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Hizbullah Offers Bishara Asylum in Beirut


A senior Hizbullah official said Thursday that a former Arab Israeli Knesset member accused by Israel of aiding the Shiite group during last summer's war would be welcomed as a political refugee in Lebanon.

Israel has accused Azmi Bishara of tipping Hizbullah about possible targets during the 34-day conflict when the Shiite guerrillas fired thousands of rockets towards the Jewish State. "Should Azmi Bishara decide to seek political asylum here, we will welcome him on Lebanese soil," said Dr Ahmad Mali, a member of Hizbullah's political council.

Olmert Faces Knesset Opposition Amid Calls for Resignation

By Jim Teeple (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israel's prime minister faced his critics in the Knesset one day after rebels in his own party called on him to resign over a report that criticizes his leadership during last year's war in Lebanon. And more than 100,000 protesters gathered in Tel Aviv late Thursday to also demand Ehud Olmert's resignation.

Olmert's battle for political survival shifted to Israel's parliament, where opposition leaders blasted his handling of last year's war in Lebanon. At a special session called to discuss the Winograd Commission report that criticized Olmert and other senior leaders for not having a proper war plan, opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu of the right-wing Likud Party added his voice to the calls for Olmert to step down. He said Israelis want a leader in their prime minister and one that will inspire their trust, adding that it was time for new elections.

While polls show most Israelis want Olmert to step aside, they also show a majority of Israelis are not eager for new elections. Calls for new elections came from other politicians like Yossi Beilin who heads the left-wing Meretz Party.

"I am not ruling out an option of elections if Olmert does not step down," he said. "For me the first priority is that Olmert does not continue as prime minister of Israel, but if that does not happen I will support elections."

But Olmert said he has no intention of stepping down, a message he delivered to his Kadima Party members late Wednesday, successfully defusing a party revolt led by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni who called on the prime minister to step aside.

Olmert said he intends to stay in office to implement the recommendations of the Winograd Commission that so heavily criticized him earlier this week. With polls showing Kadima losing nearly all of its seats if new elections are called, Olmert's parliamentary colleagues appear willing to give him more time to save the party's fortunes.

Israeli Envoy: Syrian Build-up is the Strongest Since 1973 War


Israel's Ambassador in Washington said Syria is developing its most serious threat against Israel since it attacked Israel in the Yom Kippur War of 1973. "We see Syria developing a very serious threat on the northern border," Ambassador Sallai Meridor told journalists in Washington on Wednesday. He said the threat is manifest in military activity, training, great investments in military equipment - and the build-up of a large arsenal of Scud missiles.

"In the past," Meridor said, "the assumption was that the Syrians' tanks and air force were not among the most advanced. Now, however, we are concerned that they might think that with a large arsenal of rockets that can reach everywhere in Israel, they have the capacity... to threaten us."

The last time Israel's north-eastern neighbor threatened Israel so fiercely build-up was the 1973 Yom Kippur War. That war was set off when Syria and Egypt simultaneously attacked Israel on the holiest day of the Jewish year.

"We hope they do not have offensive intentions," Meridor said, "but we cannot be sure." The ambassador said that Israel is attempting to pass "calming messages" to Syria, but that Syria continues to "thwart attempts to create attempts to create an atmosphere that will promote peace."

Syria has demanded for 40 years that Israel relinquish control over the Golan Heights - the mountainous area from which Syria often launched attacks against Israeli communities below until Israel captured the Golan in the 1967 Six Day War.

Long one of Israel's most implacable enemies, Syria continues to provide assistance, money and training to Hamas, Hizbullah and other terrorist groups.

Students Call to Continue Strike

By Ha'aretz and

Student Union leaders called on students to continue striking despite a warning by university heads that those students who do not return to their classes on Sunday risk losing the entire semester.

University leaders are "shooting themselves in the foot," student leaders said. They called on students to continue the strike "with determination and courage," and to ignore threats from university and government officials.

Students have been on strike for three weeks in protest of the Shochat Committee, which they say will raise tuition. A recent survey from Tel Aviv University showed that only 52 percent of students supported the strike, with many saying it is ineffective or mistaken.

The committee of university heads demanded Thursday that students cease their strike and return to classes on Sunday, stating that students that do not do so risk losing their credits for the current semester. The universities instructed their lecturers to teach on Sunday "even if only one student shows up."

"The party is over," said Prof. Moshe Kaveh, chairman of the committee of university heads, "the students can demonstrate wherever they please, but right now we want to salvage what is left of this semester." According to Kaveh, the continuation of the strike would cause "irreversible damage."

The leaders of the student strike responded by stating that the students would continue striking and, if need be, block the entrances to university campuses. The committee of university heads announced Thursday that the current university academic semester would be extended by two weeks as a result of the student strike.

Reagan Diary Reveals Concerns About Israel

By &

Israel's military actions in the early 1980s greatly unsettled Ronald Reagan, diary entries by the late U.S. president revealed. Vanity Fair published excerpts this week of a daily journal in which Reagan mused on everything from Hollywood films to Washington's foreign policy.

The tactics of then-Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin appear to have been especially unsettling for Reagan, a devout Christian. "Got word of Israel bombing of Iraq -- nuclear reactor," he wrote in response to the 1981 airstrike on Osirak. "I swear I believe Armageddon is near." But he added, "We are not turning on Israel -- that would be an invitation for the Arabs to attack."

A year later, Reagan called Begin to complain about Israel's war on Palestinian terrorists in Lebanon and the civilian toll it exacted. "I was angry -- I told him it had to stop or our entire future relationship was endangered," Reagan wrote. "I used the word Holocaust deliberately and said the symbol of war was becoming a picture of a seven-month-old baby with its arms blown off."

Reagan wrote in his diary in 1982, "[Minister of Defense Ariel] Sharon is the bad guy who seemingly looks forward to a war." He wrote that comment during the war in Lebanon. Reagan also cast doubt on whether Begin would honor his agreement to hand over Yamit and the Sinai to Egypt. "Begin may renege on the Sinai although he swears he won't," he wrote in his diary.

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