Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

23 Shevat 5765 - February 2, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Israel Demands Complete Quiet in Gaza

by M Plaut and Yated Ne'eman Staff

The Israeli government of today is not prepared to shoot and talk like the Israeli government in the early days after Oslo. Top Israeli officials insisted that they would not hand over security control of five West Bank cities to the Palestinian Authority unless there is a complete cessation of mortar fire into the settlements of Gaza.

On Monday there was a meeting between Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and Mohammed Dahlan, considered one of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' closest advisers. The original agenda of the meeting was to discuss the transfer Ramallah, Bethlehem, Jericho, Tul Karm and Qalqilyah to the Palestinians as early as this week. But in response to mortar fire in Gaza, Mofaz demanded that the PA take more aggressive action against the terrorist infrastructure.

Aharon Ze'evi, the head of Military Intelligence, said on Tuesday that Hamas is the key to continued calm but he believes that they and Hizbullah are adamantly opposed to a permanent halt in Palestinian attacks.

"Everything can cause a break in the calm," Ze'evi told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

"The axis of evil — which includes the Hizbullah, Hamas and al-Qaida organizations supported by Iran — adamantly opposes calm, and Hamas and Hizbullah are working together to destroy the cease-fire," he said. Ze'evi added that Palestinians were talking only about establishing "calm," rather than a more stable cease-fire.

Mofaz listed several points that must be met, including:

* A total halt to all terror in Gaza, as a condition for proceeding on other fronts; * A commitment by all the terror groups to the PA that they have ceased terror activity, including small groups; * A thorough PA investigation into the mortar fire and the suicide bombing two weeks ago at Karni junction; * More deployment of Palestinian troops in southern Gaza and a Palestinian campaign against the smuggling tunnels.

Dahlan demanded the immediate opening of the Erez, Karni and Rafah crossings in Gaza, and Mofaz agreed to open Erez and Rafah. Thousands of Palestinians passed through Rafah on Tuesday. The Rafah crossing is the main gateway in and out of the Gaza Strip for Palestinian travelers. It was closed December 12, the day a Palestinian attack killed several Israeli soldiers at a nearby outpost. Israel wants a detailed security plan from the PA before opening Karni.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday that there cannot be peace in the Middle East unless the Palestinians attain a state that satisfies their aspirations. Israel also must recognize that the Palestinian state, which she said was "within our grasp," must be viable and contiguous. Rice is to visit Israel and the West Bank for one day of talks next Monday. During her 24-hour trip, Rice is expected to split her time between meetings with the Israeli and PA leadership.

According to a report in The Jerusalem Post, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is considering appointing a permanent representative in the area to oversee and prod along negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Rice's predecessor, Colin Powell, sent Anthony Zinni as a special envoy in November 2001, but he left after only five months because constant terror attacks made his job impossible.

One US official said that Rice will tell both the PA and Israel that the ultimate goal is not only for the PA security officials to instill law and order into the territories, but also for the terrorist infrastructure to be torn down.

Rice is also expected to discuss the disengagement plan with Sharon, and the possibility of coordinating certain parts of it with the PA. Sharon now seems ready to make the Palestinians part of the process. However the timing and the scope of the withdrawal will not be discussed with the PA.

Among the issues Sharon has signaled a willingness to discuss are the handing over of the assets in the settlements, as well as an orderly handing over of security control.

Diplomatic officials said intense discussions with international bodies about the final dispensation of the assets left behind — the homes, agricultural facilities and buildings — have not yet begun, and no decisions have yet been made. The only thing that seems certain is that the synagogues will be dismantled to prevent their desecration.

One key issue for the Palestinians right now is prisoner release. There were reports that the Palestinians would be demanding the release of all the estimated 8,000 Palestinians held by Israel, but there is little chance that Israel will agree.

Sources said that so far the focus has been on prisoners in jail since before Oslo, aged and ailing prisoners and those who have already served at least two-thirds of their sentences. The Palestinians also want the release of what they call political prisoners, like senior activists from Fatah and other organizations, as well as administrative detainees and people sentenced to short prison terms.

On Wednesday, Sharon is planning to convene the inner security cabinet to confirm goodwill gestures to the Palestinians that the interministerial committee will approve later in the week.

Israeli officials said the issue of illegal outposts all over the West Bank will be cleared up by a report written by Talia Sasson for the Prime Minister's Office that is due out shortly. She has been at work on the issue since August.

Palestinians continued firing mortar shells at Gaza settlements on Tuesday. Five mortar shells hit settlements and damaged several vehicles. On Monday terrorists fired seven mortar shells at Gaza settlements, causing heavy damage to a building. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack.

Hamas said it was retaliating for the death of a 10-year-old school girl in the Rafah refugee camp on Monday. The IDF said the girl was likely killed by Palestinian pilgrims shooting into the air upon returning from Mecca.

Hamas threatened further retaliation "if the crimes continue." The Israeli military said that the terror group was trying to set a pattern in which it will be "understood" that it can retaliate for perceived Israeli acts of violence, even within the framework of a cease-fire.

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told Palestinian Authority adviser Mohammed Dahlan during a meeting Monday night that such an understanding was unacceptable.


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