DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 11, 2004
Although the settlement issue is genuinely incendiary, debkafile has been told by its exclusive political sources that much of the fresh heat is sparked by a different factor: word is going round the ministers and top political circles that a decision has been reached by former finance minister Binyamin Netanyahu, a former Likud prime minister himself, to run against Sharon in the next party primaries as candidate for prime minister. After biding his time quietly in the wings for the last couple of years, he now tells his confidants it would be a mistake to postpone a direct challenge any longer. His moment has arrived.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 8, 2004
Call him M. He is an Israeli army lieutenant who serving in the special anti-sniper unit posted in the southern Gaza Strip. His job is to spot and eliminate Palestinian snipers. Until last March, his training was adapted to the Palestinian sniper. But then, one morning, there was a change. Through his field glasses, he saw two men with a different look from the Palestinian gunmen he was used to. Both were neatly turned out in well-pressed civilian trousers and new western camouflage jackets. One had long fair hair, a light complexion and moved like a European. Around 90 minutes later, he stood up to move to another part of the roof. His right shoulder had been visible over the parapet no more than three or four seconds when he was knocked over by a gunshot before he had time to fire.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 7, 2004
Israel's 6th Ofek (Horizon) plummeted to a watery death in the Mediterranean Sea when it was test-fired Monday, September 6, from Palmahim. Malfunction of the third stage of the Israeli-designed Shavit booster was blamed for the loss of the $50m Ofek-6, the latest in the series of spy satellites developed by a consortium led by Israel Aircraft Industries. The first was launched in 1988. Number 5 has been orbiting 300 to 700 kilometers above earth every 90 minutes for two years out of a life span of five. The latest malfunction occurred ten days after Arrow II failed to shoot down a dummy missile designed to perform similarly to the Iranian Shehab-3 intermediate missile in a test-firing off the California coast. These two failures are a grave setback to Israel's deterrent ability at a dangerous juncture. In the next two-three years, Israel will need all its resources to face Iran's advancing nuclear threat and burgeoning terrorist offensive. Ofek-6 was intended to give Israel an edge in this contest.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 28, 2004
Depending on who is arrested and the nature of the charges, the investigation is fraught with a high degree of damage to President George W. Bush's Middle East policy and his core advisory team, eight weeks before he stands for re-election. Already, there are marks of strain in US-Israel relations and Bush's ties with Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon are bound to be affected. The harm is visible even before the investigation has determined whether it will lead to a charge of espionage or lesser offenses of improper disclosure or the mishandling of classified materials. An AIPAC official said to the Washington Post:, "Our folks are pretty outraged about this. We've had these kinds of accusations before, and none of them has ever proven to be true."
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 22, 2004
debkafile's intelligence and military sources uncover determined Iranian steps worldwide to undermine Israel's strategic positions by engendering its international isolation, a tactic reminiscent of the excesses of the Arab boycott. Iranian officials are going around capitals on three continents telling governments friendly to Israel to chill their military and other ties. Tehran believes it can make short shrift of Israel's military links in the region before tackling the major issue of the US military presence in the same countries. The Sharon government looks as though it is too weighed down by the political obstacles constantly bedeviling the prime minister's disengagement and evacuation plans to properly address the Iranian offensive, even though it has already begun hurting Israel's foreign strategic relations.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 17, 2004
Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon locked the exits of the cabinet chamber Sunday, August 15, until the ministers approved the of NIS 267.99 bn ($60 bn) state budget for 2005 by a comfortable 17 to 3 majority. This budget will undergo many chops and changes in the legislative process ahead and the coalition bargaining with opposition parties. The defense budget in particular is a shot in the dark; there is no telling what the coming year will bring - from a major Hizballah missile offensive to a Democratic president in the White House, who may order US troops to quit Iraq, thus standing Israel's strategic situation on its head - to name just two imponderables. Therefore, the frantic maneuvering that went on to whip recalcitrant Likud ministers into line was not strictly motivated by rigid adherence to the clauses drafted by finance minister Binyamin Netanyahu. It was aimed more at edging the prime minister into position for his second confrontation with his Likud at the party convention meeting Wednesday, August 18.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 14, 2004
Israel's chief of staff, Lt.-Gen Moshe Yaalon put his hand in a hornet's nest when he said in an interview: The question is will we reach agreement with Syria for the right price. If you ask me if an agreement that is correctly balanced is theoretically possible, I say that mindful of Israel's military needs, an accord with Syria can be attained which leads to Israel's withdrawal from Golan. The army is capable of defending Israel's border wherever they are. Most quotes left the "theoretically" caveat out of their reports, as the general should have foreseen. They also ignored what he said clearly about the here and now. He noted Syria has missiles that can reach all parts of Israel and chemical capabilities, thus making the point that as long as those threats remained, the strategic plateau was a vital element of Israel's security.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 10, 2004
Since Thursday, August 5 and up until early August 10, not a single Qassam missile landed from the Gaza Strip on the southern Israel towns of Sderot or neighboring West Negev kibbutzim. Their daily nightmare since last year was more or less in abeyance for six days. Suddenly too the stream of anti-Israel invective and threats dried up in the mouths of the ruling Fatah and its al Aqsa Martyrs (Suicides) Brigades, the Hamas, and the other Palestinian purveyors of mass terror. Furthermore, while Israelis argued the rights and wrongs of allowing Palestinian police officers (many of whom moonlight as terrorists) to patrol West Bank streets bearing arms, those officers began were already out fully armed on the streets of Jenin and Qalqilya without waiting for Israeli permission. debkafile's Palestinian sources hold up two keys to these mysteries, both held by Yasser Arafat:
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 28, 2004
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The fateful June 30 judgment by Israeli High Court Justices Aharon Barak, Mishael Heshin and Eliahu Matza, that saving Palestinians from hardship must take precedence over saving Israeli lives, foredoomed to failure the security barrier's efficacy in separating Palestinian terrorists from their chosen targets in the most heavily populated parts of Israel. The alacrity of prime minister Ariel Sharon and defense minister Shaul Mofaz to comply with this ruling - as though it were a judgment from heaven - has stamped Israel's four-and-a-half year conflict against Palestinian terrorism with the mark of its government's weakness.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 26, 2004
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The super-confident Lebanese Shiite terrorist group Hizballah was twice jolted out of its complacency this month and forced to accept that its innermost core had been penetrated and its eight-year old links with Palestinian terrorists laid bare. Word reaching Israel's intelligence sources is that Hizballah's Iranian masters and Syrian backers are now looking forward to the next stage of their terrorist assault on the Jewish state, the use of non-conventional weapons. The first knock occurred on July 19, when Ghaleb Awali, head of the Hizballah's Special Group was murdered outside his Beirut home.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 14, 2004
At 78, the fiery Egyptian preacher Yusuf al-Qaradawi is a household name in the Muslim Arab world, commanding great respect as a leading theologian and star status for his religious phone-in program over Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based Arabic television station. The business that brought him to London is revealed here exclusively by debkafile's Middle East sources. The preacher placed before a World Muslim Brotherhood conference a working document drawn up at "a secret meeting of the movement" somewhere in the Middle East, calling on all brethren in the Muslim world to rise up and foil Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon's plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and, most of all, to combat any potential Egyptian or Jordanian role in its implementation. The Brotherhood was exhorted to resort "to all means available."
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 12, 2004
mg class="picture" src="/dynmedia/pictures/sharon_peres_e_thumb.jpg" align="left" border="0">Neither prime minister Ariel Sharon, 76, nor opposition leader Shimon Peres, 81, stands to lose much by their partnership to rescue the tottering Likud-led minority government from being swept out of office. Alone, neither retains much voter appeal. Together, the two old warhorses are capable of wringing another lease of life from their reluctant parties. The horsetrading is already in high gear, trampling over policy differences and ideological distinctions in their forward rush. As prime minister, Sharon is empowered to lay down the law on the shape of his cabinet. He will not pay too much heed to the loud party voices raised in protest against an unwanted marriage. Peres will compute exactly how many government portfolios are needed to buy his colleagues' acquiescence, not forgetting to point out that Likud has bought Labor's settlement evacuation platform.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 11, 2004
The Palestinians timed one of their last effective terror attacks for the day before the international court at The Hague began hearing the Palestinian petition against Israel's defense barrier. Sunday, July 11, two days after the court ruled the barrier illegal, the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the suicide arm of Yasser Arafat's Fatah, closed the circle by detonating a medium-sized bomb in rush hour traffic at a Tel Aviv bus stop, killing a 20-year old Israeli girl soldier and injuring another 40 commuters, 4 of them seriously. debkafile's political analysts believe that the negative pro-Palestinian opinion handed down against Israel's security fence was not inescapable or pre-ordained. The Israeli government's stubborn decision not to present its case tilted it in the Palestinians' favor. Instead of protesting fruitlessly outside the courthouse, the victims of Palestinian terror, not all of them Israeli citizens, should have been inside depicting the Palestinian authority's campaign of suicidal terror and genocidal motives as the rationale for the non-violent barrier.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 30, 2004
Three Israeli high court judges led by chief justice Aharon Barak handed down a landmark ruling Wednesday, June 30, which said explicitly that the welfare of ten West Bank Palestinian villages is more important than the security of Israeli citizens. The court accepted a Palestinian petition claiming the defense barrier separated villagers from their land, schools and jobs, and ordered the Israeli defense ministry to reroute 30 kilometers out of 40 kilometers of the fence designed to keep Palestinian suicide killers out of the capital. This stretch runs northwest of Jerusalem from Givat Zeev to Nataf. The IDF proposal to cut four gates in the fence was not accepted. The court affirmed in principle that the barrier's purpose was to save lives rather than a political land grab and was not therefore illegal. No demands were made of the Palestinians with regard to renouncing support for terror. The director of the defense ministry barrier project said the court had handed down "a very bad judgment for Israel and made a mockery of the victims of the Palestinian Authority and terrorist organizations."
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 16, 2004
Israel's political and legal community is in uproar since attorney- general Manny Mazuz announced Tuesday, June 15, he had decided to drop bribes charges against prime minister Ariel Sharon and his son Gilead. Most of the fuss centered on the harsh criticism he leveled against the way the case was handled by former state prosecutor-turned-high court justice Edna Arbel. In particular, he blasted her insistence on an indictment although the case was too weak on evidence to hope for a conviction. The new attorney-general thus made his debut with a frontal assault on one of Israel's key power strongholds - the high court of justice-state prosecution interface.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 15, 2004
Pushing hard against his failing health, isolation and weakened position in the Palestinian and Arab world, Yasser Arafat has gone into hyperactive mode to dodge international heat for reforms in the Palestinian security forces, fend off Egyptian dictates and, most importantly, to trip up Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan. debkafile's intelligence and Palestinian sources reveal that a top-level Palestinian delegation has been in Damascus since the end of last week waiting to be received by Syrian president Bashar Assad. Their mission is to heal the twenty-year breach with Arafat that Bashar inherited from his father Hafez and so pave the way for establishing a Syrian-Palestinian front - with possible Iranian backing - to defeat Sharon's plan and keep the Egyptians out of Palestinian affairs.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 13, 2004
The Israeli government is getting ready to offer down payments to voluntary evacuees from 21 Gaza settlements and four West Bank locations that Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon plans to remove by the end of 2005. This move is designed to stimulate departures and jump the gun on two major delaying factors: the cabinet only approved the Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement outline; voting on settlement removals is not due until March 2005 and then it will be piecemeal. Secondly, compensation to departing settlers entails long and tiresome legislation, whereas down payments do not. Broad hints that the first comers will get the best deal have been thrown out already. The bargaining is clearly about to begin.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 7, 2004
Billed as a unilateral disengagement blueprint for removing Israel's civilian and military presence from the Gaza Strip, the diluted outline approved by the Israeli government Sunday, June 6, by 14 ministers to 7, actually opens an increasingly important back door for Egypt to establish an undercover presence in the West Bank as well as Gaza. Broadly, it initiates a joint US-backed Israeli-Egyptian effort to isolate Yasser Arafat and dismantle the vehicles he provides for Iran, the Hizballah and al Qaeda to penetrate Palestinian terrorist and security agencies. For the present, all three partners share an interest in this objective. However, not all the top levels of Israel's military and intelligence are of one mind about the efficacy and prudence of this strategy. The positive view holds that the vanguard of Egyptian agents already present in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is making a welcome contribution to the effort to bring down the level of Palestinian terror against Israelis.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 6, 2004
All the politicians who count for anything are looking actively past the Sharon era and well past the prime minister's office's farcical attempts to sack the two anti-disengagement National Union ministers who didn't want to go. Transport minister Avigdor Lieberman was handed his pink slip in good time Friday, June 5, while exercising in the gym; tourism minister Benny Eilon made himself scarce to avoid accepting the letter 48 hours ahead of the cabinet meeting. He promises to be there and vote against the prime minister's disengagement plan. If kept out, he will fight his dismissal through the courts. A hectic scramble for post-Sharon positions is running parallel to the wheeling and dealing over the formulations to be presented to the crucial cabinet vote on Sunday, June 6.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 1, 2004
Yasser Arafat is hopping mad with Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak for trying to go behind his back and revive the Palestinian preventive security services of the Gaza Strip and West Bank under their former chiefs, respectively Muhammed Dahlan in the Gaza Strip and, with rather less authority on the West Bank, Jibril Rajib, Arafat's very own national security adviser. This time round, Mubarak and his intelligence minister, General Omar Suleiman, want the two powerful services created under the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords to function under Cairo's control. The pair of Palestinian security men, at daggers drawn for years, have been ordered to present themselves in the Egyptian capital for a reconciliation and briefing. (Only recently, Jibril remarked, "Everyone knows Dahlan is an Israeli agent.")