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Sharon Invites Labor to Join Israeli Coalition Government

By VOA News

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has invited the opposition Labor party to join a broad coalition government with his Likud party. Sharon said he would meet Sunday with opposition leader Shimon Peres to discuss the proposal. Sharon's plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip by the end of 2005 has drawn criticism from his traditional hard-line supporters and cost him his parliamentary majority. Inviting the center-left Labor Party into the coalition would give Sharon a new majority in the Israeli parliament

Court: Fence Route Not Necessary for Security

By Ha'aretz

The International Court of Justice will rule on Friday that the separation fence contravenes international law that it must be dismantled, and that compensation must be paid to the Palestinian owners of property confiscated for its construction, according to documents obtained by Ha'aretz.

The decision will be officially made public at 4 p.m. Friday under the heading, "Legal implications of the construction of the barrier in Palestinian occupied territory." The court has ruled that on the basis of the material available to it, "[it] is not convinced that the specific course Israel has chosen for the wall was necessary to attain its security objectives." Fourteen votes favored the decision and the sole opponent was the American judge, Thomas Buerghenthal.

It then says: "The wall, along the route chosen, and its associated regime, gravely infringe a number of rights of Palestinians residing in the territory occupied by Israel, and the infringements resulting from that route cannot be justified by military exigencies or by the requirements of national security or public order. The construction of such a wall accordingly constitutes breaches by Israel of its various obligations under the applicable international humanitarian law and human rights instruments."

The International Court in the Dutch capital, The Hague, was asked to deliberate on the issue of the security fence by a United Nations General Assembly resolution of last December, and its decision will be presented to the world body. Prior to the release of the decision, Israeli sources said they were unsure of the court's ruling. However, European sources said that on the basis of information available to them, the legal opinion would be "negative and critical" of Israel.

PA Chairman Yasir Arafat on Thursday said he had full confidence in the International Court. "I believe the court in The Hague is capable of stopping the construction of the fence that damages our people," he said in Ramallah.

For its part, the Defense Ministry has carried out changes on the official map delineating the route of the fence according to the ruling of the High Court of Justice. The changes run along the section of the fence northwest of Jerusalem, and in parts near Qalqilya, Modi'in and southeast of Jerusalem near Gush Etzion.

Israel and the PLO have prepared their public relations and diplomatic offensives in anticipation of the decision. The PLO representative in the United Nations, Nasser al-Qidwa, and diplomats from Arab countries at the UN, plan to request an emergency session of the General Assembly where the results of the court's decision will be presented. It is expected that the Palestinians will seek operative application of the court's conclusions, in case Israel refuses to adopt the recommendations of the International Court.

Israel has already prepared its response, assuming that the court will be critical of Israel. Israel will seek to block the issue from reaching the Security Council, with the assistance of the United States. Israel is also hoping that most EU countries will not support the Palestinian move as they opposed bringing the matter before the ICJ.

IAEA Chief: Israel Agrees to Discuss Nuclear Issues

By VOA News

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency says Israel has agreed to discuss creating a nuclear weapons-free Middle East during future peace talks. After meeting Thursday, with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, top U.N. weapons inspector Mohammed ElBaradei said the Israeli leader would not set a timetable for such talks. He said Sharon linked future talks to learning more about Iran's nuclear ambitions.

The U.N. nuclear agency is investigating Iran's nuclear program, which Tehran insists is solely for peaceful purposes. Israel maintains an official policy of neither admitting nor denying that it has nuclear weapons. But experts believe the Jewish state has as many as 200 nuclear warheads.

Catholic Church Equates Anti-Zionism with Anti-Semitism

By Ha'aretz

The Catholic Church condemned anti-Zionism as a cover for anti-Semitism by means of a joint statement issued by a forum of Catholic-Jewish intellectuals this week. The announcement was made at a gathering of religious, academic and other leading Jewish and Catholic figures in Buenos Aires.

"We oppose anti-Semitism in any way and form, including anti-Zionism that has become of late a manifestation of anti-Semitism," the statement said. This is the first time that anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism have been equated by the Catholic Church. The statement also includes a stern condemnation of terrorism, particularly terror in the name of faith. "Terror is a sin against man and against God. Fundamentalist terrorism in the name of God has no justification and cannot be justified."

Ilan Steinberg, director of the World Jewish Congress, one of the forum's organizers, described the joint statement as "an historic moment...For the first time, the Catholic Church recognizes in anti-Zionism an attack not only against Jews, but against the whole Jewish people."

Senior Jewish figures called the announcement a significant, public statement of support by the Catholic Church in the face of anti-Zionism. "In the past, Zionism was equated with racism, and this statement turns anti-Zionism statements to a form of racism," a Jewish leader said in New York. The statement joins a prior European Union announcement and UN declaration of war against anti-Semitism as part of a global front fighting the scourge.

Lapid: Wallenberg's Plight Does Not Interest Israel


Justice Minister (Shinui) Tommy Lapid stated the fate of Raul Wallenberg is not of interest to the State of Israel. Lapid, a Holocaust survivor, made the comments to a niece of Wallenberg who is visiting Israel to mark 60 years since Wallenberg worked to save Jews from Nazi death camps.

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin declined to hold a formal Knesset event to mark the 60-year anniversary, explaining the matter is not one of interest to members of Knesset. He further stated most MKs do not know who he is, and "I cannot educate them", he exclaimed. "It is preferable not to hold a ceremony than to have one that is attended by only two MKs", he added.

Wallenberg activist Eli Yosef, who held a hunger strike demanding the government do more towards ascertaining what happened to Wallenberg after falling into Russian custody, spearheaded 60th anniversary efforts.

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