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July 3, 2006 - Vol. 7, Issue 48

Oh Say, Can You See? Settlers from the illegal 851 settlement outpost near Itamar attacked soldiers guarding them with the demand that they remove the Israeli flag from the flagpole. "The flag offends us," said the rioters, "On this hill there is no State of Israel-there is a state of Halacha."

Someone To Talk To: Yehuda Lancry, formerly a Likud Knesset Member and Israel's ambassador to France and the UN, wrote in Ma'ariv, "`Quiet force' was the slogan of Francois Mitterrand in the 1981 election campaign, which first brought him to the French presidency. Looking at the acts and declarations of Abu Mazen, one may find it relevant to describe his leadership as a quiet force. Not only as a slogan, but as a path of behavior that gradually and steadily gains the strength of a worldview. At the outbreak of the second Intifada, which was fueled by Yasser Arafat, Abu Mazen disapproved of its violent and armed characteristics. He demonstrated this in word and deed, by resigning from the Palestinian premiership, in an open disagreement with his President Arafat. This ethical act, even in comparison with western democratic systems, was not afforded any significance by Israel. Upon his election as PA president, Abu Mazen adhered to the same view. Unfortunately for him, and perhaps unfortunately for us as well, the unilateral Israel, which was about to get rid of Gaza, disqualified him as `not a partner.' Official Israel also did not forget to grant him the questionable title of `featherless chick.'

"In the unilateral whirlwind, not even a single fundamental difference worthy of note was found between Arafat and Abu Mazen. While the former, in his dual language and values, sanctified boldfaced lies as an essential means of obtaining his goals, the latter, Abu Mazen, consistently defended his views. This was first and foremost as a Palestinian patriot voicing a well-ordered ideology, both in Arabic and in English. The peak in the condemnation of suicide terrorism by Abu Mazen was registered [two] week[s] ago in Petra, in a definition that could not be sharper or more unequivocal: `A crime against humanity.' No less. And this was said at a time when collateral damage from Air Force strikes caused the death of women and children on the Palestinian side. And he continues in the same path. Even when many of the Palestinians take pride in the attack against Israeli soldiers, Abu Mazen stands against public opinion and demands the immediate release of the abducted soldier. It takes courage, a firm foundation of values and intellectual honesty-and the Palestinian president has all of these-to take such a position.

"He also has a noteworthy measure of courtesy. In his statements, as well as his interviews to the Israeli media, Abu Mazen has been careful to show respect to the Israeli leadership. The latter, for its part, has not always reined in its sharp statements against the Palestinian partner. In light of this, the gestures of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at the Petra meeting were important. Olmert's warm embrace, body language, and verbal gestures are worthy of appreciation. Language, as we know, holds great power. Writers and poets invest all their hope in language, out of an infinite faith in the ability of words to accelerate and shape processes. We should not, therefore, disregard Abu Mazen's language of peace. His words could legitimize his actions. His significant determination regarding the Prisoners' Document, his principled statements against suicide bombings, his adherence to negotiations with Israel, all this while challenging Hamas-deserve attentiveness and a serious attitude.

"This is a golden opportunity for Israel to hold onto Abu Mazen's desire for peace and put him-along with Hamas-to the test of implementing the Road Map in practice. Hamas, by virtue of reality, and mainly by virtue of the huge ideological and political conversion inherent in the mutual recognition between Israel and the Palestinians, will also change its positions. In this context, the Prisoners' Document and its ramifications are a test for Hamas, and a central tool in the hands of Abu Mazen to establish the approach of recognition and coexistence with Israel. The language of Ehud Olmert, one of our highest-caliber leaders, a man of openness and culture, as demonstrated in Petra, could create the shared basis for negotiation and for a bilateral move with a chance for an arrangement. This possibility is much preferable to any unilateral initiative, no matter what it is called." (Ma'ariv, 6/28/06)

No Merits In Realignment Plan: Yossi Beilin, leader of the Meretz party, told Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that Meretz legislators would oppose his West Bank realignment plan and work to prevent its passage. Olmert had been counting on support from Meretz' five MKs to pass legislation leading up to the plan's implementation. Beilin said the reason Meretz would oppose realignment after supporting disengagement from Gaza was that while most Gaza settlers moved to the Negev, realignment calls for West Bank settlers to be moved to the other side of the security fence, still inside the West Bank. "If your plan involves unilaterally moving settlers from one side of the fence to the other, we won't vote for it and neither would the Arab parties," Beilin told Olmert. "There will be at most 55 MKs (from Kadima, Labor, and the Pensioners Party) in favor and at least 65 against, so it has no chance of passing." Beilin said he thinks Olmert will eventually realize that he would have an easier time in the Knesset passing an agreement negotiated with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas or a plan to withdraw West Bank settlers to the western side of the Green Line. "There is no country in the world that would accept Olmert's borders and allow us to build homes in settlements," Beilin said. He suggested that Israel should sign an agreement with Abbas even if Abbas has been ineffective in stopping terror. He said such an agreement would be recognized by the world as the will of the Palestinian people, and he believed it would guarantee international recognition of Israel's new borders and Jerusalem as its capital. "My philosophy is that he may not be a partner for implementing an agreement, but he is a partner for signing it, and the prime minister should realize the importance of a signed document with a Palestinian leader," said Beilin. (Jerusalem Post, 6/28/06)

Anti-Kassam System Not Worth The Investment: Israel may spare no expense in sending soldiers, tanks, and aircraft into northern Gaza to stop Palestinian terrorists from firing Kassam rockets at it, but the line has to be drawn somewhere. U.S. sources say that Israel has rejected an initiative by Northrop Grumman Corp. to jointly develop a defense system against Kassams. Northrop recently proposed to Israel to resume development of an improved version of the Skyguard tactical high energy laser (THEL). The system integrates a radar system for locating incoming Katyusha and other rockets shortly after launch, and uses a high-powered chemical laser to intercept and destroy them. Rafael and TRW began developing the THEL in the 1990s, and the system intercepted a Katyusha in a test in 2000. But the U.S. Army was dissatisfied with the system because of its complexity and difficulties in development. Rafael withdrew from the project, while Northrop acquired TRW. Northrop went on to develop the mobile THEL (MTHEL), which was cheaper than the original version. The company claims MTHEL can destroy Katyushas, artillery shells, and rockets at "the speed of light." But Israeli officials have decided against jointly developing the system because of its $180-$200 million price tag and long development period of at least five years. In addition, the laser produces toxic gases that no one has figured out how to handle. Still, Northrop believes that, "The Skyguard can defend Sredot." (Globes, 6/25/06)

Oh Say, Can You See? Settlers from the illegal 851 settlement outpost near Itamar attacked soldiers guarding them with the demand that they remove the Israeli flag from the flagpole. "The flag offends us," said the rioters, "On this hill there is no State of Israel-there is a state of Halacha." The company commander ordered his soldiers to defend the flag, but the extremists attacked them and finally tore it down. Soldiers began clashing with the settler who removed the flag in an attempt to recover it. In an IDF inquiry into the incident, soldiers reported that they had been "beaten with fists and kicks to the stomach, and a stone was also thrown at one of them and hit him in the chest." Strangely, right-wing Knesset Members, who are quick to condemn similar acts of disrespect for Israeli national symbols when they are perpetrated by Israeli Arabs, did not raise a peep of protest this time. (Yedioth Ahronoth, 6/26/06)

Fence Straddling: In an op-ed about Israel's schizoid approach to West Bank settlements, Dror Etkes, head of Peace Now's Settlement Watch project, wrote in Ha'aretz, "Due to the international community's frosty reaction to his convergence plan, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert intends-according to media reports-to suggest to the Palestinians that they establish a state with temporary borders on 90% of the West Bank. Israel would retreat to the separation fence and the Jewish settlements to the east of the fence would be evacuated. The construction of the fence is the most significant act carried out by Israel in the past decade, with respect to defining its link to the West Bank. Similarly, the planning, construction, and the location of the separation fence are clearly an unadulterated expression of Israel's unilateral policy. Thus, the fence project is a faithful successor to Israel's settlement activities in the West Bank, although the fence articulates a more sober-minded approach to the settlements' demographic and political implications.

"The barrier in question creates a new reality in two different ways. Most of the West Bank's territory and population are located east of the fence. Yet most of the Israeli population residing to the east of the pre-1967 Green Line border (370,000 out of a total of 440,000, including the Israeli residents of East Jerusalem) is on the west side of the fence. Since it is safe to assume that the present route of the fence will continue to be the border between Israel and the West Bank in the foreseeable future, Israel will continue to hold on to several key parts of the West Bank, and that will mean compartmentalization of the entire area. Over the past few years, two contradictory trends have been developing on the West Bank: On the one hand, construction work in the settlements and outposts to the east of the fence is continuing. The population of these settlements, for the most part religious Jews, is growing at a rapid pace. Construction work on several new bypass roads to the east of the fence was completed last year, and an additional one is currently being built. These facts reflect Israel's settlement policy, which has not substantially changed since the late 1970s.

"On the other hand, the construction of the separation fence symbolizes a contrary trend: the downsizing of Israel's presence in the West Bank and its concentration in `settlement blocs.' Today most construction work in the settlements-more than 3,000 housing units are earmarked for 15,000 to 20,000 new settlers-is being carried out to the west of the fence. By definition, `temporary borders' must ultimately be finalized through negotiations. Any side seeking to engage in talks that will lead to productive results must embark on those negotiations in good faith and must avoid establishing irreversible faits accomplis. The Oslo [Accords'] main drawback was the fact that [they] enabled Israel to continue building settlements in the 1990s at an unprecedented pace while going through the motions of negotiating with the Palestinians. Israel will certainly be unable to sell the Palestinians the same old moldy merchandise a second time. After seeing how Israel, utilizing the Oslo umbrella over the years, dramatically changed major sections of their native territory while doubling the number of settlers, the Palestinians are no longer prepared to meekly accept Israel's behavior, which is invariably at the expense of their living space. Nonetheless, the Israeli public must internalize the fact that there can be no interim agreement on 90%-borders without a 100%-freeze on settlement activity." (Ha'aretz, 6/25/06)

Taking Stock: The Harry S Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) issued a new joint study of Israeli and Palestinian public opinion about current peace process issues and the Clinton parameters for a two-state solution, which were laid out long ago, in a galaxy far, far away. Starting with Israeli attitudes toward Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's realignment plan, only 46% of Israelis support the initiative, while 50% oppose it. Although 54% believe that the outcome of the last election grants Olmert a mandate to carry out his realignment plan, 58% believe a referendum should be held on it. 54% of Israelis see the evacuation from Gaza as a victory for the Palestinian armed struggle, and 54% believe the Palestinian armed struggle has achieved Palestinian national and political goals that negotiations could not achieve. Interestingly, 54% of Palestinians also think that armed confrontations have helped them achieve national rights in ways that negotiations could not, but that is a decline from 69% who thought so in March.

48% of Israelis support negotiations with Hamas if needed in order to reach a compromise agreement with the Palestinians, a figure that doesn't change even if Hamas recognizes Israel indirectly by endorsing the Prisoners' Document or the Saudi peace plan. Only 35% of Israelis think the Prisoners' Document can serve as the basis for negotiations. 70% of Palestinians think that if Israel agrees to enter peace talks with Hamas, the Islamist group should agree to do so. Despite this, two-thirds believe that Hamas should not accept international demands regarding recognizing Israel as a precondition for continued donor support for the Palestinian Authority. 61% of Palestinians and 67% of Israelis agree that after reaching a permanent agreement on all issues to the conflict, there would be mutual recognition of Israel as the state for the Jewish people and Palestine as the state for the Palestinian people. But just 54% of both groups believe that majorities in their societies support such a proposal.

52% of Palestinians and 63% of Israelis support the Road Map. In this context, 58% of Palestinians-the highest level since the Road Map was released-support the collection of arms from Palestinian armed factions. If the collection of arms were restricted to Gaza, support would increase to 70%. When a permanent status agreement is reached and a Palestinian state is established and recognized by Israel, 71% of Palestinians and 79% of Israelis would support reconciliation between the two peoples. Among Palestinians, support for armed attacks against Israeli civilians inside Israel rises to 56%, up from 52% in March and 40% in December.

The Clinton parameters for a two-state solution were presented by President Bill Clinton at a meeting with Israeli and Palestinian officials on December 23, 2000. These parameters address the most fundamental issues involved in the conflict. This joint survey asked both societies about these parameters in December 2003, December 2004, and December 2005. In the current poll (the first taken on these issues since Hamas came to power), the researchers found a noticeable decrease in support among Israelis and some decrease in support among Palestinians compared to six months ago. Among Israelis, 55% support the parameters as a combined package (down from 64% in December), while among Palestinians, 44% support the package now, down from 46% in December. Looking at the specific parts of the parameters, 54% of Palestinians and 47% of Israelis support an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza with the exception of some settlement areas in less than 3% of the West Bank that would be swapped with an equal amount of territory from Israel. On the issue of refugees, 41% of Palestinians and 43% of Israelis support a refugee settlement in which both sides agree that the solution will be based on UN resolutions 194 and 242, with refugees being given compensation and a series of options for permanent residency.

As for Jerusalem, 35% of Palestinians and 37% of Israelis agree with a compromise in which East Jerusalem would become the capital of the Palestinian state, with Arab neighborhoods coming under Palestinian sovereignty and Jewish neighborhoods coming under Israeli sovereignty. The Old City would come under Palestinian sovereignty, except for the Jewish Quarter and the Wailing Wall, which would be under Israeli sovereignty. 25% of Palestinians and 63% of Israelis support the establishment of an independent Palestinian state that would have no army, but would have a strong security force and a multinational force deployed in it to ensure its security and safety. Israel and Palestine would be committed to end all forms of violence directed against each other. 40% of Palestinians and 52% of Israelis support a compromise in which Palestine would have sovereignty over its land, water, and airspace, but Israel would have the right to use the Palestinian airspace for training purposes, and two early warning stations would be maintained in the West Bank for 15 years. A multinational force would remain in Palestine and at its border crossings for an indefinite period of time to monitor implementation of the agreement and Palestinian borders. Lastly, 58% of Palestinians and 70% of Israelis support a compromise stating that when the permanent status agreement is fully implemented, it will mean the end of the conflict and no further claims will be made by either side. The parties will recognize Palestine and Israel as the homelands of their respective peoples. (PSR Palestinian-Israeli Joint Press Release, 6/26/06)

Revenge: This poem was written by Nazareth poet Taha Mohammed Ali and translated from Arabic by Sasson Somekh. Line breaks have been replaced with dots in the version below due to space limitations.

Sometimes.I wish to hold.A duel.With the man.Who killed my father.And demolished my home.And turned me into a refugee.In the narrow land of man;.If he kills me.I will find my rest.And if I take his life.I will have taken my revenge.

But.If I learn.In the duel.That my adversary has a mother.Who awaits his return.Or a father.Who presses his right hand.To his chest, over the heart,.Whenever his son is late in coming--.Then I will not kill him, if.I should gain the upper hand.

By the same token.I will not slay him.If it comes to my attention.That he has brothers and sisters.Who love him.And miss him.At all hours,.Or he has a wife who anticipates his arrival.And children who suffer from his absence.

And his gifts gladden their heart.Or if he has.Friends and comrades.Or neighbors and acquaintances.Friends he met in prison.Or lay beside his hospital bed.Or old schoolmates.Who ask after him.At every opportunity.And send him regards.

But if he is alone.Like a branch chopped from a tree.Neither friends, comrades nor neighbors.No acquaintances, not a father, not a mother.And no partners to his path.I, then, shall not add anything of my own.To the pain of his solitude.The suffering of his demise.The bleakness of his oblivion.I will be content to ignore him.If I encounter him on the road,.And will convince myself.That ignoring him.In itself.Is a kind of revenge. (Ha'aretz, Culture and Literature, 6/23/06)