Religious Zionist Party Protests West Bank Plan

Sep. 12, 2007

Minister of Industry and Trade Eli Yishai said this week that the religious party he represents, Shas, will not be able to remain in the coalition if the government promotes further Israeli withdrawals from the West Bank. In an interview published in an official publication of Shas, Minister Yishai said, "We have seen how Gaza, which we left, became a missile base. We cannot allow such a base in the middle of the country."

Plans for withdrawal from most or all of the West Bank have reportedly been under discussion at meetings between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. The plans, published in the media but not confirmed or denied, include withdrawal to Israel's pre-1967 border and Arab control over parts of Jerusalem. Abbas and Olmert have been meeting every few weeks to work out details of collaboration and coordination ahead of a multinational Middle East summit in November, which is being organized by the United States.

In July, newly-installed President Shimon Peres quietly promoted a draft plan for the Zionist State to evacuate and transfer to the PA nearly the entire West Bank, along with several Arab-Israeli cities located within pre-1967 Israel. Peres presented his initiative to Prime Minister Olmert and to top Abbas aides soon after he took office as President. Prime Minister Olmert was said to be considering the plan and "agrees with much of its contents," diplomatic sources said.

The Palestinian Authority's Maan news agency has published a copy, in Hebrew, of PM Olmert's agreement to expel tens of thousands of Jews and replace them with a Palestinian state.

The report states that Israel has agreed to begin dismantling Jewish towns in the West Bank immediately following the US-sponsored international summit this coming November.

The PA claims that the document's eight points represent the principles of agreement between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas, in anticipation of the upcoming Middle East summit.

The document begins by stating that Israel and the PA are to immediately enter a process "that will lead to the formation of two states, Israel and Palestine, side by side," and are "to reach understandings of the type detailed below." The eight points upon which Olmert and Abbas undertake to agree are the following:

1. Israel will end the occupation of the West Bank within an agreed-upon time period. The retreat and the evacuation of the settlements will occur gradually and in several stages. Each area that is evacuated will be transferred to the Palestinian Authority, which will instill law and order there. The existence of a regime in Gaza that is willing to be part of the peace process will enable Israel to view Gaza and the West Bank as one political entity.

2. An unarmed Palestinian state will be established, whose permanent borders will be based on the pre-1967 borders. The precise border will reflect security, demographic and humanitarian needs. An exchange of territory will be enabled on a 1:1 basis, to preserve settlement blocs in Israeli hands and to guarantee Palestinian contiguity and economic development.

3. There will be two capitals in Jerusalem, that of Israel and that of Palestine, and they will be sovereign over the Jewish and Arab neighborhoods, respectively. The two municipalities will cooperate for the enhancement of the quality of life of all the residents.

4. Special arrangements will be emplaced to preserve free access to all the holy sites of the various religions. A special administration will be established to maintain the two nations' bonds with the holy sites in the Old City of Jerusalem.

5. Palestine will be recognized as the national home of the Palestinian nation, and Israel will be recognized as the national home of the Jewish nation.

6. A fair and agreed solution will be found for the problem of the Palestinian refugees, with consideration and recognition of the suffering that was caused to them, and with the understanding that the implementation of national self-definition will be the main aspect of the solution.

7. The two sides will declare their willingness to end the conflict and to act to increase public support for the agreement as much as possible. The two sides will act with all their force, together and separately, against any manifestation of violence and terrorism that is directed from the area of either state to the other.

8. The two sides see this agreement as a significant manifestation of the principles of the Arab League's peace initiative, and call upon the members of the League to take operative steps to bring about its full implementation. Similarly, the sides call upon the entities represented in the Quartet and international community to guarantee and help, in various ways, to promote and actualize this agreement.

The agreement ends with this paragraph:

A document based on principles of the above type must be reached before the international summit in November, must be presented during the summit, and must be anchored in international decisions after it. Immediately following the summit, parallel with the negotiations for a detailed agreement, Israel will begin withdrawing its forces and evacuating settlements from areas in the West Bank. Completion of the various stages of evacuation will be done parallel to the completion of the negotiations.

In the Shas newspaper interview, Minister Yishai added that he doesn't think coalition partner Yisrael Beiteinu will be able to remain in the government either if Prime Minister Olmert presents the nation with a withdrawal scheme such as that attributed to him in the media.

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Our comment:

We are against any Jewish state, whatever its borders. However, we especially speak out against parties such as Shas who claim to represent Orthodox Judaism, and yet are protesting that the Zionist government isn't Zionist enough for them.

When the Zionist movement arose, Orthodox Jews from all camps, Sephardic and Ashkenazic, were its strongest opponents within the Jewish people. In our strange day and age, we see some of the descendents and students of these fighters against Zionism fighting on the opposite side of the battle, saying that all of Jerusalem and the rest of the territories seized by the Zionist army must remain in Zionist hands.