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.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 21, 2002
German diplomat and member of European Union Commission Christian Waldrahs was saved by his bulletproof jeep from an assassin's bullets, fired as he came out of Jenin Fatah commander Mussa Kadura's home on Saturday, December 21.
debkafile's military and counter-terror sources report that Waldrahs has the unhappy distinction of being the first target of an al Qaeda assassination plot executed by a Fatah-al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades operative against a Western diplomat on Palestinian territory.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 15, 2002
Jordanian information minister Mohammad Adwan fingered Saad bin Suwied and Yasser Ibrahim as the murderers who fired eight bullets from the silenced gun that slew USAID executive Lawrence Foley outside his home in Amman on October 28. Adwan described Suwied - a Libyan who entered Jordan on a Tunisian passport and Ibrahim, a Jordanian - as al Qaeda members who were paid $68,000 for the assassination. According to the information reaching debkafile's intelligence sources, the two assassins are not al Qaeda; they are in fact members of two Palestinian groups, who work in conjunction - the pro-Iraq Arab Liberation Front, whose leader Abu al Abbas is based in Baghdad, and the Jordanian wing of Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement. They were apprehended by Jordanian security forces in November in a sweep of the south Jordanian Islamic fundamentalist town of Ma'an. After a brief interrogation, the captured men admitted working for Palestinian groups operating in Jordan on behalf of Iraqi military intelligence.
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.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report November 18, 2002
Less than 24 hours after Tawfiq Fukra attempted to hijack El Al Tel Aviv-Istanbul Flight 581 in midair with the help of a penknife, Israel's airport authority gave itself a clean bill of health. The initial probe had established, said the authority's spokesman, that the 23-year old Israeli Arab from the Galilee village of Baina Najidat, west of Tiberias, had been screened by security officers according to the strictest criteria. Therefore, no faults could be attributed to pre-flight security procedures. The Authority's CEO, Pinni Schiff, admitted he could not say how the would-be hijacker had spirited a penknife aboard the flight. He said an answer was to be expected from the Turkish security interrogation of Fukra, who was taken into custody at Ataturk international airport when the threatened El Al flight landed Sunday night, with 170 safe but very frightened passengers and crew.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report November 16, 2002
Seventeen Israelis have died in two major Palestinian acts of terror in the last six days, confronting Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon's fresh top team with their first stiff challenge. The men who will have to come up with answers are defense minister Shaul Mofaz, foreign minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Mofaz's successor as chief of staff, Lt. General Moshe Yaalon. Sunday, November 10, Palestinian gunmen shot five Israelis in cold blood, including a mother and two small sons, at Kibbutz Metzer inside Israel. In response, Israeli forces stormed into two northern West Bank Palestinian cities, Tulkarm and Nablus, for what were described officially as "toothcomb" operations to uproot terrorists in their lairs. This momentum was brutally interrupted on Friday night, November 15, by a meticulously planned, surprise Palestinian assault on Jewish worshippers making their way home to the Hebron suburb of Kiryat Arba from prayers at the Cave of the Patriarchs.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report November 11, 2002
The terrorists Yasser Arafat's Fatah admitted sending to Kibbutz Metzer on the Israel-West Bank border carried out their killing rampage on Sunday, November 10, concurrently with the Fatah-Hamas conference taking place in Cairo under the European Union's aegis.
Far from being mutually contradictory, the two events fit neatly together.
Sunday night, two or more Palestinians burst into an avowedly pacifist rural kibbutz, shot dead its secretary Yitzhak Dori, 44, and a visitor from Moshav Eliachin, Tirza Damari, 42. They then burst into a home and murdered Revital Ochayon and the two small sons, Matan 5 and Noam, 4, she sheltered with her body, before disappearing into the night. They struck hours after the Israeli military pullback from the Palestinian city of Jenin.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report November 6, 2002
Egypt, with quiet American encouragement, is engaged in a complicated diplomatic maneuver to persuade the Hamas to halt its suicide-murder attacks on Israelis by setting up meetings in Cairo between PLO representatives and the Damascus-based leaders of the Hamas: Khaled Mash'al and Abu Marzuk. This initiative comes from officials in the US State Department and European Union, led by Colin Powell and Javier Solana.
debkafile's political analysts note that both these officials cling against all odds to their dream of persuading Yasser Arafat to one day give up terror. Their latest ploy addresses the Islamic extremes of the Palestinian movement, the Hamas and the Jihad Islami, the idea being that if they are induced to stop their suicidal terror practices, the Tanzim and al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades run by Arafat's Fatah will follow suit.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 24, 2002
debkafile's readers were not taken aback by the Israeli Shin Beit's (Security Service) disclosure on September 23 that it had custody of a three-man Palestinian cell from Ramallah who trained in Iraq with Iraqi instructors in the execution of strikes against Israeli targets - in the company of al Qaeda terrorists.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 11, 2002
The members of the Palestinian Legislative Assembly ought to have remembered when they set about forcing a showdown with Yasser Arafat that he relishes the challenge of turning setbacks into victories. Just before the hitherto tame lawmakers forced a vote of no confidence in his 21-man cabinet Wednesday, September 11, he instructed the ministers to resign, thereby sidestepping the vote and defeating its purpose. The largely corrupt and inefficient cabinet stays on as a caretaker until a general election, exactly as he wanted. In another maneuver to blunt the opposition, Arafat fixed January 20 as election day. He has no more intention of letting a free election go forward than he has of appointing a new government in two weeks, which he also pledged.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 2, 2002
In a pivotal through unannounced development last week, 300 troops of the Jordanian Army's Palestinian Al Bader Brigade crossed the Allenby Bridge into the West Bank as the harbingers of the US program for displacing the Palestinian Authority's terror-tainted security force operated by Yasser Arafat. According to debkafile's military and Palestinian sources, within 24 hours of its arrival, the vanguard Jordanian force took charge of security in the Bethlehem-Beit Jala-Beit Sahur area abutting south Jerusalem, deferring directly to the new Palestinian interior minister Gen. Abdel Razzek Yahya and collaborating with US CIA and Israeli liaison officers.