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Truce signals new era as Sharon and Abbas meet
by UK Independent
Monday Feb 7th, 2005 10:01 PM
Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Prime Minister and Mahmoud Abbas, the new Palestinian President, will formally call a halt to four-and-a-half years of armed conflict when they meet today at Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt, senior Israeli and Palestinian officials said last night.
The two separate but interdependent announcements that both sides intend to halt the violence, which has cost more than 4,000 lives since September 2000, is a major boost for Mr Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen. He had been pressing for a reciprocal declaration from Israel after securing agreement to a truce from armed factions a fortnight ago.

Mohammed Dahlan, the former minister who has been closely involved in security talks with Israeli officials, backed up an earlier prediction by the cabinet minister Saeb Erekat. "We have agreed to announce a neutral ceasefire,'' he said.

A senior Israeli official confirmed that Mr Abbas would announce a "cessation" of armed action against Israel while Israel would itself declare that it would "cease all pro-active military activity".

However, Mr Sharon is expected to make clear that continuation of the ceasefire will depend on a series of steps that the Palestinians will have to undertake to prevent factions from being able to resume hostilities.

After meeting Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, yesterday, Mr Abbas said he was hoping for a reciprocal announcement from Israel in response to the period of "quiet" he had negotiated with the factions. But Israel hitherto had been reluctant to make a formal ceasefire declaration of the sort sought by Mr Abbas.

Instead, it has taken a series of steps designed to maintain the so far undeclared truce. Israel has largely handed over control of Gaza ­ scene of the worst conflict during the past year ­ to Palestinian forces and has agreed not to pursue wanted militants other than in cases where it suspects they are planning an attack on Israel.

News of the imminent ceasefire announcement last night came as Ms Rice announced that President George Bush was sending a US general as a "security co-ordinator", marking the US's most serious engagement in the Middle East peace process for three years.

Ms Rice again went out of her way to demonstrate US support for Mr Abbas after the meeting yesterday on the eve of today's summit with Mr Sharon in Egypt, the first top level meeting between Palestinian and Israeli leaders since the uprising began. She disclosed that Mr Abbas as well as Mr Sharon would make separate visits to the White House in the spring.

General William Ward, a decorated former commander of the Nato stabilisation force in post-war Bosnia, will report directly to Ms Rice and will have an important role in reforming, reorganising and training Palestinian security forces, as well as seeking to ensure co- ordination between Israel and the Palestinians to prevent the ceasefire from breaking down, as an earlier one did in 2003 after less than three months.

Raanan Gissin, a spokesman for Ariel Sharon, said yesterday: "This is someone who will be like a referee, if there is a need ... to mediate and prevent a crisis. The American involvement will increase as progress is made."

Ms Rice emphasised American support for the "historic decision" to withdraw settle-ments from Gaza later this year. But she also confirmed that she had told Israel that it, as well as the Palestinians, must live up to its obligations under the road map, including to dismantle dozens of illegal outposts in the West Bank and to halt settlement expansion.

Ms Rice said that the Palestinians should be "very proud" of their recent presidential elections. She underlined the contrast with the US's virtual boycott of relations with Yasser Arafat during the past four years by praising Mr Abbas for standing on a platform of ending the armed intifada.

http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/story.jsp?story=608878
by Haaretz
Monday Feb 7th, 2005 10:04 PM
Background/ Sharon, Bush gamble on Abbas - this time, to win

Say what you will about Ariel Sharon, though, he is no stranger to loss.

In fact, Sharon's checkered history of great gambles, some vindicated, others disastrous, may serve him as a guide in the latest of his wagers: betting that Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas will succeed in a risky venture of his own, staking his rule on a cessation of four years of hostilities.

This time around, George Bush appears to be taking that bet as well.

It has been nearly two years since Bush joined Sharon and Abbas in a summit hosted by King Abdullah in the Red Sea resort of Aqaba. A triumph of scenery over substance, the closing ceremonies were long on ends and short on means. Perhaps more imporantly, Sharon and Abbas barely mentioned each other in their addresses.

At the time, it appeared to some that Sharon and Bush, each for his own reasons, were betting on Abbas to fail. Sharon, who had yet to announce a substantial initiative toward changing the Mideast equation, had much to gain at the time from a politically advantageous if painful status quo.

To the surprise and relief of Israelis, who had feared that Saddam Hussein would make them the target of what was feared to be years of non-coventional weapons development, the young war in Iraq had gone well for the Americans.

At home, Sharon, who had little desire to set out on the newly-dedicated road map for Middle East peace, made it clear that Israeli steps would be taken only after, and only if, Abbas complied with clauses specifying concrete reforms in the Arafat-designed Palestinian Authority, and curbs on terror attacks against Israelis.

Sharon could depend on then-PA chairman Yasser Arafat to undermine any reforms Abbas might undertake. He could also trust the powerful Hamas leaders Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and Abdel Aziz Rantisi to literally blow to pieces any chance for PA security control over the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

For the first-term Bush - facing an uncertain electoral future and the specter of his father's having declared victory in an Iraq war only to concede defeat in a subsequent election - there were also advantages in having Abbas fail.

With an impotent PA, Bush could reasonably court the Jewish electorate both left and right, at once pushing for a peace process without having to press Israel for concessions.

Now, however, with Rantisi and Yassin dead at Sharon's hand and Arafat a fading and decidedly tarnished memory, the re-elected Bush and the pre-disengagement Sharon have given strong signs that they have put their political capital on Abbas - this time to win.

Against all odds, Abbas, joining the world league of the underestimated, has survived the flamboyance, wiles, power and weaponry of Arafat, Yassin and Rantisi, to be the one Palestinian making headway in the cause of independence.

Departing sharply from their June 2003 line in Aqaba, Sharon government leaders and military brass have lauded Abbas' efforts to quell the violence and bring about a mutual end to hostilities.

The Sharm summit has put Sharon and Abbas at the opposite end of the Red Sea, and, in fact, closer than might have been imagined.

Sharon, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and army chief Moshe Ya'alon have actively lobbied for far-reaching confidence-building measures, to the pointed consternation of Shin Bet Director Avi Dichter and the two Likud ministers, Silvan Shalom and Benjamin Netanyahu, attempting to follow Sharon's route to the top, which, in the Likud lexicon, is another way of saying: To pass, pass on the right.

Bush may also have much to gain this time around from a successful Abbas administration. If calm in the territories and PA reforms - matched by Israeli peace moves - translate into a peace process, the American way out of Iraq may be lit by the suddenly renewed prospect of Palestinian statehood.

For Abbas, much may depend on the Arab perception of victory and defeat.

At Aqaba in mid-2003, Sharon refrained from diplomatic gestures, lest they be interpreted by Palestinians and the wider world as a victory for terrorism.

But by the end of that year, with the Arafat-crippled PA in tatters, Sharon announced a "unilateral security measure" which he called disengagement, a vaguely worded proposal that he said would involve "relocation" of settlements.

Overnight, Sharon had begun reframing the debate on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides. Israeli hawks said that if the Palestinians viewed the disengagement as a triumph, the destruction of Israel by stages would be the ultimate outcome.

But if the 1973 war is a measure, it may be argued that Arabs cannot make peace with Israel without a perceived military victory over the Jewish state.

Perhaps it is this circumstance that has allowed voices to mount on the Palestinian side for an end to hostilities, with commanders of terror cells going on television, unmasked, to speak of their fatigue and their desire to return to family life.

According to Haaretz Palestinian Affairs analyst Danny Rubinstein, "the Israeli explanations that it is a 'disengagement' and not a withdrawal, and certainly not a retreat, do not interest the Palestinians. As far as they are concerned, the army is going to quit the entire Gaza Strip and the State of Israel will be uprooting the settlements.

"Throughout all the years of the peace process, that has never happened. All the complicated negotiations, all the summits and all the diplomatic talks never achieved for the Palestinians what the armed struggle and resistance achieved: a disengagement."

In a recent column, Rubinstein argues that it is still too soon to determine if Abbas is fated to become the "Palestinian Sadat."

However, the time may be at hand, Rubinstein says. Significantly, in contrast to 2003, "the attitude of Israel and the U.S. toward the Palestinian leadership has changed. The international approach that is sympathetic to Abu Mazen [Abbas] has changed the mood of intifada fatigue into something more relevant.

Abu Mazen's lack of charisma and weakness is now an advantage, Rubinstein concludes. "He is free of the burden of the need to be a national symbol like his predecessor, and he can allow himself to be pragmatic, practical and logical. But his chances of success, of course, do not depend only on him, but also on us."

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=537248&displayTypeCd=1&sideCd=1&contrassID=2
by Haaretz
Monday Feb 7th, 2005 10:05 PM
In recent months we found cautious optimism among the Israeli Jewish public about the chance of a calm in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, and this optimism has now increased.

Following are the main findings of the Peace Index survey that was conducted on Monday January 31 and Tuesday February 1.

There is overwhelming support for political negotiations with the Palestinian side along with increased belief that such negotiations could lead to peace. A majority of Jewish Israelis also think that new Palestinian leader Abu Mazen is making a sincere effort to end terrorism and has the ability to do so or at least to reduce it substantially.

Despite growing fear that resistance to the disengagement plan could lead to a civil war and a widespread view that the plan's opponents have been "marketing" their message more successfully than its supporters and are prepared to invest more effort in promoting their position, support for the plan among the Jewish public remains stable. A clear majority believes the government will be able to implement it.

A majority favors measures to make this process easier politically, including increasing compensation for evacuated settlers, preventing transfer of their homes and other property to Palestinians without suitable compensation, allowing soldiers who oppose the evacuation to avoid taking part in it and closing the area of the evacuation to the media.

The Jewish public supports, at a rate of two-to-one, both holding a referendum on the plan and stepped-up political activity by its supporters.

A large majority say that resistance by settlers and their supporters to the evacuation, whether in the form of curses and calling evacuators Nazis, or even employing weapons, should not lead to the evacuation's cancellation. At the same time, there is a clear preference for security forces to avoid the use of force and for the government to conduct a dialogue with the evacuees, unless weapons are used against soldiers conducting the evacuation. In such a case, there is broad support to continue the evacuation while immediately employing force against resisters.

Seventy-seven percent of the Jewish public currently support or strongly support diplomatic negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, and 51 percent believe strongly or moderately that this will lead to Israeli-Palestinian peace.

In the Arab sector, optimism is high indeed - 94.5 percent favor negotiations and 78 percent believe in their chances of bearing fruit.

This optimism is also reflected in the Oslo Index, which has been rising recently. The high support and belief in the chances for a settlement can, apparently, be attributed to the belief of a 59 percent majority (70 percent among Arabs) that Abu Mazen is making sincere efforts to stop terrorism. Fifty-five percent (66 percent among Arabs) also believe he has the capability to significantly reduce or even end Palestinian violence.

The broad support for the disengagement plan, at 59 percent, remains unchanged, and the correlation of support and opposition to the plan by party affiliation also shows great stability.

Support for disengagement is at 89 percent among Labor voters, 84 percent for Shinui, 78 percent for Yahad, and 60 percent for Likud, while the corresponding rate for the National Religious Party is 20 percent, for Shas 7 percent, and zero for the National Union.

The Jewish public is split on the danger that disengagement will ignite a civil war. Forty-nine percent see this danger as very high or high, up from 40 percent in September. Forty-six percent see the risk as low or very low. Interestingly, an overwhelming majority - 67 percent - of the Arab public sees little such danger.

Some 56.5 percent think that opponents of disengagement are marketing their message to the Israeli public more effectively than its supporters. About the same total say opponents are prepared to invest greater effort than supporters in advancing their position. It is not surprising, then, that about 60 percent of the public, similar to the proportion of supporters, would like supporters of disengagement to express their position more effectively via petitions, demonstrations and the like.

However, a very large majority - 74 percent - expects that the government will succeed in implementing the plan and evacuating the settlements. This is higher than the public's evaluation of the plan's chances of success in December, which was 63 percent. As would be expected, there is near unanimity - 91 percent - among the plan's supporters that the government will be able to carry it out. Interestingly, a majority of opponents - 52 percent - hold this view, while 41 percent disagree.

Whether because of a desire to see the plan succeed and/or empathy toward the people to be evacuated, there is a clear support for measures to ease the process. Seventy percent support increased compensations for settlers, 68 percent favor ensuring that their homes and infrastructure are not given to Palestinians without suitable compensation, 53 percent believe soldiers who oppose the evacuation should be allowed not to opt out, and the same proportion support closing the evacuation zones to the media.

Furthermore, most of the Jewish public, at a rate similar to support for the plan - 61 percent - favor a referendum. Even among the plan's supporters there is a majority - 52 percent - for a referendum, while 45 percent oppose one. Seventy-nine percent of opponents support a referendum.

How should the IDF react to resistance by settlers? We presented four scenarios of resistance: settlers curse evacuators and call them Nazis, settlers resist while holding Torah scrolls, settlers lie on roads with young children and settlers resist violently and use weapons against soldiers.

Only a small minority, between 12 percent and 17.5 percent, favor halting the evacuation altogether under any of these scenarios. On the first three scenarios, the prevalent view is to continue the evacuation as planned without employing force against settlers - 48 percent in the case of curses, 45 percent in the case of resistance with Torahs in hand and 33 percent in the case where young children are involved in the resistance. Under these scenarios only a small minority, between 13 percent and 17 percent, support continuing the evacuation while immediately using force

If violence and weapons are used against soldiers, a plurality of respondents - 38 percent - opt for continuing the evacuation as planned while immediately using force against resisters.

In all four scenarios, 20-25 percent favor putting the evacuation on hold and negotiating with settlers to calm the situation. The overall picture, then, is one of broad opposition by the Jewish public to stopping the evacuation under any of the scenarios we presented, but with a clear preference to avoid using force against settlers who resist.

Israeli Arabs also oppose using force against settlers, at least in the three scenarios in which the settlers do not resist violently or use weapons. However, if the evacuees do employ force, 62 percent of the Arab public support continuing the evacuation while immediately using force against them.

Indexes:

General Oslo: 42.2 (in December: 38.5); Oslo Jews: 38.5 (in December: 35.7).

General negotiation: 61.6 (in December: 56.8); Negotiation Jews: 59.7 (in December: 55.6).

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/536837.html
by Critical Thinker
Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:08 AM
>>>"Departing sharply from their June 2003 line in Aqaba, Sharon government leaders and military brass have lauded Abbas' efforts to quell the violence and bring about a mutual end to hostilities. "<<<

In reality, Sharon and a few other rightist leaders have been pretty guarded and qualified in their praise. They emphasized that Abbas has barely begun and that he must do much more: proactively crack down on the terrorist, confiscate all their weapons, dismantle the terrorist infrastructure and cease the official incitement.
by forgery
Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:16 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
by Critical Thinker
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:20 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:21 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:21 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:21 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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Tuesday Feb 8th, 2005 2:21 AM
What Ha'aretz left about the praise heaped on Abbas
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