Mofaz: 75% drop in attacks as of late (JERUSALEM POST) By HERB KEINON AND JPOST STAFF 01/30/05)
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In the past few days there has been a 75 percent decrease in the
number of violent attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians,
Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said Sunday.
Speaking at the cabinet meeting, Mofaz updated the government on his
Saturday night meeting with former Palestinian Authority security
chief and senior Fatah leader Muhammad Dahlan.
Mofaz also noted that Israel was considering acquiescing to the PA´s
requests to release Palestinian prisoners incarcerated in Israeli
prisons, although it has not yet been agreed how many and when the
release would take place, Army Radio reported.
The defense minister noted that only prisoners with "no blood on
their hands" would be considered for release.
Mofaz and Dahlan met Saturday night in Tel Aviv for nearly five hours
amid optimism fanned by a week of relative quiet and Israel´s
announcement it would not take military action in areas where the PA
has deployed security forces.
Summarizing the agreements the two reached during the meeting, Mofaz
announced Sunday morning that within the next few days, full security
control over a number of West Bank towns would be transferred to the
"One of the things we discussed yesterday was the question of handing
over the [West Bank] towns. We haven´t yet settled on exactly which
towns, but in a number of towns [security] responsibility will be
handed over in the next few days. We will meet again in order to
settle these questions," Mofaz said in a morning interview with Army
On Sunday afternoon, however, Palestinian sources reported that
already by Wednesday PA security forces would gain control over four
major West Bank cities: Ramallah, Tulkarm, Kalkilya and Jericho.
Saturday´s meeting was the first meeting in a year-and-a-half between
Mofaz and Dahlan, who is considered one of PA Chairman Mahmoud
Abbas´s close confidants.
Mofaz emphasized the importance of building trust with the
Palestinians, but stressed that this would not be done at the price
of the safety of Israel´s citizens. "We will continue to do
everything for their security," the defense minister assured.
Additionally, Mofaz noted that after the implementation of the
disengagement plan and withdrawal from the Palestinian territories,
there would no longer be an IDF presence in Palestinian towns in the
"The date we have set for ourselves is the end of this year. Then,
the war against Palestinian terrorists will be the responsibility of
the Palestinians. Over time they [PA law enforcement] will get
stronger and will be able to operate even more effectively against
The two also discussed the deployment of Palestinian security forces
near the Philadelphi Route and taking steps to prevent the tunnels
used to smuggle weapons from Egypt to Gaza. There was also talk of
additional confidence-building measures, including easing
restrictions on travel in the West Bank, lifting closures and the
removal of checkpoints, security officials told The Jerusalem Post.
The officials warned that despite the progress already made, the
situation remains extremely fragile.
"God forbid if a suicide bomb attack occurs in Israel then the whole
process will be suspended, and all advancement will be stopped," one
Israeli official said.
Israel, he said, will not agree to the Palestinian request to halt
targeted killings. "It is Israel´s responsibility to protect its
citizens, and while the army will refrain from conducting initiated
operations, if the Palestinians fail to act against "ticking bombs"
then they leave Israel no option, the official said. "If we receive
information that a terrorist wearing an explosives belt is en route
to Jerusalem and the Palestinians fail to stop him, then we will," he
A second meeting between Mofaz and Dahlan is expected to take place
some time later this week. Also, the Prime Minister´s Office
confirmed on Sunday Palestinian reports that the long-awaited Sharon-
Abbas meeting will take place on February 8.
Meanwhile, in further recognition of the PA´s efforts to curtail
terrorist attacks against Israel, Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen.
Moshe Ya´alon instructed the army on Friday to minimize action in the
Gaza Strip and refrain from carrying out West Bank operations without
receiving his personal authorization. In addition, the Gaza Strip´s
Erez, Karni and Rafah crossings are expected to be opened later this
These steps are widely believed to have two primary objectives: to
encourage the PA to continue taking action to quell firing on Israeli
targets, and to "clear the decks" so that the PA can´t say it is
unable to deploy troops or take action because the IDF is in the way.
Furthermore, the move is linked to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon´s top
aide Dov Weisglass´s scheduled meeting Monday in Washington with new
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Friday´s decision allows Weisglass to walk into the State Department
and say that Israel is taking the necessary steps to prop up Abbas.
Weisglass is expected to lobby Rice, who will accompany US President
George W. Bush on his upcoming trip to Europe, to turn a deaf ear to
what Jerusalem anticipates will be European calls to prod Jerusalem
into beginning political negotiations with the PA immediately.
Israel´s position is that as welcome as Abbas´s initial moves have
been, and the quiet that has followed, they do not constitute the
implementation of Palestinian commitments under the road map to
comprehensively fight terror and dismantle the terrorist
These include making arrests, confiscating weapons, destroying the
factories used to manufacture Kassam rockets and bombs and ending
Weisglass is expected to urge Rice that this is not the time to leap-
frog over the first phase of the road map and into political
He is also expected to tell the US that Israel is willing to release
more Palestinian prisoners, but that this will have to wait until
Abbas demonstrates more control in the territories. Margot Dudkevitch
contributed to this report. (© 1995-2005, The Jerusalem Post 01/30/05)
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