George Soros
George SorosIsrael news photo: Jeff Ooi, Creative Commons

The International Crisis Group, an investigative think tank connected to billionaire George Soros, has issued a report on the current influence of the religious Zionist movement and ways in which its opposition to further Israeli retreats can be overcome. Soros, who was a major contributor to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign and who is vehemently opposed to the “Israel lobby” in the United States, is a member of the Crisis Group's executive committee.

After conducting extensive research in Israel, including dozens of interviews with Jewish leaders, senior and junior officials, rabbis, military men, residents of Judea and Samaria and many others, the group’s analysts concluded that the government needs to “rein in” the “settlerment enterprise” and stop showing “lenience toward anti-Palestinian violence or hateful incitement, especially with a religious content.”

However, they also note that Israel’s religious right has “deep roots,” and that “even its most militant expression cannot be dealt with exclusively through confrontation.”

Advocating what some may see as a divide-and-rule approach to the religious Zionists, the report’s authors believe that the religious right’s opposition to further Israeli pullouts can be minimized if an agreement reached between Israel and Arabs marks exactly where the border between Israel and the PA will pass, thus making it clear which communities can keep on growing and which are on the chopping block.

The report also warns of a drift by ultra-orthodox Jews towards nationalistic positions, and recommends that the United States and other “foreign actors” attempt to woo ultra-Orthodox parties like Shas and United Torah Judaism by involving them in the diplomatic process. The report also warns of a drift by ultra-orthodox Jews towards nationalistic positions.

Early compensation
The group suggests that “an early evacuation compensation package for Jews in Judea and Samaria could help persuade some settlers to leave voluntarily, narrowing the problem to a  smaller group,” whereas “for those who value their attachment to the land over their attachment to the state, efforts could be made to examine how and under what conditions they might live under Palestinian rule and the extent to which Palestinians might accept them.”

The report also suggests that “unlike what happened with the Gaza disengagement, the government could start early planning for settler relocation by building alternative homes inside Israel proper.”

It claimed that "the 2005 disengagement from Gaza went remarkably smoothly" but made no reference to police forces' separating babies from their mothers and did not offer any comment on the government's failure to fully carry out promises to help the expulsion victims re-establish their homes and find work.

Serious snoopers
While the report does not list its authors by name, it is known that one of them is Crisis Group senior analyst Nicolas Pelham, a former veteran BBC correspondent and an expert on Arab affairs, who has been conducting extensive research in Israel in recent years. 

Nicolas Pelham (Crisis Group)

The group prides itself on being “the leading independent, non-partisan source of analysis and advice to governments and inter-governmental bodies worldwide on the prevention and resolution of violent conflicts.”

The group’s analysts have left few stones unturned in their quest to understand the history, ideology and personal makeup of the religious-Zionist movement. Judging by the quotes that appear in their report, they have received some form of cooperation from dozens of interviewees, including an unnamed former head of the Shin Bet; Rabbi Dov Lior of Kiryat Arba; Religious Affairs Minister Yaakov Margi; Motti Karpel, Editor of Nekuda; former MK Benny Elon; Yesha Council head Danny Dayan; Yitzhak Pindrus, who is described as an “ultra-orthodox deputy mayor of Jerusalem and close adviser to Rabbi El-Yashiv [sic]”; an “ultra-orthodox chief administrator” at “Tel Tzion settlement”; an “ultra-orthodox settler and reserve soldier” at “Adam settlement”; a “Lubavitch Torah college lecturer” at “Immanuel settlement”; a “Torah college teacher” at Mea Shearim; a municipal official at Modiin Illit; Edah Haredis representatives at Mea Shearim; a Torah college teacher at Nachliel; residents of Amona, Migron and Maskiyot and numerous others.

According to the secretary of a religious seed group in central Israel, a researcher for the group went so far as to disguise himself as a religious Jew in order to enter a seed group’s synagogue in Ramle.