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Slowly, the peace moves forward (HA´ARETZ NEWS) By Amos Harel 02/01/05)Source: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/534407.html HA'ARETZ} NEWS SERVICE HA'ARETZ} NEWS SERVICE Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
At the changing-of-the-guard ceremony for the head of the Central Command in Jerusalem on Sunday, many of the Israel Defense Forces officers in the audience could be seen keeping their eyes somewhat nervously on their pagers. The frequent glances were not the result of an abundance of operational messages, but the very opposite - the pagers were uncustomarily quiet.

Sunday saw just a solitary shooting incident throughout the territories, and those who had become accustomed to an incessant stream of reports since the collapse of the first hudna (cease-fire) in August 2003 are going to need some time to adjust to the fall-off in the extent of the incidents.

The new arrangement in the territories is supposed to stabilize this week: The Palestinian security forces have completed their deployment in the Gaza Strip; Israel and the Palestinian Authority are discussing handing over control of a number of West Bank cities to the Palestinians; and the IDF is already conducting itself in keeping with new game rules, as defined by Chief of Staff Moshe Ya´alon - a halt to offensive operations in the Gaza Strip, and restricting such operations in the West Bank to dealing with "ticking time bombs."

Nevertheless, the localized outburst of violence in the Strip yesterday - the killing of a 10-year-old Palestinian girl, and Hamas´s response of shelling Gush Katif settlements - testifies to the fact that the process is still in its infancy.

A visit at the beginning of the week to two sectors in the territories - Hebron and the northern Gaza Strip - gave a clear picture of the caution with which the IDF is approaching the new situation, and the limited trust it places in the new-old Palestinian partner.

To the letter

Ya´alon´s directives, as far as can be discerned, are being implemented to the letter. Since Saturday security forces have made just one arrest in the territories. Nevertheless, security cooperation between the sides is just kicking off. There has yet to be a return to the pre-conflict days when Israel would pass on names of suspected terror attack planners to the PA, which would then rush to apprehend them.

In the West Bank, at least, the IDF will be the one that deals, when necessary, with the ticking time bombs. And when it comes to Gaza, only specific moves are being coordinated.

A few days ago, the IDF located a Qassam rocket ready for launching in Beit Hanun; the PA picked it up too, and a Palestinian policeman dismantled the launcher. The impression is that the IDF has a counterpart to work with in Gaza: Musa Arafat. In the West Bank, however, it doesn´t - and in both areas, neither the IDF nor the Shin Bet security service has enough trust in the Palestinian partner to provide it with substantial intelligence.

The IDF continues to man positions in the broad corridors its established around the access roads to the Gaza settlements, and soldiers in Hebron are still at posts set up in PA neighborhoods and on hills overlooking settler homes in the city.

On the other hand, the IDF is no longer sending patrols deep into PA territory in Hebron, and there is a definite increase in the presence of Palestinian security forces, albeit unarmed, in the city. The relative quiet of late can be seen as proof that only the Palestinians can do it: The force applied by the IDF during the course of the conflict wasn´t what reined in the terror; it took an internal Palestinian decision.

Ya´alon presented an alternative explanation: At the ceremony on Sunday, he said "our ongoing war on terror led the other side to take a decision to end unilaterally the terror." (© Copyright 2005 Haaretz. 02/01/05)


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