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BUSH RUN-UP

Palestinian Terrorism Overshadows Upcoming Bush Visit

Zalman Shoval: 'Olmert Should Tell U.S. President That Israel Cannot Shed Israeli Blood For Sake Of Diplomatic Moves'

'Israel Should Draw Red Line After Palestinian Rocketing Of Ashqelon'

US President George W. Bush

Less than a week before U.S. President George W. Bush visits Israel, Palestinian terrorists in Gaza Strip have escalated their rocketing attacks by launching a Grad - Katyusha at the Israeli city of Ashqelon. Although the terrorists have been rocketing Sderot for years, the Ashqelon rocketing is being viewed with greater gravity. And even on the West Bank, the domain of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, terrorists shot dead two Israeli hikers. One of the killers was a Palestinian policeman on the Abbas payroll. Zalman Shoval, a former Israeli Ambassador to Washington told IsraCast that Prime Minister Olmert must tell the U.S. leader that the blood of Israelis will not be shed for the sake of American peace moves. Two years after former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a coma, Shoval has no doubt that things would be different if Sharon were prime minister today.

'Prime Minister Olmert should tell President Bush that Israel must do what it takes to protect its civilians from Palestinian terrorism despite American peace efforts' - that's the view of Zalman Shoval a former Israeli Ambassador to Washington. Shoval says Israelis from across the political spectrum will greet Bush as a very welcome guest but West Bank terrorists, one of them a Palestinian policeman, have recently shot dead two Israeli hikers while Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have added the Israeli town of Ashqelon to to their target list with longer range Katyusha rockets. But not only Ashqelon, but many other civilian areas with tens of thousand of Israelis, could suddenly come under rocket attack. The more sophisticated Katyushas put thousands of more Israeli civilians within range beyond Sderot that has been attacked for seven years from Gaza. Shoval also says the rocketing of Ashqelon highlights the urgency for Egypt to clamp down on the smuggling of arms and explosives into Gaza from Egyptian controlled Sinai. In his view, the rocketing from Gaza cannot be suppressed by the IDF's surgical raids that have killed over two hundred terrorists in recent months. Sooner or later a 'territorial operation' will have to be conducted into Gaza but so far the Israeli government has delayed such a move due to the American sponsored Annapolis process.

Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon

Shoval served as an advisor to former PM Ariel Sharon who has been hospitalized in a coma for two years. In the ambassador's view, 'there is not a doubt' that things would have been different if Sharon had been able to carry on as prime minister. Shoval says Sharon perceived Israeli control of the West Bank as necessary to Israeli security. Moreover, after unilaterally withdrawing from the entire Gaza Strip, Shoval doubts that Sharon would have acquiesced in Hamas turning it into a launch pad for more serious attacks on Israel.

Postscript: This is not the first time that Gaza terrorists have launched a Grad-Katyusha into Israel but the alarm bells are ringing. They are more deadly than the home-made Qassams that have terrorized Sderot for years. If the terrorists have succeeded in transporting a number of them into Gaza and start launching them, Israel will have no choice but to re-invade the Gaza Strip with all that implies. At the same time, possibly in deference to Bush, the Israeli government has decided to hold off as long as possible. In any case, the terror organization are expected to escalate their attacks in the run - up to the Bush visit in order to show they are alive and kicking - a factor to be reckoned with.

What are Bush's chances for prodding Olmert and Abbas into pushing the process forward? For whatever reason, both leaders will try hard to please their American guest; but the current Israeli-Palestinian situation lends little hope that conditions have ripened for a genuine peace process.

David Essing

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