Border Control / Settler Justice

Jerusalem Magistrate's Court Judge Malka Aviv emerged from her anonymity a month ago, in the wake of her decision to release arrested Hebron settler Ze'ev Braude, who is suspected of having shot Palestinians after the evacuation of the "House of Contention" and wounding a father and son.

Aviv reprimanded the police, who had fallen captive, in her opinion, to a conception that was delivered by the media with the broadcast of a video recording of the incident. She argued the police were lenient with the Palestinians who were involved in the incident and promised that she would not lend a hand to, "the custom of favoritism that is so outrageous."

District Court Judge Orit Efal-Gabai did not accept Braude's claim that he had acted in self-defense and ordered that he be kept under house arrest. She also rejected Judge Aviv's favoritism argument and noted that even if the police had been lenient with the Palestinians, this does not justify inappropriate release conditions for the suspect.

The transcript of separate deliberations held before Judge Aviv in mid-September shows why prosecutors feel pressured every time a case they are conducting comes into Judge Aviv's hands.

The case at hand was that of Aryeh Koenig, a Jerusalem right-winger who has acquired the reputation of being an expert in settling Jews in the heart of Arab neighborhoods. On the eve of the municipal elections he was photographed in the company of new Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat near a site in East Jerusalem that he is designating for student dormitories.

This time Koenig's target for implementing the good deed of coexistence between Jews and Arabs was the Shuafat refugee camp. An Italian Jew who claims that he purchased the land 35 years ago had appointed Koenig to manage the property for him.

Police attorney Adi Meir said that Koenig organizes groups, among them minors, and falsely tells them of the possibility of getting to the site, without coordinating with security forces.

Meir argued that Koenig and his colleagues are causing provocations and stone-throwing at the members of the group and at the police who are called in to protect them.

One of Aviv's colleagues at the Magistrates Court in Jerusalem agreed to the request of the police and ordered the removal of 21 people who had entered the refugee camp and ruled that they must sign on a personal guarantee and a guarantee from a third party.

The prosecutor argued that Koenig was the one who had sent the groups to the scene without coordinating with the security forces. He asked the judge to order his removal and release on bail.

Judge Aviv did not understand what the police wanted from Koenig. Why would the police consider a visit by rightists to a refugee camp to be a provocation? Prior to ordering Koenig's unconditional release, the judge made the following statement:

"The Israel Police is charged with ensuring the safety of citizens in every place they are found and it is not entitled to prevent a citizen from making use of his property rights on the grounds that this imposes on it a heavy burden of ensuring his safety."

Put simply, that means the police must provide around-the-clock protection to an Arab citizen who purchases an apartment in the heart of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Mea Shearim and has a barbecue on the porch on Yom Kippur.

And for dessert, something that does not appear in the transcript. A person who was present in the courtroom testifies that in order to drive home her point, the judge related that she herself has put down stakes in the Arab neighborhood of Beit Hanina in East Jerusalem and in Moshav Gittit in the Jordan Valley in the West Bank.

The judge did not respond by the time this column went to press. The spokeswoman for the courts, who was asked to confirm that the judge had indeed said these things, has told Haaretz that the transcript of the deliberations reflects everything that is relevant to the legal proceedings.

What of the Saudi peace initiative?

At the end of last week, in the midst of the exchanges of fire between Gaza and Israel, the heads of the Palestinian resistance organizations found the time to discuss the Arab peace initiative from 2002 known, as the Saudi initiative.

Unlike Israeli politicians and commentators, who warn that the initiative grants Palestinian refugees the right of return to Israel, Hamas and Islamic Jihad loyalists are not so enthusiastic about the refugee provision in this document.

The London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat reported on Sunday that at the end of a meeting that was held on Saturday, the organizations published a call to the Arab League to retract the initiative from the diplomatic arena, on the grounds that "hostile forces" are exploiting it in order to eradicate the right of return.

This demand will most likely come up at the Arab League summit that will convene in less than three months in Qatar.

The Israeli offensive into Gaza's refugee camps will not help the Saudis and the Jordanians defend the initiative from the Syrians and the Lebanese, who would already like to remove it from the shelf.

Marek Halter says Hamas wants peace

The French-Jewish writer Marek Halter met with Khaled Meshal on Friday at 2:00 A.M. in Damascus and relates that the head of the Hamas political bureau in fact evinced a spirit of conciliation toward Israel.

In a phone conversation from Paris, Halter repeatedly said yesterday that he had formed the impression that Meshal "had wanted to provoke Israel and never imagined that it would react with such force."

Meshal asked him to transmit to the French Rais (President) Nicolas Sarkozy the message that he is "interested in being a player in the Middle East."

To this end he is prepared to talk with Israel on the basis of the recognition of the borders of June 4, 1967.

Meshal added that it is a pity that Israel is wasting time in negotiations with Fatah Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas who is not blessed with the leadership qualities that Yasser Arafat had.

According to Meshal, Hamas, which won the support of the Palestinian public, is the only political movement capable of delivering the goods.

The conversation with Meshal also dealt with the fate of abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Meshal said, "I very much regret that it turns out that Shalit is French, something that obligates Sarkozy to act on his behalf."

He asserted that Hamas does not abduct civilians, as it is not a terror organization, and that Shalit is a prisoner of war, like the 12,000 Palestinians who are imprisoned in Israel.

Halter says that President Sarkozy has shown a great deal of interest in the report he sent him about the conversation, immediately upon his return to Paris.