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 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 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 forty-member Likud parliamentary party hurled bitter complaints against prime minister Ariel Sharon Monday, May 26, for failing to consult the party before he presented the Middle East road map to the cabinet for endorsement on Sunday, May 25. It was carried by a narrow majority of 12 to 7 ministers and four abstentions. None of the Likud ministers voted against the document. Even the nay-saying coalition hawks did not walk out of the Sharon coalition.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report May 13, 2003
For some years now the Israeli Islamic Movement has been known to serve the Palestinian Hamas terrorist group as financial conduit and money launderer. Its fund-raising efforts for the families of Palestinian suicide killers have not gone unnoticed either. Some members have even been caught aiding and abetting these killers, transporting them to and from target areas, providing hideouts and intelligence - in more than one case to the Lebanese Hizballah as well.
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 6, 2003
Fifteen Israelis - mostly high school pupils and Haifa university students - were murdered in a powerful blast generated by a Palestinian homicidal suicide while riding on a Haifa bus on Wednesday, March 5. Only two had lived to see their 45th year. The killer, a Palestinian aged 20 from the West Bank town of Hebron, was identified as Mahmoud Hamdan Selim Kawasme, member of a big Hebron clan and kinsman of a former mayor. A note found on his body praised to heaven the al Qaeda perpetrators of the September 11 atrocities in New York, in which more than 3000 people died.
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 February 3, 2003
A bizarre feature of the Israeli general election held on January 28 was - and still is - the almost obsessive media preoccupation with the losers, chiefly Labor and left-wing Meretz, and virtually no objective studies of the winner. No one asks how Ariel Sharon's Likud managed to pull off a victory despite his government's far from flawless performance. No one wants to know what the country can expect from his next administration.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report January 29, 2003
The Israeli electorate greeted the January 28 general election apathetically, only 68.5 percent bothering to vote for the 120 men and women who will sit in the 16th Knesset. Ariel Sharon's Likud was generally tipped as the big winner. Partial results of 36-38 seats went beyond this expectation. Nonetheless there were a couple of surprises. With half the results counted, the left-wing, dovish Meretz was severely battered, falling from 10 to 7 seats. Its leader, Yossi Sarid, took immediate responsibility for the defeat and resigned. The Labor leader, Amram Mitzna, received the party's worst electoral defeat in its history - from 25 in the outgoing Knesset to 19 - in the ringing tones of a victor: "For me this is a marathon and we've only covered a few kilometers. Our intention is not to join Sharon but to replace him as an alternative government party."
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report January 27, 2003
Israeli politicians complain that the Israeli voter is an enigma; it is hard to know what makes him or her tick. Person-in-the-street responses to media interviews and pollsters are often irrational or downright lies. That may be how 4.8 million eligible voters get back at their politicians, knowing there is nothing more predictable than the gap between a candidate's campaign pledges and his actions the day after the poll. The opinion poll published the day before the Jan. 28 general election shows the prime minister Ariel Sharon's right-of-center Likud continuing to gain - up now from its present 19 seats to 33 (in the 120-member Knesset). About dozen places down, veteran Labor under its new left-of-center Amram Mitzna, is sinking momentarily from 25 to the teens, challenged hard by the upstart anti-religious Shinui (Change) led by former journalist Tommy Lapid. Both are swinging between 16 and 18, providing the only real drama in a lackluster, parochial contest.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report January 20, 2003
Israel's Labor Party, whose walkout from Ariel Sharon's national unity government on October 31 forced the early election taking place in eight days time, has fallen victim to its own stratagem. The historic party, at the head of which David Ben Gurion founded the state of Israel in 1948, is dying on its feet, a process speeded by its wet firecracker election campaign for the 16th Knesset election. Likud is fast recovering lost ground, reaching 33 at the last sampling, while Labor has sunk to 19. The crosscut of Israelis canvassed are bent on punishing Labor for the sin of breaking up the national unity government in a period of emergency and for its choice of leader.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report January 8, 2003
Despite headlines to the contrary - and falling opinion ratings, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon may not have too much cause for concern over this week's revelations that a long-time friend, South African textile tycoon Cyril Kern, made a low-interest loan to son Gilad Sharon to pay back illegal foreign contributions to the Likud leader's 1999 primaries campaign. Even if Sharon was guilty of wrongdoing - which he is not -- the average Israeli knows that corruption is rampant in Israeli society and is more concerned with Palestinian suicide bombings that have turned life in the Jewish state into a Russian roulette. The bottom line is that Kern, a foreign volunteer who served under Sharon in the War of Independence, has no financial interests in Israel. Kern has no need for any business favors in return for helping a friend he has known for more than 50 years.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report January 6, 2003
Large American contingents, airborne and heavy mechanized divisions, Marine task forces, aircraft carriers, helicopter fleets and hospital ships are speeding to jumping-off positions around Baghdad. The US is expected to launch the coming war against Iraq with parachute drops on Baghdad, together with commando landings in the city from the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers. A large-scale force will meanwhile encircle the Iraqi capital, while a mighty tank force dashes north from Kuwait and Qatar, bypassing the southern Iraqi Shiite cities of Najef and Karbala and circumventing the Iraqi army defending Baghdad. Those tanks will join the encircling force. The object of this colossal movement of military strength is to lay Baghdad to siege. This tactic and the consistency of the strength for its execution, debkafile's military sources report, have been taken from the Israeli doctrine of besieging Palestinian West Bank cities in order to lower the level of terror.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report January 5, 2003
The official announcement that Israel's anti-ballistic missile Arrow 2 system is to be tested Sunday, January 5, in "difficult and unusual flight conditions, in a complex targeting environment", raises questions - especially when US defense officials have come especially to observe the first nearly simultaneous launching of four Arrow missiles, one of them armed. One of those questions is this: How come this multi-billion ballistic missile system, tested-fired 9 times, is only being test-launched in "difficult and unusual conditions" on the eve of war with Iraq? Another is: What are those difficult conditions?
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.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 18, 2002
Israel's election campaign has got off to a murky start. Instead of a national debate on such core issues as Palestinian suicide terror - and how to stop it, peace terms, threats from Iraq, Hizballah and al Qaeda, the recession-wracked economy and acute social afflictions, Israel's news media are engulfed by the daily allegations of election fraud and vote trafficking at last week's contests for the two main parties' parliamentary lists. The loudest and most scandalous charges are leveled against prime minister Ariel Sharon's Likud, although the police, brought in to investigate the charges, are focusing on both Likud and its main adversary Labor. Under the pressure of these allegations, Sharon promised to initiate law reforms to improve voting procedures and impede fraud; after two Likud central committee members were placed under house arrest on suspicion of soliciting bribes, he promised to evict miscreants from the party.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 10, 2002
A distinct tilt from left to left-of-center characterized the parliamentary list Israel's opposition Labor party picked Monday, December 9, to fight the January 28 general election. Labor, under its new leader Amram Mitzna - and a partially revamped top rank - thus signaled its readiness to take on the Israeli voter whom relentless Palestinian terrorism has rendered mistrustful of peace slogans. More subtly, the modified lineup reflected a willingness to heed the prime minister, Likud leader Ariel Sharon's siren call for a post-election national unity government in partnership with its former partner Labor. Sharon reissued this call Tuesday morning, December 10, before the results of the Labor ballot were fully counted. He heard a different tune at the Likud primary on Sunday, December 8.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 9, 2002
On instructions from attorney general Elyakim Rubinstein, the Israeli police have begun investigating the business dealings of former Shin Beit officer Yossi Ginossar with Palestinian leaders, to determine if there are grounds for a criminal investigation. Ginossar says his business ties with Yasser Arafat's top officials, especially his personal financial adviser Mohammad Rashid, were public knowledge, entailed no illegal actions and were found useful by four Israeli prime ministers. "Muhammad Rashid never dealt in terrorism," Ginossar assured weekend interviewers. The veteran secret agent turned businessman served as unofficial go-between with the Palestinian Authority for the late Itzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak. However, Rubinstein advised Ariel Sharon when he succeeded Barak in 2001 to refrain from using Ginossar's services except in extreme matters of life and death, because of a possible conflict of interests.