In order to implement this, 7,500 Israelis were uprooted from their homes and even now, a year later, most have yet to be permanently resettled. Subsequent events, climaxing with the Lebanon war, demonstrated the disastrous repercussions arising from this policy.
Today our enemies are emboldened. Some even believe their dream of destroying the Jewish state may now be realized.
Yet worse is in the offing. Facing enormous pressure from allies whose support they seek for the impending confrontation with the Iranians, Washington - which had hitherto steadfastly endorsed our refusal to negotiate with terrorists - has tilted its policy to appear more "evenhanded."
Once again it is urging us to bolster the "moderate" Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority.
THE REALITY is that despite wearing a suit and tie and talking to Westerners like a moderate, Abbas is simply paying lip service to a two-state policy - with the caveat that it must incorporate the "right of return" of Arab refugees; a prescription for our demise.
More importantly, before Hamas won the election Abbas reigned over a regime whose central pillars - cultural, religious and educational - were based on sanctifying the murder of Jews as a supreme religious and national objective.
Mothers of suicide bombers appeared on official PA TV exulting the martyrdom of their sons; PA broadcasts of sermons in mosques called on congregants to kill Jews; schools, kindergartens and summer camps brainwashed children into accepting suicide bombers as ultimate role models.
While occasionally condemning violence in remarks to the Western media, Abbas hailed families of suicide bombers as heroes and personally authorized them to receive a $250 monthly stipend. A recent PA Ministry of Culture book of the month honored Hanadi Jaradat, the suicide bomber who blew up 21 people at a Haifa restaurant. Wafa Idris, the first woman suicide bomber, has become a Palestinian role model for feminism. Football teams are named after "martyrs."
At least Hamas is honest about its evil intent to destroy Israel. But the reality is that Abbas's Fatah movement's armed wings are responsible for murdering far more Israelis than Hamas has.
TO MAKE matters worse, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is now actually urging Abbas to form a unity government with Hamas. The only obstacle is that Hamas insists on retaining its weapons and adamantly refuses - even insincerely - to express an incantation implying that it could ever accept the existence of the "Zionist entity."
Rice had previously coerced Sharon and his defense minister Shaul Mofaz into handing over control of the Philadelphi route between Sinai and Gaza to the Egyptians. Not surprisingly, the Egyptians reneged on their undertakings and a massive flow of armaments and terrorists have been pouring into Gaza along that route.
Yet today the Americans are pressing Israel to ease security requirements at all checkpoints for "humanitarian reasons," in order to bolster Abbas.
Rice had previously insisted that Israel endorse the transfer of weapons to Palestinian security forces to strengthen the PA. Although reluctant, Olmert agreed to do so in May on the grounds that "we need to help Abu Mazen." Rice has announced that the US will also fund the expansion of the Abbas Presidential Guard from 2,500 to 6,000 troops.
Nobody, including our own government, seemed concerned that since Oslo weapons provided to Palestinian security personnel had been used to murder Israelis. Nor has the government drawn attention to the fact that Abbas is still trying desperately to persuade Hamas killers to merge with the PA security, which already incorporates Fatah murderers.
ONE GAINS the impression that all the lessons of the Oslo disaster, including the pledge not to provide concessions without reciprocity, are being placed in cold storage.
Like a sick parody, we are once again operating on the premise that the PA - even as Kassams rain down on the south - is once again going to become our peace partner. And, worst of all, our government is trying to spin this sad reversal into a victory!
All this, of course, raises the oft-quoted analogies to the pre-WWII appeasement. In fact, the current situation may be worse.
In the 1930s, the Nazis had yet to demonstrate the full extent of their intent to implement mass murder. Today, however, the Islamic fundamentalists have already displayed a track record of murder and make no secret of their intentions.
The Iranian threat to wipe Israel off the map with a nuclear weapon, now emboldened by North Korea, creates a scenario for the next potential Tisha Be'av. Israel may soon be pressured to assume the role of Czechoslovakia in 1935, which was sacrificed on the altar of appeasement to enable the cowardly Europeans to achieve an illusory peace with the Nazis.
That betrayal gave birth to the Hitler of the Holocaust. Appeasing the Islamo-fascists now could also lead to untold consequences.
We have just ended a war in Lebanon which was ignited by the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers by Hizbullah shortly after an earlier kidnap of a soldier by Hamas. All three soldiers still remain in captivity - yet we are being urged to negotiate with those seeking to form a coalition with all the kidnappers. According to reports, we have already conveyed a willingness to exchange 1,000 terrorists for one soldier; but Hamas rebuffed us.
We are currently being led by people who seem to have forsaken any vestige of common sense. Lacking the confidence of the nation they are incapable of resisting unreasonable demands from our American friends because, as lame ducks, they desperately need to cling to the coattails of the American administration.
IF REALPOLITIK obliges us to take steps that may weaken our security, we should at least do so under protest and inform our supporters of the dangers that such demands will impose on our future. By implicitly endorsing the nonsense being promoted about our moderate Palestinian "peace partners" we are paving the way for more demands and concessions that will undoubtedly cost us dearly in the future.
At the very least, we should be launching information campaigns to expose the hypocrisy and deceit of our fraudulent peace partners and reminding the world that appeasement emboldens and encourages terrorists everywhere.
The writer chairs the Diaspora-Israel relations committee of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and is a veteran Jewish international leader. email@example.com
© Copyright 1995-2006 The Jerusalem Post
Ros-Lehtinen was responding to a WND exclusive interview last week.
in which Abu Yousuf, a Force 17 officer, said weapons and aid the U.S. may provide to his group could be shared with the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terror organization, the declared "military wing" of Fatah.
Abu Yousuf, who also serves in the Al Aqsa Brigades, hinted previous American assault rifles sent by the U.S. to Force 17 this past may were used in a spate of shooting attacks against Israeli civilians.
"We cannot be blinded to the fact that in this case, there is a propensity that U.S. assistance could, whether deliberately or inadvertently, find its way to extremist groups," said Ros-Lehtinen.
"With the representation within the ranks of Abbas' Fatah party of militants with ties to the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, there is a potential that our own weapons could later be used against our ally, Israel, and potentially against U.S. priorities in the region.
"As such, I am committed to working with my colleagues to ensure that, if such assistance is provided, proper safeguards and monitoring are in place to avoid diversion of weapons and resources into the hands of Islamist jihadists operating in the Palestinian territories or working with Hamas and other entities classified by the U.S. as foreign terrorist organizations," Ros-Lehtinen said.
The congresswoman previously sponsored legislation along with Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., calling for a halt to U.S. assistance to the PA following Hamas' victory in last January's Palestinian elections.
According to multiple reports, the U.S. is leading a campaign to bolster Abbas' Force 17 against Hamas, which won a majority of parliamentary seats in Palestinian elections earlier this year. Force 17 protects the Abbas and also serves as a special security force on behalf of the Fatah party.
Hamas and Fatah have been fighting in the Gaza Strip and West Bank the past three weeks after negotiations to establish a national unity government between the two appeared to have fallen through.
A senior Palestinian official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told WND that Fatah security officials noted in recent firefights Hamas members used weaponry more advanced than what was known to have been in the Hamas arsenal, including newer styles of assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades.
After a meeting with Abbas in Ramallah last week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters the U.S. would "do what it can" to bolster Abbas.
The Washington Times reported this week the U.S. is working on a plan to build up Force 17. Last week, the New York Times reported the U.S. proposed expanding Abbas' Force 17 from 3,500 men to 6,000 as part of a $26-million plan to strengthen the Palestinian leader.
The Associated Press and Israel's leading Yediot Aharonot daily reported Friday new training facilities for Force 17 are slated to be set up in Jericho and in Gaza, at a cost of $2 million each, according to the U.S. proposal.
Senior Palestinian officials told WND the U.S. is planning to transfer ammunition and new assault rifles to Force 17 and has pledged to procure about $28 million in aid to Abbas. They said the U.S. would help train Force 17 members in the operation of the new weapons and in advanced combat techniques in facilities already in use in Jericho. The State Department did not return calls for comment.
Sources in the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem confirmed to WND the U.S. is slated to transfer weapons to Force 17.
David Baker, a spokesman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said Olmert's office had no comment on reports of new U.S. aid to Abbas. Sources in Olmert's office confirmed the U.S. aid package reportedly offered to Abbas.
Force 17 officer Abu Yousuf told WND last week weapons and aid the U.S. may provide to his group will not be used for "force and violence against our brothers in Hamas unless they will endanger [Abbas].
"There is a chance that Israel will attack the Palestinian territories, and in this case, these weapons and others provided (by the U.S. to Force 17) will be directed towards the (Israeli) occupation."
Abu Yousuf said the latest planned U.S. weapons transfer was meant to spark a Palestinian civil war and ensure Palestinian security forces are "friendly" to the West.
"We are aware that a civil war is the dream of the Zionists and the Americans, but it will not happen so quickly," said Abu Yousuf. "The Americans see their situation in Iraq and in Afghanistan, and they know that a war against Iran is a matter of time, and they want to guarantee that in Palestine there will not be a regime who will be hostile to the U.S. and will not endanger Israel."
Continued the Force 17 officer: "They (Americans) hope that these arms will be used against our brothers in Hamas, but we ask Allah that our brothers are also aware of this issue and will not play into the hands of the Americans and the Israelis."
The last known weapons transfer to Force 17 took place in May and reportedly consisted of 3,000 assault rifles and more than 1 million rounds of ammunition.
At first, the U.S., Israel and the PA denied the reports of the weapons transfer, but Olmert in June announced he had approved the shipment of U.S. weapons and ammunition, explaining the transfer was meant for Abbas' personal protection.
"I did this because we are running out of time and we need to help Abu Mazen," Olmert told reporters.
The shipment required Israeli consent to pass through checkpoints. It was delivered by a convoy protected by the Israeli Defense Forces, according to Israeli and Palestinian officials involved in the transfer.
Abu Yousuf told WND in a previous interview the weapons sent by the U.S. in May would be fired at Israelis. "These weapons will not be used in an internal war but against Israelis," he said. "Force 17 is proud that we were the first to lead the Palestinian people during tough times such as resistance operations (against the Israeli army during large-scale operations in northern Samaria in 2002). We will also be the first to lead the Palestinians in the current struggle against Israeli occupation."
Like Abu Yousuf, many Force 17 officers are also members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. In June, Abbas appointed senior Brigades leader Mahmoud Damra as commander of Force 17. Damra, who was arrested by Israel last month, was on the Jewish state's most-wanted list of terrorists. He is accused of masterminding a string of attacks and leading a terror cell based in Ramallah allegedly responsible for scores of shootings against Israelis.
Together with the Islamic Jihad terror group, the Brigades has taken responsibility for every suicide bombing inside Israel the past two years, including an attack in Tel Aviv in April that killed American teenager Daniel Wultz and nine Israelis. The Brigades also has carried out scores of deadly shooting and rocket attacks against Israeli civilians in recent months.
Asked to confirm other Force 17 officers also are members of the Brigades, Abu Yousuf replied: "During our official service and during our job hours we are soldiers. What we do in our free time it is our business. Of course, as members of Fatah, some of us are members in the Brigades and we take part in the defense and protection of our people and in the fight against the Israeli occupation."
The State Department includes the Brigades on its official list of international terror organizations, while general U.S. policy deems the Fatah party "moderate."
American weapons ambushed schoolgirls?
Sources close to the Al Aqsa Brigades told WND the American assault rifles transferred in May were used in three separate anti-Israel shooting attacks in June. One attack killed a 35-year-old Israeli Arab on a major West Bank highway on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Israeli security officials say the shooters likely mistook the victim for a Jew. The second attack, which occurred June 13 on the same highway, lightly wounded an Israeli.
In the third attack, the Al Aqsa Brigades June 19 a.m.bushed a bus carrying Israeli school girls on a West Bank highway. The bus was armored. The school girls escaped unharmed.
Israel arrested two members of Force 17 in connection with the shootings. Abu Yousuf refused to confirm whether the American weapons were used in the spate of highway attacks, but he hinted the information was accurate.
"The fighters who were arrested by the Israeli army in relation to these attacks are Force 17 men, but I cannot confirm what weapons they used. It is no coincidence that as soon as these American weapons arrived, we were able to carry out these accurate shootings." Abu Yousuf said.
Draft Proposal for an Democratically Elected Judea and Samaria Council
1. Introduction / Background
The Israeli population in Judea and Samaria elects local and regional councils to govern their local affairs, and participates in national elections to choose representative parties in the Knesset. To fill the vacuum of regional representation, the residents of Judea and Samaria and the former Israeli population of the Gaza settlements were represented by the Yesha Council.
The Yesha Council is comprised of the elected leaders of the 25 local and regional councils and by 10 appointed members at large. The council considers its mandate to be comprised of three main functions: Security; Humanitarian and Municipal Needs; Political Action and Public Advocacy.
The council raises funds by three main methods: allocation of local taxes approved in municipal budgets, fundraising, and government sources.
In reality many of the 25 councils do not participate in the council and/or do not contribute tax monies, and the appointed members at large are arbitrarily selected with no criteria. The council has no annual budget, no annual financial report, and no internal auditor. The council heads are elected purely on local issues, and the electorate has almost no say in critical regional concerns that literally affect the immediate and long-term future of the entire region.
At various times over the years, proposals for an elected representative council have been raised, but never followed through on as urgent issues of the day pushed the subject aside. However, in light of the recent failure of the council to have any serious affect on the closing of the Gaza settlements and the deportation of the residents there is a renewed interest in placing the responsibility of the future of Judea and Samaria into the hands of a representative council elected with a specific mandate from the electorate.
This paper discusses the issues surrounding the Yesha Council and the problems associated with a self-appointed lobbying group that has no direct mandate from the electorate.
As a solution to the ineffectiveness of the council, this paper proposes the council be changed to a directly elected representative body. The types of solutions available and the resources needed to carry out elections and operate the council in its new format are discussed.
3. Mission Statement / Introduction
The Yesha Council
The Israeli residents of Judea and Samaria elect local governments, but have no direct representation at the national level. The national interests of the population are represented by the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, known by its acronym as the Yesha Council. In the Knesset, the national interests are represented in various strengths by different parties that take on the case of the residents along with issues confronting their other supporters.
The Council describes itself as follows:
The Council represents all of the cities, towns and villages in Yesha. Its plenum is comprised of twenty five democratically elected mayors and ten other community leaders.
The 25 elected members are the heads of the 25 largest local and regional councils in Judea and Samaria. The ten other leaders are arbitrarily appointed. The council selects from its 35 members a 6-member board representing the six largest councils in the region. At any given time, however, up to half of the mayors may not be active at all on the Yesha council. Some, like Ariel Mayor Ron Nachman, at times boycotted the council and transferred no municipal funds to support it.
A Yesha official told the staffer who prepared this report on June 1, 2006 that nobody knows what the budget of the Yesha Council is, there is no annual report, and no internal auditing department. Funds come from private donations and from the national government. Transfer of municipal tax funds to the Yesha Council was frozen due to a lawsuit by a special interest group.
Members of the council are elected locally on a local platform and do not to represent Judea and Samaria. As Yesha council members, they are accountable only to the council itself and not to any constituency or any electorate, for they are an appointed body.
The abject failure of the Katif campaign came in part as a result of arbitrary measures taken by the council and its failure to deliver the promised goods of preserving the Gush Katif communities. Because of the ongoing Israeli-Arab conflict, residents of the rest of Israel identified Yesha as being separate from and not included in "the state of Israel." Few of them related to "Yesha" and the Yesha council was seen as representing "the settlers" and not Israelis.
In the wake of the failed 40 million shekel campaign to prevent the expulsion of the Katif communities, the council has not yet changed its name. The stigma of the evacuation coupled with the moniker Yesha Judea, Samaria and Gaza is a difficult blot to remove until the council accepts that the Gaza settlements are gone and changes its identity and modus operandi
Questions about the allocation of the 40 million shekels, the lack of a publicly stated budget, the lack of public accounting of its spending, and the lack of mandate from the residents has led to a call for radical reforms. Shaul Goldstein, head of the Gush Etzion Regional Council and a veteran senior member of the Yesha Council said:
"A large segment of our public suddenly realized that the flag we had waved all these years hadn't forged a connection with anyone. We were the vanguard, leading a nonexistent camp behind us. We ran alone, we charged ahead and when we looked back, we saw that there were no armies, that they simply weren't there. So I proposed to my friends in Yesha, after the loss of the Gaza Strip, that we announce that there is no Yesha Council - that in its place is another council, one that can embrace other values. That doesn't mean there is no foundation which people can't continue to love and aspire to. What it does mean is that we weren't there to explain to them - in their language - what we want."
This damning self-criticism from a senior member of the Yesha council shows how out of touch the council is with the residents. Because they are the residents and not the electorate, Goldstein himself realizes that the council only represents itself and must carry out radical reform in order to gain the confidence of the residents.
The Members at Large
There are no criteria for the selection of the members at large, other than their acceptance by the active members of the council. Several of the members at large, like Elyakim Haetzni and Geula Cohen, have been members for years with unknown influence on the policy and activities of the council. Their activities are unaccountable and they have no constituency to answer to.
These two are singled out because they both formerly were leaders of political movements that sat in the Knesset, but were rejected by the electorate and lost their national mandate. The council affords them a platform to keep their policies alive policies that were rejected by the electorate that left them out of the Knesset and the national consensus. Electoral Reform
This report outlines the steps for the general process to elect a representative council to represent the communities in Judea and Samaria and strengthen democracy in Israel. The candidates for council office would have to present election platforms that would give the electorate the choice of alternatives. Once in power, they would have a time-limited mandate to deliver on their election promises. The succeeding elections would allow the electorate to make their own evaluation of the performance of the council during its mandated tenure, and either support or reject their candidate(s) for re-election.
Goldstein went on to say " if we had started out the settlement project with a greater consensus with the people, it would look completely different. Now it's a little late."
Reforming the Yesha council by turning it into a directly elected representative body will force the elected leaders to be accountable to their electorate.
The Israeli population of Judea and Samaria numbered 246,100 as of December 31 2005, and had an annual growth rate of 5.1% from 2004 to 2005. Total voters for 17th Knesset totaled 152,315 in 573 polling stations including 2 hospitals.
The evicted Gush Katif voters accounted for an additional 3,569 votes for a total of 155,884 voters.
Accounting for changes in demographics, the number of voters for a council election in 2006 or 2007 would be expected to be about 160,000.
5. Proposed Electoral Solutions
Elections generally have multiple goals including:
Elections for a Judea and Samaria representative council would be the first time trans-regional elections were held in Israel, which has only legislation for the Knesset, local and regional councils.
Such a change does not represent that radical a change, but rather the expansion of the concept of a regional council to encompass an area of several regional councils. The council would then have a true mandate to lobby on behalf of the councils within its jurisdiction.
The electoral system used is obviously a critical decision in the pre-election process. It would have to be a system the electorate would understand and accept. The two main electoral systems known as Plurality-Majority (PM) and Proportional Representation (PR) are both present in Israel.
While the Knesset is currently a PR system, local and regional councils use a hybrid system with a direct PM vote for the mayor and a second PR ballot for a party list.a. Direct Election Method
The residents are already familiar with the direct election system of choosing local and regional mayors. Voters know that they have a specific to turn to, and mayors know that their performance in their job is directly connected to their chances of being re-elected. In current local elections, candidates may themselves belong to a specific party and espouse that party line, but they are not necessarily beholden to the party's national platform. Many independent candidates are elected.
What is unclear with the direct method is whether or not a majority of candidates would be independents or represent specific parties. Until a stable council has experience in carrying out its tasks, the platforms of independent candidates would compete against those of parties. As in other democracies, it would be up to the electorate to make the choice. Drawing of Electoral Boundaries
Any single-member district system requires the time-consuming process of drawing boundaries for relatively small constituencies. The way in which they are demarcated will depend on issues such as population size, cohesiveness, 'community of interest' and contiguity. Furthermore, this is rarely a one-off task, as boundaries have to be adjusted regularly to take population changes into account. Multi-member districts would be fewer in number and larger and thus less time consuming to initially demarcate and then maintain.
b. Proportional Election Method
The proportional representation system is used in the Knesset and is familiar to the voters. Several national parties (for example Likud, National Union, Yisrael Beitenu) maintain platforms that relate directly to the residents and would be natural candidates to field lists of candidates. Additional local parties might emerge to compete with the existing parties.
As with the Knesset elections, there is a negative side. Proportional elections mean that no one specific candidate is accountable to a specific electorate. Parties in the council may be beholden to other concerns rather than those of their electorate if the national party exercises its authority in enforcing different policies over the local branches.
c. Hybrid Direct and Proportional Election Method
The new council could use the hybrid method as is currently used in local elections, whereby a leader would be elected directly and the council elected from party lists. Leadership candidates would have to put together party lists. The possibility exists that a leader would be elected who would have to work with a mandate to govern.
6. Council Format
The reformed council would need a specific leader, either directly elected or elected from among the successful candidates. A small executive committee or cabinet would also be needed.
7. Election Costs
Two election systems are already in place in Judea and Samaria: national and local. Both have experienced mechanisms for carrying them out efficiently and fairly. The cost of an election for a regional council encompassing Judea and Samaria would be on the same order of magnitude for running simultaneous local elections in all the communities. There would be certain savings due to the economics of scale.
Israel has a well honed census bureau that keeps accurate population statistics, and a central voter registry that is constantly updated two of the central prerequisites for any electoral system. The concept of elections is well entrenched in Israeli society and the mechanisms (excepting district boundary allocation) are all in place, so that costs for a council election system would be minimized as opposed to starting from scratch.
Additional research is required before an accurate estimate of the cost can be presented. A fair estimate can be arrived at by taking the costs of elections in small (<1000 residents), medium (1000 to 500 residents) and large (>5000 residents) communities and then applying those costs to similarly sized communities.
8. Other One-Time and Ongoing Costs
The election of a representative council presents additional costs divided into the initial capital expenditures for establishing the council and the ongoing costs of maintaining the council.
These include the acquisition and outfitting of a council chamber and offices. The existing Yesha council assets would be utilized to offset the cost.
A local government requires various services and functions associated with a government that the present council does not have: public budget department, auditing department, and records department. As a public body, for example, records and minutes of meetings have to be maintained in the public domain.
It would have to be determined if each council member would receive funding for a constituency office, and what their salary and operating budgets would be, if any.
The last great test of to the Yesha council of the demise of Gush Katif demonstrated how far the council is removed from the people it is supposed to represent. In order to have any legitimacy, the council needs to be popularly elected. The residents of Judea and Samaria have to have a direct say as to what the council's mandate is.
The council currently has no official government standing. It is not even a quasi-government body, but acts like it because some its members are elected from some of the larger or more vocal constituencies in Judea and Samaria.
An elected council will define what the council is, and election campaigns coupled with accountability to the electorate will determine its mandate.
The end result will be a council that is much more representative, democratic and effective.
Appendix A Summary of Local Elections in Israel Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Israel Local Elections
The local authorities are headed by councils whose members are elected every five years on the basis of the proportional representation of their political parties. The number of seats in the councils is determined by the size of their population; between 9 and 31 seats for municipalities and between 5 and 21 for local councils. Mayors (including the chairpersons of local and regional councils) are elected directly by the voters. In many cases no single party controls the majority of seats on the councils and the mayor has to form a coalition to achieve a working majority. Agreements are made among the parties for this purpose, involving the distribution of powers and functions among the coalition partners.
When elections for the Knesset and the local authorities have been held at the same time, voter turnout in the local elections was between 73 and 83 percent, while in the case of separate election dates, turnout has averaged around 60 percent. Voter turnout for local elections in the Arab sector has traditionally been much higher than that in the Jewish sector. According to the local election financing law, each party list in the local authority is entitled to receive financing based on the number of council seats it wins. The State Comptroller's positive report on the financial management of the election campaign for each faction represented on the council entitles the faction to receive its allocation as determined by the formula.
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