40.8% of Palestinians Favor Suicide Attacks
The following are the results of a poll of a representative sample of 500 adult Palestinians from Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Hebron conducted by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion (PCPO) at Beit Sahour and prepared under the supervision of its President Dr. Nabil Kukali on March 9-11, 1997. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points.
Dr. Aaron Lerner, Director
Arafat Gave "Green Light"
On the night between the 9th and 10th of March, realizing that Israel was firm in its decision to build on Har Homa, Arafat gave the signal to renew terror attacks. He also released the leader of Hamas' secret military arm from prison, against the advice of his aides. But the assessment is that Arafat will prevent violence if Israel accepts his demands on the further redeployment in the territories.
At a secret meeting with opposition organizations about two weeks ago, Arafat gave a "green light" to resume terrorist attacks against Israel.
A senior official reported this to Israel's cabinet ministers and the American administration over the weekend. During a meeting on the night between 9-10 March, held after Arafat's return from the United States -- when he realized that Israel is determined to build on Har Homa -- the head of the PA demanded from the opposition and from representatives of "Tanzim," the Fatah activist group which does his bidding, that they prepare stormy, mass demonstrations throughout the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
The senior source assesses that Arafat is trying to pressure the Israeli government to reach a deal. Should Israel accept Arafat's demands, and should the United States guarantee their implementation, Arafat would prevent the eruption of violence, despite the construction on Har Homa.
Following are the demands:
According to reliable information received by political figures in Israel, at the night-time meeting Arafat convened senior officials from Hamas, the Islamic Salvation Front, the PFLP and the DFLP (Islamic Jihad did not participate). At the end of the meeting, which lasted nearly until dawn, all of the representatives of the organizations understood that the PA chairman is giving them a free hand to carry out attacks against Israel.
This was contrary to a previous agreement which Arafat had reached with representatives of these organizations on the eve of his trip to the United States, according to which they would refrain from terrorism until Israel completes the third redeployment.
On the morning following the meeting, Arafat took another step: he released from jail the leader of Hamas' secret military wing, Ibrahim Maqadma, who bears responsibility for many attacks committed in the past three years against Israelis and against Palestinian policemen. Maqadma's release was effected against the advice of Palestinian Preventive Security heads and other Palestinian security officials.
Israeli security sources say that there is already a noticeable increase on the ground of stone-throwing and attacks with "Molotov cocktails." The stabbing of a soldier at the Tene Omarim settlement, and the two shooting incidents against IDF patrols over the weekend in the Rafiah area, are also being credited to the new "understanding" between Arafat and the rejectionist organizations. In an interview to the Washington Post, Hamas spokesman in Gaza, Mahmud a-Zahar, warned that "the failure of the peace process will push people to other methods -- when they are pushed into a corner, you can expect anything."
Yet, the senior official notes that for the time being Arafat is demanding that Palestinian police refrain from using firearms in the framework of the mass demonstrations that will be held in protest over the beginning of work on Har Homa. The assessment is that this order will not be honored, if the Israeli security forces use firearms and cause the death or injury of many Palestinians. Political sources in Jerusalem believe that in the event of a violent flare-up, Egypt, Jordan and other Arab countries are also liable to join the political campaign against Israel, to the point of suspending diplomatic relations with it.
Palestinians Need Permanent Homes Now
One of the most important topics on the agenda of any Middle East peace conference should be how to improve the socio-economic conditions of Palestinians in refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Unfortunately, for the Palestinians, the PLO rarely brings up the subject. Getting these families out of the refugee camps just isn't on their agenda.
Nor is the question as to why the Palestinians have been forced to live in these camps for more than 50 years is rarely raised in official Palestinian circles. Who have been keeping the Palestinians in the refugee camps from being resettled? Not Israel, as there are refugee camps outside of Israel that Israel has no control over.
The existence of these wretched refugee camps is a mark of shame on the Palestinian people. Why, then, do they even still exist?
How many live in the camps? Today less than one in five Palestinians are classified as a "refugee." One half of the Gazan and one-quarter of the West Bank Palestinian refugees live in camps. The United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) says there are 450,000 refugees in Gaza and 370,000 in the West Bank. According to the United Nations' definition, one does not have to be resident of a camp to be considered a refugee. Nor does leaving a camp disqualify a resident from receiving UNWRA benefits such as free education until the end of junior high school and health care, but income above a certain level does. Ironically, since the camps are in fact shantytowns, there is even an influx of population as rents are half of those in the surrounding villages or towns.
Many people have this idea of refugee camps of destitute, underfed people who wait around all day for the UN relief workers to come to hand out their rations. The fact is most get up every morning and go to work, usually in Israel- if they can. Some camp dwellers even enjoy a higher standard of living than some of the neighboring villages. For instance, 95% of the population in refugee camps in Gaza have electricity around the clock, slightly more than the surrounding villages and towns. The conditions in many refugee camps in Gaza exceed those of the most remote villages in the West Bank. For example, 98% of the towns, but only 48% of the West Bank villages have electricity 24- hours a day.
Numerous efforts to resettle these refugees have been tried, but all have failed. In l950, long before the territories came under Israeli control, UNRWA suggested moving 150,000 of them to Libya, but Egypt objected. In l951, UNRWA vetoed a plan to move 50,000 Palestinian refugees from the Gaza Strip to Northern Sinai when Egypt refused permission to use the Nile waters to irrigate proposed agricultural settlements. In l952, Syria rejected UNRWA's initiative to resettle 85,000 refugees in camps in that country. In l959, UNRWA reported that of the $250 million fund for rehabilitation created in l950 to provide homes and jobs for the refugees outside of the camps, only $7 million was spent.
One approach which was partially successful was initiated by Israel in the early l970's, called the 'build your own home' program. A half a dunam of land outside the camps was given to a Palestinian who then financed the purchase of the building materials, and usually with friends, erected a home. Israel provided the infrastructure: sewers, schools, etc. More than 11,000 camp dwellers were resettled into ten different neighborhoods before the PLO, using their time-honored tactics of intimidation, ended the program. The Israeli authorities would say that if the people were able to stand up to the PLO within eight years every camp resident could own a single dwelling home in a clean and uncongested neighborhood.
A major problem in resettlement is that so much of the land in Gaza is owned by a few large, wealthy Palestinian families. If this property were available, Gaza could lower its density of 1,250 persons per square kilometer. Yet even so there is ample living space even in the camps to build three or four story apartment blocks, (building up instead of out is for some reason not part of the Arab culture). Improving the quality of the existing homes inside the camps is a much cheaper undertaking than building entire new neighborhoods.
If the political climate was right, how much would it cost to solve the Palestinian refugee problem?
Most Palestinians economists, such as Dr. George Abed who wrote a book a few years back on the subject, agree that just to build enough homes, without any additional investment in infrastructure or job creation, would cost more than $2 billion just to resettle those refugees currently residing in the West Bank and Gaza.
So why isn't UNRWA doing just that?
What was regarded as a temporary measure forty years ago has turned into a quasi-political entity which although its mandate prohibits it from doing so, oftentimes claims to speak on behalf of the Palestinians under their administrative wing to Israel and to the world at large. If UNRWA changed its charter to include investments in infrastructure and not strictly in health and education, then much of its $230 million operating budget could be used to actually solve the refugee- resettlement problem.
Political propaganda aside, the inability of the Palestinians to get themselves out of refugee camps and into permanent dwellings is their current number one problem. If the reason why the Arab nations refuse to solve this problem is because the existence of the camps serves to "make a political point," and if the Palestinians knowingly accept this, then one wonders with this attitude, how the Palestinians would ever be expected to build the infrastructure of a working state? "
The continued existence of the refugee camps should serve as a reminder to all those who believe that the moment Israel withdraws from the entire area of the West Bank the Palestinians' problems will be solved. In fact, despite their insistence on the 'right of return' of all Palestinians throughout the world, this would turn out to be the greatest socio-economic problem the new state would face. In addition to rehabilitating the refugees in the West Bank and Gaza, if refugees from Syria, Lebanon and Jordan returned they would initially have to be fed and housed, and then found jobs. The rate of increase in the territories is very high, about 3.5% a year, with 50% of the population under 15 years of age. More than 15,000 new workers entering the labor force each year.
And, unlike Israel's experience in absorption which began at least two decades before the establishment of the state, the Palestinians have none. Entire infrastructures will have to be built and expertise obtained, almost immediately. The Palestinians will also have a problem the Jews did not face: rehabilitating the mindset of refugees who have been living in refugee camps for more than four decades and their resultant hatred for Israel.
It is time the Palestinian leadership realized that they can't go on ignoring this crucial issue. It is one thing to demand that Israel allow Palestinian refugees the right of return. It is another matter to be able to absorb and house these people if and when
Joel Bainerman writes on Middle East political and economic affairs from Israel.
A Secular Israeli Asks:
A major political issue facing Israel now is the question of whether in Israeli democracy someone has the right NOT to desecrate the Sabbath.
Yes, you read that correctly. No misprint.
There has long been tension in Israel because of the politicized "religion" of the demagogues of the various religious parties who have attempted - not very successfully - to coerce people into religious observance, such as through prohibiting bus operations and movie showings on the Sabbath. I regard this as "nuisance religion" and insist that it is not a legitimate function of the government to pressure people to be observant. I also think it arouses antagonism to religion and drives people AWAY from observance. In any case, the scope of nuisance religion is exagerated and does not affect at all most Israelis; when everyone owns cars it does not matter if buses run on Sabbath, and besides there are taxis. And when everyone has a VCR, who cares if cinemas are open or not on Friday night?
But as I say, all that is not what is now at issue, but rather whether Israelis have the right to choose NOT to desecrate the Sabbath.
The issue has come up with respect to Lev Leviov. Leviov is an immigrant to Israel who has done quite well in the Israeli business world, and is also a "hozer b'tshuva", someone who became religiously observant. Leviov is the owner of a new shopping center in Ramat Aviv, the yuppie Leftist suburb north of Tel Aviv, in which Tel Aviv University sits, in which people like Shimon Peres and Leah Rabin live.
Leviov has decided that in the shopping center, which is his personal property, the stores and services will not operate on the Sabbath. Sure, he will lose some rent, but that is what he wishes.
But that decision has outraged the Leftist lumpenproletariat of yuppie Ramat Aviv. No fair, they screameth. Ramat Aviv is a leftist secular enclave! They insist that Leviov allow all the shops and services to operate in his shopping center mall, since after all they serve the militant secularists of Ramat Aviv, the same folks by the by who have been demonstrating against polluting the Tel Aviv University campus thru allowing a synagogue to be built there. The Labor Party and Meretz pols have joined in and are also demanding that Leviov be coerced into allowing the mall to stay open on the Sabbath, giving the teenagers of Ramat Aviv some place to hang out and play Beverly Hills 90210.
Then along comes Roni Milo, the mayor of Tel Aviv. Now Ramat Aviv is not even in Hizzohuh Da Mare's jurisdiction, and Milo is from the Likud. But Milo, whose principles are interchangeable with those of the Labor Party left (he favors Oslo) has come out in FAVOR of the forces of darkness attempting to coerce the opening of Leviov's mall on the Sabbath. Milo is following in the steps of his predecessor Mayor General Shlomo Lahat, who got elected to City Hall as a Liberal Party (part of Likud) candidate and then became Shimon Peres' booster and cheerleader for Oslo. Milo wants to ride the fence and play the Leftist-metamorphosis option.
The secularists are threatening to invade religious town Bnei Barak on Sabbath with cars and noise as "retaliation" for the human rights abuse being perpetrated upon them by Leviov in his obstinate refusal to allow the Sabbath to be desecrated on his property.
And have a good Sabbath ....
Dr. Steven E. Plaut
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