Text size

Israel is considering releasing Hussam Khader, who was arrested in March as a terror suspect, as one of several steps it will take toward strengthening the new Palestinian government. These steps will include opening roadblocks to enable free movement of Palestinians from Jenin in the north to Dahariya in the south, and creation of a structured defense system for the separation fence areas bordering the seam line.

Khader, 45 - considered the second most important Fatah official under arrest after Marwan Barghouti - is a vehement opponent of Yasser Arafat. Last July, he told Newsweek that, "after Arafat is gone, they'll write about him the way they write about Mao in China, about his crimes and his disastrous activities." Because of his anti-Arafat activities, Khader has been accused of being an Israeli collaborator and being corrupt, although he was arrested when Israel Defense Forces troops moved into Balata to attack the terrorist infrastructure there.

If released, Khader will presumably line up with Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas' efforts to put a clamp on the terror groups - along with Kadura Fares in Jenin, Hussein al-Sheikh in Ramallah, and perhaps Jibril Rajoub, still the key figure in the southern West Bank and, to a large extent, the entire West Bank.

With the meeting yesterday between Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the Central Command was putting final touches on its "Let it Flow" plan, that would lift closures and enable Palestinian traffic to move freely from Jenin to Dahariya, though not necessarily along the most direct and shortest line linking the two. The army will divert Palestinian traffic to roads slated only for Palestinian traffic, just as Israeli vehicles in the territories will be limited to specific roads.

The expectations for gradual moderation on the Palestinian side have yet to be fulfilled; the lull between terror attacks is attributed to the dozens and sometimes hundreds of IDF, Shin Bet security service and police operations every night.

Even if Abbas reaches understandings with both Israel and the Hamas, the Central Command is not expecting a drop in terror attempts. Even if he is successful in reducing some of the tension, his message might not reach the last of the suicide-bomber cells. There might be fewer attacks, but they could end up being more costly - especially if they take place during a period of intense diplomatic efforts aimed at ending the crisis.

The decision most characteristic of the new situation is that of reinstating routine security patrols, in the format familiar to generations of soldiers who served along the borders with Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. This time, however, the patrols will be along the seam - the Israel-Palestine - line, and will include ambush forces in the Sharon area and Wadi Ara, just as before June 1967. The army is even begining to refer to "infiltrators" as it did before 1967, and indeed also along the Lebanon border.

The comparison to Lebanon is no accident, nor is the selection of those designated to fill the key positions: Deputy Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, who "built" the Lebanon line and evacuated the IDF from Lebanon; Maj. Gen. Moshe Kaplinski, commander of the Central Command, who led the Galilee Corps at the end of the Lebanon period and during the withdrawal; and Brig. Gen. Gadi Eisencott, who assumes command of the Judea and Samaria Corps on June 16, and was Ehud Barak's military secretary during the negotiations with the Syrians, the Lebanon evacuation and the Camp David peace talks; Kaplinski followed him into the Prime Minister's Office to work for Sharon.

It's not only close contact with the political echelon that these three share: All are former Golani Brigade men, and Eisencott's appointment is further proof of Golani's conquest of a fortification long held by the Paratroops and the elite Sayeret Matkal reconnaissance unit - the Central Command. One after the other, the red berets of former Central Command Maj. Gen. Yitzhak Eitan have disappeared, replaced by the brown berets of Golani.

The "Golanization" of the border with the territories will be tested in the two efforts now conceptualized by the command - maintenance and security - in three areas: the Jordan Valley, Judea and Samaria, and the seam line.

The IDF will have to deal with four different kinds of populations: Palestinians, settlers in the territories, and Jewish-Israeli and Arab-Israeli communities.The threats that are expected encompass various types of infiltrations or attacks on populated areas using a plethora of means: suicide bombers, car bombs, murders, kidnappings and hostage situations; sniper fire, mortar fire, rockets and anti-tank weapons; land mines and shootings; arms smuggling in both directions as well as cross-border criminal affiliations; and general public disorder in the area defined as the "obstacle zone."

The military deployment, coordinated from an integrated war room, will consist of forces involved in deterrence, security, protection of roads and towns, intelligence collection, command and control, and so on.

The so-called obstacle zone includes three fences: preventive, electronic and a barrier that will delay attempted infiltrations. Between them there will be either a trench or a steep mound, as well as a tracker's path. The forces in the area - in vehicular patrols and on foot, and in ambush units for observation and shooting - will restrict movement of pedestrians and vehicles, forcing them into passages in the fence, where they will be "identified and examined."

East of this there will still be military protection for Israeli vehicles and soldiers stationed at settlements, in addition to the local security squads and paid guards. But the real test of this arrangement of obstacles, like the fences along the Lebanese and Gazan borders, will be in ensuring the credibility of reports of movement toward the fence and attempts to get through it, alerting forces to break-in points, and preventing attacks before perpetrators reach an Israeli town.

The technology and systems will be new and innovative, but the burden on the manpower will be old-fashioned.