Israel Resource Review 20th Febuary, 2004


Does Israel Prime Minister Sharon use American Jews to circumvent Israel's democratic process?
David Bedein

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon may have done an end run around the government and elected representatives of the people of Israel on Thursday night, February 19th, when he briefed leaders of 53 organizations who are visiting Israel as part of the delegation of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish organizations from North America.

At that briefing, Sharon presented his program to move out the Jewish farming communities in the Katif region near Gaza as if it was approved Israeli government policy, giving the clear impression that his was the approved policy both his cabinet and Israel's parliament, the Knesset.

Sharon, who agreed during a January 12th special session of Israel's parliament, the Knesset, that he would consult and report to them before promoting Israel's evacuation policy abroad, currently favored by the US government, did no such thing in presenting his plan on Thursday night.

The chairman of the conference, James Tisch, who serves as the chairman of the all powerful UJC, the United Jewish Communities philanthropic network, praised Sharon for “having gone against the dogmas of his party” to remove Jewish communities and recognize a Palestinian state.

Sharon's office has gone so far as to announce that it will dispatch his office manager and personal attorney, Dov Weisglass to Washington to make all arrangements for the forced removal of all the farming communities of the Katif region.

Following a day in which Sharon had been meeting with three US diplomats who had been dispatched by the US State Department, Sharon promised close cooperation with the US in the implementation of his plan, and called on American Jews to express solidarity with his policies at this time.

Following Sharon's presentation, conference organizers announced a closed session with the Israeli intelligence officials - the same officials assigned by Sharon to prepare for Israel's retreat. These Israeli officials therefore provide the details of the Sharon's retreat plan to representatives of 53 organizations of American citizens, but not to the elected representatives or the government of the state of Israel.

Sharon's willingness to brief a representative group of American Jews from across the political and religious spectrum of American Jewry sharply contrasts with the fact that Sharon refuses to even brief his own Israeli government, Likud Party or the Israeli Knesset, let alone a hold a vote in his government or in the Knesset on the issue of his plan for a unilateral retreat.

Indeed, Sharon has gone so far as to not allow the subject of his retreat plan to be brought up for discussion and debate in the two cabinet meetings that have been held since he announced his plan.

Israeli Finance Minister and former Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu did meet with Sharon on Wednesday to remind the current Israeli prime minister that it is the policy of the government of Israel, especially the Likud government of Israel, to conduct negotiations only on the basis of reciprocity, and not on the basis of a one-way retreat in the face of adversity.

For that reason, no Israeli government or Knesset would approve any such policy of retreat, unless forced to do. Sharon did not comment on Netanyahu's feedback.

Yet Sharon has mandated his PR people to lobby Jewish organizations throughout North America to sell his retreat plan to the American government, so that the US government will force Israel to accept such a policy. The US State Department had long been on the record that Israel must unconditionally remove Israeli citizens from areas that it acquired in the defensive war of 1967.

All this comes on reports that the Bush administration will not help to pay millions of dollars of damages to any of the prosperous Katif farming communities which are slated for eradication, along with reliable press reports that foreign troops will arrive in Israel to “assist” in the forced evacuation of these Jewish communities.

All this begs the question: Why is the Israeli Prime Minister courting American Jewish organizations without informing his own people? The reason is he is trying to get American Jewish citizens and the American government to recognize Sharon's policy of retreat as a ‘fait accompli' , without making any pretense of negotiating Israel's democratic process. Sharon's strategy is transparent: Present Israel with support from the US government and US Jewish organizations , and Israel would have to go along with it.

And many US Jewish organizations are all too willing to go along with Sharon. As David Harris, the director of American Jewish Committee said last week, "we will go along with the policies of any democratically elected government of Israel".

But what Harris and other heads of Jewish organizations would not address was whether they would support an Israeli leader who defied and circumvented Israel's democratic process itself or the will of the Israeli people.

If that does not defy Israel's democratic process, what does?

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The Mystery of Elchanan Tannenbaum
Ronen Bergman
Investigative Journalist, Yediot Ahronot

The security establishment urgently needs to know what exactly Elhanan Tannenbaum revealed to Hizbullah about the secret military project in which he was involved in his reserve duty. After he fell into captivity, the IDF took immediate steps to contain the damage, but this was not enough. It is feared that sensitive details were passed on to Hizbullah, and may have been handed on to Syria and Iran. As long as Tannenbaum maintains his silence, Israel cannot know precisely what leaked.

This is the background for the quick solution that the State Attorney's Office is now working out with the man who returned from captivity: Tannenbaum will finally break his silence and tell what he revealed to Hizbullah-and will be able to return to his family.

Those who dealt with the affair codenamed "Genius," the affair of Tannenbaum's trip to Lebanon and his abduction by Hizbullah, are convinced that he gave up extensive security information. This assessment is based on Tannenbaum's conduct in the interrogation, the questions in which the polygraph test showed him to be a "liar" and additional information from other sources.

The importance of the information to which Tannenbaum was exposed in the IDF was what stimulated Israel to bring him back as soon as possible, and at such a high price. Covert talks on a plea bargain began over the past four days between Tannenbaum's attorneys, the State Attorney's Office, the GSS and the police. It is a complex deal. As of now, Tannenbaum has not refuted suspicions that he went to Lebanon in order to sell Hizbullah security information. His repeated failures in the polygraph test only increased this suspicion. The GSS demands to pose a condition for the plea bargain: After Tannenbaum gives what he calls the full and real version, he will undergo a polygraph test to refute the suspicion that he was involved willingly in offenses of espionage and treason. The bitter joke circulating among the investigative officials in recent days is that like the code name of the entire affair, "Genius," it appears that the affair's protagonist, Tannenbaum, will turn out to be a real genius when he succeeds in getting away with everything he has done.

Tannenbaum's attorneys, Eli Zohar and Roi Belcher, refused last night to comment on the emerging deal. Tannenbaum's associates said that due to the leaks from the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Tannenbaum will increase cooperation with his interrogators and make an effort to end the affair. They stressed that he did not go to Lebanon willingly.

Sources close to the investigation said that the talks on a deal are only at their outset. They said that Tannenbaum is the only one who can now provide a full version as to the past three years, and therefore they are compelled to cooperate with his demands. Meanwhile, the police will request tomorrow to extend Col. (res.) Elhanan Tannenbaum's stay at the Neurim police facility for the purpose of his continued interrogation. In their previous petition to the court, the investigators requested an extension of the remand by 15 additional days, but the deputy president of the Magistrates Court in Petah Tikva, Noga Ohad, gave them only ten days.

This article ran in Yediot Ahronot, February 2004

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