There "may be no choice" but to expel Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat in "the very near future," Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee yesterday.

"My opinion in the past was that we should deport Arafat," he said, responding to questions from MKs Benjamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor) and Ehud Yatom (Likud). "At this moment, it would not be right to do so, but it is very possible that in the very near future, there will be no choice but to do so."

Mofaz said Arafat is making every effort to foil the Israeli-Palestinian rapprochement and the reforms that Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) is trying to effect. Arafat still controls some of the PA security services, he noted.

Terrorist organizations are also trying to disrupt the process and are, therefore, instigating attacks, he said. This creates difficult problems but there is now a chance for peace that must be fully explored, he said. However, he added, the process is likely to take years and be studded with many ups and downs.

Brigadier General Yossi Kuperwasser, head of Military Intelligence's research division, said the army has foiled some attacks, including suicide bombings, over the last few days, but new warnings of planned attacks keep pouring in. Most of the attacks are being planned by organizations affiliated with Fatah, the faction to which both Arafat and Abbas belong, he said.

Kuperwasser noted that Abbas initially refused to condemn Sunday's attack at the Erez Junction, which killed four soldiers. Even after he was pressured into doing so, his condemnation was not reported by any of the Palestinian media. It was evidently purely for external consumption, he said.

Brigadier General Eli Yaffe, head of the General Staff's Operations Directorate, said that in the 40 days since Abu Mazen's government was established, there has been no change in the level of terrorist activity. During this period, the IDF killed 75 terrorists and arrested 650, he said.