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Israel's Labor Party to Quit Ruling Coalition, Forcing Early Elections

By VOA News &

Israel's Labor party has voted to quit the ruling coalition of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, paving the way for early national elections. Its Central Committee approved the recommendation of party leader Amir Peretz by an overwhelming show of hands Sunday evening. Last week, Sharon and Peretz agreed that early elections would be held by the end of March. A date for the polls is expected this week or next.

The Labor party joined Sharon's Likud-led coalition last year to help the prime minister defeat Likud rightists who tried unsuccessfully to block Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Peretz said last week he would pull Labor out of the coalition over differences in economic policy.

Political analysts and senior Likud officials are in agreement. While Sharon is playing his hand close to his vest, it appears increasingly likely his departure from Likud to run for reelection under an independent ticket is imminent.

Sharon aides explain that the prime minister is not at all considering the internal party leadership race, because Sharon is well-aware he would emerge victorious from such a race, even against former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

What comes into play are strategic predictions of tomorrow's political horizon, one that places Sharon at the head of a new party. If Sharon believes he will fair better without Likud, then he would emerge the big winner, having been reelected while simultaneously distancing himself from Likud's internal opposition to Sharon's disengagement policies, which are headed by the loyalist faction.

Palestinian Authority: Americans Gave OK to Poison Arafat


Arabs have intensified charges that Israel poisoned Yasir Arafat, and a former aide to Arafat said the U.S. condoned the killing. Arafat's wife Suha and terrorists in Gaza have demanded a probe.

The Palestinian Media Watch reported that Bassam Abu Sharif, former advisor to Arafat, said on a Palestinian Authority TV program that he warned Arafat that Israeli officials were planning to poison him with the knowledge of the U.S. government. "The Israelis planned to kill him by poison, because of Sharon's promise to the Americans that [Arafat] will not be killed by bombing," Abu Sharif told Arab viewers.

He continued, "According to the confirmed information I have, [Defense Minister Sha'ul] Mofaz spoke to [Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon in the following manner: 'This is an opportunity to get rid of Yasir Arafat...' Sharon was silent for a moment, and then looked [at Mofaz and said], 'Only if it would be done in a way that the accusing finger won't be pointed at Israel.' These are the exact words."

Abu Sharif also stated that France, where Arafat died after being hospitalized, knew about the alleged poisoning but hid it in order to prevent "igniting" Arabs. However, he added that "that every Palestinian will see it as his duty to avenge [the death of] Yasir Arafat."

The Associated Press described the latest PA accusations describing the alleged poisoning as "a plot reminiscent of Shakespeare's Hamlet." Arafat confidante Ahmed Abdel Rahman charged, "It was easy to poison him in the ear, because he was under siege and he used to receive a lot of people and he used to hug them to kiss them and my assumption is that the perpetrator carried a small balloon of gas and he could blow it in Arafat's ear."

Israel has denounced the PA charges as slander. "That is nonsense. That claim is totally baseless," said Israeli government spokesman David Baker. Last February's Sharm el-Sheikh accords signed by the PA included provisions of an end to incitement in PA-run media.

Arafat's wife Suha, who previously objected to an autopsy of her husband's body, has called for an international investigation into Arafat's death, according to UPI, which quoted the official Libyan News Agency that she supported a similar call by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

In Gaza, hundreds of terrorists armed with rifles and missiles marched and shot in the air on Thursday in a call for investigation into the death of Arafat along with a demand for jobs. They defied a recent PA order against displaying weapons in public parades.

Arabs have raised the issue of poisoning ever since Arafat died on November 11 last year. Doctors never declared the cause of death but medical reports showed that he had a blood disease, possible caused by AIDS.

His personal physician, Dr. Ashraf Al Kurdi, has called for an autopsy but has made contradictory statements in interviews. He was quoted by Global Research website as stating, "We took blood samples and there were no poisons, or HIV infection." He later speculated in an interview quoted on the Arab al Jazeera web site that a virus was injected into Arafat's body to hide poisoning. Al Kurdi was denied access to Arafat the last several days of his life.

Radical Islamic Leader of Israeli Arabs Visits Temple Mount


Ra'id Salah, head of the radical Islamic movement in Israel, which denies the Jewish state's right to exist, paid a visit to the mosques on the Temple Mount on Sunday.

Salah, who heads the Galilee branch of the movement, spent the past 2.5 years in jail for a variety of security related offenses, among them, money laundering, membership in illegal organizations, maintaining illegal contacts with persons hostile to the state, and funding activities of the Hamas. The Hamas is a radical Islamic terror group, popular among Arab residents of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza.

Salah was released last July, on condition he not visit Jerusalem for four months. The ban expired last Thursday.

Fearing an outbreak of violence, police, according to one report, persuaded Salah, not to visit the Temple Mount last Friday. A spokesman for the Islamic movement, Zahi Nujidat, said however, that he did not know of any such agreement with the police. He said that Salah's visit was planned for Sunday, due to time constraints.

The Islamic movement in Israel has gained in popularity out of the resentment many Israeli Arab citizens feel about living in a country under non-Muslim rule. Salah's movement is centered in the Arab-populated city of Um al Fahm, located in the Nahal Iron (Wadi Ara) district, between the Sharon plain and the Galilee.

Salah's movement is also fanatically anti-American. In he speech he gave on September 18, Salah said that hurricane Katrina was brought about by President George W. Bush. "What has brought hurricane Katrina upon you is the injustice of George Bush Jr. and of the White House. Remove this injustice from the world if you want Allah's punishments to cease afflicting the American people."

New German Subs Could Give Israel 2nd Strike Capability


According to German reports, Israel is acquiring another two German Dolphin class submarines. The subs may provide Israel with second-strike capability, essential for deterring nuclear conflict.

Two German weeklies, Der Spiegel and Focus, have reported that Israel will be purchasing two Dolphin class submarines from Germany. The purchase will cost $1.17 billion, with one-third of the cost to be covered by the German government.

Germany provided Israel with Israel three Dolphin class submarines after the first Gulf War. Two of the subs were supplied free of charge after it was revealed that German companies helped Saddam Hussein develop his weapons program. The third submarine was purchased at a cost of $350 million. During that war in 1991, the Iraqi leader fired 39 Scud missiles onto Israeli territory.

According to media speculation, the new submarines will provide Israel with second-strike capability, in the event that Iran, or any other state, attacks Israel with nuclear weapons. Some reports suggest that the torpedo hatches on the Dolphin submarines acquired by Israel have been widened to accommodate nuclear missiles.

Second-strike capability is essential for deterring nuclear attack. The underwater subs, which are very difficult to detect, would ensure that Israel could strike back and devastate any country that launched a first strike against it.

The fact that both the United States and the Soviet Union possessed significant second-strike capability is largely credited for preventing nuclear war between those two states.

Israel Unveils Airport Security Lie Detector


Israeli engineers are testing a new lie-detector designed to catch would-be airport terrorists and airline hijackers. The technology catches liars by measuring emotions expressed in their voices.

The machine is being tested at a Moscow airport and will cost between $10,000 and $30,000. Unlike a regular polygraph, it works without physical contact with people. Its voice analyzer picks up uncontrollable tremors in a voice, according to the inventors at the Israeli company Nemesysco, and can catch emotions such as fear and love.

Amir Liberman, the company's CEO, developed the technology for military and insurance claim uses. He said the first stage of the test takes between 30-75 seconds. If the machine casts doubt on the subject, the suspect is taken aside by guards for an intensive search and questioning.

Liberman, a mathematician, added that natural anxiety among airline passenger causes about 12 percent of passengers to show stress. "Some may feel nervous because they have used drugs, while having no intention to smuggle drugs," he said. "The whole thing is performed in a low-key manner to avoid causing anxiety."

An American company, V Entertainment, said the Nemesysco technology is able to measure emotions "like anxiety, fear or even love."

The device includes a signal-processing engine that analyzes incoming voice waveforms and detects levels of emotional states according to the pitch and speed of voices.

American firms last year found the machine to be accurate up to 90 percent, and in a recent test, it caught the one person out of 500 who was planning an illegal act, Liberman said.

Federal Court Rejects PA Arabs' Suits Against Israeli Top Brass


A U.S. federal court rejected outright a civil suit brought by Arabs from the Palestinian Authority against the State of Israel and its officials, including Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, IDF and GSS chiefs, Defense Minister Sha'ul Mofaz, Vice-PM Shimon Peres, former Shabak Chief Avi Dichter, former Defense Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer, Amos Gilad, Ahron Ze'evi Farkash, Amos Yaron, MK Uzi Landau, MK Meir Sheetrit (Likud) and Natan Sharansky.

The suit sought to charge the officials with genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and other atrocities supposedly committed by Israeli security forces in PA-controlled areas since the start of the Oslo War - particularly during the anti-terror Defensive Shield operation.

Pope Urged to Convert Jews and Others

By Reuters

A leader of an ultra-traditionalist Catholic group that broke with the Vatican said Saturday that Pope Benedict should tell Jews and members of other religions to convert because they are part of "false systems."

Father Franz Schmidberger, a top official of the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), also called on the pope to invalidate excommunications imposed when its founder, the late French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, ordained bishops without permission.

The SSPX rejects the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. It sticks to the old Latin mass and opposes recognizing the validity of other religions, particularly non-Christians. "Other religions, as such, are false systems," said Schmidberger, who is the right-hand man of the traditionalists' current head, Bishop Bernard Fellay.

"Instead of leading their members to our Lord Jesus Christ, to Baptism and the confession of faith in his divinity, they refrain from this and so we consider these other religions as very dangerous," he told a news conference presenting a biography of Lefebvre. "St. Peter, the first pope, preached to the Jews and told them that `if you want to be saved you must do three things: you must regret your sins and convert, believe in our lord Jesus Christ and, thirdly, be baptized.'

"We expect that every pope who claims to be the successor of St. Peter should take the same stand in meetings with leaders of other religions and tell them the same three things," Schmidberger said.

Fellay and Schmidberger held talks with Benedict last August. But while Benedict shares the SSPX's concern for some parts of Catholic tradition and has encouraged wider use of Latin in the Church, he has vowed to continue the dialogue with other religions begun by his predecessor John Paul.

Benedict has met Jews, Protestants and Muslims. In August he visited a synagogue in his native Germany.

Rightists Mark Kahane Murder


Activists from the extreme right of Israel's political spectrum commemorated the assassination of Rabbi Meir Kahane, founder of the now banned right-wing party Kach, in a ceremony held in Jerusalem Sunday evening. An American citizen of Egyptian origins in the U.S. 15 assassinated Kahane years ago.

Evacuated settlers, settler youth movements and right wing activists vowed to continue the struggle against government plans to close down the Jewish market in Hebron and the evacuation of illegal outposts, joined Kahane followers.

Over 18 ceremonies were held across the country Saturday evening in commemoration of the rabbi, to whom followers paid their tributes during prayers by his burial site on Givat Shaul in Jerusalem Sunday evening.

Kahane books and anti-pullout T-Shirts were sold throughout the evening, as well souvenir medallions with the inscription 'We won't forget, we won't forgive' in honor of evacuated settlers.

Organizers screened a film taken 20 years ago in which Kahane calls for the establishment of the "State of Judah." Kahane was also heard saying: "We would have preferred a truly Jewish State, yet when there is no choice and the IDF is abandoning real Jewish settlements, with all hope lost, we will not flee the Arab enemy yet will establish a Jewish State that will seek to defend the State of Israel."

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