Israel Doubts PA Capacity or Will to Fight Terrorism

[New York Times] Isabel Kershner - The success of the Israel Defense Forces in stopping suicide bombers from the West Bank has brought enough quiet for Israel to resume peace talks with the Palestinian leadership there. But Israeli security officials are loath to surrender the option of striking at suicide bombers and their dispatchers at any time, on Palestinian turf. "You cannot play from the touchdown line," said Col. Herzi Halevi, commander of the Israeli Army's Paratroops Brigade. Israeli security officials point to what they call the basic conditions for safeguarding the country. According to a new study published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, those include a willingness to bear the political costs of military offensives, good intelligence and control of the territory from which militants operate. In theory, Palestinian security forces would assume the responsibility of preventing such attacks. But leading Israeli security figures, past and present, seriously doubt that the Palestinian police will have the capacity or the will to fight terrorism in the foreseeable future. "It is an old naivete that nobody believes anymore," said Yaakov Amidror, a major general in the reserves who wrote the study. Israel sees some value in the Palestinian policing efforts against local criminals, but has made it clear that when it comes to fighting terrorism, overall security responsibility will remain in Israel's hands. "The price of staying out" of the West Bank, said one senior Israeli military official, "might be one that we don't want to pay."

2008-05-05 01:00:00

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