Israel Resource Review 24th November, 2007


Incisive Commentary
Arlene Kushner, Senior Policy Analyst, Center for Near East Policy Research

Posting: November 18, 2007

"Anyone's Guess"

Will the conference be held in Annapolis on November 27? Still possible, but looking less likely.

Khaled Abu Toameh is reporting in the Post that PA officials are saying they are doubtful that a joint statement on principles can be agreed upon before the gathering. Obviously Rice doesn't expect this statement to materialize, because it seems she's not coming back here before Annapolis, as she was supposed to do.

Israeli officials are being more explicit : They now say the Palestinians "have backpedaled to square one, to the first day of negotiations."


Abu Toameh further reports that Abbas was just in Saudi Arabia; according to Jamal Shubaki, PA representative in Saudi Arabia, Abbas told King Abdullah that he was pessimistic about chances of success at the conference and said he would rather resign than fail there. According to Shubaki, the king agreed that Israel wasn't sincere in efforts to make peace. If the king did say this, then it would be unlikely that the Saudis would want to attend -- and this was something that has been important to the Americans.

But negotiator Saeb Erekat said that while there were difficulties in the negotiations, it was too soon to talk of crisis.


Said Olmert, during his meeting here today with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, "Annapolis cannot be a failure because the fact that it is taking place is a success unto itself." That's an interesting spin. A sign of expectations that it will fail.


The Palestinians, of course, are placing responsibility for possible failure on us. Said Shubaki: "The Palestinians are unhappy with the Israeli position because Israel hasn't done anything so far to make the conference succeed." He speaks about the need for the US to put additional pressure on Israel. And there are ever more demands on us being put forth.

This negotiating ploy really enrages me.

What has the PA done? Made a cosmetic attempt to secure law and order with those 300 security people deployed in Nablus. The irony here is this is something they should be doing in earnest anyway as a function of their responsibility to their own people.

And we? We're constantly making "good faith" gestures that are supposed to keep the Palestinian street happy. We've let out prisoners and reduced roadblocks. Now they want more:

They've asked for the release of 2,000 additional prisoners and word is that Olmert is thinking of letting out 450 or 500. This will be raised at tomorrow's Cabinet meeting.

They want more checkpoints taken down.

They want the PLO to be able to operate in eastern Jerusalem again, which request Olmert is -- most regrettably and dangerously -- said to be considering.


Under heavy pressure from the US , Israel has also frozen settlement expansion.

Kouchner said today that settlements are the "biggest obstacle to peace between Israel and the Palestinians." But -- as often as this canard is repeated -- it just isn't so. The obstacle is the refusal of the Palestinians and much of the Arab world to allow us to exist here in peace as a Jewish state.

Neither, by the way, are the settlements illegal . And when time allows I would like to return to this issue and its historical/legal background.


Meanwhile, Al Hayat in London is reporting that Olmert has agreed in private conversation with Abbas to take in 20,000 Palestinian refugees. Is it true? Don't know.

G-d forbid. It would be a horror. Not only the taking in of 20,000 hostile people (the refugees are the most radicalized), but the acknowledgement that we somehow are responsible for the situation of more than 4 million so-called refugees -- rather than UNRWA and Arab states that have kept them in miserable limbo for 60 years. It would be a Pandora's box.

The whole objection on the part of the Palestinians to our insisting on their recognizing us as a Jewish state is supposed to be because this precludes return.


Something else that really irks: A report has been released by Turkey regarding a mission that came in March to see what was happening with excavations at the Mughrabi Gate outside the Temple Mount. It claims that this represents a "pre-planned effort to destroy the Muslim nature of the Old City." We're trying to "Judaize" the Mount, you see. (That part doesn't irk so much as amuse, it's so ridiculous.)

Israel 's response was clear and forthright: "Israel is cooperating fully with UNESCO, which had sent a professional team to the site of the dig and published a report refuting all the allegations against Israel."

And we're supposed to have good relations with Turkey.


According to information leaked to the Sunday Times (London), the Winograd report will blame Olmert for the last 60 hours of the Lebanon war, and for the 33 deaths that ensued. I had just read that the report was due out in two weeks, now I read "by the end of the year." It cannot come out soon enough for me, for it will further destabilize Olmert's position.

There was considerable debate recently about the fact that the Winograd report wasn't going to name names. But in this instance, it appears to not be the case. Unfortunately, the Winograd Committee is structured (on purpose) so that it does not have the authority to recommend dismissals or resignations.


Posting: November 16, 2007


Briefly before Shabbat and without knowledge of when I will next be on line . . .

Don't know where the issue of demanding that we be recognized as a Jewish state is going. I'm looking for -- expecting -- the hedge that allows the PA to say they didn't provide this recognition, but that allows Olmert to say he got what he demanded. PA negotiator Saeb Erekat has now said that Olmert wanted to "poke us in the eye." But . . . he has also now said, "The majority of Israelis are Jews. And when we recognized Israel we recognized the composition of the state." This is NOT the same thing as what Olmert is supposed to be demanding, which would be a right that sounds the death knell for "return" of refugees. It's on the way to a hedge, and it remains to be seen how this plays out.


The defense establishment is advising that no more concessions should be made to Abbas until the results of Annapolis are examined. Enough good will gestures, they say. Said one defense official -- unnamed, but clearly someone with his head screwed on right -- "The Palestinians will forget quickly what we gave them before the summit and it is important to create incentives for Abbas to make the summit work."

But the Cabinet (either not knowing or not caring how this constant rush to concessions weakens our stance) will be voting on Monday regarding the release of more prisoners, which Abbas has requested.

According to a "senior official" in the government -- also unnamed -- "If the summit is successful and negotiations ensue, then it might be necessary to keep the Palestinians happy and quiet. One way to do that is to release more prisoners." I was so incredulous at the stupidity of this I had to read it twice. The plan being hatched, which apparently hasn't reached Olmert's desk yet, is to keep the street quiet by releasing a significant number of prisoners every month so that negotiations can proceed.

Don't they see that if we have to BUY the cooperation of the Palestinian people, if they are not happy BECAUSE we are negotiating peace, then there is no peace? Here, in a nutshell, is the whole concessions mentality, which totally fails to recognize that the other side has to genuinely want peace.


The Shin Bet is making a prediction that Abbas might be looking for an excuse to shuttle Annapolis. Not getting enough concessions might be a hook for this: we couldn't continue, for Israel wasn't sincere. But this is absolutely not a reason to make those concessions, for reasons just stated. If he wants out, it wouldn't work anyway.

And sure he wants out, because he's not politically strong enough to compromise at all, and because he would never sign an end of conflict agreement, since the goal is to destroy us.


Political commentator Ehud Ya'ari also thinks Abbas wants out. Says he, "The Palestinians are fuming at Rice for having trapped them in a corner." But he talks about something else that is mightily worrisome: the Palestinians are trying to "get out of it by renewing the talk about a 'third step' in the Oslo process that was never implemented. What this means is an attempt to get more territory on the West Bank from Israel without having to reach any substantive agreement." This must be monitored very closely.

Ya'ari says a great deal more: "If it were not for Israel's regular preemptive counterterror raids, Hamas could, if it so wished and even without the use of armed force, paralyze the functioning of the Palestinian Authority. There's no chance that things will change in the foreseeable future. The Fatah movement has in fact ceased to exist, although there are still tens of thousands of card-carrying members. There is no meaningful process of resuscitation or reform under way in either the PA, or its ruling party, Fatah. In private conversations, associates of the PA chairman, Mahmud Abbas (Abu Mazen), call him 'a pensioner still going to the office.'"

And this is who we are thinking of negotiating with.


Posting: November 15, 2007

"Game Playing"

I don't know what else one would call it. Consider: Olmert says unequivocally (or as unequivocally as Ehud Olmert ever says anything) that he will demand at the start of negotiations that the PA recognize us as a Jewish state. No compromise on this, he has stated: "Israel is a state of the Jewish people. Whoever does not accept this cannot hold any negotiations with me."

And the PA is growing increasingly adamant about not giving us this recognition. Even PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad, who is supposed to be the most "moderate" of the bunch, has now rejected this demand. Pretty much makes the whole thing a non-starter. No?

But "well-placed sources" have told the Post that Olmert believes the Annapolis joint statement will address the matter satisfactorily, enabling negotiations to proceed. That's interesting, since we've heard that so far there is no joint statement. And, in any event, it would seem to be possible to resolve this. What are we missing here?


I mentioned Saudi Arabia last night , with regard to the fallaciousness of the Palestinian claim that no nation is connected to a religion. That example came to my mind because it is so glaring. But several pieces have been generated on this subject and a whole host of examples has been put forward -- such as the Church of England.

But the best example was put forth by Aaron Lerner of IMRA, who pointed out that the PA draft constitution names Islam as the official religion of the Palestinian state.


Earlier today the Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram reported that Syria would be attending the conference if it would receive a proper invitation. But now Assad is saying again that the conference must deal with the Golan Heights.

He made this statement after meeting with the head of the Arab League, Amr Moussa. Said Moussa, the Arabs were going to come up with a united plan for the conference at a meeting of foreign ministers in Cairo on November 22 -23.

"What we want is a conference that deals with the Arab-Israeli conflict and starts serious negotiations under international supervision," explained. Abbas will address the group and Khaled Mashaal of Hamas, in Damascus, will be consulted.

This makes my blood run cold. Walking into such a situation is insanity, truly. Especially as we are going from a position of weakness, as Olmert rushes always to make concessions.


I'm not exactly buoyed by Evelyn Gordon's piece in the Post, either. She reports that one concession Olmert has already made is to allow the US to decide when there has been compliance with the Road Map. This is of concern with regard to PA counterterrorism efforts -- have they sufficiently reformed their security forces, confiscated guns, arrested terrorists. Once they have done this to determined satisfaction, we are required to pull back. And if they are not equipped to handle the situation we would see a huge increase in terrorism.

Trust the US on this? With Rice, who has a history of putting us in positions that generate security risks, in charge? And Dayton, who has turned out to be a fool, making judgment on the ground? Not a good scene.


This ain't great either (the bad news seems to come in bunches, doesn't it?): Eighty-nine Congresspersons have written to Condoleezza Rice, saying that "current levels of US assistance are insufficient to leverage . . . real change and improvement by the Palestinian Authority . . . " They request increased giving to the PA, and ask that Israel be "engaged" regarding the release of tax revenues to the PA.

Among those 89 Congresspersons were nine Jewish lawmakers, including -- I am sorry to have to report -- Gary Ackerman, chair of the subcommittee on the Middle East, Tom Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor in the Congress, and Henry Waxman.


Compare this with what Congresswomen Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Shelley Berkley (D-NV) have to say on the subject:

"The US has spent, and continues to spend , millions of dollars on programs to assist the PA . . .

"Despite [this], Abu Mazen and his corrupt Fatah party failed miserably at curbing terrorism and implementing government reforms . . .

"Yet, the US has done little to change their behavior, instead, counseling patience and offering further aid. This only encourages a culture of victimhood and unaccountability among the Palestinians, a culture feeding terror and perpetuating and deepening the present conflict. Therefore, given the history of the PA and Fatah, the Administration's recent proposal to hand Abu Mazen hundreds of millions in additional funding is simply wrong.

.". It is time for a new approach.

"We must pursue a policy that sets and enforces higher standards for Palestinian behavior, and provides consequences if they fail to perform. The first step is to link our support to results. Instead of disbursing millions to Palestinian leaders in the hope they will change their ways, we must link each disbursement of funds to tangible progress . . .

"If the Palestinians do not achieve the intended results, they must not receive US assistance or the legitimacy of political support from US officials."

We DO have friends who get it.


Two years ago, the American-Israel Demographic Research Group released information showing that the commonly cited demographic time bomb with regard to Arab population overtaking Jewish population in Israel -- a major rationale presented for giving up Judea and Samaria -- didn't exist. Seems the figures were wrong: the PA was using projections from old figures, and those projections were wrong. Many thousands had left the area, some were being counted twice because they lived in Jerusalem, etc. All in all, said this group, there were about one million fewer Palestinians than was claimed, and if we were to keep Judea and Samaria, we would still retain a Jewish majority for the foreseeable future.

Now Bennet Zimmerman, an American member of this group, has given an interview debunking demographic arguments for dividing Jerusalem. The Arab birthrate is going down (a function of modernization or "Israelization", and the Jewish birthrate is going steadily up. Says Zimmerman, "for the first time since 1967, Israel has a stable 2-1 majority" and "a two thirds majority in Jerusalem."


Coincidentally, one of the Israeli members of that team, Yoram Ettinger, a former envoy in the Israeli Embassy in Washington DC, has just written a piece for YNet. It has nothing to do with demographics, but rather with "Wrong approach to peace."

Ettinger sites Professor Majid Khadduri, now deceased, from Johns Hopkins University, who was the world's leading authority on Arab definitions of peace and war. Peace, Khadduri had explained, is viewed as a tactical means of achieving the strategic objective of defeating the enemy. "Peace constitutes a temporary break in the ongoing war against the enemy . . . "

An important read on a little understood subject:,7340,L-3471412,00.html


Posting: November 14, 2007

"More of Same"

Still in that holding pattern . . . waiting for a grandchild who gives hints but so far has not been inclined to make that big appearance . . . writing as I can return to my computer . . .

Actually, from my son's house yesterday , when I accessed news via his computer, I wondered if I was perhaps more at ease when I didn't know what was going on. It remains so incomprehensible to me -- this push to insanity. But there's hope.


Word now has it that the Annapolis conference will only last one day, that day presumably being the 27th of November. Invitations still aren't out. Latest news is that Egyptian officials are now saying, once again, that things don't look good for progress and they're not sure they're coming.

The Post reports today that Nabil Abu Rudaineh , a senior adviser to Abbas, says that not "a single word" of the joint declaration had been written. "There are still too many differences."

This is good news because there has been concern regarding what Olmert might sign upfront, thereby committing us to things we're best not committed to.

Seems the US is prepared to go ahead even if there is no joint declaration. They are now saying what's going on is a process, and that the statement isn't that important. (More on Rice below.)

Seems to me there is only going to be widening of the gaps between the two sides in the time remaining. Protests are gearing up in several quarters here in Jerusalem, and Abbas is being squeezed from his side.


The other good news involves a first reading that passed in the Knesset today of a bill that requires a vote of 80 members of the Knesset to change Jerusalem's boundaries. This would be added as an amendment to the Basic Law of Israel, which already identifies Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel. There has been some question as to how "Jerusalem" is defined, as the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem were not the same when the Basic Law declared it to be our capital as they are now.

I've had several discussions on this issue with an attorney, and it would be my understanding that such an addition to our basic law, finalized, in place and publicized, would give proper legal notice internationally so that Olmert's signature alone on an agreement that gave away part of Jerusalem would not be binding internationally.

And I do not believe there is even a remote chance that 80 of our MKs (out of a total of 120) would sign off on giving away part of Jerusalem. This, alone, might kill negotiations.


Olmert has had a meeting with leaders of the Yesha Council -- the organization that represents the residents of Judea and Samaria. Suffice it to say that it did not go well. At issue at present is a freeze on settlement building which is seen as a gesture to the US.


One of the things I'm paying close attention to is Olmert's pledge to demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Most recently what is being said is that he will raise this with them post-Annapolis in negotiations. My response to this was that the time to raise it was in the pre-Annapolis declaration -- for if they cannot agree to this there would be no point in going to Annapolis at all, and it would certainly be unwise to sign anything absent this Arab acknowledgement. Well . . . seems as if there will be no declaration, although Olmert is bent on going to Annapolis.

Of course they're never going to agree to recognizing a Jewish state. Not only is the concept abhorrent to them -- as they consider this Muslim land -- it would preclude the refugee's "return."

Said negotiator Saeb Erekat, "There is no country in the world where religious and national identities are intertwined." And what about Saudi Arabia? This nation, which is governed by Sharia -- Muslim law, doesn't even let Jews into the country and forbids any public worship, or construction of churches, by Christians.


If -- it should only be! -- Olmert would refuse to pursue negotiations if the Palestinians refuse to recognize us as a Jewish state, it would save a great deal of grief.

Olmert gave a briefing to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday. What he told them is that there would be negotiations about the third stage of the Road Map -- outlining what would define a final state (including questions of Jerusalem and borders) -- but that it wouldn't be actualized until the first stage -- which requires the PA to dismantle terrorism -- was implemented.

This may sound safe -- we wouldn't withdraw from anything until they dismantled the terrorist infrastructure. But it most definitely isn't safe. Experts have been warning about this for some time. Once Olmert were to sign on to specific agreements in theory there would be enormous pressure by the international community for us to proceed no matter what. There is absolutely NO precedent for holding the Palestinians accountable. We'd be told Abbas is trying his best, or that he arrested half a dozen terrorists. Or that he will be better able to carry this out once we strengthen him by giving him a state.

Actually, last week Ahmed Qurei, head of the PA negotiating team, said they had already fulfilled their obligations under the first stage of the Road Map and could proceed. When you finish laughing, you can continue reading. But understand that their brazen gall in making such claims is considerable and part of what has to be dealt with.


As most of you likely know , there was a Fatah-organized rally in Gaza City on Monday, which attracted 250,000, in commemoration of the third anniversary of Arafat's death. Hamas forces fired on the crowd, killing six and wounding many more. In the words of Khaled Abu Toameh, this clash represents "the huge challenges facing . . . Abbas" before Annapolis.


Last Friday Al-Quds, a London paper , reported that Abbas is leaking the information that Israel plans a major operation in Gaza to retake the Philadelphi Corridor after Annapolis. Presumably Israel shared this information with Abbas (don't know that this is actually so) and that he is trying to block it because he's unhappy about it. It's important to ask WHY Abbas, our "moderate partner for peace," would be unhappy about an Israeli action to block terrorism in territory that Hamas controls. The fact that he is speaks volumes.


Let me turn, now, to the greatest source of political insanity: Condoleezza Rice, who gave an address in Nashville at the General Assembly of United Jewish Communities -- the largest annual gathering of Jewish leadership. Said she:

"Peace between Israelis and Palestinians is in the strategic interest of the United States."

Real peace might be. The so-called "peace" she hopes to see negotiated does not serve the US, as a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria will become a headquarters for terrorism, affecting the stability of Jordan and what goes on in Iraq.

"We will defend against any action , as we always have, that would compromise Israel's security. "

Forgive me, but she lies through her teeth . She consistently pushes Israel to take actions that compromise our security because those actions in her mind serve other purposes. How could she ask us to release prisoners when there is a statistically large possibility of their return to terrorism? Or to remove checkpoints when they are proven to catch terrorists on their way to their crimes of horror?

"Just think back to 2001," she advised her listeners. "Despite the extraordinary efforts of the Clinton Administration, peace negotiations had collapsed. The violence between Palestinians and Israelis was almost daily . . . "

Her implication is that the violence came about because Clinton failed to envision the proper parameters for a Palestinian state and thus couldn't achieve peace. But in point of fact, the violence increased BECAUSE of the "peace negotiations." It was thought by Arafat that he could accomplish more that way -- Clinton, who invited Arafat to the White House more times than any other international leader, never held the Palestinians responsible for their commitments or obligations. (Here we go again.) He kept giving to them, and playing up to them, even (or especially) when they didn't honor commitments.

How is this different from today -- when the US gave large sums to the PA to strengthen it against Hamas in Gaza, and Fatah security people -- better armed, more numerous and better trained, ran from Gaza because of lack of WILL, only to find that the US was prepared to give them huge additional sums of money for (more) arms and training? What message has been delivered?

And so, she goes on to explain: "This led the President [Bush] to try a different approach . . . What . . . needed to be addressed was the character of the Palestinian state. Would it fight terrorism? Would it govern justly? Would it create opportunity for its people? In our view, the security of the democratic Jewish state required the creation of a responsible Palestinian state."

Now, neither you nor I can see into Rice's head . But does it seem the remotest bit likely that she actually believes that Abbas has established a new sort of responsible, democratic state that is fighting terrorism and governs justly and creates opportunity for its people? She's not a halfwit, which one would have to be to believe this. There is no law and order in the PA areas. Abbas and his cronies are breathtakingly corrupt, and there is no opportunity for the people. (More and more I'm hearing about Palestinians within Israeli jurisdictions who are afraid of being included within a Palestinian state -- they far prefer Israeli rule.)

And, if she doesn't believe this , exactly what is going on, and how does she have the nerve to say this?

Perhaps more to the point, how is it that American Jewish leaders sat still for this garbage and applauded her, rather than rising on their feet and challenging her? That is what is most worrisome.


Lest you have the wrong impression on this matter: In a poll just done by Ma'agar Mohot, it was found that 65% of the population of Israel opposes a substantial withdrawal from Judea and Samaria because of what happened after the Gaza pullout, and 55% think that the Knesset should remove Olmert. Were we to leave Judea and Samaria, 65% believe there is a high or very high chance that Hamas would take control of the area, and 77% said Abbas lacked the power to prevent attacks.


Posting: November 11, 2007


Still, still, I am in a holding pattern on personal matters. I cannot apologize for putting first things first -- for what matters more than attending to family when a new life is imminent? -- and yet I'm mindful that I do not have the time now that I routinely allot to these postings. That time will be reinstated in due course . . .

I was not going to post tonight , but felt compelled by certain news items to do so. What occurs to me, however, as I post, is that from day to day the situation vis-a-vis Annapolis changes radically, so that if I wait a day what I have to report becomes changed.

Two things move me now . The first is now that Sec. of State Rice has promised the Syrians that return of the Golan Heights will be put on the table at Annapolis if they attend. This news has come via Army Radio, which reports that head of Military Intelligence, Amos Yadlin, informed the Cabinet of this situation today. I don't know what the response of ministers present was or if some already knew of this.

This news is good for raising blood pressure several points. My immediate response: Who does she imagine she thinks she is? The Golan, which has been annexed by Israel, is ours; it affects not only our national rights but our security. She has no right to promise anything.

And so, good people in the US , if you agree with me, please let President Bush hear about this:

President George Bush

The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Washington, DC 20500

Phone : 202-456-1111 Fax: 202-456-2461



Then, on our side of the Atlantic , there's Minister Eli Yishai, of Shas. Shas should be pulling out of the coalition as I write. But instead Yishai says if he pulls out at all it will be after Annapolis, because he wants to see how things go, first. He doesn't expect Olmert will make any significant commitments. And if Olmert signs on the dotted line in a way that does commit us? Then what good does pulling out do, after the deed is done? Both Shas and Yisrael Beitenu have to pull out to make the government fall. And of the two parties, Shas is holding back more.

And so, for Israeli citizens I offer contact information for Yishai. Best, of course, is getting religious Sephardim, who constitute the basis of the Shas party, to contact him.

phones: 02-640-8406 or 640-8407 Fax: 02-6662909

aides: David 050-624-0932; Shlomo 050-624-0933


Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beitenu) has demanded of Olmert that he hold a special meeting of the Cabinet to discuss Annapolis before it takes place .

Said Lieberman: "We are cheating ourselves. It's clear that the Palestinians can't provide the goods - that is the estimation of established sources. The minute we leave Judea and Samaria, it will only be left for Hamas to decide to take over."

Additionally, he said, ""There's nothing written in the Road Map which says the Palestinians are to fight terrorism only in Judea and Samaria. Abbas can't fight in Gaza and already said he won't aid a civil war . "


And then there's this:

According to Arutz Sheva , Olmert intends to demand that the PA recognize Israel as a Jewish state in the upcoming joint declaration. And according to YNet the Palestinians have said point blank that they will not do so. Of course they won't. They intend to destroy us as a Jewish state.

But if it comes as no surprise to me that they won't declare our right to exist as a Jewish state, it occurs to me that many -- believing still in Abbas's "moderation" -- may be quite surprised. If so, important learning for them .


Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat stated yesterday that there hasn't been any agreement on the document beyond a preamble and that many disagreements remain. A main bone of contention remains the issue of who gets to decide when there has been compliance with a stipulation of the Road Map . The PA is saying Israel backed off from the idea of an oversight committee with the US deciding. Israel says there was never such an agreement.

Meanwhile Israel had indicated that in negotiations the PA had agreed to dismantle terror groups, but PA Information Minister, Riad Malki, in an interview on an American Arabic language radio show, denied that this is so.


Over 100 investigators from the National Fraud and Investigation Unit have conducted simultaneous raids in 20 different government office sites to seize evidence related to the corruption charges against Olmert. The intention was to collect all relevant data -- from the Jerusalem Municipality, the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry, etc. -- at one time. If only something would actually come of this.


Yesterday Abbas unveiled a 1.75 million dollar mausoleum for Arafat in Ramallah. Isn't that sweet? Abbas -- who is playing on Arafat's memory -- said that the PA would be continuing in the vision of Arafat, who worked towards a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. It is surrounded by water, and has a segment of railway beneath the tomb, in order to signify its temporary status: the stated goal is to re-bury Arafat in Jerusalem. G-d forbid.

Printer friendly version of this article

Return to Contents

The UN terror connection in Gaza
Arlene Kushner, Senior Policy Analyst, Center for Near East Policy Research

Breakdown and Introduction

At the beginning of November, Col. Nir Press, of the IDF's Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration, registered a complaint with the United Nations Relief and Welfare Agency (UNWRA) regarding the use by terrorists of an UNRWA school in Beit Hanoun on October 31 for shooting mortars. The IDF has aerial photos from an unmanned vehicle that showed the terrorists shooting from the school. Israel did not fire at the school in return.[1]

John Ging, Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, responded[2] that the masked terrorists had gained entry into the school after threatening the life of the guard.

Karen AbuZayd, Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations who has been UNRWA's Deputy Commissioner-General since August, however, told the press a different story: She said that all teachers and students and the one guard employed at the school had been moved out following an Israeli incursion into the area.

According to her, UNRWA only discovered militants had been inside the school after seeing television footage a week ago.

"This is a problem when we're not there, what happens to our schools," she said.

She does not explain what happened to the guard whose life was threatened.

UN Secretary-General Ki Moon is sufficiently concerned about this incident to have now ordered an investigation.

This particular incident has not occurred in isolation, however, and must be set into fuller context:


Before September 2005

UNRWRA and terrorism in Gaza

The connections of the UNRWA refugee camps in Gaza to terrorism – and specifically to Hamas – date back well beyond recent events.

The genesis of radicalism in the UNRWA camps was traced by these authors in March 2003.[3] A state of indefinite, stateless limbo, the impression that Israel was denying them their "inalienable right to return,"[4] and unsatisfactory living conditions all promoted anger and a move to a radical stance. Added to this was (and is) an educational system that in Gaza, as well as in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) , utilizes Palestinian Authority textbooks that promote jihad and deny the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state.

Evidence of radicalism in the UNRWA camps was apparent – but largely ignored – for some years:

A full ten years ago, UNRWA schools were seen decorated with Hamas graffiti and a map of a Palestine that ran from the river to the sea, covered with pictures of machine guns.[5]

An UNRWA food distribution center in Beach Camp, Gaza, was reported to be "decorated with murals of exploding Israeli boats and burning jeeps." At a nearby boys elementary school "posters glorifying suicide bombers" were stripped from classroom walls.[6]

IDF Colonel (ret.) Yoni Fighel, a former military governor in the territories, gave testimony in 2002 to the fact that UNRWA employees were members of Hamas.[7]

By 2003, it was clear that "the UNRWA camps have become centers of terrorist activities. It is often in the camps that terrorists are recruited, trained, and dispatched, and weapons manufactured; camps (and UNRWA facilities) are utilized for hiding terrorists and weapons. Camps provide a safe haven for terrorists from outside, while residents of the camps themselves are involved in terrorist activities."[8]

Hamas activity in UNRWA schools and on UNRWA school property

Hamas and related groups were able to promote their ideology in UNRWA schools in Gaza well before Hamas had political control in the area.

In the summer of 2000, UNRWA schools were used for military training for 25,000 Palestinian Arab youngsters; children, ages eight to 16, were trained in the preparation of Molotov cocktails and roadside bombs. "A common theme in the camps was preparation for armed conflict: 'slitting the throats of Israelis' is one of the children's exercises at these camps."[9]

On July 6, 2001, the Hamas movement convened a conference in a school in the UNRWA Jabalya refugee camps in Gaza, with the participation of the school's administration, teachers and hundreds of students. Saheil Alhinadi, representing the teaching sector on behalf of UNRWA, praised Hamas student activists who carried out suicide attacks against Israel.[10]

A memorial ceremony for Sheikh Yassin – who had headed Hamas and was later killed by Israel – was held at the UNRWA boys' school in the UNRWA Balata refugee camp on April 3, 2004. Veiled operatives held mock Kassam rockets; the families of "martyrs" were given gifts and certificates of gratitude.[11]

The UNRWA union for teachers has been controlled by Hamas for over 10 years; Islamist nationalist representatives to the union council in Gaza have consistently won its elections and in recent years have controlled the executive committee.[12] The overwhelming predominance of Hamas-affiliated individuals within the population of teachers hired by UNRWA has been particularly troubling because of their influence on generations of refugee children (i.e., descendants of refugees registered by UNRWA).

Yet another way in which the youth attending UNRWA schools in Gaza were influenced was via a group called the Islamic Bloc – which was ideologically connected to Hamas and operated within its framework. Dedicated to the "Islamization" of the "Palestinian issue" and the necessity of liberating all of the land of "Palestine," the Bloc was charged by Hamas with furthering the goal of Hamas within the schools, in order to prepare the next generation for the liberation of Palestine.[13]

The Bloc sponsored events such as the following:[14]

In the UNRWA Nuseirat Camp in Gaza, a newsletter was published and distributed in the schools. A march was organized to promote identification with the "martyr" Muhammad el-Babli, who was active in Hamas and had been killed in a terrorist incident. Visits were arranged to the homes of "martyrs."

In the UNRWA Maghazi Camp in Gaza, movies dealing with jihad were shown to students. A "jihad" newsletter was distributed in two boys' schools; it honored the memory of someone killed by the IDF.

In the UNRWA Bereij Camp in Gaza, an Islamic Bloc preacher gave a session to students on how to bring people closer to Islam; the presentation honored two Hamas founders in prison in Israel. A culture day was organized at two schools; the emphasis was placed on the importance of becoming martyrs.

UNRWA Responsibility

When this information is examined now, with hindsight and in light of all that has occurred in the last two years, it is impossible not to be struck by the fact of UNRWA's responsibility for these events. The connection of Hamas activity in Gaza in earlier years – in particular activity in the schools – to what subsequently transpired is all too apparent.

UNRWA for the most part turned a blind eye during the years the Hamas strength was building in Gaza. UNRWA's unvarying position in recent years has been that it is not in control of the camps, but only its facilities, and that, as it does not have a police force, cannot monitor what is being done.

This is a severely insufficient answer. What we are looking at here is promotion of a Hamas – Islamist/jihadist – ideology within the schools run by UNRWA. We are looking at influential teaching personnel for the UNRWA schools in Gaza who are formally affiliated with the Islamic Bloc. And we are looking at events run by and for Hamas, celebrating martyrs and jihad, done on UNRWA school premises in Gaza and in some instances involving UNRWA-hired teaching staff.

At a bare minimum, it is not unreasonable to expect that UNRWA might have established a rule that prohibited the employment of teachers who were affiliated with Islamist organizations, and another rule that no event celebrating "martyrdom" or jihad be permitted on UNRWA school premises.

One suspects that there was a tendency to keep the situation quiet in part out of fear that international awareness of what transpired in UNRWA facilities might reduce donations.

But there was undoubtedly something else going on. UNRWA had generated a Catch-22 situation for itself. As described above, a good percentage of the refugees registered with UNRWA had become radicalized because of their (UNRWA-supported) situation. But, with very few exceptions, it is refugees who were -- and are -- employed by UNRWA,[15] which did not see fit to prohibit their open affiliation with "political" groups. UNRWA was immersed in a climate of radical ideology and, taking the path of least resistance, allowed this situation to persist.

Thus it was that Col. Fighel explained (emphasis added): "As long as UNRWA employees are members of Fatah, Hamas or PFLP(all known terrorist groups) they are going to pursue the interests of their party within the framework of their job…Who's going to check up on them to see that they don't? UNRWA? They are UNRWA."[16]

And so it was, as well, that former UN Secretary General Peter Hansen caused a flap when he admitted with candor in an October 2004 interview with the Canadian Broadcast Corporation that "Oh, I am sure that there are Hamas members on the UNRWA payroll, and I don't see that as a crime…Hamas as a political organization does not mean that every member is a militant, and we do not do political vetting and exclude people from one persuasion as against another." "

Teachers employed by UNRWA who were affiliated with Hamas, in the words of Col Fighel, "pursued the interests of their party within the framework of their jobs." Youngsters were educated to an Islamist ideology under the very nose of UNRWA.

Unquestionably the most famous (infamous) of teachers who taught in the UNRWA schools in Gaza is Sheikh Ahmed Yassin himself, founder of Hamas, who worked as a teacher from 1967 to 1984.[17]

Yet another well-known Hamas personage, Hamas Interior Minister Saeed Siam[18], taught in UNRWA schools in Gaza. A teacher from 1980 to 2003, he was active in the UNRWA union, heading the Teachers Sector Committee for seven years. [19]

Financial support for terrorists

UNRWA at this juncture most certainly is providing funds to some of the terrorists in Gaza, who are registered refugees and who may even live in the UNRWA camps. UNRWA has no policy of checking on the affiliations of its recipients and does not keep records on their activities.[20]


September – December 2005

In August and early September 2005, the Israeli government pulled out of Gaza – removing all Jewish communities and redeploying the IDF.

Absent the IDF, the level of violence within Gaza began to increase considerably; a good percentage of it centered in or emanating from the UNRWA refugee camps.

On September 23, 2005, in the course of a major Hamas rally in the UNRWA Jabaliya camp, there was an accident that caused the death of 19 Palestinians and injured some 85 more. Apparently this occurred when rockets being carried on a truck for purposes of a parade exploded.

The very next day, in response to a barrage of Kassam rocket attacks coming from Gaza, the IDF did a series of strikes on rocket storage and manufacturing sites. One of these was the Jabaliya camp.

On September 28, 2005, Israel targeted a structure used by the PFLP terrorists in the UNRWA Bureij camp.

In October 2005, Hamas leader Nizar Rayyan, situated in the Jabaliya camp, bragged that Hamas was manufacturing its own mortars and launchers.[21]

On November 1, 2005, Israel targeted a vehicle inside the Jabaliya camp that was carrying camp resident Hassan Mad'hun, a terrorist with Al Aksa Brigades who also cooperated with Hamas. He was responsible for launching rockets at Israel in the weeks before his assassination, as well as planning and initiating suicide bombing attacks.[22]

On December 6, 2005, UPI reported that a Hezbollah representative was meeting with Palestinians Abu Mahujayn, Shehada Jawahr and Khaled Safayn, who lead Palestinian militias from inside the Bureij refugee camp.

Leading to the Current Situation

January 2006 – May 2007

In January 2006, Hamas won a sweeping electoral victory in PA legislative elections and by March a Hamas-dominated government had been established – which was followed by a unity government in March 2007. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, chosen as prime minister, grew up in the UNRWA Beach refugee camp in Gaza and attended UNRWA schools.

Terrorism continued to emanate from the UNRWA camps

The violence emanating from Gaza – in good part from the UNRWA refugee camps – persisted during this period. The attacks became more deadly as the power and accuracy of the Kassams was increased and for the first time, in March 2006, Katyusha rockets, more accurate and more powerful, were launched.

Additionally, on June 25, 2006, IDF Corporal Gilad Shalit was kidnapped by terrorists associated with Hamas who tunneled into Israel near Kerem Shalom. Israel intelligence first placed him in the UNRWA Khan Younis refugee camp.[23]

Repeatedly during this period there were Israeli operations into the camps, in an effort to take terrorists and destroy weapons caches or launching sites – as well as in order to locate Shalit. Other reports of terrorist activity within the camps surfaced as well.

In May 2006, Jihadists were reported moving into the camp at Khan Younis in south Gaza.[24]

In June 2006, Israel did an air strike in the Jabaliya camp in an effort to take out members of the Al Aksa Brigades, Fatah's terrorist wing.[25] Additionally, Israel took out the Hamas security headquarters located in this camp. [26]

Also in June, Israel killed Jamal Abu Samhadana, a security chief for Hamas. A resident of the UNRWA Rafah refugee camp, he was mourned by a huge outpouring of the population there.[27]

Israel entered UNRWA Mughazi refugee camp in central Gaza, in July 2006,[28] killing at least three Hamas militants.

In October 2006, a Gazan refugee camp resident affiliated with Hamas died while assisting in the digging of a tunnel between Gaza and Israel. [29]

In April 2007, rumored reports surfaced regarding the release of specific Palestinian prisoners to be released in exchange for corporal Shalit. One of those mentioned was Yehya al-Sinwar, of the Khan Younis refugee camp, who had founded the first Hamas military unit in 1988. [30]

In May 2007, the UNRWA Nuseirat refugee camp was identified as a site for launching Kassam rockets and a weapons storage facility was targeted there by the IDF.[31]

Humanitarian issues

By early May 2006, the international community, responding to Hamas control of the PA government, began to seriously implement a freeze on assistance to the PA.

At this point a proposal emerged, supported in several quarters, that would have assigned to UNRWA an expanded role as a relief agency through which emergency relief funds might be distributed to the Palestinian population at large. UNRWA itself, however, expressed reluctance to assume this role out of fear of seeing its resources overwhelmed. Its first priority, representatives insisted, would be the refugees.[32] But while UNRWA's position is that it tends to refugees, information has been previously secured indicating that some Palestinians who are not refugees but are in need also receive relief from UNRWA.[33]

At the same time that UNRWA demurred with regard to an expanded role, the agency sounded the alarm regarding the need for increased international donations. In June 2006, UNRWA announced that an additional 90,000 refugees were being provided with emergency food assistance. Most were said to be government (i.e., PA) workers who had received no pay since March.[34] This fact – that Palestinians working for the PA government are still considered to be "refugees" – highlights the illogic of the system under which UNRWA operates.

Over the subsequent months reports came from within UNRWA of an emergency so severe that its services might have to be terminated. At the same time, announcements were made of pledges of assistance from several nations.

UNRWA vulnerability

As chaos increased within Gaza, UNRWA found itself in a position of increased precariousness. On March 17, 2007, shots were fired at the convoy of John Ging, UNRWA Director of Operations in Gaza. This was thought to be an assassination attempt by radical militants: Ging was unharmed but his vehicle was hit by 11 bullets. On March 22, it was reported that an UNRWA vehicle was hijacked.

By the end of March, in light of the above, the UN decided to cut back on the UNRWA international staff stationed in the Gaza Strip.[35] Rather than looking to an increase in operations, just the reverse was occurring.

On May 6, Islamic radical gunmen opened fire at an UNRWA elementary school in Rafah during a sports day celebration because they disapproved of what was going on. A bodyguard was killed and eight others, including two children, were wounded; a vehicle was destroyed. This was a well-organized event with some 70 radicals, likely connected to al-Qaida, involved.[36]

At various times during May, UNRWA teaching staff was instructed to either cut their day short or remain at home because of potential risks. UNRWA compounds were physically reinforced to add additional protection.[37]

In an ironic state of affairs, the very agency that had looked the other way with regard to terrorist activity within its bailiwick and had proved itself to be a major support for and defender of the Palestinians in Gaza now found itself the target of violence, so that its ability to function was severely curtailed. This situation was exacerbated in good part by the internecine violence between various Palestinian groups.

A bias in statements

It has been the case repeatedly over the years that UNRWA top personnel, in expressing concern about Palestinian hardship, avoid mention of the cause of that hardship – the actions of terrorists – and focus instead on Israel. What is more, it is not uncommon for the statements to contain distortions of facts. That pattern persisted during the period under discussion below:

On June 21, 2006, Commissioner-General Karen AbuZayd, responding to the accidental death of two Palestinian children in the course of an Israeli air raid in northern Gaza, said, "I was extremely saddened to learn of these tragedies, so soon after the killings on Gaza beach."[38]

However, the "killings on Gaza beach" – an incident in which seven people were killed as they picnicked in an explosion on a Gaza beach– had been shown, a full week before AbuZayd made her statement, to not be the result of Israeli action.[39] What is more, she made no mention of the reason why the Israelis were conducting the raid – Palestinian launching of Kassams or shooting of mortars.

On July 12, 2006, in an interview with Haaretz, AbuZayd said, "The children see like everyone else what is going on around them. I'm afraid that they will be the ones who lead the Third Intifada…Our teachers and consultants have invested a huge effort in instilling the values of peace. I believe that the sophisticated tools we have given the children will last, and they will overcome this crisis."[40] In light of the fact of Hamas teachers instructing in the UNRWA classrooms in Gaza, the Islamic Bloc programs permitted in the schools, and the use of PA educational material that includes maps without Israel and promotes jihad, the suggestion that UNRWA has educated for peace is more than a little startling.

An on-going UNRWA complaint has been the IDF practice of closing crossings into Gaza, which inhibits the agency's ability to move in goods and supplies. This is particularly the case with the Karni Crossing. IDF soldiers have been killed in attacks at this site in the past, and Israel has found it necessary to close this crossing when there has been warning of an imminent attack – a not infrequent occurrence. UNRWA, however, has declined to utilize alternate crossing sites made available by the IDF, claiming that this would require a re-packaging of supplies – palletizing – that is prohibitively expensive.[41] The choice thus made by UNRWA in these instances is to allow potential recipients of its goods to go without, even in instances when the possibility to get at least some supplies in does exist.

The Present Situation:

June through mid-November 2007

In June, the violence between Fatah and Hamas in Gaza escalated into civil war. After five days of battle, Hamas routed Fatah – which withdrew to Judea and Samaria – and took over control of Gaza on June 15, 2007. PA President Mahmoud Abbas disbanded the unity government and appointed a caretaker government to govern in Judea and Samaria, which Hamas called illegitimate.

While there has in recent weeks been unofficial or secret contact between Hamas and Fatah, as this is written the situation remains the status quo. To a considerable degree, Hamas has been under siege, as Israel and the Western powers have attempted to strengthen an allegedly "moderate" Fatah.

Much of what we are now seeing is a continuation or expansion of previous patterns.

Increased terrorism

Launching of rockets and shooting of mortars has greatly increased during this period. Of considerable concern to Israel is the smuggling, permitted by Egypt, of weapons and material into Gaza, the manufacture of weapons, and the stockpiling.

Political statement and misstatement

In a reversal of a previous UNRWA position that largely held Israel responsible for closing of the crossings into Gaza, John Ging said in July, in response to terrorist shelling of crossings, "It is very clear the responsibility lies with the Palestinians."[42]

But, by the beginning of August, Ging was again criticizing Israel, when he condemned Israeli entry into an UNRWA school in Gaza. "This is a violation of our property and we expect the IDF to halt any operation that places in danger our staff and which damages our installations," he said.[43] However, Israeli forces arrested two of the school guards during this operation, which certainly would seem to have had a legitimate focus. Ging does not address this aspect of the situation at all.

Karen AbuZayd, in a September interview with Akiva Eldar of Haaretz, stated, "Even Hamas people talk about the two-state solution and the Israeli state. They've accepted that."[44] This major misrepresentation of the reality,[45] just the opposite, is a key to AbuZayd's sympathies.

AbuZayd, in the interview, also said that growing numbers of the refugees in Gaza seek emergency assistance from UNRWA because of the difficult situation. "Their distress," however, "neither minimizes their support of Hamas nor dispels their ambitions to return to the homes they abandoned 60 years ago." And here she does reflect a reality on the ground. One that UNRWA accepts.

Humanitarian issues

In the course of the Fatah-Hamas fighting, which occasionally bordered on UNRWA facilities, 18 medical clinics and three food distribution centers were forced to temporarily close.[46] After two UNRWA workers were killed and two others wounded, UNRWA announced that except for emergency food distribution and essential medical services, its operations would be temporarily suspended. Once Hamas was fully in control and there was expectation of decreased violence, UNRWA announced full resumption of services by June 17. [47]

An on-going focus in the weeks and months that followed was the closing of crossings from Israel into Gaza, which, according to UNRWA, generated a humanitarian crisis situation.

According to Shlomo Dror, IDF, Civil Administration in Gaza,[48] there is sufficient food in Gaza; Israel permits enough to be brought in so that there will be adequate supplies if there is subsequently a backlog because of the closing of crossings: supplies for various foods range from enough for two weeks to three months. Other non-governmental programs, such as the World Food Program, are supplying assistance, as well.

There are also sufficient medical supplies. Palestinians are being brought to Israel for medical care, with 80% of requests approved. There has been adequate electricity (about which more below) and water, as well.

Dror reports that Hamas is ruling by terror and that UNRWA is afraid and will not criticize.

There has been some dispute with regard to what constitutes basic humanitarian needs. UNRWA acknowledges that Israel has been bringing in food and medical , but registered distress about the failure to allow in building materials, or paper and books for the UNRWA schools. Israel, says Dror, increased the amount of these materials permitted in after a request from the PA. Israeli concern has been that UNRWA will turn these materials over to Hamas. While Israel has no desire to allow Palestinians in Gaza to suffer in basic ways, neither is there a willingness to make it easier for Hamas to function: this requires walking a fine line.

UNRWA has expressed concern that the achievement levels of students in Gaza have fallen drastically; it has instituted some remedial programs for core subjects such as math.

As to the issue of electricity and other fuel: As of September 19th, Israel officially declared Gaza to be a hostile territory. The intent is to curtail delivery of electric power and fuel in response to Kassam attacks. The proposed action is currently being examined by the attorney general regarding its legality; there has been declared intent by Israel to do it in such a way that there will be no humanitarian suffering.


[1] The Jerusalem Post, November 7, 2007.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Arlene Kushner, "UNRWA: A Report," The Center for Near East Policy Research, March 2003.


[4] While in fact no such "right" exists in international law.

[5] Shawn Cohen, "The Refugees Dilemma: A Day in the UNRWA Arab Refugee Camps," Washington Jewish Week, July 23, 1997.

[6] Charles Radin, "UN Role in Palestinian Camps in Dispute," The Boston Globe, July 8, 2002.

[7] Interviewed by Allison Kaplan Sommer in "UNRWA on Trial," Reform Judaism Magazine, Winter 2002, p. 42.

[8] UNRWA: A Report, op. cit., p. 31.

[9] John F. Burns, "Palestinian Summer Camps Offers the Games of War," The New York Times, August 3, 2000, p.1.

[10] From the website of the Israeli prime minister.


[12] Arlene Kushner, "UNRWA: Links to Terrorism," The Center for Near East Policy Research, October 2004.


[13] Interview with Ahmed Casiso, Islamic Bloc supervisor of 20 summer camps for 3,000 junior high and high school students run in 2004, found on

[14] See "UNRWA: Links to Terrorism," op. cit., p. 25-26 for further details and website sources for each item.

[15] Of some roughly 24,000 people employed by UNRWA, all but about 100 "internationals" at top management levels are Palestinians, the vast majority of these registered by UNRWA as refugees. This hiring practice runs contrary to the normative hiring practice for social service or humanitarian organizations, which is to avoid hiring from within the population being serviced.

[16] "UNRWa on Trial," op. cit.

[17] Access to Palestine website:

[18] Siam was Interior Minister in the PA Unity Government and established a 3,000 man security force in Gaza that Abbas called illegal.

[19] Jerusalem Media and Communications Center.

[20] See Arlene Kushner, "UNRWA: Links to Terrorism,' 2004 for details on this.



[23] CNN, June 29, 2006.

[24] The New York Times, May 21, 2006.

[25] From a UN document at

[26] Patterns of Global Terrorism: Israel 2006 Overview

[27] Fox News, June 8, 2006.

[28] The Boston Globe, July 19, 2006.

[29] Real Israel, News, October 2006 archive.

[30] Reuters, April 9, 2007.

[31] Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

[32]Relief Web, May 22, 22006

[33] Dr. Emanuel Marx, who met in February 2004 with Sami Mshasha, head of UNRWA's Jerusalem Public Information Office, learned that since September 2000 UNRWA had stopped requiring that those in need in Gaza or Judea and Samaria present their ID cards.

[34] BBC, June 18, 2006

[35] Haaretz, March 28, 2007.

[36] Khaled Abu Toameh, The Jerusalem Post, May 6, 2007.

[37] Mid East Newsline, May 18, 2007.

[38] UNRWA press release, June 21, 2006.

[39] A three day investigation by the IDF that took into consideration the timing, the angles of shooting, and the nature of the shrapnel led to this conclusion. "IDF not responsible for Gaza blast," The Jerusalem Post, June 13, 2006.

[40] Haaretz, July 12, 2006.

[41] Phone interview with Shlomo Dror, IDF, Civil Administration in Gaza, September 2006.

[42] The Jerusalem Post, July 8, 2007.

[43] AHN Meda, August 3, 2007.

[44] Haaretz, September 18, 2007.

[45] Hamas is boycotting the anticipated conference at Annapolis because of its opposition and has declared intent to sabotage it.

Ismail Haniyeh, former PA prime minister, of Hamas, warned the PA government, "Don't fall into the trap of the coming conference." AP, October 12, 2007.

In July 2007, with regard to the conference, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri accused Bush of outlining "a plot to launch a crusade against the Palestinian people." Haaretz, July 17, 2007.

Ismail Haniyeh, when he was still prime minister of the PA, had made the Hamas position clear: "We will never recognize the usurper Zionist government and will continue our jihad-like movement until the liberation of Jerusalem." Guardian Unlimited, December 8, 2006.

Khaled Mashaal, political head of Hamas, expressed the same sentiment from Damascus: "Hamas will not surrender . . . and will not recognize Israel." The Washington Post, October 12, 2006.

[46] BBS News, June 12, 2007.

[47] Web Relief, June 15, 2007.

[48] September 2007 interview.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- American-born Arlene Kushner is an investigative writer and author in Jerusalem. UNRWA is a frequent topic of investigation for her. She has done major reports on this subject for the Center for Near East Policy Research, and has written articles on UNRWA for Azure Magazine, The Jerusalem Post, and Front Page Magazine.

Printer friendly version of this article

Return to Contents

Sderot Waits for Annapolis
Noam Bedein
Director, Regional News Service for Sderot and the Western Negev,

Hebrew version: | 11/22/2007

SDEROT, Israel -- Conventional wisdom holds that next week's much-publicized peace summit in Annapolis, Maryland, will have no impact on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Jewish communities in the western Negev, including the besieged city of Sderot, would beg to differ.

Since November 1, this part of Israel has been under constant attack. According to an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman, some 110 Kassam rockets and mortars have been launched from Gaza towards Sderot. More than 180,000 Israelis -- including the residents of Ashkelon, Sderot, Netivot, and over 20 kibbutzim and moshavim -- now live under daily bombardment. Egypt meanwhile has facilitated the flow of hundreds of thousands of weapons and ammunition into Gaza since Israel's disengagement from the territory in August 2005. Left to its own devices, Hamas has been able to build a well-trained, organized army which numbers 13,000 fighters, most of whom have had special training in Iran. Thousands more Katyusha rockets are ready to be launched towards Israel in the near future.

Meanwhile, recent video footage shows that Gaza terror cells launch mortar shells from school yards in UNRWA schools, knowing Israel's sensitivity about killing civilians. A senior IDF intelligence officer observes that "Palestinian terror organizations continue to abuse the civilian population in Gaza by launching attacks against Israel from their midst…They don't think twice about firing Kassam rockets near crowded public areas, even though they're fully aware that they're endangering innocent civilians." Due to the IDF trying to avoid civilian casualties, a senior Israel Air Force Commander has confirmed that the IDF has only been able to hit three percent of the rocket launchers. In addition, the IDF is not even trying to kill or to capture the Gaza leaders who give the orders to shell and terrorize Israel.

What does all this have to do with the Annapolis conference? The answer, according to a senior IDF officer, is everything. So long as Israel is conducting negotiations with the Palestinians, the IDF will not enter Gaza -- not even to kill terror leaders. This non-response policy represents a continuation of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's directive to Israel, exactly one year ago, not to retaliate into Gaza. It also marks a sharp break with past counter-terrorism policy. In the Spring 2004, for instance, the IDF targeted and killed Hamas leaders Ahmed Yassin and Abdul Aziz Rantissi. Today, its hands are tied.

The grim irony that Israel cannot retaliate even when attacks from Gaza are that their most protracted is not lost on the residents of Sderot and the Western Negev. They note the further irony that the Annapolis summit is slated for the 26th and 27th of November, the date of the American-brokered cease fire between Gaza and Israel. That so-called ceasefire lasted until May 15, during which time more than 300 Gaza missiles were launched against Israel.

The American ambassador to Israel nonetheless praised that ceasefire, noting that no Israelis were killed during that period, as if that were sufficient proof that the Palestinians were honoring their obligations. Jewish residents saw things differently. "Physical damage you are able to see. The scar in the heart -- that's what you cannot see," Osnat Ben Haiem, a Jewish resident of Sderot, told me on the day that her house was struck by a direct hit from a Kassam missile. Only two minutes before the missile hit, her six-year-old son was having a sandwich in the kitchen. The American ambassador must have been pleased to know that her boy was not killed, even if he has been traumatized.

To be sure, Israeli political leaders seem just as determined to ignore the suffering of the Negev's residents as their American counterparts. When Prime Minister Ehud Olmert recently drove through the Negev to mark the 34th anniversary of the death of David ben Gurion, Israel's first prime minister and pioneer of the Negev, he didn't even think to drop by the five communities that had been shelled the night before.

Despite this official indifference, life here goes on, with certain necessary adjustments. Townspeople have gotten used to the routine of waking up with a collective alarm clock of sirens. A Kassem can land with no sound -- sometimes during the morning, or on the way to college, the bank, or the market -- forcing people always to be on the lookout for a nearby shelter. Because Kassam rocket have in the past knocked out the town's electricity, allowing the missiles to strike without any alarm whatsoever, shelters are now scattered all over Sderot -- in public areas and at bus stops, market places, libraries, soccer fields, schools, kindergartens, and playgrounds.

Everyone is affected. In the past few weeks, I have witnessed a rocket strike landing by a school for disabled children, with many small children in daycare. I have seen a rocket land in an elderly man's backyard. The old man is a cancer patient. I watched as he was evacuated while mumbling and sobbing. I've witnessed a rocket slam into a neighborhood of people from the Caucasian mountains, poor immigrants that have no sheltered room to run to. I watched as a rocket exploded in front of a woman who felt hopeless and cried out, "This is not a life!"

In the near future, in all likelihood after Annapolis, the Israeli Army will again enter Gaza. The international media will film the bodies of dead Arab mothers and children who were used as human shields by Arab terrorists, while Condoleezza Rice and Ehud Olmert's wife shed crocodile tears for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, even as the real humanitarian crisis spreads among the Jews of the Negev region of Israel proper. Physical damage you are able to see. The scar in the heart -- that's what you cannot see in Sderot.

Printer friendly version of this article

Return to Contents

Egypt Enables Hamas To Train In Iran

By: David Bedein , The Bulletin

Jerusalem - This weekend marks 30 years since the late Egyptian president Anwar Sadat flew to Israel to declare his desire for peace with Israel, only four years after Mr. Sadat had launched a full scale war against the Jewish state, and only 35 years after Mr. Sadat had worked for Nazi intelligence during World War II.

Yet Israel observes the anniversary of the Sadat visit in an auspicious manner.

Israeli parliamentarian Dr. Yuval Steinitz, a leading member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and chairman of the Knesset Subcommittee on Defense Readiness and Combating Terrorism, has produced evidence that Egypt is the nation that is facilitating large groups of Hamas fighters to train in Iran.

Indeed, the Middle East Newsline has confirmed that Egyptian authorities were enabling soldiers and officers from the new Hamas army in the Gaza Strip to cross into the Sinai Peninsula. From Sinai, the Hamas fighters were given permission by Egypt to fly to Tehran for training by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

"A new development that has only begun in the last three months is the organized departure of large groups of operatives from Gaza for military training in Iran,", said Mr. Steinitz, in a November 7 letter to the U.S. Senate, in which he detailed Egypt's help to the Hamas military. Mr. Steinitz said that, in late September, Egypt allowed 100 Hamas fighters to return from training in Iran, and they were allowed to enter Egypt on their way to the Gaza Strip.

"Egypt permits their transit to Tehran, where they are trained by Iran in a wide array of terrorist activities, like the production of rockets and roadside bombs, as well as in basic military training," Mr. Steinitz said in a letter to U.S. Sen. John Thune, a Republican from South Dakota.

The U.S. Congress has been mulling legislation that would slash $200 million of U.S. military aid to Egypt unless the regime of President Hosni Mubarak improves security cooperation with Israel. Egypt, which receives $1.3 billion in annual U.S. military aid, has insisted that it blocks Hamas weapons smuggling and movements along the Sinai-Gaza border.

The Bush administration has opposed the congressional effort against Egypt. Instead, the State Department has sought to increase Egypt's military presence along the Sinai-Gaza border, a move opposed by Israel. So far, at least 750 Egyptian troops patrol the 14-kilometer Sinai-Gaza border.

"Egypt's problem is not the number of soldiers but the lack of motivation," a senior Israeli official told the Middle East Newsline.

Israeli officials said Egyptian commanders turn blind eyes to massive weapons smuggling that moved through tunnels in the border town of Rafah into the southern Gaza Strip.

Israel has presented evidence of collaboration between Egyptian forces and the Palestinians, which facilitated the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip in June.

In October, Mr. Steinitz led a delegation of Israeli parliamentarians in discussions with Senate and House members regarding Iran and Egypt.

The members of Congress requested details of the expansion of weapons smuggling from Egypt to the Gaza Strip.

In his letter, Mr. Steinitz said Israeli intelligence has concluded that the Gaza Strip was receiving a huge amount of missiles, rockets and rifles from Egypt. He said 20,000 rifles, 6,000 anti-tank missiles - mainly rocket-propelled grenade systems - 100 tons of explosives, and "several dozens of Katyusha rockets as well as shoulder-held anti-aircraft missiles" were flowing into the Gaza Strip annually.

Mr. Steinitz said Egypt has ignored the flow of weapons smugglers through the eastern Sinai. He said the 14-kilometer Sinai-Gaza border could be easily sealed.

"All they have to do for this purpose is to erect a number of roadblocks along the very few roads that run from mainland Egypt to the Gaza region, in order to intercept heavily loaded trucks carrying hundreds of rifles and missiles from reaching the border," Mr. Steinitz said. "Alternatively, they can declare the border area a closed military zone, with a depth of 2-3 miles into the interior of Sinai, and prevent any movement in it. Since the entire length of the Egyptian-Gaza border is less then nine miles, the area affected will be equivalent in size to a military airbase."

The letter contrasted Egyptian efforts to those of Jordan, with whom Israel signed a formal peace treaty in October 1994, after 27 years of informal cooperation, following Jordan's defeat in the 1967 war.

Mr. Steinitz asserted that Jordan has blocked most weapons and other smuggling to Islamic insurgents in Judea and Samaria. He said that Jordanian authorities have also smashed smuggling rings throughout the kingdom.

"After several years of Israeli and American protests, it seems hard to avoid the following conclusion: As long as Egypt is not required to pay a real price for this behavior, weapons and financial aid will continue to flow into the hands of Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza," the letter concluded.

©The Evening Bulletin 2007

Printer friendly version of this article

Return to Contents

Israel Struggles With PLO's 'Right Of Return' Demands


By: David Bedein , The Bulletin

Jerusalem - With the genesis of the Oslo process in 1993, what escaped the attention of the mainstream media in Israel and abroad was the continuing insistence of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) that all Palestinian refugees and their descendants who left Israel in the wake of the 1948 war, by their own free will or by force, maintain an inherent right to return to their [currently non-existent] homes and villages.

About a quarter of the Israeli Arabs define themselves as refugees or dispossessed, and demand that they be allowed to return to the villages where their previous generation had lived, even though, in many cases, Israeli Jewish communities had replaced them.

In contrast to other conflicts in the 1940s, in the wake of which residents were uprooted from their homes, such as the conflict between Hindus and Muslims, where 45 million people were uprooted, or where nine million Germans were uprooted from their homes in Russia, Poland and Czechoslovakia, the U.N., through UNRWA, and in cooperation with the PLO, has eternalized the Palestinian refugees is an eternal issue, while nourishing their refugee status and maintaining the 1948 Arab refugee population in 59 UNRWA Arab refugee camps, so that Palestinian refugees and their descendants can still identify themselves as sons of their destroyed villages. The yearning for their "home," for "their" parcel of land, and their "right of return" has been amplified by the Palestinian Authority, which was founded only 12 years ago.

With the development of the Oslo process, the PLO embarked upon an extensive drive to place their issue on the public agenda in Israel.

The PLO has gone so far as to enlist Israeli courts and legal precedents in Israel to return to their old villages. To that end, the PLO thinks that it has a chance of succeeding.

The PLO argues that the return to abandoned villages will ease overcrowding which prevails in the villages where they now live, and will restore land and real estate to its owners.

While the current Israeli government agreed to "two states for two peoples" as a solution to the conflict - Israel as a Jewish state and the areas of Judea, Samaria and Gaza as an Arab state - the PLO demands exclusive rights to a "homeland" in the whole of Palestine.

It now seems that Israel's relinquishment of areas in Judea and Samaria will not bring closure to the conflict. On the PLO agenda is a drive to change the Jewish identity of Galilee, the Western Negev, and cities such as Ashkelon, Ashdod and Tiberias, because "El-Galil mital el-Khalil," (Galilee is like Hebron), which is now being echoed by Israeli Arabs who call for recognition as a native minority and non-recognition of Jewish nationalism in the Land of Israel. All this is reflected in the school books and all publications of the nascent Palestinian Authority, where all of Palestine, inclusive of Israel, is presented as the vision of a Palestinian Arab state.

Israel's National Security Council

Cries It's Now A 'Paralysis Council'

As preparations for the Annapolis summit are moving ahead, members of the Israel National Security Council (NSC) - meant to advise the prime minister on security and foreign policy - have claimed that they have been left outside of the decision-making process.

The National Security Council was established in 1999 to coordinate the recommendations of the army and intelligence, and to process them into a document that would aid the prime minister in making judicious decisions.

Indeed, the Winograd investigation committee's interim report criticized the prime minister for not consulting with it in the course of the Second Lebanon War and recommended that the NSC be strengthened.

However, in contrast to the explicit recommendation of the Winograd investigation committee, which was created by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, the Prime Minister's Bureau has not included the council in preparations for the Annapolis conference. Instead of updating the council, every government body involved in the preparations for the Annapolis summit - the Foreign Ministry, Israeli intelligence and the IDF Planning Branch - corresponds separately with the Prime Minister's Bureau. Mr. Olmert is therefore ignoring his own National Security Council.

Yet in the wake of the Winograd recommendations, the cabinet passed a series of decisions meant to create the impression that the NSC had been given teeth. The budget that the NSC will receive next year is meant to leap by 170 percent - from he equivalent of $1.5 million dollars this year to $4.3 million in 2008.

Declarations are one thing, and reality another. National Security Council Director Ilan Mizrahi is to end his term in two weeks after a year and a half of frustration. Mr. Mizrahi, who is usually careful not to speak publicly about how he feels, has despaired of the institution that he heads ever being included in any significant foreign policy matters.

"The Prime Minister's Bureau has turned the council into a bad joke," say senior security officials in private conversations. "The government granted it authorities to try and impress the Winograd Committee, but in practice, it left the NSC out of the loop."

Indeed, in scheduled meetings that are being held this week between high-ranking American administration officials in Washington and Mr. Olmert's envoys, Israel will be represented by two officials from the Prime Minister's office, Yoram Turbowicz and Shalom Turjeman, Israel Foreign Ministry Director General Aharon Abramovitch and Israel Defense Forces Planning Branch Director Maj. Gen. Ido Nehushtan, while representatives from the NSC will remain in Israel. Nobody from the NSC was included in the discussions that took place before the delegation left.

Printer friendly version of this article

Return to Contents

Israeli Poll On West Bank Contradicts Rice

By: David Bedein, The Bulletin 11/15/2007

Jerusalem - Speaking before the annual general assembly of Jewish federations that gathered in Nashville on Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice voiced her assessment that most Israelis are ready to cede the vast majority of Judea and Samaria, also known as the West Bank, in the framework of the forthcoming Middle East negotiations that are scheduled to commence in Annapolis on November 26.

However, "The Center for Parliamentary Democracy and Jewish Values in Israeli Public Life in Jerusalem," run by Prof. Yitzhak Klein, who also advises the Israel Parliament Knesset Parliament Law Committee, issued a poll this week which showed that 65 percent of Israeli respondents responded that due to the lessons of 2005's disengagement from the Gaza Strip, they opposed any large withdrawal in the West Bank.

According to Mr. Klein's survey, If Israel did withdraw, some 55 percent of the respondents said they believe any territory ceded to the Palestinians would be used to fire rockets at Israelis and 65 percent believe there is a high or very high chance Hamas would take control of the area. In addition, 77 percent said that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas lacked the power to prevent attacks from the West Bank.

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