No democratic state should ever do business with terrorists, let alone those who would target a school buses. But Israel, under pressure from the United States, may be forced to do just that.
In talks that took place this past week in Aspen, Colorado, under the auspices of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the World Bank indicated that it intends to assume the assets of those Jews whom the Israeli government intends to expel from their homes and farms in Katif and Samaria. The bank subsequently intends to hand over these assets to senior Palestinian Authority security official Muhammad Dahlan. There is no requirement that Dahlan and others who receive these assets have no past involvement with terrorism.
Yet this runs counter to the government of Israel’s decision of June 6, 2004, in clause 7 of the plan put forward by Ariel Sharon. The clause states:
The State of Israel will aspire to transfer other facilities, including industrial, commercial and agricultural ones, to a third, international party which will put them to use for the benefit of the Palestinian population that is not involved in terror.
However, in a June 2004 monograph prepared by the World Bank for the government of Israel and the PLO, entitled “Disengagement, the Palestinian Economy and the settlements and issued by The World Bank,” and signed by then-World Bank president James Wolfenson, there is a detailed program for the transfer of all Jewish assets to the Palestinian authority. In this document there is no prerequisite that those who receive the assets have no involvement with terror. The World Bank simply eliminated the phrase "not involved in terror" and explained that "the State of Israel will aspire to transfer other structures, such as industrial and agricultural facilities, to an international third party that will use them for the benefit of the Palestinian population." In other words, the World Bank clearly intends to hand over assets without any anti-terror clause.
Significantly, the man to whom the World Bank intends to hand over those assets, Muhammad Dahlan, is defined by the government of Israel as a terrorist. In a June, 2002 editorial in the Wall Street Journal, Israel's Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called Dahlan the man who has presided over an ever-fortified terrorist network in Gaza, which today is home to Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and has become the base for some of the most heinous terrorist attacks unleashed against Israel. Relying on confirmed intelligence information, Olmert explained that Dahlan permitted Gaza to become a safe haven for the hundreds of fugitive terrorists fleeing Israeli forces. Among those being sheltered is his childhood friend Mohammed Dief, a leading Hamas mastermind with the blood of scores of Israelis on his hands. Dahlan's district also became the primary launching grounds for the hundreds of Kessem missiles fired at Israel.
Olmert further asserted that Dahlan’s direct involvement in promulgating terrorism is not merely passive. His contribution to the terrorist agenda has not been confined to mere nonfeasance but has also included gross malfeasance. Dahlan, along with his assistant Rashid Abu-Shabak, are the primary suspects in the terror attack on an Israeli school bus in Kfar Darom in November 2000. The bombing of the bus left half a dozen children maimed, and seriously injured an American citizen, Rachel Asaroff. A class action suit against Muhammad Dahlan is pending, although the Israeli courts have postponed any discussion on the suit until the summer. Besides the human cost of the 2000 attack—two school teachers were murdered and four Israeli children, all from one family, lost their legs—it also belied the current thinking that Dahlan can bring reform and law enforcement to the Palestinians.
Olmert’s point was clear: Criminals such as Dahlan can never be reformed; they must be eradicated by force. On October 26, 2004, following the Knesset vote which approved Sharon's disengagement plan, I asked Olmert if anything had changed in his assessment of Dahlan that he had written two years before. He answered: "Nothing has changed with Dahlan. He is still a terrorist." Even so, this week, Condoleezza Rice carried out negotiations with Muhammad Dahlan to discuss details of the handover of surrendered Jewish property.
There is a story in the Bible about a king who transfers the property of a murdered man to the possession of the man who murdered him: "Have you murdered him and inherited him at the same time?" Such is the case with the U.S. insistence that Israel hand over assets to Muhammad Dahlan.