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36% of Religious Soldiers Will Refuse to Evacuate Jews from Gaza


Forty-two percent of Israel Defense Force recruits do not want to serve in the West Bank or Gaza, according to a report by Ma'ariv. On the other hand, according to the paper's survey, 36 percent of religious recruits plan to refuse to take part in the evacuation of Jews from their homes in Gaza and northern Samaria.

91% of Israeli Jews Won't Give Up Western Wall for Peace

By Ha'aretz

Some 91 percent of the Jewish public in Israel would be unwilling to give up Israeli control of the Western Wall in exchange for peace, according to the results of a survey published Wednesday.

A representative sample of the Jewish population was polled on whether, in exchange for a final real peace agreement, Israel should transfer a number of sacred sites to the Palestinians, be prepared for joint control, or keep the sites under sole Israeli hegemony. None of those polled said they would agree to Palestinian control over the Western Wall, although six percent were willing to see joint control.

With regard to the Temple Mount, 46 percent would agree to joint Israeli-Palestinian control, or sole Palestinian control, according to the survey conducted by the Dahaf Institute. Nine percent of the public was in favor of transferring control to the Palestinians, 36 percent favored joint control, 51 percent favored Israeli control only. With regard to the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, 13 percent were in favor of giving control to the Palestinians, 33 percent for joint control, and 49 percent for sole Israeli control.

Thirteen percent of those questioned said the would agree for the Tomb of Rachel to be in Palestinian hands, 30 percent would opt for joint control, and 53 percent wanted to see Israeli control only.

Rabbi Ovadia Clarifies: I Wish Sharon Long Life

By & Ha'aretz

The spiritual leader of the Shas movement and party, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Wednesday clarified his Tuesday statements regarding Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the government's Disengagement Plan. The rabbi's statements were widely reported as wishing death upon Sharon for what the rabbi called an "evil" and "cruel" plan.

"I was very saddened to hear the interpretation," Rabbi Ovadia said, "as if I wished that the prime minister's days be shortened. What is a man? He can go to sleep one day and not get up in the morning. I wish the prime minister a long life, but I pray that he get some intelligence and reverse his position on the matter of disengagement."

Yosef said Tuesday that he wished Sharon would "receive a blow and die." The rabbi described Sharon as evil and brutal. He made the statements at a synagogue in Jerusalem, during a Torah lecture in honor of the upcoming Purim holiday. In a pre-Purim sermon, the rabbi expressed fierce opposition to Sharon and his disengagement plan, saying, "What a cruel and evil man who does such things." Yosef also commented that "God will strike him with one blow and he will die, he will sleep and not awake."

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz decided Wednesday not to launch an investigation against Yosef. Senior sources in the Justice Ministry said that Yosef "hopes [that this] would happen to the prime minister, but there is no clear, operative instruction to his listeners [to act], and thus there is apparently no grounds for an investigation."

Yosef told the leader of the Sephardi ultra-Orthodox party, Knesset member Eli Yishai, on Wednesday that he was sorry if his comments were misconstrued and that he wishes Sharon a long-life. He also told Yishai that he also hopes Sharon will be blessed with wisdom, and go back on his decision to carry out the unilateral disengagement.

"The rabbi was speaking against the disengagement, the rabbi has criticism against the prime minister, but you cannot say the rabbi called for harming the prime minister," Shas MK Shlomo Benizri told Israel Radio. But others slammed Yosef. "He hates Israel, hates the Arabs, incites and calls on heaven to strike down the prime minister, it is unbelievable," Roni Brizon, a lawmaker from the secular Shinui party, told the radio.

Study Finds Israel Played Key Role in Building Unauthorized Settlements

By Larry James (VOA-Jerusalem)

A government report made public Wednesday says the Israeli government played a key role in establishing and expanding Jewish settlements on Palestinian land in direct violation of its own policy. Cabinet ministers are calling for immediate action to dismantle all settlement outposts. The report concluded that a number of Israeli ministries and official institutions secretly contributed funding to settlement outposts with the intent of breaking up Palestinian lands into unconnected blocks in order to prevent the establishment of a future Palestinian state.

The report was presented Wednesday by former state prosecutor Talia Sasson, who conducted the study. Sasson told a Jerusalem news conference that just this past year some 400 mobile homes were given free of charge to settlers who used them to establish outposts on the Palestinian lands of the West Bank.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, once the chief proponent of settlement creation and expansion, is now calling for the elimination of many of them, including all those in the Gaza Strip and four smaller ones in the northern West Bank. He has also promised the United States that he would dismantle unauthorized outposts, which Israel is required to do as the first step in the internationally supported "road map" peace plan. Only a few have so far been dismantled because of what Israel describes as legal obstacles.

When he was foreign minister in 1998, Sharon publicly called on settlers to seize hilltops in the West Bank and establish outposts. Once he became prime minister, in 2001, there was a flurry of settlement building. Now, he appears to have done an about-face, something settlers and their supporters consider outright betrayal. Whether Sharon was personally involved in the secret support of the settler expansion outlined in the government report, is not known. But settlement proponents, now battling against the prime minister's disengagement plan, say it is obvious that he had a major role to play in the affair.

The Sasson report recommends that prosecutors open a formal investigation into possible criminal activity by officials who may have been involved in the outpost support and expansion. Several members of the Israeli cabinet, including Housing Minister Yitzhak Herzog, called on Sharon to dismantle all outposts immediately. But Herzog also praised Sharon for displaying what he termed "unusual courage" by reversing course and calling for the dismantling of settlements. He said the prime minister should be praised for ordering a review of settlement policy.

Hi-Tech Start-Up Aids Unemployed Anglos in Israel


MSM Netphone Inc, a VoIP telephone company, has launched a program to provide unemployed Israelis with a free VoIP device and free USA phone number. MSM Netphone Inc. of Cedarhurst, NY announced a program to benefit unemployed Israelis. The new initiative provides them with a phone number that will render them easily accessible to US-based companies and will thus facilitate the developing of business relationships.

"Many Israelis are skilled in fields such as programming and technical development," explained Marcus Rutman of MSM Netphone. "However, currently not all of them are able to find a job in Israel. Our plan allows them to establish a USA or Canadian presence with a local phone number that rings through to a home in Israel. This opens up wide opportunities for many professional Israelis enabling them to bid for North American-based projects."

According to MSM Netphone, qualified applicants would receive the VoiP device within five days of application. They can then connect it up to their local internet connection and a regular phone and immediately start to make unlimited calls to many destinations for a low monthly fee. Since many US employers are adverse to calling workers overseas, the new technology makes it much easier to bid for work in North America by publishing a local phone number in the United States or Canada, which rings through to Israel. Each device comes with a real USA or Canadian phone number that rings in Israel, as well as voice mail and many other digital features.

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