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Israeli Minister Rebuffs Report on Iran Nuke Freeze
By YnetNews.com & 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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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 IsraelNationalNews.com & YnetNews.com
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
"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
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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