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Israeli security Experts: Israeli withdrawal is a security necessity.


The annual conference on Israeli Security and Strength is a stronghold of conservative Israeli opinion on defense issues. The speakers are security professionals and defense experts, not peace activists or amateur political pundists. Remarkably, speakers this year showed agreement on the need for Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories. This view is in marked contrast to the position of certain right-wing Zionist groups, who would have us believe that the territories are a must for Israeli security.

Other key issues discussed included defense budget cuts, the security industry, the Israeli security fence/wall/barrier the future battle arena and future Israeli military development. Key speakers today (among others) were Avi Dichter, head of the GSS, Minister of Defense Shaul Mofaz, MK Prof Yuval Steinitz, Efrayim Sneh and Shimon Peres. Professor Herb London provided an after-dinner speech.

Several speakers discussed the inevitable need for Israel to withdraw from all or some of the occupied territories in the near future. Shimon Peres emhasized that while it was absolutely imperative to leave Gaza at the first opportunity, no unilateral steps should be taken in the West Bank, because withdrawal without an agreed-upon border will be a source of division and will prolong the conflict rather than hastening peace. However, Peres was by no means alone in his emphasis on the need for withdrawal.

Hawkish Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz noted that Israel is committed to the road map for peace, and to building a state with a Jewish majority, a phrase which is a code for Israeli withdrawal from the territories, and he called on Palestinian PM Abu Ala to suppress terror and return to the negotiating table, where, said Mofaz, he would find a willing partner. He said he is not optimistic about Abu Ala. However, Mofaz noted that since 1967 a debate has been going on in Israeli society about the future of the territories, and that we can no longer put off the decision about the disposition of the territories if we are committed to a state with a Jewish majority. We cannot will this problem to our children. Mofaz said the we must and will take on this most difficult decision to ensure a democratic and Jewish state. The implication was clear.

Mofaz devoted most of his speech to the economy and to social problems. He emphasized the need for a strong and well integrated society and a strong economy as an important ingredient in ensuring Israeli security.

Avi Dichter and Shaul Mofaz both stressed the need for completion of the security fence (wall/barrier). They noted that suicide attacks were likely to continue, and that since the Maxim Cafe bombing, the IDF had intercepted over twenty such attempts, in part thanks to the security fence. Several speakers emphasized however, that the chaotic manner in which the fence has been developed and deployed has generated needless international opposition. Dichter admitted that the Israeli security forces have failed to provide Israelis with the security they deserve. Dichter also remarked on the Iranian threat and discussed the danger of Jewish terror as well.

Many speakers addressed the problem of cuts in the Israeli defense budget. Israel spends about 9% of its GDP on defense, as opposed to 4-5% for most European countries. This burden doesn't include additional expenditures for police and security services. The defence budget was increased by about NIS 3 Billion in 2002 to cover the needs generated by the Intifada, but the budget for 2004 has cut the allocation by NIS 7 billion to around NIS 32 billion (less than $8 Billion in total, not counting US grants and loans). The speakers emphasized that the easiest thing to cut was research and development, but that these cuts and cuts in the Israel Defense Industry would have serious long range repercussions for the domestic economy as well as for defences, since a dollar spent on defense industries results in about 3 dollars of exports for Israel, some related directly to defense such as the Phalcon radar system and some related to civilian applications of defense technologies such as business jets.

The problem of reserve duty was discussed at length. Only about a third of Israelis actually do reserve duty, and the unequal burden has been the subject of acrimonious debate for years. MK Eitan Cabel invited decision makers to do reserve duty with him and observe the diffulculties facing ordinary reserve soldiers. The problem is not lack of patriotism or political motivation, since when reserves were called up to fight in the West Bank, 100% of those called responded according to speakers. Solutions offered for the problem included national service for all, increasing the number of draftees and shifting maintenance jobs from reservists to the regular army.

Several speakers discussed the advantages for Israel of developing a fleet of fast missile corvettes that could serve, together with missiles like the Arrow system, as a defense against missile attacks. They argued that development of a strong navy could serve to provide Israel with a substitute for strategic depth.

Efrayim Sneh and others discussed Iran's nuclear weapons program. All speakers took it for granted that Iran is developing nuclear armaments. Sneh took it for granted that the US will probably do nothing in the event Iran acquires the atom bomb. Some speakers believe that Israel will have to live with a nuclear Iran and work around it, but the consensus of opinion seemed to be that Israel should take action to prevent Iran from acquiring the bomb.

Shimon Peres and Herb London commented on the capture of Saddam Hussein, and expressed the opinion that this event would have a profound effect on Middle East politics. London noted also that the capture of the Iraqi dictator restored American credibility and caused a dramatic improvement in George Bush's approval rating in the US.

Ami Isseroff

Dichter: Security forces haven't given Israelis security

By Haaretz Service


In a rare public appearance, the chief of the Shin Bet security service Tuesday called Iran
the "No. 1 terror state in the world," and urged Israel to build the West Bank fence as quickly as
possible, calling it "critical" to Israel's security.

Addressing the Herzliya Conference on Israeli security and strength, Shin Bet chief Avi
Dichter also warned of a potential "strategic threat" of Jewish terrorists, which he said dreamed of
removing the mosques on Jerusalem's Temple Mount or Noble Sanctuary, a step which he said could turn
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in to a confrontation pitting the world's 13 million Jews against
one billion Muslims.

Acknowledging that security forces had failed to provide Israelis with the level of security
they deserve, Dichter said it was critical to speed the construction of the security fence according
to the route defined by the government, despite the enclaves of Palestinian villagers who may be cut
of by the fence. "Fence now, enclaves later," Dichter said.

"We must say this honestly: the defense establishment, and, within it, the General Security
Service [Shin Bet] have not provided the people of Israel the security 'suit' that they deserve."

Dichter said that it was clear to Yasser Arafat that "he's the only one in the Palestinian
Authority who is capable of uniting the security forces in order to act against terrorism and to

Instead, Dichter said, Arafat betrayed the trust placed in him by Israel and other nations,
both during the years of the Oslo process and the last three years of conflict. "His men expected to
receive orders from him to act to end terrorism, but he choose to look on from the grandstand.

"In Judea and Samaria, it is critical to speed the building of the fence and the 'Jerusalem
envelope,' even if the funds come from small collection boxes in every home, marked "The Fence for
the Existence of Israel" - a play on the Hebrew for the Jewish National Fund, whose donation boxes
appeared in many Jewish houses across the world.

Dichter said the existing sections of the fence had already proven that the barrier saves
lives, and cited the Islamic Jihad cell that set out recently to attack a school in the northern
town of Yokne'am.

Instead of a direct route of 27 kilometers, the terrorists were forced to take a circuitous
route by taxi, tractor and auto, that resulted in their capture. "I can state that if there had been
no fence, we would be holding this conference after a horrible attack in Yokneam."

As for the issue of the enclaves of Palestinian villages created by the route, "the
reservations over this Arab village or that should be postponed. In other words, "Fence now,
enclaves later'."

Iran 'No. 1 terror state'
"Iran may be defined, sharply and clearly, as the No. 1 terror state in the world," Dichter
said. "The Iranians are acting against Israel in a number of channels in order to strike both at
Israel and at Israeli interests throughout the world," he said, citing the 1994 bombing of a Jewish
community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people and wounded more than 200 in Argentina's
deadliest terror attack.

Argentine and Jewish leaders have in the past linked the bombing to the Lebanon-based Islamic
terrorist group Hezbollah and the Iranian government, charges Tehran has repeatedly denied.

Dichter said Iran is trying to attack Israel not only by sponsoring Hezbollah and Palestinian
militants in the West Bank and Gaza, but also by recruiting Israel's Arab citizens. "The third way,
which is possibly the most dangerous for us, is that Iran has marked the Israeli Arabs as a
potential fifth column for them to exploit,"
Dichter said.

Detailing the Israeli losses of the Palestinian uprising, Dichter said that suicide bombings
had constituted only 2 percent of the total number of attacks, but had caused 55 percent of the
Israeli deaths and injuries.

Over the past 10 weeks, Israeli security forces have intercepted more than 20 suicide bombers
en route to Israel, he said, three of them in the last 10 days.

His remarks were carried live on national radio, which said it was the first time his voice
had been heard in a broadcast medium. Until recently, the identity of the directors of the Shin Bet
and of its international counterpart, the Mossad intelligence agency, were a state secret.

"The terror state of Iran contributes to heavy terrorism against Israel, both independently
and in its support of Palestinian terrorism by the Islamic Jihad, the Tanzim [affiliated with
Arafat's Fatah movement], and Hamas."

Dichter said the involvement of Israeli Arabs, and in particular of the Arabs of East
Jerusalem, in Palestinian terror, was "worrisome and very harmful." A total of 120 East Jerusalem
Arabs have been involved in terrorism, "70 percent of them murderers," he said.

He also singled the Palestinian Authority out as a factor in terrorism, although "The leaders
of the Palestinian Authority, with Arafat at their head, [feature] largely in their failure to fight
terror." According to Dichter, throughout the intifada, Arafat has refrained from ordering his
security forces to foil terror.

"It's clear to Arafat that he's the only one in the Palestinian Authority who is capable of
uniting the security forces in order to act against terrorism and to succeed."

Instead, Arafat has violated the trust placed in him by Israel and other nations, both during
the years of the Oslo process and the last three years of conflict, Dichter continued. "His men
expected to receive orders from him to act to end terrorism, but he choose to look on from the

Over the past three and a quarter years since the outbreak of the Al-Aqsa intifada, 901
Israelis have been killed and 6,000 wounded in Palestinian terror attacks, he said, adding that 80
percent of the casualties were civilians. A total of 540 of the dead were killed within the Green
Line and in Jerusalem.

Threat of Jewish terror
Turning to terrorism committed by Jews, Dichter said that in the first two years of the
intifada, Jewish terrorists killed seven Palestinians and wounded 19. There were additional attempts
to use firearms and explosives to harm Palestinians.

"Stealing weapons from IDF reservists who were sent to guard their settlements was a 'kosher'
act, in order to use them for terrorist attacks."

"In my view, the dream of these extremists - in their words, to remove the 'abomination' from
the Temple Mount, the mosques on the Mount - should trouble us greatly," he said.

"For the State of Israel and the Jewish people in the Diaspora, Jewish terrorism is liable to
create a substantial strategic threat, and to turn the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians
to a confrontation between 13 million Jews and one billion Muslims across the world."

* Balanced Middle East News ***
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