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July 18, 2005 - Vol. 6, Issue 49

ISRAELI PRESIDENT & JEWISH MAJORITY WANT NEW NEGOTIATIONS: According to the Jerusalem Post, President Moshe Katsav believes the time is ripe to begin permanent status negotiations rather than resort to interim measures. "It would be beneficial both for us and the Palestinians," he said.

ISRAELI PRESIDENT & JEWISH MAJORITY WANT NEW NEGOTIATIONS: While the prime minister of Israel and various lobbyists in Washington are trying to avoid the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations after the Gaza evacuation plan is complete, they do not speak for the president of Israel or the majority of Israeli Jews. According to the Jerusalem Post, President Moshe Katsav believes the time is ripe to begin permanent status negotiations rather than resort to interim measures. "It would be beneficial both for us and the Palestinians," he said.

In the same spirit, Ha'aretz commentator Akiva Eldar reported on the results of a new Market Watch Institute survey of Israeli Jews that found there is tremendous support for the new peace talks. The Market Watch Institute, which conducted the poll for the Israeli Peace Now movement, talked to a representative sample of 501 Israeli Jews within the Green Line, including 291 supporters of disengagement, 183 opponents, and 27 undecided. When asked what Israel should do after completing the disengagement from Gaza and parts of the West Bank, 43.1% said, "Enter negotiations for a permanent status agreement," and 20.4% called for negotiations for a permanent status agreement combined with a further evacuation of Jewish settlements in the occupied territories. Only 4.6% prefer another unilateral evacuation of settlements, while 11.4% chose "annex the settlement blocs," and 10% were prepared to leave the situation unchanged.

The survey found that even 13.7% of disengagement opponents support renewing negotiations with the Palestinians and 7.1% support a diplomatic process combined with another settlement evacuation. Nearly 40% of disengagement foes and 91% of its supporters back freezing settlements in the West Bank. More than half of the Jews in Israel see settlements as a burden, not an asset. 54.3% of the entire sample and even 43.3% of disengagement opponents think the price Israeli society has paid for the Gaza settlements was not worthwhile. Professor Dan Jacobson of Tel Aviv University, who supervised the survey, suggests also taking note of the return of the Green Line at the cognitive level: 65.7% defined Ofra as "a settlement in the territories," 44.1% knew that Maaleh Efraim is a settlement, another 44.7% placed Ariel in this category, and 37.5% gave this description to Maaleh Adumim. (Jerusalem Post & Ha'aretz, 7/12/05)

PALESTINIANS IN ORANGE: In Friday's Dahaf/Yedioth Ahronoth survey of 378 settlers in Gaza and the northern West Bank, which was conducted after the Gaza Strip was closed to non-residents, 34% of respondents said they will leave their homes voluntarily (up from 17% in the previous poll) and 64% said they would not (down from 76%). Further, 47% said they do not intend to resist when soldiers and police officers come to evacuate them, while 30% said they would resist passively, 6% said they would fight, and 17% were undecided. When asked if they had arranged another place to live, 2% replied that there will be no evacuation, 86% said no, and 12% said yes. 58% said that soldiers who oppose disengagement should disobey orders, 2% said they should follow their conscience, 28% said they should obey orders, and 12% were undecided. 71% of settlers said their children would remain with them in Gush Katif during evacuation, while 3% said they would send only their babies away, 4% said they would send their children away, and 22% were undecided. 35% said their mood was best described as anxiety and despair, 41% said optimism, 15% said they were in a fighting spirit, and 9% were undecided. 74% believe that Ariel Sharon will continue to evacuate additional settlements in the West Bank.

Commenting on these results, Sima Kadmon wrote, "Disengagement from Gaza is a fait accompli. It has been so since the cabinet and the Knesset voted in favor of it. But only [last] week, on the day that the Gaza Strip was closed to everyone who does not live there, it turned, for its residents, from a nightmarish vision into a painful awakening. On the day that the Gaza Strip was closed, the residents of Gush Katif had to stand in front of roadblocks, show papers, wait a long time. What do they think, complained one of the residents who was asked to show identification, that I'm a Palestinian? And indeed, in the kind of irony that reality sometimes dictates, the residents of Gush Katif will feel over the next several weeks, in miniature and with a great deal of difference, the lack of freedom, the arbitrary waste of their time, the feeling of transience, and 'what will the day bring' that their Arab neighbors feel. For the first time since the decision on disengagement, and in general, there is an actual limitation on the settlers, a restriction that can only be crossed physically. From [last] week, everyone who crosses the border of the Gaza Strip without permission and without being a resident of Gush Katif is violating an order signed by the prime minister." (Yedioth Ahronoth, 7/15/05)

PAGING BOB GELDOF: Jerusalem sources told Globes that the ministry director generals in charge of the disengagement plan have not set a precise amount for U.S. aid for the pullout initiative, nor presented any sum to their U.S. counterparts. The sources said Israeli officials presented a list of defense costs for removing IDF bases from Gaza, financial needs for developing the Negev and Galilee, and financing for economic projects associated with disengagement, but no "sum was presented as a request." Einat Wilf, a top advisor to Vice Premier Shimon Peres, elaborated a bit more, telling the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that Israel was seeking aid for infrastructure to accommodate a population influx, investment seed money to create new industrial zones, and development funds to help Bedouin and Israeli Arab minorities in the north and south of the country. Peres himself disclosed more, saying that $2 billion in special U.S. aid for disengagement would be spread over four years in annual $500 million installments.

Peres also raised the subject of checkpoints in a meeting last week with EU and Quartet representatives. He said Israel was investing over NIS 1 billion in upgrading checkpoints in order to facilitate the movement of goods and people, but there was no possibility for Israel to continue financing checkpoints and that international aid was necessary to complete their upgrade and for current operations after disengagement. He also said that the rail line from Gaza to Erez was being rebuilt to provide a rail link to the Ashdod port. Further, there were two options for the free passage of between Gaza and the West Bank: a rail link or a sunken road. Either way, Peres warned that the international community would have to finance one of the alternatives since each would cost hundreds of millions of dollars. A U.S. answer about the amount of aid, the period during which it would be disbursed, whether it would be in the form of a grant, loan, or loan guarantees, is expected in September. Incidentally, Israel has $4.9 billion in unused American loan guarantees, according to the Israeli Finance Ministry. These guarantees are part of the $9 billion package approved by Congress in 2003, a package that was extended through the end of 2008. (Globes, 7/11-13/05 & Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 7/12/05)

ISRAELI GOVERNMENT FUNDING PULLOUT PROTESTORS: At the same time that the Israeli government is seeking billions of dollars in new aid from the United States to help pay for costs related to disengagement, its ministries are underwriting the protest efforts against the withdrawal plan. Only in America. The Israeli Education Ministry funds schools that are used as living accommodations for protestors. The local authorities in the occupied territories put their organizational infrastructure and transportation services at the disposal of the anti-disengagement activists. The budgets for various campaigns run into the millions. For example, the cost of an orange ribbon, from the production line to the road junctions where it is distributed, is one shekel. So far two million ribbons have been handed out at a cost of NIS two million, and the right-wing groups are now trying to distribute another million ribbons. The local authorities, which are funded by the Interior Ministry, have contributed NIS 12 million to the Settlers Council in the past two years. Part of this money went straight to the anti-disengagement effort.

Further, the transport facilities of the local authorities in the occupied territories belong to private companies, and the transport facilities can be hired privately. So the Settlers Council orders buses from the development companies, with the money paid by the local authority to the Settlers Council coming back to the local authority through the development company.

The Etzion Bloc Regional Council has set up a center for fighting disengagement. The council's official website is distributing a petition urging soldiers to refuse to obey any order to evacuate settlers. It also advertises the times and venues of demonstrations, as well as noting that "buses will leave from the settlements." The Binyamin Regional Council has set up a "Regional Strength Team," which is intended to confront "the various issues which the struggle is expected to raise, including the issue of the arrests." The activists who go out to the road junctions all over Israel are accommodated at four facilities. Two of them are a yeshiva high school at Kfar Haroeh and the Rabbi Bahran Girls School, which in normal times are high schools funded by the Education Ministry. At Kfar Haroeh, about 300 activists are currently living. They use all the facilities of the boarding school and eat in its dining hall. In addition to these are the hesder yeshivas, the high yeshivas, and the military preparatory schools, which are funded by the Education Ministry. In practice, many of the students go out to the centers of protest for weeks on end. The Bnei Akiva youth movement, which is also funded by the Education Ministry, takes its charges out to demonstrations and other anti-disengagement activities. (Kol Ha'Ir, 7/8/05)

BLACK MARK ON SETTLERS: Some Gaza settlers, including Holocaust survivors, wrote their Israeli ID card numbers on their arms last week to resemble prisoners of Nazi concentration camps in protest of Israel's planned Gaza evacuation. Following earlier protests that included wearing orange Stars of David sewn on their clothes, disengagement opponents took to writing identification numbers on their arms a day after Israel sealed off Gaza to non-residents. Several of them wrote the numbers in black ink on the inside of their arms, near their palms. "This is a heartfelt, spontaneous decision because this is how we feel," said a settler. "This is exactly what we felt when they demanded our identification numbers from us. We didn't think twice and we wrote the number." Avner Shalev, chair of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum Directorate, slammed the move, saying the protestors should "avoid using slogans and terms taken from the Holocaust to avoid unnecessary comparisons that involve Holocaust denial." (, 7/14/05)

PROTEST IN POOR TASTE: The same week that Israelis were killed in a suicide bomb attack in Netanya, right-wingers planted a dummy bomb in the Jerusalem central bus station and another one at the Nordiya junction, near Netanya. The suspicious object in Jerusalem was found in a restroom on the third floor, where the isolated number 400 bus platform used by the ultra-Orthodox public is located. Police found a domestic cooking gas cylinder, a bag, and a clock linked to them. After the bus station was evacuated, a bomb squad dismantled the device. No explosives were found at all. But inside the bag was a note that read, "The disengagement will blow up in our faces." The same words were found on a note discovered in the fake device planted near Netanya. Two ultra-Orthodox IDF soldiers were arrested on suspicion of planting the fake bomb in Jerusalem. (Ma'ariv, 7/12/05 & Ha'aretz, 7/14 & 18/05)

CITIZEN, KEN? In an unexpected move, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on Arab countries hosting Palestinian refugees to give them citizenship, asserting that such action would not compromise the Right of Return. "I call upon every Arab government wishing to give citizenship [to Palestinian refugees] to do so. What is wrong with that?" said Abbas in a recent television interview. "This does not mean resettlement [of refugees]. A Palestinian would return to his homeland whenever he is allowed, whether he carried an Arab or non-Arab citizenship. A fifth-generation Palestinian living in Chile also wishes to return when allowed.It is an emotional matter, not related to citizenship." In the interview, Abbas criticized claims that the Arab League had banned naturalization of refugees, calling these claims "mere excuses." He said, "There is no decision, as the Arab League only recommended [not to grant citizenship], but this was not a decision," referring to the recommendation made in the early 1950s when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians became refugees following the creation of the State of Israel.

Suhail Natour, a member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, commented, "Once a Palestinian becomes a citizen of another country, he can't claim his right of return to Israel, as Israel can easily turn around and say, 'You now have a country and can't claim refugee status.' Slowly, as more Palestinian refugees get naturalized, the Right of Return will turn from a national case to a mere personal case against Israel." Besides the recent decision of some Arab Gulf states to issue citizenship to Palestinians born and living in their countries, Jordan was the only Arab state to bestow citizenship on its 1.7 million Palestinian refugees. In Syria and Lebanon, Palestinian refugees are only permitted to hold travel documents. (Daily Star, 7/12/05)

PALESTINIAN ECONOMY IMPROVES: A report by the Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Maj. Gen. Yosef Mishlav, indicates a real improvement in the Palestinian economy. The report says some of the companies trading on the stock exchange in Nablus doubled their value and their share prices in the past year. The number of employed persons in the town also doubled. The movement of goods between Israel and the Palestinian territories increased, as did trade between the Palestinians and Jordan. At the same time, the taxes collected by the Palestinian Authority increased by approximately 30%. The number of tourists visiting Bethlehem also rose, with over 100,000 tourists and pilgrims visiting the town since the start of 2005, as many as visited in all of 2004. (Israel Radio News, 7/11/05)

SUICIDE ISN'T PAINLESS: A new report from the GSS on Palestinian suicide bombings that took place from September 2000 through the Stage club attack in May 2005 found that 513 Israelis were killed and 3,380 wounded in 143 suicide bombings committed by 160 male and female suicide bombers. During this period, there were over 24,000 terror attacks against Israeli citizens, in which over 1,000 Israelis were killed. Suicide bombings come to 0.6% of all the terror attacks against Israel since the Intifada began, but the number of people killed in them comes to about half of all those killed and shows them to be the most fatal kind of attack. The majority of suicide bombers were aged 17 to 24, most of them were educated, and, up until 2003, most of them came from the West Bank. In 2004, the relative percentage of suicide bombers from Gaza grew to 44%, compared to 6% in previous years. (Yedioth Ahronoth, 7/14/05)

LET'S DO LAUNCH: Israel has begun to develop a missile that can be used to intercept long-range rockets, of the kind Hezbollah has deployed in Lebanon and which could also be obtained by the Palestinians at some point. The Israeli security establishment has decided to invest millions of dollars in developing a special missile of this type, unofficially dubbed the "Mini-Arrow." The missile will be programmed to intercept rockets with a range of up to 90 kilometers, and is not geared to destroy Kassam rockets. Israel has already asked the U.S. for aid to develop the system, specifically an initial sum of $16 million from the 2006 annual budget to begin working on the project. (Yedioth Ahronoth, 7/12/05)

THE JERUSALEM DIVIDE: Commenting on the Israeli government's decision to complete the fence surrounding Jerusalem, Ha'aretz said in a lead editorial, "The government's decision [two Sunday's ago] to speed up preparations for completing the 'Jerusalem envelop' project exposes anew the attempt to use the security fence for issues that have no connection to the security of the citizens of Israel. In a statement to the High Court of Justice, the state prosecution did not hide that the government is taking political, and not just security, considerations into account. Yet, out of the 130 kilometers of the fence in the Jerusalem area, 102 kilometers are on West Bank territory, to a depth of up to 10 kilometers. Only four kilometers are within the municipal border established with the annexation of East Jerusalem. Twelve kilometers effectively remove from the municipal boundaries the areas housing 55,000 Palestinians for whom the government now wants to do the right thing. The experience of the last 38 years was necessary to teach the decision makers that every attempt to separate East Jerusalem and the territories via a municipal border, roadblocks, administrative injunctions or concrete walls is destined to fail.

"Now the government wants to insert a wedge in the heart of Jerusalem's Arab neighborhoods, in addition to establishing a physical barrier between 190,000 East Jerusalem residents and their brothers living in Ramallah and Bethlehem. It's difficult to tell how this particular route will be a burden to the terror organizations, which, according to the prosecution statement to the High Court, 'used the direct connection between the Judea and Samaria population and East Jerusalem, and from there to Jerusalem itself, in order to carry out dozens of terror attacks.' After all, the concrete walls, which will further disrupt the close connection with East Jerusalem residents on the social, political, and economic front, are likely to increase their hostility toward the State of Israel and their motivation to harm its citizens. Even if, by some miracle, the government ministries and the municipality manage to complete their preparations for carrying out in 53 days 34 tasks that are meant to minimize the damage to the quality of life of tens of thousands of Jerusalem residents who will be moved outside the fence, it's doubtful whether the move will suffice for the High Court, or blunt the criticism of the international community.

"Previous High Court rulings on changing the route of the fence, where the court was persuaded that doing so would not damage security, should have led the government to delay construction in controversial areas of the 'Jerusalem envelope,' pending a court decision. The Bush Administration's resolute opposition to the E1 plan, which effectively annexes Maaleh Adumim to Jerusalem, should have prevented the politicians from acting in a way that seems to be an attempt to violate its commitment to refrain from unilateral annexation of West Bank land. One may find some comfort, and even encouragement, from the decision made by a Likud-led government to use the concrete walls to stray (on both sides) from the municipal border of the city, thereby chipping away at the taboo of 'dividing Jerusalem.' Ehud Barak was the first Israeli leader who put the borders of Jerusalem on the political agenda. Ariel Sharon is the first Israeli leader who has proven, in an official government decision, that the borders established hastily and arbitrarily in 1967 are not sacred." (Ha'aretz, 7/13/05)