Israel Resource Review 20th Febuary, 2009


Mahmoud Abbas: Hostile Palestinian Leader With Image of Moderation Whom Israel Must Now Contend With
David Bedein

With Israel's Gaza campaign against Hamas and the Israeli election in the past, Israel must now contend with its next challenge — Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority.

Although Mr. Abbas has been broadly touted as a "moderate" peace partner for Israel who can lead Fatah to the establishment of a Palestinian state, he has used the last few months to engage in an international campaign to delegitimize and weaken Israel — especially in the past few weeks.

His actions have focused overtly on two separate issues motivated by different, if overlapping, concerns:

In recent weeks, as a result of the Israeli military action in Gaza, the international focus has been on Hamas and not on the PA in the West Bank. Mr. Abbas has shown alarm at the possibility of a softening of international sanctions against Hamas and the rival faction's involvement in rebuilding of Gaza. Both of these measures would bring Hamas increasing international legitimacy and weaken Fatah's position as "the" legitimate Palestinian authority.

Mr. Abbas has thus sought to keep his faction, Fatah, center-stage in public awareness and show the PA acts decisively and with influence on behalf of the people of Gaza.

On January 27, after a meeting in the Mukata, his headquarters in Ramallah, Mr. Abbas held a press conference, during which he said:

"Israel does not want peace, otherwise it would not have done this. We need to understand this and tell it to those coming from Europe and America … We will do all we can to prove Israel committed crimes [according to Geneva Conventions] that would make your skin crawl … We appealed to international war crimes courts and called for setting up a query to investigate these war crimes. We'll do our best to prove that Israel committed awful and disgusting crimes."

Sources at the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center (JMCC) have confirmed representatives of the Palestinian Authority have approached the International Court of Justice with an eye toward charging Israel with war crimes. Formalities, which require submission of an application, are being pursued.

On February 4, during an address to the European Parliament, Mr. Abbas called on for an investigation against Israel for "war crimes" committed during the Gaza operation:

"We must do our utmost to ensure Israel is compelled to take responsibility for the horrific crimes … There are crimes and people who committed those crimes have to be held responsible so that these crimes cannot be repeated."

According to a Ramallah-based journalist, the leaders of the Palestinian Authority recognize that the Annapolis plan for peace is dead — that its negotiations are stalemated and there is no way to advance them. Other means of advancing its agenda and pushing Israel to make concessions are now being sought.

A report in Tuesday's edition of Ha'aretz details Mr. Abbas' approach. His tactics have largely focused on diplomatic isolation of a right-wing government, should it be established, led by Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu.

"Abbas has been trying to convince the international community that such an Israeli government must face conditions similar to those faced by the Hamas government," the newspaper said. "…The Palestinian Authority prepared a plan for 'diplomatic resistance' to Israel. The purpose of the plan is to offer an alternative to the 'military resistance' of Hamas and preserve Fatah as a relevant force, even in the absence of a peace process.

"Abbas met last week with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, and [shared] … his deep concerns about the establishment in Israel of a right-wing government headed by Netanyahu. Abbas stressed that such a development means a deathblow to the peace process.

"…During all his meetings, Abbas compared a right-wing government in Israel to the Palestinian unity government of Fatah and Hamas, which followed the Mecca Accords in 2007. 'You refused to fully cooperate with such a government because Hamas did not meet the Quartet's conditions on ending terrorism and recognizing Israel,' Abbas told the European leaders. 'You will have to adopt a similar stance toward an Israeli government that will oppose the creation of a Palestinian state and genuine negotiations over the core issues of a permanent settlement,' he added."

Mr. Abbas said should a right-wing government come to power in Israel, it should receive the same sort of sanctions that have been imposed on the Hamas government or apartheid-era South Africa.

The bottom line: As the new Israeli government prepares for new negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, it may now face an unexpected hard-line leader in the personage of Mahmoud Abbas.

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Israeli Intelligence Assessment: Egypt Fails To Reduce Hamas Arms Flow

Israel's intelligence community has determined that Egypt, despite numerous operations in 2008, failed to reduce the weapons flow to the Hamas regime in Gaza.

The Israel Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center ( reports that Egyptian efforts prior to the recent Hamas-Israel war was inadequate and failed to make a dent in the Hamas military effort.

The report comes as the government of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert seeks to win Egyptian approval for a crackdown on Hamas weapons smuggling.

Mr. Olmert and his senior ministers have accepted an Egyptian proposal to deploy another 1,300 troops along the almost nine-mile Gaza-Sinai border.

"In our assessment, Hamas will work as fast as it can to restore the tunnels damaged or destroyed . . . The tunnels play an extremely important role in the restoration of Hamas military infrastructure, since they make it possible for large quantities of weapons to flow regularly into Gaza," the report said.

The report said Hamas would use any Egyptian-arranged cease-fire to accelerate weapons smuggling from the Sinai Peninsula. Despite official pronouncements, the report said, Egypt has ignored the Hamas tunnel network, which spans the divided city of Rafah on the Gaza-Sinai border.

"Despite the many attacks, some of the tunnels were not damaged and were used both during and after the fighting," the report said. "In our assessment, there were several hundred tunnels in existence before Operation Cast Lead, many of which were used to smuggle weapons and military equipment into Gaza."

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FBI Cuts Ties With Pro-Saudi Muslim Lobby

Israel's intelligence community has determined that Egypt, despite numerous operations in 2008, failed to reduce the weapons flow to the Hamas regime in Gaza.

The Middle East Newsline has confirmed that the U.S. law enforcement community has severed relations with a leading Saudi-financed lobbying group.

The FBI has cut ties with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), regarded as the leading U.S. Muslim lobby group, believed to be largely financed by Saudi Arabia.

The Bush administration decided to sever contacts with CAIR headquarters in Washington, D.C., and all 30 of its branches late last year.

"The FBI has had to limit its formal contact with CAIR field offices until certain issues are addressed by CAIR's national headquarters," said FBI spokesman John Miller. "CAIR's leadership is aware of this."

The FBI decision marked a major shift in the policy of the U.S. law enforcement community toward the Saudi-financed Muslim lobby, which organized anti-Israeli demonstrations during the war with Hamas in January.

"This is an unfortunate legacy of the Bush administration's misguided and counterproductive efforts to marginalize mainstream American Muslim organizations," CAIR said.

As late as 2007, FBI representatives attended the fundraising banquet of CAIR's new branch in Oklahoma. By October 2008, the FBI decided that it would end cooperation with CAIR chapters.

"As you know members of the United States government, especially those serving in a law enforcement capacity, have a duty to be judicious in our activities as representatives of the federal government," the FBI said in a letter by special agent James Finch. "As a result, if CAIR wishes to pursue an outreach relationship with the FBI, certain issues must be addressed to the satisfaction of the FBI."

CAIR failed to provide details of its ties to the Hamas movement or regime in the Gaza Strip. The group has been identified as a suspected financier of Hamas.

In January, the Congressional Anti-Terrorism Caucus, reporting the FBI decision, sent a letter to every House member regarding CAIR.

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Terror Threat High For Israelis

Hezbollah's motivation to perpetrate a terror attack at Israeli targets abroad is at a record high.

The Israel Counter-Terrorism Bureau issued a special travel advisory yesterday in which it described the threat as "concrete and very high."

It warned of a retaliatory attack by Hezbollah to mark the anniversary of the death of Imad Mughniyah, a high-ranking operative of the organization, in February of last year.

An attack by Hezbollah against Israeli targets abroad would not be unprecedented, as the terror group most notably bombed the Buenos Aires Jewish Community center in Argentina on July 18, 1994 under Mughniyah's direction.

"The Hezbollah organization is evidently prepared to carry out a severe terror attack along the lines of an assassination or kidnapping an Israeli target, including abroad," the Counter-Terrorism Bureau statement read. "Such an attack threatens every Israeli, particularly high-ranking Israelis."

The bureau reiterated its instructions and the rules of caution for Israelis abroad are more strict: Be very alert to unusual occurrences; to change routines of activity abroad and change hotels or restaurants; not to stay in Arab or Muslim countries; to turn down suggestions by suspect or unknown individuals; to hold meetings in crowded places with several trusted companions; and not to let suspect guests into their hotel rooms.

As part of this initiative, the travel advisory for Israelis in the Sinai was again intensified.

"A concrete, immediate and severe threat to kidnap Israelis from the beaches of Sinai and smuggle them to the Gaza Strip has been discovered. Hezbollah's involvement in this act of terrorism increases its severity," a spokesman said. "Therefore, we call upon Israelis to leave Sinai 

Meanwhile, Director of Israel Military Intelligence Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin commented on the anniversary of the assassination of Mughniyah during the cabinet meeting.

"Hezbollah is obligated to carry out a terror attack in the wake of Mughniyah's death, but will try to 
perpetrate an attack that will not lead to renewed fighting with Israel," he said.

The list of countries that the Counter-Terrorism Bureau warns against visiting includes Egypt — particularly the Sinai — Jordan, Kenya, Morocco, Mauritania, India and the Chechen Republic in Russia. Officials of the Israel Counter-Terrorism Bureau said that it was better that Israelis refrain completely from traveling to those locations, but since quite a few 
tourists and businesspeople are not canceling their trips, they must obey the cautionary rules all the more carefully.

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Israeli Security Cabinet: Free POW Before Any Security Arrangements:
Why Must Israel Pay Ransom for his Release?

By David Bedein, Middle East Correspondent,Phila.Bulletin Published: Friday, February 20, 2009


Jerusalem — On Wednesday, the outgoing Israel government's Security Cabinet approved Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's proposal to link the Israeli POW Cpl. Gilad Shalit's release to any future security arrangement with the Hamas.

Now, say government sources in Jerusalem, the ball is in Hamas' court. "If they want to rebuild Gaza using the crossings to get goods, then let them release Shalit," they said.

The Shalit family sounded encouraged Wednesday by the unanimous decision. "We are pleased but the road to his release is still long," his father, Noam Shalit, said.

However, no Israeli government cabinet member objected to the idea that Israel would pay a heavy ransom in order to free its POW.

That ransom would involve Israel freeing hundreds of Arab terrorists who were convicted of murdering 1,178 men, women and children in Israel since September 2000, in hundreds of lethal attacks that included bus bombings, drive-by shootings, restaurant explosions, hit-and-run attacks and worse.

The list of victims can be viewed at:

The Bulletin asked the Israeli government why Israel must pay ransom to Hamas with the following eight questions:

1.If Israel pays ransom to a regime which has kidnapped a citizen of the free world, would that not create a precedent that would reverberate across the globe?

2. Would freeing convicted terrorists not create an incentive for Hamas to kidnap anyone else then demand even greater ransom in the future for their freedom?

3. Why is the government of Israel feeding the world with a monolithic message, as if the only way to free the one kidnapped Israeli citizen in Gaza, Cpl. Shalit, would be to trade hundreds of lethal murderers for his freedom?

4. Why does the government of Israel not announce a total economic shutdown of Gaza until the Gaza regime hands over a kidnapped citizen of Israel?

5. Is this because economic sanctions would cause leading Israeli firms to lose profits that they now gain from exports to the Palestinian Authority?

(According to a study released in mid-January by Globes, Israel's daily business paper, Israeli firms currently export $2.7 billion of products to the Palestinian Authority.)

6. Is the Israeli government pressured to conduct "business as usual" with the Hamas regime in Gaza by "Dor Alon," Israel's leading gasoline conglomerate, which owns a contract as the prime supplier of gasoline to Gaza?

7. Since the new owners of "Dor Alon" now include former Israel Finance Minister, Mr. Beiga Shochat and the former president of the World Jewish Congress, Mathew Bronfman, are either Mr. Shochat or Mr. Bronfman pressuring the government of Israel to conduct business as usual with the Hamas regime in Gaza instead of clamping down economic sanctions on the Hamas regime?

8. In sum, why does Israel not impose a total economic freeze of Gaza instead of a surrender to Gaza, to forestall the prospect of a nation flooded with highly motivated convicted murderers on the streets of Israel?

Israeli government spokespeople would not answer any of these queries.

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Palestinian Authority to Pay All Salaries in Gaza, Including Hamas:
Meanwhile, Fatah and Hamas Join Forces
Maan, The Palestinian News Agency

{This was issued soon after Israel released funds to Fayyad on condition he does not transfer the money to hamas - DB]

Ramallah - Ma'an – The Palestinian caretaker government has resumed payment of members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), including Hamas members such as deposed Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and former Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahhar. The caretaker government, headed by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is also meeting today in Ramallah to discuss the plight of more than 6,000 Palestinians stranded in Egypt at the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip.

Official sources in the PLC said that all members have received a portion of their salaries, which were not disbursed at all in the last period.

The Palestinian daily Al Hayat quoted caretaker Information Minister Riyad Najib Al-Maliki saying, "The Government transferred part of the employees' salaries in addition to the PLC members' without any exclusions." He also said : "No one can seize the salary of any PLC member because of his political views. The salary payment is part of the job of the Palestinian Authority."

PLC deputy speaker Hassan Khraishah said that he found NIS 12,000 in his bank account, part of his previously unpaid salary. He continued, "After a revision of the account and clarifying things with other members I found that the salaries of all the PLC members were paid including the salary of Prime Minister Haniyeh."

The Ramallah-based caretaker government was sworn in by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Jully forth after the term of an emergency government expired. The emergency government had been declared following internecine fighting in the Gaza Strip.

[What follows remains ample evidence that Fatah is seeking an alliance with Hamas, while the prevailing assumption of Israeli foreign policy is that Fatah remains in opposition to Hamas - DB]

Fatah, Hamas optimistic as Egypt reschedules unity conference;Summit to open 25 February in Cairo

Date: 21 / 02 / 2009 Time: 16:05

Bethlehem - Ma'an - Egypt has rescheduled a conference aimed at restoring Palestinian unity to 25 February.

Officials from Hamas, Fatah, and other factions said they welcomed the resumption of the dialogue.

The head of the Fatah bloc in the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), Azzam Al-Ahmad said, Egypt has informed [Palestinian] president [Mahmuod] Abbas and the factions that it will launch a dialogue on February 25 with all Palestinian groups."

The meeting had originally been planned for 22 February, but was postponed.

Egypt at fist said it wanted to broker a ceasefire in Gaza before pressing forward on the internal Palestinian track.

Fatah spokesperson Fahmi Az-Za'arir said, "The movement welcomed this development and will attend the meetings of the dialogue out of the belief that the huge challenges faced by the Palestinians need unity and the empowerment of the internal front, recalling that Fatah had called for not connecting between truce and dialogue so that Israel will not control the Palestinian dialogue indirectly."

"Fatah's participation aiming at bringing success to dialogue restoring unity of our political system and the good status of the Palestinian cause," he added.

Hamas: PA prisoners an issue

Hamas also said it received an official invitation from Egypt for the meeting, saying it is keen on the success of the dialogue.

Hamas leader Ayaman Taha said, "We are interested in bringing success to the dialogue. . The meetings that were held with Fatah leaders had paved the way, creating a positive atmosphere for its success.

Taha however said that a "good atmosphere" would require the Palestinian Authority to release Hamas-affiliated political prisoners, and resume payments to civil servants in Gaza.

"If these prisoners were not released it will be difficult for the dialogue to succeed," he warned.

Concerning the visit of senior Hamas leader Mahmoud Az-Zahhar to Cairo, Taha said that "he held a meeting with chief of Egyptian Intelligence, Umar Suleiman, and his assistants," adding that "there was nothing new concerning the issues of truce or other issues.

"Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was working on releasing Shalit or transferring all of the files to the coming government," Taha added.

He also urged the Arab countries to withdraw their ambassadors from Israel praising Egypt's withdrawing of its trade delegation from Israel."

Five dimensions

The opening session of the summit will be attended by the leaders of each of the factions. During the meetings, five committees will be named to resolve various aspects of the intra-Palestinian conflict.

The five committees will be devoted to reform of the PLO, formation of a unity government, security, elections, and reconcilliation respectively.

Walid Al-Awad, a member of the politburo of the Palestinian People's Party (PPP) also noted Egypt's signal of the resumption of the talks. He said that the five specific committees would begin work on 28 February.

The Palestinian ambassador to Egypt, Nabil Amr, told Ma'an on Friday evening that dialogue would be resumed soon. Amr also attributed delay in the Cairo conference to the failure of ceasefire efforts.

On 12 February, rivals Hamas and Fatah held a rare face-to-face meeting in Cairo in an attempt to "clear the air" before the upcoming summit. Both parties spoke positively about the meeting.

A previous Egyptian attempt to reunite the rivals collapsed last November. Hamas, the group in power in the Gaza Strip, withdrew from the talks in protest of arrests of its members by Fatah-allied security forces in the West Bank.

Hamas beat Fatah in parliamentary elections in 2006. Hamas was then ejected from a unity government after it seized control of Gaza in June 2007.

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The Growth of Efrat - In Perspective
Lenny Ben David

Thursday, February 19, 2009 News Item: "West Bank Settlement Gets Green Light for Major Expansion" -- Ha'aretz, February 16, 2009

Efrat – That headline above now echoes around the world. Criticism from Al Jazeera was to be expected. Now come the attacks from Israel's most rabid Jewish critics in the U.S., the same ones who opposed Israel's operation in Gaza last month.

I live in Efrat, the community in question. I have no regrets about living in that "settlement" in the West Bank, even as the international fire and brimstone is unleashed after the barren 420 acres were declared public land eligible for Jewish housing.

The legal and bureaucratic decision has been working its way through the courts for years. That the decision came under the administration of Kadima's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Labor's Defense Minister Ehud Barak is sweet irony. Israel's critics would have preferred the decision to have come down during a Netanyahu administration to give greater legitimacy to their dream of an Obama confrontation with Israel. In fact, there has been no criticism of the decision from Israel's Left.

Without letting the facts interfere with his attacks, one of Israel's nastiest critics in Washington, an official at the Israel Policy Forum, wrote, "Less than a month into the Obama administration, the settlers are sticking it to the new President by expanding Efrat. It's a test for Obama and for Special Envoy George Mitchell."

The History of Gush Etzion and Efrat

Efrat is situated in the Etzion Bloc on the road from Jerusalem to Hebron. The town is named for the Matriarch Rachel's final resting place (Genesis 35:19), and her tomb is located a few miles to the north. When my wife and I considered moving here in the mid-1990s, I asked the opinions of two friends prominent in the dovish wing of the Labor Party, Yossi Beilin and Avrum Burg. They responded that they believed that Gush Etzion would remain within Israeli boundaries even after a territorial compromise. Burg quipped, "Anywhere Yitzchak Rabin fought in the 1948 war will stay in Israel."

Parts of the Etzion Bloc were purchased by Jews 20 years before the State of Israel was declared in 1948. Kibbutzim were established, and when Arab militias and the Jordanian Legion mounted their military campaigns against Palestinian Jewish communities throughout the region in 1947 and 1948, the Haganah dispatched soldiers to hold the Etzion Bloc, a key position on the southern approaches to Jerusalem. Five months of siege and attacks against the Jews of the Gush Etzion ended with the massacre of 250 Jewish defenders on May 13, 1948. The Jewish communities were erased. The next day, the State of Israel was declared. Said Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, " . . . If there is a Jewish Jerusalem today . . . , the Jewish people owe their gratitude first and foremost to the defenders of Gush Etzion . . . "

After Israel captured the West Bank in June 1967, the children of Gush Etzion's defenders returned. As a young rabbinical student, I spent a blustery Shabbat in the winter of 1968 in the remains of a Jordanian army Quonset hut being used as a yeshiva study hall and dormitory in Kfar Etzion. There were no other buildings standing from the Jewish communities. One oak tree remained – the "oak of return" or alon shvut. I once showed the oak to a group of Texas politicians. Upon hearing the story of the massacre and the return, one declared, "Why, this is your Alamo!" Today the modern Yeshiva complex in the community of Alon Shvut trains more than 450 students; more than 550 overseas alumni, mostly from the United States and who spent one or two years in the institution, have moved back to Israel.

Eventually 20 Jewish communities were re-established in the area.

Adjacent to Alon Shvut one passes several Arab houses and fields, still inhabited and cultivated by Palestinian Arabs who have legal title to the lands. It is likely that their parents and grandparents were involved in the massacre and ransacking of the original communities, but there they live and work.

A short distance away is the community of Elazar with some 400 families. It was founded in 1975, but it is named for Elazar, the brother of Judah the Macabee, who died in the nearby battlefield of Beth Zachariah 2,000 years ago. Part of the Channuka lore recalls Elazar's brave and fatal attack against the Greek's "tank" of the day, combat-trained elephants on which the Greek generals rode.

Route 60, the road connecting the Etzion Bloc to Jerusalem to the north and Hebron to the south, gives lie to the claim that Israeli roadblocks choke Palestinian travel and commerce. Every day we share the 40-mile-long artery with thousands of Palestinian taxis, trucks, buses and private cars shuttling between Bethlehem and Hebron and competing with Israeli drivers for the dubious honor of the most reckless. If only there were a checkpoint at the entrance to Bethlehem 10 years ago when a Palestinian terrorist launched a stolen five-ton truck into traffic and collided with my son's Ford Fiesta with his four passengers. Miraculously they all survived, as did the terrorist who jumped out of the truck and fled back into Bethlehem. During the last intifada, Route 60 became a terrorist shooting gallery where Palestinian gunmen fired on Israeli cars and buses, and several Efrat friends died in those attacks. A checkpoint at the end of route 60 at the entrance to Jerusalem was often the point at which suicide bombers were stopped before they could get on board crowded Jerusalem buses.

Arafat's Thugs Poisoned Relations

Efrat's relations with the neighboring Arab communities were friendly and cooperative until the late 1990s when Yasser Arafat's security apparatchiks that he brought from Tunis and Iraq started throwing their weight around. Until that point, skilled subcontractors Mahmoud, Mohammed and Khalil were frequent visitors to Efrat, and the latter provided my family with firewood, raisins and olive oil. At his request, I'd bring him leather jackets, cameras and perfume from overseas – but only on condition that he'd order for his wife, as well. One day when cement was being poured at our house, my wife noticed that one Arab worker brought his six-year-old son. Concerned that he was going to be put to work, my wife asked his father why he brought him. "To show him good Jews" was the response, and, of course, the boy was stuffed with even more cookies.

Efrat set up a nursery school in the neighboring Arab village, and Efrat's doctors treated local Arab sick. At the initiative of Efrat's Rabbi Shlomo Riskin (pictured), a local Arab student was sent to medical school and a clinic was set up in one of the villages. Arafat, however, put an end to the cooperation. The clinic was burned, and $100,000 in medical equipment collected by Rabbi Riskin was rejected.

During the intifada two Palestinian suicide bombers were killed before they could blow themselves up in a local supermarket and medical center. Security fences were constructed; access to neighboring Palestinians was restricted. Nevertheless, Palestinian farmers still work their vineyards and groves located within Efrat. They have title to their lands, such as the very large plot across the road from my house. They could make millions of dollars for the prime real estate, but they will never sell: The Arab concept of "sumed – steadfastness" plays a role, as well as the death sentence awaiting any Palestinian who sells land to Jews.

In the late 1970s, Rabbi Riskin discussed his dream of establishing a community in Gush Etzion with Yitzhak Rabin. The original plan for Efrat was to build it closer to Jerusalem to help provide a buffer and security for the capital city a few miles to the north. But, as Riskin explained, the state lands on the hills to the south also needed to be populated; the more obvious section in the building plan, that area first approved by Rabin, could wait. That wait turned into almost 30 years, and finally, in recent weeks, approval was granted to begin planning. The approval was also conditional on clearing all legal objections raised by local Arab property holders. According to Israel's Ha'aretz this week, eight appeals by Palestinians were rejected. A ninth appeal was accepted, and "the land covered by this appeal was consequently removed from Efrat's jurisdiction."

The charge that settlements such as Efrat are illegal under international law is viewed here as part of the war against all of Israel's legitimacy. Why should a Jewish community, built on Jewish land in the real "Bible Belt," be less legal than Jewish communities built in pre-1967 Israel? Indeed, in the eyes of many Arabs and Palestinians there is no difference, and both are "cancerous cells of infidels." The call for a "freeze" of settlement growth as demanded by some in the international community simply makes no sense to residents in communities like Efrat. I have married children in Gush Etzion with burgeoning families who need kindergartens, playgrounds and health clinics. The freezing of communities is, to paraphrase the 1960s slogan, "unhealthy for children and other living things." Sorry, I cannot tell my pregnant daughters, "Freeze what you are doing!"

Gush Etzion is one of the "major population centers" in the West Bank cited by then-President George Bush in a letter to Ariel Sharon in 2004 that would remain under Israeli control after a peace agreement: "In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final-status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949 [i.e., the '67 borders]."

The previous Olmert, Sharon and Barak-led governments tried to slow settlement growth, but with little success. Not because of their lack of will, but because natural, organic growth is an irresistible and irrepressible force.

The growth of Gush Etzion in the 1980s and 1990s served all of the region's people – Muslim and Jew. Jobs, healthcare and community cooperation projects took place – under the strict scrutiny of Israel's supreme court. With the pending change of government in Israel, the growth will undoubtedly continue.

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