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ISRAEL & IRANIAN NUCLEAR THREAT

PM Sharon: 'Iranian President Expressed What Israel's Enemies Fear To Say Publicly'

'Greater International Understanding For Israel's Need To Defend Herself From Terror & Nuclear Threat'

'The Security Fence Will Continue At Full Pace. Its Route Is Designed To Provide Maximum Safety For Israelis and Minimum Suffering To Palestinians'

PM Ariel Sharon at the Knesset

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon opened the last session of Israel's parliament with a stern message for Iran and the Palestinian terrorists, as well as his political critics at home. After the new winter session, Israeli votes are scheduled to the polls, next fall, if not before then. In a carefully worded comment, Sharon referred to the threat by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad about wiping Israel off the map. He also warned there would be no let-up in Israel's war against Palestinian terrorism. As for the future, Sharon declared he intends to win the next general election and open the new Knesset in 2006.

'There is now greater understanding for Israel's need to defend herself from Palestinian terrorism and the Iranian nuclear threat'. That was the message from Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as he opened the last session of the Knesset before Israel is slated to go to an election next fall. At the top of his address, Sharon referred to the threat by Iranian President Ahmadinejad about wiping the Jewish state off the map. The PM said the Iranian leader had expressed what many in the region feared to say publicly. Sharon went on to add that following Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and four West Bank settlements, there was now greater international understanding for Israel's need to defend herself from Palestinian terrorism and the nuclear threat. He did not elaborate when it came to Iran's defiance of the international community in its drive to acquire nuclear weapons.Sharon opened his policy speech quipping: 'I am happy to stand here again on the Knesset rostrum perhaps to the dissatisfaction of some MKs'. He was referring to former Finance Minister Bibi Netanyahu and the other members of his own Likud party who had tried to oust him in protest to last summer's withdrawal. The PM then linked the murderous intentions with the recent wave of Palestinian attacks; the worst murdered five Israeli civilians and wounded some thirty others in the town of Hadera. He pointed the finger at 'the dispatchers of terrorism in Tehran and Damascus'. Sharon declared that Israel had no alternative but to defend herself.

Security Fence

Security Fence: Israel will continue to build it on the West Bank at full pace. There would no budgetary, operational or political restraints. Its route was determined solely by military considerations and by judicial scrutiny. It was designed to provide maximum security for Israelis while inflicting minimal suffering to Palestinians. And Sharon added: 'we have no desire or intention of inflicting needless suffering on Palestinians. Israel has acted to ease their lot as long as quiet prevails'. He went on to say the Palestinians must understand that only their determined struggle against terrorism, including the dismantling of terror groups, would lead to peace and quiet. On this note, the Roadmap was and will be the only game in town. Sharon said that Israel had proved her make painful concessions for peace, now it was time for the Palestinians to do the same.

When the PM spoke about measures to ameliorate poverty in Israel, one opposition MK heckled: 'Yeah, sure maybe the new Knesset will next year.' Sharon retorted: 'I can assure you, I plan on leading the new Knesset as well.'

Analysis: The far right's campaign against Prime Minister Sharon has now shifted to the Knesset. In addition to the opposition parties including Shinui from the center, Likud MKs will also be gunning to oust their own party leader and prime minister. Speaker Reuven Rivlin, who accuses Sharon of straying from the Likud's way, says Israel's Parliament is now feeling 'the aftershocks of the Gaza earthquake'. Rivlin charges the main danger to Israel is that the U.S. will feel free to pressure Israel into doing its bidding. At a briefing with Knesset reporters, Rivlin was asked whether he believed Sharon's promise that he would not conduct any more unilateral withdrawals. Rivlin replied caustically: 'I believe Sharon for today and tomorrow but what about the day after?' Rivlin, former Finance Minister Bibi Netanyahu and the Likud 'rebels' will be out to topple Sharon during the last parliamentary session before the next slated election. They number some fifteen or so among the forty MKs from the Likud's ruling party. The rebels will want to make their move in defense of Likud principles; Sharon accuses Netanyahu of putting his own personal career before the national interest.The next Israeli election has now appeared on the horizon and casts its long shadow over the Knesset and Israel's domestic politics. As usual, Sharon's coalition partners in Labor, are in a quandary over when's the best time to bolt the government and strike out on their own to make their pitch to voters. On joining the cabinet, Labor declared its sole interest was to support Sharon's disengagement plan and then it would promptly leave. But now with Shimon Peres still at the helm, Labor is talking about staying on if Sharon keeps the peace process open and adopts a more compassionate economic policy.Shinui: The former coalition partners that Sharon jettisoned in favor of Labor, has now joined the ranks of the opposition to try and restore its anti-hererdi image before the election rolls around.

Meretz: The left-wingers who also backed the disengagement from the opposition have rebelled against party leader Yossi Beilin's battle cry for toppling Sharon as quickly as possible. Meretz is waiting and watching to see if there will be any follow up to the Gaza withdrawal.

Palestinian Terrorist

Palestinians: The Islamic Jihad onslaught of suicide bombings, drive-by shootings and Qassam rockets from Gaza have shifted the spotlight to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and his lack of resolve or power in cracking down on terrorism. This naturally has left Sharon with no choice but to hit back hard with current counter-terror campaign being waged by the Israeli security forces. Paradoxically, Israel's clobbering of Islamic Jihad may even aid Abbas by showing the 'Palestinian Street' that terrorism against Israel backfires against the Palestinian cause. (In an address to the Palestinian Legislative Council, shortly before the Hadera bombing which murdered five Israelis and wounded some thirty others, an exasperated Abbas declared that although he did not wish to defend Israel, Israel was not to blame for the flare-up. And he went on to castigate the armed gangs who do what they want.) One wonders why the Palestinian leader does not tell the Palestinian people that if powerful states like Egypt, Syria and Jordan could not defeat Israel, what chance did terrorist gangs have in a changing world that condemns their tactics. Indeed, more than ever, the international community is urging the Palestinians to halt the terrorism if they want to advance to the Roadmap and a future Palestinian state. Prior to the Gaza withdrawal, the Palestinian intifada was viewed separately from the waves of Islamist terrorism striking around the world. It was understandable in the eyes of many, that if the Palestinians were being occupied by the Israelis. But now that Sharon, of all people, had withdrawn from Gaza, the Palestinians must reciprocate by halting terrorism against the Jewish state. Terrorism in New York, New Delhi, London or Hadera now appears inseparable. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, who orders roadblocks and curfews to be lifted only to have them exploited by the terrorists for fresh attacks, was on a flight back from a meeting with Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak when the Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up in the Hadera market. Mofaz and Mubarak had agreed on new Gaza terminals between Gaza and Sinai.After Hadera, Mofaz expressed dismay about advancing toward peace with the Palestinians. In a newspaper interview, Maofaz said Israel might have to wait for 'another generation'. Ariel Sharon quickly countermanded the Defense Minister. At Sunday's cabinet meeting, the Prime Minister spoke of a two-track policy: working to advance peace with the Palestinians while hitting the terrorists. Sharon views the Roadmap as still on the table and will not be the first one to throw in the towel. As long as the U.S. sticks with the Roadmap, so will Sharon.

Iran: The threat by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to wipe the Jewish state off the map triggered a swift and severe condemnation by the international community. Iranian officials and some commentators have been trying to play down what amounts to verbal terrorism against Israel. Even if Ahmadinejad is an 'inexperienced' buffoon and has embarrassed the regime of the Ayatollahs, is it conceivable to assume that the Iranian President was not expressing what he hears in the inner circles? And if Ahmadinejad makes such menacing threats BEFORE Iran acquires nuclear weapons, what can Israel, Iran's neighbors or even the 'Great Satan', the U.S. expect after the Ayatollahs have nuclear warheads on their ballistic missiles?

David Essing

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