DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 17, 2003
This week, Israel's Iranian-born defense minister Shaul Mofaz made the unique gesture of answering questions from listeners in Iran - in their own language - in a live broadcast over Israel Radio's Farsi-language service. The questions came thick and fast. In answer to one, he promised everything would be done to protect the environment against radioactive fallout should Israeli forces destroy Iran's nuclear capability.
Shaul Mofaz was only six when his family emigrated from Iran to Israel. His knowledge of Farsi is rudimentary at best. But that didn't stop the Israeli defense chief from getting his message across to a stream of callers from the Islamic Republic who appealed to him for help on Israel Radio's Farsi service this week.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 14, 2003
Syrian president Bashar Assad is due to begin a state visit to Athens Monday, December 15. DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Athens sources report that Greek foreign minister Georges Papandreou entertains high hopes of a sparkling diplomatic breakthrough from the visit, bright enough to eclipse the Greek's drab performance as former European Union president. To subscribe to DEBKA-Net-Weekly click HERE.
What Papandreou is trying to set up is a summit between Assad and Israeli minister Ariel Sharon. He sold the plan to Greek prime minister Costas Simitis: "This is our big chance to stage a dramatic turnabout in relations between Damascus and Jerusalem," said Papandreou. "What if Assad and Sharon should start talking in Athens?" Simitis embraced the plan with enthusiasm.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 13, 2003
debkafile's political sources state positively that Sharon does not - and never did have - a detailed plan for unilateral action. His deputy, Industry Minister Ehud Olmert, went out on a limb when he told an interviewer a week ago that Israel must now face up to unilateral withdrawal from large parts of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and sections of Jerusalem. Olmert was generally reported to be articulating Sharon's ideas. He now finds himself politically isolated for talking through his hat. So what was Sharon up to? This week, he confided to his close advisers, according to our sources, that he realizes fully that any Israeli unilateral steps in its conflict with the Palestinians would be of extremely short-lived value.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 4, 2003
By great good fortune, a Palestinian plot to blow up a large comprehensive school in the small town of Yokneam east of Haifa was foiled. Israeli intelligence was forewarned of the plot by a Palestinian terrorist picked up in an earlier raid. The entire region north of Tel Aviv abutting the West Bank was placed on the highest terror alert Wednesday, December 3, until the pair of would-be suicide bombers was found cowering in a mosque. The attack was meant to be spectacular. It was timed to show up the real value of any truce worked out by 13 Palestinian terrorist groups' representatives who began their conference in Cairo Thursday, December 4, under Egyptian government aegis. Pinning the blame on Jihad Islami was a form of cover-up to which Israeli officials also lent a hand. What was the point?
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report November 26, 2003
The unpublicized decision by Jordan's king Abdullah and his prime minister Faisal al-Fayez to grant passports to 150,000 Palestinians from Gaza living in the Hashemite Kingdom could reduce to irrelevance the celebrations surrounding a welter of private alternative "peace accords" and their rationale: Prime minister Ariel Sharon's alleged failure to come up with any political solution for the conflict with the Palestinians. Amman's decision is reported exclusively by debkafile's Palestinian and Washington sources. It is said to be the opening move in a novel Sharon initiative backed by the Bush administration to cut through to an acceptable peace formula on the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report November 24, 2003
While agreeing to hand over several hundred Lebanese prisoners, Israel has adamantly refused to release Kuntar. The Hizballah have just as firmly labeled him the sine qua non for the deal. Officials in Sharon's bureau while dropping veiled hints are keeping the bargaining cards very close to their chests. All the same, debkafile's intelligence sources have discovered that the German go-between has been handed a fresh offer: Nahariya murderer Kuntar for the Israeli Azzam Azzam, who has been languishing in an Egyptian jail since 1997 when he was convicted of spying for Israel.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report November 19, 2003
The Jordanian gunman who cut down a group of Ecuadorian pilgrims with automatic gunfire at the border crossing from Jordan to Israel north of Eilat on Wednesday, November 19, did much more than shatter the calm of a border terminal normally bustling with goods, tourist and business traffic between the Jewish state and Hashemite kingdom. The assault dashed any illusions about Osama bin Laden holding off from drawing blood in Israel. Five of the pilgrims were injured - one later died of her wounds - as they prepared to cross into Jordan, victims of al Qaeda's first direct strike inside Israel. The attack bore the fingerprints of Abu Musab Zarqawi, believed to be Al Qaeda's top terror "contractor."
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report November 17, 2003
As Israeli eyes were riveted on the appalling effects of the synagogue bomb attacks in Istanbul on Saturday, November 15, their air force executed a stunning demonstration of might over Lebanon lasting several hours Sunday, November 16. debkafile's military sources reveal exclusively that 30-40 Israeli fighter-bombers zipped through the length and breadth of Lebanon - from the northern regions and Tripoli, across to the Lebanese-Syrian border, the Beqaa Valley and Syrian bases, through Djebel Druze in the center, to Beirut and down to the south. The aircraft made low passes in quartets, buzzing key points. There was no response from the ground.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report November 8, 2003
In between chasing terrorists, Israeli police have their hands full investigating interlocking allegations of sleaze and scandal in high places. Tales of financial corruption are tossed to and fro freely by Israel's top political players - with or without foundation. Many fizzle out before they come to court or on appeal, but in the meantime these the affairs are natural and regular headline grabbers. For some time, the left-leaning Labor opposition has had it all its way with the make-a-deal Greek Island affair which daily buffets Likud prime minister Ariel Sharon and his Laurel and Hardy sons, Knesset Member Omri Sharon and business executive Gilead Sharon. All three are also faced with charges of illegal fund-raising for Sharon's 1999 primary coupled with overseas money-laundering. Two similar charges against Labor prime ministerial candidates were recently dropped. This has not let the opposition party off the hook. This week it was Labor's turn for a dose of the sour medicine.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report October 29, 2003
A shrill chorus of threats has been emanating from Syria, the Palestinians and the Hizballah as the Middle East heads toward another bleak winter. President Bashar Assad is still smarting from Israel's October 5 retaliatory air strike against a terrorist training camp at Ein Hatsav 15 miles from Damascus - the deepest Israeli raid inside Syria since the 1973 war. It followed the deaths of 19 Israelis in a suicide bombing in Haifa and Israeli accusations of Syrian support for terrorist groups and activities. Not content with the warnings issuing from Syrian officials every couple of days, Assad dispatched his military chief, General Hassan Turkmani, and deputy chief of staff general Ali Habib - widely regarded as the Syrian army's most professional commander -- to Beirut on Monday, October 27 for some straight talk with Lebanese leaders. They notified President Emil Lahoud, army chief of staff General Michel Suleiman and military intelligence chief General Michel Azar in no uncertain terms that any future Israel strikes would bring forth Syrian reprisals. In such a contingency, Lebanon would be required to stand shoulder to shoulder with Syria in a united front.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 30, 2003
The machinery is running for the Israel-Hizballah prisoner swap. Barring hitches, debkafile's intelligence sources report it is due to take place on a date between Wednesday October 22 and Friday October 24, depending on when the sky-gazing senior imams sight the next crescent moon and proclaim the start of the holy Muslim feast month of Ramadhan. The Israeli government has agreed to this schedule, a bonus for Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah that enables him to advertise himself as the only Muslim leader - not Saddam Hussein or even Osama bin Laden or Yasser Arafat - capable of bringing about the release of "Islamic fighters".
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 27, 2003
The politicians are wholeheartedly dedicated to fighting terror - with words. Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon has declared Arafat at various times irrelevant and removable. After Arafat purged Abu Mazen, both the US and Israeli governments vowed to have no truck with a successor Palestinian government if it spoke for Arafat. At the United States General Assembly last week, President George W. Bush called on the Palestinians to change their leaders for the sake of peace. US secretary of state Colin Powell declared Saturday morning September 27 that the onus is on the new Palestinian government to fight Hamas, disarm terrorists and create a single Palestinian security body.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 25, 2003
Far from being a spontaneous, knee jerk action by a genuine anti-war pacifist group, the letter signed by 27 Israeli air force pilots announcing their refusal to fly missions over Palestinian territory was meticulously planned under political guidance. It was timed to explode at the most effective moment - amid a period of relative calm in the long ordeal of Palestinian terror, as Israelis prepared to celebrate the Jewish New Year festival. The signatories said they would refuse to fly missions over Palestinian territory, including targeted killings of terrorist leaders and ferrying ground troops over for counter-terrorist action, because they were "immoral and illegal."
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 23, 2003
Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the Hizballah secretary general, is an old hand at twitching Israeli nerves by dangling offers of information on prisoners, MIAs and fallen troops on terms that Israel cannot accept. The Israeli machinery dealing with prisoner recovery then swings into action expecting little more than a sign of life. Even that has not been forthcoming in most cases. The Hizballah leader is therefore rated in Israel as a big, manipulative talker who enjoys discomfiting "the Zionists". Two weeks ago, Nasrallah set in motion a fresh cycle of hope, fueling top headlines in the Israeli media. This time, he talked about a real exchange - and not just scrappy information - of the bodies of three Israeli soldiers kidnapped in October 2000 and an Israeli civilian, Elhanan Tanenboim, who was snatched at the same time, in return for Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 20, 2003
Israel's two top officials, prime minister Ariel Sharon and finance minister Binyamin Netanyahu (a former and would-be premier himself), offered perfect examples of the buck-passing mode of government this week. Friday, September 20, the normally authoritarian Sharon dumped the hot potato of the security fence in the laps of his Likud ministers. He told them to make the choice: Sticking to the security fence route in the face of Washington's objections carried the risk of a portion of the $9bn loan guarantees being deducted. However, giving up the controversial deviations would be detrimental to national security. The still bossier Netanyahu told the ministers it was up to them to decide how to slash a total of $2bn from the 2004 state budget. That way, the backlash from the pensioners, jobless, single parents, handicapped, sick and poor - whom he has already victimized in the cut-to-the-bone 2003 budget - would be deflected from himself.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 10, 2003
Fifteen Israelis died, more than 90 were injured, in two murderous Palestinian suicide attacks Tuesday night, September 9. The first struck down a crowd of soldiers waiting outside the Tsrifin military base for transportation home. It occurred just as Israeli and Indian prime ministers Ariel Sharon and Atal Bihari Vajpayee were winding up their conversation in New Delhi. The terrorist blew himself up with a 4-5 kg bomb, killing two Israelis on the spot and injuring another 30. Six died later from the grievous wounds inflicted by the blast at point blank range and the sharp nails and metal shards with which it was packed. All the victims were soldiers.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 7, 2003
The opportunity to remove the entire top strategic level of the Hamas terror group presented itself by chance on the day of Mahmoud Abbas's resignation as Palestinian prime minister - Saturday, September 6. That morning, Israel's defense minister Shaul Mofaz, army, air force and intelligence and Shin Beit chiefs reported to prime minister Ariel Sharon that eight top Hamas leaders were meeting later at the home of one of their number Marwan Abu Ras, a director at the Islamic University of Gaza, to consider how to beat the Israeli air and ground blockade on the Gaza Strip and carry out a fresh wave of terror assaults. The Hamas meeting was also scheduled to discuss how to deal with "Israeli collaborators". debkafile's intelligence sources report that this is a Hamas euphemism for the preventive security officers under the command of Mohammed Dahlan, internal security minister and partner of Mahmoud Abbas.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 2, 2003
Israel's Labor government and police chiefs who held office at the time are criticized in the harshest terms by state inquiry commission whose final report was published Monday, September 1, for gravely mishandling the Israeli Arab riots that swept northern Israel in October 2000 in which 13 Arabs - 12 Israelis and 1 Palestinian - were shot dead by police. One Jewish Israeli was killed by a stone and hundreds of police were injured.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 2, 2003
Israeli governments have never formulated any clear, consistent policy towards the country's Arab citizens, who today number some 1.3 million, representing one fifth of the population. This evasiveness is reflected in the justice meted out by the judicial system to the members of this minority. Many Israel Arabs admit freely to living in an intolerable no-man's land betwixt and between their Arab and Israeli identities, especially in times of conflict. At the same time, justified or not, policy-makers in Jerusalem claim "security considerations" as their rationale for selling Israeli Arabs short on civil rights and equality of opportunity. At least three generations of this minority have learned to view "Israeli justice", as a synonym for separate codes of justice for Jews and Arabs.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 22, 2003
Israel's decision to hit a senior Hamas terror chief was taken in the small hours of Thursday, August 21, in reaction to yet another postponement of a Palestinian Authority crackdown on Hamas and Jihad Islami - even after the deadly bombing by a Hamas suicide killer of a Jerusalem bus packed with Israeli families returning from the Western Wall. Twenty Israelis died in the blast and 150 were injured - many of them children. debkafile's military sources reveal that Palestinian internal security minister Mohammed Dahlan, confronted with a demand for action by the US president's senior Middle East monitor, John Wolf, begged off again. This time, he came up with the lame excuse that his men were grounded by "a shortage of vehicles."