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Israel News Faxx will not be published from Wednesday, April 13 through Tuesday April 19. The next issue will be dated April 20

Former Mossad Chief Warns of a Possible Coup in Israel


Retired IDF Maj. Gen. Danny Yatom, who also headed the Mossad Intelligence Agency, warned of a possible military coup resulting from increasing loyalty to rabbis over loyalty to the military.

Speaking at an event in the Tel Aviv Museum, the Labor Knesset member warned against the growing calls from prominent rabbis to refuse orders pertaining to the disengagement, coupled with calls to soldiers and officers not to return to their units after Passover. Ayalon explained his fears, that although the religious soldiers serving in the IDF are among the finest in the service, if they are overtaken with "messianic fever" and shift loyalties to rabbis in place of IDF commanders, a coup may result.

Knesset member Zevulun Orlev (National Religious Party) responded angrily, stating the remarks are nothing less than unjustifiable incitement against the national religious camp that remains loyal to the state and does not require an apology for its position.

Police Prevent Jewish Rally at Holy Site in Jerusalem

By Robert Berger (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israeli police have blocked a demonstration by Jewish militants who tried to go up to a disputed holy site in Jerusalem to protest the Israeli government's plan to withdraw from Gaza and dismantle Jewish settlements. About 3,000 Israeli police and soldiers deployed in and around Jerusalem's Old City to keep Israeli ultra-nationalists from marching on the Temple Mount. As the site of the biblical Temples, it is the holiest place for the Jewish people. But Israel feared an eruption of violence, because the compound is home to the al Aqsa Mosque the third-holiest place in Islam. In the end, only a small number of Jewish protesters made it to the nearby Western Wall.

"Several-dozen right-wing Israelis are dancing here at the Western Wall on a tense day in Jerusalem," one onlooker said. "They are singing nationalist songs next to the walkway that goes up to the Temple Mount, but the gate is shut tight, under the watchful guard of police in riot gear."

Police described the rally as a provocation, but demonstrators denied it. Chushim ben Dan said the Palestinian Muslims are threatening violence, not the Jews. "They are the bullies, not us. We just want our rights to pray here. And we want our rights to be here," he said. Avraham Voldinger told VOA that it is time, as he put it, to liberate the Temple Mount. "God gave the Land of Israel to the Jewish people and it is ours," he said. Palestinian shopkeeper Ramadan Maswadi sees things differently. "I think they do not have the right to go there, and this is belong for Muslim people, it do not belong for Jewish," said Maswadi.

The Jewish protesters were apparently hoping to provoke a violent Palestinian response that would scuttle Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to pull out of the Gaza Strip this summer, and evacuate 8,000 Jewish settlers. Cynthia Freedman "First of all, it is against human rights and the basic laws of Israel to take a whole bunch of people, who have not done any harm, and throw them out of their homes," she said.

But since the demonstrators never got to the Temple Mount, there was no serious violence, and the Gaza pullout is still on track. Sharon will discuss his "disengagement" plan when he meets Monday with President Bush at his Crawford, Texas ranch.

Bush, Sharon Meet Monday in Texas

By Ralph Eckhardt (VOA-Washington) &

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said he would discuss recent Palestinian attacks on Israelis in the Gaza strip during his meeting Monday with President Bush. Speaking on the plane bringing him to the United States, Sharon said the mortar and rocket fire "is a flagrant violation of the understandings" reached at the February truce summit with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. The Israeli leader said, "This will be a central issue to be raised in my talks with President Bush." The Israeli army said Palestinian terrorists fired 100 mortars and rockets at Jewish settlements since Saturday in retaliation for Israel's killing of two teenagers on the Gaza-Egypt border.

The Arab youths were suspected of smuggling weapons into Gaza near Rafiah. The security situation, however, began to deteriorate before the Rafiah incident. PA terrorists wounded a resident of the village of Morag last Tuesday and fired a Kassam missile on the town of Sderot in the Negev.

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz has warned the PA that the mortar attacks are undermining the uneasy "truce" with the terrorists, while a senior IDF official told INN reporter Kobi Finkler that further withdrawals from Arab populated cities in Judea and Samaria would not proceed so long as the PA refrains from seizing terrorist weapons and apprehending terrorist fugitives.

Sharon's response and the IDF's inaction have Gush Katif residents worried and outraged. At around 2 a.m. Sunday, when the number of rockets was only around 35, a N'vei Dekalim man named Yigal phoned IDF Southern Commander Gen. Dan Har'el, and asked him, "What are you waiting for? Why is the IDF not taking action? Are you waiting for someone to be killed, Heaven forbid, before doing something?"

Har'el responded, "We are acting with restraint in order to stop the mortar shells." Yigal said he didn't know whether to laugh or cry, but when he pressed Har'el for further explanations, the latter said, "We are waiting for the morning; if it's not quiet, we'll respond." Yigal said he told him, "My 7-year-old son has already experienced mortar shell shrapnel in his chest; you're playing here with human lives. It's too bad I called you. I thought you would reassure me that there was a drone or combat helicopters in the air, or some kind of secret activities..."

Contacted by Arutz-7, an IDF spokesperson said only, "At the moment we are not aware of any orders to respond. It is on a state level. I would suggest that you direct your questions to the Ministry of Defense or the Prime Minister's office."

Residents are frustrated at the army's lack of response. "Regardless of whether they will evacuate us or not, we have the basic right to live," one woman, Datia Yitzchaki, told IsraelNationalRadio's Tamar Yonah and Malkah Fleisher Sunday. But, she said, the soldiers have orders not to return fire, even though "we know from [monitoring IDF radio communications] that the terrorists were identified. The soldiers saw them preparing to shoot the rockets, and asked permission to shoot at them, and their officers said 'No, because we are abiding by the tahadiya [ceasefire].' It's a one-sided ceasefire only. It's dangerous. There's a large population of civilians - hundreds of families - and all of them are again exposed to the danger of rockets." Yitzchaki said that "everyone with common sense" realizes that there must be a response to terrorism, and that the alternative is "completely insane."

During his visit, Sharon will be seeking President Bush's strong endorsement for Israel's scheduled withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. The talks are also expected to focus on Israel's plan to expand its largest West Bank settlement. Israel insists on building 3,500 new homes in a suburban settlement [Maale Adumim] near Jerusalem. But U.S. officials have said the plan is at odds with the internationally backed Road Map peace plan between Israel and the Palestinians.

Did They or Didn't They (Katzav and Khatami) Shake Hands?


What happens when the President of Israel meets up with one of Israel's most implacable enemies at a funeral? How can a simple handshake and the exchange of a few words in Farsi stir controversy?

Large state funerals like the pope's funeral in Rome on April 8., often bring together world leaders, some bitter enemies, that under ordinary circumstances, would never be caught dead in the same city together. The Pope's funeral caught Israel's president Moshe Katzav close enough to the leaders of two of Israel's most implacable enemies, Iran and Syria, to create an unprecedented situation for a spit-second diplomatic sensation turned controversy: a simple handshake.

According to Katzav, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, extended his hand to the Israeli president, more commonly referred to by his country as the head of the Zionist entity. "The president of Iran extended his hand to me, I shook it and told him in Farsi (Persian), 'May peace be upon you,'" Katzav said, after the funeral was over. But by the time he was back in Iran, Khatami, considered to be more liberal minded than Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, fervently denied shaking Katzav's hand, citing fabrications from the "Zionist regime."

"These allegations are false like other allegations made by Israeli media and I have not had any meeting with any one from the Zionist regime," the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency quoted Khatami as saying. "Morally and logically, we do not recognize the Zionist regime," he added.

Israeli officials also decried the purported handshake, saying that Katzav had no authority to shake the hand of a leader of a country that's out to destroy the Jewish state. "Iran declares openly that it wants to liquidate Israel. What would we say if the president of the United States shook Khatami's hand?" one of the officials asked, according to a report in Ha'aretz.

Shaking the hand of Syrian President Bashar Assad was a totally different matter, according to the government source, insisting there was "no problem shaking Syrian President Bashar Assad's hand." Assad apparently didn't find that much of a problem either, as the state-controlled Syrian media has yet to come out with a statement denying it occurred. Foreign Minister Sylvan Shalom, who also attended the funeral, took the whole incident in stride. "I hope that it can be a new beginning, certainly. But frankly I doubt it," Shalom told the Italian daily La Stampa, adding, "Khatami and Assad are two extremists."

Handshakes do not change the reality on the ground, Shalom explained. "We cannot forget the reality: The Syrians have to stop terrorism emanating from Lebanon and put an end to the occupation of that country. The Iranians have to halt their nuclear rearmament program, which directly threatens us."

Despite the enmity, the Iranian-born Katzav did find some common language with Khatami, at least in Farsi. According to Katzav, the surprise handshake turned into a little chat. The two reminisced about Yazd, a region in Iran. "The two of us were born in the same region in Iran, two years apart," Katzav said.

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