DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 12, 2006
As it turned out, the first leg of the Israeli prime minister's tour was mostly a waste of time; British prime minister Tony Blair declined to hear of his realignment plan for the West Bank, even though Olmert pledged 90% of the West Bank for a Palestinian state and a major effort to achieve a negotiated agreement with the Palestinians. He also omitted to endorse Olmert's ringing declaration that Israel will not tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran.
After he returns home, Ehud Olmert will no longer be able to escape a decision to cut the Gordian knot and choose, after more than five years of neglect by one government after another, between saving Sderot by adopting the army's recommendations - at the risk of casualties on both sides - or losing Sderot to a triumphant Hamas. The latter decision would bring about the most significant Israeli withdrawal from sovereign territory since 1948 and give the terrorists who rule the Palestinians a free bite of the Israeli Negev.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report May 14, 2006
Prof. Abdel al Sather Qassam, university lecturer at Nablus a-Najah University, is a little-known figure to the outside world. However Israeli intelligence rates him as Hamas' senior strategic ideologue and a highly influential voice in the Palestinian terror movement at large.
Last week, he gave a group of leaders of the umbrella terrorist coalition in Gaza, the Popular Resistance Committees leader, by video broadcast from Nablus, a stern talking-to with some important new guidelines. One member of his audience was Jemal Semhadana, the PRC chief who was recently appointed commander of the new Hamas security service. Israeli intelligence monitors routinely listened in to the broadcast. debkafile runs the gist of the Hamas professor's briefing - obtained from our intelligence sources - because of his unusual frankness and the relevance of his guidelines for the immediate future.
Hamas Hires Gang Chief to Muscle in on Palestinian Security Forces and Strip Abu Mazen of Real Power
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report April 23, 2006
Reconciliation gestures notwithstanding, Hamas is methodically peeling off the layers of authority from Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen).
The increasing violence and virulence between the two camps are deceptive; on his home ground, Abu Mazen has been reduced to a nonentity. The standoff between him and Hamas is illusory.
Four developments underline the changes Hamas has already wrought in the structure and direction of Palestinian government since its takeover in February.
The ministers whom prime minister Ismail Haniya appointed in February have not taken up their jobs, except for interior minister Siyam. He, too, rather than tackling the mundane tasks of bringing law and order to the chaotic, crime-ridden streets, is busy consolidating Hamas in the key positions grabbed from the PA's Fatah-dominated security, intelligence and civil services, which Abbas claims to be under his authority.
This is where the notorious crime and terrorist chief Jamal Semhadana comes in.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report April 18, 2006
For Israelis, Tuesday, the eve of the last day of Passover, was a day of funerals, mourning for 9 Israelis, foreign workers and tourists who lost their lives when a Palestinian suicide bomber blew up a busy shopping corner in Tel Aviv on Monday, April 17.
It was the most murderous outrage committed by Palestinian terrorists in 20 months, the first since the Hamas terrorist group took office and a test of the mettle of the incoming prime minister Ehud Olmert.
However, Olmert, foreign minister Tzipi Livni and defense minister Shaul Mofaz decided to abstain from military action, rejecting the advice of military leaders to declare the Hamas government an enemy authority. The generals and security chiefs explained that without this declaration, their hands were tied in fighting off terror, because of the developing situation whereby the terrorist entity ruling the Palestinian Authority was in the process of taking over its official security organs.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report April 10, 2006
The United States and 25-member European Union, the main foreign donors to the Palestinian Authority, have suspended direct payments totaling $500-600 million a year to the Hamas government, as well as to Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Washington has cut $400, while redirecting $105 to "augment ongoing humanitarian and democracy-building programs." So the real cutback amounts to $300m. And unknown sum of aid forked out by the European Union "is already in the pipeline." Its disposition is still be decided.
Several loopholes are built into these cutoffs.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report March 20, 2006
Going against his own Fatah, Abbas has hit on a way of sliding past the obstacle of Hamas's non-recognition of the PLO's pre-eminence - and therefore its signature on agreements with Israel, including the 1993 Oslo Accords: he will put ask the PLO executive to endorse the new cabinet before it is sworn in by the legislature. This stratagem is designed to throw off Fatah pressure to oust Hamas without delay, while showing Haniya he cannot buck the PLO and repudiate past agreements signed in the name of the Palestinian people.
But the Hamas prime minister-designate is not in the mood to look too closely at these niceties. All he cares about is that Abbas submit his cabinet to the legislature, as we reported last week. If Abbas fails to do so, he will be held accountable for the crisis and Hamas will bypass him and go ahead with presenting its ministers directly to parliament making the PA chairman redundant.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report March 6, 2006
Former Shin Beit director Avi Dichter rattled the party's dovecote when he stated Sunday, March 5, that the Middle East road map is dead for lack of negotiating partner on the Palestinian side.
He was commenting on the terrorist group, Hamas' refusal to recognize Israel, disarm and honor previous agreements, as it prepares to take over Palestinian government.
He also injected some badly needed security steel into Kadima's sagging campaign for the March 28 general election with a warning to Hamas' designated Palestinian prime minister Ismail Haniya: "Lead the government onto the road of murder and terror, and you will find yourself again behind bars or even in your old job as the late Sheikh Yasin's chef to bureau.
Both these statements brought an indignant roar from Kadima's No. 2, Shimon Peres, peacenik and architect of the discredited Oslo peace accords with Yasser Arafat.
Hamas has its own problems. In the videotape released Saturday, March 3, Osama bin Laden's deputy, Ayman Zawahiri, urged Hamas not to take up its seats in the Palestinian parliament "with the lay people who have sold out Palestine."
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report February 19, 2006
Through all the inexorable stages of Hamas' rise to power in the Palestinian Authority, Israel's caretaker prime minister Ehud Olmert was struck with inertia. Now, at this late stage, Olmert's plan of action is as irrelevant as his rhetoric with regard to the real steps he and foreign minister Tzipi Livni have approved to cut the Hamas down to size. Those steps were not choreographed in Jerusalem but in Washington and have little chance of working. But debkafile finds it hard to see Ehud Olmert's setup, or any of his rivals, exercising the vision, courage or independence of mind for an inventive strategy to pre-empt the Hamas menace.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report February 14, 2006
The United States and Israel are working on ways to destabilize the Hamas-led Palestinian government, the New York Times reported Tuesday, Feb. 14. The plan is said to center largely on money and on Mahmoud Abbas playing his part.
Monday, Feb 13, Abu Mazen took the first step to bring the new plan to fruition. He took advantage of the last session of the outgoing legislative council to enact constitutional laws and approve appointments that boost his powers as president.
Tuesday, Feb. 14, the Olmert government took a complementary step.
The state prosecution filed a Supreme Court document defining Palestinians as citizens of an enemy state. This was in response to petitions to extend Israeli citizenship to the Palestinian spouses of Israeli Arabs.
The sanctions applied against Saddam Hussein proved ineffectual and the United States ultimately went to war to oust his Baath regime in Baghdad. Hamas, as its leaders say out loud, will not bow to sanctions, which makes the prospect of an Israeli military operation to unseat them more probable than the efficacy of sanctions.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report February 6, 2006
Hamas leaders are laying down a smoke screen of contradictory statements to lower resistance in the West and Israel to their forthcoming formation of a new Palestinian government. Their spokesmen issue reasonable-sounding statements like Mussa Abu Marzuk, who Monday, Feb. 6, promised to honor previously signed agreements, but then reversed himself with a qualifier - "only if they suit our interests."
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report February 1, 2006
Instead of letting litigation take its course and seeking common ground, the Olmert government deployed the toughest police anti-terror units in anti-riot mode to make an example of the unauthorized West Bank outpost of Amona on Wednesday, Feb. 1.
The brutality of the confrontation for demolishing nine houses was seen by all, hour by our, over live television. Four-fifths of the 250 injured, were protesters, many of them minors, and three parliamentarians who joined them. One-fifth of the injuries were suffered by police officers, who were pelted with stones, mud, paint-filled balloons and eggs.
Most of the injuries - head wounds and broken limbs - were inflicted by police when they stormed the barricaded houses, drove their horses against the demonstrators and laid about them with night sticks, hitting mostly 14-15-year old boys and girls and beating them to the ground.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report January 30, 2006
After a series of muddled statements and zigzags, wishful thinking prevailed in London and Brussels after all. The European Union, led by the Middle East Quartet, agreed to release financial aid to a Palestinian government taken over by a terrorist organization.
"We give them three months to assess the situation. We don't want chaos and we want to go on with the peace process," said EU foreign executive, Javier Solana at the end of the foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels Monday, 30 Jan.
Hamas, which is responsible for at least 60 bombing attacks on Israelis and countless deaths, did not have to fight too hard or too long for a reversal of the short-lived boycott on funding, sparked by its election victory over Fatah with 74 seats in the 132 Palestinian Legislative Council.
The Islamist terrorists were not required to give up a single principle for the sake of Western aid.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report January 29, 2006
A relatively junior intelligence officer has been mandated to establish why Israeli intelligence missed predicting the Islamist terrorist Hamas takeover of Palestinian government by the ballot. Does the remit given him by chief of staff Lt-Gen Dan Halutz and military intelligence director Maj-Gen Amos Yadlin give him enough scope to get to the bottom of a monumental lapse?
Hardly. His task has been limited to an internal intelligence probe rather than a broad inquiry. Within this limit, there is no way he can truly explain how Israel came to find itself face to face with a strategic calamity on the scale of the 1973 Yom Kippur War; quite simply, there are too many weighty and relevant questions he is not authorized to articulate. Here are a few:
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report January 23, 2006
Acting Israeli PM Olmert ducked the first major challenge of his tenure as stand-in for Ariel Sharon.
His foreign minister Tzipi Livni, who doubles as justice minister, opted out all the way. In a TV interview Sunday, Jan 22, she dumped the Hamas problem together with the other poser, the Iranian nuclear threat, in the laps of "the international community." On Hamas, minister Livni seemed to be satisfied with the Bush administration's promise to withhold recognition from a Palestinian government with Hamas participation, as delivered by senior US envoys. A similar undertaking came from the European Union's foreign policy executive Javier Solana.
The trouble is that on the Palestinian Hamas, Olmert, like the rest of Sharon's stalwarts in the government and Kadima party, are caught in a dilemma of their own making. Since they executed Israel's pull-out from the Gaza Strip, Hamas has gone from strength to strength.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report January 15, 2006
There is an innate contradiction between Hamas running for election in the Palestinian legislative council everywhere but Jerusalem, and Israeli permission for Palestinians to cast their ballots in Jerusalem - excluding Hamas. The spectacle of Hamas candidates and activists in Jerusalem being bundled into Israel police cars Sunday, Jan. 15, after the Olmert cabinet's first substantial decision, will only enhance the Islamist terrorists' already rosy prospects in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
debkafile's political sources reveal that Olmert in fact picked up and ran with the last significant policy line Ariel Sharon laid down before he was struck by a massive stroke on Jan. 4. It evolved through secret diplomacy in full accord with the Bush administration.
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DEBKAfile Exclusive Report January 8, 2006
Hamas campaigners, confident of a strong showing in the Jan 25 elections for the Palestinian legislative council, announced in Gaza City Sunday, Jan. 8, that, if elected, they will put an end to any Palestinian talks with Israel. Negotiations with the Zionist entity will only take place through the barrel of a gun, said the man topping the Hamas list, Ismail Haniya.
Hamas Gaza leader Mahmoud al-Zahar dismissed European threats to cut off funds if the terrorist group enters Palestinian government. If they do, he said, "We have our sources in the Arab and Muslim world." None of the West Bank local councils captured by Hamas is short of funds, he boasted.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 28, 2005
On Dec. 17, debkafile reported exclusively:
A special Iranian plane flew Palestinian Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal to Revolutionary Guards HQ at Bandar Abbas Monday, Dec. 12, after he spent 10 days in Tehran as favored guest of Iran's clerical rulers. There, he conferred with RG commanders on operational collaboration between the two Palestinian groups, Hamas and Jihad Islami in Gaza and the West Bank, and their hook-up with Iranian networks and Hizballah in Lebanon. Their shared goal: the opening of a second rocket and shelling front against northern Israel to complement the Gaza front in the south.
This decision was implemented ten days later, Tuesday night Dec, 27, with a bombardment from southern Lebanon of Israel's western Galilee and the northern towns of Kiryat Shemona and Shlomi.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 27, 2005
Thousands of copies of this photo, which was secreted from Ashkelon's Hadarim prison, were eagerly seized by ordinary Palestinians on the West Bank for whom Marwan Barghouti is something of an icon. The Fatah leader, jailed for life for the murder of five Israelis in terrorist operations, appears on the left. With him is another lifer, Samir Kuntar, a Druze from the Lebanese village of Baaklin, who is serving time for the 1979 Nahariya bloodbath.
In all his years behind bars, the Lebanese killer never showed the slightest remorse for his crime. His importance is such that Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah never misses a chance of raising his case.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 25, 2005
The Palestinians have smuggled in from Sinai to the Gaza Strip what military sources have told debkafile' is "a monstrous amount" of high explosives, to improve the precision and effectiveness of the Qassam missiles fired across the border against Israeli towns and villages.
Our sources reveal the new, lethal explosives come from military production factories in Slovakia and Serbia.
Palestinian workshops working around the clock to fit the military-grade TNT and Semtex on their Qassam missiles in place of the home-made, hit-or-miss warheads. These workshops have not been bombed by the Israeli air force for some weeks. The powerfully upgraded Qassam missiles with boosted destructive capabilities are therefore expected to start flying shortly
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 21, 2005
Palestinian terror planners are now sending their Qassam missiles after big game: the important port-town of Ashkelon, which lies ten kilometers from the northern tip of the Gaza Strip, where the ruins of the evacuated Israeli locations of Dugit, Elei Sinai and Nisanit have been turned into handy launching sites.
Yet on Wednesday, Dec. 21, prime minister Ariel Sharon, in his first security consultation after leaving hospital, decided that diplomacy would keep Ashkelon safe from Palestinian target practice and that effective military measures could wait.
The same thinking apparently extends to the two al Qaeda cells, one sent by Abu Musab al Zarqawi in person, which took up positioning the Gaza Strip after Israel's pull-out.
Barring a change in these circumstances, Ashkelon appears doomed to suffer the same fate as battered Sderot - if not worse. The question is which Israeli city is next?