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January 21, 2005

THIS WEEK - January 21

David Essing reportson some of the main news developments over the past seven days

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January 20, 2005

‘GOING THE EXTRA MILE’

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has entered the ‘make or break’ phase. IDF troops and tanks have been ordered ‘on standby’ to silence the mounting Palestinian attacks in and from the Gaza Strip. However, Israel’s security cabinet is taking Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at his word - that he sincerely wants to stop the terrorism and get back to the conference table. Either the new Palestinian leader delivers on his pledge or Israeli officials say the IDF will do what it takes to protect the country’s citizens.

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January 18, 2005

PRESIDENT ABBAS ENTERS "LION'S DEN"

Newly elected Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, or Abu Mazen, is about to call on the fanatic Hamas and Islamic Jihad organizations in the Gaza Strip to call off their attacks on Israel. On his first visit to Gaza since the January 9th election, Abbas has reportedly ordered Palestinian security forces to halt the rocketing of Israeli towns and villages. His security forces were said to be taking up position in the areas of Gaza used by the terrorists to launch Qassam rockets and mortars. However, on the ground there has been little change in the Palestinian shelling. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon traveled to the Erez Crossing to Gaza to meet top IDF commanders. He again warned of the consequences if the Palestinian attacks continue. What are the chances that Mahmoud Abbas will succeed? Israeli left and right wing Knesset members are split about the new leader’s real intentions.

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January 17, 2005

PALESTINIAN BLITZ OF SDEROT

The residents of Sderot say they've had enough and held a general strike to protest Prime Minister Sharon's failure to halt the Palestinian shelling of their town from over the border in the Gaza Strip. Wearing black ribbons they gathered in the town square for prayers. Most of the six Israelis murdered in last Thursday's suicide bombing lived in Sderot which has been continually terrorized by the Qassam rockets and mortars from Gaza.Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas now says he has ordered his security forces to prevent attacks against Israel; Israeli officials say 'We'll watch for results'.

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January 16, 2005

‘DEFENSIVE SHIELD’ IN GAZA?

There has been no let up in the Palestinian terror attacks from the Gaza Strip. On Thursday night, Palestinian suicide bombers blew up Israel’s Karni terminal murdering six Israeli civilians. The terminal is used to transport medicine and food to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Since then, Palestinians have launched more Qassam rockets and mortars at Israeli towns and villages. One seventeen-year-old girl was critically wounded in Sderot while shielding her ten-year-old brother who was seriously hurt. After suspending all contacts with the new Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Prime Minister Sharon told the Israeli cabinet: ‘The Palestinian leader is not lifting a finger to halt the terrorism’.

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January 14, 2005

THIS WEEK 14.01.05

THIS WEEK, a review of some of the main news stories in the week ending January 14th.

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January 13, 2005

SHARON & SHAS

Prime Minister Sharon managed to win a narrow Knesset majority for his new disengagement cabinet, but he is now facing a new crisis. Sharon’s Likud party expresses mounting annoyance over the Prime Minister’s dependence on Arab and Left-wing Yachad Knesset members. It was only with their votes that Sharon gained Knesset approval for his new cabinet with Labor and United Torah Judaism. Sharon has now turned to Shas, another ultra-orthodox party, in order to bring them into the coalition and silence Likud criticism. However, Shas is demanding major changes in the new state budget and a free vote when it comes to the withdrawal.

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January 11, 2005

SHARON'S STABILITY

Sharon's New Coalition Cabinet Holds First Cabinet Session. Several Likud Cabinet Ministers Annoyed At Government's Survival Depending On Support Of Far Left And Arab MKs.Likud 'Rebels' Likely To Vote For State Budget, After All Withdrawal Items Are Deleted.

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January 10, 2005

SHARON & ABBAS - THE VICTORS

Israel and the Palestinians are both on the move. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has forged a new Israeli cabinet bound on withdrawing from the Gaza Strip and four West Bank settlements. The Knesset vote was 58 in favor, 56 including 13 Likud rebels against, while 6 MKs abstained. Sharon squeaked through with the help of left wing Yachad, Arab MKs and former Shinui MK Yossi Paritsky. In another surprise vote, UTJ MK Meir Porush abstained. Meanwhile in the Palestinian Autonomy, President-elect Mahmoud Abbas took 62 % of the vote in yesterday’s historic election. Outside the Knesset, 15,000 rightwing demonstrators protested against the withdrawal.

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January 09, 2005

PALESTINIANS & HIZBALLAH

While Palestinians were going quietly to the polls on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Hizballah gunmen from Lebanon set off a road side bomb which killed one IDF officer. It was the second deadly terrorist attack in fourty-eight hours. On Friday, Palestinian terrorists exploited the IDF's let-up in offensive operations during the election period and ambushed an Israeli car killing another IDF soldier. David Essing says theses attacks highlight the situation that new Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will have to confront.

In the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Palestinians were going quietly to the polls to elect a new President to replace the late Yasser Arafat. In the north, Hizballah guerillas armed by Iran and Syria went on the offensive sending a signal to the Palestinians.

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January 07, 2005

THIS WEEK, A REVIEW OF SOME OF THE MAIN NEWS STORIES IN ISRAEL OVER THE PAST SEVEN DAYS.

On Monday, Prime Minister Sharon presents his new disengagement government for the Knesset’s approval in Jerusalem. But as Sharon’s withdrawal regains momentum, so does resistance raising the specter of civil violence and bloodshed.

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January 06, 2005

CLOSING THE DEAL

The decision by United Torah Judaism to join Prime Minister Sharon’s new coalition is a big step on the way for Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and four West Bank settlements. On January 3rd, IsraCast reported that a deal was in the making – UTJ proposed that it enter the coalition on condition it be enabled to abstain on disengagement votes in the Knesset; Sharon apparently agreed.

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January 04, 2005

NEW PALESTINIAN & JEWISH TERROR

Shabak Security Chief Avi Dichter presented a grave picture in his semi-annual report to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. Dichter analyzed the current Palestinian escalation in Gaza, new Palestinian terror threats and the threat from Jewish extremists during the upcoming withdrawal from Gaza and four West Bank settlements.

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January 03, 2005

SHARON - ULTRA-ORTHODOX SHOWDOWN

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s government and his plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and four West Bank settlements now hang in the balance. In order to form a new coalition to carry out the disengagement, Sharon needs the five Knesset Members of United Torah Judaism, an ultra-orthodox religious party. The Prime Minister warns if UTJ does not agree to join a Likud-Labor by the end of the week, he might call an early election.

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December 29, 2004

SHARON IN TROUBLE

The government crisis has deepened over Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s moves to pass the new state budget. After two far right parties bolted the coalition in protest over Sharon’s ‘Gaza+4’ withdrawal plan in Knesset, Sharon has made a budget payoff to the ultra-orthodox United Torah Judaism Party and possibly the NRP for their support in passing the budget this Wednesday. However, in response, the coalition party Shinui warns it will now vote against the budget; if it does Sharon will fire Shinui from the coalition. The government crisis worsens day by day.

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December 28, 2004

SHARON SETBACK

The vote in the Knesset Law Committee was a tie; eight-all on legislation needed to implement Sharon’s plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and four West Bank settlements by the end of 2005. Reporter David Essing says there was more than one big surprise in the tie vote: Likud hard-liners have vowed to fight Sharon’s withdrawal every step of the way. In the Knesset Law committee Arab Knesset Member Azmi Bishara, who surprisingly abstained in the vote to get Israeli settlers out of Gaza, joined them in defeating the bill.

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December 27, 2004

MORE SHARON 'DOS AND DON'TS'

In a briefing to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon reviewed the current state of his political and military thinking. In addition to warning that the IDF will react very severely, if the Palestinians attack Israeli civilians during next year’s evacuation of the Gaza Strip and four West Bank settlements, Sharon also took the wraps off several other burning issues.

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December 27, 2004

FLASH - SHARON!

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has warned he will order the IDF to hit back with massive fire-power, if Palestinians attack Israeli civilians evacuating the Gaza Strip next summer. Addressing the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Sharon made clear he would not tolerate mortar, rocket or any other type of attack on the Israeli families he is ordering to pull out. The Prime Minister made clear that the Israeli military will be prepared to do whatever it takes to stop any Palestinian assault during the pullback from all of the settlements in Gaza and four more on the West Bank. However, right wing critics still contend that Sharon is now restraining the IDF in the face of continuing Palestinian mortar and Qassam rocket attacks. Committee Chairman Yuval Steinitz of the Likud, later described the Prime Minister’s warning in the closed door hearing:

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December 23, 2004

TONY BLAIR’S ‘LONDON BRIDGE’ ARIEL SHARON’S ‘EVERYTHING AND SEQUENCE’

Where does Tony Blair’s visit and the reactions of Ariel Sharon and the Palestinian leaders reveal about where things are headed in the post-Arafat era? The endgame of the current international drive is the establishing of an independent Palestinian state. The foreign leaders, coming on their political pilgrimage to Israel and the Palestinian Authority after Arafat’s death, are coming with the message of ‘Carpe Diem’ - Seize the Day!’ Make no mistake, the U.S. mired in the quicksand of Iraq, is also on board. The resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is now perceived as a must for a united stand against the global war against terrorism. And it is against this backdrop that U.S. President George W. Bush has spoken about the need for a Palestinian state in the Palestinian areas if peace is to reign in the region.

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December 22, 2004

BLAIR & SHARON

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has met with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Jerusalem and acting Palestinian leader Muhmoud Abbas in Ramallah before the Palestinian Presidential election on January 9th. Both Sharon and Blair appeared to see eye to eye on the need for an end to Palestinian terrorism and also that Israel’s upcoming withdrawal was not intended to be Jerusalem’s last word. The British Prime Minister stressed that the upcoming London conference would prepare the groundwork for the Palestinians and Israel to start negotiating the Roadmap peace proposal after the Israeli disengagement from the Gaza Strip and 4 West Bank settlements by the end of 2005. Blair concurred with Sharon’s decision not to attend the conference, which is designed to discuss Palestinian reforms and foreign aid. Here are extensive excerpts from the joint news conference starting first with Blair’s comments on the London meeting:

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