The ECF was founded ten years ago by Yossi Beilin, and initially registered at the address of Dr. Yair Hirschberg. The ECF charter states that its purpose is to facilitate the intervention of the EU in any future peace process between Israelis, Jordanians and Palestinians. Not assistance. Intervention.
The ECF, working with the funding of the EU, was the initiator of the Oslo peace talks, as well as the informal understanding that was reached between Yossi Beilin and Abu Mazen.
Yossi Beilin, who has left the Israeli government and Knesset, now introduces himself as a senior researcher within the ECF.
That is despite the fact that ECF records show that Beilin resigned from the ECF back in 1995.
Perhaps that is why Beilin opened a second ECF office, not far from the registered ECF office.
It may soon be the job of the Israel Register of Non-Profit Organizations to determine if Beilin is keeping a system of double-book keeping.
The ECF coordinates a forum for about forty NGO’s that are involved with any and all aspects of the negotiating process with the PLO. ECF provides these 35 to 40 NGO’s with technical support and fund-raising services, according to Aviv Is-Am, the Project Director of the ECF. Under Beilin’s direction and guidance, these NGO’s have been meeting all through the current intifada and to work with Palestinian counterparts.
Rabbi Jeremy Milgrom, field director for “Rabbis for Human Rights” and liaison between the “Rabbis for Human Rights” and the ECF, stated that that these meetings have provided a “moral boost for the peace activists”
Beilin uses this forum as a way to consolidate EU funding for NGO’s. From documents that we have examined, we learn that the EU uses Beilin as a referent for funding.
Not surprisingly, the ECF “Forum for Peace NGO’s” are not on the PNGO (Palestinian NGO) black list of banned Israeli NGO’s.
According to Avivit Ish-Am, the ECF is supported by donations world wide, With donations coming in from Belgium, Denmark, Britain, Holland and Italy.
One of the groups supporting the ECF is the “Christian foundation of Holland”, which also sponsors “LAW”, the virulent lobby of the PLO.
Avivit Ish-Am reports that foundations often give money to the ECF destined for Palestinian causes, because they trust that the ECF to hand over the money to the right people. This is a transparent move designed to prevent money from winding up in questionable P.A. accounts.
In this respect, Beilin actually plays a role that the P.A. was supposed to play for the areas under P.A. control.
The ECF also receives money from foundations in Europe, the United States and Canada. Among the foundations sponsoring the ECF are the Ford Foundation, which maintains close contact with the US state department, and with the Kahanoff Foundation, which is associated with the Hertzog family in Canada.
While ECF is registered as an Israeli organization and doesn’t have offices outside of Israel, the ECF works closely with the Israel office of the Ebert Foundation, the political foundation of the SPD leftwing political party in Germany.
The ECF works on four general issues. The first is policy planning and policy Implementation. This section is concerned with issues respective to a permanent status with the Palestinians. They work on a long term basis. They deal with planning matters concerning refugees, security, settlements, border, economy and Jerusalem.
The second issue is crisis management and crisis prevention. In this respect, the ECF acts as a go-between with leaders of both sides and act as messengers between Israel and the Palestinians. [At a time of open war and conflict, one wonders whether a private foundation should play such a role.]
In this context, the ECF was actively involved in wording the Mitchell Report, which places the blame for the outbreak of rioting entirely on the shoulders on the state of Israel, even if the Mitchell report did not specifically note that Arik Sharon’s Temple Mount visit did not spark the violence. It should be noted that the Mitchell Report was written while Beilin was the Israel Minister of Justice, and submitted after the Barak defeat to the Sharon administration.
The third issue is permanent status planning, designed to build a structure to build and maintain a peace after agreements are signed between Israel and the Palestinians.
The ECF is adapting European models of cross country cooperation for Israel and the Palestinians. One example is the 1999 “Cooperation North” between the municipalities of 70 towns in the Haifa and Jenin area. This aspect of the ECF program is funded by the German government.
The fourth issue that the ECF deals with is the already mentioned internal issue of Israeli Arabs. In working with Palestinians and Jordanians, they are working on a long term plan on how fully include Israeli Arabs into Israeli society. The ECF works as an advisor to the head of the municipal organization of the Arabs in Israel, the mayor of Jaffa and head of the monitoring group of Arabs in Israel.
Asked if there was talk about resuming peace talks within Palestinian society, Yossi Beilin acknowledged that he was instigating negotiations on all levels, while admitting that there was no talk about peace in Arab society and that no mirror image in Palestinian society exists to parallel Israeli peace activism.
Beilin blamed this on the kind of is conscious that peace as a subject can not develop with the kind of political system that the Palestinians have. Nevertheless he thinks that it is possible to simply ignore the fact that there is no corresponding political discourse in the Palestinian society and still no push for peace.
Beilin said that this does not prevent him from working on these peace initiatives, together with Avraham Burg, who was a founding and still active member of ECF, and with Shimon Peres. Burg is the leading candidate to win the race for Labor Party leadership on September 4th.
Sometimes, Beilin says, the work is done in a bilateral fashion between Burg and Beilin, sometimes among the three of them, with Burg, Beilin and Peres making decisions.
Yossi Beilin’s assessment is that it is unrealistic to wait for a cease fire to start talks. Beilin openly states that he does not want the Israel Labor Party to wait for a cease fire and that he will continue to negotiate, even though terror attacks may continue
Yossi Beilin’s perspective is that while negotiations may be halted for some time, getting them back on the negotiating table is the most important thing to achieve for him at the moment. And Beilin says that the politics of an Israeli government policy that there should be no negotiation under fire, are not relevant to him.
Asked about what will happen if Yassir Arafat builds a unity government with Hamas and Jihad, Beilin simply states that such a government is artificial and may make things a bit difficult, but that this would certainly not prevent him from continuing his cooperation with the PLO and the Palestinian Authority.
Tenacity is the middle name of Yossi Beilin.