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Settlers vs. IDF (archive)

It’s been a dramatic week in Prime Minister Sharon’s drive to carry out his plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and 4 West Bank settlements this summer. Sharon fought off fierce opposition to the historic move not only from the far right opposition but also from within his ruling Likud party. In the Palestinian Authority, terrorists have shot up the Ramallah headquarters of President Mahmoud Abbas; in reaction a senior Palestinian security of official has resigned. In the first of two installments, David Essing assesses the outcome on the ground and possible future developments in light of a looming split within the Likud:

:: IsraCast Audio ::

'Gunfights at the OK Corral'? - Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon Gearing Up To Send Israeli Police and Troops To Evacuate Angry Settlers & Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Warns Terrorists Who Open Fire In His Ramallah Headquarters And Shoot Up The Town -

Ariel Sharon has overcome, apparently the last two parliamentary hurdles, which could have halted his withdrawal plan. The Knesset first voted down his opponents' national referendum bill, which could have derailed the withdrawal. It then approved the new state budget that averted the fall of the government. Deputy Premier Ehud Olmert believes there is no way the disengagement can now be halted: [Audio - Olmert]

Opponents to the evacuation disagree. MK Effy Eitam admits they lost the battle in the Parliament but they'll win the campaign in the streets and in the Gaza Strip itself: [Audio - Eitam]

And the settlers in Gaza say they will not give up: [Audio - settlers]

Settler spokesperson, Eve Harrow told IBA Television that Israel's long-term survival was at stake: [Audio - Harrow]

Let's hear now from the other side. On the same program, Yariv Oppenheimer, of the left wing Peace Now group, had a different take altogether: [Audio- Oppenheimer]

But Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, who opposes the withdrawal, believes there is a real danger of a civil war: [Audio - Rivlin] In order to avert the accidental opening of fire during settler opposition to the evacuation, Israeli policemen who may have to use force will not carry weapons. Special IDF teams will be stationed to protect the settlers from Palestinian terrorist attacks during the withdrawal. The idea has been mooted to take away the settlers weapons a day or so before the evacuation. One concern is that a settler being forced out of his or her home might go berserk and open fire. While the debate was raging a somber intelligence report that Palestinian terrorists in Judea and Samaria are now developing Qassam rockets for launching at Israel. IDF Intelligence Chief General Zeevi-Farkash warned that Hamas, Islamic Jihad and others were exploiting the current cease-fire to build up their arsenals for more deadly attacks on Israel. The General was briefing a closed door hearing of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee; Committee Chairman Yuval Steinitz was deeply concerned, even if the terrorists on the West Bank have not yet acquired an operational capability for the rockets: [Audio - Steinitz]

The intelligence chief reiterated that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas was not lifting a finger to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure or confiscate their illegal weapons.However, Abbas apparently did put his foot down when Palestinian fugitives opened fire inside his Ramallah headquarters. The terrorists, running from Israel, were allowed into the headquarters with their weapons by Yasser Arafat. Palestinian security had simply called on the terrorists to give up their weapons inside the President's headquarters. The terrorists' response - they shot up the building and then went on a rampage, shooting indiscriminately inside the town of Ramallah. They apparently ruled the roost in Ramallah for nearly two days before backing off. Abbas was not present at the time. In response his intelligence chief, Tawfik Tirawi handed in his resignation. Tirawi complained that it was impossible to do his job with armed terrorists running around and opening fire at will.

Palestinian Terror

What other conclusion is there than that the terrorists and their Kalashnikov rifles threaten Palestinian society, no less than they do Israel. The terrorists act as if they are outside the law; if not disarmed, these outlaws will lead to the fall of Mahmoud Abbas. If Abbas wants to be treated as President of a Palestinian state in-the-making, he is going to have to start acting as a Commander in Chief. Who can honestly believe that gentle persuasion will induce hardened criminals, who glory in blowing up crowded buses, to relinquish their power. Even Haled Mashal, a Hamas leader working out of Syria, openly defies Abbas and tries to set Palestinian policy. Mashal warns Hamas will start attacking again, if Israel does not release all its Palestinian prisoners, including those who murdered Israeli children, women and men. At least two of the more than 400 prisoners recently freed by Israel have been involved again in new terror activity. At present, Israel has to deal with two potential Palestinian states: one lead by Mahmoud Abbas, who says he wants a peaceful dialogue with Israel; while the second is lead by terrorists who seek Israel's destruction and will keep their weapons and build Qassam rockets to try and do it.

In any case, the latest Israeli intelligence assessment is that the Palestinians will probably keep the lid on by carrying out only low profile attacks, until Israel carries out the disengagement.

For better or for worse, Ariel Sharon the 'bulldozer' who over the years drove full steam ahead in building the settlements, has shifted into reverse and is driving full speed but in the opposite direction.

David Essing

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