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Monday, November 01, 2004

Israel to scale down anti-terror offensive

Israel will scale down the offensive against Palestinian terror groups in order not to interfere with the inner Palestinian processes currently taking place in the PA in light of Yasser Arafat’s illness, a senior Israeli official said last night.

The IDF operations in the territories, especially the IAF’s targeted assassinations, could inflame tensions on the Palestinian street. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz have instructed the IDF and ISA to maintain restraint, knowing that unrest in the territories would make it difficult on the successor to introduce a new policy towards Israel.

Several defense officials believe that if a former Palestinian leader, like Abu Mazen, or any other figure would be interested in ending the violent struggle, far-reaching concessions could be made by Israel.

In inner discussions at the Defense Ministry, it has been estimated that Abu Mazen would likely succeed Arafat together with a collective leadership comprised of current Palestinian PM Abu Ala, Mohammad Dahlan and Jibril Rajoub.

The Israeli defense establishment believes that Arafat was the one who prevented the termination of the violent struggle against Israel, contrary to Abu Mazen’s opinion when he served as prime minister and contrary to the opinions of other senior Palestinian officials, who would not dare to express their views publicly.

That is the reason why the changing of the guard among the Palestinian leadership is viewed as an opportunity that could result in implementing the disengagement plan based on a deal and not unilaterally.