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April 26, 2006 - Vol. 7, Issue 39

Lines In The Drifting Sand: The U.S. will not recognize a border created after a unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank as Israel's permanent border, senior Bush Administration officials said.

Lines In The Drifting Sand: The U.S. will not recognize a border created after a unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank as Israel's permanent border, senior Bush Administration officials said. While a number of sources said unofficially that they think the Administration would probably support another unilateral Israeli withdrawal under Ehud Olmert's convergence plan, it would not recognize the resulting boundary as one "after which there would be no more need for negotiation." One official said he thought the U.S. would agree to see the post-withdrawal line as a temporary border, "which would become permanent, obviously with slight changes, following future negotiations between Israel and the PA." If the Israeli withdrawal receives the blessing of the international community, "it will be assuming that any reduction of the occupation is good for both sides, but it certainly won't be support for a new border," a source said. Any reasonable interpretation of international law, a legal expert said, "cannot allow recognition of a border that was determined unilaterally." Specific problems have been raised with regard to Olmert's plan, like his intention for the Jordan Valley to be Israel's "security border." Sources defined as "low to nil" the chance that such a line would receive international recognition. (Ha'aretz, 4/26/06)

Backdoor Statehood: The Palestinian Authority (PA) may not have realized it, but a local Israeli court has granted it independence. In a precedent-setting ruling, Jerusalem District Court Justice Boaz Okun ruled that the PA effectively meets the main requirements for being a state, and as such it is immune by international law to lawsuits and execution of judgment by the State of Israel in its territories. "The Palestinian Authority cannot be sued in Israel, since the rule that there is no coercion between equals applies to it," ruled Okun, meaning that one state cannot impose judicial powers and execution of judgment on another state or state-like entity. "The PA meets the main requirements that constitute a `state.'"

In the ruling, Justice Okun rejected out of hand a lawsuit of the Elon Moreh Seminary Society, which demanded that the State of Israel and the PA be instructed to compensate it for the inability to enforce a judgment for paying a financial debt in Area A, within the PA territory, for the cancellation of a land deal. The petitioners told the court that the lands were purchased based on an affidavit given by a village chief, later dismissed as fallacious. The association sued the village head for the monies paid in exchange for the lands, but he refused to pay them back, forcing the claimants to ask the state to enforce the verdict in Palestinian territory. Okun ruled that the plaintiff, as the rest of Israel's residents and citizens, has no right to carry out execution of judgment within PA territory. "The interim agreement granted the Palestinian Authority, vis-à-vis Israel as well, the status of a sovereign or semi-sovereign in Area A. This status was reinforced with the conclusion of the disengagement plan. [Israel] cannot ignore the clear signs of sovereignty in the administered territories, such as elections, policing, independent international relations, and more," stated the ruling. (Ma'ariv, 4/24/06 & Ha'aretz, 4/23/06)

Not Going Gentle Into That Good Night: Asked about the possibility of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas bringing down the Hamas government, as he said he had the authority to do, a senior Hamas official in the West Bank said the group would "not leave in silence" and threatened to stop recognizing a truce with Israel. "We will go, but we will not recognize the Palestinian political regime. We will not participate in any new election and we will go underground as we did before and we will not adhere to any commitments, any truce, by anyone. Being ousted from power will have a heavy price for everyone. We hope not to reach that." In the same interview that Abbas reminded Hamas of his ability to bench them, he also said that Hamas had to face the facts and negotiate with Israel or the Palestinian people would be left to starve after the U.S. and EU cut funding due to Hamas' refusal to recognize Israel or renounce violence. "Hamas has to face the facts and establish communication with Israel," he said. "I'm worried that the situation will turn into a tragedy in the near future. A short time later, we could be up against a great hunger disaster in Palestine."

Abbas said that he would work for a solution with or without Hamas. "Hamas can support me or not. When I find a way to a solution with Israel, I'll present this to the Palestinian people in a referendum. The Palestinian people are above Hamas and other politicians," he said. Abbas called for an international conference to be convened between Israel and the PLO, which he heads and does not include Hamas. The PLO is the body that has negotiated agreements with Israel, not the Palestinian Authority.

The U.S. may consider in the future providing financial assistance directly to Abbas and the offices he is in charge of, while making sure the money doesn't reach Hamas. Assistant Secretary of State for Near East David Welch said that the U.S. still sees Abbas as a partner that accepts the three conditions set forth by the international community in regard to the Middle East conflict and is interested in keeping open communications with him. "We will keep contact with President Abbas-we will also keep contact with any organizations that report directly to him or any independent Palestinian entities," Welch said, adding that Abbas "had said yes, yes, and yes to each of the three principles and he represents an important voice politically among Palestinians." Although there is no immediate plan to provide Abbas with direct financial aid, "we haven't ruled that out," said Welch. "We may or may not do that depending on what the proposition is. I think most of the international community probably will adopt the same position." As it happens, the Hamas Finance Minister, Omar Abdel-Razek, said that his government would not object to channeling all foreign funds through the office of President Abbas. "We as a government, and the presidency, have no problem whatsoever to transfer all the money through the presidency," he said. (AP, 4/24 & 26/06; Daily Star, 4/26/06; & Jerusalem Post, 4/24/06)

An Officer & A Terrorist: Commenting on developments in the Hamas government, the lead editorial in Ha'aretz said, "When a state is created out of underground movements, the new government attempts to turn the activists from the organizations that are not subsumed into the ruling party from disgruntled revolutionaries into official allies. This was the approach of the Israel government, inter alia, when it recruited a few former Lehi members into the Mossad. The same method was used by Yasser Arafat and his aides, when the came to Gaza a dozen years ago. They included in the security forces of the Palestinian Authority in the making not only Fatah members but also members of rival organizations in order to fetter them in bonds of wages and honor. The method failed, partly because Arafat wanted to create parallel armed forces, like Tanzim, which he could use against Israel while washing his hands of responsibility. Israel cannot consign the past to history, because the PA's security forces cooperated with yesteryear's wanted militants and occasionally it was clear that officers charged with preventing terror attacks actually facilitated them.

"If anything remains of the appearance of a separation between the official and the underground in the PA, it disappeared when Hamas took control of the government. The clearest illustration of this to date is the decision by the Interior Minister of the Hamas government, Said Sayem, to appoint Jamal Abu Samhadana as inspector general of his ministry and commander of a new security force. Abu Samhadana is completely unacceptable to Israel, whose civilians he murdered for years from his Rafah-area hideaway, and to the Americans; his Popular Resistance Committees killed Americans in the Gaza Strip in 2003. In exchange for his appointment, Abu Samhadana is supposed to change his ways, but he has not promised to do so and, in fact, has announced that his organization will continue to act against Israel. He represents a new, explicit, and provocative model-the `policeman-terrorist'-a terrorist who is also in command of a police force. Up to now, the Hamas government has spoken in terms of non-peace. By appointing Abu Samhadana, it has shifted to a declaration of war on Israel, and not only on Israel: the government of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh is charging toward a confrontation with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who issued an order rescinding the appointment and dissolving the new security force.

"Abbas' declaration of a year ago, when he was elected to succeed Yasser Arafat, regarding the unity of the government, the law, and the arms in the PA, has sounded like a sad joke since the Hamas victory in the legislative assembly elections. The current situation, in which the PA has two heads conflicting with each other, is intolerable. It can be assumed that a blow-up is in the works that will bring down either the government or Abbas, who will be depicted as a mere figurehead. Until that time, Hamas insists on accumulating evidence that negates any hope that the government will enforce order and end terror. The continued firing of Kassam rockets, the suicide attack in Tel Aviv (and others that were thwarted by the security forces) and now the appointment of Abu Samhadana proves that the chances for an Israeli-Palestinian understanding are slimmer than ever. Responsibility for the renewed violence falls squarely on the Palestinians, who are being pushed by their new rulers into siege and hard times." (Ha'aretz, 4/23/06)

Thus Filling The Void: Gunmen from the Fatah movement announced plans to form yet another militia. "The new force would aim to protect Fatah men against the Israeli enemy and against any attempt by any party inside the homeland to target them," said Abu Saqer, a spokesman for Fatah's Yasser Arafat Brigades. Several armed wings from Fatah said they would take part in a new militia of 2,000 gunmen in response to Hamas' plan to set up a police unit. "The new Fatah force will aim to unify the armed groups and protect them even against the Interior Ministry force if it attempts to block Fatah men carrying out their missions to attack Israeli targets," said Abu Saqer. (Reuters, 4/26/06)

Security Fence Re-Routed: The Israeli defense establishment has planned changes to the route of the security barrier, amending it in three places: the "Ariel fingers" and the Palestinian villages of Beit Iksa (at the entrance of Jerusalem) and Jabaa (in Gush Etzion). Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has already approved the changes. Altering the route in Ariel is intended to connect it with the main route of the fence from the direction of the settlements of Beit Aryeh and Ofarim, south of Ariel, rather than in a straight line westward as was originally planned. This change will place a large area with several thousand Palestinians outside the fence. The settlements of Karnei Shomron, Kedumim, and Immanuel, which the original plan connected to Ariel in one big enclave, will connect to the main fence route in the area of the settlement of Alfei Menashe. Beit Iksa was initially supposed to be on the "Israeli" side of the fence because of its proximity to the city, but the Shin Bet and police objected that the village might attract illegal Palestinian job-seekers and become a hotbed of security problems. The IDF later agreed. (Ha'aretz, 4/23/06)

Compensate Now: Knesset Member Avshalom Vilan, who is chair of the One Home movement and an initiator of voluntary settler evacuation legislation, wrote, "The 2006 elections ended with a big win for the center-left. The nation has never had its word so clearly and decisively as in the recent vote. The majority of voters expressed their will that Israel withdraw from the territories-whether by a bilateral agreement or unilateral withdrawal-and evacuate isolated settlements. The new Prime Minister has 70 Knesset members ready to approve the convergence plan he initiated on the eve of elections. The Right, on the other hand, has at best 50 Knesset seats, and that is only if Shas, Israel Our Home, and United Torah Judaism are counted among them.

"As soon as the 17th government is established, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert must start planning and realizing the plan to converge settlement in the blocs that will remain in Israeli hands in a permanent agreement and dismantle dozens of lone settlements scattered throughout the West Bank. Many experts claim that the evacuation could cost billions, and it's unlikely that the United States and other Western countries will offer to finance it from their own pockets. Thus, the brunt of the financial burden will be dumped on Israel's treasury, preventing the delineation of a social agenda-which most of the parties slated to take part in the government promised.

"Moreover, we are bound to find ourselves in a similar situation as during the disengagement, when large army and police forces operated on the ground to carry out the state's orders to evacuate settlers, at the expense of their crime-fighting and security responsibilities. When we're talking about an immense number of settlers-at least 13 times the number of evacuees in Gush Katif-the amount of manpower the state will need may even supersede its available human resources. Aside from that, none of us-even those of us that aren't big fans of the settlement movement-wants to see tens of thousands of evacuees being tossed around for months in the abominable situation in which the housing solutions, employment or educational institutions promised them are not provided.

"In order to prevent all these atrocities, the cabinet must bring the willing evacuation-compensation law to parliament as soon as possible. The law must enable every resident living in a settlement slated for evacuation to leave his home before the plan is implemented, during an allotted time period, and to be provided a house of equivalent worth to the one he is leaving, within the borders of the State of Israel. The willing evacuation law may be cheaper budget-wise and easier to carry out operatively: Instead of dealing with a great mass of settlers being evacuated at once, the State will be able to deal personally with each of the evacuees. The proposal of such a law has many supporters among the settler community itself: Some 53% of settlers moved to settlements motivated by a desire for a high standard of living. However, the Intifada, which led a wave of terrorism to target [them], and the construction of the security fence, which left them outside of Israel's future borders, has made a lot of them want to leave.

"A survey carried out by the One Home movement in November 2005 found that at least one-third of settlers left on the wrong side of the security fence support a law allowing them to leave willingly. Moreover, in the recent election many settlers voted for Kadima so the next government would allow them to leave now, with compensation. I believe that parliamentary legislation of a willing evacuation law and its active realization will let at least 50% of settlers leave on their own free will. And what about those who insist on staying in their settlement until the evacuation and battling the security forces that come to evacuate them? The dynamic resulting from a willing evacuation law will leave only an ideological fanatical minority, which security forces will be able to deal with much more easily, and will allow the convergence plan to be ultimately carried out." (Ynet, 4/23/06)

The Kingdom Of Elad: The Elad settlement movement concentrates on spreading a Jewish presence in Arab East Jerusalem, particularly the neighborhood of Silwan. Over the past few weeks, it's taken over 15 apartments in three different buildings, and another four houses in two Palestinian neighborhoods, Silwan and A-Tur. As part of its efforts, Elad is engaged in a huge public relations campaign on the Internet, radio, and television, calling on Israelis to visit "ancient Jerusalem" by going to the national park in the "City of David," where impressive antiquities are found, and the Shiloah Tunnel. Elad actually operates this national park in accordance with a deal with the Israel Nature and National Parks Protection Authority, and pockets the NIS 23 entrance fee for each visitor. This is the same outfit that seized the abovementioned assets in East Jerusalem and may be about to enter additional homes in Silwan.

Elad is largely the creation of one man, David Beeri, who first worked for another settler group, Ateret Cohanim, and then cast his eyes on Silwan in the early 1980s. He discovered that some of the village land belonged to Jewish institutions before the 1948 War of Independence, and turned to the Jewish National Fund (JNF) to authorize him to kick Palestinians off of that land. The JNF agreed. And Elad took over other assets by means of very dubious implementation of the Absentee Property Law, which the attorney general at the time instructed not to be used in East Jerusalem as a main tool for taking control of assets. Beeri tricked a Palestinian family into befriending him and managed to manipulate the Absentee Property Law so that the family was evicted and he could move in. It turned out in the Klugman Committee (a committee headed by the then-director general of the Justice Ministry) that the attorneys of Elad and Ateret Cohanim had brought the Custodian declarations testifying to the fact that certain assets were absentee property-and that some of the declarations were false. Later on, Elad received several more assets in Silwan through the Custodian for Absentee Property.

Elad also does construction on these properties by itself, sometimes without permits. An administrative demolition order was carried out against one of the group's buildings, and the expansion of a visitors center was carried out without permits. But all these offences didn't stop the Nature and National Parks Protection Authority from transferring control over the administration of the antiquities site in the City of David to Elad-an area of 24 dunams, many times the size of everything that Elad has managed to take over on its own. Simply put, the government gave a private association, with a clear political bent, control over one of the most sensitive sites in Israel, if not the entire Middle East.

The area was cleaned and developed, a visitors center was built, and visitors began to arrive, paying NIS 23 to Elad to walk through the antiquities and the Shiloah Tunnel on guided tours conducted almost solely by Elad guides. The focus of the tours is the Temple, on King David, and stories of how Elad "redeemed" the neighborhood. In Elad's worldview, the history of the site jumps from 70 CE, with the destruction of the Second Temple, to 1882 and the beginning of modern Jewish immigration to Israel. For Elad, nothing that happened in the intervening 1,800 years matters. One person involved in the group's latest PR campaign said, "It was important to them that the names `City of David' and `Mount of Olives' enter people's awareness, and replace the names `Silwan' or `Ras al Amud.' The City of David, with its amazing findings, is 200 meters from the Old City. They want the people of Israel to become accustomed to the idea that the City of David is among the places that cannot be given up, even in the context of a final status agreement." (Ha'aretz, 4/23/06)