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Israel Apologizes to the Beatles

By Israel Faxx News Services

Israel is trying to atone for a decision to bar a tour by the Beatles 43 years ago.

Ambassador to London Ron Prosor has written a letter to relatives of the late Beatles singer John Lennon and guitarist George Harrison apologizing for a 1965 government ban on the British pop group and inviting its surviving members -- Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr -- to play in the Jewish state.

The Beatles were to have sung in Tel Aviv during their 1960s heyday, but political leaders nixed the appearances out of fear they would "corrupt" Zionist youth.

Olmert: `Jews Will Never Again be Powerless.' Abbas: No PA State Without Jerusalem


Prime Minister Ehud Olmert spoke on Monday at a special Knesset session in honor of International Holocaust Memorial Day. "The Jewish people will never again be homeless and powerless as it was during the Holocaust," Olmert said.

He went on to say that Israel is unusually sensitive to threats of destruction, and would not remain silent in the face of calls for its annihilation. Olmert implied that Iranian leaders who have called for Israel's destruction are similar to the Nazi leaders of the Holocaust, and called on the international community to take action against "the ominous, peace-threatening shadow."

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said Monday that the PA would not establish a state without Jerusalem as a capital city. Abbas has demanded that Israel give the PA all areas of Jerusalem that fell under Jordanian control between 1948 and 1967, including the Old City and the Temple Mount.

Abbas made his statements during a meeting of approximately 400 Arab leaders in the Mukata compound in Ramallah. The leaders met "to promote the Arab nature of Jerusalem and to fight Israeli plotting."

Olmert said Monday that discussions over the status of Jerusalem would take place after negotiations on other "core issues," such as the borders of a PA state. Shas party leaders say they will leave the coalition when Israel and the PA begin negotiating over Jerusalem.

Report: Chief Rabbi Says Move Gazans to a Palestine in Sinai

By Ha'aretz

Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger has been quoted as calling for Gazans to be transferred to the Sinai Peninsula, to a Palestinian state which he said could be constructed for them in the desert.

In an interview in English with the British weekly The Jewish News, the chief rabbi also said that while peaceable Muslims should be allowed to pray in Jerusalem mosques, they should recognize that Jerusalem belongs to the Jews. Muslims have Mecca and Medina; he was quoted as saying, adding that "you don't need a third place."

Metzger called for Britain, the European Union and the United States to assist in the construction of a Palestinian state in Egypt's Sinai Desert. He said the plan would be to "take all the poor people from Gaza to move them to a wonderful new modern country with trains buses cars, like in Arizona - we are now in a generation where you can take a desert and build a city. This will be a solution for the poor people - they will have a nice county, and we shall have our country and we shall live in peace."

Metzger was quoted as telling the paper that the plan was new and he had not presented it to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. "I have thought about it with some wise people only in the last two weeks, and I think it is a great idea - nobody spoke about it before."

He expressed his intent to discuss the matter with Olmert and anticipated that the idea would find popularity among Israelis. He prefaced his comments by pointing out that he could not advise on political matters as he is a religious leader in Israel, noting that according to the law he "cannot be involved in political situations."

Metzger also called for Muslims to have the freedom to return to pray in mosques on condition that they do so peaceably: "We will welcome every Palestinian man who wants to pray in his mosque. Every Friday they can come, but with one condition, without violence. We have the same feeling about prayers, we want to give you respect but let us live and believe our land is the Holy Land and Jerusalem belongs to us. You have another place, Mecca and Medina; you don't need a third place."

In the interview Metzger also described Jerusalem as "the capital city forever to the Jewish nation." He argued that Muslims have no connection to Jerusalem commenting that "behind the Kotel we have a mosque. But when they pray even though they are in our holiest place, they face Mecca. Their back is to Jerusalem. So you can see from only one sign that it does not belong to them. They have nothing - no connection."

The tenure of Metzger, 54, appointed as chief rabbi in 2003 for a 10-year term, has been marked by controversy. In 2006 Attorney General Menachem Mazuz called on him to resign his post in a report which alleged that he had accepted discounted hospitality at a number of Israeli hotels - a call that Metzger rejected.

Metzger has also proposed the establishment of a "religious United Nations" comprised of religious leaders from around the world, and was named one of the 12 most influential international religious figures in a recent CBS documentary entitled In God's Name.

Egypt Tightens Control Along Gaza Border

By Challiss McDonough (VOA-El-Arish)

Egyptian authorities are slowly trying to reestablish control over the border with the Gaza Strip. Border guards closed one section Monday and tightened the security cordon around the border town of Rafah.

Many Egyptian residents of the area are growing tired of the chaos that has descended upon their towns and want something done quickly. Security forces blocked one broken section of the border with barbed wire and chain-link fencing. They continued to allow people to freely cross the border on foot, but they have restricted vehicle traffic.

Hamas-affiliated terrorists on the Gaza side of the border have been keeping Palestinian cars from entering Egypt, but allowing trucks to pass. There is no confirmation that Hamas is working in concert with the Egyptian authorities, but their actions seem to indicate some coordination in their approach to the border traffic flow.

But in Cairo, Egyptian officials and Arab League foreign ministers reaffirmed their opposition to working directly with Hamas. Egyptian officials have made it clear that they do not intend to leave the border wide-open for much longer, but they have struggled to find ways of effectively closing it down.

Clashes broke out on Friday when they tried to close it by force, so in recent days they have flung up scores of checkpoints around the border town of Rafah, trying to prevent Gazans from moving further into Egypt. The moves to secure the border come as patience is growing thin among residents of nearby Egyptian towns. In El-Arish, about 21 miles from Rafah, many businesses have been forced to close and everything seems to be in short supply.

Asmat Said Mohammed carried an empty canvas shopping bag that she opened and brandished angrily to show that it was empty. She said for six days, she has not been able to buy anything to eat or drink, and food has become very expensive. "I cannot buy vegetables," she said. "I used to have rice, but now it is gone."

Everywhere in the area, Palestinians and Egyptians alike complain about the soaring prices and shortages, especially of food. The rampant inflation has been driven partly by the enormous demand for staple products from Gaza, and partly by the Egyptian government's decision to restrict goods coming into the border region in an effort to encourage the Palestinians to go back home. Some Palestinians also accuse Egyptians of exploiting the crisis for profit.

But many frustrated local residents say only a few are benefiting from the trading bonanza, while the rest are themselves being squeezed by the government's attempts to regain control of the situation.

Abdel-Aal Ibrahim Ahmed said the police told him to close his printing shop four days ago, as they did to most businesses in El-Arish, and he has done no work since then. He emphasized that the Palestinians are welcome, but he said "there must be organization. They should take the stuff they need," he said, "but this chaos is unacceptable."

He said with the fuel shortage, transportation has become so expensive that he can no longer afford to take taxis from home to work. He has been walking five miles to and from his shop every day, hoping the police will let him open it.

Iran: We are Close to Restoring Ties with Egypt

By Aya Batrawy (VOA-Cairo)

Iranian Foreign Minister Mahouchehr Mottaki said Iran and Egypt are close to restoring full diplomatic relations, after severing political ties nearly three decades ago.

The announcement by the Iranian foreign minister follows the first direct talks between Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a telephone call last week. The countries have not had full diplomatic ties since 1979. But they have shared some diplomatic communiqué during the years, despite not having embassies or ambassadors in one another's capitals.

An assistant professor of political science at Cairo University, Amal Hamada, said both countries and the region have much to gain if Egypt and Iran enhance their diplomatic relationship.

"Egypt, Iran, and Saudi Arabia are the pillar states in the region and if we can, as Arabs and Muslims, assure a certain level of understanding and cooperation between the three pillar states then I think the chances for stability in the region is more enhanced in terms of Iraq, the situation in Palestine and even in Lebanon," said Hamada.

Iranian diplomats met with their Egyptian counterparts this week in Cairo to discuss ways to help relief efforts in Gaza and to control the border shared by Gaza and Egypt.

But according to Hamada, it is unlikely that Egypt and Iran will normalize relations any time soon due to lingering security issues. But she stresses that the public gesture is significant. "Just having the intention and the willingness to announce this in public might pave the way for a better relationship between the two states, even if we do not formalize the relationship."

Iran broke diplomatic ties with Egypt shortly after Egypt became the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel and then allowed the deposed Shah of Iran into the country.

Despite efforts by Tehran over the years to normalize diplomatic relations with Cairo, Egypt has been reluctant to do so and had requested that a street in Tehran named after the assassin of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, who signed the peace treaty with Israel, be changed to another name.

Dutch Jewish Group Slams Postcard of Anne Frank in Kaffiyeh

By Ha'aretz

A Dutch Jewish organization has condemned the distribution of a postcard showing a manipulated image of Anne Frank wearing a Palestinian kaffiyeh, calling it "a tasteless falsification of history." The company that published the postcard described it as "an idyllic image of peace."

The Hague-based Centre for Information and Documentation on Israel (CIDI) called on cinemas, cafes and other businesses to ban the postcard, which has been distributed for the past two weeks free of charge across the Netherlands by T-shirt and postcard maker Boomerang.

"In Holland, Anne Frank is a distinct symbol of the Holocaust and persecution," CIDI's public relations coordinator, Tuvit Shlomi, told Ha'aretz. "The red-and-white kaffiyeh symbolizes Palestinian resistance to the Israeli occupation. We find this link offensive, false and unacceptable."

In a press release about the postcard, CIDI said the image suggested the Palestinians were persecuted like the Jews during World War II. "Israel and the Palestinians are engaged in a conflict. The Palestinians are not persecuted, there are no extermination camps and there is no genocide," CIDI wrote.

Boomerang's chief editor, Pascale Bosboom, told Ha'aretz that the artist responsible for the image - who is known only as T. - combined the two symbols "to create an idealistic image in which both states exist alongside one another in peace."

In its official announcement, Boomerang said it agrees with CIDI that the historical connection CIDI mentioned "must not be made." Boomerang, the statement said, recognizes that the fate of the Jews in the Netherlands during World War II is nothing like that of the Palestinians.

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