- The Washington Times - Friday, June 30, 2000

JERUSALEM Israeli troops trained in low-intensity conflict have been deployed to the West Bank amid expectations of another round of bloodletting before Israel and the Palestinians make peace.
The move comes as Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright attempts to arrange a three-way summit among President Clinton, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak ahead of a September deadline for a formal peace treaty.
The Israel Defense Force (IDF) in recent weeks has moved four battalions into the West Bank to cope, at the initial stage, with any new Palestinian uprising, Israeli officials say.
Armored vehicles and other equipment have been shifted to the area from Lebanon, from which the IDF withdrew last month.
Should a confrontation with the Palestinians ratchet up in intensity, Israel will call in tanks and helicopter gunships, says Gen. Shaul Mofaz, IDF chief of staff.
For the past three months, troops have been training at a replica of a West Bank village specially constructed for the purpose in an IDF base.
The object of these exercises is to train in a new IDF doctrine aimed at suppressing armed Palestinian resistance in built-up areas.
The Palestinians, for their part, don't need special training if they decide to resort to violence.
They proved in the intifada, or uprising, of the 1980s their ability to engage Israeli troops in prolonged and painful confrontation using only stones. Now they have tens of thousands of weapons in the hands of their security forces.
Although Palestinian forces are officially police, not military, they have been organized along military lines. In the Gaza Strip, they have been formed into three brigades with 150 anti-tank, rocket-propelled grenades and 100 heavy machine guns. In addition, armed "youth organizations" have been preparing themselves for an active role in any clash with Israel.
Although Mr. Arafat has made a point of preventing further suicide attacks against Israel by Hamas and other Muslim fundamentalist organizations, the groups have not been dismantled and remain a standing threat against Israel.
Israeli military officers have upgraded their estimate of the likely nature of the violence, should it come, from low-grade confrontation lasting a few days to low-grade war that could last weeks or months and include the reoccupation of Palestinian territory.
If it happens, it most likely will be if Mr. Arafat unilaterally declares a Palestinian state in September, as he has promised if no peace agreement with Israel has been achieved by then.
"We're getting ready for the next round of violence," a senior IDF officer said this week. "The Palestinian leadership is not preparing its people for concessions."
Although senior Palestinian officials until now have spoken in terms of compromise, and even come to substantial agreement with their Israeli counterparts on central issues dividing the two camps, Mr. Arafat in recent days has begun speaking in uncompromising terms.
Noting that Israel has withdrawn from Egyptian, Lebanese and Jordanian territory and that it has indicated readiness to withdraw from the Golan Heights on the Syrian front, Mr. Arafat has demanded that it withdraw as well from 100 percent of the territory it captured on the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967.
But unlike those other territories, the West Bank overlooks Israel's vulnerable heartland.
Mr. Barak has gone much further than any other Israeli leader by expressing a readiness to pull back from 85 percent of the territory, and there have been unofficial reports that he might go as high as 92 percent.
But it is clear to all that Israel will not evacuate many of its settlements or pull back from strategic hills overlooking Israel's narrow waist.
Mr. Arafat's new militancy is seen by some as last-minute muscle flexing aimed at squeezing out still more concessions from Israel. Others, however, believe there is a deeper reason Mr. Arafat's intention to accompany the founding of a Palestinian state with heroic fanfare.
"The Palestinians don't want independence handed to them on a piece of paper," says an IDF officer. "They want to gain it through struggle."
The Palestinians have, in fact, already done just that. Had it not been for their decades-long struggle, particularly the intifada, Israel would not be preparing to pull back from the bulk of the territories captured in the Six Day War and be preparing to recognize a Palestinian state.

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