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Pressure Grows for Inquiry Into Israeli Military Intelligence Assessments of Yasser Arafat - 2004-06-13


Israeli military intelligence officers, former and serving, are calling for a formal inquiry into the possibility that the government was misled into believing it was not possible to make peace with Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.

Israeli military intelligence officers have joined with opposition parties in calling for an investigation into assessments that influenced the government's decision to cut off contacts with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

The controversy is centered on allegations against the former head of Israel's military research division, General Amos Gilad.

His superior officer, the former Israeli military intelligence chief, Amos Malka, has publicly accused General Gilad of persuading the Israeli Cabinet to accept, what he called, an erroneous view of the cause of the current Palestinian uprising, which began in 2000. General Gilad's reports also led the government to believe that Mr. Arafat could no longer be regarded as a potential partner in peace talks.

According to the allegations, then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered Mr. Arafat the chance to found an independent Palestinian state in 2000. When Mr. Arafat turned down the offer and violence erupted later that same year, the Israeli intelligence assessments concluded that the Palestinian leader was intent on carrying out a plan to destroy Israel.

This thinking helped to lay the foundation for Israel's position that it is impossible to negotiate with Mr. Arafat. He has been isolated in his ruined headquarters in Ramallah for more than two years.

The current head of Israeli military intelligence, General Aharon Zeevi Farkash, supports General Gilad's assessment of Mr. Arafat.

But his predecessor, General Malka, says the evaluation of the majority of Israeli military intelligence officers was that, although Mr. Arafat had limited flexibility to negotiate with Israel, it was still possible to reach a peace agreement with him.

The former head of the Israeli military intelligence branch dealing with Palestinian affairs, Colonel Ephraim Lavie, said there were no written or official assessments backing General Gilad's claims.

Colonel Lavie and the leader of the opposition Labor Party, Shimon Peres, say the controversy is serious enough to justify a formal inquiry into the possibility that the government was misled into overlooking an opportunity to continue pursuing peace with the Palestinians.

General Gilad continues to say he correctly advised the Cabinet with his assessments of Mr. Arafat and the Palestinian uprising.

Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz also defended General Gilad, saying he had the right to express his independent opinions, even if they did not match those of his superior officers.

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