Would police and army be tasked with more evacuations in the future?
Photo: Ilan Marciano
TEL AVIV – Israel is planning additional unilateral moves, to be carried out by 2008, to complement the upcoming Gaza Strip and northern West Bank withdrawal, a senior IDF officer hinted in an interview with London-based Arabic-language newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat.
"The disengagement plan talks about unilateral steps that would end in 2008, resulting in a situation where the Palestinians would be responsible for managing their own affairs within the boundaries of the area we can give them, and not more than that," the official said.
The officer hinted about future West Bank withdrawals, but refused to provide additional details.
"I won't get into the matter of borders at this time," he said. "However, it will not be an independent state as the Palestinians expect."
Although Israel and the Palestinian Authority have started to coordinate the upcoming pullout, Israeli officials are unsure the coordination would lead to a peaceful withdrawal, the officer said.
"The disengagement plan constitutes a big test for the Palestinian Authority," he said. "If the withdrawal will be executed peacefully and in an orderly manner, and the Palestinian Authority would prove it can run a law-abiding state in the Gaza Strip, the affairs would be managed positively and the withdrawals would be accompanied by other moves towards a peace process and international aid."
However, the officer warned that should the Palestinian security anarchy continue and armed groups would not be curbed, the PA would not get a thing and Israel would only act in a unilateral manner.
Official slams Abbas
The senior officer also had harsh words about the conduct of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas over his recent trip to Syria and meeting with terror leaders there.
Abbas' actions indicate that the culture of terror still reigns supreme in the Palestinian Authority, making peace talks with the Palestinians at this time an unrealistic prospect, he said.
Abbas has failed to use the power given to him by the people in the last elections in order to advance his political plans through peaceful means, and instead of restraining terror groups he continues his dialogue with them and allows them to boost their power, the official said.
The U.S. Administration and several European governments are convinced Abbas is going in the wrong direction, he said, and added the Palestinian leader would have to contend with harsher international demands.
"Not only to fight terrorism…but also to change the culture in an in-depth manner and make it a culture that condemns all forms of violence and stops describing terrorism as an 'uprising,'" he said.