Dichter: Only Sharon can effect change

Joining Kadima, ex-Shabak chief hints at possibility of unilateral withdrawals.

avi dichter 298 88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
avi dichter 298 88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Former Shin-Bet chief Avi Dichter called a press conference on Wednesday to announce that he was joining Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Kadima party, because he believes that only Sharon would be capable of making the changes that the country requires. Dichter said that after completing his Shin-Bet career seven months ago, he considered going into business instead of politics, but he decided that he wanted to have an impact on the country's future and that the best way to do that would be via Sharon's party. "I saw Kadima as a list that can effect real change," Dichter said. "Sharon's leadership, determination, courage and his ability to pull [the country] out of the mud convinced me to join Kadima and try to bring a better future for the people of Israel." Dichter admitted that he was nervous hosting his first ever press conference after 34 years acting behind the scenes in a secret service agency. His inexperience showed when he answered a question about the possibility of additional unilateral withdrawals following disengagement from the Gaza Strip. "If there will be [additional withdrawals], the only consideration will be security," Dichter said, before returning to the Kadima party line that "the only diplomatic plan is the road map, and because the Palestinians haven't kept their commitments, the first stage of the plan hasn't started yet and the path to [additional withdrawals] is still very long." Dichter added that he doesn't see Israel deciding its permanent borders unilaterally. "It's not reasonable and there is no precedent for it," he said. Dichter denied statements attributed to him ahead of disengagement warning that the plan would give a prize to terror. He said that disengagement had been proven successful. "The numbers speak for themselves," Dichter said. "The downturn in terrorist attacks has been dramatic. The Kassam rockets were expected. The terrorists have no option other than artillery fire. It is clear that disengagement decreased terror." Dichter said he was optimistic about the Fatah party fighting terror and about Israeli Arabs integrating into Israeli society. He said he would even welcome the appointment of an Arab minister in the next government. Following the press conference, Dichter went straight to his first Kadima faction meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem. He immediately began his work preparing Kadima for the March 28 election in his capacity as the party's election-day campaign chairman, but Dichter said he received no commitment from Sharon regarding what cabinet position he might receive in a Kadima-led government. "I will take any position offered to me that I think is fitting for me," Dichter said. "I have more experience and understanding in security, but my experience can help me succeed at anything." Dichter returned to Israel on Thursday from a three-month fellowship at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institute in Washington, DC. He said he enjoyed traveling around the US and lecturing about the fight against terror, but he lamented that he had to cancel a planned family vacation when the election date was moved up. Politicians on the Right and Left slammed Dichter, giving him an icy welcome into the world of Israeli politics. Meretz leader Yossi Beilin said Dichter's joining Kadima was proof that Kadima would continue "its destructive policies in the territories." National Religious Party faction chairman Shaul Yahalom said that "if the heads of Kadima agree with Dichter that disengagement was a success, even after Kassams have fallen in children's kindergartens in Kibbutz Sa'ad, then Kadima cannot be allowed to form the next government."