My dear friend Tsedek has a great post about social activist Sa'adia Marciano.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday rejected Hamas' offer of a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, saying the government would not hold talks with the Islamist group until it recognizes Israel. Olmert's comments came as three Qassam rockets fired by Palestinian militants struck the western Negev, causing no damage or injuries. "The State of Israel has no interest in negotiating with entities that do not recognize the Quartet demands," said Olmert during the weekly cabinet meeting. .. Defense Minister Ehud Barak briefed the cabinet ministers on security developements in Gaza and, contrary to Olmert, hinted at the possibility of a cease-fire with Hamas. "If they stop firing, we won't be opposed to quiet," the defense minister said. "Hamas' consideration of a hudna [truce] stems from our effective operations and targeted killings." .. Defense Minister Ehud Barak is scheduled to meet Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Sharm el-Sheikh on Wednesday to discuss efforts to reach a temporary truce between Israel and Hamas. .. Dr Ahmad Yousif, a Political advisor to the deposed Palestinian Prime Minister Isma'il Haniyeh said on Saturday that Hamas movement would be willing to reach a ceasefire with Israel including stoppage of launching homemade projectiles if Israel lifts the siege on Gaza Strip, opens the crossings and end the humanitarian crisis. Yousif told Ma'an via telephone that some international sides suggested a ceasefire which will increase the chances for dialogue in order to end the conflict. However, he said, that would need a period of appeasement during which the siege should be lifted and Israel's grip on Gaza Strip should come to an end. Yousif said, "We do not refuse appeasement aiming to end the boycott, however, that appeasement can not be for nothing." .. Five Kassam rockets fired by Palestinians from the Gaza Strip landed in Israel on Sunday with the latest rocket landing near a building in central Sderot after it had apparently failed to explode. Derweil wurde der Sufa-crossing zum Gazastreifen nach monatelanger Schließung wieder geöffnet. ++++ Isabel Kershner: Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel rejected Sunday overtures by Hamas, the militant Islamic group ruling Gaza, for discussions about a temporary cease-fire. At the same time, Olmert's government raised the ire of Palestinian representatives from the West Bank, with whom Israel is embarking on negotiations for a permanent peace, seeking budget approval to build more housing for Jewish residents in areas the Palestinians claim for their future state....
Gaza's tiny Christian community is keeping a low profile during Christmas this year, traumatized by the killing of a prominent activist after Hamas' takeover of the coastal territory. Few Christmas trees are on display, churches are holding austere services and hundreds of Christians hope to travel to the West Bank to celebrate the holiday in Bethlehem. Many say they don't plan on returning to Gaza. "We have a very sad Christmas," said Essam Farah, acting pastor of Gaza's Baptist Church, which has canceled its annual children's party because of the grim atmosphere. About 3,000 Christians live in Gaza, an overwhelmingly conservative Muslim society of 1.5 million people. The two religions have generally had cordial relations over the year.
The General Commander of the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, the armed group affiliated to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine PFLP, Mu'in Al-Masri aged 40 died on Saturday night of his wounds sustained in an internal explosion in Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip months ago, Ma'an's reporter said. Palestinian medical sources mentioned that Al-Masri was hospitalized after he was seriously injured months ago, yet he died last night of his injury. +++ The Israeli forces on Sunday morning arrested a leader of Fatah's Al-Aqsa Brigades in the northern West Bank village Muthallath Ash-Shuhada south of Jenin after raiding his home, and injuring him. Ma'an's reporter quoted eyewitnesses as saying that more than 12 Israeli military vehicles raided home of Rabi' Asa'sa at 2:30 am and called the residents through loudspeakers to evacuate the home. After the evacuation, the Israeli troops stormed the house using police dogs and shot Asa'sa in the foot before they seized him. Aus Hebron werden sieben zusätzliche Verhaftungen gemeldet.
The number of new immigrants arriving in Israel in 2007 was 19,700 - a decline of 6 percent over last year, according to the Absorption Ministry end-of-the-year statistics released on Sunday. This is the lowest number of immigrants since 1989, after the wave of immigration following the fall of the Iron Curtain. Forecasts for 2008 do not show an increase in newcomers.
A position paper published Sunday by the Reut Institute states that Israel must incorporate Arab citizens in its negotiations with the Palestinian Authority and with the Palestinian Liberation Organization, and be prepared for shifting political views within the Arab public. The position paper submitted by the Reut Institute, an Israeli think tank which advises different government offices, also warns that a change in Arab public opinion could limit the PA representatives in their negotiations with Israel. [Der Text erscheint wohl bald hier auf english]
The United States will conduct confidential assessments of whether Israel and the Palestinians are meeting their peacemaking commitments and share the results privately with the parties, U.S. and Western officials said. Israel has sought to keep the U.S. process of judging compliance with the long-stalled "road map" peace plan largely secret. Palestinians say they favour disclosure of judgments on whether Israel is halting all settlement activity and whether the Palestinians are curbing militants as the plan demands. Morgen treffen sich die Herrschaften wieder... The Israeli and Palestinian Authority negotiating teams, headed by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Ahmed Qureia, respectively, are to meet tomorrow ahead of Tuesday's meeting between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and PA President Mahmoud Abbas. However, a senior adviser to Olmert said Israel may come into conflict with the United States over increased pressure by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to advance the talks. ... Israel has expanded plans to build new homes in a disputed East Jerusalem neighborhood as well as in a nearby settlement, according to the Housing Ministry's proposed budget for 2008. Israel angered Palestinians and drew criticism from the United States earlier this month when it announced plans to build 307 new apartments in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Homa. However, the proposed budget includes funding for the construction of 500 apartments in Har Homa as well as 240 apartments in the nearby settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim. Israel intends to hold on to Ma'aleh Adumim, home to more than 30,000 settlers, in any final peace deal with the Palestinians. Minister for Jerusalem Affairs Rafi Eitan told Army Radio that Israel never promised to halt construction within the municipal borders of Jerusalem, whose eastern sector Israel annexed in 1967 after capturing it in the Six-Day War.
The security cabinet approved Sunday funding for the development of the "Iron Dome" rocket defense system, which is designed to intercept short- and medium-range rockets such as Qassams and Katyushas. Developing the system is expected to cost NIS 811 million over the next five years. According to the defense establishment estimate, the first operational version of the system will be deployed in Sderot in two and a half years. + Israel Beiteinu on Sunday has decided to donate NIS 100 million from its budget for the fortification of hospitals in Ashkelon, Nahariya, Safed and Tiberias. During a press conference, hospital officials expressed their satisfaction over Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman's decision to donate the money.
Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the leader of the U.S. Jewish Reform movement, lashed out at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations for reaffirming its support for a united Jerusalem, saying the U.S. Jewish community must not oppose Israeli compromise on the capital.
Akiva Eldar, "Secular settlement being swallowed up by religious outposts": The report of an illegal outpost on Palestinian land is already a dog-bites-man type of story, but the tale of Tal Menashe and Heinanit has all the makings of a man-bites-dog tale. Tal Menashe is an illegal outpost that has taken over a more veteran Jewish settlement, Heinanit, on the other side of the Green Line. The settlers of Heinanit have hired none other than attorney Michael Sfard, who works for the leftist organizations Peace Now and Yesh Din and is despised by the Yesha council of settlements, to represent them. Last week, Sfard approached the attorney general, the Interior Ministry and the Shomron Regional Council, to demand that the local government at Heinanit not be allowed to fall into the hands of the neighboring outpost.
Joshua Landis, "The US has NO Lebanon policy" + Raghida Dergham, "Lebanon is a Good Example for Removing the Impression of Suspicious Deals from the Bush Administration" + Mostafa Zein, "Elliot Abrams victories in Lebanon"
Local politicians dismissed on Sunday a French offer to host a meeting between Speaker Nabih Berri, parliamentary majority leader MP Saad Hariri Saad-Hariri-Profile Sep-07 and Change and Reform bloc leader MP Michel Aoun. France had made the offer over the weekend to host the inter-Lebanese dialogue in a last-ditch effort to resolve the political crisis and elect a president.
Karen DeYoung: The Iranian government has decided "at the most senior levels" to rein in the violent Shiite militias it supports in Iraq, a move reflected in a sharp decrease in sophisticated roadside bomb attacks over the past several months, according to the State Department's top official on Iraq. Tehran's decision does not necessarily mean the flow of those weapons from Iran has stopped, but the decline in their use and in overall attacks "has to be attributed to an Iranian policy decision," David M. Satterfield, Iraq coordinator and senior adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, said in an interview.