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Lebanese Police Release Israeli-German Citizen


The Lebanese police have released Daniel Sharon, a citizen of both Israel and Germany who was arrested over two weeks ago as part of a murder investigation. A copy of Sharon's Israeli passport was reportedly found near a dead body in the capital city of Beirut.

Sharon converted to Islam at the age of 20, and regularly visited Lebanon and other Muslim countries as a tourist. He told reporters he identified as Muslim, and rooted for Hizbullah during the First Lebanon War.

Jerusalem Appears to be Stumbling Block

By Robert Berger (VOA-Jerusalem)

Jerusalem appears to be emerging as a major stumbling block in new peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Both Jews and Muslims are claiming the city's holy sites as their own.

A senior Palestinian official has thrown a wrench into peace talks by saying that the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, the holiest place in Judaism, belongs to Islam and the Palestinians.

The Palestinian Minister for Jerusalem Affairs Adnan Husseini said the Western Wall is a "Wakf" or Islamic Trust that must be returned to Palestinian control. He told Israel Radio that it is a supporting wall for the al-Aksa Mosque, the third holiest place in Islam. For Israel, the wall is the last remnant of the biblical Temple, and turning it over to the Palestinians is unthinkable.

As Israel and the Palestinians try to hammer out a declaration of principles to be presented at an international peace conference this year, Jerusalem is back on the negotiating table.

In a compromise proposal earlier this week, Israel offered to hand over some Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem to Palestinian control, though that would not include the Old City, where contested holy sites are located.

Israeli parliamentarian Reuven Rivlin, of the hawkish opposition Likud party, said the government made a mistake by negotiating on Jerusalem in the first place. He told Israel Radio that if you begin by offering Arab neighborhoods to the Palestinians then you end at the Western Wall. He said no Israeli leader has the right to negotiate over Jerusalem, which he said is the eternal capital of the Jewish people.

Reinforcing Palestinian demands, President Mahmoud Abbas said Israel must withdraw from all territory captured in the 1967 war, including Jerusalem's Old City. Israel's government insists that is a non-starter.

GOP Presidential Nominee Wannabe Endorses Elon's `Israeli Initiative'


Republican presidential candidate Sam Brownback has endorsed the new Israeli Initiative peace plan put forth by Knesset member Benny Elon, head of the National Union party.

Brownback's endorsement was announced at a Jerusalem press conference. "I think this is an exciting and bold proposal," Brownback said. "I'm delighted that Benny Elon has put this forward. I hope a number of people look at it very carefully… It moves away from the idea of land for peace – which has not worked. We have tried this in multiple ways – the Oslo Accords and others. And it just simply has not worked."

Brownback cited both Gaza and southern Lebanon as examples of relinquishing land that did not bring peace or stability. "Peace did not come. In fact, the opposite came: more war, more bloodshed, more problems…The re-engagement of Jordan and not the creation of a separate Palestinian state is a positive discussion and a moving forward toward a long-term status for the Palestinian people, for the Israeli people and for Jerusalem remaining the united, undivided capital of Israel. I think those things are important."

The senator qualified his statements by saying that he did not support all of the details of the proposal: "I don't think we should be doing away with the Palestinian Authority in total. I think there needs to be some organizing capacity for the Palestinians. But here is a realistic proposal and a different way forward, so that we don't go back to old solutions that haven't been working."

Elon told those present that an urgent campaign is needed to convey how important the Arab refugees who fled in 1948 are to the continuation of the state of war against Israel. "The public must be made to realize that they completely believe that Israel is a passing phase that will come to an end and allow them to return to Jaffa and Haifa". He warned that they are being saved as pawns by the Arab world to activate as the final move in the plan to liquidate the Jewish State.

He noted that Fatah chief and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas refuses to relinquish the so-called "right of return" in his negotiations with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, ahead of the U.S.-backed Annapolis summit.

"We stole from them, according to what they say - their homes, their gardens, their olive trees. We have to take the lead in rehabilitating them with assistance from other entities and states," Elon said. He sees the rehabilitation of the refugees by the international community, instead of the UN, which currently oversees the maintenance of the camps, as central in ending the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Notable in Elon's new plan is the removal of the concept of transfer, a central part of his Moledet faction's platform. "There are Palestinians that are not in refugees camps," he said at the press conference. "There are Palestinians that were here hundreds of years and have nice houses in Judea and Samaria. They have to stay there. And they can have again Jordanian passports, and people in airports all over the world will treat them with respect. Not like now when they come with passports from the Palestinian Authority and everyone is running away – everyone is afraid."

The Other Side of the Faucet


The level of the Dead Sea has been dropping at an increasing rate in recent years. It is now 420.47 meters below sea level, 15 centimeters lower than last month, the Hydrological Service said.

The Dead Sea's level has been dropping 1.2 meters a year, and this drop has had destructive geological and environmental consequences. At the top of the list is the increasing number of sinkholes along the shore. The sinkholes make it difficult to construct important infrastructures and subsequently endanger the people visiting and residing in the region.

Another destructive consequence is the increased force of flooding water from the mountains, which cause millions of shekels of damage every year. It is also becoming much more difficult to access the Dead Sea's shores. Anyone who visits the area will immediately notice that the Dead Sea has become a disaster area.

Contrary to prevailing opinion, the Dead Sea Works is only a secondary cause of the sea's dropping level. Only 15 to 20 percent of the drop is believed to be associated with the water that the factories on both the Israeli and Jordanian sides pump into the salt-evaporation ponds south of the Dead Sea.

The main reason for the rapid drop in the Dead Sea's level is a reduced flow of fresh water from Lake Kinneret and the Jordan Valley. Closing the Deganya dam in the south of the Kinneret, building waterworks that diverted various rivers and streams flowing into the Jordan and the sea and the fast evaporation has led to an annual deficit of more than a billion cubic meters at the Dead Sea. This amount is equivalent to half of Israel's annual water consumption.

The most fashionable solution to the problem, which President Shimon Peres has been promoting in recent years, is the "peace canal," which would run from the Gulf of Eilat via the Arava to the Dead Sea. On the way, the water would be used to produce energy and desalination for both Israel and Jordan. The entire project would be financed by generous foreign contributions.

This solution is dubious, at the very least, both environmentally and economically. Nobody knows for certain what will happen when water from the Red Sea reaches the Dead Sea. Some scenarios see plaster formation, which would color the Dead Sea white, or the formation of an upper water layer, which would not include Dead Sea salt and minerals; the sea would then lose its value as a health and tourist attraction.

Another scenario predicts a fierce stench rising from the sea or the sudden appearance of flora and fauna in the Dead Sea. The canal could also endanger the ecological balance of the coral reef in the Red Sea and the ground water along the Arava.

Another problem with the peace canal is that it would isolate the Dead Sea from Israel's water system. An alternative solution is to reconnect the Dead Sea to the water system by opening the Jordan and Kinneret dams and renewing the water flow to the Dead Sea. But this plan, which would also lead to the rehabilitation of the Jordan River, is still on the desk of the Green organizations and not in the hands of the decision-makers.

The Kinneret's water could be replaced by increased desalination along the Mediterranean. However, this solution requires a dramatic change in thought regarding the use and recycling of water in Israel. Having fresh water flow into the Dead Sea would force the Israeli public to understand that the Dead Sea is the other end of the kitchen faucet and that saving water is vital to preserving this unique natural treasure.

Perhaps the government doesn't believe in the public's maturity, and prefers the grandiose canal solution. But in view of the difficulties, the government should at least conduct a thorough examination of the alternative solution.

The 'Jews of Alaska'

By (Book Review)

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad didn't read the book entitled "The Yiddish Policeman's Union," a 400-page book authored by Michael Chabon, the most original and captivating author among the middle generation of Jewish American authors.

"The Yiddish Policeman's Union" was published in the US in the spring of this year and immediately became a hit, not just among the Jewish community. This is a dark, depressing book that is difficult to read; it chokes the reader.

Here is its essence: In 1940 – and this is the only historic fact in the book – American Interior Secretary Harold Ickes proposes that European Jews living under Nazi occupation be allowed to temporarily settle in Alaska. His proposal is brought to Congress and is rejected. However let's imagine, Chabon fantasizes, that Congress actually approved the proposal. Let's imagine that the gates of Alaska (or to be more precise, an island off the Alaska coast in a town called Sitka) opened up to two million Jewish refugees who arrived there during the war.

And what happens next? From this point on nothing good happens to the Jews. In August 1948, writes Chabon, Jerusalem falls and masses of Jews are slaughtered and thrown into the sea… US Congress is deeply affected by the Holocaust and the barbaric way in which Zionism is being wiped out. Nonetheless, its members are practical people…finally; Congress grants the Jewish community in Alaska the status of "a temporary federal province" and allows hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees from Palestine to settle there.

The borders of the temporary Jewish province are mapped out so as not to harm the indigenous inhabitants, yet despite this the relations between the local tribes and the Jews are tense and bitter, culminating in bloody riots. The Jews are only issued travel documents that limit their movement, rather than, God forbid American passports. After 60 years, Congress decides that the "Jewish province" should be returned to full American control and that the Jews will have to pack their belongings and seek their fortunes.

Chabon's plot unfolds during the few months leading up to the "return," whose real implications are not evident to the bewildered Alaskan Jews: They are thrown back into the large black lake of the Diaspora.

In his description of daily life in the Jewish province, Chabon lets his persecuted Jewish imagination run wild. The inhabitants speak in a Yiddish dialect amongst themselves; sometimes they switch to English peppered with Yiddish. The towns, streets, neighborhoods and the public buildings bear names of Ashkenazi Jewish figures and places. There are various groups among the Jews of Sitka (four million in 2007) such as the veteran founders, who are known as the polar bears, and a large strictly Orthodox population divided into rabbinical courtyards.

At first glance, "The Yiddish Policeman's Union" is a detective story. It begins with the finding of the body of the son of a Hassidic rabbi, a drug dealer and a "righteous man" at the time. An intense and quick investigation of the murder gets underway. The investigation exposes the reader to the fabric of Jewish life in Alaska: A miserable, meager, depressing, and hopeless life. They live in a freezing ghetto. The Jews of Alaska in Michael Chabon's book are trash in the eyes of the American administration and do not exist at all in the eyes of the world at large.

The attempt to set up a "Land of Zion in Alaska" failed. The Jews do not flock there and the Americans refuse to grant its residents permanent status; the presence of Jews there only intensifies the hatred towards them. The Jews, on their part, do not give up the idea of Eretz Israel: A handful of these Jews continue to dream of the return to Zion, the Temple, the Temple Mount and of an "airlift to Jerusalem," even at the cost of terror and bloodshed. The author ultimately focuses on these people's aspirations.

Michael Chabon is 43 and a winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 2001. He has written finer books than "The Yiddish Policeman's Union," yet this is his deep-set Zionist proclamation. In one of his interviews he admitted that he had always been attracted to the question of what the world would look like without the State of Israel. He provides a resolved answer in his book: Without the State of Israel the fate of the Jewish people would be bad and bitter. Without the State of Israel there is no future for the Jewish People, neither in Alaska nor anywhere else.

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