Mofaz: Pull Out IDF Before Expulsion Date

Shaul Mofaz, Defense Minister and former chief of staff, revealed Monday he wants to turn over security to the PA even before the government expels Jews from towns slated to be dismantled.

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, | updated: 19:42

"I am prepared, before the disengagement takes effect, to turn over responsibility to the PA in Gaza and cities in Judea and Samaria…if they stop suicide bombers," Mofaz told the annual Herzilya Conference on national strategy.

He also said IDF troops would clear out of urban Arab centers the day before the Palestinian presidential elections January 9 and return two days later in an effort to "limit the friction." He previously had suggested Israeli soldiers would pull out only on the day of the vote. Mofaz reiterated the government policy to keep a low profile until the elections for a successor to Yasser Arafat.

He declared his intention to let the PA take over security while also admitting that the PA has not shown any change in its ability or desire to control terror. He did not elaborate on the two conflicting views. He also did not detail to what extent IDF soldiers would withdraw, if and when the government executes its plan to transfer Jews out of 25 communities in northern Samaria, the northern tip of Gaza and in the Gush Katif area further south.

Despite Mofaz's statements, PA cabinet Minister Saeb Erakat demanded the Israel immediately pull out soldiers from Arab cities.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon took a slightly tougher stand than Mofaz when he told visiting American Congressmen Monday that "we do not see any change whatsoever in the PA policies." He added, "Yes, we want to to help them in the (election) process, but there is not even a small sign of their trying to cease fire. Fatah (the ruling PLO party) announced yesterday their intentions to continue terrorism. The Arabs have to understand that nothing will advance if there is no quiet."