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Amid new peace bids, Israel stays tough

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If anything, Israel today faces a greater "existential threat" than ever before, according to Mossad chief Meir Dagan, because Iran, he said recently, is close to "the point of no return" in developing nuclear arms.

Dore Gold, an adviser to Sharon, says Israel is not interested in Assad's statements but rather in Syria acting against the Lebanese Hizbullah organization and shut down radical Palestinian groups in its territory.

In Gold's view, peace arrangements with Syria need not include an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan. "In a global sense there are disputed territories and states can move to a modus vivendi without resolving them," Gold told Israel Radio. "The Russians are in islands that are very important to Japan. They have contacts, and relations continue. There is the disputed area in Kashmir. Part is in Pakistani hands and part Indian. At times they get along and at times they are on the brink of war. But you need not solve every territorial dispute in order to build a regional security system."

Gold dismisses Jordanian arguments that the Iraq war has opened the way for new Israeli flexibility in the West Bank. Jordan says that with the US occupying Iraq, Israel can no longer credibly say it needs the strategic Jordan valley as a buffer to protect it from invasion from the east.

The area, Amman insists, should become part of a Palestinian state. But Gold says that the Iraqi army's inventory of shoulder fired missiles was found to be missing, and that they and other lethal weapons could end up being used against Israeli targets.

"If Israel left the Jordan Valley it would lead to the hills of the West Bank being flooded with the illegal weaponry moving around the area," he says.

Gold adds that talk of a "window of opportunity" with the Palestinians is baseless since the Palestinian Authority is not implementing its obligations under the international peace blueprint known as the road map which requires them to disarm and dismantle militant groups that carry out terrorist attacks.

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