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'Arab Spring' May Win Nobel Peace Prize


The 2011 Nobel Peace Prize may recognize activists who helped unleash the revolutionary wave that swept through North Africa and the Middle East during the Arab Spring.

Wael Ghonim, an Egyptian Internet activist and Google executive, Egypt's April 6 Youth Movement, one of its founders Israa Abdel Fattah, and Tunisian blogger Lina Ben Mhenni could therefore be among those in line for the award when it is announced on October 7.

Israel Plans 1,000+ New Homes in East Jerusalem

By VOA News

An Israeli district committee approved the plan for settlement construction in Gilo on Tuesday. The measure must now pass a 60-day public comment period, during which objections can be raised. Palestinians oppose Israeli building on land they want as part of a future state.

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians broke down last year after an Israeli freeze on West Bank settlement construction expired. The impasse in talks prompted Palestinians to seek United Nations statehood recognition last week. The U.N. Security Council is set to formally consider the Palestinians' request for statehood and full U.N. membership on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has described Israel's decision to move forward with settlement building as "counter-productive." State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the move would not help efforts to restart direct negotiations.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton criticized Israel's latest housing expansion, saying the settlement plan "threatens the viability" of a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.

The EU is part of the group known as the Middle East Quartet. The group, which also includes the U.S., U.N. and Russia, has proposed resumption of talks between the two sides.

On Monday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said his country would not renew a construction freeze in order to get Palestinians to agree to the Quartet's plan for new talks. He told the Jerusalem Post that Palestinian insistence on the settlement issue shows a lack of interest in negotiations.

On Sunday, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas told supporters in Ramallah that he would resume peace talks only if Israel stopped building settlements in occupied territory.

The Quartet's plan calls for a preliminary meeting between Israel and the Palestinians within a month. The meeting would be followed by a return to regular talks and progress on security and borders within 90 days. It envisions the completion of a peace deal no later than the end of 2012.

Turkey Helps Israel Keep Illegal Aliens Out

By Ha'aretz

While Israel's relationship with Turkey has certainly seen better days, the two countries continue to cooperate in a number of important areas. On Monday, for example, it was reported that trade between the two countries was up was up 26% during the first 10 months of 2011 compared to the previous year. And on Tuesday, the Interior Ministry reported that, thanks to cooperation with Turkey, the entry into Israel of 97 illegal immigrants was prevented.

The Ministry said that the group of illegals were bound to Israel from the Ivory Coast – via Turkey, which they had traveled to in an unusual entry point for illegal aliens. The group presented itself as a Christian pilgrim group, but the Ministry said that it had specific information that they were planning to enter Israel on tourist visas and get "lost" in the communities of African workers that have sprung up here in recent years.

The Ministry asked Turkish officials for assistance, and the latter prevented members of the group from getting on the plane in Ankara. "An unpleasant situation was avoided thanks to intelligence that we gathered and cooperation with Turkey," a Ministry official said Tuesday, citing also the assistance of travel agents as well. The group will be repatriated to their home country, the official said.

While most illegal Africans in Israel come from northern Africa, including countries like Sudan and Eritrea, the past year has seen a sharp increase in attempts by residents of the Ivory Coast to enter Israel, as well as to reach Europe, because of a bitter civil war that is being fought in the country. So far, some 1,500 people have been killed as two competing presidents – and their backers – fight for leadership of the country.

Iran Says Navy Can Be Deployed Near US East Coast

By Reuters

Iran on Tuesday raised the prospect of sending military ships close to the United States' Atlantic coast, in what would be a major escalation of tensions between the long-standing adversaries. "Like the arrogant powers that are present near our marine borders, we will also have a powerful presence close to American marine borders," Navy Chief Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said, according to the official IRNA news agency.

Speaking at a ceremony marking the 31st anniversary of the start of Iran's 1980-1988 war with Iraq, Sayyari gave no details of when such a deployment could happen or the number or type of vessels to be used.

The declaration comes just weeks after Turkey said it would host a NATO early warning radar system which will help spot missile threats from outside Europe, including potentially from Iran. The decision has angered Tehran which had enjoyed close relations with Ankara.

And it comes a few months after Iran sent warships through the Suez Canal, after the fall of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, the first time the Islamic Republic had deployed navy vessels in the Mediterranean.

The United States and Israel have not ruled out military action against Iran if diplomacy fails to stop it getting nuclear weapons. Tehran denies it is developing nuclear arms, saying its atomic program is for purely peaceful purposes.

Rabbi: This Year, We Need Special Prayers


This year, it is particularly important to appeal for divine mercy as the High Holy Days approach, Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron said in an interview with Arutz Sheva. "This year we must ask for more and more mercy, that God hear(s) our voice… To our sorrow, there are those who plan to do evil to the people of Israel, to cause us suffering and Intifada.

"But `in this I trust' – in the kindnesses of God, blessed is He, we are certain that `Hashem will not abandon his people,'" he declared. God is particularly receptive to prayers in the days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, he added.

The rabbi took the opportunity to extend his blessings. "I bless the entire people of Israel with a good year, redemption, salvation, and a good financial year," he said. "With God's help, we will merit, `Bless us, our Father, all of us as one' – that we will remember the light of God's countenance and that we will be inscribed for a good life and for peace."

Rabbi Bakshi-Doron formerly served as the Chief Rabbi of Bat Yam, the Chief Rabbi of Haifa, and the Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel as well as Chief Rabbinic Court Justice. He has written several sets of books on halakha (Jewish law).

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