Israel Resource Review 1st June, 2002


Secret Middle East Talks in Britain
Ewen MacAskill
Diplomatic Editor

Israelis and Palestinians have met in Britain to hold their highest-level talks since the failed Taba meetings of January 2001. Key figures in the Northern Ireland peace process were brought in for the first time to advise the belligerent parties.

In three days of discussions, hosted by the Guardian, Irish politicians, including the former IRA commander Martin McGuinness and David Ervine, leader of the Progressive Unionist party, urged both sides in the Middle East to seek outside help in moving the conflict out of its impasse.

"If you had said 10 years ago that there would be peace in Northern Ireland or South Africa, many would have been extremely sceptical, but there is no reason why the Middle East should not take the same road," Mr McGuinness said.

For the past 18 months senior Palestinians and Israelis have only had snatched meetings on an individual basis. Yesterday's talks brought together two Palestinian ministers with the speaker and deputy speaker of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, and marked a rare chance for the parties to debate, away from the pressures of conflict.

The Israelis and Palestinians said they had learned lessons they would take back to the region. Several plans for pushing forward the stalled peace process began to take shape, including joint Israeli- Palestinian initiatives.

The secret talks, chaired by Jonathan Freedland, were held at Weston House, a country house near Stafford where Northern Ireland negotiations were conducted last year.

Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian, said that the Northern Ireland delegates were "great evangelists for their peace process and were keen to offer practical advice and heartfelt encouragement. The two situations are, of course, different in many ways. But this group found so much in common and genuinely felt they learned much from each other over the three days."

As well as Avraham Burg, speaker of the Knesset, the Israeli side included General Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, the former chief of staff of the Israeli army; Yossi Beilin, the former justice minister and one of the architects of the 1993 Oslo peace accords; and Naomi Chazan, the deputy speaker of the Knesset.

The Palestinian side included Professor Nabeel Kassis, a Palestinian minister without portfolio; Yezid Sayigh, a former negotiator; and Salim Tamari, another former negotiator. Mr Burg and Mr Beilin are members of the Israeli Labour party, which is in Mr Sharon's coalition government.

The Northern Ireland quartet was made up of: Martin McGuinness, now Northern Ireland education minister; David Ervine, who temporarily walked out of Weston Park talks last year; Mark Durkan, leader of the nationalist Social Democratic Labour Party; and Sir Reg Empey, one of the leaders of the Ulster Unionist party.

Absent from the talks was anyone from the Likud party, which is led by the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon.

New initiatives to emerge from yesterday's talks include:

  • creation of a shadow Israeli-Palestinian government as an alternative to Mr Sharon's government

  • drafting of a peace plan that will flesh out the proposals at Taba, including setting out for the first time an exact figure of how many of the 3.5 million Palestinians will be given the right to return

  • a draft document setting out two or three points about how to secure peace to be signed by key Israeli and Palestinian figures and published.
This piece ran on Saturday June 1, 2002 in the Guardian in London.

Printer friendly version of this article

Return to Contents

Seven Questions to Israeli Government Dysfunctionalism
David Bedein

1. At least 20 offices of the PA continue to function in Jerusalem. The offices function in complete coordination with the PA and with every branch of the PLO, including the "Tanzim". At the request of the Israel Cabinet Sec'y, Israel Resource News Agency handed over that list to PM Sharon's office. These offices continue to function. The response of the cabinet sec'y is that Sharon is well aware of this phenomenon. Why does the Israeli government allow these offices to continue to function?

2. The Israeli government has declared that the Educational System of the PA incites their population to war against the State and people of Israel. Yet the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs continues to advise foreign governments to continue to send funds to the PA educational system. Why?

3. The IDF has discovered that UNRWA has provided the PA with the infrastructure for terror. Why does the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs continue to advise foreign governments to continue to send funds to UNRWA?

4. The Economic Cooperation Foundation, under the direction of Dr. Yose Beilin, refuses to disclose its accounts from the year 2000 to the Rasham Amutot, the Israel Office of Non-Profit Organizations, which is part of the Israel Ministry of Interior . Why is there no enforcement of the law in this regard?

5. The US Department of State's US AID program currently finances the leading public relations organizations of the PA, to the tune of more than $10 million. Why does the Israeli government not protest such interference?

6. The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs will not distribute the report issued by Israeli Cabinet Minister Danny Naveh which provides the documentary evidence which ties Arafat to the current Palestinian Arab terror campaign. Naveh's office does not have the budget for promotion. Why does Sharon's office not provide the means to distribute this crucial report?

7. The Peres Center for Peace refuses to this day to disclose those who receive salaries from that center, as required by law. However, after pressure was brought to bear upon the Rasham Amutot by Adv. Yaakov Neeman, the Rasham Amutot provided the appropriate certification for the Peres Center for Peace, despite the fact that the Peres Center for Peace abrogates the law in this regard.

Printer friendly version of this article

Return to Contents

A Columnist from Haaretz Rationalizes the Murder of "Settlers"
The Title of the Article:
"As usual, policy is set by the settlers"
Akiva Eldar

"Tell me, please, what am I supposed to do now?" the local Palestinian leader from the Bethlehem area asked the western diplomat. They were watching as a huge bulldozer dugs its teeth into the land of Beit Sahur, paving another road to bypass the Palestinians for the glory of the Israeli occupation. The road is particularly meant for the residents of Nokdim, the settlement that is home to MK Avigdor Lieberman. "What would you do in my place?" asked the Palestinian, a moderate who is far from being a proponent of violence. "Would you watch from the side as the settlers take your land, or would you shoot at the bulldozer?"

Those aren't the questions that are bothering the Tanzim leadership or the commanders of the Al-Aqsa Brigades. They, like the vast majority of Palestinians in the territories (92 percent according to the most recent poll by Dr. Khalil Shikaki), are in complete agreement about the legitimacy of the violent struggle against the settlers and the army that protects them.

The dilemma nowadays for non-religious Palestinians touches on the efficacy and morality of the suicide bombings inside the state of Israel, proper. There are growing signs that if Israel were to hint that it is ready, with the Palestinians, for a reprise of the Grapes of Wrath understandings, the unwritten agreement that in its day took the Galilee and the villages of south Lebanon out of the armed conflict, it would find the Tanzim and Al Aqsa Brigades willing partners.

But the option of ceasing the intifada inside the occupied territories is considered by Palestinians to be about as realistic as the possibility the Sharon government will cease expropriating land for the purpose of building bypass roads. Even hinting about a general cease-fire, and talk about reforms without any tangible political return, is considered heretical.

Sources in the uppermost echelons of the Palestinian Authority say that's one of the reasons that Yasser Arafat's financial adviser, Mohammed Rashid, is delaying his return from overseas. In Ramallah they didn't like hearing the reports about his discussions in Washington about reforms in the PA.

Another reason, Ramallah sources claim, is that Rashid is believed to have besmirched Preventive Security chief Jibril Rajoub, saying he turned in Fatah men to IDF troops who besieged his headquarters. Minister Hassan Asfour paid with broken hands and legs for a similar charge.

Anyone expecting Palestinians to quit killing settlers, should have a few words with Aziz Amaru, deputy minister for Waqf affairs in Hebron. Amaru has been spending the past several days running back and forth between the downtown wholesale market in the old city of Hebron and the local police station. All he wants is for the Israeli authorities to enforce the law against the settlers who have squatted in the shops of the wholesale market, which is property of the Muslim religious trust.

After Baruch Goldstein's 1994 Purim day massacre of praying Muslims in the Tomb of the Patriarchs, Israel ordered the shops of the wholesale market shuttered; since then, the shops, next to the Avraham Avinu Jewish neighborhood, have been closed. A few months ago, Hebron settlers took over one of the buildings and turned four shops into apartments and a kindergarten. In the past few days they've taken over four more shops in an adjacent building.

Amaru says the Waqf complied with the suggestion by the police that they weld the doors of the shops shut. Yesterday morning, settlers used force to chase off the welders and the police who were guarding them, and locked up the Waqf officials on the second floor of the building.

Palestinian Hebronites are asking themselves if the police would have behaved with the same measure of restraint if it had been Palestinians marching into a Jewish-owned shop. The settlers' behavior, and the equanimity, in the best of cases, of the security forces toward Jewish lawbreakers in the territories, strengthens the hand of those Palestinians who support the armed struggle. Their analysis of the spreading expropriations, closures of land and tree uprootings, is that war against the settlers is a battle for their homes.

Even the muezzin is not allowed to call the people to prayers anymore in Hebron. The soldiers explained to the Waqf that the traditional calls, made from the minarets of Hebron for hundreds of years, "disturb the peace."

It is becoming ever more reminiscent of the Algerian campaign against the French colonists. Even if someone upstairs decides to stop the suicide bombers on their way to Petah Tikva, there's no chance that any Palestinian leader will condemn a Hebronite who decides to shoot a settler who invades his home.

A recent petition to the High Court of Justice can illuminate why the Palestinians hate the settlers so much. Jerusalem attorney Shlomo Lecker petitioned the court in the name of two residents of the village of Tu'ana, in south Mt. Hebron. He says that the case is typical of the routine of ruthless land grabbing, under full cover of the army and the government - and of the settlers' utter disregard for the law.

The story begins in September 2001. A group of settlers began construction of a cement platform on a piece of land bordering farm land owned by Mohammed Mussa Jibrin and Ahmed Mohammed Mohammed. Yosef Adir, a top official in the South Mt. Hebron Regional Council, supervised the construction work.

The landowners hurried to the Kiryat Arba police station to file a complaint against the settlers' incursion on their land. "After filing their complaint," writes Lecker in the petition, "one Major Zvika arrived on the scene. He is known to the petitioners as the officer in the civil administration responsible for the area. With him was a civil administration official named Amos. Zvika told the petitioners and their lawyer, Mussa Mahmara, that the construction work was being done without permission. Amos told them he had issued a cease and desist order, but it was impossible to enforce, `because the settlers won't obey the order.' He recommended they go to the High Court of Justice."

Over the next two weeks, under the supervision of Adir, ostensibly a government official as a regional council official, the concrete platform was completed and a water tower was established.

At the end of September, the landowners contacted Lecker, and asked him to come to the site. "Two kilometers away from the hilltop where the outpost is being built, in an isolated, hilly area," writes Lecker, "I came across a military checkpoint. The checkpoint commander, who identified himself as Major Gilad, showed me an order closing the area, along with a map. On the map, a triangle was drawn around the area the outpost, which was named in the military order as `Avigail Point.' Major Gilad clarified that the regional commander, who signed the order, wanted it closed to prohibit entry/approach to the outpost area."

After Lecker protested that settlers were driving by the checkpoint without being stopped by the soldiers, the officer pointed out a sentence in the military order specifying that the order did not cover "authorized" people. Three days later, those "authorized" settlers moved mobile homes to "Avigail Point."

A statement by the state prosecutor to the High Court in response to the petition, confirms that the Civil Administration's inspectors did find that two more mobile homes, as well as a shed and an old bus, had been placed at the site. The state says that on February 24, two orders were issued, demanding an end to the construction.

But Lecker produced a document proving that as far as the settlers are concerned, the West Bank is the Wild West, and for the Defense Ministry, which is headed by a man who has said that he doesn't regard restraining the settlers as very important, the settler behavior in the territories can go on just the way it has.

The document Lecker produced is a letter signed by Major Yossi Shapira, assistant military secretary to the defense minister. It says that a cease and desist order for the construction at the illegal outpost was issued, "and if the settlers do not evacuate the area on their own, the army will evacuate them tomorrow."

Shapira's letter is dated October 21, 2001. Apparently it had some influence on a rare High Court's decision, issued three weeks ago, to order the army to enforce the orders the army already issued regarding "Avigail Point" and to prevent any further construction there. Until, of course, the settlers get their authorizations.

This article ran in Haaretz on May 31, 2002

Printer friendly version of this article

Return to Contents

Go to the Israel Resource Review homepage

The Israel Resource Review is brought to you by the Israel Resource, a media firm based at the Bet Agron Press Center in Jerusalem, and the Gaza Media Center under the juristdiction of the Palestine Authority.
You can contact us on