Diskin: Cease-fire will be tested in W. Bank

General Security Services (GSS) head says true test of cease-fire will come first time IDF hits West Bank terrorists.

diskin 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
diskin 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Gaza Strip cease-fire will be tested when the IDF carries out an anti-terrorist raid in the West Bank and either arrests or kills terrorist leaders, General Security Services (GSS) head Yuval Diskin told the cabinet Sunday, saying it is difficult to predict how the Gaza Strip terrorist organizations will then react. "It is tough to say how and if the calm will remain, and how they will respond to anti-terrorist actions in the West Bank where some terrorists are killed," he said, according to government sources. According to the sources, Diskin is in favor of setting clear criterion for how to respond in the event the Palestinians fire rockets on Israel during the period of calm, or if the arms smuggling and Hamas military buildup in the Gaza Strip continues. Although the general impression was that the cease-fire would be for six months, Diskin told the cabinet that Hamas leaders said in a recent press conference that it would be for three months, and would include all the various terrorist factions. According to Diskin, Hamas had an interest in maintaining the calm and views it as fulfilling two key goals: Lifting the siege of Gaza and opening the Rafah crossing. Diskin told the ministers that on the one hand there was public support inside Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's camp for the cease-fire, but on the other hand this camp felt that their standing was harmed by the deal, and that this message was sent on to Israel. Diskin said he did not believe the cease-fire would lead to a significant change in the Fatah-Hamas relationship, despite a meeting held between officials from the two camps last week. Diskin said that while planning continued inside the Gaza Strip for attacks on Israel, there did not seem to be any intention to carry them out in the immediate future. He said that a large attack was planned for Sunday, but was foiled last week when one of the explosive-laden trucks blew up in Gaza. The IDF thwarted a second attack, planned by the Islamic Army and approved by Hamas. Turning to the West Bank, Diskin said that there had been no significant improvement in the PA's competence in thwarting terrorism in the territories, and that this was apparent from the continuous escape of prisoners from PA jails. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the cabinet that he would convene an in-depth discussion on the cease-fire and its significance in two to three weeks. Defense Minister Ehud Barak, however, said that the whole cease-fire could blow up in a matter of days, making such a discussion unnecessary. At the same time, he said, quoting President Shimon Peres, "an accident could happen" and the arrangement could actually work. "I will not mourn if there are a few months of quiet," Barak said. Barak said that Israel retained its leverage over Hamas by being able to again close the crossings into the Gaza Strip if the arms smuggling continued or if there was no progress on negotiations for the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit. Without mentioning any names, he took to task critics who said that the cease-fire was a mistake because it did not include the kidnapped soldier's release. "I think that those who live in the Middle East and think that the calm itself or the opening of the crossings would bring about the release of Schalit need to come back to earth," Barak said. At the same time, Barak said that the clam was speeding up the negotiations for Schalit, and that if Israel were currently engaged in a military confrontation with Hamas it would delay negotiations for his release by several months. Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann said during the meeting that the cease-fire agreement was a "grave strategic mistake," and that opening the crossing without having won Schalit's return was "totally crazy." In a statement, the Home Front Command said the fortification of Gaza border communities "is not connected to the truce," adding that work will continue under all conditions "to ensure the security of residents."