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January 16, 2006 Vol. 7, Issue 23

Peace Now Petitions Pay Off: Last summer, the Israeli Peace Now movement filed a petition with the High Court of Justice seeking to force the government to carry out orders to demolish nine houses built illegally in the unauthorized settlement outpost of Amona.

Peace Now Petitions Pay Off: Last summer, the Israeli Peace Now movement filed a petition with the High Court of Justice seeking to force the government to carry out orders to demolish nine houses built illegally in the unauthorized settlement outpost of Amona. This Wednesday, the Peace Now petition will be heard in the Court. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz has postponed the Amona demolitions for a few weeks to accommodate the legal process. But once the bulldozers start to roll, there could be a high-profile, violent clash with settlers. If events unfold as anticipated, the Amona demolition will be an important precedent: for the first time, permanent houses will be taken down at a West Bank outpost (as opposed to authorized structures in settlements removed during disengagement). According to Attorney Talia Sasson's report on illegal outposts, Amona was built on private Palestinian land. There are 40 families living there, outside of its "mother" settlement of Ofra. It is the oldest illegal outpost in the occupied territories, having been established by settlers from Ofra 11 years ago. Many of its current occupants are second-generation Ofra members.

Both sides are girding themselves for battle. Some 1,000 police and Border Police troops will be deployed, while IDF soldiers will deal with the peripheral missions of security and blocking roads. Most of the Border Police forces in the West Bank will be used for the operation. "The planned evacuation at the Amona outpost alongside Ofra will go ahead, come hell or high water. The police will receive full backing," said a senior government official. "The settlers' protests prior to the expected evacuation aren't making any impression." The IDF underscored that the outpost issue is not a matter of implementing a political plan, like disengagement, but rather enforcing the law, namely a High Court ruling that the outposts are illegal.

For their part, the Settlers Council has urged thousands of supporters to go to Amona to prevent the demolition. A number of settlers actually moved into the outpost's homes, contrary to an agreement with the IDF. Settler leader Pinhas Wallerstein promised fierce resistance, saying that the Gush Katif precedent would not be repeated. The Council sees Amona as a test case prior to the evacuation of other illegal outposts. Veteran Settlers Council leaders have been criticized by right-wing youth for what they consider to be have been a "lame" performance during the Gaza evacuation. A whiff of what may be in store at Amona came last week, when Israeli police used tear gas for the first time in clashes with settlers as they worked to raze a number of buildings in the outpost of Sde Boaz. Until last week, tear gas was used only against Palestinians. Mofaz has also ordered the dismantling of three illegal outposts near Nablus In related news, the High Court responded to another Peace Now petition by ordering an immediate halt to all construction in the Matityahu East neighborhood of Modi'in Illit and forbidding settlers from occupying buildings that have already been constructed until further notice. Thousands of settlement housing units are being built illegally at the site, which the government has known about and ignored. (Ha'aretz, 1/11-13/06; Ynet, 1/11/06; Jerusalem Post, 1/13/06; Peace Now Statement, 1/12/06; & Yedioth Ahronoth, 1/12/06)

Dog Day Afternoon: Israeli security forces finally got around to reading the U.S. list of terrorist organizations and busted the Jewish Legion. In early January, for the first time, large military and police forces raided a dog kennel belonging to the right-wing extremist group called Gdud Haivri (the Jewish Legion), which was placed on the American list of terrorist organizations back in October 2003. The group is located in the West Bank settlement of Kfar Tapuah. During the raid, a veterinarian hired by the IDF fired an anesthetic arrow at the dogs, and they were taken under supervision of the soldiers of the dog unit, Oketz, in order to prevent them from attacking the forces. Members of the Jewish Legion came into the gun sights of the security establishment only in August, shortly after the murders committed by soldier Eden Natan Zada in Shfaram. Security officials claim Zada was connected to the group. Military, police, and GSS officials who accompanied the raid confiscated material that security sources said connected the group directly to Zada. The raid focused on the yeshiva, the dining room nearby, and the dog kennel where the group keeps vicious attack dogs for what they call their "security" needs. The raid was ordered by OC Central Command Maj. Gen. Yair Naveh, who said that the organization's activity is against the law. Hundreds of soldiers and policemen from the West Bank District Police arrived at Tapuah and confiscated all the contents of the dog kennel, including six German shepherds.

Simultaneously, Jerusalem District Police officials raided the offices of the organization on Moriah Street in Jerusalem. The offices, where an internet café was also operating, were closed down for 15 days. Four suspects were taken in for interrogation. The Jewish Legion was established about four years ago by a former Kahane Chai activist, Yekutiel Ben-Yaakov, who trains dogs to attack suspects who approach settlement fences. Just two days after the bust, Ben-Yaakov sent an appeal to his supporters via the Voice of Judea email list (the U.S. also considers the Voice of Judea to be a terrorist organization), begging people to help defray "the losses of the canine program in Tapuah that has suffered a tremendous blow after Sunday's police action that confiscated dogs and computers and basically everything. We are continuing to operate as individuals as Jews with dogs." (Jerusalem Post, 1/8/06; Ma'ariv, 1/9/06; & Voice of Judea email, 1/10/06)

No Hugs In Hebron: Settlers in Hebron and their violent allies went on a rampage over the past few days in response to the government's decision to evacuate the wholesale market building where 15 settlers have been squatting. About 300 young thugs, most of them masked, threw rocks, eggs, and paint at soldiers and police who tried to stop them from breaking into the old city of Hebron and attacking Palestinians and their property. Hundreds of police were ordered into the city as reinforcements, along with a mounted police unit and a water cannon. OC Central Command Maj. Gen. Yair Naveh ordered the troops "to act with determination and a minimum of sensitivity." Talking with officers, he explained, "There is no room for sensitivity when you are dealing with the anarchists who have come to Hebron." (Ma'ariv, 1/16/06)

A Prayer For The Tzar: Commenting on the situation in Hebron, Yael Gwurtz wrote, "The settlers continue to depend on the IDF, the government, the attorney general, and the state comptroller not to keep their promises to prosecute them to the full extent of the law. In light of the decision on the evacuation of the Jewish families who settled in the heart of the marketplace in Hebron, the settlers stepped up their pogroms against the city's residents over the weekend, and in keeping with tradition, burned homes, beat and injured adults and children. This vandalism is not new and would [not] have shocked Israelis, if the brutality and the hatred had not been turned towards the army forces, which suffered harm in the settlers' riots. Here is precisely the root of the problem and the weakness of the police and the army-they see their role as 'protecting the settlers,' instead of protecting the residents and upholding the law throughout the territories. Whereas hooligans do not discriminate between one weak party and another.

"The acting prime minister is worthy of commendation for repeatedly displaying a determined stance against the pogroms aimed at the Palestinians, and promising 'severe punishment,' but it will not be possible to halt the unbridled acts against the residents of the territories nor will it be possible to prevent the attacks against the IDF and the police without changing the mode of thinking and re-clarifying their role and mission to them. Just as disengagement would have failed, if it had not been explained to the evacuators that their mission had turned around, and if they had not been given a clear mandate to enforce upon the settlers the legal decisions of the Knesset and the state. As long as the settlers consider the violent clash with the IDF and the police 'cat and mouse games,' all the decisions to prosecute them to the full extent of the law will remain a paper tiger. There is no 'warm frost'-if you do not drum this firmly into their heads, the police officers and soldiers will continue to have rocks thrown at their heads." (Yedioth Ahronoth, 1/16/06)

Pressed On Olives: In a second epiphany, the Israeli government realized that after many years of settler vandalism against Palestinian olive groves, it was responsible for stopping such criminal activity. Attorney General Menachem Mazuz told the cabinet that some 2,400 Palestinian trees have been chopped down in recent months at various locations in the West Bank, apparently by Jewish settlers. "There's a feeling of lawlessness, that what is most violent prevails," he said. "This phenomenon is one element of the broader phenomenon of a lack of appropriate law enforcement against Israelis in the territories." Mazuz said that he has complained about this repeatedly to Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, Public Security Minister Gideon Ezra, IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz, the IDF's GOC Central Command, and the head of the West Bank District Police, but to no avail. "I can't accept the response of insufficient resources," Mazuz added. "This is a matter of priorities. It is impossible to accept that the State of Israel is incapable of devoting the [necessary] resources to this." Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert responded promising action "to stop these hooligans." Ezra responded by holding a meeting with the commander of the West Bank District Police, the head of the police's investigations and intelligence division, and Shin Bet representatives. The officials agreed to step up cooperation between the police and the Shin Bet's Jewish Division to combat anti-Palestinian vandalism. (Ha'aretz, 1/9/06)

Enemy Infiltration: The IDF is taking action to curb as much as possible the takeover of the Haredi Nahal unit by the settler hilltop youth. A decision to this effect was made by the IDF Personnel Branch and the Ground Forces Command. The reason is that the IDF observed that the recruits who join the battalion are not always Haredim, but rather young people identified with the hilltop youth, who changed the character of the battalion. For example, in the period prior to disengagement, some of the battalion's soldiers wore orange ribbons and declared that they would refuse to evacuate settlements. The IDF's embarrassment grew after two soldiers from the battalion placed a dummy bomb in the central bus station in Jerusalem, bearing the legend "disengagement will blow up in your faces." The IDF decided that the number of national religious youth in the battalion (many of whom are associated with the hilltop youth) will be no greater than 30% of the total number of soldiers serving in it. (Yedioth Ahronoth, 1/11/06)

Negotiations Favored Over Unilateral Moves: The latest Peace Index Survey from the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research at Tel Aviv University found that Israelis strongly prefer negotiations with the Palestinians over more unilateral moves in the occupied territories. The poll, taken in late December 2005, revealed that 73% of Israelis support peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority (PA) in principle, while 67% favor an independent Palestinian state. Interestingly, those who favor a Palestinian state in principle are a majority even among those who believe the Palestinians have not accepted Israel's existence-60%. Today, 55.5% think the unilateral disengagement from Gaza has proven to be the right step in terms of Israel's overall national interest. But unilateralism is not the preferred choice for the future. If a stable PA government is established after the upcoming Palestinian elections, 61% favor initiating a return to the negotiating table with the aim of reaching a permanent settlement, with 16% in favor of maintaining the status quo, and just 8.5% supporting a unilateral initiative to evacuate West Bank settlements in keeping with Israel's security concerns. If a stable PA government does not emerge, then the preferred alternative (35%) is to keep the status quo, trailed only slightly (31%) by the option of returning to the negotiating table and trying to reach a final peace treaty. Just 16% would favor, in this scenario, an initiative for a unilateral withdrawal. There is, however, still a majority for an extensive dismantlement of West Bank settlements in the framework of an agreement with the Palestinians.

The idea of an exchange of territories in the context of a permanent agreement, with the large settlement blocs remaining in Israel's hands and rule over the Triangle being transferred to the PA (including large Israeli Arab population centers such as Umm al-Fahm) is supported by 48% of the Jewish public and opposed by just 37% (the same results as when the question was asked in March 2002.). When asked what their opinion would be if it turned out that the Arab citizens of Israel who live in the Triangle oppose the transfer of their communities to Palestinian sovereignty, 33% of all respondents said that they would still support the land exchange, 45% said they would oppose it, and 21% had no opinion. A segmentation of the support for a territorial exchange by voting in the upcoming Knesset elections shows higher support for such a deal on the Left and the Center than among the secular and the religious Right. Among Arab interviewees, 21% supported territorial exchanges as described, 68% opposed them, and the rest had no opinion. The sampling error is +/- 4.5% (Peace Index Survey, 1/8/06)

Cutthroat Competition: Hezbollah has recently taken steps to prevent Katyusha rocket fire on northern Israel. The Lebanese group-one of Israel's most radical enemies-hasn't suddenly fallen in love with the Jewish state. Its new policy stems from mounting tension between it and al-Qaeda, which assumed responsibility for the most recent rocket attack on northern Israel, supposedly on the orders of Osama bin Laden. Israeli officials attending situation assessment meetings confirmed al-Qaeda's link to the rocket attack. They believe that Hezbollah was furious about the rocket fire. The operation that was carried out by Asbat al-Ansar was perceived by Hezbollah as a blow to its control over southern Lebanon. In the aftermath of Israel's pullout from southern Lebanon, Hezbollah seized control of the area that was formerly the Israeli security zone, and it is Hezbollah that grants approval for every attack on Israel. The most recent Katyusha attack, apparently, was not coordinated with Hezbollah, which, in turn, decided to make sure that al-Qaeda did not continue to operate against Israel without "authorization."

Al-Qaeda is also trying to move into the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. According to a statement from the group, "We have been trying hard to enter the Sabra and Shatila camp, which is considered the symbol of Palestinian camps in Lebanon.Since this camp needs reform, you have to take these warnings seriously, because today we warn but tomorrow we will liquidate dozens of people. We warn Lebanese government officials against interfering in the refugee camp; do not make orphans of your children and widows of your wives. We warn the women who leave the camp for places of prostitution in Hamra or who work for Lebanese and foreign security bodies; those will be liquidated by gunshots." The statement also said alcohol shops and pharmacies that sell anesthetic medicine will be detonated and their owners murdered. "Our suicide bombings will target all the United Nations buildings inside and outside the camp, as well as agents such as [Palestinian officials] Abbas Zaki and Khaled Aref and several foreign embassies." The camp residents rejected the statement, and Lebanon charged 13 suspected al-Qaeda members last week with planning to launch terrorist attacks. (Ma'ariv, 1/12/06; Daily Star, 1/13/06; & Reuters, 1/13/06)

Jaffe Center Study Faults U.S. Aid: A recently published study by Professors Asher Tishler and Yoed Shefi of the Jaffe Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University reached an interesting conclusion about U.S. military aid to Israel-it hurts in the long-run. Tishler and Shefi note that U.S. aid enables the Israeli defense establishment to provide the required level of security, while reducing the extent of procurement from Israeli industry. This fact necessarily lowers the prices of Israeli defense output, and therefore also causes some increase in exports, but detracts from profitability. The study's main conclusion is that mergers in Israel's defense industries are in order, but the merger process should be carried out carefully and gradually. At the end of their study, the researchers return to the issue of American aid. They write, "There is no doubt that U.S. aid contributes to the Israeli economy in the short and medium term by reducing net defense spending. This military aid, however, also detracts from the profits of the Israeli defense industry. In the long term, it is liable to render the existence of that industry difficult. Since it is reasonable to assume that military aid will continue for the foreseeable future (at least another 7-12 years), Israel's defense industry should continue developing weapons systems for export, particularly for Western countries, and continue its policy of cooperation with defense companies in the U.S. and Europe. The effect of military aid on the local defense industry will be lessened if a merger into a single private company takes place, and will be substantially reduced if this company merges (possibly through an acquisition) with a large Western company, which will enable it to operate in the U.S. and Europe." (Globes, 1/9/06)

Endangered Species: In last week's Geocartographica Institute/Channel One survey, if elections were held today for the 120-seat Knesset, Kadima would win 45 seats, Labor 18, Likud 15, Shas 11, National Union 8, United Torah Judaism (UTJ) 6, the Arab parties 7, Meretz-Yahad 3, and Yisrael Beiteinu 3. Shinui and the National Religious Party (NRP) would probably disappear from the political map since both of them would win just two seats and fail to pass the threshold for getting into the Knesset. Indeed, Shinui's primaries led to a split in the party and raised additional questions about its future. The Geocartographica Institute also found a drop in popularity for the Arab parties, Hadash, Balad, and the United Arab List. According to this poll, all three will fail to attract enough votes to guarantee seats in the Knesset.

Last week's Dialog/Ha'aretz survey found that Kadima would win 44 seats, Labor 16, Likud 13, Shas 10, Meretz-Yahad 5, and Shinui barely getting in to parliament with 4. The other parties had no significant changes. Kadima's strength is coming from voters who previously backed Labor (35%), Likud (51%), and Shinui (60%). Ehud Olmert's personal rating skyrocketed over the past week, with 44% saying he's the candidate most suited to be prime minister, followed by Benjamin Netanyahu (23%), and Amir Peretz (13.5%). Friday's Teleseker/Ma'ariv poll pegged Kadima at 43 seats, Labor 17, Likud 16, Shinui 4, Shas 9, National Union 9, Yisrael Beiteinu 5, Meretz-Yahad 5, NRP 4, UTJ 5, and the Arab parties 7. Friday's Dahaf/Yedioth Ahronoth poll had Kadima at 42 seats, Labor 17, Likud 13, Shas 10, the Arab parties 8, UTJ 6, Yisrael Beiteinu 6, Meretz-Yahad 5, National Union 5, Shinui 4, and NRP 4. Finally, the director general of the Maagar Mohot survey institute told a forum at Tel Aviv University over the weekend that a new poll gave Kadima 52 seats, Likud 22, and Labor 12-13. (Ma'ariv, 1/11 & 13/06; Ynet, 1/8 & 15/06; Ha'aretz, 1/11/06; Israel Radio News, 1/13/06; & Yedioth Ahronoth, 1/13/06)