|Israel Resource Review
||15th April, 2005
Supporting Decisions of the
Democratically Elected Government of Israel . . .
When Its Prime Minister
Circumvents The Decisions of the Elected Government of Israel
There is a consensus of opinion among those who support Israel that they
should support "the democratically elected government of Israel".
Today, supporters of Israel must cope with an unprecedented dilemma, after the Prime Minister of Israel circumvented the decisions of his own
"democratically elected government of Israel"
How did this come about?
After the Likud referendum rejected the initial April 14, 2004 Sharon
Disengagement Plan on May 2nd, 2004, the Sharon government added a vital
provision on June 6th, 2004 which forbid Israel from handing over any
confiscated Jewish assets to terrorists.
That provision, in clause seven, declared that "The State of Israel will
aspire to transfer.facilities, including industrial, commercial and
agricultural ones, to a third, international party which will put them to
use for the benefit of the Palestinian population that is not involved in
terror . . . . "
However, without the knowledge or consent of the Israeli government, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon commissioned the World Bank to transfer confiscated Jewish assets to theWorld Bank, and then to the Palestinians, in an arrangement which simply eliminated the clause of "not involved in terror"
In the monograph that was prepared by the World Bank for the government of
Israel and the PLO, entitled "Disengagement, Palestinian Economy and the
Settlements and issued by The World Bank", on June 23, 2004, and signed by
James Wolfenson, the President of the World Bank, all confiscated Jewish
assets are transferred to the Palestinian Authority, without ANY
prerequisite that those who receive the assets have not been involved with
All this would have been quite theoretical, had it not been for what occurred over this past month in Aspen, Colorado, when the World Bank and the US Secretary of State hosted marathon sessions with the Israeli government to discuss transfer of confiscated homes and farms in Katif and Samaria to senior Palestinian Authority security official Muhammad Dahlan, defined by senior members of the Sharon government of Israel as none other than an unrepentant murderer and terrorist.
Israel Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, wrote in the Wall Street Journal
of June 2nd, 2002, that "Mr. Dahlan is the man who has presided over an
ever-fortified terrorist network. Gaza, the home to Hamas and Islamic
Jihad, which became a base for some of the most heinous terrorist attacks
unleashed against Israel".
Relying on confirmed intelligence information, Olmert explained
that "Dahlan permitted Gaza to become a safe haven for the hundreds of
fugitive terrorists fleeing Israeli forces. Among those being sheltered is
his childhood friend Mohammed Dief, a leading Hamas mastermind with the
blood of scores of Israelis on his hands. In the meantime, Mr. Dahlan's
district became the primary launching grounds for the hundreds of Kessem
missiles fired at Israel".
Olmert asserted that Dahlan's direct involvement in promulgating terrorism
is not merely passive, saying that "Dahlan's involvement in terrorism has
not been confined to mere nonfeasance but, rather, gross malfeasance as
well. Mr. Dahlan, along with his assistant Rashid Abu-Shabak, are the
primary suspects in the terror attack on an Israeli school bus in Kfar
Darom in November 2000. The bombing of the bus left half a dozen children
maimed, and seriously injured an American citizen, Rachel Asaroff" and
advised that "the current thinking that Mr. Dahlan can bring reform and law enforcement to the Palestinians is totally misguided. No democratic state should ever allow itself to do business with those individuals who
deliberately target a school bus".
Olmert's advice as far as Dahlan was clear: "Criminals such as Mr. Dahlan.
can never be reformed; they must be eradicated by force.
On October 26th, 2004, following the Knesset vote approving Sharon's
"disengagement plan", I asked Olmert if anything had changed in his
assessment of Dahlan that he had written two years before. His answer:
"Nothing has changed with Dahlan. He is still a terrorist"
Now a class action suit against Muhammad Dahlan is pending on behalf of
those whose loved ones who were maimed or murdered on the Cfar Darom school bus in November, 2000, where two school teachers were murdered and where four Israeli children, all from the Cohen family in Cfar Darom, lost their legs.
The star witness in the suit against Dahlan will be none other
than Minister of Defence Shaul Mofaz, who in his position as the IDF
Commander announced at the time that the perpetrator of the attack on the
school bus was none other than Muhammad Dahlan. Mofaz went so far as to
tell this to the Cohen family at the Soroka hospital
There is a saying in the Bible when a king transfers the property of a
murdered man to the man who murdered him.
As the Prophet Elijah said to King Ahab, in Kings 21:19
"ha-ra-tzach-ta v'gam ya-rashta?" - Have you murdered him and also
inherited [his property]?
There was never any decision of the democratically government of Israel to
hand over the confiscated assets of Jews to their murderers.
The decision was precisely the opposite.
Hence the dilemma of how you support the decisions of the democratically
elected government of Israel.
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The Bush-Sharon Summit:
When World Leaders Forget that
the US Congress Must Foot the Bill
While the Bush-Sharon Summit focused on mutual threats (e.g. Iran and
Islamic terrorism), it has highlighted a few basic misunderstandings -
in Israel - concerning the US political system, US-Israel relations and
For example, front page headlines in the Israeli dailies have concluded
that - resulting from the Summit - a $600MN Disengagement financial
assistance package will be provided to Israel by the US. The headlines
ignore the $800MN promised to Barak by Clinton in 2000, in order to
expedite the Disengagement from Southern Lebanon.
Israel disengaged, Hizballah's terrorism was significantly and regionally upgraded, Palestinian terrorism was inspired and escalated to an unprecedented level, but the $800MN has yet to be granted.
US Presidents do not have the authority to write checks; they can ask Congress - which possesses the Power of the Purse - to appropriate funds. Congress is currently alarmed by a growing all time high budget deficit, and Israel's leading friends have recommended that Israel refrains from requesting special financial assistance. Cheney and Rumsfeld, two of Israel's hawkish allies, are concerned that a special assistance to Israel would nibble into the stretched defense budget.
Each financial request must go through Congress, which would entail a legislative process.
Yet some Israeli officials have pre-maturely briefed (and possibly misinformed) the media, in order to sooth opposition to Disengagement . . .
The Israeli public has been told since the April 2004 Bush-Sharon
Summit that the US Administration has given up on the 1949/67 Cease Fire
However, the blunt call - by President Bush - to freeze construction
in ALL settlements, has clarified that Israel should not expect any
settlement-bonus, from the US, for the disengagement from Gaza and
Northern Samaria. In fact, disengagement - just like any retreat in face of
pressure and terrorism - would generate more Palestinian terrorism and more
pressure by the Department of State, the CIA, the Europeans and the UN, which expect further sweeping Israel concessions. President Bush's statements at the summit, just like those made by Secretaries Powell and Rice since April 2004, clarify that the US has not change its position on the Green Line: no recognition of Israeli sovereignty beyond the 1949 Ceasefire Line, and no recognition of Israeli sovereignty over any Jewish community in the post-Green Line area in Judea & Samaria, Jordan Valley, Golan Heights and Jerusalem (e.g. loan guarantees are reduced by the amount spent by Israel in post-Green Line neighborhoods in Jerusalem). Wishful-thinking (sinking?) concerning a disengagement-driven diplomatic bonus have been shattered in Crawford, Texas.
Bush's proclamations suggest that disengagement from Gaza and Northern
Samaria would be the first in a series, leading to the 1949 Lines
(unless otherwise mutually-agreed by Israel and the Palestinians). They
indicate that the post-April 2004 celebrations were based on wrong assumptions and on misrepresentations, by Israeli politicians, of the President's statements. The April statements by Bush were neither unprecedented, nor do they bind him or his successors. On June 19, 1967, President Johnson stated that an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 Lines "is not a prescription for peace, but for a renewal of hostilities." President Reagan said on September 1, 1982: "In the pre-1967 borders Israel was barely 10 miles wide . . . I am not about to ask Israel to live that way again . . . It is clear that peace cannot be achieved by the formation of an independent Palestinian State in the West Bank and Gaza." These statements were not binding, since they were not ratified or legislated.
Bush's statements were approved, by Congress, as a Non-Binding Resolution, which is (as suggested by its title) non-binding.
Israeli observers urge Prime Minister Sharon to freeze construction in
all settlements, in order to avoid a costly US pressure. They do not
comprehend the US - and especially the Texas - state of mind, which admires
winners and not losers, which respects gumption, the overcoming of odds and
defiance of pressure. On a rainy day, the Texan President would rather
have an ally, in the Mideast, "which can roll in the street with the
Dobermans, rather than stay on the porch with the Poodles." And,
indeed, during 1948-1992, from Ben Gurion to Shamir, Israel's Prime Ministers usually - and frequently - defied US pressure. As a result they were subjected to short-term inconveniences, which were promptly replaced by a long-term strategic esteem. For instance, in 1948/9 Ben Gurion faced a
US pressure to postpone declaration of independence and accept a UN
Trusteeship. The US imposed a military embargo, contemplated economic
sanctions, accused Ben Gurion of leading the Jewish People toward
another Holocaust, demanded an end to the "Occupation of the Negev", the
internationalization of Jerusalem and the absorption and compensation
of Palestinian refugees.
Israeli Prophets of Demographic Doom pressured Ben Gurion to refrain from independence, lest the Jewish population be overwhelmed - by 1968 - by Arab majority.
Ben Gurion defied the pressure, established the Jewish State, increased construction in the Negev, relocated government agencies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which was declared the capital of Israel. Consequently, the US upgraded its attitude toward the Jewish State, whose image was transformed - by Ben Gurion's defiance - from a powerless democracy into a promising strategic entity.
Will Prime Minister Sharon resurrect the legacy of Ben Gurion and
his successors which characterized Israel's leadership up to 1992, or
will he sustain the Oslo-State-Of-Mind which has afflicted Israel since
This piece ran on Y-Net, the Yediot on-line news
service, on April 13th, 2005
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Israel's Suicidal Policy
Consequences Ignored by Israeli
within Israel to hold a referendum on Prime Minister Sharon's
"Disengagement" plan has fizzled now that the Knesset has
voted solidly against it. Efforts to bring the government down
by blocking the budget have failed as well.
One ear ago, when Ariel Sharon announced his plan, it seemed to possess a certain logic. There was no partner for peace, he complained; no one existed on the Palestinian side with whom to bargain, and that wasn't likely to change. So he was putting aside the Roadmap and proceeding with this instead. He projected a pullout from all of Gaza and a part of northern Samaria (West Bank).
"Pullout" referred to the residents in over 20 villages and
towns as well as to military installations and presence within
the designated areas (the Philadelphi Corridor along the border
with Egypt being the only possible exception).
He called this a "unilateral disengagement plan".
Because it was unilateral, it didn't depend on negotiations with
the Palestinians. Israel was doing it for Israel's sake: this
would take the IDF out of harm's way inside of Gaza, reduce
clashes with Palestinians in that area, and lessen the burden of
responsibility on Israel. Responsibility for Gaza would fall to
the Palestinian Authority. The Israeli economy would benefit
from this move and the Israeli military would function more
Additionally, he shared this rationale: the international
community was expected to put pressure on Israel, making demands
for various concessions to the Palestinians. Of major concern
was the Geneva Accord which was vastly destructive for
Israel. By demonstrating good faith, the "disengagement"
plan would buy time and provide breathing space. It is unlikely
that there would be any further expectations on Israel for some
time to come.
On top of all this, there was, according to the prime minister,
an enormous political bonus from the United States. On April 14,
2004, Sharon visited the White House and secured (reportedly
reluctant) support for his plan. Letters were exchanged between
the two heads of state: Sharon, in his, outlined what he
intended to do and why. President Bush looked with favor on this
plan, but also spoke about the need for a Palestinian state. The
Sharon government, focusing on two specific statements made by
the president, touted his letter as breaking new ground:
"It seems clear that an agreed, just, fair and realistic
framework for the solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as
part of any final status agreement will need to be found through
the establishment of a Palestinian state, and the settling of
Palestinian refugees there, rather than in Israel.
"In light of new realities on the ground, including already
existing major population centers, it is unrealistic to expect
that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and
complete return to the armistice line of 1949."
The people of Israel were assured that this statement
represented a guarantee of support from the U.S. that major
settlement blocs could be kept by Israel, and that the U.S.
would oppose the right of return.
As the weeks and months passed after the announcement of the "disengagement",
however, it became increasingly clear that all was not as it seemed:
- On close inspection, the promises attributed to President
Bush turned out to be no promises at all. The president had made
it clear that all issues would be resolved via two-party
negotiations; there was no guarantee implicit. This has been
confirmed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and by U.S.
Ambassador to Israel Dan Kurtzer (in a statement recently leaked
to the press). What is more, the scenario outlined by the
president in his letter simply reiterated the position of
previous administrations with regard to such matters as not
returning to the Green Line. No new ground was broken and there
was no great political or diplomatic gain for Israel.
- The very term "disengagement" is misleading: this is not
about to happen. There is, indeed, a pullout anticipated. But
there will not be a concomitant full disengagement (separation)
from the Palestinian Arab population. Within the plan as
outlined by the prime minister's office, Israel will continue to
have considerable responsibility for the Palestinians with
regard to such matters as providing utilities and allowing them
entry into Israel for work. Most significantly, Israel signed on
as a party to the promotion of assistance to the PA security
forces, via money and training. Ostensibly, this was so that the
PA would better be able to cope with the terrorists after the
IDF was gone. But this is not disengaging from the Palestinians.
- The planned action is not truly unilateral, either. The PA is being consulted on logistical matters with regard to withdrawal. Only in the most disadvantageous sense is this unilateral: the prime minister, by declaring this something that was being done for Israel's sake, abandoned the possibility of using the pullout as a bargaining chip. There was no Palestinian reciprocity requested or expected.
- It is no longer accurate any longer to say there is no one on the Palestinian side with whom to bargain (although the question certainly remains as to whether the Palestinians are proving themselves to be honest and reliable in their interactions with Israel). Once Arafat was gone and Abu Mazen had assumed the chair of the PA, Israel began talking with the PA again. There was a February meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh attended by both Sharon and Abu Mazen; there are frequent meetings with regard to the transfer of Palestinian cities.
- Sharon's plans do not preclude additional pressure on Israel from the international community. Quite the contrary: the message that has been received is that this is a good move but must be considered only a beginning. The projected Palestinian state, will require contiguity, which means Israel will have to move out of a considerable part of the West Bank. It appears that Sharon has begun a descent down a slippery slope with Israel's willingness to withdraw from some areas merely whetting the appetite of the international community for further withdrawals. A regrettable precedent is being set, with Israel willing to pull back without commensurate Palestinian actions.
- In spite of Sharon's claims that this "disengagement" would buy Israel time and preclude the necessity for doing more for quite a while, it appears the expectation in the government was otherwise. Key aide, Dov Weisglass, is on record as stating that the reason for the pullout from northern Samaria is to demonstrate that Israel does not intend to remain in the West Bank forever. This is very different, indeed, from a pullout for Israel's sake.
None of these ambiguities, complexities and stumbling blocks
seem to have given Sharon pause. He has forged ahead,
politically strong-arming his opponents in order to get his
Yet what has come to light as the day for actualization of the
program approaches is a nightmare scenario:
- The anticipated forced removal from their homes "legally
purchased with the blessing of successive Israeli governments"
of the residents of Gush Katif is no small matter. There are
serious questions "legal and moral" as to whether the
government has a right to cause them the injury they are about
to receive when there is no demonstrable gain from what will
take place. Were this occurring within the context of a peace
agreement, the argument for doing it would be stronger. As it
is, there will be severe emotional pain, logistical dislocation,
and economic loss for the residents of Gush Katif. Farming
communities, which should have had arrangements in place for
relocation intact, will be split asunder. The residents of the
area have been demonized as radical right-wing troublemakers;
their contribution to the nation has not been acknowledged nor
have they been shown sensitivity. The specter looms of Jew
acting against Jew, and of use of the IDF "which is mandated to
protect the Israeli population" acting in force against one
segment of that population.
- The economy will receive a severe blow from this plan. There is, first, the cost of the pullout, which is now estimated to be at least 10 billion shekel (approximately 2.27 billion dollars). The government will need to compensate those being relocated, move army bases, and bring additional military equipment and procedures into the area. There may also be hidden costs that cannot now be estimated, including anticipated damage to a newly recovering economy.
- Most horrific, however, will be the security and political damage:
Abu Mazen is turning Sharon's approach against him. The prime minister declared a year ago that he was putting aside the Roadmap and proceeding in another direction instead. Now, to paraphrase Abu Mazen, we too want to put aside the Roadmap (which calls for approaching negotiations in carefully delineated stages) and proceed to final status negotiations: we may not have dismantled the terrorist infrastructure as required by the Roadmap, but we are delivering "quiet"
and we want our state.
Indeed, the terrorist infrastructure has not been dismantled.
Weapons are still being manufactured, smuggled in, and
stockpiled, and the terrorist organizations are garnering
strength during this time of "quiet".
In the last couple of weeks, there have been hair-raising security revelations. Any one of them alone, one would think, should have stopped Sharon in his tracks:
During a meeting in Cairo of 13 terrorist groups and the
Palestinian Authority in mid-March, Abu Mazen offered major
groups currently headquartered in Damascus (where Syria is under
U.S. pressure to shut them down) the opportunity to move
headquarters to Gaza after the Israelis are gone. Reportedly,
they accepted. This signals confirmation of the predictions of
experts such as Major-General (res.) Doron Almog, who wrote last
summer that if Israel pulls out of Gaza, it would become a
"mini-Afghanistan". This, at Israel's western border.
On March 26, Minister of Defense Shaul Mofaz reported to the Israeli cabinet that Strellas, anti-aircraft missiles, have been smuggled into Gaza from Egypt with the complicity of PA security forces. These are the forces that Israel is supposed to help arm and train so they can combat terrorism.
Less than a week later, an internal document from Shin Bet, acquired by The Jerusalem Post, revealed that smuggling of weaponry from Egypt has intensified. Between July of last year and February of this year, 180 anti-tank rockets, five anti-aircraft missiles, 600 kilograms of explosives, 3,000 rifles, 400 handguns, and 40,000 rounds of ammunition were smuggled from Egypt. Concern has been expressed regarding the oil pipeline that sits in the Ashkelon region, only about 4.5 kilometers from northern Gaza, as well as the Rotenburg power station, in Ashkelon, that provides 40 percent of Israel's power.
Finally, what we are seeing is that the Palestinians not only
have increased capacity to generate terror; they also have
increased motivation. Experts have repeatedly warned that
withdrawal signifies weakness in Arab eyes. Perhaps no one has
brought that message home more forcefully than Danny Rubinstein,
precisely because he is a left wing journalist working for
Ha'aretz, the most left wing of Israel's newspapers. At the
Jerusalem Conference, on March 28, Mr. Rubinstein, an Arab
speaker who monitors the Arab press, spoke about a Palestinian
survey that indicated 75 percent of Palestinians view the
"disengagement" as a great victory for them. They call it a
retreat in the face of terror and are prepared now to secure
Abu Mazen has changed his language, reported Mr. Rubinstein, and become more radical. The mood today in the Palestinian street is for renewal of violence.
General (res.) Ya'akov Amidror (who worked in Intelligence) calls this "a terrible program that will bring only damage to Israel".
One is hard put to disagree with him.
Arlene Kushner lives and writes in Jerusalem. She has done four major reports on UNRWA for the Center for Near East Policy Research. Her book, Disclosed: Inside the Palestinian Authority and the PLO, has just been released and is available at www.IsraelBehindtheNews.com.
This article ran in FrontPageMagazine.com on April 7, 2005
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