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‘Intifada to last until 2006’

Israeli army's annual strategic assessment has concluded that the violent confrontation with the Palestinians could last until 2006 and the conflict could deteriorate into a regional war, either as a result of escalation of the violence with the Palestinians or because of a confrontation in the north with Hezbollah and Syria, according to a report in Haaretz (16 August).

The assessment, based in part on Military Intelligence assessments, states that the chairman of the Palestinian Authority, Yasir Arafat, can at most reach an agreement with Israel for a lull in the fighting, but even that is not likely, since Arafat believes that time is on the Palestinians' side. Furthermore, his domestic position in the face of Hamas and other radical forces is likely to worsen, up to a complete loss of control on his part.

The two ‘fronts’ - the Israeli-Palestinian and the northern one - are ‘stable but fragile,’ with internal balances, because both sides are careful not to shatter them, the assessment says. Nonetheless, any serious incident, could send either front into war.

According to the Planning Directorate, traditional military threats, like a surprise pan-Arab attack such as happened in 1973, have been reduced. However, a new kind of limited threat, typified by the Palestinians and Hezbollah, could still lead Israel and its neighbours into war.

An offensive attack by Iran or Iraq and possible changes in the regimes in Egypt and Jordan are not considered likely factors that could lead toward war by 2006.

According to the Planning Directorate, Arafat will remain the main address for the functioning of the Palestinian establishment. The Palestinian Authority will not collapse, and Arafat will not lose his control over it.

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