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UN Nuclear Inspections Chief to Visit Israel VOA News

The International Atomic Energy Agency says its director will visit Israel in the coming months to discuss, among other things, creating a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East. The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, has accepted an invitation from Israel to visit the country, probably in July.

Car Bomb Could Have Been Catastrophic


A car bomb blew up just outside Kfar Darom Wednesday morning, wounding four soldiers who were 30 meters away - one of them moderately-to-seriously. The car bomb could have made it into pre-'67 Israel.

Army officials reported that the Hamas suicide bomber driving the blue Hyundai jeep probably intended to blow himself up next to an area school bus. The terrorist's vehicle was laden with 300 kilograms (661 pounds) of explosives. By way of example, a 100-kilogram car bomb killed 14 people and wounded dozens when it blew up aside an Egged bus at Karkur Junction in Wadi Ara in October 2002.

The jeep sported an Israeli flag, and fired an anti-tank missile at Kfar Darom at the same time. Despite all, the soldiers in a jeep near the Kfar Darom junction noticed the car dashing suspiciously away from Kfar Darom, and called upon it to stop. When it did not, the soldiers opened fire, causing the car to explode and wounding the soldiers themselves - but preventing a much worse catastrophe.

NRP faction leader MK Nissan Slomiansky said in response to the attack, "Mr. Prime Minister, the Jews don't quite understand your plan, but Hamas understands it very well: retreat and running away from Gush Katif. It is therefore answering the call and responding with murderous attacks."

Powell: Not anti-Jewish to Censure Israel, but Nazi Imagery Is

By Ha'aretz

Secretary of State Colin Powell told an international conference on anti-Semitism Wednesday that while censure of Israel was legitimate, "the line is crossed" when critics employ Nazi symbolism to do so.

The summit, called by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and attended by 600 top officials from 55 nations, remained split Wednesday on whether criticism of Israel should be seen as a form of anti-Jewish bias, amid warnings Jews faced growing threats.

"It is not anti-Semitism to criticize the State of Israel," Powell said, "but the line is crossed when the leaders of Israel are demonized or vilified by the use of Nazi symbols."

The conference at the German Foreign Ministry in Nazi Germany's former central bank comes after rising attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions in some European countries over past years.

Israel swiftly moved to center stage of the meeting, with German officials saying a debate was raging behind the scenes pitting some Arab countries and Turkey against most of the Western nations.

President Moshe Katsav lashed out Wednesday at anti-Semitism in all its forms, calling anti-Jewish sentiment an urgent issue of global proportions. "Any revival of anti-Semitism is a matter that affects the entire world."

"Anti-Semitism is clearly on the rise... but not only in Europe," said Holocaust survivor and Nobel prizewinner Elie Wiesel in a speech to the meeting. "France is up against a wave of anti-Semitism," said Simone Veil, Auschwitz survivor and former president of the European Parliament.

Katsav's remarks were made after he emerged from talks with German President Johannes Rau, who earlier warned that anti-Semitism is often cloaked in criticism of Israel. Katzav praised Rau for his remarks, calling the German president "the best friend that Israel has in the world."

Rau opened the meeting by underlining that the Middle East conflict and Israeli policies were playing a growing role in anti-Semitism debate in Europe. "Everybody knows that massive anti-Semitism has been behind some of the criticism of Israeli government policies in the past decades," said Rau.

But Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, said playing the race card was wrong whether used to attack or in defense. "The exploitation of race for political purposes by any government or any politician be it as an offensive weapon or as a shield to fend off criticism, is quite simply unacceptable."

A U.S. participant said an important step was made late Tuesday when Russia provisionally accepted the interpretation of anti-Israel criticism as a form of anti-Semitism. This issue will be a key element of the final declaration the OSCE conference has to adopt unanimously Thursday when the two-day meeting ends.

Criticizing Jews and Jewish institutions was allowed, said Rau, adding, "but we certainly also know that criticism of Jews and Jewish institutions frequently comes from people with deeply held anti-Semitic sentiments."

Wiesel noted that while a just solution was needed for the Arab-Israeli conflict, he could never associate himself with those who sent out suicide bombers. And he bitterly attacked some Muslim nations for, as he put it, making "Jew hating... part of official policy." Wiesel admitted he was better at posing questions than finding ways to fight anti-Semitism. "If Auschwitz didn't kill anti-Semitism, what can?" he said.

Nevertheless, Wiesel said that holding the conference in Berlin - just a few blocks from where Adolf Hitler plotted the Final Solution - would send out a powerful message to "stop the poison."

Will Sharon Play Doomsday Card for Gaza Vote?

By Ha'aretz (Commentary)

This weekend, millions of Israelis will feverishly await, study and debate opinion polls on the eve of a nationwide election which may prove to be one of the most significant in the history of the Jewish state. It is also an election in which 97 percent of the citizens of the state have no right to vote.

In the first, potentially the decisive, formal hurdle for the Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to end the Israeli presence in the whole of the Gaza Strip by next year, the members of his Likud party are to vote on the plan in a referendum to be held Sunday.

With the vote only days away, the polling numbers themselves may prove historically significant. They may determine whether the prime minister, who has seen a strong majority in opinion surveys dwindle over the past week, will opt to put in play one or another of the Doomsday cards he has thus far kept face down on the political table.

"If the margin is less than six or seven percent in the weekend polls, then Sharon must be very, very concerned," says Ha'aretz commentator Yossi Verter. Even in the short time remaining, a margin of no more than seven percent can be erased through organizational work, where the settlers have a decided advantage in campaign resources, he says.

The settlers shocked all of Israel - themselves included - with the success Tuesday of an Independence Day mass anti-withdrawal protest in the southern Gaza Gush Katif settlement bloc, a hastily organized event that drew tens of thousands.

The protest could not be said to have attracted a cross-section of Israelis, as the crowd was overwhelmingly Orthodox in composition. But organizers said that they hoped the momentum generated by the event would translate into a groundswell of fresh opposition to the Sharon plan, enough to bury the initiative in its first large-scale test in the Sunday referendum.

If anti-withdrawal momentum does build, and the prime minister must reach for new ammunition in his campaign, the consequences could be far-reaching indeed. "For one thing, he could harm Arafat," Verter says. Sharon stirred a storm of criticism, including a Bush administration rebuke, by stating earlier this month that he no longer saw himself bound by a pledge to President George Bush to refrain from an attack on the Palestinian Authority chairman.

Analysts have said that if Palestinian militants were to make good on past threats to avenge the assassinations of Hamas leaders Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and Ahmed Yassin by launching a "mega-terror" strike against Israel, Israeli interests, or Jews abroad, the yellowing cabinet decision on Arafat could head the cabinet agenda once again.

As another option, "Sharon could announce that he views the Likud vote as a vote of confidence in him personally, which could 'wake up' prospective voters who do not want to bring about his resignation," Verter says.

As the campaign nears its climax, opponents of the plan have been unleashing other weapons as well, none more curious, or potentially effective, than an intensive effort by Chabad Lubavitch Hassidim to enlist their late spiritual leader Rebbe Menachem Mendel Shneerson in the anti-withdrawal cause.

In Jerusalem, large advertising signs adorning city buses quote the Rebbe, who died in 1994, as strongly opposing the Gaza withdrawal plan. Along the multi-lane highway that descends from the Holy City to determinedly secular Tel Aviv, the Rebbe's visage appears again, in signs that sharpen the message and sweeten the reward for potential voters: "The Lubavitcher Rebbe, the King who is the Messiah, promises 'Blessing and Success' to those who vote against fleeing from Gush Katif."

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