Ex-security chief backs West Bank pullout ‘once talks fail’

The security barrier winding through two Palestinian villages on the edge of Jerusalem

The security barrier winding through two Palestinian villages on the edge of Jerusalem

Israel’s former military intelligence chief, Amos Yadlin, called for Israel to consider a “co-ordinated unilateral” withdrawal from most of the West Bank if the talks with the Palestinians fail.

In a briefing with journalists on the eve of the annual conference of the Institute for National Security Studies headed by Mr Yadlin, he said that the chances of the talks succeeding were “very small”.

Ex-General Yadlin admitted that Israel’s unilateral withdrawals from South Lebanon in 2000 and Gaza in 2005 were problematic but that it was still a policy worth considering if implemented with care.

One of the improvements he advocated was not withdrawing from the entire territory — as Israel did in Gaza — in order to retain an incentive for the Palestinians to return to negotiations.

Palestinians could start a damaging ‘diplomatic intifada’

He predicted that a violent Palestinian uprising once the talks fail is unlikely but that they would probably embark on a “diplomatic intifada” that could damage Israel’s standing in the world and harm its economy.

Another former intelligence chief appearing at the conference was former CIA director General David Petraeus. He sought to allay Israeli fears — articulated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — that Iran is “six weeks” from developing a bomb. Mr Petraeus said that if negotiations fail, “Obama will not hesitate to use force if he has proof that Iran is advancing, despite the agreements, towards a nuclear weapon, and that there is no other possibility to prevent it from doing so.”

Mr Yadlin’s successor, the current commander of the IDF’s Intelligence Branch, Major General Aviv Kochavi, said at the conference that despite the Geneva agreement, Iran’s nuclear programme “continues in a way that allows it to make the decision to break ahead and achieve a bomb or more”.

He noted that the Syrian civil war had significantly degraded the capabilities of the Syrian army and Hizbollah, and that Hamas sustained significant damage during Operation Pillar of Defence.

However, he said that “170,000 missiles and rockets threaten Israel on all fronts. Not long ago the number was much greater and it went down, but it will go up again and now they are much more accurate and deadlier.”

Last updated: 5:45pm, January 30 2014