Israeli leftists and centrists speak out against Gaza disengagement plan

June 20, 2005

* Wide ranging debates over Israel’s security ignored by Western media.

* Female suicide bomber planned to blow up an Israeli hospital this morning. She had been given permission to enter Israel to seek medical treatment in Beersheba (in southern Israel), and repaid this kindness by wearing a 10 kilograms (22 pounds) explosive suicide belt. She was caught by vigilant Israeli guards.

* As usual, the international media are ignoring this incident, even though the woman admits her target was Beersheba hospital. As is par for the course, the media are also failing to report on the Israeli immigrant from the former Soviet Union who was murdered in his car by Palestinian gunmen this morning, and the 16-year-old Israeli teenager who was shot and wounded.

* These attacks follow the easing of restrictions and the removal of checkpoints by the Israeli army, implemented yesterday following international pressure.

 

CONTENTS

1. “Some on the Israeli Left are also against disengagement” (I.N.N., June 2005)
2. “Moving forward by falling back” (New York Times, June 20, 2005)
3. “Navy builds terror prevention barrier off Gaza” (Jerusalem Post, June 17, 2005)
4. “Female suicide bomber planned to blow up hospital” (Ynetnews, June 20, 2005)

 



[Note by Tom Gross]

LEFTISTS AGAINST THE GAZA WITHDRAWAL

The western media’s coverage of Israel’s planned withdrawal from Gaza is demonstrating, once again, how prejudicial and slanted much of the reporting from the Middle East is. Viewers and readers in north America, Europe and elsewhere have been left with the impression that the only people opposing withdrawal from Gaza (which is scheduled to begin on August 15, 2005) fit the stereotypical mold of an orthodox religious settler which the media have created for themselves over many years.

These prejudices in turn have led many in the media to unfairly represent the arguments as to why a majority of Israelis now tell pollsters they oppose the disengagement, and why even those of us who are on balance for it have grave reservations about it.

THE NEW YORK TIMES AND THE BBC IN A WORLD OF THEIR OWN

For example, new New York Times correspondent Christine Hauser yesterday (Sunday) wrote about the dilemmas of disengagement by interviewing Michael Frier “a 24-year old religious student.” In her article, she observed that “Some of the men carry M-16’s or handguns.” The version of the article on the New York Times website was accompanied by a picture of a man with a skullcap and an M-16.

BBC online has been running a three-part series in which its correspondent Richard Miron has been spending a week in Jewish settlements in Gaza. He has been meeting with “some of the most hard-line members of the settler movement.” In the first of these dispatches Miron calls the second day a “well-armed family occasion” and goes on to say that “Some of the men carry guns; pistols sitting snugly in their belts or automatic rifles slung loosely over their backs.”

FORMER LABOR CABINET MINISTERS, ARMY CHIEFS AND MOSSAD HEADS SPEAK OUT

Due to this obsession by the western media to give the impression that the only people expressing opposition to disengagement are the most right wing and religious of settlers, many important voices in Israeli society have been completely shut out of the international media coverage.

To balance this coverage, I attach below remarks by some important voices on the Israeli left and center that are against the disengagement. Their opposition to the plan stems from their fear that it will bring on a new wave of violence and that a withdrawal from Gaza will not guarantee long-term stability or peace.

There is a fuller version of these quotes below, but in summary:

Former Labor Party Justice Minister Yossi Beilin, has warned of “catastrophe” and says the withdrawal plan “is liable to bring a renewal of violence [that] is liable to bring down the moderate Palestinian leadership... A retreat from Gaza with nothing in return and with no agreement will strengthen Hamas.”

Former Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami, who is on the left-wing of the Labor Party, says: “A unilateral retreat perpetuates Israel’s image as a country that runs away under pressure... In Fatah and Hamas, they will assume that they must prepare for their third intifada this time in [Judea and Samaria]... If we continue these unilateral steps, we will find ourselves establishing an enemy Palestinian state.”

Former General Security Service chief Ami Ayalon says: “The captain of the disengagement can be compared to the captain of a ship who takes it from port to a very stormy sea, without knowing at all where he wants to lead it... There is a high chance that shortly after the disengagement, the violence will be renewed. 2006 is liable to be a year of another round of violence.”

Ayalon added that the retreat from the northern Gaza communities Dugit, Elei Sinai and Nisanit is a “grave error. It has no demographic or security justification, and the price that it is liable to exact from us is not justified.”

Former Mossad head Ephraim Halevy says: “After the disengagement, Israel will face a diplomatic crisis the likes of which we have not known for years.”

Former Mossad head Shabtai Shavit says: “Immediately after the disengagement, Israel will find itself on a crash path with the United States.”

Others who have expressed strong concern about disengagement including former Air Force Commander Gen. Eitan Ben-Eliyahu, former IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Gen. Uzi Dayan, and former IDF Chief of Intelligence Gen. Shlomo Gazit.

(Some of the above-named people are subscribers to this email list.)

I also attach below an article from yesterday’s New York Times (reprinted in today’s International Herald Tribune) by Israeli Housing Minister Isaac Herzog, explaining why he supports disengagement but why it is much more painful and difficult than many people in Europe and America might realize. (The article again, however, gives the impression that only extreme rightists oppose the disengagement.)

BUILDING A SEA BARRIER

To illustrate how Israel is attempting to safeguard its security following the Gaza withdrawal, I also attach below an article from the Jerusalem Post reporting that the Israel navy has started building an underwater barrier leading out to sea from the north Gaza shore.

In the past there have been many attempted terror attacks on Israel from the sea. (The last major attempted attack by sea was last November.)

A highly vigilant Israeli radar and surveillance outposts have foiled most of them, but occasionally attackers have got through. For example, in 1979, the Palestinian Liberation Front (part of the PLO) murdered three Israeli civilians by infiltrating Israeli waters from Lebanon and breaking into an apartment in the northern Israel town of Nahariya.

FEMALE SUICIDE BOMBER PLANNED TO BLOW UP HOSPITAL TODAY

The third article below reports on the capture this morning of a 21-year-old female Palestinian suicide bomber at the Erez crossing. She said she planned to blow up a hospital in southern Israel.

This follows the arrest of a 15-year-old Palestinian boy at the Hawara checkpoint on Sunday. He was carrying five pipe bombs hidden in tubes of silicone alongside nails and bolts.

In the last two days Palestinian terrorists have murdered two Israelis. Sergeant Avi Karouchi was killed in Gaza yesterday and this morning Yevgeny Rider was killed in an ambush near Tulkarm as he drove from his home.

Even though a large contingent of additional foreign media is in the region accompanying Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, virtually none have mentioned these Israeli deaths in their reports.

It is not the first time terrorists have abused medical requests to enter Israel. In one recent thwarted attack, a terrorist pretended to have cancer to gain entry to an Israeli hospital.

ANOTHER MOSLEM DEPUTY ISRAELI MINISTER

It was announced today that Member of Knesset Majalli Whbee has been asked to serve as Deputy Education Minister. Majalli Whbee is an Israeli Moslem Druze and is another example of how virtually anyone can succeed in Israeli society should they try. No doubt those in the West who are obsessed with the idea of an “apartheid Israel” are not interested in this.

-- Tom Gross

 



FULL ARTICLES

ISRAELI LEFTISTS AGAINST DISENGAGEMENT

[This selection of quotes from some Israelis on the political left who have voiced concern about disengagement was assembled by a subscriber to this list who works at Israel National News.]

***

Former Labor Party Justice Minister Yossi Beilin, currently not a Knesset Member but leader of the left-wing Yahad/Meretz Party:

“If the disengagement does not lead to an immediate permanent status arrangement, it will bring a catastrophe upon both Israelis and Palestinians... It is liable to bring a renewal of violence [that] is liable to bring down the moderate Palestinian leadership...

“There is a concrete danger that following the disengagement, the violence will greatly increase in [Judea and Samaria] in order to achieve the same thing [i.e., withdrawal] as was achieved in Gaza... A retreat from Gaza with nothing in return and with no agreement will strengthen Hamas.”

***

Former Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami, who is on the left-wing of the Labor Party:

“A unilateral retreat perpetuates Israel’s image as a country that runs away under pressure... In Fatah and Hamas, they will assume that they must prepare for their third intifada - this time in [Judea and Samaria / the West Bank]... If we continue these unilateral steps, we will find ourselves establishing an enemy Palestinian state.”

***

Former General Security Service chief Ami Ayalon:

“The captain of the disengagement can be compared to the captain of a ship who takes it from port to a very stormy sea, without knowing at all where he wants to lead it. And possibly even worse: He knows where he wants to lead it, but is hiding the information from his crew...”

“Retreat without getting anything in return is liable to be interpreted by some of the Palestinians as surrender. The plan is likely to strengthen extremist forces in the Palestinians society... There is a high chance that shortly after the disengagement, the violence will be renewed. 2006 is liable to be a year of another round of violence.”

Ayalon said that the retreat from the northern Gaza communities - Dugit, Elei Sinai and Nisanit - is a “grave error. It has no demographic or security justification, and the price that it is liable to exact from us is not justified.”

***

Former Air Force Commander Gen. Eitan Ben-Eliyahu:

“There is no chance that the disengagement will guarantee long-term stability. The plan as it stands can only lead to a renewal of terrorism... If there is no quick progress from the disengagement to a comprehensive retreat, [this will lead to] the one-state solution - bringing to an end of the Zionist dream, and the Jewish State will be lost.”

***

Former IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Gen. Uzi Dayan:

“Retreat from Nisanit, Dugit and Elei Sinai is a double mistake: Security-wise, it unnecessarily brings the Kassam rocket threat closer to Ashkelon, and diplomatically, it creates a dangerous precedent of unilateral withdrawal to the 1967 lines, which strengthens the PA demands to return to the June 4, 1967 lines.”

***

Former IDF Chief of Intelligence Gen. Shlomo Gazit:

“It is reasonable to assume that within a short time, we will face mortar shelling and Kassams from [Samaria and Judea]. These rockets and shells will hit Kfar Saba and maybe even reach Netanya.”

***

Former Mossad head Ephraim Halevy:

“After the disengagement, Israel will face a diplomatic crisis the likes of which we have not known for years.”

***

Former Mossad head Shabtai Shavit:

“The disengagement plan sabotages itself, creating a situation of instability. The plan does not create the necessary minimum of balance that would enable long-term coexistence... Immediately after the disengagement, Israel will find itself on a crash path with the United States.”

***

In addition to these statements of serious concern about the Gaza/Northern Samaria Evacuation Plan, it is also troubling to learn that Jibril Rajoub, Palestinian Authority Security Chief and former head of its secret police, said that while the present “period of calm” would remain in effect at least until Israel withdraws from Gaza, after this withdrawal “We will have to re-evaluate the situation...the period of quiet will not last longer than the scheduled withdrawal from Gaza unless it is actively renewed by the various organizations.”

 

MOVING FORWARD BY FALLING BACK

Moving forward by falling back
By Isaac Herzog
The New York Times
June 20, 2005

I recently received a letter from a former high school teacher of mine in Tel Aviv. He was liberated from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp by a British Army unit in which my father served. Now, he was criticizing me for working on the government’s plan to withdraw from 21 Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip and four in the West Bank. “How dare you pull Jews out of their homes?” he wrote.

“This is just like what the Nazis did to us!”

Unfortunately, I am no longer surprised when a Jew compares me and other Israeli officials to Nazis. It has become part of the rhetoric of those who oppose withdrawal, including the tiny minority who threaten violent resistance.

But my old teacher was not threatening me; he was crying out as if in the middle of a nightmare. My father, Chaim Herzog, eventually became president of Israel, and my teacher could not understand how his liberator’s son could displace other Jews.

Seen from America and Europe, the evacuation of some 8,000 Jews from their homes may seem simple. I have heard it compared to moving residents to make room for a railroad or highway. But, as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has no doubt seen during her Middle East visit, what is happening here is a deeper psychological drama.

It brings out fears that are never far from the surface; memories of the displacement and murder of innocent Jews not only during the Holocaust but also in Islamic countries after Israel’s founding. And memories of wars Israel did not start, and of terrorist attacks that we fear will never stop.

What to do with Jewish settlers’ homes in the Gaza Strip after withdrawal, as well as factories and greenhouses, has occupied Israelis for some time. Those in favor of destroying the houses did not want to see Hamas gunmen making victory signs for CNN and Al Jazeera as they walked triumphantly into buildings left behind by Jews.

Others, myself included, have favored leaving everything except synagogues and graveyards untouched, thinking that destroying the houses would send a message of destruction rather than peace; we feared it might also be costly and could endanger Israeli soldiers’ lives.

But every member of the government understands the painful symbolism involved in displacing Jews, and also the public’s concern that Gaza will turn into Hamastan, a region controlled by terrorists.

Yet despite their memories and fears, most Israelis back the plan to withdraw. They know that Israel must take risks like this to set secure national borders, to ensure the future of a Jewish democratic state. They are reassured because Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the founder of the settlement movement, thinks the withdrawal is necessary. And they are ready to give the Palestinians’ prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, a chance to show he can be a partner for peace.

Another promising sign is that while the settlers’ leaders are telling their followers not to cooperate with the government, every day more and more settlers are coming to my ministry to find out how we can help them find new homes and rebuild their lives.

I hope that our Palestinian neighbors understand what we are going through. They should realize that this withdrawal is not a sign of weakness (as Hamas wants them to believe) but of strength and self-confidence. Israel clearly has other ways to answer terrorism - as shown by our forceful response to the intifada - but we have no other way to end the occupation except to separate from the Palestinians.

This withdrawal should be the first step toward a broader, negotiated two-state solution. To get there, the Palestinian leaders must ensure that terrorists do not disrupt the withdrawal and do not take over the land Israel leaves behind.

The Palestinians should also understand the feelings of Israelis like my high school teacher. Abbas can help now by telling his people, loudly and clearly, that Israel’s withdrawal will not represent a victory for armed struggle; it will be a victory for the silent majorities on both sides who don’t want their grandchildren to have the kinds of traumatic memories that haunt Israelis and Palestinians today.

(Isaac Herzog is Israel’s minister of construction and housing.)

 

ISRAEL TO BUILD TERROR BARRIER IN THE SEA

Navy builds terror barrier off Gaza
By Arieh O’Sullivan
The Jerusalem Post
June 17, 2005

www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1118888337362

In a move designed to better isolate Israel from potential terrorist infiltration from the Gaza Strip, the navy has started building an underwater barrier leading out to sea from the north Gaza shore.

The barrier, which essentially extends the northern security road separating Gaza from Israel into the Mediterranean, is primarily aimed at thwarting Palestinian terrorists swimming up to the Israeli coast. It consists in its first 150 meters of cement pilings burrowed into the sandy bottom. Beyond that, the barrier will extend for a further 800 meters, in the form of a 1.8-meter-deep fence floating beneath the surface.

It is understood that one of the navy’s perceived imperatives for the new barrier is the loss of surveillance systems at the Tel Ridan base on the beach south of Gaza City when the IDF pulls out of Gaza this summer. Still, the barrier is not expected to be completed before August 15, when disengagement is set to begin.

It is not yet clear whether the navy intends to demarcate the territorial waters with buoys, as it did with Lebanon. Off the coast of Rosh Hanikra, there are seven linked buoys reaching out 4,200 meters from the coast.

In similar moves to better seal off Gaza, the Navy is also refurbishing its observation and radar station at the Erez border crossing, and is adding an antenna tower there similar to the 85-meter structure at its base in Rosh Hanikra.

Palestinian terrorists have made attempts to swim to the Israeli coast in the past, and have been foiled mainly because they were spotted by radar and surveillance outposts onshore in the Gaza area. The new barrier is intended to foil potential efforts in which swimmers go beyond such surveillance capacities.

The barrier would also back up naval patrols intercepting small vessels carrying terrorists.

Last November, a heavily armed Palestinian terrorist dressed in a wetsuit tried to swim in from the sea to attack a Jewish settlement in the northern Gaza Strip. Navy surveillance ground forces spotted him and shot him dead 400 meters from the beach.

He had on him a bomb, an AK-47, four grenades, five ammunition clips, a knife and a rubber dinghy. In essence, it is understood, the sea barrier represents an extension of the Gaza security fence that has proven highly effective in preventing suicide bombers infiltrating into Israel.

 

FEMALE SUICIDE BOMBER PLANNED TO BLOW UP HOSPITAL

Female bomber nabbed: Palestinian woman tells interrogators she
intended to blow up at southern hospital
By Hanan Greenberg
By Ynetnews
June 20, 2005

www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3101498,00.html

Major attack thwarted: A 21-year-old would-be suicide bomber was detained by security forces at Gaza’s Erez crossing Monday morning.

Gaza resident Wafa Samir Ibraim Bas, 21 was carrying more than 10 kilograms (more than 22 pounds) of explosives and was picked up thanks to electronic anti-terror means utilized at the crossing.

Army officials said the woman surrendered only after attempting to detonate the charge at the crossing itself.

The woman was scheduled to arrive at Soroka hospital in the Southern town of Be’er Sheva for some tests Monday, and was hoping to take advantage of the medical appointment to carry out a suicide attack.

During her interrogation, the would-be bomber said she was sent by the Fatah’s al-Aqsa Brigades. The group sought to utilize the humanitarian permits issued to the woman and instructed her to carry out the attack at the hospital, she said.

The Erez crossing was closed Friday, and again Monday, as a result of terror warnings. Notably, security authorities received a warning regarding the planned attack several days ago, prompting the crossing’s closure on several occasions.

Sappers later blew up the explosives in a controlled detonation and authorities later reopened the crossing.

IDF official Avi Levy told Ynet that despite the incident, the army is “making a distinction between terror groups who want to carry attacks and Palestinian civilians who want to make a living.”

Although women generally refrained from taking part in terror attacks at first, their role has been increasing over time. In 2004, more then 50 women were involved in carrying out attacks.

Meanwhile, security forces have foiled 45 terror plots involving women during the more than four years of the intifada, while eight attacks were carried out.

A Shin Bet report prepared to summarize four years of fighting noted terror groups are exploiting the inherent advantages in using women to perpetrate terror attacks.


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.