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APN Backs Israeli Disengagement Aid Request; Offers Options to Shape Funding to Maintain Peace Momentum

APN endorses Israel's request for additional U.S. aid; offers options to consider making the aid a tool toward an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE July 19, 2005

CONTACT: Lewis Roth (202) 728-1893

Washington, D.C.-Americans for Peace Now (APN) today endorsed Israel's request for additional aid from the United States to help Israel bear the costs associated with its evacuation of settlements and soldiers from the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank and for developing the Negev and Galilee regions. The Israeli request is reported to be worth $2.2 billion in grants and loan guarantees to be spread out over several years. At the same time, APN offered a series of options that should be considered for making the aid package into a tool for building momentum toward an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

APN is a Jewish, Zionist organization dedicated to enhancing Israel's security through peace and to supporting the Israeli Peace Now movement.

"The upcoming evacuation of settlements offers Israel and the Palestinians an opportunity to move beyond nearly five years of bloodshed and back to the negotiating table," said Debra DeLee, President and CEO of Americans for Peace Now. "No one should underestimate how difficult the withdrawal process is for Israel. Thousands of settlers need to be relocated, several military installations and thousands of soldiers must be moved across the Green Line, a new border crossing regime has to be established, and the areas of the country to which many evacuees will move must be developed-all without putting Israel at further risk.

"Settlement evacuation is not only emotionally and socially wrenching for the individuals involved-it's also expensive for the state. Since the removal of settlements is consistent with long-standing American policy toward the occupied territories, the U.S. should be willing to help finance this important initiative. At the same time, the United States has an interest in ensuring that the upcoming settlement evacuation generates momentum towards renewed negotiations between the two sides. In order to help build that momentum for the day after Israel's pullout, APN thinks Washington should consider ways to address consequences of the withdrawal and points of friction that will remain after the last settler has left Gaza."

Among the Areas that Should be Addressed in Any Assistance Package Are:

• GENERAL NEGEV AND GALILEE DEVELOPMENT: While Israel is requesting supplemental aid, it continues to divert its funds to subsidize settlers in the West Bank, which costs the state around $500 million more per year (in non-military expenses) than if these Israelis lived inside the Green Line. The U.S. should consider requiring new matching funds from Israel to develop the Negev and Galilee, providing loan guarantees of up to a cap of $500 million, available over four years. Matching and capping funds in this manner would help Israel meet its development goals within the Green Line, while encouraging it to make financial decisions to divert its own budget away from settlements in the West Bank.

• NEGEV AND GALILEE DEVELOPMENT FOR MINORITIES: As Israel develops the Negev and Galilee for the benefit of arriving settlers, it cannot ignore the situation of the Arab population of these areas, Israeli citizens whose standard of living is more similar to the Third World than to the rest of Israel. In order to avoid having the Gaza pullout translate into displacement, increased inequities, more deeply-entrenched grievances, and an accompanying increase in tension and conflict in Israel, Israel should take immediate action to redress the situation of the minority populations in these regions. This will require a substantial investment in infrastructure and services. The U.S. should also institute appropriate monitoring mechanisms for American funds that are used to meet this objective.

• REMOVAL OF OUTPOSTS: Israel's own official inquiry into the matter of settlement outposts identified at least 105 of these illegal sites, which were established with massive government financing, no transparency, and no criteria. Under the Road Map, Israel is required to remove outposts established since March 2001.

• JOINT ECONOMIC PROJECTS: Israeli-Palestinian projects have a multiplier effect in that they can make contributions to both economies and become the basis for further cooperation between the two sides. Of the loan guarantees provided, the U.S. should consider allocating a set amount for such projects.

• SAFE PASSAGE ROUTE: Safe passage through Israel between Gaza and the West Bank is critical to stabilizing the Palestinian economy and achieving a cohesive, stable Palestinian political entity. To support the establishment of a safe passage route, including associated security arrangements, the U.S. should consider putting aside a set amount of loan guarantees.

• RAIL SPUR: Construction of an operational port in Gaza will take at least three years. In the meantime, a rail spur connecting Gaza with the Israeli port of Ashdod can serve as a stop-gap measure for giving Palestinians the means to predictably import and export goods.

• SECURITY ZONES: Smooth operation of security zones between Israel and Gaza will be crucial to the success of the evacuation plan. The U.S. should consider earmarking funds to improve these zones and make the passage of goods and people more efficient. Such funds should not be used for crossing points or other facilities inside the West Bank.

• JERUSALEM POLICY: The ability to return to relative calm can be undermined by Israeli initiatives that are perceived as changing the status quo, which can provoke swift and sometimes violent responses, undercutting Palestinian moderates and empowering radicals. The U.S. should clearly state that its support for disengagement does not mean carte blanche for Israel to undertake polices in Jerusalem that conflict with the Road Map and weaken hope for achieving a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

• JERUSALEM FUNDING: Since 1967, Israel has consistently failed to provide adequate services for Palestinians in East Jerusalem, and the current route of the security barrier threatens to cut off many from access to what meager services do exist. Those left on the "wrong" side of the fence face extreme poverty and isolation, and many are already relocating to areas that will be left inside the barrier. The $5.5 million that the Israeli government has allocated for parallel municipal services for the estimated 50,000-125,000 Palestinian residents of Jerusalem who will be stranded on the "wrong" side is wholly inadequate. Given Israel's history of failing to fund adequate services and infrastructure in these areas, the U.S. should institute appropriate monitoring mechanisms to ensure that any American funds earmarked for this objective are spent appropriately.