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The Lekarev Report, Israel News August 25, 2008

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August 25, 2008
198_prisoners.jpg198 Palestinian Prisoners Freed

Hundreds of relatives and Fatah members waited this morning at the Bitunia crossing, north of Jerusalem, for the 198 security prisoners released by Israel as a "gesture" to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.  Abbas was rather stingy with his "thanks", stating only that ALL 11,000 prisoners should be freed and that he is waiting for Marwan Barghouti.

The waiting crowd began dancing and waving pictures of the prisoners, as well as those of Abbas and former Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat.

The prisoners entered the muqataa compound with great enthusiasm, in a production which resembled a Hizbullah celebration. The prisoners were brought into the compound by members of the presidential guard, who also accompanied them to the area where PA and PLO officials shook their hands.
The oldest prisoner freed, Sayed al-Ataba, said that "this is a victory over the prison, a victory over the handcuffs, a victory for freedom. This is the first victory." He thanked the people and Palestinian leadership for standing by the prisoners.
In his speech, Abbas said, "Despite the great happiness, we know that there is also sadness over those who were left behind, 11,000 who have yet to be released."  He added to the cheering crowd that there will be no peace with Israel until all 11,000 are freed and the Israeli prisons are empty.
Raising the senior prisoners' hands, the Palestinian president added, "They all have a place in our heart, but there is a special one, senior brother Marwan Barghouti and the leading brother Ahmad Saadat, whom we hope to see soon."
Barghouti is the former Fatah secretary-general in the West Bank, who received five life sentences.  Saadat is the leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, involved in the murder of Israeli Minister Rehavam Ze'evi.

livini.jpgBudget Passes for 'Political' Reasons

Transportation Minister and Kadima leadership candidate Shaul Mofaz said Monday morning that the 2009 budget which was approved overnight wouldn't last very long.

"Whoever wins the Kadima primaries will obviously have to bring about a new budget. It's a pity that the budget passed due to 'political' reasons," he said.

Mofaz slammed Foreign Minister and Kadima leadership rival Tzipi Livni for caving in to the pressure.

"Tzipi said that it was not a good budget, Tzipi said that it requires changes, but once again, she was not able to make the right decision. Once again she compromised and did not stand up to pressure and did not decide what she had to decide," he said.

Aides to Livni said in response to Mofaz's criticism that they would not be drawn into a "battle" of this nature, adding that such statements only indicates Mofaz's stressful condition.

During Sunday night's 16-hour budget debate, Livni accused Mofaz of opposing the budget for political reasons and warned that not passing it immediately would harm the economy. 

The budget passed by ONE vote.

gayamak.jpgNo Gay Parade with This Mayor

Jerusalem mayoral candidate Arkadi Gaydamak expressed his vehement objection Monday to holding another gay pride parade in the city.

Speaking at Bikur Cholim Hospital in the capital, Gaydamak, who owns the hospital, said he would even lie on the road and risk death to prevent the parade from taking place.

The candidate said the homosexual community was a part of society and must be accepted, and stated he was not a homophobe. Nevertheless, Gaydamak said he would not allow such a parade to be held in a city holy to the three major monotheistic religions.

The Russian-Israeli tycoon went on to criticize Mayor Uri Lupolianski, saying that a mayor who holds the parade in the city was renouncing his personal beliefs in return for political gain.

Regarding the two leading candidates, Meir Porush, representative of UTJ's hassidic Agudat Yisrael faction, and Jerusalem opposition leader Nir Barkat, Gaydamak said that despite the fact that he was not leading in the polls, he would continue to run in the race until the end.

Gaydamak added that whoever liked Porush's shtreimel or Barkat's necktie should keep in mind that he had bought the Betar Jerusalem soccer team, Bikur Cholim Hospital and other important assets, and that actions, not words, are what matter in the end.

ricearoni.jpgAnother visit from Secretary Rice

Less than two weeks after US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that Russia's activities in Georgia called into question Moscow's "suitability for all kinds of activities that it has said that it wants to be a part of," Rice is expected to talk with Israeli officials during her trip here about Russia's stated desire to host an international meeting on the Middle East in November.

Israeli officials said yesterday that Israel had not officially made a decision regarding the conference. The officials stressed, however, that Jerusalem was continuing to send messages to the Kremlin that it did not want the crisis in Georgia to damage Israeli-Russian ties.

The officials said that the Moscow conference would not only be raised during Rice's visit - she is scheduled to arrive Monday afternoon for some 36 hours - but also at a meeting of the Quartet in mid-September on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meeting. The Russians envision the meeting as a follow-up to last year's Annapolis conference.

Although never specifically mentioning Russia's role in the Middle East diplomatic process - it is a member of the Quartet along with the US, EU and the UN - Rice hinted heavily in the last couple of weeks that Russia's actions in South Ossetia could jeopardize its full integration into international institutions and raise questions about its involvement as a full and equal partner on the world stage.

bidenneverstopstalking.jpgAll Eyes on Denver

This historic frontier town built on mines and ranches, surrounded by the snow-capped peaks of the Colorado Rockies, hasn't been famous for its Jewish presence. But as it prepares to host the pre-eminent political event of the US presidential race to date, the Democratic National Convention which begins Monday, Jews are playing an outsize role - both in bringing the four-day mega-event to town and in choosing between Barack Obama, who will receive the nomination here on Thursday night, and Republican rival John McCain, whose GOP convention will be held next week in Minneapolis, says a lead article in today's Jerusalem Post.
Colorado is emerging as one of 2008's crucial "swing states," where residents' support is fairly evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, making them focal points of battle between those campaigns.

DNC planners were well aware of that fact, as was Steve Farber, the co-chair of the local outreach team in charge of convincing the parties' powers-to-be that Denver should be their choice.

"The Democratic Party really had to come out West. Had Al Gore won a western state [in 2000], he would have been the president," said Farber, who has deep roots in Denver and its Jewish community. He also emphasized "the infrastructure, the climate - and the phenomenal view" to help seal the deal.

iaf.jpgIDF Begins Move to the South 

A Hercules jet was the first to take off this afternoon from central Israel to the new Nevatim Israel Air Force base in the Negev, marking the start of the herculean IDF move to the Negev.The move marks today's closing of the IAF's main transport base, in Lod, and its replacement in Nevatim.  The new base will be formally dedicated later this week in the presence of President Shimon Peres and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi.

At the same time, infrastructure work is beginning on the new army city in the Negev, to be called Ir HaBahadim, or City of the Training Bases.  Construction was long delayed because of environmental concerns.  Defense Minister Ehud Barak is in attendance for a ceremony marking the construction.

The new town is set to be built on an area of 1,065 dunams (263 acres, just over a square kilometer), and and will house the IDF's Armaments School, Logistics Training School, Military Police, and more.   Ir HaBahadim will also include an inn for visitors, a shopping mall, a country club and theaters, and is expected to provide a welcome economic boon for the sparsely-populated area - as well as boost for the IDF, technologically and manpower-wise.

The move to the Negev, called "Project IDF Ascent to the Negev," is being termed by security network personnel "one of the largest and most important military projects in the history of the State of Israel."  Some 11,000 soldiers, both in the standing army and career officers, will serve on the technological campus of the 4CI Branch - the army's Command, Control, Computers, Communications and Information Branch.  Another 9,000 soldiers will serve in other branches there.
raids.jpgPolice Raid Islamic Offices

Dozens of police and intelligence personnel swooped down on Al Aqsa offices of the Islamic Movement in the Lower Galilee city of Um el Fahm Saturday night and seized money, computers and documents that linked the organization with Hamas.The money was intended for activities in Jerusalem, which were sponsored by the movement's leader, Sheikh Raad Salah. He has accused Israel of building a synagogue under the Temple Mount's Al Aqsa mosque.

Um al Fahm is a large Arab city located several miles east of Hadera, southeast of Haifa, and has increasingly become a hotbed of anti-Israeli incitement.

The Al Aqsa branch of the Movement is suspected of working with Hamas's charity coalition," which is a front for "extremist Muslims throughout the world," Israeli intelligence officials said. Authorities are investigating if Al Asqa is coordinating activities with the outlawed Hamas group Dawa, which helps finance terrorism. Islamic Movement leaders charged that the raid signaled the "bankruptcy" of Israeli institutions.

Shalom and blessings,

Show me Your ways, O Hashem; teach me Your paths.
Guide me in Your truth, and teach me; for You are the G-d of my salvation; for You do I wait all day long.

Psalm 25:4-5

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