While this three-day symposium [at AJ Committee — with Yehoshua] was going on in Washington, Ehud Olmert was introducing his new government in Jerusalem. Most newsworthy are the two of the five new Labor ministers, Amir Peretz, minister of defense and Yuli Tamir, minister of education.
Peretz confronts a large group of army officers and bureaucrats who have been coddling and cooperating with the settlers for decades They are accustomed to running the West Bank arbitrarily and no one dared question their decisions. Here is one small example of what Peretz is up against:
A couple of Saturdays ago, the Jewish settlers in Maon, south of Hebron, wearing masks, attacked Israeli soldiers who were escorting 18 Arab kids to the regional school in at-Tawani. .
On the following Saturday, Peace Now received the army’s permission to send two busloads of peaceniks to a demonstration in at-Tawani. At Gush Etzion junction the buses were stopped.
“Since we gave permission, the area has been declared a closed military zone,” the Peace Now demonstrators were told. “You cannot proceed.”
Ran Cohen, a Meretz M.K., was on one of the buses. He called Peretz who must have raised the roof with his army subordinates. After an hour the buses were allowed to continue on their journey and hold their demonstration.
Brigadier General Ilan Paz, who recently retired after 28 years in the army, seven of which were in the West Bank. commented:
“For 18 months the settlers in Maon have been harassing kids passing their farm on their way to school. Now they are attacking their army escort. How many residents are there in Maon Farm, Can’t they be stopped?”
Peretz made one very important decision on May 16. He reopened the Karni crossing to Palestinian goods and produce. It had been closed for months which prevented the export of the fruit and vegetables grown in the former Jewish hothouses.
“Our war is against terror and not the residents of Gaza,” he announced.
As for minister of education Yuli Tamir, …. she has inherited a peculiar situation with the four Jewish-Arab bilingual schools. All of them have an equal number of Jewish and Arab students but three are classified as Jewish and one comes under the section for Arab schools.
I have written her a letter pointing out that the Dovrat Report last year recommended that the Ministry further develop Jewish-Arab education. Her Likud predecessor ignored the recommendation. I urged that she follow it and as a first step she inaugurate a Jewish-Arab Department for the four existing schools and develop new ones in mixed towns such as Jaffa, Haifa and Akko,
I’ll let you know what she replies.