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Hamas rejects Israel swap terms; will outline position to mediatior

The deputy head of the Hamas politburo Mussa Abu Marzuk says the progress achieved by the German mediator in negotiatiing a prisoner exchange with Israel, is apparently not enough to bring about the release of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.

Abu Marzuk told the Al Hayat newspaper that Israel's latest offer amounts to backtracking on previous positions. He said that the mediator has still not returned to Gaza due to bad weather in Germany delaying his departure.

Hamas is expected to outline its position to the mediator this week.

Erekat nixes imminent Abbas/Mubarak/Netanyahu summit

Tuesday, the day after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke of a changed climate that might make the time ripe for negotiations, a top aide to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was not speaking optimistically.

Saeb Erekat was speaking from Qatar, with Abbas said to be at his side, in an interview with Israel Army Radio interviewer Razi Barkai. When Barkai asked Ereket if the demand to halt settlement building before talks with Israel would commence wasn't a precondition, Erekat replied it was rather Israel's obligation according to the road map peace plan

Erekat has joined Abbas as the Palestinian Authority leader held talks in Egypt, and the trip to Qatar is also part of coordinating an Arab position ahead of an anticipated US move to jumpstart Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Prime Minister Netanyahu says he is not willing to state that a permanent status arrangement with the Palestinians would be based on the lines that existed before the 1967 six day war, in other words, until which point east Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip were not under Israeli control.

There have been reports, however, that the Americans, as mediators, would give the Palestinian Authority a so-called letter of guarantee that would make a statement in that regard. Top Palestinian official Saeb Erekat says he doesn't buy that proposal.

As part of an effort to renew the peace process, there has also been talk of a three-way summit of Presidents Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and Abbas and Israel's Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu later in January. When asked if the summit will take place, Ereket answered, not under the present circumstances.

Jerusalem approves building Old City residences for yeshiva families

The Jerusalem Planning and Building Committee has approved construction of four new residential buildings in the eastern part of the city, despite international calls for a cessation of activity in the heavily Palestinian area.

The buildings, which are intended to house 24 families, will be built beside Yeshiva Beit Orot, east of the Old City walls.

The construction project was initiated and constructed by US Jewish millionaire Irving Moskowitz, who also owns the Shepherd Hotel in East Jerusalem.

That hotel made headlines in 2009 when Moskowitz obtained a permit to build 20 apartments for Jews there, sparking angry protests from the U.S. government.

Dichter certain Kadima will hold primaries in 2010

Knesset Member Avi Dichter said Tuesday that it is certain that the Kadima party will hold primaries in 2010.

MK Shaul Mofaz called Monday for primaries to be held within three months.

IDF officers fear possible arrest, cancel trip to Britain

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon confirmed Tuesday that Israel has delayed a visit by senior military officers to Britain amid fears the group could be arrested there on war crimes charges.

Ayalon told Kol Yisrael, "These officers were invited by Great Britain, but they will stay in Israel as long as we do not have one hundred percent guarantee that they will not become objects of criminal lawsuits in that country."

In December, opposition leader Tzipi Livni (Kadima) cancelled a visit to Britain after an arrest warrant was issued against her by a British court.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has insisted that Livni is welcome and has voiced his determination to change the law that allows British courts to issue warrants for alleged war crimes.

Ayalon said that he would discuss the matter Tuesday with Britain's Attorney General Baroness Scotland of Asthal, who is currenty in Israel on a private visit.

3 WB Palestinians arrested in J'slm admit planning stabbing attack

Three Palestinian residents of the West Bank city of Hebron were arrested Monday evening near Jaffa Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem. They admitted that they had planned to carry out a stabbing attack.

The three were arrested in a Fiat car after raising the suspicion of police officers stationed in the area. A knife was found inside the vehicle.

2 indicted for murder of soldier

The Jerusalem District Court has indicted two Maale Adumim youths with the murder of soldier Yitzhak Mor, during a fight outside a night club in downtown Jerusalem three months ago.

The two are also charged with causing grievous bodily harm to the victim's cousin.

According to the charge sheet the two youths were drunk at the time of the atatck.

Employment, Water Authority, Foreign Ministry -- closed to the public

Labor sanctions continue in the public sector Tuesday. Employment bureaus are closed to the public for the sixth straight day.

Water Authority workers are continuing their strike. In a show of solidarity with the Water Authority workers, Foreign Ministry employees convened information assemblies Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and will not process diplomatic mail or receive the public.

Hearing to extend Yigal Amir's solitary confinement postponed

‏The Nazareth District Court postponed the hearing on the State's motion to extend the solitary prison confinement of the assassin of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Yigal Amir, until January 20.

Court President Justice David Heshin granted the postponement at Amir's request in order to allow a public defender to represent him in the hearing, and due to the fact that he had only received the summons on Monday.

PM reiterates call to resume peace talks & notes change in atmosphere

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has called for a resumption of the peace talks with the Palestinians without pre-conditions. He said recently there has been a certain change in the atmosphere. Netanyahu said he hoped that conditions will ripen so that the peace process can be resumed.

The prime minister said his positions have not changed. He was speaking Monday afternoon at a meeting of the Likud Knesset faction.

Mofaz tells Kadima faction Livni failed by keeping party out of coalition Faction unanimously rejects Aflalo's request to leave party

Knesset member Shaul Mofaz says party leader Tzipi Livni caused tremendous damage to the party and the state by not agreeing to join the coalition. He said that she did not discuss her decision with any of the senior Kadima members.

Mofaz made the remarks after the party's Knesset faction met to discuss the request of Eli Aflalo to leave the party and set up a single member faction. The request was unanimously rejected and the faction called on Livni to continue the dialogue with Aflalo in an attempt to reach an understanding.

Mofaz charged that Livni's leadership has failed and that the party has to be refreshed. He also said that Livni was offered the positions of deputy prime minister, defense minister, foreign minister and Knesset speaker. Mofaz said that Kadima could have led the government and instead it is not spearheading any issue.

Suspect admits murdering son, raping mother

The police have solved the murder of 28-year-old Sergei Kolesnikov in Rishon LeZion over the weekend. They have arrested a suspect Andrei Lushchenkov, 25-years-old, from Yavne. The two men were apparently drunk and got into an argument. The suspect stabbed Kolesnikov with a kitchen knife. After he stabbed Kolesnikov he went into his mother's room, locked the door, repeatedly raped and hit her, and stabbed her.

Lushchenkov recounted the crime in detail to police.

52-year-old man is nation's 82nd swine flu fatality

A 52-year-old man has died of swine flu at Netanya's Laniado Hospital on Monday, bringing to 82 the number of swine flu deaths in Israel. A Kol Yisrael reporter says the man suffered from other illnesses.

Olmert denies doing anything illegal

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert denied Monday that he did anything illegal. He was responding in Jerusalem District Court to three corruption indictments against him.

Olmert was charged in late August of double billing family trips through Rishon Tours travel agency, for accepting cash envelopes from US-Jewish businessman Morris Talansky, and for granting personal favors to a friend who was acting on behalf of the Investment Center during Olmert's tenure as trade minister.

Britain nears solution over issuing war crimes warrants against visiting foreigners

In Britain, a solution is emerging to address efforts to bring war crimes charges against visiting Israeli officers and officials. A Kol Yisrael reporter says Britain's attorney general, Patricia Scotland, traveled to Israel to present the proposed legislative amendments, and will work to advance them upon her return to Britain.

The proposal reportedly would require a Magistrate's Court judge to consult with the attorney general before heading a request to issue war crimes charges.

A senior diplomatic source says it is unacceptable that a legislation passed in Britain years ago with the aim of prosecuting Nazi war criminals should be used 60 years later against IDF officers.

Shachar Peer wins first round at Auckland Tennis Classic

In New Zealand, at the Auckland Tennis Classic, Israel's Shachar Peer won the first round of women's singles, defeating Polona Hercog of Slovenia 7-5, 6-3. The start of the game was delayed due to a bomb scare.

Also at venue were eight anti-Israel demonstrators who denied any link to the scare.

Local press headlines

Haaretz reports Tuesday morning that‏ in keeping with a security cabinet decision, the Home Front Command will begin distributing gas mask kits to every citizen beginning in late February.

Maariv leads with the brutal murder and assault in the home of Sergei Kolesnikov. It also reports on the invesigation of basketball league referee Sami Bachar, who is suspected of tax evasion and alleged ties to the financial dealings of the late Maccabi Tel Aviv manager Moni Fanan.

Yediot Ahronot reports that a delegation of senior IDF officers cancelled a planned visit to Britain at the last minute, after authorities there said they could not guarantee that they would not be arrested.

The Jerusalem Post reports that the Shin Bet is considering stepping up security at airports and on planes.

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