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Students to Begin Hunger Strike


Students at Ben Gurion University in Be'er Sheva announced Tuesday that they plan to begin a hunger strike.

Their announcement came as university heads reopened classes, saying that any students who chose not to attend could lose the semester. Students have been striking for 25 days in protest of government plans to raise tuition and change the structure of higher education.

Hamas Warns Israel: You'll Return from Gaza in a Coffin


Any Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip will be met with a harsh response on the part of the Palestinian organizations, a Hamas spokesperson said Tuesday.

While the government and the defense establishment are discussing an escalation in the Israeli response to the Kassam rockets fired from Gaza, Hamas is threatening to launch a tough war against the IDF, if it invades the Strip. "The Israelis will suffer heavy losses if they launch a wide-scale offensive," the Hamas spokesperson added.

The other organizations also threatened Israel with a painful response. A spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees made it clear that an Israeli operation in the Strip "will not be a field trip." The spokesman, Abu Abir, told Ynet that IDF soldiers would return to their families "tidy, but in coffins."

The Palestinian website al-Madar reported Tuesday that Abu Ubaida, a spokesman for Hamas' military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, promised to prepare "surprises" for the Israelis if they launch a ground operation in Gaza.

"These surprises will be much bigger than those Hizbullah prepared for Israel," he was quoted as saying. "We shall not have mercy on the tanks and on the soldiers. They will all be in the range of fire," and promising to greet the Israeli planes with "new weapons."

Abu Ubaida also warned, according to the website, that an Israeli operation may lead to the execution of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. However, Hamas later denied this report.

Barak: Netanyahu Fears Me


(Likud chairman) Binyamin Netanyahu would prefer to run against any Labor chairmanship candidate other than myself, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak said Tuesday.

Barak, who said earlier that he would be willing to sit with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in the same government, met with several dozen Labor supporters at Kibbutz Sdot Yam.

Barak said that if Olmert doesn't resign by the May 28th Labor primaries, he will push for early elections; "Under my leadership Labor will join coalition with Kadima only if Olmert agrees to step down."

He said that Labor must choose someone who can beat Netanyahu in the elections and who is experienced in matters of the state and security. "I bring with me a bit more baggage in these fields, and am therefore asking you for your trust."

The former prime minister added that if Labor continues viewing itself as a leftist party, we would be very pleased with ourselves, but we would not win. "If you ask Bibi (Netanyahu) which Labor candidate he would rather face, he would definitely not say Barak."

The former prime minister did not make due with slamming his rivals within the party and leveled criticism at the government as well. "We would expect the government to have one plan of action, not three or four. One person supports the Saudi peace initiative without understanding its meaning, while another backs the Hong Kong plan, without knowing whether or not it could be implemented within the next 10 years.

"Israel cannot get dragged into international initiatives without putting a plan of its own on the table," Barak said. He then praised the IDF's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, which was conducted under his leadership.

"It was not entirely unilateral, because it was carried out in accordance with agreements we had reached with the United Nations," he said. "The fact that we withdrew to the border gives us the legitimacy to act. This withdrawal ended a 15-year tragedy and the security zone didn't really protect the northern communities."

According to the Labor chairmanship candidate, the pace of Hizbullah's advancement was at its slowest following the army's withdrawal from Lebanon… Now, over the past year, they are developing at the fastest pace ever. After the withdrawal Hizbullah members sat with their rifles under parasols; with the adequate preparation, the IDF could have crushed 2,000 of them."

French President Sarkozy's Jewish Roots

By Raanan Eliaz (

France's new president, Nicolas Sarkozy, lost 57 members of his family to the Nazis and comes from a long line of Jewish and Zionist leaders and heroes, writes Raanan Eliaz.

In an interview given by Sarkozy in 2004, he expressed an extraordinary understanding of the plight of the Jewish people for a home: "Should I remind you the visceral attachment of every Jew to Israel, as a second mother homeland? There is nothing outrageous about it. Every Jew carries within him a fear passed down through generations, and he knows that if one day he will not feel safe in his country, there will always be a place that would welcome him. And this is Israel."

Sarkozy's sympathy and understanding is most probably a product of his upbringing. It is well known that Sarkozy's mother was born to the Mallah family, one of the oldest Jewish families of Salonika, Greece. Additionally, many may be surprised to learn that his yet-to-be-revealed family history involves a true and fascinating story of leadership, heroism and survival.

It remains to be seen whether his personal history will affect his foreign policy and France's role in the Middle East conflict.

In the 15th century, the Mallah family (in Hebrew: messenger or angel) escaped the Spanish Inquisition to Provence, France and moved about 100 years later to Salonika. In Greece, several family members became prominent Zionist leaders, active in the local and national political, economic, social and cultural life.

To this day many Mallahs are still active Zionists around the world. Sarkozy's grandfather, Aron Mallah, nicknamed Beniko, was born in 1890. Beniko's uncle Moshe was a well-known rabbi and a devoted Zionist who, in 1898 published and edited El Avenir, the leading paper of the Zionist national movement in Greece at the time.

His cousin, Asher, was a senator in the Greek Senate and in 1912 he helped guarantee the establishment of the Technion as the elite technological university in Haifa, Israel.

In 1919 he was elected as the first president of the Zionist Federation of Greece and he headed the Zionist Council for several years. In the 1930's he helped Jews flee to Israel, to which he himself immigrated in 1934.

Another of Beniko's cousins, Peppo Mallah, was a philanthropist for Jewish causes who served in the Greek Parliament, and in 1920 he was offered, but declined, the portfolio as Greece's Minister of Finance. After the establishment of the State of Israel he became the country's first diplomatic envoy to Greece.

In 1917 a great fire destroyed parts of Salonika and damaged the family estate. Many Jewish-owned properties, including the Mallah's, were expropriated by the Greek government. Jewish population emigrated from Greece and much of the Mallah family left Salonika for France, America and Israel.

Sarkozy's grandfather, Beniko, immigrated to France with his mother. When in France Beniko converted to Catholicism and changed his name to Benedict in order to marry a French Christian girl named Adale Bouvier. They had two children, Susanne and Andre. Although Benedict integrated fully into French society, he remained close to his Jewish family, origin and culture.

Knowing he was still considered Jewish by blood, during World War II he and his family hid in Marcillac la Croisille in western France. During the Holocaust, many of the Mallahs who stayed in Salonika or moved to France were deported to concentration and extermination camps.

In total, 57 family members were murdered by the Nazis. Testimonies reveal that several revolted against the Nazis and one, Buena Mallah, was the subject of Nazi medical experiments at the Birkenau concentration camp.

In 1950 Benedict's daughter, Andree Mallah, married Pal Nagy Bosca y Sarkozy, a descendent of a Hungarian aristocratic family. The couple had three sons Guillaume, Nicolas and Francois. The marriage failed and they divorced in 1960, so Andree raised her three boys close to their grandfather, Benedict.

Nicolas was especially close to Benedict, who was like a father to him. In his biography, Sarkozy tells he admired his grandfather, and through hours spent of listening to his stories of the Nazi occupation, the Marquis (French resistance), De Gaulle and the D-day, Benedict bequeathed to Nicolas his political convictions.

Sarkozy's family lived in Paris until Benedict's death in 1972, at which point they moved to Neuilly-sur-Seine to be closer to the boys' father, Pal (who changed his name to Paul) Sarkozy. Various memoirs accounted Paul as a father who did not spend much time with the children or help the family monetarily.

Nicolas had to sell flowers and ice cream in order to pay for his studies. However, his fascination with politics led him to become the city's youngest mayor and to rise to the top of French and world politics. The rest is history.

It may be a far leap to consider that Sarkozy's Jewish ancestry may have any bearing on his policies in regard to Israel. However, many expect his presidency to bring a dramatic change not only in France's domestic affairs, but also in the country's foreign policy in the Middle East.

One cannot overestimate the magnitude of the election of the first French president born after World War II, whose politics seem to represent a new dynamic after decades of old-guard Chirac and Mitterrand.

There is even a reason to believe that Sarkozy, often mocked as "the American friend" and blamed for ˜ultra-liberal" worldviews, will lean towards a more Atlantics policy.

Nevertheless, there are several reasons that any expectations for a drastic change in the country's Middle East policy, or foreign policy in general, should be downplayed.

First, one must bear in mind that France's new president will spend the lion's share of his time dealing with domestic issues such as the country's stagnated economy, its social cohesiveness and the rising integration-related crime rate. When he finds time to deal with foreign affairs, Sarkozy will have to devote most of his energy to protecting France's standing in an ever-involved European Union.

In his dealings with the US, Sarkozy will most likely prefer to engage on less explosive agenda-items than the Middle East. Second, France's foreign policy stems from the nation's interests, rooted in reality and influenced by a range of historic, political, strategic and economic considerations.

Since Sarkozy's landing at the Elysee on May 16 will not change those, France's foreign policy ship will not tilt so quickly under a new captain. A third reason why expectations for a drastic change in France's position in the Middle East may be naive is the significant weight the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs exerts over the country's policies and agenda. There, non-elected bureaucrats tend to retain an image of Israel as a destabilizing element in the Middle East rather then the first line of defense of democracy.

Few civil servants in Quai d' Orsay would consider risking France' interests or increasing chances for "a clash of civilizations" in order to help troubled Israel or Palestine to reach peace.

It is a fair to predict that France will stay consistent with its support in establishing a viable Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, existing side by side with a peaceful Israel.

How to get there, if at all, will not be set by Sarkozy's flagship but rather he will follow the leadership of the US and the EU. Not much new policy is expected regarding Iran, on which Sarkozy has already voiced willingness to allow development of civilian nuclear capabilities, alongside tighter sanctions on any developments with military potency.

One significant policy modification that could actually come through under Sarkozy is on the Syrian and Lebanese fronts. The new French president is not as friendly to Lebanon as was his predecessor, furthermore, as the Minister of the Interior; Sarkozy even advocated closer ties between France and Syria.

Especially if the later plays the cards of talking-peace correctly, Sarkozy may increase pressure on Israel to evacuate the Golan Heights in return for a peace deal with Assad.

Despite the above, although Sarkozy's family roots will not bring France closer to Israel, the president's personal Israeli friends may. As a Minister of Interior, Sarkozy shared much common policy ground with former Israeli Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu.

The two started to develop a close friendship not long ago and it is easy to observe similarities not only in their ideology and politics, but also in their public image. If Netanyahu returns to Israel's chief position it will be interesting to see whether their personal dynamic will lead to a fresh start for Israel and France, and a more constructive European role in the region.

Raanan Eliaz is a former Director at the Israeli National Security Council and the Hudson Institute, Washington D.C. He is currently a PhD candidate at the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium, and a consultant on European-Israeli Affairs.

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