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Israeli Minister Rebuffs Report on Iran Nuke Freeze

By & Reuters

A senior member of Israel's Security Cabinet played down U.S. intelligence findings that Iran froze its nuclear weapons program in 2003.

The U.S. National Intelligence Estimate, released Monday, assessed that Iran put its nuclear weapons program on hold four years ago following international pressure. But the report also noted that Iran's current uranium enrichment program could produce enough fissile material for an atom bomb by 2010.

Israeli Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer said Tuesday that Jerusalem must continue treating Iran's nuclear projects as a threat to the Jewish state's existence.

"I just don't buy that Iran stopped producing nuclear weapons but continued enriching uranium for civilian needs," Ben-Eliezer, a former defense minister, told Army Radio. "Israel must not take any risks on this matter. We must not wake up one day to discover that Iran has the bomb."

Israel will launch a diplomatic campaign aimed at tightening sanctions against Iran in response to the US claim. Officials in Jerusalem confirmed the report late Tuesday night and said Israel's chief concern at the moment was that the report would strengthen Russia and China's resolve against the UN-proposed third round of economic sanctions against Tehran. Both countries are permanent and veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council.

"The bottom line is that words don't stop missiles, actions do," Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Tuesday evening in response to the US report. "And there is much that needs to be done regarding the Iranian nuclear program. We need to take action in applying sanctions, in exercising diplomacy and in other venues as well."

Israeli intelligence disputes the report's conclusion, Barak said, and still believes Tehran is still trying to develop a nuclear weapon: ''It's apparently true that in 2003 Iran stopped pursuing its military nuclear program for a time. But in our opinion, since then it has apparently continued that program. There are differences in the assessments of different organizations in the world about this, and only time will tell who is right."

Asked if the new US assessment reduced chances that the US would launch a military strike on Iran, Barak said that was '"possible." However, he said, "We cannot allow ourselves to rest just because of an intelligence report from the other side of the earth, even if it is from our greatest friend."

Earlier Tuesday Bush said that the international community should continue to pressure Iran on its nuclear programs, saying Tehran remains dangerous despite the new report. "I view this report as a warning signal that they had the program, they halted the program. The reason why it's a warning signal is they could restart it."

Bush said the report's finding would not prompt him to take a US military option against Tehran off the table. "To me, the NIE (National Intelligence Estimate) provides an opportunity for us to rally the international community - to continue to rally the community - to pressure the Iranian regime to suspend its program. What's to say they couldn't start another covert nuclear weapons program?"

Accusation: Olmert Long Planned Dividing Jerusalem


During 10 years as mayor of Jerusalem, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert instructed city workers not to take action against hundreds of illegal Arab building projects throughout eastern sections of Jerusalem, allegedly telling municipal workers the area one day would be handed to the Palestinians, according to former workers speaking to WND.

The workers charge Olmert even instructed city officials to delete files documenting illegal Arab construction of housing units in eastern Jerusalem. Those units currently house an estimated 100,000 Arabs, say the workers.

Olmert was Jerusalem mayor from 1993 to 2003. As mayor he made repeated public statements calling Jerusalem the "eternal and undivided capital" of Israel.

But at last week's U.S.-sponsored Annapolis summit, Olmert committed to work toward an agreement with the Palestinians before President Bush leaves office next year, with Israel widely expected to evacuate large swaths of the West Bank and eastern sections of Jerusalem.

In a speech at the summit, Olmert alluded to evacuating the West Bank and perhaps eastern Jerusalem, both of which were recaptured by Israel in 1967. "The negotiations will address all of the issues which we have thus far avoided dealing with. I am convinced that the reality that emerged in our region in 1967 will change significantly. I know this. Many of my people know this. We are prepared for it."

In a speech last month, Olmert hinted he would be willing to divide Jerusalem, asking whether it was "really necessary" to retain certain Arab neighborhoods in the eastern parts of Judaism's capital city.

"Was it necessary to also add the Shuafat refugee camp, Sawakra, Walaje and other villages and define them as part of Jerusalem? On that, I must confess, I am not convinced," stated Olmert, speaking at a special Knesset session to mark the sixth anniversary of the assassination of former government minister Rehavam Ze'evi, who drew up the 1967 map.

As the city's mayor, Olmert publicly presented himself as a stalwart supporter of a unified Jerusalem. But Jerusalem municipal employees and former workers paint a starkly contrasting picture of the prime minister.

"He did nothing about rampant illegal Arab construction in Jerusalem while the government cracked down on illegal Jewish construction in the West Bank," said one municipal employee who worked under Olmert. She spoke on condition of anonymity because she still works at the municipality.

One former municipal worker during Olmert's mayoral tenure told WND he was moved in 1999 to a new government posting after he tried to highlight the illegal Arab construction in Jerusalem. He also spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing for his current job.

Aryeh King, chairman of the Jerusalem Forum, which promotes Jewish construction in Jerusalem, told WND an investigation by his group found Olmert's city hall deleted files documenting hundreds of illegal Arab building projects throughout eastern sections of Jerusalem. He said he forwarded his findings to Israel's state comptroller for investigation.

King also charged Olmert told senior municipal workers not to enforce a ban on illegal Arab buildings. "Ehud Olmert gave the order not to deal with the problem and not to put Israeli security forces to the duty of taking down the illegal Arab complexes. Senior municipal workers told me Olmert said not to bother with the illegal Arab homes because eventually eastern Jerusalem would be given to the Palestinian Authority," said King.

King's report charges Jerusalem municipal officials erased the files, which detail over 300 cases of Arab construction in eastern Jerusalem deemed illegal starting from 1999. The illegal buildings were reportedly constructed without permits and are still standing. According to law, they must be demolished.

Local media reports investigating King's charges alleged the files were erased by Ofir May, the head of Jerusalem's Department of Building Permits, with the specific intention of allowing the statute of limitation on enforcing the demolitions of the illegal construction to run out.

The Jerusalem municipality released a statement in response to the allegations claiming the threat of Arab violence kept it from bulldozing the illegal Arab homes. "During the years of the intifada, the municipality had difficulty carrying out the necessary level of enforcement in the neighborhoods of eastern Jerusalem due to security constraints," the statement read.

King said the hundreds of buildings allegedly detailed in the deleted municipal files house more than 20,000 illegal units. "We're talking about perhaps 100,000 or more Arabs in eastern Jerusalem living in illegal homes with the government doing nothing about it."

WND's own investigation last year found hundreds of acres of key properties in Jerusalem purchased by a Jewish group for the stated purpose of Jewish settlement instead were utilized for the illegal construction of dozens of Arab apartment buildings housing thousands and United Nations facilities. The lands, purchased by the Jewish National Fund, or JNF, are under the management of the Israeli government.

The properties in question include over 200 acres in the northern Jerusalem neighborhoods of Qalandiya and Kfar Akev, located near an old Israeli airport, and about 50 acres in a north Jerusalem suburb known as Shoafat, which is adjacent to the Jewish neighborhood of Pisgat Zeev. The two neighborhoods were specifically mentioned by Olmert last month as up for possible Israeli evacuation.

The lands were legally purchased on behalf of JNF using Jewish donations in the early 1900s, immediately after the organization was founded in 1901 with the specific charge of repurchasing and developing the land of Israel for Jewish settlement. A tour of Qalandiya and Kfar Akev found dozens of Arab apartment complexes, a Palestinian refugee camp and a U.N. school for Palestinians constructed on the land.

According to officials in Israel's Housing Ministry, Arabs first constructed facilities illegally in Qalandiya and Kfar Akev between 1948 and 1967, prior to the 1967 Six-Day War during which Israel retook control of the entire city of Jerusalem. Qalandiya, still owned by JNF, came under the management of the Israeli government's Land Authority in the late 1960s.

Ministry officials say the bulk of illegal Arab construction in Qalandiya took place during Olmert's tenure as mayor, with construction of several new Arab apartment complexes still taking place this year. Neither the Olmert municipality nor JNF took any concrete measures to stop the illegal building, which continues today with at least one apartment complex in Qalandiya under construction.

Jerusalem's Shoafat neighborhood, which has an estimated value of $3 million, also was purchased by JNF in the early 1900s and fell under the management of the Israel Land Authority about 40 years ago. Much of the illegal Arab construction in Shoafat took place in the past 15 years, with some apartment complexes built as late as 2004. In Qalandiya, Kfar Akev and Shoafat, Israel's security fence cordons off the Arab sections of the JNF lands from the rest of Jewish Jerusalem.

Internal JNF documents obtained by WND outline illegal Arab construction on the Jewish-owned land. A survey of Qalandiya summarized on JNF stationery conducted in December 2000 and signed by a JNF worker states, "In a lot of the plots I find Arabs are living and building illegally and also working the JNF land without permission." The JNF survey goes on to document illegal construction of Arab apartment complexes and the U.N. school under the property management of Israel's Land Authority.

Bush to Visit Israel in January

By &

President George W. Bush will visit Israel in the middle of January. The trip was planned during Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's visit to the White House last week and was kept secret until Tuesday, when it was announced on Channel 2 television. The U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv declined to confirm or deny the report. .
Israeli media reported that Bush would arrive in the Jewish State on January 9 as a show of support for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert following the Annapolis conference. It still is not clear if Bush would also visit other countries in the region, and whether he will meet with Mahmoud Abbas.

Bush has visited Israel previously, most recently when he was governor of Texas, in 1998. He met with many Israeli leaders and visited various sites, including the Western Wall. In 2003 he took part in the Aqaba summit, just west of Eilat.

Some Bush critics blasted him before the Annapolis conference, for not having visited the region he was so concerned about in the years since taking office.

Bush drew modern parallels to the Maccabees in his annual Chanukah message. "More than 2,000 years ago, the land of ancient Israel was conquered, its sacred Temple was desecrated, and the Jewish people were forbidden to practice their faith," Bush said in his message sent Monday.

"A patriot named Judah Maccabee and his followers rose up against their oppressors to take back Jerusalem. When the Maccabees returned to reclaim and purify their Holy Temple, the oil used for dedication should have lasted only one day but burned for eight. Every year since then, Jews have celebrated this victory of light over darkness and given thanks for the presence of a just and loving God."

The U.S. leader added, " We pray that those who still live in the darkness of tyranny will someday see the light of freedom, and we ask for God's continued guidance and boundless love and His protection of all those in need during this holiday season."

Imus to Huckabee: Can Jews go to Heaven?


Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee -- the fourth presidential candidate to appear on Don Imus' show since it returned Monday faced difficult questions sbout Mitt Romney's Mormonism, who can go to heaven and abortion.

Although Imus may have been attempting to spark controversy by asking Huckabee if Mormons are true Christians and if Jewish people can go to heaven, the former governor didn't take the bait. Responding to the Mormon question, Huckabee disregarded any friction between Mormons and conservative Christians, saying there's friction between people in the same pew.

"It's really not so much related to your denomination or label; it's related to your relationship with the person of Christ," Huckabee said. "I know some Baptists. I'm not sure I'd call them Christians, because they don't behave like it. People make too much of the labels we wear and not enough about the character we have."

When asked if Jewish people can go to heaven, Huckabee responded with one of his trademarked quips. "I think anybody can go to heaven. I think you could even go to heaven and that's a pretty thick stretch. I'm not saying you will; I'm just saying I think you could."

Imus pushed Huckabee for more, asking him if someone must believe in Jesus Christ to go to heaven. "You're getting way into an area that I don't know has anything to do with running for president," Huckabee, who is an ordained Southern Baptist minister responded, implying his religious beliefs would not impact the American people. "For me to start telling everybody else what their beliefs are and the validity of them, certainly is not my role, not only individually but absolutely has no business in my being president."

Although Huckabee faced tough questions, Imus offered him a near-endorsement. "I'm just about to climb on that Huckabee bandwagon," Imus told the former governor during the interview. The candidate for the GOP nomination replied: "I'll tell you what, if we go all the way, we'll have your show from the East Room of the White House. That would wreck any re-election chances I'd ever have."

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