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Quote of the Day: "Disengagement is Just the Beginning"


"We say to the entire world: Today Gaza, tomorrow Jerusalem. Today Gaza, and tomorrow the independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital." -- Ahmed Qurei, known as Abu Ala, the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority said this on Wednesday while visiting with PA forces in the Gaza Strip, less than three weeks before Israel's scheduled withdrawal from Gaza. Just yesterday, Qurei told reporters that Israel's withdrawal must be followed by preparations for a further withdrawal from the rest of what he called the West Bank - Judea and Samaria - and eastern Jerusalem. "The step [withdrawal from Gaza] must also be followed by recognizing a Palestinian state."

West Bank Palestinian Teen Killed in Israeli Raid

By VOA News

A Palestinian teenager has been killed and at least six others wounded in the West Bank in a shootout between Israeli troops and terrorists. Palestinian witnesses in Jenin said the dead 18-year-old was unarmed and was throwing rocks at Israeli troops attempting to arrest a wanted militant from the Islamic Jihad movement. Israel said its troops returned fire after Palestinians began shooting and detonating explosives.

Omri Sharon Indicted, Faces Jail Time


The negotiations for a plea bargain agreement for Prime Minister Sharon's son MK Omri Sharon have broken down, and Attorney-General Mazuz filed a serious indictment against him last night.

The younger Sharon, who was elected to the Knesset just two and a half years ago, is accused of violating campaign funding regulations, lying under oath, breach of trust and more. He agreed to have his parliamentary immunity lifted, in the certain knowledge that his Knesset colleagues would have voted to do so in any event. The indictment includes charges of filing false reports dealing with the 1999 election campaign of his father, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The investigation began almost four years ago, in October 2001.

On Tuesday, it was reported that weeks of negotiations for a plea-bargain agreement were on the verge of being successfully concluded, and that Omri Sharon would not face a jail sentence. But a surprise announcement was made that no agreement had been reached, and that Sharon would in fact be indicted.

The dispute revolved around the punishment to be meted out to Sharon Jr. Omri was willing to accept a six-month sentence, which in all likelihood would have been converted to six months of public service, while Mazuz insisted on nine months, which would have meant actual prison time. No agreement was reached, and a court will make the final decision.

Omri Sharon, 40, is divorced and has two children. He retired from the IDF with the rank of Major, and serves on the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and four other committees. He attained notoriety in 2001, just before his father was first elected Prime Minister, when he met in Vienna with a special envoy of Yasir Arafat, Mohammed Rashid. The Sharons were attacked for talking with PA leaders even as the Oslo War raged, despite the wide consensus that no negotiations must take place under fire.

As Omri's meetings with Arafat and Arafat's aides began to pile up over the course of the year, the Sharons came under sharp fire for mixing their own financial concerns with matters of national interest. Correspondent Haggai Huberman summed up the suspicions as follows: "The people involved in the talks [with the PA figures] leave little room for doubt: The [Jericho] casino's attorney is Dov Weisglass, who represented Sharon himself in his suit against Time Magazine. Weisglass went with Omri Sharon, before the elections, to meet with Rashid in Austria, and with Martin Schlaff, representing the Austrian owners of the casino... And, of course, Yossi Ginosar, who also went with Omri Sharon and who is also financially involved in the casino." Then-Attorney General Elyakim Rubenstein said, "Sending a family member to official meetings is not the way a properly-run country does things."

Police Commander Reprimanded, Fined for Violent Remarks


A police officer who expressed his violent tendencies against anti-expulsion protestors has been reprimanded and fined, and will have nothing to do with the protests. The Yesha Council responded. Police Commander Niso Shacham was reprimanded and fined six days of work for the violence he ordered against the Kfar Maimon protestors. He will also not be permitted to play any role in dealing with anti-disengagement protestors. So decided Police Commissioner Moshe Karadi on Wednesday following a hearing he allowed Shacham.

The Yesha Council released a statement in response: "We have no personal interest in Commander Shacham. We are of the opinion that such a high-ranking police official would never express himself this way so freely in front of a camera, if not for the general atmosphere in the police force regarding the expulsion plan. There is no doubt that the spirit of the chief commander, Ariel Sharon, has dripped down as far as the lowest echelons of the police, and enables them to feel that every brutal step they take against those who oppose the uprooting will receive approval from their higher-ups."

Police Commissioner Moshe Karadi has said that he made the decision to stop the buses bringing the Kfar Maimon protestors to the Negev two weeks ago, and that no other governmental authority was involved. MK Tzvi Hendel has said publicly that this is definitely not true, and that he knows that Omri Sharon phoned IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, who in turn phoned Karadi with the order to stop the buses.

Shacham was recorded on Channel Ten last Thursday night as cursing the protestors at Kfar Maimon, telling Border Guard officers to use a lot of violence, to beat them with clubs in the "lower part of their bodies" and saying, "let them burn." He also said that he wants "lots of arrests," and used various vulgarities in referring to how he wanted the protestors treated.

Knesset Limits Citizenship Rights of Palestinians Married to Israelis

By Ha'aretz

The Knesset voted 59-12 Wednesday to grant citizenship to Palestinians married to Israeli citizens only if the Palestinian men are 35 and older and if the women are 25 and older. The decision relates to an emergency measure that was due to expire July 31. According to that measure, Palestinians were banned altogether from becoming Israeli citizens under family unification policies.

Wednesday's decision, a vote on an amendment to the Citizenship Law, relaxes the emergency regulations by allowing some Palestinians to become citizens, but writes into law limitations on family unification that had previously been considered temporary.

MK Zahava Gal-On (Meretz-Yahad) criticized the amendment as racist. She said it discriminates against Israeli Arabs and damages the value of equality. Arab MKs also slammed the Knesset decision.

The Mossawa Center, an advocacy center for Israeli Arabs, said easing the citizenship restrictions was "insufficient." "The law expands the citizenship authority of the Shin Bet and causes serious damage, primarily to children who will be separated from their parents and will no longer get welfare rights," the center said.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel said the Knesset decision has already seriously damaged many families since March 2003, when the interior minister decided to freeze the naturalization process for Israeli-Palestinian couples.

The Knesset plenum on Wednesday also approved amendments to the so-called "Intifada Law," which reduce to a minimum the ability of Palestinians to sue the state for damages incurred during the intifada. The MKs voted 54-15 in favor of the second and third readings of the government-proposed amendments, with one abstention. The amendments, which will be enacted retroactively from September 2000, effectively block Palestinians from submitting damage claims against the State of Israel.

According to the amendments, Palestinians are allowed to sue for damages only in two types of cases: those in which an Israel Defense Forces soldier was convicted of traffic-related charges, and those in which a Palestinian was physically harmed while being held in military detention. Palestinians are also permitted to appeal courts' rejections of compensation claims before a special committee.

The amendments "place a stain on Israel's law books," said Meretz-Yahad MK Zehava Gal-On. "The state, in shaking off responsibility and [acting] negligently, is granting immunity to illegal actions by the security forces - and this is discrimination."

Bill to Change 'Queysaria' to 'Caesarea'


The Knesset has passed on first reading a bill that would require road signs to display correct English spellings, such as 'Caesarea' which is written as 'Queysaria.' Many signs, which usually are posted in Hebrew and English, include misspellings from the days of the British Mandate. The letter "k" usually is written as "q" and renders spellings such as Qiriot instead of Kiryat, Petach Tiqwa instead of Tikvah and Gush Qatif instead of Katif. One sign near the Kinneret Lake refers to the "Sea of Galilay" (Galilee) and many Hebrew words simply are transliterated, such as "rakevet" instead of "train."

Missionaries Use Orange as a Marketing Gimmick


The counter-missionary organization Yad L'Achim warns of a new gimmick adopted by Christian missionaries in Israel. According to a report by the Haredi news outlet, missionaries are taking advantage of the widespread support for Gush Katif and Samaria in the struggle against the Disengagement Plan by distributing copies of the Christian Bible (the New Testament) in a bright orange cover. Orange is the color adopted as the symbol of anti-Disengagement protestors.

In several areas in Israel, missionaries situate themselves at train stations and other public places and hand out free copies of the Christian religious text bound in an orange cover. Passersby who take the free book are generally unaware that it has nothing to do with the anti-Disengagement campaign until they look more closely at it at a later time. The missionaries adopted this approach, Yad L'Achim says, because most Jews would reject the Christian text in any other form.

New Israeli Immigrant Gets Hang of Things

By Yael Ayalon (

I made aliyah 10 months, two weeks, five days and, oh, about seven hours ago, but who's counting? I am originally from Montreal, Canada, and as is true with most North American "olim" (new residents) I've been asked the following question many, many times: "You moved here from Canada? WHY???"

The question is most commonly spouted at me by Israelis, who look at me in total shock as I mentally weigh the option of telling the truth of my aliyah, or simply blaming it on Montreal weather. I look them dead in the eyes and start to explain myself, almost in a defensive manner, as to why I moved to this country. "Well, as a Jew, I have always felt that this is my home. Even without family here, I've managed to meet wonderful people and begin the life I've always dreamed of."

Nothing. No response. Eyes completely glazed over. I try again. "This is such a beautiful country. I was here when I was 16 years old during March of the Living and fell in love with its beaches, mountains and deserts. Not to mention that this is the only place in the world where the land's history is directly connected to my family, my life and me. It's so great to be here!"

How's my Hebrew? Confusion sets in. Have I said too much? Did I suddenly forget how to speak proper Hebrew? Why is this person looking at me like that? "Oh, and of course, it's very cold in Montreal. It can get to minus 50 during the winter! Not to mention all the snow. Here, the weather is beautiful." Finally, a flicker of recognition. A light. He understands what I am talking about.

This is the common conversation I have had with random Israelis, namely with taxi drivers. They are astounded that someone would actually make the choice to come to Israel from North America, also known to most Israelis as "The Land Where Money Grows on Trees." This was especially hard the first few months after making aliyah. I made aliyah on my own, without family. My whole family is still convinced I need to be taking medication for having made this decision. I left behind a successful real estate career, my entire family (which coming from a Sephardic family, is no small feat), all my friends and a boyfriend.

What went wrong? I did make aliyah with a great group of young adults from Montreal and yes; it did make it easier to get on that plane. But after a short period of time, I learned that getting on the plane is not the hard part. The hardest part is to not sprint, notice I didn't say run, to the closest El Al office and buy a one-way ticket home.

Of course, as with almost every life change, everything went wrong at first. I decided to leave the group I was supposed to spend my first six months in Israel with and I ended up in Tel Aviv with a friend of mine. Now, as most olim know, you have more of chance of being elected prime minister than finding a decent apartment for decent rent, in Tel Aviv. Apartments were either unbelievably small or so dirty even the roaches moved out. Finally, after about a month of sleeping on a friend's couch, I found a small, decent apartment that could have easily fit in the kitchen of my place back in Canada, but I decided I would be optimistic and make the best of it.

So, I've made it this far: I've been through every government office in this country and even a few "unofficial" ones. I've talked to almost every taxi driver in Tel Aviv and in the north (now my new home). I've dealt with angry drivers, overly flirty Israeli guys, and security at every place I choose to go, which I must admit has helped me keep my purses neat inside. I've argued with bank tellers and salespeople. But I've also been welcomed warmly by neighbors and help has been offered at every corner by virtual strangers. A smile is never far away and there is always that one Israeli who tells you "kol hakavod" ("Great!) for moving here. The best part is that usually happens on the days you need it most.

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