On June 2, 2002, Dr. Yossi Beillin called a rally to launched his new movement – “Shachar”, which will undoubtedly represent a continuation of Beillin’s activities in the ECF – the Economic Cooperation Foundation.
ECF was founded by Beillin more than 10 years ago, while Beillin was in the opposition, in between the National Unity government of Peres-Shamir, 1984-1990 and the government of Rabin-Peres, 1992-1996, when Beillin played a crucial role in foreign policy decision making power in both governments.
In its formal declaration of principles, submitted to the Israel Registrar of Non Profit Organizations of the Israel Minister of Interior in January, 1991, the ECF declared that its aim was to facilitates allowing for the intervention of the European Union in any negotiations that would take place between Israel and the Arab world. The terms assistance or involvement are not used – The word intervention is used, even though advocacy of European “intervention” runs contrary to the policies of all Israeli governments not to allow any foreign entity to intervene in the internal matters of Israeli foreign affairs.
The ECF advocacy of European intervention led to a decision of the European Union To formally retain the services of the EDF. Indeed, from documents received and perused by “Makor Rishon:, it can now be reported that on October 29th, 1999, the EU provided a retainer of 400,000 Euro to the ECF for the year 2000.
The ECF was also funded during the years 1992-1994, by the Norweigan government through its then minister of State Affairs, Mr. Terje Larson, who was the initiator of the Oslo Peace Talks, and also the host of the negotiations that went on between Yossi Beillin and Arafat advisor Abu Mazen, which produced an unofficial and unsigned agreement that was reached between Beillin and Abu Mazen, which formed the basis of the as yet unknown understandings that launched the Oslo agreement between the Israeli government and the PLO in 1993.
The ECF also received funding from foundations based in Europe, the US and Canada, including the Ford Foundation, which maintains close ties with the State Department, and the Kahanoff Foundation in Canada, which is closely connected with the Herzog family in Canada.
Meanwhile the ECF also receives funding from the Fredrich Ebert Foundation – a political foundation associated with the SPD party in Germany.
Funding from foreign governments for political purposes has caused a stir in the Israeli political arena. On May 4th, 2002, MK Uri Ariel from the National Unity party, raised a parliamentary question in the Knesset on this topic to the Minister of Interior, asking him to investigate how funds pouring from foreign governments to the ECF are being used, and what obligations or contracts the ECF had had undertaken towards these foreign governments. After all, there is no free lunch.
Ariel also proposed a Knesset resolution which would forbid any future European government intervention in the negotiations that Israel holds with its Arab neighbors. That resolution passed the Knesset overwhelmingly.
To this date, the ECF has not submitted a report of its financial activities for the year 2000, to the Israel Registrar of Non-Profit Organizations, as required by Israeli law.
As a result, back on January 25, 2002, the registrar sent the ECF a strongly worded letter stating that “We are unable to provide the above non-profit organization with a permit stating that its books are in order for the year 2002.”
On June 2, 2002, Beillin’s spokesman, Mr. Uri Zakai, sent a fax to “Makor Rishon”, confirming that the ECF has indeed not yet submitted its books for the year 2000 and blamed it on technical reasons, promising that it would be taken care of by the end of the month.
Beillin, who had left his seat with the government of Israel and the Knesset, in March, 2001, when Sharon’s government took office, is today as the senior researcher for ECF. This, despite the fact that according to records of the ECF Beillin left the ECF back in 1995.
According to ECF Director of Projects, Ms. Avivit Bar-Am, the ECF coordinated a forum for 40 non-government Israeli organizations involved in all the components of negotiations with the Palestinians. According to Bar-Am, the ECF provides these non-government organizations with technical support and advice in fund raising. Under Beillin’s close supervision and directives, Beillin’s forum continues to meet and work with Palestinian colleagues throughout this entire period of conflict.
Rabbi Jeremy Milgrom, a member of the “Rabbis for Human Rights” and the liaison between the RHR and the ECF, notes that that Beillin’s forum meetings serve as “a moral encouragement for peace activists”.
Beillin uses this forum to advise the EU as to how to direct its funds for non-government organizations
EU documents examined by “Makor Rishon” showed that the EU uses Beillin as the ultimate decision-maker for the destination of the funding. One of these documents, From October, 1999, noted that Dr. Yossi Beillin had advised the EU to fund the “Four Mothers” organization, the seemingly spontaneous grass roots movement that. Organized the movement for Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon.
The ECF forum for Non-governmental organizations also works together with Israeli Arab organizations to communicate their concerns to the current Israeli prime Minister’s National Security Council. In a ECF protocol from June 5th, 2001, it is disclosed that the ECF forum serves as “the only channel for dialogue between Israeli Arab organizations and the Israeli prime minister”, going on to state that “Israeli Arabs feel more comfortable working with the ECF than directly with the National Security Council which is subjected to the prime minister.
So not only is Beillin a gatekeeper for the EU – he is also a gatekeeper and liason for PM Ariel Sharon.
One factor that allows for the ECF’s “non-government organizations forum” to function is that it does not appear on the PA’s non-government organization’s black list which boycotts many other Israeli non-government organizations.
Avivit Ish-Am reports that foundations often transfer funds to the ECF which are designated for Palestinian purposes, because they trust that the ECF will transfer the monies to their intended sources. This is a transparent maneuver designated to prevent monies reaching questionable sources in the PA. In this respect, Beillin is in fact, playing the role that the PA was supposed to play in the areas under their control.
The ECF operates in 4 main arenas:
- Policy planning and implementation. This relates to issues concerning the permanent status of the Palestinians. They deal with issues concerning refugees, security, settlements, borders, economy and Jerusalem.
- Crisis managing and prevention of crisis. In this respect, The CF serves as negotiator with leaders from both camps and operates as emissaries between Israel and the Palestinians. At a time of war and conflict, it is indeed unusual for a a private foundation should be engaged in such a role.
In this respect, the ECF takes credit with hammering out the wording of the Mitchell Report, which puts the onus of the outbreak of violence on Israel, even if it does not blame Sharon’s visit on the Temple Mount in September 2000 as the reason for the outbreak of violence. The Mitchell Report was compiled during the period that Beillin served as Justice Minister in Barak’s government, and issued while Sharon was prime minister, in May 2001.
- Planning the final status of the Palestinians, which is directed towards building a framework for peace following the signing of any formal agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
The ECF adopts European models of trans-border cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians. One example is the 1999 “Cooperation South” project between the municipalities of 70 cities from the Haifa region and Jenin. That ECF initiative is funded by the German government.
- The ECF deals with the internal issue of the Israeli Arabs. In cooperation with the Palestinians and Jordan, they are working on a long-term plan to integrate the Israeli Arabs as a national minority into Israeli society
In a taped interview with a foreign journalist in August 2001, Beillin affirmed that he initiates negotiations with the Palestinians on all levels even though he knows that that “there is no talk of peace” in the Arab society and that “there are no peace activists among the Palestinians”.
Beillin blames this state of affairs on the current political system of the PA. Nevertheless, Beillin believes that it is possible to simply overlook this fact, and it in no way stands in the way of his tireless efforts to continue with his peace initiatives together with Avraham Burg, who is among the founders and activists of ECF as well as Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.
At times, says Beillin, the work is done by himself and Burg while at other times they work in coordination with Peres.
EU sources confirm that Peres has advised the EU to fund ECF projects.
Beillin estimates that “it is unrealistic to wait for a cease fire in order to begin political negotiations”. Beillin goes further and openly states that he does not want the Labor government to wait for a cease fire and that he will continue to negotiate with the Palestinians even during continuous Palestinian terror attacks against Israel.
According to Beillin, the most important thing for him at this time is a return to the negotiating table. He states that the Israeli government’s policy not to negotiate under fire “is irrelevant” to him.
When asked what he would do in the scenario of Arafat forming a coalition with the Hamas and the Islamic jihad, Beillin states that this form of government would be an artificial one and might raise certain difficulties, but “will certainly not prevent me from continued cooperation with the PLO and the PA.”
In effect, the ECF is preparing background in all the areas of negotiations that the government of Israel is unwilling to deal with.
According to Ravid Druker, author of the best selling book “Ehud Barak – Test Results”, pg. 288: “The fear of dealing with ‘sacred cows’ created a situation where none of the official bodies of the government of Israel was able to deal with loaded issues such as refugees, dismantling settlements, Jerusalem, not to mention the ability to put a complete final solution on the negotiations table. The IDF, the GSS and the Foreign Ministry never dared to deal with these issues in depth… into this vacuum the ECF entered. Gilad Scher (Director of the prime minister’s office during Barak’s government) was employed in the past as one of the security specialists prepared by the ECF. His assistant, Gidi Greenstein was an ECF employee. A very unusual situation was created where a group of people outside of the establishment… had more influence on the negotiations than both the establishment and the GSS combined. Most of the Israeli work papers on the subject of refugees and Jerusalem were based, for instance, on the models and phrasing given by the ECF.”
Ravid also points at crucial projects of the ECF which continue to this day and influence the current state of negotiations.
“The ECF were able to produce a framework for regional security even after Ehud Barak’s exit from the political arena. The framework involves a discreet political cooperation between Jordan, Israel and the PA. Jordan sent senior ex-generals, and the negotiations took place under the full knowledge of King Abdullah. Representing the Israeli side were Yair Hirshfield and Ron Pundak who were joined by security men such as Colonel (res) Baruch Spiegal, who was the deputy coordinator of the Israeli government’s operations in the West Bank and Gaza. The Palestinians were also involved. The Belgium government sponsored and funded those meetings.”
The most astounding fact in all of this is that, according to Druker, the ECF reached an agreement with the differing parties in which they “agreed upon bringing in a international troops [to oversee a peace agreement].. and that according to the agreements, these troops will be made up of Europeans and Americans with a specific mandate given by the Security Council.”
Ravid’s investigations fit closely with the reality of Beillin’s meetings which took place throughout May, 2000, in London. Beillin, Burg, MK Naomi Chazan and former Chief of Staff Amnon Lipkin Shachaff met with senior PLO officials and the PA in London and in Dublin and continued to lay out a framework involving all the issues concerning the present negotiations.
Ravid Druker reveals in his book that under Barak’s government, Beillin sought after the Foreign Minister office for himself. Although he had to make do with Justice Minister it would seem that Beillin has annointed himself as the self-nominated Foreign Minister of Israel dealing in delicate and far reaching negotiations which have serious implications for the people of Israel who have never elected him to office.
Beillin regularly enters areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority to negotiate with Arafat and other PA officials there, even though the area is a defined as a closed military zone and even though Beillin is neither a member of the Israeli government or the Israeli Knesset.
The Israel Ministry of Defence, under the control of Israel Labor Party Leader Ben Eliezer and the GSS, under the control of Prime Minister Sharon, have done nothing to muzzle Beillin or to stop him from conducting his negotiations.
The question remains: to whom is Beillin beholden?
Translated from Makor Rishon, June 7, 2002