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Former Palestinian Official Dahlan: Israel Agreed to Absorb 200,000 Refugees

By The Times of Israel

Israel agreed to absorb 200,000 Palestinian refugees in its territory during the latter half of 2000, a former Palestinian security official and negotiator told The Times of Israel.

Mohammed Dahlan, the former leader of Fatah in the Gaza Strip and a Palestinian negotiator under Yasir Arafat, said that the Israeli position was put forth in the period between the failed Camp David peace summit in July 2000 and the presentation of the Clinton Parameters for a final status agreement in December of the same year.

Dahlan — who has been living in Dubai for the past two years — was in Brussels speaking to members of the European Parliament as the guest of Mário David, a Portuguese member of the European Parliament and the vice president of the European People's Party.

He told the parliament that the Clinton Parameters for a final status agreement still comprise "the best document for any conceivable solution" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "We have a document that wasn't entirely agreed upon, but is something we can build on for the future. If anyone believes the Palestinians and the Israelis can sign a peace agreement without pressure or protection from the Arab world and from the EU, he is mistaken."

Israeli governments have consistently refused to accede to the demand of Palestinian refugees and their descendants that they be allowed to settle within the State of Israel under a permanent status agreement. Meanwhile, most Palestinians consider "the right of return" to be a nonnegotiable issue. The Arab League has adopted a formula stating that the solution to the refugee issue must be both "just" and "agreed upon," an allusion to the need for Israeli consent for any refugee deal.

Through his parameters, former President Bill Clinton attempted to convince Palestinians to forgo their demand for a massive influx of refugees to Israel in exchange for partial Palestinian sovereignty in Jerusalem's Old City. Dahlan's statements, however, were the first report of such far-reaching Israeli concessions on the question of refugees during the tenure of Ehud Barak.

Documents leaked by Al-Jazeera in 2011 revealed that former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert agreed during talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in August 2008 that Israel would absorb 5,000 Palestinians over a five-year period, "on a humanitarian basis."

Former Israeli negotiator Yossi Beilin told The Times of Israel in March that the gap between Israel and the Palestinians on the refugee issue was indeed large in 2008, with the Palestinians demanding that Israel accept 100,000 refugees, but "not unbridgeable."

Tacitly criticizing PA corruption under Abbas, Dahlan called on European parliamentarians to be more diligent in overseeing where their aid Euros go. Formerly the most powerful PA official in Gaza, Dahlan has become a bitter rival of Abbas, whom he blames for the 2007 takeover of Gaza by Hamas, and whom he accuses of financial corruption. Dahlan's Fatah membership was revoked by the party's Central Committee in December 2010 following charges that he had tried to orchestrate a coup against Abbas in the West Bank.

Dahlan launched a scathing attack on Abbas in his presentation to European parliamentarians, saying that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is able to make peace but doesn't want to, while Mahmoud Abbas wants to but lacks the political legitimacy to produce an agreement.

He characterized expectations by Secretary of State John Kerry of reaching a comprehensive deal within nine months naive and "based on emotions rather than on a realistic assessment of the negotiating sides." He said the current round of peace talks had "zero chance of success." The only possible solution, Dahlan opined, is the imposition of an agreement on both sides from without; with the United States pressuring Israel to compromise and the Arab League doing the same on the Palestinian side.

"If anyone believes the Palestinians and the Israelis can sign a peace agreement without pressure or protection from the Arab world and from the EU, he is mistaken," Dahlan said. He claimed that both Barak and Netanyahu had personally confided in him that Israel could never sign an agreement without American pressure.

In the absence of a credible, legitimate Palestinian negotiator, Dahlan concluded, Kerry's peace efforts are nothing more than an attempt to fill the political void with `an exercise in deception' "As for us the Palestinians, never can a leader sign an agreement with the Israelis without the protection and support of all moderate Arab states, namely Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. Never, neither in Arafat's time nor in Abu Mazen's (Abbas') time nor at any time in the future."

Tacitly criticizing PA corruption under Abbas, Dahlan called on European parliamentarians to be more diligent in overseeing where their aid Euros go. The Palestinian Authority, he noted, is currently an "imaginary entity" being kept alive artificially by donor aid which it distributes as salaries. Dahlan also blasted Abbas' inability to draw support from Palestinians disenchanted with Hamas's six-year rule in the Gaza Strip.

"Unfortunately, Abbas has so far not created an alternative for the Palestinian public to win over those who abandoned Hamas," Dahlan said. "We need a new internal political program assuring Palestinian unity before heading to negotiations [with Israel]. I believe the Arab League is the only one capable of imposing this."

As far as the ex-Fatah member is concerned, the PA government in Ramallah and the Hamas government in Gaza are on equal standing, serving merely as "small dictatorships under occupation." In the absence of a credible, legitimate Palestinian negotiator, Dahlan said, Kerry's peace efforts are nothing more than an attempt to fill the political void with "an exercise in deception."

Report: Golda Meir Doubted Motive Behind JFK Assassination


Fifty years after the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the Israeli Archives released documents related to the response of the Israeli government to the 1963 tragedy. "They decided to turn over the whole world and investigate this thing to the end. Whether they have the possibility to investigate – I do not know," said then-Foreign Minister Golda Meir.

The announcement of Kennedy's assassination on Nov. 22, 1963 came as a shock to the majority of the Israeli government, headed by Levi Eshkol. At half past midnight, mere hours after the assassination, Eshkol sent JFK's replacement, President Lyndon B. Johnson, a letter of condolences.

"The government, the people of Israel and I personally are stricken with shock and grief from the president's assassination. He proved himself as a wonderful president and a brave leader of the free world who instilled hope in the hearts of humanity as a whole. Please pass the deep condolences of the Israeli government and public, as well as my personal condolences, to Mrs. Kennedy and her children."

Then Foreign Minister Meir was staying in New York and joined President Zalman Shazar at the funeral. Upon her return to Israel, she reported to the ministers on the agitated atmosphere in the US following the murder, as well as the unanswered questions regarding the murder and the murderer.

Prior to the murder, Meir said, Kennedy had many opponents who felt the president was too distant from the people. After the murder, the atmosphere changed. "There was a feeling that this turned over the Americans' world. There was really a feeling of personal loss among everyone. They say in Washington that there were two million people in the streets. I have never seen anything like it."

According to Meir, the conduct of Jacqueline Kennedy was awe-inspiring: "A cultured woman... who appeared as an unusual personality, some mental powers that are hard to explain. It is impossible to understand how a person holds a stand like that. It's not for naught that she sits there without hysterics in front of the public. In the American press it was written she gave America the one thing it never had – a sense of royalty."

On Kennedy's ties with Israel, Meir noted: "I believed him that he was a friend, regardless of people saying he needed Jewish support. Let's assume needed the support of Jews, but I did not doubt his friendship. Sure there were disagreements; there were misunderstandings. We won't get everything we want, I had no doubt... but I mostly never stopped believing it was a serious and important ally."

US Jewry, Meir told the ministers, breathed a sigh of relief when it became clear the assassin was not Jewish. "Why do you need to think that a Jew would murder Kennedy? I do not know, but they were relieved that he was not."

She shared with the ministers her impression of the mystery surrounding the murder. Even at this early stage, the foreign minister believed that there was more to the crime: "This whole matter has dark corners, which may never be cleared up.

"Today," she added, "there was a report that Oswald was not sane, not balanced, and was mentally ill. The fact – some strange thing here with the Dallas police – was that an officer entered the building to check that everything was in order, passed a guy with a large package and asks him what it is. The man answers: a curtain. Instead of asking him if it's really a curtain. And when someone tells him 'he works for us,' he is satisfied. What does it matter if he works for them or doesn't work for them? He has a package – check what's in the package. They didn't check that package."

Dallas police, said Meir, acted very suspiciously. "Oswald was in jail as an agent of Castro, a Communist… Very strange things, but even more odd is the Jack Ruby affair. Since there was television, he was on television... Oswald saw him moments before he went over to him, he flinched, it is clear that Oswald knew him."

"How did Ruby get in there? How does a stranger enter into a police station? How does he park his car in a parking area for police cruisers? Right after this a cop said – if I had seen him I would have driven him away. We know him, he has a police record. If one cop knew him, how did he get in?"

A government official, Meir revealed to the ministers, suggested to her that it is not clear that Oswald worked alone. "Now with this investigation, it's not only an investigation of how Kennedy was assassinated, but also who is Ruby, for what and why did he murder Oswald? An important administration official told me that the question of if Ruby did this of his own accord or was he ordered to do it to silence Oswald is a question for us, a question of war and peace."

Meir expressed deep concern over the possibility that Ruby, a Jew, was involved in a conspiracy to assassinate the president. "If he is an agent of Castro, if there is an underground organization working for Castro that went as far as the assassination of the president, and it's organized in such a way that the murderer is silenced in case he talks, oy vey if there is a Jew inside that.

"They are treating the Oswald murder severely, I would say – no less seriously than the murder of Kennedy. If this is part of a plan, if there is an underground – not only am I not a detective, I don't even like reading detective novels – but I ask myself, I think Ruby is an errand boy and I say – either he belongs to a political underground movement or to the Dallas police," she continued.

"It happened inside the building?" asked Justice Minister David Yosef. "Inside the building," Meir answered, "In the hallway that television personnel and journalists were pouring into, they checked every single person. The door opens and Oswald comes out handcuffed to two policemen. You can see there is a person with a gun in the crowd who goes over to him. There's a picture of Ruby shooting, a policeman is standing by him looking. It was fantastic. If he was sane of mind he knew there was no way out of there, but he went to 'sanctifying the name' in order to avenge Kennedy's death."

"In Texas or Dallas they say that assassinating the president is not a federal crime. It's one of the strange things, this shortcoming in the law… this is why the FBI isn't in the picture," Meir said. "In the first few days there was a statement from the chief of police in Dallas: when they investigated Ruby right after the murder, he was wild, completely unbalanced. After an hour he quieted down, acted normally, spoke with sense... They decided to turn over the whole world and investigate this thing to the end. Whether they have the possibility to investigate – I do not know."


US Holocaust Museum Plans for a Future Without Survivors

By The Times of Israel

During two decades of operation, the US Holocaust Museum in Washington DC has been visited by 35 million people. Its administrators have also tried to bring the museum to the world, including with a website in 15 languages and touring exhibits. Through a flagship educational program, the museum helps law enforcement and military officers explore the role of these professions in Nazi Germany.

Since Congress voted to create the museum in 1980, Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel has been closely associated with the project. Though Wiesel downsized his role before the museum's opening, the Nobel laureate continues to speak on behalf of the mission. "I wasn't sure the museum was a proper avenue," Wiesel told The Times during a recent phone interview. "We Jews don't have museums, we have books. I believe in books more than buildings," he said.

President Jimmy Carter asked Wiesel to chair a commission on the Holocaust in 1978, long before an actionable vision for the museum and funding were in place. Though it was not always obvious to Wiesel that a museum could effectively represent the Holocaust, he said the institution has exceeded his expectations. "Millions of people have already visited that place," Wiesel said. "It is important. Anyone who goes to the museum knows they have seen something in a few hours that goes beyond anything."

In part to expand its donor base, the museum launched a 20th anniversary campaign at the start of 2013. A key goal has been to develop plans for the years ahead, as the survivor population dwindles and the Holocaust recedes into history.

Commemorative activities included a four-city tour attended by 1,800 survivors and several hundred World War II veterans.. Survivors and their relatives were encouraged to donate items to the museum collection, with many participating in workshops and family research sessions. The theme "Never Again: What You Do Matters" has been used throughout the campaign, including a website with 20 actions people can take anywhere to increase Holocaust awareness and prevent genocide.

To shine a light on the role of individual responsibility, the museum opened a new exhibition this year called, "Some Were Neighbors: Collaboration and Complicity in the Holocaust." Probing the Nazis' dependence on "ordinary" people to enact their racial policies, the exhibition examines the reasons people did – and not did – assist in the genocide.

Even before the museum opened, controversies swirled around the commission's planning work, including the issue of how to memorialize Hitler's non-Jewish victims. Leaders of the American Roma (or "Gypsy") community were particularly vocal about inclusion for more than 250,000 Roma and Sinti victims murdered by the Nazis.

In the end, the permanent exhibit kept its focus on the Jewish genocide. However, through the museum's archives and educational programs, remembering non-Jewish victims became part of the evolving mission.

At the start of its third decade, the museum will continue to promote awareness, serving — according to Clinton — as the conscience of the nation. "Once you remember, you remember everybody," Wiesel said at an initial museum planning meeting. "Memory is not something that shrinks but something that enriches. You go deeper, and deeper, and you find new layers."

Rehovot School Accuses Chabad of 'Religious Coercion'


Parents in Rehovot have accused representatives of the Chabad outreach organization of "religious coercion," after representatives approached their children after school to give their daughters Shabbat candles and offered their sons the opportunity to put on tefilin (phylacteries).

"Why should my 16 year-old daughter be preached at Friday afternoon, at the school gates, about the importance of keeping Shabbat and lighting candles? Why is my 14 year-old son being approached to put on tefilin (phylacteries) on his way home from school? Why does no one stop this phenomenon, which as a mother I define as religious coercion?" Yediot Aharonot quoted one parent as saying.

Chabad has also distributed pamphlets on guidelines for Jewish dress to their daughters, some mothers claim. But school officials for their part have stated that Chabad has been visiting for months, and that "what they are doing is not coercive, so we haven't filed a police report." They admitted that while they, themselves, see why parents might be upset at Chabad's actions, the only institution capable of changing the situation is the Rehovot municipality.

Zohar Bloom, Rehovot's deputy mayor called the phenomenon "a problem", but admitted that the Chabad emissaries were not doing anything illegal.

Chabad regularly distributes pamphlets with Jewish knowledge and Shabbat candles all over the world, as part of an outreach campaign to bring Jewish traditions to communities without vibrant Jewish communities. They also set up booths to complete certain commandments - such as tefilin during the year for men, and seasonal mitzvot like sitting in a sukkah - in major urban centers, to bring those traditions to the general public.

Michael Reinitz, Chairman of the Rehovot Chabad branch, released a statement defending the move, stating that the aim is not to coerce students at all, but to approach them with knowledge and resources. Students are free to do what they wish, he said. "Chabad representatives are outside of the school building; they don't force anyone to put on tefilin - whoever wants to can do so, and whoever doesn't want to does not have to," he explained. "We don't force anyone [to do anything] and we are not violating the law."


Father Rushes into Palestinian Village to Rescue Carjacked Baby


Three Palestinians carjacked an Israeli woman on a highway near Ramallah Tuesday, taking off in her vehicle with her 1-year-old daughter in the back seat. The baby's father rushed to the area and later found the vehicle abandoned near the Palestinian village of Dir Abzia, with the child unharmed inside it.

The incident took place around 3:30 p.m., as the woman, a resident of the Dolev settlement in the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council, was on her way home. "I was heading home and my daughter was in the back seat. I was at an intersection near our community and a car with an Israeli license plate rammed into me," the woman said.

"I got out of the car to see the damage and saw a car with three men in it. One of them came out to ask if everything was OK, and as we were talking he just got in my car and drove off. I tried to hang on to the back door but I just couldn't. I realized they had my daughter. I don't wish that kind of panic on anyone. "I was screaming, I tried to get one of the cars driving by to stop. Once someone did I used their phone to call the police and my husband."

The child's father said that he immediately tried to get help: "I went outside and found one of my neighbors who was armed, and we got in his car and raced to the intersection. I knew that the first few moments after a kidnapping are crucial. We were driving in the direction of the nearby [Palestinian] villages and on the side of the road between Dir Abzia and Dir Ariq I saw our car on the side of the road."

According to the father, "The Palestinian police arrived and tried to take me in for questioning in Ramallah, but I refused. There are a lot of carjackings around here, but most of them go unreported by the media because there are no babies involved."

Israeli is Hollywood's new Wonder Woman

By The Times of Israel

Israeli It girl Gal Gadot, AKA the hottie from "The Fast and the Furious," has a new title: Wonder Woman. She will play the Amazonian princess warrior in the new untitled Batman-Superman pic, Variety reported Wednesday night. The mega Justice League flick, which will star Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill and open in July 2015, is being directed by Zack Snyder, the man behind "Man of Steel."

Gadot beat out Elodie Yung ("G.I. Joe: Retaliation") and Olga Kurylenko ("Quantum of Solace"), who also appeared on a shortlist for the role of Diana Prince, AKA Wonder Woman.

Gadot, 28, a former beauty queen who was crowned Miss Israel in 2004, was born in Rosh HaAyin and is also a successful model. She first got international attention when she appeared in a 2007 photo shoot for Maxim magazine focused on the sexy female soldiers of the IDF.

Man Hurt by Chanukah Doughnut

By The Times of Israel

Most Jews know that sufganiyot, the fried doughnuts traditionally enjoyed on Chanukah, are bad for their diets, but a 70-year-old Israeli man found out that the doughy treats can be life threatening.

The man was at his office in Tirat Hacarmel, enjoying a Chanukah party at work, when he began choking on the doughnut, Channel 10 reported. The man found himself unable to breath, and his colleagues called Magen David Adom, who promptly arrived and removed the piece of masticated doughnut from his throat.

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