Any large-scale evacuation from the West Bank along the lines of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's convergence plan would be far more difficult and violent than the disengagement from the Gaza Strip this past summer, senior security officials have told The Jerusalem Post
"The next evacuation will be far more violent and nothing like what happened in Gaza," a senior security official predicted. "The disengagement from Gaza and the evacuation of the Amona outpost have pushed more people to the far-right margins."
But while convergence would be far more difficult than disengagement, senior officials said the army would succeed in implementing the pullout. "Whatever we are tasked with will be carried out," a senior defense official said. "There is no such thing as a mission impossible."
In an effort to prevent the outbreak of violence if the largest pullout in Israel's history does take place, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) has plans to round up Jewish extremists prior to the beginning of convergence. "We will need to take the extremists out of the game way before the process even begins," the official said.
While the army officially said Sunday that it had yet to begin planning convergence, in closed-door meetings, senior officers have begun discussing the plan and how they would recommend it be carried out.
One critical issue is whether the police will carry out the evacuation on their own or if soldiers will physically evacuate settlers alongside policemen like they did during the disengagement. On Sunday, the IDF Spokesperson's Office rejected a news report in Ma'ariv
claiming that senior officers had asked Defense Minister Amir Peretz to excuse the army from participation in the pullout.
Police said they did not believe it was possible to carry out such a large-scale evacuation, which would include tens of thousands of settlers, on their own. The police, a senior source in the Internal Security Ministry said, did not have enough manpower to carry out the pullout without assistance from the IDF, and policymakers would have to take that fact into consideration when planning the pullout.
In the end, a senior defense official predicted Sunday, the government would most probably decide to assign the mission both to the police and the IDF. "No one wants the pullout to drag on," the official said, "and the only way to do it quickly is to for both soldiers and the police to do it together."
Another source of concern for the army is the growing number of religious soldiers in key command posts throughout the IDF. While disengagement from Gaza passed without large numbers of soldiers refusing orders, senior officers are now concerned that with religious soldier making up 50 percent of the cadets in the Officer's Training Course and with the official settler leadership considering calling on soldiers to refuse military orders - something they didn't do in the run-up to the Gaza pullout - the results could change.
Last week, former IDF chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Moshe Ya'alon said that Israel's current leadership was "confused" and was offering "illusions" to the nation in the form of additional land concessions to the Palestinians.
"I do not see any prospect for peace and reconciliation on the Palestinian side," Ya'alon said during a speech he delivered at an event in New York hosted by the Zionist Organization of America. "I needed no sophisticated intelligence to reach this conclusion - I only had to look at their textbooks, posters and so onâ€¦Under no circumstances should we surrender to terror. As long as they see our appeasement policy, they will continue."
In his speech, Ya'alon also touched upon the question of whether Israel should retain a military presence in the West Bank following a pullout there under the convergence plan. Senior officers have also recently weighed in on that issue, claiming that unless the evacuation was under a peace agreement, the army would need to stay within "every corner" of the West Bank.
"As long as there isn't someone on the other side to take the reins then we need to be in control," the officer said.
Rebecca Anna Stoil contributed to this report.