Newsletter : 6fax0331.txt
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Gas Prices Increasing on Saturday Night
Gasoline prices will increase by 5.2% on Saturday night, with 96 octane fuel selling
for NIS 6.01 a liter, the equivalent of $5.13 per US gallon. All stations will be required
to offer at least one self-service pump with the price being at least 11 agorot ($0.013)
less per liter, or a full-service pump with the reduced price.
Arab Bomber Dressed as Jewish Hitchhiker Murders Three
An Arab terrorist from Fatah's Al-Aksa Brigade dressed as a Jewish hitchhiker and blew
himself up inside the car of those who picked him up near Kedumim, in Samaria - murdering
three Jews, a couple and a young woman.
The attack took place at 10 p.m. Thursday near the gas station and hitchhiking station
adjacent to the town of Kedumim. The terror group released a statement saying the bomber
was a 24-year-old from Hebron.
Shortly following the explosion, police believed the blast was a terrorist bomb that
detonated prematurely, killing the bomber inside. The vehicle was engulfed in flames so
preliminary reports took over an hour to begin to reflect the reality.
It now appears that the bomber dressed as a Jew, wearing a kippa (yarmulke) and
Hassidic garb and was given a ride by the unsuspecting occupants of the Israeli vehicle.
He then blew himself up inside, killing three passengers. Reports say the bomber also died
in the incident.
The Israeli reports say the bomber set off his explosives in a car near a gas station. It
remains unclear whether the terrorist was wearing an explosives belt or a rucksack with
Israel's Kadima Faces Reality of Coalition Politics
By Jim Teeple (VOA-Jerusalem)
Israelis went to the polls this week to vote in their fifth election in 10 years. Many
people in Israel said it was the most important election in years, but voter apathy was
Many voters chose to ignore the big issues championed by Israel's large parties and
instead voted for smaller parties that backed single issues. Israeli voters sent a mixed
message to their leaders in this election, and one that will make the task of governing
and of reaching a settlement with the Palestinians difficult.
It was not the mandate that Interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he wanted. Just
days before the vote, Olmert's Kadima Party was riding high in the polls. Political
pundits said Kadima would win 35 seats in the 120-seat Knesset and be able to dictate its
terms to prospective coalition partners.
What emerged was something different. Kadima won only 28 seats, far fewer than 40
seats that the conservative Likud Party won in Israel's last election in 2003, winning
just eight more seats than the left-of-center Labor Party, a likely coalition partner.
Asher Arian is a senior fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute and a professor of
political science at the City University of New York. He says the Kadima Party, founded
last year by Ariel Sharon before he suffered his stroke, has lost its momentum.
"Well, the Kadima Party was a very momentous development and had Sharon been well and
seen it through to the election my guess is that the results would be quite different," he
said. "As it is, it seems to have fizzled out a little bit too early in the sense that
Kadima is too small to be a driving force in Israeli politics for the next four years.
Kadima will run the country, but it will be very, very dependent on coalition
That might not be a bad thing says Mahdi Abdul Hadi, who runs PASSIA, a Palestinian
policy institute based in East Jerusalem. Abdul Hadi says if Kadima can form a coalition
with the Labor Party and other parties that support the peace process there might be real
progress in Israeli-Palestinian relations.
"If Olmert will succeed in forming a government with the Labor Party and with other
leftists, he will be in a better position to look for the 'road map' peace plan and for
negotiations," he said.
Olmert said he would follow Ariel Sharon's plan to set Israel's final border with the
Palestinians. He said he intends to accomplish the task in the next parliamentary term,
either by following the internationally-backed road map peace plan or unilaterally if
Abdul Hadi said Palestinian decision makers he has spoken with say they can do little
but wait and see how the Israeli-coalition building develops. "I am very much concerned
about Olmert's agenda, the unilateralism thesis of Mr. Sharon," he admitted. "And some
[Palestinians] are saying he will not be able to go ahead with the plan since he needs
coalition. Others are saying it will be a real setback to the whole process and we will
continue living in the culture of a prison."
Asher Arian of the Israel Democracy Institute said Olmert's plan to withdraw from most
of the West Bank would have been difficult to achieve even if Kadima had won an outright
majority. Having to rely on potentially unreliable coalition partners will make the task
even more difficult.
"Had he won a commanding majority and had there been a sense that this was indeed a
referendum on his plan, and that the referendum had passed, then it would be possible for
him to deal with the tens of thousands of settlers," Arian said. "Recall that the Gaza
pullout involved about 8,000 Jewish settlers. Now you are talking about 10 times that
number and so it is going to be very difficult in terms of money, in terms of
confrontation, and in terms of political will to pull this off."
Arian said Olmert does not have much time to achieve his historic objective. Coalition
partners eager for a plum government post might be willing to support a controversial West
Bank pullout in the near term, but he said the longer the process takes the more difficult
that will become.
The dream of Sharon to create a new centrist political force in Israeli politics that
could set Israel's final border could depend on the cooperation of political parties more
interested in raising Israel's minimum wage and improving pension benefits than achieving
a lasting settlement between Palestinians and Israelis.
The Next Knesset
By Robert Rosenberg (Analysis)
The final one percent of the votes, from diplomatic legations, the handful of Israelis
still working as merchant marines, soldiers, prisoners and hospitalized patients, added a
seat to Kadima and Meretz and took away a seat apiece from Shas and Yisrael Beitenu,
putting the Kadima-Labor-Pensioners-Meretz coalition (without Arabs or religious) at the
It's significant for Ehud Olmert, because it means he has a full-fledged majority in
parliament for his 'convergence' or 'consolidation' plan (the translation of the Hebrew
term 'hitkansut' is still undecided) to withdraw Israeli settlers from the settlements
east of the security/separation fence/wall that he wants to turn into Israel's permanent
borders if he can't strike a peace deal with the Palestinians.
After all the counting, the new Knesset's characteristics can already be noted:
Forty-one of the new members of the Knesset will be new to the professional politics, and
there will be 50 percent more retired generals in the Knesset (15, instead of 10),
including one woman, Amira Dotan of Kadima. There will also be six former spies.
Another result of the elections will be a very old Knesset -- and not only because of
the Pensioners Party. Largely it's because Kadima and other parties sent their youngest
candidates to the bottoms of their lists. Thus, while nearly 50 percent of the electorate
falls in the 18-39 year-old age bracket, there will only be eight people in that age group
in the 17th Knesset.
And speaking of the pensioners, only 43 percent of pensioners are men -- for every 100
male pensioners there are 135 female. But there is only woman in the Pensioners Party
faction. And speaking of women, there will only be 17 women MKs, 14 percent of the
Knesset. The reason: the religious and Arab parties don't have any women on their
Along with Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beitenu, which is sending nine immigrants into
the Knesset, Shas is also sending three new immigrants: from Bukhara, Georgia and
Ethiopia. It's the Ethiopian, a 33-year-old rabbi named Mazor Bayana, who is particularly
beloved by Shas patron Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who handpicks the Shas list. Ovadia, after all,
was the first chief rabbi of Israel, back in the 1970s, to determine that the Falash Mura,
as they were known in Ethiopia, is indeed a Jewish community
The coming weeks will be about coalition negotiations, which formally begin on Sunday
but already began informally the night of the elections. All the potential coalition
partners, from Amir Peretz and Yossi Beilin to Binyamin Netanyahu (facing a revolt) and
Shas' Eli Yishai have called Ehud Olmert to congratulate him. But Avigdor Lieberman had
not called as of this morning. Was it rudeness or poor etiquette, or hardball the way he
likes to play it, remains to be seen.
In any case, Peretz appears to have dropped the idea of trying to win the nod from
President Moshe Katsav to be the MK to try to form a government. Instead, he is focusing
on forming a 'social bloc' made up of Labor, Shas, Meretz and the Pensioners, which could
unify their demands and force Olmert to do what he is vowing not to do -- give Peretz the
finance ministry. He met with Yishai today at Labor Party headquarters -- both Moroccan
born politicians sending a message to Olmert that they might not be a single bloc, but
they are coordinated, and it will cost the Kadima leader to bring them into the
Olmert told Ma'ariv that he will talk with the Likud as well as other parties about
joining his coalition. But that's probably just more of the spinning and public
negotiation that is underway right now. Netanyahu is going to have his hands full fighting
back challenges to his leadership from Silvan Shalom, Limor Livnat, Danny Naveh and
perhaps Yisrael Katz, who found out Thursday that he will get into the Knesset as the
Likud's 12th MK.
It might be a mistake for Olmert to try to deny Peretz the finance ministry rather than
to negotiate around it. Peretz, a self-made man who overcame not only an immigrant's
background but legs so badly wounded in an army accident that the doctors said he would
never walk again, does not like to be told that he has been ruled out of a game a priori,
which is what the opposition to him is trying to do. If Olmert does, in the end, give
Peretz the treasury, from where the real domestic policies of the country are conducted by
virtue of its hold on the purse strings, the prime minister-designate will be able to
argue that it's a guarantee of coalition stability.
In any case, Olmert's people are already saying that they have no real substantive
objections to Labor's economic program, but they are dubious about some of Shas' hopes for
reinstating large-scale welfare arrangements that Netanyahu, under Sharon, wiped out. Most
of those payments that Shas wants back are 'anti-work,' meaning they are payments that
encourage people to stay out of the labor force.
But there are those who do not like the idea of the mustachioed man from Sderot, who
built a political career representing the poor and the workers as head of the Histadrut
trade union, taking the reins of an economy that largely depends on Israel's booming
high-tech export industries. They're even ready to betray Shaul Mofaz and give Peretz the
defense ministry -- as long as he has an ex-general like Ami Ayalon or Matan Vilnai at his
side as deputy minister. But if that arrangement would work for them, Peretz could argue
he has internationally renowned economist Avishai Braverman at his side as deputy
minister. In other words, the negotiations have begun in earnest, even if not
Kadima also apparently has no real problem with the Pensioners Party demands, or even
Peretz's vow to raise the minimum wage to a monthly $1,000. And Rafi Eitan, the spymaster
turned businessman who heads the Pensioners said Thursday on Channel 10 that his party
will recommend to President Kastav that Olmert form the coalition. 'We're all Center,' he
said of the Pensioners' seven-member faction.
Meanwhile, Mofaz called a session of the top security brass to discuss developments on
the Palestinian side. Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh has not only OKed a
meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Ehud Olmert but added that if
Abbas brings back something that the Palestinian people approved, Hamas would change its
positions. And meanwhile, the Hamas' armed wing, known as the Azzadin al Kassam Brigades,
are reportedly quietly being integrated into the Palestinian Authority armed forces and
definitely have been keeping their weapons in their closets. On the other hand,
Damascus-based Khaled Mish'al said that the elections results showed there is no
difference between the three major parties in Israel "and none are ready to talk
about the '67 borders, so what's all this talk about reaching political negotiations...
resistance is the only way."
And though Hamas' military wing is quiet, Islamic Jihad and the so-called Popular
Resistance Committees of Gaza, largely made up of clans that made their living from
smuggling and were left out of the negotiations for the ceasefire that the Palestinians
unilaterally announced in August 2004, continue to promise to use "armed resistance" to
fight the occupation. Islamic Jihad unveiled old-fashioned Katyushas this week, firing one
harmlessly out of Gaza toward Ashdod, which has a port and a power station. But the
rocket, which has an 18-kilometer range, landed in a field just beyond the fence around
the Gaza Strip. Nonetheless, Israeli defense officials -- and the hawks that were voted
into the minority this week -- charge that Katyushas in the hands of the armed groups is a
strategic threat to Israel.
So, while Haniyeh continues trying to say the right things, it's his actions that will
be watched closely. His interior minister, Saeed Seyam, has said the PA armed forces will
not try to obstruct "armed resistance" to the occupation but Hamas' finance minister, Omar
Abdel-Razeq, has said he wants PA officials serving under him to continue their
cooperation with Israeli counterparts for the sake of daily life -- and so far, no orders
have gone out to Israeli armed forces to cease communication and coordination with their
On the other hand, Canada announced it was ending direct aid to the PA but will
continue providing aid to NGOs, while the Americans say that as of Wednesday night, their
diplomats are banned from meetings with Palestinian government officials who are members
(Copyright 2006 by Robert Rosenberg, www.ariga.com)
Poland Seeks Name Change for Auschwitz
Poland's new conservative government wants to change the official name of the former
Nazi death camp of Auschwitz on the UNESCO world heritage registry, an official said
The government, led by the Law and Justice Party, hopes to change the name from
Auschwitz Concentration Camp to the Former Nazi German Concentration Camp
Auschwitz-Birkenau, Culture Ministry spokesman Jan Kasprzyk said.
Polish officials have complained in the past that foreign media sometimes refer to
Auschwitz a death camp located in occupied Poland where Nazi Germany killed 1.5
million people as a Polish concentration camp.
That phrasing deeply offends sensitivities in Poland, which was subjected to a brutal
occupation by Adolf Hitler's forces. "In the years after the war, the former
Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp was definitively associated with the criminal
activities of the national-socialist Nazi regime in Germany. However, for the
contemporary, younger generations, especially abroad, that association is not universal,"
Kasprzyk said. "The proposed change in the name leaves no doubt as to what the
Auschwitz-Birkenau camp was."
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