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Globalization - Countries - Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Military Raids Are Best Path to Security, Israelis Say
Joel Greenberg, New York Times 6/2/2002

JERUSALEM, June 2 — Israeli leaders asserted today that unilateral military action was the country's best path to security even as George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence, headed here to promote an overhaul of the Palestinian security forces.

The Israeli leaders' remarks came as Israeli forces swept through the West Bank city of Nablus for a third day. The army said the forces uncovered a large explosives laboratory in the Balata refugee camp.

At the weekly meeting of his cabinet, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon asserted that Palestinian security agencies were not blocking attacks on Israel, so "responsibility for the security of Israel lies entirely with Israel," a cabinet statement said.

Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer said repeated intelligence-driven raids by the army into areas under Palestinian control were now Israel's preferred mode of operation.

"The method we are using today, entries and withdrawals on the basis of information available, is actually the optimal method, which also emphasizes our right to defend ourselves everywhere," he said.

Mr. Ben-Eliezer was responding to a suggestion by Avi Dichter, the chief of Israel's Shin Ben security service, that the army go further and remain in Palestinian cities until effective barriers are erected between the West Bank and Israel that would block infiltration into Israel by Palestinian suicide bombers.

The remarks by Mr. Sharon and Mr. Ben-Eliezer affirmed what had already become a reality created by the army raids: the blurring of boundaries between West Bank areas controlled by Israel and those nominally controlled by the Palestinian security forces.

With Israeli troops regularly invading Palestinian areas, the notion of cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian security forces, a foundation of the 1993 Oslo accords, has all but been abandoned. But it is precisely such cooperation that Mr. Tenet will try to revive through a consolidation of the Palestinian security agencies intended to make them more effective in blocking violence against Israel.

Mr. Tenet met in Egypt today with President Hosni Mubarak on the first leg of his Middle East visit. He is expected to meet on Monday with Mr. Sharon, and later with Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader.

Another American envoy, William J. Burns, the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, traveled today to Jordan, where he told King Abdullah that the Bush administration would like to see a planned international conference on the Middle East take place this summer, Jordanian officials reported.

Javier Solana, the foreign policy chief of the European Union, said after a meeting with Foreign Minister Shimon Peres in Jerusalem that a conference at the level of foreign ministers could be held in the second half of July.

But there were few signs of conciliation on the ground, where Israeli forces continued their search-and-arrest operation in Nablus.

In the Balata refugee camp, on the southern outskirts of the city, Palestinians reported that Israeli troops blew up the family home of Mahmoud Titi, the local commander of Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades, who was killed last month by Israeli tank shells. The army said the house held a large explosives lab that contained chemicals, hundreds of pipe bombs, a dozen gas-canister bombs and an antitank charge. The Aksa Martyrs Brigades have claimed responsibility for several suicide bombings and shooting attacks in Israel.

Another bomb factory that contained explosives, detonators and mortar shells was found in a restaurant, an army spokesman said, adding that the building was also blown up.

Mr. Arafat, for his part, was reported to be in contact with leaders of the militant group Hamas in an effort to bring its representatives into a revamped Palestinian cabinet expected to be announced in several days. A Hamas spokesman said the group, which has so far stayed out of the Palestinian Authority, would give its reply later this week.

Mr. Arafat has been under intense international and domestic pressure to carry out reforms in the Palestinian Authority. Some analysts said his talks with Hamas and other militant factions were aimed at bring the militants under his control by awarding them a role in government in return for a suspension of their attacks in Israel.


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