DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 7, 2003
"Israel's position is clear," Israeli defense minister Shaul Mofaz told the media after his three-hour meeting with Palestinian interior security minister Mohammed Dahlan on Sunday, July 6. "The Palestinian Authority has assumed responsibility for terror prevention in the areas turned over by Israel. Its next obligation is to dismantle terrorist organizations." In answer to a question, Mofaz said Yasser Arafat had more than once attempted to obstruct Abu Mazen; in general his actions were not constructive. The Israeli defense chief insists of late that his job is to hold down security. By this assertion he lets it be known that the diplomatic-political arena belongs to prime minister Ariel Sharon. It may also be inferred that the two areas do not necessarily overlap at all times. Indeed they are apt to clash. This was demonstrated at the Israeli cabinet meeting in Jerusalem Sunday, July 6, in which the ministers were divided over the norms for releasing Palestinian prisoners detained or convicted for terror.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 5, 2003
Most Israelis did not rise up in arms when IDF troops made way for Palestinian police forces to take over the Gaza Strip or even Bethlehem, site of Rachel's Tomb. They were generally unmoved by the removal of outposts. However, prime minister Ariel Sharon's decision to free 1,200 or more Palestinian terrorists, when memories of the latest terrorist attacks less than a month ago are still painfully fresh, arouses bitter resentment. To spread oil on troubled waters, Israeli officials announced that the Shin Beit will present the lists of prisoners and detainees to be freed to the prime minister in time to have it reviewed at the weekly cabinet session on Sunday, July 6. Those lists, it was further promised, will not include murderers. However, according to the information reaching debkafile from its military sources, the lists were put together last week by Sharon under pressure from the White House and after consultation with Palestinian prime minister Mahmoud Abbas and his internal security minister Mohammed Dahlan. Its makeup was not dictated by the severity of the crimes committed but by the following priorities.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 2, 2003
Jerusalem was the scene of a piece of show business on Tuesday, July 2. Two prime ministers, Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas stood on their respective lecterns at the Israeli prime minister's office in Jerusalem Tuesday, July 2, and gave a showcase peace performance that was broadcast around the world. Abbas aka Abu Mazen had no qualms about standing at a lectern draped with the Menorah emblem of the Jewish state, while Israeli and Palestinian cabinet ministers, looking like bored guests at a bar mitzvah, sat at a raised table covered with a blue-and-white tablecloth. Both prime ministers followed written scripts: "Our conflict is political and must be solved through diplomatic means," Abbas said - code for an end to the Palestinian uprising. Sharon quoted himself by promising "painful concession for real and durable peace for generations to come." Both leaders played their starring roles to the hilt.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 28, 2003
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For the Palestinians to begin upholding their June 4 Aqaba summit pledges, another strong shove was needed from Washington. It was administered this week in a telephone call from US secretary of state Colin Powell to Palestinian internal security minister Mohamed Dahlan. debkafile's Washington sources report Powell as saying in effect: The Hamas everyone is talking about is made up of no more than 500 to 1,000 armed men. If Dahlan can't get them under control and stop their terrorist activity, "someone else" will take over and finish them off one by one.
A demonstration quickly followed. Early Friday, June 27, a team of the Israeli naval commando Unit 13 raided a Hamas fastness in the southern Gaza Strip, killing three terrorists and capturing another three. The Israeli side lost one fighter, Staff Sgt. Erez Ashkenazi, 21, from Kibbutz Reshafim.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 24, 2003
The Israeli-Palestinian peace front remains stalled in defiance of the US secretary of state Colin Powell's generous assertion of progress towards an Israeli-Palestinian accord for the transfer of security responsibility on the Gaza Strip. He also commended the Palestinian Authority for its hard work to bring into place a cessation of violence on the part of Palestinian terrorist groups. That was on the morning of Monday, June 23. Monday evening, Hamas leaders took back the promise they gave the world media Sunday to say where they stood on a truce within 24 hours. Again, they upped demands. And again, it was said, an answer would be forthcoming tomorrow... maybe. Monday afternoon, a meeting at the Israel-Gaza Strip Erez checkpoint between Israel's military commander of the West Bank and Gaza Strip Lt. Major Amos Gilead and Palestinian internal security minister, Mohamed Dahlan, failed to reduce differences. There might be progress... tomorrow. Gilad said after the meeting: "As long as Arafat pulls their strings, we'll get exactly nowhere."
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 17, 2003
Very shortly, Israelis will wake up to find their military forces pulling out of the northern Gaza Strip and Bethlehem and handing over the war on terror originating in those regions to Palestinian prime minister Abu Mazen and his internal security minister Mohamed Dahlan. The confusion Monday, June 16, over whether or not the Egyptian delegation in Gaza City had managed to persuade Hamas, Fatah, Jihad Islami and other rejectionist terrorist groups to accept a ceasefire arose from the decision to reverse the order of events. First the handover of the two territories to the Palestinian Authority; then a ceasefire transacted by the radical groups with the Palestinian Authority - not with Israel through Egypt and the United States.
The key to the truce was provided by the man in the picture. His name is Yousef Qaradawi.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 12, 2003
As the 20-year old human bomb from Hebron, Abdel Muttu Shabana, tore into the packed Jerusalem 14A bus in rush hour traffic opposite the city's open air market - killing 16 Israelis and injuring more than one 100 - an Egyptian delegation representing the US, Israeli and Palestinian governments sat down opposite a Hamas delegation in Gaza City. The Egyptians were there to solicit the hard-line Islamic terror group's consent to a ceasefire - and they were having a hard time.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 8, 2003
mg class="picture" src="/dynmedia/pictures/Thumb.jpg" align="right" border="0">Leading Palestinian factions are marking the Aqaba summit period as open season for terror. Sunday morning, June 8, the three dominant groups, Fatah - with suicide arm al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, Hamas and Jihad Islami, for the first time publicly admitted acting in unison to murder four Israelis and injure four at the Erez checkpoint between the Gaza Strip and Israel. Each named the gunman it had sent for the strike. All three were shot dead in the ensuing gun battle. The spot chosen for the attack - the Gaza-Israeli checkpoint through which ten thousand Gazans were allowed to go back to jobs in Israel as a pre-Aqaba summit gesture by Israel - signaled their rejection of any but violent Palestinian interchanges with the Jewish state and their defiance of efforts by Abu Mazen and Dahlan to carry out understandings reached under the aegis of the US president, George W. Bush.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 4, 2003
Both prime ministers put their best feet forward and pronounced the words that President George W. Bush wanted to hear at the end of their 90-minute summit in the idyllic Red Sea resort of Aqaba on Wednesday, June 4. What will happen to all those noble sentiments after the US president is gone from the Middle East? The most striking speech came from Mahmoud Abbas who solemnly declared that the Palestinian-Israeli dispute has no military solution. "We oppose terror and violent actions as contrary to our religion and inconsistent with the state we aspire to. The armed intifada must end and we must resort to peaceful means to achieve our goals.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 2, 2003
debkafile reports from its intelligence sources that Abu Mazen and Dahlan worked hard to concoct some sort of ceasefire in time for the Aqaba summit - not by going to the heads of the Palestinian terror groups, but straight to the chiefs of local terror squads. It was not as difficult as they pretended to the Americans and the Israelis. As an Israeli security source told debkafile's sources, Dahlan and his people had more than a passing acquaintance with each and every one of these squad chiefs, enough to knock on their doors and even reach them in their hideouts.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report May 26, 2003
The Israeli government's narrow endorsement of the Middle East road map on Sunday May 25 - and acceptance of a Palestinian state at the end of the road - far from removing the obstacles to peacemaking, accentuates the difficulties facing the next stages. debkafile's US and Israeli security sources report increasing signs that Yasser Arafat is now seriously gunning for the new Palestinian prime minister Mahmoud Abbas. He will do anything to abort the summit expected to take place in early June with President George W. Bush and Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon. Arafat cannot abide the notion of any top-level conference going forward without him.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report May 19, 2003
The White House has said it hopes the postponed visit by Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon in response to the latest spiral of Palestinian terror will take place within days. President George W. Bush clearly wants to see Sharon as soon as possible. EBKAfile's Washington and Jerusalem sources explain Israel's postponement and US urgency by a certain conflict of immediate goals: Bush is in trouble with his global war on terror following al Qaeda's deadly strikes in Riyadh and Casablanca. He thinks Sharon's visit to Washington can help allay some of the pressure on him. However, Sharon is also in trouble with his counter-terror war against Yasser Arafat and prefers to stay at home.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report May 12, 2003
As he demonstrated during US secretary of state Colin Powell visit this week, Mahmoud Abbas - Abu Mazen - is endeavoring to earn the job of first Palestinian prime minister by keeping three balls up in the air at once: He wants to prove his "reformist" credentials to Washington and Jerusalem, uphold his Palestinian credibility at home and in the Arab world and beat off Yasser Arafat's incessant overt and sneak assaults on his standing. It is hard to see how he can succeed.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report April 30, 2003
As night follows day, a Palestinian terrorist attack was bound to follow the approval of the new Abu Mazen government on Tuesday, April 29, in Ramallah. In fact, it was carried out during the night between its approval and swearing in Wednesday morning April 30 as the first supposedly reform administration dedicated to fighting terror. Yasser Arafat must have had his next operation well in hand when he urged the Palestinian Legislative Council meeting at his office in Ramallah to endorse a cabinet originally conceived to root out the terrorism and corruption he instigated. After failing to torpedo the new administration, Arafat made a big show of embracing it, while first rendering Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) helpless to carry out the reforms that would have cleared the way for the revival of a peace process on the road to Palestinian statehood.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report April 24, 2003
Only one man is smiling in the group photo of Yasser Arafat, incoming Palestinian reform prime minister Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian intelligence chief Osman Suleiman, who brokered an accord on the makeup of the new government. That man is Arafat. The rest were grim. In the current round of the Ramallah power struggle, Abu Mazen with massive international backing may have forced Arafat to accept former Gazan security chief Mohammed Dahlan as internal security minister, but in the process he has fallen back on home ground and Arafat has come up smiling. Uneasy over Dahlan's empowerment, the Fatah leadership and Palestinian institutions which first granted majority backing to Abu Mazen's premiership has reverted to support of Arafat.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report April 20, 2003
Even in the topsy-turvy world of Palestinian-Israeli relations, Mohammed Dahlan's appointment as interior minister in charge of security in Mahmoud Abbas aka Abu Mazen's so-called reformed Palestinian government is bizarre. As director of the Gaza Strip's Palestinian "Preventive" Security body, Dahlan was the prime mover of Arafat's confrontation with Israel from 2001 in the region he controlled. His brainchildren included the use of cell phones by the first Palestinian terrorists and suicide killers to trip bombs and activate explosive belts in multi-casualty strikes at Israeli crowd centers. It was Dahlan who brought the extremist Islamic Hamas and Jihad Islami into Arafat's fold as full partners of the Fatah Tanzim and Palestinian security services. He played host to the Lebanese Hizballah experts imported by Arafat. And Dahlan, whose organizational ability is not in question, set up the Karin-A arms smuggling ship that Israeli commandos intercepted on its way to the Gaza Strip with 50 tons of weapons for restocking Arafat's arsenal of terror.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report March 9, 2003
Nominating his most outspoken critic, Mahmoud Abbas, 68, the veteran PLO secretary general usually known as Abu Mazen, as first Palestinian prime minister certainly stuck in Yasser Arafat's throat. Yet he went through with his presentation to the PLO Central Committee and the Central Council in Ramallah, on Saturday, March 8 and Sunday March 9. To make sure the Palestinian leader did not back out at the last minute, Israel conveyed a hint that he may be closer to deportation than he thinks. Monday, March 10, the Palestinian Legislative Council is due to determine what authority the new position will carry. The showdown between Arafat and Abu Mazen over the division of authority between them is the focus of heated deliberations in these labyrinthine institutions. But a senior Palestinian source reported to debkafile that at this stage, Abu Mazen has been neatly outmaneuvered.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report February 17, 2003
The Israeli army has plainly stepped up its drive against the Hamas and Jihad Islami in the Gaza Strip and Mt. Hebron in the southern West Bank. Less visibly, in the same arena, defense minister Shaul Mofaz and chief of staff Lt.-Gen. Moshe Yaalon are locked in a complicated and grim showdown with Syrian president Bashar Assad and Hizballah chairman Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, Israel's most implacable Arab foes. Neither side admits what is going on, but Israel's military chiefs are racing to undo a devious plan set in motion by Assad and Nasrallah plan to transform the Gaza Strip and southern West Bank into the southern offshoots of the Syrian-Lebanese northern front against Israel, before the Iraq war fully erupts. They would thus exploit the Palestinian terror campaign to drag Israel into a full-blown regional conflict, without exposing their own territory and power centers to reprisal - or even laying themselves open to be charged as aggressors.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report January 14, 2003
Tuesday, January 14, the Palestinian Authority's Al Ayyam daily published a message, approved by Yasser Arafat in the name of all the Palestinian groups, calling off attacks on Israeli citizens. This message, formulated by the Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, also endorses the continuing Palestinian struggle for a state whose capital is Jerusalem. Gen. Suleiman was to submit this text to the London Middle East conference opened by British foreign secretary Jack Straw Tuesday night, January 14, in the presence of representatives from the Middle East Quartet, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
The Palestinians will be there via a videolink after Israeli banned Palestinian travel in the wake of the massacre by Palestinian terrorists on January 5 of 23 people in Tel Aviv. Israel was not invited by British PM Tony Blair.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 27, 2002
When he launched the Likud campaign for the January 28 general election on Wednesday, December 25, prime minister Ariel Sharon said cryptically:"I believe peace with the Palestinians is nearer than thought." He went on to promise "I won't let any opportunities get away." Needless to say, this was not what his party wanted to hear. A majority is up in arms about his firm advocacy of a Palestinian state, albeit a limited and demilitarized one. (See also debkafile December 5 "Sharon's Palestinian speech may backfire"). In his latest contribution to the subject, he said a Palestinian state was not his heart's desire, but it was bound to happen. Thus far, he has not confided his Palestinian state plan to any of those ministers. In the meantime, the scandals swirling around vote-selling and corruption allegations occupy the center of Israel's political stage. Sharon obviously has his mind on other things and may even welcome the media's inattention to his main pursuit, which is, according to debkafile's American and Palestinian sources, a hush-hush, informal discourse with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on the outline of a peace accord for creating a Palestinian state and shaping Israel's final borders.