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GAZA DISENGAGEMENT - BETTER OR WORSE SECURITY

Israeli Official: 'Israel Is Dismantling Settlements, Not the IDF'

Brig. Gen. (res.) Giladi: 'The Disengagement Will Leave Israel With Far Better Security & International Situation'

Maj. Gen. (res.) Ami-Dror: 'The Disengagement Is A Disaster; It Shows Palestinians That Terrorism Pays'

Total Closure

Israel's historic withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and four West Bank settlements is now moving into high gear. Amid the turmoil, the question for most Israelis now is whether the country will be better off or worse off after the withdrawal. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon believes he has firm U.S. backing that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas must first dismantle Hamas and the other terror organizations before Israel enters Roadmap negotiations. However, Hamas leaders have declared they will not give up their weapons and threaten a new wave of attacks from the West Bank. Sharon's critics charge the writing is on the wall; the current withdrawal will deal a severe blow to Israel's security.

Israel is dismantling settlements; it is not dismantling the IDF'. That is the laconic reaction of a senior Israeli official to the two mortar bombs fired by Palestinians at a Gaza settlements and the Hamas declaration to launch a new wave of attacks in the future.The insinuation is clear. if there is a new flare-up of Palestinian attacks, during or after the Israeli pullout, the IDF will react severely. But will the country's security be enhanced or harmed by leaving the Gaza Strip and four settlements in the northern West Bank? Opinion is divided.

Brig. Gen. (res.) Eyval Giladi, a strategic planner for Prime Minister Sharon is certain Israel will be better off, On the other hand, Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaacov Ami-Dror has no doubt it will turn out to be 'a disaster'. The two former IDF officers debated the issue on Channel 10 TV. Giladi says there are five good reasons for withdrawing from Gaza:

1. Tactically - Israel's security fence around the Gaza Strip has prevented terrorists from penetrating Israel to carry out attacks. Therefore, they have had to focus on settlements and IDF targets inside the Gaza Strip. Giladi says: 'After we leave, they will have no one there to shot at and attack there'.

2. Freedom of movement - if the Palestinian do attack after the pullout, the IDF will have even greater freedom of action in reacting because the settlements will not be in the way. The IDF is to withdraw from the Gaza Strip by the end of the year, but Israeli officials have made clear they will re-enter if required to quell Palestinian rocketing over the security fence into Israel.

3. Legitimization - if Palestinian terrorism continues after Israel evacuates, Israel will have even greater legitimization to act in self-defense.

4. Palestinian stake - the Palestinians are interested in showing the world they can halt the violence and after the evacuation it is only reasonable they will make a greater effort to curb it. Giladi recounted that Palestinian official Muhammad Dahlan had told him: 'It's tough for Palestinian security forces to act against the militants in the shadow of Israeli tanks'. D.E. - the Palestinians have been promised more than $2 billion annually in foreign aid after Israel's evacuation; this will be jeopardized if the Palestinians do not keep fulfill their commitment to halt the violence. Moreover, a senior IDF officer has said the withdrawal will reduce significantly the size of Israeli forces required to defend Israel in the Gaza sector. He noted that after the IDF withdrawal from south Lebanon, northern Israel has enjoyed a period of quiet and prosperity and that Hezbollah has been deterred from attacking Galilee.

Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaacov Ami-Dror rejects what he sees as the 'pie in the sky' approach that argues that Israel will be better off after the withdrawal. These are his arguments:

1. Tactically - it is not true that most of the Palestinian attacks in the Gaza Strip are directed at Israeli targets inside the Strip. Qassam rockets and mortars have been launched from inside Gaza at Israeli towns like Sderot and other communities inside Israel. The terrorists will now be able to move closer, right up to the security fence and fire rockets at the city of Ashqelon up the Israeli coast. (Indeed, Israeli communities just across the border have been reinforced in case of more intense rocketing after the withdrawal.)

2. Freedom of action - Israel will have less freedom of action against terrorists after the withdrawal. Ami-Dror argues that Israel had to wait until 800 Israeli civilians were murdered and thousands more injured by Palestinian suicide bombers, before it risked international condemnation by launching the Defensive Shield operation on the West Bank in 2002.

3. Legitimization - again, if Israel faces more attacks by Hamas and Islamic jihad, the U.S. and the rest of the international community will press Israel to 'grin and bear it' and make more concessions to Mahmoud Abbas to bolster him against the terrorists and to advance on the Roadmap.

 4. Returning to Oslo - Israel will be coerced into returning to the Oslo model of giving more and more to the Palestinian Authority. But this approach proved to be a disaster then and it will again because the PA will never combat terrorism. On the contrary, the Palestinians will view it as a capitulation to terrorism. Ami-Dror said a recent poll showed that 74% of Palestinians believe their attacks drove Israel out of Gaza. In his view, terrorism could not be defeated by fleeing from it; it had to be confronted and rooted out and only then would it be possible to enter peace negotiations such as the Roadmap. He went on to say that the Palestinians view the IDF's pullout from south Lebanon as a capitulation to Hezbollah terrorism which they took as an example in Gaza and will continue in the West Bank after the disengagement.

 

Giladi: Sharon's strategic advisor rejected the idea that Israel would now be drawn into repeating the mistakes of the Oslo process. He agreed Oslo was premised on the notion that peace would bring Israel security because the Palestinians would have no reason to attack Israel. However, the Roadmap is based on the Palestinians first implementing security reforms and only then moving into peace negotiations. Giladi said: 'If Oslo was postulated on peace bringing security, the Roadmap is based on security bringing peace and the U.S. and the whole world accepts this'.

 

Ami-Dror: 'This is simply not true, not only the Europeans but also the Europeans are prodding Israel about what next after Gaza.' He explained that the international community views further Israeli withdrawals as more important than Mahmoud Abbas dismantling Hamas and the other terror organizations.

 

Giladi: Israel enjoys military and economic superiority compared to the Palestinians and the world is mobilized against the threat of terrorism. We must utilize the current situation by taking our destiny in our hands and again seeking an agreement with the Palestinians, even if it is imperfect. The other alternative is to keep killing and being killed'.

David Essing

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