The army has drawn up plans to withdraw to pre-intifada lines in the West Bank
, if ordered to do so by the government, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
Such a withdrawal was one of the demands that US President Barack Obama made to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu during their meeting at the White House last month.
The demand refers to the positions the IDF held when the second intifada erupted in late 2000, before the army swept into all the Arab towns and cities in the West Bank. It maintains a presence on the outskirts of many of them today.
â€œThe IDF has plans for this possibility and is prepared for a scenario that Israel will approve the American demand and decide to pull back to pre-intifada lines,â€ a top defense official told the Post recently.
The Post has learned that the IDF brass, particularly the Central Command, have recommended not carrying out such a withdrawal.
â€œThe IDFâ€™s freedom to operate everywhere is extremely important in keeping terrorism down to a minimum,â€ the senior defense official said.
As proof, the official referred to a recent IDF operation in Jenin, during which troops arrested two top Islamic Jihad operatives. Operations in Jenin are still carried out, the official said, despite the â€œJenin Modelâ€ program that saw the deployment of US-trained PA forces in the city and Israelâ€™s decision to scale back its operations.
â€œWe still operate there whenever we believe there is a threat,â€ the official said.
In addition to the IDF withdrawal, Obama has asked Netanyahu to extend the 10-month moratorium on new settlement construction which the cabinet approved and which is set to expire in late September.
He also asked Netanyahu to stop Jewish construction in east Jerusalem and to release Fatah prisoners in a goodwill gesture to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Netanyahu has yet to respond to the list, which is often reported in the media but has never been formally publicized by the White House or the Prime Ministerâ€™s Office.
Last week, however, Netanyahu met several times with his inner cabinet of seven ministers.
Completion of the withdrawal plans comes in advance of a much-anticipated visit by US special envoy George Mitchell. As of press time, however, neither the State Department nor the Prime Ministerâ€™s Office had a date for that visit.
On Monday, in a lengthy interview with ABC, Netanyahu set down his â€œred linesâ€ when it came to US or Palestinian demands.
â€œTo stop all construction â€“ Jewish construction in Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem â€“ is totally, totally a nonstarter,â€
In Jerusalem Tuesday, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman rejected any attempt to divide the capital city by giving control of east Jerusalem to the Palestinians. He said Jerusalem must remain in Israelâ€™s hands.
â€œIt cannot be divided directly or indirectly. It is our eternal city,â€ Lieberman declared.
Still, Netanyahu told ABC that â€œthe issue of Jerusalem... will be discussed in the final settlement and negotiations.â€
It would be a mistake, he said, to halt construction in Jewish neighborhoods of east Jerusalem prior to talks. Such a demand prevents peace, Netanyahu said.