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Mr. and Mrs. Olmert to be Under Investigation


Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his wife Aliza are soon to be summoned to an investigation by the State Comptroller's Office on suspicion of receiving illegal profits worth around $500,000. State Comptroller Judge Micha Lindenstrauss is looking into allegations that the Olmerts received a substantial reduction on their purchase of a garden apartment in Jerusalem. According to a report in Ha'aretz, Olmert assisted the contractor in receiving permits from the city that would allow the construction of two extra apartments in the building. The company sold the garden apartment to Olmert for $3,306 per sq. meter, while charging a much higher sum for the other apartment in the project.

NATO Force Ready to Help in Lebanon, But Not Asked

By Al Pessin (VOA-Pentagon)
17 August 2006

NATO's military commander said he discussed with the United Nations' secretary general the possibility of sending the new NATO Reaction Force to Lebanon to help keep the peace. But he said someone at the U.N. decided not to ask for the force. Meanwhile, new concerns were raised Thursday about how quickly the United Nations would be able to deploy a substantial force for Lebanon.

The NATO commander, Marine Gen. James Jones, said he discussed the possibility of using the new NATO force in southern Lebanon with senior U.S. officials, and spoke personally with Secretary-General Kofi Annan about the idea. But he said, at least for now, the organization decided not to ask for NATO's help.

The NATO Reaction Force draws on troops from member nations, as the group always does for its military missions. But this is a standing force, specially trained and always ready for rapid deployment. "The NATO Response Force is ideally organized, trained and equipped for that kind of mission," Jones said.

Jones said the 25,000-member force has a command and control system in place, and can be configured for a variety of missions, ranging from humanitarian assistance to forced entry. And he notes that it recently passed its certification exercise in Cape Verde, off the west coast of Africa. "It has been certified," he added. "So it sits there and it's ready for the uses for which it's intended."

While Jones says the NATO Reaction force is ready, the United Nations is having difficulty fielding an expanded Lebanon force of its own. The Security Council resolution passed earlier this month, which led to the current ceasefire, calls for the expansion of the current U.N. Lebanon force from about 2,000 soldiers to 15,000. France has said it will lead the force, but a French newspaper reported Thursday that the country would only send a small number of troops.

U.N. officials have been visiting other countries that have offered forces to determine just how many troops are available, what their capabilities are and how quickly they can be deployed. The officials say they hope to be able to send 3,000 additional troops into southern Lebanon within the next two weeks.

General Jones said he does not know why the United Nations decided not to use the NATO force for this mission, even just to provide some stability until the U.N. force is ready. But France's defense minister, Michele Alliot-Marie, gave some indication Wednesday of why NATO has not been asked to help. In an interview with a French TV station, she said any southern Lebanon force must have Muslim countries represented so that it does not appear to be what she called "the Western world against the Muslim world."

Israeli Army Threatens to Destroy Soldiers´ Homes


The bureaucracy rolls on. With its residents still in Lebanon under emergency call-up orders, the Yesha town of Maaleh Rehavam learned that officials were headed to post eviction orders on its doors.

Families in Maaleh Rehavam - a small outpost community in eastern Gush Etzion - were surprised to note Thursday morning that Civil Administration officials were on their way to post eviction orders on their homes. Of the 30 residents, including five families, five are in Lebanon after having been called up on emergency basis this past month, and two others are in the standing army.

Some town officials believe that the army wished to take advantage of the situation in which a quarter of the men were away to give out the notices. "It is shocking to think," town secretary Moriah Halamish said, "that with war happening on two fronts, north and south, the defense establishment finds the time to give out these orders.

"The State is taking advantage of the fact that our men were drafted to war in order to fulfill this new expulsion decree. Good citizens go off to fight with emergency orders, and are then forced to return to receive a slap in the face in the form of an eviction notice on their doors."

Others feel the truth is more mundane: "The bureaucracy has a calendar and a schedule, and no one thinks whether now is a good time to do it or not; it just gets done." So says Nadia Matar, co-chairperson of Women in Green, a grassroots Land of Israel organization. "The previous orders expired," she said, "and they have to be renewed, and that's it. There's no consideration as to whether right now, with people still on the front lines in Lebanon, it might not be a good idea to go ahead with destroying Jewish homes."

The community is not illegal - but neither has it been officially approved, and for this reason, the government says it plans to destroy it, in keeping with its promise to the US to raze all "unauthorized" outposts. The radical left-wing Peace Now organization has filed a court suit, demanding to know why the government has not yet implemented the demolition orders it issued regarding Maaleh Rehavam and other small communities throughout Judea, Samaria and Gaza.

Analysis: A 'Mini-Iran' Emerging in Southern Lebanon

By Ha'aretz

Thursday was supposedly a historic day in Lebanon. For the first time in 30 years, the Lebanese Army deployed south of the Litani River. This time, too, as was expected, the civilians threw rice at yet another military force.

But, as the leading Lebanese officer on the scene read out the unit's orders, the real picture emerged: "The army will deploy on the wounded Lebanese land alongside the men of the resistance." In other words: The Lebanese Army has not plans to drive Hizbullah out of the South or to confront them.

Lebanon's president and commander in chief of the army, Emile Lahoud, made it clear on Wednesday that Hizbullah would not be disarmed, not even in the area south of the Litani River. Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah may have promised that his men would not carry their arms openly but they could rebuild their bunkers and fill them up with rockets in preparation for the next confrontation in the future.

Meanwhile, the deployment of the multinational force is being delayed, and France is in no rush to send many soldiers. UN Security Council Resolution 1701, passed a week ago, is already on the path to becoming meaningless. While the Americans are declaring that the new forces in southern Lebanon will not allow Hizbullah to resume their positions along the border, Nasrallah is proving them wrong. His forces are patrolling without hindrance in the villages of southern Lebanon (some of them not having left during the fighting); they are recording the Israel Defense Forces activities, and are giving interviews, while armed, to Arab television stations.

These developments are worrisome to the other religious groups in Lebanon that fear an Iranian-Syrian takeover in the South. Walid Jumblatt, Sa'ad al-Din Hariri and others sharply criticized Syrian President Bashar Assad for his efforts to intervene in domestic Lebanese politics. But as far as they are concerned, the real threat stems from Hizbullah's plans to reconstruct southern Lebanon, using billions of Iranian dollars that are meant to further establish the organization in the country by pushing aside the government organs.

It is not surprising therefore that there are celebrations in Tehran: Thursday, a public transport company there announced a day of free travel in the Iranian capital to celebrate Hizbullah's victory over Israel. In the wake of the Israeli invasion, it turns out that the regime of the Ayatollahs is on the verge of witnessing the realization of its dream for a "mini-Iran" in southern Lebanon.

It turns out that the political and military echelons in Israel were no less concerned than Hizbullah over the war of perceptions. Ministers recall that Olmert's aides joked about the possibility that he would make a victory speech in Bint Jbail, the site of Nasrallah's speech on Israel's spider web in May 2000. The Shin Bet security service's VIP protection detail would have never authorized this, but the mere fact that it was discussed is an indication of how surrealistic the conversations became among decision makers.

The IDF carried out three operations in Bint Jbail during the war, and did not conquer it because of its sprawling urban character. The public are not alone in not understanding the army's plans; the officers are hard pressed to comprehend them too.

During the war, Olmert bypassed Defense Minister Amir Peretz on a number of occasions and worked directly with Chief of Staff Dan Halutz. While relations became frayed, no one in the cabinet or the General Staff challenged their decisions.

Since the passing of the favorable resolution, Israel has to withdraw from the territory it has occupied, following heavy losses; but Hizbullah continues to

Costa Rica Moving Embassy From Jerusalem to Tel Aviv


Costa Rica, for years one of only two countries to recognize Israel's capital as Jerusalem, has now decided to move its embassy to Tel Aviv. El Salvador's will soon be the only embassy in Jerusalem.

"The Israeli government expresses its regret and disappointment at Costa Rica's decision to move its embassy from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv," a statement from Israel's Foreign Ministry responded. "This step, with its current timing, can be interpreted as yielding to terror and rewarding its perpetrators. A united Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the nation of Israel and its state, and this [move by Costa Rica] will not change our firm stand on this issue."

Costa Rican President Oscar Arias announced the plans for the embassy move, explaining that it was necessary in order for his country to be in compliance with international law. "It's time to rectify a historical error that damages us on the international level and deprives us of any friendship with the Arab world," Arias, a Nobel Prize laureate, announced. "This is not about offending the dear Israeli people with whom we have and will continue to have close ties... rather; it is about respecting international law."

The Foreign Ministry of El Salvador, now the only other nation to have its embassy in Jerusalem, issued a statement shortly after Arias's speech, saying it would remain and leveling veiled criticism at its Central American neighbor. "Given the state of affairs in the Middle East, any decision on the location of the Salvadoran embassy should seek to aid the pacification of the region and not affect the fragile and delicate equilibrium that is being established," it said.

The US Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act in 1995, calling for the relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv. A provision in the act, however, allows the president to postpone its implementation through a waiver issued every six months. So far, both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have prevented its implementation and US citizens born in Jerusalem do not have "Israel" written on their passports as their country of birth – instead the space is left blank.

Mel Gibson Gets 3-Years Probation


Film superstar Mel Gibson was sentenced to three years' probation, a year of alcohol abuse treatment and a fine, after entering a plea of no contest, a prosecutor said. "This was an appropriate outcome which addresses all the public safety concerns of drinking and driving," said Deputy District Attorney Gina Satriano.

The actor's attorney entered the plea on his behalf before Malibu Superior Court Judge Lawrence Mira, said Satriano. Gibson did not appear in court. Gibson's arrest on July 28 shocked the world with his alleged anti-Jewish slurs in a drunken state.

Gibson, 50, had been set to face the judge on September 28 in the Malibu, California courtroom. He was arrested on July 28, allegedly driving while drunk and allegedly with an open bottle of tequila in his car.

The celebrity website released a police report, in which the devout Roman Catholic director of the blockbuster "The Passion of the Christ" referred to " Jews" after his car was pulled over. The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world," he was quoted as saying in the report after first asking the arresting police officer: "Are you a Jew?"

Gibson was charged with driving under the influence and driving with a .08 or higher blood-alcohol content. The Oscar winner was also charged for allegedly having an open bottle of tequila in his car.

Judge Mira ordered the actor to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings five times a week for four and a half months and then three AA meetings per week for seven and a half more months. He also ordered Gibson to enroll in an alcohol abuse program for three months.

In addition, Gibson was fined a total of $1,300 and his license was restricted for 90 days. In exchange for his plea, the two remaining charges were dismissed. Gibson volunteered to perform in a public service announcement on the problems of drinking and driving, Satriano said, and he volunteered to immediately enter into rehabilitation.

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