.

An alternative explanation offered in the Ash-Sharq article is that the Israeli land purchases are part of an Israeli plan to buy up Kurdish oil fields in northern Iraq. Last year, the newspaper claimed, Turkey summoned the Israeli ambassador to Ankara to protest such alleged purchases.

Knesset Rejects Civil Marriage


The Knesset voted down a proposal for civil marriages in Israel Wednesday, by a 58-29 vote. The bill was proposed by MKs Roman Bronfman (Meretz) and Ophir Pines (Labor).

MK Nissan Slomiansky (National Religious Party) told Arutz-7 that the problem has not been solved because secular elements are not willing to agree to a compromise. "There are many couples in Israel that are not permitted by Jewish Law to be married," he said. "However, couples such as a Kohen and a divorcee could be solved with relative ease by registering them in a certain manner. This is not the main problem. Neither is that of two non-Jews who wish to marry; Jewish Law even requires us to enable them to marry. The main problem is when a non-Jew and a Jew wish to marry. Not only is this forbidden, it could lead to the collapse of the entire essence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. Organized Jewry in the U.S. is fighting for its life because of assimilation there; we should bring this problem here as well?"

"We are trying to find solutions," Slomiansky continued, "such as registering these couples in various ways so that they will continue to receive financial rights, but in a way that makes clear that they are not married. But the problem is that the other side - those from Shinui - is fighting for the 'principle' of the matter, that of total equality. So we told them that if they can't be flexible, but rather insist on their principles, then how do they expect us to give up on our principles that are 3,000 years old? We obviously can't do that."

Slomiansky agreed that a solution must be found for these couples: "After all, they're already here. It's not like with the Ethiopians, who had to convert to Judaism before they came to Israel; in this case, with the Russians, the Jewish Agency wanted to increase the numbers of new immigrants, so they brought in anyone they found with any connection to someone Jewish. So now we have this problem... Given the growing Arab population on the one hand, and now this on the other hand, where will this leave the Jewish State?"

Some 250,000 Israelis - almost all of them from the former Soviet Union - are officially listed as having no religion.

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