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Salah Urges EU Arabs to `Return' to Israel


Sheikh Raed Salah, head of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, has called for thousands of European Arabs to "return" to Israel. "Your homes await you," Salah told a large Arab rally in Copenhagen.

Salah also called on the crowd to stop the "Judaization" of Jerusalem. The rally was held to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the modern state of Israel. Participants gathered to mourn Israel's creation and to call for the "return" to Israel of the descendents of hundreds of thousands of Arabs who fled Israel during heavy fighting between the fledgling state and invading Arab armies in the 1940s.

Sunday Times Hints Israel's Evidence on Iran Justifies Strike


The Sunday Times of London reports that Israel's intelligence information on Iran's nuclear capabilities appears to belie the official United States stance on the issue.

The US National Intelligence Estimate of last December concluded that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons development program in 2003. However, the Times reports, Israel has made a breakthrough in intelligence-gathering within Iran, and now fears that Iran has in fact made significant advances towards attaining nuclear power.

A source quoted by the Times said the new information was "on a par with intelligence that led Israel to discover and then destroy a partly constructed nuclear reactor in Syria last September."

The head of Britain's MI6 intelligence agency, Sir John Scarlett, is scheduled to visit Israel later this month, and will be briefed by Israeli Mossad chief Meir Dagan. Iran's nuclear program is expected to be high on their agenda in an intelligence-sharing process described by Israeli officials as a "strategic dialogue;" both Israel and Britain have extensive spy networks in the Middle East.

Israeli officials have briefed US and British officials on their findings, and Israel expects the US to revise its analysis of Iran's program in the near future. The newspaper surmises that if Israel "were considering military action against Iran [regarding] its nuclear program, it would want to ensure it had diplomatic support in London and Washington."

An Iranian press agency reported that Defense Minister Ehud Barak "threatened" Iran this past Friday. The agency quoted Barak as saying that Israel is fully prepared to launch a military attack on Tehran - though he did not elaborate.

"Israel is the strongest country in the entire region, even at a range of 1,500 kilometers," Barak reportedly said, adding that Israel is "willing to be alone with the problem."

Last week, a second US aircraft carrier entered the Persian Gulf, sparking media speculation in Iran that this was a tacit declaration of war on Iran. The Iranian news agency also reported that Israel "has been preparing for war for several months now," citing Israel's recent nationwide drill testing its emergency response as an example.

Obama: U.S. Would Defend Israel in Attack, 'Nuclear or Otherwise'

By Reuters

Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama said Sunday night that the United States would defend Israel after any attack, "nuclear or otherwise."

Obama accused rival Hillary Clinton of saber rattling toward Iran by threatening last week to "totally obliterate" the country if it attacked Israel. "I think it's language that's reflective of George Bush," Obama said. "We have had a foreign policy of bluster and saber rattling.

"It is important that we use language that sends a signal to the world community that we're shifting from the sort of cowboy diplomacy, or lack of diplomacy, that we've seen out of George Bush," the Illinois senator said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

On ABC's "This Week," Clinton stood behind her remarks. "Yes, we would have massive retaliation against Iran," the New York senator said. Such an attack on Iran is unlikely, Clinton said, "but I sure want to make it abundantly clear that they would face a tremendous cost if they did such a thing."

The Bush administration accuses Iran of seeking to acquire nuclear weapons and said it could consider using military force to stop it. Iran says its nuclear program is for producing electricity.

Some Democrats and Republicans have called for negotiations with Iran about its nuclear program and involvement in Iraq, but the administrations has ruled out direct talks unless Iran stops enriching uranium.

Clinton has said the United States should offer to protect Middle East countries from Iran if those countries forgo any nuclear weapon ambitions. "I think that we should be looking to create an umbrella of deterrence that goes much further than just Israel," she said last month in Pennsylvania, days before she made her "obliterate" remarks.

On Sunday, Obama said any expansion of the United States' nuclear shield should come "prudently and cautiously" and that Clinton first aired the umbrella idea as a "throwaway line" during one of the candidates' debate.

Hizbullah Says 'Proud' to Be on the U.S. Terrorist List


The Iranian-backed Lebanon-based terrorist movement Hizbullah said on Friday it prides itself on appearing on the United States' terrorist list.

"The U.S. administration has no right to give statements on nationalism and terrorism when it is making the peoples of the world, including the American people, pay the price for its wars and bloody policies," said a statement by Hizbullah.

Hizbullah's remarks came in response to the report released earlier by the U.S. State Department which accused Iran of providing aid to Palestinian "terrorist" groups like Hamas, Hizbullah, "Iraq-based militants," and Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. The statement criticized Washington for its Lebanon policy and accused the U.S. of "provoking its allies in Lebanon against fellow citizens who support the resistance and the opposition."

Hizbullah slammed the U.S. as the biggest threat to international peace and stability.

Israel Hints at Uprooting Settlements in Peace Deal

By David Gollust (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni indicated Sunday Israel may uproot some of its West Bank settlements as part of a peace accord with the Palestinians. Livni spoke at the start of a meeting Sunday with visiting Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Palestinians have bitterly complained about recent Israeli moves to add housing units to West Bank settlements, even as negotiators for the two sides are working for a peace accord by year's end, as pledged at last November's Annapolis conference.

But at a joint press appearance with Rice as the Secretary neared the end of a two-day visit to the region, Livni noted that Israel dismantled its Gaza settlements in the disengagement of 2005, and said that settlements are no barrier to the broader peace process:

"I would like to say clearly that while negotiating the final status issues - the borders and territory of a future Palestinian state, we showed especially in the disengagement plan from the Gaza strip that settlements are not an obstacle when it comes to - well it was not a peace process - but when there was a need for Israel to withdraw and to send a message of peace, we also dismantled the settlements," said Livni.

Livni said the government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert stopped building new settlements and confiscating land from Palestinians, and has no hidden agenda to effect a land grab before a peace accord is concluded.

Earlier Sunday in Ramallah, Rice heard harsh criticism of Israeli policy from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who accused Israel of undermining peace talks by settlement building and refusing to remove hundreds of security checkpoints in the West Bank.

Israel promised to remove 50 roadblocks during an earlier Rice visit in March, but Palestinians say many of those taken down were in remote places and their removal has not materially improved West Bank movement and access.

Rice told reporters she had raised the checkpoint issue earlier Sunday with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and that she is interested in not just the quantity, but also the quality, of Israeli steps to improve the everyday lives of Palestinians.

As to settlements, she said the United States opposes action by either side that would prejudge the outcome of negotiations: "The United States continues to hold the view that settlement activity is contrary to Roadmap obligations, and continues to raise with the Israelis the importance of creating an atmosphere that is conducive to negotiations of the final-status agreement. And that means doing nothing certainly that would suggest there is any prejudicing of the final terms for final status negotiations."

The Secretary took part in two trilateral meetings with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators. But she has avoided comment on the substance of the peace talks and scrapped plans to brief State Department reporters late Sunday.

She scheduled a second meeting with Prime Minister Olmert for Monday before her scheduled departure for Washington. Olmert has become the subject of a police investigation on reported corruption charges, a development that could threaten the survival of his centrist coalition government.

Rice told reporters the probe is an internal matter for Israel. She said had a very good discussion with Olmert Saturday and expects the dialogue to continue as the drive for a peace accord in 2008 continues.

US-Trained Fatah Force Deployed in Jenin, France Offers to Join


Hundreds of armed Fatah loyalists were deployed in Jenin Saturday as the newest and most trained members of the Palestinian Authority armed police force.

The deployment came as a result of authorization granted by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as a "good-will gesture" to the Fatah-run PA and its chairman, Fatah chief Mahmoud Abbas. The 450 trained PLO veterans hail from Jordan and received training from United States General Keith Dayton and his men.

The IDF released a statement shortly after the deployment, saying, "This morning, approximately 450 Palestinian Authority personnel arrived at Jenin and north Samaria. The deployment was made after a number of coordinated meetings of different levels between IDF personnel and the Civil Administration with the Palestinians."

The IDF statement qualified: "It is important to emphasize that the IDF did not pass the security responsibility in Jenin to the Palestinian policemen, and will continue their coordination with the Palestinian policemen in Jenin."

Several organizations, most notably terror victim associations and student groups, have come out against the training and deployment of additional PA police forces. In addition to the problem of Fatah controlling armed forces while it still maintains terrorist groups under its control, actual PA police have carried out terrorist attacks as recently as the past few months.

Ido Zoldan, a former resident of Homesh, was gunned down near Kedumim by a PA police officer. Off-duty IDF soldiers Achikam Amichai and David Rubin were also shot to death by a PA officer and PA Islamic court employee – who both took refuge at the PA's Hebron headquarters immediately following the murders.

An armored vehicle given to Fatah when it controlled Gaza was recently used to overrun the Gaza border in a carefully staged bomb-attack on the eve of Passover two weeks ago by Hamas. Israel has authorized the transfer of several identical armored vehicles to Fatah by Russia to its remaining footholds in Judea and Samaria.

France has offered its unsolicited assistance in the form of dispatching troops to Judea, Samaria and Gaza in the event that an international force is created to patrol those regions.

Left-wing groups and even MK Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beiteinu) have increasingly called for international troops to be deployed in areas currently under control of Fatah and Hamas. Hamas rejects the idea, though Fatah officials have expressed interest.

Yehuda HaKohen of the student activist Zionist Freedom Alliance said, "This new Fatah force is a police force of gangsters who oppress their own people and kill our people. The only reason that they are being allowed to have an army is that their corrupt leadership [Abbas] is pursuing the agenda of the Bush administration to shrink and weaken the State of Israel. In this local conflict, both sides are being armed by the same western government. If western powers would stop interfering in our local conflict, maybe it will be easier to realize peace in our time."

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said France would be willing to take part in such an international force "when circumstances permit and if the parties so wish." International forces under the command of the European Union were stationed at the Rafiah crossing between Gaza and Egypt following the 2005 Disengagement, but fled almost immediately following the 2007 Hamas takeover of the region. International forces are currently stationed in southern Lebanon, but even internal UN reports admit they have failed to stop weapons smuggling and terrorist activity in the area.

Monday Declared 'International Aliyah Day'


More than 400 new immigrants from 23 countries will be arriving in Israel on Monday for what has been declared International Aliyah Day 2008. Aliyah means immigration of Jews to the Land of Israel.

The one-day display of the ingathering of exiles, orchestrated by the Absorption Ministry and the Jewish Agency, will mark the absorption of more than 3,000,000 Jewish immigrants to the Promised Land in the 60 years since the State of Israel declared independence.

The new immigrants will hail from almost two dozen countries including Argentina, Australia, Brazil, England, France, Germany, Honduras, Hungary, Italy, Russia, South Africa, Turkey, Ukraine and the United States. They are planning to settle in more than 50 communities throughout the Land of Israel.

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