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UN Session Marking the Liberation of Nazi Death Camps


A special United Nations session will be held on Monday marking 60 years since the liberation of the Nazi death camps, beginning the week of related ceremonies. This marks the first time in the history of the international body that the liberation of the death camps is given the special recognition.

Palestinian Terrorists Lean Towards Ceasefire

By Benjamin Sand (VOA-Jerusalem)

Palestinian terrorists are reportedly nearing an agreement with newly elected Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to halt attacks against Israel. Militant leaders are disputing an Israeli claim that a deal has already been made, officials on both sides express a willingness to respect a ceasefire if and when one is established.

Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath said Sunday a ceasefire agreement with militant groups could be confirmed within days. But Shaath rejected Israeli claims that a deal had already been secured with Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Several days ago Shaath said the ceasefire negotiations were a key step toward resuming peace talks with Israel. "What we are trying to do is to reach a Palestinian consensus to go to the Israelis and the world with: that the Palestinians are ready for a total cessation of violence and the Israelis should reciprocate at the same time."

Terrorist groups are avoiding confirmation of a ceasefire deal, but said they would respect a month-long truce if Israel ended its raids into Gaza and the targeted killings of Palestinian militants. Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said his forces would suspend operations in Gaza as long as Palestinians do not provoke a fresh round of attacks.

Abbas started the ceasefire talks last week in Gaza. Officials said that during the proposed 30-day ceasefire he would continue negotiating with the militants to advance a more detailed and comprehensive settlement. He added that he wanted to encourage the various armed groups to join mainstream political efforts to secure an independent Palestinian state. Abbas has also deployed Palestinian security forces to border areas across Gaza to prevent militant attacks against Israeli settlements and nearby Israeli towns.

IDF Prevents Huge Terrorist Attack


Israel revealed Sunday that IDF forces in Samaria last week prevented a massive terrorist attack when they discovered a huge store of weapons, including mortar shells, rockets and suicide belts. Soldiers arrested 14 senior Hamas terrorists in the pre-dawn raid in Shechem. The weapons laboratory was described as the largest discovered in the past three years.

The laboratory was filled with explosives, raw material for preparing terror blasts, rockets, mortar shells and three suicide belts ready for use. The discovery confirmed concerns that Arabs are preparing to launch attacks in Samaria as they have done for years in Gaza.

The government's proposal to dismantle 25 Jewish communities includes four in northern Samaria. If the Knesset approves expelling Jewish civilians and withdrawing IDF troops, the Palestinian Administration would be left in control of a large contiguous area-stretching west within striking distance of Tel Aviv and east to the area of Maaleh Gilboa, near Bet She'an and the Jordan Valley. The plan also calls for withdrawal of Israeli civilians and soldiers from north of Jenin, often called the "terror capital" of Israel, and would leave the PA within striking distance of Afula.

Israelis of Iraqi Origin Barred From Voting in Iraqi Election


As the world awaits free elections in Iraq, officials organizing expatriate voting in Jordan said this past week that any Israelis who turned up to vote would be rejected. According to Iraqi election procedures, people born in Iraq or children of Iraqi parents living abroad have the right to vote in polling places around the world. For Israelis who emigrated from Iraq or their children, the nearest such voting station is in Amman, Jordan.

According to a Jan. 18th report in the English-language Jordan Times, however, Jordanian Minister of Culture Asma Khader said, "Israelis of Iraqi origin are not eligible for voting, in line with the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq (IECI)." Khader went on to say that this would be the case "even if Israel tried to push for it."

In Baghdad earlier this month, IECI spokesman Farid Ayar told the French news agency, "Any person who comes forward with Israeli documents to prove they are of Iraqi origin would not be able to vote for the simple reason that we do not recognize that country." However, Sarah Tosh, a spokeswoman for the Geneva-based organization handling the voting of Iraqi expatriates was apparently unaware of Israel's unique status. She said, "Israelis of Iraqi origin will be authorized to vote in the elections" at the Amman polling station.

Bank Leumi Won't Pay Holocaust Victims' Heirs

By Ha'aretz

Bank Leumi, which holds most of the accounts of Jews who perished in the Holocaust, does not intend to pay the money it owes the survivors and victims' heirs at this stage. The bank made this clear despite the publication of the parliamentary inquiry commission on this matter last week. According to the commission's report, the bank owes the survivors and victims' heirs some NIS 35 million ($8.2 million), which, together with the index-linkage and interest the commission set reach NIS 307 million ($72 million).

The Israeli banks set a prior condition to their cooperation with the commission (which they also helped fund, similarly to the settlement reached with the Swiss banks). They demanded the commission's authority be limited to examining the issue, but have no enforcing power. Commission chairwoman, Knesset member Colette Avital (Labor), told Ha'aretz that in a conversation she recently held with Bank Leumi's attorney, Ram Caspi, he told her "the bank won't pay a penny, unless the law compels us to."

Avital has already begun promoting a bill to set up a unit in the Custodian General's office to track down the heirs actively. The Justice Ministry has also prepared a bill to form a government corporation to handle the property restitution, including real estate and other assets that may be found in the future.

Attorney Yoram Bar, from Caspi's law firm, confirmed for Ha'aretz, "We told the commission we cannot pay anything before a mechanism is enacted to regulate the suits and payments. Even if the bank management agreed to pay, the stockowners could object and even sue the bank, claiming it has no authority to pay.

"Anyway, it is not possible to pay before regulating the practical questions, for example, who among the claimants of a certain account gets how much. The bank suggested to the commission to set up a panel of retired judges to handle the claims, and would have agreed to that even without legislation, but the commission ignored the suggestion."

Freddy Wieder, the executive director of the Association of Banks in Israel, said "The banks don't have a uniform stand on this issue." He said all the banks have "a justifiable disagreement with the commission on the calculation system it sets for the money's value, which is not in keeping with professional criteria." It appears therefore that without legislation the banks will avoid paying the money they owe according to the commission.

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