Israel Resource Review 8th Febuary, 2007


Suing the government of Israel to protect Israeli school children
Noam Bedein, Sderot Information Center for the Western Negev

The scene at the Jerusalem High Court of Justice on Thursday morning, February 8, 2007 was surreal.

Three members of the Sderot Parents Association had petitioned the Israel High Court of Justice to ask for a court order for the government of Israel to allocate funds to provide full protection for all 24 educational institutions in the city of Sderot.

Joining in the suit was the legal counsel of the Western Negev "Shaar HaNegev" Regional Council. At this point in time, following 1,300 missile attacks on Sderot and the western Negev since the Disengagement, the schools in the area remain only partially protected.

The Israeli civil defense command had decided to provide the proper protection for the first, second and third grades of the schools in Sderot and the other schools in the Western Negev, leaving other grades unprotected. As citizens of Sderot and the area kept up their demands for complete protection of the schools, the response from the central government in Jerusalem was consistent that the government would simply not provide the appropriate budget necessary for this purpose. Until now, this was explained by Israeli government officials in terms of budgetary considerations a normal reason for any bureaucracy that has not allocated funds for emergency considerations. . However, Israel does have The Basic Law, which guards the rights and dignity for all of its citizens, and which gives all citizens the right to sue the government in the Israeli citizens court the Israel High Court of Justice.

Experience has it in Israel that when a citizens group needs budget to protect a fundamental need, that citizen group simply sues in the Israel High Court of Justice and the government often orders the government to find a way to protect human rights, and to find the necessary funds for that purpose.

However, after the parents association of Sderot made their convincing case to the Israel High Court of Justice that their children deserved the right to full protection, Raanan Giladi, the young lawyer representing the government of Israel delivered a surprising response, stating that the Israeli government should NOT protect school children after third grade, since the Israel Civil Defense Command had determined that children had a fifteen second warning from the time the siren sounds until the missile hits for the children to run for cover in the safe areas of the school.

An official of the Israel Civil Defense Command, Michel Levy, testified that they had tested trial runs and that they had determined that 15 seconds was enough time for the children to take cover. What Levy "forgot" to mention was that Israeli combat soldiers had run the fifteen seconds to safe spots in the schools, not 30 or 40 children who would have to scramble out of their chairs in their classrooms and run out the one classroom door in search of a safe spot.

One of the Sderot parents, Alon Davidi, testified at the session that that he and his wife, as parents of five children in the Sderot schools, wanted to have minimal confidence that when he sent off his kids to school in the morning to classrooms that were safe, no matter how old his children were.

Judge Beinish, head of the Israel Supreme Court, presiding at this special session of the Israel High Court of Justice, stated that the government's argument was not convincing and asked how long would it take to provide a program to protect all of the schools. Giladi, the government attorney, asked for 45 days to provide a proposal in this regard and the parents association asked why this would take so long.

Judge Beinish gave the two sides two weeks in which to meet and to discuss a formula for full protection of the schools, to which Israel Civil Defense official Mishel Levy responded once again that "full protection is not necessary- we are working on the concept of safe areas in the schools". Judge Beinish concluded the court hearing with an unusual appeal to the government of Israel to reconsider its policy of not providing full protection to the school children of Sderot and the Western Negev.

Judge Beinish then asked that the Sderot parents association to use the next two weeks to provide the government with a precise list of what schools and what classrooms still need protection.

While the court was meeting in special session, Arabs fired three more missiles at populated areas of the western Negev, while the British Foreign Secretary, on a special visit to Israel, praised the Israeli government for its restraint in the wake of the 99 missile attacks on the Israeli population centers that have occurred since Israel declared a unilateral cease fire on November 26th, 2006.

Meanwhile, the Sderot Information Center for the Western Negev Ltd. arranged for two of the representatives of the parents association Batya Kedar and Chava Gad to be interviewed by the legal affairs correspondent of the Israel government Voice of Israel radio network, so that Kedar and Gad could take their message to the people of Israel. Kedar and Gad spoke as "mothers of children under fire", and asked that people throughout Israel and the Jewish world demand that the Israeli government provide minimum protection for their children under fire. Kedar and Gad told the radio that they will spend the better part of the next two weeks preparing a thorough comprehensive report that will document the minimal security needs for the schools of Sderot.

It will be instructive to see if the Israel Civil Service Command, which remains firm in its opposition to providing any further protection for the schools, will be overruled.

Everything now depends on the public pressure that will be brought to bear on the administration of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzippi Livni and Defense Minister Amir Peretz to protect the children of Sderot and the Western Negev LTD, no matter what the cost will be to the budget of the government of Israel and to the ego of Israel Civil Service officer Michel Levy.

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The signing of the Mecca agreement
Maan News

Date: 09 / 02 / 2007 Time: 11:17

[Dr. Aaron Lerner - IMRA: Possibly rhetorical question soon to be voiced by Hamas: If "moderate" Mahmoud Abbas is considered the hero of the West and simply a fantastic all around guy even though he calls for turning guns toward Israel and only opposes terror attacks if and when he beleives they do do not serve Palestinian interests, doesn't this set such a low enough standard for what is considered to be "respect" for PLO agreements such that anything Haniyeh does is OK?]

Mecca - Ma'an exclusive - Fatah and Hamas have signed the Mecca agreement. The media advisor to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Nabil 'Amr, read the text of the agreement and the letter of assignment to Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.

The following came in the agreement text:

. Assuring the prohibition of Palestinian bloodshed and the assurance of national unity to achieve the legitimate aims of the Palestinian people.

. Agreeing on counting the language of dialogue as the basis for solving all conflicts between brothers.

. Agreeing on establishing a unity government and to start taking constitutional procedures to its dedication immediately.

. Agreeing on proceeding in the procedures of reform of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) based on the Cairo agreements and the Damascus announcement.

. Assuring the principle of political partnership on the basis of political pluralism.

Signed in Holy Mecca on 21 Muharam, 1428 in the hegira (Islamic) calendar [8th of February, 2007 A.D.]

The presidential advisor, Nabil 'Amr, also read the text of the letter of assignment that President 'Abbas will send to Prime Minister Haniyeh. The letter said:

"I call on you within the coming period, in accordance with the Basic Law, to form the national unity government.

"I also call on you as a head of the future government to commit to the supreme interests of the Palestinian people and to keep their acquisitions as confessed by the successive national councils and the Arab League's decisions, and to respect the PLO agreements".

President Mahmoud Abbas gave a speech in which he emphasized the complete commitment to the agreement. He also praised the distinguished efforts of the Saudis in completing the agreement.

The head of Hamas' political bureau, Khalid Mash'al, also gave a speech in which he assured the willingness of both sides to implement the agreement and cast aside disagreement. He also promised the Palestinian people and God to be committed to what has been agreed upon, and he praised the significant role of the Saudi monarch in achieving the agreement.

Prime Minister Haniyeh gave a speech in which he praised the significant efforts of Saudi Arabia in achieving the agreement of reconciliation between brothers and to put an end to the difficult and hard days.

For his part, the Saudi monarch, Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz, congratulated the Palestinian leaders for achieving the agreement and for establishing a national unity government.

From his side, Fatah spokesman Maher Miqdad, who took part in the Fatah delegation in the Mecca dialogue, said that the subject of activating the PLO had featured in the discussions and it was agreed to continue the Cairo dialogue and the Damascus announcement. The participation of independent figures and the naming of Fatah and Hamas deputies will be completed within one month, he said, and this will be carried out in Gaza not in Mecca.

Miqdad also stressed the need to follow up the aftermath of the bloody internal fighting. He said that it is important to study the causes of the fighting while also dealing with all its consequences without leaving any dispute unresolved in order to avoid any return to the previous turmoil.

He said that all parties who signed the agreement declared their commitment to accurately following up this issue.

Miqdad also noted the need to respect the people who suffered during the internal clashes.

"It is not possible to summarize the subject of a political agreement without looking at the events . that happened previously," he said.

He added, "Some crimes . we have to deal with at higher levels, taking into consideration that there are lots of wounds and sufferings that are hard to ignore." He said that the situation required "a variety of initiatives by President Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas], or even by the head of government and factional leaders, as well as the tribal leaders."

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