DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 6, 2005
The bolt from the blue from Crawford, Texas, hit a slumbering Middle East overnight Sunday, June 5. The news agencies took down every careful word dictated by "senior administration officials." The Bush administration, they were told, is showing signs of easing its hard-line approach towards Hamas... It has acceded to the (terror group) running candidates in the Palestinian elections, even while they refuse to disarm and are still listed by Washington as a major terrorist organization. The "senior US officials" said they may be open to contacts with some Hamas political "affiliates" and left open the possibility of dealing with the group if it gave up weapons and ended violence. This was in contrast to past calls for its total dismantlement. This shift also implies a curtailment of the Middle East road map by omitting the dismantlement of terrorist organizations as a pre-condition for peace talks. This policy U-turn has major applications far outside the Israel-Palestinian arena. It is a portmanteau concept that allows for legitimizing (the already ongoing) US contacts with Sunni Baathist guerilla leaders in Iraq, Lebanon's Shiite extremist Hizballah, despite its refusal to lay down its weapons, and Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report May 26, 2005
In an exclusive report from Washington, debkafile`s sources can reveal that US officials, including national security adviser Stephen Hadley, made a point of seeing Sharon during his visits to New York and Washington in the first part of the week. They informed him that the forces assigned to execute the pullout from Gaza must be assigned directly to their next task: the dismantling of each and every "illegal settlement-outpost" in the West Bank. The evacuations would not end there either. Sharon was also told that further steps would be demanded, to be discussed at a later date. The US president was also preparing to warn Abu Mazen to stop trying to jump to the last stage of the roadmap for instant final-status talks. He will be told to stop attempting to put the horse before the cart. Either drop the roadmap or follow through on all its performance-related clauses including uprooting terrorism and reforms. In short, the Palestinians cannot hope to achieve a permanent state with permanent borders in one leap. The US, the Palestinians and Israel, in the Bush administration's view, share in interest in gaining a provisional Palestinian state with temporary borders before the end of Bush's term in office.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report May 20, 2005
Palestinian missile, mortar, rocket and shooting attacks on Israeli targets on both sides of the Gaza Strip border went into their third day Friday, May 20, placing the already leaky partial truce in terminal jeopardy. Instead of dying down, the violence is building up as the August date nears for Israel's pullout from the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank. It brings to mind the solemn pledge offered by prime minister Ariel Sharon that the withdrawal would not take place under fire. If the violence persists therefore it will bankrupt the political and security concepts actuating the unilateral withdrawal. Neither Sharon nor defense minister Shaul Mofaz appears to know how to proceed in the light of this turn of events. Palestinian security forces are sitting on their hands. Their police officers watch the violations from afar, ignoring complaints by Israeli officers on the spot. No dialogue with the Palestinians is possible. Ramallah has emptied out.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report April 25, 2005
The high terror alert declared over this year's Passover for the fourth year in a row was a grim reminder of the 2002 Seder massacre in Netanya, four months after Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas shook hands with Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon on a truce at Sharm el Sheikh. It was the direct outcome of the Sharon-Peres-Mofaz reversion to the Palestinian policy of their predecessor, Ehud Barak, in the face of the first stages of Yasser Arafat's suicide terror campaign - appeasement in the face of violence and the threat thereof. But now the lines of appeasement are broader. Israel's willingness to withdraw from the Gaza Strip is being treated not as a gesture for peace but an appetizer.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report April 18, 2005
Prime minister Ariel Sharon could no longer ignore the fact that nothing is ready for the July 20 evacuation of 9,000 Israeli men, women and children from the Gaza Strip and N. West Bank. That is what decided him to consider a month's delay - rather than sudden sensitivity to the date falling during the traditional three-week mourning period for the destruction of the ancient Jewish Temples. The special cabinet session that Sharon has called for Tuesday, April 19, to confirm the one month's delay cannot blink away the many obstacles to the pullback. In setting the date, Sharon bit off more than he could chew. According to a communique from Israel's high military command covering the last few days, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip fired eight mortar rounds at Israeli targets, injured three Israeli troops in nine sniper attacks and planted 7 explosive devices that were dismantled. The Palestinian force that Abbas "deployed" in the Gaza Strip when he took over melted away when the first mortar and missile firings were heard. Furthermore, the post-disengagement arrangements charted with Egypt to secure the Philadelphi border strip and control the massive arms smuggling traffic from Sinai have fallen apart.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report April 16, 2005
King Abdullah II is deeply preoccupied in restructuring governance in his realm according to a self-designed pattern of democracy. This month, he appointed a new government shorn of policy-making authority in the fields of foreign affairs, defense and home security, prerogatives that will pass to the royal court. Furthermore, he is acting to decentralize parliament in Amman. But along with these radical reforms, the Jordanian king's peripheral sight is fixed on his western neighbor. He has not missed Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas's descent deeper day by day into the morass of disorder and revolt. debkafile's Amman sources reveal that the king has decided on three provincial parliaments for Irbid in the north, Salt in the center and Kerak in the south. If invited to do so, he might consider a plan to make the West Bank the Jordanian kingdom's fourth wilaya.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report April 10, 2005
An intelligence report reaching the Israeli military command early Sunday, April 10, disclosed that the five Palestinian teenagers who crawled across the flashpoint Philadelphi route on the Egyptian border Saturday, April 9, were each paid IS1,500 ($348) by Mussa Arafat's Palestinian military intelligence and the Popular Resistance Committees in the Gaza Strip. It was a well-timed direct provocation to stir up trouble the day before Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon embarked on his American trip - and after. Three of the boys were killed by Israeli fire, sparking a Palestinian mortar-missile blitz Saturday night and Sunday against Gush Katif. The two Palestinians have in fact picked up the late Yasser Arafat tactics. He habitually raised the level of attacks whenever diplomatic initiatives were afoot for a fixed purpose: to force all parties and mediators to recognize that the Palestinians hold the whip-hand in any peace process and will determine its outcome by applying terrorism and violence to force Israel to its knees.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report April 5, 2005
While Israelis by and large would rather not think about the prospect of future Palestinian terror, Palestinian terror chiefs are keenly tracking the tactics employed by Iraq's insurgents and their al Qaeda allies to see what they can learn. They are already deep into a test program for extending the range of the primitive Qassam missiles that long plagued the Israel town of Sderot from the Gaza Strip and getting it deployed on the West Bank. The Palestinians have also begun training large military units 30-50-strong to storm fortified Israeli military targets and large civilian centers. debkafile's military experts therefore envisage a dramatic shift in the next phase of the Palestinian-Israel war.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report April 4, 2005
US president George W. Bush has set his face in his second term on extinguishing Middle East conflicts rather than starting new fires. The White House seeks formulae for avoiding war while yet somehow preventing radical Islamic groups from seizing power in Beirut and Ramallah through the ballot box. To subscribe to DEBKA-Net-Weekly click HERE. In Lebanon, the first step of this strategy was skillfully pulled off by US deputy assistant secretary of state David Satterfield. He successfully negotiated a four-cornered truce between the anti-Syrian opposition Druze and Christian leaders and the pro-Syrian and Hizballah camps. The situation is Ramallah is much trickier. Hamas expects to ride into power through the front door opened by Mahmoud Abbas by calling parliamentary elections for July. To block Hamas' rise, large sections of Abbas' own Fatah, spearheaded by the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, have risen up against him and his interior minister Nasser Yousef.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report March 23, 2005
Attended by a flock of legal advisers, senior Shin Bet security service officers have been engaged in talks with a prominent member of the Fatah young guard in Gaza, Abdel Fatah Hamail, on rules regulating weapons licenses for 500 Palestinian terrorist fugitives. These fugitives, including some of Yasser Arafat's most notorious terrorist masterminds, have already won an Israeli pledge to stop pursuing them, a reprieve made to further peace efforts. Now, on behalf of Palestinian chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and interior minister Nasser Yousef, Hamail working with Israeli security officials drew up a set of new Palestinian Authority criteria governing their "right" to stay armed. debkafile`s informants have seen the 10-point pledge they hammered out and handed Nasser to present to the terrorists for their signature. debkafile's informants disclose its terms for the first time here:
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report March 16, 2005
The Palestinian revolt staged against Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) by radical terrorist groups is taboo around Ariel Sharon. The Israeli prime minister and his following have invested too heavily in Abu Mazen's survival to allow any doubts to creep in that might deflect them from their chosen course of disengagement, starting in Gaza Strip. Israel is therefore doling out concessions and confidence-building gestures to help Abbas gain his feet. They are also turning at least half a blind eye to the armed strength building up in Palestinian areas by the same forces that are challenging the new Palestinian leader. As time goes by and Abu Mazen proves incapable of a strong hand, the rebels are pulling ahead of the game and have reached the point where he is their hostage. It is these extremists, heads of 13 Palestinian terrorist groups, who are dictating terms for a ceasefire at the round table free-for-all Abbas and Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman have been leading near Cairo since Tuesday, March 15. They are also holding Palestinian-Israeli negotiations captive.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report March 2, 2005
Mahmoud Abbas knew his vow was hollow when he promised the March 1 London conference on Palestinian Reforms a 100 percent effort to prevent the recurrence of attacks like the February 25 Tel Aviv suicide bombing that killed five Israelis. He therefore tossed the ball to Israel, saying that without direct talks and progress towards a state there would be a return to violence. That statement contained three major fallacies: One, the Palestinians do not possess the most rudimentary institutions for statehood. Two, Palestinian violence never stopped; nor was the Sharm el Sheikh ceasefire really observed. Three, even if progress were made in direct talks, Abbas is incapable of preventing violence. debkafile's Palestinian sources report that Saturday, February 26, a day after the Tel Aviv suicide attack, Abu Mazen dispatched his newly-appointed interior security minister, Gen. Nasser Yousef, to the bomber's home district of Tulkarm on the West Bank to report on the security situation there. His findings were shocking.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report February 26, 2005
The dark days of Palestinian terror returned to Israel Friday night as a savage reminder that the three-and-a- half months of apparent lull were a pleasant fantasy. Israeli security forces were not surprised. Throughout the phony calm, between 50 and 60 threatened bombings were constants on their screens. And although the military had drastically cut down on its counter-terror operations and precautions to give the new Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas a chance to rein in Palestinian terror, still ticking bombs from all the Palestinian terrorist organizations were caught almost daily in the West Bank. The suicide bomber who blew up a crowd waiting to go into The Stage nightclub on Tel Aviv's beachfront Friday night, February 25, was no lone killer. He was just the first to slip through the Israeli security net after many of his fellows had tried and failed. He murdered at least four people - one woman is still fighting for her life - out for an evening of singsong and karioki. More than 50 were injured. The most serious allegation leveled against Sharon is his failure to respond to a development revealed exclusively by debkafile's military and intelligence sources. Instead of cracking down on terrorists, Abu Mazen and his sidekick Mohammed Dahlan have secretly applied to more than 20 world governments with urgent requests for large quantities of heavy weapons.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report February 23, 2005
Israeli military commentators came up shooting blanks when they took a searching look at the deputy chief of staff and former air force commander, Dan Halutz, who was picked to replace the forcibly retired Moshe Yaalon as Israel's 18th chief of staff. However, the new man will pretty soon find himself embattled with more pressing problems. Even if the planned Israeli pullout from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank goes smoothly in the summer, there is a very real threat that Halutz will hardly have time to take a breath before the Palestinians go back to war in the fall, confronting Israel with a changed enemy. Palestinian terror, which died down after Yasser Arafat's death November 11, is set to resume in earnest in late September or early October.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report February 20, 2005
Israeli prime minister finally managed to elicit two momentous decisions from his cabinet on Sunday, February 20. The hard one was the evacuation of 26 Israeli communities from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank, one of the most polarizing in Israel's history. The second decision confirmed by Israeli ministers later in the session approved the southern section of West Bank defense barrier after its route was amended. The revised route encloses 7% of West Bank territory instead of 16% in the original blueprint. When the prime minister told the ministers at the critical voting session that disengagement is an "essential step for the state of Israel's future," he did not share with them certain facts that might have altered the way they voted. Friday, December 11, three days before the well-publicized Sharm el-Sheikh summit of Israeli, Palestinian, Egyptian and Jordanian leaders, the opposite camp met secretly on ways to disrupt it at a Hizballah base near Hermel in the Lebanese Beqaa Valley. On the agenda: the organization of a fresh terrorist offensive to accompany Israel's withdrawals.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report February 10, 2005
Not 48 hours after Israeli and Palestinian leaders solemnly united in Sharm el Sheikh on a reciprocal ceasefire, a powerful coalition of Palestinian terrorist groups made a mockery of the occasion by two swift strikes. Their contempt was directed not only at their own elected leader Abu Mazen and Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, but also at Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah who endorsed the ceasefire and the meeting. Early Thursday, February 10, Hamas mortar crews and Qassam missile launchers unleashed more than 30 rounds against Gush Katif. The barrage that lasted two hours and was continued later left no casualties, but damaged a house. However, during the night, the terrorists struck again. Dozens of armed Hamas-Fatah al Aqsa Brigades- Palestinian Fronts-Popular Resistance Committees gang pre-empted Israel's prisoner release gesture by storming the Palestinian Authority's central prison in Gaza City. They murdered three inmates and a policeman and released all their comrades from the PA installation.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report February 7, 2005
The Middle East should have had its fill by now of summits, ceasefires, peace talks, diplomatic processes, security coordinators, mediators, demands for confidence-building gestures, concessions, - all burned to a cinder by relentless hostilities. Yet, unlike the skeptical Palestinians, many Israelis are strangely upbeat as yet another round of the same game begins, kicked off by a new referee, Condoleezza Rice.
She not only spent Sunday and Monday, February 6-7, talking to Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Jerusalem and Ramallah, but announced the appointment of a new security coordinator, Lt. Gen. William E. (Kip) Ward, present deputy commander of US Ground Forces in Europe. Tuesday, February 8, the inevitable summit follows at the Egyptian resort of Sharm el Sheikh, scene of more than one Middle East peace flop in the past. To hedge the bet it has riding on the new Palestinian leader, the Bush administration decided not to send a top official to Sharm.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report February 6, 2005
The usefulness of the hastily-called summit next Tuesday at the Egyptian Sinai resort of Sharm al Sheikh is being progressively eroded. By the time it comes round, the event may end up as little more than a photo op for its participants. The Egyptian venue was to have been the stage for Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas' first tete-a-tete with Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon after his election last month. Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak is hosting the event, accompanied by Jordan's King Abdullah, to give it Arab and regional weight. It is Dichter's intention to go on the record before Sharon and his aides with his professional evaluation of the gravity of the situation. He will voice his conviction that the Sharon government's negotiating strategy vis-a-vis the Palestinians is leading the country into great danger.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report February 2, 2005
New US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice's upcoming visit to the Middle East next week has galvanized the region's leaders into a frenzied round of travel and summit consultations. The centerpiece summit will bring together Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) at Sharm al Sheikh next Tuesday. Jordan's King Abdullah has also been invited. Rice's core message to Jerusalem is clear: she looks to Israel to grant the Palestinians territorial connectivity and all the land they need, along with all the accoutrements of sovereignty such as control of its borders and air and sea ports. To make it so, Israel is expected to continue pulling out of large tracts of the West Bank in addition to its volunteered evacuation of four settlements in the northern part of the territory and pullback from 21 Gush Katif locations in the Gaza Strip.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report January 29, 2005
An offer of immunity for 300 wanted Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip and West Bank will be put by Israeli defense minister Shaul Mofaz before Mahmud Abbas's informal representative Mohammed Dahlan Saturday night, January 29 - according to debkafile's exclusive counter-terror sources. The beneficiaries, members of Hamas, al Aqsa Brigdes, Tanzim, Jihad Islami and the Palestinian Fronts, include also wanted murderers. Israel's provisos are that the men withdraw from active orchestration and execution of terrorist attacks and refrain from crossing into Israel. If caught outside Palestinian territory, they will be put on trial. The Israeli government led by prime minister Sharon and Mofaz is taking Abbas unreservedly on trust although it is not clear on whose behalf he and Dahlan speak - the more so since Friday, January 28, when a landslide municipal election victory was announced for Hamas.