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May 2, 2005 - Vol. 6, Issue 40

Settling For Violence; More Cops On The Settlement Beat; Mothers Of Intervention; School For Slow Learners; Arms Wrestling With Terror; Israeli-Palestinian Trade Up 37%; Israeli-Palestinian Businessmen Gobble Up Cooperation With Turkey...

Settling For Violence: Lt. Col. Guy Hazut, a paratroopers battalion commander who dared to stand up before the OC Central Command to complain about the behavior of the settlers in the northern West Bank, last weekend was personally on the receiving end of those settlers' hostility towards the IDF. In the course of a chase after teens from the settlement of Bracha who had thrown stones at a Palestinian vehicle, the settlers shut a metal gate on his foot, injuring him. The incident began on Friday near Bracha. Hazut saw two settlers throwing stones at a Palestinian truck. The company commander went in pursuit of the two, calling for backup. The soldiers moved in on the house into which the two suspects fled, but settlers tried to block them. Hazut declared the area a closed military zone and warned that his troops would forcibly enter the house if the suspects didn't come out voluntarily. After a brief interlude, one of the doors of the house opened and one of the suspects raced towards a get-away car. Hazut ran after him, but one of the settlers quickly shut the gate exactly as the officer was passing through. Hazut fell to the ground, injured in his foot. The settler got away. "I saw the battalion commander fall to the ground and the settlers jeered him, `you zero, we screwed you, with an army like you it's clear why the Palestinians are able to carry out terror attacks,'" recounted one soldier. "Guy got up in pain, but insisted on staying with us."

The settlers suspected of having thrown the stones were subsequently arrested by soldiers. In the house in which they had been hiding, troops found military crates, one of which contained some 300 rifle bullets. "We're fed up dealing with Jews," said one frustrated veteran soldier. "Instead of our focusing on the task of stopping terrorists who are trying to leave Nablus, we're preoccupied with a war of the Jews. If we were dealing with Palestinians we would have used tear gas long ago, maybe even live ammunition." "We give it our all, we guard them and don't get to go home even for the holiday, and in the end this is what we get," said another soldier. High-ranking security establishment sources say that the attack on Hazut should be a warning light for politicians and settler leaders that their statements encourage violence. (Yedioth Ahronoth & Israel Radio News, 5/1/05)

More Cops On The Settlement Beat: Commenting about the incident at Bracha, Alex Fishman wrote that OC Central Command Maj. Gen. Yair Naveh has assigned two Border Police companies to deal with riots by Jews in the occupied territories. When OC Central Command takes two operational companies off his limited roster, whose role is to safeguard the security of Jews, and assigns them to defend against Jews, it is a sign that things have reached their limit. The norms established by the Jewish extremists in the West Bank have made a mockery out of law and order. In fact, they are the law. They beat soldiers and police officers, curse, insult, and damage army property. Things that inside the Green Line no one dares to do, and if they do-are immediately thrown into jail. The commander of the Nablus Brigade and soldiers in a paratroopers company are subjected to stones and insults in Yitzhar, a Border Police officer breaks an arm in Hebron, a paratroopers battalion commander was beaten on Saturday in the settlement of Bracha, and this is only the tip of the iceberg. The pogroms that these rioters carry out in the occupied territories have become a routine matter. Two months ago, OC Central Command decided to try to put a stop to the anarchy. Maj. Gen. Naveh's intention is to reach the disengagement operation in August in a situation where the red lines on infractions of law and order are completely clear. If it becomes clear, as of now, that for raising a hand against a soldier or police officer one pay dearly and goes to prison-then in August such phenomena will no longer be a daily occurrence. (Yedioth Ahronoth, 5/2/05)

Mothers Of Intervention: "If our sons are harmed during disengagement-we will settle accounts with the rabbis and settler leaders," said mothers of soldiers who are slated to participate in the evacuation of Gaza settlements at a meeting held by the Shuvi movement last week. "We are concerned about the threats of violence and the declaration that blood will be spilled during the course of evacuation," said Dalia Megiddo," a founder of Shuvi, which includes mothers who support evacuating Gaza. "If, God forbid, a hair should fall from the head of our sons, we will hold the leaders who did not stop the incitement responsible for this." Riki Maayan, a mother of four, said, "I never thought for a moment that the enemy my son would have to confront would be a Jew. One of my sons and his friends were assaulted with stones, curses and spitting by children of settlers who were told by their mother to do so. No one got up to condemn the extremists." (Yedioth Ahronoth, 4/27/05)

Wall Flowers? The IDF has concluded that the only way to reduce friction between Jewish settlers and Arabs in Hebron is simply to build a long wall in the city that will separate them totally. The wall is to be several kilometers long, and is to separate the area under Israeli control from the area under Palestinian control, as stipulated in the Hebron agreement of 1997. The IDF has already submitted the plan to the attorney general. Sources in the Central Command say the wall will not only reduce friction between the two populations, but will also improve their quality of life. For example, it will make it possible to reopen the municipal market that is adjacent to the Jewish settlement and has been closed for most the time. In addition to the wall, the IDF also proposes that the area near the Tomb of the Patriarchs, which is in the center of Hebron, be closed to traffic and be accessible only to pedestrians, Jews and Arabs. However, there are obstacles to the plan. For instance, the attorney general may not approve the proposal for fear that it may infringe international law and make life more difficult for the 30,000 Palestinians living on the side of the wall that will be under Israeli control. Another obstacle is the reaction of the settlers and the Palestinians, who are expected to oppose it, each side for its own reasons. Still, IDF sources believe that there is a chance the wall will be built and the full plan will be implemented. (Ma'ariv, 4/28/05)

School For Slow Learners: The Israeli cabinet voted 13-7 today to confer university status on the College of Judea and Samaria in the settlement of Ariel. The vote was held amid acrimonious debate in the cabinet over the political significance of upgrading the status of a college in a West Bank settlement. Likud ministers, including Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, supported the move, while Labor ministers generally voted against it. The government also unanimously approved a plan to combine a number of northern colleges into a Galilee university, an initiative promoted by Labor leader Shimon Peres. Prime Minister Sharon argued that making the Ariel college into a university is a way of strengthening Jewish settlement in the West Bank. However, Interior Minister Ophir Pines-Paz spoke out against bringing politics into higher education unnecessarily, and Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon denigrated the move as an appeal to cheap populism. Housing Minister Yitzhak Herzog said that upgrading the settlement college in a "problematic" area would "take away precious resources [in ways] that do not meet Israel's priorities, first and foremost the development of the Negev and Galilee." Senior officials at the Council for Higher Education in Israel are opposed to establishing these universities, which they say are neither needed nor affordable with a higher education budget recently slashed by some billion shekels. (Ha'aretz, 5/2/05)

Arms Wrestling With Terror: Israel objected to a plan offered by Russian President Vladimir Putin to sell armored troop carriers to the Palestinian Authority (PA). An Israeli government source said that Israel would not allow the troop carriers promised to the PA into the country. "First let's see some steps toward peace and then it will be possible to strengthen the Palestinian security forces, which are meanwhile taking part in fighting against us," said the source. "The entry of any weapons to the territories requires our agreement and we do not want to see armored vehicles pitted against us." Israel has also flatly rejected plans by PA President Mahmoud Abbas to absorb wanted Palestinians and their weapons into the PA's security mechanisms and thus "launder" their possession of arms in the future. Instead, Israel has stipulated five conditions for reaching an agreement concerning wanted men who have been involved in terror activities in order to facilitate the continuation of the IDF's withdrawal from Palestinian cities.

After it emerged that the PA is not fulfilling its commitments regarding the wanted men in the two cities already vacated by the IDF, Abbas was told that there would be no further withdrawals from Palestinian cities before the PA deals appropriately with the wanted men. Abbas informed Israel that the problem would be resolved in the near future. Then it emerged that the PA had a plan to absorb the wanted men into its security mechanisms in a way not acceptable to Israel. What bothered Israel was not so much the idea of converting the wanted men into policemen with fixed wages, but the decision not to disarm the men. Israel is demanding that five conditions be met to resolve this matter: one, the wanted men will hand in their arms to the PA; two, every wanted man will sign an undertaking to sever all ties with the terror groups in which he operated in the past; three, every wanted man will undertake not to take part in violence or terrorism; four, the wanted men will remain for now in the cities where they currently reside and will not move to other locations; and five, the PA will take responsibility for the actions of the wanted men. (Ha'aretz, 4/28-29/05)

Here Comes The Judge: The Palestinian Authority (PA) has ordered a criminal investigation against five judges suspected of financial corruption and abusing their power. The move is seen as yet another attempt by PA President Mahmoud Abbas to get rid of many corruption-tainted civilian and security officials closely associated with Yasser Arafat. The suspect judges are said to have been working for civil and religious courts in the occupied territories. "The decision to launch an investigation against the judges is in the context of efforts to root out corruption in the Palestinian judiciary system," said one PA official. "Like many of the Palestinian Authority's institutions, the Palestinian judicial system has been suffering from financial and administrative corruption, as well as transgressions and nepotism," said Ibrahim Hamimi, an analyst and critic of corruption in the PA. (Jerusalem Post, 5/1/05)

Teaming With Coordination: Israel has set up five inter-ministerial teams for economic coordination for the disengagement plan. The teams will answer to the office of Vice Premier Shimon Peres, coordinate economic issues with the Palestinians, and handle inter-ministerial staff work in Israel. The economic development team deals with issues and ventures intended to improve the economic circumstances in Gaza after Israel's evacuation. Israel now believes that the Palestinian will carry out projects and ventures, with the involvement of the international community. Israel will only provide assistance in infrastructure and common interfaces, like desalination facilities, sewage systems, another power station in Gaza, hospital construction, and employment solutions. Since the Israeli government decided that no Palestinians will be granted work permits in Israel after 2008, Israel wants to tighten trade links as an alternative to jobs in Israel and to help Palestinians develop additional markets.

A second team deals with issues related to the planned Gaza port. At the Sharm el-Sheikh summit, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon promised that Israel would support the establishment of the port. The third team will coordinate issues related to transit points, in order to upgrade them to meet the needs for expanding trade between Israel and the Palestinians. The transit points are a bottleneck in the movement of goods, and the goal is to improve service. The fourth team deals with future trade arrangements following Israel's departure. The 1994 Paris Protocols for arranging Israeli-Palestinian economic relations under the Oslo Accords will continue to be the basis for Israeli-Palestinian economic relations. The fifth team deals with the transfer of Israelis' assets in the settlements to the Palestinian Authority. Although the cabinet decided to demolish the houses, there is an initiative for Palestinians to buy businesses from settlers as going concerns, mediated by international organizations. (Globes, 4/26/05)

Israeli-Palestinian Trade Up 37%: Trade between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) stood at $1.9 billion in 2004, up 37% over the previous year, according the Federation of the Israeli Chambers of Commerce. In 2001, trade stood at $1.4 billion, taking a dip the following year and bouncing back to earlier levels in 2003. In 2004, the total amount of Israeli exports to the PA reached $1.6 billion, a 26% increase over 2003. The PA is the second largest importer of Israeli goods after the U.S. Meanwhile, Israel imported $300 million worth of goods from the PA in 2004, a jump of 36% over the previous year. (Ynet, 4/27/05)

Israeli-Palestinian Businessmen Gobble Up Cooperation With Turkey: Businessmen from Turkey, Israel, and the Palestinian territories met in Turkey for the first time as part of an initiative to boost economic cooperation and peace efforts in the region. "We want to contribute to the peace process by doing business," said Rifat Hisacriklioglu, head of the Turkish Union of Chambers and Stock Exchanges. "There are politicians on both sides with the will to take difficult decisions. We have to be role models and support such politicians." The three-way initiative is called the Ankara Forum. The group is expected to hold its second meeting in early June in East Jerusalem to discuss possible projects in tourism, industry, infrastructure, and agriculture. "We prefer to work with a step-by-step process rather than push ahead rapidly," said Hisacriklioglu. During his visit to Israel, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that, after disengagement is implemented, Turkey will actively assist the Palestinian Authority by setting up a power plant in Gaza, helping with the purification of seawater, and establishing housing construction projects. (AFP, 4/29/05 & Jerusalem Post, 5/1/05)

On To Round Three: In formal meetings, Israeli and Palestinian officials have been discussing disengagement coordination, placing cities under Palestinian security responsibility, and even the possibility of reopening the Jericho casino. But while these talks are under way, Palestinian terrorist groups and the IDF have been preparing for violent clashes that may erupt shortly after disengagement is completed this fall. According to information that reached Ma'ariv, IDF officials are deeply concerned that Palestinian terrorist groups are getting ready to resume the conflict within a few months. One thing that has prompted this concern is the unprecedented pace at which weapons have been smuggled from Egypt into the West Bank and Gaza recently-a clear sign of Palestinian preparations for the next round of violence. In the past few weeks, arms smuggling across the Egyptian border has skyrocketed by hundreds of percent. The smuggling is not carried out necessarily through tunnels, most of which have been destroyed by the Palestinian police. Rather, most of these gun running operations are carried out by Bedouin residents of the Negev. In response to this trend, Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon recently decided to have the IDF take emergency measures, such as having elite reconnaissance units deployed along the Egyptian border to stop the smuggling.

"We need to be realists and to expect that the terror organizations will try to carry out terror attacks in Judea and Samaria after disengagement so as to expel the IDF from there as well," said high-ranking IDF General Staff officials. "The arms smuggling operations are not the only sign of their plans. There is also information about a long list of terror attacks that Hamas and other Palestinian terror organizations are preparing, with the goal of executing them on the day the cease-fire ends. If the conflict is renewed it won't resemble the one that ended in January. It won't include the element of popular involvement like the one in 2000, but in terms of the volume of terror attacks, it is liable to be no less severe. Only if Abu Mazen takes action against the terrorist infrastructure is there a chance of preventing the next round of violence." IDF officials have not made do merely issuing warnings, but have begun to take practical steps as well. The army is preparing operational plans for troop deployments that will be capable of containing a new wave of terrorism. In addition, orders have been issued to have large numbers of armored vehicles sent to the garage for tune-ups. The army has also purchased a large amount of personal protective gear for troops. The goal is to have every combat soldier equipped with a ceramic bullet-proof vest by the end of 2005. (Ma'ariv, 4/27/05)

Lessons Learned: A year ago, four recently discharged Israeli soldiers stunned the entire IDF when they opened an exhibit called "Breaking the Silence," offering a combat soldier's confessional about his service in the occupied territories. Now they can chalk up a substantial achievement for themselves: the Nahal Brigade, in which they served, has established a forum that is also called "Breaking the Silence," in the framework of which commanders encourage their men to report to them ethical irregularities they encounter. The "Breaking the Silence" forum was established a number of months ago in the Nahal Brigade's Shaham Battalion by the battalion commander, Lt. Col. Eran Makov. "Many people in the brigade felt that the [former] soldiers who opened the exhibit found the public unresponsive, and that's why we decided to institutionalize the forum," said one high-ranking officer. In the framework of the forum, company commanders meet once every few weeks with their troops and encourage them to report to them any irregularities they have encountered. This allowed for infractions of discipline and moral irregularities committed by soldiers to come to light. The high-ranking officer said he believed that the very fact that the issues were being discussed sent the soldiers an unequivocal message that the army views those acts as insufferable and, by so doing, prevents many such acts from being committed.

Officers in the Shaham Battalion launched a second campaign that is geared to prevent soldiers from harassing the Palestinian residents with whom they come into contact during their service in the Bethlehem sector. The commanders distributed to the troops a booklet that serves as a code of ethics for all the battalion's men. The booklet explicitly lays down the code of conduct for troops when dealing with Palestinian residents and among themselves. Inter alia, the booklet notes that the IDF's task in the territories is to thwart terrorist activity and to prevent it, and is neither to educate the Palestinian people nor to punish it. Another section reminds the soldiers that the people with whom they come into contact have not broken the law, have not done anything wrong, and, therefore, should be treated with respect. The code of ethics also extends to investigations of irregular incidents, which are examined in order to establish where and to what degree the code of ethics was violated. (Ma'ariv, 5/1/05)