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National Strike Threatened Over School Firings


Jerusalem and Tel Aviv schools will be targeted in sanctions Monday as teachers launch a battle seeking to prevent the firing of 4,500 colleagues around the country. A large demonstration will take place outside the Knesset protesting the Education Ministry's planned dismissal of thousands of teachers. Union officials announce thousands are expected to participate in the protest. The teachers say a reduction in school hours, which will result from the firings, effectively cuts out more than a year's education in the 12-year learning program. "This will transform our school system into the most primitive one in the Western world," said Ran Erez, chair of the Association of Secondary School Teachers.

Israel Halts Release of Palestinian Prisoners

By Robert Berger (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israel is ruling out the further release of Palestinian prisoners, saying the Palestinians must do more to crack down on militants. The decision poses a dilemma for the new Palestinian leadership.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told his Cabinet Israel would not release more Palestinian prisoners until the Palestinian Authority cracks down on militant groups. Under a cease-fire agreement reached three months ago, Israel released 500 prisoners and was supposed to free 400 more. But Sharon put that on hold after a wave of Palestinian rocket and mortar attacks in the Gaza Strip rattled the truce.

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said Israel would keep its part of the deal, when the Palestinians keep theirs."[The] time has come for the Palestinian leadership to take the strategic decision to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorist organizations, in order to bring peace and quiet here to our region," Shalom said.

The Palestinians accused Israel of acting in bad faith. Palestinian Cabinet Minister Ghassan Khatib said the prisoner issue could blow up the cease-fire. "Well, ultimately if this political process is going to revive successfully, all Palestinian prisoners should be released, "Khatib said.

Israel's tough position could further weaken Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, whose ruling Fatah faction is facing a growing challenge from the Islamic militant group, Hamas. Hamas, which seeks the destruction of Israel, made significant gains in Palestinian municipal elections last week, and is expected to do even better in parliamentary elections this summer.

Abbas said he needs Israel to release prisoners to strengthen his grip on power and show his people the tangible benefits of peace. But Sharon told the Cabinet that he would not strengthen Abbas at the expense of Israeli lives.

Concern in the IDF Over the "Day After" Withdrawal


Southern District Commander Maj. Gen. Dan Har'el has expressed great concern over what will happen after a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and northern Samaria. A military source told Arutz-7 that Har'el predicts that security dangers to Israel from Arab forces in PA-controlled Gaza will increase after the Disengagement Plan is implemented. One indication of such, the Southern District commander explained, is the incessant weapon smuggling into Gaza and the Shomron.

Har'el said that the Arabs of the Palestinian Authority have stepped up their efforts to smuggle arms. In some of the cases, the army has succeeded in thwarting these efforts, but in others, the Arabs have smuggled in huge quantities of weapons.

The Southern District Commander feels that the barrages of Kassam rockets and mortar shells will not only continue after the unilateral withdrawal, but will extend deeper into Israel territory striking more Jewish towns.

In a meeting earlier this year between journalists and police officers in the southern region, one officer present divulged that the IDF Homefront Command would soon install the early warning missile detection system in Ashkelon, one of Israel's largest southern cities.

Lachish District Police Spokesperson Michal Chaim confirmed this report and went on to explain the concern regarding Ashkelon: "Naturally, the evacuation of the towns [on the northern tip of Gaza] will enable them to get closer to launch Kassam rockets. If indeed they wish to, the moment the area of Elei Sinai [in northern Gaza] is evacuated, they will close in on range to fire rockets deeper into Israel."

At the political level, as well, there is concern regarding the predicted increase in Arab attacks on Israeli towns if the Disengagement Plan is implemented. The Sharon administration cabinet last week gave 44 municipalities in proximity to the Gaza region "frontline status", entitling those towns to government benefits currently offered to Sderot as a result of the ongoing enemy shelling of the Negev city. The government has also allocated funds to reinforce roofs of public buildings in the region to enable them to withstand rocket attacks.

Other problems for the IDF, especially in the Southern District, in the coming months include the evacuation itself and the expected strong resistance by Land of Israel supporters. The army is also not yet coordinated with the police department regarding this operation.

ADL Obscures Americans´ Stance Against Palestinian State


The Anti-Defamation League seems to be taking an active role in combating opponents of the plan to expel the Jews of Gaza and northern Samaria from their homes.

The US-based group has issued a press release highlighting Americans' support for Israel's withdrawal plan for the Gaza Strip and the Jenin area - but has neglected to publish the majority who oppose the creation of a Palestinian state.

In a similar poll carried out by the ADL in 2003, respondents favored the creation of a Palestinian state as soon as possible by 45% to 38% over establishing a Palestinian state only after the Arabs end terrorist violence. The results of this year's poll show drastically different results, with only 31% supporting a state established as soon as possible and 59% responding in favor of waiting until the Arabs put an end to their espousal of terrorism.

In the survey, respondents were asked to choose between two statements: (1) "Palestinians deserve their own homeland -- an independent state. Peace in the Middle East will be strengthened by the creation of this state as soon as possible."(2) "A Palestinian state should only be established after Palestinians end the terrorist violence and accept Israel's legitimacy."

"It is not clear why ADL decided not to share this information in the press release," Aaron Lerner of Independent Media Research Analysis pointed out, citing the drastic change in American public opinion as seemingly newsworthy.

The press release itself read: "A nationwide survey released today by the ADL revealed that Americans continue to strongly support Israel in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, view both Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas favorably and overwhelmingly see Israel's decision to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza as a "bold step toward peace."

The "Survey of American Attitudes Toward Israel and the Middle East" polled 1,600 American adults on March 18 - 25 and was carried out by The Marttila Communications Group.

The ADL was founded to combat anti-Semitism, but has increasingly involved itself in promoting the plan to hand over the 25 Jewish communities in Gaza and the northern Shomron to the Palestinian Authority and expel the Jewish inhabitants living there from their homes.

The organization has repeatedly condemned any analogy drawn by Gaza residents comparing their expulsion to previous expulsions of Jews, condemning newspapers that accept paid advertisements from groups calling the disengagement an "expulsion", praising figures who come out against civil disobedience,

"It appears clear that Israel's bold initiatives to bring security and peace to its people resonate with the American people," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, "as evidenced by the overwhelming support for Prime Minister Sharon's plan to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza."

Hamas Flags Fly Next to Kfar Saba


Hamas terrorists Saturday celebrated their sweeping election victory in Kalkilya, next to Kfar Saba, flying their green flags and handing out candies to children.

Kalkilya is the largest Arab urban center west of several large Israeli communities in Samaria, including Ginot Shomron, Karnei Shomron and Kedumim. It also is adjacent to Kfar Saba, north of Tel Aviv, and the community of Kochav Yair, where Defense Minister Sha'ul Mofaz and several senior IDF officers live.

The Hamas victories in Thursday's local elections already have had their effect on Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. He immediately called for an urgent meeting with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon "to push the peace process forward and to discuss the implementation of the agreements between us, like that of Sharm El-Sheik," he said.

´Refusal´ Spreads to Gov´t Workers, Reservists


Government workers are beginning their own "refusal" movement to stop work during the planned expulsion of more than 8,500 Jews from their homes. Reservists also are finding ways to avoid serving.

Tel Aviv tax inspector Tamir Bergman has asked for a six-month leave of absence, on the grounds that his conscience does not allow him to serve the government. "Since it is not appropriate for a government worker to openly oppose a government decision and to demonstrate... I request leave of absence for the next half a year," Bergman wrote to his superiors.

He explained that his supervisor noted his lack of motivation and inability to work efficiently as a tax inspector. Bergman wrote that Israel is the "only country in the world that forbids Jews to live where they want in the country."

Many reservists who have been ordered to appear for duty this summer during the planned disengagement are finding ways to avoid the summons without actually refusing orders, a phenomenon known as "gray refusal. One Be'er Sheva resident said that he is ordering a plane ticket during the period the military expects him to serve: "They check my passport to see if I really left the country, so I will find the cheapest destination and tell the army that I have to be abroad."

Other soldiers have said they simply will report assorted illnesses. An enlisted soldier serving in the south near the Egyptian border reported that most of his company will not have enough motivation to carry out orders if they are assigned to facilitate the evacuation. He added that he knows of several left-wing soldiers, on the other hand, who "are waiting for the opportunity" to assist in evacuating Jews from the Gaza region. One army captain told Arutz-7, "The army does not know what is facing them. It will not be able to carry out the evacuation."

Pollard Seeking "Prisoner of Zion" Status


Attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner plans to petition the Supreme Court on behalf of Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard, seeking to have the government classify him as an American Prisoner of Zion. An earlier request was rejected by officials, who explained America is not an enemy regime and being jailed for "spying," even on behalf of the Jewish State, is not an act that qualifies one as a Prisoner of Zion.

Atty. Darshan-Leitner's petition claimed that this is not an appropriate distinction in general, and added that in the Pollard case specifically, America is acting as an "enemy" and not as a "friend of Israel." In this context, Darshan-Leitner points out that Pollard's life sentence -- for passing information to Israel, classified by the US as a friendly nation -- is unprecedented. Persons convicted of actions similar to, or even more serious than, Pollard's generally serve only 4-7 years in prison. Pollard is currently in his 20th year of a life sentence.

Darshan-Leitner also listed many incidents of torture inflicted upon Pollard while he was in prison. He was put in solitary confinement and had his clothes taken away for long periods of time during the winter months, as well as his glasses. Pollard was also forced to sleep irregular hours on a concrete slab. Additionally, he was placed in a cell where he was chained to an iron chair while guards sprayed ice water at him.

For an entire year, according to the appeal, Pollard was forced to reside in a special prison ward reserved for the mentally ill where he was subjected to electrocution. According to the statement released by Darshan-Leitner's office, "The lawsuit also seeks a judicial review of the Israeli government's calculated mishandling of Pollard's case for the last two decades; and its consistent refusal to mount an effective campaign to secure his freedom, as it has done for agents captured in other countries - Cyprus, Switzerland, Jordan, and New Zealand, among them."

Pollard is in the 20th year of a life sentence in a US federal penitentiary for disclosing classified information regarding regional threats to Israel.

Terrorists Kill Teenage Informant


Islamic Jihad terrorists Saturday executed an 18-year-old youth who helped Israel track down members of the gang. He lived in the same village where terrorists killed an IDF soldier this past week. The youth, Rami Al-Malakh, was shot to death, and Islamic Jihad terrorists said they had a video proving that he confessed to helping Israeli intelligence forces track down terrorists.

The execution took place near Tulkarm, one of two cities where Israel has withdrawn its forces and given the Palestinian Authority responsibility for security. Tulkarm is east of Netanya and overlooks what used to be the 1967 border before Judea, Samaria and Gaza were captured by Israel in the Six-Day War.

Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade terrorists, affiliated with the Fatah organization, which rules the PA, and the Islamic Jihad have led the latest wave of terror against Israel.

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