Israel Resource Review 28th January, 2005


The Sharon Plan: Not Disengagement - PLO Empowerment
David Bedein

The Sharon Plan, often described as the "disengagement" process, has become one of the most hotly debated news items in Israel

What is most newsworthy, given the charged emotions that this debate has created, is the fact that very few people across the political spectrum in Israel, and even in the media and diplomatic corps represented in Israel, have bothered to read the Sharon Plan.

Although the Sharon Plan is posted on the official web site of the Israeli prime minister,, few people have taken the time to read the Sharon Plan. That includes Knesset members on both sides of the aisle in the Knesset. That includes reporters who cover the Knesset. That includes Israeli government ministers.

As a result, the proponents and opponents to the Sharon Plan speak about it as if it is only about Gaza. Indeed, people throughout Israel and throughout the world thinnk that the singular issue of the Sharon polan concerns whether Israelis should continue to live in the Katif district of Gaza.

Hence the term "disengagement".

Therefore, the Sharon Plan is officially called the "Disengagement Plan", because, according to the preamble to clause 1, section 1, "Israel has come to the conclusion that there is currently no reliable Palestinian partner with which it can make progress in a bilateral peace process."

The preamble goes on to say, "In order to break out of this stalemate, Israel is required to initiate moves not dependent on Palestinian cooperation. Accordingly, it has developed a plan of unilateral disengagement."

However, the reality of what the Sharon Plan conveys remains otherwise.

What the Sharon Plan really proposes is a PLO empowerment process, with 14 clauses that seek to strengthen every aspect of the PLO administrative infrastructure, to belie the preamble that the PLO is not a "reliable Palestinian partner" by stating that "the hope is that the Palestinians will take advantage of the opportunity created by the disengagement in order to break out of the cycle of violence and to reengage in a process of dialogue."

Since the majority of the Palestinians in Gaza, who live in the squalor of UN Arab refugee camps, are nurtured by the ideas of the "right of return" to liberate lands where their Arab villages existed in 1948, why would Israel's dismemberment of Katif communities - established on lands where no Arab villages were lost in 1967 - satisfy their political goals?

Yet another premise of the Sharon Plan is that "the process of disengagement will serve to dispel claims regarding Israel's responsibility for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip."

If Israel is to annul its responsibility for the well-being of the Palestinian population, why does the Sharon plan continue to obligate Israel to "provide water pipes, electricity, industrial zones, markets, employment and an industrial zone to sustain the Palestinian Arab economy of Gaza"? The Sharon Plan mandates that "other existing arrangements, such as those relating to water and the electro-magnetic sphere shall remain in force" while "economic arrangements currently in operation between Israel and the Palestinians shall, in the meantime, remain in force."

According to the Sharon Plan, these arrangements will include:

i. The entry of workers into Israel in accordance with the existing criteria.

ii. The entry and exit of goods between the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Israel and abroad.

iii. The monetary regime.

iv. Tax and customs envelope arrangements.

v. Postal and telecommunications arrangements.

So there you have it. While the Sharon Plan is described as a "disengagement plan", it does anything but disengage Israel from the Palestinian Arab population.

Meanwhile, the language of the Sharon Plan intimates that the PLO will abandon its terror campaign. The plan says, "When" - and not "if" - "there is evidence from the Palestinian side of its willingness, capability and implementation in practice of the fight against terrorism and the institution of reform as required by the Road Map, it will be possible to return to the track of negotiation and dialogue." On what basis does Sharon assume that the PLO will "fight against terrorism" or institute any "reform"? There is no answer.

And when it comes to security issues in other areas, the Sharon Plan promises to "evacuate an area in the Northern Samaria Area (the West Bank), including four villages and all military installations, and re-deploy outside the vacated area." The move will enable territorial contiguity for Palestinians in the Northern Samaria Area "while Israel will improve the transportation infrastructure in the West Bank in order to facilitate the contiguity of Palestinian transportation." Does this also mean that abandoned villages and military installations will be handed over to a PLO that is "not a reliable peace partner"?

Once more, since the Sharon Plan defines the PLO as maintaining a state of war with Israel , why does the same Sharon Plan provide the PLO with the strategic assistance of "territorial contiguity"? No answer is given.

Meanwhile, the Sharon Plan mandates that the Gaza Strip "be demilitarized and shall be devoid of weaponry, the presence of which does not accord with the Israeli-Palestinian agreements." However, the Sharon Plan does not even allude to the fact that the PLO violated all previous agreements in this regard and refused to implement the agreement with Israel to have their personnel vetted by Israel.

Did Sharon experience amnesia and forget that the PLO increased, in defiance of the Oslo agreement, the size of the agreed upon security force from 9,000 in 1993 to more than 50,000 by 1995, ignoring protestations of the government of Israel? The Sharon Plan that demilitarizes Gaza provides no process for disarming the PLO armed forces now in Gaza.

And what does the Sharon Plan mandate in terms of Israeli security? The Sharon Plan asserts that "Israel reserves its inherent right of self-defense, both preventive and reactive, including where necessary the use of force, in respect of threats emanating from the Gaza Strip." Incredibly, Israel's right to pursue terrorists into Gaza is not mentioned anywhere. As far as the security situation in the West Bank is concerned, the Sharon Plan states that "upon completion of the evacuation of the Northern Samaria Area, no permanent Israeli military presence will remain in this area," while another section states, "Military installations and infrastructure in the Gaza Strip and Northern Samaria will be dismantled and removed, with the exception of those which Israel decides to leave and transfer to another party . . . . "

Does that mean that the PLO security forces, described in clause 1 of the Sharon Plan as "not a reliable peace partner," will now inherit Israel's abandoned IDF military bases? Why would Israel cede military installations to an entity with whom it is in a state of war?

The Sharon Plan also states, "In other areas of the West Bank, current security activity will continue" and that "as circumstances permit, Israel will consider reducing such activity in Palestinian cities," and that "Israel will work to reduce the number of internal checkpoints throughout the West Bank." So, here we have a situation where Israel moves its forces out of cities and reduces checkpoints and is expected to maintain mobility to respond to the PLO terror war.

Perhaps the most amazing issue of all is that clause five of the Sharon Plan mandates to provide "advice, assistance and training" to "the Palestinian security forces for the implementation of their obligations to combat terrorism and maintain public order, by American, British, Egyptian, Jordanian or other experts, as agreed with Israel." The Sharon Plan ignores Israel's decade-long failed experience with security assistance that Israel facilitated for the PLO. The Sharon Plan ignores how military training facilitated by Israel and Western countries for the PLO was abused to conduct a terror campaign against Israel in every part of the country for the past four years. The US State Department trained Palestinian policemen for "security"; those policemen then used that training to kill Israelis.

The Sharon Plan goes on to say that "Israel will be willing to consider the possibility of the establishment of a seaport and airport in the Gaza Strip, in accordance with arrangements to be agreed with Israel." Did Israel not try that already? And weren't guns and rockets smuggled in?

In terms of Israel's border area between the Gaza Strip and Egypt (called the Philadelphi Route), the Sharon Plan only states, "Initially, Israel will continue to maintain a military presence along the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt," and that "subsequently, the evacuation of this area will be considered. dependent, inter alia, on the security situation and the extent of cooperation with Egypt in establishing a reliable alternative arrangement." Why "initially" and "subsequently"? Does Israel expect that situation on the Egyptian border to change? Will Egypt not continue to allow weapons to be smuggled through tunnels on Egypt's frontier to help the PLO fight Israel?

Finally, The Sharon Plan envisions continued international support for the PLO, "in order to bring the Palestinians to implement in practice their obligations to combat terrorism and effect reforms, thus enabling the parties to return to the path of negotiation." And if the support for the PLO continues and the terror does not cease? What then? The Sharon Plan provides no answer.

So there you have it. The text of the Sharon Plan speaks for itself: strengthening of the PLO, and no disengagement whatsoever. This is not a disengagement plan. This is a plan of hasty retreat that doesn't even include a request of the Palestinian Authority to stop endorsing the murder of Jews from their own Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation shows.

What sanctions are listed if the PLO does not comply? Is this not worse than the Oslo Accords?

Epilogue I

In early October, the new Palestinian Authority school books were translated and presented to the public and to the Israeli government by the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace. Not one office of the Israeli government issued any kind of reaction to the fact that the new curriculum of the Palestinian Authority reads like an indoctrination in the art of how to make war on the state and people of Israel. The Palestinian school system is financed in part from payments received from the Israeli government, because of the tax rebate system that was instituted during the early years of the Oslo process, to refund taxes collected from Palestinians for purchase of Israeli products. Yet, the Sharon government would not file any objection or complaint concerning these school books of the Palestinian Authority, which are also used in the schools in the Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, the Mayor of Jerusalem, Uri Lopliansky, says that he was overruled by the Sharon government when he wanted to file a complaint about these school books and their blatant anti-Semitism.

Epilogue II

And in mid-October, following Israel's killing of a senior Hamas operative, the IDF web site explained that the IDF had not been able to kill him before, since he had been drafted into the "Preventive Security Force" of the Palestinian Authority security services, the same unit that is slated to take over Gaza in the near future. The IDF web site went on to say that the Hamas terrorist had therefore enjoyed "complete immunity" when he served in the mainstream security services of the Palestinian Authority, while he was carrying out his terrorist attacks against Israel. In other words, the IDF affirms Sharon's policy of turning a blind eye to terrorists if they are in the employ of the Palestinian Authority.

Epilogue III

The official media of Palestinian Authority praised the Knesset approval of the Sharon Plan. In the words of Nabil Shaath, "May this be only one step in the liberation of all of Palestine." Meanwhile, Hamas spokesman Moshir Al-Masri declared that "the Knesset vote proves that the Hamas has forced the Zionist enemy to retreat."


To make a long story short, the Sharon Plan, far from being a plan of disengagement from the PLO, evolved into nothing less than a program of empowerment for the PLO. One problem: very few people have even bothered to read the Sharon Plan, leaving the spinmasters in charge, to sell it as a "disengagement from Gaza" program.

President Abe Lincoln once noted that you can "fool some of the people some of the time", but not "all of the people all of the time." This time, Prime Minister Sharon may have succeeded where President Lincoln failed. In a world of sound bytes and instant news, even journalists and diplomats have stopped reading documents, preferring one word jingles instead.

"Disengagement"? Gee, it sounded so good.

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Abu Mazen Watch:
The "Peaceful Jihad" of PA President Mahmad Abbas

Like a veteran baseball pitcher who keeps opponents and fans guessing by mixing fastballs, curves and sliders, Mahmoud Abbas continues to perplex observers who try to read his intentions.

On the night of his election two weeks ago, Abbas spoke of peace while urging the Palestinians forward towards their "biggest Jihad"-a term that commonly means "holy war" in Arabic.

As Abbas completes his second week in both shoes of Yasser Arafat- both as President of the Palestinian Authority and chairman of the PLO-he has already amassed a formidable repertoire of mixed messages, among them:

  • Calling for peace, while calling Israel "the Zionist Enemy";
  • Declaring a need to end "weapons anarchy," while he and his top aides openly advocate attacking Israeli civilians and soldiers in "occupied territory" as acts of legitimate "resistance";
  • And urging an end to the "militarization of the Intifada" while offering jobs to the most militant "militarists" within the Palestinian community-the Islamic terrorists of HAMAS and the "Martyrs Brigade" of his own Fatah organization.

"Our stance is very clear," asserted Ahmad Abdul-Rahman, the Palestinian Cabinet secretary appearing on Palestinian state television this week. "Any resistance has to be in Israeli-occupied lands," said the dark-haired Abdul-Rahman who has been one of the two or three closest advisors both to Abbas and Arafat.

When the Palestinian state television anchorman seemed confused by the words of Abdul-Rahman, who regularly sits at the elbow of Abbas at public meetings, the cabinet secretary explained: "Within the occupied territory, we can use any means necessary to get Israel out."

Mr. Abbas did not make any public comment scolding Mr. Abdul-Rahman for his remarks on Tuesday, and both Palestinian television and several Palestinian newspapers showed Mr. Abdul-Rahman sitting alongside President Abbas the following day at a public meeting in Ramallah.

Yet at the same time that such comments are aired on the Palestinian state media by Abbas's closest aides, the state television has also called for citizens not to walk around with unlicensed weapons.

"We will not treat lightly incidents of citizens taking the law into their own hands," a television anchorman said, reading an official announcement. His comments were read following a clash between rival militias in Gaza.

While such pronouncements about not firing weapons indiscriminately and about not carrying unauthorized weapons can certainly be seen as a step towards law and order, they are certainly not an unambiguous call to stop killing Israelis.

Still, there has been a dramatic drop in the number of rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza into towns and kibbutzim along the pre-1967 frontiers of Israel in the last few days.

On the other hand, there has been a much more partial let-up in the mortar and shooting attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers in the West Bank and Gaza.

Israeli Army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon and other Israeli officials have heaped great public praise on Abbas for trying to rein in Palestinian attacks, even as they privately believe that Abbas has done less than what is needed to stop the violence. But they are keeping their concerns quiet lest they be accused of undermining Abbas, who is often known by the affectionate nickname "Abu-Mazen."

Indeed, many Israeli security experts see Abbas as a man walking a tightrope between various Palestinian factions and Israeli security needs. Israel does not want to be blamed if he falls off the tightrope.

From their point of view, the Palestinian officials around Abbas are not shy about blaming Israel ahead of time for any potential pitfalls.

"We expect Israel to stop violence against Palestinians in all its forms," declared Negotiations Minister Saeb Arikat in an interview Thursday with Voice of Palestine radio in Arabic. Although Arikat could also have issued a call for Palestinians to "stop violence against Israelis in all its forms," neither he nor any other Palestinian official has chosen to do so.

Instead he and Abbas have "condemned" Israel for killing one armed Palestinian terrorist and arresting two others this week who, according to Israel, were in the process of carrying out a terror attack on Israel from a base in the northern part of the West Bank. Neither Abbas nor Arikat challenged the accuracy of the Israeli assertion about the terror attack but rather the legitimacy of Israeli actions inside Palestinian areas.

Indeed, Abbas, Arikat and their colleagues have taken a testy and sometimes overtly hostile line against both Israel and the United States-both of which have transferred money and offered other concessions since Abbas's election. However, Abbas and his colleagues have basically said "give us more and make it fast, or else."

"We are concerned about a mutual ceasefire, and the Israelis have to answer us quickly," declared Abbas, whose remarks were quoted in Friday's (January 28) issue of the Fatah newspaper Al-Ayyam. There was no mention of the fact that Abbas and his security people have suffered delays in deploying their forces in Gaza and have not even begun to deploy in the West Bank where Israel has been making periodic arrests of suspected terrorists.

Even as US President George Bush and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice have praised the Palestinian election as a tremendous achievement, and even as they have invited President Abbas to the United States, the Palestinian state media regularly refer to the "American occupation army" in Iraq.

When an American soldier dies in Iraq, the death is often recorded with a terminology usually reserved for Israeli soldiers and "settlers" who are said to have "met their fate" or "met their ruin" (laqiya masirahu or laqiya masra'ahu in Arabic)­in other words-gotten what they deserved.

A cartoon in today's Al-Ayyam newspaper intimates that America is trying to impose its will on Iraq and the Arab world-a theme that repeats itself regularly in the Palestinian newspapers. "Vote for the Candidate of the Left," and "Vote for the Candidate of the Right" says the cartoon that shows Bush as the candidate of eight different parties.

The cartoons of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon are much worse. He is often depicted as a child-eating butcher or a killer tsunami in the state-controlled Palestinian newspapers.

Dr. Michael Widlanski, former reporter for Cox Newspapers and The New York Times, teaches political communication at the Rothberg School of Hebrew University, Jerusalem. He has recently completed a study of the Palestinian elections for the Center for Near East Policy Research entitled "The Making of the Palestinian President 2005." It can be read at

Dr. Widlamski recently completed a PHD on the subject of the Palestinian Authority media.

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Arafat's Gone - But So What?
Lorrie Goldstein
Senior Associate Editor, The Toronto Sun

Ever since Mahmoud Abbas won the Palestinian presidency, the news out of Israel has been almost consistently positive.

Violence against Israelis in the Occupied Territories and Israel proper is down. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon plans to scale back military operations in the West Bank and Gaza -- including the targeted assassination of terrorist leaders.

Hamas, the biggest and most popular of the Palestinian terrorist groups, is considering a temporary ceasefire with Israel.

There's even hope this climate of goodwill could restart the peace process, leading to the creation of a Palestinian state.

But therein lies the problem and a reason for skepticism amidst all this optimism that borders on wishful thinking.

What we don't know is how Abbas sees a Palestinian state. His predecessor, Yasser Arafat, had two views -- one he often spoke about in English to Israel and the West, the other in Arabic to Palestinians and the broader Arab/Muslim world.

To the West, Arafat paid lip service to an independent Palestinian state living in peace beside Israel. But to Arabs and Muslims he spoke about acquiring a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza as the first step in conquering all of Israel and returning it to the Umma -- lands belonging in perpetuity to the Islamic faith.

As for Hamas, it has in the past temporarily ceased terrorist operations in order to allow peace talks. But it has never changed its goal -- conquering all of Israel and turning it into a hardline Islamic state. Think of Afghanistan under the Taliban -- armed with nuclear weapons.

As Dr. Michael Widlanksi, a political scientist at Hebrew University and an expert on the Palestinian Authority told a Toronto audience recently, "Mahmoud Abbas is better than Yasser Arafat, but that's not saying much."

Widlanksi notes that Abbas has never categorically rejected violence against Israel. When he describes the intifada as a failure, he does so only in terms of its failure to achieve Palestinian ends.

Dr. Arnon Groiss, director of research for the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace, says the best window into the thinking of the Palestinian leadership lies in the text books the Palestinian Authority supplies Palestinian school children.

Groiss, who is fluent in Arabic, has translated 130 Palestinian Authority textbooks distributed from Grades 1 through 11.

One of the myths that arose out of the Oslo peace process, he says, is that the PA has replaced the old anti-Israel, anti-Semitic text books supplied years ago by Egypt and Jordan.

In reality, the new textbooks, while they are an improvement, still don't mention the state of Israel by name (except in one instance in the context of the Oslo Accord) and, save for three examples in one Atlas, do not show Israel on any maps.

They falsely teach that the Jews are foreign occupiers of Palestine (not just the Occupied Territories, but all of Israel) with no historic connection to the land and no right to live there. Jews are portrayed as being of a "dubious and even murderous character" and of attempting to deceive the prophet Muhammad. Jewish holy places in Israel, the Hebrew language and the historic connections of Jews to Jerusalem are all ignored.

Tolerance and Peace

While the textbooks do talk about the importance of tolerance and peace, they exclude the possibility of peace with Israel -- except in one reference in the context of Oslo.

Finally, although the texts do not explicitly advocate terrorism against Israelis, they praise those killed or captured in terrorist operations as martyrs and prisoners of war.

As Paul Michaels of the Canada-Israel Committee notes, what the Palestinians teach their children is key because "you can sign all the treaties in the world, but if you don't prepare the next generation to accept peace, then nothing will ever change."

David Bedein of the Israel Resource News Agency which monitors Palestinian politicians and media, says that over the past 35 years he has sensed a growing desire among ordinary Palestinians for peace with Israel and a truly democratic, corrupt-free government of their own. The problem is that this brings them into direct conflict with the Palestinian Authority.

Whether Abbas wants to change that remains the biggest question mark of all.

This piece ran in the Toronto Sun on January 30th, 2005

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The Briefing on the Hill in Washington by Israel Resource News Agency and the Center for Near East Policy Research
Aaron Israel

A January 12,2005 briefing on Capitol Hill by Israel Resource News Agency, acting under the auspices of the Center for Near East Policy Research, drew 44 staffers of the US House International Relations Committee members to a Committee conference room in the Cannon House Office Building.

The briefing covered political, diplomatic, and security developments inside the Palestinian Authority (PA) since the death of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) head Yasser Arafat.

The main presentation lasted approximately 75 minutes, followed by a 90-minute dialogue, and covered the recent Palestinian Authority election, the (in-progress) PA constitution, Abu Mazen's campaign platform, the role of the official Palestinian media, and the recent activities of international bodies active in Palestinian areas such as UNRWA, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency.

Activities of the PA/PLO's official media outlets in the recent election were summarized by Dr. Michael Widlanski, an Arabic translator and Political Science lecturer at Hebrew University. Based upon comprehensive monitoring of PA/PLO print and broadcast media, Dr. Widlanski's main findings included the following:

The January 2005 PA Chairmanship election was fairer than the last PA Chairmanship election of January 1996. Neither election, however, would be considered fair by Western standards.

One notable difference in PA/PLO media behavior between the two campaigns was PA/PLO media's occasional mentioning, in 2005, of the opponents to front-runner Dr. Mahmoud Abbas (aka Abu Mazen). During the 1996 election campaign, Yasser Arafat's single opponent, Samikha Khalil, was never mentioned by PA/PLO media.

There were several similarities between the two campaigns. In both instances, PA/PLO media lavished extensive positive coverage on the popular candidate (Arafat in 1996, Abbas in 2005). In both campaigns, Yasser Arafat was celebrated. In 1996, PA media praise was bestowed upon Arafat himself. In 2005, PA/PLO media praised Abbas's devotion to both Yasser Arafat's principles, and Arafat the person. Abbas's official platform was also displayed as proof of Abbas's loyalty to Arafat, and his role as carrier of Arafat's legacy.

Abbas was frequently displayed on PA/PLO television demanding the unconditional release of Palestinians held by Israel, as well as an unconditional "right of return" of Palestinian refugees to Israel.

Official PA/PLO media emphasized that Abu Mazen was firmly committed to the principles of Yasser Arafat, and, during the campaign, expanded their lexicon of terms used in praise of Palestinian violence. This was in sharp contrast to Western and Israeli media which widely reported that Abu Mazen was opposed to violence and supported peace with Israel.

In one example, the morning after a December 13, 2004 Palestinian bombing against an Israeli security checkpoint, PA/PLO radio described as "martyrs" the two gunmen who blew up a tunnel under the checkpoint, and fired on medical teams who responded to save victims. The attack itself was praised as an act of "istish-haad"-"heroic martyrdom" in Arabic, and the attackers were described as "youth" who were attacked by Israel.

The next day, PA/PLO radio praised the attack as a "resistance operation" and "sacrificial operation" committed jointly by Hamas and the PLO's Fatah ('Conquest') branch. This was in accordance with general PA/PLO broadcasts which emphasized the unity of Hamas and Fatah.

Beginning on December 27, PA/PLO television ran a program featuring Palestinian cartoonist Omayya Jaha. The programs featured her work, including her depictions of Israelis as blood-suckers, as well as cookers and eaters of Palestinian children. Jaha described her husband's death as a "martyr" fighting Israelis, and the program displayed photos of her husband's bloodied body. The program was rebroadcast in the early afternoon on January 4th.

These broadcasts were part of a broader official message that PA/PLO policies would not change following the death of Arafat, and the resultant passing of PA control to Abu Mazen.

Dr. Arnon Gross, Deputy Director of the Voice of Israel's Arabic service, and the director of research at the Center for Near East Policy Research, presented an analysis of current PA/PLO official textbooks, and their role as fomenters of peace or violence among school-age Palestinians.

Dr. Gross's analysis concluded that the PA continues to view Palestinian children as the natural carriers of the 'Palestinian revolution' into the next generation, and accordingly structures its textbooks and curricula to inculcate children with the primary goals of jihad and the 'liberation' of Palestine, which is defined in PA textbooks as all of present-day Israel. According to Dr. Gross, the textbooks view the inculcation of hostility against non-Muslims, and particularly against Jews, as a critical tactic for achieving that goal.

David Bedein spoke on UNRWA activities in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, and presented a summary of UNRWA's official reactions to reports of UNRWA personnel's cooperation with Palestinian terrorist organizations, and sheltering of Palestinian terrorists and terrorism infrastructure. Bedein presented a status report of efforts to shift the Palestinian refugee 'assignment' away from UNRWA and to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which is responsible for all other refugees in the world. According to the report, a growing number of Western officials believe that UNRWA has been irretrievably penetrated by terrorist organizations, and is acting as a de facto branch of Hamas and the PLO.

Bedein and Dr. Widlanski also described the Palestinian Authority constitution, which, as written, will impose Islamic sharia law on a Palestinian state. The constitution would deny juridical status to all non-Muslim religions.

The original 75-minute briefing by the three experts was subsumed by a subsequent 90-minute question-and-answer dialogue that ended shortly before 2:00 p.m.

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Forum at the Knesset for Foreign Diplomats on the Subject of Developments Inside the Palestinian Authority
Arlene Kushner

On January 4, 2005, Israel Resource News Agency, acting under the auspices of the Center for Near East Policy Research sponsored the "Knesset Forum on the Middle East" in the Israeli Knesset - the very first of its kind at the Knesset. Forty-two diplomats from 18 countries attended; this included personnel from the US Embassy and US Consulate. The venue of the Forum provided it with a dramatic authenticity.

Dr. Michael Widlanski, political science and communications lecturer at the Hebrew University and an expert on Palestinian media, made a presentation on the current state of Palestinian media, which continues to incite. It was clear from their responses that representatives of various countries were greatly eager for solid information in this regard and that the Center for Near East Policy Research had provided an important service.

Dr. Arnon Gross, Deputy Director of the Voice of Israel Arabic Service, spoke about the newest Palestinian Authority textbooks, which have been translated and analyzed under the auspices of the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace. Dr. Groiss's report addressed several significant factors: the texts contain anti-Semitism, Israelis are not recognized as a legitimate "other," the existence of Israel is often denied (particularly in maps), Jewish connection to the land is ignored, and jihad rather than peace is promoted.

This is of particular significance because of the international funding of the Palestinian educational system. It was exceedingly important for those present to receive an accurate picture of precisely what is being funded, and there was a strong sense among the organizers of the Forum that what learned in this regard would be carried back to the respective governments. After Dr. Groiss's presentation, Members of Knesset from Shinui and Likud appealed to the conscience of the diplomats to stop aiding the PA educational system. A dramatic moment followed when the representative from Italy, which has previously funded the textbooks, announced to the representatives of other nations present that Italy has ceased doing so.

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Knesset Ethics Committee to Discuss Peres Investments in the Palestinian Authority:
Conflict of Interest to be Raised.

On February 8th, 2005, the Knesset Ethics Committee will hold a hearing to discuss the issue of Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres's investments in the Palestinian Authority, as previously revealed by David Bedein on this site.

If those investments are indeed confirmed, this would present a situation of an illegal conflict of interests and pose a legal challenge to Peres's appointment.

Shimon Peres was summoned three weeks ago to appear at the hearing. There is no indication as to whether he will attend the hearing.

David Bedein has also been summoned to present the allegations at the hearing. Bedein has confirmed that he will attend the hearing.

The Ethics Committee of the Knesset has decided to proceed with the hearing, with or without the presence of Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres.

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