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CAMPAIGN UPDATE

Avi Dichter: Israel Is Not Going To Bleed For Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas

There Is Absolutely No Difference Between Hamas And The Chechnyan Terrorists Responsible For Massacres In Beslan School & Moscow Theatre

Avi Dichter - David Essing

The Israeli election campaign is about to enter the home stretch with a host of burning issues on Israels national agenda. The fallout from the Hamas election victory and the looming Iranian nuclear threat will be dominating the race. Kadimas Ehud Olmert is maintaining his lead while Labors Amir Peretz and Netanyahus Binyamin Netanyahu toil to close the gap. At the same time, Palestinian terrorists continue to launch more rockets and Israeli security forces step up the counter-terror campaign. Former Shabak security chief now allied to Olmert has been assessing developments.

In lieu of a Palestinian peace partner, Israel may withdraw to a better defense line on the West Bank - thats the view of former Shabak Security Chief Avi Dichter who is now running on the Kadima ticket. However Dichter, a top security advisor to Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, says this does not mean the IDF would not enter Palestinian terror centers. In this respect, the situation on the West Bank differs from Gaza where Israeli ground forces no longer operate. (Israeli actions against terrorists are being conducted solely by helicopter strikes and artillery and tank fire.) But Judea& Samaria (West Bank) is at the heart of Israel. Mortars from Bethlehem could target Jerusalem and Kalkilya is close to Kfar Saba. In Dichters words: The IDF line should not depend on this or that settlement. On this score, Israel could determine its own security frontier in fighting terror but only the international community could demarcate Israels international borders. The security forces would continue their relentless counter-terror campaign.

Dichter declared: Israel is not going to bleed for Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) - in other words to absorb terror attacks in order to bolster the Palestinian leader. Terrorists have launched over 400 rockets from the Gaza Strip that was evacuated by Israel last summer. In January, 130 Qassams were fired and a similar number is expected this month. The Shabak has also uncovered a mortar with 8 bombs in Bethlehem that were being planned to target Jerusalem. All this while Mahmoud Abbas and his security forces do not lift a finger to halt the attacks. Dichter went on to say as long as the Palestinian Authority does not combat terrorism, there was no possibility of linking the Gaza Strip with the West Bank. This would simply allow the Palestinians to transfer their terror capability from Gaza to the West Bank for attacks on Israel.

The former Shabak chief also contended that Israel could not exist safely without controlling the Jordan Valley basin. Dichter said the fact that Hamas was democratically elected did not mean that a Hamas administration would be democratic. Hamas was bent on spilling Israeli and Jewish blood - its very charter calls: On every tree and rock to cry out to a Muslim to come and murder any Jew who is hiding behind them. This was the Hamas that governs the Palestinians and has been invited to Moscow. He lambasted Russian President Putins invitation to Hamas. Dichter declared: There is absolutely no difference between Hamas and the Chechnyan terrorist who massacred Russian school children in Beslan or the killers in the Moscow theatre. It is possible that Dichter could become Defense Minister if Olmert wins the March 28th election. Look for Kadima to highlight Dichter, Zippi Livni and Shaul Mofaz as a top team backing up Olmert as the campaign enters the home stretch. OLMERTS OUTLOOK: The Acting PM appears to be maintaining his dominant lead despite the State Comptrollers enquiry into his sale of his Jerusalem home to American fat cat Danny Abraham for $2.7 million dollars. The polls show Kadima winning some 40 Knesset seats. Labor trails with about 19 with Likud taking some sixteen. Olmert says he has not lost hope for the Roadmap despite the Hamas victory. This charges the Likuds Bibi Netanyahu proves the Acting PM is totally out of touch with reality. Perhaps, but maybe there is method in Olmerts madness. Kadima is vulnerable in the campaign with some voters when it comes to a future unilateral withdrawal on the West Bank as alluded to by Avi Dichter.

But by sticking to the Roadmap pitch, Olmert can dodge the withdrawal issue by contending its premature to talk of unilateral moves if negotiations are still possible with the Palestinians. His strategy is to ride out the next month, looking like a PM and not blundering along the way. NETANYAHUS WOES: The Likud leader has tried to shake up his flagging campaign by urging his party to alter its method for selecting the party list of candidates. Until now some 3,000 central committee members have held this power over the politicians heads leading to cronyism. (Former Likud cabinet minister Zachi Hanegbi, now in Kadima, is facing criminal proceedings). Netanyahu is calling for all Likud party members to vote for the list in a national primary. Netanyahu hopes to be viewed as Mr. Clean by voters but hes also taking a big gamble. If the central committee members refuse to give up their considerable power, Netanyahu would lose face. Maybe the Likud leader believes the party has no choice. In light of Kadimas considerable success, Likud has been portraying itself as a right of center party. This is not going over with some right-wing voters who are apparently switching to the far right - Avigdor Lieberman of Yisrael Beitanu that has risen to 9 seats. Coupled with another far right party Yichud Leumis 8, they equal the Likud itself. Netanyahu is being outflanked on his right. If he fails to deliver the goods come election day, Netanyahu could be in deep trouble. He led the campaign to oust Ariel Sharon from the Likud and blamed for the Likuds loss of power. Former Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, who was forced by Netanyahu to quit the cabinet, could lead a move to oust him. The conventional wisdom is that Kadimas first choice for coalition partner is Labor, which never seems to give up on the idea of negotiating with the Palestinians. However, it could be that Kadima, a Likud offshoot could team up with Likud minus Netanyahu, to form a right of center coalition based on a unilateral approach to coping with the Palestinians.

Labor: Is party leader Amir Peretz also going nowhere fast? No so says Peretz - he believes the polls are phony and hell come through on the only poll that counts on election day. The Labor party leader has a point. There is a ten percent floating vote with a month to go and some unexpected event could upset the applecart. In any case, Peretz has been trying to bolster his lack of foreign affairs credentials by visiting Morocco, Egypt and now hes set to see Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Kadima and Likud will apparently haul Peretz over the coals for calling on Abbas at this time, but Peretz is also trying to bolster his standing in the polls. Again, it could backfire. What is clear is that the social justice issue, championed by Peretz, has taken a back seat to Hamas and the Iranian nuclear threat. Hamas & Iran: Feeling the pinch, a Hamas delegation headed by Haled Mashal, a prime terrorist who was once targeted by the Mossad, visited Tehran. Is Iran, which calls for wiping the Jewish state off the map, the mirror image of a future Palestinian state, governed by Hamas?

David Essing

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