New Defense Minister Plots Strategy for Tackling Violence of the Intifada

Newly appointed Defense Minister Moshe Arens has gone straight to the Israel Defense Force for advice on how to quell the Palestinian uprising.

Sources in the Defense Ministry indicated that a general outline was given to heads of the security forces suggesting tough, selective measures to achieve relative calm.

Arens, who had preferred to remain in his previous post of defense minister, reportedly feels pressure to effect a de-escalation of violence in the administered territories as soon as possible. However, he also reportedly believes little can be accomplished solely in military terms.

Observers believe Arens, a pragmatist, will operate on two parallel tracks.

He will try to normalize the situation in the territories by taking such measures as reopening the Palestinian universities that have been closed for most of the 30 months of the Palestinian uprising. On Saturday, for instance, the medical school at the Palestinian Jerusalem University, located in Ramallah, was reopened.

At the same time, Arens will use strict measures, such as demolition of homes, to curb violence in specific, targeted areas, such as key roads that have been subjected to repeated terrorist attacks. One of the roads mentioned as a test case is the Jerusalem-Hebron road, which serves the settlers of Gush Etzion, Kiryat Arba and Hebron.

Speaking Sunday on Israel’s Arabic television program, Arens said his responsibility was to cut down violence in the territories.

“I want to continue visiting the territories and talking to both Arabs and Jews. I lay weight on meeting with Palestinian leaders,” he said. He suggested improving “the level of dialogue” with the Palestinians in the territories “to try to find common ground.”

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