Dichter: Temple Mount attack will threaten world Jewry
Former Shin Bet chief: IDF will have greater freedom for military action once Israel evacuates Gaza Strip.
The concern in the Shin Bet about an attack on the Temple Mount mosques is increasing as zero hour for the disengagement approaches, the recently retired head of the Shin Bet security service Avi Dichter told Haaretz this week. Such an attack, he warned, would spark attacks on Jews around the world.
When troubling information accumulated about an intention to hit the mosques, Dichter went to a group of influential rabbis from the mountain ridge in Samaria. "I told them that the security officer of the project (the Temple Mount) had done the maximum in face of the current threats... But the mount is not defended from an anti-tank missile or a drone. I explained that I was less worried about what would happen here in Zion if one irresponsible extremist tries to carry out a terror attack at the mount.
"In Israel we have already learned to defend ourselves from waves of terror. We'll know how to deal with it. But this person does not know how much he is endangering the Jewish diaspora abroad. The defense authorities in other countries haven't got the means to protect these communities, and by the time they realize the significance of the event on the mount, it will be too late. Abroad we'll be subjected to a horrible wave of terror attacks, along the lines of the attack on the Jewish community building in Argentina. This is an almost certain scenario, and not one of the rabbis would be able to claim that his hands are clean."
Dichter said he supports the disengagement from Gaza and does not believe that it will worsen Israel's security situation.
Dichter disagrees with the prediction made by former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff Moshe Ya'alon in an interview published in Haaretz on Friday, namely, that the disengagement will lead to a renewal of the terrorist war in the West Bank.
"I heard his assessment," he said. "I don't know of intelligence that supports this. I don't know of logic that supports this."
Dichter objects to defining the disengagement as a "flight." He attributes the terrorist organizations' willingness to agree to a lull in violence in the territories to the heavy military pressure applied by Israel, and particularly the assassination of their leaders.
He also believes that the threat of Qassam launches at Israel from the Gaza Strip will not be any greater after the IDF leaves Gaza, and that in fact, Israel will have greater freedom for military action if needed, because once the settlements and the IDF are out of Gaza, the number of Israeli targets in the Strip will be much smaller.
However, he is worried about emerging security arrangements in the northern West Bank, where four settlements are slated for evacuation. Dichter believes that the IDF must continue to operate in the Jenin area following the pullout, because otherwise, a security vacuum will result, and the terrorist organizations will exploit it.
Despite the difficulties - which, he said, include the likelihood that some right-wing extremists will not hesitate to fire on soldiers and policemen - Dichter believes the disengagement will be implemented.
"Extreme scenarios are possible, but the critical mass of the evacuees will resist passively," he said. "It will be difficult and unpleasant and it isn't going to look good on television, but we'll get through it."
Dichter insists that the Shin Bet's "Jewish department," which tracks Jewish extremists, has better information than is generally thought.
"Our intelligence penetration of the extreme right isn't bad... The problem is that we don't always manage to translate intelligence into legal evidence, and in some cases, revealing the evidence would be liable to burn our sources of information."
Dichter rejected speculation that Sharon decided not to extend his term as Shin Bet chief for a sixth year because he wanted someone less dominant and independent in the post. He insisted that his retirement did not stem from any disagreements with the prime minister, whom he admires.
"Far be it from me to give him grades, but to my mind he is a real leader," Dichter said.