Israeli Havoc Grows and Palestinian Violence Mounts as Israel’s Pull-out Date Approaches

Israel’s new chief of staff Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz followed a given script when he declared firmly Tuesday, June 7: “Evacuation will not take place under fire. I say exactly what I mean.”
He was speaking to skeptical military correspondents outside Sderot, whose shocked citizens refuse to meet him after suffering waves of Qassam missile salvoes from the Gaza Strip throughout the day. The first three woke the town up before 7.a.m. and landed in an apartment, sending a woman and two children into shock. As the day wore on, the attacks across the border into Israel and inside the Gaza Strip intensified until a missile struck a work-team in Ganei Tal’s greenhouse. Three workers were killed, two Palestinians and a Chinese, 5 were seriously injured, most of them Palestinian. Mortar shells and sniper fire against IDF positions and civilians accompanied the missiles.
Asked when the Israeli army would take action to curb Gaza-based Palestinian terror, Halutz was evasive: Our patience will not last forever. We will act at a time of our choosing. We are responsible for our citizens’ safety. He then added: We must think of the long term. The attacks from Gaza attested to the weakness of the Palestinian Authority.
This sort of vague ambiguity is not what Israelis on the front line of Palestinian violence breaching a so-called truce wanted to hear. Halutz’s words did not reassure the inhabitants of Gaza, such as Ganei Tal, that they would be fully protected when they exited their homes in August; or that the Israeli town of Sderot would be safe from Palestinian missiles when it is left behind outside the Gaza Strip.
Halutz’s calm, assured demeanor did not impress Israelis living precariously between bombastic declarations, empty promises and Palestinian threats. No one has forgotten prime minister Ariel Sharon’s solemn pledge to Sderot earlier this year that the town would never again suffer missile attacks.
Much of the same bombast is being poured out by compliant media to show how the powers-that-be are far advanced in arrangements for the coming pull-back of Israeli communities from the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank. However, Maj. Gen. Giora Eiland, head of the national security council, who ought to know what is going on, has exposed the true state of affairs, which is that nothing is ready – as debkafile revealed some weeks ago. This impression he recorded in a classified letter to the relevant directors general of government ministries:
With less than three months to go before the withdrawal, he writes, every aspect of preparedness for the disengagement process is hazy …It is not clear (to me at least) what the reality is, or the distinction between the real problems and those thrown up by publicity, as generated by media spin.
“Although I have stressed the need to differentiate between the two, the second element must not be belittled. It shapes public and political consciousness. The appearance of havoc undermines the government’s strength and encourages initiatives that go against its decisions (postponement of the evacuation, for instance).
The security adviser wants to hear if a deadline has been set for negotiations with the evacuees, what incentives they have been offered to come to terms and what legal bars are holding up solutions.
Eiland ends his letter by saying: “I have approached the director-general of the prime minister’s office with a request to urgently convene the “select forum” to assess the general situation. This airing is vital…”
In other words, the head of Israel’s national security council, who was entrusted by the prime minister with drafting an outline for the disengagement project covering evacuation and operations, has no idea what preparations are in train and which are not, because of what he calls “haze.”
If he is in the dark, then how much more are the chief of staff and the police commissioner who must bear the brunt of executing the pull-back?
The mess is automatically blamed on the future evacuees’ refusal to cooperate with the authorities; it is they who are accused of stalling the government’s relocation plans. Did the prime minister really expect to be feted with garlands for his divisive plan by the very people he is evicting from their homes and livelihoods? Was he looking for gratitude when every official effort has been made to demonize those evacuees as dangerous right-wing, violent extremists?
In any case, it is an open secret that even those ready to leave quietly and accept alternatives have run into an official brick wall; no such alternatives have been prepared.
debkafile finds the cause of Eiland’s haze in a quite different quarter – or rather two: Egypt’s flat refusal to make good on its undertaking to participate in the process and Palestinian denial of cooperation.
No one any longer talks about the security role Egypt undertook to play in the Gaza Strip, including the relief of Israeli forces guarding the Philadelphi border strip to make a complete pullback possible. That is because Cairo has reneged. Instead of leveling with the public, the Sharon government makes sure that the disappearance of this pivotal element is never mentioned. That is one of the vague mysteries troubling Eiland.
A senior Washington source told debkafile: “The only way to draw Egypt back to talks with Israel is for the US president George W. Bush’s to personally intercede with President Hosni Mubarak. But that is not on now because time is so short and their relations have cooled since Washington interfered in Egypt’s presidential election.”
As for the Palestinians, Mahmoud Abbas’s representatives turn up for all their meetings with Israeli officials. They listen to questions – but have no answers, proposals or even their usual demands – except when a camera or microphone is present. Otherwise, they merely shrug and contribute nothing to urgent discussions on coordinating the withdrawal, whether or not to demolish abandoned houses, who will take over the greenhouses, how to prevent the operation taking place under Palestinian fire, the proposed rail link for Palestinians to commute between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, who will take over evacuated territory. Israeli officials are left to discuss these issues among themselves or with Americans and such visitors as British foreign secretary Jack Straw, who arrived in Israel Tuesday, June 7, and the Middle East Quartet coordinator James Wolfenson.
Sharon is not admitting that he has lost the two projected mainstays of his disengagement plan; Egypt has opted out, and the Palestinians are passive. Without them he is stymied. All three are masking their inaction with the tools to hand.
Sharon ‘s preparations for the big day in August have descended into chaos, for which he blames the pretty harmless, often childish, stunts staged by the anti-evacuation activists.
Mubarak’s pretext for non-involvement in Israel’s pull-out from the Gaza Strip is the presidential election later this year.
Abbas, since he underwent heart surgery a week ago, is sunk in the philosophical contemplation of human destiny while uncharacteristically praying five times a day, which pleases the fundamentalist Hamas without giving him any clout over the group. He plans to visit Gaza Wednesday, June 8, to try and restore vestige of ceasefire, but lacks the authority to impose his will.
No wonder the national security adviser wants to wash his hands of the pull-out mess and dump it in the laps of a select forum – or anyone else

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