- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 1, 2005

JERUSALEM — The outgoing chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces has predicted that Israel faces the “high probability” of another war of terror as soon as it completes its withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in a few months.

In an unusually pessimistic appraisal by a senior official, Gen. Moshe Ya’alon said in an interview published yesterday that only if Israel commits immediately to a further pullback on the West Bank would the cease-fire from the beginning of the year continue for another period.

“If not, there will be an eruption,” he told the newspaper Ha’aretz. “Terrorist attacks of all types, shootings, bombs, suicide bombers, mortars, rockets. There will be suicide attacks wherever they can perpetrate them.”

Tel Aviv and Jerusalem will come under attack from rockets fired from the West Bank, Gen. Ya’alon said.

Until now, rocket and mortar fire has emanated only from the Gaza Strip and affected only some of the small communities on the fringes inside Israel.

Gen. Ya’alon also challenged the widely accepted notion that the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel would bring stability to the region. This concept, he said, was “divorced from reality and dangerous.”

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and many on the right wing have said they accept the creation of a Palestinian state, although within narrower boundaries than Palestinians wish.

Gen. Ya’alon said that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who has renounced violence and generally is regarded as a moderate, has not given up his demand for the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their former homes inside Israel.

“This is not a symbolic right of return, but a claim to be realized,” Gen. Ya’alon said. “To return to the houses, to return to the villages. The implication of this is that there will not be a Jewish state here.”

Gen. Ya’alon is a member of a kibbutz collective, and his political views are assumed to be left wing. His dour appraisal of Palestinian intentions is seen as the hard-nosed professional assessment of someone at the pinnacle of Israel’s defense establishment.

Gen. Ya’alon, 54, ended his 38 years of army service yesterday and handed over authority to Gen. Dan Halutz, 57, the first air force chief to be appointed head of the IDF.

In a separate interview with a London-based Arabic newspaper, Ashark al-Awsat, Gen. Ya’alon delivered another political bombshell by saying Israel could defend itself even if it withdraws from the Golan Heights.

His statement infuriated right-wing Knesset members who termed it “irresponsible.” Israel has negotiated with Syria in the past over a withdrawal from the Golan, captured in the 1967 Six-Day War, but has refused to undertake a complete withdrawal.

In the Ashark al-Awsat interview, the first given by an Israeli chief of staff to an Arabic newspaper, Gen. Ya’alon said he did not envision peace between Israel and the Arab world in the near future. Many years will have to pass before wounds heal and animosity eases, he said.

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