Israeli intelligence upbeat about 2005

Thursday, September 30, 2004

JERUSALEM The Israeli intelligence community has projected the possible reduction in military tensions in the Middle East in 2005.

Israeli military intelligence chief, Maj. Gen. Aharon Zeevi-Farkash, briefed the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on a range of scenarios in the Middle East during 2005. Zeevi-Farkash told the parliamentary committee that Israel could experience a reduction in the current war against the Palestinian Authority and confrontation with Hizbullah in southern Lebanon.

"The feeling is that the year 2005 will be a positive turning point," Knesset member Ran Cohen, a member of the committee, said.

The assessment was said to have been supported by other heads of intelligence. They included the director of the Mossad, Meir Dagan, and the Israel Security Agency, Avi Dichter.

Parliamentarians quoted Zeevi-Farkash as citing 10 elements that could result in a relaxation of tensions in the region. They included the U.S. national elections in November, a decision in December by the European Union to set a date for accession talks for Turkey, and an Israeli unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank in September 2005.

The intelligence chiefs asserted that the Israeli unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank could lead to a decline in Palestinian attacks. They said such an Israeli move could reduce the motivation by the Palestinian Authority and the ruling Fatah movement to continue its war against Israel.

But several of the parliamentarians expressed skepticism over the assertions made during Israeli intelligence briefings. They cited previous assessments, including by Zeevi-Farkash, which predicted major changes in the Middle East that would benefit Israel.

"There is a tendency for people to give names to processes for which they don't know how to influence," Knesset member Aryeh Eldad, another member of the committee, said. "The Chinese call their years 'the Year of the cat,' the 'Year of the hippopotamus.' The heads of the intelligence community call them 'Year of decision' 'Year of hesitation,' and 'Year of change.'"

Earlier, the ISA released a study that reported an 84 percent decrease in Israeli victims of Palestinian insurgency attacks since August 2003, when the first portion of Israel's security fence along the West Bank was completed. That portion of the fence spanned 134 kilometers and comprised about 20 percent of the project.

The report also asserted that PA Chairman Yasser Arafat remains the key financier of insurgency attacks. The ISA said the PA provided weapons to hundreds of security officers to attack Israeli civilians in Israel as well as in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The ISA also said Palestinian insurgents have been recruiting an increasing number of Israeli Arabs for attacks. The report said the Iranian-sponsored Hizbullah has poured in funding and provided expertise and training for strikes against Israelis.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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