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DISENGAGEMENT CONNEXIONS

IDF Soldier Killed While Tracking Down Palestinian Killer Indicates President Mahmoud Abbas Is Still Talking But Not 'Doing'

Cabinet Minister Sharansky's Resignation Is Proof Withdrawal Will Be Implemented

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan Solidifies 'Silent Alliance' with Israel

Within a 24-hour period, there has been a flurry of developments swirling around Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's withdrawal plan. On the West Bank, another bloody clash with Palestinian terrorists, while another cabinet resignation shakes the Sharon government. Inside the national unity cabinet, the gap between Likud and Labor remains as wide as ever over the future of the West Bank. Against his being ousted shortly before this summer's evacuation, IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon has blasted Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz. And on the positive side, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan wraps up a friendly visit in both Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Staff Sergeant Dan Telesnikov

Israeli officials say the killing of an IDF paratrooper Staff Sergeant Dan Telesnikov indicates that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is still only talking about reining in the terrorists. The killer, believed responsible for planning the bombing of a Tel Aviv nightclub, was caught and placed in a Palestinian prison from where he escaped several weeks ago.

  • 'Locking the door' - the Israeli soldier was shot dead while tracking down a Palestinian fugitive. Shafik Abdul Raani is believed to have planned the suicide bombing of a Tel Aviv nightclub that murdered 4 Israelis in February. The terrorist had been arrested after widespread condemnation that the Palestinians were not keeping the cease-fire. But Israeli officials crack: 'A guard in the Palestinian prison apparently forget to lock the door' and he escaped. It appears to be another version of 'the revolving door' tactic. Acting on a tip-off, an Israeli patrol tracked down the terrorist and another accomplice in a village near the Palestinian town of Tul Kerem on the West Bank. The fugitives, now armed with automatic rifles opened fire first, killing the soldier and wounding another. Raani was killed on the spot; his accomplice was wounded and caught later.There is no reason to believe that President Mahmoud Abbas had anything to do with the terrorist's 'escape'. But if the killer is caught and then gets away to plan more suicide bombings, does Israel have any choice but to track him down? In this case, one Israeli soldier paid with his life. This is the reality of the current 'cease-fire'. In this case, Raani was a member of an Islamic Jihad group that rejects halting terrorism against Israel. In the run-up to the evacuation, Israel will be watching closely to see if Abbas moves beyond the rhetoric stage and really starts acting against the terrorists. As one senior Israeli official said recently 'Mahmoud Abbas must be made aware that Israel is not going to bleed for him!'
  • Why did Sharansky resign? The answer is simple; he fully realizes that Sharon, against the odds, is going to implement his disengagement plan. Sharansky, who opposed the evacuation from the word go, calls it a major blunder not to demand that Abbas carry out democratic reforms in the Palestinian Authority. He points to U.S. President George W. Bush who has adopted Sharansky's very ideas for democratization in the Middle East. Sharansky quips: 'If it's good for Bush why isn't it good enough for Sharon?' His resignation comes as no great surprise. Sharansky, who is not a Knesset member, was appointed by Sharon to a portfolio on anti - Semitism and Jerusalem. In accepting the resignation, Sharon praised Sharansky' dedicated and effective work' but did not appear worried. He will simple appoint someone else and carry on with the pullout. Opponents are trying to blow Sharansky's resignation into a' tail wind' against the withdrawal but Sharansky, although very popular abroad, has not succeeded in building a political power base in Israel.
  • 'I wear high combat boots because of the snakes in the Defense Ministry compound!' This broadside came from the ramrod straight IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon. Who was the snake in his metaphor? General Yaalon did not name anyone but the whole country knew it could only be Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz who dropped a bombshell be deciding not to extend the Chief of Staff's term by the customary fourth year. That came as a surprise because by all accounts, Yaalon was highly respected for containing the wave of terrorism launched by Yasser Arafat in September 2000. Yaalon was speaking at an informal gathering organized by former comrades in the paratrooper corps. The Defense Minister has never adequately explained why he cut short the commander's term; he has spoken of a new team to carry out the evacuation implying that he found fault with Yaalon. The country has not accepted this explanation and recently polls indicated that the Defense Minister's popularity has taken a nosedive.But above and beyond the personal intrigue, General Yaalon recently warned of a flare-up of Palestinian violence on the West Bank? Might Yaalon's concern about what happens after the evacuation have something to do with his early retirement?
  • 'No love lost' - Likud and Labor ministers in the national unity cabinet forgot they were supposed to be on the same side now and brandished their political swords. It was over whether to upgrade the status of an Israeli college in the West Bank town of Ariel to that of a university. The Laborites charged it was a political statement, damaging at this time. Likudniks retorted that if Ariel is within the Israeli consensus, did Labor favor withdrawing from Ariel? It was a brief and really innocuous spat but it illustrates how sharply opposed the two parties really are and what may be in store after this summer's evacuation from the Gaza Strip and the 4 settlements in Samaria.
  • Turk's delight - Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is the latest foreign
Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan

leader to make a political pilgrimage to Jerusalem and Ramallah. In his case, it included a religious visit to the Al Aksa mosque in Jerusalem for the Muslim leader. Obviously, Sharon's withdrawal plan is reaping political dividends. Without it, it is doubtful if Russian President Vladimir Putin, U.N. Secretary Kofi Annan or British Prime Minister Tony Blair would have risked such a tour. The visit by Erdogan is all the more auspicious in light of the fact that just a year ago he openly criticized Israel's targeted killing of wanted Palestinians. But although Israeli leaders felt this galling in light of how the Turks wage their campaign against Kurdish rebels, it has not harmed what is known as the silent strategic alliance. Israel and Turkey maintain not only economic but also military cooperation. A $400 million deal is now under discussion for Israel to upgrade Turkish Air Force Phantom jets. With bilateral trade reaching $2 billion annually, Israel is considering a major pipeline to run through Turkey supplying Russian oil and gas to the Jewish state.The fact that the Turkish leader did not cover his head during a visit to the Yad VaShem memorial was not viewed as a diplomatic incident. On the contrary, Erdogan called anti-Semitism 'a crime against humanity' and he was proud that 'only in Turkey and Bulgaria had Jews not been persecuted on religious grounds'. Sharon and Erdogan agreed to bolster intelligence contacts against terrorism and even set up a direct channel of communications between their offices.

Footnote: As the Disengagement moves forward, the interfacing of its various aspects, at times appearing almost contradictory.

David Essing

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