Israel Resource Review 11th December, 2005


Keep Marwan Barghouti Behind Bars
David Bedein

On this page last week, Yossi Beilin posited that convicted murderer Marwan Barghouti is the one Palestinian leader ready and able to fight Hamas ("Free Marwan Barghouti To Counter Power of Hamas," December 2). Barghouti, however, would seem an unlikely candidate to take on that militant Islamist group.

On January 22, 1995, after Hamas massacred 19 Israelis at a bus stop in Beit Lid — a village near the coastal city of Netanya, located within the 1967 lines — Barghouti declared on the Saudi-owned MBC television network that "we cannot condemn such an attack, since this is an area that we have not yet liberated." The video clip of that statement is readily available at our office at the Beit Agron Press Center in Jerusalem.

It was also Barghouti who from 1995 until his imprisonment in 2002 hammered out cooperative agreements in Cairo between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, according to the semi-official Egyptian daily Al Ahram, and who continues to do so today from prison. And according to Israeli intelligence sources and in the indictment issued against him, it was Barghouti who, on the outbreak of the second intifada in 2000, became the head of a joint coordinating body of all Palestinian organizations in the West Bank — including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Fatah-affiliated Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, all three of which are listed by both the American and the Israeli government as terrorist groups.

As for Beilin's argument that Barghouti was only "indirectly" responsible for the murder of innocent people, it is surprising that a former Israeli justice minister saw fit to mention only in passing that Barghouti was convicted in May 2002 of first-degree murder for the cold-blooded killing of five civilians — in cases where the Israeli Justice Ministry provided incontrovertible documentation that Barghouti made direct payments to commission killers to commit wanton acts of murder.

The Marwan Barghouti who Beilin suggests should be released from prison so he can lead the Palestinian people is responsible for the murders of: Salim Barakat, 33, from the Druze village of Yarka in the Galilee, who survived by his wife, daughter, parents and seven brothers and sisters; Eli Dahan, 53, of Lod, who is survived by his mother Sarah, wife, Ilana, two daughters, two sons and three grandchildren; Yosef Habi, 52, of Herzliya, who is survived by his wife, son and daughter; Father Georgios Tsibouktzakis, 34, a Greek Orthodox monk from St. George's Monastery in Wadi Kelt near Jericho, and Yoela Chen, 45, of Givat Ze'ev, who is survived by her husband and two children.

Nor are they Barghouti's only victims. At his trial, people who were maimed as a result of Barghouti-sponsored attacks appeared as witnesses to the pain he caused them — pain they will experience for the rest of their lives.

Chicago-born Alan Bauer and his 7-year-old son Jonathan were among those witnesses. They were five minutes from their home in Jerusalem when a Barghouti-funded suicide bomber blew himself up three feet away from them on March 21, 2002. Two arteries in Bauer's arm were severed. A screw went all the way through little Jonathan's head. To this day, Jonathan walks with a limp.

According to the court protocols, Barghouti proudly admitted that he directed terrorist attacks in which scores of Israelis were killed and revealed how he directly allocated funds needed by terrorist cells to operate and purchase necessary weapons, and stated that Yasser Arafat personally authorized this funding for Tanzim activities, knowing that this money would be used to finance murderous attacks. Furthermore, protocols of interrogations of P.A. officials before the trial showed how the process worked: Names of Tanzim killers were submitted to Barghouti, who would routinely take them to Arafat for approval.

Why, Beilin implicitly asks, should Barghouti be kept in jail? The law would seem to be clear on this point: There is more than a slight possibility of recidivism — of Barghouti choosing to not abandon the path of violence if he were to be set free. He has shown no remorse for his commitment to liberate all of Palestine, nor has he revealed any second thoughts about his efforts to unite all Palestinian factions for that purpose.

The question for Yossi Beilin, who seems to ignore Barghouti's direct responsibility for his indiscriminate murder of Israeli citizens, is how he would feel if Barghouti had bragged in an open court of law that he had murdered a member of Beilin's family in the course of one of his terrorist actions "to liberate Palestine."

Beilin is correct in writing that peace treaties are made between enemies, after the war has been concluded. Beilin is misguided in believing that Barghouti has shown any signs of leading a movement to stop the Palestinian militants' war against the State of Israel.

David Bedein is bureau chief of the Israel Resource News Agency in Jerusalem.

This piece appeared in The Forward on December 9th, 2005

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Free Marwan Barghouti To Counter Power of Hamas
Yossi Beilin

During the mid-1990s, Marwan Barghouti and his close friend Qaddoura Fares initiated a number of meetings with representatives of the Israeli peace camp. They presented themselves as people committed to turning the Oslo process into a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine by May 1999, the date that had been determined in bilateral negotiations.

Barghouti and Fares came across as young, confident leaders whose long years in prison had made them immune to criticism of excessive dovishness or cooperation with Israel. The next generation of Fatah that they represented considered itself prepared to support the peace agreement once it was signed, even in the face of Hamas and the other refusal organizations that had pledged to thwart any final accord.

The permanent-status agreement, as is now well known, was not signed by May 1999 as had been determined. When Ehud Barak replaced Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister, he signed an additional agreement with Yasser Arafat pursuant to which the signing of the permanent-status agreement was deferred to September 2000.

In May 2000, when I was serving as justice minister in Barak's government, Barghouti and Fares asked to meet with me. They warned me there were no indications that an agreement could be reached

by September, and they told me that if by that time no significant steps had been taken, a popular uprising would break out — an uprising, they implied, that they themselves would lead in order to prevent Hamas from rousing the Palestinian street up against the Palestinian Authority.

I warned them against being shortsighted, and told them that we had a rare opportunity to reach a permanent-status agreement in the near future. If violence were to break out in the middle of this process, I warned, then it would be all but impossible to complete the peace process.

Roughly two years later, I met Fares, who was one of the Palestinian negotiators for the nonbinding Geneva Accord. We crossed paths again in October 2003, when we both became signatories to the agreement.

Barghouti, however, I have not met since our conversation in 2000, when he warned of the impending uprising. I have seen him on television screens. One time we even debated each other on BBC, although from different studios. I told him he was not the same Barghouti I had gotten to know nearly a decade earlier.

I understood that he had been drawn into the vicious circle of violence in order to compete with Hamas, and that he didn't know how to stop the intifada that he himself had started. Meanwhile, thousands of Palestinians, were being killed, and Hamas was only getting stronger and stronger.

From the moment he was arrested and brought to trial, the judges had no choice but to convict him. The evidence that he was responsible for directing terrorist acts was overwhelming, and his punishment was determined accordingly. He himself did not recognize the authority of Israel's courts to try him, and he was not prepared to defend himself.

Since being sent to prison, his status has only grown. Today he is the most popular leader in the West Bank and Gaza. Mahmoud Abbas was able to run as Fatah's candidate for the Palestinian presidency solely because Barghouti — from prison — took himself off the ballot. From his jail cell, he was involved in all the discussions that led to this year's cease-fire between the Palestinian factions. From prison he continues to lead policy; almost all the heads of the Palestinian government and many Israelis make pilgrimages to see him.

His overwhelming victory in the Fatah primaries — he won 85% of the votes cast in Ramallah — confirms what the public opinion polls have shown in recent years: Marwan Barghouti is the uncontested and most popular leader of the Palestinian Authority.

Barghouti will be released. It almost certainly will take place as part of a permanent-status agreement. It could come about as part of a prisoner swap with an organization like Hezbollah.

If the latter is the case, then it would be preferable to do it now. Once Barghouti is free, he will be able to join Abbas and help him to lead the areas under P.A. control. If Israel is interested in a strong Palestinian partner that is capable of administering law and order and of standing up to Hamas, this is Israel's opportunity.

Barghouti is no saint, and there is every reason to argue that he is responsible, if only indirectly, for the murder of innocent people. However, almost all conflicts similar to ours come to an end when those responsible for instigating the violence sign an agreement.

And when someone asks us — as they inevitably will after we release Barghouti — how we can look the orphans and the widows in the eye, we will tell him that our job is to prevent future orphans and widows.

Yossi Beilin, a former Israeli justice minister, was the primary architect of the Oslo Accords.

This piece appeared in The Forward on December 2nd, 2005

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Palestinian "moderate" PLC representative Qadura Fares
Dr. Aaron Lerner, Director IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)

Palestinian conditional non-violence denies the fundamental basis of the deal

"We [Convicted murdered and Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti and I] support negotiations and other peaceful means with Israel as long as Palestinian aspirations may be realized through negotiations. If Palestinian aspirations can't be realized through peaceful means then the aspirations will be realized via resistance." Palestinian "moderate" PLC representative Qadura Fares on Israel Radio 27 November 2005

"The PLO commits itself to the Middle East peace process, and to a peaceful resolution of the conflict between the two sides and declares that all outstanding issues relating to permanent status will be resolved through negotiations. . . . the PLO renounces the use of terrorism and other acts of violence and will assume responsibility over all PLO elements and personnel in order to assure their compliance, prevent violations and discipline violators."

So wrote Yasser Arafat in his September 9, 1993 letter to Yitzhak Rabin, the Prime Minister of Israel.

And it wasn't easy to get Arafat, acting as the representative of the Palestinian people, to sign off on those phrases. Words that forfeited any possible legal claim to the right to continue employing terrorism and other acts of violence in what he and his supporters called a "liberation struggle".

Take a look at the phrase: Arafat didn't just renounce the use of "terrorism" - a word that the Arabs claim cannot ever be applied to their murderous activity - he also renounced the use of "other acts of violence". Arafat didn't want to sign off on the phrases, but Yitzhak Rabin made it clear that this was his red line.

So there was Yasser Arafat in the summer of 1993: Arafat, essentially an aging has-been exiled to Tunis from Beirut, watching as each month Israeli security forces continued to whittle down their dwindling "wanted list" of terrorists.

No. Contrary to what has become the story line in some quarters, it wasn't the "children of the stones" that raised Arafat from the dung heap of history, it was a group of Israeli ideologues seeking a way to facilitate an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Oslo was Arafat's lifeline. Israel could take it or leave it. So Arafat blinked first.

It wasn't a minor matter then. And it shouldn't be a minor matter today.

Let's be clear about this: when the entire Palestinian leadership - from White House Lawn "man of peace" Mahmoud Abbas on down - explain that their commitment to nonviolence is conditioned on their getting what they want, they are trashing this fundamental Palestinian commitment.

That's not to say that Arafat's letter and the agreements that followed it stripped the Palestinians of the ability to struggle for their interests. It just limited them to pursuing them via non-violent means -- both on the domestic and the international front.

Arafat's September 9, 1993 letter to Yitzhak Rabin committing to "a peaceful resolution of the conflict . . . resolved through negotiations" and assuming "responsibility over all PLO elements and personnel in order to assure their compliance, prevent violations and discipline violators" was supposed to be a watershed event.

But it wasn't.

Because from day one that commitment has been ignored and forgotten.


Dr. Aaron Lerner is co-founder of IMRA, Independent Media Review and Analysis, an Israel-based news organization which provides an extensive digest of media, polls and significant interviews and events relating to the Israeli-Arab conflict. He can be reached at:

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Is the US Pressuring Israel to Allow "Safe Passage" for PLO Convoys to Traverse Israel?

Byline: David Bedein

Plans are afoot by the US State Department to force ISrael to open a route from Gaza to the West Bank through the southern half of Israel. This has implications to cut Israel in half over time. Bedein discusses how US pressure is making Israel acquiese to this dangerous precedent.

This past weekend, two contradictory stories appeared on the front pages of Israel's daily newspapers concerning whether or not the US Government is indeed pressuring Israel to allow for "safe passage" of Palestinian Arab vehicle convoys to travel from Gaza to Hebron or to Ramallah in the West Bank.

Hilary Krieger, writing for the Jerusalem Post, indicated that there is "no pressure" from the American government in this regard, relying on information from the Israeli Prime Minister's media adviser, Raanan Gissin, who said that "there's no pressure" on Israel from the United States. In her Jerusalem Post story of Friday, December 9th, 2005, Krieger quoted Gissin as saying that the convoys issue would only be taken up after Palestinian Authority action against terror:

"The whole discussion of operating this new arrangement will be delayed until the Palestinian Authority is serious about fighting terror," he told the Jerusalem Post.

However, the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz, in a headline on Sunday morning, December 11th, written by Akiva Eldar, indicates that the US government has given an ultimatum to Israel to open up the "safe passage" for Palestinian Arab vehicle convoys by this coming Thursday. The US government has also enlisted the backing of the "Quartet" of the US, Russia the EU and the UN alonfg with the World Bank. Eldar reports that The World Bank, adding its support to this ultimatum, places the onus on Israel for the economic crises facing the population in Gaza because the "safe passage" has not been opened.

So who do you rely on: Krieger or Eldar? My bet is on Eldar,even though Krieger is a reliable staff writer for the Jerusalem Post.

Eldar, on the other hand, is a senior political writer, who in the mid-nineties was a Ha'aretz correspondent in Washington who gained expertise over the years on American-Israeli relations.

In addition, Eldar has benefited from research grants from the Washington-based Foundation for Middle East Peace, headed by former US consul in Jerusalem Mr. Phillip Wilcox. In other words, the US is dictating policy to Israel and the Israeli government is issuing bland assurances that should have Israel's supporters in the US rather concerned, if only they knew about them.

It is as if the US government is not paying attention to the daily mortar attacks that now emanate from Gaza, and to the overall reality that the PLO has never cancelled its declaration of war with the state and people of Israel, as is still embodied in the PLO covenant which has never been cancelled.

Israel Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mark Regev would not comment on the Eldar article. However, unlike the prime minister's spokesman, Regev declined to repeat the assurance of the PM spokesman that Israel is not under pressure from the US. Regev instead said emphatically that the Israeli Foreign Minister told the US government envoy Welsh that "Israel cannot be expected to do anything of this sort while the Palestinians have not taken care of their terrorist infrastructure"

In other words, US pressure is on. Israel's friends in the US need to know this immediately.


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Where is UNRWA Going After the Withdrawal from Katif?

In early November, shortly after Israel had pulled out of Gaza, Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom met with UNRWA's new commissioner-general, Karen AbuZayd. Shalom suggested, during that meeting, that it might be time for UNRWA to begin to pull back in Gaza and allow the Palestinian Authority to supply education, health, employment, and other social services to the refugees in Gaza.

This represented a significant Israeli policy shift, as it was the first time an Israeli official had suggested that another entity assume even some of UNRWA's responsibilities. Shalom's reasoning—as later elaborated upon by Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev—was that the PA was doing battle with Hamas in Gaza and this would strengthen the PA position. Currently only Hamas and UNRWA provide humanitarian assistance there, and if the PA began offering such assistance, presumably its standing among the people would be enhanced. (Of course, Shalom did not address the PA's capacity to handle this, which is another story: what he did was make a policy statement.)

AbuZayd, however, was having none of it. And what we've seen in the weeks since her meeting with Shalom is quite the reverse of what the foreign minister had suggested.

On November 16, there was a meeting of UNRWA's hosts and donors, held in Jordan. Kofi Anan, UN Secretary-General, was not present, but his message to the gathering was read by AbuZayd. International support provided to the refugees via UNRWA, said Anan, has given them the "hope that their plight is not forgotten." Now, as there is movement towards a just and lasting peace in the Middle East, "the work of UNRWA and what it represents to the four generations of Palestine refugees is indispensable." Thus Anan appealed to the supporters "not only to continue your support to UNRWA, but to increase it…increased funding would give a clear signal to the Palestine refugee community that their needs remain at the forefront of the international community's concerns. That would make a significant contribution to stability and hope in the region (emphasis added)…"

If there is anything significant about this statement, it is its audacity. The head of the UN was declaring publicly that there was no intention of cutting back on UNRWA's role in Gaza: a pointed policy statement. But it was not enough for him to say that UNRWA was needed to provide basic services for the refugees until their problems were resolved, he went further in tying UNRWA'S role to stability and hope in the region. Cut back, he was telling the donors, and you will be responsible for further destabilizing the region. Astonishing when one considers that UNRWA's policy's vis-à-vis the refugees has been the key factor in denying them hope and a cause of unrest in the region.

A day later, the PA got into the act when PA Foreign Minister Nasser al-Qedwa made a statement about UNRWA's mandate, which is from the UN General Assembly and could be changed only by that body. The PA, he said, will cooperate with UNRWA on projects and services needed in the refugee camps, but only on the condition that these projects and services fall within the domain of a developmental plan implemented by UNRWA.

Thus did the PA publicly deny any intention of taking over in Gaza and recognize unequivocally that UNRWA was in charge there with regard to the refugees. This was consistent with what has been the position of the PA all along: it defines itself as no more than a "special host" for the refugees in Gaza and the West Bank, as their final destination is Israel within the Green Line.

So much for Shalom's policy statement…

In the days and weeks following, an initiative was set in place by AbuZayd to expand the functioning of UNRWA. In line with this, she announced a budget increase of roughly 30% over the next two years. UNRWA's budget line in 2005 for regular expenses was $340 million, with $47 for special projects. AbuZayd is now looking for close to $1 billion over the next two years, in order to increase services, with an additional $100 million to be allocated to emergency services.

In the course of promoting this initiative, she has focused on the intention of UNRWA to build housing in Gaza. Of particular note here is the plan to build 600 housing units in Khan Yunis, which is adjacent to the former Gush Katif. The plan involves expansion of Khan Yunis into territory formerly occupied by Gush Katif.

Of course, no mention is made in any of the publicity regarding this, of the fact that "land grabbers"—armed families and gangs—have illegally co-opted large swaths of land in the region for themselves, making construction problematic until this situation is remedied.

In order to promote her budget increases, AbuZayd has been traveling to Arab nations—something that was not the routine practice of her predecessors. She has now secured commitments beyond what had been forthcoming in the past —the Arab states having typically donated small sums or nothing; the sums currently committed by some of the oil-rich nations, however, are still considerably less than what is provided by the U.S. annually (in excess of $300 million). There has been mention of a pledge of $20 from Saudi Arabia. The United Arab Emirates, for its part, has pledged $13 million for that building project in Khan Yunis; the new area will be called Khalifa City, after Sheikh Kalifa of the UAE.

On November 26th, lest there be any lingering doubt about the matter, AbuZayd stated for the record again that UNRWA would continue to function in the Palestinian territories until a permanent solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict was reached…with no change in the UNRWA mandate.

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