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Keeping Sharon alive long enough to effect withdrawal from Gaza and the West Bank

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Keeping Ariel Sharon alive long enough to oversee settlement withdrawal from Gaza and the West Bank is the highest priority of the Shin Bet protective security department, a group completely overhauled and reinforced after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin by an Israeli rightist.

Worse, the attacker is mostly likely to be a mirror image of Shin Bet's protective security department:

a handful of people, maybe a dozen, who served in elite units in the army and the Shin Bet, in the Mossad and the police, who know how to blend into their surroundings and attack, some of them perhaps second-generation underground, sons of members of the special units, maybe also former fighters who served under Sharon in the prestigious Unit 101 and in the Paratroops. The participation of security personnel in terrorist attacks is known from the period of the Jewish underground, and in a political assassination, from the affair of Jaber Muadi against Hamid Abu Rabia.

It is interesting that the demographic time bomb of Arab absorption of Israeli Jews by the Palestinians vastly higher birthrate is utterly absent among the reasons a combination of Israeli nationalists, rightists, and religious seek Sharon's death:

  • Religion: withdrawal from the Promised Land of Judea and Samara (Israel and the West Bank)
  • Ideology: unilateral reduction of Greater Israel without Palestinian quid pro quo
  • Terrorism: ability for insurgents to operate with greater freedom on Israel's borders
  • Public distress: Israel is one of the world's 'largest small towns' and so any distress to a citizen reverberates immediately and forcefully - relocating 9,400 of them is akin to moving a major US metropolitan city, a equally herculean task

To call these 'reasons of the past' is not meant to be dismissive of the power that such ideas can hold over a society, but is intended to point out the common failure to rank a relatively unknown but rapidly moving 'reason of the future' into societal calculus. (While some Israeli rightists do acknowledge a demographic problem, their 'solution' is draconian and fraught with its own extreme secondary effects.)

Once Sharon secured Knesset approval of the long-overdue 2005 state budget, thereby sidestepping resignation with the subsequent delay, even cancellation, of the removal of 21 settlements from Gaza and 4 from the West Bank, Gaza and West Bank settlers can now only resist withdrawal by extralegal means. Settler leaders say this will take the form of mass demonstrations "and even civil war":

Security officials fear increasingly desperate settlers will resort to violence to disrupt the pullout, including possibly attempting an attack on a disputed holy site in Jerusalem or to assassinate Sharon.

The IDF (Israeli Defense Force) is taken no chances and has already crafted contingency plans against militant settlers in armed resistance down to fatality forecasts for army and settler. The precautions that Shin Bet is taking in the safeguarding of Sharon border on the extraordinary, no less so as the prime adversary is a group as skilled and committed as they, able to blend into that 'largest small town' as easily as they:

In the interlocked effort to torpedo the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank, the fall of the political alternative means the rise of the brute-force option, and it is now reaching its highest level, from which it will not decline. Because if Sharon implements the withdrawal plan in July-August, attempts to assassinate him will continue, in case he should try to repeat the move in the rest of the West Bank.

The group of people who have appointed themselves emissaries of divine providence and want to attack Sharon physically is not necessarily organized and may not have members in the usual sense of some sort of structure, cells and a chain of command. Moreover, its center, if it has one, need not necessarily be located in the area earmarked for evacuation. But for the purpose of deploying against it, it should be dubbed the "Katif underground," [which] enjoys the advantage of being the initiator and the assailant, is the most dangerous adversary of the Shin Bet and particularly of its protective security department.

It is worth reading Inside Track / Anxiety attack to get a flavor of the security envelope around Sharon. While the July Palestinian parliamentary elections may bring an expected increase of Hamas authority in the Palestinian National Authority and all the complications to Israeli-Palestinian relations that implies, the primary threat to Sharon and the settlement withdrawal is a dedicated, internal Jewish threat.

Israeli Police Guard Temple Mount
BBC News
8 Apr 2005

Inside Track / Anxiety attack
By Amir Oren
Haaretz
April 01, 2005 Adar2 21, 5765

Israel Approves State Budget
Reuters
30 Mar 2005

Israel Approves Funds for Settler Pullout
By John Ward Anderson
Washington Post
February 17, 2005

Suppose Israel simply abandons the Gaza settlers?
Bitterlemons
January 17, 2005 Edition 3

Gordon Housworth



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