Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Israel easing up during Pal transition

The IDF has reduced its activities in the territories to a minimum and is limiting its actions to thwarting "ticking bombs" since Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat flew to France for medical treatment on October 29, a senior government source said Monday.

He was responding to questions as to whether Israel would reciprocate to the announcement that Islamic Jihad and the Aksa Martyrs Brigade would halt all attacks in Israel until the PA's elections on January 9.

"We are not getting involved in this," he said. "What counts are results, not declarations."

He said Israel has already reduced military activity to a minimum, and has "eased up" on targeted assassinations. "The standing orders that have been in effect since Arafat went to France are not to escalate matters and not to create friction. These orders still apply, although we will take selective actions against 'ticking bombs,' " he said.

"Ticking bombs" are terrorists on their way to carrying out attacks.

The reduction in military action is one of the gestures the government has quietly taken over the last few weeks to try to help the emerging PA leadership, the official said. Other gestures include the decision to let Arafat fly to France and the agreement to let him be buried in Ramallah.

Likewise, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told visiting US Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) on Monday that if a new PA leadership emerges that will fight terrorism, then "we will be willing to coordinate a number of different matters with it, especially security and economic matters related to the disengagement plan. This is good for Israel, and good for the Palestinians."

At the same time, Sharon told McConnell – the majority whip who is here as a guest of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee to receive an honorary doctorate at the Weizmann Institute of Science – that "Israel will in parallel continue building the security fence."