Wednesday, April 30, 2003

# Posted 5:57 PM by Patrick Belton  

THE ROAD MAP GETS UNFOLDED: And the highlights are here. In general, the Palestinians seem happier with it at the moment than the Israelis, with the Foreign Ministry at work on a list of (reportedly 15) changes. Hamas, of course, isn't happy with it either (thus suggesting it can't be all bad), and it sought to demonstrate instantly that it was also not impressed with the swearing-in of a prime minister advocating "political intifada." Israeli intelligence assessment officials have submitted a set of classified recommendations to the government which would help Abu Mazen establish his authority and shore up his position vis a vis Arafat (and Hamas). These recommendations are reported to include a "grace period" of military restraint, while avoiding Israeli official contact with Abu Mazen in the short term or speaking too positively of him (both of which would undermine his legitimacy and permit others to cast him as an Israeli water-carrier). Meanwhile, Israeli army intelligence is skeptical whether the new prime minister will be strong enough politically to fend off power grabs from Arafat or Hamas and Islamic Jihad (thus moving away from the Army's earlier optimism about Abu Mazen, and toward the pessimism which Shin Bet had displayed from the beginning). From outside the country, Tehran seems worried that Syria will respond to U.S. pressure and limit its support for the terrorist organizations; Tehran is reputed to be considering stepping up its level of support to fill the gap.
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