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Katsav: Israel Would Negotiate With a Non-Violent Hamas


President Moshe Katsav said that Israel would be willing to negotiate with Hamas only on condition that it abandons its policy of violence. The president made the comments during a meeting with Greek President Karolos Papoulias. Katsav is in Greece on an official three-day visit, He will be visiting Thessaloniki, a city that once held the largest Greek Jewish community until the Nazis applied their genocidal policies in the country, murdering tens of thousands of Greek Jews. Greece fully recognized Israel in 1990.

Olmert: Israel to Review All Ties with Hamas-Led PA

By Israel News Faxx Services & European Jewish Press

Israel will "review all contacts" with the Palestinians if Hamas heads a future government after its recent electoral victory, Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Tuesday.

Speaking before the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem, Olmert said, "the day (Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud) Abbas will appoint a Hamas representative to head a government, we will review all contacts" with the authority. We will not negotiate and we will not deal with a PA that will be dominated wholly or partly by a terrorist organization."

In his speech Olmert also accused Iran's president of being "obsessed with anti-Semitic hatred." Olmert harshly criticized Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has called for Israel to be wiped off the map and questioned whether the Holocaust took place.

He said the Iranian leader is "using the worst anti-Semitic expressions" and urged tough international action to stop Iran's nuclear program

On Monday, a Muslim cultural institute in Germany criticized Ahmadinejad for disparaging the Holocaust, daring him to visit the Auschwitz concentration camp. "In this place of horror he can again deny the Holocaust, if he has the courage," a spokesman for the Islam-Archiv-Deutschland Central Institute told the German Catholic press agency KNA.

By denying the Holocaust, Ahmadinejad not only denigrated the Jewish victims of the genocide but also the 200,000 Roma and Arabs murdered in the "gypsy camp" of Auschwitz-Birkenau and other camps, the institute spokesman said.

The fact that the president of an Islamic state repeated Nazi anti-Semitism was harmful to the image of Islam and "a disgrace for all the world's Muslims", he added. The Berlin-based institute, founded in 1927, is the oldest Muslim body in Germany. It has been dedicated to preserving the community's archives since the 18th century and fostering relations between Muslims and other religions.

US, Israeli Officials Deny Plot to Destabilize Hamas Government

By Robert Berger (VOA-Jerusalem)

A New York Times report that Israel and the United States are discussing ways to force the newly elected Hamas-led Palestinian leadership to call early elections is causing a stir in the Middle East. Officials are denying that a plot to bring down a Hamas government is in the works.

The Times reported that Hamas would be given a choice; to recognize Israel's right to exist, renounce violence, and accept previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements or face international isolation and collapse.

According to the report, both countries would cut off funding to a Hamas-led Palestinian Authority, creating disillusionment among the public and ultimately forcing new elections.

Israeli officials denied the newspaper report. But Israeli spokesman Mark Regev said Israel plans to cut off $50 million a month in tax payments to the Palestinians, and the international community should follow suit. "When a terrorist organization takes over the Palestinian government, that has clear implications as to how the international community must relate to that regime under international law."

U.S. officials also denied the report. As White House spokesman Scott McClellan put it: "There is no plot." He said U.S. policy is very clear that it does not and will not fund terrorist organizations. Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States and the European Union.

Israeli journalist Matthew Gutman believes the defeated Palestinian Fatah party is also working with Israel and the United States to topple Hamas. "I think that Fatah officials themselves, people I have spoken to today, in the past couple of weeks in Gaza and the West Bank, have said that their goal right now is to stop Hamas, to do anything necessary to insure that Hamas fails. That includes as I said, creating chaos, but it also includes making it difficult for them to get funds."

Responding to the report, Hamas accused the United States of hypocrisy. One Hamas official said, "It is a rejection of the democratic process, which the Americans are calling for day and night."

Americans Favor Israel


A Gallup poll shows that Americans are very pessimistic about Middle East peace, more sympathetic to Israel, and less favorable to the PA. Sympathy towards Israel increases with news-awareness.

The annual Gallup Poll on World Affairs was conducted on a random sampling of 1,002 adults on Feb. 6-9, some two weeks after the Hamas terrorist organization won power in the Palestinian Authority Some findings:

A plurality of Americans - 44% - believes the United States should conduct diplomatic relations with the PA only if Hamas recognizes Israel. Half that number believes the United States should deal with the PA regardless of its stance toward Israel, and one-quarter of Americans say the United States should not conduct any relations with the PA at all.

Ignorance on the Middle East conflict does not work to Israel's advantage, according to Gallup. Americans who say they follow news about world affairs "very closely" are more likely to sympathize with the Israelis (66%) than Americans who follow foreign news only somewhat closely (59%) or who do not follow it closely (52%).

Americans are much less favorable to financial assistance to the PA than they are towards a diplomatic relationship. A majority, 57%, opposes giving any financial aid to the Palestinian Authority while Hamas is in power, while 30% would give aid if the PA recognizes Israel. Just 5% favor giving aid even if the PA does not recognize Israel.

Gallup also asked whether American sympathies lie more with the Israelis or with the Arabs of the Palestinian Authority. The numbers this year: 59% are with Israel, and only 15% with the PA. These figures represent one of the most lopsided margins in favor of the Israelis ever recorded by Gallup.

When not compared with each other, Israel received a "favorable" rating from 68% of Americans, and the PA received the same from 11%. Last year at this time, Israel received 69% approval, and the PA - 27%. This year's readings are the most negative Gallup has found since it began asking about the Palestinian Authority in 2000, while last year's were the most positive.

The poll found that Republicans (77%) are significantly more likely to sympathize with the Israelis than are Democrats (50%) or independents (50%).

By a 2-1 margin, Americans now say there will never come a time when Israel and the Arab nations will live in peace. The 65% to 32% split compares with a roughly 50-50 split last year.

High Court justice: PA an enemy state


Deputy Chief Justice of the High Court, Mishael Cheshin, supported on Tuesday the State's position to keep the Citizenship Law intact, arguing that Palestinians should be curbed from entering Israel, particularly now that the PA has turned into a "de facto enemy state."

The law was passed in 2003 as a temporary order and was extended later. The legislation places curbs on Palestinians who marry Arab-Israelis in order to prevent them from moving to Israel and receiving Israeli citizenship.

During the deliberations, which took several hours and involved an extended panel of 11 judges, Cheshin turned to the legal advisor for the Association of Civil Rights, which petitioned the court, and said: "I'm talking about an enemy regime (Palestinian Authority,) a regime that wants to destroy Israel, that is not willing to recognize the State. After this, now we need to grant them entry? An Israeli attorney is standing before me, and I fail to understand - don't we want to survive?"

Cheshin also noted the Palestinian people had voted in the Hamas in recent PA elections and added: "When the State of Israel wants to defend itself from terror attacks; avoid one soul from being hurt, isn't that enough for us to prevent entry? Isn't that a good enough reason? Why should we take risks during a war?"

He also noted that England and the United States did not take any risks during World War II with Germany. "No one is denying them the right to form a family, so the man from (Arab-Israeli town) Um al-Fahm can go live with the woman in Jenin, I ask myself: this is a de facto enemy state; must Ilet them into Israeli areas?"

Chief Justice Aharon Barak, meanwhile, suggested to the State representative that Palestinians who seek to live with their spouse in Israel would receive special certificates, with each case considered separately.

The clause in question in the current Citizenship law is "family reunification," where the State allows entry permits and even accords residency status to those who lawfully marry Israeli citizens.

The end of the process could culminate in granting Israeli citizenship to spouses and children. When it comes to Palestinians, the matter if of great concern for security officials and for those who are concerned with demographic questions.

The family reunification clause allowed 5,400 Palestinians to enter Israel since 1994.Following numerous terror attacks that were executed by, among others, Palestinians who carry Israeli IDs, it was decided that steps must be taken to curb the problem.

However, the Arab public, civil rights movements, and members of academia have all criticized the discrimination nature of the new law, claiming that it was mostly introduced for demographic and not security reasons.

Singer Shoshana Damari Dies


The much-loved Israeli singer Shoshana Damari, known as the Queen of Hebrew Song, passed away Tuesday morning at the age of 83.

Damari, who was hospitalized on Shabbat with a severe case of pneumonia, suffered a major deterioration in her health Monday night. She did not respond to treatment and finally passed away at 8 a.m. Her friends and family, who had been singing along with her right to the end, surrounded her. She breathed her last to the accompaniment of her famous signature tune, "Kalaniyot" (Poppies).

Israel Prize-winner Damari, born in 1923, moved with her family from Damar, Yemen, to Israel in 1925, settling in Rishon LeTzion. As a child she performed at weddings with her mother, and at age 14 she began to sing on Israeli radio. She became a famous singer while retaining her Yemenite intonation and heavy Sephardic pronunciation.

She left home at the age of 13, when she studied drama at the Shulamit Studio in Tel Aviv. Studio manager Shlomo Busami became her constant companion, and when Shoshana was 16 years old they were married. Busami would manage his wife's singing career for the rest of his life.

In 1939, Damari first performed solo, when she was only 16. In 1943, her career took another turn when she joined the "Li-La-Lo" musical theater, eventually becoming its star performer. Her distinct Yemenite style singled her out from the rest of the artists, most of whom were of European origin.

She is famous for her performance of many songs by composer Moshe Vilensky, chief among them "Kalaniyot." Other such compositions included "BeCarmei Teiman" (In the Vineyards of Yemen) and "Miriam bat [daughter of] Nissim." During the War of Independence, some of Damari's songs became synonymous with Israel's struggle to emerge as a state, such as "HaKrav Ha'Acharon" (The Final Battle) and "Batsheva." Just before independence was finally achieved, Damari performed with Vilensky in a series of moving concerts in DP camps around Europe.

In the 1950s, Damari recorded several songs with the Nachal choir. Around this time, her fame grew, making her one of Israel's most popular singers. In 1957, she became the star performer of the Hebrew Shulamit choir. During the 1960s and 1970s, Damari performed in the United States and the United Kingdom and participated in music festivals around the world.

In 1988, Damari was awarded the Israel Prize for her contribution to Israeli vocal music. By then, she had started to appear less frequently, making her last album - Ohr (Light) - that year. In 2001, Israeli artists arranged a tribute concert especially in Damari's honor.

In an interview she gave to Arutz-7 several months ago, Shoshana stated that she could not identify with current Israeli songs: "We are such a talented nation with so much to offer, but instead we are turning into the best imitators in the world, copying songs from the U.S. and Europe. We don't have any solid music of our own. Once, a song would be written in Israel about whatever happened here. I don't accept the claim that the reason for [the change] is a decline in the values of the land of Israel, because for every Jew, whether he wants it or not, Israel is his home. He could sing about its views and its people."

She suggested that the best way to change this situation would be to keep listening to the old recordings of Hebrew music, which would arouse the younger generation's love of this type of song.

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