Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

7 Nissan 5762 - March 20, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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A Cease-Fire in the Offing?
by Yated Ne'eman Staff and M. Plaut

America is making a very public and serious effort to reach a cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinians. Though the Americans have not said so explicitly, it is widely speculated that the Americans want quiet in the Israel- Palestinian conflict so that they can force out Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

US President George W Bush has sent his special envoy General Anthony Zinni to the Middle East to try to make progress towards a cease fire and an eventual permanent political solution. US Vice President Dick Cheney, an unusually active and powerful Vice President, is also in Israel these days on the last leg of a swing through most of the countries in the Middle East. It is widely believed that Cheney's visits are to prepare the ground for an American military effort to change regimes in Iraq.

Israel is signaling its readiness for a cease fire by pulling out of Palestinian areas in Yehuda, Shomron and Gaza. Most of these IDF positions have been taken in the last weeks in the general offensive that began March 1. It is not clear if Israel really wanted to stay in those areas or just entered them for the immediate purposes of destroying munitions and capturing terrorists.

The IDF pulled out of Bethlehem and Beit Jala on Monday, some 12 hours after the arrival of US Vice President Dick Cheney.

Cheney met with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon Monday night and he was scheduled to meet with a number of ministers in the security cabinet, including Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer.

No meeting between Cheney and senior Palestinian representatives has been planned. Various Palestinian spokesmen criticized Cheney for not meeting with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, but the Americans announced that he would not meet with Arafat. The Bush administration has been careful to keep Arafat at arm's length.

The decision to withdraw from positions in and around Bethlehem came following meetings between Israeli and Palestinian security officials Sunday night, and a meeting of the high-level trilateral Israeli-Palestinian-US security committee in Jerusalem Monday. Defense sources said the meeting was conducted in a "substantive atmosphere." Palestinians said the meeting was "positive."

Palestinian security forces are to take responsibility for the areas vacated by the IDF, and Israel agreed to allow Palestinian forces to move across the territories to do so.

Israeli diplomatic officials said that Israel has lowered its expectations, and is not expecting a cease-fire to take place everywhere simultaneously. There are certain areas, such as Bethlehem, which Israel expects the PA will be able to control, but there are other areas -- such as those around Jenin and Nablus -- where it will take time for the PA to implement a cease-fire, because Arafat's control there has diminished.

The officials said the IDF withdrawal will then likely be followed by meetings to move into the Mitchell Report and resuming diplomatic negotiations. Israel's team is to be headed by Peres.

Sharon, at a brief greeting ceremony for Cheney at his office in Jerusalem, said, "Israel is a peace-seeking nation, and we are making every effort to reach an immediate cease-fire and cessation of terrorism, and to begin the implementation of the Tenet Plan.

"I have in the past declared that in order to achieve a real, just, and durable peace, I would be willing to make painful compromises. But we cannot make any compromise on the security of our citizens and their right to live without the threat of terrorism and violence."

According to Cheney, the highest-ranking Bush administration official yet to visit Israel, the US goal is clear: "to end the terror and violence, to build confidence between Israelis and Palestinians that peace is not only possible but necessary, and to resume a political process that will end the half century of conflict on the basis of UN resolutions 242 and 338, and the principle of land for peace."

Cheney reiterated Bush's vision of two states, Israel and Palestine.

Saying "terrorism is terrorism is terrorism," Sharon said, "There is no `good terrorism' or `bad terrorism.' Real or imagined injustice or deprivation cannot serve as an excuse for the murder of innocent civilians.

"In recent months we have been in the midst of a brutal wave of terrorist attacks, aimed at innocent people -- civilians at cafes and discotheques, youth, babies, and entire families that fall prey to Palestinian terrorism. This terrorism knows no mercy," Sharon said.

"Therefore, the terrorists, their dispatchers, and those who sponsor them must have no immunity or refuge. This is the only way to bring them to the realization that terror and violence will achieve nothing."

The police and Border Police prevented a potentially deadly terror attack in the North on Monday when they apprehended two Palestinians armed with an automatic rifle, hand grenades, and other explosives. The suspects were spotted by police as they were crossing fields on an ATV (all terrain vehicle) about two kilometers from Afula.

A senior police source in the Northern Region noted there is an almost constant stream of warnings of pending terror attacks and said the security forces are doing their utmost to provide maximum security. He reiterated calls to the public to remain on the alert and immediately report any suspicious persons, objects, or vehicles.

Not only are the Palestinians not taking serious steps to calm the street, they are even preparing to carry out attacks during the visit of US envoy Anthony Zinni, Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

IDF Intelligence Research Department head Brig.-Gen. Yossi Kuperwasser said the Palestinians are preparing excuses for terrorist acts and to further delay implementation of the Tenet plan.

"The Palestinians are having second thoughts about entering Tenet and Mitchell, because they require them to take steps to combat terrorism," Kuperwasser said. "They are especially not interested in acting against terrorism after seeing what they consider to be achievements from the attacks of the past few weeks."

On the other hand, Kuperwasser said Arafat realizes that refusing to enter Tenet would cause the Americans to blame him for the failure of their efforts, something he wants to avoid.


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