[Last update: 31 January 2002]

Rightist ex-generals propose massive invasion of territories

by Amos Harel, Ha'aretz Correspondent

January 31, 2002

A group of senior reserve officers, led by Brig. Gen. (res.) Effi Eitam (Fein) are working on a "security-political plan" that includes reoccupying the territories to destroy the Palestinian Authority and changing the political system to prevent Arabs from being elected to the Knesset.

Former reserve generals and senior defense establishment officials are taking part in the formulations of the plan. Eitam, who left the army a year ago and makes no secret of his right wing views, has been conducting intensive political activity in recent months. Beyond the plan's military recommendations are Eitam's plans to directly enter the political arena, possibly as part of a new right wing movement. The plan has already been presented to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who refrained from expressing support for it, and is due to be presented to the public in the coming weeks.

Eitam and his associates say Israel faces an "evasive threat," meaning one that is difficult to identify. That's why, they say, Israel has so much difficulty dealing with it. "If we were now facing an invasion of Syrian or Egyptian armies into the Golan Heights or the Negev, we'd all know what to do," said one of the formulators of the document. "The trouble is that Israel is now like a person for whom cancer, not a bullet, is threatening his life. Our problem is the diagnosis - and by the time we wake up, it will be too late."

Eitam added, "This is a first attempt by the right to present a political-security plan that doesn't make do only with blocking Palestinian intentions but proposes solutions to the situation."

The plan calls for a massive Israeli invasion of Palestinian cities. The former generals argue that the military incursions into cities like Jenin and Tul Karm proved in recent weeks that the IDF would have no problem taking over the cities. They propose entering the territories, "cleaning" them of terrorists and weapons, and then ruling the areas. The move would include the elimination of the Palestinian Authority. Some also call for the physical elimination of Yasser Arafat. According to the ex-generals, the strategic reality could be changed "in a week." The former generals say they have support for their plan in the top command of the IDF.

They believe Israel should unilaterally declare that no sovereignty other than Israel would ever be allowed into the area west of the Jordan River. They say such a declaration would lead to the withering of the intifada, "because the suicide bombers are not blowing themselves up out of despair, but out of hope they can drive us out of the territories. As soon as they find out that won't happen, the level of violence will also drop." The plan also recommends taking far-reaching steps in other areas: An aggressive Israeli military approach to the nuclear threat from Iran (if the U.S. doesn't do it); encouraging democratic regimes in the area (including changing the regime in Jordan so it becomes the Palestinian state), and limiting the political power of Israeli Arabs.

The plan recommends changing the electoral system to a district system, with the districts gerrymandered to prevent significant Israeli Arab representation in the Knesset. The main criteria, they believe, is whatever strengthens Israel as a Jewish state. They say they hope to win broad support for their goals in the Israeli public, and that they believe the Americans would acquiesce to their plans. They say the circumstances may be such that the current administration in Washington would not object to these proposed Israeli steps.

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