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Ha'aretz: Sharon's Doctors Did Not Reveal Full Extent of Health Problems

By VOA News

Ha'aretz said Tuesday that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's health problems were far more serious than his doctors publicly acknowledged after he suffered a first stroke last month. They had said he had a small hole in his heart since birth. He was scheduled to undergo a surgical procedure this month to repair the defect but suffered a massive second stroke the day before. Ha'aretz said its own investigation revealed that Sharon also suffered from a large aneurysm in the septum - a condition known to be a source of cerebral blood clots. The report says he also suffered from other heart ailments. Sharon, 77, remains comatose in a Jerusalem hospital since suffering a massive brain hemorrhage on January 4.

Palestinians Prepare to Vote in Legislative Elections

By Jim Teeple (VOA-Jerusalem) &

The campaigning is over and now more than one million eligible Palestinian voters are making up their minds about which they will vote for when polls open Wednesday in elections for a new Palestinian Legislative Council, or parliament.

The legislative elections are shaping up as a contest between the mainstream Fatah Party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Islamic terrorist organization Hamas, which is running under the party name of Reform and Change.

Support for Hamas surged in recent months, as Fatah split along generational lines, and anarchy engulfed large parts of the Gaza Strip, following Israel's unilateral withdrawal from the area late last year. Hamas won a string of municipal council election contests in the Palestinian territories in November and December, while Fatah had to cancel most of its party primaries for the legislative council elections due to political infighting.

Voting for the Palestinian Legislative Council's 132 seats is complicated. Each voter can cast two ballots. Half of the seats in the PLC will be decided by votes for national party lists and the other half by voting in 16 local district elections. Each of the parties competing has to get at least two percent of the vote to gain a seat in the legislature and six of the 11 parties contesting are expected to do so.

The Director of the Institute of Modern Media at Jerusalem's al-Quds University, Douad Kutab, said with the proliferation of political parties and candidates, Wednesday's vote opens a new era for Palestinians. "It is an interesting battle because we have never had this kind of battle before. Hamas has always refused to participate in the elections."

Nadr Sa'id of Bir Zeit University said both Fatah and Hamas have been profoundly changed, even before any voting has taken place. "We see that Fatah, the mainstream group, the ruling group forever has decided forever to give up its monopoly over power and authority and is willing to share this power," noted Sa'id. "We see that Hamas has been totally integrated into the political system which has implications for the Palestinians and at the same time for negotiations and for peace in the region. Things have changed. Things will never go back to the way they used to be for Palestine."

Palestinian voters will have 12 hours to cast their ballots on Wednesday in more than 1,000 polling stations as 728 candidates compete in districts and on party lists. Among them are 85 women, and since party lists have set aside quotas for women, about 10 percent of the new Palestinian Legislative Council is expected to be made up of women legislators.

Members of the Jewish National Front, a right-wing party set to run in upcoming Israeli national elections, announced plans to disrupt the Palestinian elections in Jerusalem. JNF plans to send activists to the PA polling stations in the capital and carry out direct action to interfere with the voting.

Fatah Terror Wing Favors Armed Struggle to Liberate 'Palestine´


The Al-Aksa Brigades, the military wing of the Fatah party, has called for continuing the armed struggle to "liberate all of Palestine." The terror group, which took its name from the mosque on the Temple Mount, has also called for boycotting Wednesday's election in the PA.

The Brigades' call to boycott the election ironically may weaken the standing of Fatah chief Mahmoud Abbas, the current ruler of the PA, at the polls. On the other hand the Hamas, a terror group driven by radical Islam that is participating for the first time in a PA election is encouraging supporters to get out the vote.

Hamas, which according to a recent poll, is expected to garner nearly 29% of the vote, has not ruled out joining a future PA government coalition. The party said that after the election, it would demand the establishment of a full-fledged Palestinian army that would continue the jihad, or holy war, against Israel.

In an effort to outflank the Hamas and other radical parties, the Brigades accused the various groups running in the election of not sufficiently dealing with the issue of the struggle against Israel. Instead, said the Brigades, those parties are serving the interests of Zionism and the United States, on the basis of the Oslo agreements. As a result, the parties' policies are liable to be influenced by foreign political pressure.

The Brigades teamed up with the Islamic Jihad, one of the most fanatic terrorist groups operating out the PA, at a rally Monday night in Gaza. A speaker for Islamic Jihad echoed the Brigades' call to liberate all Israeli territory, and effectively eliminate the Jewish state. "We stand here today on the just road of struggle until the liberation of the last inch of Palestine," he said.

At a press conference, leading officials of the Islamic Jihad, Nafez Azam and Khaled Albatash also called for boycotting the PA election and for remaining loyal to the armed struggle and to the jihad for liberating "all of Palestine."

Azam said his group was opposed to holding elections based on the Oslo accords, and establishing a Palestinian state only in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza. Albatash said that violent opposition to Israel will ultimately succeed in removing the Zionist occupier from Palestine.

One day before the election, the Hamas pressed forward with a media blitz accusing the Fatah with receiving campaign financing from the United States. The group also attempted to project a more pragmatic line in order to expand its voter base.

Hamas leader Khaled Mashal did not negate the possibility of having the terror group join the PA governing coalition. He said he was ready for the Hamas' own military wing, the Al-Kassam Brigades, to be integrated into a new Palestinian national army that would have as its first priority, the liberation of all Palestinian territory.

US Not Ruling Out Relations With Fatah-Hamas Government, Israel Remains Mum


Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had some negative words about Hamas on Monday, two days before the PA elections, but did not specifically rule out dealing with a PA government in which Hamas was a partner.

The United States and the European Union both consider Hamas a terrorist group, yet both are apparently willing to continue working with the Palestinian Authority government even if it includes Hamas terrorists.

Reuters quoted a top EU official as saying that his organization would not rule out working with a PA government that included Hamas - even though the EU has outlawed that organization. The official added a vague stipulation that the government must "work for peace with Israel."

Rice tried to warn PA voters not to choose Hamas, saying that "one-foot in terrorism and the other foot in politics" doesn't work. She further said, "It's hard to have negotiations with a party that you do not recognize its right to exist." However, she did not rule out working with a Fatah-Hamas government, saying only it would be "a very practical problem."

The U.S. is likely to continue to have diplomatic relations with such a government, minus direct contacts with Hamas ministers. "As a matter of policy, we don't deal with Hamas," Stewart Tuttle, the U.S. Embassy spokesman in Tel Aviv, said. "If Hamas members win seats... we are not going to deal with those individuals."

Some blame Israel for the fact that the international community now faces this dilemma. Robert Satloff, Executive Director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told the Herzliya Conference yesterday that Israel's contradictory policy on Hamas was "partly responsible for its already having gained political legitimacy through the election process," The Jerusalem Post reported.

Satloff said that Israel should have stood firm against Hamas participation in the upcoming elections. He noted that the PLO was long unrecognized by the Israel and the US because it did not renounce terrorism or recognize Israel's right to exist - while today; no one requires either of these from Hamas.

Israel's new Foreign Minister, a Likud-rebel who joined the center-left Kadima Party, told the Washington Post that she doesn't believe in Oslo, but rather in a two-state solution.

Newsweek-Washington Post's Lally Weymouth spoke with Foreign Minister Tzippy Livni on Friday, and the interview was published in Tuesday's edition of the newspaper.

Livni said "My need as an Israeli and a Jew is to keep a Jewish homeland for the Jewish people, a sovereign, Jewish and democratic state with a Jewish majority. So how do we [do that]? The idea is to divide the land, to give up some of our rights on the land of Israel and to establish a two-state solution."

Livni avoided answering two important questions - whether she would "evacuate West Bank settlements," and how Israel would relate to a PA government that includes Hamas: "This government adopted the road map to give the Palestinians a political horizon... to define from the beginning that at the end of the process, Israel will negotiate with the Palestinians all the final status issues. The road map to get two states was cut into phases. In the first phase there are also some Israeli obligations but mostly it is the Palestinians' obligation to dismantle terrorist organizations, to reform, to democratize. The idea is that Israel will not accept a Palestinian state that hosts terrorist organizations or is a base for terror against Israeli civilians.

The Post asked what was Israel going to do when Hamas becomes a part of the Palestinians' government? Livni replied, "I believe that it is the role of the international community to speak right now, even before the elections, and to say in a very clear voice that elections are only meant to achieve the goals that terrorist organizations cannot be part of any parliament. Israel cannot communicate with terrorist organizations... They are using terror because they cannot accept the existence of Israel. This is part of the Hamas charter. It is totally unacceptable."

She explained that though her father was an Irgun commander whose tombstone features a map of Greater Israel including both sides of the Jordan River, she had to choose differently - a homeland that leaves out not only the eastern bank of the Jordan, but also much of the western bank:

"Many ask if territorial compromise is against my father's ideology, and I say he taught me to believe in a democratic Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people where all people enjoy equal rights. I came to the conclusion that I cannot implement all of my ideology. I have to choose, and my choice was to implement the ideology of a homeland for the Jewish people with equal rights to all the minorities in the land of Israel, but [the homeland will be] only in part of the land of Israel."

Translation of Torah for India's B'nei Menashe Nearly Complete


Shavei Israel, a Jerusalem-based group that assists "lost Jews" seeking to return to the Jewish people, last week published a translation of Sefer Shemot (the Book of Exodus) into Mizo, one of the main languages spoken by the B'nei Menashe living in Mizoram, India.

"Until now, the B'nei Menashe have had to rely on incomplete or flawed translations of the Torah," said Shavei Israel Chairman Michael Freund. "Now, at last, they will have a complete translation that was carried out directly from the original Hebrew by a team of Jewish scholars living in Israel." All of the organization's work is in accordance with Jewish law and is under the guidance and supervision of Israel's Chief Rabbinate.

The B'nei Menashe claim descent from the lost tribe of Manasseh, who were exiled from the Land of Israel by the Assyrians over 2,700 years ago. Some 800 B'nei Menashe has made aliyah to Israel in recent years, with another 7,000 still waiting in India to do so.

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