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Outgoing Israeli Military Chief Warns of Renewed Palestinian Violence


Israel's army chief of staff is leaving office warning of renewed violence with the Palestinians unless Israel agrees to further withdrawals from Palestinian areas.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon swore in former air force chief, Dan Halutz as the country's new chief of staff. Mr. Sharon welcomed his new military chief with a demand for the "right answers" to the "complicated and difficult" situation facing Israel today.

But, it was the outgoing army chief, Lt. General Moshe Ya'alon, who is making news. The general was replaced by his civilian bosses just months before Israel's controversial withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and small portions of the northern West Bank.

In an interview with the Haaretz newspaper, General Ya'alon warned of further violence, an eventual war with a future Palestinian state and said he feared for the future of his own country.

The outgoing military chief said the disengagement from Gaza, scheduled to begin in August, will not lead to calm. He predicted violence would erupt unless Israel clearly signals its intention to withdraw from other Palestinian areas as well.

He also warned of an eventual war with a future Palestinian state because he said, Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas has not given up on the right of return of Palestinian refugees to their original homes inside Israel.

The right of return is one of the key issues to be decided in any final peace agreement. Israel says it cannot allow Palestinians to return to the homes they fled or were driven out of during the 1948 Mideast war because that would be demographic suicide and destroy Israel as a Jewish state.

The general also said the current emphasis on a two-state solution does not really address the Israeli-Palestinian problem. Without elaborating, he said it is not a "relevant" solution, but rather a story the Western world tells with western eyes.

General Ya'alon had few good things to say about the Palestinian Authority, calling it "armed gangs that play at pretend democracy."

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