Moskowitz Bid to Purchase Jerusalem Property Thwarted; He Reportedly Funds Settler Campaign Against Gaza Withdrawal

The two Israeli news reports below show that Moskowitz is continuing his efforts to support anti-peace settlers and to buy real estate with potential value in Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. Aryeh Koenig, mentioned in the first report, is almost certainly Aryeh King, who has claimed in past media statements to be Moskowitz's son-in-law.

These July 30th news items were called to our attention by Americans for Peace Now, who included the translations below in their July 30th issue of Israel News Today.

The Beit Hanina Purchase

The Seller: Hebrew University; The Buyer: The PA ; The Property: 96 Dunam

Yedioth Ahronoth (p. 4) by Roni Shaked and Shelly Paz -- Hebrew University sold the Palestinian Authority a pot of 96 dunams in the Beit Hanina neighborhood in East Jerusalem.

The deal was signed recently between Hebrew University and the Palestinian company Housing Council Corporation, which is actually an official Palestinian Authority company that handles housing matters in East Jerusalem. The Palestinian Authority will pay USD 1.1 million for the land to Hebrew University.

Officials involved in buying land in Jerusalem said yesterday that Hebrew University preferred not to sell to Jews, because it feared that Jews would build a Jewish neighborhood in the heart of the Arab neighborhood-sparking great rage among HU's overseas donors and hurting university fundraising efforts.

Hebrew University confirmed the transaction yesterday but rejected the charge that HU chose to sell the land to Arabs and not Jews. Hebrew University said that in recent years there were several attempts to sell the land to official government bodies for public usage, but the Jerusalem municipality, the Israel Lands Authority, the Jewish National Fund and others refused to buy it.

The land is located between the old road to Ramallah and Begin Road, on the border of Shuafat near Tel Foul, where the king of Jordan planned to build his palace before 1967. Hebrew University received the land as a donation from a friend, a son of the Hoenig family, back in 1933.

In recent years Arabs squatted on the land and built on it illegally using forged building permits. Eight months ago the Jerusalem police uncovered a large land document forgery ring in East Jerusalem; some of the forgeries were related to the university land.

Today a few wealthy people from East Jerusalem live there in luxurious private homes. Palestinian sources said yesterday that a residential neighborhood would be built there. They said that the houses will be bought by private people who will receive mortgages from the Arab Bank in Ramallah.

Sources involved in the purchase of land in East Jerusalem said yesterday that Jewish millionaire Irwin Moscowitz offered Hebrew University at least three times as much as the price the land was eventually sold for to the Palestinians, but HU refused to sell him the land. Moscowitz is considered affiliated with the right wing and with the Ateret Kohanim Yeshiva, and also bought the land on which the Jewish neighborhood in Ras Amoud was built.

Aryeh Koenig, involved in buying land in Jerusalem, said yesterday that HU offered the land to Israeli bodies at a price of USD 100,000 per dunam. He said, "This is an exorbitant price that does not conform to market prices," whereas ultimately, HU sold the land to the PA for only USD 11,500 per dunam.

Koenig also said that he had approached HU and expressed interest in buying the land. He said that HU officials told him: "We fear selling the land to Jews who are liable to build a Jewish neighborhood there and cause us damage with our donors."

HU said yesterday that it had approached several government bodies, including the Prime Minister's Office, the Foreign Ministry and the Jerusalem municipality, but none displayed any interest in the land. After HU received permission to go head with the sale, the land was offered for sale in 2002.

At one stage the sale was frozen, after a government official told HU that he was interested in buying the land. "However, this government official retracted his promise at the last moment," HU said. "With no other choice, we again had to offer it for sale, and the deal was signed with the Palestinian company."

Hebrew University also said that the land could have been sold for more money if not for the delays caused by the government official going back on his promise. "If the land had not been sold in the next few months, it would not have been possible to sell it, because of illegal squatting, and in general, since the Intifada broke out, it was impossible to get to the land."

Ten of the 96 dunam sold to the Palestinian Authority are owned jointly by Hebrew University and an Israeli citizen. This Israeli, by means of his lawyer, tried to stop the sale. People who were involved in the deal say that Hebrew University agreed to sell its part to the Israeli citizen on condition that he buy all 96 dunam. The citizen did not agree, and Hebrew University sold the property to the Palestinian Authority.

The Power of a Minority

Yedioth Ahronoth (p. B1) by Nahum Barnea and Shimon Shiffer -- Just before the Likud referendum, a handful of close associates known as the "farm forum" met at Shikmim Farm. Ad man Reuven Adler warned that this referendum was like elections: a staff needed to be set up, telemarketing needed to be done, ads needed to be placed, people needed to be transported to the polling booths. For all this, Adler said, you need money. Lots of money.

Omri Sharon tensed. He could see the investigations coming. "In this house we don't talk about these things anymore," he said.

This, more or less, is what buried the campaign. On the one side were hundreds of thousands of settlers and their periphery, imbued with a sense of justice, convinced they were fighting for their existence, and awash in money. One regional council head in Judea and Samaria said this week that he went to America twice and came back with two fat checks from bingo tycoon Irwin Moscowitz, one of many.

The Likud battle was one-sided. Its results are known. Now, when the decision on evacuating settlements is getting into its second and decisive stage, Sharon faces the same problem. The settlers will go from house to house in the coming weeks and will promise that they have love and that it will triumph. They will get hundreds of thousands to sign their manifesto of love, maybe more. Sharon, with all the aura that is part of the position of prime minister, will face them nearly empty handed, with an unenthusiastic cabinet, a cracked coalition, a hostile party, a suspicious public and pockets that he must not fill.

"150,000 settlers are stealing the country, and six million are going to the beach" the Prime Minister's Office laments.

Such phenomena are fairly common in the history of nations: a minority that cares, that is willing to sacrifice, that considers its battle an existential matter, leads the indifferent majority to places it doesn't want to go. Sharon, despite his overwhelming victory in the elections, is in a more difficult situation than Rabin was during the Oslo period. His party is ostensibly behind him, but is doing everything it can to sabotage his policies.

And the main thing: there is no single factor on the Israeli street willing to enlist on behalf of the disengagement plan. Not the Left, which suspects that disengagement is Sharon's final stop, not a stop on the way, and which is skeptical toward any government initiative. And of course, not the Right, which considers the plan a road sign to Auschwitz. Even the world, which should be cheering, is turning Sharon a cold shoulder. The threat of sanctions against Israel is closer today than ever before.

On one front, the Palestinian one, the disengagement move has generated real change. The rebellion against Arafat continues, despite his and Abu Ala's efforts to create a display of reconciliation. Gaza is seceding and is behaving like an independent entity. "Our aspirations are coming true faster and with greater intensity than we estimated," said one Sharon close associate.

The plan has not weakened American pressure on two matters by an iota: the illegal outposts and the fence. Sharon promised the American to evacuate the outposts, and did not keep his promise. The administration did not give up: US Ambassador in Israel Dan Kurtzer met on this matter on Tuesday with Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz to remind him of his promises. Mofaz told him that IAF planes were now making photography sorties over the outposts to ensure that any changes are documented. For years the security establishment has been promising the Americans to put an end to this phenomenon, and now it needs the aerial photographs, as if this were enemy territory. That bad.

One Sharon associate said this week that all the government bodies dealing with the settlement issue are full of settlers. In fact, the government is paralyzed. For this reason, the Prime Minister's Bureau chief decided to appoint Atty. Talia Sasson, who in recent years was in charge of law enforcement of Jews in the territories in the State Attorney's Office, to a position that did not exist until today. Sasson is to authorize law enforcement tools in respect to seizing lands and illegal outposts.

But it's not so simple. The Prime Minister's Office's legal adviser told Weissglass that this appointment requires a tender.

Regretfully, Weissglass found a loophole. While an outside person cannot be appointed, a team, or a committee, can. Weissglass added the name of Baruch Spiegel, who has a job on the same matter in the Defense Ministry, and called the two a "team," and now he is hoping for the best. The letter of appointment will be sent this week.
Sharon has done quite a lot in the past few weeks to broaden his government base. There are some ministers who say he has not done enough. Among others, MKs in the Likud faction who support disengagement feel that Sharon has neglected them, and are slowly trickling into the anti-disengagement camp. However, his main problem is not the politicians, but rather the public. Sharon is not marketing his plan to the people. He is working on the assumption that he has to deal with the Knesset and the people separately. If he has a coalition, everything will work out.

Let's assume that a popular movement were to arise in Israel, backed by business and academia, that tries to be a counterweight to the settlers' campaign. Such movements can be organized. The Likud would immediately smell a left wing conspiracy, and Sharon's gain would be his loss.

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