Israel Resource Review 16th August, 2005


U.S. Fears That Israel Will Suspend Withdrawal Under Fire
Middle East News Line: Special Report

WASHINGTON [MENL] -- The Bush administration remains concerned that Israel would be forced to suspend its withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank amid heavy Palestinian fire and chaos within Israel's military.

Officials said the administration has sought to address every scenario connected to the implementation of Israel's withdrawal operation. They said the administration has been briefed on every aspect of the deployment of Israeli and Palestinian Authority forces during the withdrawal.

The key question was whether Palestinian insurgents would launch a massive attack on Israeli civilians and soldiers during the withdrawal. Officials said such a move could torpedo the withdrawal and lead to a right-wing backlash against Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

"We are ready for casualties on both sides," an official said. "The question is will these casualties delay the disengagement."

Officials said the administration has deemed the Israeli withdrawal as one of the most important U.S. foreign policy goals in 2005. They said President George Bush has taken several steps meant to bolster Sharon's sagging political standing among the Israeli electorate. Polls last week show Sharon losing badly to challenger Binyamin Netanyahu in the ruling Likud Party.

"We've [Bush and Sharon] grown close, and one of the reasons why is I appreciate a person who when he says something, means it," Bush said in an interview with Israel state television on August 12. "And I hope he appreciates that about me. In other words, I said early on we're going to join in fighting terror so that Israel could be secure and America secure and other free nations secure. He knows I keep my word and I know he keeps his word."

Bush has sent to Israel Elliot Abrams, a senior official in the National Security Council and regarded as close to Sharon. Assistant Secretary of State David Welch was expected to imminently arrive in Israel to ensure coordination between Egypt, Israel and the PA, while Gen. William Ward was supervising Israeli and PA military plans.

"I can understand why people think this decision is one that will create a vacuum into which terrorism will flow," Bush said. "I happen to disagree. I believe the decision that Prime Minister Sharon has made and is going to follow through on will be good for Israel."

Officials said the administration was pressing for an immediate Israeli withdrawal, despite the failure to complete arrangements with Egypt and the PA. They said the most important aspects of the withdrawal were the replacement of Israeli troops along the 12-kilometer Egyptian-Gaza border with PA forces and Egyptian commandos. Another vital aspect was PA control over insurgency groups during the withdrawal.

"The Israelis have managed to demonstrate great restraint," an official said. "But the challenge would be withdrawal under fire and how many casualties Israel would be prepared to accept before retaliation. I expect there will be frequent telephone calls from the president and the secretary of state [to Sharon] during the withdrawal operation."

On Monday, Palestinian gunners fired at least two rockets into Israeli communities in the central Gaza Strip. Nobody was injured and the Israeli military did not retaliate. Hours later, Sharon warned in a nationwide address that Israel would respond harshly to Palestinian fire.

Officials compared the U.S. attitude toward Israel to that during the Gulf war in 1991. At the time, Bush's father, then president, sent senior officials to persuade then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir to refrain from responding to Iraqi missile strikes against Israeli cities.

The current administration has been encouraged by the determination of the Sharon government to implement the withdrawal, which they said could be completed within 10 days. But some officials envisioned a snag from Israel's military, which they saw as responding often ineffectively to resistance by Israeli withdrawal opponents.

"The administration's priority is to get through the withdrawal, period," the official said. "That would be a major achievement for U.S. policy in the Middle East."

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A Government Devoid of Humanitarian Considerations
Arlene Kushner
Investigative Journalist

Dr. Miriam Billing and Professor Yossi Katz, of the Florsheimer Center for Policy Studies, anticipated the government disregard for the wellbeing of those being removed from their homes because of the "disengagement." They did everything in their power to improve on the situation, to no avail.

Katz and Billing, professional sociologists, described their perceptions during a press conference in Jerusalem held at the Israel Resource News Agency at the Beit Agron Press Center on August 15th.

All of their prior studies and experience told them that those being moved would do far better if they were relocated with their communities in tact. These are not city people, accustomed to the anonymity of apartment dwelling, who are being moved; these are people in small settlements who have established strong bonds with their neighbors over a period of many years. Separating communities would greatly increase the trauma of what is already a painful move.

Before Pesach, Katz and Billing began to publish position papers on this issue. They recommended a delay of at least six months in order for the government to have time to replicate the communities for the people, in tact, in a new location (presumably Nitzan). They made it clear that the issue for them was not the disengagement, but how that disengagement would be handled. They held a conference and added to their ranks two professionals, one with Shalom Achshav (Israeli Peace Now).

At least three times they met with personnel from Prime Minister Sharon's office, including Ilan Cohen, who is in charge of coordinating actions among the various government ministries. Do scatter these people and re-settle them simply as individuals, they were advised. It all fell on deaf ears, as it appeared the government had no interest in listening to the professional suggestions.

Additionally, a group of rabbis went to Sharon and begged for a delay, to allow planning to take place, in the interest of chesed (kindness/caring). Sharon refused.

As this is written and the "disengagement" process is about to begin, the situation for those being expelled from their homes is horrendous:

The local settlement councils have now been officially closed down. Leaders have no authority to lead: no one is officially in charge and there are no social services available.

Many still do not know where they are going. The government made an announcement that there is a place for everyone. Not only is this not so, in many instances what has been offered is severely inadequate:

Some families with 6, 8 or more children are being offered one or two bedroom apartments. Secular and religious families are being mixed, with lack of regard for sensibilities. In some instances there is an attempt to place people in undesirable apartments that contractors could not sell. In other instances there are attempts to place people in rural communities - kibbutzim and moshavim -- that are failing, in order to bolster them with new blood. This is without regard for whether these communities are appropriate for those being places there. Schooling has been assured, but in some instances the schools are a long distance away; in other instances there is disregard for the type of schooling that will be available.

The people of Gush Katif and Northern Samaria are thus severely depressed. The depression extends beyond the fact that they must move from places that many believe ideologically they should be allowed to remain in. It involves the fact that they feel no one understands them, cares about them, or wishes to attend to their needs.

Say Billing and Katz, the government had the tools to build another gush (bloc of communities). The people in the Sinai were moved out with such planning. It can be done. The government bears responsibility here.

The government, for its part, claims that the settlers did not cooperate. Billing and Katz maintain that this is not an excuse. Ideologically, there were people who simply could not cooperate. The government, they say, had the responsibility to proceed unilaterally anyway, and then have the communities in place when the time for "disengagement" came.

There is still time now, say Professor Katz, for the government to do proper planning. If it refuses, it seems as if there is stupidity at work, or a policy based purely on economic considerations (do it cheaply, not humanely), or - not beyond the realm of possibility -- a covert policy to break the settler communities.

What is clear is that this current situation can not stand.

In some instances, the local communities themselves are taking the situation in hand. Some will move to tent cities, in tact, rather than to undesirable housing arranged by the government. The ability of communities to plan now depends in large part on the leadership of each. In Neve Dekalim, the largest of the communities, people do not know where they are going, because they were advised by their rabbi that this would never happen. The people of Ganei Tal, on the other hand, are moving in tact to Hofetz Haim, on their own initiative.

Mental health professionals are currently organizing on a volunteer basis to give advice and comfort to the people of Gush Katif and Northern Samaria. There is hope that organization can be sufficient to provide a variety of services. Of importance is assistance in helping individuals stay in contact with friends and neighbors from their communities who have been dispersed far and wide.

Still more than this needs to be done. At present an appeal is before the Court for an injunction that would delay the "disengagement" process until these issues can be satisfactorily resolved. The government has made clear, specific promises with regard to humanitarian services that have not been honored. The request is for a delay in the process in the face of this government failure.

Activists who have worked diligently against the "disengagement" need now to be informed of what the scope of the government failure has been, so that they may apply appropriate pressure on the government to honor their humanitarian responsibilities to those who are being expelled from their homes.

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Mental Health Professionals Denied Access by Israeli Gov't to Northern Samaria Jewish Community
Lemaan Achai Press Release

On Monday night, August 15th, a group of mental health professionals were refused entry to the communities in Northern Samaria, after being also refused entry to Katif communities last week.

The government of Israel has formally closed all social services to Katif, with is expected to close these services in Samaria in the near future, yet is not allowing other agencies to fill the gap.

The group turned down yesterday, formed under the wing of Lemaan Achai, is an award-winning social service agency, comprising 45 psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers with expertise ranging from trauma and crisis relief in the Tsunami, East Asia and Turkey, to bereavement counseling and working with severely troubled adolescents.

After the IDF refused an entry permit for the entire team to enter Gush Katif to supplement the care workers there, they decided to send a small group of social workers to monitor the situation in Chomesh, Northern Samaria and provide a needs assessment.

However the group was stopped at a checkpoint near Shovei Shomron and remained for close to 3 hours during fruitless attempts to gain entry from the on-duty soldiers, IDF Spokesperson's Office and the office of the Minister of Defense.

The Head of the Chomesh Council and the Barkan Region Social Services both requested permission for the Lemaan Achai group to enter, but were rebuffed.

David Morris, Managing Director of an Electro-Optics Company and Founder and Chairperson of Lemaan Achai, was on the bus, "I have participated in international aid missions," said Morris, "Volunteering in Africa and Bosnia, and I am outraged that I am being prevented from providing emergency aid and crisis relief in my own country"

Morris continued, "Many of the residents in Chomesh have agreed to be evacuated, but they have nowhere to go, nor have they received the compensation packages promised by the government. The Social Services department in Gush Katif has now been officially closed down, which means that the mental health professionals there, many of whom are themselves residents, are volunteering and cannot bring in support services."

"What most concerns me is that the IDF is allowing only journalists and moving trucks inside what they have determined to be a closed military zone. They are not allowing in mental health professionals and therefore no mental health monitoring can take place in case of a potential crisis. The government is literally placing these residents under siege."

Carmi Wisemon, Director of Social Services at Lemaan Achai, described the purpose of their mission, "We were asked to carry out needs assessments of the Chomesh residents who were promised compensation packages by the government that they have not received. This is preventing them from leaving - one case is that of a 52 year old successful businessman, who has run a local business here for 25 years. He completed the paperwork agreeing to abandon his four-story house, for which he has not yet received compensation and was informed he would be placed in a caravilla in Yad Chana, but their allotted spot turns out to be an empty field. Until homes are actually erected there, he has been told he will be staying in a hotel in Eilat. We have been told that this man is displaying suicidal tendencies - which is not too surprising given the fact that he has absolutely no control over his life at present - yet we aren't allowed in either to assess him or to help him. And even the information I have just told you has been gathered over the telephone - we can't make a real assessment because we can't get in."

Wisemon concluded, "I hold the government and IDF directly responsible for the mental health of the residents here. If furniture movers and selected journalists are allowed in, but not mental health professionals, I can only conclude that the government and IDF are deliberately preventing us from entering, because they don't want anyone to identify, report and, most importantly, treat human rights abuses that may be taking place there.

For more information, please contact Carmi Wisemon MSW - 050-8740-638 / 02-999-6267 / 02-999-1553 or David Morris at 02 999 7107

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Israel Government decision ignored by Sharon:
No assets for terrorists
David Bedein

At a time when debate rages throughout the world as to whether or not to support the "Disengagement Plan" of the government of Israel,the time has come to address a seminal decision of the democratically elected government of Israel: No assets for terrorists.

The government of Israel, in its June 6th, 2004 decision to ratify the final version of the Disengagement Law, enacted a vital provision which forbids the government of Israel from handing over any confiscated Jewish assets to terrorists.

That provision, in clause seven, declares that Israel will 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 . . . . "

Despite that clear Israeli government decision, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has defied the law of his own government and has worked to transfer confiscated Jewish assets to the World Bank, and then to the Palestinians, in an arrangement that eliminates the words, "not involved in terror." Indeed, in the June 2004 monograph signed by then-World Bank president James Wolfensohn and presented to Israel and the PLO entitled "Disengagement, Palestinian Economy and the Settlements," all confiscated settlement assets are to be transferred to the Palestinian Authority, without any prerequisite that those who receive the assets have not been involved in terrorism. The words, "not involved in terror", simply do not appear. And in the brochure issued by the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs on May 1st, 2005, the words, "not involved in terror", simply do not appear.

On August 14th, 2005, the day before Israel's hand over of land was about to commence, a headline in the Jerusalem Post indicated that the Palestinian Authority has invited armed terror militias from Lebanon to take up position in the abandoned settlements that Israel is about to cede.

All indications are that the Palestinian Authority would use any newly acquired strategic assets to mount a new war of terror against all of Israel.

No Israeli government decision was ever taken to hand over confiscated assets of Jews to their murderers.

Precisely the opposite was the case.

The policy of the government of Israel to hand over vital assets to terrorists represents a gross violation of a policy decision taken by the democratically elected government of Israel.

In other words, Sharon's policy has nothing to do with the policy of the government of Israel.

At a time when Israel is just about to expel Jews from their homes and farms, the issue should not only focus on the inherent question of a person's right to private property.

The focus should instead be focus on whether the government of Israel has a right to violate its own statutes and hand over property without enforcing the provision of the law enacted by the government of Israel, to ensure that the people who receive that land are "not involved in terror"

The Bible refers to a king who transfers the property of a murdered man to his killer.

As the Prophet Elijah said to King Ahab, "Have you murdered [him] and also inherited [his property]?"

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Arab World Delights as Evictions Edge Nearer
Stephen Farrell and Massad Abu Toameh
Correspondents, The Times of London

The Jewish settlement and watchtower went up in flames as the delighted crowd looked on. It was only a cardboard effigy, but it was a portent of long-awaited destruction soon to befall the hated originals.

Similar scenes of delight took place across Gaza yesterday, and they were all mingled with a "pinch-me" confounding of long-ingrained mistrust that Ariel Sharon's deed would match Ariel Sharon's word.

By way of television screens, internet websites and bulletin boards, the Arab world reacted with ill-disguised glee as Israeli soldiers confronted perhaps the most hated people in the Middle East - Israel's Jewish settlers.

"Yes, but will he really do it?" has for months been the first question on the lips of sceptical Arabs from the Mediterranean to the Euphrates. Raised on a ceaseless official diet of Israel vilification - and Sharon demonisation in particular - the universal Arab suspicion has been that disengagement would be another Zionist conspiracy, a ploy or a subterfuge never to materialise.

But as al-Jazeera, al-Arabiya and Palestinian television filled their screens with olive-uniformed Israeli soldiers presenting eviction notices to the reviled mustawtinin [settlers], convoys of yellow minibuses flowed on to the streets of the nearest Gaza town, Khan Younis, with horns honking and Palestinian flags flying.

In homes, families gathered in front of television sets and switched from one channel to another. Mothers laid out new clothes for children to wear and prepared special mambo cookies usually served on Eid festivals.

Hamas, the extremist group, was foremost in the charge to claim victory as mosques opened for special midnight prayers. "May God bless those who touch weapons," Younis al-Astal, the Hamas leader, said as he castigated the Palestinian Authority for negotiating with the Israeli Government. "The blood of martyrs has led to liberation," a Hamas banner read. Hamas internet supporters were also in full swing. One of the group's websites carried bizarre yellow Islamist "smileys" giving the thumbs up and praying to Allah. On the Palestinian Dialogue Forum, Bilal 2 - a "Hamasnik activist" - called on the Palestinian Authority to erect on the site of the demolished settlements a plaque to each militant who died attacking them.

Determined to wrest the triumph from the men of violence, Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the Palestinian Authority, emphasised his message, that Gaza must be the start, not the end. He said:

"The Israeli withdrawal is an important and historic step that shouldn't only happen in Gaza but also the West Bank and the rest of the land reaching to the 1949 borders."

Al-Jazeera carried non-stop coverage of Israeli settlers weeping and waiting for the inevitable. Meanwhile, al- Arabiya took a human-interest approach, ushering Palestinian children into a minibus and driving them through checkpoints that no longer exist, asking: "How do you feel now you will be able to sleep with no more shelling?" A Palestinian satellite channel found a vantage point from which to film the action, and its commentator, possibly the most excited person in Khan Younis, went so far as to praise the Israeli soldiers for their professionalism. Another Palestinian television channel took congratulatory telephone calls from all over the Arab world.

This piece appeared in The Times of London on August 16th, 2005

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