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March 12, 2004 - Image 32

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2004-03-12

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

@Ep

Gaza Plan

Sharon seeks help of Egypt, U.S. to prevent disaster after leaving Gaza.

LESLIE SUSSER

Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Jerusalem
f Israel pulls its troops out of
Gaza, how can Israeli Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon be sure that
Hamas won't seize power in the
ensuing chaos? That's one of the key
questions troubling Israeli policy plan-
ners.
So far, they have come up with a
number of answers: Military force to
clip the wings of the Islamic terrorist
group before the pullout, diplomatic
efforts to convince Egypt to play a
peacekeeping role after the withdrawal,
and encouraging Britain to train
Palestinian Authority police forces to
maintain law and order.
It remains to be seen, however,
whether these steps will satisfy the Bush
administration, which also is wary of the
potential for chaos in Gaza after an
Israeli withdrawal.
Early Sunday, March 7, a large Israeli
force entered the Bureij refugee camp in
Gaza, hunting for known Hamas and
Islamic Jihad terrorists. In the ensuing
firefic,ht,
b 14 Palestinians were killed,
mostly armed fighters identified with
Hamas.
According to Israeli military analysts,
the operation was not in retaliation for
attempted terrorist attacks the previous
day at a border crossing between Gaza
and Israel proper. Rather, it was part of
an ongoing policy designed to keep ter-
rorists off balance in the limbo period
between Sharon's declaration of intent
and the actual Israeli pullout, perhaps
some time later this year.
Such relatively large-scale military
actions are likely to be stepped up in the
interim period. The Israeli army's chief
of staff, Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya'alon, says
that mere talk of withdrawal could be
encouraging the Palestinians to intensify
attacks to give the impression that Israel
is fleeing under fire.
To counter this, Israel hopes to inflict
a heavy defeat on the terrorists before
leaving. The message is that the
Palestinians will be making a big mis-
take if they think more terrorism will
force further Israeli withdrawals.
At stake is the credibility of Israeli
deterrence. Before Israel withdrew uni-

I

JIT

3/12
2004

32

ferent force structure
laterally from Lebanon
Mediterranean
and a different
in May 2000, Sharon
deployment on the
Sea
urged then-Prime
Egyptian side," a
Minister Ehud Barak
senior Israeli official
to hit Hezbollah hard
said. Sharon favors
so that the Syrian-
an Israeli pullout
backed Shiite militia
from all of Gaza, but
couldn't claim a victory
aides say he will go
that would inspire
that far only if Egypt
other Arab groups to
undertakes to police
attack Israel. But Barak
the Philadelphia
ignored that advice.
route.
Because of that,
In other words,
Sharon believes, Arabs
the outcome of talks
widely perceived the
on the Philadelphia issue could deter-
Lebanon withdrawal as an Israeli defeat
mine the scope of Israel's Gaza pullback.
— one that encouraged the Palestinians
The signs are not good.
to take up arms to achieve similar
In a recent interview with the French
results. The result: the intifada, now
newspaper Le Figaro, Egyptian President
nearly 3 1 /2years old.
Hosni Mubarak was highly skeptical
about a proposed Egyptian role in Gaza,
Test Of Wills
warning that it could lead to clashes
with the Palestinians and even with
No with the drawn-out intifada shap-
Israel.
ing up as a test of national wills, many
Israeli officials had hoped Egypt
Palestinians are touting Sharon's
would step up in order to impress
announcement of a Gaza withdrawal as
Washington and be recognized as a
vindication of their strategy of violence.
Sharon wants to do all he can to counter major regional player. But it seems it
will take a lot of persuasion from
that impression.
Washington to get Mubarak to agree.
Focusing the army's attack on Hamas
The leader of the Israeli opposition,
and Islamic Jihad also is an attempt to
Labor Party chairman Shimon Peres,
make it easier for relative moderates, like
saw Mubarak a few weeks ago and said
Fatah strongman Mohammed Dahlan,
he thought Egypt would be ready to
to take over after Israel leaves and estab-
police the border, but only from its side.
lish a modicum of law and order.
But Sharon doesn't trust Dahlan or
any other Palestinian figure to stop the
Egypt's Stake
smuggling of arms into Gaza from
The Egyptians are keen to prevent chaos
Egypt after Israel leaves. Nor does he
after an Israeli withdrawal because it
want to leave Israeli forces on the sensi-
could have dangerous repercussions on
tive "Philadelphia Axis," which runs for
the Egyptian street — but they would
about five miles along the border
like to see the Palestinian Authority take
between Egypt and Gaza and is the
charge. They have, therefore, been press-
scene of frequent clashes.
ing the Palestinians to organize their
For years, the Palestinians have used a
forces on the ground and make sure
system of tunnels to smuggle arms and
Hamas has no chance of taking over in
explosives from the Egyptian side of the
the Gaza Strip.
border into Gaza. Sharon's solution late-
Britain also has been helping the
ly has been to appeal to Cairo for aid in
Palestinian Authority formulate a securi-
shutting off the smugglers' traffic. If the
Egyptians agree, close aides say Sharon is ty plan and says it is ready to help train
Palestinian police. Similar offers have
ready to make the necessary changes in
been made in the past, however; what
the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace agreement
has been lacking is any Palestinian will
to allow Cairo to move heavier forces
to meet their security obligations — a
into place.
situation that, if it continues, could turn
Israel recognizes that controlling the
Ga72 into a tinderbox after an Israeli
Philadelphia route "would require a dif-

withdrawal.
American envoys are due in Israel
soon to get a more detailed account of
Israeli plans and of how Israel sees the
Palestinian Authority's future vis-a-vis
Hamas. Israeli officials argue that the
Palestinian Authority can raise close to
50,000 armed men, as opposed to the
couple of thousand that Hamas and
Islamic Jihad can summon. Together
with Egyptian, British and American
help, that should be enough to keep the
fundamentalists at bay, Israeli officials
say.
If the Americans feel it's too much of
a risk, however, President Bush could
ask Sharon, when they meet in
Washington next month, to defer the
withdrawal until after the U.S. elections
in November. Given the pressure from
the Israeli right against withdrawal and
the apparent Egyptian refusal to get too
deeply involved, Sharon may be happy
to go along — and use the extra time to
refine his withdrawal plans.



More Israel news: wwwjewish.com

Israel Insight

THE ISSUE

Israel's military incursion into
Palestinian refugee camps this week
in search of terrorists was reported
in most media as part of an escala-
tion of violence by both sides in the
conflict. While Israeli actions were
clearly defensive, there is another
reality that the media's "spin" misses.

SEED THE ISSUE

Since the outbreak of Palestinian
violence in September 2000, Israel
has agreed to every cease-fire, peace
proposal or suggested negotiation.
Prime Minister Sharon has stated
that "there is no cycle of violence
(between Israelis and Palestinians);
there is only Palestinian terror and
Israeli efforts to end it." The day
the violence ends will be the day
Israeli troops return to their bar-
racks.
— Allan Gale,
Council a

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