Those governments provide the financial support for the activities of Dror Etkes, whose staff researches and publicizes data relating to every aspect of the Israeli government’s support for the quarter-million Israelis living in Judea and Samaria.
Etkes, who is studying for an M.A. in history, draws a salary of NIS 150,000 ($34,000) per year for his anti-settlement activities for Peace Now, a large sum by Israeli standards.
The foreign governments which fund Etkes and Peace Now, such as Britain and Norway, are fundamentally opposed to the existence of all Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria. The money Peace Now receives to promote an Israeli withdrawal from those territories, therefore, may invariably serve those governments’ foreign policy interests.
Such an outcome would not be surprising, as Bedein claims Peace Now has accepted funding directly from the British and Norwegian Ministries of Foreign Affairs.
Bedein claims he has documents detailing the extent of Peace Now’s funding by foreign governments. In 2005, he says, Peace Now received direct payments from three European governments, Britain, Norway, and Finland, totaling nearly a half million dollars.
For its 2006, budget, the group has approached six foreign governments - Britain, Norway, Canada, Germany, Holland, and Finland - and has received commitments for larger budgets from Britain, Norway, and Finland, according to Bedein.
Yesterday, representatives of Peace Now met with a ministerial committee headed by Justice Minister Chaim Ramon (Kadima) in an effort to convince the committee to dismantle a number of Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria.
The legal status of those communities has been repeatedly challenged by Peace Now. Such challenges often have direct impact on government policy and on the country’s fragile social and political fabric. The government’s decision to dismantle nine homes in the town of Amona, for example, followed a Supreme Court petition filed by Peace Now, claiming the homes were built illegally. The homes were destroyed in a violent police action, in which hundreds were injured.
The violence and sharp polarization of Israeli society ensuing from the Amona tragedy may be playing into the hands of the same foreign governments which fund Peace Now. This is so to the extent that divisions within Israel’s political communitiy weaken the government’s ability to maintain Israeli control of Judea and Samaria in the face of world criticism.
Regarding Finland’s contribution to Peace Now, Bedein said a member of the Finnish Parliament told him the money was forwarded to Finland by the U.S. government.
Bedein said another source of financing for Peace Now is the Economic Cooperation Foundation, a group funded directly by the European Union. The EFC was the subject of controversy last year when the Israeli media revealed that the organization was funding the activities of left-wing MK Yossi Beilin (Meretz).
Despite the funding Peace Now receives from foreign governments, the organization is not required under Israeli law to register as a foreign agent. In contrast, if the organization were operating in the United States, it would have to register as a foreign agent with the U.S. Justice Department, Bedein explained.
Bedein said Peace Now was not just a foreign agent operating in Israel but was “in effect spying on Israel for foreign governments.” He said the organization not only engages in surveillance activities relating to Israeli settlements and their security, but “reports on and photographs military installations” belonging to the IDF.
Bedein said Peace Now’s association with foreign governments also calls into question the financial support the organization receives from American Friends for Peace Now, a group based in the United States. He said the U.S. group’s affiliation with Peace Now may require the American group to register as a foreign agent in the U.S.