TEL AVIV — Israel’s chief of military intelligence, Aharon Ze’evi, said last week that Israel is not subject to any imminent nuclear threat and that the Palestinian Authority is gradually reining in militants.
“There is currently no existential nuclear threat on Israel, but there are several Muslim states, with Iran at the forefront, which are trying to achieve nuclear capability,” Ze’evi told Israel Radio in a May 6 interview.
“We will have to learn to live with such a threat, should it appear,” he said. “This is a substantial and complex menace due to Israel’s geography and size.”
The intelligence chief said that despite recent claims that the P.A. was not doing enough to fight terrorists and abide by commitments reached at the Sharm el-Sheikh Summit in February, P.A. Chairman Mahmoud Abbas does mean to rein in militants.
“As far as I know, the Palestinians have completed gathering the weapons of wanted militants in Jericho,” Ze’evi said.
He dismissed media reports that Abbas has done nothing so far to abide by his commitments and make reforms in the P.A.
“Abbas has reached certain important achievements since Ariel Sharon’s visit to Washington last month. He has completed reforms and started fighting Qassam fire and terrorists,” he said. “The heads of the Palestinian security services were replaced only last month, and they should be given some time to change things. The security chiefs in the West Bank and Gaza “have started working with Israel to coordinate the disengagement.”
The P.A.’s main weakness originates from the fact that the radical Islamic movement Hamas still holds a lot of power in the West Bank and Gaza, to the point of becoming a “parallel authority within the authority,” he said.
“Abu Mazen understands he has to deal with this fact,” he said, referring to Abbas by his nom de guerre. He added that Abbas has yet to face the militant group with force.
“So far he has avoided direct confrontation with Hamas, preferring persuasion and explanations, which has won him a temporary and fragile lull in violence, but the fact is that this lull is holding,” Ze’evi said.
However, Ze’evi warned that the recent period of relative calm was a temporary one that could change in the near future depending on the political situation.
“It is in the Palestinian interest to maintain the cease-fire at least until after elections for the legislative council [in July]. I believe it will hold until after the disengagement,” he said.
He also said that Abbas was negotiating with Hamas on delaying July’s elections until the end of the year in exchange for Hamas’s participation in a broad-based government until then.