A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending March 12, 2009

Palestinian PM Fayyad's Exit Ushers in Hamas' West Bank takeover


7 March: By submitting his resignation as Palestinian prime minister Saturday, March 7, the pro-American Salam Fayyad removes a major roadblock to a power-sharing accord between the extremist Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, and Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah, which governs the West Bank.

This accord would open the door to Hamas domination of the West Bank in the same way as the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamists threw the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority out of Gaza two years ago.

Fayyad's resignation, three days after US secretary of state Hillary Clinton's talks with him and Abbas in Ramallah, is a serious blow to America prestige and one up for Iran and its Palestinian proxy.

If Israel had toppled the Hamas regime in Gaza and not held back, the Palestinian power-sharing deal would have continued to stutter along and the radical fundamentalists continue to be denied a foothold on the West Bank.


Washington experts: Iran possesses fissile material for 50 nuclear bombs


8 March. On March 4, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy disclosed:

1. Iran has enough fissile material available for up to 50 nuclear bombs and can go from low enriched uranium to weapons-grade uranium in a year or so.

2. Israel will face the moment of no-return for action against a nuclear-armed Iran when Russia begins delivering sophisticated S-300 missile interceptors to Tehran

Israel's current leaders, while evading action to curb a nuclear-armed Iran, now go about saying that the Jewish state can live in its shadow. They argue that Israel is not the Islamic Republic's primary objective but the subjugation of the Sunni Muslim world. They also maintain that Tehran will not go into production of single bombs but wait until it can produce batches of 10-15 bombs or nuclear warheads.

This proposition was knocked over by the Washington think tank's report and the briefing delivered to the Israeli cabinet by Israel's intelligence chief, Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin, Sunday, March 8.


Israeli military intelligence chief: Iran has crossed technological threshold in drive for nuclear bomb


08 March. Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin, head of Israeli military intelligence AMAN, confirmed at Sunday, March 8, that Iran had crossed the technological threshold to a nuclear bomb capability and could decide at any time to go into production.

The Israeli intelligence chief said Iran continues to accumulate hundreds of kilos of low-grade enriched uranium and is buying time with diplomacy with the West for consummating its military nuclear program. Yadlin's evaluation matched that of Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the US Chiefs of Staff, who said last week: “Iran likely has enough nuclear fuel stockpiled to make a bomb.”

He warned that the Palestinian unity talks resuming in Cairo Tuesday, March 10, were a vehicle for Hamas to break out of international isolation.


Saudi-Egyptian-Syrian summit in Riyadh Wednesday – first Obama ME breakthrough


09 March. The Riyadh summit of the rulers of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria and Kuwait March 11may be the Obama administration's first Middle East breakthrough. It is seen in Washington as ushering in the parting of the ways between Syria and Iran as a result of US diplomatic overtures to Damascus.

From the regional perspective, it is meant to signal Syrian ruler Bashar Assad's reacceptance by the moderate Arab camp. The Saudi King Abdullah and Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak hope their meeting with Assad Wednesday will starting isolating Iran in the region and knock over the power bases it has built up in such places as the Gaza Strip.

They are optimistic because Saturday, March 7 Hamas began commandeering the mosques and charities owned by Jihad Islami, the Palestinian terrorist militia created and funded by Tehran. Official circles in Washington, Cairo and Riyadh read this crackdown as evidence that Damascus is willing to begin wresting the control of Palestinian radical organizations from Iran.

The partners cannot tell how far Assad is ready to move against Iran or even sure if he is not perpetrating a sting operation in collusion with Tehran.


Israeli Passover travelers face kidnap or terror hazards in 30 countries


09 March. The anti-terror center in Jerusalem has published a list of countries which Israelis planning Passover trips next month are cautioned to avoid for fear of kidnap or terrorist attack. The list is topped by Egyptian Sinai, a favorite Israeli haunt, where this year trippers could face abduction to the Gaza Strip. The countries Israelis (with foreign passports) are advised to leave forthwith are Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Lebanon, Somalia, Yemen, Iran and Afghanistan. They are also warned to avoid Algeria, Djibouti, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Pakistan. Also listed dangerous are Kuwait, the United Emirates, Tunisia, Qatar, Morocco, Bahrain, Egypt and Jordan.

Unless urgent, Israelis should postpone journeys to Libya, Oman, Bangladesh, Kenya, Nigeria, Tajikistan and Mauritania. Those visiting Columbia should maintain a low profile.

This is the first time the Israeli anti-terror center has marked as many as 30 countries as hazardous for Israeli travel.


Egyptians turn away far-left UK MPGalloway's convoy but let him into Gaza through Rafah


09 March. The aid-for-Gaza convoy from London led by far-left British lawmaker George Galloway started out on the wrong foot in mid-February, when three activists were arrested by British police on suspicion of planning terrorist attacks overseas. Sunday, March 8, it was stranded at the northern Sinai town of El-Arish by 1,000 Egyptian police who refused to grant them entry to Gaza. Clashes left 24 members of his pro-Palestinian group injured. Monday, the Egyptians finally gave the fiercely anti-Israeli British MP permission to enter Gaza through Rafah, but sent his “Viva Palestina” convoy of 12 ambulances, a fire engine, and $1.4 million dollars, to try and enter Gaza through the Israeli crossing at Nitzana.


Bank of Israel stimulus plan focuses on falling job market


10 March. The central bank governor, Stanley Fischer, recommended a very modest $1 bn budget deficit (6 percent) as first aid for Israel's deepening recession. His plan would spread the extra outlay on stimulating the job market and exports and investing in new infrastructure projects.

Estimating that unemployment will rise to 8 percent this year in all fields, Fischer proposes raising unemployment benefits and extending the period of entitlement. He favors introducing negative income tax and postponing tax cuts and pay rises in the public sector. The governor forecasts negative growth of minus 1.5 percent this year, a first-time shrinkage of the Israeli economy, and a 15 percent slump in exports.

The incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday he could not save every lost job but would focus on turning the economy round to curtail layoffs.


Netanyahu may settle for interim narrow coalition until early election


12 March. Having failed to draw Kadima and Labor into a unity government, debkafile's political sources report Israel's prime minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu may settle for a provisional administration serving six months before calling another early election.

Loth to rest his government's stability on right-wing and religious parties (61 out of 120 Knesset members), Netanyahu prefers to take his chances on a new election. But he wants the extra six months because he expects Israel to be embroiled in a major military confrontation in the next few months with Iran, Hamas or Hizballah – or all three at once – a compelling scenario for a national emergency government against which Kadima and Labor will find it hard to hold out.

With this eventuality in mind, the Likud leader is keeping the senior portfolios of security, treasury and justice open for those two parties or deposited with Likud ministers who will step aside and make way for them in an emergency.

His offer of the foreign ministry to Israel Beteinu's controversial leader Avigdor Lieberman is not yet signed. But if the ongoing police probe into his financial affairs culminates in an indictment, Lieberman will have to withdraw, leaving his party to support the government. His exit will ease the path of Kadima and Labor into Netanyahu's government.

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