Israel Resource Review 5th June, 2001


Where Are Arafat's Secret Accounts?
Ronen Bergman
Senior Investigative Reporter, Yediot Aharonot

In the early morning hours of Friday,April 20, a group of armed masked men knocked on the door of the home of Jawad el-Russein in Abu Dhabi. El-Russein, the PLO treasurer, opened the door and was met with drawn weapons and an offer he couldn't refuse -- to accompany them. According to reports that reached London, he was flown, while bound, in Arafat's plane to the Palestinian Authority. Only a few PA officials were privy to the secret operation. Even today, only a few people know where the man who was the senior money man in the PLO is being held.

Members of el-Russein's family, who live in London, were given very sketchy information about his whereabouts. They say that he was acquainted intimately with the PLO's financial set up overseas. They say that there are some PA officials who are trying to prevent the treasurer from sharing this information with others. "El-Russein is a walking time bomb for senior PA officials, including Arafat himself," confirm Israeli sources.

El-Russein and Arafat are old acquaintances and their relationship is complex and charged. For years el-Russein was the PLO's chief bookkeeper. He is familiar with the smallest details of the organization's assets, how they are held, where, and who exactly has the right to sign. He is the man who knows the private bank accounts of the chairman and how PLO money has been spent from the early 1980s to this very day.

Arafat, according to reports, began to fear recently that el-Russein was about to open his mouth. And the distance from that to his abduction in Abu Dhabi was short.

The el-Russein family is not without means. The daughter, Mona Boanas, acquired infamy in British tabloids for her close relations with Culture and Sport Minister David Mellor. The family pulled strings and moved heaven and earth in an attempt to release el-Russein. Scotland Yard became involved (el-Russein is a British subject) as did the secret service, MI5, to a certain extent. The Palestinian Authority adamantly denied it was holding him. Until recently.

"PA intelligence agents are holding el-Russein in a secret hideaway," confirmed here, for the first time, the speaker of the Palestinian parliament and the chairman of "Samad," the PLO's economic arm, Ahmed Qurei, a.k.a. Abu Ala. According to Abu Ala, el-Russein was not abducted. "What do you mean abducted?! He was legally arrested in Abu Dhabi at an extradition request made by the PA and brought here. He took a loan of a few million dollars from us, and did not return it. We are demanding of him that he return the money."

Abu Ala's version is puzzling in light of the fact that there is no extradition treaty between Abu Dhabi and the Palestinian Authority. The Justice Ministry there did not publish any announcement on the matter, nor did the PA. Moreover, why should the PA, or the PLO, lend millions of dollars to its treasurer?

According to articles published in England, el-Russein was abducted indeed. The reason for his abduction may constitute further proof to allegations raised in the course of the years about corruption in the PLO's monetary set-up. "It's hard to believe that the PA's intelligence agents, who are busy with urgent matters, would get involved in such a complex operation, one that perhaps violates Abu Dhabi's sovereignty, if this was purely a loan," officials in Israel say. "Only a very important reason for the chairman could prompt him to take such an irregular measure."

For Israel, the importance of the information stored in the abducted treasurer's head is of even more urgency nowadays. The signing of the Oslo agreements in 1993 changed overnight the way the Israeli intelligence community viewed the PLO and the Palestinian's economic activity, rendering it irrelevant -- or at least that's what they thought. The economic department of the IDF Intelligence research branch and the parallel unit in the GSS nearly fell into degeneration. The PLO became a legitimate organization and its money management were no longer of any interest to Israel. "Money that goes in or out of the PA does not interest us," many in the security establishment were wont to say, "If the Palestinians choose to be corrupt, that's their business."

The el-Aksa Intifada changed this premise. The questions that had been central before the Oslo agreement, and which were neglected since, are now of interest Israel again. How is the Palestinian Authority funded? Does it make use of money given for welfare to purchase weapons or to augment its security organizations? Is it active inside the Green Line (particularly in Jerusalem and among Israeli Arabs) disguised or covered by other organizations? To what extent do organizations that do not bear the title PLO fund the Intifada? And how much money does the rais have in his pocket, in the territories and in banks overseas?

The answers to these questions could determine Arafat's standing in the territories, his ability to persevere and his ability to influence the next moves in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In his book, The Armed Struggle and the Search for a State, the most comprehensive and impressive research ever done on the PLO, Dr. Yazid Saigh describes the rare access el-Russein had to Arafat's most carefully kept secrets. The latter in 1984 appointed el-Russein, one of his oldest and most loyal friends, to the senior position in order to strengthen his control over the monetary and organizational set-up in Fatah, in particular. and the PLO in general. El-Russein made sure to transfer from the Palestinian National Fund to Arafat's personal account, every month, between 7.5 and 8 million dollars, for what was termed operational needs of the "Palestinian liberation army," a branch of the PLO.

A secret and internal Fatah investigation in 1993 found that to this account alone, el-Russein transferred USD 540 million. This account has never been under any sort of supervision and today as well, apparently, there are only three people who know exactly what happened to the money: Arafat, el-Russein, and the powerful secret consultant, Mohammed Rashid, the person in whom Arafat places full trust.

"When Arafat was the PLO chairman in exile, the organization's economy was run by a system of notes signed by the chairman," says Brig. Gen. Gadi Zohar, formerly a senior officer in IDF Intelligence Branch and the coordinator of government activities in the territories. He says "the person who truly knows the details and who handled the large projects is, of course, Abu Ala."

El-Russein and Abu Ala know each other well. Abu Ala's central position before the Oslo agreements, a position he holds to this day, was head of the "Samad" organization, or by its full name, "the Palestinian Sons of Shahids Project." In practice, this is the Palestinian counterpart to the Histadrut with an economic branch called "Samad el-Iktisadi," which over the years became a huge economic organization controlling assets of tremendous value.

The establishment of the Palestinian Authority forced a transition from an underground/operational/secret organization to an autonomous authority meant to be legal and structured, prior to becoming a state. However, this transition was not complete. Arafat, Israeli sources believe, did not order the PLO to internalize the change. "Samad" remained intact, activity-less, but still worth a great deal of money. Leading PLO and PA officials consistently refuse to divulge information about the extent of the organization's assets outside the PA. Publishing these numbers would undoubtedly generate immense agitation in the Palestinian street. How is it possible, many would ask, that we suffer here from economic recession while PLO functionaries control huge sums frozen overseas without using them.

The fighting with Israel has generated a great deal of internal tension inside the PA. Lately, because of the Intifada, calls have again been heard to stamp out corruption and to invest all resources in helping the suffering Palestinian people. In the last several weeks, in parliament and among the public, the phrase "min heik hada laka?" (Where did you get that?) is frequently heard. This saying was originally said in the Egyptian parliament and was used by those fighting corruption, and is once again relevant.

It is very very difficult to determine what is the true extent of the PLO's assets. […] The organization does not release information about its economic activity. Another riddle that el-Russein could solve for Israel is the precise nature of the link between the PLO and the PA to various ostensibly non-political Palestinian organizations. The most important of these, with whom el-Russein was in contact, is the "Palestinian Welfare Society."

Col. Shalom Harari from the IDF Intelligence Branch, who is familiar with daily life in the territories, researched the subject in the 1980s and wrote a few reports about the Palestinian Welfare Society. "A real danger to Israel," Harari described it, "political subversion." The welfare society, the reports noted, purchases assets throughout the territories and inside the Green Line, supports families of killed or maimed terrorists, is linked to funding PLO activities, and forms alternative institutions to the Israeli rule.

These reports were greeted with indifference at first. The GSS was preoccupied with the first Intifada and did not attribute a great deal of import to political subversion. An unknown organization that gives money to schools, hospitals and kindergartens did not spark too much interest. The IDF Intelligence Branch was interested principally in the PLO overseas, so that the "Welfare Society" fell between the cracks.

This indifference came to a halt in 1988, after a group of experts broke into the computer network of "Samad," the PLO's economic branch that linked PLO headquarters in Tunis to its economic delegations overseas. The breakthrough exposed an immense monetary turnover and numerous bank accounts, mainly in Europe, and a complex network of ties and people handling the money. Computer experts realized that they had not uncovered the entire picture. They were under the impression that there was not one central bank account, but a mosaic of monetary reservoirs whose destination would change, usually, according to who the owner of the account was or who its courier was.

Close monitoring of the computer network sometimes showed the route of a money shipment, from its beginning as a mysterious grant, through several couriers until its final destination, for example, "shahid allowances," paid from bank accounts in East Jerusalem. In this large web of private and official accounts, of couriers and anonymous donors, the name "welfare society" came up again and again as a central economic organization in the Palestinian world and one that Arafat sees as part of PLO assets and as an emergency reserve. From that point on, it was clear to the Israeli intelligence community that the "welfare society" should be of a great deal of interest to them.

In recent weeks, Harari's reports and other materials on the "welfare society" were taken out of the archives. The dust-covered files suddenly took on new urgency and tangible significance. Israel believes that today as well, the "welfare society" holds extensive assets and money. Intelligence sources say that without much difficulty they were able to trace many funds of the organization transferred to purchase lots in Jerusalem and its environs, or transferred to Israeli Arabs, to the Bedouins and also to support the families of Intifada casualties.

These are not necessarily suspicions of involvement and funding of violence, which were also raised in the past but were never proven. In a crazy world where friend becomes fore overnight and yesterday's allies shoot mortars today, what appeared half a year ago as legitimate act is today interpreted as political subversion.

A European group made a study this past year of the various economic aspects of the Palestinian Authority. In doing so it encountered over and over the name "welfare society." With the help of various means, mainly technological, thousands of documents and notations relating to the society were collected. Due to (mainly political) disagreements among the group doing the research, it was stopped. The material, along with its initial conclusions, was given to Yedioth Ahronoth and it appears here for the first time.

Even a hasty perusal of the documents makes it immediately clear: this is not a group of community center counselors, but an immense multi-branched, intricate, well-oiled economic body, built like one gigantic knot of innumerable bank accounts, and a never ending chain of money transfers, organizations and sub-organizations. Thus, for example, the CV of a senior bookkeeper in the welfare society in the Palestine branch, Saliva G. Shada, under the heading "work experience," writes that her job entails managing money transfers in the welfare society "from over 20 accounts in five countries in seven different currencies."

"Despite the quarrels and the differences over the years between Arafat and the heads of the welfare society, Arafat views the colossal assets of the society that are invested overseas, along with "Samad's" assets, as part of his 'Plan B'", says one of the directors of the European investigation, "this is his economic reserve in case he is forced to leave the territories."

The European researchers encountered frequent unclear money transfers from the organization's accounts to Arafat himself. Thus, for example, on January 1, 2000, Abed el Aziz Shakshir and Munzar el Halidi, two of the organization's directors, sent a letter to Jean Pierre Bouli, director of the Arab Bank in the Geneva branch. They asked him to make a USD 150,000 transfer from bank account number to the welfare society's account in the same branch, number

The senior directors serve as investment consultants and their private businesses fuse with the organizations supported by the society. In contrast to most of the Palestinian non-government organizations and non-profit associations supported by international bodies, the "welfare society" operates with the direct funding and almost exclusive support of private Palestinian institutions and Arab governments. The material collected by the European group shows that the means and the methods used to manage its assets and investments are more like an international investment organization than a humanitarian welfare organization.

Many of the documents cite two names linking between the non-government organizations and financial centers throughout the world: the Arab Bank and its owners, the Shuman family, the promoter of the welfare society, and one of the most influential families in the Arab world.

The welfare society manages most of the investments (cash, stocks, funds and real estate) by means of four international private investment companies: Inost Corp. -- a company working from New York, London and Bahrain specializing in investments of private and public bodies from the Persian Gulf in the U.S. and Western Europe; Carlisle -- a group that works in Washington, specializing in investments and in real estate companies and which today manages an investment portfolio of over USD 21 billion; Flemings, one of the largest investment companies in Britain, and Capital International.

As of today, the organization's investment portfolio is worth about USD 50 million. In 1998 it was worth about USD 32 million.

In parallel to the money in investment companies, the society also manages money by means of an intricate network of accounts in Arab Bank branches all over the world. Today they have accounts in branches in Geneva, London, Athens, Amman, Dubai, Beirut, Ramallah and Gaza. More activity takes place in the Bank of Palestine in Gaza and even Barclays Bank in Jerusalem.

A small example of the extent of the organization's activities can be seen from an examination made in the Arab Bank's Geneva branch. On September 22, 1999, in this branch alone, the organization had at its disposal in cash a sum of over USD 10 million, managed by means of several accounts [the bank account numbers follow…].

The "Palestinian Welfare Society" is not alone. Throughout Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, for many years, dozens of organizations and non-profit associations, non-governmental and international organizations are active. Various governments, the World Bank, the UN, the EU, private bodies and institutions and wealthy Palestinians, sent and still send hundreds of millions of dollars.

"Whereas in the 1980s a large part of these organizations were indeed welfare organizations, the trend of non-political involvement changed after the signing of the Oslo agreements," says a senior Israeli security source, "we fear that some of them, who enjoyed complete autonomy from us, began to be used by the Palestinian Authority as a conduit to whitewash capital and to send it to East Jerusalem and other places in Israel."

"Even if we ignore the information the security establishment has about the use of these assets, it is not at all clear to us why this money must be overseas," says a source in the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem. "We are talking about enormous assets that the PLO still holds all over the world, and the explanation of an economic reserves for times of crisis, is not reasonable. It is inconceivable that official or semi-official Palestinian bodies, linked to the PA umbilically, continue to hold such a large quantity of assets overseas while the PA economy is starving for outside investments and Arafat's subjects in the territories suffer from a low standard of living, unemployment and poverty. How, in these days, can they suddenly invest in building a computer center in Lebanon or in buying real estate in Saudi Arabia?

"The moment the independent Palestinian Authority was established, there is no justification of maintaining this body separate from the PA. Selling its assets and transferring the money paid for them to the territories could help in the battle against poverty, and therefore also against Hamas and be to the benefit of Arafat's survival."

Various declarations of organization heads of not being involved in politics do not conform to the facts. Thus, for example, one organization supported by the welfare society is the saraya, scouts, in Ramallah. Internal welfare society reports show that in 1987 alone, it transferred a sum of USD 100,000 to the scouts, money that was used to pay for legal aid given to movement members arrested in the Intifada.

One of the welfare society's projects is called "children of the future." The European group that investigated the welfare society had questions as to the real goal of this project. In the period between July 1998 and July 2001, this project was budgets with USD 289,704, a large sum for the PA. Israel suspects that the money from the project was transferred to goals that do not only foster the children of the future, or at least not in the usual sense of fostering. The suspicions relate to transferring some of this money to encourage activity related to recent events in the territories.

The welfare society claims that all the money is invested in educational projects, but cannot explain why the computer files show sketches of T-shirts for children saying "Intifada" and "el-Aksa," as well shirts saying "el-Kuds" under a large saying "no entry." These computer files were written a long time before the Intifada erupted, supporting IDF Intelligence Branch's contention that the September events were planned long before Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount.

One document of the welfare society reads that "the organization today gives direct assistance to families of the martyrs, to rehabilitation centers and to those wounded in recent events in Palestine… in light of the emergency situation and the Palestinians' urgent need for help, we have established the el-Aksa Intifada fund…."

A branch of the Arab Bank in Jordan manages the money of this fund.

Col. Shalom Goldstein, formerly of IDF Intelligence Branch and today Ehud Olmert's adviser for East Jerusalem, says that the activities of Palestinian organizations in Jerusalem serves as a cover for the PA itself. "We have known for a long time on the use the PA makes of this. The Oslo agreements prohibit the PA from operating in Jerusalem and the Palestinian leadership understood that the most 'legitimate' way of circumventing this prohibition was to make use of those independent organizations that were already active in the city before the PA's establishment." […]

It's not hard to find evidence of real estate purchases and other investments in Jerusalem in the European research. […] Among the documents collected by the European group, are also many sketches of sites in the Old City and in East Jerusalem, diagrams of the Temple Mount, aerial photographs of Jerusalem showing the key points and land registration papers for property bought by the organization or one of its branches.

Some of the big money that passes through the organization makes its way to the accounts of its directors. In terms of the territories, the directors of the society earn enormous salaries. The acting CEO, Victor Kashkus, earns USD 7,500 a month; the CEO in the PA, Rafik Husseini, earns USD 6,080 a month and others earn a bit less. All in all, the welfare society spent in 1998, according to the European group, USD 586,254 on salaries.

The researchers stressed that the society's founders are also very wealthy businessmen who have economic interests of their own in the Middle East and their involvement is very pronounced. Thus, for example, Abdel Majid Shuman appointed on February 15, 2000 Abdul Mohassan el Kutan and Abdul Aziz Shakshir, two members of the Arab Bank board of governors, to manage the investment portfolios of all the companies who manage the welfare society's money. This sort of work is generally left to bank clerks.

These wealthy Palestinians behind the welfare society are also behind the two main Palestinian companies for purchasing properties in Israel and in the PA, Padico and Jadico. They are owned by the Arab Bank and the Shuman family and Saudi prince billionaire Walid Bin Talal.

The activities of these two companies touch on, but do not overlap, with that of the welfare society, and not coincidentally. Upon the establishment of Jadico, its chairman, Abed el Majid Shuman, told reporters: The company's goals, which numbers 240 shareholders, are the purchase, development, management and selling of property in East Jerusalem. Shuman even emphasized: "The company was founded to halt the Judaization of Jerusalem."

And indeed, since its establishment, the company as invested many millions in buying land and property in the PA, in East Jerusalem, and some sources say, in other places inside the Green Line.

"There's nothing wrong with government or non-governmental Palestinian bodies helping raise the living standards of PA residents," says Shalom Harari. "However, I see the welfare society as very dangerous because this organization is building the foundations for a state within a state and for the cultural autonomy of Israeli Arabs. The society encourages creating separate institutions inside the State of Israel."

The big question is how much money the PLO has. It depends who you ask. It's hard to get el-Russein's version at the moment. The CIA estimated a decade ago that the PLO had assets worth 8 to 14 billion dollars. This wealth was accumulated by a 5% tax paid by every working Palestinian in Arab countries. But not only taxes.

Until the Gulf War in 1991, says the French newspaper Le Figaro, the organization's cash reserves amounted to more than 7 billion dollars. Arafat divided this immense sum among numbered accounts in Zurich, Geneva and New York.

The closing of the "International Bank for Credit and Trade" because of its managers' involvement in terror and drug trading, in a joint operation of Interpol and the World Bank in July 1992, exposed many secret bank accounts of Arafat and his people worth millions of dollars.

The end of the Gulf states' support for the PLO and the deportation of the Palestinian workers in the wake of Arafat's support for Saddam Hussein, brought it to the verge of bankruptcy. Some of Samad's assets were sold at the time to pay for the PLO's day-to-day activities. It's not clear which activities.

But the PLO, say Western intelligence assessments, recovered. In 1993, on the eve of the famous handshake between Arafat and Clinton and the White House lawn, the Scotland Yard published a report saying that most of the PLO's income was from "donations, extortion, bribes, illegal trade in arms, drug trading, money laundering, fraud, etc." In that same assessment, the British descried the PLO "the richest organization of all terror organizations." In 1994 the British repeated this assessment and even stated that because of the Oslo agreements, the illegal activities of the PLO had grown and put much more money in Arafat's and his colleagues in the PL O leadership's pockets. This money was put into real estate investments and industry in various places, as well into Swiss and other bank accounts.

The GAO report of the American Congress accountant from 1995 estimated PLO assets at 10-13 billion dollars, with an annual income of 1.5 to 2 billion. The report has never been published in full and was classified top secret.

These estimations are exaggerated, Israeli and other officials think.

They are a result of a clever disinformation campaign put out by Israel in the 1970s and 1980s to aggrandize the PLO's economic strength. Many of the exaggerated figures are from items disseminated by Israeli officials and delegates to the international press.

"The PLO's assets are less than published," Brig. Gen. Gadi Zohar says. "What they have overseas mainly serves as a personal insurance fund of the Palestinian leadership. Like every third world leader, Arafat too never knows when he will have to get on a plane and make tracks."

Nevertheless, figures collected in Israel and elsewhere show that the PLO, today as well, still has very large assets, worth about a billion dollars. The list includes tax free stores at the Kenyatta airport in Kenya, at the airport in Lagos Nigeria, in Tanzania and Mozambique; the ownership and part ownership in African airlines and the Maldives islands; farms, shoe factories, refineries, stocks of giant companies like Mercedes, investments in large industrial companies traded on the Frankfurt stock market, Paris and Tokyo; land in Mayfair London, shares in the Monte Carlo radio station and other radio stations.

The PLO is also the owner, or was in the past, of many newspapers (one of which, Sawat el Bilad, was edited by Mohammed Rashid when he was in his revolutionary stage) and many buildings in Cyprus, Greece, France, Spain, Jerusalem and Lebanon.

And in the meantime, the economic situation in the territories is harder than ever. More than 30% of the population lives on less than $2.10 a day. Unemployment is rampant and the economy has suffered from the Intifada. The official debt of the PA has grown from USD 1.7 billion in 1995 to USD 3.8 in 1999.

Officially, PA spokespeople say they are doing all they can to transfer PLO assets to "Palestine." Mohammed Rashid declared that he personally is in charge of the process meant to dismantle the PLO's economic empire. Chairman of the Palestinian National Council Salim Zaanoun claims that he heads a committee meant to restore Palestinian assets from Syria and Lebanon from the hands of private people who fraudulently took them over.

The Palestinian media, apropos Zaanoun, has published in the last few months reports about his private fortune, proving there are other sides in addition to suffering in being a senior Palestinian official. These reports say that Zaanoun bought a large house in Amman for him and his family, costing 7 million dinar (around USD 10 million). Zaanoun claims this building was bought for the PNC and cost 210,000 dinar only.

Senior sources in the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, responsible for monitoring the money donated to the PA, say that in violation of promises, the PA is not transparent of PLO assets overseas. They say there is no indication that Arafat plans to sell any of them soon and use them for his people's benefit.

"Write whatever you like," Abu Ala says, chairman of the PLO economic wing. He also says that "Samad" no longer exists in practice. […] He says: "We moved Samad here. It was established in Lebanon and remained in Lebanon until it was destroyed by the Israeli army. They destroyed the factory and the workshops belonging to Samad and even stole some of our textile machines."

Question: What about the farms in Africa?

Abu Ala: "Yes, we have a few large projects with a few African countries, but nothing close to the propaganda you have."

Question: And the duty free shops?

Abu Ala: "We've sold them all, there's nothing left."

Question: And your assets in Syria, the offices, the land, the money?

Abu Ala: "We have some assets in Syria. So what?"

This feature appeared in Yediot Aharonot on June 1, 2001

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How to Stop Terrorism
Benjamin Netanyau

The horrible murders of the last few days are tearing at the hearts of the whole nation, and causing a feeling of no way out for some of us. We are being told that terrorism cannot be stopped at all, and certainly not by military means. I completely disagree with this statement. Terrorism can be stopped only by rehabilitating Israel's power of deterrence and the willingness to employ it when needed.

Netanyahu Speaks

We stopped the terrorism from Egypt and Jordan using military means, many years before there were any sort of diplomatic processes with them. But there is no need to look back decades. In the three years of my government's tenure, we took terrorism off the national agenda. In 1996 we were elected to stop the wave of buses exploding and suicide bombers. In the 1999 elections, the security issue was no longer on the table. After three years that were nearly completely quiet and safe, I handed over to my successor a tranquil country whose citizens had a sense of security.

Arafat is the same Arafat, Hamas is the same Hamas, and the suicide bombers are the same suicide bombers. What has changed?

During my government's tenure, we rehabilitated Israel's power of deterrence, and would not accept terrorism as part of our daily routine.

Following our firm reaction to the events of the Hasmonean Tunnel and the three terrorist attacks in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, Arafat understood three things:

  1. That I am prepared to use the IDF's full force against the Palestinian Authority, even to the extent of toppling it.

  2. That the ministers supported this policy.

  3. That the government I headed would employ this policy despite all the international pressure.

Understanding the threat from us to his regime caused Arafat to take action against the Islamic terrorist organizations and to lock up terrorists. After the 1999 elections, Israel's policy was changed utterly and completely. The government that replaced mine returned to the policy of the Oslo government: it expressed a willingness for excessive concessions to the Palestinians, including under fire (and even hurriedly withdrew from Lebanon). As in the days of Oslo, the result was the same: a wave of terror once again engulfed the country.

In order to bring the power of deterrence back to Israel, we have to once again insist on three things:

  1. Israel is prepared to use any power necessary to stop the terror, including to the extent of paralyzing the Palestinian Authority and causing its collapse. Arafat is not worried about his people, upon whom he has brought one disaster after another, but he is certainly worried about his continued rule.

  2. The government must stand together behind this policy, which the majority of the people support.

  3. Israel will explain to international public opinion that we are implementing the natural right of any country to defend its citizens. This PR campaign is ever so much simpler with the present American administration, and with a coordinated diplomatic-PR effort, it will succeed.

These steps will bring about a halt to terror, and perhaps even before the Palestinian Authority collapses. But should Arafat not understand this, his successors will surely have learnt the lesson. In order to survive in power they will have to stop the terrorism against us.

The key to stopping the terror is not in the identity of the regime facing us or its intentions, but in deterrence. Arafat will not forsake the ideology of destroying Israel, which was once again exposed at Camp David. But he, or his successor, will stop the terrorism when they are forced to choose between it and the continuation of their rule. Ghadaffi is the same Ghadaffi, but he forsook terrorism when the U.S. bombed Libya and imposed heavy sanctions on it. North Korea is the same North Korea, but it too has moved away from using terrorism as a result of the incredible economic and international damage that terrorism had caused it.

The conception of Oslo, which is that relations of peace with the Palestinian can be established based on the assumption that they had altered their intentions towards Israel, was mistaken. In its place, the concept of security which has served Israel since its establishment, which brought about the cessation of fighting with two of our neighbors, and which ultimately enabled the establishing of peaceful relations with them, must be brought back: a strong Israel which knows how to stand up for itself and is prepared to use its power when necessary.

This article ran in Maariv on June 3, 2001

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Sara Blaustein's Son Mourns a Murdered Mother
Yoni Berg

You'd never know it from looking at her, but apparently my mother was a dangerous woman. On Tuesday, she was shot to death on her way to what must have been a sinister deed. Why else would she be killed in a horrible manner? If the gunmen who so callously ripped my mother away from me felt that they needed to put a bullet through her head in order to stop her, she must have been quite a dangerous woman indeed.

Oh, she put up a good front, though. On the outside, you'd never know my mother was this scheming devil, like these anonymous shooters seemed to have known. To her husband, she seemed like the loving woman he married fourteen years ago. To her children, she seemed like the stern but nurturing mother of her four kids. To her granddaughters, she was the doting Savta that brought them treats. And to her neighbors, she was a caring friend who would do anything asked of her.

But my question to the shooters is this: If my mother was so dangerous that she needed to be killed in order to stop her, when did she have time to do all of her nefarious planning? Was it before she saw her daughter off to school in the mornings? Perhaps it was between her prayers, recited daily? Or maybe it was when she was on her way to her classes every day, where she learned Holy Scriptures in holy sites.

I lived with my mother for twenty-three years, and she must have had me fooled but good. Here I thought she was a kind woman who delighted in entertaining guests whenever the opportunity arose. A woman who volunteered her time and money to charitable organizations of all sorts. A woman whose loss is being felt in communities spanning from her childhood home in Bensonhurst and the entire New York City area, to the home of her dreams in Israel.

Thousands of people came to her funeral on Wednesday night to mourn for her and weep over her grave, but these thousands of people must have been wrong. The men that drove by and killed her must have been right. Because only a terrible person deserves to be left so unprotected by her government, to allow her to be killed so brutally. And besides, if she were any good at all, wouldn't her government exact some measure of justice? Of course it would.

But my mother is dead. She was shot by a passing car on the highway. And nothing was done about it. Apparently her killers were right - my mother was a dangerous woman.

Yoni Berg

On behalf of himself and the other mourning children of Sara Blaustein: Adena Mark, Samuel Berg, Atara Blaustein

June 1, 2001

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Sara Blaustein: A Man Remembers His Murdered Wife
Norman Blaustein

My wife, Sara Blaustein, was brutally murdered in a drive-by shooting by Arab terrorists last Tuesday on the road from our home in Efrat to Jerusalem. We had moved to Israel with our 13 year old daughter, Atara, last summer fulfilling our life's dream of living in the Land of Israel. My wife's life revolved around her family, which meant more than just her husband and children, but by extension included the entire Jewish world. Anyone who ever needed any kind of charity - be it food, money, volunteering, or any other means of help - never came away from her empty-handed. The driving force of her personality, which was helping others at all costs, made it easy for her to make the transition to life in Israel. She instantly found her niche in the town of Efrat, where she continued to attend to her fellow-man at every opportunity.

My wife and I are among the 200,000 Jewish Israeli citizens of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza. Often, we are referred to as "settlers", which to many connotes some form of fanaticism. Actually, my Sara was a perfect example of a member of our community. She was not an extremist in any way. She was simply another Jewish citizen returning to her national home.

Her outlook on life was that of a true American - she firmly believed in the ideal of justice and equality for all its citizens. Her faith in American values makes her loss all the more tragic, because it was American policy that lead directly to her death.

I was astonished to discover that the United States has a website offering a reward for the capture of any terrorist who acts against American citizens worldwide EXCEPT for acts of Arab terrorism. Such a blatantly racist and anti-Semitic policy was nothing short of an invitation for the gunmen to kill my wife. But more than that, it was a betrayal of the faith she had in the American government, and in the American way of life which she cherished so much.

Adding insult to injury, there was no representative of the United States government at her funeral. When contacted, the embassy claimed that Efrat was out of their jurisdiction, while the American Consul-General refused to send anyone in order not to make "a political statement." Aside from this being callous, it's extremely hypocritical. In 1996, the Consul-General at the time, Ed Abington (who now works for Yasser Arafat in Washington) made a condolence call to the Arab village of Husan - minutes away from where my wife was murdered. The Consul-General went to console a family whose son had been killed.

Yet my family, now sitting Shiva, has not merited a visit from our country's representatives. Why is there political discrimination in American consolation policy between Arabs and Jews?

The juxtaposition of all these things - the lack of US reward for the capture of Arab terrorists, the imposed restraint by the US on Israel from pursuing my wife's killers, and the lack of common decency by the American government in failing to pay a mere condolence call - leaves me feeling not only abandoned by a cold, unfeeling government which does not seem to care about a murdered American, but also betrayed by a policy which must share in the responsibility for that murder.

Norman Blaustein

June 1, 2001

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Sherri Mandell:
I Want the United States to Pursue the Murderers of My Son, Yaakov
Sherri Mandel

I want the United States to pursue the murderers of my son, Yaakov Natan Mandell. He was a United States citizen and needs to be protected by United States law which offers a 5 million dollar reward for capturing terrorists, except for those terrorists here in Israel.

I want the United States to pursue the murderers of my son, Yaakov Natan Mandell. He was a United States citizen and needs to be protected by United States law which offers a 5 million dollar reward for capturing terrorists, except for those terrorists here in Israel.

Martin Indyk called me during the shiva and I asked him to visit me. He said that "he wasn't allowed to." I asked him to call George Bush, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and have them call me. They never called. They didn't write or send a letter of condolence.

We are being branded war criminals by the UN. Meanwhile the murderers of my son are free--and the United States is not helping to pursue them and bring them to justice.

Koby loved America. He loved baseball and shopping malls and Michael Jordan and Cal Ripken. He still followed sports in America. He had even sent his bar mitzvah invitations to Bill Clinton and Al Gore. We never heard back from them anything, not even a cordial decline.

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Living with a War on the Road Near Our Home
Sara Bedein

Yesterday three brutal murders rocked our community. Two were from Efrat. Sarah Blaustein, 53 was shot to death while on the way with her family and some hitchhikers picked up in Efrat, to the funeral of Gilad Zar, a civilian security specialist whose job was to travel the roads of Judea and Samaria and to report security infringements. Gilad had been ambushed and shot to death that morning while he was riding the roads and protecting our families.

The Blaustein family had moved to Efrat from New York only eight months ago to fulfill their dream of living in the Land of Israel. Sarah's brother, a resident of Efrat was one of the influencing factors of their moving to Efrat. Sarah's daughter, Atara is my thirteen year old daughter, Leora's classmate. Later in the evening we learned the name of the young woman who was murdered in the car. Leora was on the way to console her friend Atara when she heard on the Israel radionews that the young woman who was travelling with Atara's mother, twenty year old Esther Elvan, had died in Hadassah Hospital from the wounds that she suffered in that drive-by attack.

Esther was Leora's youth counselor.

Of all our children, Leora has said the least about "the situation".

It is difficult to know what is going on in her head. Leora is our only "A" student, sweet, kind, loving, with an immense love of animals, and an innate goodness about her Leora'a paintings decorate our living room.

There is one painting of Leora's of which I am particularly fond of and it always makes me smile. It is a painting of our family all wearing big smiles on our faces. She painted it when she was eleven years old.

When I look at it I think "all is well in Leora's world".

Today, all is no longer well in Leora's world. Today she will be attending two funerals. One for her classmate's mother and the other of her most beloved youth counselor, of whom Leora had tearfully told me last night that she had always thought what a beautiful life Esther would have because she is such a good person and makes everybody feel so good about ourselves. "I can't believe that I'll never see her again", she said crying inconsolably.

As a parent it breaks my heart to see the loss of innocence and normal childhood that our children are experiencing. Our oldest daughter, Rivka, had been a babysitter for our friend's son, Koby Mandell, who was brutally stoned to death together with his friend Yossi.

Their faces and bodies were mutilated beyond recognition. Among the many who came to the funerals were hundreds of children. We are groping in the dark trying to make sense of this catastrophe that has befallen us.

I used to wonder how Jews in Europe continued living where they did after the Nazis rose to power in 1933 when everyday brought more tragedy into their lives. I no longer wonder.

Every Jew in Israel lives in the shadow of an official death sentence that the new Palestinian Authority has pronounced for every Jew.

For that reason, you have heard nary a word of condemnation at any time in the Arabic media of the Palestinian Authority for the brutal murder of any Jew during the eight years of what has been called a "peace process"

Yet the State of Israel was created so that Jews would have a safe haven from the anti- semitism of the world which almost succeeded in the genocide of the Jewish people.

Fifty three years after the establishment of the State of Israel we are now in the position of apologizing for wanting to defend ourselves against a ruthless aversary who train their children from infancy to hate and to celebrate the murder of innocent people for the glory of Palestine.

Over the past eight months we have grown accustomed to horrific realities that would have been intolerable in any other country.

Today, we witness daily murders of people whom we have loved. Our children go to school with orphans whose parents have been killed. Our children have teachers whose spouses have been murdered or return to class to find an empty seat of a classmate who will no longer return to occupy the seat. Our children have attended more funerals than most people attend during an entire lifetime.

We live in Efrat, a fifteen minute drive from Jerusalem and situated between Bethlehem and Hebron. Efrat is a town with lush parks and gardens, beautiful homes, excellent schools, with a population of over 7000 residents consisting of many professionals and people working in the education field. The city of Efrat was purchased legally for a dear price by local Arab landlords in 1983. Contrary to what many people would like to believe, Efrat does not rest on land stolen from Arabs, nor do any of the 144 Jewish settlement communities throughout the West Bank and Gaza strip. All the land in these communities lie on land purchased at full price from Arab landlords or they were constructed on government land (no man's land that did not have any ownership rights to them).

Not everyone living in Efrat moved there for ideological reasons. Many people have moved to Efrat because of a sense of community here, which seemed until recently to be an idyllic place place to raise a family.

When we moved here in 1985 with two small children and one on the way, we never imagined we would be living in a war zone situation. We are now the parents of six children ranging from 19 months to 19 years. Our three eldest dorm during the week at their schools which are situated in various places in Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley. Since September we have equipped them with cell-phones so that we can verify their safe arrival to school. All three have been exposed to shootings on the road from the relative safety of the bullet-proof buses they travel in.

My daughter, Rivka, who goes to high school in Kiryat Arba, near Hebron, tells me that she and her friends traveling on their school buses have adopted the odd custom of sitting on their legs when they pass these Arab villages "so as to arrive with our legs on". This custom came about following the deliberate bombing of the Israeli children's bullet-proof school bus in Kfar Darom (the Gaza Strip) in which two teachers were killed and three children from the same family had their lower limbs blown off.

The first time I saw my neighbor, a lawyer who works in Jerusalem, walk out of his house in the morning carrying his briefcase and wearing a bullet-proof vest and helmet, I laughed and saluted. The picture was so surreal. Since then, since twenty people from our communities have been murdered on the roads while traveling in their non bullet -proof cars, the sight of people sporting this new fashion has become more understandable

We have somehow become accustomed to this most outrageous form of existence.

We have become used to hearing the sound of shooting in the air.

Last Thursday, to the sounds of a gunshot battle (that was taking place in the Dagan - Efrat's furthest northern neighborhood) I was reading to my six year old daughter, Meira, a story from Dr. Seuss. As the shooting became louder, I looked outside my daughter's window to see what was happening.

From the window I watched the local Yeshiva high school boys carry on with their basketball game. The commercial center was teeming with children out for pizza or just hanging out with their friends. People were visiting the video store, and everyone was carrying out their middle class suburban life style, business as usual, totally oblivious to the sound of loud machine gun fire.

Meira, like many children these days, is having nightmares. Every night when she says her nightly prayers she asks God not to let her have any bad dreams. She has become clingy and though prior to the current situation she had never come into our bed at night, now, she often does. Everyday she asks us if "somebody got killed today". She worries constantly for her father who travels the roads daily to work to and from Jerusalem.

When it is night time and her father isn't home yet, she calls him on the cell phone to see if he is all right.

Israel's Defense Minister, Benjamin Eliezer, was asked yesterday whether Israel's one-sided cease-fire will continue. "Yes it will", he answered.

"Until when?", he was asked. "Until the Nation Of Israel screams out 'no more'. Open your ears, Benjamin Eliezer. The people of Israel scream of "No More".

In a seminal tractate of the Talmud known as "Ethics of the Fathers", we learn that he who has destroyed a single life is rendered as if he has destroyed an entire world.

Article written on May 30, 2001, following the murders of Sara Blaustein, Esther Elvan and Gilad Zar

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