Eli Cohen: Defender of Greater Israel
by Gad Nahshon
"I recently promoted, in the Likud party, a decision which guarantees that we will never let the Palestinians establish a state. Because in my eyes the meaning is like a decision to dismantle the State of Israel. I also called on my party to have a serious discussion about the idea of solving Israel's problems by building a 400km security-defense electronic fence along our green line. From my point of view this is not just an illusion but a Golden Calf," remarked Eli Cohen, a new member of the Knesset who always expresses integrity, honesty, and unusual po-litical coverage.
I met Eli Cohen many years ago in New York City. He served here as Beitar (Jabotinsky-Herut-Likud's youth movement) emissary. Eli Cohen was born in Jerusalem in 1949 and was always an original doer. He was always motivated by unusual stamina, a mix of mind (he has a BA degree in mathematics) and soul. Eli Cohen has the charisma of a great leader. He also has the spirit of a pioneer who loves to accomplish things. But the most important goal is to defend the idea of a great Israel, to teach the world that the settlements and the settlers in the West Bank or in the Golan Heights are not obstacles for peace but the true epitome of the Zionist idea, followers of the heritage of Ze'ev Jabotinsky. Eli Cohen, who lives in Maale Adumin, is the chief lobbyist of these settlers, or YESHA. Eli Cohen views them as his children because he helped to establish and reinforce them when he was head of the Jewish Agency's settlement department and later as the assistance to Israel's Defense Ministers (such as Yitzhak Mordecai or Misha Arens) in charge of these settlements. Cohen, as I pointed out, was always a profes-sional dedicated doer.
This function pushed Cohen to the political limelight. Therefore, it was only natural to the Likud to send Eli Cohen to the Knesset. Eli Cohen did not come to the Knesset to sleep. As I wrote, he has an unusual source of stamina and looks much younger than his 52 years. Eli Cohen radiates youthfulness. Perhaps it might by considered by experts as politically incorrectness. But Eli Cohen is a fighter, a senior officer who was among the first soldiers who crossed the canal with Arik Sharon in the Yom Kippur War, a famous karate fighter, and he tells you exactly what is on his mind. I met Eli Cohen in Tel Aviv before the collapse of Sharon's coalition government. The Labor made a terrible mistake. The country suf-fered from one more political shock. No matter what the new election will say, Israelis are depressed: there is no chance for a stable execu-tive branch in Israel. Who will counter Israel's problems? Who will find a new formula for its survival?
For the last few years, Eli Cohen was busy with his business. He is, also, a successful businessman with international experience (see his following resume) and then seven months ago he began to serve in Knesset and in its committees. Did you find why the Knesset suffers from low public ratings (negative image)? "Before I entered the Knesset I thought that they think only how to secure their chairs, their jobs. But, honestly, I was surprised to find that this is not the truth. I met members who care about the issues. The majority are serious people who in-vest their energy to help. But when the media comes, suddenly they change their posture and statements. It is a pity." They say: the real work of the Knesset is being done in the committees. "I can serve in many committees because so many members are in the government side," Cohen smiled, since Israel has too many Minis-ters or Deputy Ministers. "The truth is that the work inside this committee is too superficial. We need more research, deeper knowledge. We bring experts but this is not enough." Cohen wants to improve this process. How can we secure the stability of the executive branch? "I do not want to change the election sys-tem but to increase to 7% the buffer percent. The meaning is: small parties who cannot achieve 7% of the total national vote will disappear. We must give more power to the great parties. The Likud would like to let Israelis living abroad have the ability to vote in the consulates. As to the idea of a regional election, the Likud tries to let the regions have representation in the Knesset. Regions? You must remember that Is-rael is a small country. I am against those members who, after the election, betray their party and become a faction in the Knesset. In Israel, each member of the Knesset believes himself to be also a Prime Minister." What do you think about the future of the Likud? "We will win! I always was against apathy. People might stay home believing that we win without their vote. The victory is not yet in our pocket. I figured out that a fight between Sharon and Bibi Netanyahu is a luxury! I recall our terrible mistake in 1992. People predicted a great victory. Then we lost to the Labor. I fought against primaries as a Trojan horse. The fight between the two could produce a negative image. I sent 5,000 letters to the activists of the Likud. I suggested agreement between the two leaders. I fought for a logical good will. I fought for one Likud unity, an important element in achieving a great victory," explained Eli Cohen, who campaigned for unity since Aug. 29, 2002.
The media gave him a break. But the Likud party rejected Cohen's call for unity which also means that 'Arik' will let Bibi be a Prime Min-ister, one of his four more years. After Jan. 28, 2002, Israel's national election day (according to polls, the Likud will get 35 M.K. but polls are only polls and as Cohen said, the Labor party can surprise us!) As I said, Eli Cohen has integrity. He might annoy his ex-commander Arik Sharon (the 'King of the Jews'). Sharon, of course, won the primaries against Bibi. Eli Cohen has, today, more obstacles in his personal political fight for greater Israel. On Aug. 11, 2002, in the forum for preserving the values of the Likud, Cohen began his personal crusade against the idea of the defense electronic fence. He called on the government to fight against terror as its primary duty. He defined the fence as a security lie. It is a 'Golden Calf' which cost billions of dol-lars or a new 'White Elephant." Cohen views this new idea of separation along the green line as a terrible stupidity. He argues that you solve the problem of terrorism only by dismantling its roots, by all means. A fence is an illusion, a smoke screen, a terrible waste of money. "We should fence the enemy not the citizens of Israel," said Cohen, fighting openly against this fence and its many supporters. "I do not think that the fence will change the security situation. I do not believe in its effectiveness. There are other issues of locations. Why do we start to build it near Kfar Saba, five minutes walk from Kalkilia? We talk about a fence on 400km or 200 miles. And no one thought that Is-rael needs five military divisions for patrolling this long stretched defense line? Israel cannot provide this power," explained Cohen, a very pragmatic thinker.
He wrote: "In the unique reality one can see that a fence never deterred terrorism and will not in the future. There are easy loopholes for the terrorists. They will be able to fool the army which will run like mad dogs along this fence, 450km or more than 300 miles long." In Jerusalem, the fence will stretch along 52km or around 30 miles. Cohen also worries that a fence sends a message to the enemy that we are afraid to fight. It is the feeling that we are ghettoizing ourselves, like in old Europe or in North Africa. To push Israelis into a ghetto is their dream. Ghetto? We should, Cohen suggested, put a fence around Kalkilia and Tul-Karem: "Terrorists can, also, attack Israelis shooting above the fence: missiles, for example. And all the terrorists easily will gather near this fence and act," Cohen pointed out and concluded, "The only way to prevent terrorism is by pre-emptive strike. You kill terrorists in their place and you never let them reach our homes." Eli Cohen understands our realities, our dilemmas: "There is the issue of refugees. 4 or 6 million who dream of settling in Jaffe. There is a religious issue: Islam cannot live with a Jewish entity in their region. There is the national issue: Pan-Arabism, Arab league. There is a geo-political issue: Israel's location, the holy places and there is the issue of Israel's democracy. They do not like to copy our social values."
Eli Cohen's biography highlights:
Born: Jerusalem May 29, 1949 (age 53), married, 3 children
March 2002: MK - member of the Israeli Knesset from the Likud party. Member of the following committees: Education, Comptroller and Finance, Chairman of the Judea, Sameria and Gaza (YESHA) Lobby. Member of the Israel Japan Friendship Lobby, Chairman of the Likud Values Forum, Chairman of the Likud YESHA region.
1999-2002: President and main share holder of Barg Enterprises Ltd., Chairman of the board of IPV, the Intellectual Property Village in the Negev.
1999-2001: General Director for Marketing and Distribution - Tecnosphere Sarl France.
1999-2002: Owner and CEO of E.C. Advanced Technology Marketing Ltd. in Israel
1997-1998: Assistant to the Defense Minister for Settlements, Infrastructure and Development Areas in Israel.
1993-1996: Director General of the Settlement Division of the WZO.
1991-1992: Head of Youth and Nachal Department in the Defense Ministry (parallel to a General rank in the Army).
1988-1991: Educational Exchange in USA/Canada - central manager [shaliach]-WZO
1986-1988: Deputy Mayor of the City of Maale-Adumin
1977-1986: Business - owner of: Insurance Agency + Computer Distribution agency. Also important activities of Cohen: Lieutenant Colonel (res), first soldier to cross the Suez canal in the Yom Kippur war; MBA degree (T.V.U. 1996-1997); President of the board of directors of Merchavit and Periferial Industries (1994-2002); Member of the board of directors of The national council for planning and construction for the state of Israel (1997-1998); Member of the board of directors of the Jerusalem development fund
(1997-1998); Member of Board of directors of Mekorat, the National Water Company of Israel (1994-1996); President of the Shotokan Karate Association in Israel (1984-2002); President of the Board of Directors of the Community Center of Maale Adumin (1995-1999); Gold medal [karate] in the Macabia games (1981), instructors of the Israeli team (1985); Was wounded when he killed a terrorist that was attacking civilians in Jerusalem (1984).
Eli Cohen presented his agenda for the future to me:
1. continue to lead the support and the campaign of the importance to strengthen the Negev, Yesha the Galilee
2. get deeply involved in the issues concerning the youth in Israel in all the social, economic and educational aspects
3. get deeply involved in the Israeli-Arab relations to the state of Israel, in all aspects. Finding and building bridges and support to those who are looking to continue and live as good citizens of the State of Israel. Building a system, regulations and laws that will protect the state of Israel from those who want to harm her.
4. creating a strategic and tactical plan for international PR for Israel, using professional PR offices around the world, using all our friends around the world, and will try to convince Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to do it as an independent power that will use the foreign ministry and all other relevant offices as supporters but not controlling it."
Cohen has an impressive record of achievement as a fresh member of the Knesset and we hope that his party, the Likud, will let him ac-complish his goals in the next Knesset (election: Jan. 28, 2003). He served as a MK in his reserve duty in the operation Defense Shield. On May 12, 2002, he initiated, at the Likud's convention, the fol-lowing decision: no Palestinian state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, a decision which Arik Sharon did not like. But as I observed: Eli Cohen is a courageous politician who has pride and integrity. Cohen also has fought against the wall of separation, a fence in-side the heart of Israel. Cohen does not hesitate to go public fighting for his national goals: In Aug-Sept. 2002, he organized a demonstration of Likudniks in front of Sharon's Prime Minister office in order to press the government to take hard steps against terrorism.
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