Newsletter : 5fax0324.txt
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Israeli Film Success
An Israeli film - Walk on Water - which was screened in at least 10 U.S. movie theaters
in March, entered a recent weekend list of top grossing films at no. 29. Eytan Fox's film
earned $63,000 over the March 3-5th weekend. Starring Lior Ashkenazi, the movie depicts
the relationship between a Mossad agent - son of Holocaust survivors - and the two
grandchildren of a notorious Nazi, whom the agent is trying to track down. Walk on Water
premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in 2004, and was also a big hit in Israel. The film
opened in more U.S. cities on March 18.
Knesset Committee Approves Referendum Bill
The Knesset Law Committee voted Wednesday to approve a proposed bill for a national
referendum on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's expulsion/withdrawal plan. The bill will be
voted on in the Knesset next Monday.
At present, its supporters in the Knesset do not enjoy a majority. They number 6
National Union MKs, 6 current and former MKs of the NRP, 2-5 from United Torah Judaism,
and at least 26 from the Likud. If the Likud employs party discipline to vote for the
plebiscite, in accordance with a recent Central Committee decision, and if Shas decides to
vote in favor as well, the referendum bill will pass - over Sharon's strong
This does not appear likely at present. Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, the spiritual leader of
the Shas Party, decided that his representative in the Law Committee, Nissim Ze'ev, would
vote against the bill. Though Shas opposes the disengagement, and opposes the government
in general, Yosef fears that this bill could be used to hold a referendum on issues such
as yeshiva students' army deferrals. Shas political leader Eli Yishai said, without
enthusiasm, that this appears to be Rabbi Yosef's final ruling on the matter.
Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, on the other hand, who is the religious authority for the
other Hareidi party, United Torah Judaism, ruled differently. He instructed Avraham
Ravitz, UTJ's representative on the Law Committee, to vote in favor. The five MKs of UTJ,
however, are divided into two factions, and it is not clear how they would all vote in the
Knesset next week.
With Ze'ev and Ravitz canceling each other out, Likud MK Roni Bar'on placed the
deciding vote. Bar'on opposes a referendum, but voted in favor - in accordance with a
controversial compromise reached in the Likud two days ago. The compromise also stipulated
that the disengagement opponents must vote in favor of the budget in the Finance Committee
Tuesday, which they did, as did a majority of the Committee members.
Likud MK Michael Eitan, who chairs the Law Committee, supports the disengagement, but
has waged a long struggle for over a year on behalf of a referendum on the issue. In the
debate preceding the vote, MK Michael Ratzon (Likud) said that those who oppose a
referendum would lead to a civil war, while MK Yuli Tamir (Labor) said that a referendum
would be a "mega-terror attack" against the disengagement.
Arab League Adopts Revamped Arab Peace Initiative
By Greg LaMotte (VOA-Cairo)
The Arab League concluded its two-day summit in Algiers Wednesday agreeing, again, to a
2002 Arab peace initiative put forth by Saudi Arabia. And, just like in 2002, Israel has
rejected the proposal. Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa concluded the two-day
summit in Algeria saying the Arab world was ready for peace with Israel, but with familiar
demands. Moussa said there couldn't be a comprehensive peace agreement unless there is a
complete Israeli withdrawal from all occupied Arab territories. He said there must be the
establishment of a Palestinian state and there must be a solution to the issue of
In return, Arab states agreed to normalize relations with Israel. It is the same
initiative put forth by Saudi Arabia during the 2002 summit in Beirut, which Israel
rejected. Tel Aviv has also rejected the latest Arab peace initiative. Many Arab League
members said they did not have high expectations for the summit in Algiers. Eight of the
22 eligible heads of state failed to attend the meeting, opting to instead send
Germany Plans to Bury Ashes of Thousands of Jews
Germany plans to bury the ashes of thousands of Jews who were killed and cremated at
the Sachsenhausen concentration camp during the Holocaust 60 years ago. The ashes, up to
five feet thick, were discovered last year under a concrete memorial put up at the site of
the camp's crematorium, by East German authorities. A German official, Guenter Morsch,
told reporters that towards the end of the war, the SS tried to cover up the crimes
committed at Sachsenhausen, and to do that they plowed the ashes of the dead into the
ground over a wide area.
The ashes will be buried on March 29, in 150 urns at the Sachsenhausen site. Each urn
holds up to 66 pounds of ashes, all that remains of tens of thousands of Jews who were
imprisoned at the camp. The Soviet Army found only 3,000 sick and starving survivors when
they liberated the camp in 1945. Thousands of Jews were also murdered on death marches
carried out by the SS in an effort to evacuate the camp in advance of the Russian troops.
IDF Distributes 600,000 Hamentaschen to Soldiers
In honor of the upcoming celebration of Purim, the IDF's food authority distributed
600,000 hamentaschen or oznei Haman, a traditional Purim cookie, to soldiers of every
The Israel Defense Forces has placed a general closure over the entire West Bank and
Gaza Strip that will last for the duration of Purim. The holiday begins Thursday evening
and lasts until Sunday. Police have also increased their level of alert in the lead-up to
Purim and thousands of officers reinforced by Civil Guard volunteers and IDF soldiers were
deployed as of Wednesday in crowded locations and vacations sites across the country.
In related news, militants detonated a bomb adjacent to an IDF patrol in Nablus before
dawn Wednesday, damaging a vehicle but causing no injuries. Overnight Wednesday, Israeli
security forces arrested four wanted Palestinian militants in the West Bank. Troops
arrested three Hamas activists in Qalqilyah and a member of the Popular Front for the
Liberation of Palestine was arrested east of Abu Dis.
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