halutz fists 298 AJ.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The formation of a Hamas-led Palestinian government does not necessarily signify the beginning of a new terror wave, IDF chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz said Friday in an unusually optimistic outlook on the situation within the Palestinian Authority.
"At the moment Hamas's ideology is well known," Halutz said before a crowd of 2,000 at Bar-Ilan University's "Friday Academy" community cultural event. "But they will need to change their views and compromise to prove that their [current] image is wrong. I believe they will restrain themselves." But Halutz warned: "If they stick to their policy of terror, they will be considered an enemy of the state of Israel."
"They will have obligations to their public, whether financial commitments or maintaining a public education system," he added. "This may make them change since this is a situation they have never been in before."
Referring to the upcoming Israeli general elections on Tuesday, Halutz said Palestinian terror groups have increased efforts to carry out attacks against Israel, but without connection to the elections.
"There is a rise in the terror group's motivation to perpetrate attacks, but this is not necessarily connected to the elections," he said. "This has been going on for several months already and it has more to do with the PA elections." Halutz said that most of the latest attacks have been perpetrated by Islamic Jihad, "a terror group that does not have a political agenda but only stands for terrorism, terrorism and more terrorism."
Coordination between IDF officers and PA security forces on the ground was continuing, he said, at least until Hamas formed its government - expected to happen on Monday. "We will need to evaluate our steps once the government is formed," he added.
Asked why the IDF did not take more action to stop Kassam rockets fired at Israel from within the Gaza Strip, Halutz - the former air force chief - said: "Life is about choosing between alternativesâ€¦ even when we were inside Gaza eight months ago we did not succeed in stopping the Kassams. This is because we operate like an enlightened country and are not quick to cross red lines." Referring to the growing rift between the religious camp and the army, Halutz said he was distressed but that in the end the camp's decision to "disengage" from the IDF would cause it more harm than it would to the army.
"I am disturbed by voices that call for a separation from the army and not to enlist," he said. "This will bring a disaster on the state of Israel and we cannot let these voices take over our daily lives." Referring specifically to Rabbi Elyakim Levanon, head of a hesder yeshiva in the Samarian settlement of Elon Moreh, Halutz said teachers had responsibilities toward their students.
"Teachers need to weigh their words carefully and realize the influence they have and the amount of damage they can cause their students." Levanon, he said, was a person who has accomplished a great deal in his life, but who at one stage mistakenly decided that the rule of government in Israel did not suit him. "The democratic nature of a country is not something that one day you agree with and one day you don't agree with," Halutz said.
Both Halutz and OC Human Resources Maj.-Gen. Elazar Stern have singled out Levanon to be censured for publicly encouraging soldiers to refuse evacuation orders during the disengagement from the Gaza Strip this past summer. Levanon's yeshiva is in danger of being removed from the hesder or 'arrangement' between the IDF and religious Zionist yeshivot which provides religious soldiers with a reduced military service (16 months instead of three years) and Torah studies.
Asked if the army had a plan to withdraw from the West Bank based on the proposal recently made by Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Halutz said "we have many contingency plans but there are no guarantees. If, however, it becomes state policy and we receive an order, it won't be a problem to prepare such a plan."