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Newsdesk September 10, 2004

U.S. Consulted on Fence

Prime Minister Sharon intends to bring the corrected route of the separation fence to the government after it is presented to the American administration, thus putting to a political test the new route which runs much closer to the Green Line, and leaves most of the settlements of the West Bank outside the fence.

Likud ministers in the past have demanded that the settlements in the Ariel region, the Modi’in-Jerusalem road (Highway 443) and even Kiryat Arba be included inside the fence.

The route of the fence was changed in the wake of the June 30 High Court of Justice decision that rejected a lengthy part of the fence project northwest of Jerusalem because of the way it infringed on Palestinian rights.

The defense establishment decided to redraft the entire fence, from Elkana in the center of the country all the way to the Judean desert in the south, according to the court’s ruling. That new route will be presented tomorrow to the defense minister and prime minister. After they approve it, Dov Weisglass, the prime minister’s advisor, will take the new route to the White House to seek approval from National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice.

Senior government sources said yesterday that Sharon has yet to make a final decision on whether to bring the new route to the government for approval, but because there have been major changes made to the route since it was originally approved, it would be appropriate “to remove any doubt” by bringing it to the government.

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz recommended that “the new route be anchored in a new government decision that would send the message that Israel was abiding by international law while building the fence, according to its courts.”

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said that “in the wake of the High Court decision, we had to prepare another line for the fence that would nearly completely match the Green Line.”

Mofaz said the project should be done by mid-2005.

Nearly a year has passed since an October 1, 2003, government decision approved the central fence route, from Elkana to Jerusalem, and the southern route, from Jerusalem to the Judean desert. The northern route, from the Beit She’an valley to Elkana, was approved earlier and has long since been completed.

The central route included “fingers” that penetrated deep into the West Bank to provide protection to many settlements, thereby creating enclaves that encircled tens of thousands of Palestinians. So far, only one short section of that fence has been built, and most of the work has been halted because of legal proceedings initiated by the Palestinians and human rights groups. One section of the fence has been slated for dismantling.

The government decision said that the major settlements in the western part of the northern West Bank –– Ariel, Immanuel, Kedumim and Karnei Shomron –– would be on the “Israeli” side of the fence, but not connected to its main section. While that would leave a breach in the fence, the individual settlements would be encircled by fences and sometime in the future would be connected to the main fence. The compromise helped Sharon win support for the fence from Likud ministers, especially Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Letter Campaign Launched

A group of American Jews launched a petition urging the next president to take further steps to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The open letter campaign, launched Tuesday, is supported by left-leaning American Jews and various American Jewish groups, including actor Theodore Bikel, Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg and Americans for Peace Now. “As American Jews who strongly support Israel, we call on you to commit our nation to vigorous and persistent engagement in the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” the petition states. “We ask that within the first 100 days of your administration you appoint an internationally respected envoy at the highest level to signal your intentions to pursue full implementation of the disengagement plan and a renewal of negotiations leading to a final status accord.”

Shoah Probes Gain

The number of new probes against suspected Holocaust-era criminals increased by nearly 150%, according to a new report.

Between April 1, 2003, and March 31, 2004, probes were launched against at least 335 suspected Nazi-era criminals, the Simon Wiesenthal Center said in a report released Tuesday. Seven World War II criminals were convicted during that period, all in the United States.

Settlers Foil Evacuation

Hundreds of settlers managed to prevent the evacuation this week of the Nofi outpost situated west of Kfar Adumim in the Judean Desert. The civil administration of the West Bank had planned to evacuate the caravans yesterday, but after hundreds of settlers rushed to the area, the security forces decided to postpone the evacuation. The outpost was set up several months ago with a few caravans and a handful of families.

This is the second time in the past month that settlers managed to prevent the evacuation of an outpost by rallying masses of people.

Graves Discovered

A delegation of some 20 Israeli students on a tour in the Polish city of Chelm a month ago uncovered three mass graves of Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust. The students, from the Reut school in Jerusalem, found the graves while taking part in restoration work at the Jewish cemetery.

Avigail Horwitz, one of the members of the delegation, said the restoration work at the cemetery was an initiative of the students who had come in the wake of a visit to the extermination camps in Poland last year.

“At the end of the tour in Poland, we visited a Jewish cemetery in one of the towns and returned to Israel with the sense that there is so much to do there and that we have to do it,” she said.

Crash Inquiry Launched

Israeli officials ordered an investigation after the crash of a spy satellite intended to increase surveillance over Iran.

Israel’s attempt to launch the spy satellite Ofek-6 failed this week when the Shavit rocket carrying the payload on its tip malfunctioned in its third and final stage.

Ofek-6 was expected to provide Israel with intelligence data on countries of the “third tier,” particularly Iran, who pose a threat with their ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs.

The loss of the satellite is expected to delay Israel’s plans for more sophisticated surveillance of long-distance threats, as well as an early warning of the launch of ballistic missiles from enemy territory. The financial damage as a result of the loss is estimated at $100 million.

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