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'Constitutional Crisis' Looms Over Obama's Birth Location


The California secretary of state should refuse to allow the state's 55 Electoral College votes to be cast in the 2008 presidential election until President-elect Barack Obama verifies his eligibility to hold the office, alleges a California court petition filed on behalf of former presidential candidate Alan Keyes and others.

The legal action today is just the latest is a series of challenges, some of which have gone as high as the U.S. Supreme Court, over the issue of Obama's status as a "natural-born citizen," a requirement set by the U.S. Constitution.

Report: Obama Favors Saudi Initiative, Dividing Jerusalem

By & The Sunday Times (UK)

President-Elect Barack Obama will support the Saudi Initiative for peace between Israel and Arab nations, the British Sunday Times reported Sunday. Obama told Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, "The Israelis would be crazy not to accept this initiative," according to the Times.

The initiative calls on Israel to withdraw completely to its 1949 borders in exchange for normalized relations with Arab League countries. It includes a full retreat from the eastern half of Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount, and from the strategic Golan Heights in northern Israel.

The Saudi Plan has won limited support from President Shimon Peres, who said it could be used to launch negotiations. Other senior politicians and defense officials have dismissed the plan, saying it would compromise Israel's security.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, the heads of the Kadima and Labor parties, have not ruled out the Saudi Initiative completely. However, neither has expressed willingness to give away the Temple Mount or major Israeli population centers located east of Israel's 1949 borders. Approximately 600,000 Israeli citizens live in the areas, including eastern neighborhoods of Jerusalem, demanded for the PA under the Saudi plan.

The plan also calls on Israel to find a solution for the plight of millions of foreign Arabs who claim descent from those who fled Israel during the War of Independence. They are considered refugees by Arab governments and continually have been denied citizenship in their countries of birth.

While proponents of the plan have welcomed the plan as a chance to deal with the refugees without granting them Israeli citizenship, some Arab leaders have warned that any alternative to allowing the millions to "return" to Israel is unacceptable. PA-based terrorist groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad are among those who insist that every Arab who identifies as a descendant of a former resident of Israel be allowed to live in Israel.

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas addressed a letter to PA Arabs on Saturday saying Israel must retreat to its 1949 borders or face war. "The passage of years... will not force us to abandon or surrender a single inch," of Judea, Samaria or Jerusalem, Abbas said in the letter, which was published by PA media.

The letter was sent in honor of PA "Independence Day." While the PA does not rule an independent country, it celebrates "independence" each year in honor of the PA having declared itself an independent entity 20 years ago.

The proposal gives Israel an effective veto on the return of Arab refugees expelled in 1948 while requiring it to restore the Golan Heights to Syria and allow the Palestinians to establish a state capital in east Jerusalem.

On a visit to the Middle East last July, the president-elect said privately it would be "crazy" for Israel to refuse a deal that could "give them peace with the Muslim world", according to a senior Obama adviser.

Peres was loudly applauded for telling King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who was behind the original initiative: "I wish that your voice will become the prevailing voice of the whole region, of all people."

Palestinian Terrorists Killed by IAF

By Robert Berger (VOA-Jerusalem)

Four Palestinian terrorists have been killed in an upsurge of violence in and around the Gaza Strip. Israel launched a deadly air strike against the terrorists who were firing mortar shells across the Gaza border. The air raid also followed a Palestinian rocket attack.

The Islamic terrorist group Hamas that rules Gaza promised retaliation. "Today's crime will not pass without punishment," said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum. But Hamas stopped short of saying that the five-month-old Gaza cease-fire is over, despite nearly two weeks of tit-for-tat attacks. During that period, 170 rockets and mortars have been fired at Israel and 15 Palestinian militants have been killed.

Israel also wants to preserve the cease-fire. But at the weekly Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he ordered the army to present plans for various operations against what he called the "Hamas terrorist regime." Olmert said Israel is not eager for battle, but does not fear it.

In a bid to pressure Hamas to halt the rocket fire, Israel has shut its borders with Gaza since fighting erupted 12 days ago. Chris Gunness, spokesman for the U.N. agency that feeds 750,000 Palestinians, said it is a catastrophe. "We have no food. Our warehouses are empty. I cannot say it any clearer than that."

U.S. Study Urges Obama to Press Israel over Nuclear Program

By Ha'aretz

The Middle East is in danger of accumulating large stocks of nuclear material over the next decade that could be used to produce over 1,700 nuclear bombs; a U.S. research center has projected in a newly released report.

The Institute for Science and International Security, headed by David Albright, one the world's top experts on nuclear weapons and the prevention of nuclear proliferation, recently released its report urging president-elect Barack Obama to take a number of measures to avoid such an outcome, including convincing Israel to halt production of its nuclear weapons.

Though Israel has never publicly admitted it has nuclear arms, it is largely believed to possess about 200 nuclear warheads. Iran has defied the international community for years by running a nuclear program which many observers fear may allow it to obtain nuclear arms in the future.

More recently, several Middle Eastern countries including the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Egypt and Turkey announced their intention of building nuclear power plants.

Though most countries said they want to build reactors in order to reduce their dependency on fossil fuels as their sole source of energy, the institute's researchers believe they also wish to create a nuclear infrastructure in their own countries in light of the possibility that Iran will obtain nuclear arms.

The institute believes the White House should strive to have Egypt, Iran and Israel ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). It also has stated that the U.S. should discourage the reprocessing of irradiated power reactor fuel both domestically and internationally.

Exploratory Oil Drilling in Judean Desert Underway


Israel's National Parks and Nature Reserves' Commission has green-lighted exploratory oil drilling in the Judean Desert. The decision will allow two private contractors, Delek Energy Systems and Ginko, to drill 3,200 feet deep into desert soil in an attempt to strike black gold.

The location chosen for the exploratory drill in a nature reserve off Highway 31, slightly north of the Dead Sea. The site may hold an oil reservoir which could potentially produce 6.5 million oil barrels. Should oil be found, and per the commission's demand, a diagonal pipeline will be built, leading to a rig stationed outside the reserve.

The Society for Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) however, has its reservations about the project, fearing the drilling may have a detrimental effect on the fragile desert ecosystem.

SPNI sources said that in the hearing preceding the decision, the National Infrastructures Ministry introduced data indicating that the chances of striking oil in the area stand at only 15%; adding that such slim prospects do not justify the irrevocable harm drilling will cause the area.

"This is an unfortunate decision which sets an unhealthy precedent. It goes against several international treaties Israel is a part of, such as the Species Biodiversity Treaty," said Shai Tachnai, SPNI's southern district coordinator for the preservation of nature.

King of Bahrain Reiterates Invitation for Jews to 'Come Home'


The King of Bahrain has called for expatriate Jews to return to the small Islamic island nation.

King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa expanded the invitation to all expatriate Bahrainis, announcing during a recent visit to the United States that regardless of religious affiliation, any former citizen could return whenever they want. "It's open, it's your country," declared the king, who also extended a personal invitation to Washington D.C.-based Chabad-Lubavitch emissary Rabbi Levi Shemtov to meet with him in New York during his visit.

The king had been in New York to attend last week's Interfaith Conference, organized at the United Nations at the initiative of Saudi Arabian King Abdullah. Israeli President Shimon Peres and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni were both present at the conference, along with representatives of more than 50 other nations.

According to the website, at the meeting Shemtov bestowed the traditional blessing on the king that is recited when one sees a ruling monarch. A delegation of 50 Bahraini Jews who currently live in the U.S. stood for the blessing. "I rise in honor of Your Majesty," Shemtov said to King Hamad, "and I humbly ask Your Majesty to rise in honor of the One God, the King of all Kings, in Whose Name we offer blessings."

When the king rose, the rest of the room rose with him, and the rabbi thanked the Creator for "bestowing a part of His glory" on an earthly monarch. "Bahrain has a rich Jewish history," noted Shemtov, "and I feel that Bahrain, and particularly His Majesty, can play a unique role in bringing about positive movement within their arena in regard to the Jewish people and the world at large."

King Hamad, who ascended to the throne in 1999, has been a controversial figure in the Arab Muslim world, instituting a number of electoral and legal reforms. This past year he appointed a Jewish woman, Huda Azra Nunu to be Bahrain's Ambassador to the United States -- the first Jewish woman to serve in such a capacity in the Arab world.

Arab Students at UC Berkeley Disrupt Israel Event, Attack Jews


Arab students disrupted a pro-Israel event at the campus of the University of California at Berkeley Thursday night, unfurling a large Palestinian flag in front of a crowd of hundreds of supporters of Israel who were enjoying a pro-Israel hip-hop concert. The event was sponsored by the Zionist Freedom Alliance student group.

The Arab students unfurled the large flag on a balcony above the outdoor site where the concert was taking place, inciting a provocation right in front of the concert-goers, who were enjoying the event as part of the campus' Israel Liberation Week. Several Jewish concertgoers went into the building to ask the Arabs to remove the flag – but were viciously attacked, with one male concertgoer knocked down from a blow on the back of his head, witnesses said.

College alumnus Gabe Weiner, who was helping run the concert, was assaulted by the leader of the anti-Israel group, Husam Zakharia, who also attacked one of the performers, Yehuda De Sa. Police were called in and arrested Zakharia along with others from his group, charging them with battery. Witnesses said that the Arab students shouted anti-Semitic curses and epithets throughout the incident, calling the Jews "Nazis" and "dogs," and threatening to kill them. According to one witness, as many as 20 anti-Israel students participated in the attacks.

Pro-Israel students at UC Berkeley have long complained of the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic harassment they have been subject to. Tikvah, a Jewish student group at the college, displayed on its web site numerous examples of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic graffiti.

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