Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

23 Iyar 5761 - May 16, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Violence Continues as Israel Asked to Accept a Settlement Freeze
by N. Segal

Israeli-Palestinian violence shows no signs of abating, despite repeated international calls for a cease-fire. The renewed fighting comes as Israeli officials consider how to respond to the report of a U.S.-led Mitchell Commission investigating the violence, which officials hope can serve as the basis for a cease-fire.

On Monday, Palestinian gunmen opened fire on the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo from a nearby West Bank village, injuring four Israelis, the largest number of civilians hurt in a single attack since Gilo first came under Palestinian fire seven months ago. Israeli tanks and troops returned the heavy Palestinian fire.

The most seriously injured was Hoda Salama, 54, an Arab who was hit in the lower abdomen while she was in her apartment on Rechov Margalit. Three other civilians were lightly wounded.

Calling the shooting a "definite escalation," Jerusalem police chief Commander Mickey Levy said security officials had intelligence information that Palestinians would open heavy fire on Gilo on Monday ahead of Tuesday's Nakba Day.

Israeli Police Commissioner Shlomo Aharonishky said that while no mortars have yet been fired at Israeli targets from the West Bank, Israel has information that such weaponry has been transferred to the area. And in the Gaza Strip, Israeli troops shot dead two Palestinians after a grenade attack.

Sunday night Israeli troops killed five Palestinian security officers near Ramallah after detecting what the Israel Defense Force termed "suspicious activity." The Palestinian Authority denied the five were involved in hostile actions and demanded an urgent meeting of the U.N. Security Council to address the Israeli action.

The Palestinian representative at the UN, Nasser el-Kidwa, formally requested that the Security Council meet urgently to discuss the escalation of violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, blaming the Israelis for hindering the peace process.

Local roads have come under fire nearly every night.

Sunday night Israeli air and naval forces bombarded Palestinian security targets in Gaza, destroying a number of buildings and several armored personnel carriers, in retaliation for repeated Palestinian mortar attacks over the weekend on Israeli communities in Gaza and inside Israel.

The next morning, a large bomb was discovered next to a bus stop on the main street in the Israeli city of Petach Tikva. The device, which had been placed inside a bag, exploded while a bomb disposal unit was trying to neutralize it. The explosion damaged surrounding stores but caused no injuries.

Also on Monday, shooting took place on the Lebanese border between Hizbullah gunmen and the IDF.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell called the continued violence "very disturbing."

An official close to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Israel would accept the Mitchell Commission's findings, with two reservations. The official said Israel would reject the panel's call for a settlement freeze and its criticism of the Israeli military response to Palestinian attacks.

Foreign Minister Shimon Peres reportedly has advised Sharon that Israel should adopt the entire report, as it might serve as a foundation for resuming negotiations with the P.A.

The main sticking point for Israel is the report's linkage of the settlement issue and Palestinian violence. Regardless of these points, Israel will accept the basic guidelines of the report, specifically that there be an immediate cessation of violence, a cooling-off period, confidence- building measures, and then a restart of the negotiations. Israeli officials say that these stages are meant to be gradual and sequential, while Palestinians are expected to demand that they take place simultaneously.

Israel interprets the cooling-off period as a period to test whether the cease-fire is being honored. One senior source in the Prime Minister's Office said that Sharon is thinking in terms of six to eight months.

Dore Gold, in a paper that came out on Tuesday entitled "Untenable Linkages: Tying a Cessation of Palestinian Violence to an Israeli Settlement Freeze," argues that while violence is explicitly rejected in the Oslo Accords, there is no prohibition on building in the settlements.

According to Gold, linkage policies that tie a cessation of Palestinian violence to a settlement freeze pose "three serious problems: a) rewarding violence, b) rewarding Oslo noncompliance, and c) prejudicing Israel's claims to secure borders."

Gold, in the paper published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (which he chairs), wrote that the critical question for the post-intifadah period will be how Arafat responds when he reaches his first negotiating deadlock with Israel.

The US has consistently deemed settlement activity disruptive and harmful to the peace process. However, as part of its overall response to the Mitchell report, a senior official said the US' views on construction to accommodate natural population increase will be made public in roughly a week, suggesting that the US may be amenable to allowing settlement expansion only within the three major West Bank settlement blocs, but against growth in smaller, more remote settlements.


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