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Gen.(res.) Eiland: ‘Israeli Residents Will Be Out Of Gaza Strip, One Way Or The Other, By End Of Next September’

Knesset Speaker Rivlin: ‘I'm Dumbfounded By Sharon's Withdrawal...It Will Breach Israel's Iron Wall Of Security’

Gaza Settlement

General Giora Eiland, the head of Israel's National Security Council, Giora Eiland has briefed the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on the details of the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and 4 Samarian settlments by the end of next year. Eiland disclosed that negotiations for Egypt to take control of the Philadelfee Axis are dragging on so the IDF will have to remain there to prevent Palestinian arms smuggling into the Gaza Strip. In another development, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin has launched a blistering attack on Sharon's evacuation plan charging that it will endanger Israel's security.

:: IsraCast Audio ::

Despite the political clash, plans are moving ahead on carrying out Prime Minister Sharon's withdrawal. Reserve General Giora Eiland unveiled the ‘nuts and bolts’ of the planned evacuation.

General Eiland

The head of the National Security Council says the settlers who agree to leave, will move out next June and July. Those who refuse will be moved out forcibly starting in August. By the end of September all civilians will be out of the Gaza Strip. The IDF will then evacuate the area by the end of next year, deploying the Gaza Strip. General Eiland says this new redeployment, based on rapid reaction and high-tech, will provide an adequate security package.

The key question, will it result in more or less terrorism from Gaza? The General points to 3 scenarios: 1. less violence and a calming of the situation,2. terrorists in Gaza will view evacuation as a victory and step up their attacks 3. terrorists in West Bank will continue violence, triggering IDF response, terrorists in Gaza will then join in.

In the long run, the NSC director believes the withdrawal will lead to a drop in terrorism. In any case, Israel will continue to supply Gaza with water, electricity and fuel after the withdrawal. Fewer Palestinian workers will keep on going to jobs inside Israel; by the year 2008, no Palestinians will be working in Israel.

As for Israeli property, all the settlers homes will be either dismantled or demolished. If a third party is ready to mediate, Israel would be willing to transfer public or commercial facilities and medical clinics to the Palestinians. There has been no dialogue with the Palestinian Authority on the pullout.

Israel has been in contact with Cairo, on Egyptian forces replacing the IDF in the Philadelfee Axis, a narrow sector which separates Egypt from Gaza. It is through underground tunnels there, where the Palestinians smuggle in arms and explosives. Although the Egyptians have talked about playing a role, they have been dragging their feet. Therefore, General Eiland says although Israel would prefer to get out, there is no choice but to remain. Otherwise, he warned the Gaza Strip could turn into a new south Lebanon where Hizballah guerilas threaten northern Israel after the IDF withdrawal.

Speaker Rivlin

In another development, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin of Sharon's own Likud party has lashed out at the Prime Minister over the withdrawal. Rivlin accused Sharon ‘of marching toward giving up Israel's strategic assets in the face of grave Arab threats.’ The Speaker launched his diatribe at an open session of the Foreign Affairs and Defense discussion on Israel's future borders. He was dumbfounded over the evacuation plan, after Sharon himself had previously warned that giving up Gaza would threaten Israel's security...that Gaza would turn into a base for launching Qassam and Katyusha rockets at Israel. Rivlin also warned that after Gaza, Israel would be forced to give up Judea and Samaria, the Jordan Valley and the Golan Heights. The Speaker also lambasted Sharon for referring to how Menachem Begin had given up Sinai. Rivlin said Begin did not view Sinai as the same as Judea, Samaria or Gaza. Rivlin accused the Prime Minister of breaching Israel's ‘iron wall’ of defense.

The Speaker's public statement reflects how deep the controversy now is over the Gaza withdrawal.Over the past twenty-four hours both Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom and Labor party leader Shimon Peres, have warned there is a very real threat to the life of Prime Minister Sharon. This, as the November 4th anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin's assassination draws near.

David Essing

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