Israel in the News May/Jun 2001

Fatah: We’ll make life hell in Gilo—and kill Israelis in Bethlehem
THE JERUSALEM POST—Fatah has issued a leaflet vowing to escalate the intifada and to make the lives of Gilo residents “hell.” The leaflet praised the recent killing of Israeli motorist Tzahi Sasson on the Bethlehem bypass road and vowed there will be no security for Israelis under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Fatah also has warned Israeli journalists they will be killed if they enter Bethlehem, after reporting Palestinian criticism of the local Fatah leader.

“The period of the Sharon government will not be stable as he has promised,” the Fatah leaflet reads, pledging to “continue to strike at Gilo and turn the lives of the settlers to hell.” Fatah considers the Jerusalem neighborhood, which has come under fire, a West Bank settlement built on Palestinian land captured in the 1967 war.

“The election of Ariel Sharon was a direct challenge to the intifada,” said Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti. “Sharon is the last bullet in the Israeli pocket before surrender.” He said that, sooner or later, Israel will be forced to withdraw to the pre-1967 borders and recognize the right of return of Palestinian refugees to their homes inside Israel, adding, “We have nothing to talk about with Sharon. He has nothing to offer.”

A leaflet also harshly condemned reports carried by Israel Radio quoting Palestinians in Bethlehem who accused Kamal Hamid, the regional senior Fatah commander, of corruption.

According to reports, Hamid used his position to extort bribes and embezzle public funds.

“Fatah is warning that any Israeli, even a journalist, is barred from entering Bethlehem and anyone who does so won’t get out alive,” the Fatah announcement said. A

Bush explores moving embassy to Jerusalem
President George W. Bush has begun exploring the possibility of moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, according to The Jerusalem Report.

The magazine quotes White House foreign policy spokesperson Mary Ellen Countryman as saying, “The president has asked his foreign policy team to look into how this can be accomplished”.

In 1995 Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Relocation Act, stating the American Embassy should be moved no later than May 31, 1999. Then President Bill Clinton had pledged to relocate the embassy to Jerusalem but never did.

Israel has considered Jerusalem its capital since 1950, but only a handful of countries have acknowledged the fact. The Report says “a plot earmarked for the building has been leased in the Talpiot neighborhood for more than a decade.” A

Palestinian arsenal includes antiaircraft missiles, cannons
The Palestinian police, militia, and other Palestinian groups maintain an arsenal of illegal weapons that includes machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, antitank missiles, shoulder-launched antiaircraft missiles, cannons, machine guns, and more.

Arutz Sheva reports that an Israeli document submitted to the Mitchell Committee investigating the recent violence lists a substantial cache of illegal Palestinian weaponry.

Arutz Sheva said the document “is emphatic” that the Palestinian violence was not a reaction to 73-year-old Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount. The document states, “The groundwork for the violence had been laid long before this. Stung by the widespread appreciation in the international community that Palestinian inflexibility was responsible for the failure of the Camp David Summit . . . the Palestinian leadership looked to violence ‘to create new facts on the ground.’”

Many people claim Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount in September 2000 incited the recent wave of violence, now known as the Al-Aqsa Intifada. However, Sharon, who was born in British Mandate Palestine, has said the Palestinian Authority planned the violence long ago, then orchestrated it. A

El Al gets world’s newest airplane as tourism crashes
As tourism in Israel plummets, El Al has taken delivery of the first of three Boeing 777 airliners it purchased during better days in 1999.

The national air carrier expects to use the sleek, luxurious, and technologically sophisticated jets on its routes to New York, London, and Hong Kong, beginning in May, according to The Jerusalem Post. The jets remained in the United States until the end of February to be retrofitted with crew rests on an upper deck.

“This aircraft will mark a new standard of comfort and service for El Al’s passengers,” said El Al’s new president, David Hermesh. “We will be offering our passengers the newest and most comfortable seats available today.”

Ironically, the $400-million fleet arrives on the heels of a serious slump in tourism due to violence in Israel. Ha’aretz, an Israeli daily newspaper, reported that the industry “crashed” in 2000, losing $110 million of expected revenue. Due to tourist cancellations, the industry posted $390 million, down from the expected $500 million.

In the final quarter of 2000, turnover was $30 million, rather than the expected $140 million. In addition, the number of tourists is expected to drop from 2.6 million in 2000 to 1.7 million this year.

El Al’s Hermesh said the airline anticipates the current security crisis in the territories to last about a year. But he said the airline actually needs “at least one or more new wide-body airliners” to be ready for the expected rapid recovery in tourism once the violence subsides, The Jerusalem Post reported. A

Moslems still digging under Temple Mount
Four more well-known Israelis are demanding the government do something about what they say is new Moslem excavation underneath the Mosque of Omar and Al-Aqsa Mosque. They say this illegal excavation is destroying valuable artifacts from the period of the Jewish Temples.

According to Arutz Sheva, Former Supreme Court Chief Justices Meir Shamgar and Moshe Landau; Jerusalem’s former mayor, Teddy Kollek; and writer Amos Oz have signed a petition maintaining that the Moslem Waqf is conducting extensive, illegal excavation without supervision.

“We cannot remain silent as we witness nonstop daily work on the Temple Mount,” it reads. “History and academic and archaeological research will not forgive you if you do not halt the terrible vandalism that is occurring before your eyes, with your knowledge and consent.”

The news media have reported that the Waqf is digging a tunnel to link the Al-Aqsa and Solomon’s Stables Mosques.

The Waqf has barred Jewish people from visiting the Temple Mount since September 28, 2000. The Jerusalem Post has reported that the Waqf even refuses permission to representatives of the Antiquities Authority, which is in charge of supervising and protecting the site’s archaeological resources.

A government committee has been established to evaluate the charges of

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