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Israeli Films Win Awards at Cannes


The judges at the prestigious 57th Cannes Film Festival selected an Israeli film this week as the best film by a first-time director. Keren Yedaya was presented the Golden Camera award for her film Or (Light) in Cannes, on the French Riviera. The film was also selected as the "Audience Favorite." Yedaya, whose family made aliyah from the United States when she was two years old, is also a lecturer on the problems of prostitution for government officials and mental-health professionals. Another Israeli-made film, Tzimaon (Thirst) by Tawfil Abu-Wahl, was selected by an international film critics' organization as the best film among those screened but not competing.

Sharon to Submit Revised Gaza Pullout Plan

By Sonja Pace (VOA-Jerusalem) &

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's revised plan to pull out of Gaza and small parts of the West Bank is being presented to cabinet ministers. Ever since the stinging rejection by members of his Likud party in early May, Sharon has sought another avenue to win approval for his disengagement plan.

He has been meeting with key cabinet ministers and has slightly modified the original proposals in an attempt to win over the skeptics and try to ensure the plan's acceptance at Sunday's cabinet session. Sharon's original disengagement plan called for a complete Israeli pullout from Gaza and the dismantling of four small settlements from the West Bank.

Public opinion polls show that the vast majority of Israelis support such a plan. But, analysts say Sharon may have been overconfident about winning over his own Likud party, whose hard-liners voted overwhelmingly against the plan in a May 2 referendum.

Sharon is still expected to propose dismantling all the Gaza settlements and the four in the West Bank. But, the pullout would be implemented in four phases and each phase would be brought before the cabinet for prior approval. Gaining support from his own party and from other right-wing parties within his coalition has been the biggest hurdle for Sharon's disengagement plan.

The communities slated for destruction in the first phase are Netzarim, Morag, Rafiach Yam and possibly Kfar Darom. The revised version of the plan, which Sharon distributed to ministers Thursday, reportedly states, "In order to implement the program, a discussion and vote will take place not earlier than 6-9 months from now." A committee will be convened during this period to prepare the legislative and other aspects of the retreat and the expulsion of the residents.

Other "improvements" in the plan, according to various reports, are that the Jewish homes and synagogues to be abandoned will not be left for the Arabs to populate, but will rather be dismantled. This neutralizes the anti-withdrawal forces' arguments regarding the "national disgrace" of giving over the properties to the terrorists who shot and killed the owners. Similarly, it will not be able to be claimed that the synagogues will be desecrated or turned into mosques.

Likud party activists erected a protest tent outside the Prime Minister's office Thursday, demanding that he adhere to the party membership's will as manifest in the recent referendum. A large sign at the site read, "Likud Ministers: If you disengage, we will not forget and not forgive." One of the protestors, Likud Central Committee member Uziel Bariach of Ashdod, told Arutz-7 that on Sunday, as the Cabinet meets to discuss and vote on the topic, "hundreds of Committee Central members will protest here."

The National Religious Party is leaning towards quitting the government if an expulsion plan is accepted. Its spiritual leaders, former Chief Rabbis Avraham Shapira and Mordechai Eliyahu, sent a letter to the party's MKs before the Shavuot holiday, advising them to resign from the coalition immediately upon the acceptance of a Cabinet decision to expel Jews from their homes in the Land of Israel.

The National Union has made it clear that it will quit the government the moment it is decided to unilaterally remove even one Jewish town. Party leader Minister Avigdor Lieberman has been promoting a program under which Jewish and Arab locations will be "traded," involving the transfer of most of the Israeli-Arab population and the removal of several Jewish towns in Yesha - including his own hometown of Nokdim in eastern Gush Etzion. Lieberman told Arutz-7 that he has commissioned surveys showing that 2/3 of the public support his plan.

But, security analyst Gen. (Ret) Shlomo Brum of Tel Aviv's Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, says Sharon is waging what he calls his own internal struggle over dismantling settlements. "One may say that there are two Sharons struggling [against] each other. One of them is the rational Sharon who understands that this is what should be done [dismantling the settlements]. The other is the emotional Sharon who is attached to the settlements because they are his creation."

The fact that Sharon had been one of the great proponents of settlement building, made his decision to begin dismantling them feel all the more like betrayal to settlers and their supporters. But analysts say Sharon realizes that holding on to Gaza is too costly, both in monetary and human terms. Pressure on Sharon has intensified after this month's incursions in Gaza, among the bloodiest in Gaza in recent years.

The military actions brought worldwide condemnation, including from the United States. And, even Turkey, Israel's only Muslim ally, has voiced a rare public rebuke. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was apparently quite blunt in his criticism during a meeting with visiting Israeli Infrastructure Minister, Joseph Paritzky. And, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said Wednesday that Turkey is considering recalling its ambassador in Israel for consultations.

Sharon has said he remains committed to his withdrawal plan. It now remains to be seen if he can get it over the most immediate hurdle - his own cabinet

Israeli Police Release British Journalist

By VOA News

Israeli police have released British journalist Peter Hounam - arrested Wednesday at his Jerusalem hotel - after Britain's government expressed concern about his detention. Speaking outside the Jerusalem detention facility, Hounam said he was interrogated for several hours by Israel's Shin Bet security service. He also complained of being deprived of sleep. He said he plans to leave Israel on Friday.

In the 1980s, the journalist interviewed Israeli nuclear scientist Mordechai Vanunu about the Jewish state's nuclear program and published his story in London's Sunday Times. News reports say Hounam was in Israel to make a documentary on Vanunu for British television and he was allegedly arrested for making contact with the Israeli traitor.

Vanunu spent 18 years in an Israeli prison for exposing information about Israel's nuclear program. He was released last month, but faces several restrictions on his freedom, including a prohibition against associating with foreigners without permission or speaking to the press.

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