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AFTERSHOCKS OF GAZA WITHDRAWAL

Dr. Dan Schueftan: 'Sharon Likely To Continue Unilateral Policy, Abbas Will Not Disarm Terrorists'

'Netanyahu Could Win Early Israeli Election In 2006 But He Would Probably Adopt Sharon's Policy Of Eventually Pulling Back To West Bank Security Fence'

'U.S. Indicates Understanding For Israel's Demand To Dismantle Terror Groups'

Abbas - Sharon

Where is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict headed after Israel's historic withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and four West Bank settlements? Dr. Dan Schueftan, a Middle East expert at Haifa University, expects little change as long as Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas does not dismantle the terror organizations. In light of this, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon can be expected to carry forward his policy of unilateralism. But the latest opinion polls indicate that former Finance Minister Binyamin (Bibi) Netanyahu would trounce Sharon if the ruling Likud party went to primaries. Now that Sharon has apparently lost his parliamentary majority, an early election is widely expected early next year. Interviewed by David Essing, Dr. Schueftan analyzes the emerging situation.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) has no intention of dismantling terror organizations making it impossible to reach the Roadmap goal of permanent peace. That's the assessment of Dr. Dan Schueftan, a Palestinian expert at Haifa University in his assessment of the aftermath of Israel's unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and four West Bank settlements. Additional points made by Dr. Schueftan:

Israel's unilateral withdrawal and Palestinian reaction augers very little change because Palestinians are demanding concessions that Israel cannot accept Palestinian leadership will continue to demand a total Israel withdrawal to the 1967 lines in addition to resettling of Palestinian refugees inside Israel.

Mahmoud Abbas is not capable of eliminating terrorism from Palestinian arsenal; the most he can do is persuade terrorists that it is counter- productive to attack Israel at this time Israel must continue to launch counter - terror strikes such as in Tul Kerem; otherwise Israelis will remain at mercy of most radical terrorists.

Sharon will continue policy of unilateralism by incorporating, but not annexing, West Bank settlement blocs inside security fence. Little chance that Palestinians will reciprocate Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip by turning it into a model of peaceful co-existence. Even if terrorist onslaught continues, Sharon is likely to carry out military disengagement which he views in Israel's best interest.

U.S. & Israel are not on a collision course because Bush administration understands the need to dismantle terror infrastructure. Slim chance Washington will pressure Sharon who wants to proceed with more unilateral steps. (Pressure on Israel would have barred Gaza withdrawal and lead to future election of more nationalistic Israeli leadership).

Early Israeli election expected at start of 2006. If elected, Sharon will continue policy of unilateralism. But if Likud front-runner Binyamin Netanyahu is victorious, he will probably adopt similar policy because Netanyahu will come to realize that Israeli public and the U.S. would both like further Israeli concessions regardless of Palestinian intransigence.

David Essing

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