|Israel Resource Review
||7th July, 2006
Freeing Killers: A Price Too High to Pay to Free a Captured Soldier
This is not a popular piece to write.
Noam Shalit, father of Gilad, the abducted soldier, has been quoted today in HaAretz and the Voice of Israel radio on Thursday, July 6th, that he urges Israel to hand over 130 Arabs convicted of first degree premeditated murder, in exchange for the freedom of his son.
Noam Shalit is compelled to accept the idea that freeing convicted killers is the only way that he will see his son alive once again.
This is certainly not the time to judge Noam Shalit, and to invoke the adages in The Talmudic Tractate, ETHICS OF THE FATHERS: "Do not judge someone until you have come unto his place" and "Never judge someone at a time of his sorrow".
Yet with genuine empathy for what Noam Shalit must be going through, one thing must be said: Freeing his son is not worth such a price.
I write that difficult sentence as a journalist who has had the opportunity to arrang for interviews with ten of these unrepentant killers who now sit in prison for life. When each of these convicts were asked what they would do if they were free men, each of them shrugged their shoulders and declared that they would go back to killing Jews.
To observe the matter-of-factness with which these killers describe their heinous acts, you learn one thing: If any of these killers are released, they will continue to murder.
Indeed, Attorney Zev Dasberg, head of the Israel Institute for the Research on Terror Victims, prepared a booklet for distribution to Israel's legal and political system in which he documents that more than fifty people have been murdered in cold blood by killers who were freed by Israel in previous gestures when convicted killers were freed over the past five years.
My perspective is also as a father who currently has a son in an Israeli army combat unit, not far from Gaza. My son, Elchanon, asked me one thing before he was drafted into the IDF: Please do not trade any murderers in exchange for me in case I am captured.
With as much pain as it would take, I would honor Elchanon's request.
At the same time, we must all remember the cruel realities of war: In a war, soldiers are killed, wounded and captured. That is what war is all about.
Captured soldiers are exchanged at the end of a conflict, or during a lull in fighting. That is not the situation today.
It is one thing to redeem a captive, as we are commanded to do by Jewish Law.
It is quite another thing to free a soldier and know that his freedom will result in the murder of many more people.
That is not a cycle of violence.
That is a cycle of murder.
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Text: Ari Shavit interviews former COS Ya'alon - slams the disengagement
Ari Shavit Haaretz magazine section 7 July 2006
. . . General (res.) Moshe Ya'alon, the chief of staff until shortly before the disengagement, spoke passionately by telephone from his current place of residence in Washington. . . .
Lieutenant General (res.) Moshe Ya'alon:
"There is no doubt that the disengagement failed. The failure was to be
expected. It stems from the fact that underlying the disengagement was a
baseless idea. It did not derive from a thorough strategic analysis but from political distress and from the personal distress of prime minister Ariel Sharon. Accordingly, what we actually had was an internal Israeli game that ignored events outside Israel. What we had was disengagement from reality and disengagement from the truth. The entire process created a false hope that was not based on strategy and was not based on facts.
"In large measure, the disengagement was a media spin. Those who initiated
it and led it had no background in strategy, in security, in statesmanship
or in history. They were image advisers. They were 'spinologists.' And what those people did was to place Israel into a virtual bubble divorced from reality by means of a huge media spin, which is now unraveling before our eyes.
"The conceptual flaw that underlies the disengagement is the following: the fact that there is no one to talk to on the other side does not mean that we can ignore the other side or the consequences our actions have on it. The fact that not even Fatah is ready to recognize the State of Israel as a Jewish state and is committed to the 'phased doctrine' does not mean that we can ignore the fact that fleeing under fire is construed as surrender and that it encourages terrorism.
"It is true that because there is no partner, the political process has to
be stopped at an early stage with the explicit assertion that there is no
partner. It is also true that in this situation there is no choice but to
take unilateral measures. But unilateral measures are not only withdrawal.
Unilateral measures are also a diplomatic offensive, and perhaps also a
military offensive, and an ideological offensive.
"The deep problem is that in its struggle against the Palestinians, Israel
is waging a battle of withdrawal and delay. It has withdrawn stage by stage toward a two-state solution, which can?t work because it lacks a Palestinian partner. The basic paradigm of the two-state solution is an irrelevant one. In the present situation, it cannot be implemented. Therefore, what Israel
has to do is to undermine this paradigm, not entrench it.
"The unilateral move of disengagement did exactly the opposite. It
strengthened the Palestinian narrative and weakened the Israeli narrative.
It entrenched the expectation of additional withdrawals in the West Bank
without an agreement and without a quid pro quo. It deprived Israel of
assets without giving it assets.
"Above all, though, the disengagement created four dangerous precedents. The first is the precedent of withdrawal to the Green Line. This will make
things very difficult for us in Judea and Samaria when we come to demand
territories that are vital for our security. The second precedent is the
evacuation of settlements without anything in return. The result of that
precedent is that the evacuation of settlements in Judea and Samaria is now perceived as being self-evident and not as a painful move in return for which Israel receives what it needs for its existence and security. The third precedent is forgoing demilitarization and forgoing supervision of the borders. That precedent did away with a vital Israeli demand, which was part of the Oslo Accords and of every peace agreement that was talked about in the past.
"However, the fourth precedent is the gravest of all: Israel undertook all
the concessions entailed in the disengagement without obtaining
international recognition that the occupation of Gaza has ended. Despite all we did, we are still perceived as being responsible for the fate of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
"When the present confrontation began, in 2000, I argued that if we did not wake up in terms of understanding it, and if we continued with the
withdrawal and delay, an existential threat to Israel?s future would be
created. That was why I said we had to sear the Palestinian consciousness.
That was why I said that the war of terrorism must end with terrorism
defeated, with the Palestinians understanding that terrorism does not
"In the summer of 2003, we had made great progress toward achieving that
goal. Militarily, we suppressed terrorism and induced the terrorist
organizations to accept an unconditional cease-fire. Politically, we
persuaded more and more international bodies and individuals that [former PA chairman] Arafat was the problem and not a solution. But then came the
disengagement and everything went haywire. It caused the loss of all the
assets we accumulated in the years of the war.
"The disengagement was a cardinal strategic error. It led to the victory of Hamas. It provided a tailwind for terrorism. It nourished the Palestinian struggle for years to come. It gave the Iranians and the Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Qaida the feeling that Israel can be defeated. That Israel really is a spider-web society, as Nasrallah claims, or a rotten tree, as Ahmadinejad claims. Thus the disengagement did severe damage not only to Israel, it also damaged the U.S. regional strategy of the war against terrorism. It gave extreme Islam the feeling that just as it defeated the Soviets in Afghanistan, it defeated us in Gaza and will defeat us in the West Bank and will defeat us also in Tel Aviv. In this way, as it already once undermined a world power, it will now undermine the West by defeating Israel.
"Now we are in the southern Lebanon scenario in the Gaza Strip. A great deal of weaponry has entered Gaza. Standard-issue explosives have entered.
Katyushas have entered. There are antiaircraft missiles. Antitank missiles.
Grad missiles. As a result of the disengagement and the way it was executed, there are in Gaza Hezbollah agents, Al-Qaida agents and Iranian terrorist agents. There is Iranian know-how and there is Iranian money. Just as I warned, the Gaza Strip is turning into Hamastan, Hezbollahstan and Al-Qaidastan.
"The situation will only get worse with time. The failure of the
disengagement will be more and more concrete. We will find ourselves facing a kingdom of terror that is capable of launching into Israel more rockets of greater range and greater effectiveness. The rocket threat will reach Ashkelon and Ashdod and deep into the Negev. It will not be possible to deal with that threat solely by means of aerial attacks. Therefore, if we want to go on living, we may have no other choice than to launch an Operation
Defensive Shield in Gaza.
"The advocates of the disengagement claimed it would bring us international support. But the international credit we received was limited and temporary, and it has already run out. The advocates of the disengagement claimed it would improve our security situation. It is true that from the narrow military aspect the present deployment is more convenient for the IDF, but our overall security situation has worsened in the wake of the disengagement. There is no saving in manpower or in money, as was promised.
There is no calm and no stability. There is a serious blow to the civilian
infrastructure of Sderot and Ashkelon. There is a process of population
deserting those areas.
"The fact that we did not stick to our promise that if Qassam rockets were
fired after the disengagement we would react with all our force, eroded our deterrence, adversely affected our status in the region and also encouraged Iran. The present operation, too, is not the result of the firing of Qassams. In practice we accepted the firing of the Qassams as though it were rain. We inserted permission to fire Qassams at Sderot into the rules of the game. That restraint was a serious mistake. If firing is permissible from Gaza at Sderot, firing is also permissible from Lebanon into Galilee. There is a serious problem here of loss of deterrence for which we will pay dearly.
"One of the reasons the majority of the Israeli public supported the
disengagement was that it was blinded and dazzled and drugged, and also
because the public has a true desire to be freed from the burden of the
conflict and to divide the land. But we have to understand that even when we try to get the Palestinians off our back they do not get off our back, they stab us.
"We must not deceive ourselves. We live in the Middle East. We cannot
entrench ourselves behind fences and walls. That is why there is really no
unilaterality. Even when there is no dialogue with our neighbors, there is
interaction with them. Every step of ours has implications for them. And
whoever projects weakness in the Middle East is like a weak animal in the
wild: it is attacked. It is not left alone, it is attacked. Therefore, if we now try to continue the failed disengagement with the convergence, the
result will be grave. We will give terrorism a terrible tailwind. We will
provide a tailwind for radical Islam across the region. We will create a
strategic threat to Jerusalem and to Ben-Gurion Airport and to the
population centers of the coastal plain. The Qassams and the Katyushas will no longer be Sderot's problem. They will reach the front door in Tel Aviv."
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The Man Who Says He Will Make Millions From the Disengagement
Sir Ronald Cohen: Financier who is hoping for a peace dividend
Jane Martinson, Correspondent, The Guardian, July 7, 2006
on how "Portland Trust" hired Eival Giladi, the Israeli Prime Minister's aide who planned and oversaw the expulsion of the Jews from Katif and provided Giladi with handsome remuneration in the process. It may not be a coincidence that Sir Ronald Cohen has now purchased Israel's largest public telephone company, Bezek, and has appointed Dov Weisglass, Ariel Sharon's expulsion architect, to be the new CEO of Bezek. Israel Resource has recently been informed that Weisglass has been hired once again by the office of the prime minister of Israel - db ]
Sir Ronald Cohen: Financier who is hoping for a peace dividend
After a quarter of a century at private equity firm Apax, he now wants to help solve the Israeli-Palestinian crisis
Almost a year after surprising everybody by retiring from the firm he founded and which made his name, Sir Ronald Cohen is finally moving out of his office at Apax Partners. "It's just not big enough," he says of the huge corner room filled with pictures of the great and the good, and a desk the size of a small bus.
The panelled office may be large enough for a sizeable modern art collection but it is far too small to contain the ambitions of one of the pioneers of the British venture capital industry. "It's been a hugely intensive year," he says in a rare interview. "I left [Apax] in order to devote my efforts to social investment, among other things."
The "other things" include an effort to help the Middle East crisis by funding Palestinian businesses, an attempt to "work out where the investment management business is going", and a book aimed at helping entrepreneurs avoid common pitfalls. Worth some £250m, he is a major Labour donor. And next week he is set to announce the results of an official review into the £5bn left unclaimed in British bank accounts.
The scope of his activities and flashes of hubris make it easy to be cynical about Cohen in a very English sort of way. Someone who knows him quite well said: "I got a letter from Ronnie when he left Apax announcing that he was going to address the financial problems of the Middle East. A noble and somewhat wide-ranging task."
Yet it is hard not to be impressed by the "lofty ideals" of a man who came to Britain as an 11-year-old with almost no English and a sense that he wanted to restore his family fortunes and improve the world. After grammar school, he won a place at Oxford, where he was elected president of the Union. He thought of going into politics, only changing his mind at Harvard Business School. "I discovered venture capitalism and saw the progress of some of my colleagues [such as William Waldegrave and Douglas Hogg] in the Thatcher government. I decided politics might not be as exciting as the VC industry."
He has travelled a lot in the past year and works 12-hour days. "I left Apax with a sense of excitement," he says in an accent that shows traces of his birth in Egypt 60 years ago. "It was a little like the locomotive being unhitched from the wagons. Instead of being concerned about the minutiae of managing a very large group, I've been able to travel the world, think deeply about things and push a number of different initiatives, here and in the Middle East."
But, he admits, "I've failed to spend a lot more time with my family." Cohen married his third wife, the film producer Sharon Harel-Cohen, 20 years ago and the couple have two teenage children.
Described as ruthless as well as "spectacularly smooth" by one pretty smooth private financier, talking to Cohen is a bit like having a dinner party conversation with a professor, full of thoughtful insights about the world, if not personally very revealing.
His successors at the powerful private equity firms should take heed, however. Among his concerns are the historically high levels of debt being taken on by the industry because of a combination of low interest rates, a benign economy and the large sums of cash invested in buyout funds. "People are overpaying [for businesses] because they are including a lot of leverage," he says.
Is an industry involved in the UK's biggest takeovers acting irresponsibly? "I don't think responsibility is the word I'd use . . . I'm sounding a note of caution rather than ringing an alarmist bell."
An "advocate" for venture capital - he calls it entrepreneurship's "double helix" - he suggests the industry is adapting to its increasingly mainstream role. "The industry can no longer say, 'I want to ply my trade in private'."
Under his aegis, Apax invested in start-ups including PPL Therapeutical, which cloned Dolly the sheep, and the computing group Autonomy, as well as the Virgin Radio and Waterstone's book chain buyouts.
Few have done so much to establish private equity as Cohen, who throws fabulous parties at his homes in Notting Hill, Manhattan and Cannes. Jon Moulton, another founder, says: "People either like him or hate him. But at the very least you have to say that he was the most effective chairman of the British Venture Capital Association."
When Cohen and three friends set up Apax in 1971, he was just 26 and private financiers were regarded as risk-taking corporate raiders. While vestiges of this reputation remain, private equity - used to buy struggling firms as well as provide seed-financing for new ones - now attracts hundreds of millions in pension fund and other institutional money. As Cohen says: "It has moved from the periphery to the mainstream."
Cohen now wants to do the same for social investment, funding businesses in some of the poorest parts of Britain. After heading a government task force, he co-founded Bridges Community Ventures in 2002, which raised its second investment fund of £33m two weeks ago.
Similar schemes have disappointed those hoping that hundreds of millions would be pumped into the sector, helped by tax incentives. Yet Cohen, who has put £2m into Bridges, calls it "an innovator in the area of social return". The fund aims to make an average return of 10%-15% - about half that of its private-equity peers.
"A whole sea change is beginning to start where the values that existed in business are being transported to social activity," he says. "You can't expect substantial capital to go into an area unless the returns can be measured."
He has used the same philosophy to attract investment to the West Bank and Gaza. The Portland Trust, which he calls an "action tank", has raised eyebrows for many reasons - not least that such a prominent Jewish businessman is behind it. "My interest in the Middle East stems from the fact that I was born in Egypt, am Jewish and am married to an Israeli. I can understand both sides of this conflict. I believe the economic dimension is crucial to keep the peace, just as it was in Northern Ireland."
The trust has allowed European and US agencies to continue to invest in the area despite the election of Hamas. He has reportedly started to take over the role of government emissary from Lord Levy by meeting Israeli leaders, including the prime minister, Ehud Olmert.
He is circumspect on the subject of the Middle East, citing political tensions, and even more reticent about his "investment management", which he is said to be involved in with some very rich families but refuses to discuss.
His friendships have been crucial to winning backing. Friends said to have attended parties at his London mansion, with its reportedly "colossal" underground swimming pool, include the Rothschilds, Sir David Frost, Lord Browne of BP and the Rausing tycoons.
David Freud, a former banker who is now chief executive of the trust, says: "He is clearly one of the great networkers of our time. And I've met a few."
Colleagues say Cohen treated Apax like a family. "It was an extension of him," said one. Hugely supportive, he demands loyalty in return. He told one turncoat: "If you catch a provincial train, you'll end up in a provincial town."
Why did he leave Apax? It needed a "clear handover of leadership to a new generation," he says. "I also had the feeling that I was not destined just to be a private-equity investor. I thought there were other things I could do."
Cohen believes the current wave of philanthropy is the product of an entrepreneurial age. "We are finding a generation of entrepreneurs who started from nothing - Bill Gates is the latest example - saying that they want to give something back. It's what's motivated me. There are huge opportunities to be successful now and if you come from humble beginnings you tend to want to do the same for others."
A Liberal in his youth - he stood in two elections in the 1970s - he changed allegiance in 1996. "I believe in the realignment of the left, getting the Labour and Liberal parties to face the same way," he says. "Then I met Tony Blair and I thought, 'this bloke is trying to do exactly what I believe in.' Labour has managed to establish itself as a centrist party, devoid of ideology but with a philosophy that encompasses taking care of people who do less well."
Now more aligned with Gordon Brown, whose aides sing Cohen's praises, he says David Cameron has a "great challenge ahead of him".
One of the many donors to have given more than £1m to Labour since 1997 who have received a title (for services to the venture capital industry), I ask whether a recent trip to parliament was at all linked to the cash-for-honours inquiry.
It wasn't. He was chatting to Jack Straw. "I think my credentials are well enough established to be beyond doubt," he says. And I have to confess that he is probably right.
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