Israel Resource Review 22nd July, 2005


US House of Representatives Approves Restrictions on Aid to PalestinianAuthority

Washington, July 21st, 2005

A bill, sponsored by Congresswoman Shelley Berkley (D-NV) and Congressman Joe Crowley (D-NY), applying very specific controls to Palestinian aid, passed by a large margin, 330 to 100, and with wide bi-partisan support.

The bill in question, known as the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for 2006 and 2007, or H.R. 2601, includes important increases to the reporting requirements of the State Department regarding aid to the Palestinians in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, and to the Palestinian Authority. These new requirements, proposed by Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA), allow aid to be disbursed only after the President certifies that certain conditions are being met.

These conditions include:

  • The Palestinian Authority committing to and initiating the process of purging from its security services individuals with ties to terrorism; demonstrable progress toward dismantling the terrorist infrastructure, confiscating unauthorized weapons, arresting and bringing terrorists to justice, destroying unauthorized arms factories, thwarting and preempting terrorist attacks, and is fully cooperating with Israel's security services;

  • Demonstrable progress toward halting all anti-Israel incitement in Palestinian Authority-controlled electronic and print media and in schools, mosques, and other institutions it controls, and is replacing these materials, including textbooks, with materials that promote tolerance, peace, and coexistence with Israel;

  • Effective steps to ensure democracy, the rule of law, and an independent judiciary, and has adopted other reforms such as ensuring transparent and accountable governance;

  • Committing to ensuring that all elections within areas it administers to be free, fair, and transparent; and

  • Verifiable efforts to ensure the financial transparency and accountability of all government ministries and operations.

The President is further required to re-certify these conditions every six months for any U.S. money appropriated to be, in fact obligated.

The additional Berkley-Crowley Amendment strengthened this language further by limiting any aid disbursement to 25% of the whole per calendar quarter.

Such a restriction would be unique in the distribution of foreign aid, and goes against the standard "lump sum" disbursement of U.S. assistance.

Congresswoman Berkley speaking on the House floor stated the problem plainly.

"Since the signing of the Oslo Accord in 1993, the U.S. government has committed more than $1.8 billion in economic assistance to the Palestinians. We have done this with little or no accountability, few modern financial controls, and no actual knowledge of what our taxpayer money is going for."

With the addition of the Berkley-Crowley Amendment to the bill, Congress can stop the flow of money if the Palestinian Authority fails to meet certification requirements - meaning not making demonstrable progress toward the goals set out above.

Said Berkley, "Our amendment would force accountability over this money and provide Congress with the ability to end the flow of funding if the certification requirements in the bill are not met."

Congressman Crowley reiterated the need for real restrictions. "Over the past 10 years, Congress has had little to no accountability over the aid we have given to the Palestinian Authority." Said Crowley, "I believe we must have full accountability over the aid we give to make sure that the emergence of a democratic Palestinian government can take place."

H.R. 2601 will now move to the US Senate for approval

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"Corruption and Israel's Disengagement Process"
Knesset Investigation of Alleged Corruption on the Highest Level of the Disenagement Process Commences
David Bedein

The Israel Parliamentary Knesset Oversight Committee, which oversees all aspects of Israel Government Accountability, chaired by Member of Knesset Dr. Yuri Shtern, of the Israel National Union Party, has summoned the Israeli official appointed by the Prime Minister of Israel to implement the Disengagement to explain a potential conflict of interest that could bring the disengagement process to an unexpected halt.

The hearing will take place at the Knesset on Tuesday, July 26th, at 9:30 a.m.

Summons have also gone out for representatives of Israel's State Comptroller, The Office of the Prime Minister, the Israeli Police and the Israel Ministry of Justice to also appear.

What has been widely reported in the Israeli media is that the head of the coordination and strategy team in the Prime Minister's Office in charge of Disengagement, Eival Giladi has also been named as CEO of a massive business venture for Palestinians in Gaza, known as "The Portland Trust".

Giladi's highly publicized role in the Portland Trust is to raise half a billion dollars in business loans for business and housing development programs for Palestinians in Gaza, in order to facilitate the construction of 150,000 homes that would be replace the housing in 22 Jewish communities of Katif - the same communities where Giladi is set to oversee their demolition.

In other words: Giladi stands to profit from ventures that would help Palestinians who would benefit from the removal of Jews from their homes - providing Giladi a private financial incentive for him to succeed in his position.

The logical question to ask would be whether Giladi has signed any kind of standard civil service agreement with the office of the Prime Minister of Israel that would constrain Giladi from entering into any potential conflict of interest in his role public service position.

One month ago, after Israel Resource News Agency in Jerusalem first raised the possibility of a potential conflict of interest, the spokesman of the Israel Civil Service Commission told the IMRA news agency in Raanana that the commission would look into the matter.

Since then, the commission spokesman has not returned any calls in this regard.

Two weeks ago, the spokesman of the Prime Minister told Makor Rishon, a weekly newspaper published in Tel Aviv, Israel, that Giladi had indeed signed an agreement that would obviate any potential conflict of interest. However, the spokesman was not willing to provide the media with a copy of the agreement.

Instead, the Prime Minister's spokesman has asked that any requests to review Giladi's agreement be processed through the new Israel Freedom of Information Act, a procedure which usually takes several months…well after the disengagement process has been completed.

Meanwhile, the businessman who is the overall investor in the Portland Trust is Sir Ronald Cohen, the British billionaire who has recently bought a controlling interest in Bezek, the Israeli communications conglomerate which holds a monopoly over telephone land lines in Israel.

Sir Ronald Cohen is not only well connected in Israel.

Cohen is also a well known advisor and supporter of Gordon Brown, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, the ministry of finance.

The Cohen appointment of Giladi presents yet another potential of conflict of interest, since the Portland Trust's corporate portfolio openly states that one of the purposes of the trust is to advance the interests of both the British government and the European Union.

With the U.K. assuming the chairmanship of the EU for the next six months, this carries even greater importance.

The Knesset investigation will also have to determine is whether Giladi, an appointee of the office of the Prime Minister of Israel to implement the disengagement process, is at the one and the same time also advancing the diplomatic interests of foreign powers in that same disengagement process.

The Knesset Committee investigation of Giladi may lead to questions about another key Israeli official's potential conflict of interests - The Prime Minister's most important advisor, Dov Weisglass.

Weisglass did sign a standard anti-conflict of interest agreement with the legal advisor of the Office of the Prime Minister of Israel, which committed Weisglass to not engage in any Palestinian business connections, so long as he held public office, which our news agency has reviewed.

There is no stipulation that Weisglass cannot resume Palestinian business connections when he leaves public service.

Since Weisglass's law firm holds a contract for representing casino development under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority, the recommendation of the Portland Trust for further casino development inside the Palestinian Authority would be of particular interest to Weisglass, should be decide to leave his public position.

In sum, all mainstream Israeli media outlets have publicized Giladi's parallel appointments to the run the disengagement process for the Prime Minister office and to run a corporation for Palestinian development when he will see personal financial stake in this process.

No media in Israel have called into question what seems to be a clear conflict of interest.

Until now.

All this, with the implementation of the Disengagement scheduled to commence less than three weeks after the Knesset investigation of corruption on the highest levels of the Disengagement Process will begin.

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Rethinking Support for the Disengagement Process
Danny Rubinstein
Senior Arab Affairs Correspondent, HaAretz

The time has come for those who favor the unilateral disengagement from Gaza to think again, because it may be that the entire issue is not worthwhile - and not for the ideological reasons that it is forbidden to uproot settlements or to give up parts of the homeland. The argument for second thoughts stems from the events of recent days, which raise fears that a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza is causing serious security damage to Israel.

The fact that a majority of the Palestinian public sees Israel's decision to withdraw as a sign of the victory of the intifada has long been known. It is hard to argue with this. Years of a peace process and negotiations between the Palestinians and Israeli governments, including Likud governments, have not led to Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. The idea of withdrawal entered the mind of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon only after suicide attacks, Qassam rockets and mortars.

Even if these attacks were not the reason why Sharon came up with the idea of disengagement, the Palestinians are certain that that is the case, and this has reinforced their belief that Israel only understands the language of terror attacks and violence. This belief will now become an absolute certainty - if Israel withdraws unilaterally under fire.

Those who are taking credit for the great victory of the withdrawal from Gaza, and with a great degree of justification, are the members of Hamas, which led the attacks and the terror campaign against Israel. The withdrawal will transfer large land assets in Gaza to the Palestinians, since Israeli settlements and security installations take up about 30 percent of the narrow, crowded Strip, in which every meter is worth a fortune. What will happen to these important and expensive assets? Who will receive them and decide what will be done with them? Hamas wants to be a partner in the division of the spoils. "We were partners in blood, and we want to be partners to the decisions," say Hamas spokesmen.

Until recently, the leaders of Hamas were untroubled in this regard. They had an agreement with Palestinian Authority Chair Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), reached at the beginning of the year in Cairo, which included two main items: Hamas would join the cease-fire - the hudna or "calm" - and the PA would hold elections for the Palestinian parliament.

According to the results of the elections, which were supposed to take place yesterday, it will be possible to set a key to the balance of political power in the Palestinian community - and according to this key they will form a government, distribute jobs and, among other things, decide how the large land assets evacuated by Israel will be divided. In other words, which institutions and factories will be built on them, and for whose benefit: the Fatah faithful, the supporters of Hamas and others.

Hamas sees itself as having kept the agreement - having held its fire. Abu Mazen was the one who violated it. Fatah and its leadership under Abu Mazen decided to postpone the elections, without setting a new date. This means that the Palestinian government remains as it is, and that those who are currently in power - who are seen as corrupt by the Palestinian public - will do as they wish with the assets evacuated by Israel. They will not share with Hamas the fruits of the victory for which members of Hamas spilled their blood.

Hamas is by no means ready to accept this. For a brief moment, it seemed that they could reach a compromise. The leaders suggested that the handling of the Israeli withdrawal - i.e., the assets - would not be left to the hands of the Palestinian regime, but be the responsibility of a joint committee of Hamas and the PA. Abu Mazen and his people rejected this. "It would be like establishing another Palestinian government," they said.

This is the background to the violence that has erupted in Gaza. This is one of the reasons for the renewal of the attacks. There does not seem to be a solution for this at present, and the conclusion is that the embittered and angry Hamas members in Gaza will continue and even intensify terror attacks and firing at Israeli targets.

If all the fruits of the victory in Gaza fall into the hands of various corrupt PA leaders, Hamas doesn't mind making the Israeli withdrawal difficult, or even torpedoing it.

This piece appeared in HaAretz on July 18th, 2005

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