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NEW RULES

Dr. Raanan Gissin: 'Although Mahmoud Abbas Has Taken Some Steps Against Terrorists, They Do Not Meet Minimal Demands of Israel & International Community'

'Signs That Palestinian Street Is Starting To Realize That New Rules Apply To Terrorism After Israel's Gaza Withdrawal'

'Hamas Cannot Be Peace Partner Unless It Lays Down Its Weapons Like IRA In Northern Ireland'

Dr. Ra'anan Gissin

After launching forty Qassam rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israel's western Negev, Israel renewed its counter-terror operations. By week's end, the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and even the Islamic jihad were calling for a return to the former cease-fire. However, Israeli officials say 'new rules' now apply; after Israel's total withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, there will be no return to the 'low intensity' warfare. What are the implications on the ground and for the Roadmap peace process? What is the approach of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon after implementing the unilateral withdrawal and nearly being trounced by former Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at the Likud party convention? Dr. Raanan Gissin, Sharon's media advisor discusses the issues in this interview with David Essing.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has taken some initial steps, they do not meet Israel's minimal demands to dismantle terror organizations'. That's the assessment of Dr. Raanan Gissin, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's media advisor. Gissin says there are signs that not only the Palestinian leadership but also the Palestinian Street are beginning to realize there are 'new rules' after Israel's recent withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Israel will not agree that the Palestinians will continue to launch Qassam rockets at Israeli civilians across the border in the Western Negev. Not only the U.S., but the international community and Egypt are pressing the Palestinians to dismantle the terrorists. Gissin believes this will also be what Mahmoud Abbas will hear from American leaders during his upcoming visit to Washington.

Palestinian Terrorists

The Israeli spokesman drew a comparison with Northern Ireland where the IRA gave up its arms this week as a condition for a peace resolution of that conflict. Israel also accused Iran, Hezbollah and Syria of stirring up trouble in the Palestinian territories egging on the terrorists. But only if the Palestinian leadership 'came to their senses' would it be possible to advance to the Roadmap with its ultimate goal of a Palestinian state. Sharon's spokesman went on to reject recent rumors saying there would be be further unilateral disengagement as long as the Roadmap was on the agenda. On this score, t was too early to eulogize the Roadmap process and Israel would not be the first to do so.Gissin disclosed that contacts have been resumed with the Palestinians on fresh meetings that could lead to a Sharon-Abbas summit. Although Israel was not setting any conditions, clearly there would be no summit if Palestinians did not continue taking steps to rein in the terrorism.

The Prime Minister's spokesman did set these conditions for Hamas becoming a partner to the Roadmap peace process between the Palestinians and Israel:

1. Hamas must disarm completely

2. Hamas must abolish its covenant that calls for the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people

David Essing

ANALYSIS: Prior to Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, an IsraCast report entitled 'New Rules' forecast that Israel would perceive any subsequent attacks from the Gaza Strip as a casus belli entitling the Jewish state to exercise its full right to self defense. This is clearly the approach articulated by Raanan Gissin, Prime Minister Sharon's spokesman. The implication is that Sharon will not agree to be drawn into a new war of attrition not only from the Gaza Strip but also from the West Bank. Sharon has in effect put Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on the spot. Although Sharon implemented the withdrawal unilaterally, the fact of the matter is that the Prime Minister is also demanding a price from the Palestinians. He has linked his tactical move of the withdrawal to a broad change in the Palestinian strategy of using violence and terrorism fort gaining political concessions from Israel. This is the ultimate conclusion from Sharon's demand that Mahmoud Abbas must defang Hamas as a condition for moving into the Roadmap. If so, Israel's withdrawal was unilateral in name only. It appears to have far greater implications than have ever been articulated by the Prime Minister himself. In light of this week's historic developments in Northern Ireland, Sharon is on solid international ground. (Please listen to remarks by British Prime Minister Tony Blair)

Domestic Politics: Sharon's narrow victory in the Likud convention illustrated the 'personality versus policy' debate inside Israel's ruling party. Most of the central committee members still stand by not giving parts of 'The Land of Israel' as championed by Netanyahu. But on the other hand, a majority of them still pick 'Arik' as the better man. If this paradox of two conflicting majorities holds true, the caper of not preventing the Prime Minister from addressing the convention apparently backfired. What more could Sharon have told the convention members that he hadn't declared time and again about the unilateral withdrawal? If only sixty of the some three-thousand Likudniks could have swung the outcome, it's conceivable that at least that many floating voters were annoyed by the 'dirty tricks' against Sharon and decided to vote against the early primary. Now if Sharon sticks by the tough no nonsense policy outlined by Dr. Gissin, the Prime Minister is likely to win his way back into the hearts of many more Likudniks by the time of the April primaries. It would mean that the Likud will not have to again wrestle between 'personality and policy' if Mahmoud Abbas fails the test of not only taming the terrorists, but also eliminating them as a future threat.

David Essing

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