Categorized | Middle East



Just 4 items this evening, since 2 are fairly long. 

Item 1 informs us  that “Over the past three years, the State Department has allocated $392 million to the Dayton mission, with another $150 million requested for 2011.13”—the Dayton mission being to build and train the Palestinian security forces.  Why, one wonders, does America with its own serious economic issues continue to sink so much money into producing more military and force in this blood-soaked region. 

And, Ethan Bronner in item 2, Why America Chases an Israeli-Palestinian Peace, quotes a top Israeli intelligence official who says that without peace the Palestinian security system might not remain what it is being trained to be.  Is it the purpose of the U.S. to stir more wars here, with an Israeli army facing a Palestinian one?

Item 3 relates that education in Israel is so poor due in part to classes of 40 youngsters that students whose families can pay the price send their children to private tutors, sometimes with the recommendations of their school teachers.  Where does this leave those who cannot afford to pay for private lessons?  Right.  At the bottom of the barrel.

Item 4 informs us that Jerusalem’s mayor does not obey the law.  And does anyone do anything about it?  Not at all.  The argument that it is right to demolish Palestinian homes because they were built without permits doesn’t  hold, because Israel seldom gives Palestinians permits to build at all.

Good reading,



[Forwarded by David McReynolds]

The New York Review of Books


Our Man in Palestine

By Nathan Thrall


Lieutenant General Keith Dayton (right), the US security coordinator for Israel and the Palestinian Authority, with Brigadier General Munir al-Zoubi, commander of the Palestinian Presidential Guard, the elite force that protects top officials and guests,


On August 31, the night before President Obama’s dinner inaugurating direct talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders, Hamas gunmen shot and killed four Jewish settlers in Hebron, the West Bank’s largest and most populous governorate. The attack—the deadliest against Israeli citizens in more than two years—was condemned by Palestinian and Israeli officials, who said that it was meant to thwart the upcoming negotiations. According to a Hamas spokesman, however, the shooting had a more specific purpose: to demonstrate the futility of the recent cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian security forces. This cooperation has reached unprecedented levels under the quiet direction of a three-star US Army general, Keith Dayton, who has been commanding a little-publicized American mission to build up Palestinian security forces in the West Bank.1


Referred to by Hamas as “the Dayton forces,” the Palestinian security services are formally under the authority of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president and chairman of Hamas’s rival, Fatah; but they are, in practice, controlled by Salam Fayyad, the unelected prime minister, a diminutive, mild-mannered technocrat. Abbas appointed Fayyad following Hamas’s grim takeover of Gaza in June 2007—which occurred seventeen months after the Islamist party won the January 2006 parliamentary elections—and entrusted him with preventing Hamas from also seizing the West Bank.


Fayyad received a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Texas at Austin and held positions at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, the World Bank, and the IMF before becoming finance minister under President Yasser Arafat. His reputation as a fiscally responsible and trustworthy manager ensures the steady supply of international aid on which the Palestinian economy depends. Though he has neither a popular following nor backing from a large political party (his Third Way list received a mere 2.4 percent of the votes in the 2006 legislative elections), today he is responsible for nearly every aspect of Palestinian governance. Yet he is not participating in the negotiations over a settlement with Israel, which are the province of the PLO (of whose leadership Fayyad is not a member) and are handled by its chairman, the seventy-five-year-old Abbas.


Fayyad is criticized at home for many of the same reasons he is lauded abroad. He has condemned violence against Israel as antithetical to his people’s national aspirations, stated that Palestinian refugees could be resettled not in Israel but in a future Palestinian state, and suggested that this state would offer citizenship to Jews.2 He is praised in the opinion pages of The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times, and has good relations with foreign leaders unpopular in Palestine: on Fayyad’s first visit to the Oval Office, in 2003, George W. Bush greeted him with index and pinky fingers extended to display UT Austin’s “Hook ‘em Horns” sign. When the daughter of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s chief of staff was married several years ago, Fayyad sat next to Sharon at the wedding and talked with him at length.3



In February, Fayyad spoke before Israel’s security establishment at the annual Herzliya Conference, where he was compared by Israeli President Shimon Peres to David Ben-Gurion.4 Much of Fayyad’s speech concerned his ambitious plan, made public in late August 2009, to establish unilaterally a de facto Palestinian state by August 2011. By that time, according to Fayyad, “the reality of [a Palestinian] state will impose itself on the world.”5 Fayyad’s plan to “build” a state—he does not say he will declare one—has been endorsed by the Quartet (the US, EU, UN, and Russian Federation) and supported eagerly by international donors.


Some Palestinians have rejected it as too closely resembling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s notion of “economic peace,” which proposes that development precede independence. And a number of Israelis have expressed suspicions that Palestine will seek UN recognition of its statehood when the plan is complete. Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli foreign minister, has warned that any unilateral steps Fayyad takes toward a state could prompt Israel to annul past agreements and annex parts of the West Bank.6


Fayyad has said that his plan to build a new state “is intended to generate pressure” on Israeli–Palestinian negotiations, and the direct talks recently started by the two parties have a late summer 2011 deadline that coincides with Fayyad’s.7 Mike Herzog, former chief of staff to Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, told me, “Ultimately, I think Fayyad calculates that political negotiations will not succeed and his plan [to establish a state] will be the only game in town.” The danger, for Israel and the Palestinian Authority alike, is what will happen if negotiations fail and Fayyad’s plan does not produce significant concessions from Israel. “We are not going to withdraw from certain areas just because there was a declaration or a UN resolution,” Herzog said. In that event Hamas will be able to present a persuasive argument that violence is the only means of achieving national liberation. “Fayyad sets an arbitrary date and says, ‘Okay, now all of you break your heads if you want to avoid a catastrophe,’” Herzog said. “What he did is very risky but also very smart.”


So far, Fayyad’s strategy is succeeding. His administration has started more than one thousand development projects, which include paving roads, planting trees, digging wells, and constructing new buildings, most prominently in the twin cities of Ramallah and al-Bireh.8 He has reduced dependence on foreign aid and started to carry out plans to build new hospitals, classrooms, courthouses, industrial parks, housing, and even a new city, Rawabi, between Ramallah and Nablus. But “reforming the security forces,” Ghassan Khatib, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority, told me, “is the main and integral part of the Fayyad plan. Many of the government’s other successes, such as economic growth, came as a result.”


To its citizens, Fayyad’s government has presented reform of the police and other security forces as principally a matter of providing law and order—apprehending criminal gangs, consolidating competing security services, forbidding public displays of weapons, and locating stolen cars. But its program for “counterterrorism”—which is directed mainly against Hamas and viewed by many Palestinians as collaboration with Israel—is its most important element: targeting Hamas members and suspected sympathizers is intended to reduce the likelihood of a West Bank takeover and, as important, helps Fayyad make a plausible case that he is in control and that Israel can safely withdraw from the territory.


In 2009, Palestinian and Israeli forces took part in 1,297 coordinated activities, many of them against militant Palestinian groups, a 72 percent increase over the previous year.9 Together they have largely disbanded the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a principal Fatah militia; attacked Islamic Jihad cells; and all but eliminated Hamas’s social institutions, financial arrangements, and military activities in the West Bank.


According to the latest annual report of the Shin Bet, Israel’s FBI, “continuous [counterterrorist] activity conducted by Israel and the Palestinian security apparatuses” reduced Palestinian attacks against Israelis in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to their lowest numbers since 2000.10 Today’s level of cooperation, Herzog said, “is better than before the second intifada even—it’s excellent.” Mouna Mansour, a Hamas legislator in the Palestinian Parliament and widow of an assassinated senior leader of the movement, told me, “The PA has succeeded more than the Israelis in crushing Hamas in the West Bank.”


At the center of the Palestinian government’s security reforms are several “special battalions” of the National Security Forces (NSF), an eight-thousand-member gendarmerie that makes up the largest unit of the 25,000-strong Palestinian armed forces in the West Bank.11 The officer in charge of the vetting, training, equipping, and strategic planning of these special battalions is Lieutenant General Keith Dayton, the United States security coordinator (USSC) for Israel and the Palestinian Authority.


In a desert town sixteen miles southeast of Amman, more than three thousand Palestinians have completed nineteen-week military courses under Dayton’s supervision at the Jordan International Police Training Center, built with American funds in 2003 for the instruction of Iraqi police. In Hebron, Jenin, Jericho, and Ramallah, the Dayton mission is organizing the construction and renovation of garrisons, training colleges, facilities for the Interior Ministry, and security headquarters—some of which, like the one I visited on a hilltop in central Hebron, were destroyed by Israel during the second intifada. The office of the USSC plans to build new camps in Bethlehem, Ramallah, Tubas, and Tulkarm. It offers two-month leadership courses to senior PA officers, and has created and appointed advisers to a Strategic Planning Directorate in the Ministry of Interior.12 Over the past three years, the State Department has allocated $392 million to the Dayton mission, with another $150 million requested for 2011.13


At its headquarters in a nineteenth-century stone building at the US consulate in West Jerusalem, the USSC has a forty-five-person core staff composed primarily of American and Canadian but also British and Turkish military officers. In addition, it employs twenty-eight private contractors from the Virginia-based DynCorp International.14 State Department rules require the mission’s US government staff to travel only in large, heavily armored convoys, though these restrictions do not apply to its private security contractors and foreign military officers, some of whom are based in Ramallah. By late 2011—a date that dovetails with Fayyad’s deadline—the USSC plans to have supervised the training of ten NSF battalions, one for every West Bank governorate except Jerusalem.15


General Dayton reports to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He advises George Mitchell, special envoy for Middle East peace, and has been praised by influential senators, congressmen, and Middle East analysts, who view the work of the USSC as a singular achievement.16 Israel has granted greater responsibility to Palestinian security forces, expanding their geographical areas of operation, sharing higher-quality intelligence with them, and lifting their midnight-to-five-AM curfews in several of the largest West Bank cities.17 According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Israel has also reduced the travel time between most urban centers in the West Bank by opening roads, relaxing controls at checkpoints, lifting vehicle permit requirements, and removing physical obstacles, which are expected to be reduced in the near future to their lowest number since 2005.18


Colonel Philip J. Dermer, a former member of the USSC, wrote in a March 2010 report circulated among senior White House and military staff that “the USSC mission has arguably achieved more progress on the ground than any other US effort in Israeli- Palestinian peacemaking”19 Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, has said, “You can send George Mitchell back and forth to the Middle East as much as you like, but expanding what [General] Dayton is doing in the security realm to other sectors of Palestinian governance and society is really the only viable model for progress.”20


The first United States security coordinator, Lieutenant General William “Kip” Ward, arrived in Jerusalem in March 2005. Elliott Abrams, formerly the deputy national security adviser to President George W. Bush, told me that Ward’s mission was organized in response to three closely coinciding events: the reelection, in November 2004, of Bush, who wanted to rebuild Palestinian security forces as a part of his 2003 road map to Middle East peace; the death, nine days later, of Yasser Arafat, who had resisted American attempts to reform the Palestinian security services; and the victory of America’s favored candidate, Mahmoud Abbas, in the January 2005 presidential election.


1. For an excellent report on Palestinian security reform, see ” Squaring the Circle: Palestinian Security Reform Under Occupation ,” International Crisis Group, September 7, 2010. ↩


2. “Fayyad: Jews Can Be Equal Citizens in a Palestinian State,” Haaretz , July 5, 2009. ↩


3. For an example of the sort of approbation Fayyad receives, see several recent columns by Roger Cohen, who has called Fayyad “the most important phenomenon in the Middle East,” and Thomas Friedman, who has coined a term for the prime minister’s brand of “transparent, accountable administration and services”—”Fayyadism”—which he thinks “the most exciting new idea in Arab governance ever.” Roger Cohen, “Beating the Mideast’s Black Hole,” The International Herald Tribune , April 27, 2010; Thomas Friedman, “Green Shoots in Palestine,” The New York Times , August 4, 2009. ↩


4. Akiva Eldar, “A Day in the Life of the Palestinian Ben-Gurion,” Haaretz , February 11, 2010. ↩


5. Fadi Elsalameen, ” Fayyad: ‘Build, Build Despite the Occupation ,'” The Palestine Note , July 30, 2010. ↩


6. Merav Michaeli, “Lieberman: Israel’s Gestures to Palestinians Met with ‘Slaps in the Face,'” Haaretz , May 13, 2010. ↩


7. Fadi Elsalameen, “Fayyad: ‘Build, Build Despite the Occupation.'” ↩


8. Much has been made of a report by the International Monetary Fund stating that real GDP in the West Bank grew by 8.5 percent in 2009. For a source arguing that the IMF’s report of West Bank economic growth is greatly exaggerated, see Bassim S. Khoury, ” Putting the Palestinian ‘Carriage Behind the Horse ,'”, July 1, 2010. ↩


9. ” Measures Taken by Israel in Support of Developing the Palestinian Economy, the Socio-Economic Structure, and the Security Reforms ,” Report of the Government of Israel to the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, April 13, 2010. ↩


10. “2009 Annual Summary—Data and Trends in Palestinian Terrorism,” Israeli Security Agency, 2009. See also previous Israeli Security Agency reports and ” Four Years of Conflict: Israel’s War Against Terrorism ,” Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, October 3, 2004. ↩


11. On the size of the NSF, see the estimates made in “Palestinian Authority: US Assistance Is Training and Equipping Security Forces, but the Program Needs to Measure Progress and Faces Logistical Constraints,” Government Accountability Office, May 2010; and “Squaring the Circle: Palestinian Security Reform Under Occupation.” The number used in this piece falls between the figures provided in those two reports and represents a slight adjustment, presented to me by a spokesman for EUPOL COPPS (the European Union Police Mission for the Palestinian Territories) in April 2010, of a previous estimate made by US officials. See ” West Bank: Palestinian Security Forces ,” US Security Coordination Road Warrior Team, June 2008. ↩


12. These courses are open to members of each of the seven security services: the National Security Forces, Presidential Guard, Civil Police, Civil Defense, and three intelligence services—Military Intelligence, General Intelligence, and Preventive Security. ↩


13. “Palestinian Authority: US Assistance Is Training and Equipping Security Forces, but the Program Needs to Measure Progress and Faces Logistical Constraints.” ↩


14. “Palestinian Authority: US Assistance Is Training and Equipping Security Forces, but the Program Needs to Measure Progress and Faces Logistical Constraints.” ↩


15. The State Department, however, expects the forces to be deployed in only nine governorates, with one battalion as a reserve force. (The PA security sector treats the governorates of Jenin and Tubas as a single unit.) See “US Security Assistance to the Palestinian Authority,” Congressional Research Service, January 8, 2010; and “Squaring the Circle,” International Crisis Group, September 7, 2010, p. 11. ↩


16. Dayton served alongside the national security adviser, General James Jones, who was special envoy for Middle East security in 2007–2008; wrote a glowing blurb for a recent book coauthored by Dennis Ross, a senior director at the National Security Council and special adviser to the President; and has given presentations to influential senators, congressmen, and interest groups visiting Israel. ↩


17. “Squaring the Circle: Palestinian Security Reform Under Occupation.” ↩


18. ” West Bank Movement and Access Update ,” United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Occupied Palestinian Territory, June 2010. ↩


19. Colonel Philip J. Dermer, “Trip Notes on a Return to Israel and the West Bank: Reflections on US Peacemaking, the Security Mission, and What Should Be Done,” Journal of Palestine Studies , Vol. 39, No. 3 (Spring 2010). ↩


20. James Kitfield, “United They Fall; Divided They Stand,” National Journal , March 28, 2009. ↩


2. New York Times,

November 20, 2010


Why America Chases an Israeli-Palestinian Peace




JERUSALEM — Lt. Gen. Keith W. Dayton, who left Israel last month after overseeing the training of Palestinian security forces for five years, liked to tell the story of his first assignment in the Middle East. Charged with locating Iraq’s elusive weapons of mass destruction after Saddam Hussein was deposed in 2003, General Dayton found no weapons but kept coming upon something else inside Iraqi military barracks — drawings of Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem being squeezed by a serpent labeled Israel.


He was amazed to see that hundreds of miles from the Holy Land, the Arab-Israeli dispute felt so immediate and significant.


In trying to understand the unrelenting American effort to keep alive talks between Israel and the Palestinians — this last week produced the image of the Obama administration chasing the Israeli government with an enticement of more fighter jets — it is worth standing in General Dayton’s boots for a moment.


From there one can see why, in many ways, the United States feels a greater urgency and drive for the peace talks than do the Palestinians and Israelis themselves. Here, neither side believes the other is serious about real compromise and each actively cultivates a sense of historic victimhood. Washington, by contrast, deeply believes that ending this conflict is the key to unlocking its own regional strategic dilemmas.


“Every American ambassador in the region knows that official meetings with Arab leaders start with the obligatory half-hour lecture on the Palestinian question,” said a senior American diplomat who has spent his career in the Middle East and asked not to be identified to protect his work. “If we could dispense with that half-hour and get down to our other business, we might actually be able to get something done.”


For the past week, the Obama administration has been trying to lure Israel into a 90-day freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank so that the Palestinians will return to direct talks broken off when the last freeze ended in September.


To get the next freeze, an earlier offer to sell Israel 20 fighter jets has been sweetened to include a gift of 20 more (buy one, get one free). In addition, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has offered Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu specific assurances of diplomatic support over the next year, all to facilitate efforts to reach a final deal with the Palestinians that many suspect will fail, as such efforts have for the past 17 years.


It is worth noting that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has been largely drained of deadly violence in the past few years. Moreover, the Palestinians are increasingly divided between the Fatah-led West Bank and the Hamas-led Gaza, and the Israeli government is dominated by pro-settler politicians largely opposed to a Palestinian state. In other words, the dispute is calmer than it has been in years, which, in the brutal logic of the Middle East, means that neither side is eager right now for the necessary compromises. So why push so hard?


The answer has a number of levels, but the most important is this: The United States believes that if it can end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, its fraught relationship with the Muslim world will greatly improve, thereby allowing America to accomplish much that is currently eluding it in places like Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan, not to mention easing its role as the prime guarantor of Israel’s own security.


Gen. James L. Jones, who stepped down recently as President Obama’s national security adviser, often told visitors that if he had to pick one foreign policy issue to tackle, it would be the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, because its resolution would help with all the others.


Gen. David H. Petraeus, who oversaw American war efforts in Iraq and now in Afghanistan, told Congress this year that the lack of progress in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict created a hostile environment for the United States in the region.


The idea isn’t that the Americans would walk away from Israeli, their staunch ally, or see its vital interests undercut in a peace settlement. The idea is that if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were resolved, anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world would diminish, American prospects in its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would brighten, and Arab governments would find it easier to cooperate with Washington as it seeks to blunt Iranian ambitions.


Many Israelis dismiss this as a form of magical thinking.


“Let’s play a mind game,” suggested Mark Heller, a researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University. “Let’s assume that you’ve resolved the conflict or that Israel has disappeared or that Israel and the United States are now enemies. Will the Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq suddenly start making love? Will the Sunnis, Shiites and Christians in Lebanon get together? Will it end the oppression of Christians in Egypt? Will it raise the status of women or put an end to the use of violence as a political weapon in the Muslim world? It’s a total illusion.”


There are many illusions at work in this region. The founding charter of Hamas states that after Palestine, the Jews seek to conquer all land between the Nile and the Euphrates. A significant portion of Muslims believe that Israel carried out the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Extremist Jewish settlers believe that if they hold firm, the millions of Palestinians around them will leave their land.


In such an atmosphere, negotiations for peace inevitably require a leap of faith. But while these negotiations may carry a real risk of failure, taking that risk seems far preferable to giving in to the fear that the conflict has no end. American insistence on pushing for this deal at this moment is based on other specific factors as well.


While lower-level Israeli officials have embarrassed the Obama administration this year with ill-timed announcements about housing construction on contested land in East Jerusalem, Israel has also made clear that it knows that a strong Washington on its side is central to its security. A weakened or humiliated United States is not viewed here as in Israel’s interest. That is the main reason that a year ago Mr. Netanyahu froze most settlement building in the West Bank for 10 months — Mr. Obama had made such a point of asking for it.


On July 4, Israel’s president, Shimon Peres, spoke at an American Independence Day celebration in Israel. He told of the time David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s founding prime minister, first met John F. Kennedy in 1961, days before he was inaugurated as president.


Kennedy asked Ben-Gurion how he could help Israel. “The best thing you can do for Israel,” Mr. Peres said Ben-Gurion replied, “is be a great president of the United States.” A strong America is vital for Israel, he added.


Beyond this, there is another reason the Obama administration is putting such effort into ending this dispute. Mr. Netanyahu has convinced key members of the administration that he really does want a deal and that, ruling from the right, he has the political clout to carry it off. American officials are also convinced that the current Palestinian leadership of President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is more oriented toward negotiations and diplomacy than any other in Palestinian history. Both have repeatedly renounced violence.


One more factor: The administration knows that there is a point beyond which the creation of a Palestinian state will become unachievable — when so many Israeli settlers are spread over so much West Bank land that it will simply no longer be feasible to carve out a viable state. Some argue that with 300,000 settlers, that point has already been reached; all agree that it is not far away.


Finally, there is future violence. Ten years ago, when peace talks led by President Bill Clinton at Camp David fell apart, the second Palestinian uprising broke out, leading to exploding buses, suicide bombings and harsh Israeli countermeasures. Thousands — most of them Palestinians — were killed.


Israeli military and intelligence officials say that while the forces General Dayton helped train are the most professional Palestinian security men ever, their discipline and professionalism could break down without the prospect of an independent state.



“If there will not be real progress, I believe we can find that some time within three months, six months or one year from now, that the functioning of the Palestinian security system is in a very different place,” a top Israeli intelligence official told a group of foreign correspondents last week, speaking without attribution, as is the common practice of intelligence officials here. “In order to keep the legitimacy and functioning of the Palestinian security system, we need real progress in the peace process.”



3.  The lowly level of teaching at Israeli schools, the unbearable physical and crowded conditions, and the lack of discipline push local students into the arms of private tutors. The industry is flourishing, while further boosting the gaps between Israel’s haves and have-nots. 


The data again places Israel at the bottom of the list among Western nations. Some 42% of seventh and eighth grade students and 38% of fifth and sixth grade students require the help of private tutors for at least one of the core subjects (math, Hebrew, science or technology.) The figures are commensurate with a report released about a year ago by Professor Dan Ben David, which showed that 38% of Israel’s junior high students need to supplement their math studies with at least four hours of extracurricular work. The average in OECD countries is much lower and stands at 15%. 


The phenomenon has greatly expanded in recent years, with students turning to private tutors in subjects such as history, literature, and Bible as well. The utilization of tutors has even gained a foothold among young children, with many parents arranging private lessons for their preschoolers.


Crowded Israeli classroom (Photo: George Ginsburg)


“I usually arrange my week so that on Sunday I have an English lesson, on Wednesday a math lesson, and on Thursday a Hebrew lesson – but next week I have a math test, so I decided to focus on one subject only and took math lessons almost every day.” This is the normal routine adopted by Shir, an 11th grade student from an upscale community in the Jerusalem area. 


When he studied in elementary school, Shir was embarrassed to admit that he uses private tutors. In recent years, not only has the shame disappeared, but students boast of being able to arrange lessons with the most prominent teachers. “We talk to each other during breaks and recommend which teachers should be hired and who can teach in a fun way,” he says. “During class we barely listen, both because it’s hard to concentrate for so many hours and also because we know that we have no reason to make an effort – in any case, we’ll review the material in a peaceful atmosphere with our private tutor.” 


‘This is the norm’

Officials at Shir’s school encourage weaker students to enroll in extracurricular classes and even recommend prominent teachers. A similar situation prevails in the high school where Liat, a recent graduate, studied. “It was clear that in class you can’t really study, and those who want good grades need to pay money and sit one-on-one with a private tutor,” she says. 


Under the current circumstances, Israeli parents understand there is no other choice. “I don’t trust the education system and I’m unwilling to have my girls fall behind,” says Yael, a mother of two daughters in grades 12 and six from Tel Aviv. “My young daughter studies algebra, and in classes of 40 students it’s impossible to understand the material. I’m not waiting for her to fail; I went ahead and paid for a private tutor.” 


Miguel Herf, the chairman of the parents’ association in the town of Modiin, pays NIS 150 (roughly $40) per hour for private lessons in Hebrew for his son. “To my regret, today this is the norm, whereby parents who can afford it pay for private lessons. This is a wrong, twisted method, yet the level of education at schools is incommensurate with the needs. No parents agree to have their child stay behind, as matriculation grades are the entry ticket to university…the wealthier the parents, the higher their children’s chances to excel in their studies.” 


“Free education is the greatest joke there is,” says Dudi Feliser, formerly the parents’ association chairman in the city of Rehovot. “We, the parents, buy with our money our children’s achievements via private lessons. Every year, schools boast of rising grades in matriculation grades, yet it’s a bold lie. They are in fact taking pride in the money we paid. If they checked the level of knowledge only based on studies at school the results would be grim.” 


‘Rich parents, high grades’

The growing trend is being encouraged by school teachers too, “who understand that in a classroom of 40 students they have no chance to reach everyone, and there will always be those who fall behind,” as one northern Israel teacher says. Many teachers recommend colleagues from other schools as private tutors. “Private lessons have turned into a built-in feature in the system in recent years, and it’s taken for granted that a student who enrolls in intense math or physics studies will pay for a private tutor.”


The rising demand for private lessons mostly attests to the lack of parental faith in the public education system, where “teachers function less as an education official and more as a social worker, psychologist, and police officer because of the discipline problems,” says Dr. Marita Barabash, deputy president of the Ahava education college. According to a Ynet inspection, the per-hour tutoring fee for the most desirable subjects (English, math, physics and chemistry) ranges between NIS 100 (roughly $30) for a professional tutor during the school year and NIS 200 (roughly $60) during the matriculation exam period. With such rates, it is no wonder that children from lower socioeconomic strata fall far behind.


Beersheba resident Mazal recounts her own experience: “My daughter completed her studies a year ago and I had no possibility to help her. I work part time and my husband makes a living through an income supplement. Private lessons for my girl were out of the question. Thankfully, city hall helped us and provided my daughter with extra help that enabled her to complete her studies with a full high school diploma. 


Shalom Barbi, the deputy chairman of the parents’ association in Dimona, cannot afford private lessons for his daughters. “Here in Dimona, only the children of the wealthy have money for private tutors. The other residents are simply forced to tell their children they can’t have lessons. Many of us don’t speak English, so for lack of other choice I turned to our neighbors from the Black Hebrew community and asked them to help my children with English lessons. It’s very important for me to have my daughters succeed in their studies, but I need to provide for my family, and with my salary there is no way I can afford a private tutor. Those who have rich parents have high grades.”


4.  Jerusalem Post,

November 21, 2010 Sunday    


 Analysis: Barkat still seeks ways to save Beit Yehonatan





Jerusalem mayor attempts to sidestep Attorney General in drive to save Silwan structure illegally built by right-wing families. 



Not for the first time, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat is trying to ignore explicit instructions from an attorney-general or a state attorney to execute a court order to seal up the illegally built Beit Yehonatan apartment building in Silwan and evacuate its occupants.


This time the victim of Barkat’s wiles is the new attorney- general, Yehuda Weinstein.


He has already succeeded in tap-dancing past former attorney-general Menahem Mazuz and current State Attorney Moshe Lador, not to mention the law, by ignoring their orders as well.


On Wednesday, Weinstein told Barkat and the Jerusalem District Police in no uncertain terms that Beit Yehonatan must be sealed up and its occupants evicted at an “early date.”


The idea is anathema to Barkat. From the day he entered office in 2008, the mayor has been doing everything possible to save the structure built illegally by right-wing families seeking to increase the Jewish presence in the neighborhood, part of which is located on the biblical site of the City of David.


Weinstein tried to assuage Barkat by adding in his letter that the mayor should also identify Palestinian buildings in Silwan guilty of gross building violations and take action against them as well. Not only would this demonstrate that justice is blind, but it would also comfort right-wing supporters of Beit Yehonatan who have accused the attorney-general of showing favoritism to the Arabs, who have built many more illegal structures.


But in a reply to Weinstein sent shortly after Barkat received the attorney-general’s letter, the mayor, somewhat obliquely, indicated that he had other ideas altogether. The municipality, under Barkat, has drawn up new plans for Gan Hamelech, the site of the biblical garden of King Solomon in the southeast corner of Silwan, and for the densely populated, old village center of Silwan on the western slope of the hill, where Beit Yehonatan is located.


His idea is to rezone the two areas, register the ownership of the land and the houses, including those built without permits and demolish only those illegal ones standing in the way of badly needed, modern infrastructure, including roads. The plan for Gan Hamelech calls for removing the roughly 110 illegal structures currently occupying the land, building a new housing, commercial and tourism project for all the squatters on about half of the original garden and creating an archeological park in the other half.


But Barkat has made his development plans conditional on the fact that the state prosecution agrees to suspend all demolition orders, or seal orders in the case of Beit Yehonatan, from start to finish of the planning process, which could take many years and may never succeed. The state prosecution has agreed to treat all requests to stay demolition orders sympathetically but refuses to commit itself to a total moratorium.


As long as it does not, Beit Yehonatan remains in danger, as Weinstein’s letter to Barkat on Wednesday proved conclusively.


Instead of telling Weinstein that he would carry out the court order without delay, as the law bids him to, and as he already should have done in the past when ordered to by Mazuz and Lador, Barkat effectively told the attorney-general that he would follow his own timetable. Not only that, but he added that the Knesset State Control Committee agreed with him on this matter.


Barkat wrote that he had told the committee “he needed the cooperation of the attorney-general and those who are answerable to him in order to advance the plan according to the policy that will be agreed upon by all the elements dealing with the matter and according to the priorities which they determine. I should add that this position won the support of the committee which called on the government to help implement the recommendations of the state comptroller regarding the replanning of Silwan.”


The cooperation that Barkat was referring to was Weinstein’s agreement to freeze all demolition orders in Silwan.


Barkat added that members of the Knesset State Control Committee and attorney Hovav Artzi, a senior Justice Ministry official, would meet to discuss the demolition orders and building violations in all of east Jerusalem and devise a uniform policy and an order of priorities.


Barkat was as much as telling Weinstein that not he, but a Knesset committee whose active members on the subject of illegal construction in Silwan all belonged to right-wing parties except for its chairman, Yoel Hasson, who belongs to the right wing of Kadima, would determine the priorities for implementing court orders, rather than the attorney-general, whose mandate is to be the government’s interpreter of the law and its foremost law enforcement officer.


Barkat’s letter makes it clear that he hopes to use the Knesset State Control Committee as a sword and a shield to protect him from having to implement the attorney-general’s insistent and repeated demand that Beit Yehonatan be evacuated and sealed up. 


  1. Jonah Wms says:

    Moses God was not God of the Jews — 4:6 And the LORD said furthermore unto him: ‘Put now thy hand into thy bosom.’ And He said: ‘Put thy hand back into thy bosom


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