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Syria will Attend Annapolis


Channel 2 TV news said Sunday evening that Syria would attend the one-day summit at Annapolis next Tuesday.

Syria will have its own state representative at the conference. The USA has apparently changed its attitude towards Syria and is willing to treat it with less suspicion, if it cuts its ties with Iran. Syria seems to feel it has more to gain by participating in the diplomatic process than by staying out of it.

After Jordanian King Abdullah II visited Syrian President Assad Sunday, Assad issued a statement supporting Mahmoud Abbas' leadership and a two-state solution.

Israeli Officials: US Urges West Bank Settlement Freeze

By Robert Berger (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israeli officials said Sunday that the United States is pushing Israel to offer a key concession to the Palestinians as a long-waited peace conference approaches.

The officials said the U.S. is pressing Israel to declare a complete freeze on construction in West Bank settlements. Israeli officials said that message was delivered to aides of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert who visited Washington last week.

The Bush administration has been meeting with Israeli and Palestinian officials in hopes of laying the groundwork for an international peace conference in Annapolis, Md. The conference is expected to focus on the creation of a Palestinian state, and if it is successful, formal peace talks could resume afterwards.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said a settlement freeze is a step in the right direction, but he doubts that Israel will comply. "As far as President Bush calling upon Israel to stop settlement activities, it's time to turn these calls into deeds," he said.

In the run up to the planned summit, the Bush administration has been working to give a boost to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who was weakened after the Islamic terrorist group Hamas routed his Fatah forces in June and seized control of the Gaza Strip. Abbas now heads a more moderate government in the West Bank.

Israeli media reports said Israel is prepared to declare a settlement freeze, as called for in the internationally backed "Roadmap" peace plan. But Israel believes the Palestinians must also keep their part of the deal and crack down on militant groups.

Danny Ayalon, a former Israeli ambassador to Washington, said what is missing is reciprocity from Abbas, who is also known as Abu Mazen. "I think what Israel is doing is really a gesture to bolster the regime of Abu Mazen, and in a way to kind of sweeten the deal for him in order to go to Annapolis," said Ayalon. "But they [the Palestinians] should do something in return, and the least of which is to really fight terror in an effective way."

Olmert is due to meet with Abbas on Monday to try to narrow the gaps on a document on Palestinian statehood that will be presented at the peace conference.

Livni Under Fire for Saying PA State is Home for Israeli-Arabs


Is Israel a Jewish State? The question is putting secular-Zionists to the test. Israeli-Arab Knesset member Ahmed Tibi termed the Israeli demand that the Palestinian Authority recognize Israel as a Jewish State as "chutzpah" (unmitigated nerve).

The latest war of words over the cultural-ethnic nature of the State of Israel began when Prime Minister Ehud Olmert demanded that the Palestinian Authority's Annapolis negotiating team recognize Israel as a Jewish country. This, of course, is the basis of Israel's Declaration of Independence, as well as the axiomatic raison d'être of Israel.

However, PA negotiators refused to recognize this, explaining that they need not recognize anything more than Israel's political definition as a country. "I know why you want us to say it's purely Jewish," PA negotiator Yasser Abed Rabbo said, "in order to make sure there is no room for any refugees. Why should I do that?"

In this, Israelis would agree with him: The demand for Arab recognition as a Jewish state is in order to protect itself from a deluge of Arab "refugees" and their descendants, which would endanger Israel's existence as a Jewish homeland. Even Israel's political left agrees that the PA's demand to admit these Arabs into its borders is untenable.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni then fired the next volley, saying at a Sunday afternoon press conference, "It must be clear that Israel is a national home for the Jewish People, and that it is a democratic, Jewish state. Every person elected to the Knesset must accept these principles."

Livni further said, "The Palestinian state to be established will not be a solution just for the Palestinians who live in Judea and Samaria. It is designed to provide a comprehensive national solution - for those living in Judea and Samaria, and the refugees' camps, and even for the [Arab] citizens of Israel."

Livni thus seemingly reiterated the straightforward situation that if a new state is to be formed west of the Jordan River exclusively for Arabs, then the other state that already exists there - Israel - could arguably be construed as exclusively for Jews.

However, Arab and left-wing MKs rose up in opposition. "Minister Livni's words sound as if they came from the mouth of Avigdor Lieberman," said Labor MK Ophir Pines - a grave insult by left-wing standards. Lieberman heads the Yisrael Beiteinu party, proposes trading Arab-populated areas for parts of Judea and Samaria, and often accuses Arab MKs of working with the enemy. He once said that a particular Arab MK was "an ally of terrorists; in any other country, they would have you tried before a military court for treason."

Pines called on Livni to retract her words, saying, "The solution for the Arab refugees is certainly a Palestinian state, but it is not a solution for the Arabs of Israel. I intend to raise the matter for an urgent debate in the Knesset this week."

Arab MK Muhammed Barakeh said, "This is an escalation of the chutzpah of Livni and her government. The Palestinian Arabs are living in their homeland; they never immigrated anywhere, but rather Israel immigrated to them."

In fact, however, numerous testimonies from the 1800s prove that the number of Arabs living in the Land of Israel was very low. The American writer Mark Twain, for instance, who visited the Holy Land in 1867, wrote about the Jezreel Valley, "There is not a solitary village throughout its whole extent - not for 30 miles in either direction. There are two or three small clusters of Bedouin tents, but not a single permanent habitation...

"To find solitude, come to Galilee for that... these unpeopled deserts, these rusty mounds of barrenness... We reached Tabor safely... We never saw a human being on the whole route... Nazareth [today a teeming Israeli-Arab city of 65,000 people - ed.] is forlorn... Jericho the accursed lies a moldering ruin today..."

Col. C. R. Conder, in his book entitled Heth and Moab, pronounced the Palestine of the 1880s a "ruined land," and "as far as the Arab race is concerned, it appears to be decreasing rather than otherwise." He had written before that "the Peasantry who are the backbone of the population [of Palestine] have diminished most sadly in numbers and wealth." Even in 1895, French writer Pierre Loti wrote, "I traveled through sad Galilee in the spring, and I found it silent." [Quotes from Joan Peters' book From Time Immemorial, pages 159-161]

Arab MK Ahmed Tibi said about the demand to recognize Israel as Jewish, "This is an incredulous demand rooted in inter-party rivalry... or an evil and brazen demand. Her grave remarks reveal her extremist face. She is preparing the way for the expulsion of as many Arab citizens as possible, in order to keep Israel Jewish and with out Arabs... These dangerous remarks are reminiscent of Lieberman and [Rabbi Meir] Kahane... The Arabs were here before Mrs. Livni and will remain here after her."

Nationalist MK Aryeh Eldad also had criticism of Livni: "The Palestinians already have a state in Jordan, where 70 percent of the inhabitants are Palestinian. Livni wants to give yet another state to the Palestinians, thinking that the Arabs of Israel will suffice with that. But the fact is that whoever gives up Judea and Samaria will not be able stop [giving up] even the Galilee and the Negev."

Saudi Justice: Woman To Be Lashed for Being Raped


A court in Saudi Arabia has ruled that a woman who was gang-raped was guilty because she agreed to be a passenger in a car of a man who not a relative.

The woman's sentence was doubled to 200 lashes and six months in prison because of what the court said was her attempt "to aggravate and influence the judiciary" by her lawyer's criticism of the sentence, which was reported in The New York Times.

Saudi Arabian law requires segregation of men and women who are not relatives. The judges also decided to imprison the seven rapists from two to five years, the Arab News website reported.

Vatican Diplomat: Ties With Israel Getting Worse


Archbishop Pietro Sambi, formerly a Vatican envoy to Israel, slammed Israel in an interview printed over the weekend. Sambi accused Israel of failing to keep its promises regarding church land and taxes, and of imposing travel restrictions on Arab clergy in Judea and Samaria.

"If I must be frank," Sambi said, "The relations between the Catholic Church and the state of Israel were better when there were no diplomatic ties." He blamed Israel's "absence of political will" for problems with the church, saying that agreements had been reached but were never approved by the Knesset. Vatican spokesmen said Sambi's interview "reflects his thinking and personal experience," and expressed hope for a "rapid conclusion of the important negotiations."

(Editor's note: During the past two weeks, the Vatican has blocked Israel News Faxx from being electronically delivered to Pope Benedict XVI. The pontiff has been a subscriber for about 18 months.)

Knesset Members Discover Facebook


Facebook has hit the Knesset as MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima) and MK Israel Hasson (Yisrael Beiteinu) opened accounts on the popular social networking website Facebook.

Other parliament members told Ynet that they were also considering signing up for the network, which boasts tens of thousands of Israeli users and tens of millions of users worldwide.

Deputy coalition chairman Yoel Hasson, who opened the account two weeks ago, already has 40 friends on Facebook, and is working hard on expanding the list daily. He said that he was getting friendship requests on a daily basis, as well as personal messages from surfers.

"The site is an excellent way to communicate with people. Through Facebook I can reach a young audience, the kind of people I don't easily meet in other places, and for a young MK that deals with student affairs, this is highly important," he explained. "I occasionally receive messages and ideas from the surfers, and for me this is another channel for communicating and getting feedback on my parliamentary activity."

The Kadima MK said that some of the users were skeptical about his true identity, asking whether he was really an MK. "I'm convinced that in today's technological era, the legislators must be accessible to the public through social networks of this kind as well."

A New Spin on an Old Tradition: No Limit Texas Dreidel

By Israel Faxx News Services

Jennie Rivlin Roberts used to break out the dreidels when she was ready to end her Chanukah parties. But now her guests are so taken with No Limit Texas Dreidel, her fresh take on the traditional dreidel game, no one is leaving early.

Rivlin Roberts, owner of the website, infused this children's pastime with a healthy dose of the world's hottest card game. Now, even the adults in her local community—Jews and gentiles alike—are "Going All Spin™."

"Initially, I thought it was going to be a longer, more excruciating version of the same, simple, boring game," said Jill Sieder, a friend who was pleasantly surprised with the revamped dreidel game with a Hold'em twist. "Everyone was laughing at the absurdity of it, but also began to think competitively. People wanted to win."

Greg Schwarz an Atlanta attorney and avid poker player, believes the game appeals to both older kids and adults. "Everyone liked the game—even those that did not know how to play poker," he said after watching players enjoy the game regardless of their religious affiliation or any previous knowledge of poker or dreidel.

"As with poker, No Limit Texas Dreidel is a group game, best played with a group of four or more people," said Rivlin Roberts, who points out the collateral for betting is chocolate. The game comes packaged in standard and deluxe editions complete with dreidels, shakers, instructions, and a Play Guide with betting tips and ranking of dreidel-hands. "Unlike poker, the game doesn't require one's undivided attention; therefore it is easy to be social while playing. It's a great party game."

Roberts is currently in discussion with Jewish groups based in Atlanta, New York, and Los Angeles to feature No Limit Texas Dreidel themed Chanukah events that will introduce young adults to the game. But she's also betting people will find this game fun enough to play all year long.

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