Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Israeli Politics
October 2003

On Settlements, the Fence, the Road Map, the Geneva accord, a Palestinian poll, Terror, Patch Adams and Other Concerns

Dear friends and colleagues,

I wish to share with you the following:

On Settlements

One of the most closely guarded secrets in Israel is the amount of funding that is channeled to the settlements. Budget items were built to conceal this information and no government report has ever been published on the subject. Recently Haaretz, for the first time, presented a nearly complete picture of the additional cost of the settlements, which totals more than NIS 45 billion (roughly $10 billion) since 1967.

The newspaper estimated that annual Israeli government spending on civilian needs in the settlements was more than $500 million, and that the security costs in the West Bank and Gaza were around $900 million a year.
The Haaretz study was difficult to carry out because the Israeli government's budgets have purposefully hidden spending on settlements within other costs, bundling them with subsidies to border communities and those in the Negev Desert, areas where people need to be induced to live either because of risk or limited economic opportunities. This means that those seeking to establish Jewish towns and villages in the occupied lands have benefited from generous government subsidies: personal income tax breaks, grants and loans for house purchases, bonuses for teachers. The Jewish settlers, who now number 230,000 (double the figure of a decade ago), have been granted special bypass highways, water supplies and health clinics. Teachers in the settlements, for example, get four years' seniority, an 80 percent housing subsidy and 100 percent reimbursement for travel, and more. The result is that the average settler family benefits from about $10,000 more per year of government spending than a family living within Israel proper.
The settlement population has been growing at a rate of about 10,000 annually over the past three years, despite the fighting. Early this month the government indicated that it intended to build about 600 new homes in three large West Bank settlements. The plan calls for 530 additional houses in Betar Ilit, a fast-growing settlement south of Jerusalem, along with 50 new homes in Maale Adumim, to the east of Jerusalem, and 24 more in Ariel.
The Bush administration threatens to reduce American assistance extended to Israel in March in the form of the three-year, $9 billion loan guarantees. The further building does not advance the cause of peace. Quite the opposite. Those who voted for Sharon voted for the enlargement of settlements. I am not sure to what extent they fully realized this when they went to the polls. Now they do. I think many of them would rather spend the limited resources we have on other social concerns: welfare, health, education, employment. These are as pressing as the need for further settlements, even according to this government's agenda, which is the most oakish in Israel's history.

The Fence

People ask me repeatedly about the fence. I was against the idea at first, believing at that time in bridges rather than fences, in building relationships instead of divorce. I believed that the fence will not foster mutual co-existence and wanted to find a solution that would be based on trust and mutual cooperation. After some months during which more violence ensued and Israel became a target to grave and bloody terrorist attack with a terrible price, hundreds of people killed and injured, I changed my mind as. Some eighteen months ago I finally deserted the co-existence option and adopted the view of divorce, this in light of generals' estimations that a fence could halt some eighty percent of the suicide attacks.

Having said that, I thought that the wise thing is to construct the fence along he 1967 Green Line borders. If you declare divorce, both sides of the divorce should be as happy as possible. The Sharon government is constructing the fence in a way that would make Israel as big as possible, and the future Palestine as small as possible. The Palestinian Authority cannot be expected to be happy with such a settlement. The fence suffocates them and robs them. The result is building a costly fence that might be removed because it is unjust and unfair. It also means that the children on both sides are going to suffer, as is the case in every unhappy divorce.

On 1 October Israel's government approved construction of new barriers deep inside the West Bank to shield several large Jewish settlements. The move significantly expands the scope of the already fence to wall off much of the West Bank.

Read the following: "Defense Ministry Director-General Amos Yaron agreed in a meeting with Al-Quds University President Sari Nusseibeh Monday that the security fence in Jerusalem would not pass through the middle of the campus as originally planned" (Jerusalem Post, 30 Sept. 2003). How considerate!

The road map and the recent Geneva accord

I was asked about the road map. The roadmap plan was too demanding, too far-reaching without respect to the challenging reality that could not stand to what was required. There it too much hostility, mistrust and bad blood between the two sides, both are fed by radical governments and media that - generally speaking support their respective government. Therefore I support the more moderate Gaza First Plan.

What about the recent Beilin-Abbed Rabbo Geneva accord?
Two important considerations are timing and leadership. Both are not conducive to such initiative that essentially reiterated the 2000 Camp David and Taba proposals, made by Barak and Beilin, and rejected then by Arafat. The same man says now that he welcomes the initiative. You are most welcome to believe him. I have no reason to join you. I don't trust the Palestinians to carry their side of the deal. I think the Geneva accord is fair but the time is not ripe to implement it. I continue to think that a piecemeal process is preferable, namely Gaza First. Sometimes I feel like old Cato.


The phenomenon of suicide bombers is spreading rapidly to Iraq. Don’t be astonished if the suicide bombing phenomenon will spread to other parts of the world.
Every once in a while people ask me to join political petitions and I usually decline and do not pass them around. This one is exceptional. Please read the following petition which asks the United Nations to treat suicide bombings as war crimes and that those who inspire them be prosecuted by the International War Crimes Tribunal.
The Call for UN & World Leaders to Prosecute Organizers of Suicide/Homicide Bombings, performing acts of terror against Civilians, as War Criminals, was initiated by Scholars for Peace in the Middle East and written by Dr. Edward S. Beck.
1 [one] million signatures are being sought for this petition.

Click on the following and please take 10 seconds to sign.
If you can, please cut and send this message to other friends, of whatever faith, who might also agree to sign the petition.

Yesh Gvul (There Is A Limit)

In Israel, Yesh Gvul (There Is A Limit) Movement together with five prominent writers appealed to open an investigation regarding the killing of Salah Shchade. A bomb weighing one ton was released from an aircraft carrier, killing not only the chief terrorist but also 14 other people and wounded some 150 others. Dan Chalutz, head of our air force, said in the following moment that he "slept comfortably at night", a statement that enraged many people with some conscience and appreciation for human life. I would be surprised if the Court will decide to intervene in a meaningful way in such security considerations.

Consider the following: suppose that the suicide bomber at the Maxim restaurant were to follow the calm sleeper, Dan Chalutz, find out that he uses to eat at Maxim on Shabbat with his family, and bombs herself to pieces next to his table, killing some twenty other people in the blast. Would you condone her action?

Palestinian poll
These are the results of opinion poll # 9, conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) between 07-14 October 2003. The poll deals with Arafat’s popularity and other domestic issues, peace and security, public perception of the United States, and local elections. The total sample size of this poll is 1318 from Palestinians 18 years and older, interviewed face-to-face in West Bank (823) and in Gaza Strip (495), in 120 locations. The margin of error is 3%.
The findings show widespread support, reaching 75%, for the suicide attack at the Maxim restaurant in Haifa, where 20 Israelis were killed. More than two thirds believe that the Roadmap is dead and 78% believe that current Israeli measures, including the building of the separation wall, reduces that chances for the establishment of a Palestinian state in the future. Nonetheless, almost two thirds support a return to the Hunda, 85% support mutual cessation of violence, and, for the first time since the establishment of the PA, 59% support taking measures to prevent attacks on Israelis after reaching an agreement on mutual cessation of violence. Furthermore, about two thirds still support a solution based on two states: Israel and a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Main Results:
(1) Arafat and Palestinian Domestic Conditions:
• Arafat’s popularity increases from 35% last June to 50% in this poll. This is his highest level of support in five years.
• About 80% of Palestinians believe that Arafat has become stronger and more popular due to Israeli threat to expel or assassinate him.
• Two thirds support Arafat’s declaration of state of emergency while 26% oppose it
• 61% support the appointment of Ahmad Qurai (Abu Ala’) as prime minister and 27% oppose it, but only 48% are willing, and 37% unwilling, to give confidence to his government.
• 60% support placing all Palestinian security services under the command of a national security council headed by Arafat.
• 46% believe that Abu Ala’ and his government will be more capable than Abu Mazen and his government in dealing with Arafat and the presidency; only 12% believe in the opposite.
• But only 22% believe that Abu Ala’ and his government will be more capable than Abu Mazen and his government in reaching an agreement with Israel; 23% believe in the opposite.
• While 62% believe that Abu Ala’ and his government will be able to return to negotiations with Israel, only 33% believe they will be able to control the security situation and enforce a ceasefire. 44% believe they will be able to carry out political reforms.
• Fall of Abu Mazen and his government is the equal responsibility of Arafat and Israel (27% each). Only 17% put the blame on Abu Mazen himself.
• 32% are satisfied with the reform steps taken by Abu Mazen and 54% are not satisfied
• 90% support internal and external calls for extensive political reforms.
• 82% believe there is corruption in the PA and 71% believe that corruption will increase or remain the same in the future.
• Popularity of Fatah increases slightly from 26% last June to 28% in this poll. Hamas’ popularity remains almost unchanged (21%). Total support for Islamists reaches 29% compared to 31% last June.
• Marwan Barghouti (who is jailed in Israel) remains the most popular Palestinian figure for the position of vice president 17%, followed by Abdul Aziz Rantisi (14% compared to 3% in an open-ended question last June), Sa’eb Erikat (9%), Ahmad Yasin and Haidar Abdul Shafi (7% each), Farouq Qaddoumi and Hanan Ashrawi (5% each), Ahmad Quarie’ (4%), Mohammad Dahlan (2%), and Mahmoud Abbas (1%).
The most dramatic development has been the increase in the popularity of Abdul Aziz Rantisi, one of the main Hamas leaders, rising to 14% compared to 3% in an open-ended question last June. The increase in the popularity of Rantisi may reflect the public response to repeated Israeli attempt to assassinate him.

(2) Peace and Security:
• 75% support the suicide attack at Maxim Restaurant in Haifa leading to the death of 20 Israelis.
• 78% believe that current Israeli measures, including the building of the separation wall, reduce the chances for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the future.
• But 64% still support a two-state solution (Israel and a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip), while only 12% support a one-state solution (for Palestinians and Israelis). 21% want all Palestine back to the Palestinians.
• Percentage of those believing that armed confrontations will not stop and negotiations will not resume soon increases from 24% last June to 39% in this poll. 46% (compared to 56% last June) believe that the two sides will return to negotiations while some violence will continue.
• 68% believe that the roadmap is dead, but 28% believe that it can still be implemented
• 64% want a return to the Hudna that prevailed few weeks ago while 34% oppose it; but 85% (compared to 80% last June) support a mutual cessation of violence while only 14% oppose it.
• If an agreement is reached on a mutual cessation of violence, 59% (compared to 50% last June) would support taking measures by the PA to prevent attacks on Israelis.
• Despite the widespread support for the Hudna and the mutual cessation of violence, 58% would still support Hamas’ decision to oppose the ceasefire.
• 59% believe that current armed confrontations have helped the Palestinians achieve national rights in ways that negotiations could not. In June, 65% shared that belief.

(3) Perceptions of the US:
• 96% believe that the US is not sincere when it says it works toward the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
• 92% believe that the US is not sincere when it says it wants political reforms and clean government in the PA.
• 78% believe the US is not serious in its declared opposition to the Israeli decision to expel or assassinate President Yasir Arafat.
• 97% believe the current US policy toward the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is biased in favor of Israel.
• But Palestinian evaluation of the current US conditions and policies varies on case by case basis. For example, positive evaluation reaches 85% when evaluating American medicine, science, and technology, and reaches 74% when evaluating the status of gender equality, and 63% when evaluating the status of US economic conditions. Positive evaluation drops to 53% with regards to arts and entertainment, 53% with regard to freedom of press and expression, and 44% to democracy and respect for human rights. Positive evaluation drops further when it comes to treatment of minorities (17%), respect for religious freedom (27%), or foreign policy (23%).
The US response to 11 September has affected Palestinian evaluation of internal American conditions regarding human rights, religious freedom and treatment of minorities especially Arabs and Muslims. The Bush Administration’s support for Israeli assassination and incursion policy contributed to the clear distrust in the US intentions in the peace process. While half of the Palestinians were convinced last June the belief that President Bush was determined to implement the Roadmap and move the peace process forward, this conviction has completely disappeared in this poll.
For further details, contact PSR director, Dr. Khalil Shikaki or Ayoub Mustafa at Tel 02-2964933 or email

Patch Adams

My very first cultural event at Hopkins was Patch Adams’s lecture at Hopkins. This guy excels in one liners. Concise ones.
What do you think about abortion?
I am in favour. I grew up in the 1960s (an impressive argument indeed).

What do you think about euthanasia? I am in favour (I guess the assertion is also the argument).

What do you think about the war in Iraq? Negative. Violence is never the way. We should have strove to teach Saddam Hussein how to love (brilliant).

What do you think of the Israel-Palestinian conflict?
Two state solution and evacuation of all settlements. No doubt about it (also no mentioning of the 2000 Camp David talks.).
Adams received a round of applause which prompted him to add one more sentence: And the US government should support the Palestinians to the same extent it supports Israel. More applause.

If everything would be so easy. We just learn how to love, cease violence and all will be fine. Mr. Adams has very good ideas and policies as to how to treat sick people (some depicted in Robin Williams' noteworthy film). His ability to analyze situations is impressive to the extent that the above answers are impressive. He does not even realize that he serves the interests of some more complex people with more complex agendas.

Hopkins news

Hopkins Professor Peter Agre was named co-winner of the 2003 Nobel Prize for Chemistry.
Dr. Agre, professor of biological chemistry and medicine in the School of Medicine, is the 30th person associated with Johns Hopkins to win a Nobel Prize. Not bad for such a small university.

I have problems with my e-mail. Some people told me that they wrote me but for some reason I did not receive their messages. My apology. In any event, it is advisable to write to both my Haifa and Hopkins addresses: and

With my very best wishes,

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