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Israel to Get 5,000 U.S. Smart Bombs, Bunker Busters

By VOA News & Ha'aretz

An Israeli newspaper says the United States plans to sell Israel nearly 5,000 smart bombs, including 500 one-ton "bunker buster" bombs that can penetrate two-meter thick concrete walls, 2,500 regular one-ton bombs; 1,000 half-ton bombs; and 500 quarter-ton bombs. The other 500 types were not revealed. Ha'aretz reported Tuesday that funding for the $319 million weapons deal would come from the U.S. military aid to Israel.

The bombs range from airborne versions, guidance units, training bombs and detonators and are guided by satellite, in a system already in the Israel Defense Forces arsenal. The guidance unit receives a signal from a satellite, correcting the bomb's course to the target.

U.S. government sources said the bomb deal, one of the largest weapons deals of recent years, did not face any political difficulties, despite the use Israel has made of U.S.-made F-16s in some of its assassinations in the territories. The IDF used a one-ton bomb to kill a senior Hamas officer, Salah Shehadeh, in July 2002, an assassination that also took the lives of 15 Palestinian civilians, including children. In September 2003, the air force used a smaller, quarter-ton bomb, to strike at Hamas leaders, but missed. In other cases, half-ton bombs have been used.

An unidentified senior Israeli security official said, "This is not the sort of ordnance needed for the Palestinian front. Bunker busters could serve Israel against Iran, or possibly Syria," according to Reuters.

An Iran Defense Ministry spokesman responded, saying that Israel has received more advanced weapons from the United States than the bunker buster bombs. "This could be psychological warfare to test us," he added.

The government sources said Israel would not be asking for any new weapons systems or purchases until after the upcoming November elections. On October 12, delegations from the two countries meet for their regular six-month session for strategic cooperation.

According to Ha'aretz, the U.S. Defense Department pushed for deal to maintain, what the newspaper calls, Israel's military advantages and ensure U.S. strategic and tactical interests.

The bombs range from airborne versions, guidance units, training bombs and detonators and are guided by satellite, in a system already in the Israel Defense Forces arsenal. The guidance unit receives a signal from a satellite, correcting the bomb's course to the target.

Bush Calls on Israel to End 'Daily Humiliation' of Palestinians

By Israel Faxx News Services

President George W. Bush on Tuesday called on Israel to impose a freeze on Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza and to end the "daily humiliation" of the Palestinians. In a speech to the UN General Assembly, Bush issued a direct challenge to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon while also calling on Palestinians to adopt peaceful means to achieve the rights of their people.

"Israel should impose a settlement freeze, dismantle unauthorized outposts, end the daily humiliation of the Palestinian people, and avoid any actions that prejudice final negotiations. And world leaders should withdraw all favor and support from any Palestinian ruler who fails his people and betrays their cause," Bush said.

Bush also said that a "commitment to democratic reform is essential to resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict." Hinting at Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasir Arafat, the president said, "Peace will not be achieved by Palestinian rulers who intimidate opposition, tolerate corruption, and maintain ties to terrorist groups. The long-suffering Palestinian people deserve better. They deserve true leaders capable of creating and governing a free and peaceful Palestinian state."

Bush appeared determined that the U.S.-backed road map to peace is still a viable option. "Those who would lead a new Palestinian state should adopt peaceful means to achieve the rights of their people, and create the reformed institutions of a stable democracy," he said.

He also called on the Arab world to normalize ties with Israel. "Arab states should end incitement in their own media, cut off public and private funding for terrorism, and establish normal relations with Israel."

Israeli government sources said Bush's comments did not signal any rift between Israel and the United States. "When you talk about unauthorized outposts, Israel is going to remove them as it promised," one Israeli source said. "When you talk about construction in general, Israel does not build new settlements in the West Bank or in Gaza. It adheres to the understanding where the only building that takes place is within the built-up area, to cater for current needs of each of the communities," the source added.

Palestinian cabinet minister Saeb Erekat said Bush should find a way to make Israel comply with the settlement freeze. "We urge President Bush to put [into motion] the mechanism with the UN and other members of the Quartet to make the Israeli government comply once and for all with the settlement freeze," Erekat told Reuters.

With the U.S. election approaching on November 2, U.S. analysts have explained the administration's initially muted response to Israeli settlement plans by saying the Republican president had no desire to pick a fight with Israel that could cost him votes in a tight contest against Democratic Sen. John Kerry.

After four years of violence and stalemate, analysts say the administration wants to nurture the one plan they think has some hope of becoming reality: Sharon's unilateral push to uproot all settlements in Gaza and four in the West Bank. With Washington's refusal to talk to Arafat and the absence of another empowered Palestinian interlocutor, supporting Sharon's plan seems the best bet to eliminate some settlements, U.S. officials have said.

Israel Strike Paralyzes Public Sector

By Laurie Kassman (VOA-Jerusalem)

More than 300,000 Israeli government workers are on strike to demand back wages, while the finance ministry wrangles with town councils about charges of overspending. The strike has shut down air and seaports, banks and government offices during a peak tourist season. Customs and tax offices are closed. So is the stock exchange. Public transport has been disrupted. Hospitals are operating on an emergency basis. Only public schools appear to be operating normally.

Thousands of holiday travelers were stranded at the airport when the government workers walked off their jobs early Tuesday. More than 80 flights were canceled. Banks, post offices and other government operations are at a standstill after the Histradut Labor Federation launched the strike early in the morning.

Histradut President Amir Peretz rallied thousands of government workers to strike in solidarity with local and religious council workers who are demanding several months' worth of back wages. He said the strike was open-ended. The union has ignored Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plea for a show of national responsibility. Negotiations to end the strike are underway but neither side has offered any compromise.

The government blames the country's financial crisis for the inability to pay back wages. The finance ministry is demanding that local councils crack down on spending before it agrees to pay their salaries. The strikers are also protesting the government's economic recovery plan that would lead to massive layoffs and salary cuts.

The work stoppage comes at the start of one of the country's busiest holiday seasons, when tourism is usually high. Israel's finance ministry estimates the walkout will cost the economy more than $145 million a day.

Sharon Used Holocaust Imagery in Opposing Uprooting


As the controversy over Nadia Matar's use of Holocaust imagery to describe the disengagement/expulsion plan is upstaged only by the nationwide strike, it turns out that Prime Minister Sharon himself used very similar terminology just a few years ago.

Matar, of Women in Green, wrote to Evacuation Administration head Yonatan Bassi this week, telling him that his "appeasement letter" to the residents of Gush Katif is "even worse" than the Judenrat's letter to Berlin's Jews in 1942. Matar quoted the 1942 letter as stating, "We strongly request that you follow the instructions and carry out all of the preparations for the transport in a calm manner."

She then wrote to Bassi, "You are a modern version of the Judenrat - but actually much worse. For in the Holocaust, the Nazis forced those Jews to [be members of the Jewish Council], and it's very hard for us to judge them today. But today, no one is standing with a gun at your head and forcing you to cooperate with the deportation of the Jews of Gush Katif and northern Shomron."

Many public figures protested the use of the Holocaust comparison. However, a Chabad site has now republished the text of an interview from nine years ago in which Ariel Sharon himself made the same comparisons.

In reference to then-Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin's plan to uproot Jewish communities from Gaza, Sharon said, "It must be understood that this government, and those who head it, have been stricken with madness and have lost all restraint... Though no current situation should ever be compared with the Holocaust, I would still like to mention that before the Holocaust, as well, the Jewish leadership said then: There is no alternative."

Sharansky: "Judaism to Israelis"; Lapid: "He is a Missionary"


"I never imagined that I would hear from Israeli government ministers that bringing Judaism to Jews is a crime," Minister for Diaspora Affairs Natan Sharansky told Israel National Radio Tuesday. Sharansky was responding to Shinui party chairman Tommy Lapid's attack on his "Judaism for All" program that includes prayers in community centers throughout Israel on Yom Kippur this Saturday.

He said that in the framework of the program, more than 20,000 Israelis will gather in 195 locations on Yom Kippur to learn more about the holy day. The program reaches out to secular Israelis, many of whom feel uncomfortable in a synagogue.

Former Prisoner of Zion Sharansky was shocked by Lapid, leader of his secular anti-religious party, who protested use of government funds for the educational initiative. "When I was in prison [in Russia], even knowing when it was Passover was important because it gives you a feeling of connection and being part of this great tradition. Many Jews feel estranged in a synagogue. Many were raised in an atmosphere that has no connection with Judaism. The idea is that people who want to know something will come to a local cultural center," he explained.

The program comes in a response to a popular demand from native Israelis as well as Russian immigrants, whom Sharansky called "disengaged" from Judaism. Rather than conduct the lengthy Yom Kippur service, religious and lay leaders will explain the prayers and lead discussion groups.

"They will have meetings, with short prayer, and a lot of discussion about the meaning of prayers. Every year the number of people participating increases," he said. Sharansky described the "Judaism for All" program as a cooperative effort that helps "build bridges between different people."

Minister Tommy Lapid attacked the program after Prime Minister Sharon thanked Sharansky "in the name of the entire government." Lapid responded, "certainly not in the name of the entire government."

Sharansky commented: "Lapid said it is missionary [activity]. We are a democratic Jewish state. Exactly as Shinui is correctly fighting against those who are trying to undermine the democratic character of the state, they have to do some soul-searching if they are becoming the party which is trying to damage the Jewish character of the state."

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