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THIS WEEK 16.6.06

PM Olmert Goes Back To Drawing Board

Gaza Strip Flare-up & West Bank Connection

Pres. Chirac | PM Olmert

Is Prime Minister Ehud Olmerts cup half-full or half-empty after his visit to London and Paris this week? While Britains Tony Blair and Frances Jacques Chirac stood firm on demands to the Palestinians for starting peace talks, they also reacted coolly to Olmerts unilateral Realignment plan for the West Bank.

:: IsraCast Audio ::

Now is not the time for your Realignment plan - try and cut a deal with Palestinian chairman Mahmoud Abbas'. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert first heard this from U.S. President George Bush in Washington; now it was repeated by British PM Tony Blair in London and French President Jacques Chirac in Paris.

Ehud Olmert has gone back to the drawing board. He is now realigning his Realignment plan that envisions a unilateral Israeli pullout from many West Bank settlements and forming a new defense line to include settlement blocs. This would form a new Israeli border. But that scheme is now on the back burner, if not in the deep freeze. Neither Bush, Blair nor Chirac publicly torpedoed Olmert's plan; this is not the time to embarrass an Israeli PM who talks of giving up 90% of the West Bank for starters. Any Israeli PM who does so will be given the royal treatment in foreign capitals. But despite the utter chaos in the Palestinian territories and their unbridled rocketing of Israeli population centers, the powers that be are still pressing for a negotiated agreement.

On the plus side, the U.S. Britain and France are sticking to three conditions the Palestinians must meet to start peace talks. The Palestinians, that is the Hamas government, must renounce terror and accept both Israel's existence as well as prior agreements. This is a tall order for Hamas, which is bankrolled by Iran, a state that calls for wiping Israel off the map.

Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is still plugging away amid the Palestinian sound and fury. Yesterday while terrorists, including his own Fatah group, were rocketing the Israeli of Sderot, Abbas declared repeatedly: The Palestinians really want peace'. He was accepting an honorary doctorate at a Palestinian university. But if the international community wants another go at Saving Mahmoud Abbas' apparently Olmert has no choice but to play the game. He has already done so by allowing hundreds of M-16 automatic rifles to be transferred from Jordan to the Abbas Presidential Guard - the main reason is reportedly to protect him from assassination by Hamas terrorists.

But can Abbas deliver a Palestinian consensus to launch the Roadmap instead of Qassams? Shabak Security Chief Yuval Diskin has said all the Palestinian factions want to avoid a civil war but who knows?

Ballistic Intifada: What impact might the massive Qassam rocketing from the Gaza Strip have on Olmert's Realignment scheme? Remember, former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon withdrew all Israeli troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip last summer.

Since then, the Palestinians exploited the evacuated territory to launch some six hundred rockets at Israel. Amram Mitzna is a former Labor party leader who ran against Sharon and Mitzna was first to call for the Gaza pullout. Mitzna, a retired IDF general and a confirmed dove, has now made headlines. In the midst of the furor over whether an IDF shell or a Palestinian explosive had killed seven members of a Palestinian family, Mitzna called for Israel to use full force' to quell the Palestinian aggression. In a radio interview, Mitzna contended that otherwise it would be impossible for any Israeli government to carry out any future withdrawal on the West Bank. He explained that if the Palestinians got away with exploiting returned territory to launch fresh attacks, the Israeli public would never agree to evacuate part of the West Bank. In other words it was vital for Israel to restore its deterrent power. How does this relate to Olmert's Realignment? In Paris, the Prime Minister called his plan inevitable with or without a Palestinian partner'. In order to preserve the Jewish state Israel must separate from the Palestinians. But say the isolated settlements were evacuated and a new defense line drawn on the West Bank to include the settlement blocs. The idea is to set a new border. But what has transpired along the Israel-Gaza border indicates the terrorists would simply move into those evacuated West Bank to launch more deadly attacks at the very heart of Israel.The Palestinian attacks from Gaza indicate that even if Israel unilaterally withdraws from some West Bank settlements in the future, the IDF would have to stay put.

However it's still early days for this scenario in light of the current escalation in Gaza and the bitter feud between Hamas and Fatah.
David Essing

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