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U.S. Diverts Israeli Hummers to Iraq

By Israel Faxx News Services

Israeli defense officials have agreed to a U.S. request to divert a shipment of armored Hummer vehicles purchased for the Israel Defense Forces to Iraq where American soldiers need them urgently. Defense officials in Tel Aviv said that the armored Hummers, known as UGRA jeeps, were part of a delivery of 120 vehicles Israel had purchased for IDF troops in the West Bank and Gaza. "Israel understands the operational needs of the Americans in Iraq," the official said.


Bush Fails to Deliver for Sharon

By IsraelNationalNews.com, VOA News & Ha'aretz

President George W. Bush said Wednesday, following a two-hour meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Shamir, said that the solution to the problem of the Arab "refugees" must be found in the "Palestinian" state and not in Israel.

"It seems clear," Bush said, "that an agreed, just, fair and realistic framework for a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as part of any final status agreement will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state and the settling of Palestinian refugees there, rather than Israel."

"These are historic and courageous actions," Bush said. "If all parties choose to embrace this moment, they can open the door to progress and put an end to one of the world's longest-running conflicts. Both the Palestinians and Israelis have responsibilities to undertake in the search for peace," adding Israel "stepped up to those responsibilities and Palestinians must do the same."

Bush said that Israel had a claim on some West Bank areas, and that "new realities on the ground" would have to be taken into consideration during final status negotiations. Sharon, who smiled ebulliently during the exchange with reporters, said he was encouraged by Bush's support for his plan, which the Israeli leader had sought as a way to boost his own party's support.

"I commend Prime Minister Sharon for his bold and courageous decision to withdraw from Gaza and parts of the West Bank," he said. "I call on the Palestinians and their Arab neighbors to match that boldness and that courage." Sharon's plan calls for the evacuation of 21 Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip and four remote settlements in the West Bank, while strengthening Israeli control over other parts of the West Bank that are considered Palestinian territory.

"And now it is up to responsible Palestinians, caring Europeans, Americans, the United Nations to step in and help develop such a (Palestinian) state that will be a peaceful state, one in which money will actually end up helping Palestinians to be able to grow their businesses and find wealth for their families," he added. Once a separate Palestinian state is established, Bush said Palestinian refugees must settle there instead of reclaiming land in what is now Israel.

Sharon said his plan would create what he calls "a new and better reality" for Israel and will set the right conditions for negotiations with Palestinians. "Despite the repeated terror attacks against us, the people of Israel continue to wish for the achievement of a viable peace in accordance with our Jewish traditions."

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia rejected Bush's support for the Israeli plan. He told reporters that no one has the right to give up Palestinian rights and Palestinians will not accept Bush-giving legitimacy to Jewish settlements on Palestinian land.

Earlier, Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat said the peace process would be dead if Washington allows Israel to keep some West Bank settlements and blocks the return of Palestinian refugees. Islamic Jihad, one of the three leading Palestinian terror groups, reacted to the events at the White House: "Bush and Sharon will have to share the responsibility for the renewal of the cycle of terrorism."

Yehoshua Mor-Yosef, the diplomatic secretary of the Yesha Council, said, "He said nothing new. He didn't address one of the main issues, which is how is Israel to deal with the terrorism that is sure to increase after an Israeli withdrawal. It's not me saying this; it's the Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon, and the head of the Shabak, and the head of IDF Intelligence, and almost every single general in the IDF. I think we should listen to these military experts."

Knesset member Tzvi Hendel (National Union) said that the only thing Bush clarified was that an evacuation from Gaza would be only the first step of a continuing process that would require more and more concessions from Israel in the future.

Ron Nachman, Mayor of Ariel in the Shomron, said, "We're giving real estate, according to Sharon's plan, and we get words in return. There is no guarantee that the President's words will be honored in Congress. This is a dangerous precedent; tomorrow someone will come along and say that we should give away another 'small' strip of land from Rosh Ha'ayin to Ariel, and we'll be told that we can't give up the chance for real peace for the entire region just because of a few thousand people..."

The "realities on the ground and in the region have changed greatly," said Bush, "and this must be reflected in any future peace agreement." Bush thus hinted that Israel would not have to give up all the Yesha communities - but did not come near meeting Sharon's request for recognition for six settlement blocs such as Gush Etzion. He said that Israel's retention of certain communities must be negotiated in the final-status agreement with the Palestinian Authority. Bush mentioned that the "two sides, the Arab nations, Israel and the Palestinians, should fight terrorism."

When asked by a member of the Israeli media to comment regarding the White House's position vis-à-vis the so-called Arab "right of return," both Bush and Sharon stated that their respective letters to one another are quite clear, and spell out their countries' positions on the issue. They preferred to avoid a direct response.

Bush said Palestinian refugees should be settled in a Palestinian state and not in Israel, adding that he was committed to the security of Israel as a vibrant Jewish state. "In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949."


Jewish Settlers Join Forces with Sharon's Opponents to Block Gaza Pullout

By Ross Dunn (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israeli cabinet ministers opposed to the Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip have joined forces with Jewish settlers to block the move. The opponents include two members of Sharon's Likud Party, which is set to vote on the plan in a referendum on May 2. Jewish settlers have begun lobbying members of the Likud to oppose Sharon's unilateral plan to get Israel out of Gaza and parts of the West Bank.

And Jewish settler activist Susan Wolf said that the opposition campaign is getting some inside help. She says that cabinet ministers Uzi Landau and Natan Sharansky, both Likud members, are advising the Jewish settlers how to win more supporters.

These ministers, she said, hold to the view that Sharon's plan must be stopped because it will bring more risks for Israel's security. "We are all working together to assist the Likud in their plan to get a very strong message to Sharon that we cannot give a prize to terror," Wolf said.

While the vast majority of those in the Jewish settler movement support that view, Mr. Sharon has managed to win over some key supporters. The prime minister says under his disengagement plan he will add at least five Jewish settlement blocs in the West Bank within Israel's national boundaries.

They include Maale Adumim, a large Jewish settlement on the outskirts of Jerusalem, whose mayor, Benny Kashriel, came out in support of the prime minister. "I think that if he will get an agreement with the American government that the Maale Adumim bloc, the Ariel bloc, and the Etzion bloc will be a legal part of Israel it is a good agreement that he will withdraw from the Gaza Strip," he said.


Arab Officials Suggest Israel's Withdrawal Plan Violates International Law

By Greg LaMotte (VOA-Cairo)

Senior Arab officials said that Israel's unilateral decision to withdraw only from parts of the West Bank would violate international law, and would make peace in the Middle East more difficult to reach. Arab officials added that the U.S. administration's endorsement of the proposal would undermine the international road map for peace plan.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's proposed unilateral pullout from the Gaza Strip and from some settlements in the West Bank has been viewed with a great deal of suspicion by Arab governments. Arab officials say the Israeli proposal to strengthen its control over other West Bank areas is, at a minimum, very controversial.

Former Egyptian Foreign Minister and former Secretary General of the Arab League Esmat Abdel Meguid played a significant role in negotiating Egypt's peace treaty with Israel. He said the West Bank should belong to the Palestinians.

"This is a contradiction to all the rules of law," he said. "And, the West Bank should be back to the Palestinians, and now, Sharon is not implementing this. The road map is very clear in stating that Sharon must withdraw from the West Bank. This will be very bad, and the situation will become worse. And, in the Middle East, it is already in a very difficult situation. By this position, if it is supported by the United States, it will become worse. That's my opinion."

The director of the al-Quds Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Jordan, Uraib el-Rantawi, said he believes both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are "simply posturing" for position prior to any face-to-face negotiations. He says, in the past, an exchange of territories is something both sides have agreed to during peace negotiations.

"I think both sides, Palestinians and Israelis, are trying to play their strong card before negotiations," he said. "We are not in the negotiation process. We are in a preparation process, maybe for forthcoming negotiations. Palestinians and Israelis accept a kind of solution for the final status solution in which both sides will exchange territories. The Palestinians will take some territories from Israel, in exchange of the major settlement in the West Bank. I think when both sides meet at the negotiating table, I think they can reach an agreement."

Mr. el-Rantawi, along with other senior Arab officials, said denying Palestinians the "right of return" to Israel would be illegal under international law and trigger an angry response from the Arab world.


Six Tons of Toxic Gas Stolen from Negev Factory

By Ha'aretz

Some 85 canisters of toxic gas, weighing a total of six tons, were stolen from a factory in the northern Negev predawn Tuesday. The gas, which contains methyl bromide, is used in pesticides. The canisters were stolen from the Hazera factory at the Berorim Junction, north of the Masmeiyah Junction.

The theft was reported to Kiryat Malakhi police on Wednesday morning, and officers have launched an investigation. The motive for the theft is currently unclear, but one possibility is that it was stolen in order to be sold abroad. Police say that the area were the canisters were stored was fenced, but no guards were posted around the area.

Methyl bromide is a toxic fumigant used to control insects, nematodes, weeds, and pathogens. It is usually injected into the soil before crops are planted. Its used has been significantly limited of late as it is harmful to the Ozone.

Dr. Gilad Golub, of the Company for Environmental Services, Ramat Hovav, said Wednesday that methyl bromide can be toxic to humans in large quantities. "If a truck containing this substance flipped over or exploded, all people in a large radius would have to be evacuated," he said.


Google Says anti-Semitic Site Offends, But Will Stay

By Reuters

Google Inc., under fire for refusing to exclude an anti-Semitic Web site from Internet search results, on Tuesday said it cannot deny users access because that would betray a vow to deliver unbiased information - no matter how it detests the site's message. The offending Web site, Jewwatch.com, shows up as the first search result when users type "Jew" into Google's popular Internet search engine.

The site, which says its mission is to keep "close watch on Jewish communities and organizations worldwide," includes links to numerous hate groups and other anti-Semitic information.

"I certainly am very offended by the site, but the objectivity of our rankings is one of our very important principles," Sergey Brin, who started Google with fellow Stanford University graduate student Larry Page in the late 1990s, told Reuters in a telephone interview. "We don't let our personal views - religious, political, ethical or otherwise - affect our results," said Brin, who added that he is Jewish.

Several weeks ago, a New York-based real estate investor started an online petition urging Google to remove the site. As of Tuesday afternoon, the petition - at http://www.removejewwatch.com/ - had collected more than 50,000 signatures.

Brin, who has received numerous e-mails from friends who oppose the site, said the decision to continue including it in search results is about maintaining editorial integrity at Google.com, where complex computer algorithms determine results. "We do not want to have people involved in showing the results for a query," Brin said.

He added that most people searching for information about Jewish people or organizations use the term "Jewish" in their queries as opposed to "Jew," which is often used in an anti-Semitic context. A Google search using "Jewish" as a search term did not turn up hate sites in the top results.

Prior to the current flap, the key word "Jew" showed up in about one of every 10 million queries, Brin said. "There are 100 times as many now," he said, mostly due to curiosity related to the controversy. The Anti-Defamation League, which monitors hate groups and anti-Semitic activity, has come down on the side of Google. "The ranking of Jewwatch and other hate sites is in no way due to a conscious choice by Google, but solely is a result of this automated system of ranking," the Anti-Defamation League said in a March 30 letter on its Web site.

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer of New York has a different view and has sent Google a letter asking that it change its algorithm to make the site less prominent in its search results, a spokesman for Schumer said. In the past, Mountain View, California-based Google has removed sites dealing with illegal activity, such as pedophilia, or sites that "maliciously" attempt to manipulate search results.


Polish Firebrand Praises Hitler's 'Early' Policies

By Reuters

Polish firebrand Andrzej Lepper, whose nationalist Self-Defense party tops popularity rankings, was quoted on Wednesday as saying he believed Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler's early policies were good. "At the beginning of his activities, Hitler had a really good program," Lepper told the Zycie Warszawy newspaper. "I don't know what happened to him later...who had such influence over him that he moved towards genocide."

Lepper's growing popularity is part of a wider backlash in future European Union members from central Europe against years of tough market reforms and government sleaze. His nationalist, anti-establishment views also fit into a wider phenomenon of support for far-right politicians in western Europe such as Austria's Joerg Haider or France's Jean-Marie Le Pen, both of whom scored electoral successes in the last decade. Haider also once praised Hitler's "enviable" record in job creation.

Lepper's remarks are bound to stir controversy in Poland, a country that Nazi Germany invaded in 1939, unleashing World War 2. Five million Polish citizens, including over three million Jews, were killed by the Nazis. Asked to confirm the remarks, Lepper said the newspaper had manipulated his comments. "All I said concerning Hitler is that, yes, he eliminated unemployment," Lepper told Reuters. "Hitler was the biggest criminal and murderer in history." The newspaper played a tape recording of the interview to Reuters including the quoted remarks.

Some Polish commentators have drawn parallels between Hitler's tactics on his way to power and Lepper's. Like Hitler, who scorned Germany's feeble Weimar Republic, Lepper uses fiery rhetoric to attack the mainstream parties and the shortcomings of Poland's young democracy. He opposes Poland's EU membership, wants more state intervention in the economy and advocates strong presidential powers such as those enjoyed by Russia's Vladimir Putin. His popularity is fuelled by promises to slash the country's high unemployment, running at about 20 percent, by launching wide-scale public works.

Hitler launched huge infrastructure projects including building Germany's autobahn network and the armaments industry after he seized power in 1933.




















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