Israel Resource Review 17th August, 2006


Official West Bank withdrawal panel commissioned by Israeli Foreign Minister Livni: No solution to rocket threat
Aluf Benn, Haaretz Correspondent, HaAretz

The realignment committee set up to evaluate the idea of a unilateral withdrawal from most of the West Bank presented senior political officials with its report in which they raised legal, security and economic difficulties that are likely to inhibit the plan's implementation.

A source with access to the report said its main conclusion is that Israel has no security solution to the threat of rockets launched from the West Bank against population centers. The report's authors assume that following a unilateral Israeli pullout from the West Bank, Hamas will takeover and deploy rockets. Currently, the only solution to the missile threat that the Israel Defense Forces has to offer is its actual presence in the territories and control of the high ground.

Another conclusion is that Israel will not gain international recognition for an end to the occupation if it continues to hold significant portions of the West Bank. Similarly, it is doubtful whether such recognition would be forthcoming even if it unilaterally withdraws to the Green Line.


Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni appointed the committee late last year during her tenure as justice minister. The committee was instructed to delineate Israel's interests in the West Bank and the considerations that need to be considered for a unilateral pullout and evacuation of settlements. The committee was not instructed to examine how a pullout following an agreement with the Palestinian Authority would look, nor was it ordered to evaluate the impact of an internal rift with settlers.

Former director general at the Justice Ministry, Aharon Abramovitch, was appointed to head the committee. Abramovitch is now the Foreign Ministry's director general.

The voluminous report was presented to Livni several weeks ago, and since then, Livni and Abramovitch held two or three meetings with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert regarding its findings. Their last meeting took place before the outbreak of war.

The committee showed that Israel's two main interests are contradictory: on the one hand, Israel wishes to relinquish responsibility over the Palestinians as an occupying force; on the other, it would like to ensure that the territory it pulls out from is demilitarized. Controlling an "external envelope" of the West Bank borders will make it easier for Israel to prevent the transfer of weapons into the area, but will increase the level of responsibility vis-a-vis the Palestinians.

A compromise solution examined by the committee is for the Allenby crossing on the Jordanian border to be opened to Palestinian traffic, under international supervision, similar to that which exists at the Rafah crossing on the border of Egypt and the Gaza Strip.

Another possibility is for the Palestinian Authority to establish a state on territory evacuated by Israel, and Israel would reach an agreement with it on demilitarization.

According to the committee, the government's first decision will have to be the line to which it is willing to pull back. This will determine the legal (degree of Israel's responsibility), security (IDF repositioning and demilitarization), and economic implications (compensation to settlers that would be evacuated) of such a move.

In examining whether the model used in the disengagement from the Gaza Strip could be adopted in the case of the West Bank, the committee found there are about 20 substantive differences between the two cases.

One of the differences is the impact on neighboring countries. Egypt agreed to participate in the disengagement, and deployed forces along the border with the Gaza Strip. Jordan, meanwhile, considers the unilateral withdrawal of Israel from the West Bank a grave threat to its national security.

One of the alternatives examined by the committee is transfering the territory to international responsibility. Another is for the evacuation of all Israeli citizens, but maintaining an IDF presence there. A more limited settlement evacuation was also discussed.

The committee assessed that the state economy can sustain compensation for 15,000 settler families, even though the cost would be "astronomical."

This report was published in HaAretz on August 15th, 2006

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Commentary on the Situation
Arlene Kushner,

Hezbollah doesn't need to break the ceasefire by shooting rockets again, because everything is going their way. They are being rearmed by Iran via Syria. They will not be disarmed below the Litani River and will not be forced by the Lebanese army to more north of the Litani (all of which was theoretically required by the UNSC resolution).

According to the Jerusalem Post of August 16th, a senior Hezbollah official, Hassan Fadlallah, told al-Jazeera, that Hezbollah will not evacuate its operatives from southern Lebanon since they are the ones who populate the region. "Any such withdrawal means the evacuation of southern Lebanon," he said. Please note the import of this statement. All those who have seen the population of south Lebanon as innocent might want to think again.

Apparently Hezbollah will be allowed to just sort of merge in with the Lebanese army or walk around with their guns hidden, looking innocent. And members of Hezbollah who currently are north of the Litani seem to be sneaking south with returning Lebanese refugees.

They want to rebuild the country, Hezbollah says -- after which, it will be THEIR country.

-- The Lebanese army -- after much hesitation -- will move down south of the Litani, reportedly starting tomorrow, but without really fulfilling the mandates of the ceasefire. The only function they will fill will be to take the place of the IDF (in terms of living bodies in uniform, not in any other sense) so that Israeli forces can go back to Israel.

-- According to Deputy Chief of General Staff Maj.-Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky, if the Lebanese army takes up its positions in the south, the IDF will be able to leave within weeks. This apparent readiness of the IDF to leave Lebanon is a bit confusing, because they said they wouldn't leave until the strengthened UNIFIL forces came (I'll get to that in a minute), and certainly wouldn't leave if Hezbollah wasn't disarmed and was actually being rearmed. So? Will they walk out anyway?

The gov't is still talking about diplomatic process. Foreign Minister Livni's position is that the Lebanese have to answer for this, and if they don't "international pressure" must be placed upon them until they do. In fact, Livni is meeting today with Annan. -- As to the enhanced, greatly empowered UNIFIL forces to be led by France, I have this mind-blowing news: Even though they have soldiers on a boat and ready to come, they are thinking twice about sending them because they're a bit vague about the mandate they'd have (remember that France helped to draft this), and they think it may be up to a year before they can send them. This is not a typo: up to a year. Of course, other nations are reluctant to move ahead if France is stalling.

~~~~~~~~~~ Looks like Olmert's "convergence" plan, which called for unilateral pullback in Judea-Samaria, may be dead (please G-d!). The last month has pretty much finished it. It's hard to imagine the populace supporting this, and polls are indicating it would not. But more to the point, members of Knesset who are part of Olmert's coalition are also balking at this -- it should only last.

Many in Labor are opposed. MK Colette Avital, for example, is quoted as say: "How, after everything we have seen in the past month, could anyone suggest that unilateral steps lead to peaceful solutions. In Gaza and Lebanon we've seen what happens with unilateral steps . . . they create a vacuum that simply leads to more violence."

But so are members of Olmert's own Kadima party. Otniel Shneller, who helped draft the plan, now says "At this time, it's simply not relevant." And senior Kadima members Minister Meir Sheetrit and MK David Tal have voiced direct opposition.

There needs to be some sense within the nation that something good for Israel will come out of the pain and horror that this war turned into. What I think about with the most difficulty are the soldiers we lost. Terribly painful to lose them in any event, although when it's possible to say they gave their lives to make the nation safer there is at least a measure of comfort or sense of purpose. But in this instance?? Beautiful lives, simply wasted? But maybe, maybe, if the horror helps to keep the nation intact, then it wasn't for nothing. It has just been announced that the population of Judea-Samaria has increased by 3% over the first six months of the year and now tops 260,000 -- they should thrive for generations untold exactly where they are.

Maybe it will be more than just stopping "convergence," maybe the war was a wake-up call that will force our clueless leaders to leave the psychosis of political correctness and function with national pride and strength. Or . . . better, give the electorate the conviction to get rid of those clueless leaders. One can hope. And pray. And from what I'm hearing about the fury of people in the north this sounds like a reasonable bet.

This report was published in HaAretz on August 15th, 2006

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