uploaded : Thursday 12th Feb 2004 at 20:34
by : Debra DeLee
February 12, 2004
Eight Simple Rules for Evacuating Settlements
By Debra DeLee
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon?s announcement that he intends to evacuate most of the settlements from the Gaza Strip and a few from the West Bank is certainly good news. He has finally recognized what successive American administrations, countless Israeli security
officers, and Zionist organizations like Peace Now have been saying all along?settlements are a strategic liability, an economic burden, and a
source of friction between Israel and the Palestinians.
As part of his evacuation plan, Sharon is thinking about requesting additional American financial aid to help relocate settlers whose
communities are to be removed. The U.S. should assist him. But given his track record, there are legitimate questions about whether Sharon
will evacuate settlements as advertised or use a withdrawal from Gaza as cover for tightening Israel?s grip on other parts of the occupied
territories. Therefore, Israel and the U.S. should agree to eight simple rules for evacuating settlements to help avoid problems down the road.
Rule #1: All of the relocated settlers must be sent to new homes inside the Green Line and not to other settlements in the occupied territories.
In his speech at the Herzliya Conference last December, Sharon not only talked about possibly removing settlements, but also strengthening
?control over those same areas in the Land of Israel which will constitute an inseparable part of the State of Israel in any future agreement.? American money should not be used to let Israel unilaterally move settlers to other parts of the West Bank and Gaza.
Rule #2: Consistent with another part of Sharon?s Herzliya speech, Israel must end financial incentives and subsidies for settlers and settlements. According to the Israeli newspaper, Ha?aretz, Israel spends approximately $550 million annually on civilian programs for
settlers and settlements in the West Bank and Gaza above what would be spent on these Israelis if they lived inside the Green Line. If this
funding continues, remaining settlements will be strengthened?making any future settlement evacuations more expensive.
Rule #3: The Israeli request for U.S. relocation assistant must be reasonable. Congress and the Administration are already facing significant budget cutbacks due to rising deficits. The formula agreed upon for compensating settlers should reflect political and economic realities in the U.S., not just ideological desires in Israel.
Relocated settlers need to be able to rebuild their lives, but they are not entitled to enrich themselves at the expense of American taxpayers.
Rule #4: It must be explicitly understood that U.S. aid to help relocate settlers under Sharon?s limited unilateral plan does not imply American agreement that this is the only settlement evacuation that must take place. Sharon?s initiative is positive, but must be seen as the beginning, not the end, of the relocation process. The U.S. should work
for further evacuations in the context of either a peace treaty negotiated with the Palestinians or a broader unilateral separation plan.
Rule #5: Israel must accept some of the financial burden for relocating settlers. American taxpayers should not be asked to foot this bill alone?Israeli governments since 1967 have spent over $10 billion on settlements, against the wishes of the United States. At a minimum, Israel should be required to match U.S. relocation aid on a dollar-for-dollar basis, up to $550 million each year.
Rule #6: No Israeli government spending should be diverted to private non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to allow them to strengthen
remaining settlements. There are several Israeli NGOs dedicated to supporting settlement activity. The U.S. should not tolerate a shell
game in which Israel indirectly funnels money to remaining settlements through these groups.
Rule #7: The Administration must verify to Congress and the public that remaining Israeli expenditures in the West Bank and Gaza are only for legitimate security purposes. It is imperative for the White House to ensure that civilian settlement programs are not simply re-classified as security needs at which Israeli government funding is directed.
Rule #8: U.S. aid for relocating settlers should be paid in annual installments with regular American reviews of how the money is spent and
whether Israel is meeting its obligations under the terms of the aid.
If Israel does not meet these conditions, any money not yet provided for this purpose, along with a certain portion of the $9 billion in loan
guarantees currently made available to Israel, should be frozen until Israel fulfills these requirements for relocation aid.
If the U.S. and Israel follow these eight simple rules for settlement evacuation, Sharon will be able to carry out his evacuation plan in a
manner consistent with U.S. interests and policies. Just as important, an historic precedent will be set for removing more settlements in the future, thereby further enhancing Israel?s security.
Debra DeLee is President and CEO of Americans for Peace Now.
Americans for Peace Now
Fax (202) 728-1895