EU, Russia condemn Israeli settlement expansion plans


The European Union and Russia on Friday denounced Israel's plans to expand settlements in the occupied West Bank and urged Israelis and Palestinians to take “bold and concrete steps towards peace.”

Israeli officials said this week they would press on with plans to build 6,000 homes for settlers on land claimed by Palestinians, defying criticism from Western powers who fear the move will damage already faint hopes for a peace accord.

“The European Union and the Russian Federation are deeply dismayed by and strongly oppose Israeli plans to expand settlements in the West Bank and in particular plans to develop the E1 area,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement.

E1 is a wedge of land between East Jerusalem and the West Bank where Israel had previously held off under U.S. pressure.

“The EU and the Russian Federation underline the urgency of renewed, structured and substantial peace efforts in 2013,” said the joint statement after an EU-Russia summit in Brussels.

Stung by de facto recognition of Palestinian sovereignty by the U.N. General Assembly last month, Israel announced it would expand settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Many countries deem the settlements illegal and have been especially troubled by Israel's declared intent to build in E1.

The EU and Russia, which together with the United States and the United Nations make up the Quartet of Middle East mediators, said the settlements were illegal under international law and were an obstacle to peace.

“The EU and the Russian Federation will not recognize any changes to the pre-1967 borders, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties,” they said.

It was time to take “bold and concrete steps towards peace between Palestinians and Israelis”, they said, calling for “direct and substantial negotiations without preconditions”.

The EU and Russia called for the unconditional opening of crossings for the flow of goods and people to and from the Gaza Strip, and urged Israel to avoid any step that would undermine the financial situation of the Palestinian Authority.

They urged the Palestinian leadership to use Palestine's new U.N. status constructively and avoid steps that would deepen lack of trust and lead further away from a negotiated solution.

Reporting by Adrian Croft; Editing by Alistair Lyon

Hamas reportedly talking to EU countries


Hamas reportedly has been holding secret talks with five European Union member states, a senior Hamas member was quoted as saying.

Osama Hamdan, who handles foreign relations for Hamas, said the talks have been held in “recent months,” according to The Associated Press. Hamdan did not name the countries.

The talks reportedly have centered on Israel and the stalled Mideast peace process.

Officially the EU has said it will not talk to Hamas until it recognizes Israel and renounces terrorism.

 

Arab to deliver Hebrew TV news, new ancient neighborhood discovered in Jerusalem, Hamas still wants


Arab to deliver Hebrew TV news

Lucy Aharish, an Israeli Arab graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem who also underwent broadcast training in Germany, was hired recently by Channel 10 television as a news anchor. Aharish, 25, told Ma’ariv in an interview Monday that although she has experienced racism in Israel, she believes Arabs can overcome such challenges and succeed. Having barely survived an attack on her family car when she visited Gaza as a child, she also voiced disinterest in the Palestinians.

Aharish is the fourth generation of a Muslim family from Nazareth, but spent most of her life in the southern town of Dimona, where she celebrated Jewish festivals and served in Gadna, Israel’s paramilitary youth training program. “There is no doubt that the different experiences that I underwent caused an identity crisis, which developed for years,” she said. “But the truth is that I don’t regret for a moment that my parents raised me in a Jewish environment. They gave me the privilege to stand in the middle of the road and look at the whole picture. I am grateful for this.”

Livni: Hamas smells E.U. accommodation

Israel’s foreign minister accused Hamas of seeking to weaken the European stand on the Palestinian Authority’s policies. Tzipi Livni said during a visit to Canada late Monday that the governing P.A. faction, which has rejected Western demands that it moderate its views on Israel, hopes the European Union will accommodate its intransigence.

“Hamas is looking at Europe, and they want to see this kind of hesitation,” Livni told reporters. “When they sense this smell of hesitation, why should they change in the future?”

The European Union last week called on the new coalition government being formed by Hamas and the moderate faction Fatah to set a diplomatic platform that “reflects” the international community’s preconditions that the Palestinian Authority recognize Israel, renounce terrorism and accept past rapprochement efforts. Livni said this did not signify a change in the European attitude toward Hamas.

“If somebody thinks that Hamas, while not recognizing Israel, while using terror — not to create a Palestinian state but to demolish the Jewish one — can be partners to something, they are wrong,” Livni said.

Hamas reaffirms goal to ‘liberate Palestine’

“We will not betray promises we made to God to continue the path of Jihad and resistance until the liberation of Palestine, all of Palestine,” the governing Palestinian Authority faction said in a statement Monday.

The move, which could complicate Palestinian efforts to lift a Western aid embargo on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, came in reaction to a rare criticism of Hamas by al-Qaida’s deputy commander Ayman Zawahri. In a statement Sunday, Zawahri denounced Hamas for agreeing to share power with the more moderate Palestinian faction Fatah, calling this capitulation to Israel and the West.”Zawahri’s recent statements were wrong,” the Hamas statement said. “Resistance is our strategy. How and when? This depends on the reality at the time and our corresponding view of things.”

Ancient Jewish neighborhood discovered in Jerusalem

A network of Second Temple-era streets, homes and ritual mikvah baths were found recently in Jerusalem’s Arab district of Shuafat when municipal workers laid tracks for a light railway, Ma’ariv reported Tuesday. The Antiquities Authority estimated that the finds, which currently spread over an area of some 100 acres, date to a period after the Second Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 C.E. Evidence suggests the neighborhood was affluent and religiously observant.

“In the digs, many stone tools and caches of coins were discovered, including a rare gold coin with the image of the Emperor Trajan,” Antiquities Authority official Rahel Bar-Natan said.

Barnea to get Israel Prize

The Israel Prize Committee announced Tuesday that it would honor Yediot Achronot’s top political pundit, Nahum Barnea, for his career in journalism at this year’s Independence Day ceremonies.

“Barnea always makes sure to be close to the action, in places of social turmoil, in times of war or terror attacks, and even when his presence there puts his life at risk,” the Israel Prize judges wrote. Barnea, 63, is widely considered one of Israel’s most influential journalists.

Palestinians ready kosher produce

Palestinian farmers are reportedly preparing for a windfall from sales of produce to Israelis who observe the Jewish law that requires Jewish-owned land to lie fallow. The next Jewish year, 5768, is shmitta, meaning that it falls at the end of a seven-year cycle ordained by the Torah and in which religiously observant Israelis are formally barred from raising or harvesting fruits and vegetables. Some ultra-Orthodox groups in Israel have been in talks with Palestinian officials about obtaining produce from the Gaza Strip as an alternative, the Israeli newspaper Hatzofeh reported Monday. The meetings reportedly were facilitated by the Israeli military, which pledged to expedite the merchandise’s transport out of Gaza..”

Leo at the Wall spurs a fracas

Police tried to limit access to the Western Wall Plaza late Monday when actor Leonardo DiCaprio, on an Israel tour, paid his respects along with his Israeli girlfriend, model Bar Refaeli. Paparazzi surged forward and were rebuffed violently by DiCaprio’s bodyguards. Two of the guards were arrested for assault, police said. Earlier Monday, DiCaprio and Refaeli made an after-hours visit to Yad Vashem. The actor’s arrival in Israel has prompted a media frenzy that has been stoked by the glitzy couple’s camera shyness.

Israel fires ambassador who was found drunk and bound

Jerusalem sources said Monday that Tsuriel Raphaeli, its ambassador to El Salvador, has been recalled after El Savaldoran police a couple of weeks ago found him drunk, bound and wearing only bondage paraphernalia. Raphaeli had been expected back in Israel due to family issues, the political sources said. The Foreign Ministry had no immediate word on who would replace him.

Report: Rabin assassin expects child

Ma’ariv reported Tuesday that Yitzhak Rabin’s jailed assassin Yigal Amir, who is serving a life sentence, impregnated his wife, Larissa Trimbobler, during a recent conjugal visit. Amir was jailed for murdering the Israeli prime minister in 1995, but only last year did the Prisons Service fully recognize his marriage to Trimbobler, which was performed in a proxy ceremony. Amir’s family had no immediate comment on the Ma’ariv report.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Israeli police want to charge Katsav for rape; U.S. funding Hamas opponents


Israeli police want to charge Katsav for rapeIsraeli police recommended indicting President Moshe Katsav on charges of rape and sexual harassment. Katsav rejected calls to resign, and his attorney said Monday morning that he will quit only if an indictment is submitted. Investigators presented their findings and recommendations to Attorney General Menachem Mazuz and senior officials in the State Prosecutor’s Office. The most serious charge is for the alleged rape of two women, but police also accused Katsav of purchasing dozens of gifts with money taken from the President’s Residence budget, Ha’aretz reported. Katsav’s attorney noted that the police recommendations have no legal validity because only the state prosecutor can decide on an indictment.

U.S. funding Hamas opponents

The United States has launched a funding campaign aimed at bolstering groups in the Palestinian Authority opposed to the Hamas government. Reuters reported over the weekend that the Bush administration has earmarked up to $42 million for overhauling Hamas rival Fatah, providing schools in the West Bank and Gaza Strip that offer an alternative to Hamas’ Islamist teachings, and bankrolling Palestinian journalists and watchdog groups that would monitor the Hamas government. The report cited official documentation and was tacitly confirmed by a U.S. envoy in the region. The report suggested that Washington is pursuing a “hearts and minds” campaign in the Palestinian Authority aimed at undermining Hamas and boosting the Fatah leader, President Mahmoud Abbas, who seeks peace talks with Israel.

Bush signs Darfur Act

President Bush signed the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act. Jewish groups led lobbying for the act, signed by Bush last Friday. The act bans dealing with Sudan until it abides by a peace treaty with tribes in the Darfur region and allows an international peacekeeping force. Government-allied Arab militias have slaughtered tens of thousands of people in the Darfur region, atrocities the Bush administration and Jewish groups have labeled a genocide.

Israel welcomes North Korea sanctions

Israel welcomed the U.N. Security Council resolution punishing North Korea for its nuclear testing. Israeli officials said Sunday that the unanimous Security Council decision to impose sanctions on Pyongyang in response to its controlled nuclear blast last week could send a message to Iran about its own atomic ambitions.”Iran, like North Korea, is a poor country. Such sanctions have a deterrent power,” one official said.Under the sanctions resolution passed over the weekend, arms shipments going in and out of North Korea are subject to monitoring, a step that could help stem the flow of missile and nuclear technology if applied to Iran, Israeli officials said.

Missiles said to be reaching Gaza

Palestinians are smuggling advanced shoulder-fired missiles into the Gaza Strip, a senior Israeli intelligence officer said. Brig. Gen. Yossi Beidetz told Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s Cabinet on Sunday that Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups have been bringing both anti-tank and light anti-aircraft missiles into Gaza in preparation for a major confrontation with Israel. The anti-aircraft missiles would complicate Israeli air force efforts to provide cover for ground troops operating in the coastal territory, Beidetz said. He added that Syria is still smuggling weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon, in violation of a U.N.-brokered cease-fire that ended this summer’s Israel-Hezbollah war.

EU backs forum on Anti-Semitism

The European Union endorsed a high-level conference on anti-Semitism in Bucharest next year. The endorsement was made at an annual meeting last week in Warsaw of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s human rights unit.”These OSCE conferences have become not only opportunities for political leaders to speak to the ongoing problem of anti-Semitism, but they focus attention and government action on steps to address it,” said the American Jewish Committee’s Andrew Baker, who attended the Warsaw meeting and lobbied for the Bucharest conference.

A final decision on the conference is due in December. Jewish groups have worried that the conference will be canceled; several countries wanted the OSCE, which includes 55 member states, to focus on other priorities. The conference would follow similar OSCE events in recent years in Vienna; Cordoba, Spain; and Berlin.

Turkey defends book fair selections

Turkish officials defended themselves against charges of choosing anti-Semitic books for a recent book fair in Germany. The Simon Wiesenthal Center complained last week that three anti-Semitic books were displayed at a Turkish Culture Ministry stand at the October fair in Frankfurt, one of the world’s largest book shows. The ministry said the Publishers Association chose the books, but the association said it was not responsible for the books at the ministry’s stand. The association also denied that any of the books on display was anti-Semitic, but the Wiesenthal Center noted they included an account of alleged Jewish plots against Turkey titled, “The Greater Israel Strategy,” and “Password Israel,” which claims that codes in the Torah show how Jews are planning World War III and the destruction of Turkey. Last year, “Mein Kampf” reportedly became a best seller in Turkey, and several anti-Israel books enjoyed popularity as well.

Russian Jews protest Hitler restaurant

Jewish leaders in a Russian region are protesting against the use of Adolf Hitler’s name by a new pub. The pub, set to open soon in the city of Ekaterinburg, is named Hitler Kaput. In a letter to the local mayor, leaders of the Jewish community said that any use of Hitler’s name to attract public attention is unacceptable. Authorities haven’t yet responded to the Jewish community.

Survivor, Author Normal Salsitz dies

Author Normal Salsitz died of pneumonia Oct. 11 in Boston at age 86. Salsitz, a Polish-born Jew, wrote “Against All Odds,” which tells the story of how he and his wife survived the Holocaust by pretending to be Christian. Salsitz received a false baptism certificate from a Polish priest and fought with the Polish underground against the Nazis. At one point, he killed a group of Polish partisans intent on murdering Jews.

Ukrainian leader coming not coming to Israel

Ukraine’s president will not visit Israel next month, contrary to reports. A press officer for Viktor Yuschenko said last Friday that earlier reports of a state visit to Israel in early November were “a newspaper hoax.” Earlier this month, some media reported from Berlin that Yuschenko announced his upcoming visit to Israel when he and Israel’s vice premier, Shimon Peres, received a prestigious international award in the German capital. A member of Yuschenko’s administration said that the visit is likely to take place at a later date but could not specify when. This is at least the third time in two years that a potential visit by Yuschenko to Israel has been postponed.Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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