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Carter to Head U.S. Poll Watching Team


Former President Jimmy Carter will head America's team of poll watchers who will be present in PA autonomous areas for the Jan. 9th election as part of the international effort to ensure the election is nothing less than an unhampered democratic process which will result in the election of a new PA government. In an interview with Reuters, Carter said Palestinian leaders had invited him to monitor the election called to replace the late Yasir Arafat. He said he is optimistic about those polls, and will utilize 80 to 90 observers from his Atlanta-based Carter Center. Carter helped broker the historic 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.

Gaza Spokesman: Sharon Speech Reminiscent of Oslo

By & Ha'aretz

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon delivered the keynote address at the Herzliya Conference Thursday evening. And as he promoted his withdrawal plan, Gazan terrorists launched four mortar shells.

Sharon spoke about the benefits of his proposed Gaza withdrawal/expulsion plan, using language reminiscent of that, which accompanied the 1993 Oslo Accords. "We will reach a time of tranquility not experienced since the beginning of the state of Israel," Sharon promised. "Last year I presented here the guidelines for the disengagement plan. There are certain goals that have always been our focus. The aim of the disengagement plan is to achieve these goals."

The Prime Minister enumerated several hopes for 2005 - the year, he assured the audience, that Israel would leave Gaza. "In 2005 we have the opportunity to extract ourselves from the recession," he said. "In 2005 we will establish new, improved relations with the international community - Europe has begun to understand our need to fight terrorism. In 2005 Israel will have the opportunity for a historic breakthrough with the Palestinians - a breakthrough for which we have been waiting many, many years."

Sharon outlined several other priorities of his government, including the absorption of one million new immigrants in the next 15 years, but stressed that the most important issue, in his view, was the withdrawal from Gaza and the northern Shomron. "Israel's most important opportunity is leaving Gaza - which we will implement next year. This decision is the cornerstone of these opportunities."

Attacking the campaign being waged against his disengagement plan from within his own party and elsewhere, Sharon said, "I am a great believer in action within consensus." The PM went on to claim that the majority of Israelis support his plan and are not willing to continue to sacrifice "for unattainable goals.

"The decision that we will not be in Gaza and have no place there does not divide the people or tear the nation apart," Sharon said, referring to bumper stickers and placards across the country decrying the expulsion of Jews from their homes. Terming Land of Israel faithful "a small minority," Sharon insisted that his plan is in fact "bringing the nation together.

"Disengagement has already produced a long lists of benefits," Sharon said. "Because of it, there is no criticism of Israeli actions against terrorism. It [also] makes it clear that when Israel says it will make painful compromises, it is serious - very, very painful sacrifices."

Lieberman: Transfer Arab Areas of Jerusalem to Palestinians

By Ha'aretz

Former minister Avigdor Lieberman said Thursday he supports the transfer of some of Jerusalem's Arab neighborhoods and Israeli Arab communities in Wadi Ara over to Palestinian control in conjunction with the establishment of a Palestinian state. Lieberman's position on the transfer of Arab areas over to Palestinian control is part of his recently formulated vision for a Jewish state based on ethnic separation from the Palestinians.

This is that first time that Lieberman (National Union), who was speaking at the Herzliya conference, expressed support for transfer to the Palestinians of areas within Jerusalem's municipal boundaries. Israel's primary problem, he said, is not the Palestinians but rather the country's Arab citizens. He said this problem must be taken care of before the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be resolved. "The linkage that has been created between the Palestinian problem and the Israeli Arab problem will destroy us."

Lieberman presented his plan to an exchange of territory between Israel and the Palestinians, in the framework of which Israeli Arab communities in the Wadi Ara region would be annexed to the Palestinian state. The former minister's plan for Jerusalem would keep holy areas such as the Mount of Olives and Mount Scopus under Israeli control but would cede to the Palestinians Arab neighborhoods such as Jabal Mukkaber, which is now part of united Jerusalem.

Lieberman told Ha'aretz his plan was not a "division of Jerusalem" and said he does not consider certain Jerusalem neighborhoods - such as Jabal Mukkaber and Issawiya - to be part of the city. "I don't want to pay national insurance to residents of these neighborhoods. The Palestinians should provide them with national insurance, labor representation and the right to strike."

Lieberman also said that, unlike left-wing activists back the People's Voice and Geneva Initiative, he is not seeking peace but security and is not seeking a partner for the creation of a Palestinian state but rather a partner for the resolution of what he called "the problem of Arabs in the Land of Israel. "I don't want to be part of the 'New Middle East,' I want to be a representative of Europe in this region. I am not excited by eating hummus in Damascus but rather prefer walking around in Paris and London."

Regarding the Palestinian refugee issue, Lieberman said solutions must be found for them in the countries in which they are currently residing. "If Saudi Arabia does not understand that it is worthwhile investing money in the settling of refugees where there are now living, I will agree to explain this to them in Russian. And I am certain they would then understand."

Missionary Nursery Discovered


Yad L'Achim activists combating cults and missionary activity in Israel have exposed a Russian-language nursery school engaging in missionary indoctrination in Holon, near Tel Aviv.

Members of the counter-missionary division of Yad L'Achim said the missionary activity at the nursery school was brought to their attention after the children were repeatedly shown Christian movies about Jesus geared toward children. The toddlers are also treated to daily readings from children's books with Christian themes and illustrations glorifying the life of Jesus. The nursery is popular amongst working parents, as it offers unusually long hours, acting as a day-care center from 7 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Russian-speaking Yad L'Achim activists have begun counter-missionary information drives, taking up a presence in the area around the school and paying visits to the homes of the children's parents. Their aim is to inform parents of the dangers of placing their children under the custody of missionaries. The efforts have already bore fruit, with several parents taking their young ones out of school. The Yad L'Achim activists say, though, that there is more work to be done.

Bill Seeking Appointment of Non-Jewish IDF Chaplains


Knesset member Yahad Ran Cohen has proposed that the increase in the number of non-Jews serving in the Israeli Defense Force demands the introduction of non-Jewish chaplains to serve the religious needs of Catholic, Druze and Muslim soldiers.

The bill, which was presented to the Knesset for a preliminary reading Thursday, calls for providing alternative clergymen to tend to the burial of non-Jewish soldiers. In addition to the bill, Cohen wants non-Jewish clergy to be made available to deal with the needs of non-Jewish soldiers and their families as well as allocating burial plots for non-Jews in IDF military cemeteries.

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