City of Ariel

Archive for September, 2004|Monthly archive page

Plans for Disengagement

In National on September 18, 2004 at 12:22 pm

Dear Friends,

As we celebrate the Jewish New Year, I cannot help but reflect on the past four years, the most difficult period since Ariel was established 26 years ago, in 1978. It was exactly four years ago on the eve or Rosh Hashana that the Palestinian Authority chose to begin its strategic war of terror against the citizens of Israel. During that first night, Palestinian terrorists showed their respect for the Jewish High Holy Days by hurling stones and Molotov cocktails at the cars of 70 Ariel families. 

When I saw the glass imbedded in the faces of young women and heard the cries of Ariel’s children, I promised myself that this would never happen again. On that holiday weekend, with the outbreak of a new and vicious spate of terror, I made several decisions that help maintain the city and its residents during this difficult time. 

It was clear to me that his was not simply a new “intifada” or uprising, as the media then stated, but that the Palestinian leadership had embarked on a deliberate and strategic campaign of murder, where women and children and our elderly would not be collateral damage but targets. This was a concerted effort to demoralize the Israeli population by attacking the heart of Israeli society, young and old, soldier and civilian. 

We must remember that this violence was a direct reaction to Camp David II. Though Prime Minister Ehud Barak and President Bill Clinton offered Arafat unprecedented concessions, he chose terror rather than peace. Though the city of Ariel and adjacent communities have always been part of a broad national consensus, it was in their offer, that it became public that Ariel would not be among the concessions. 

Since then, I have worked with one foal in mind – to reinforce that fact and make it irreversible. The first step was to ensure the completion of Route #5, the Tel Aviv – Ariel highway, so that it would bypass Arab villages. With four lanes and fully lighted, this highway gives the residents of Ariel and the neighboring communities a greater sense of security. Often, when I am in the States, I joke that this is our I-5 freeway. 

In addition, to strengthen the community, I initiated a Sports & Recreation Complex which would serve the residents of Ariel as a hub of social activity, where we could provide sports, recreational and cultural activities. Four years ago, this was a mere dream, but due to the support of our friends, construction has begun, and the Complex is now very much a reality. Scheduled to open in late 2005, this new Sports & Recreation Complex will serve as a community center for residents of Ariel as well as thousands of students of the College of Judea & Samaria. 

Recently, we completed long-term plans for the building and expansion of Ariel. By completing plans to increase the population of the city to 60,000 residents, originally envisioned as a city of close to 100,000, Ariel’s expansion plans have been revised to avoid a possible infringement on Palestinian property. Today, Ariel’s population is nearly 20,000. However, now that the Government has approved the immediate construction and marketing of 3,000 new homes, we can expect Ariel to be home to 30,000 residents before too long. 

Many of you are aware that construction of the security fence around Ariel and adjacent communities has begun. When completed, the fence will provide the city with additional security. Currently, work on the security fence has been halted due to violent Palestinian protests, supported by European anarchists and extreme elements of the Israeli Left. Although this has resulted in the route of the fence undergoing review by the Israeli High Court, I believe that the route around Ariel and the Ariel bloc of communities will not change drastically and that construction will continue very soon. Most importantly, the Israeli government decision to include Ariel in the security fence remains unchanged. 

Israel, the only true democracy in the Middle East, functions on the basis of free and fair elections. As such, the city of Ariel will hold municipal elections on November 2nd, 2004. Recent economic hardships and security issues have influenced my decision to continue standing at the helm of Ariel for another term. I feel that now, more than ever, the leadership of an experienced mayor with connections in Israel and around the world is critical for the city. I hope residents will reaffirm their confidence in my leadership. 

It also appears as if Israel may also hold new elections in the coming year. As a result of the Prime Minister’s plan for unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip, including the evacuation of all Jews from the area, I very much doubt that the Prime Minister will be able to garner the necessary majority in support of this plan in the Parliament (Knesset). Historically, the government has typically required a broad coalition to implement dramatic and unexpected political policies. Therefore, I am far from certain that the Prime Minister will be able to find this coalition for his disengagement plan. 

In my view, if our goal is a comprehensive peace, unilateral disengagement is not the way to proceed. Only comprehensive regional accord will bring true peace. To accomplish this, we must work simultaneously within the following three concentric circles:

–          Internal: Palestinian Authority

–          Bordering Counties

–          External: fundamentalist Islamic regimes. Specially, we need to be concerned with the nuclear capabilities of Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, and Libya. 

Although I am reluctant to become involved in U.S. politics, I would like to note the exceptional loyalty and friendship of the current American administration. Against the hypocritical pressure of the European Union, the American commitment to democracy and its determination to carry out a war against terror has not wavered. 

Finally, I would like to wish all our friends in Israel and around the world a happy and healthy New Year. It is my prayer that his year will see the defeat of terror and herald a period of peace and security. Your support and commitment to Ariel has truly made a difference, particularly during these past years. I hope we can count on your continued support in the coming year. 

Shana Tova U’mevurechet,

Ron Nachman

Mayor of Ariel