Israeli Withdrawal To Be Complete Within A Few Days
July 7, 2008
Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Even though Israel's three-week military operation seems to be winding down, this is not necessarily the end of Israeli incursions into Palestinian Authority-controlled areas if terrorism continues, military analysts said on Thursday.
Israel pulled its forces out of Jenin and the Jenin refugee camp on Thursday, according to an Israeli army spokesman, following the departure of Secretary of State Colin Powell from the region on Wednesday.
Palestinian sources were quoted as saying that Israeli troops were re-deploying from Nablus but the army could not confirm this.
Deputy Defense Minister Dalia Rabin-Pelossof said that the Israeli pullback from Jenin and Tulkarem would be completed within a few days. Rabin-Pelossof said that if terror attacks continued after the withdrawal, Israel would have to deal with the situation.
Earlier, Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer said that Israel would pull out of Jenin and Nablus possibly by Sunday, and maybe from parts of Bethlehem, too, "if a solution is found for the Church of the Nativity, and parts of Ramallah as well, except the Mukata'a, where the murderers of minister Rehavam Ze'evy remain."
PA Chairman Yasser Arafat has been holed up in his headquarters, the Mukata'a compound in Ramallah, with a number of Palestinians, including the assassins of an Israel minister, Israel says. Israeli tanks have surrounded them for three weeks.
Some 200 Palestinian gunmen have been holed up in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem for more than two weeks, where they took refuge when Israeli forces entered the city.
Powell, who left Israel without having achieved a ceasefire, said that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had given him a timeline for the troop withdrawal.
Sharon resisted U.S. and international pressure, which demanded last week that Israel withdraw its troops immediately from PA-controlled cities, which it entered following a series of deadly suicide bombing attacks.
Sharon said Israel would leave when it had accomplished its mission of arresting terrorists, seizing illegal weapons and destroying bomb-making facilities.
But retired Col. Yoash Tsiddon-Chatto said he believes that Israel may be pulling out too soon.
"Every day Israel discovers more and more in the areas," Tsiddon-Chatto said in reference to the weapons and explosives confiscated by Israeli troops. "But given the fact that so many people have been arrested and equipment found [its bound] to affect morale."
More than 4,000 Palestinians have been arrested, including several hundred who were on Israel's wanted list.
Because of this, retired Brig. Gen. Shlomo Brom, senior researcher at the Jaffe Center for Strategic Studies in Tel Aviv, said he believes that the operation was a success, but nevertheless, may be followed by similar actions.
"I don't think anybody is talking about solving the conflict," Brom said. "We are managing the conflict to minimize the casualties.
"The Israeli operation damaged severely their [the Palestinian terrorists'] ability to cause harm [but] it didn't cancel their capability entirely," he said. That makes the operation a success, he added.
However, the idea that Israel would completely pull out of the PA-controlled areas is not "exactly accurate" he said. If there is a terror attack and the perpetrator is from Jenin for instance, Israel will go back into Jenin and then pull out again, he added.
Israel has made incursions into PA areas since last year, but what the army called Operation Defensive Shield was by far the most widespread and deepest penetration into PA-areas, completely taking over the cities with troops searching house to house for wanted militants and weapons.
'No Security Without Peace'
Before leaving Israel on Wednesday, Powell stressed that improvement in the security situation in the region was linked to what he called "determined pursuit of a political solution.
"There can be no peace without security, but there can also be no security without peace. Only a negotiated settlement can resolve the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians," Powell said.
But Brom said that he doesn't think its likely that negotiations will be possible any time in the near future because of the expectation that Palestinian violence will continue.
"Beyond a certain level of terrorism, negotiations are not possible," Brom said. He added that he didn't think that Arafat and the Palestinians were going to calm down the situation.
Israel's military operation "will definitely change the situation," said Tsiddon-Chatto. But the way he sees its now it's a "zero-sum game."
If Israel gives the Palestinians all they want with the exception of controlling their access to foreign relations as well as requiring their entity to be demilitarized -- as Israeli liberals offer -- it will not be enough of a platform for the Palestinians to achieve their goals, he said.
If Arafat gets the terms he wants, with the right of return for millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants, Israel will cease to exist, he added.
The only way the situation can be resolved is if one side "wins" and then there are negotiations from that point. If the Palestinians win Israel will be destroyed, but if Israel wins, there is a chance for the Palestinians, he suggested.