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Sharon Rushed to Jerusalem Hospital After Minor Stroke

By Ha'aretz &

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was rushed to hospital in Jerusalem on Sunday evening after apparently suffering a minor stroke. About an hour later, the hospital said that the prime minister was in a stable condition.

The prime minister had been unconscious when he arrived at Hadassah, but later came round. "He lost consciousness on the way to hospital and then regained it," said one medic. According to Channel 2 television, the 77-year-old Sharon was taken to Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem, after complaining of feeling unwell.

In an official statement made some 45 minutes after the prime minister arrived, Dr. Yuval Weiss, deputy manager of Hadassah, told the waiting media outside the hospital that Sharon was fully conscious and was undergoing tests. He said that the results of the tests would be made known later.

"Ariel Sharon was brought here about 8. He has full consciousness and he's undergoing medical examinations," said Weiss. "The prime minister is conscious. He is undergoing tests. His condition is stable," Professor Shmuel Shapira told Channel 1 television.

Finance Minister Ehud Olmert, who is also deputy prime minister, will take over as premier until Sharon recovers.

Sharon's younger son, Gilad, arrived at the hospital shortly after his father. His other son, Omri, who followed his father into politics, arrived at Hadassah soon after. Both Olmert and senior Sharon aide Dov Weissglas also headed for the hospital.

Channel 2 television earlier reported that Sharon was in a confused state, and that he had been taken for a neurological scan. According to Channel 2, Sharon was hospitalized a little before 8 p.m., and was taken straight to the trauma room. Channel 10 quoted the hospital as saying that the prime minister's life was not in danger.

The Prime Minister's Office said that the decision to hospitalize the premier was taken after he said he did not feel well while working in his office.

The area around the hospital was closed off to the public by the defense establishment prior to Sharon's arrival, the television said. Police and Shin Bet forces blocked the entrance to the emergency room upon the PM's arrival.

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip fired celebration shots upon hearing the news of Sharon being taken to hospital for feeling unwell. A member of the Popular Resistance Committees told Ynet that Sharon fell ill because of the stressed caused by the latest wage of Kassam rockets over the last few days. "God answered our prayers and didn't disappoint us," the official said.

U.S. Violates Ban Against Funding Hamas


The U.S. is funding a Hamas-controlled town in Gaza despite a ban against financing terrorist organizations. Congressmen warned that funds to the PA might be cut if Hamas wins elections.

The American government's Agency for International Development has given the Hamas-controlled village of Bani Suhaila $392,000 for road projects, according to Middle East Newsline. It quoted the mayor of the town, where Hamas won 12 out of 13 seats in recent local elections, that he expects more projects for funding.

Last May, David Satterfield, number two man in the State Department's Near Eastern Affairs bureau, declared that the Bush administration "will neither recognize nor engage with" Hamas or Hizbullah members who are elected to office and do not disarm.

FBI director Robert Mueller told senators earlier this year that the U.S. is trying to stop fund-raising efforts by Arab terrorists. "We are committed to cutting off the flow of funds from the United States to Palestinian terrorist organizations," Mueller told a Senate committee. He noted that front "charity" organizations for Hamas have been indicted.

American officials have not issued any statements on its own financing of the Hamas town in Gaza, but State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters Friday, "Hamas is a terrorist organization. And to my knowledge, we don't have--I'm not aware of any contact between U.S. officials and those individuals.... It's a terrorist organization. We don't deal with it."

The House of Representatives passed a resolution by a 397-17 vote on Friday warning the PA that it may face a cut in aid if it does not require Hamas and other terrorist organizations to disarm.

Officials have consistently sidestepped reporters' questions on whether the U.S. will cut back funds to the PA if Hamas wins enough seats to become part of a coalition government.

Meanwhile, Hamas has supplied other Arab terrorists with improved missiles, according to Middle East Newsline. It quoted military sources saying that the weapons have been delivered to terrorist gangs affiliated with the ruling Fatah party as well as the Islamic Jihad terrorist organization.

"Formally, Hamas has pledged to honor a ceasefire arranged by the Palestinian Authority," Newsline quoted a military source. "So, rather than fire the Kassams themselves, they give them to their terrorist allies."

Arab terrorists this week fired two rockets, which hit near Ashkelon, one of them exploding in an industrial area on the southern edge of the city. A huge power plant that supplies electricity to southern Israel is located nearby. The coastal city of Ashkelon also has a naval base, port and oil terminal.

The Hamas terrorist organization began in the 1980s as a Muslim fundamentalist alternative to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) headed by Yasir Arafat. It was based on social welfare programs and terrorism and used drug trafficking and car thefts as a source of funds.

Changing Numbers in Middle East Force Political Action

By Sonja Pace (VOA-Washington)

Like many issues in the Middle East, population figures can be an explosive subject and nowhere is that more crucial than for Israelis and Palestinians. Recent studies show non-Jews, mainly Palestinians, outnumbering Jews in Israel and the Palestinian territories and predictions are that trend is likely to continue. Demographics were a major underlying reason for Ariel Sharon's decision to withdraw from Gaza this past year and are likely to shape future shifts by Israel as well.

A study published in Israel's liberal Ha'aretz newspaper in August stated that non-Jews outnumber Jews in Israel and the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. And experts predict the trend is likely to continue.

These assessments are certainly not lost on Palestinians, like chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, who argues that it is in Israel's interest to make a peace deal. "We do not vanish, we don't intend to vanish. And, today the children who are born in my hometown Jericho, will be in the majority of those between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean."

The same assessments worry Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who has repeatedly spoken of the need to maintain a Jewish majority and the "Jewish character" of the state of Israel.

When former U.S. Middle East peace negotiator Dennis Ross came to observe Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, he singled out changing demographics as one of the main reasons for the move. "Sharon talked about 8,000 Israelis living there among 1.3 million Palestinians," said Ross. "He talked about the demographics issue."

Sharon also acknowledged that the cost in money and lives of protecting the Gaza settlers was too high to sustain in a place where Jews had no realistic hope of ever outnumbering Palestinians. And so, the man who had been one of the staunchest proponents of settlements ordered the dismantling of all 21 enclaves in Gaza and four small, isolated ones in the northern West Bank.

The withdrawal from Gaza helped Israel, says Prof. Sergio della Pergola of Jerusalem's Hebrew University. It shifted the population balance in terms of the proportion of Jews in those areas still under Israeli control - Israel proper and the West Bank. "It means that the point of shift between the Jewish majority and the [to a] Jewish minority has been postponed by 20 years or so."

Just over 50 years ago, in 1948, there were approximately 650,000 Jews and over 1.3 million Arabs living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. Today, there are about 5.2 million Jews and 5.4 million Arabs living in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. These include four million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and 1.4 million Arab citizens in Israel. In addition, there are 185,000 non-Jewish foreign workers and another 290,000 non-Jewish immigrants, mainly from the former Soviet Union.

And even though the population balance shifted in Israel's favor with the withdrawal from Gaza, the long-term trend remains undeniable, said della Pergola. "There is a faster population growth among the Arabs and this is due essentially to their higher birthrate. ... As a consequence, the proportion of the Jewish section [portion of the population] is declining," he added.

According to United Nations figures, the average Palestinian woman in the West Bank and Gaza will have over five children in her lifetime while a woman in Israel will have close to three. Some experts argue that figure would be even lower if it did not include the higher birthrate among Arabs living inside Israel proper.

That trend clearly has Israeli political leaders worried and Prof. della Pergola said that when they talk of maintaining a Jewish and democratic state, what they mean is reducing significantly the proportion of non-Jews within the state. And such efforts are under way on the ground. Israel continues to build its "security barrier," in and around the West Bank. Once completed, it will include the major Jewish settlement blocs and East Jerusalem on the Israeli side. Jewish population inside the West Bank settlements also continues to increase, however, with the Central Bureau of Statistics estimating a 4.3 percent growth for 2005.

Despite such a growth rate, the over 240,000 Jewish settlers are vastly outnumbered by the over two million Palestinians living elsewhere in the West Bank. And that, said Ross, will define future shifts.

"You still have certain realities in Israel and over time the fact that Israel, to be a Jewish, democratic state, it won't stay where it is in the West Bank either. Does that mean a total withdrawal? No. But, it means there'll be additional moves by Israel to secure the demographic viability of the state," said Ross.

Ariel Sharon has repeatedly said that the major Jewish settlement blocs will remain as part of Israel even under a future peace agreement. But, he has also spoken of "painful concessions" to be made, a strong indication that more land will have to be given up and that the smaller settlements will have to go.

Whatever action is eventually taken, the Gaza withdrawal was but a temporary measure to ease the population pressure. Israel's demographics problem has only been postponed, not eliminated.

80% of Israel's Arabs Demand Return of Arabs Who Fled in '48


According to a poll taken by the Arab Center for Applied Social Research in Haifa, 80% of Israel's Arab citizens support the right of Arabs who fled the country in 1948 to return to their homes and property in Israel, or receive compensation for the property they left behind.

According to the poll, 29% of Arab citizens said that Arabs who left the country during the War for Independence in 1948 should be able to choose between the option of returning to Israel or taking compensation.

Arabs who fled the country in 1948, mostly to Arab states bordering Israel, are generally referred to by the media as "refugees," despite the fact that those states have steadfastly refused to resettle them.

Israel's Arab population stands at 1.3 million people, nearly 20% of the country's population. Arab refugees and their descendents today number in the millions. Most Israeli politicians, even those on the left, generally agree that demographically, absorbing even a small proportion of those refugees could lead to Israel's demise as a Jewish state.

Seven percent of the Arabs polled said that the '48 refugees should be allowed to return only to a Palestinian state, which would be established in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza. Twelve percent said that the right of return should be granted only to those Arabs encountering difficulties abroad.

Nearly all the Arabs polled, 93%, say that Israel bears the brunt of the responsibility for finding solutions for the refugee issue. Eighty-six percent said that Israel has the sole responsibility for providing compensation for Arabs who fled during the 1948 war.

Two thirds of the Arabs polled also said they would be willing to provide economic and moral support to Arabs returning to live in Israel. Sixty-eight percent said they were willing to absorb the Arabs into their towns and villages. Only 18% said they would be willing to help a limited number of refugees, and 14% said they were opposed to absorbing any at all.

1400 Israeli Arab citizens aged 18 and over, from all social strata were questioned in the poll.

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