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Sharon Opposes Shalom's Anti-Hamas Position


Prime Minister Ariel Sharon expressed his opposition to statements released earlier by Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom regarding the Palestinian Authority general election in July. Sharon stated the disengagement plan is going to move ahead according to schedule, discarding any contingencies vis-à-vis the outcome of the PA election, while Shalom stated that if Hamas emerges victorious, the disengagement plan must be halted because we would no longer have a negotiating partner.

Palestinian Protesters Clash with Israeli Police in East Jerusalem

By VOA News

A clash erupted between Israeli police and Palestinian demonstrators Monday near an East Jerusalem compound holy to both Muslims and Jews. Several hundred Palestinians gathered near the compound after hearing that Jewish extremists would try to enter the site to spark violence in an attempt to derail Israel's planned pullout from the Gaza Strip later this year. Jews revere the site as Temple Mount and Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary).

Disturbances broke out when about 200 Palestinians tried to enter the compound and were barred by Israeli police. Several people, including seven policemen, were injured when protesters hurled stones at Israeli police, who used stun grenades to disperse the crowd.

The skirmishes broke out one day after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said he was ruling out the release of more Palestinian prisoners until the Palestinian Authority takes action against militants.

Israel released 500 prisoners shortly after the two sides declared a cease-fire in February. Negotiators from both sides had planned to discuss criteria for releasing 400 more prisoners as part of the truce.

First Anti-Expulsion Activist Jailed Without Trial


The feared wave of pre-disengagement administrative (without formal charges) arrests of activists may have begun Sunday with the jailing of an anti-expulsion activist without trial.

The activist, who organized the renewal of traditional monthly prayer marches around the gates of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, is the first Jew to be jailed without due process ahead of this summer's withdrawal of Jews from the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria. He is a resident of the town of Yitzhar, south of Shechem in central Samaria.

The order to jail Neria Ofan was signed by Defense Minister Sha'ul Mofaz, and was handed to him as he pulled up to the Hizmeh checkpoint near the northern Jerusalem neighborhood of Pisgat Ze'ev. Ofan was on his way, with his wife and children, to take part in the monthly encirclement of the gates of the Temple Mount, which he helps organize.

Ofan was told that he would spend the next six months, until after the implementation of the withdrawal from Gaza and northern Samaria, in an Ashkelon prison.

Security services sources have spread numerous leaks to the press, alleging that Ofan was suspected of illegal activity and violence, but both human rights groups and anti-expulsion activists demanded the government either file charges or admit they are stepping over the boundaries of a democratic society. "The witch-hunt has already begun," said one Land of Israel activist, "the Saison is upon us."

The Saison refers to the period when some Jews handed over other Jews fighting the British, including eventual Prime Ministers Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir to the British, for imprisonment and torture.

Knesset member Aryeh Eldad (National Union) offered his blessings to Ofan, lauding him as the first Jew in Israel to be arrested and detained without indictment or trial, prior to the withdrawal. "I want to bless the first administrative detainee in a wave of democracy coming from Sharon," Eldad said, "and to say to him: 'Your arrest is your victory.'"

Naomi Ofan, Neria's wife told Army Radio that if someone should be put in prison for endangering Israel it is Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. "When he started talking about this evil expulsion plan we knew there would be arrests. We just didn't know who would be targeted."

She added that if the government's goal is to demoralize her and other Jews who plan to fight the withdrawal, it has failed. "This arrest makes me laugh. Every time they arrest someone, they come up with loads of bogus material against him, but it eventually proves to be lies."

Ex-Mossad chief: U.S. May Stay in Iraq for Years to Come

By Ha'aretz

U.S. military forces may remain in Iraq for much longer than Americans commonly believe, and those forces may yet uncover weapons of mass destruction, the former chief of the Mossad espionage agency said Monday.

In a question and answer session with readers, ex-Mossad director Efraim Halevy also said he believed that "ultimately Iran will not remain a theocratic state run by extreme religious leaders," and that the Palestinians could fashion a truly democratic state.

According to Halevy, "for the U.S. to be able to reap the benefits of its very bold policies in the Middle East, it will be necessary for successive presidents to maintain a formidable military presence in the region for quite some time to come." The U.S. has set in motion a "sea change in the entire region," and that change is only in the preliminary stages, said Halevy.

For democratic forces to succeed "it will be vital for the U.S. to make it clear to everybody that American forces will not leave before the mission has been accomplished. I am not sure that this realization has gained ground either in the U.S. or in the region; rather, I believe, there is still a false hope that within a relatively short time 'the boys can come home' and peace and prosperity would be enjoyed forever after in the Middle East."

Asked if poor intelligence had prompted mistaken assessments of Saddam Hussein's suspected arsenal of non-conventional weaponry, Halevy replied, "notwithstanding the fact that weapons of mass destruction have not yet been found in Iraq, I would not rule out the possibility that they might be found in the future. Iraq is a vast country, and only several months ago, a full squadron of aircraft was discovered buried in the sand.

"I do not believe that Saddam Hussein risked the fall of his regime and his own capture just out of false pride," Halevy continued. "He doggedly and continuously refused to cooperate with the United Nations missions which tried time and time again to set up a credible monitoring system in Iraq after 1998."

Turning to the Palestinian Authority, Halevy said he believed "the Palestinians have a chance of fashioning a truly democratic state and it is only they who can determine whether this will happen or not. The Palestinian Authority has shown a measure of endurance, which is quite exceptional. It has held democratic elections, and the results have been quite impressive as compared to some of the longer-standing Arab states in the region."

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