Politicians pile in to diss Barak's withdrawal plan

September 27, 2012
Sarah Benton

This posting has 6 items:

1) MEMO Summary of proposal;
2) Israel Hayom: Barak floats unilateral withdrawal from Judea and Samaria;
3) Reuters: Israel’s Barak floats partial, unilateral West Bank pullback;
4) JPost: MKs on right, left slam Barak’s ‘disengagement’ plan;
5) BICOM: Ehud Barak makes case for West Bank disengagement;
6) Khaleej Times: Barak’s withdrawal ploy;

Ehud Barak, Defence Minister and leader of the Atzmaut (Independent) party

Barak calls for disengagement from West Bank and annexation of settlements

September 25, 2012

The Israeli Defence Minister has called for unilateral disengagement from the West Bank excluding the major settlement blocs, which will be annexed to the Zionist state. Ehud Barak’s proposal also includes the evacuation of isolated settlement “outposts”; Jewish settlers would be given the choice of leaving the outposts (which are illegal even under Israeli law) or staying and living under Palestinian rule.

Speaking to the Israel Hayoum newspaper, the editorial line of which is supportive of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Barak said that under his proposal the major settlement blocs in Gush Etzion, Ariel and Ma’ale Adumim – home to 90 per cent of settlers – will remain under Israeli control. Israel will also continue to control “vital” military areas, such as the hills overlooking Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion Airport; the remainder of the West Bank would constitute the Palestinian State.

Barak suggests that settlers who are evacuated from the isolated outposts should receive financial compensation and new homes, either in other settlements or within Israel itself, what Palestinians call the 1948-Occupied Territories. Settlers who prefer not to leave their homes will remain under the rule of the Palestinian Authority for a five-year trial period.

Barak told the newspaper, “It would be preferable to reach an agreement with the Palestinians but, if that doesn’t work, practical actions should be taken to begin disengagement.”

He believes that the time has come for the government to say that it will keep 80-90 per cent of the settlements in Israel, as they were established through government initiatives and support. “It is best to keep them within Israel’s final borders,” he said. “My proposal will help us not only in dealing with the Palestinians, but also with other countries in the region, with the Europeans, and with the American administration – and of course [it will help] us.” Some “cold reality” is needed, he added.

Barak floats unilateral withdrawal from Judea and Samaria

In an interview with Israel Hayom, the defense minister outlines a plan proposing that settlers outside of large blocs be evacuated, or allowed to remain under Palestinian rule • Palestinian finance minister warns that the two-state solution is in jeopardy due to the dismal financial reality in the Palestinian Authority.

By Shlomo Cesana, Yoav Limor and The Associated Press, Israel Hayom
September 24, 2012

Defense Minister Ehud Barak is urging the government to examine a plan for unilateral withdrawal from Judea and Samaria. Under the plan, secluded settlements and outposts in Judea and Samaria would be evacuated by the state, and any Jews wishing to remain in the region would be permitted to live there under Palestinian rule.

In a special interview with Israel Hayom, to be published in full on Tuesday, Barak outlined the details of his plan and explained the logic behind it. Under Barak’s plan, the settlement blocs of Gush Etzion, Maaleh Adumim and Ariel would remain intact. These blocs house some 90 percent of Judea and Samaria’s Jewish population. Strategic areas (such as the Samarian hills overlooking Ben-Gurion International Airport) would similarly remain under Israeli control, and an Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley would be ensured. The remainder of the territory would be handed over to the Palestinians to establish a state. Dozens of small Jewish communities would have to be evacuated.

Barak’s plan elicited a harsh response from the right on Monday, with Likud Minister Yuli Edelstein saying that

[T]his is not a disengagement plan we are talking about. This is our survival. Ehud Barak is continuing to make rookie mistakes. After supporting the disastrous Oslo Accords, orchestrating the escape from Lebanon and advancing the withdrawal from Gaza, which put a million Israelis in bomb shelters, Barak is now willing to put millions more in harms way just to get more votes.

Barak needs to understand that the State of Israel, and the residents of Judea and Samaria in particular, are not marionettes in his absurd puppet show. I hope that when the full interview with him is published on Tuesday, it will come with a note explaining that the remarks therein are (again) the product of the interviewee’s feverish imagination and are not intended to offend the readers.

Meanwhile, Barak’s evacuation plan proposes several options: One option would be to provide monetary compensation to individuals and families who would be evacuated from their homes. Another option would be communal evacuation to an existing community in the settlement blocs or within the Green Line. A third option would be to remain in the settlements, under Palestinian rule, for a five-year trial period.

“It would be best to reach an agreement with the Palestinians, but barring that, practical steps must be taken to begin the separation,” said Barak. “It is time to look Israeli society straight in the eye and say ‘we succeeded in keeping in Israel some 80% to 90% of the Jewish population that have come there over the years with the encouragement of the Israeli government. That is a huge accomplishment, if we manage to bring them inside Israel’s permanent borders.'”

“It would help us not only with the Palestinians, but with all the countries in the region, with the Europeans and with the American administration, and of course it would be beneficial to us,” the defense minister said. “This is not an easy decision, but Yom Kippur is a good time to take a long hard look at the facts and say ‘we are no longer a young country. We are 64 years old. We haven’t been in Judea and Samaria for a year or two. We’ve been there for 45 years. It is time to make decisions not just based on ideology and gut feelings, but on an accurate reading of reality.”

Barak stressed the immense importance of maintaining dialogue with the population that would be slated for evacuation under his plan. “The settlers are truly people who arrived with the sense that they were on a mission on behalf of the various Israeli governments, or with the government’s full approval. As defense minister, I cannot ignore their vast presence in the front lines of any combat unit in the Israel Defense Forces.”

Barak insisted that he has consistently proposed this plan of action for the last 12 years and that he is not just pandering to voters in the face of early election talk. He argued that Israel must continue to bolster Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, saying that “he is definitely a partner. I don’t know if this will work; I’m very realistic in that sense. I am not harboring any illusions. I don’t think that a desire for peace is enough to make peace. In this regard I think the government is right. The onus is mainly on the Palestinian side.”

Palestinian finance minister: Two-state solution is in jeopardy

Meanwhile, Palestinian Finance Minister Nabeel Kassis warned Sunday that the two-state solution would be in jeopardy if the Palestinian Authority didn’t get a major cash infusion to alleviate its severe fiscal crisis.

Kassis said the authority needed money to function to prepare for statehood, noting that donors have not paid the $300 million that they pledged to the Palestinians. Some $200 million is owed by the United States.

Kassis also urged the international community to go beyond expressions of support and take action to create “the political horizon” to quickly end the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Negotiations have been frozen for more than three years, and there are no signs they will resume.

“The two-state solution is in jeopardy if the PA is not able to continue to function and prepare for the two-state solution,” Kassis said.

He spoke after a meeting of 27 donor nations, global financial institutions and representatives of the U.N., U.S., European Union and Russia known as the Quartet on the Middle East. Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon also attended the high-level meeting hosted by the United Nations ahead of the General Assembly’s annual ministerial meeting which begins Tuesday.

Irit Ben-Abba, the deputy director-general for economic affairs in Israel’s Foreign Ministry, told reporters the government was “very concerned with the very severe fiscal situation of the Palestinian Authority at the moment.”

To help, she said, Israel has released advance payments of tax revenue, allowed the transfer of goods that will generate income for the Palestinian budget, and authorized international projects in the 60% of the West Bank that remains under full Israeli control.

“We call on the donor community to put more effort into assisting the Palestinians at this stage and to encourage them to come back to the negotiating table,” she said.

Norway’s Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide, who chairs the donor support group known as the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, said the Palestinian’s economic situation “is dire and is getting worse.”

He said donors reconfirmed their previous assessment that the Palestinian Authority’s institutions are ready for statehood — a reaffirmation welcomed by Kassis.

The donors warned, however, that the economy was slowing after three years of high growth, improved living conditions and progress in improving the quality and functioning of Palestinian institutions, Eide said.

“During 2012, the Palestinian Authority is experiencing a severe fiscal crisis, due to shortfalls in domestic revenues, tax income, and donor contributions,” he said. “It may face a financing gap of at least $400 million at the end of the year.”

The committee called on donors to fulfill their outstanding pledges and increase their contributions for 2012.

Eide said that at Sunday’s meeting the U.S. representative confirmed Washington’s intention to meet its commitment.

The committee also called on donors to remain committed to the two-state solution and to continue assisting the Palestinian Authority to meet its financial requirements so it can “make the transition toward economic independence for a Palestinian state.”

Eide also stressed that political progress is essential to get the Palestinian economy “back on track.”

Israel’s Barak floats partial, unilateral West Bank pullback

By Jeffrey Heller, Chicago Tribune/Reuters
September 24, 2012

JERUSALEM – Israel should pull out unilaterally from much of the occupied West Bank if a peace deal with the Palestinians remains out of reach, Defence Minister Ehud Barak said in an interview published on Monday.

The proposal by Barak, who leads a tiny political party that surveys suggest might not win a single parliamentary seat in any new election, was swiftly shot down by a deputy to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“It would be preferable to reach an agreement with the Palestinians but, if that doesn’t work, practical actions should be taken to begin a disengagement,” Barak told Israel Hayom, a right-wing newspaper supportive of Netanyahu.

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks collapsed in 2010 over settlement building in the West Bank, territory Israel captured in a 1967 Middle East war that Palestinians seek, along with the Gaza Strip, for a future state.

Under Barak’s plan, dozens of small settlements spread across wide areas of the West Bank would be evacuated unilaterally, with residents receiving financial compensation and new homes either in other settlements or within Israel.

The major settlement blocs that are home to most of the 350,000 settlers in the West Bank, built on narrower tracts of land closer to Israel, would remain under Israeli control – an idea floated by previous governments and rejected by Palestinian leaders.

“The time has come to make a decision stemming not only from ideology and a gut feeling but also from a cold reading of reality,” Barak said.


Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor, commenting on Barak’s proposal, said there was “no way” Israel would pull out of the West Bank, where 120 settlements have been built, without a peace agreement.

“We cannot turn (the West Bank city of) Ramallah into Gaza … It would mean immediate war and bloodshed. The army has to stay there until there is an agreement,” Meridor said.

Netanyahu has said Israel is willing to make “painful compromises” for peace that require giving up “parts of the ancestral Jewish homeland”.

But like Barak, he has balked at returning to lines that existed before the 1967 conflict, effectively ruling out a withdrawal from all of the West Bank, where 2.5 million Palestinians live.

Netanyahu has been a strong critic of Israel’s unilateral pullout in 2005 from the Gaza Strip, an enclave seized two years later by Hamas Islamists opposed to the existence of the Jewish state.

Barak, who as Labour Party leader traditionally took a more dovish line than Netanyahu on peace issues, now heads the small Atzmaut party in the prime minister’s pro-settler governing coalition.

Atzmaut has five seats in the 120-member Knesset. Its poor showing in opinion polls has raised speculation that Barak could launch initiatives to boost his party’s profile and try to win the support of centrist voters.

Disagreement within Netanyahu’s coalition over the annual state budget, which must be passed by March, has prompted suggestions that the next election, due by October 2013, could be brought forward.

MKs on right, left slam Barak’s ‘disengagement’ plan

Proposal to unilaterally withdraw from W. Bank settlements, prompts calls that Barak is maneuvering ahead of elections.

By Lahav Harkov, Tovah Lazaroff, Herb Keinon, JPost
September 24, 2012

Politicians and activists on the Left and the Right immediately criticized Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s attempt on Monday to revive a unilateral withdrawal plan for portions of the West Bank.

“Barak has a partner for peace, but no partner for unilateral moves,” said Meretz party leader MK Zehava Gal- On, who opposed his plan.

MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) said that no ministers outside of Barak’s Independence Party and no members of the Likud faction support the idea of evacuating the West Bank, but Barak is welcome to attempt to work on it as the head of a five- MK faction.

They were among the many politicians who immediately reacted to the plan that Barak laid out in an interview with Israel HaYom.

Barak told the daily that in the absence of negotiations with the Palestinians, he was advocating a plan to unilaterally withdraw from isolated areas of the West Bank, while maintaining settlement blocs such as Ma’aleh Adumim, Gush Etzion and Ariel. This would allow 90 percent of the settler population to remain in the West Bank, he said.

For security reasons, Barak said, Israel would have to maintain a military presence in the Jordan Valley and the Samarian hilltops overlooking Ben-Gurion Airport.

Settlers who wish to remain and live under the Palestinian Authority for a five-year trial period should be allowed to do so, he told Israel HaYom.

Barak’s plan revives a concept that has been largely dormant in Israeli politics for the last six years. In the summer of 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza and evacuated four isolated Samaria settlements.

In 2006, former prime minister Ehud Olmert campaigned on a partial withdrawal plan called convergence and continued to speak of it until the Second Lebanon War.

Toward the end of Olmert’s tenure there was no need for the plan, because his government was negotiating with the Palestinians through the Annapolis process, which broke down in December 2008.

Since taking office in March 2009, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has insisted that he wants to negotiate a final status agreement with the Palestinians, and has railed against Palestinian unilateral actions. The Palestinians, however, have refused to hold direct talks with Israel.

The Prime Minister’s Office had no comment on the Barak interview.

Likud Minister Moshe Kahlon on Monday night attacked Barak’s plan, including the option of keeping settlers under the PA. He called on Israel instead to annex a settlement bloc such as Gush Etzion.

“Let’s begin with sovereignty over what is in consensus – Gush Etzion,” he told Likud branch heads at a Rosh Hashana toast in the Efrat settlement.

In comments she made to the media earlier in the day, Hotovely said that Barak announced his plan with an eye toward upcoming elections.“ The defense minister likes to put the idea of a disengagement from Judea and Samaria in the headlines any time he smells an election,” she said.

“It is unfortunate that a defense minister, who used to command the IDF, insists on repeating mistakes,” she added. “Let’s hope that the rest of the security establishment is better at learning lessons from the past.”

Dani Dayan, who heads the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, also accused Barak of early election campaigning.

“As Henry Kissinger once aptly said, ‘Israel has not foreign policy, only a domestic political system,’” Dayan said. “Even the most crucial issues like Iran and the Palestinians are subject to internal political considerations,” he said.

“Barak’s plan is a non-starter with the Israeli public that totally opposes unilateral withdrawals. It caters to a small portion of the electorate on which Barak bases his political calculations for his future,” Dayan said.

MK Danny Danon (Likud) called for Netanyahu to counter Barak’s plan by adopting the Edmond Levy report, adding that “the only disengagement ahead is of the defense minister from his job.”

National Union leader MK Ya’acov Katz said that Netanyahu’s inclusion of Barak in his coalition was a continued betrayal of the national camp.

Netanyahu is likely to fall into line with Barak’s plan, like he did with the disengagement from Gaza, Katz said, and that is why national-religious politicians and voters must unite to save themselves and the Land of Israel.

Politicians on the Left were also critical of Barak’s plan, which Labor faction leader Isaac Herzog called “recycled.”

“Barak opposed the disengagement in the past, and suddenly he has ‘discovered’ them. He ignores Arab peace initiatives and rejects any political initiative on the matter,” Herzog said. “While Barak was defense minister, the Netanyahu government dragged its feet for months on the Palestinian matter and did not act to start negotiations.”

According to Herzog, Barak “woke up when the smell of elections is in the air, and he is repeating old mantras in order to throw together a few voters who don’t remember his failures.”

The Labor MK added that, although the Palestinians are “difficult clients,” the best option for is negotiations and a serious peace process.

Gal-On said that Barak presented his plan for cynical political reasons, without considering Israel’s strategic interests.“ Rather than promoting one-sided initiatives, we must say ‘yes’ to a Palestinian state, to try to restart the diplomatic process and leave the territories as part of negotiations,” she stated.

“If Barak’s plan is accepted, it will destroy any motivation to reach peace and strengthen extremists like Hamas,” she said.

Peace Now executive director Yariv Oppenheimer said, “We are satisfied that the current situation is bad for Israel and that Israel should pull out of areas in the West Bank, but the best way to do that is with the PA, and not through unilateral steps.” He added, “We opposed unilateral steps, but if it is either that or nothing, it is better than what we have.”

At an Israel Project briefing, Intelligence Agencies Minister Dan Meridor (Likud) said generally of Barak’s proposal that following the disengagement from Gaza, it was clear that Israel could never take the army out of the West Bank without an agreement.

“We did it once in Gaza,” he said. “We can’t turn Ramallah into Gaza.”

Although Meridor sounded unenthusiastic about the types of unilateral steps Barak described, he said that Israel needed a “coherent settlement policy” and should only be pursuing settlement activity in the blocs that it believes would ultimately remain a part of Israel, but not “all over the place.”

We need to set the line, he said, and “use all our efforts to strengthen” the Israeli presence in the major settlement blocs – but not allow settlement development elsewhere.

Ehud Barak makes case for West Bank disengagement

September 24, 2012

In an interview with Israel Hayom to be published in full tomorrow, Israel’s Defence Minister Ehud Barak has made the case for a possible evacuation of dozens of West Bank settlements, even in the absence of a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

In excerpts published by Israel Hayom today, Barak stressed that, ‘It is preferable to reach an agreement with the Palestinians’, and although he described Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas as ‘a partner’, Barak emphasised that responsibility for the lack of progress on an agreement ‘is on the Palestinian side’.

Barak said that if an agreement with the Palestinians is not possible, then concrete action should be taken to ‘begin separation’. Barak said that the major settlement blocs of Gush Etzion, Ma’aleh Adumim and Ariel, which account for around 90% of the Jewish population of the West Bank, would remain under Israeli control. Barak said that he would also retain a military presence in strategic spots such as the Jordan Valley.

However, according to Barak, dozens of smaller settlements would be evacuated, with the remaining territory becoming a Palestinian state. Barak said that those residents evacuated would be compensated financially and could be re-settled as entire communities in existing towns in Israel. He also raised the possibility that West Bank residents could be allowed to remain under the control of the PA for a trial period of five years.

Israel withdrew unilaterally from the Gaza Strip in 2005, uprooting more than 8000 settlers from their homes. Though the move had the support of a majority of Israelis at the time, the subsequent rise to power of Hamas in the Gaza Strip damaged the credibility of the idea of unilateral disengagement. Barak oversaw a unilateral withdrawal of the Israeli military forces from Southern Lebanon when he was Prime Minister in 2000.

Barak’s withdrawal ploy

By MENAFN – Khaleej Times[UAE]
September 27, 2012

The Israeli establishment is up to new tricks. The statement of Defence Minister Ehud Barak that Tel Aviv should consider unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank and East Jerusalem is no more than a ploy.

Rather than strategic consideration, the move seems to be a political stunt by Barak to gain mileage for his little-known Independent Party, which is part of the ruling coalition led by the Likud Party. It is not even known whether Barak had taken the prime minister into confidence over such a sensitive policy issue as the coalition leader has always opposed unilateral withdrawal and considers it as surrender to the Palestinians. But what makes Barak’s stunt laughable is that the so-called withdrawal plan excludes more than 80 per cent of strategic landmass occupied by Israel where illegal settlements have been built.

This includes blocs such as Etzion, Maale, Adumim and Anel, where more than 500,000 Jews live in over 100 settlements. Similarly, hills overlooking Jordan and the Tel Aviv international airport are also out of the deal. As rightly stated by a Palestinian official, the proposal puts the two-state solution in a quandary.

It is not clear as to why Barak chose to come up with such a proposal at a time when Israel and the United States have locked horns. US President Barack Obama’s refusal to meet the Israeli prime minister on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, presently in session, is seen as sharpening of swords between the allies.

The White House sees Tel Aviv’s adamant stand on Middle East peace talks as a setback to its policy of coexistence and reconciliation. Netanyahu has wasted the entire first term of Obama’s presidency by adopting delaying tactics in getting back to the table. This also prompted the Palestinian leadership to come up with its own counter stand that talks can start only after Israel started withdrawing from the West Bank and declared the 1967 borders to be the de facto international frontiers. Barak has played his cards at a time when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was scheduled to table a new statehood resolution on the floor of the UN General Assembly.

The Palestinian Authority should not fall prey to such tactics, as neither Barak has a future in Israeli politics nor can a piecemeal solution make any difference to the dispossessed nation. Israel has no choice but to abide with the Arab League peace plan of unilateral and complete withdrawal to the 1967 borders.


[The Khaleej Times is published by the Galadari Brothers and partly ownd by the UAE government.]

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