[IMRA: When Ehud Olmert campaigned for retreat from Gaza he conceded that he
was clueless as to who or what would fill in the void, arguing that it
didn't matter. Now DM Mofaz takes this a step further, intending to retreat
with the full knowledge that the void will be filled by a sovereign Hamas
state that makes no bones about its goals and is already demonstrating the
political/PR savvy needed to pursue them.]
Mofaz allows for unilateral W. Bank withdrawal
By Amos Harel Haaretz 31 January 2006
Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz says Hamas' election victory gives Israel an
incentive to decide in favor of a unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank.
He believes such a decision will be made within a year. Mofaz thinks the
diplomatic picture will become clear by the end of the year. If it seems
certain that there is no Palestinian negotiating partner, then Israel will
have to set new, defensible borders for itself.
These positions, which have not been made public, bring Mofaz closer to the
line taken by Kadima, his party.
In his speech last Tuesday at the Herzliya Conference, the day before the
Palestinian elections, Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert avoided talking
explicitly about another withdrawal in the West Bank.
"We would prefer an agreement," Olmert said. "If our expected partners in
the negotiations under the road map do not uphold their commitments, we will
preserve Israeli interests in every way."
Mofaz believes that with Hamas leading the Palestinian Authority, it will be
impossible to return to the road map. Israel will have to forge an
alternative route based on a broad national consensus of the need to ensure
Israel's Jewish and democratic nature, with a significant Jewish majority.
It will include a new map, based on a united Jerusalem; reinforcing the
settlement blocs and retaining the Jordan Valley; and territorial
concessions (giving up isolated settlements) in order to maintain the
Mofaz believes that such arrangements will be easier for Israel, will garner
international support and serve as a better base for eventually renewing
negotiations. Still, Mofaz is wary of calling these measures a unilateral
withdrawal, instead terming them a "move of national consensus."
Mofaz has in recent days voiced objections to the idea, supported by Olmert,
of freezing Israel's payments to the PA. Aides to the defense minister say
that without the funds, the PA will face collapse. Part of the PA's current
economic crisis has been attributed to Fatah's election economics during the
campaign period, including a near-50 percent salary hike for government
In general, Mofaz believes that Israel must take a step-by-step approach
with the new PA government. He views the coming months as a transition
period in which Israeli-Palestinian relations will be reshaped in light of
the expected formation of a Hamas government. Mofaz think that Hamas will
seek to appoint as ministers people who are not directly associated with the
organization in order to reduce international pressure on the PA and to
maintain a line of communication with Israel.
Mofaz brushes off criticism of the intelligence services for failing to
predict Hamas' victory. Like MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud), chairman of the
Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Mofaz thinks the Shin Bet
came closest to successfully forecasting the election results.