by Stewart Ain and Joshua Mitnick |
Staff Writer and Israel Correspondent
The Israeli government’s announcement this week that 3,500 new homes would be built in the West Bank to bridge the gap between East Jerusalem and the settlement of Maale Adumim is being seen as fulfilling the Sharon government’s goal of strengthening its hold on that area.
Last fall, as her peers fanned out to colleges across the country, Dana Feldman made what in the leafy Chicago suburb of Highland Park, Ill., was an unusual choice: She headed for Israel to spend the year studying and volunteering.After taking Jewish studies and ulpan classes at Hebrew University during the fall semester, Feldman is spending the second half of her year abroad working with new immigrants at a Beersheva absorption center.
It’s decision time for Mahmoud Abbas. The Palestinian president was in London Tuesday collecting $1.2 billion in pledges for the Palestinian people when news came that a Palestinian terrorist group was claiming responsibility for last Friday’s suicide bombing in Tel Aviv and was reportedly plotting other spectacular attacks.
Israeli experts say Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, must take action against terror or forfeit gains he has made with Jerusalem in recent weeks.
The ink was barely dry on the Gaza and West Bank evacuation orders Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon signed Sunday when speculation began about difficulties after the withdrawal is completed.
There are serious concerns that the entire process might collapse and Palestinian violence return. Should that happen, Sharon said this week, Israel’s military would respond.
The chairman of a committee of Israeli banks insisted last week at a press conference here that the banks never hoarded the deposits of Holocaust victims, but said they were willing to pay more to the heirs of survivors who were found to be shortchanged by the system when their money was returned.
“We acted in good faith and did everything required,” said the official, Eitan Raff, who is also chairman of the Leumi Group, on Feb. 3. “For us it is not an issue of money. It’s one of normative behavior and conscience.”
Even as Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas raised expectations with their almost identical pledges for an end to violence, Sharon’s own political fortunes at home were not as bright.
He faces a fight with his own foreign minister and other members of his party who are supporting calls for a referendum on the Gaza withdrawal plan. And Sharon does not yet have enough votes in the Knesset to win passage of the 2005 budget. If it does not pass by March 31, his government would collapse and new elections would be held.