DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 30, 2009
Early Saturday, Dec. 26, an Israeli special force went into the West Bank town of Nablus and killed Ghasen Abu Sharaf, Raad Sukarj and Banan Suboh, leading members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, the suicide-military wing of Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah. All three were implicated in the drive-by shooting murder of Rabbi Meir Avshalom Chai Thursday night.
Although the Brigades owned up to the murder, Mahmoud Abbas accuses Israel of "a war crime."
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 29, 2009
debkafile wonders if a new peace initiative - or two, are in the works between Paris, Damascus, Cairo and Jerusalem, as Washington looks on. This month, Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu signaled Presidents Barack Obama and Nicolas Sarkozy that he is ready to take a second look at reviving the Ankara-brokered negotiating channel with Damascus, notwithstanding Turkish prime minister Tayyep Recep Erdogan's offensive attitude toward Israel and the close ties he is building with radical Iran.
Two Jerusalem envoys will be heading out next week to test the ground.
Sunday, Nov. 22, President Shimon Peres is scheduled to sit down with Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in Cairo and toss around ideas for changing Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud's mind about resigning and persuading him to drop his precondition for going back to the negotiating table: a halt in settlement and Jerusalem construction.
Trade and industry minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer, a former defense chief, meets Turkish defense minister Vecdi Gonul in Ankara Tuesday.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 28, 2009
debkafile's intelligence sources report that Cairo has stepped up its siege measures against the Hamas-ruled Gaza. To cut off its smuggling routes through Sinai, Egypt is reinforcing the wall of iron plates with a new pipe for flooding the smuggling tunnels with Mediterranean water.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 28, 2009
Maestro Barack Obama's histrionics in New York and Pittsburgh Thursday and Friday, Sept. 24-25 - and his threat of "confrontation" for Iran's concealment of its nuclear capabilities - were water off a duck's back for Tehran, whose nuclear weapons program has gone too far to stop by words or even sanctions.
The Islamic regime only responded with more defiance, announcing that its second uranium enrichment plant near Qom would become operational soon.
He also understands that Iran is now unstoppable except by force. His performance was therefore directed at another target: Israel, whom he is determined to dissuade from resorting to military action against Iran's nuclear installations.
Defense secretary Robert Gates hit the nail on the head when he said Friday: "The reality is there is no military option that does anything more than buy time. The estimates are one to three years or so."
Therefore, according to Gates, diplomacy remained the only viable option, which means Israel like the rest of the world must learn to live with a nuclear-armed Iran.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 28, 2009
In his eight months in office, Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu has gone back on his fundamental pledges as Likud leader to disallow Palestinian statehood, expand Jewish West Bank settlement, reject one-sided Israeli concessions to the Palestinians prior to negotiations and act firmly to oust Hamas rule of the Gaza Strip.
This week, he sent uniformed cops and troops to hand out a pile of freeze notices to his core constituency, Jewish West Bank communities. Resistance was fairly restrained but will no doubt escalate in coming weeks.
Some see the prime minister setting down markers for the locations he will eventually cede. But most Israelis distrust him for giving away assets for no return and then failing to win credit for the gesture from Palestinians, Arabs or Europeans, who continue to slam the Jewish state regardless.
In a showdown with these the settlement leaders Thursday, Dec. 2, Netanyahu assured them that the building suspension across the Green Line (not applied in Jerusalem) was essential "in the broad light of Israel's overall interests."
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 27, 2009
The Netanyahu government's slow-moving, lackadaisical handling of the Goldstone commission mandated for accusing Israel of war crimes in Gaza, played into the hands of a coalition formed to strip the Israeli military of legitimacy as a defensive strike force against Iran's fast-moving nuclear weapons program and its Middle East allies' missile arsenals. Those missiles are poised to strike Israel's population centers if Iran is attacked.
Israel had - and still has - plenty of moral, diplomatic and strategic tools for defending itself. They were not applied and so this hostile coalition was allowed to strike Israel on three fronts in the last fortnight: Turkish prime minister Tayyep Recip Erdogan's unleashed an unbridled assault on the Jewish state; Muslim riots suddenly flared on Temple Mount; and the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas changed his mind and pushed for a special UN Human Rights Commission session Friday, Oct. 16, to endorse the Goldstone report, after first accepting its postponement to March
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 26, 2009
No clear decision was reported by the seven-minister forum in the small hours of Tuesday, Dec. 22, when it wound up 48 hours of deliberations on the deal with Hamas to release Gilead Shalit, held more than three years, against nearly a thousand Palestinian prisoners. The prime minister's office said only that the ministers had instructed Israel's negotiating team headed by Hagai Hadas "to carry on working for Gilead Shalit's return safe and well."
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 25, 2009
Rabbi Meir Avshalom Chai, 45, father of seven, was shot dead Thursday night, Dec. 24 in a Palestinian drive-by attack on his car close to his home in Shavei Shomron in the northern West Bank. He died of a head wound shortly after his car was hit by 10 bullets. The Fatah suicide wing, al Aqsa Brigades, claimed the attack. Palestinian security forces informed the Israeli units sweeping the area for the perpetrators of a burning car in an orchard in the Palestinian village of Atzira al-Shamaliya. A high terror alert has been imposed in the Shomron region of the West Bank.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 22, 2009
Heads of the hesder yeshiva seminaries said they disapprove of demonstrations by soldiers (as inimical to) the Israeli Defense Forces' internal unity and cohesion, but did not deny their right to refuse orders relating to West Bank settlements.
In resolutions published unanimously at the end of their crisis meeting Sunday, Dec. 20, the rabbis called on all branches of the defense establishment to avoid involving soldiers in missions of a civilian nature. They urged the defense minister, Ehud Barak, to sit down and talk to them.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 21, 2009
As Israel wrestled with a fateful decision on Iran's nuclear issue and war tensions building up around its borders, defense minister Ehud Barak went to war on the military-yeshiva "Hesder" contract, under which seminary students are conscripted - most volunteering for combat units - along with their studies.
Raising the specter of mutiny in the armed forces, Barak Sunday, Dec. 13, expelled the West Bank Mt. Bracha yeshiva from the contract when its dean, Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, refused a summons to a hearing with the minister on charges of inciting student-soldiers to refuse orders affecting the status of Jewish settlements on conscientious grounds.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 19, 2009
The main conclusions of state comptroller Michah Lindenstrauss's report, published Thursday, Sept. 3, do not address intelligence and political realities and will therefore not affect the US decision never to release Jonathan Pollard from the life sentence without parole given him in 1985 for spying for Israel, or ease his exceptionally harsh conditions of imprisonment.
The controller was asked to survey the manner in which successive Israel governments sought to secure Pollard's release during his 24 years of incarceration. debkafile's Washington and intelligence sources find the former judge turned state comptroller lacked the broad experience necessary for examining one of the most sensitive intelligence issues of our time, which touch on the clandestine war conducted between the United States, China and Israel during a critical period of Cold War history.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 19, 2009
Tuesday, Oct.13, Syrian defense minister Gen. Ali Habib made the triumphant announcement: We held our first joint land military exercise (with Turkey) last spring. And today we have agreed to do a more comprehensive, a bigger one. He spoke at a ceremony declaring a free trade zone between the two countries and opening their borders for the passage of their citizens without visas. Present were the two foreign ministers, Ahmed Davutoglu and Walid Mualem.
The next day, Today's Zaman provided Ankara's explanation for its last-minute decision to cancel Israeli participation in the annual multiple air maneuver with NATO under the caption: Delay in delivery of Herons behind drill crisis, not politics.
debkafile's Ankara sources stress that foreign minister Davutoglu is steering the Turkish government and army toward a broad new horizon after persuading Erdogan that the way to restoring Turkey to the regional primacy enjoyed by the Ottoman empire depended on its assuming leadership and mediation roles in the Middle East and Muslim world.
Erdogan is not deterred by every single Turkish mediation effort running aground, a fact which his hostility to Israel is designed to mask.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 18, 2009
The first unmanned stealth craft on the seas, designated Protector SV or Death Shark, recently deployed in the Persian Gulf, is in high demand after its successful performance with the Singapore Navy. debkafile's military sources report that India and South Korea asked Israel's Rafael to build craft to their specifications.
Operated by remote control from a shore base, the crewless nine-meter long speedboat is armed with a Close-in Weapon System (CIWS) for detecting and destroying incoming anti-ship missiles and enemy aircraft at short range.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 17, 2009
Whoever trashed a West Bank village mosque early Friday, Dec. 11, tossed a match onto dry firewood.
The Netanyahu government's construction moratorium on settlement construction has had an acutely polarizing effect on Israelis on both sides of the Green Line. Shin Bet director Yuval Diskin has called Mahmoud Abbas' boycott of Israel as a negotiation partner an ominous "diplomatic intifada," while three major Palestinian terrorist attacks were foiled in the last ten days.
debkafile's Exclusive Analysis below goes to the causes of the spreading unrest.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 12, 2009
After the hype evaporates from the Geneva encounter between the six powers and Iran and the raw emotions fade from the videotaped sight of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilead Shalit, Israel is left to take stock of where it stands in relation to its enemies, Iran and the Hamas. The score is Israel - nil; Iran and its ally Hamas - two up.
In the first place, Iran has gained substantially from the Obama administration's decision to abandon the US demand for Iran to freeze uranium enrichment as the precondition for talks. This US surrender has awarded Tehran the legitimacy for retaining its "nuclear right."
Then, too, the Geneva conference became the platform for the world powers to agree to hold up sanctions if Iran transferred three-quarters of its low-enriched uranium (1,179,4 tons out of 1,451,4) to a Russian plant for further enrichment.
The deal for Israel to receive a recent video-tape of the kidnapped Israel soldier Gilead Shalit from a secret Hamas prison in return for 20 female Palestinian prisoners cost Hamas nothing.
In fact it gave the Islamists' tarnished terrorist image a badly-needed lift after more than three years of denying his human rights as their captive.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 10, 2009
Israel's prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and defense minister Ehud Barak intimate that a 10-month freeze on West Bank settlement construction is the price Israel is important to Israel's broader interest, such as Washington's nod for an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. debkafile reports that ordinary Israelis do not buy this argument. debkafile's analysts examine the broad ramifications of Netanyahu's policies in the article below.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 5, 2009
Israeli Air Force chief Maj. Gen. Ido Nehushtan told a Tel Aviv University audience Friday, Nov. 27: "The time for hard decisions is fast approaching," adding "The range of security threats to Israel is very complex and we must prepare for all exigencies."
debkafile's military experts translate the "hard decisions," as the tough choice of priorities between safeguarding Israel's military resources and its population in a potential war.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report November 30, 2009
Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu appears to be working to a five-month cycle: It took him five months to line up behind Washington on a two-state solution, and another five months to announce Wednesday, Nov. 25, that the security-political cabinet had approved a 10-month freeze on new apartment construction in the West Bank settlements.
US secretary of state Hillary Clinton praised the decision as helping to "move forward" efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report November 25, 2009
Israeli emissaries head out to Cairo and Ankara next week to prise open doors for restarting peace talks with Palestinians and Syrians. Nicolas Sarkozy would welcome a mediation role for France but he has put Syria's Bashar Assad on notice that he must ease his ties with Tehran if he seeks diplomatic progress with the US and Israel.
And if Assad poses a precondition for talks, so too does Binyamin Netanyahu.
Read debkafile's Exclusive Analysis below on this new initiative.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report November 24, 2009
debkafile reports high suspense in Jerusalem as Hamas representatives from Damascus and Gaza Strip head for Cairo Monday Nov. 23 to review the new list of jailed Palestinians Israel is offering as part of its trade for soldier Gilead Shalit. The new list substitutes 70 names for the hard-core killers whom Israel refused to set free. The dispute over this group held up the deal over a total of 1,000 jailed Palestinians to be traded. The next 24 hours are critical.