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Dear Friend:

We have the good fortune of having our own “man in Jerusalem,” Will King, who now lives in Israel and is able to cover important events there personally. This gives us the enormous blessing of not having to count on The New York Times, CNN and the other usual suspects for the truth about the Holy Land.

Will was able to visit Jericho, observe the “Palestinian” election there, and interview PLO spokesman Saeb Erekat. Will’s observations are very accurate in view of his being an eyewitness. It is sometimes not appreciated that our newspapers and TV networks often utilize the services of Palestinian “stringers” – local reporters who have an obvious bias – for their stories. The following comes to you with our blessings, and we know we can represent it as perfectly truthful.

Jericho, Israel
January 10, 2005
Palestinians to the Polls in Jericho
by Will King, Israel Correspondent

Whether it was the call by actor Richard Gere, former president Jimmy Carter, or the Palestinian leadership, the “Palestinian people” heard the message and went to the polls to vote. However, for an organization that presents itself as a democracy, the election for Palestinian Authority president is a rare thing. In 1996, the date of the only other presidential election since the establishment of the PA, Yasser Arafat won in a landslide victory over token opposition. Now, less than two months after his death, the Palestinian people are again going to the polls to have their say on what course they want to chart and who will lead them there.

In Jericho, on election morning, I interviewed some local residents about what they hope to gain from the elections. One man, who just finished voting for Mahmoud Abbas, said: “I hope we start the process of democracy in our country.” A woman, who returned to Jericho from the U.S. in order to vote, expressed her support and confidence in whichever candidate is elected. “I hope they [the newly elected leadership] will bring peace. It is what we ask for – peace.”

I also talked with Saeb Erekat, PA minister for negotiations, about his views on the election. “It’s been 58 days since we buried President Arafat, and the significance of these elections is that 58 days later, 1.4 million Palestinians today are going to the polls to elect a new president. In the first time in our people’s history, Palestinians are choosing a president from seven candidates.” Mr. Erekat also answered recent international criticism of the PA and calls for its overhaul. “This [the election] is a message to President Bush, to the Western world, that the problem here is not the kind of system we have, it’s not democracy, it’s not reform – it is the Israeli occupation.” Democracy and reform of the PA are key issues on the agenda for a multinational conference that British Prime Minister Tony Blair is proposing to host soon, as well as part of the Bush administration’s Greater Middle East Initiative for promoting democracy and human rights throughout the region.

A senior member of the PA since its creation, Mr. Erekat has been involved in many peace negotiations with the Israelis, including the Oslo Accords in 1993, Camp David in 2000, and Taba. Asked about the prospects for renewed negotiation after the election, he responded: “What’s between us and the Israeli government is the Road Map, and we urge the Israeli government to abandon the ways of unilateralism, dictation, walls, settlements, and come back in order to implement the Road Map so we can finish the Israeli occupation peacefully and establish a two-state solution.”

The elections will give legitimacy and a fresh breath of life to a faltering Fatah Party and the PA in their struggle for power with Hamas and other terror groups. President Bush claimed that after his November election victory he had earned a great deal of “political capital.” What remains to be seen now is where the newly-elected Palestinian president will invest his.

Will reports in a neutral professional way, as is proper for any reporter, and the way the news used to be written. It takes some self-control to talk to a propaganda master like Erekat who, of course, advertises the “Israeli occupation” no matter how far he has to stretch to mention it.

I contacted Will and asked for his personal impressions of Erekat:

Well, personally, I found him very pleasant and accommodating. He was flexible as to where and when we did the interview. We were able to follow him into the polling site, take pictures anywhere, and talk to anybody. We also met his driver, assistant, and bodyguard, and they all were also very friendly.

However, outside of his personality, I don’t like the things that he says. Usually when interviewed and giving a quote for foreign press, he calls on the US and the international community to force Israel to live up to its commitments, to end the “occupation” and “oppression” of the Palestinians, and to return to the negotiating table. Like many Arabs, he likes talking in terms of documents (the Road Map) and UN resolutions that favor the Arabs and resonate better with a Western audience, while neglecting to mention the Palestinians’ responsibilities. Also, during this interview, he said that it was not reform that was needed in the PA, but rather an end to the occupation. He is a good spokesman for the PA for deflecting internal criticisms, and for rallying the rest of the world to ignore the corruption, support for terrorism, and incitement to hatred within the PA and to instead put pressure on Israel. But, as the minister for negotiations, it’s his job to get as much as he can from Israel.
— Will

My own impressions of the election were put more emphatically by The Boston Globe, usually a reliable critic of Israel and near-worshipper of the Arab aliens who call themselves Palestinians.

The Problem With Mahmoud Abbas
by Jeff Jacoby, The Boston Globe

The outcome of today’s election for president of the Palestinian Authority was never in doubt. Mahmoud Abbas, Yasser Arafat’s longtime accomplice – the two men co-founded Fatah, the largest terrorist faction within the PLO, in 1965 – was always going to win in a landslide. The three other candidates were never going to get more than a sliver of the vote. That they got any votes at all was impressive, given the virtual news blackout on their campaigns by the Fatah-controlled Palestinian media and the bullying of anyone tempted to support them. The New York Sun described some of the arm-twisting on Dec. 31:

“One of the reasons none of the three candidates has received much support is intimidation by the PA. ‘People are afraid to be seen even reading their campaign literature,’ says one Palestinian… The message that the people have received from various leaders of the PA is that if they vote for a candidate other than Mr. Abbas, they will either lose jobs they already have in the PA or will not be hired by the PA in the future. Since the PA is the largest employer in the West Bank and Gaza, the threat carries a great deal of weight.

“Physical intimidation has also played a role… On Wednesday, shots were fired at [candidate Bassam el] Salhi’s offices in Ramallah.”

Surely this isn’t what President Bush had in mind when he said, in his seminal June 2002 address on the Arab-Israeli war, that the United States would support the creation of a Palestinian state if the Palestinians would first “build a practicing democracy, based on tolerance and liberty.” Nor can Abbas, who spent decades at Arafat’s side and who has been unyielding in his refusal to crack down on Palestinian gunmen and bombers, be what Bush meant when he insisted that Palestinians “elect new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror.” So why has the administration bent over backward to support the election and given its blessing to Abbas?

On Dec. 29, the State Department transferred $23.5 million to the Palestinian Authority – a mark, said Assistant Secretary of State William Burns, of American “confidence in the direction of the PA’s reform program.” The absurdity of such confidence was made clear one day later, when Abbas brazenly campaigned with members of the al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade in Jenin. A picture of Abbas riding on the shoulders of Zakaria Zubeidi – a notorious terrorist and one of Israel’s most wanted men – was published around the globe.

Yet when Colin Powell was asked about it, he shrugged. The photo is “disturbing,” he conceded, but “I don’t think it reflects Mr. Abbas’s overall approach to governing.”

Please. The embrace of Zubeidi was no anomaly. Abbas is sometimes described as a “moderate” opposed to terrorism, but his opposition is purely tactical. He has no moral problem with blowing up buses and cafes, he simply thinks such methods are, for now, counterproductive. Last week, Abbas hailed Palestinian gunmen in Gaza, but urged them to stop firing rockets at Israeli towns. Because deliberately targeting civilians is wrong? No. “Because this is not the proper time for such actions.” Hardly the words of a moderate.

Again and again, Abbas has expressed his solidarity with violent extremists. Last month he traveled to Damascus to meet with some of the region’s most implacable terror groups, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front For the Liberation of Palestine-General Command. Afterward, Abbas’s “foreign minister,” Nabil Sha’ath, declared that between the Palestinian Authority and the other groups, “there are no differences over the objectives.”

And what are those objectives? About that, Abbas has been explicit. In recent weeks he has promised to shelter terrorists from Israeli arrest and vowed that there will be no PA crackdown on Palestinian terrorism. He hews unswervingly to Yasser Arafat’s hard-line positions – an Israeli retreat to the 1949 borders, Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital, the elimination of every Jewish settlement, the dismantling of Israel’s security fence, and no limit on the “right of return” – code for the abolition of Israel as a Jewish state.

Abbas is no moderate. His election is not a step toward peace. What was true in Afghanistan and Iraq is true in the Palestinian Authority as well: Without regime change, freedom and democracy are impossible. Just as the defeats of the Taliban and Ba’athists were a prerequisite to elections, so the dismantling of the corrupt Fatah autocracy is essential to Palestinian reform. President Bush got it right in 2002: The Palestinians need “new leaders… not compromised by terror.” They still do.

Gary Bauer, an accurate analyst of Israeli affairs based in Washington, succinctly wrapped up the election:

Reality Check The election returns are in and Mahmoud Abbas has been elected to succeed Yasser Arafat. The media and political leaders in Washington, D.C. and Tel Aviv are hailing his election as creating a possible opportunity for peace. I disagree. Admittedly, Abbas “looks” moderate in his Western-style business suits, but his campaign was hardly encouraging. He repeatedly promised that he would insist on the right of all Palestinians to “return” to Israel – a development that would mark the demographic destruction of the Jewish State. He wants Jerusalem as the capital of the new Palestinian state and he repeatedly said he would never “crack down” on terrorists. But, if none of these things creates questions about Mahmoud Abbas, consider this nugget: the doctor got his PhD for a thesis that denied the Holocaust took place. In civilized societies, Holocaust deniers are seen for what they are – fringe fanatics filled with hate. But in the land Arafat built, a Holocaust denier is now seen as the great moderate hope for “lasting peace.”

That about says it for me. Keep your seat belts fastened.

Check these things out for yourself. You can meet “our man in Jerusalem” and see all the sites we typically show on TV on one of our upcoming tours. On our March tour, you can join the Israeli army as a volunteer helper! Volunteer to help out by packing soldiers’ lunches. Enjoy personal visits during a special luncheon, and receive a certificate of appreciation from the military commander. Alternatively, you can just rest that day or tour on your own. The Deluxe Tour of Israel is March 13–23, and the Grand Petra Tour, which includes an extension to Eilat, the Red Sea, and Petra, is March 13–27. This luxurious extension, staying in a five-star hotel on the beaches of the Red Sea, is very popular with our pilgrims.

Go on a real archaeological dig on our less expensive Kibbutz Tour, tentatively scheduled for June 14–24. We offer this tour at a time when teachers and students can travel. So, why not spend part of your summer vacation with a real “hands on” learning experience? Call Tony immediately at (214) 696-9760 during business hours or 1-800-WONDERS (1-800-966-3377) anytime.

Now that we’ve counted up the year-end gifts, I owe many of you more thanks than I can put into words. Hopefully, others of you will feel led to lend a hand as well, particularly as we approach a traditional slump in springtime giving. I make this request as we proceed full speed ahead on producing our newest television series Age of Terror, as well as a new one-hour special tentatively entitled The Ark of the Covenant. Please know that we deeply value your votes of confidence in us.

And again, always remember to pray for the peace of Jerusalem!

Your Messenger,

Zola

P.S. Passover, the crown jewel of Feasts, begins this year at sundown on Saturday, April 23. For a countdown clock, you can visit www.angelfire.com/pa2/passover/2005-countdown-clock.html. [In our online store, we offer] our Miracle of Passover DVD, videocassette and audiocassette plus a delightful Haggadah from Jews for Jesus. Ordering now will give you time to study and prepare to enlighten your friends about the continuing significance of this incredible Jewish feast.

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