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December 21, 2009

A7News: All Eyes and Ears on Cabinet Session on Shalit Deal

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Monday, Dec 21 ’09, Tevet 4, 5770
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1. All Eyes and Ears on Cabinet Session on Shalit Deal
by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu Shalit Deal in Hands of Cabinet

Weeks of speculation on a proposal in the making for Israel to free hundreds of terrorists for the safe return of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit are at a climax as an emotionally taut nation takes sides.

The mini-Cabinet of seven ministers met Sunday night for the third time in one day on the issue, without reaching a decision, and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will bring up the proposal before the full Cabinet at 9:30 Monday morning.

The mini-Cabinet includes members whom Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has depended on to keep discussions secret, without leaks to the media. However, Channel One television reported that Prime Minister Netanyahu is against the proposal while Defense Minister Ehud Barak favors it.

The family of Shalit and relatives of terror victims continued to take opposite sides on the principle of Israel risking more terrorist attacks and kidnappings by freeing terrorists. The Almagor terror victims association repeatedly has pointed out that previous releases of terrorists have resulted in the murder of at least 179 Israelis at the hands of the same terrorists who promised not to return to violence.

The family of Shalit made another emotional appeal to Prime Minister Netanyahu Sunday, expressing fears that a rejection of any proposal would leave their son to be “Ron Arad number two,” referring to the plane navigator whose fate has been unknown since his plane was downed over Lebanon more than two decades ago.

Both Almagor and the family of Shalit send letters on Sunday to the Prime Minister. Terror victims’ families reminded him that his brother, Yoni Netanyahu, gave up his life while leading elite commandos to free kidnap victims in the dramatic rescue at Entebbe in 1976.

“Your brother rendered the highest sacrifice in order to defend the State of Israel against terror,” they wrote in a letter. “If you choose to surrender to terror, what is the significance of Yoni’s action? What is the significance for other soldiers and their families? If you surrender, who will be blamed for the river of blood that will be spilled? Don’t disappoint us and the people who voted for you.”

An equally emotional appeal by Noam and Aviva Shalit, parents of the kidnapped solider, included the plea “not to repeat the tragedy of Ron Arad. G-d forbid we [shou add to this wound which was seared onto Israeli society, and has seen sorrow for generations,” they wrote.

The seven ministers in the mini-Cabinet are reportedly divided. One of the members, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, chairman of the Israel Our Home (Yisrael Beiteinu) parry, has vowed that terrorists with blood on their hands will not be freed. Liked Minister Benny Begin also is said to agree with him.

Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor of the Likud has backed freeing prisoners. The rumor mill continues to spin with different versions of what is being considered, but no one has officially confirmed or denied several conflicting reports.
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2. Debate on Backdoor Arab Immigration Put Off to Next Week
by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu Bill Hits Backdoor Immigration

The Knesset Law Committee has postponed until next week a debate on a bill that would incorporate into the Basic Law prohibitions against Arabs in Judea, Samaria and Gaza from automatically becoming Israeli citizens by marrying Arab Israelis.

The proposed law is sponsored by Israel Our Home (Yisrael Beiteinu) Knesset Member David Rotem. Rotem noted that the High Court has ruled against appeals against the current law that bars automatic citizenship in such cases, but also has noted that the law does not totally consider rights of equality.

MK Rotem explained that by making the legislation part of the Basic Law, the High Court cannot rule against it. He said the bill is aimed at ensuring that Israel will remain a Jewish country. “The time has come that we not be embarrassed by our Zionism,” according to the Yisrael Beiteinu MK. “The State of Israel has every right to limit those who want to be a part of it.”

In response to criticism that the bill is racist, Rotem stated, “I am not preventing marriages. I only am preventing the entry into Israel of those who do not recognize Israel as a Jewish State.”

More than 40 MKs, among them most of the coalition legislators, have backed the proposed law, which has raised a storm among Meretz and Arab MKs. Former Meretz MK Zahava Gal-On, who has appealed to the High Court to rule the current policy unconstitutional, accused the bill’s supporters of trying “to enshrine racism.”
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3. Rabbi Melamed: I Did Not Back Down
by Hillel Fendel R' Melamed: I Did Not Back Down

As behind-the-scenes efforts continue to restore Yeshivat Har Bracha to Hesder status, Rabbi Melamed explains that he did not change his mind.

Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, head of Yeshivat Har Brachah, was among the 57 yeshiva heads who signed the unanimous Hesder Yeshivot declaration expressing opposition to political protests within the army. He was asked afterwards, on the Yeshivat Beit El website, if this meant that he had changed his mind. His response:

“I did not change my position except for one small thing. I had written earlier that I ‘recommend not protesting within the army framework,’ and now I joined the position of most/all the rabbis expressing ‘opposition to protests within the army.’ I did this because as a member of the organization of Yeshivat Hesder heads, it is right to take into account and accept the majority opinion – on condition that the change is not a fundamental one. For instance, if they would have said that we should condemn the protestors, I would not have agreed. But since the change was small, it was right to accept the majority opinion.”

Rabbi Melamed explained that regarding compelling soldiers to violate the Sabbath, expel Jews, and the like, there has been no change at all in his position: “The other rabbis agree as well. In addition, there has been no change in my refusal to sign things under government pressure. I will not be forced by Minister Barak or an IDF general, but I will take my rabbi-colleagues’ positions into account.”

“I am happy to meet with ministers and army commanders if the meetings are arranged respectfully, and I in fact met with Deputy Minister Matan Vilnai. But if they are inappropriately arranged, as in a ‘hearing’ or ‘summons,’ or their purpose is to apply governmental pressure so that I will change my Torah-based opinion, I will not agree to take part.”

Asked why he did not make his consent to oppose protests contingent upon the restoration of Har Brachah to the Hesder program, Rabbi Melamed said, “It is not right to change a position simply to obtain something from the Defense Minister. But it is right to respect the position of the majority of rabbis with whom I share a common framework.”

Rabbi Melamed further said that although some rabbis – “I believe they were the minority” – felt that he should have shown up for the “hearing” with Minister Barak, “the rabbis made no formal decision on this matter, and therefore when [Hesder Union spokesma Rabbi David Stav said that it would have been appropriate for me to do so, he was speaking for himself and not for the entire body.”

The Hesder rabbis resolved yesterday to oppose protests within the army and to work to rescind the removal of Har Brachah from the Hesder program. They declared that Defense Minister Barak’s decision to remove Har Bracha is a “grave one that leads to a split in the nation.”
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4. Rich Getting Richer, Poor Getting Poorer
by Hillel Fendel Rich - Richer; Poor - Poorer

The socio-economic gaps are widening: More Israelis earn 100,000 shekels ($26,000) a month, and many more earn less than 500.

Statistics collected by the Knesset Information Center, Finance Ministry and National Insurance Institute show that the gaps between rich and poor have grown wider over the past decade.

There are today some 3,000 Israelis who earn more than 100,000 shekels a month (1.2 million shekels, or $315,000) a year), while 72,000 wage-earners make less than 500 monthly shekels, or only 6,000 shekels a year. This compares with 2,500 “millionaires” and 50,000 people earning under 500 shekels 10 years ago.

In addition, more and more Israelis are earning less than the average wage, the daily Yisrael HaYom reports. Families in the lowest 10 percent bracket earn an average of 1,138 monthly shekels; those in the highest 10 percent bracket bring in an average of over 48,800 shekels.

Tel Aviv’s average wage is the highest among Israel’s cities – 8,028 shekels a month. In Jerusalem, the average wage is only 5,800 shekels.
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5. Appeal to Court to Declare Hamas Terrorists ‘War Criminals’
by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu ‘Try Terrorists for War Crimes’

While the Cabinet weighs freeing Hamas terrorists for the return of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, an appeal to the High Court demands that others be tried for war crimes. Several of the terrorists who might be released were tried and convicted for murder.

The Cabinet has been discussing the issue for several hours and may reach a decision by evening. The government ministers are sharply divided on the proposed deal, whose details are under wraps. It is known that the proposal includes freeing terrroists who have been involved with the murders of dozens or even hundreds of Israelis and who might follow the lead of previously released terrorists and return to attacking Jews.

The Israel Law Center argues that the Attorney General violated Israeli law by not indicting terrorists for war crimes for their firing rockets into Israel. Convictions for war crimes would preclude an early pardon, which is what is proposed by proponents of the release of terrorists in exchange for Shalit.

Israel is bound by the humanitarian provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention, as well as the Hague Convention and other international treaties, which stipulate that the deliberate targeting of civilians in the context of an armed conflict is a war crime. The deliberate and systemic assault against a particular civilian population constitutes a crime against humanity.

Citing previous High Court rulings, the petition notes that such international law has been accepted as binding on Israeli courts and law enforcement authorities

"The Goldstone Commission report showed that the Attorney General’s policy of indicting Hamas terrorists for ordinary crimes rather than crimes against humanity has fanned the flames of war crimes accusations against Israeli leaders and soldiers by the United Nations and the Europeans," according to Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, director of the Israel Law Center (Shurat HaDin) and attorney for the plaintiffs.

She pointed out that the Israeli policy “has left the field open for Israel’s enemies to make wrong and dangerous claims against us.”
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6. PA Working to Harm Yesha Economy
by Avi Yellin PA Tries to Ban Yesha Products

The Minister of Economy for the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority, Hassan Abu Libdeh, complained on Sunday that Arabs under PA control spend roughly half a billion dollars every year buying products made in Jewish towns and villages throughout Judea and Samaria.

Abu Libdeh, speaking during a meeting at the Shechem Chamber of Commerce in northern Samaria, explained that the American-backed PA has decided to crack down on the sale of the Jewish products. He told investors, business figures and local officials that his ministry decided that 2010 will be the last year the merchandise would be allowed into the PA controlled market.

He implied that goods produced inside Israel’s pre-1967 borders will continue to be sold in PA-controlled territory.

Last Wednesday, INN reported that Fatah troops in Jericho confiscated and destroyed a large quantity of Dead Sea cosmetics of a company located in a kibbutz in the Jordan Valley. The goods were reported to be worth up to $50,000.

INN also reported that the PA has also begun trying to prevent Arab workers from building Jewish homes in either Judea or Samaria. While Arab mayors and clan leaders have expressed fear that the 10-month ban on Jewish construction will prevent local Arabs from finding sufficient work, Fatah officials are seeking to dissuade Arabs from working in Jewish communities.

One source of alternative employment being offered to Arabs is the fledgling PA army, which includes American-trained “policemen” and is expected to expand following the infusion of a $64 million grant from the World Bank.
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7. Mumps Strikes New York Area Jewish Communities
by Hana Levi Julian Mumps Strikes NY, NJ Jews

The old childhood illness of mumps has returned to strike the Jewish communities of Greater Metropolitan New York, Rockland and Orange Counties, Lakewood, New Jersey and Quebec, Canada.

The outbreak, although one of the largest to have hit the U.S. since 2006, is still relatively small, with 57 confirmed cases in the Boro Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, and another 30 cases in Lakewood, New Jersey. At the end of October, the most recent date for which data was available, a total of 179 confirmed or probable cases had been reported from around the New York and New Jersey area, 83 percent of which were male. Another 15 cases were identified in Canada, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC).

Mumps is a highly contagious virus which is characterized in children by painful swelling (parotid inflammation) of the salivary glands in the neck, sometimes on one side, sometimes on both. The illness usually lasts about 10 days, and is accompanied by a headache and/or fever. Other symptoms include a sore face or ears, occasionally a rash, and sometimes a dry mouth. Deafness and meningo-encephalitis are among the rare complications that can result.

Outbreak Limited to Orthodox, Chassidic Jews – This Time

The outbreak so far appears to be limited to the Orthodox and Chassidic Jewish communities in Monsey, New Square, Kiryas Yoel, the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Boro Park and Williamsburg in New York, Lakewood, New Jersey, and Quebec, Canada.

According to the CDC, the outbreak was traced to an 11-year-old boy who had returned from a visit to the United Kingdom, where 4,000 “unvaccinated young adults” were sick with the virus. The boy went to summer camp in New York in August, passing the virus to 25 others, who in turn then returned home to their communities and passed it along to others. Most of the campers who caught the virus had been vaccinated, however.

Health Departments are stressing the importance of immunizing the children against all childhood illnesses, including mumps, measles and rubella – the MMR vaccine. According to the report, a number of parents interviewed by health officials had chosen not to immunize their children – but not all. There have also been a number of cases in which the victims had been fully immunized.

The Jewish communities are not the first ones to have been hit with such an epidemic, however.

The last time an outbreak of mumps struck the United States was in 2006. According to a study at Texas Children’s Hospital published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, a total of 2,597 cases of mumps were reported that year in 11 states within the 12-month period. The outbreak occurred primarily among university students ages 18 to 25. According to the report, many had received two doses of the MMR vaccine in childhood.

Main Issues: Contagion, and Infertility

Up to 20 percent of those affected can be asymptomatic – that is, they show no symptoms at all and thus may be contagious and spread the illness without being aware of it.

The other issue, one that is equally serious, is that in males past the age of puberty, there is a 30 percent chance of the virus also causing painful testicular swelling. This can result in infertility or subfertility.

It is passed through coughing and sneezing, sharing food or drinks, and kissing. The virus can also survive on various surfaces and then be spread after contact. Contagion lasts from approximately six to nine days after onset of symptoms, with an incubation period of anywhere between 14 to 25 days.

There is no specific treatment for the virus once it begins, other than giving painkillers such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Most of the time, the disease runs its course and confers lifetime immunity thereafter; it is not considered particularly dangerous except in very rare cases.

Not Immunized? Not Protected Against the Virus

The most common way to prevent mumps is to immunize against the disease with the mumps vaccine, which may be available in some areas separately but is most often combined with two other vaccines, those against measles and rubella, in the “MMR.” There is also another vaccine being used, the “MMRV,” that combines four immunizations; this includes the aforementioned three plus one against chickenpox (varicella) another childhood illness.

Herein lies the difficulty, however, and possibly the reason for the current outbreak: the MMR and the MMRV have in the past been associated with claims that they may have caused an increase in the number of cases of autism.

Since 1994, when the vaccine was deemed mandatory for all school-age children in the United States, an increase in the number of cases of autism has been documented, giving rise to speculation that there was a correlation between the two.

Researchers have denied any connection between the two issues, but parents and even some doctors remain unconvinced. The 1998 study in which a possible association between the MMR vaccine, bowel disease and autism was suggested has long since been discredited as “fatally flawed,” but the concern persisted, leading parents to avoid immunizing their children with the MMR vaccine.
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