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May 16, 2005 - Vol. 6, Issue 42

PA DISCHARGING ARMS OBLIGATIONS: Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas has begun implementing his promise to collect weapons from Palestinians on Israel's wanted list. In Jericho, the suspects have handed their weapons in to the PA and pledged in writing not to return to terrorism, and in Tul Karm, implementation is in an advanced phase.

PA DISCHARGING ARMS OBLIGATIONS: Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas has begun implementing his promise to collect weapons from Palestinians on Israel's wanted list. In Jericho, the suspects have handed their weapons in to the PA and pledged in writing not to return to terrorism, and in Tul Karm, implementation is in an advanced phase. Between 5 and 10 men reportedly turned in their weapons in Tul Karm out of a list of 50 wanted men. Forty-seven of the 50 have signed pledges not be involved in terror. A Palestinian source said 17 wanted men in Jericho have also signed the pledge.

The lack of full Palestinian implementation of the weapons agreement has led Israel to refuse to withdraw from three additional West Bank cities. The wanted men initially refused PA requests to hand in their weapons, saying that Israel was planning to assassinate them and the Palestinian security forces were preventing them from defending themselves. In response, the PA proposed having them join the Palestinian security forces, in the context of which they would have been allowed to keep their weapons. Israel opposed this move, saying it was a way to "launder" the suspects' weapons. But Israel didn't oppose having the suspects join the security forces. Now, the PA has decided to make the suspects part of the security forces, but without their weapons. In addition to handing in their arms, the suspects must promise in writing that they will not return to carrying out attacks against Israelis, and the PA has assumed responsibility for supervising them. (Ha'aretz, 5/13 & 15/05)

PALESTINIAN SUPPORT FOR VIOLENCE DROPPING: The latest survey of Palestinian opinion from the Jerusalem Media & Communication Center (JMCC) found that while there is still a majority of Palestinians (53.3%) who support continuing the Intifada, there is a significant increase in the ratio of Palestinians who oppose its continuation (44.1%), compared with 27.2% in June 2004 and 22.2% in April 2003. Further, the poll shows a rise in the ratio of Palestinians who oppose suicide bombing operations against Israeli civilians, going from 31.5% in June 2004 to 48% in May 2005, with a notable decline in support for such operations from 62.1% in June 2004 to 49.7% this month. A majority of Palestinians (57.2%) opposes continuing military operations against Israeli targets and sees such operations as harming Palestinian national interests, while 36.2% believe that such operations are the proper response under the current political conditions. In terms of domestic politics, the poll found a slight decline in the popularity of Fatah, from 41.6% in December 2004 to 36.1% in May 2005. Support for Hamas remained steady at 19.8%, compared with 20% in December 2004. (JMCC Press Release, 5/13/05)

NOT A LEGITIMATE MISSION: The IDF is formulating a plan to withdraw its forces from the Jewish settlement in Hebron because of the settlers' bad attitude. According to the plan, paid civilian guards will replace the soldiers who today guard the settlers in the city. The reason for the Central Command's plan to outsource security is the great anger among commanders towards the behavior of settlers in Hebron. Senior IDF officers are simply disgusted at the fact that many of the city's settlers taunt IDF soldiers and even attack them physically. Testimony gathered recently by the Central Command found a bleak picture of the attitude of Jews to the soldiers. The situation is becoming more extreme the closer the date approaches to implement disengagement. According to testimony from soldiers who serve in the settlement, the Hebron settlers throw vegetables and even urine bags at them. Testimony also found that among the various and sundry curses that are heaped on them during their service, calling them "Nazis" was among the most popular. IDF officials believe that the settlers view insulting soldiers as a way of criticizing the government.

OC Central Command Maj. Gen. Yair Naveh is disgusted at the fact that the command's soldiers have become a punching bag for the settlers of Hebron. Recently he initiated a plan to replace the soldiers who are now stationed in the heart of the Jewish settlement with civilian guards, despite the fact that the area is considered sensitive and very dangerous from a security viewpoint.

Maj. Gen. Naveh said, "Calling a Jewish soldier a Nazi is like throwing a stone or eggs. If people in the Jewish settlement of Hebron think that it is possible to live with this duality over time, then I think that we must not live with it. I as commander am obligated to soldiers just like I am obligated to civilians, as regards protecting their body and safety. I am committed to the soldier feeling that his mission is not only legal but also legitimate. During the Lebanon period we educated generations of soldiers to look behind them and see the lights of the northern communities that we protected and from which we drew our strength. It is hard for me to tell a soldier at the Tomb of the Patriarchs to look behind him as well, despite the fact that this is a component of his strength. To get up from his position and to charge when the need arises." Military sources said, "Soon military officials will tell the residents of Hebron that if attacks on IDF soldiers do not stop, the plan will be implemented." (Ma'ariv, 5/11/05)

MARCH MADNESS: In the first general rehearsal of its kind, two groups of settlers were detained on Israeli Independence Day as they marched through Palestinian villages in Area A on their way to northern West Bank settlements slated for evacuation. The settlers said they walked through the villages-which Israelis are forbidden to enter-to study "alternative routes" that they intend to use to infiltrate the settlements during this summer's evacuation. Four settlers from Yitzhar were arrested after they entered the village of Anbata on their way to Sa-Nur, while 22 settlers from Elon Moreh were arrested after entering Ein Bidan on their way to the settlement of Homesh.

During these marches, the settlers came under Palestinian gunfire. No one was injured, but IDF soldiers were deployed to prepare for possibly evacuating the troublemakers. In another incident, settlers marching from Elon Moreh to Itamar clashed with Palestinians near the village of Salem and burned down some 70 dunams of Palestinian orchards. Military and police sources blasted the settlers' behavior, calling it a deliberate provocation that endangered the lives of both soldiers and civilians. "The marchers did not act in a vacuum," one officer said. "Public figures in the settlements, such as Rabbi Elyakim Levanon of Elon Moreh and Daniella Weiss, should stop such reckless acts. Instead, they encourage these provocations." (Jerusalem Post, 5/12/05 & Ha'aretz, 5/13/05)

IT'S ACADEMIC: The Knesset Education Committee denounced the cabinet's decision to establish a university in the settlement of Ariel. "The cabinet did not act within the bounds of its authority and made a partisan decision, without acting in the interest of higher education," the committee members said. "It is not possible to run another university in Israel with the present budget without prejudicing its quality," said committee chair MK Melli Polishuk-Bloch. The Knesset Members blasted the way in which the cabinet exerted pressure on the Council for Higher Education, the body exclusively authorized to set up new institutions of higher education, to ratify the new universities.

Indeed, the colleges in Ariel and in the Galilee will not receive extra funding in the coming years that would help turn them into universities. Professor Shlomo Grossman, chair of the Planning and Budgeting Committee, said that during the current five-year plan for higher learning, which runs to 2008, no extra money is to be allocated for the establishment of any new institution, be it a college or a university. "The committee does not see the need for a new institution, and will not allocate the funds for this," he said. However, Grossman is working on setting up a new panel that will examine the need to establish a new university within the next five-year plan covering 2009-2013. (Ha'aretz, 5/9 & 11/05)

FROM AMERICA, WITH LOVE: According to a Ynet investigation, U.S. non-profit organizations have been funding settlements for the past decade. The precise amount of money transferred from the U.S. to the settlers is difficult to know. But one thing is clear: American non-profit organizations have raised more than $100 million over the past ten years in order to assist settlements in the occupied territories. Documents show that settlers have enough financial means to live without government support, organize the "ultimate public relations battle," and motivate forces on the ground.

Yitzhak Benhorin wrote, "It is true the settlers received most of their financial support over the years-billions of dollars-from Israel's governments; but even if the state funding would cease, the settlers may still be able to raise millions of dollars in the U.S. to continue their public battle against the expected Gaza and West Bank pullout. Settler fundraising is big business, and there are those who constantly work to keep the money machine rolling. During Benny Elon's (National Union) tenure as Tourism Minister he frequently visited the U.S. to raise money from Evangelists and Jews who support the settlement enterprise; other right-wing Knesset members often make these fundraising trips as well. A few emotional stories told to American Jews about the heroism displayed by the settlers-and the dollars keep coming." (Ynet, 5/9/05)

FINANCIAL TURBULENCE AHEAD: Although the Knesset Finance Committee approved an additional $25 million for the benefit of the disengagement plan and the relocation of Gaza settlers last week, opposition to the evacuation initiative on the committee made it difficult to get the money passed. And things will not be getting any easier for the government. "This is almost the last chance for the Finance Committee to approve budgets for the disengagement plan," said Labor MK Avraham Shochat. "Afterwards we won't be able to transfer a cent." Pro-disengagement MKs Eli Aflalo and Ruhama Avraham have been appointed deputy ministers and must be replaced on the committee. A large proportion of the remaining Likud MKs who are not in the government are opposed to disengagement and are likely to get the vacated posts. (Ynet, 5/10/05 & Jerusalem Post, 5/9/05)

NOTICE GIVEN FOR NITZANIM: The National Council for Planning and Construction approved the Nitzanim plan last week, but at this stage without the construction of new communities. The committee decided to give the settlers several more months, until early July, to decide whether they want to move to Nitzanim. If thousands of families agree and register with the Disengagement Administration, new communities will be built. If not, those families that have shown an interest in the plan will be housed in the community of Nitzan, which will be expanded for this purpose. "There is no point in already investing today millions of shekels in building new communities if there is no need for them and the money will go down the drain," said a government source. Setting a July deadline is meant to pressure the settlers to conclude that it is better for them to leave of their own accord and not wait for soldiers to come and evict them. Canceling the establishment of new communities in the Nitzanim area will force the settlers to find alternative housing solutions and could prevent the option of their moving as one group. (Ma'ariv, 5/11/05)

ISRAEL RELAXES ON ROAD OUT OF GAZA: Israel is relaxing its position in the negotiations with Egypt about deploying Egyptian military forces along the Philadelphi Road. Israel has, in effect, agreed that in the future it will not be able to demand the withdrawal of Egyptian forces from Sinai, even if it really, really wants to. Negotiations between Israel and Egypt over the deployment of Egyptian forces on the Philadelphi Road have gone on for over a year. Throughout the entire period, Israel insisted on demanding that if it asks the Egyptians, for whatever reason, in the future to withdraw from the Philadelphi Road, they would be obligated to do so. The Egyptians were opposed. But as a result of U.S. mediation, it was recently agreed between the two parties that Israel would be able to ask Egypt to withdraw its forces from the road, but Egypt would not be obligated to do it. (Ma'ariv, 5/9/05)

COMPLIANCE IS ABSENTEE: Israel still has not given Palestinians who own farm land in Jerusalem permits to enter and work on their property, despite a ruling by Attorney General Menachem Mazuz that the 1950 Absentee Property Law does not apply to them. Mazuz also ordered the government not to implement a policy decision permitting the seizure of East Jerusalem property owned by Palestinians living elsewhere in the West Bank. According to a petition to the High Court filed last week by attorney Danny Seidemann, the Mazuz order has still not been implemented. The petition also seeks to compel the government to publish the list of properties seized in Jerusalem.

When work first started on the security fence in the Jerusalem area three years ago, land owners from Beit Jala and Bethlehem requested permits to reach their lands on the Jerusalem side of the barrier, lands that they have farmed since 1967. They were told late last year that they would not be allowed to work their land since they were no longer the owners, and that the lands were being held by the Custodian of Absentee Property. After Ha'aretz exposed the government's decision to apply the Absentee Law in East Jerusalem, an international outcry prompted Mazuz to declare that "the decision cannot stand" and to order an immediate and total halt to the application of the law in East Jerusalem. Even after Mazuz's intervention, however, Palestinian landowners did not receive permission to cultivate their lands, and they lost an entire agricultural season last year. (Ha'aretz, 5/11/05)

EAST JERUSALEM PALESTINIAN VOTER REGISTRATION OFFICE SHUT: Israeli police last week shut down an East Jerusalem office used by the Palestinian Authority (PA) to register Arab voters in the city prior to parliamentary elections set to be held in July. Palestinian sources said police detained two officials at the Wadi Joz office from which the PA Central Elections Committee managed voter registration efforts. Officers also confiscated documents. Israel recognizes in principle the right of Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem to vote in PA elections. However, it does not allow the PA to carry out any government-related activities inside the city's boundaries. (Ha'aretz, 5/10/05)

IT'S NOT EASY SEEING GREEN: Kalkilya, long a Fatah stronghold, went through an upheaval recently: Hamas beat Fatah like a drum, and Fatah was unable to get even one member on the city council. All 15 seats of the council were pained with the green of Islam. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that the democratic decisions must be respected and he is willing to live with this. Israel, on the other hand, still doesn't know what to do. The new Hamas reality in Kalkilya not only includes a new mayor (who is serving time in an Israeli prison), but also the joint sewage and water plant with Kfar Saba, the joint waste removal site with the Sharon Regional Council, and even veterinary treatment for the animals in the Kalkilya Zoo, some of which have Hebrew names from the days when they used to live in the Ramat Gan Safari or the Biblical Zoo in Jerusalem. What does Israel do tomorrow morning when the water pipe to Kalkilya springs a leak? Or when the Environment Ministry has to cooperate with the Kalkilya city council to exterminate mosquitoes? Or should a recommendation be made to the safari, whose management donated lion cubs a few months ago to the Kalkilya Zoo, also to donate giraffes and zebras?

The political echelon will have to provide guidelines on the limits of coordination and cooperation with a Hamas mayor. The attorney general will also have to address the matter. Hamas, by law, is a terrorist organization, and any contact or cooperation with it is illegal. However, Israeli security officials maintain ongoing contact with Hamas members who have won local elections. A senior security official said that any request by a Hamas member for aid in civilian matters is examined on its own merits, to make sure that this is not a person who is involved in terror. The senior official added that care should be taken in disqualifying Hamas, and noted that the group has recently made a strategic change and become a political movement.

Americans and Europeans will also have to deal with the new situation emerging from cities where Hamas won elections. Should construction stop on the school and clinic in Rafah, being built with American tax dollars? Should work stop on laying the water pipe in Kalkilya? Hamas is aware of the new situation that will force it to bend its ideology and have some sort of relationship with the Israeli Civil Administration. "Coordination with Israel will be done only by the Palestinian Authority. But if the mayor of Kalkilya has to act on behalf of the residents and this means he must coordinate with Israel-then he will," said Sheikh Hassan Yousef, the most prominent Hamas leader in the West Bank. (Yedioth Ahronoth, 5/13/05 & Israel Radio News, 5/16/05)

IRAN MAKING FIRST DOMESTIC SUB: Iran officially launched production on Tuesday of its first locally built submarine, a craft that can fire missiles and torpedoes at the same time. Iranian Defense Ministry spokesperson Mohammad Imani said, "The enemy would not be able to detect the submarine." One sub has apparently already been built and was shown on television last week, cruising at sea level. An unspecified number of the craft, dubbed "Ghadir," have been commissioned. The submarine is reportedly capable of operating in the Persian Gulf and Oman sea waters. (AP, 5/10/05)

TALES FROM THE DARK SIDE: In an Israeli Independence Day survey conducted by Hagal Hehadash for Yedioth Ahronoth, Israelis were asked an open-ended question about what they would choose as an ideal solution at the push of a button to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Here is how Eyal Gonen described their answers to this query: "In first place, 20 percent, as the dream solution, is transfer-with exactly the same proportion of people who believe that the ideal solution is peace or dialogue. These 20 percent, incidentally, do not include an additional 4.3 percent of the public who believe that it is a shame to waste trucks on transfer: The Arabs can simply be liquidated or placed in a ghetto. Transfer as an ideal is five times as strong in Jerusalem and the periphery than in the center of the country, but also when asked about the future, the Israeli dream is pretty clear: To see a state with 10 million Jews and 0 Arabs." Another breakdown of these numbers was provided by IMRA, which said that 20.2% favored expelling the Arabs, 18.9% chose peace with dialogue, 11.9% said two separate states, 10.4% said there is no ideal solution, and 38.6% said other. (Yedioth Ahronoth, 5/11/05 & IMRA, 5/12/05)

MASON BUILDS EXTREMIST REP: In an interview with the settlers' Arutz-7 Radio, alleged comedian Jackie Mason said, "My opinion is that we should do to terrorists what America did to Afghanistan. You go in and if they persist in bombing your buildings and destroying your lives and sending in suicide bombers, then there should be an unconditional determination to just tell them-either you get out of our land or we will destroy all of you. We must tell the terrorists. 'We will give you two weeks to get out of our land and then we will destroy you.' I believe that will all my heart." (Arutz-7, 5/11/05)