- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 19, 2001

HERZLIYA, Israel The September 11 attacks on the United States led to a decisive swing toward Israel in its ongoing battle against the Palestinian uprising, the Israel Defense Forces' chief of staff told a conference of leading security experts yesterday.
Until then, the Palestinians had enjoyed some success in their strategy of seeking to internationalize the conflict and depict Israel's response as a war of repression against civilians, Lt. Gen. Shaul Mofaz said.
However, he said, the world's tolerance of the use of bombing and strikes at civilian targets was radically reduced by the suicide attacks on New York and Washington.
Gen. Mofaz also maintained in a speech to the high-powered Herzliya Conference on the Balance of National Strength that Israeli intelligence showed Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat had authorized both shootings and suicide-bomb attacks against civilians inside Israel.
He claimed that since March this year, Mr. Arafat has worked in concert with the radical organizations responsible for most of the attacks, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and that the lines between them and his own security services has "become blurred."
Despite the charges, other Israeli officials conceded yesterday that the government was maintaining high-level contacts with Palestinian leaders. Israel declared last week that it considered Mr. Arafat irrelevant to efforts to end the intifada.
"There are contacts under way at different levels and varying degrees of intensity," said a Foreign Ministry source quoted by Reuters news agency. "There is no decision by the government against meeting the Palestinians or talking to them."
The source said the Israelis were not speaking to Mr. Arafat directly, and it was not clear whether the contacts were intended to undermine his leadership of the Palestinian Authority.
Extremist Palestinian groups have vowed to defy Mr. Arafat since he called publicly Sunday for an end to the violence.
Gen. Mofaz said the Palestinian leaders had tried without success to differentiate themselves from the acts of Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terror network, portraying themselves instead as freedom fighters seeking to liberate their homeland.
"The scale is tipping in our favor," Gen. Mofaz declared, while warning his audience that the battle was not conclusively decided. He likened the conflict to a "marathon, not a sprint."
The general also said the time was now right to ease the pressures on "innocent" Palestinian citizens, who have undergone serious suffering as a result of Israel's military incursions and its encirclement of the major cities under Palestinian control.
He said it made military sense to alleviate the hardship, and so reduce civilian support for the uprising.
The violence in the Palestinian territories continued yesterday. Ambushes in the West Bank left three Israelis wounded Monday and one yesterday. Three Palestinians were killed on Monday, a day after Mr. Arafat's televised appeal to end violence.
Arab foreign ministers are likely to rally behind Mr. Arafat at an emergency meeting in Cairo tomorrow and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein yesterday called for an emergency Arab summit to discuss "the aggression on the Palestinian people."
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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