Gaza clashes said to be more probable as cabinet hears intelligence summary.
By YAAKOV KATZ, HERB KEINON
After eight hours of deliberations, Military Intelligence, the Mossad, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), the Foreign Ministry's intelligence division and the National Security Council were still presenting the annual intelligence summary to the cabinet on Sunday afternoon during its weekly meeting in Jerusalem.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert opened the meeting by saying farewell to outgoing police chief Insp.-Gen. Moshe Karadi. The prime minister urged the nation to stop attacking and ridiculing the police and called Karadi a "decent and brave person who has done a great deal for Israel's security."
During the briefing, given by OC Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin, Mossad chief Meir Dagan, Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin, Director of the Foreign Ministry Center for Policy Research Nimrod Barkan, and NSC head Ilan Mizrahi, the ministers were hearing intelligence and projections concerning Iran's nuclear program and the likelihood of war with Syria, Hizbullah and the Palestinians.
Channel 1 reported that the IDF's official assessment for the coming year did not included a high probability of war in the North but said that there was a much greater likelihood of a major confrontation with Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
The annual assessment is generally given to the security cabinet, but this year - because of the summer's conflict in Lebanon and the cabinet's involvement in decisions regarding the war - it was decided to hold the briefing before the full cabinet.
Olmert received the assessment some three weeks ago, but then, Dan Halutz was the chief of General Staff, and - according to government officials - there may be some changes in the interpretation of the data brought to the cabinet because Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi has now replaced Halutz.
Government sources said the assessment would not only deal with the dangers facing Israel, but also with various policy options. There are expected to be differing opinions from the various agencies, and the idea is to give an overall sense of trends that could have an impact on budget decisions.
The year 2007 has been defined by the IDF as "The Year of Readiness," during which brigades and battalions are scheduled to be sent for long periods of training ahead of possible conflicts in the north and the south.
Defense officials said Israel's most immediate threat came from the Gaza Strip, where terrorist groups have accumulated large amounts of weaponry. The IDF Southern Command has been preparing over the past few months for a possible large-scale operation in Gaza to prevent further terror buildup there.
Defense Minister Amir Peretz has described 2007 as a "critical year" concerning international efforts to stop Iran's race to obtain nuclear weapons. Peretz has said numerous times that this year would be the last chance to stop Iran diplomatically.
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