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Acting PM Olmert: 'If Need Be, Israel Will Go It Alone In Separating From Palestinians'

'Settlement Blocs of Ma'aleh Adumim, Gush Etzion and Ariel Will Remain Under Israeli Control'

U.N. Secretary-General: 'Israel Should Try Palestinian Terrorists In A Court Of Law Not Carry Out Targeted Killings'

PM Ehud Olmert

In his first sit-down interview, Israel's Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says Israel will evacuate parts of the West Bank in order to separate from the Palestinians. But as previously reported by IsraCast, he spoke of retaining settlement blocs. He named name this time: Ma'ale Adumim, Gush Etzion and Ariel. Meanwhile, the Israeli security forces are stepping up their targeted killing operations by hitting terrorists launching Qassam rockets at Israeli towns from the Gaza Strip. Israel unilaterally evacuated Gaza last summer but Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has refused to order his tens of thousand of security forces to halt the rocketing of Israel. However, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan does not approve.

'Israel will part company with the Palestinians one way or the other' - that's the declared stand of Israel's Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Interviewed on Channel Two TV, this will involve withdrawing from most of the Palestinian population on the West Bank. Olmert repeated Ariel Sharon's line of pulling back to 'settlement blocs and preserving Jerusalem as Israel's unified capital'. Previously on IsraCast, Olmert spoke of the 'townships': this time he was explicit: Ma'ale Adumim, Gush Etzion, and Ariel.

Olmert's Kadima party is divided on this issue. Former Shabak Security chief Avi Dichter is on record opposing any further unilateral withdrawal such as the Gaza Strip evacuation last summer. His Shabak successor Yuval Diskin also opposes any new Israeli unilateral withdrawal - Diskin says there must be a Palestinian partner that commits to moving in and taking control. This appears more remote than ever in light of the Hamas election victory. On the other hand, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz backs Olmert's position of Israel going it alone if it is impossible to negotiate a deal with the Palestinians.

Gaza Precedent: The Gaza example has now become a testing ground. Islamic Jihad has stepped up its Qassam rocket attacks from the area that Israel evacuated. Olmert's critics charge the unilateral withdrawal is proving to be a disaster - the land evacuated by Israel is taken over by the terrorists as a launching pad for rocket attacks on Israeli civilians. The IDF has resumed its counter-terror operations that were toned down before the Palestinian election last month in an effort to aid Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. Since an Israeli baby was seriously wounded in a Qassam attack five days ago, Israel Air Force helicopters have carried out four targeted killings that eliminated 9 terrorists caught in the act of planning more rocketing. The success or failure in suppressing the terror from Gaza will obviously have a decisive impact on whether Israeli public opinion will support any new unilateral withdrawal in the future.

Kofi Annan: While defending Israel's right to defend itself from the Palestinian rocketing of Israeli towns, the U.N. Secretary General chastises Israel for the targeted killings of terrorists. The U.N. Secretary says Israel must try them in a court of law. This recalls the position of U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, before 9/11. After the horrendous Al Qaeda attacks on the U.S., America also launched its own targeted killing policy - President Bush declared: 'We'll bring the terrorists to justice or justice to the terrorists.'

Practically speaking, what does Kofi Annan propose? Should Israel reply in kind and launch rockets into Palestinian population centers in Gaza? Or should Israel launch operations into crowded areas of Gaza to search for the terrorists and then bring them back to trial in Israel? How many innocent Palestinians and Israelis would be killed or wounded in such commando actions? The fact is the Israeli security forces have probably developed the most humane tactics in the world for pinpointing terrorists. (This is certainly true when compared to the American experience in Iraq, not to speak of the Russian operations in Chechnya). Although the Secretary-General is apparently trying to appease Arab nations at the U.N., but still .

David Essing

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