Wednesday, December 28, 2005

December 2005

Dear friends and colleagues,

This has been a painful and fascinating month. The Likud is stabilized after the election of Bibi Netanyahu to leadership. Among certain parts of the public, Bibi has not lost his charm. He is fighting with Labour for the position of the second largest party in the house. "Kadima" goes kadima (forward), from strength to strength, despite Sharon's weight and health, and the rivalry between Olmert and Livni over second place on the list. The adrenaline is pumping. Interesting times indeed.

Attack on Netanya, Peres, Peretz, Sharon, Mofaz, Yossi Sarid, Dying Patient Bill, Haifa Conference, European Journalism Fellowships in Berlin, Freedom in the World 2006, Charas, New Books

Attack on Netanya

On December 5, 2005 at least five people were killed and more than 50 others were wounded, including four seriously, when a suicide bomber blew himself up around 11:30 A.M. at the entrance to Hasharon shopping mall in Netanya. He tried to enter the mall but luckily was spotted by passersby after he raised their suspicions. Two policemen at the scene pulled out their guns and ordered him to halt and to take his hands out of his pockets. At that stage, he blew himself up. One of the security guards was killed and the the policemen were wounded. Islamic Jihad took responsibility for the attack. The group later identified the attacker as 21-year-old Lutfi Amin Abu Salem, from the village of Kafr Rai, located between the West Bank towns of Jenin and Tul Karm.The group has perpetrated all four previous suicide bombings carried out since a joint cease-fire declaration last February. It has said it reserves the right to retaliate for any perceived Israeli violations.In a statement released by his office, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack, and vowed to punish those responsible. The attack was the first suicide bombing in Israel since October 26, when a bomber killed six people in Hadera, just north of Netanya.

On the same day that the suicide bombing took place in Netanya, several sources reported that PA President Mahmoud Abbas had signed a law that will give regular stipends of at least $250/month to families of “martyrs,” which includes suicide bombers.

The allocations will be paid from the budget of the Palestinian Authority via the Martyrs’ Families and Injured Care Establishment, which is directly responsible to the PA Social Welfare Department. Some of this money comes from international donations.
Source: first edition of "Inside the PA," a weekly on-line publication


On November 30, 2005 Shimon Peres announced he was ending his political activity in the Labour Party and would support Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in the upcoming March elections.Peres stated that Sharon was the appropriate person to head a coalition of peace and security. He said he was supporting Sharon as the person who had the best chance of restarting the peace process with the Palestinians. "In my opinion, the appropriate person to head the coalition that will bring peace is Arik Sharon," he said at a special press conference that he convened. "My party activities have concluded," he added."I held talks with him [Sharon] and I am convinced that he is determined to continue the peace process. I was informed that he is open to creative ideas to attain peace and security. I have decided to support him in the elections and to cooperate with him in attaining these goals." "This is a difficult day for me in which I ask myself: What is the central issue standing before the state of Israel in the coming years and at present? I have no doubt that it is the unavoidable combination of peace and diplomatic advances. I ask myself how I can contribute in the coming years, and the answer is by advancing the peace process that will contribute to a thriving economy and social justice.""It was not easy but I made the choice and decided," Peres, 82, said on his decision to leave the party he has been a member of for 46 years. This step was hardly surprising. Peres feels he has a lot to contribute to the nation. He cannot retire. He needs the constant activity, and does not know any other way of life. Politics is everything for him, the only profession he ever had. He symbolizes the politician-as-profession paradigm. Hence, when Amir Peretz offered him the party presidency, and to close the party list for the Knesset, in the 120th place, Peres felt as if someone wishes to close a chapter that for him is still viable. This chapter lasted all his life. Peretz wanted to end his active, professional life, when he was not yet ready. Peres opted for an assured second place, and a promise to be a significant minister if Labour is part of the next coalition government. Peretz refused, while Sharon was apparently willing to pledge Peres an office in the next government, if he will be elected prime minister.

A few days before he took the decision, I faxed Shimon a personal letter, urging him to join Sharon. I saw his own good, and the nation's best interests that here coincide nicely. Peres made the right decision. It will be a fine finale for an impressive career.

Peres, in a personal letter, answered that my "warm words that came from the heart" penetrated his heart, and that he did what was necessary to do. Indeed, "it was difficult to reach the decision to leave the party in which I acted for decades". However, in the final analysis, the result matters and "I support Ariel Sharon who could promote peace according to the vision and way that have been leading me for a long time".

Reminder: this was not the first time he has left Labour. When his mentor David Ben-Gurion left Mapai to establish Rafi, Peres went along with him. Later he returned. Now, apparently, he has left for good. He left for partisan interests, to continue kicking. In his heart, he will always remain Labour. I think all leaders of the party, present and future, know this and will cherish his contribution as long as Labour exists.


Amir Peretz might regret his insulting proposals to Peres. Peres is an electoral force. Never a winner, but he does have followers, and he does enjoy the appreciation of many circles within the Israeli public. He could certainly have helped Labour to compete against "Kadima". I hope Peretz’s campaigning behaviour which advances mainly his own people will not lead to the ousting of other gifted people.

The negative media of Peretz' brutal moves against members of his own party had an immediate effect on the public. Polls published by Maariv on November 7, 2005 showed that Labour lost four mandates in ten days, from 28 seats to 24 seats. On November 23, the polls said that Labour's popular support will now send only 19 MKs to the house. Sharon, on the other hand, retains his power and even improved his party’s position: up by one to three seats: 39-42. Likud, under Netanyahu: 15 seats but going up. Of course, it’s a long way until the election and the picture might change significantly a few times during the next few months.

Amir Peretz lacks charisma and alienates certain sectors. It seems that he is especially weak among the elderly Ashkenazi voters who cannot connect to his character and appearance. Many people simply do not appreciate his leadership abilities. If Sharon were to say the same things Peretz is saying, his popularity would grow because people believe he has the ability to translate words into deeds. With Peretz, people do not believe he has such abilities.


Some generals prefer the company of maps to the company of their soldiers. I use to think this of Sharon. But apparently 70 year-old generals have a different world view than 40 year-old generals. I sincerely hope that Sharon will not waste time after the elections and will invest all his bulldozing power to implement the road map, as he declares now. Israel needs to end the occupation, as soon as possible, and work for the establishment of a democratic Palestinian state alongside Israel.

On Sunday, December 18, 2005, Prime Minister Sharon was rushed to the medical center's trauma unit Sunday evening after suffering a minor stroke and briefly losing consciousness. Dr. Yuval Weiss, deputy manager of the Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem, told reporters that "initial tests indicate that the prime minister has undergone a mild stroke and his condition improved during the tests. The prime minister was fully conscious during the test." Weiss maintained: "He is now talking with his relatives and members of his office. The prime minister will remain in hospital for further tests and monitoring".

Sharon's health immediately became a media, political and public concern. "Kadima" was built around him and is popular thanks to him. Sharon is the oldest prime minister to serve Israel. He is obese and limps due an injury dating from the 1948 War of Independence. But, except for the removal of the stones in his urinary system, very little has been known regarding his medical record.Last February the prime minister underwent treatment at the Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer to remove stones in his urinary system. His scheduled meeting on that day, including talks with U.S. officials in the run-up to the disengagement, were canceled. On the morning of the treatment, the Prime Minister's Office released an official statement on his health condition, in order to stem the expected rumor mill.Sharon is not the first prime minister to be rushed to the hospital due to a health scare. The media that follow Sharon 24 hours a day immediately reported about the event and tried to reveal all possible details as soon as possible, asking private questions, speculating, and mostly asking unclever questions ("How does Sharon feel?"; a few hours after a stroke, the answer must be: "Great, thanks for asking. He is playing football with the doctors"). The tension between the right to privacy and the public's right to know emerged with all its vitality. The public has the right to know the condition of its leader, but it cannot be a pretext for asking a short time after the incident to open medical files and reveal details that even Sharon's close family members do not know. Patience is a virtue to be maintained.


When Mofaz saw that his chances to win the Likud leadership were slim, according to the polls, on December 11, 2005 the Defense Minister quit the Likud and joined Sharon's "Kadima". Mofaz trailed far behind front-runner Benjamin Netanyahu and runner up Silvan Shalom in opinion polls.The reward is attractive: Mofaz received a pledge that he will continue to serve in the defense post in the next government as well, should Sharon be re-elected prime minister in the March 28 elections.To recall: Mofaz had turned down a request by Sharon to join him only a few weeks ago, when the prime minister quit the party, bringing with him a number of senior Likud figures. Opportunism rules supreme in Israeli politics. Sharon destroyed all the conventional party lines and transformed our politics. The question is whether this will be for the long run or only for the short run, one election.

The defection of Mofaz follows the surprise announcement last week of the decision by then-acting Likud chairman and Likud Central Committee chair Tzachi Hanegbi to move to "Kadima". Hanegbi is involved in a few corruption affairs but still is considered a desirable asset to Sharon. Sharon says he trusts him. Well, this is important, I guess.Mofaz's dramatic announcement drew reaction from all across the political spectrum. Likud primary candidate Yisrael Katz said Mofaz gave in to polls, and that he found it strange how a man who had criticized Sharon and "Kadima"'s foreseeable policies, decides to join a rival party. "I personally regret this," Katz said. "It is amazing to see how one poll in a weekend paper causes all the plans to change. We live in a reality where the polls and the public are more crucial from positions." He maintained: Mofaz has shown himself to be "a politician with no principles, who calculates where his situation will be better."

Mofaz apparently did not believe the Likud will be able to collect itself and resume the leadership role it had in Israeli politics. He thought the Likud will not survive Sharon's "Big Bang". In effect, many of the Likud leaders have moved to "Kadima". Sharon builds the second Likud as an alternative to the original, inserting his people into key positions, and replacing the brand name Likud with "Kadima". Amazing. Only a few weeks ago Likud was the best brand name in town, a synonym for success. Now, over the past few weeks it is all sellers, no buyers. Netanyahu is now halting this process and trying to reverse the trend. He tries to recruit "big names" to his party.

Yossi Sarid

After forty years in politics, and thirty two years in the Knesset, Yossi Sarid announced that he closed the political chapter in his life. He is going home. In 1984, when Labour decided to join the coalition government with the Likud under Yitzhak Shamir, Sarid left the party, fully aware of the price that he was paying. If he had any aspirations to become prime minister, he knew that he gave them up when he left Labour to join a leftist, small party, Ratz (the Civil Rights Party). For similar reasons, on the same day that Yossi left for Ratz, I left Labour to join Mapam, the socialist party. I was always against coalition governments that put Labour and Likud together, thinking that democracy needs a strong opposition to the same extent that it needs a strong government, even more so as the corruption level in Israel continues to grow.

At a later point, Mapam and Ratz joined together and Meretz was established. Sarid became the leader, succeeding Shulamit Aloni, and he served as the party's leader until the last elections. Sarid was one of the most clever MKs in the history of the country. He always tried to be true to his conscience. He voiced unpopular views when he believed in them. He was willing to pay a high price for his convictions. He never saw politics as a beauty salon, and I assume that Niccolo Machiavelli 's Prince was never his idol. Politics was for him a means to an end, never an end in itself. Hypocrisy he dreaded while cynicism he adopted as a defence mechanism. Yossi was, still is, a great orator, a learned person, who kept his hands clean, and his heart true to his values. I will miss him.

Sarid plans to teach and to write books. I wrote him that I await reading what he has to say. Yossi owes me one chapter…

Dying Patient Bill

On December 6, 2005 The Dying Patient Bill was approved by the Knesset after a long and tiring legislation process. Some 60 people took part in drafting the law (2000-2002). Then several legislative committees within the government’s pertinent offices, and Knesset committees, debated every section of this detailed law for a further three years. This in order to ensure the law is in line with Jewish Law, and that it balances two principles: The sanctity of life and honoring a person's will. The process that started in 2000 came to an end this month, after more than five years of work.

The law applies only to patients who have specifically expressed a wish to end their lives, or to those whose illness causes suffering and pain.

It stipulates that a dying patient is a person who suffers from an incurable illness and who has no more than six months to live, or a person whose vital systems have ceased functioning and that physicians estimate has less than two weeks to live.

The bill goes on to specify the means to guarantee that patients have explicitly wished to die. In instances where no instructions have been left, a guardian or a person close to the patient will be allowed to make a statement regarding her or his will.

The law further stipulates that minors under the age of 17 will be represented by their parents on the issue of ceasing treatment. If a conflict between the parents and the physician arises, a committee will rule on the matter.

This is definitely a very important legislative step in the right direction. I should note I was the only person among the 60 Committee members who advocated physician-assisted suicide. My reservation and proposal for PAS appears in the minority addition to the draft law. Yet it is satisfying to see years of work translated into a law. It is a very comprehensive law, and it reflects the consensus in Israel.

The law will come into effect in a year's time, and the Ministry of Health and hospitals will begin preparations for its application.

Health Minister Danny Naveh described the passing of the law as a historic moment, saying: "This is one of the most important laws passed by the Knesset. It represents major moral values for the terminally ill and their families."

Professor Avraham Steinberg, who headed the Committee, deserves praise for his tireless efforts over the past five years to draft the law, and to somewhat improve the situation of dying patients who wish to have some control over their lives, and some part in the decision-making process concerning their treatment at the end of life. He did a magnificent job, trying to bridge between orthodox and ultra-orthodox views on the one hand, and liberal views on the other. His tolerance, patience, and the atmosphere he projected of respect to all people and all views proved to be rewarding. The policy adopted by all committee members, in general, not to involve the media in the process, and to involve politicians only after the draft law was complete, was also prudent. Kudos to Avraham. Yishar Koach.

Haifa Conference

The Conference Freedom of Speech In Light of Prime Minister Sharon's Disengagement Plan (Gaza First Plan) that was held at the University of Haifa on Tuesday, 20 December 2005, was interesting and thought-provoking as it promised to be. Eran Shendar gave quite an impressive opening lecture, and the other lectures were also knowledgable and innovative. Those who read Hebrew may find interest in

European Journalism Fellowships in Berlin

Journalists from across Europe and the United States are invited to apply for the European Journalism-Fellowships, offered this year for the 8th time by the Journalisten-Kolleg of the Free University of Berlin. Participants are given the opportunity to take a two-semester leave from their professional positions and spend a sabbatical year at the Freie Universitaet, widening their knowledge while pursuing a major research project. At the same time, the programme enables participants to network with professional colleagues from Eastern and Western Europe and the United States. The programme starts in October 2006 and ends in July 2007. Highly qualified journalists in either staff positions or freelance employment with several years of professional experience are eligible to apply. Written proof certifying good knowledge of the German language is required for participation (Geothe Institut, DAAD). The most important element of the fellowship application is a proposal for a scientific-journalistic project to be pursued in Berlin. We offer the following fellowships:

Junior-Fellowships for journalists from Central and Eastern Europe with about five years of professional experience. One of the stipends is specifically dedicated to a young female business journalist from Central or Eastern Europe. Junior Fellows receive a monthly stipend of between 800 and 975 Euros for the duration of ten months.

Standard-Fellowships endowed with a monthly stipend of between 1,100 and 1,500 Euros - depending on the level of professional experience (at least 5 years) - for the duration of ten months. One of the stipends is specifically dedicated to a journalist from Central and Eastern Europe focusing on business and finance journalism.

Abgeordnetenhaus of Berlin Foundation Scholarship
One outstanding journalist from one of the former Allied Nations of the Second World War (CIS-States, France, Great Britain, USA) may be awarded an extraordinary scholarship from the Abgeordnetenhaus of Berlin (Berlin State Parliament) Foundation (a monthly stipend of 1,300 Euros). Applicants for this scholarship must meet the requirements for the European Journalism Fellowships and, in addition, must submit a review of their research proposal by an expert scientist or professor. Please note that the closing date for application for this scholarship will be January 20, 2006.

The European Journalism Fellowships of the Journalisten-Kolleg at the Free University of Berlin has established itself as an important institution for journalists at the European level. For the future of European integration, especially the convergence of Eastern and Western Europe, it will be increasingly important for journalists to have specific knowledge about their neighbouring countries, to have international contacts, and to become versed in different cultures. Our aim is to support the professional and personal development of journalists in this spirit.

Since 1999, 76 journalists from 27 nations have benefited from the opportunity to spend a sabbatical year of research in Berlin through a European Journalism Fellowship. Major media companies have granted leaves of absence to journalists for participation in the EJF programme. Over the years, a close network of journalism has emerged among alumni.

Renowned media enterprises and foundations are funding the programme, in cooperation with the Freie Universitaet Berlin. Current sponsors include the FAZIT-Foundation (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung), the Haniel-Foundation and the Foundation Presse-Haus NRZ, as well as four major political foundations: the Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation, the Hanns-Seidel-Foundation, the Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation, and the Heinrich-Böll-Foundation,.

The closing deadline for applications is January 31, 2006.

For more detailed information and application forms please contact:

Telefon: +49 / 30 / 8385-33 15
Telefax: +49 / 30 / 8385-33 05
European Journalism Fellowships
Freie Universität Berlin
Otto-von-Simson-Str. 3
D - 14195 Berlin

Freedom in the World 2006

Freedom in the World 2006, an annual global survey of political rights and civil liberties in more than 190 countries worldwide, was released December 19, 2005, by Freedom House (, an independent, nongovernmental organization that promotes political and civil liberties, religious freedom, and democracy through advocacy, training, and research.

Freedom in the World survey is widely used and cited by journalists, activists, government officials, and scholars. The results of this year’s survey are summarized in a fourteen-page report containing graphs, charts, and tables showing the current state of political freedom plus global trends. The heart of the report is its annual listing of independent countries with numerical scores for their political rights and civil liberties, plus a Freedom House rating of each country as Free, Partly Free, or Not Free. Visit for the document.

Also available (at is an eleven-page essay by Arch Puddington, director of research at Freedom House, summarizing the most important findings of this year’s survey; plus an accompanying press release (

Among the positive developments emerging from the new survey was a measurable improvement in the extent of freedom in several key Arab countries (such as Lebanon and Egypt) and in the Palestinian Authority. The report also found that the number of countries rated as Not Free declined from 49 in 2004 to 45 for the year 2005, the “lowest number of Not Free societies identified by the survey in over a decade.”

The report found that twenty-seven countries and one territory showed gains, making this year one of the most successful for freedom since Freedom House began measuring it in 1972. According to the report, there are now eighty-nine Free countries, fifty-eight Partly Free countries, and forty-five Not Free countries.

Freedom House will also publish Freedom in the World 2006 in a much more complete book format in summer 2006, when the summary tables will be complemented by narrative country reports.

I thank Tom Skladony for this valuable information.


We miss you!!

New Books

Valerie Alia and Simone Bull, MEDIA AND ETHNIC MINORITIES (Edinburgh University Press). Further information is available on the Edinburgh University Press website.

Cecilia von Feilitzen (ed.), Young People, Soap Operas and Reality TV. Yearbook 2004 Nordicom, 2004, 255 p. - ISBN 91-89471-28-8, (Yearbooks) - ISSN 1403-4700

I urge you to purchase the books.

With my very best wishes for a beautiful festive season, and Happy 2006!!


My last communications are available on http://almagor.blogspot.comEarlier posts at my home page:
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Center for Democratic Studies