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Newsletter : 6FAx0104.txt

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Vatican: Jerusalem 'Issue' Must Not be Left to Israel, PA


The legal counsel of the Vatican in Israel, David Jaeger, said Tuesday that Jerusalem is too important of an "issue" to be left to Israel and the Palestinian Authority. He further expressed criticism of Israeli policy regarding holy sites in the country. The Roman Catholic Church has been making efforts to obtain jurisdiction over historical sites in Jerusalem but without public successes.

Sharon to Assign Duties to Deputy Before Heart Operation

By VOA News & Ha'aretz

Israeli officials said Tuesday that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon would turn over his duties to his deputy before undergoing a heart procedure at a Jerusalem hospital on Thursday.

Ehud Olmert is expected to assume the prime minister's duties for about three hours, while doctors at Hadassah University Hospital administer general anesthesia to plug a tiny hole in Sharon's heart. The procedure itself is expected to last 30 minutes, but recovery from the effects of the anesthesia takes approximately two hours.

The hole was discovered after the 77-year-old leader suffered a mild stroke December 18. Cardiologists said Sharon did not suffer permanent damage from the stroke, and that Thursday's procedure should prevent similar strokes in the future.

This will be the first time that the updated clause in Basic Law: Government, which spells out the legal procedure in case the prime minister is prevented from executing his duties, is put into practice.

Cardiologists not involved in Sharon's case said catheterization is a relatively low risk procedure and that barring unexpected complications, Sharon would be released by Friday afternoon.

Police Say There's Evidence Linking Sharon to $3 Million Bribe


Israeli police are saying Tuesday that they know of evidence linking Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to the receipt of a $3 million bribe. So reported Channel Ten, causing a storm of reaction and calls for Sharon to resign.

The investigation of the money trail to Sharon has been underway for more than three years, and in fact was first publicized before the last national election, in 2003. The case is known as the Cyril Kern affair, named for the South African friend of Sharon who served as a conduit for the money.

The source of the cash, however, has long been suspected to be Austrian millionaire and Jericho casino owner Martin Schlaf. Police said the money was used partially to help Sharon pay back campaign contributions that he had received illegally in 1999, and partly for the Sharon family's private use.

Because of the suspicions hanging over him, Schlaf has refrained from visiting Israel of late. His brother James, however, came for a visit two weeks ago - and the police jumped at the opportunity. They raided his parents' home in Israel, and confiscated documents and two laptop computers. However, the police were not permitted to extricate the information on the computers without James' permission - which he refused to give.

Schlaf's behavior aroused the suspicion of the police, which turned urgently to the courts and said that the computer files would show that the $3 million was in fact passed as a bribe to Ariel Sharon or his sons. The police therefore said that it is imperative for them to be allowed to enter the computers in order to extricate vital evidence in the Kern-Sharon affair.

James Schlaf, aware of the developments, has since given his permission for the police to peruse his computer files. Schlaf's lawyer, Navot Tel-Tzur, said there was actually nothing new in the case "except for the fact that there is a laptop computer involved." He expressed anger at the leak.

With national elections only 12 weeks away, the news takes on particular public urgency. Likud Knesset member Ayoub Kara attacked the corruption of the Sharon family, and said, "The public demands total transparency from the Prime Minister - and not just regarding his physical health."

National Religious Party leader MK Zevulun Orlev said, "We can't hold an election campaign when such a heavy cloud of bribery is hovering over the Prime Minister's head... The Attorney General must decided without delay whether to indict Sharon or not." Outgoing Knesset member Yossi Sarid (Meretz) said, "Ariel Sharon is the big apple. When he becomes rotten, there goes the whole crate." He called on Sharon to resign.

US Envoys to Discuss Palestinian Elections, Crossings Accord

By David Gollust (VOA-State Department)

The United States is sending two senior envoys to the Middle East for talks aimed at keeping Palestinian elections and last November's Israeli-Palestinian crossing-point agreement on track. The State Department said Tuesday that it sees no reason why Palestinian voting should not proceed as planned later this month.

The officials are expected to begin talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials Thursday amid a flurry of press reports the Palestinian legislative elections set for January 25 might be postponed.

Palestinian efforts to organize the elections have been marred by violence, and Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas reiterated a warning Monday that he might call for a postponement if Israel barred voting in East Jerusalem.

Israeli officials have threatened to bar voting in East Jerusalem, because of electioneering there by the terrorist movement Hamas, which does not accept Israel's right to exist and has carried out numerous terrorist attacks against Israelis.

Muslim Inciters Accuse Israel of Undermining Al-Aqsa Mosque


Muslim incitement on the Temple Mount has reached new depths, so to speak, as the chief cleric of the Al-Aqsa mosque accused Israel of building a synagogue under the mosque. The cleric, Sheikh Mohammed Hussein, said at a news conference on Tuesday that Israel was building the synagogue in order to cause the mosque to collapse.

Israel has formally denied the charges, stating categorically that nothing at all was being developed under the mosque, let alone a synagogue.

A key speaker at the conference was Sheikh Ekrema Sabri, who holds the position of "General Mufti for Jerusalem and Palestine" for the Palestinian Authority.

Sabri told Wafa, the news agency for the Palestine Liberation Organization (the PA's umbrella organization), "the Israeli authorities have been exploiting the big gates of the western side of Al-Aqsa since 1996 through conducting a series of excavation works which ended with clandestinely erecting a synagogue."

Another speaker at the news conference was Sheikh Raed Salah, the head of Israel's Islamic movement in the Galilee. Salah recently finished serving prison time after being convicted of providing assistance to a terrorist organization.

Salah threatened that Israel will be faced with war with the entire Muslim world for opening and excavating an underground tunnel parallel to the Western Wall. That tunnel has been opened to tourists since 1996.

Regarding the purported synagogue, Salah said it contained a model of the Temple and was located 27 meters from the Mosque of Omar, located roughly on the site where the Temple once stood.

Sabri said that the construction of the synagogue, which he described as having five rooms, "proves that the Israelis did not find any sign of the Temple. That is why they made up some rooms to vaguely narrate their religious history."

The Palestinian Authority has repeatedly used attempts to deny the existence the Jewish Temples as a means to bolster their claim that the Jewish people have no legitimate rights to the land of Israel or Jerusalem.

The PA's denial of the Temple's existence was raised in the negotiations that took place at Camp David in the summer of 2000, just before the outbreak of the Oslo War. The issue was one of the factors leading to the breakdown of the talks.

Leading Israeli archeologists and biblical scholars have accused the Muslim Wakf, or religious trust, of deliberately attempting to wipe out the archeological remains of the Temple. Over the past few years, the Wakf has been carrying out large-scale excavations on the Mount, especially beneath the Al-Aqsa mosque, in an effort to expand the size of the mosque to accommodate thousands of worshippers.

Much of the earth excavated from that project, which is suspected of containing rich archeological remains dating from the First and Second Temples, has been dumped as garbage at Jerusalem refuse sites.

Iran Boasts of Support by Holocaust Deniers


The official news agency of Iran, IRNA, gave prominence Tuesday to letters of support received by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for his statements calling the Holocaust "a myth."

Robert Faurisson, a former professor at Lyon University in France and a Holocaust denier, sent a letter to another Iranian news agency expressing his full support for Ahmadinejad's remarks and calling on scholars to back the Iranian leader.

U.S.-based Arthur Butz, who himself published a book calling the Holocaust a "hoax", wrote that he supports Ahmadinejad's "reasonable" remarks regarding the Holocaust. "I will offer my congratulations to President Ahmadinejad as the first statesman to speak explicitly and with transparency about the Holocaust," said Butz, adding that he regretted that it was not a Western head of state that did so.

Ahmadinejad's remarks regarding the Holocaust and the State of Israel are true statements that represent the believers, the Mujahidin and the freedom warriors, Hamas' political department head Khaled Mashal said recently.

Mashal, who is currently residing in Tehran, referred to the Iranian president's statement in which he expressed doubt that the Holocaust occurred and demanded that Austria and Germany give some of their provinces to the Jews to establish a state in Europe "instead of the one established in Palestine."

"These are excellent statements," Mashal said. "Today Iran has a brave leader, whose words may not be approved by the world's governments, but are supported by the people of the globe." Mashal also said the Palestinians are proud of the Iranian stance, and that "everybody should have the courage to voice this truth."

The Hamas leader added that many of the world's countries understand that Israel is an aggressive country, and that opinion polls conducted in the European Union prove that approximately 60 percent of Europeans believe Israel constitutes the biggest threat to world peace.

"People realize the truth but are afraid. The West is afraid of the world Zionists' reaction since the Israelis and the Zionists are exhausting western society with the issues of anti-Semitism and doubt in the Holocaust," Mashal said.

Mashal also expressed his hope that "time is in favor of us the Muslims, while Israel is in a course of retreat. It is losing the image it has been trying to create for many years. We, the resistance people, will eventually win God willing," he concluded.

'New Year's Orgy' at Berlin's Holocaust Memorial


New Year's Eve celebrations held last Saturday at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate poured into the nearby Holocaust memorial, Yedioth Ahronoth reported.

"The riled up masses drank, ate and sent massive amounts of fireworks into the air from in between the graves," an Israel Air Force pilot who is currently visiting Germany said. Following the celebrations, wine bottles, decorations and even empty packs of condoms were left on some of the stones.

Last November the same memorial was partly defaced with yellow Stars of David. A Berlin police spokesman said at the time that a star had been painted by unknown vandals onto each of six of the 2,711 concrete slabs of varying height that make up the memorial.

Under the Nazis, Jews had to wear yellow stars of David to distinguish themselves from so-called "Aryan" Germans. A Berlin Police spokesman said that the stars, which were removed, might have been linked to a number of others found sprayed or painted onto buildings and monuments in central Berlin.

The memorial, which was officially unveiled in May in the heart of the German capital, is constantly under surveillance. It covers almost 20,000 square meters, allowing visitors to wander around its tight grid pattern.

Four of the slabs were defaced with swastikas shortly before a visit to Germany by President Moshe Katsav in June.

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