DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 3, 2005
The deep seams in Ariel Sharon's coalition government cracked further at the cabinet meeting Sunday, July 3, as ministers and factions began striking pre-election campaign poses against their rivals. Netanyahu was clearly throwing down the gauntlet after telling his friends he would beat Sharon in the next Likud primaries for prime ministerial candidate. Labor ministers and Likud members of Sharon's fan club followed their scripts and flailed Bibi from all directions. The prime minister, for his part, is confident he will reach the Likud primary with the agonies of the pull-back behind him and then plunge into campaigning for re-election. He would prefer to see Netanyahu out of government beforehand.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 25, 2005
The 17-year old Israeli student, Avichai Levy, shot dead by a Palestinian drive-by killer squad Friday evening June 24 near Beit Haggai, Mt. Hebron, was the third pre-disengagement victim of four Palestinian terrorist attacks this week. Five Israelis were also injured, one seriously. Earlier, Sgt-Maj Avi Karuchi, 25, from Beersheba, and Yevgeni Rider, 28, from Hermesh, were murdered in a revival of Palestinian violence which is focusing again on the West Bank. This resurgence of violence erupted on June 19 as US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made her foredoomed attempt to persuade Palestinian leaders to cooperate in Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Her quest for a diplomatic understanding was worse than fruitless; it was reciprocated by a dangerous new spiral of Palestinian violence and threats.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 22, 2005
The meeting Tuesday, June 21, between Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian chairman Mahmoud Abbas - their first since the February Sharm al-Sheikh summit - went badly, as all the parties admitted. There was an attempt to present the failure as emanating from Sharon's impossible demand of Abbas to crack down on terrorism, countered by the Palestinian leader's complaint that he would if he could, but lacks the necessary strength. But, all in all, debkafile's Palestinian and intelligence sources claim the published account is misleading. Nothing was settled between the Israeli and Palestinian sides because the interchange was dominated by a flat refusal by Abbas flanked by prime minister Ahmed Qureia and other cabinet ministers to budge on any of the points raised by the Israeli side. Instead they pressed hard on their own.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 8, 2005
Israel's new chief of staff Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz followed a given script when he declared firmly Tuesday, June 7: "Evacuation will not take place under fire. I say exactly what I mean." He was speaking to skeptical military correspondents outside Sderot, whose shocked citizens refuse to meet him after suffering waves of Qassam missile salvoes from the Gaza Strip throughout the day. Halutz's words did not reassure the inhabitants of Gaza, such as Ganei Tal, that they would be fully protected when they exited their homes in August; or that the Israeli town of Sderot would be safe from Palestinian missiles when it is left behind outside the Gaza Strip. Halutz's calm, assured demeanor did not impress Israelis living precariously between bombastic declarations, empty promises and Palestinian threats. Maj. Gen. Giora Eiland, head of the national security council, who ought to know what is going on, has exposed the true state of affairs, which is that nothing is ready - as debkafile revealed some weeks ago.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report May 29, 2005
Nine of Israel's top business executives and 11 heads of three leading inquiry companies - including Modiin Ezrahi -are in custody suspected of complicity in a massive computerized commercial espionage conspiracy. Sunday, Tel Aviv magistrate lifted gag order on the case which police code-named Horse Race. Prosecution is reported to have located a state witness. Michael Haephrati, who was arrested in London Thursday, May 26, with his wife, is suspected of designing the illegal raider software called Trojan Horse for the three inquiry firms. They offered clients business intelligence on their rivals, some of whom trade on the stock exchange, by illegally planting spy software in the targeted computers and downloading their classified data. The Scotsman reports that before he was arrested on the Israeli extradition warrant, Michael Haephrati, who also has German nationality, was questioned by detectives from the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit on a "separate matter."
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 11, 2005
The big dilemma that most exercised the Bush-Sharon summit, according to debkafile's Washington sources, did not come up in the news conference. What to do about the Palestinian general election scheduled for July in view of the mortal threat it poses for Mahmoud Abbas's regime and the prospects of peace? A fresh piece of intelligence was a shocker for both leaders. debkafile's Washington sources disclose it consisted of a Palestinian decision to resume the terror war against Israel in the second half of June - from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip simultaneously. The heavy mortar and missile assault inside and outside the Gaza Strip from Saturday, April 10, again Sunday and erupting again Monday night after the Bush-Sharon news conference was but a foretaste of the offensive to come to be launched by Fatah to avert an election that Hamas could win.
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 March 30, 2005
The fourteen months since Ariel Sharon unveiled his unilateral disengagement have been for him a personal hurdle race to knock over the political and military opposition to his plan by fair means or foul. In the process, he trampled several values and mores that most Israelis had taken for granted. Critics were punished by the wrecking ball, champions and cronies lavishly rewarded with jobs and handouts. After losing their political battles in parliament, the anti-disengagement activists are deep in debate over their next steps. Whatever they do, they must reckon on facing a new chief of staff, new Shin Beit chief and new police commissioner - each handpicked for his willingness to carry out orders from the prime minister's and defense minister's offices. The six Likud ministers opposed to the removal of settlements - led by finance minister Binyamin Netanyahu - have vacillated throughout between their Likud loyalties and fear of losing their jobs. They finally opted for the latter.
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 22, 2005
The only way Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon can ward off a final Likud split is to put the evacuations on hold and call an early election before the fissure becomes irreparable. An early election will become automatic if the budget is not passed by March 31. The government will fall and a poll must be called within three months. In the interim, Sharon will face another ordeal: the April 15 Likud primaries for prime ministerial candidate and parliamentary list. As things stand now, nothing is certain - neither Sharon's nomination to head the list, that of his rival, finance minister Binyamin Netanyahu, or rebel leader MK Uzi Landau. One dark horse is the coalition and party whip Gideon Saar. Aged 38, he shot to prominence in the last 24 hours by riding roughshod over Sharon's resistance to a referendum measure and putting together a package that held the party together for the moment: Likud standouts in the finance committee agreed to support the budget in return for its members on the law and constitution committee backing the referendum bill. While neither measure may survive a vote in the plenum, Saar's maneuver fended off the evil hour for his party.
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 14, 2005
Two days of ceremonies inaugurating the New Holocaust History Museum in Jerusalem take place Tuesday and Wednesday, March 15 and 16. It is part of a challenging project to lend Holocaust remembrance a new sense of relevance for younger people as historic memories fade and the number of actual survivors with personal testimonies declines. The event is attended by a large international gathering of world leaders from 40 countries - ten presidents, six prime ministers and assorted high officials led by UN secretary general Kofi Annan, as well as survivors and scholars. Designed by world renowned architect Moshe Safdie, the museum is in the form of a gigantic prism carved into and directly through a hollowed-out limestone hill overlooking the city of Jerusalem. The natural design of the museum takes the visitor on a journey through time, and deep inside the hill. Feeling the weight and isolation of this subterranean tunnel, the visitor walks through the developing horror of history, moving from one gallery to the next leading off from the central corridor of the prism.
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 22, 2005
debkafile's exclusive military sources disclose that Israel and Egypt are in the last stages of drafting protocols that set the time table and arrangements for Israeli military units to abandon the volatile Philadelphi border route cutting Rafah between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. Armed Egyptian troops will move up to the border and be deployed along their side of the Philadelphi route. General Amos Gilead, diplomatic coordinator in Israel's defense ministry, and the Egyptian General Staff's operations director are working on the final details. Israel therefore is not only evacuating civilians from Gush Katif, but turning over its Gaza border with Egypt to the Palestinians. The new Israel-Egyptian border will thus relocate northward up to the town of Sderot and the western Negev. The final troop withdrawal will follow soon after the evacuations and take place in late August.
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 16, 2005
The non-extension of Lt.-General Moshe Ayalon's tour of duty as Israeli armed forces chief of staff is unprecedented. The one-year extension has always been automatic for every one of his predecessors, a routine that crossed party divisions and assured the country that the army serves the nation as its supreme defender and is above and apart from the political schemes of the government in office. This virtual sacking hit Israel like a thunderclap after midnight Tuesday, February 15, the more shocking since it followed shortly after the announcement that Shin Beit Director, the second top czar of Israel's war on Palestinian terror, will also not be asked to stay on when his stint is up in May. Both of these experienced veterans, widely acclaimed for their achievements in cutting down Palestinian terror, are being dropped ahead of the evacuations of Israeli civilians and troops from the Gaza Strip and northern West bank in the coming July. Both have spoken out against the step - each in his professional capacity. By Wednesday morning, a vocal chorus from the extreme political left to the right had condemned the step as irresponsible. The Knesset foreign affairs and defense committee will be called into urgent session.