|04TELAVIV6525||2004-12-23 08:57:00||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Tel Aviv|
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
1. (C) Summary: Yariv Oppenheimer, General Director of
Peace Now, told Embassy economic officer on December 14 that
his organization "is very excited" about the disengagement
plan because it views settlements as a serious obstacle to
peace. While the settlers had not yet, at the time of the
meeting, become very vocal in their opposition to evacuation,
Oppenheimer predicted they will eventually get violent.
However, he said, Peace Now will be ready with a campaign to
counter the settlers' opposition. In the meantime, the
organization continues monitoring settlement and outpost
activity, and is preparing to poll settlers on their opinions
of disengagement. Oppenheimer also gave econoff Peace Now's
preliminary assesment that the draft 2005 budget includes at
least NIS 500 million for the settlements. End summary.
Revving Up for Disengagement
2. (C) Yariv Oppenheimer, General Director of Peace Now,
told Embassy economic officer on December 14 that his
organization is "very excited about the prospect of getting
rid of settlements." In his view, building settlements has
been the most problematic step Israel has undertaken, and
represents an obstacle for peace to move forward.
Oppenheimer explained that "the Palestinians have to worry
about terror, and we have to worry about settlements." He
related that Peace Now has met with the Yahad Party, Shimon
Peres and the Labor Party, and signatories to the Geneva
Initiative in order to establish the "Majority Coalition."
The Coalition wants to mobilize the 75 percent of the Israeli
public who support disengagement to push the plan forward.
The group will limit its activities to disengagement, and
will not deal with refugees or other final status issues. So
far the group has organized two major rallies to keep the
pro-disengagement momentum going, but, according to
Oppenheimer, it has limited its activities because the
settlers themselves have not been very vocal thus far and
because "the Right is surrendering to Sharon." He predicted,
however, that the settlers will resort to violence to
dramatize the loss of their homes and thereby to get Israelis
on their side. Oppenheimer concluded that Gaza disengagement
presents "a very promising future" and that Peace Now will be
ready to take more action when it becomes necessary.
Keeping Up with Other Projects
3. (C) With respect to the West Bank, Oppenheimer
acknowledged that new settlement and outpost construction has
been much lower than he expected in recent months. He said
he had expected much more construction as Sharon tried to
consolidate his hold on the West Bank. Nevertheless, Peace
Now continues its various projects as usual:
Project 1: Monitoring outposts; seeing how many are
evacuated and which are expanded.
Project 2: Taking aerial photos every four months to measure
growth of settlements and to determine where houses are being
built; in conjunction, sending volunteers to do ground
surveys to verify the photos. Oppenheimer said a report of
settlement activity in 2004 will be issued in January.
Project 3: Tracking housing tenders. Oppenheimer noted
there have not been as many this year as in years past but
the GOI continues to issue tenders.
Project 4: Preparing a questionnaire to survey settlers'
opinions on disengagement. Oppenheimer explained that Peace
Now is currently developing the questions with the firm who
will do the polling.
Analyzing the Budget
4. (C) According to Oppenheimer, one other project Peace Now
has been working on recently is analyzing the draft 2005
budget to determine how much money the GOI will spend next
year to support the settlements. He commented that this has
been very difficult because the budget is not broken down
into geographic regions and because the Ministry of Defense
budget is classified. Nevertheless, Peace Now's preliminary
assessment is that the GOI is transferring close to NIS 500
million to the settlements through the Ministries of
Agriculture, Housing and Construction, Industry and Trade,
and Transportation. Oppenheimer opined that the GOI is
currently investing in the territories at about the same rate
as in years past, including the Gaza Strip, where it is
treating the area "like it is not going to be gone" until
disengagement actually begins.
5. (C) According to Peace Now's analysis of the draft
budget, the Settlement Department of the Ministry of
Agriculture has budgeted NIS 9.409 million to the central
areas of the Jordan Valley, Megilot, Samaria, Binyamin and
Gush Etzion, and has budgeted NIS 6.892 million to the
southern areas of South Har Hebron and Gush Katif. The
Agriculture Ministry finances, among other things,
maintenance of generators in temporary centers where there is
no electricity, connections to the electricity network and
investment in infrastructure. Peace Now states that the
Department also assists in financing the establishment of new
6. (C) Oppenheimer said that the Ministry of Housing and
Construction has a proposed budget of NIS 36.164 million for
Maale Adumim and NIS 73 million for Homat Shmuel (Har Homa)
to develop and market these sites; and NIS 90 million for
rural building which includes planning, developing,
rehabilitating and renovating infrastructure, and financing
the establishment of public institutions. Under the proposed
2005 budget, the MOHC would also spend NIS 32 million on
security in East Jerusalem, and will provide subsidized
credit to purchase apartments worth almost NIS 1,000,000.
7. (C) The Ministry of Industry and Trade has budgeted NIS
13.097 million in grants and benefits for investment in the
West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Ministry of Transportation is
expected to spend NIS 17 million on the Gilo-Gush Etzion
Road, NIS 12 million on the Brokin-Ariel Road 5, and NIS 198
million on Road 45/1 Tsadi Mishor Adumim Road 90. Peace Now
notes that the budget for bypass roads is transferred to the
Ministry of Defense and therefore there are no further
details available on road construction.
8. (C) In addition, Peace Now reports that the Ministries
of Interior, Tourism and Education also provide grants and
benefits to the settlements because they are part of National
Priority Area A, but it did not provide any figures for these
...And Going to Court
9. (C) Oppenheimer reported that Peace Now has petitioned
the High Court to prevent leaders of the settlers' YESHA
council from using their municipalities' funds to campaign
against the disengagement plan. He argued that settlers
should not be using public money for these activities, and he
expects a response from the government in the next two weeks.
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