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Friday Headlines

1. PALESTINIANS WANT ROLE IN GAZA WITHDRAWAL…The Palestinian Authority wants to see itself increasingly involved in the decision-making process on the Gaza-withdrawal plan that was initiated by Israeli premier Ariel Sharon. The Palestinian message was reportedly passed on to Israel during high-level talks on Thursday between the two sides. Israel’s Vice Premier Shimon Peres met Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmad Qurei’ in Jerusalem, while leading Palestinian security officials held talks with Israel’s Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz.

2. REPORT: ISRAEL TO INVESTIGATE IDF’S TUNNELS FAILURE…Israel’s State Comptroller’s Office is to investigate the Israel Defense Forces’ failure to deal with the smuggling tunnels that run between Gaza and Egypt, according to the Hebrew daily Haaretz. The investigators are likely to look into delays in combating the phenomenon and the unclear process in deciding how to act against them. Some two years ago top IDF soldiers said there were at least 100 tunnels under the border used for smuggling counterfeit money, terrorists and weapons in and out of Gaza.

3. LEADING ISRAELI POLITICIANS JOCKEY AS ELECTIONS LOOM…Politicians in Israel’s two main political parties are vying for support within their parties as they begin to sense internal and national elections are in the offing. The Labor Party headed by Shimon Peres is still arguing about when it will hold its leadership election, but that has not stopped several future candidates from announcing their intention to run. They include government ministers Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and Matan Vilnai. Meanwhile, in Ariel Sharon’s Likud media reports suggest both ministers of finance and defense Binyamin Netanyahu and Shaul Mofaz are considering running. In the cases of both Sharon and Peres, neither has announced their intention to retire ahead of the next round of leadership contests.