IDF unhappy with Sharon's revised withdrawal plan

Posted in Israel / Palestine | 24-May-04 | Author: Aluf Benn| Source: Ha'aretz

IDF troops uncovering an arms smuggling tunnel in the Brazil neighborhood of Rafah, 600 meters from the Egyptian border, yesterday. (Alberto Denkberg)
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will meet this morning with heads of the defense establishment to discuss the security aspects of the revised plan to disengage from the Gaza Strip and parts of the northern West Bank.

Israeli sources relay that senior IDF officers object to this plan to evacuate settlements in stages; they would prefer to dismantle the Gaza settlements and four northern West Bank settlements all at once.

The modified plan is to be presented to the government for approval next Sunday, and Sharon has promised ministers that he will provide a document detailing the advantages inherent in the pull-out.

The importance of this morning's attempt to recruit the support of top IDF officers stems from Sharon's promise to prepare this document, and his need to allay his ministers' security concerns.

Under the revised disengagement plan, settlements slated for evacuation are to be divided into a few groups - isolated settlements on the Gaza Strip, the four West Bank settlements, Gush Katif bloc settlements - on the basis of the level of the security problems they have raised.

In logistical terms, sources explain, the IDF preference isn't feasible. "Army bulldozers won't be able to head toward all the settlements at the same time, and so the evacuation will have to be in stages," they state.

However, the senior sources continue, long stretches of time need not pass between the dismantling of the various settlements: "If the army wants to carry out [all the settlement dismantling] in a short period, that's no problem," they insist.

Officials in the PM's Office are unhappy that top IDF officers are voicing reservations about the disengagement plan. The original expectation in Sharon's circle was that leading IDF officers who complained during budget discussions about the heavy burdens shouldered by their units in the territories would be eager to support a plan that promises to ease their units' burdens.

Under the revised plan, the IDF will destroy residences on settlements that are evacuated, but leave public infrastructure facilities untouched.