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Israel Considers Delay of Gaza Pullout

By Robert Berger (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israel is considering a delay of its planned pullout from the Gaza Strip this summer. But the Cabinet is sharply divided over the issue. The cabinet ministers held a stormy meeting, but failed to reach a decision on a possible postponement. The pullout is due to begin July 25.

A delay of three weeks was proposed because the original date falls during a Jewish mourning period for the destruction of the biblical Temples. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon supports the delay; analysts say he does not want his Gaza "disengagement" to become associated with a national disaster like the destruction of the Temples.

But some officials say the government is buying time. Cabinet Minister Yisrael Katz, who opposes the withdrawal, says the government is not ready to implement it. "No one has dealt with the problems of housing and unemployment facing the settlers," Katz told reporters. He said one-third of the settlers are employed in agriculture, but they have not been compensated for their businesses or given alternative farmland inside Israel.

But opponents of the delay, such as Cabinet Minister Ophir Paz of the leftist Labor Party, say it would cast doubt on the government's resolve to implement the pullout. "Postponing the withdrawal would broadcast weakness," said Paz. He said a delay would give opponents of the pullout more time to organize resistance.

The settlers are not enthusiastic about the delay either because it does not meet their fundamental demand-that the pullout be called off. And they vented their anger when Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz paid a visit to Jewish communities in Gaza. "Go home," they shouted, "go home. You are a shame and a reproach." One resident said the defense minister's job is to protect Jews, not to throw them out.

Virginia City Seeks Israeli Firms

By Ynet News

Norfolk, Va. is offering financial incentives for Israeli companies, particularly those in the fields of security and marine technology, to locate or expand there. The "Norfolk Plan" would allow Israeli companies to expand their business activities to Norfolk, introduce them to influential investors and strategic business partners and provide companies with financial support of $1 million.

A special team, including Virginia government officials, is scheduled to visit Israel in May. The team is set to meet with several Israeli companies that specialize in security and marine technology and will select six companies to be invited back to the U.S. for a series of meetings. Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim presented the plan during an Israeli trip as part of the annual Jerusalem Conference of Mayors, which brought together more than 70 city leaders from 32 countries.

During his trip, Fraim visited the northern port city of Haifa and Zim, the country's largest shipping service Zim, which transferred a U.S. military base from New York to Norfolk several years ago. "Norfolk is the leading center for marine industry in the U.S., and it also houses America's largest navy base," Fraim said. "The local government is strong and its location at the center of (America's) East Coast is an impressive foundation for business activities throughout the U.S."

Norfolk and Haifa, together with the Haifa Chamber of Commerce, have signed the first stage of the agreement, a type of sister-city program based on business collaboration and interests. The Israel-Virginia Business Council organized the "Norfolk Plan".

9th Circuit OKs Suit Against Vatican Over Holocaust

By The Recorder

Just in time for the selection of Benedict XVI as the new pope, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided Monday that Holocaust survivors can pursue the Vatican Bank for profiting from a Nazi puppet regime. The decision in Alperin v. Vatican Bank, 05 C.D.O.S. 3216, revives a class action that had been dismissed by San Francisco U.S. District Judge Maxine Chesney.

Groups of Ukrainian, Russian and Belarusian Holocaust victims -- potentially hundreds of thousands, according to plaintiffs' attorneys -- had sued the Vatican Bank, the Franciscan Order, the Croatian Liberation Movement and various banks in 1999. Plaintiffs allege the defendants "profited from the genocidal acts of the Croatian Ustasha political regime," which was installed by the Nazis during World War II, according to the opinion.

The Ustasha regime operated death camps where as many as 700,000 Serbs died. After the Croatian government collapsed at the end of the war, its leaders fled to Italy and some assets went into Vatican control, according to a State Department report. Plaintiffs allege that the Vatican Bank, an arm of the sovereign Vatican government, essentially laundered the money, said plaintiffs' lawyer Thomas Easton of Eugene, Ore.

Easton said he believed it was "just a coincidence" that the decision came on the first day cardinals deliberated who will be the next pope. However, Easton hopes the Catholic Church takes advantage of the timing and agrees to settle the case. "I would think a new pope might want to clean the decks of this kind of stuff," Easton said. "I'm thinking we have a good chance to settle now."

The claims could exceed $100 million, according to a press release put out by Easton's partner in the case, Jonathan Levy of Ohio. Pepperdine University School of Law Professor Kathryn Lee Boyd argued the plaintiffs case at the 9th Circuit. Chesney had granted a motion to dismiss because she believed the case wasn't justiciable under the political question doctrine. That legal test requires courts to stay out of business normally conducted by the executive and legislative branches.

Monday's divided 9th Circuit panel said Chesney was right, but only regarding the so-called "war objective" claims. Two of the three panel judges -- 9th Circuit Judge M. Margaret McKeown and Senior Illinois District Judge Milton Shadur, sitting by designation -- said they would allow the more "garden variety" tort of conversion claims.

"In the landscape before us, this lawsuit is the only game in town with respect to claimed looting and profiteering by the Vatican Bank," McKeown wrote for the majority. "No ongoing government negotiations, agreements or settlements are on the horizon. The outside chance that the executive branch will issue a statement in the future that has the 'potentiality of embarrassment' when viewed against our decision today does not justify foreclosing the Holocaust survivors' claims."

But the third panelist, 9th Circuit Judge Stephen Trott, said that's not good enough. "With all respect to my valued colleagues, I see it as a mistake to measure this issue of justifiability by a 'this lawsuit is the only game in town' standard," Trott write in dissent. "This is not our 'game,' period, and we do not become vested with jurisdiction by default of the other branches."

The defendants have not yet decided whether to appeal, said Paul Vallone of San Francisco's Hinshaw & Culbertson, who represents the Franciscan Order. Although Monday's decision was a setback for his client, Vallone pointed to sections of the opinion that tell the plaintiffs they are by no means home free. "There are several other obstacles that plaintiffs need to get through," Vallone said.

Indeed, several times the judges noted the complexity and difficulty of the massive case, calling it a "behemoth" and comparing the district court's work on it to Sisyphus, the mythological figure who rolled a boulder up a hill only to have it roll back down for eternity. Easton, on the other hand, found those comments encouraging. "Those are signals to both sides to settle the case," he said.

Hamas Bomb-Maker Star of Syrian-Produced TV Series From the Arab Press

A 12-part series on the life of the "father of suicide bombings," Hamas bomb-maker Yihye Ayash, is set to be aired on the Lebanese-based Hizbullah satellite television station al-Manar.

Ayash, who studied electrical engineering at Bir Zeit University near Ramallah and joined Hamas shortly afterward, was responsible for manufacturing bombs that killed at least 76 Israelis and injured more than 400. Israeli intelligence elements finally succeeded in killing him in 1996, using an explosive installed in his cellular phone. Ayash is lauded as a hero in the Palestinian Authority, and posters featuring his face, with the honorific nickname 'al-Muhandas' [The Engineer], plaster the walls of many Arab towns in Judea, Samaria and Gaza.

On Jan. 5, 1996, Israeli security agents succeeded in having him answer a cell phone in which they had planted 1.7 ounces of explosives - causing it to blow up and kill him on the spot.

The Syrian-produced TV series on his life is not the first anti-Semitic program to be aired on al-Manar. Aside from laudatory news reports following attacks on Israeli civilians, the channel broadcast a series called 'A-Shatat' [Diaspora] in November 2003. The show was billed as an accurate depiction of modern Zionism, but was blatantly anti-Semitic in content and made repeated references to the forged anti-Semitic document "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion."

Following that broadcast and the refusal of al-Manar to remove anti-Semitic programming, the channel was removed from the rosters of local satellite networks in the United States and France. The series on Ayash began airing in April, at prime time each evening. The series glorifies the terrorist, and Hamas in general.

The Arab actors playing IDF soldiers and Israeli government officials speak Hebrew in the series, though with a thick Arabic accent. Sinister music is played whenever a Jew appears on the scene. Ayash is portrayed as a role model, and even a moral humanist. One scene depicts him urging terrorists under his command not to harm any Israeli children in an "operation." He says to them: "Never forget, we are superior to our enemy in our moral standards."

Six years after Ayash's death, Israel's Ministry of Education released a pamphlet about the 70 infants, children and teenagers who had been murdered by Palestinian terrorists - and the 720 who suffered moderate to serious wounds in these attacks. Dozens more have been killed since then.

Pope was Forced into Hitler Jugend

By VOA News &

Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau congratulated Pope Benedict XVI on his being selected Tuesday as the church's 265th pope. Lau stated the new pope has made statements denouncing anti-Semitism on several occasions. Lau added he is confident that therefore, the newly appointed pope will continue on the path of Pope John Paul II and maintain good relations with Israel and the Jewish People.

Joseph Ratzinger was born in 1927 in a small town in southern Germany. His father was a policeman with strong anti-Nazi beliefs, but membership in the Hitler Youth Movement was compulsory at the time and in 1941 the young Joseph Ratzinger was enrolled against his will. He said he was soon let out, because of his studies for the priesthood.

The future pope's studies at the seminary were interrupted again when he was drafted into the Nazi army and served with an anti-aircraft unit, and later on the Austrian-Hungarian border. He deserted the army in 1945 and returned to Bavaria, where he was captured by U.S. forces and held in a prisoner of war camp for several weeks. After the war he resumed his seminary studies and was ordained a priest in 1951. In 1977 he was ordained archbishop of Munich and less than a month later Pope Paul VI elevated him to cardinal.

Jerusalem Mayor: Tel Aviv Becoming a Suburb of Jerusalem


Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupoliansky told an international conference of mayors this week that Tel Aviv is becoming a suburb of Jerusalem.

Addressing the 2005 Jerusalem Conference of Mayors, Lupoliansky referred to the opening of the railway line between the two cities this week as proof of the development. "In addition to Israel Railways, whose line to Jerusalem was reopened Saturday night," Lupoliansky said, "another, faster line is being planned between the coastal plain to us - on which travel time will be 28 minutes." That route is scheduled to open in 2008.

Noting the capital's current development and economic growth, the mayor said that Jerusalem is entering a new era of prosperity and renewal. "Only a few months ago, I spoke about the light at the end of the tunnel. This morning, I feel like someone who has just this minute emerged from the tunnel into daylight. The light of Jerusalem is now revealed in all its glory."

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