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Palestinians Bulldoze Officers' Illegally Built Homes in Gaza

By VOA News

Palestinian security forces in the Gaza Strip have destroyed three illegally built homes of senior Palestinian officers - as part of what the Palestinian Authority said was a new anti-corruption campaign. A spokesman for the PA Interior Ministry said bulldozers destroyed the homes built on illegally seized public land. He said the violators were informed ahead of Monday's action, and that the buildings were not occupied. PA leader Mahmoud Abbas, who succeeded Yasir Arafat in January, has been under pressure to end growing chaos in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, and to root out corruption among senior Palestinian officials and commanders of security forces.

Sharon Critic Quits Cabinet over Gaza Disengagement

By Larry James (VOA-Jerusalem) &

Israeli Cabinet Minister Natan Sharansky has resigned, saying Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and four small West Bank settlements is tragic mistake that will encourage more Palestinian violence and serve to divide Israeli society.

Sharansky delivered his letter of resignation to Sharon Monday morning. In it, he laid out the reasons for his action. He said the Gaza withdrawal plan would only weaken the chances for a true peace with the Palestinians and said it would create a serious threat to Israeli society. In his words, "We are standing before a terrible rift in the nation and, to my regret, I sense no effort by the government to prevent it."

Sharon said he regrets Sharansky's decision to resign and added that he wanted to express his appreciation for his service. Sharansky has been a frequent critic of Sharon policy, which, he has said, has been one of giving too many concessions, while getting little in return.

Natan Sharansky is the author of the influential book "The Case for Democracy," which President Bush has said articulates his belief in the need to spread democracy around the world. Before immigrating to Israel in the mid-1980s Natan, then known as Anatoly, Sharansky was one of the best-known dissidents and political prisoners in the Soviet Union. He was jailed in 1977, charged with spying for the United States, and spent 10 years in Soviet prisons, until international pressure led the Soviets to release him, strip him of his Soviet citizenship and deport him to Israel.

Sharansky spoke with Israel National Radio's Eli Stutz and Yishai Fleisher, explaining his reasons for resigning his post a government minister in protest of the disengagement plan. "I believe it is a tragic plan that makes us pay an extremely high price for nothing, and also encourages terror. The only aim of the current government is the implementation of the disengagement plan, and therefore it is wrong, even immoral, for me to remain a part of this government."

The former prisoner of Zion said his main objection to the plan to withdrawal from Gaza and northern Samaria is the fact is the fact that the withdrawal is not contingent on the creation of democracy within the Palestinian Authority. "I have promoted the spread of democracy as the only answer for 30 years. And now, at the time when an American president declares these principles and promotes them, an Israeli PM comes along and does the exact opposite."

Turkish Prime Minister Visits the West Bank

By Robert Berger (VOA-Jerusalem)

The Turkish prime minister met with Palestinian leaders Monday in the West Bank. Turkey hopes to play a greater role in the Middle East peace process. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan began his visit to the West Bank town of Ramallah by laying a wreath at the tomb of the late Palestinian leader, Yasir Arafat. Then he met the new Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, to discuss the Middle East peace process.

Erdogan is the latest in a growing list of world leaders who have visited the region since Arafat's death, each hoping to play a role in ending four-and-a-half years of conflict. "We are ready to do whatever is required to achieve peace," Erdogan told a joint news conference with Abbas.

The Turkish prime minister believes his country could be an effective mediator. Though Turkey is a predominantly Muslim nation, it enjoys warm relations with both Israel and the Palestinians. Economic and military ties with Israel got a boost on Sunday, when Erdogan met with Israeli leaders, and signed a cooperation agreement.

Abbas said a Turkish role is acceptable to the Palestinians and Israel. "I can imagine that if negotiations are sponsored by Turkey, they would be successful," he said. In a gesture to the Palestinians, Turkey gave the Palestinian Authority the title deeds to property in the West Bank and Gaza acquired during the nearly 400-year rule of the Ottoman Empire. A Turkish newspaper said the deeds would help the Palestinians defend their rights in local and international courts. Turkey also plans to provide 25,000 uniforms to the Palestinian police force.

Expert: Israeli Position Renders Balfour Declaration Obsolete


Lawyers representing Israel in its bid to defend the Evacuation/Compensation Law (the Disengagement Plan), negate the Balfour Declaration as a basis for Jews to settle in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. The lawyers made their controversial legal point in a brief submitted to the High Court of Justice, which is hearing some 10 petitions submitted against the disengagement plan.

The Balfour Declaration was issued in 1917 by the British Government, which controlled the Holy Land - including Jordan - at the time. The document, which was later confirmed by the League of Nations, stated, "His Majesty's Government views with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people..."

This declaration gave the Zionist movement a legal jump-start, and inspired the Jews to build their national homeland throughout the Land of Israel west of the Jordan River. Even after the UN Partition Plan gave away parts of the Land and assigned them to a new Arab state that never arose, Israel did not give up its claim on these areas. In fact, in the War of Independence, it conquered some of them and incorporated them in the emerging State. Areas included in this category include Be'er Sheva, the Beit Shemesh area and much of the Galilee.

The State's legal team's brief states, "The petitioners' claim that the [Balfour Declaration] is valid for all of the Mandatory Land of Israel - even those areas that were not given to Israel or to Jordan or did not become an independent state - is not comprehensible."

.By taking this position, the Government of Israel is essentially saying that Israel has no claim on anything other than the Partition Plan borders. So stated Shimon HaLevi, a legal expert who is taking part in the legal battle against the disengagement plan. HaLevi said that the Government basically renders the Balfour Declaration obsolete and irrelevant, and has "thus adopted not only a leftist position, but the position of our worst enemies."

"In essence," HaLevi told Arutz-7, "this returns us to the 1947 Partition borders, which are three small areas in the north, west and south connected by a safe passage." He said that legal experts around the world have determined that in light of the Balfour Declaration, the Jewish communities of Yesha (Judea, Samaria and Gaza) cannot be considered illegal. In a press conference on Feb. 2, 1981, HaLevi said, then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan stated, "I disagreed when the previous administration referred to them [settlements] as illegal - they're not illegal."

U.S. Jewish Bikers 'Ride to Remember' the Holocaust


This week, about 200 Jewish motorcycle enthusiasts from Toronto and from 14 states will simultaneously ride towards Washington DC in a demonstration of solidarity, respect and honor marking the 60th anniversary of the Holocaust. Along the way, these various groups of bikers will be picking up other riders in select cities to join the ride, until they reach their destination on May 6.

The first-ever motorcycle event of its kind, dubbed "Ride to Remember," will bring out members of the Jewish Motorcyclists Alliance (JMA), a loosely knit association of the most well-known and best-organized Jewish motorcycle clubs in the United States and Canada, representing more than 500 motorcycle enthusiasts, along with independent riders from around the nation.

In Miami and Toronto, the bikers will be seen off by the Israeli consuls. And the King David Bikers of Florida will be met at the border of Charlotte, NC by a motorcycle entourage led by Ken Lipack, president and owner of Charlotte Harley Davidson, who will escort the entire motorcycle group back to his dealership for a formal ceremony attended by this eclectic group of bikers, as well as local religious officials.

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