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July 11, 2005 - Vol. 6, Issue 48

BOOK `EM, DANO: The Israeli Peace Now movement petitioned the High Court of Justice to pressure the Israeli government to do the unthinkable-actually enforce the law against criminal settlement activity in the wild, wild West Bank.

BOOK `EM, DANO: The Israeli Peace Now movement petitioned the High Court of Justice to pressure the Israeli government to do the unthinkable-actually enforce the law against criminal settlement activity in the wild, wild West Bank. Peace Now and Dror Etkes, the head of the organization's Settlements Watch project, demanded that orders be implemented to stop the construction and to demolish nine illegal houses in an outpost called Amona, located near the Ofra settlement in the West Bank. Since the petition was filed, construction of the nine illegal private homes has been completed. The houses, like the outpost itself, were built without permits on private Palestinian land. However, the authorities have refrained from enforcing the demolition orders they have issued for the homes until after disengagement is carried out. Meanwhile, families moved into the structures.

The petition is based on the Sasson Report released four months ago. According to the report, neither the cabinet nor the defense minister approved Amona's establishment, and no government or public body allocated lands for it. Amona was built in 1995 and today consists of 53 mobile homes, which house 25 families. The Israeli Housing Ministry has squandered NIS 2.1 million for the outpost's infrastructure despite the fact that it is unauthorized.

In response the Peace Now petition, the High Court of Justice issued an interim injunction demanding that the Civil Administration and the West Bank police evacuate the families that have moved into the new houses in Amona. Before the injunction was issued, the State Prosecution notified the High Court that the military was considering the demolition of the nine houses. This announcement came after what seems to have been a violation by Pinchas Wallerstein, chair of the Binyamin Regional Council, of an agreement made with GOC Central Command Maj. Gen. Yair Naveh in which the settlers promised not to occupy the nine buildings. "It was stupid to trust Wallerstein's promises," said Peace Now secretary-general Yariv Oppenheimer. "The only answer we want is the actual demolition of the structures." Nonetheless, Naveh told settlers in Amona that they must evacuate the homes. They complied with his orders on Sunday, while saying that they will appeal to authorities to give retroactive approval to their illegal community.

In related news, Naveh signed an unprecedented injunction that permits trying settlers who attempt to mobilize caravans in a bid to illegally build outposts in the West Bank. Under the injunction, settlers who erect outposts in areas declared by the IDF as restricted will be put on trial in a civil court. The injunction also broadens the prerogatives of courts operating in the territories and approves the trying of Israelis who enter restricted military zones. (Ha'aretz, 7/3, 4, 5, 7, & 10/05 & Yedioth Ahronoth, 7/8/05)

WESTERN WALL GETS THE BLUES: Pullout supporters belonging to the Israeli Peace Now movement placed dozens of blue-colored notes and ribbons in the Western Wall's crevices last week. "There are those who take God to their own political field," said kippa-wearing Peace Now activist Elazar Davidovitch. "We are also playing in their field, and I have no problem with that. We placed notes to request the disengagement be carried out in peace, without bloodshed, and that peace will arrive soon. As far as religion is concerned, I have no problem with what we did tonight in the Western Wall." Davidovitch and three other activists arrived at the Western Wall in the framework of Peace Now's "Disengagement without Violence" campaign, which also includes the distribution of blue ribbons to settlement evacuation supporters throughout Israel. The notes placed in the wall read, among other things, "A prayer for the completion of the pullout in peace and without casualties," and "May the pullout pass without deaths." Peace Now secretary-general Yariv Oppenheimer said about the Western Wall visit, "No one has ownership over Judaism. We came to the Western Wall to express our hope that the disengagement would be carried out without casualties."

Regrettably, evacuation opponents seem to care little about the democratic right of other Israelis to express support for disengagement. Hooligans are reported to have smashed the windows of parked cars that were festooned with pro-evacuation blue ribbons in different parts of the country. In related news, a poll of Israeli public opinion commissioned by Peace Now found that 58% of Israelis support the pullout plan, and 72% believe it will be carried out. (Ynetnews.com, 7/4 & 7/05 & Yedioth Ahronoth, 7/3/05)

THERE'S GOT TO BE A MORNING AFTER: Maj. Gen. Aharon Zeevi Farkash, head of the IDF Military Intelligence, told the Knesset last week that terrorism will decline immediately after disengagement, but it is expected to rise again afterward unless the Palestinians have hope of an independent state. Zeevi predicted that if the peace process does not continue after disengagement, terrorism against Israel will increase. He believes Hamas is interested in prolonging the present calm because its leaders are attentive to the Palestinian street, which is tired of the Intifada. (Ha'aretz, 7/6/05)

RANK RELIGIOUS REBELLION: IDF officials are increasingly concerned about pullout-related insubordination among religious soldiers from hesder yeshivas, and particularly among lower echelon commanders. Every year, approximately 1,300 recruits from the national religious public serve in the hesder program. Each of them performs abbreviated service that includes alternating yeshiva study and military activity. Approximately 1,000 young religious people who receive a year's deferral from the IDF study in the military prep academies. Before IDF officers decided to open a front against the hesder yeshiva and prep academy rabbis, they waited to see if the rabbis would clearly call on the soldiers they educated to disobey orders or not. The rabbis decided not to instruct the yeshiva graduates to disobey orders, but at the same time refrained from calling on them to obey their commanders. This decision infuriated the generals of the general staff. The IDF leadership said that "the rabbis encourage gray disobedience and avoidance of tasks connected with disengagement with various excuses that the soldiers gave their commanding officers."

IDF Southern Command Head Dan Harel has already ordered army officials to refrain from concessions to any soldier in the platoon. "We'll have to act in creative ways," a source said. "For example, we could send officers to the yeshivas and clarify to the rabbi that if he doesn't instruct his students to follow orders, there's no reason they would serve only one year and four months, but rather, they would serve three years like everyone else." IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz earlier implied that the army would consider revoking the special hesder yeshivas arrangement if the problem persists. "It's impossible to maintain a dual system and call on people to refuse (orders), and at the same time enjoy the arrangement with the IDF," he said.

In defiance of Halutz, several hesder yeshivas that traditionally end their academic year on August 14th are considering closing down a week early to allow students to join the opposition to disengagement. At the same time, Avraham Brun, the outgoing director general of the Hesder Yeshiva Association, said that many religious soldiers would not be able to carry out the evacuation mission, and that "they should be understood and helped." Brun said he had asked security leaders "to relieve the religious soldiers of this psychological burden." Shinui party leader Tommy Lapid commented, "If religious soldiers shouldn't participate in the evacuation of Gush Katif, then secular soldiers should not guard religious settlements, and if we go down this road we will create an irreparable chasm in our society." (Ynetnews.com, 7/6/05; Ma'ariv, 7/3/05; Jerusalem Post, 7/5/05; Itim, 7/7/05; & Yedioth Ahronoth, 7/7/05)

RAISED TO HATE: The Israeli Prisons Service slammed a group of young girls jailed in Ma'asiyahu Prison last week, accusing the parents of educating them "to hate." The girls, who were arrested during massive countrywide roadblock protests against the settlement evacuation, called for the assassination of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. One Prisons Service officer said, "Their parents educated them to hate and to believe that murder is legitimate." Ma'asiyahu Prison Commander Brig. Gen. Rami Ovaida warned that, "The next political assassin could come from here." Officials compared the girls' behavior to that of security prisoners. The detainees frequently cursed the jailers, saying, "You are criminals, collaborators with a criminal government, Nazis." In one case, an injured prisoner shouted at a Druze medic providing aid, "An Arab will not take care of me, get out of here."

Ovadia said, "We have already gained experience with the disengagement detainees, but the latest prisoners are a group of people who have no God, in every sense of the word." The behavior of the detainees was so bad, the Prisons Service decided to transfer them to Ofek prison, with tighter security, a move that prompted parents of five of the minors to rush to try to get them released. (Jerusalem Post, 7/6/05; Yedioth Ahronoth, 7/6/05; & Ma'ariv, 7/11/05)

CHALKBOARD JUNGLE: Commenting on the violent and criminal youth being churned out by the national religious education system, Avraham Tirosh wrote, in part, "Where did lawbreaking religious teenagers come from who are willing to endanger human lives by blocking roads and scattering nails and oil on them? What education gave rise to violent young criminals who are willing to stone a human being to death, even an Arab? What system of values and morality produced young girls who can compare Sharon and Rabin to Hitler and IDF soldiers and police officers to Nazis? All these grew, unfortunately, in the national religious-Zionist education system. This does not refer only to the accepted formal and informal education-schools, yeshivas, ulpanas, and youth movements-but also to the education influence that envelops them: The parents' home, the adults around, the rabbis and their statements, the world of experience, and the prevalent atmosphere. For many years, the national religious education system was a model of education to ideals, moral values, dedication to worthy causes, viewing the state as a national religious value and devoutly carrying out all its missions. It issued from its midst for years, and continues to do so today, wonderful fruit, excellent young people. But now it has also produced rotten fruit. The emphasis is on the word also.

"After Rabin's assassination, the religious Zionist camp spoke of Yigal Amir as a single errant weed who sprouted in its impressive flower beds, but also spoke of an incisive soul searching that this camp must carry out. This was not exactly done. In time, they also dismissed the need to do so. Today we can see the results. No longer one errant weed, but an entire garden of wild weeds, who see everything in black and white, as hasty teenagers tend to do, and break all the boundaries of what is permissible, for the sake of ostensibly sacred causes. They are willing to carry out any malicious deed or crime for the purpose of instilling the beliefs and opinions they were taught, which are-so they were educated-the absolute and exclusive divine truth. Today it is only endangering human lives and attempted murder, tomorrow the bullets will thunder-all in the name of God and the love of the Land of Israel. And when there is an entire garden full of roots that bear gall and wormwood, one cannot excuse from blame the gardeners-that is, the various educators-who neglected it so badly.

"National religious education, which has grown more extreme in both its components, must stop, conduct a true soul searching, and make a turnabout. It must start educating overtly and firmly, not in an incidental manner, to tolerance and openness to strangers and those who are different, and against narrow-minded fanaticism, which disregards all other opinions; it must educate to the legitimacy of the opponent; preach the understanding that different approaches can be based on the same Jewish law-all of which are the words of the living God; encourage the recognition that there is no one absolute truth that has been handed down to someone from above, and therefore it can be enforced even by violence and criminal acts, to the point of harming human life.

"Only such a fundamental educational-ideological revolution may root out, in a lengthy process, the increasing number of weeds growing wild. Not rabbinical statements and condemnations that have no effect on teenagers baffled by messianic visions, which the same rabbis instilled in them, and not charters that are not worth the paper upon which they are written. If such a revolution does not take place, the wild weeds will spread like a violent cancer and fill not only a garden, but a huge park, which will spread until it ends up disengaging from the society and the state." (Ma'ariv, 7/6/05)

THE MISSING LINK: Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) have reached an agreement in principle regarding the operation of the safe passage between the West Bank and Gaza after Israel's withdrawal, according to diplomatic sources. During the first stage after disengagement, Israeli security troops will accompany convoys of Palestinian vehicles. Regarding the farther future, Israel has offered to build train tracks from the Erez crossing to the Tarkumiya crossing, though this method is more expensive than building a sunken highway 500 meters wide and 42 kilometers long between the two crossing points. The cost of such a highway is roughly $130 million.

The World Bank's regional director, Nigel Roberts, and the Palestinians prefer the sunken road, which would be cheaper to operate and allow for greater flexibility than a rail line since cargo would not have to be loaded onto and off of trains. Roberts said the international community will look closely at Israeli and Palestinian performance during and after the withdrawal, including Israeli willingness to lift closures and the scope of Palestinian reform, before pumping large sums of money into Gaza. "Donors in my view would be ill advised to inject large additional sums of money today unless the policy conditions are put in place that will enable Palestinian economic recovery," Roberts said. (Israel Radio News & Jerusalem Post, 7/5/05)

CROSSING GUARDS: Palestinians began using a new high-tech crossing into Israel from the northern West Bank, part of Israel's plan to incorporate the checkpoints into its controversial security fence. Israel hopes the terminal will protect Israeli security while making the daily passage for tens of thousands of Palestinians more dignified. The project is designed to eliminate most contact between Palestinians and Israelis at the crossings. The Israeli Defense Ministry said the checkpoints will cost about $35.5 million. Israeli roadblocks, set up to stop suicide bombers, have created constant friction between soldiers and large crowds of frustrated and angry Palestinians, who are often held up for hours. The checkpoints themselves have become targets, and some officers say they often create more problems than they solve. Captured bombers have cited the humiliation at roadblocks as a motive for launching attacks. According to the human rights group B'tselem, the number of checkpoints in the West Bank has dropped from 73 to 29 in the past year, while 24 checkpoints have cropped up along the line between Israel and the West Bank.

Palestinians passing through the new checkpoints undergo a stringent examination, daily at crossings, with technology to find out their identities (by hand prints), monitors, and magnetic resonance scans that sweep their belongings for traces of explosives. Any suspicious person is required to enter a blast-proof room where checkers behind thick glass issue instructions through intercoms for a more thorough search. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz has ordered the establishment of a new Crossing Authority to improve links with the Palestinian areas after disengagement. The new Crossing Authority will examine land, air, and sea links, including the transfer of goods and examination of visitors. (AP, 7/6/05 & Jerusalem Post, 7/7/05)

FINGERING THE FENCE: Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz proposed changing the planned route of the security fence around the West Bank settlement of Ariel. Instead of building one fence that would enclose all the settlements in the Ariel bloc, he suggested building individual "fingers" off the main fence for each individual settlement. In this way, he argued, thousands of Palestinians would be left outside the fence, and the route would not block access to Nablus. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon approved this idea, and ordered preparation of detailed plans so that he can present them to the cabinet for approval.

In related news, the cabinet approved a route for the Jerusalem envelope barrier that will leave some East Jerusalem neighborhoods and 125,000 Palestinians with Israeli ID cards on the Palestinian side of the fence. Roughly 46,000 Palestinians make their way from their neighborhoods via existing roadblocks into Jerusalem, as do some 17,000 Palestinian vehicles. The number of people crossing through checkpoints and being subjected to strict security inspection is liable to create long lines at the crossings. Therefore, the cabinet approved about $4.5 million to establish government services for the Palestinians who will remain on the other side of the fence (although the government currently fails to provide such services, even without a completed barrier in place). Sharon urged the responsible parties to complete their work on the Jerusalem barrier quickly, hinting that world opinion will not tolerate such treatment of neighborhoods being cut off from the city after disengagement is complete. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said, "The approval of the fence route in the Jerusalem region could bring about an end to the relations between the two sides." (Ha'aretz, 7/7/05; Ma'ariv, 7/11/05; & Jerusalem Post, 7/10/05)

ACRES AWAY: The Israeli military is seizing 52 acres of Palestinian land in the northern West Bank to set up housing for soldiers who are to dismantle four settlements in the area this summer. Palestinian farmers affected by the orders said they are prepared to go to court to fight the takeover of their property. The expropriation orders are billed as "temporary," although they don't specify the time limit. But Palestinians said that Civil Administration officials, who told them that the land would be used for a temporary camp, gave time frames: Muathsem Azal of Sebastia, for instance, said he was told the seizure would last two months. The IDF offered to compensate owners for use of their lands, but the owners refused to accept payment, fearing that it would legitimize the expropriation and that the "temporary" seizure would become permanent. The houses in the settlements in the northern West Bank that are slated for evacuation will be razed, and Palestinians will not be allowed to enter the settlements and the IDF base (Dotan) that will be abandoned, even after disengagement. Control over the area will continue to be Israeli. Central Command officials are preparing to retain a presence in the area, both open and covert. Israeli officials are examining the possibility of permitting the Palestinians to enter the destroyed settlements and to live in them in the future, depending on security developments. (AP, 7/4/05; Ha'aretz, 7/4/05; & Yedioth Ahronoth, 7/3/05)

THE BILL IS IN THE MAIL: Israeli and American officials are meeting today to discuss an Israeli request for some $2.2 billion in special aid for the disengagement plan. The U.S. has already assured Israel in principle that it will provide funding for the military outlays related to disengagement and for developing the Negev and Galilee areas. Israel is asking that the money be spread out over a few years. The U.S. will not provide, and Israel will not ask for, aid for financing civilian aspects of disengagement and compensation for settlers. The new financial aid will require congressional approval, and the Administration will have to submit its request for the aid in a supplemental package in the next few months. (Ha'aretz, 7/11/05 & Globes, 7/10/05)