Israel Resource Review 18th July, 2003


Fighting the Effort to Demand that Israel Free Murderers
Rabbi David Foreman
Chairman, Rabbis for Human Rights.

The international community, concerned with strengthening the position of Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Mazen, is urging Israel to release Palestinians who have murdered Israelis.

There is something terribly out of balance here. Both a lack of parity and of logic seem to have taken hold.

To advance the road map Israel is expected to send back to Gaza and Jenin members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, two groups most of the world has defined as terrorist organizations.

If the reasonableness of this claim upon Israel contradicts all logic, the fact that no one seems to be urging a parallel display of generosity on the part of Hizbullah to supply even a hint of the whereabouts of the Israelis missing in Lebanon - let alone their release, if they are alive - defies all sense of fair play.

distinction should be made. Israel still holds in its prisons hundreds of Palestinians, some of whose only crime was being in the wrong place at the wrong time. These Palestinians should be released irrespective of what has been agreed upon in the road map regarding prisoners.

But what the Palestinian leadership is talking about - and the world community seems to support - is Israel releasing murderers and their accomplices. There hasn't been even a hint of a prisoner exchange.

Were Iraqi gunmen to kidnap American soldiers, could anyone imagine the US agreeing to a prisoner exchange? If al-Qaida took an American hostage, could anyone envision the US setting free in exchange even one individual tangentially associated with felling the Twin Towers?

Is Israel really expected to free a Palestinian terrorist who walked into a Jewish home and shot two children to death in their beds? Has the world gone mad? Yet the hudna, an intra-Palestinian agreement to temporarily suspend attacks against Israelis, may be cast aside if Israelis do not release their murderers.

No wonder the vast majority of Israelis are wary of any peace agreement that may result from the road map. If an agreement between Palestinians cannot be maintained for even three months - the length of time of this hudna - imagine what might happen to an Israel-Palestinian accord.

WHAT IS so ironic is that Israel would probably be willing to release some of these awful criminals if there were a prisoner exchange. Israel has proven its willingness to negotiate lopsided agreements in the past, releasing hundreds of Palestinian prisoners for two or three dead Israelis.

Even now I would bet that were Israel to get some verified information about Yehuda Katz, Tzvi Feldman and Zachary Baumel, who have been missing since the battle of Sultan Yakub in the 1982 Lebanon War, for that information alone it might open the gates to the Ansar transit prison in the Negev.

One might ask: What is the connection between Hizbullah, which operates out of Lebanon, and the Hamas and Islamic Jihad prisoners Israel is holding?

First, Hizbullah claims it will continue to carry on its campaign against the Zionists until every inch of Palestinian land is liberated and every last Palestinian prisoner freed.

Second, Abu Jihad, one of the most wanted Palestinian terrorists operating out of Lebanon, was killed a decade ago. Found among his belongings was half of Zachary Baumel's army identity tag. In 1993 Yasser Arafat presented it to prime minister Yitzhak Rabin with a promise that within two weeks he would provide further information about what had happened to Baumel.

To date that promise has not been fulfilled - by Arafat or anyone else in the Palestinian Authority - despite the fact that the Cairo Accords, signed in May 1994 and calling on the PA to hand over individuals suspected of committing crimes in Israel, included a paragraph on the MIAs.

My hunch is that should Abu Mazen produce information about Baumel's fate, Israel would the very next day release even the bloodstained terrorists of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

But an imbalanced exchange of prisoners is not being called for. What is being demanded instead is an outright amnesty. For what? A teetering hudna that will leave the military might of Hamas and Islamic Jihad intact?

While I could conceive of even a skewed prisoner exchange that provides Israel with some tangible return in the form of information about our MIAs, a nonreciprocal release of Palestinian prisoners on Israel's part makes a mockery of common sense, fair play and moral decency.

This article ran in the editorial page of the Jerusalem Post, July 15, 2003

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Briefing with Dr. Yuval Steinitz,
Chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee
Pearl Herman
Investigative Journalist
Press Briefing, July 16, 2003

Yuval Steinitz was a Professor of Philosophy and a Peace Now activist. In 1994, when he saw that Oslo was a disaster, he did a great deal of soul searching and joined the Likud party. In recent years he has left the university and become active in politics. He speaks now as Chair of the Knesset Foreign Relations and Defense Committee, and on July 16, 2003, provided his first briefing for the foreign press.

Dr. Steinitz, who is a strategic thinker, anticipates difficult years ahead for Israel.

He is not satisfied with the roadmap, which he believes to be unfair and unbalanced. It may, in fact, lead to the opposite of what was intended. The signs of this are plentiful:

  • The hudna, which lends an impression of peacefulness, is not a ceasefire, but a temporary cessation in order to allow recovery so that violence can be resumed. An internal Palestinian arrangement, it was imposed by Egypt on the PA and Hamas.

  • The Karine A gunboat [captured by the Israeli navy in January 2002] made the intention of the PA clear - to threaten Israel directly. These weapons patently were not intended for fighting terrorism.

  • But that intention was obvious well before the gunboat was captured. With Oslo, the PA agreed to demilitarization, yet began to violate this agreement almost immediately. They were permitted 9,000 police by agreement and had 30,000 within a year.

Israel is not ready to resume a peace process with threat of violence now or in the future. For three years, Dr Steinitz has been of the opinion that we should destroy the PA and send Arafat and his cronies back to Tunis, whence we brought them.

The Egyptians, for all their lack of sincere intentions, do keep agreements they have signed. The Sinai was supposed to be demilitarized, and it has stayed so. But it continues to prepare as if there might be war. Incitement in Egypt is as much or greater than in the PA. There is also considerable smuggling of arms via tunnels from Egypt to Gaza. Egypt makes no serious attempt to stop this, even though it would be easy in the exposed Sinai. The Jordanians have been working with sincerity for three years to stop gun smuggling, intercepting some 250 attempts in a year, while the Egyptian intercept about 15. (Jordan has proved to be a good friend.)

Second and third circle states [that is, separated from Israel by one or two states] can also pose an immediate threat, as missiles of longer range, with potential for chemical and biological weapon delivery, are being developed.

While the terrorist organizations have a deep hatred for the West, this is not necessarily so of states that support the terrorists. For them the approach is more pragmatic: they use terrorist organizations as a substitute for war, and to blackmail or control other states.

Ironically, since the war in Iraq, the terrorist organizations have become more important to these states - convinced that war as not a viable option, they want to hold on to the terrorist organizations to use down the road: Syria wants to save Hezbolla; Egypt promoted the hudna to save the Hamas infrastructure; the PA clearly is failing to fulfill a commitment to eliminate other armed forces. Saudi Arabian incitement against Israel continues (its incitement against the US has diminished since 9/11); the Saudis are major funders of terrorism.

Syria has a variety of chemical weapons in larger quantities than what existed in Iraq or what does exist in Iran. And they have scuds and bombs for delivery. The Shihab 3 Missiles in Iran can reach Israel and yet Iran is working on a Shihab 4 and 5 - to reach 6-7,000 km., far beyond Israel. The same is true of Libya, which is developing long-range missiles. Ambitions of these countries extend beyond the Middle East to control of Europe. It is time for the Western world to prevent it or it will be too late.

Israel, which is a miniscule country, requires strategic depth to be viable. "Israel should not sacrifice its very existence for the sake of another people." Israel must be able to defend herself in case of conflagration.

Minimally what Israel needs to be viable is: 1) security zones in west Samaria, without which defense of the Tel Aviv area is impossible; 2) the Judean Valley; 3) a Jerusalem corridor. This is not just a defense against terrorism, but also against forces called in from Syria or Iran.

Without this Israel cannot proceed with a peace process. Oslo promoted massacres, not peace. Israel is willing to give some of its land to another people even though there is a strong historical connection to it that makes relinquishing it difficult. But Israel will not commit suicide.

It seems that Europeans and others do not care for justice for Israel. The demand is always regarding what Israel should do, without consideration for what Israel needs.

The global war on terrorism was supposed to prevent harboring of terrorism. Yet the PA is excluded. It is ridiculous that the US demands that Syria close Hamas offices in Damascus but does not demand that the PA shut down Hamas in the territories

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Syria, Egypt Trying To Protect Terror Groups, Israeli Lawmaker Says
Julie Stahl
Bureau Chief, CNS Bureau Chief in Israel

July 17, 2003

Jerusalem ( - Both Egypt and Syria are making efforts to protect terrorist groups and their infrastructure from the global war on terrorism, an Israeli lawmaker said here.

As part of that effort, Egypt did its utmost to mediate a hudna - an agreement between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority to temporarily halt terror attacks; while Syria has expressed renewed interest in peace talks with Israel, said Dr. Yuval Steinitz, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

Hatred of the West, America, Israel, Judeo-Christian civilization and democracy motivates terrorist organizations such as al Qaeda, Hizballah, Hamas and individuals to commit suicide attacks, but state-sponsored terrorism has a different motivation, Steinitz told a handful of journalists in a special briefing at the Knesset on Wednesday.

"Ideologically, religious motivation is extremely potent," Steinitz said. "But from the perspective of the states, which support terrorism or harbor terrorism in their land and [give] them some kind of physical or moral or financial or political backing, the motivation is entirely different . . .

"Terrorist organizations in the Middle East are important [strategic] tools for states and regimes," he added.

Sponsoring terrorist organizations gives countries three main advantages, he said.

State sponsors of terrorism can exert pressure on neighboring countries without risking a general war; they can use their influence over terror organizations to blackmail oil-rich regimes such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait; and they can threaten Israel without risking a conventional war or defeat.

"Since they were defeated in the past in conventional wars, now they can fight against Israel by proxy," he said.

Steinitz called it paradoxical that the recent war in Iraq may have prompted Middle Eastern states to consider terrorist organizations even "more vital to their national interests and security than before." Now they realize that no conventional Arab army can seriously resist a Western army with its sophistication and advanced technology.

Syria and Egypt, for example, are both "making sincere efforts to save terrorist organizations from the global war on terrorism with the hopes that in two, three, four years, things will change," Steinitz said.

Either the effect of the September 11 terror attacks will fade or maybe there will be different leaders in the United States, Britain or Western Europe, he added.

During the war in Iraq, Syria - which is on the State Department's list of terror-sponsoring states - opened its borders for volunteers, including suicide bombers, to cross into Iraq to fight U.S.-led troops.

Damascus has also flatly refused a U.S. demand to close down the headquarters of at least 10 Palestinian terrorist organizations in the capital.

Syrian President Bashar Assad told visiting U.N. Envoy to the Middle East Terje Larson last week that he was ready for negotiations with Israel, the Hebrew daily Ma'ariv reported on Thursday. In a long conversation, Assad also downplayed U.S. pressure on Damascus, the paper reported.

"The main attempt now is to save the terrorist infrastructure for the future," said Steinitz. The Syrians are making efforts to save Hizballah, but Syria realizes that according to the Bush doctrine, no country should support terrorism. That's why Syria has offered to resume the peace process with Israel, Steinitz said, indicating that the offer is merely a smokescreen.

Hizballah, on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations, is believed responsible for suicide bombings in Beirut in the early 1980s, which left hundreds of American servicemen dead. It is firmly entrenched in southern Lebanon along Israel's northern border.

Hizballah is backed by both Damascus and Tehran and is equipped with missiles that could strike most northern Israeli cities.

Israel has said for the past few years that it will hold Syria responsible for the actions of Hizballah, and it has hit Syrian targets in Lebanon at least twice in the last three years in retaliation for cross-border attacks by the militant Islamic group.

"The Egyptians are [doing] their best to broker a hudna between the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas . . . the result will be to save the Hamas infrastructure from being dismantled . . .

"The Egyptians say to Hamas, 'We are ready to give you guarantees that say the Palestinian Authority does not crack down on you like we did in Egypt on the Muslim [Brotherhood] in the past," Steinitz said.

Egypt, which has upgraded its army into a modern force with U.S. aid over the last 20 years, is considered by Washington as key broker in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Egyptian security officials negotiated for months with leaders of the top militant groups, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, to persuade them to make an agreement with the PA to halt violence temporarily (hudna).

In Arabic, the meaning of the word hudna is not a ceasefire but rather a temporary truce with one's enemies in order to build strength until it is possible to conquer them, Arabic experts have said.

Both Israel and the U.S. have said that, while a halt to violence is welcome, there needs to be a total dismantling of the terrorist infrastructure - collection of weapons, arrest of terrorist leaders and an end to incitement.

Israeli government and security officials have charged that the terrorist organizations are using the temporary calm as a time to regroup and rearm. They say the terrorism will resume - even worse than it was previously.

Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi, who was recently wounded in an Israeli attempt on his life, said the hudna was intended to show Palestinians that they would not benefit from calm.

When violence erupts again after a few weeks or months of calm, it would reaffirm Palestinians' belief in the intifadah [violent uprising] as the only option for them, Rantisi was quoted as saying in an interview with The Jerusalem Post, published on Thursday.

He also said PA Prime Minister Machmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) never intended to disarm any Palestinian organization.

But Steinitz said that the PA shouldn't be different than any other regime when it comes to dealing with terrorist groups.

"On the face of it, the [PA] is a legitimate government now," he said. "It has to deal with terrorists, to dismantle [the organizations], to arrest terrorist leaders and to fulfill its previous commitments in Oslo [agreement with Israel] that there will be no armed forces or terrorist organizations in the territories."

Steinitz charged that the Egyptian help in reaching the hudna offered political backing to the leaders of terrorist organizations, which in the end does not hurt Israel as much as it does Abbas and his security chief, Mohammed Dahlan.

It is also ensured that the Hamas infrastructure will be left intact.

"The infrastructure will survive and this is by the way ridiculous because . . . America is asking, demanding Damascus to close Hamas offices in Damascus but Hamas offices in Gaza will continue to be open," Steinitz said.

"This is something to be noticed because both Syria and Egypt are willing to use even the peace process in order to save the terrorist organizations," he said.

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CMIP Briefing:The latest Palestinian Authority School Books - Hardly a Curriculum for Peace
Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace

The new report of the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace, just released, represents the fifth time CMIP has done a review of textbooks used by the Palestinian Authority. In the early years of the PA, textbooks used were Jordanian in the West Bank and Egyptian in Gaza; these books (a carry over from the days when Jordan and Egypt occupied these respective areas) were twice reviewed by CMIP. In 2000 and 2001, the PA began publishing its own textbooks, for grades 1, 2, 6, 7, and 11. These were twice reviewed by CMIP as well. In 2002, the PA published texts for grades 3 and 8. With their release, 50% of the books used for Palestinian children are now published by the PA, and 50% are the old Jordanian and Egyptian books. This latest report reviews 35 books in various subjects.

The report is dated May 2003, although it was just released now. This is because there was a delay, as an attempt was made to meet with the PA Ministry of Education. The EU Commission in Jerusalem tried to organize this, but it appears it will not take place until September.

Earlier textbooks released by the PA had the emblem of the PA on the cover; now these books have an emblem for the "State of Palestine."

The conclusion of this report is that there is no substantial improvement in the textbooks, in comparison to earlier textbooks. The criteria used for determining this are 8 main criteria from UNESCO, plus two criteria added by CMIP: image of the other and orientation to peace and co-existence.


  • There is no improvement with regard to recognition of the Jews as a people with religious and historical ties to the land. Doesn't give Jews right to religious holy places.

    What is a minor improvement in this regard is a reference to Judaism as being a "heavenly" religion, which means monotheistic. But that's it.

  • There is no recognition of Israel as a State, and as a Jewish State. Israel is not listed on any map.

  • There is negative stereotyping of Israel and increased demonization of Israel. Until now Israel was responsible for environmental problems, economy, etc. Now internal family violence is seen as the fault of Israelis as well.

  • There is no mention of the Oslo agreements. No explanation of anything that was signed, or any commitments made.

  • There is glorification of Jihad-which is represented as the Islamic view of war. There is praise for death.

    The solution to the current problems is represented as being the liberation of Palestine and the return of every refugee. 25% of the time, liberation refers to the territories; 75% of the time, it refers to all of Israel since '48.

    The "right of return" is depicted as "a red line that cannot be crossed."

    There are some new, potentially positive elements; it is difficult to assess their significance. They may be an attempt to appease the international community, or may be a glimmer of softening of the previous stance.

  • Jews are presented as believers of "two divine books," i.e., Torah and psalms.

    This positive is negated elsewhere by a denigration of Shabbat observance.

  • There is one reference that seems to broaden the conception of tolerance: "compare the International Covenant on Human Rights with the Islamic conception."

  • There is a reference to pluralism at the start of Palestine, but it's unclear whether Jews are included.

  • The notions of peace and coexistence are referred to with the inclusion of the 1988 Declaration of Independence (in 1988 the PLO, from Algiers, declared a state).

  • There is one statement rejecting terror. But elsewhere are several quotes approving it.

  • There is one unique statement that life is better than death.

  • There is previously a story told that Ben Tabet, an advisor to Muhammad, was told to learn the language of the Jews to avoid their trickery. Now the story is told that Ben Tabet was to learn the language of the Jews, but without a reason why.

  • For the first time it is said that Jerusalem is holy to the three monotheistic religions (the religions of heaven). No where is it explicitly stated that Jerusalem is holy to Jews; the student must extrapolate.

Question as to how these books compare with the older Jordanian and Egyptian books: Previously 12 very hostile statements were found in the Jordanian and Egyptian books; there are now five in the PA books. But the most offensive statements were in Jordanian and Egyptian books for grades 4 and 5, which are still being taught.

Conclusion: in the key parameters, at core, there is no change.

In response to question (by Arlene Kushner) regarding a recent more positive report on the textbooks by IPCRI (Israel Palestine Committee for Research and Information):

CMIP has analyzed the IPCRI report and will be publishing its findings. IPCRI raises a number of problematic issues but fails to draw any conclusions or seriously understates the depth of the problems.

IPCRI makes 85 references to the text but offers not one quote - just paraphrases.

Finds excuses for, or overlooks, or makes light of, lapses, e.g., as to why mention of Israel is omitted. In this instance, IPCRI refers to an "inadequate presentation," but it's not "inadequate" if there's no mention, it's nonexistent.

IPCRI makes no comment regarding such references as "Jewish infiltration to Palestine…" or the Balfour Declaration having awarded land to "one who doesn't deserve it."

The European Commission was instructed last year by the European Parliament not to fund PA textbooks if they incite. Though there are many who believe the IPCRI report will have the effect of releasing EU funds for PA books, Dr. Yochanan Manor, the director of the CMIP, thinks otherwise.

CMIP has met with Chris Patten of the European Commission and has been encouraged to prepare a proposal.

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