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Sharon: Refusal to Obey Army Orders Threatens Our Future Existence


Speaking to the special Knesset memorial session marking nine years since the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon stated that soldiers' refusal to obey orders is a dangerous scenario, one that actually jeopardizes the future existence of the nation. The prime minister called on the national religious camp to come to the realization that the refusal of orders is not a legitimate option and could be a most destructive tool that carries dire consequences.

Doctors in Ramallah Fighting for Arafat's Life

By Ha'aretz

Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasir Arafat was fighting for his life as of Wednesday night, after his condition deteriorated sharply on Wednesday evening, officials in Arafat's office told Israeli security officials.

Arafat, 75, lost consciousness Wednesday evening, and a team of Jordanian doctors, headed by his personal neurologist, Ashraf Kurdi, was urgently summoned to join the Tunisian and Jordanian doctors already treating him. At Egypt's request, a team of Egyptian doctors was also en route.

A three-man committee had been formed to run Palestinian affairs until Arafat recovers. Arafat apparently named Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia, former premier Mahmoud Abbas - who is also secretary-general of the PLO's executive committee - and parliament speaker Salim al-Zaanoun to the committee. But one of the men in question told Reuters that he had heard nothing of any such decree.

Scores of senior Palestinian officials descended on Arafat's Ramallah compound after news of his deterioration became known, but no one except his doctors was allowed in. Hundreds of Fatah activists and Ramallah residents also besieged the compound, seeking news of Arafat's health. Arafat's wife, Suha, who lives in France, was also summoned and is expected to arrive soon.

Israeli officials, who approved entry permits for all the doctors Arafat's office requested, said Wednesday night that they would allow Arafat to go anywhere he chooses for treatment. According to a bodyguard who was in the compound at the time, Arafat had been eating soup during a meeting with Qureia, Abbas and senior Palestinian official Yasser Abed Rabbo between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. when he vomited. He was brought to the clinic inside the compound, where he collapsed and was unconscious for about 10 minutes, the guard said.

Some Palestinian officials said Arafat has been unconscious virtually ever since; others said he has been slipping in and out of consciousness; and still others said he was conscious, but delirious.

Palestinian cabinet minister Azzam al-Ahmad said early Thursday that Arafat is in stable condition, but that there was no improvement. "He was joking with us. He needs more medication and tests." Israeli officials speculated that Arafat had suffered a stroke.

Arafat's health began deteriorating two weeks ago, but the cause of his illness has been unclear throughout. Palestinian officials said repeatedly that he was merely suffering a bout of flu, and a hospital official said on Tuesday that he was also suffering from a large gallstone. However, he apparently has some intestinal problems - exacerbated by conditions in the Muqata, which Israel has prevented him from leaving for over two years - as well as problems with his circulatory system.

Israeli officials have speculated that he has stomach cancer, but two of Arafat's doctors said Wednesday that a blood test, combined with a biopsy of tissue taken from his digestive tract, showed he does not have cancer of the digestive tract.

The Israel Defense Forces also began preparing for the possibility of Arafat's imminent death. Over the past year, the army prepared a plan for "the day after," which stresses the importance of preventing deterioration in the situation in the territories immediately following Arafat's death.

It instructs officers to avoid friction between IDF forces and Palestinian demonstrators as much as possible, while also preventing the demonstrators from descending on IDF checkpoints or settlements. Soldiers will also be ordered to be respectful of the Palestinians' mourning, lest expressions of joy at Arafat's death inflame tempers.

In particular, the army fears Israel might be blamed for Arafat's death, whether because of his long imprisonment in the Muqata or because of past rumors that Israel intended to assassinate him. Should Arafat die, another thorny issue will be where to bury him. In the past, he has said he wants to be buried on the Temple Mount, but it seems unlikely that Israel would permit this. The defense establishment is prepared to suggest a burial site either in Gaza or in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Abu Dis, where the Palestinian parliament is due to be located, but it is not clear that the Palestinians would accept either of these offers.

Israel-Based Seventh Day Adventist Leaders Arrested


Immigration Authority officers have arrested the senior leaders of the Seventh Day Adventist church in Petach Tikva on suspicion that they have been involved in missionary work.

During the investigation, it became clear to the police that the Seventh Day Adventist leaders were not only allegedly breaking laws regarding missionary activity, but also they have been in the country illegally for more than a decade. The Seventh Day Adventists deny the allegations of missionizing, but the police have determined that members of the church have focused on converting Jews to the Seventh Day brand of Christianity, particularly among immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

Hatikvah: The New National Anthem


Fifty-six years after the establishment of the State of Israel, it will soon have its own official national anthem. The Knesset Interior Committee has approved legislation emending the Flag and Symbol Law, according to which Hatikvah - popularly assumed to be Israel's national anthem - would in fact officially receive this status.

The law, which passed its first reading two years ago has lain dormant since then. Previous governments did not see a need to legislate the fact that Hatikvah is Israel's anthem, given its wide popularity and general acceptance as such. The situation changed when certain left-wing elements proposed that the anthem be changed to reflect Israel's Arab population.

Though the history of the song is not totally clear, it is accepted that Naphtali Herz Imber, an English poet originally from Bohemia,, wrote the words in 1886, and the melody is by Samuel Cohen, an immigrant from Moldavia. The words are: "As long as the Jewish spirit is yearning deep in the heart, With eyes turned toward the East, looking toward Zion, Then our hope - the 2,000-year-old hope - will not be lost: To be a free people in our land, The land of Zion and Jerusalem.

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