Saturday, August 30, 2008

Obama Wife Penalty


With Michelle Obama, once the quintessential working mom (full-time job, two children, working husband), taking center stage at Monday's opening session of the Democratic National Convention, it's logical to assume that her husband's tax proposals would help women. They would not. Rather than change we can believe in, Senator Obama's tax plan would take us back to the days when women stayed home and baked cookies.

By raising taxes on upper income Americans, Mr. Obama would worsen our tax system's marriage penalty on two-earner married couples, who would pay more taxes than if both earners were single.

The penalty would be greatest for women who have invested the most in their education, hoping to shatter the glass ceiling and compete with men.

In contrast, Senator McCain has promised not to raise taxes, and so he wouldn't worsen the marriage penalty.

The marriage penalty falls harder on married women, especially mothers. When a mother takes a job, her earnings are reduced by taxes paid at her husband's higher rate, in addition to costs for childcare and her transportation. This discourages married women not just from working, but also from seeking the next promotion, from pursuing upwardly-mobile careers.

Women are more affected by the marriage penalty than men because they have a greater tendency to move in and out of the labor force, depending on the ages of their children. About 80% of American women, married and single, have children, and many take time out of the workforce at some point to look after children, and then return when their children are in school.

Mr. Obama says that he isn't going to raise taxes on people earning under $250,000 of gross income. For those earners, he says, taxes will still be lower than they were in the 1990s.

But the candidate's assurance is not correct. Many couples with gross income under $250,000 would be affected. Tax rates on the two top tax brackets, now 33% and 35%, would rise to 36% and 39.6%, their pre-2001 levels. Those are rates on taxable income, after gross income has been reduced for such allowances as itemized deductions (charity contributions, mortgage interest, etc.) and personal exemptions, chiefly children.

Singles earning $165,000, and married couples earning $201,000 in taxable income, are at the 33% rate now, so their tax rate would rise to 36%.

To be sure, some couples who gross $250,000 might have sufficient deductions to bring their taxable income below $201,000, but others might not.

Under current tax law, two singles, each with $104,000 of taxable income, would pay federal tax at a 28% rate. If they were to marry, they would pay tax at a 33% rate. Under Mr. Obama's plan, their tax rate would rise to 36%. That would be a tax increase of 8 percentage points just for getting married.

Alternatively, if the wife decided not to work, or to work part-time, the federal tax rate of the couple would remain at 28% rather than rising to 36%.

Add Social Security, Medicare, and state and local income taxes, and the rate in New York would climb to well over 50%. That's a penalty from the 1970s, when few women worked outside the home and the top tax rate was over 70%, rather than a tax plan for the 21st century.

Income taxes aren't the only taxes that would rise under Mr. Obama's proposals. Mr. Obama's advisers, economists Jason Furman and Austan Goolsbee, have said that he would raise Social Security taxes on incomes greater than $250,000 by four percentage points, to fix the Social Security deficit. Presently, the Social Security tax applies only to the first $102,000 of wage and salary income.

Never mind that this additional payroll tax increase would close only 15% of the Social Security funding gap. At some point the additional payroll tax increases would have to start further down the income scale to be effective, unless Congress decides to raise the retirement age or otherwise trim benefits.

And then there is the cost of health care. Employers would have to raise workers' contributions for health insurance to pay for Mr. Obama's new health insurance program. According to Mr. Obama's Web site, "The benefit package will be similar to that offered through Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), the plan members of Congress have." The congressional plan is costly.

This combination of higher tax proposals might discourage couples from getting married. When married, it would discourage America's most educated women from working. When working, it would give Uncle Sam a bigger bite out of women's raises.

In order to help women, taxes should remain at their present levels — or go down.

Modern women such as Michelle Obama, and even less advantaged women, want to be able to move in and out of the workforce. They don't need an exacerbated marriage penalty keeping them at home.

Mrs. Obama, tell the candidate that his tax plan is change we don't need.

Ms. Furchtgott-Roth,, former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor, is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Livni Opens Wide Gap Over Mofaz

Hillel Fendel

The Kadima party primaries are only three weeks away, and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has opened a wide lead in the polls over her rival, Transportation Minister Sha'ul Mofaz. Polls show her leading by anywhere from 11 to 21 percentage points. In at least one sector, however, Mofaz is leading by far. A Brain Base survey finds that Mofaz has the support of 71% of the non-Jewish sector of the Kadima membership, while Livni has only 4%.

How Would Kadima Do?
Yet another survey, this one carried out by Panorama Markets, finds that Kadima would do better in the general elections if headed by Livni than by Mofaz - but in either case would finish second to the Likud. The numbers show that if Livni heads Kadima, the Likud would receive 24 Knesset mandates and Kadima would take 23. With Mofaz at the helm, however, the Likud would win, 22-19. Labor would finish in 3rd place in either scenario, with 14 MKs (if Livni heads Kadima) or 17 (Mofaz).

Different Polls, Different Results
In terms of support among the some 70,000 registered Kadima members - including some 3,500 who are also illegally registered in other parties - Livni is well ahead of Mofaz. The Brain Base survey shows that Livni could garner 46% of the votes, compared to just 35% for Mofaz.

Another survey, by Maariv-Teleseker - shows an even more prominent lead for Livni, 49% to 28%. The two other candidates, Ministers Dichter and Sheetrit, receive single-digit support.

If any candidate wins while receiving more than 40% of the vote, a second round will not be necessary.

Livni Negotiating a PA State
Mofaz has sharply attacked Livni on many occasions, citing her supposed inexperience and indecisiveness. Mofaz, a former Defense Minister and IDF Chief of Staff, is perceived to be more hawkish than Livni, who is heavily involved in negotiating an agreement with the Palestinian Authority.

Mofaz has also said that he has much better chances of forming a new government, without having to resort to new elections, than does Livni. The polls are split on whether Mofaz has made his point.

Who Can Form a New Government Coalition?
The Brain Base poll shows that 36% of the voting public feel that Mofaz can form an alternative government, while only 19% believe the same about Livni. The Teleseker survey, on the other hand, finds the opposite: 46% think Livni's chances are greater than that of Mofaz, while 30.5% like Mofaz's chances better.

The winner of the primaries will be granted a chance to form Israel's next government. He or she will be given 42 days to form a government, and if not, elections are to be held 90 days later - somewhere around the end of January. In such a case, the winner of the elections will again have 42 days to form a new government. In any event, Ehud Olmert will remain the Prime Minister until a new government is actually formed.

Quiz on Legal Aspects of Israel's Right to Exist

Palestine is a country.

__True __False

There has never been a sovereign Arab state in Palestine.

__True __False

The "Mandate for Palestine" defined where Jews are permitted to

__True __False The U.S. government and the President supported Jewish settlements
in the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

__True __ False

Palestinian Arabs were granted political rights in Palestine.

__True __ False

1947 Partition Plan replaced the "Mandate for Palestine."

__True __ False

51 Countries, the entire League of Nations approved the "Mandate
for Palestine."

__True __ False

Jews are in Palestine as of right and not on sufferance.

__True __ False

Jews are illegal occupants in Palestine.

__True __ False

The "Mandate for Palestine" encourages Jews to expand their
settlements and occupation in Judea and Samaria (West Bank) and Gaza.

__True __ False

Under International law, Jewish settlement in the whole of Palestine
is legal.

__True __ False

Answers later today, on this same post-good luck-doc

King expresses concern about peace process

Jordan Times

Following is an official translation of His Majesty King Abdullah’s interview with Marc Epstein of L’Express, published on Thursday:

Q: At the launch of the Union for the Mediterranean in July in Paris, Jordan was represented by the prime minister. Can your absence be interpreted as a lack of interest in this project?

A: No, I have a very close friendship with President Sarkozy but my schedule did not allow me to attend the meeting. This is one of the reasons for my visit to France on August 27. Q: What do you expect to come out of the Union for the Mediterranean?

A: We have a strong relationship with Europe; your region has always been closer to the Middle East than the United States, Russia or countries of the Far East. France in particular is Jordan’s major investment partner. The Union for the Mediterranean presents an actual means for us to get closer.

Q: Why would the Union for the Mediterranean succeed more than the Barcelona Process dating back to 1995 and which has disappointed?

A: This is due to the lack of recorded progress in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. The Union for the Mediterranean in a way takes action on this situation and proposes another dynamic, thanks to a series of concrete projects which are of interest to all the countries in the region.

Q: The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been the object of multiple negotiations to the point where everyone basically knows what the parameters of a final agreement might look like. Only the political resolve is missing. On this question, do you see any reasons to hope for a development?

A: This is the core issue. Within the PNA and many Arab countries, there is strong resolve to reach an accord. But what is it from Israel? I have often discussed with Israelis and said: Look if we’re going to build this confidence of this relationship and work the peace process forward, explain to me what your country would be like 10 years from now. And what would its role in the region be then? This is a question numerous Arab leaders can answer easily.

Israelis on the other hand seem obsessed with present times, suicide bombers and rocket attacks against their territories. They only see the fortress Israel of today, without thinking forward to the future where their state would be integrated into the region. For this reason, I am concerned, that the peace process is in jeopardy. The Jordanian support remains intact. But I am not convinced that Israel wants to solve the Israeli-Palestinian problem because they lack the long-term vision.

Q: Israel is negotiating with Syria through Turkey as well as with Hizbollah through intermediaries. Is it not frustrating to note that modern Arab leaders, such as yourself, have often been kept on the sidelines?

A: It is extremely frustrating. We obviously wish that the Syrians and the Israelis good luck, assuming they can solve their problems. But these exchanges take place precisely at a time where many countries in the region are trying to push the Israeli-Palestinian, the core issue of the Middle East, across the threshold and lots of the Israelis are now talking to the Syrians.

I might seem facetious to you, but it seems to me that those bilateral negotiations are somewhat convenient for both sides because they constitute a good reason to avoid concentrating on the Palestinian issue. I am worried because in the meantime the clock is ticking. At the rate things are going, the West Bank will soon no longer have geographic continuity.

In these conditions, how is a viable Palestinian state imaginable? And if this prospect moves away, how to move forward the negotiations? Currently, 57 countries, a third of the countries represented at the United Nations, do not recognise Israel. We offer Israel the recognition of the Arab and Islamic world which stretches from Morocco to Indonesia. This is something! But in return, a future for the Palestinians has to be offered.

Q: Is there another option than the creation of a Palestinian state?

A: No, I don’t think so. The only acceptable solution in the eyes of the Muslims and the Arabs means an understanding on Jerusalem; the understanding on refugees and the understanding for a homeland for the Palestinians. Sometimes some people evoke the “Jordanian option”, the confederation kind. But nothing will happen as long as the Palestinians do not have a state.

Q: If John McCain and Barack Obama are serious about reaching a settlement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, should they push for a settlement in their first term?

A: Yes because the clock is ticking. Israelis and Palestinians, left alone, will not be able to reach solution.

Q: As long as Hamas controls Gaza and that the Palestinian camp is divided, is it realistic to talk about a settlement?

A: Western countries pay too much attention to Hamas at the expense of the Palestinian Authority. If the Israeli, American and European leaders consider Hamas to be a pariah, then they should support the Palestinian Authority more, primarily by contributing economic aid which is more important, but also - in what concerns Israel - by removing the checkpoints and stopping the building of settlements.

By failing to pursue such a policy, Israel and its Western partners objectively help Hamas. And it is very easy to then explain to us that, on the Palestinian side, there are no partners to negotiate peace with.

Q: Israel has approved the building of new settlements in the West Bank. What do you think of this?

A: This is a sign of a lack of interest in Israel for solution foreseeing two states. Every time they build a settlement it means that what they say on one hand, and what they do on the other hand, are two different things. The settlements, the negotiations with Syria and other Israeli initiatives lately convince me that Israel is not seeking to solve the Palestinian question in spite of their rhetoric regarding the issue. What is happening to the Palestinians is also a crime.

Q: According to the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohammad Al Baradei, six months to one year is enough for Iran to produce enough enriched uranium in order to build a bomb. In your mind, is this an acceptable prospect or should there be an intervention to stop the process?

A: The Iranians are playing an ambiguous role in this case, just as the Indians, the Pakistanis or the Israelis before them. It seems to me what Tehran wants to tell us is that Iran is an important actor in the region and that we all need to take good notice of it. It is a political message. Jordan, for its part, hopes that there won’t be an armed intervention against Iran. Such an operation will provoke a tit-for-tat response and who knows where such a sequence will take us? All countries in the region will pay the price.

Q: Nevertheless, if it were established that the Iranians are indeed developing a military nuclear capability, should one resign oneself to that or should it be prevented at any price?

A: The Iranians insist that they’re developing a peaceful programme. An American report of several months ago seems to agree with them. The British also want to be reassured. Furthermore, I do not have the impression that Israel has the capacity to destroy an eventual Iranian nuclear programme. And once again, I fear the tit-for-tat response.

Q: Are you concerned about the clearly growing Iranian influence in the region?

A: Iran is viewed favourably in certain regions close to the Mediterranean. The Israeli policy is not unfamiliar with this new popularity. What I do not cease to repeat is: The Israeli-Palestinian question is not isolated. If the Americans want to reduce Teheran’s influence in the region, it has to commit itself more to the Israeli-Palestinian question. Because the Iranians use this issue to move their pawns forward and to manipulate like others have done in the past.

Q: Are you concerned about a Russian resurgence?

A: During the cold war, the Soviet Union and the West often confronted each other using a third country. Should there be a rise of tension between Russia and the West, I’m afraid that the countries of the Middle East will be involved once again.

Q: In Jordan, like elsewhere, the price of food is rising; that of fuel as well. Do certain groups - Islamists, in particular - try to gain from this situation?

A: Jordanians are suffering from the rise in prices; they feel anxious. We have launched aid programmes which, from now till the end of the year, should protect our fellow citizens in need. For my country, this comes at the worst possible time because reforms committed to in the past several years, aim to encourage the emerging of a middle class. And this one should in the future facilitate the development of other reforms: Economic, social and political.

Now, members of the middle class are deeply affected by the rise in prices. On the energy level, we are dependent on the supply of oil and gas. On the other hand, we have 3 per cent of the world’s uranium resources and so we want to establish a nuclear sector and France at this point, can undoubtedly help us. In seven years - thanks to Areva, I hope - we will have our first nuclear reactor.

Q: Your father King Hussein designated you as crown prince in the last days of his reign. Do you ever regret the days when you could lead a normal life?

A: There’s a part of me that’s always going to regret that. In the army, my life was much simpler: I knew who my friends were and who my enemies were. In the position I occupy today, this is sometimes less clear. Then, of course, one cannot make mistakes because the responsibility is enormous. However, my responsibility allows me to work for the benefit/well-being of my country and my people.

Q: Queen Rania describes your relationship as a “partnership”.

A: Yes. The fact of becoming king and queen has contributed to strengthening our relationship because of the pressure, the responsibilities and the opportunities that the post offers. Before, I was commander of the Special Forces and Rania devoted a lot of time to charitable work. Today, our responsibilities have brought us closer.

Q: “One cannot make a mistake”, you just said. Do you have regrets?

A: We should have undoubtedly moved faster. I have a vision for the future of Jordan. And sometimes I have the feeling that we should have encouraged more reforms without delay. Numerous advisers have warned me against the danger of reforming a country too fast. But Jordan cannot afford to waste time.

Barack "The Silencer" Obama's Gangland Assault on Free Speech

Michelle Malkin
Friday, August 29, 2008

Where are all the free speech absolutists when you need them? Over the past month, left-wing partisans and Democratic lawyers have waged a brass-knuckled intimidation campaign against GOP donors, TV and radio stations, and even an investigative journalist because they have all dared to question the radical cult of Barack Obama. A chill wind blows, but where the valiant protectors of political dissent are, nobody knows. On August 11, I called the American Civil Liberties Union national headquarters in New York for comment about the Chicago gangland tactics of one of these groups -- a nonprofit called "Accountable America" that is spearheaded by a former operative of the Obama-endorsing MoveOn outfit.

"Accountable America" is trolling campaign finance databases and targeting conservative donors with "warning" letters in a thuggish attempt to depress Republican fundraising. (You'll be interested to know that the official registered agent of Accountable America is Laurence Gold, a high-powered attorney for the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) who has testified before the Senate complaining about the use of campaign finance laws to stifle the speech of union workers -- a pet cause of the ACLU.)

The ACLU press office failed to respond to my initial call. On August 13, I followed up through e-mail:

"I called on Monday requesting a statement from the ACLU about Accountable America's intimidation campaign against GOP donors. What is the ACLU's position with regard to such efforts? Waiting for your statement..."

ACLU press officer Pamela Bradshaw e-mailed back:

"Michelle, My apologies that I cannot be of more assistance, but we don't have anyone available. Thanks, Pam."

My reply: "Pam -- Does this mean you don't have anyone available today, this week, or for the foreseeable future?"

On August 20, after a week of silence, I forwarded the message again to the ACLU press office. No response.

So, I won't bother asking the ACLU's opinion of the latest wave of speech-squelching moves by the Obama campaign:

On Monday, Obama demanded that the Justice Department stop TV stations from airing a documented, accurate independent ad spotlighting Obama's longtime working relationship with unrepentant Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers. Obama summoned his followers to bombard stations, many of them owned by conservative-leaning Sinclair Communications, with 93,000 e-mails to squelch the commercial.

On Tuesday, the Obama campaign sent another letter to the Justice Department demanding investigation and prosecution of American Issues Project, the group that produced the Ayers ad, as well as Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons, who funded it.

And on Wednesday, Obama exhorted his followers to sabotage the WGN radio show of veteran Chicago host and University of Chicago Professor Milt Rosenberg. Why? Because he invited National Review writer Stanley Kurtz to discuss his investigative findings about Obama's ties to Ayers and the underwhelming results of their collaboration on a left-wing educational project sponsored by the Chicago Annenberg Challenge. The "Obama Action Wire" supplied Rosenberg's call-in line and talking points like this:

"Tell WGN that by providing Kurtz with airtime, they are legitimizing baseless attacks from a smear-merchant and lowering the standards of political discourse. ... It is absolutely unacceptable that WGN would give a slimy character assassin like Kurtz time for his divisive, destructive ranting on our public airwaves."

Behind the glowing, peaceful facade lies Barack "The Silencer" Obama and his silent enablers on the left. While mainstream journalists schmoozed with liberal celebrities in Denver, practiced yoga with left-wing bloggers and received massages at the Google convention tent near touchy-feely Barackopolis, Team Obama was on an ugly, aggressive warpath sanctioned by Mr. Civility. While compassionate Obama prepared to stand before thousands of worshipers at Invesco Field, purporting to give voice to the voiceless, his Chicago-schooled campaign machine was working overtime to muzzle conservative critics. "We want it to stop," ordered one pro-Obama caller to WGN.

Welcome to the future: the politics of Hope and Change enforced by the missionaries of Search and Destroy.

Copyright © 2008 Salem Web Network. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Summer camps-crafts, water sports and horsing around with friends-not in Gaza


Summer camps in the Gaza Strip run by Hamas and other terrorist organizations inculcate youngsters with radical Islamic ideology and the culture of terrorism. Some camps offer military training to prepare future ranks of operatives for the terrorist organizations. 1. Every year Hamas and other terrorist networks organize summer camps in the for Palestinians youngsters from the age of kindergarten to university. The camps indoctrinate them with radical Islamic ideology and the organizations' culture of terrorism (“the resistance”). It is part of a continuing process, which begins in kindergarten and ends with university students, to turn the children into at least supporters and if possible, operatives in the various terrorist organizations. For the Gazan population, which is economically distressed, the camps (which charge almost nothing and provide the children with hats and T-shirts) are a convenient and popular way of giving the children something to do during the summer vacation.

2. Several hundred camps are operating in the Gaza Strip this summer, with tens of thousands of campers. Most of them have been organized by Hamas or Hamas-affiliated Islamic institutions. The Islamic Block, Hamas's student organization, also organized a summer camp for Islamic University students. The PIJ camps have at least 10,000 campers. In addition to the usual games and other leisure-time activities, the children are exposed to propaganda promoting violence and terrorism as the means of achieving Palestinian goals (especially the “right to return”) and the glorification of shaheeds, who are turned into role models. As part of their camping experience, Hamas campers are taken on field trips to visit the graves of shaheeds such as Hamas leaders (such as Ahmad Yassin and Abd al-Aziz Rantisi) and others. 1

3. Some of the camps have paramilitary or even fully military activities intended to prepare the young Palestinians for enlistment into the ranks of the various terrorist organizations. These activities are integrated into the extensive training held by the terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip in preparation for “the day after” 2 (For photos see Appendix 1). The training is often deliberately held in full view of the media. For example, an AP correspondent in the Gaza Strip was present at the graduation ceremonies of a Hamas camp in the eastern Saja'iya neighborhood of Gaza City , which ended on August 10. The correspondent reported that the camp aimed at “preparing the youngsters for battle against Israel . About 200 teens dressed in the uniform of the Hamas military wing showed off their new skills,” which they acquired at the camp. Their final show included the presentation of various fighting techniques, while in the background their instructors (bearded Hamas operatives) kept up a steady barrage of rifle fire and detonated small explosive devices in a nearby field. Present at the final activities was Khalil al-Hayyeh , a senior Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, who “thundered” that “[These youngsters] are tomorrow's leaders” (AP, August 11, 2008 ).

4. Some of the summer camps in the Gaza Strip, which are a breeding ground for future terrorist operatives, are run by radical Islamic associations, most of them affiliated with Hamas. The associations are funded by Islamic foundations abroad, some of them through a organization known as the Union of Good. Thirty-six funds and foundations belonging to it were recently outlawed by Israel . 3 The Union of Good's Internet site reported it was sponsoring more than 100 summer camps in the Gaza Strip , whose theme was “We stand firm despite the blockade” (Union of Good website, July 8, 2008 ). The camps which the Union of Good sponsors (and helps finance) are fully affiliated with Hamas, and at some of them military training is provided by operatives from the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the movement's military-terrorist wing.

Appendix I

Palestinian youths given military training by Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades operatives

1 The difference in the nature of the summer camps in the Gaza Strip and Judea and Samaria is readily apparent. In Judea and Samaria, where they are under the control of the Palestinian Authority, more emphasis is placed on art, sports, preparation for matriculation exams, foreign languages, music, literature, etc., in addition to Palestinian nationalistic themes such as the “right to return” and commemorating the shaheeds.

2 For further information see our August 21, 2008 Bulletin entitled “Hamas and the other Palestinian terrorist organizations are taking advantage of the lull in the fighting to promote their military buildup, which includes intensive training, in preparation for the day after” .

3 For further information see our July 8, 2008 Bulletin entitled “The war on financing terrorism: Defense Minister Ehud Barak signed an order outlawing 36 global Union of Good Islamic funds which raise money for Hamas institutions in the Palestinian Authority-administered territories. The money supports Hamas in building a political alternative to the PA and maintain a terrorism-supporting system” .

4 The Islamic Association is an important Hamas institution in the Gaza Strip. It is headed by sheikh Dr. Ahmad Bahar , a senior Hamas activist, deals with indoctrinating youth and runs a large network of kindergartens. Its offices were closed by the PA at the beginning of 2002 but it continued operations by virtue of donations from Islamic foundations abroad.

5 Boys and girls at Palestinian Islamic Jihad camps are also brainwashed to support the organization's terrorist activities. For example, on July 31, 2008 , AP released a photo of girls at a PIJ camp carrying models of an Al-Quds rocket, the weapon used by the organization to attack western Negev towns and villages.

6 For further information see our November 8, 2007 Bulletin entitled “Palestinian children playing with plastic weapons, copying the fighting methods of the terrorist organizations” .

Pioneering 'Green Energy' at a Negev Dairy Farm

Hana Levi Julian

A Negev couple has pioneered the commercial production of “green energy” on a farm in Ramat HaNegev. Orit and Moshe Teneh have built the first 50-kilowatt solar energy system in Israel. The couple set up a smaller, 6-kilowatt system on their solar dairy farm two years ago, slowly adding more to the system in stages until it exceeded 45 kilowatts daily, about one-third of the local dairy’s electricity consumption.

The family “decided to exploit the potential embodied in the sunlight that floods Ramat HaNegev in order to produce an alternative to electricity," according to the community’s website."

The photo-voltaic solar panels used by the farm follow the sun’s motion from dawn to dusk, gathering the energy from the sun’s rays and converting them into electric current. The energy is immediately transferred directly to the farm’s electric grid, rather than stored in batteries, which would result in a loss of approximately 15 percent of the electricity produced.

Two-thirds of the power that is generated will be sold to the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC).

The farm receives support from the Ramat HaNegev Regional Council in partnership with the Desert Research Institutes at Midreshet Ben-Gurion to explore other clean energy production methods.

The team is working together on a plan to generate additional electricity using wind turbines and to use organic waste as part of the power for the local community.

Israel's suicidal choice

Rachel Ehrenfeld - Aug 27, 2008
Washington Times

Shortly after the citizens of the Israeli town of Sderot suffered another rocket attack from Hamas-controlled Gaza, Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered all border crossings between Israel and Gaza closed. At the same time, also on Mr. Barak's orders, a Brink's armored car carrying NIS 72 million in cash ($20 million), delivered its load at the Erez crossing to a similarly secure vehicle of a Palestinian bank in Gaza. The minister's spokesperson contended on Aug. 14 that the money- transfer issue is "separate from the rocket attack and closing of the crossings." The spokesperson added that the cash - Palestinian tax money withheld by Israel - was sent to replenish the reserves in Gaza's banks following Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' request to pay Fatah-loyal Palestinian Authority (PA) employees in Gaza, before Sept. 1, the beginning of Ramadan. This was the second cash transfer in two weeks. Israel Security Agency chief Yuval Diskin's warning that Hamas is using the so-called "cease-fire" to improve and increase its armaments was ignored. Not surprisingly, on Aug. 15, Hamas' Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) unveiled their latest rocket, the "Nasser-4." This longer-range rocket can reach Israel's main cargo port, Ashdod, and even Beersheba, Israel's largest southern city. With these improved rockets, Hamas now threatens the lives of 500,000 Israelis.

Israel's response was yet another meek protest that Hamas violates its agreements. "The cease-fire … was very specific that the Hamas movement and the other terrorist groups can't use it as a period to import more weapons, more explosives, more rockets into the Gaza Strip," said Mark Regev, spokesman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Israel reserves "the right to act, if need be, to protect ourselves," he added.

Mr. Olmert's government is under growing American pressure to fulfill all of the requests made by Mr. Abbas and PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. The fiction is that helping the leaders of the "moderate" Fatah would help that organization prevail over Hamas, which took control over the Gaza Strip after the Israeli withdrawal three years ago. These last three years served Hamas well. It consolidated its political power and increased its military capabilities, with more than 222 tons of ammunition, 10 million bullets and hundreds of anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs), all smuggled into the Gaza Strip from the Egyptian-controlled Sinai Peninsula.

But the Defense Ministry insisted that the cash was sent to strengthen Mr. Abbas' influence in the Gaza Strip, after Hamas deliberately withdrew most shekels from the banks. This created a severe shortage in cash needed to pay the salaries of the PA employees. But if the goal was to strengthen Mr. Abbas' position, the cash should have been delivered to him in the West Bank city of Ramallah. From there he could have transferred the money to Gaza, as he has done in the past, and claim credit for it.

How many Hamas-controlled PA employees are loyal to Mr. Abbas, the ministry spokesperson could not say. Among those employees, however, are Ismail Haniya, the Hamas-appointed prime minister in Gaza, and Mahmoud Zahar, Hamas' foreign minister. Mr. Zahar prides himself for many successful terrorist attacks against Israel, and his position regarding Israel is clear: "All of Palestine. Every inch of Palestine belongs to the Muslims."

Yet the Israelis relied on Mr. Fayyad's promise that the money will not reach Hamas or be used for any terrorist activity - even though he has little control over PA funds in the Fatah-controlled West Bank, let alone Hamas-controlled Gaza. Not long ago, Mr. Fayyad himself stated (and not for the first time) that controlling Palestinian finances, "is virtually impossible." Besides, promises by Fatah leaders to stop funds for Hamas are doubtful at best. Despite Fatah-Hamas disagreements, the PA's Fatah-led government announced Jan. 15, its intentions to give Hamas "40 percent" ($3.1 billion) of the $7.4 billion pledged in December 2007 by international donors.

While the donors seem reluctant to fund the terrorist organization Hamas, the hapless Israeli government seems incapable of sustaining a coherent policy to isolate Gaza's terrorists. Instead, with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's upcoming visit, the Israeli government seems eager to fulfill yet another hazardous U.S. "Middle East peace" plan. As if the above-mentioned $20 million in cash to Gaza was not enough, on Aug. 19, in violation of its own laws (which prohibit funds to the terrorist organization Hamas), Israel transferred an additional NIS 3 million (approximately $800,000) in cash to the Gaza Strip. The second transfer was allegedly made to replace worn-out notes, in order to prevent Hamas "from establishing an independent currency." Incredibly, while maintaining that "Hamas-ruled Gaza is the main obstacle in the Palestinians' efforts to secure their own state," the Israeli government keeps sending cash to sustain its sworn enemy.

Rachel Ehrenfeld is director of the American Center for Democracy (

Israel faces quandary over Gaza boats


Two boats full of international activists that were allowed to sail into Gaza's harbor on Saturday may be detained by the navy on Thursday as they set sail back to Cyprus, this time with 14 Palestinians on board. On Wednesday, the Free Gaza Movement held a press conference in Gaza City to announce the departure of the SS Free Gaza and SS Liberty early Thursday morning. In addition to the 40 foreign activists, organizers said, the boats would also be carrying some 14 Palestinians who had previously been denied the right to exit Gaza by Israel.

The organizers said that among the Palestinians were students with valid foreign visas or dual citizenships who had been accepted to universities abroad. Additionally, a Palestinian professor will be leaving to return to teach in Europe, and a young woman will be trying to reunite with her husband abroad.

Despite the concerns of the IDF, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak decided last Saturday to allow the two boats to reach Gaza. The decision was made after officials concluded that if the navy clashed with the boats, Israel would be playing into hands of the trip's organizers, who were seeking to create a provocation.

Government officials in Jerusalem and the Defense Ministry said they were closely monitoring the situation and by Wednesday evening they had yet to publicize their decision. It was possible that the navy would interdict the boats and at the least inspect the passengers to ensure that none of them posed a security threat to Israel.

Dr. Vaggelis Pissias, one of the organizers of the Free Gaza Movement, rejected Israel's right to stop the boats.

"We do not accept that Israel can stop these boats," Pissias said. "Palestinians have the same rights as all other peoples. Why is it that the only people in the Mediterranean without access to their own waters are the Palestinians?"

Meanwhile, Barak decided to reopen the crossings into Gaza on Thursday after they had been closed two days earlier in response to Kassam rocket fire on the western Negev.

Jeff Halper, the Israeli participant in the Gaza Free Movement boat voyage, was released on bail on Wednesday, a day after being arrested in Sderot for illegally entering Gaza.

Halper paid NIS 2,000 bail and was presented with a 30-day restraining order keeping him away from the Erez crossing and the Gaza Strip.

"On Monday, the Palestinian government gave me Palestinian citizenship - including a passport. On Tuesday, I'm already in an Israeli jail," Halper told The Jerusalem Post.

Halper said his goal was to create "civil diplomacy" between the Palestinian and Israeli peoples, adding that he was helping Palestinians draft a letter of friendship to the people of Sderot. "We [Israelis] know about Kassam rockets on Sderot but we never relate to the fact that Gaza has been under siege," he said.

Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report/i>.
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Olmert's swan song

Departing prime minister determined to end his term in office on a positive note

Roni Sofer
Israel Opinion

Less than a month remains until the Kadima primaries, and the prime minister is in the midst of a three-way race of his own: The diplomatic, economic, and public relations front. If he succeeds in one of them, his associates say, he will be satisfied with his almost three years in Israel's top job – "and he's determined to succeed." The diplomatic front can be divided to several areas. The advancing-yet-stuck Palestinian track has the potential for an achievement, even if only in the form of a shelf agreement to remain as legacy for the day after Olmert, Abbas, and President Bush. The prime minister is pushing hard, and Condoleezza Rice's visit takes the race into the final stretch. Yet the chances aren't high.

On the Syrian track, the likelihood is even slimmer. Assad visited Moscow and sought to purchase advanced weapons, including anti-aircraft systems. Recently he also visited Tehran and made clear that he did not abandon the "axis of evil." There is indeed agreement in principle between Jerusalem and Damascus regarding the substance of a treaty, particularly when it comes to the price to be paid by Israel. Yet the Syrians still insist on American presence in the negotiations, freedom to act vis-à-vis Iran and Lebanon, and in practice are still acting as the patrons of Hizbullah and Hamas.

The third diplomatic track is directed to the West's effort to curb Iran's nuclear aims. Olmert is indeed "keeping all options on the table," yet in practice it is obvious to him – and the Americans made it unequivocally clear – that the military option will not be received warmly. So in addition to acquiring protective means and continuing military preparations, Israel is supposed to act vigorously in order to tighten the sanctions on Iran via a resolute diplomatic campaign. However, this is not happening. In practice, Olmert, Livni, Barak, and even Mofaz are preoccupied with domestic political battles. This front has almost been abandoned, and therefore there is no chance that it would grant the prime minister some kind of victory before his departure.

Nothing to lose
As a result, in recent days Olmert has been concentrating his efforts on a front where he has shown some achievements during his term in office – the economic front. In addition to Israel's relative stability on the global market, certain strengthening of the shekel, and Jerusalem's attempt to connect to global economic power centers, a fierce internal battle is currently being fought over the 2009 budget. Seemingly, there isn't much different about this battle compared to previous budget wars. However, this time around the battle takes place under different circumstances.

First of all, it's happening a relatively short while after the Winograd Report, which slammed the IDF's failure to prepare for the Second Lebanon War. Secondly, it's happening while Olmert and his government seek to portray themselves as committed to social causes. Thirdly, it's happening while Israel is seeing indications of a global recession that are shaking much more powerful economies, such as the American one. The prime minister knows that under such circumstances he must engage in a supreme effort and juggle the various needs in order to approve the budget, at least in the government, before the Kadima primaries.

His chances here aren't bad. The gaps between the various parties aren't that big. A certain boost to the 2009 budget, alongside fund transfers desired by coalition partners, would enable Olmert to complete his shortened tenure with an impressive economic achievement. He would be able to say that during his era Israel boosted its growth rate and turned into a magnet for international investments, while also preparing the IDF to face the tough challenges ahead and minimizing social gaps in Israel.

A little too late
On the third front, Olmert doesn’t have much to lose. His associates and ministers working with him say this is visible. He is much calmer, and much more like the Olmert they knew in the past. He does not keep silent, he argues, and he fights back, while conducting himself in a stately manner.

Never before had we seen a prime minister around here with a lower approval rating. His image in the world is also not the best – there's virtually no global leader who doesn't know that Olmert has been forced to quit against a backdrop of criminal investigations. Yet beyond this, he has been tainted by the war – a

war initiated by Israel that failed to secure its objectives. The thousands of rockets and mortar shells fired at the Gaza region are also attributed to his weakness. And so, the strike on the Syrian nuclear site and the assassination of Hizbullah commander Mugniyah, both attributed to Israel, do not change his image as a weak leader.

As noted, under such circumstances he has nothing to lose. His invigorated conduct could be seen in the government session last week where he lashed out at Ehud Barak and Avi Dichter. There are disagreements in respect to the possibility that this old-new demeanor will prompt a positive change in the departing prime minister's image. Yet it is clear that he started this battle a little too late.

Government "too busy"with primaries to free Gilad

Gilad Shalit will celebrate his 22nd birthday tomorrow, his third in Hamas captivity. As hundreds gather outside Gaza crossing for first of several events marking grim milestone, Miki Goldwasser slams government inaction

Yonat Atlas
Israel News

Some 150 people gathered just outside the Gaza Strip on Wednesday evening to mark the 22nd birthday of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. It will be his third birthday spent in Hamas captivity. The event took place at the Suffa border crossing, where Palestinian gunmen abducted Shalit to Gaza on June 2006.

Speaking to reporters ahead of the event, Miki Goldwasser slammed the government's inaction towards securing Shalit's release. After the body of her abducted son, Ehud Goldwasser, was repatriated by Hizbullah, Goldwasser has vowed to continue fighting for Shalit.

Preparing the rally outside Gaza (Photo: Tsafrir Abayov)

"I'm here because three families started this journey, and my mission is not over yet. It will end only when Gilad Shalit is returned, this is a shared struggle. I think of the case of (MIA navigator) Ron Arad and I'm terrified to think that Gilad could share his fate."

Goldwasser accused the government of being preoccupied with internal politics rather than focusing on Shalit.

"I don't think Hamas is so strong that nothing can be done. I don't know the reason, it could be that they are too busy with other things, like the primaries, instead of what should be the first order of business," said Goldwasser.

In her speech the bereaved mother called on Palestinian mothers to join the struggle to see their children freed for Shalit. "Just as you do not want your sons to celebrate the upcoming Ramadan away from home, so we too do not want to see the coming holiday celebrated with Gilad in captivity," she said.

'Leaders can't abandon Shalit'

Shalit's platoon commander, Dagan Shochar, said that politicians fear for their standing and therefore are scared to make tough decisions. "We can't allow leaders to abandon a soldier, because by doing so they are abandoning all of us. A soldier who knows that the country will not fight for him, won't fight for her. But we will serve, at all times and under all conditions, despite the moral collapse led by the leaders of Israel," he said.


Minister Ami Ayalon was also in attendance at the rally. Israel must be willing to free prisoners with blood on their hands to secure Shalit's release, he said.

Ayalon added that he understands doing so would be hard on bereaved families and acknowledged that the freed prisoners could pose a future threat, but said the government must do everything in its power to bring Shalit home.

Shalit's family plans to mark his birthday on Thursday in their home in Mitzpe Hila. A group of protestors is also planning to stage a demonstration in Tel Aviv for Shalit.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Biden Fails on Foreign Policy

Lowell Ponte

Wednesday could be the most important day of the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

Wednesday’s events are sandwiched between the bread and butter of Sen. Hillary Clinton’s Tuesday speech endorsing the rival who bested her, and presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama’s Thursday acceptance speech But in this sandwich, Wednesday could be when America’s voters will find whether Mr. Obama and today’s Democratic Party have the beef to deserve election this November.

In the U.S. Constitution, the presidency is an office of secondary importance, despite the imperial trappings it has taken on in recent decades.

Article I gives Congress absolute control of the government’s purse strings and the ability unilaterally to create laws even in defiance of a presidential veto.

The real power of the president under our Constitution is in foreign policy, and in particular in the president’s war-making powers as commander in chief largely relinquished to the White House by a cowardly Congress. No American war since World War II has been authorized by a constitutionally-required congressional declaration of war.

Wednesday’s Democratic National Convention theme is foreign policy. One of the day’s featured speakers is Mr. Obama’s chosen running-mate Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware. Another is former President Bill Clinton.

Biden was selected to plug the gaping foreign policy hole in Barack Obama’s thin job resume, and to provide “adult supervision” for inexperienced Obama in case voters risk America’s future by giving the most powerful job in the world to this young affirmative-action candidate.

Mr. Biden has been a U.S. senator from Delaware since 1973 — 35 years — and is widely liked on both sides of the aisle. He is currently chairman of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee. Like most other Democratic senators, he voted for President George W. Bush’s military incursion into Iraq and ouster of dictator Saddam Hussein.

But as for being the purported adult on the Obama-Biden ticket, Biden is in some ways as childish for his age, 65, as Obama, 47, is mature for his.

Joe Biden has always exhibited a smug sense of superiority. When caught plagiarizing an article at Syracuse College of Law, Biden successfully pleaded with the faculty not to expel him.

“If I had intended to cheat,” The New York Times in 1987 recounted him saying, “would I have been so stupid?”

Biden has tried to cheat “smarter.” He boasted that he graduated in the top half of his Syracuse Law class; in fact, Biden graduated 76th in a class of 85.

Biden helped lead the “borking” of Robert Bork, the brilliant legal scholar whose nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court let him be judged by Biden, a member of the Senator Judiciary Committee. Biden ridiculed, but failed to destroy, Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. In both cases Biden behaved like an infantile idiot attacking giants whose shoes he was unworthy to lick.

Almost being expelled from law school for cheating did not end Biden’s crookedness. During his 1988 run for the presidency, Biden plagiarized a speech by British Labour politician Neil Kinnock that described his coal-miner father. Biden’s father was a used car salesman.

After Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis distributed videotape of Kinnock and Biden’s plagiarism, Biden quit the race.

Biden ran for president again in 2008, winning 9,000 votes nationwide to Hillary Clinton’s 18 million votes. Despite this public repudiation, however, Biden soon might sit a heartbeat away from the presidency — and thereby, God forbid, become president by an act of fate, or of Satan.

How competent is Joseph Biden at foreign policy? He has proposed carving Iraq into three autonomous regions, much as Julius Caesar did with Gaul two millennia ago. (His plan oddly parallels what this columnist had earlier proposed, but I doubt he plagiarized me.)

Such partition policies historically have led to the relentless frictions of North and South Korea, North and South Vietnam, East and West Germany, and the like. But legislators like carving countries up, apparently because doing so is the way lawmakers reach split-the-differences compromises. Genuine political leaders, by contrast, are more like Solomon and recognize that caring people do not want their babies cut in half.

Nobody has ever suspected Joe Biden of having Solomonic wisdom.

In 1979 Biden backed Democratic President Jimmy Carter in helping topple our ally the Shah of Iran, who was replaced by a now-soon-to-be-nuclear-armed Islamist radical regime that foments global terrorism.

At the 2004 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Biden told its mostly-foreign audience that Americans “don’t have much of a democracy ourselves.”

But at least Biden is a pro-working-class, no? No. Biden represents the giant corporations and banks chartered in Delaware, and he helped them tighten bankruptcy rules for credit card debt on middle class Americans. His son Hunter Biden’s law firm was being paid $1.8 million to lobby Congress by some of these same special interests, according to the Aug. 25 USA Today.

Biden successfully urged President Bill Clinton to use U.S. military force, without prior congressional approval, on the side of Muslim Kosovars against Christian Serbs in the Balkans.

And now Russia justifies its invasion of Georgia, a small U.S. ally, by pointing to the Clinton-Biden policy in Kosovo.

Will any reporter remind viewers that President Clinton used U.S. troops to oust a pro-American government in Haiti in order to install defrocked priest and madman Jean-Bertrand Aristide in power? Or that Clinton’s anointed Aristide had described Cuba’s Marxist dictator Fidel Castro as his “greatest hero.”

Will any reporter remind viewers Wednesday night that the so-called “prosperity” of the Clinton era came from President Ronald Reagan’s “peace dividend” from defeating the Soviet Union and ending the Cold War?

Clinton’s “prosperity” came from gutting America’s military and intelligence capabilities and from his spending spree, a wild party, with the $125 billion per year stripped from our national defenses. And 9/11 happened because Clinton indecision and profligacy blinded our intelligence capabilities.

But on Wednesday the liberal media will again tell Americans that Joe Biden and Bill Clinton are divine, and brain-dead Democrats will applaud.

© 2008 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

"For These I Weep"

Daniel Gordis

Note: tomorrow, Thursday, August 28, will be the third birthday that Gilad Shalit will observe ("celebrate" seems like an absurd word) in captivity. At the very least, try to think about him a bit -- does he even know it's his birthday? -- during the day.

I didn't want to go to Theresienstadt, I told my wife. We would have only a few days in Prague, and for once, I wanted to walk the streets and see the museums without that seemingly inevitable dose of Jewish death that every visit to Europe seems to mandate. To my amazement, she agreed. We'd obviously see the Jewish quarter, with its famous cemetery, the Alt-Neu Shul and more, but we could let Theresienstadt pass this time.
Yet, as they say, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. Mine started unraveling on Tisha B'Av. For years, we've been hearing Eichah, the Book of Lamentations, in our local synagogue. This year, though, we finally decided to join our friends who've been reading Eichah at the Sherover Promenade, overlooking the Old City and the Temple Mount. If you live in Jerusalem, I finally figured, why sit in a small synagogue when you can be outside, gazing at the very site that you're mourning?

There were hundreds of people on the Promenade, and the view of the Temple Mount was as stunning as always. But still, something was making me uncomfortable. Yes, you could see the Temple Mount from where we were, but you also couldn't help but notice the new, rebuilt city of Jerusalem, as well. The hotels, the YMCA tower - all the famous landmarks of modern Jerusalem - were fully in view, lit so brightly that it was impossible not to dwell on them, too. And from that vantage point, Jerusalem just didn't seem the destroyed, abandoned, demolished city that's described in Lamentations. Even as we were still reading the words, I could tell - it was harder than it had been in previous years to get into the mood of utter devastation. There was something cognitively dissonant about the whole thing. And I wondered - is this the way to commemorate Tisha B'Av? Is this the place to be reading, "For these things do I weep" (Lam. 1:16)?

If we're mourning the loss of Jerusalem, does it really make sense to sit where you can't help but see that while the Temple is gone, Jerusalem has been rebuilt? Somehow, the Temple Mount and the rebuilt city in one shared view didn't seem to fit the tenor of the evening. Next Tisha B'Av, I decided, I'll skip the Promenade, and just head back to shul.

But the night wasn't over, and along with one of our sons, we decided to go to the panel discussion we'd seen advertised in the paper on "The Sins that Preceded the Ninth of Av," i.e., the social ills that led to the destruction of Jerusalem. There were several hundred people assembled in the courtyard of the Nature Museum, seated on chairs, and dozens more in the back and on the sides. The vast majority were people in their 20's and 30's, it seemed, but many were even younger - it seemed that Avi knew half the people there. There was discussion of the treatment of potential converts to Judaism (a big issue in Israel now, for political reasons), some discussion of the treatment of Israeli Arabs, and a focus on the general social ills that plague us, and that, according to rabbinic tradition, were the reasons for the destruction of Jerusalem.

But again, I had the same feeling that I'd had at the Promenade. The conversation was serious, respectful and intelligent, precisely what Tisha B'Av calls for. But in the face of the sight of hundreds of young people, many religious, but not nearly all, coming to speak about ills that plague their city and their country, all in the context of having read Lamentations together, I felt a sense of accomplishment, more than one of loss. I had a feeling of the Jewish people reborn, not destroyed, and of Jerusalem alive and thriving, not reduced to ashes. "For these do I weep"? Again, I left wondering if I would do that again next year.

When Tisha B'Av ended, we flew to Prague. Like all the other tourists, we started with the Charles Bridge, Prague Castle, Old Town. Then we began to explore the Jewish Quarter, or, more accurately, the quarter which had been the Jewish ghetto before it was destroyed. Shul after shul, filled with tourists, but empty of worshippers. The cemetery, also filled with hundreds of people filing by the tombstones. But did they know anything about the Maharal's world, other than whatever they'd gleamed about the Golem from Let's Go Prague? Jewish life - erased but still a curiosity - had become a "must do" tourist venue, a vestige of the past worth half a day of audio-guides and a few dozen snapped photographs.

You couldn't feel any real sense of loss among the tourists, no anguish. The Jews were like the Mayan Indians, it seemed. Gone, but still interesting. Life goes on. I couldn't help but recall the refrains of Bialik's poem "In the City of Slaughter," when he bemoans the fact that despite the horror of what transpired in Kishinev, life continued apace, as if there were nothing that needed to be remembered: "The matter ends, and nothing more. And all is as it was before."

After the cemetery, it was time for Minchah. We'd been told that there was a minyan in the High Shul, so we found the entrance, at which a gigantic blond-haired, blue-eyed "bouncer" asked us why we wanted to enter, examined our ID, and grilled us before allowing us in to pray. There was something so unsettling about having to virtually beg this Aryan fellow for permission to pray (though, yes, I understood that it was for our own safety), that even before we got into the shul, I just knew what we were going to end up doing: we were going to go to Theresienstadt.

I'd never known that Minchah could be depressing. There were perhaps fifteen men and two women, all but four or five of the worshippers clearly tourists. Without the tourists, there would have been no minyan. The glory days of the "High Shul" were long gone. The parochet, the cloth cover in front of the ark, was gorgeous. A collage of old prayer shawls, atop of which there was a Hebrew phrase, "ve-shavu vidgei ha-kodesh li-mikomam," calligraphed as if it were a Biblical verse: "And the sacred vestments shall return to their place."

Yes, I thought, looking at the cut up tallitot that now made up the parochet, the vestments have indeed returned to their place. But only the vestments, not the people. And in pieces, as a wall hanging. There it was again - Judaism as fragments, remnants, virtually lifeless. Suddenly, I missed the scene of that panel discussion and those hundreds of young people that had made me so uncomfortable a few nights earlier.

The next day, we headed for Theresienstadt. Terezin, an army encampment long before the Nazis turned it into the transit camp (destination usually Auschwitz) is a functioning city once again. Little did Bialik know.

In today's Terezin, hungry tourists can eat in the "Memorial Restaurant." The building which S. S. Officers used as a high-brow bordello, to which they whisked the Jewish women who'd caught their fancy, is still a functioning Pension, with a cute little sign adorned by a picture of a bed and silverware outside. Outside the gate of the Small Fortress, there was a canteen for the S.S. officers. Today, it is still ... a canteen. We watched the people there, laughing and drinking beer, Arbeit Macht Frei clearly in their view. I asked our guide how people in the town felt about living in a place that just decades ago had been the site of such unmitigated horror. "They're mostly just annoyed that so many tourists come by," she said.

Bialik, again.

There was a small synagogue in Theresienstadt. It's now abandoned, except for tourists, just like those synagogues in Prague. There are two murals on the walls, one with the phrase from the liturgy that reads "We beg You, turn back from Your anger and have mercy on the treasured nation that You have chosen." The other read "May our eyes behold Your return to Zion in compassion." The irony, given what probably happened to the people who so lovingly painted them, was unspeakable.

We spotted a small guestbook, so we went to sign our names. Previous visitors had written messages, and we leafed through a few pages. A group from Canada had visited a few weeks earlier, and had written, "We are a group of seventeen Jews from [Canada], proof of the Jews' victory over Hitler."

I was so stunned that I had to read it again. A Jewish quarter in Prague that's virtually the "Museum of an Extinct Race" that Hitler is said to have planned to create there. A city called Terezin with its former S.S. brothel still housing guests, its Memorial Restaurant, it citizens annoyed by the tourists. Empty synagogues throughout Prague and in Terezin. What Jewish victory over Hitler?!

It was too much to bear. It wasn't just the horrible suffering that had unfolded there. It wasn't the crematoria (or even, I kid you not, the sign by the crematoria that read, in part, "Restoration dedicated by the XXXX family in honor of Jason's Bar Mitzvah."). No, what was unbearable was the was the fact that the flowers still bloom, that smiling Terezin mothers push their babies in strollers by what were the barracks in which thousands died of typhoid, and people still drink beer in what was the S.S. canteen.

Bialik was prophetic. Life would just go on. Europe's endured the devastation, but it can't sustain the sense of loss. America hasn't (yet?) weathered the destruction.

We made a quick stop on the way back to Prague, a little town called Ustek, and its now empty synagogue (there are no Jews left in Ustek), beautifully preserved and restored. The same story. A pristine synagogue, immaculate, beautiful, lovingly cared for by the non-Jewish woman who showed us around. But not a Jew in sight, just two reference books for the woman there, in case she should need to answer questions - "A History of Judaism," and "Judaism, from A to Z," both in Czech. There you have it. An empty building, and Judaism summed up in two volumes, in case anyone should want to know more about Jewish life - that ancient relic from the past.

It had been a long and agonizing day. And as we got into the van to head back to Prague, I realized that I'd had more than enough. I just wanted to go home. In ways that I hadn't expected I would, I missed that place where you can't escape the vitality of Jewish life, where even when you try to mourn, you can't avoid seeing a city rebuilt, hundreds of young people thinking and discussing.

It's easy to focus on all the wrong things when it comes to this place we call home. It's tempting to perseverate about the corruption, the pollution, the traffic, some crime, the conflict with the Palestinians for which there is no possible solution at present. It's all real.

But all of that pales into relative insignificance when you think about what's been created here. As real as those problems are, no less real is the fact that this is the one place where even when you try to avoid it, you can't escape the practically miraculous rebirth of Jewish life. A week of empty synagogues, Judaism summarized in two small volumes, towns with no Jews and the modern city of Terezin, and there's no escaping it - I'll take this place, with all its challenges, worries and dangers - any day, any time. Sadly, it took Terezin to remind me that we live in a miracle.

True, it doesn't make getting into the Tisha B'Av frame of mind terribly easy. But no matter. Next year, I already know, I'm heading back to the Promenade to read Lamentations.

Hamas armed wing vows to continue battle

Associated Press , THE JERUSALEM POST

The shadowy leader of Hamas' armed wing on Tuesday broke a two-year silence with a new vow to continue battle until "victory" over Israel.

The new comments by Mohammed Deif were published a Hamas Web site. Hamas said his call to battle was part of a new book glorifying comrades killed in fighting with Israel. Deif is one of Israel's most wanted Palestinian gunmen. He has survived several assassination attempts and lives in hiding. It is believed that he remains seriously wounded.

In his comments, Deif said he will go on fighting until victory, or until he is killed.

Hamas and Israel have been observing a truce since June, however the group says it was increasing its combat training in preparation for future fighting.

On Monday, senior security officials told The Jerusalem Post that Hamas was continuing weapons smuggling at a rapid pace.
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U.N. Confirms: Hizbullah Importing Weapons From Syria

Nissan Ratzlav-Katz

A United Nations task force assigned to report on weapons smuggling in Lebanon said Monday that Hizbullah has been bringing arms across the Syrian-Lebanese border. This confirms Israeli allegations that the Iran-backed Lebanese terrorist group has been steadily rearming with Syrian assistance and Lebanese collusion Last month, Defense Minister Ehud Barak told U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney that "the number of missiles in the hands of Hizbullah has doubled, if not tripled, and that the range of the missiles has been extended. And this has been accomplished with the close assistance of the Syrians." In March, an anonymous source told the Associated Press that Hizbullah held new Iranian rockets capable of striking as far south as Dimona, Israel's nuclear facility in the Negev.

According to the task force report, submitted to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Monday, neither Lebanese nor Syrian officials have done anything to end weapons transfers to Hizbullah. The task force, which has seen no improvement in the situation since it started its work in 2007, noted that weapons flow easily across the Syrian-Lebanese frontier due to lax or non-existent inspections. Even the air and sea ports into Lebanon, the report says, have been used for weapons smuggling.

Earlier this month, Lebanon's cabinet voted to allow Hizbullah to maintain its weapons arsenal. The government decision specifically approves Hizbullah activities aimed at Israel.

In Violation of U.N. Resolutions
Weapons transfers to the Hizbullah such as those cited in the task force report are in violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the Second Lebanon War two years ago. However, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) patrols in southern Lebanon, far from the weapons transfer routes. Furthermore, UNIFIL has stated outright that it would not enforce Res. 1701 conditions calling for the disarming of Hizbullah.

In March 2008, Hizbullah terrorists threatened and chased off UNIFIL forces after the armed international soldiers found a truck carrying illicit arms and ammunition. The incident was mentioned in a semi-yearly report submitted to the U.N. Security Council by Ban Ki-moon.

In an earlier report to the U.N. Security Council, in February 2008, Ki-moon noted, "Hizbullah, by admission of its leaders on several occasions, has replenished its military capacity since the 2006 war with Israel. I therefore remain concerned that this border remains vulnerable to such [weapons transfers], which would represent serious violations of the resolution and constitute a significant threat to the stability and security of Lebanon."

Earlier this month, a spokesman for yet another U.N. committee focused on Lebanon, the International-Lebanese Committee for U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559, said Hizbullah has violated international restrictions on its militarization "big time." Res. 1559 of 2004 is focused on preserving Lebanese sovereignty from foreign interference and preceded the end of the Syrian occupation in the 2005 Cedar Revolution.

Also in mid-August, the commander of UNIFIL, Maj.-Gen. Claudio Graziano, accused Israel of violating Res. 1701 by continuing Israel Air Force overflights in Lebanese airspace, as well as by the Jewish State's refusal to submit maps of areas on which it dropped cluster bombs during the 2006 war. Israel maintains that the overflights are necessitated by Hizbullah's weapons build-up and deepening entrenchment in southern Lebanon, despite UNIFIL's obligations to halt such activities.

Not All Clinton Backers Feeling the Love From Obama

David Nakamura and Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writers

DENVER, Aug. 25 -- The Maryland Democrats were busy burying any lingering rivalries between Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton supporters under an avalanche of hugs, kisses and cocktails during a reception here the other night when Gov. Martin O'Malley bounded onstage.

"We have one nominee, and we are one party!" O'Malley, who had endorsed Clinton, shouted after embracing Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, an Obama backer. "Whether we supported Hillary or not, we are one party."

But off to the side, Mary Boergers, a Clinton delegate from Montgomery County, felt more like a party of one. Boergers, 62, a retired political science professor, was wearing two Hillary buttons, and she intends to vote for her during convention's roll call Thursday night.

"I find it perplexing that they make us feel like outliers or rogues because at the convention we plan to vote for the candidate we were elected to vote for," said Boergers, who was still steaming from Obama's selection of Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware as his running mate.

"It's just offensive," Boergers said. "If he said [Clinton] was on the shortlist and did not vet her at all, what does that say about the veracity of his words? My intent was to come to Denver with an open mind. . . . How all of us would be treated is a measure of how inclusive Obama's campaign and presidency would be. His campaign is all about post-partisan Washington, but if he can't even do it with his own party, how can he do it as president?"

Clinton is scheduled to address the convention tonight, and the political world is eager to see how she will speak to such supporters as Boergers, who are threatening not to fully support Obama in his general election battle against presumptive Republican nominee John McCain. These holdouts have been nicknamed PUMAs -- "party unity my [expletive]." They've been painted by the media, and watched by the McCain campaign, as potential spoilers, but it is unclear how many of the 18 million who voted for Clinton in the primary are in that group.

In interviews with the Maryland, Virginia and D.C. delegations, the number seemed small. Two fellow Maryland delegates agreed with Boergers, but most said they were behind Obama. The District's three Clinton delegates said they'll vote for her in the convention but work hard for Obama in the fall.

And in Virginia, party leaders said the reconciliation between the camps has been smooth because everyone understands the high stakes: The state is considered a battleground that could go to the Democrats for the first time since 1964. Several Virginians have sported "Clinton Delegate for Obama" buttons.

"There are still some people around the country who are disappointed with Obama, but most everyone I talk to will come together," said Paul Smedberg, a Clinton delegate who serves on the Alexandria City Council.

Clinton delegate Carlos Del Toro of Stafford County was a member of Clinton's leadership team and helped her Hispanic outreach leading up to Virginia's February primary. But last week, he attended a town hall meeting in support of Obama. He and his wife are raising money for Obama, and they are allowing Obama's Spotsylvania County field director to stay with them until the end of the campaign.

Although some Clinton delegates will cast their ballots for her this week out of nostalgia, Del Toro said, "When it comes to supporting the next president in the fall, I have no doubt they will do the right thing."

For the Obama delegates, figuring out how to welcome the Clintonites into the fold hasn't been easy. Shortly after Obama sealed the nomination in June, O'Malley had a reception for the state delegation at the governor's mansion in Annapolis. Two-thirds of the attendees, O'Malley said, did not wear their Obama or Clinton buttons, out of respect for each other.

"We were there to heal. Everybody understood that," said Cheryl Glenn, an Obama delegate from Baltimore. "I was a little apprehensive at first, but everyone has the same goal: defeat the Republicans."

Some Clinton delegates said that elected officials are motivated to get behind Obama in part because otherwise they would be in bad political standing if he wins.

For delegates such as Maggie McIntosh, a Maryland legislator who supported Clinton, defeating McCain seems like the most important issue.

"I immediately talked to Elijah [Cummings] and the governor and said, 'I'm on board,' " McIntosh said.

But Sue Hecht, a legislator and Clinton delegate from Frederick, has needed a little more time. When Obama volunteers asked her to help out over the summer, she balked.

"I said, 'Give me some time,' " Hecht said.

O'Malley said he did not attempt to strong-arm the Clinton delegates to switch to Obama. But Jason Waskey, 26, an O'Malley administration official who is an Obama delegate, called Boergers and offered her a position on the statewide Obama steering committee.

"I've been working on getting them in the mix," Waskey said. "I'm trying to make sure we talk to Clinton voters and listen to the issues that matter to them. And we want to let them know that the same issues -- women's issues, health care, the economy -- that made them vote for Hillary are the same issues Barack Obama will be strong on."

But Boergers declined Waskey's offer. Before she gets on board, she wants Obama to engage Clinton supporters by elevating those key issues higher in his platform. Two friends and fellow Clinton delegates, Michael Eaves and Ellis Mottur, agreed with Boergers as they huddled to the side of the Maryland delegation party.

"It's important that [Obama] show respect, not just for the candidate, but for those who voted for the candidate," Eaves said.

"I would desperately like to be able to do what Hillary tells us and support him as president," Boergers said. "But my heart's not there yet."

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Back to Jimmy

Amir Taheri
New York Post | 8/26/2008

BY choosing Sen. Joseph Biden as his vice-presidential running mate, Barack Obama sent three messages. The first two are implicit admissions that Hillary Clinton had a point in the primaries. The third tells us more of what Obama means by "change. Biden is supposed to make up for Obama's lack of the knowledge and experience needed to leader on national security and international affairs. And the Delaware senator, with his humble working-class origins, is also meant to reassure the "simple folk" that Obama seems to be losing.

But the third message is that "change" means a return not to the Camelot of President John Kennedy, but to the foreign policies of Jimmy Carter. For Biden, an early supporter of Carter in his quest for the presidency in 1976, shares the former president's view of the world and the United States' place in it.

In 2004, I was astonished to hear Biden doing his own bit of America-bashing in front of an audience at the World Economic Forum in Davos. The US, he claimed, had no moral authority to preach democracy in the Middle East. "We don' have much of a democracy ourselves, " he said mockingly. "Remember our own presidential election; remember Florida!"

Biden has the experience of more than three decades in the US senate, at least two of them dealing with foreign affairs and defense. But experience is no guarantee of good judgment. And Biden has been wrong on almost every key issue.

* In 1979, he shared Carter's starry-eyed belief that the fall of the shah in Iran and the advent of the ayatollahs represented progress for human rights. Throughout the hostage crisis, as US diplomats were daily paraded blindfolded in front of television cameras and threatened with execution, he opposed strong action against the terrorist mullahs and preached dialogue.

* Throughout the 1980s. Biden opposed President Ronald Reagan's proactive policy against the Soviet Union. Biden was all for détente - which, in practice, meant Western subsidies that would have enabled the moribund USSR to cling to life and continue doing mischief.

* In 1990, Biden found it difficult to support President George Bush's decision to use force to kick Saddam Hussein's army of occupation out of Kuwait.

* A decade-plus later, the senator did vote for the liberation of Iraq from Saddamite tyranny. But as soon as terrorists started challenging the new democratic system in Iraq, he switched sides and became a critic of the whole war effort. He claimed that the Iraq war was lost and suggested that the US partition the newly liberated country into three or more mini-states.

Biden's misreading of the situation in Iraq shows that experience is no substitute for judgment. He judged the situation on the basis of headlines and CNN footage - not the long-term, geo-strategic interests of the United States. In short, he lacked what President Harry Truman called "strategic patience."

* For more than a decade, Biden has adopted an ambivalent attitude towards the Islamic Republic in Tehran, now emerging as the chief challenger to US interests in the Middle East. Biden's links with pro-Tehran lobbies in the US and his support for "unconditional dialogue" with the mullahs echo Obama's own wrong-headed promise to circumvent the current multilateral efforts by seeking direct US-Iran talks, excluding the Europeans as well as Russia and China.

Had Biden had his way, "the Evil Empire" would still be around and Saddam Hussein still in power. The US would still be begging the mullahs of Tehran for forgiveness of unspecified "past sins" - and more American hostages would be seized in the Middle East while the mullahs celebrate their first atomic bombs.

By choosing Biden, Obama, the candidate of hope, has transformed his promise of change, into a back-to-the-future pirouette - back to Jimmy Carter.

Ms Rice-you know not what you ask...!

Rice Wants More Israeli Goodwill

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's freeing of nearly 200 Arab terrorists the day before was a "good step" but not enough. "Obviously there is more that needs to be done… Both sides continue to have work to do," she told reporters before landing at Ben Gurion Airport on Tuesday.However, her only specific suggestions were aimed at Israel, which she said should remove more roadblocks and checkpoints, which were set up in Judea and Samaria to prevent unrestricted mobility for terrorists. She made no comments on obligations by the Palestinian Authority (PA) to fight terror but previously has said its American-trained police forces are proving it can maintain law and order.

Concerning freeing more terrorists, Secretary Rice reminded Israel, "It is something that Abu Mazen [PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas] brings up each time we meet. It is something that matters a lot to the Palestinian people.''

Abbas headed the celebrations on Monday that welcomed home 198 terrorists, including two murderers. Israel has freed 700 terrorists the past year in "goodwill" measures aimed at bolstering Abbas's Fatah-led government. "I see 198 heroes," said Abbas, who added that there will be no peace until thousands of other prisoners and terrorists are released, including Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five life terms in prisons. He organized several deadly attacks on Israelis and is considered the most popular figure among PA Arabs.

Israel removed three major roadblocks in the past month in addition to 100 other roadblocks and checkpoints that were eliminated previously under pressure from Secretary Rice.

She will meet Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Tuesday morning for breakfast and then sit down for discussions with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and senior PA negotiator Ahmed Qureia. She will leave Israel for the United States after traveling to Ramallah for talks with Abbas.

Comment: Enough Ms. Rice-no more gestures-we only accept peace for peace-capice?

Ready for new leadership

Israel desperately needs a government that has national vision as a priority

Chana Givon
Israel Opinion

According to a barrage of reports from abroad received by this writer, pleading Israel's case is a most difficult task today because of the country's confused political scene. Supporters of the State cannot fathom how a prime minister who has been the focus of one investigation after another, corruption following him at every turn, can still be in power and make life and death decisions for which we will be held accountable even after he finally leaves office. Just as Israel's accomplishments give Jews worldwide a feeling of pride, the shame of the present government weighs heavily on those who care about the country.

While Israel's ruling government depends upon a coalition of parties that holds it together there must be some mechanism for change when the group in power paralyzes the country. That is the situation that exists today and must not continue. This is the view of many Anglos abroad who would like to speak out on Israel's behalf and do not know what to say when the Olmert government is set on a destructive path.

Today's leaders are simply opportunists who must all be held responsible for the state of the State; Kadima has provided us with today's decision makers, like Olmert and Livni, who have brought us to crisis. Retaining the same disastrous leadership would be comparable to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic!

There is an obvious disconnect between the government and the people; a lack of trust has been festering for some time. Instead of recognizing that it must represent its citizens, Israel's recent leaders have arrogantly assumed a false “ownership” by which they make decisions for immediate personal benefit rather than having long range goals for the good of the country. It is time to rectify this intolerable situation.

One plan would require each political party to publicize the pillars of its platform in detail prior to elections in order to provide the citizens with a clear plan of its principles. Then, while allowing for minor adjustments as circumstances change, if the party in power deviates from its major platform promises - as Sharon did when he adopted the Mitzna program that he had soundly defeated – that party would be obligated to resign immediately; its longevity and retention of authority would not be assured by any self-serving coalition. The power would rightly be with the country's citizens rather than in the hands of a leader whose egocentric whims - like the spontaneous creation of a new party for personal use - serve to disenfranchise those who had put him into his position.

We need strong leaders

Israel desperately needs a government that has national vision as a priority. It needs a government that embraces the values of our leaders of the past – as imperfect as some may have been. We must teach our youth our Zionist narrative - not the “Naqba” - that they may love the country and be proud to defend her. Every child should be able to visit united Jerusalem while studying our history; many young people have never been to the capital of Israel!

Our sense of national pride should include the recognition of Jewish heroes from times past, the early personalities who shaped the State of Israel, and the true heroes of today. Only by recognizing and appreciating our past can we determine our future path.

Our ancestors dreamt of a homeland and saw Jerusalem in their heads and hearts for centuries when others did not permit us to have a state. Now that we have a Jewish country we lack the leadership necessary to develop into all that we may be. The ingathering of our people from many parts of the world has created a colorful tapestry of humanity – rich in history, intellect, creativity, tradition, and so much more. We cherish the land of our forefathers and walk in their footsteps. So many blessings!

Now we must create a system of government with laws of morality and social justice and leaders who will put Zionist national vision above political perks. We need strong leaders who will put Israel's security

before pandering to international demands. We need leaders who will rise up to our needs and serve not only today but as models for our young – our future leaders. Our personal pride will be reflected in the voices of those who speak up for Israel.

We are ready for that new untarnished leadership; may those who qualify and are ready to accept the challenge present themselves – with alacrity!

Chana Givon is an educator and writer. She is the co-director of Writing the Wrongs, a forum for pro-Israel advocacy

Russia selling advanced weapons systems to Syria

It is odd that Russia is abetting the jihad in some areas and fighting it in others, but then again, so are the U.S. and the Europeans. "Mideast: Russian Weapons To Syria, Concern In Israel," by Aldo Baquis for ANSAmed, August 22 (thanks to Insubria): TEL AVIV, AUGUST 22 - A climate of concern is perceivable in Israel, after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad discussed in Russia the purchase of advanced war systems in the context of a revision of the bilateral relations, in view of the recent conflict in Caucasus.

Today the official news agency Sana specified that there is still no assent by Syria to the deployment of Russian missiles Iskander on its territory. However, the Israelis in charge of defence are still following with full attention the evolution of the Russian-Syrian contacts. "We will not allow the access into the region of weapons which will alter the current balance", Transport Minister (and former Defence Minister) Shaul Mofaz, a leader of Kadima, warned. ...

Yesterday, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev had a telephone conversation with Ehud Olmert and today it was reported that the Israeli Prime Minister will go on a mission to Moscow by the beginning of September. Its purpose, the Israeli military radio explained, is to try to limit the entity and quality of the possible Russian military supplies to Damascus. Israel plans to inform the Russian leaders that it has also limited the entity of its supplies to the armed forces of Georgia and therefore it expects some kind of reciprocity from Moscow. Yesterday the Russian Embassy in Tel Aviv assured that Moscow does not have particular complaints towards Israel for the assistance given to Georgia. "In the past we received from the Russians many appeasing assurances, but afterwards we had to admit that they were not well-founded", Zahi Hanegbi (Kadima), president of the parliamentary commission for foreign affairs and defence, stated. "It is obvious that if the new Russian-Syrian military closeness is confirmed, this would be a very negative development" the regional stability would be affected", Hanegbi also remarked. At this point, he pointed out, Syria must decide whether to continue the indirect peace negotiations with Israel in Turkey or to rally with the 'radical axis' against the West. Olmert is now on the defensive for having promoted these negotiations also when faced with the open scepticism of the United States. Mofaz himself twisted the knife in the wound today, stating that what Israel needs now is not "a weak diplomacy but a strong and expert leadership". Mofaz hopes to win the leadership of Kadima (and, consequently, the office of Prime Minister) with the primary elections of his party, on September 17. It is still not known in Israel whether the Israeli-Syrian indirect negotiations will actually be resumed in September. On one hand there is the Israeli scepticism, expressed by Hanegbi and Mofaz. On the other, there is probably also the scepticism of the Syrians, due to the extreme fluidity of the Israeli politics, while again today, for the sixth time, Olmert was questioned by the anti-fraud squad of the police. (ANSAmed).

Abbas greets liberated prisoners with hero's welcome in Occupied West Bank

Te Daily Star
Arab media

RAMALLAH, Occupied West Bank: Israel freed 198 Palestinian prisoners on Monday in a gesture to President Mahmoud Abbas as US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived in the region to spur US-backed peace talks. The prisoners were welcomed by thousands of cheering supporters at an outdoor celebration at Abbas' headquarters in the Occupied West Bank political capital of Ramallah.

"The release of this group fills us with joy, but we will not be satisfied until all prisoners are released, the 11,000 who are still waiting," Abbas told the crowd, referring to Palestinians still in Israeli jails.

"There will be no peace without the release of all our prisoners," he added.

The release took place just hours before Rice arrived on her 18th visit in two years aimed at encouraging peace talks formally relaunched at a conference hosted by US President George W. Bush in November.

"This is a day of joy for the fighters of freedom and independence," said Said al-Attaba, 56, the longest-serving Palestinian prisoner as he had been behind bars since 1977 for killing an Israeli woman.

"It is like a wedding celebration for the Palestinian people, but our joy will not be complete until all Palestinian prisoners are released," he said.

Those released also included Mohammad Ibrahim Abu Ali, known as "Abu Ali Yatta," who was jailed in 1979 for killing an Israeli settler who was studying at a religious school in the Occupied West Bank town of Hebron.

A member of Abbas' Fatah party, he was elected to Parliament in 2006 while behind bars.

The releases of Attaba and Abu Ali were rare and controversial exceptions to Israel's policy of not freeing those who have been implicated in deadly attacks against its citizens.

"This is a big day we have been awaiting for 32 years," said Attaba's sister Sanaa, who along with friends and family has been preparing a hero's welcome feast for her brother in his hometown of Nablus.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert proposed the release earlier this month, saying that it would bolster the Western-backed Abbas, whom he has met on a roughly fortnightly basis since the peace talks were formally relaunched.

"We hope it will contribute to a positive climate," Olmert's spokesman Mark Regev said. "It is not easy to release prisoners, and particularly those who have been involved in murderous terrorist attacks."

Last month Israel carried out a prisoner exchange with Lebanon's Hizbullah, in which Israel traded five Lebanese prisoners and the remains of nearly 200 Lebanese and Palestinian fighters for the bodies of two soldiers.

The fate of the two Israeli soldiers, whose abduction in a deadly cross-border raid had sparked Israel's 2006 war on Lebanon, was not known until they were brought to the border in two black coffins.

Israel has been indirectly negotiating a similar deal with Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, in a bid to recover Gilad Shalit, an Israeli corporal seized in a deadly raid launched from Gaza in June 2006.

The latest release is seen as a boost to Rice's efforts to push the two sides toward their stated goal of reaching a full peace agreement by early 2009 despite a lack of tangible progress.

Abbas once again vowed that he would not accept a partial agreement that did not fully resolve the decades-old conflict.

"All the issues, including the fate of [Occupied] Jerusalem, the refugees, the settlements and the borders should be resolved. We will not accept any other accord," he said.