US financed illegal W. Bank building The United States admitted this week for the first time that it accidentally helped fund the illegal construction of a Palestinian building in a park located on the edge of the former Shadma military base in the West Bank's Gush Etzion region. park with funding from abroad, in an area which Palestinians call Oush Ghrab (crow's nest). The park, which is used by Beit Sahour residents, hosts a building with a small kiosk for events, a stone terrace, a soccer field, a playground and the largest wooden rock climbing tower in the area. Some $281,000 was provided for the park by the United States Agency for International Development, an independent federal agency that provides economic, development and humanitarian assistance world-wide. A large white sign stating that USAID contributed to the "Peace Park" hangs on the gate at the entryway to the complex. A spokesperson for the US Consulate in east Jerusalem told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that American funding was given to the project in two installments, the first in November 2007 and the second in August 2008. The spokesperson did not know how much of the money went toward the stone building in the park, which was built illegally. When the funds were given, USAID believed that all the necessary permits had been obtained for the structure. It realized its error several months ago and has been working with the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories to see a solution. The issue was brought to the media's attention by MK Arye Eldad (National Union), who visited Shadma earlier this week in his capacity as a member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. "It is impossible that the US government that protests and demands that Israel will stop what they call illegal building will be involved in funding illegal building," said Eldad. He wrote a letter to the US ambassador to protest the funding. Right wing MKs, activists and settlers have fought for the last three years to keep the Israeli government from ceding to a request from the Palestinian Authority to allow Beit Sahour to use the stone and dirt hilltop that overlooks the new Nokdim and Tekoa road. The Beit Sahour Municipality would like to construct a new hospital at the site. In advance of any resolution as to jurisdiction of the site, the Beit Sahour Municipality constructed the park on the back slope of the hill, away from the Nokdim and Tekoa Road. On Wednesday, as workers heated coals and dusted off a soda bar for a night time party for teens, Johnny Badra of the Beit Sahour Municipality, who runs the park told The Jerusalem Post that the former military base stood on land that had belonged to Beit Sahour before the Six-Day War. He pointed to the nearby apartment buildings: "The only buildings you can see here belong to Beit Sahour." Badra admitted that construction had started on the structure without a permit, but when the civil order came and issued a stop work order, the municipality ceased building, he said. As a result, he said, the parking lot had yet to be paved, the open air theater was still unfinished and there was a section of the building right under the roof, where one could still see the construction beams because there was no wall. Among the organizations which use the facility is an American-based non-governmental group, Paidia International Development, which runs leadership training programs there for Palestinian teens. A spokesman for the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories told the Post that some sections of the park were legal, while others still needed permits. The Beit Sahour Municipality, he said, was still in the process of obtaining the necessary permits for the park, including for the building. He added that the municipality was also in dialogue with his office over a permit for the hospital. Settlers and right wing activists have objected to any Palestinian development on the site for both security and historical reasons. Activists, including the group Women in Green, hold weekly protest activities at the site on Fridays. "We will fight for every piece of land that belongs to us," said Nadia Matar of Women in Green. But this hilltop, which overlooks the road leading into Jerusalem's Har Homa neighborhood, had particular strategic significance, she said. In the past settlers have told the Post they feared that if a hospital were built on the site, terrorists would be able to shoot at passing cars. Matar added that Israel should have learned from the 2005 Gaza withdrawal about the dangers of giving away land.
Obama fails to name anti-Semitism envoy The Obama administration has failed to name an envoy for monitoring and combating anti-Semitism around the world as mandated by US law since the previous ambassador was relieved of his duties at the start of the president's term more than six months ago, officials said Thursday. Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs titled "The Politics of the American Response to Global Anti-Semitism." According to Medoff, "At a time when anti-Semitism remains a staple of government propaganda in the Middle East, when violent anti-Semitic incidents are reported almost daily throughout Europe, and when even the streets of Washington are not untouched by anti-Semitism's violent potential, that is the wrong message to send." The State Department's Office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, which was established by a Congressional initiative in 2004, advocates American policy on anti-Semitism both in the US and internationally. The proposal to establish such an office was initially opposed by the Bush administration, which took 18 months to appoint an envoy to head the office, Medoff said. The envoy, Dr. Gregg Rickman, was removed from his post when the Obama administration took office in January in keeping with standard policy when a president of a different party takes power. "On the one hand, it is understandable that at a time of multiple domestic and foreign crises, the Obama administration does not see this position as a top-tier concern," Medoff wrote. "Yet it is nevertheless surprising how far down anti-Semitism appears to have slid on the new administration's list of priorities, particularly when it was the Democrats themselves who fought so hard to create the position over the vehement opposition of the Bush administration." A White House spokesman referred queries on the issue Thursday to the State Department. A State Department official said Thursday that upon the inauguration of a new president, ambassadors from the previous administration tender their resignations. The official said that as with all Ambassadorial and other senior positions, there is an appointment process, which is ongoing, that includes the president nominating a candidate followed by Senate confirmation.
Construction to Start on New Jlem Mall
JERUSALEM, Israel - Residents of the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah will be able to shop in a new mall on Saleh a-Din Street.
The building that will house the new mall is owned by the Nusseibeh family, one of the oldest and wealthiest Israeli Arab families in Jerusalem.
Their ownership of the property dates to the Ottoman rule.
Over the years it has been used as a children's home, a school and an infirmary.
Today, the dilapidated building is "home" to street people - the homeless, pimps and junkies.
Prior to the 1967 Six Day War, some family members thought to renovate the building for a hotel, but the project was shelved following the war.
About 10 years ago, another family member wanted to use the building for shops and offices.
Now, the first few floors of the abandoned building will house a state-of-the-art mall, with the rest renovated for offices.
Earlier this week, workers posted signs announcing the new project as they began cleaning the basement of the building. It is the first major commercial project in East Jerusalem in nearly 40 years.
Many Jews in Israel are starting an annual fast at sundown, Wednesday, to mourn the destruction of their biblical temples in Jerusalem. Tisha B'Av (the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av) commemorates the destruction of the two temples with a fast.
Thousands of Israelis will gather at the Western Wall -- the last remnant of the ancient temple compound -- and they will read the Old Testament book of Lamentations.
During the fast, no food or drink is consumed from one evening to the next. Participants also refrain from bathing or wearing make-up or leather shoes, as these are considered luxuries.
It is a 25-hour fast that reflects on the destruction of Solomon's Temple by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. and the Romans' destruction of the Second Temple in 70 A.D.
The fast was first implemented so people could repent of their corrupt ways, which were believed to cause the difficulties in the nation.
It’s Crunch Time for Israel On Iran Legions of senior American officials have descended on Jerusalem recently, but the most important of them has been Defense Secretary Robert Gates. His central objective was to dissuade Israel from carrying out military strikes against Iran’s nuclear weapons facilities. Under the guise of counseling “patience,” Mr. Gates again conveyed President Barack Obama’s emphatic thumbs down on military force. The public outcome of Mr. Gates’s visit appeared polite but inconclusive. Yet Iran’s progress with nuclear weapons and air defenses means Israel’s military option is declining over time. It will have to make a decision soon, and it will be no surprise if Israel strikes by year’s end. Israel’s choice could determine whether Iran obtains nuclear weapons in the foreseeable future. Mr. Obama’s approach to Tehran has been his “open hand,” yet his gesture has not only been ignored by Iran but deemed irrelevant as the country looks inward to resolve the aftermath of its fraudulent election. The hardliner “winner” of that election, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was recently forced to fire a deputy who once said something vaguely soothing about Israel. Clearly, negotiations with the White House are not exactly topping the Iranian agenda. Beyond that, Mr. Obama’s negotiation strategy faces insuperable time pressure. French President Nicolas Sarkozy proclaimed that Iran must re-start negotiations with the West by September’s G-20 summit. But this means little when, with each passing day, Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile laboratories, production facilities and military bases are all churning. Israel is focused on these facts, not the illusion of “tough” diplomacy. Israel rejects another feature of Mr. Obama’s diplomatic stance. The Israelis do not believe that progress with the Palestinians will facilitate a deal on Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Though Mr. Gates and others have pressed this fanciful analysis, Israel will not be moved. Worse, Mr. Obama has no new strategic thinking on Iran. He vaguely promises to offer the country the carrot of diplomacy—followed by an empty threat of sanctions down the road if Iran does not comply with the U.S.’s requests. This is precisely the European Union’s approach, which has failed for over six years. There’s no reason Iran would suddenly now bow to Mr. Obama’s diplomatic efforts, especially after its embarrassing election in June. So with diplomacy out the door, how will Iran be tamed? Mr. Gates’ mission had extraordinary significance. Israel sees the political and military landscape in a very inauspicious light. It also worries that, once ensnared in negotiations, the Obama administration will find it very hard to extricate itself. The Israelis are probably right. To prove the success of his “open hand,” Mr. Obama will declare victory for “diplomacy” even if it means little to no gains on Iran’s nuclear program. Under the worst-case scenario, Iran will continue improving its nuclear facilities and Mr. Obama will become the first U.S. president to tie the issue of Israel’s nuclear capabilities into negotiations about Iran’s. Israel understands that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent commitment to extend the U.S. “defense umbrella” to Israel is not a guarantee of nuclear retaliation, and that it is wholly insufficient to deter Iran from obliterating Israel if it so decides. In fact, Mrs. Clinton’s comment tacitly concedes that Iran will acquire nuclear weapons, exactly the wrong message. Since Israel, like the U.S., is well aware its missile defense system is imperfect, whatever Mr. Gates said about the “defense umbrella” will be politely ignored. Relations between the U.S. and Israel are more strained now than at any time since the 1956 Suez Canal crisis. Mr. Gates’s message for Israel not to act on Iran, and the U.S. pressure he brought to bear, highlight the weight of Israel’s lonely burden. Striking Iran’s nuclear program will not be precipitous or poorly thought out. Israel’s attack, if it happens, will have followed enormously difficult deliberation over terrible imponderables, and years of patiently waiting on innumerable failed diplomatic efforts. Absent Israeli action, prepare for a nuclear Iran. —Mr. Bolton, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of “Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations” (Simon & Schuster, 2007).