Because of the Geneva Initiative: Likud Threatens to Quit Union of Local Authorities

By Walla

10.1.2011
via Walla, translated by GI staff (click for Hebrew original)
 
The mayor of Ariel, Ron Nachman, is calling on Likud members to leave the Union of Local Authorities in Israel because of illegal gifts they received, so he claims, from the Geneva Initiative. This Thursday he will gather mayors from Likud and they are expected to ask to stop all activities connected to the Geneva Initiative. They will also consider leaving the union temporarly.
 
A month ago 17 mayors from around the country gathered to learn about the Geneva Initiative in a three-day seminar that took place at the Dead Sea, during which they met with Sufian Abu Zaida, senior Fatah member, and with the head of the Union of Local Authorities in the Territories, Isam Akel. The seminar was partially funded by the management of the Geneva Initaitve. The mayors who participated were fully paid for, including accomodations and meals, and those who brought spouses had to pay 500 shekels for the three days.
 
The mayors listened to lectures by experts about the core issues of the conflict and the solutions suggested by the Geneva Initiative and participated in a tour around Jerusalem with Shaul Arieli. At the end of the seminar they decided to hold conferences on the Geneva Initiative in their cities. The seminar was a part of an ongoing activity of Geneva Initiative with mayors in Israel. Last November there was a joint Israeli-Palestuinian seminar for mayors in italy. It was funded by an Italian fund who is identified with Geneva Initiative activities.
 
Following these seminars, Nachman sent an angry letter to the Likud mayors: "In the Geneva Initiative [model], Ariel was erased from the map" he wrote, "and so are all the authorities in Judea and Samaria, exept Ma'ale Adumim, Gush Etsion and Beitar Ilit around Jerusalem. I am not aware that this is the Likud position and I am not aware that the union is taking part in deciding on the political position concerning the future of settlements."
 
In an interview with Walla, Nachman said that he will demand on Thursday to stop the connection between the Geneva Initiative and Likud mayors. "A conference in coordination with the union is ok", he said, "but the Geneva Initiative people are reaching out directly to Likud members and even the head of the union, Shlomo Bohbut, with the aim of promoting a political agenda. When they invite Bohbut as the mayor of Ma'alot-Tarshiha they don’t do it for no reason. They know his position in the union."
 
"Mayors in Israel are going to Geneva Initiative conferences at the expense of the Europian governments. The Geneva Initiative people are trying to influence them with sophistication using illegal gifts," he added. "We have a real problem in the union-- the mayors got benefits from people who want to disconnect Ariel and 23 other authorities from Israel. This can harm the union more than the minister of treasury and strikes. I demand to know where the funding of these conferences is coming from? How did mayors go to three-day conferences for free? "
 
Meir Cohen, Mayor of Dimona, said in response that he will continue to talk with the Geneva Initiative. "The question of funding is irrelevant. In these conferences I say that Ariel should stay in Israel in every future agreement. I do not disband anyone."
 
The union said that there is no connection between them and Geneva Initiative activity. "The union has many different opinions, parties an positions. The mayors act each according to his belief."
 
The Geneva Initiative's spokesperson said: "We understand Nachman's insecurity in his positions and his fear that other Likud members will be exposed to new information and different approaches. In his letter he merely strengthens our activity. We thank him and repeat our offer, which he has turned down before, for predictable reasons, to have a political discussion in Ariel."
 
The likud party refused to comment.