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SHARON HOLDS HIS FIRE

PM Sharon: 'Israel's Unilateral Disengagement Will Be Implemented On Schedule!'

IDF Chief Of Staff Halutz: 'Terrorist Shelling That Killed Three Workers Is Testing Our Patience But We Must Look To Long Term'

Channel 2 News: 'Less Than 50 % Of Israelis Now Support Sharon's Disengagement Plan'

PM Ariel Sharon

In the Gaza Strip, Palestinian terrorists again bombard Israeli settlements and the town of Sderot across the border. Although they kill 3 people and injure other civilians, Prime Minister Sharon declares Israel's unilateral withdrawal will be implemented on schedule starting after August 15th. However, Sharon is apparently losing the support of Israelis for the pullout in the wake of the Palestinian attacks. What is Sharon's game plan?

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon declares the deadly Palestinian shelling in the Gaza Strip will not alter his timetable for withdrawing from the area in August. Speaking after Tuesday's attacks that killed two Palestinian workers and a Chinese foreign worker, Sharon declared: 'The disengagement will be implemented on schedule, it will be implemented!'

Palestinian Terrorists

Palestinian Attack: The terrorists fired 14 Qassam rockets as well as mortars at settlements in the Gaza Strip and the town of Sderot across the Israeli border. One of the mortars scored a direct hit on an Israeli hothouse killing 2 Palestinian workers as well as a Chinese foreign worker. Five other Palestinian farmhands working in the hothouse were also injured. One of them complained later: 'Don't they know Palestinians also work here!' The day began with a Qassam rocket scoring a bull's-eye on the town of Sderot inside Israel. The rocket crashed through the roof of an apartment building exploding in a family living room. Fortunately at 7AM, none of the family was there. One woman and two girls in the flat were treated for shock. Last month, just before Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visited President George W. Bush in the White House, terrorists in the Gaza Strip launched no less than 100 Qassam rockets and mortars at Israeli targets. No one was seriously hurt in that bombardment.

Sharon's Strategy: Speaking at Bar Ilan University, the Prime Minister made clear he will hold his fire as far as possible and his unilateral withdrawal will be carried out next August. This appears to be Sharon's game plan: he contends that evacuating Gaza and 4 West Bank settlements is in Israel's national interest and overall, it will enhance the country's security. Therefore, he will not let terrorist attacks deflect him from conducting the withdrawal. This was his message: ‘The disengagement is a tough move for him as the prime mover in the settlement movement, but there is no choice'.

'Keep Your Eye On The Ball': Sharon apparently will not be diverted from his withdrawal plan even as he is risking the rage of the settlers and his own Likud party. The same applies to the terrorists; the PM will not allow them to force him to postpone or halt the pullout. There is of course a limit, red lines for the Palestinian attacks when it comes to Israeli casualties. The Prime Minister has declared the evacuation of the Gaza settlers will not be carried out under fire! The idea is that massive IDF forces will be deployed to immediately enter Palestinian areas in range of the evacuation and suppress fire from the terrorists. In other words, the withdrawal will be implemented but the IDF will receive orders to protect it from the Palestinian areas. Look for Sharon to convey this message to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice when she arrives soon in Jerusalem. Moreover, Sharon will likely tell Rice the IDF may have to be sent into Palestinian areas before the evacuation, if the shelling continues.

'Bleeding For Mahmoud Abbas': IsraCast previously quoted a very senior security official who declared that 'Israel will not bleed for the sake of Mahmoud Abbas!' After Tuesday's fatalities it appears this is not the case. There are possibly two reasons Sharon has not ordered a retaliatory attack: he is still giving Abbas the chance to start reining in the terrorists and Sharon also wants to keep on the right side of President George W. Bush.But the PM is paying the bill when it comes to Israeli public opinion. Channel 2 News reports that its latest poll shows that Sharon has lost his public mandate to implement the one sided withdrawal that gives territory to the Palestinians without any Palestinian quid pro quo. Not only that; the terrorists continue to attack and murder, while the Palestinian leadership looks the other way. Moreover, experts tell the public that Hamas has launched the shelling because it is peeved that Abbas has postponed the Palestinian elections in July because he fears Hamas will win! Therefore, Hamas vents its anger by attacking Israel and putting Abbas in hot water. Sound convoluted? It is and how. But Israel is paying the price and the U.S., Britain and the rest of the 'quartet' are playing a different tune as if Abbas is sticking to the right notes. In light of the latest attack, the Likud 'rebels' and cabinet minister Danny Naveh demand that Sharon at least postpone the evacuation, otherwise the terrorists will view it as Israeli weakness; the PM has made clear he will not budge.

IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz

IDF Chief of Staff: After the latest shelling, Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz visited Sderot and was asked about the implication of the disengagement not being carried out under fire. The new commander replied; 'What is implied is what is implied. Sabre-rattling is not a work plan. Everything must be considered seriously with a view to the long-term.' At the same time, Halutz criticized the Palestinian Authority for not dealing with the terror groups warning that the PA might pay dearly: 'Today's events are further proof of the Palestinian Authority's weakness and its failure to impose control over the terrorists. The fact that the PA thinks the right things, says the right things but does not do the right things tells all. The terror organizations are conducting a dialogue with the PA through us, by launching Qassam rockets and mortars at Israeli settlements and Sderot.'

Palestinian Power Struggle: So it's Mahmoud Abbas versus Hamas competing for leadership of the Palestinians. Abbas convinced Hamas it was both in the interest of both Hamas and the Palestinians in their joining the political process. (As for the timing, the IDF's highly successful counter-terror campaign had Hamas on the run eliminating its top leadership of Sheik Ahmed Yassin and Rantisi). But the latest deadly shelling indicates the terrorists will turn to violence when they want to make their point. If this applies when they have a beef with the Palestinian leader whom they don't accept, what does it auger for Israel in the future?

David Essing

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