Army weighs 'complete' Gaza pullout

Move would close all border crossings to Israel and give Egypt full responsibility for Strip.

September 21, 2007 04:13
3 minute read.
erez crossing 298 ap

erez crossing 224.88. (photo credit: AP [file])


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A day after the cabinet defined the Gaza Strip as "hostile territory," The Jerusalem Post learned Thursday that the IDF is working on a proposal that calls for a "complete disengagement" from the Gaza Strip - involving the closure of all border crossings with Israel and the transfer of all responsibility over the Palestinian territory to Egypt. The proposal, defense officials said, was recently raised by Deputy Chief of General Staff Maj.-Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky during a series of meetings within the defense establishment. While Israel removed its military positions and settlements from the Gaza Strip in 2005, it has maintained a certain level of responsibility for the Palestinian population there, including coordinating the Gaza-based activities of humanitarian organizations such as UNRWA, the World Bank and the International Committee of the Red Cross. According to the proposal, which officials stressed was in its early stages, Israel would completely disconnect from Gaza by closing off the Erez, Karni, Sufa and Kerem Shalom crossings and instead directing humanitarian organizations to work with Egypt. "The idea is to finalize what was started with the 2005 'disengagement,'" explained a senior defense official. "No matter how much we try and what we do, the humanitarian organizations consistently blame us for the humanitarian situation in Gaza. This way they will no longer have a case against us, since we won't be involved." The official said the proposal was being pushed strongly by Kaplinsky, who has said in a number of meetings that there is no longer a need for Israel to take responsibility for what happens in the Strip. The parallel being suggested is southern Lebanon, which is home to Hizbullah guerrillas and their weapons but, following Israel's withdrawal from its security zone there to the international border in 2000, is plainly no longer under Israel's responsibility. Under the proposal, it is possible that the Palestinians would be able to rebuild the Dahiniye Airport and construct a naval port. "The terrorist groups are anyhow smuggling explosives, missiles and weapons into Gaza through tunnels along the border with Egypt," an official said. "If they get an airport or a naval port, it will not make such a big difference." A spokeswoman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Thursday night that he had not seen the proposal. Spokeswoman Miri Eisin said she had no comment about whether he was likely to support it. In any case, before the plan could be implemented, she said, "it would have to be brought to the full cabinet" for a vote. Meanwhile Thursday, defense officials met to discuss the practical implications of the security cabinet's decision on Wednesday to designate Gaza as hostile territory, paving the way to curbing Israel's provision of electricity, fuel and other supplies to the Strip. Under the cabinet decision, Defense Minister Ehud Barak is now authorized to impose humanitarian sanctions following Kassam attacks against Israel. One equation being considered is that every time one of the Gaza crossings is shelled or attacked, it will be shut down for several days. "Until now, we risked out lives to keep the crossings open," an official from the Defense Ministry explained. "From now on, if they attack we will just close the crossing for several days." Israel plans to begin immediately restricting the amount of fuel it allows to enter the Strip. Diesel will be allowed in to fuel ambulances, sewage pumps, generators and garbage trucks, but gasoline will be restricted. Some defense officials voiced opposition on Thursday to the cabinet decision. The coordinator of government activities in the territories, Maj.-Gen. Yosef Mishlav, voiced staunch objection to the plan, the Post has learned, apparently for not being sufficiently decisive, and even appeared before the security cabinet after asking Barak for special permission. Mishlav told the ministers that the cuts to electricity and fuel supplies would be ineffective in stopping Hamas's rocket attacks. He added that by not cutting off supplies altogether, Israel was still allowing Hamas to govern - albeit under slightly greater economic pressure. Mishlav said the only way to really pressure Hamas was to completely cut off supplies and allow a humanitarian crisis to develop. He did not say, however, that he favored this course of action. Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.

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