European governments, in general, are breathing down Israel’s neck. In the political-military struggle against the Palestinians, they support the Palestinians.
The Union’s Policy
One had to observe the behavior of the television station of the BBC in the report that it prepared and broadcast, in which Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was presented as the “Accused” and as the party responsible for the horrendous massacre in Sabra and Shatilla, in order to understand the tendentious way in which the State of Israel is treated by the European governments directly, as well as indirectly by way of various organizations on the Continent.
Our story here relates to deep involvement by European states, apparently even gross intervention, in the internal affairs of the State of Israel, involving relatively large sums of money. The involvement is seemingly carried out in the open, through non-profit Israeli organizations and public institutions. However, things are not as they seem: the actual activities are hidden from the public eye.
The decisions are made in the European Union headquarters in Brussels. The decision makers are not Israelis; therefore, their activities – deep inside Israel – are not sufficiently monitored. Furthermore, the entities receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars of financial support from those decision-makers are reticent to reveal it to the public, for various reasons.
It should be said here, that the European Union carries out, supports and finances various welcome activities in Israel. It supports, among other things, humanitarian projects along with activities designed to bring Jews and Arabs closer. The EU donates tens of millions of dollars to good and worthy causes. Along with that, however, a portion of the support and donations transferred as assistance, is given – at least according to working papers of the EU itself – in order to further political goals. At times, it is accomplished with the active cooperation of the recipient of the aid, happy to receive the funds and to act towards the furthering of the goals of the EU. At other times, it is accomplished through what appears to be tacit agreement. That is, the beneficiary does not object to receiving the funds, even if it appears, on the face of it, that the benefactor has political goals of one sort or another. We will present here some of those goals, based on exclusive information that was brought to my attention about the activities of the EU and on subsequent clarifications which I sought from the relevant parties.
The Attempt to Transfer Russian Votes from Right to Left
On September 29, 1999, the Aid Committee of the European Union held a meeting. On the agenda: support for a new non-profit organization, The World Democracy and Leadership Foundation (WDLF), headed by Member of Knesset (MK) Roman Bronfman. Laid in front of the EU was a proposal to approve a 400,000 Euro grant, a sum equivalent to forty percent of the total allocation for a project called “Impact.” According to the protocol, the objective of the organizers, among them MK Bronfman, was to develop leadership and social involvement among immigrants from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
However, the European Union had another objective, even more important to it: to influence the processes in Israel and to cause voting citizens to transfer their support from the right-wing block, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, to the left-wing block, led by Ehud Barak. The meeting protocol records, among other things, the following: “De Oujda (one of the members of the Aid Committee of the European Union – Y.Y.) presented the project, saying that its objective is to bring the Russian immigrants in Israel into the peace camp. He explained that there is no overlap with or duplication of the activities of the Peace Now organization in the activities of this organization, which is targeted at immigrants from the Soviet Union. The “Impact” project is headed by a new immigrant from Russia, MK Roman Bronfman, a member of the Russian centrist party, “Yisrael B’Aliyah”, a member of Barak’s coalition government. That promises appreciable political weight and a different attitude.
“The activities will include a campaign of public awareness and peace, and educational seminars in the Russian community. The Russian community voted overwhelmingly for Netanyahu in ’96, and moved towards Barak in ’99. In light of this background, Mr. Duplais (another member of the Committee) added that the European Union’s support of education towards peace among such important sectors of the public in Israel would be a good investment.”
In an attached document, the contact persons are listed, along with the organization’s account number (Bank HaPoalim, Asia Branch, Acct. 294110). Ultimately, the money was transferred only in December 2000 due to internal problems at the WDLF, which found their expression in a delay in the establishment of its governing bodies, including the appointment of a Managing Director.
From the foregoing it can be clearly seen that the European Union wanted to support the trend of voters transferring their support from Netanyahu to Barak. The decision was made at a sensitive time: at that moment, Barak had been in the Prime Minister’s chair for about two months (the government was sworn in in September 1999). The European states were pleased: Netanyahu had been thrown out of power. “Yisrael B’Aliyah” was part of Barak’s peace coalition and was considered a most important part thereof. It was led by Minister Natan Sharansky.
Roman Bronfman may have left “Yisrael B’Aliyah” a few months prior (in June 1999), but he was still identified with the movement led by Sharansky – to empower the new immigrants and to integrate them into a decisive political force in Israel.
The treatment of Bronfman by the European Union appears to be a donation to a foundation of which he is the director. This may raise some questions, especially in light of the Party Financing Law, which forbids members of Knesset to receive donations or support in any manner contradicting its provisions. In this case, we are specifically talking about financial support for political ends, at least from the perspective of the donor.
This past Wednesday, I asked Bronfman if the WDLF received 400,000 Euros from the European Union and, if so, when. He replied positively and said that the funds were given in December 2000. He further emphasized that the support that was given was in no way related to political activity and that the funds were not targeted for political purposes. The Foundation is apolitical, he pointed out, and thus far not one shekel of the money has been spent, due to organizational delays in the Foundation.
I further asked if, in light of this, the transferred funds could not be seen as support, a donation in every way, apparently in violation of the Party Financing Law.
Bronfman was startled by the question: It was not a donation, he emphasized repeatedly, and even objected to the very question. It was, he said, assistance to an apolitical, social interest project that anyone could identify with. “The objectives of the Foundation are pure,” he said. Bronfman added that, in order to facilitate the receipt of the aid, he was in contact with EU representatives in Brussels, through the offices of the Embassy.
Bronfman asked to point out another important point, “I am responsible for what I wrote, not for what was written in the EU. I was not a part of the Barak coalition. Starting in 1999, I was in opposition to Barak and to Sharon. I left ‘Yisrael B’Aliyah’ in June 1999. I got out of there, I and Member of Knesset Alexander Tzinker, and we founded the ‘Democratic Choice’ faction. We are the opposition, not part of the present coalition nor of the previous one.”
In June 1999 (on the eve of the establishment of the Barak government), Bronfman announced that he withdrew from “Yisrael B’Aliyah”, “after my dispute with Sharansky’s approach to the coalition agreements and with his desire to enforce certain arrangements in the faction. And therefore, I left.”
In response to questions presented to him in writing, Bronfman replied in a letter that “the financial support was given to the organization for the purpose of furthering community projects and projects encouraging youth leadership among the immigrants, within the framework of the objectives of the organization, which consist primarily of activities among the new immigrants in four main fields: democracy, leadership, peace and communications.
“The organization never justified any request for support from the European Union, or from any other source, with a political need, as stated in your letter. In practice, during the period of the 1999 elections, the organization was inactive and had no financial expenditures whatsoever.
Furthermore, the organization was never involved in any activity with the purpose of support for any political candidate, and never made any expenditures related to such activity.”
During a meeting on September 29, 1999, 250,000 Euros were allocated to the Four Mothers organization. Here, too, the story repeated itself: the inclination of the European Union to nurture groups in Israel that wish to attain political objectives. The contact person in the organization was Ronit Nachmias, known for her extensive activism in favor of the IDF withdrawal from Lebanon.
According to the protocol of the meeting, De Oujda explained the importance and uniqueness of the project. Its objective is to initiate, for the first time, a dialogue between Israeli and Lebanese women, in order to lay the groundwork for a wider relationship, after Israel withdraws from Southern Lebanon. The project, he said, “enjoys the support of Yossi Beilin, the Israeli Justice Minister and a central figure in the peace process.”
The activity, it was said, will include a campaign of public education and educational seminars under the leadership of women. It was further said that the European Union would be the sole donor at the moment, but that, once the project takes off, other donors are expected to support it.
Ronit Nachmias confirmed the foregoing. She pointed out that the Four Mothers organization did indeed request aid. The aid was approved, however, ultimately, it was not given after the withdrawal from Lebanon and the dissolution of the organization.
The Peace Now organization is considered an established client of the European Union. The organization runs a series of projects simultaneously and it requested assistance from the European Union for one of them.
And so, on September 29, 1999, the Aid Committee of the EU approved 400,000 Euros for the organization. In the protocol, it is stated that the aid is intended to fund a social justice project, principally educating the public for peace. The activity will focus, according to the protocol, on a social group that traditionally holds anti-peace views, those who voted for the Likud. It will be important to present to that group the benefits of peace.
Jeanette Aviad, responsible for this project in the framework of Peace Now, said to me in response, several weeks ago, that the project was indeed approved by the European Union, but that the money has yet to be received. She pointed out that it was a project designed to help both Israelis and Palestinians and that Peace Now is expecting to receive the funds soon.
Torpedoing Construction in Jerusalem
The European Union is acting determinedly to torpedo construction in Jerusalem. European foreign policy is clear about this matter. Yet, it seems that the EU is acting behind the scenes, encouraging and funding Israeli Jews, so that they will act to prevent construction in those parts of Jerusalem where there is staunch Palestinian opposition.
In this context, the EU Aid Committee approved, on September 29, 1999, financial support of at least half a million Euros: 250,000 for the Committee Against House Demolitions and another 250,000 for the Ir Shalem organization, whose leadership includes Jeanette Aviad (active also in Peace Now).
In the discussion which was held on the matter before the Aid Committee, it was stated that it was necessary to act to raise social awareness about and to foster concrete action against the practice of land expropriation and house demolitions by the Israeli Army on the West Bank.
In the matter of the activities of Ir Shalem, even more emphatic things were said: the director of the center, according to the protocol, Attorney Danny Seidman (who was the man operating the Ir Shalem organization), with the assistance of several experts, is one of the most respected and successful legal activists in the matter of Jerusalem. In May of 1999, he obtained a temporary injunction from the High Court of Justice, which determined that the decision of the Netanyahu government, to evacuate the Orient House in the eastern part of the city, was void, thus preventing a dangerous crisis that could have ended in a physical confrontation between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
Further, it was suggested to allocate part of the funds to “legal services”: registration and filing requests, preparation of articles, interpretation of proposals and practical solutions to some of the problems that reach the courts, including Har Homa, Ras El-Amud, Silwan, Jewish development of sites in the Moslem quarter of the Old City, and the Orient House.
The foregoing resolutions speak for themselves. They make it clearly apparent that the European Union interferes in the internal affairs of Israel. The question is, who is responsible for oversight of the flow of funds in Israel to the various bodies, and why would a democratic state open its gates to meddling by foreign states, even if they are considered friendly?
This article appeared in Maariv on June 22, 2001