A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending May 29, 2008

Israeli soldier wounded, 5 Palestinian gunmen killed assaulting Gaza border


23 May: An Israeli soldier was injured by Palestinian anti-tank fire on armored military vehicles operating in southern Gaza Friday, May 23. Hamas gunmen also attacked an Israeli patrol at Kissufim. At least two gunmen were killed in the return fire. Two more were killed laying bomb charges in the same sector.

Israeli soldiers drove off a fourth armed band approaching the Sufa crossing with anti-tank rockets.

Thursday, Israeli soldiers used riot control measures to break up a Gaza mob sent by Hamas to smash through the border fence at the Karni crossing. One Palestinian was killed and 17 wounded in the clash. It followed a Palestinian attempt to send a suicide-drive truck loaded with 4.5 tons of explosives through the Erez crossing into Israel. The truck exploded on the Gaza side of the border causing extensive damage but no casualties. This crossing serves Palestinians entering Israel for hospital care.


Why Israel-Syrian positions are deemed unbridgeable


24 May: Whereas Israeli prime minister claims his goal in initiating indirect peace talks with Syria is to disengage the Assad regime from Tehran and its sponsorship of terror, Damascus declares the return of the Golan, a rocky plateau 1,250 square kilometers in area, overlooking the Sea of Galilee, is non-negotiable.

Saturday, May 24, three days after Israel and Syria announced that peace talks had begun through Turkey’s good offices, Syria’s defense minister Hassan Turkmani went to Tehran to strengthen his government’s military and defense ties with Iran.

Opposite the hard line from Damascus, two-thirds of an Israeli crosscut segment polled this week, were against ceding Golan to Syria, as a strategic asset beyond price.


Serious falling-out with Washington over Olmert’s Syria talks


24 May: debkafile‘s Washington sources report the Bush administration is “reassessing” its relations with Jerusalem over Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert’s decision to embark on peace talks with Syria through Turkish mediators. One US official called the move a “slap in the face.” Sources in Jerusalem fear Israel may forfeit some of the benefits afforded America’s closest regional ally – direct dialogue with the White House, intelligence-sharing, diplomatic coordination on Middle East strategy, while Israel’s defense establishment and military high command are concerned about possible delays in the flow of essential supplies of equipment.

The Americans were particularly displeased by the identity of the Syrian negotiators: Riyad Dadawi, legal adviser to the foreign ministry and president Bashar Assad’s strategist for the UN-sponsored probe of the 2005 murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri; and the colonel who liaises for the Syrian army with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and the Lebanese Hizballah terrorists.


Hamas may receive lethal Iran-made EFP roadside bombs


25 May: Shin Bet director Yuval Diskin reported to Israel’s weekly cabinet meeting Sunday, May 25, on Hamas’ rapidly expanding arsenal. He said it is only a question of time before Palestinian rockets from Gaza fly past Ashkelon to Israel’s main port of Ashdod, 25 km south of Tel Aviv and the town of Kiryat Gat, 30 km further south. Hamas, in Diskin’s view, is steadily building up its war stocks and unlikely to accept a ceasefire.

Ashdod, which handles most of Israel’s marine cargoes, has a population of 200,000, Kiryat Gat 50,000.

debkafile‘s military sources report that Hamas’ Damascus leader, Khaled Meshaal, secretly met the Revolutionary Guards commander, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, during a visit to Tehran Saturday, May 24, and was promised a supply of explosively-formed penetrators (EFPs) for Hamas in Gaza.The EFPs accounted for 5 percent of American combat casualties in Iraq until US armored vehicles were fitted with extra side armor. Remotely controlled by radio, these bombs will enable Hamas to blow up Israeli armored vehicles from inside the Gaza Strip.

Internal security minister Avi Dichter described the mechanism whereby the Israeli taxpayer indirectly bankrolls Hamas. The Israeli government last year transferred more than $1 billion to the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. The funds covered the PA’s public sector payroll, which expanded this year from 160,000 to 200,000 earners and included a massive transfer to the Gaza Strip to pay 70,000 administrative workers, most of them members of Hamas.


Gen. Michel Suleiman elected Lebanese president: One up for Tehran and Damascus


25 May: The vote Sunday, May 25, was 118 for and 6 abstentions.

debkafile‘s Middle East analysts report: Hizballah, which the Doha Accord declined to disarm, becomes the dominant military force in the country. The bases and weapons systems of Lebanon’s army, air force and navy will eventually pass into Hizballah’s hands, in keeping with the Iranian model, whereby the Revolutionary Guards Corps rules the roost in the land rather than the army.

This pattern of a dominant armed force subservient to the clerical establishment rather than the government is one of the dictates of a Shiite regime. To all intents and purposes, the Hizballah five-day coup sets Lebanon on the road to this outcome in Beirut.

Lebanon’s non-Shiite communities – Sunni, Druze and Christian – because their factional militias did not stand up to Hizballah, will have to watch their power and national leverage shrink. An exodus is expected to quickly gain ground.

Lebanon under the Suleiman presidency threatens to become the most anti-Israel administration in the Arab world. The new Beirut will find much in common with the Palestinian Hamas and openly reinforce the solid support quietly provided by Hizballah.


American financier testifies to giving PM Olmert $150,000 from 1991 to 2005


27 May: Long Island financier Morris Talansky, the chief prosecution witness in the case against prime minister Ehud Olmert, described how he handed sums amounting to $150,000 to the suspect in cash or personal credit card, when checks were refused.

The financier testified seven hours at the Jerusalem district court in a pre-trial hearing Tuesday, May 27.

The prosecutor general presented documents showing that Talansky acted as a guarantor for a $300,000 debt incurred by an association which ran Olmert for election as mayor of Jerusalem.

Talansky stated firmly that, except in one case, the moneys were not requested for campaign funding – the period covers Olmert’s terms as mayor of Jerusalem and cabinet minister – but to finance his visits to America. The witness did not ask for receipts because he considered he was giving charity. He said he paid for the prime minister’s first-class and business class flights, plush hotel suites, room service, lavish entertaining and an Italian holiday. He testified to Olmert’s taste for expensive cigars, watches and fountain pens.

The American businessman said his generosity to Olmert derived from his love of Israel and Jerusalem and not personal gain. He will return to Israel to face cross-examination by the defense in July.


First documentary evidence Iran is into nuclear explosives, uranium processing and missile warhead design


27 May: The International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna based its damning new findings partly on 18 intelligence documents and now accuses Tehran of willful lack of cooperation. Iran dismissed the documents as forged or fabricated.

debkafile reports that the documents came from materials contained in a laptop stolen from one of the heads of Iran’s nuclear program in Tehran in late 2006 by Iranian dissidents. It was passed to the CIA. Despite this evidence of an ongoing nuclear weapons program, sixteen US intelligence agencies, including the CIA, combined last year to announce this program was suspended in 2003.

Even the nuclear watchdog’s director Mohammed ElBaradei, who often meets the Iranians halfway, has concluded that Iran’s nuclear activities are of “serious concern” and require “substantial explanations.” which Tehran has refused to offer.


Hizballah moves missiles into South Lebanon in breach of ceasefire


27 May: Israeli military intelligence research director, Brig. Gen.Yossi Baidatz, disclosed to a Knesset panel Monday that missiles continue to stream across the Syrian border for Hizballah and are being deployed in southern Lebanon, below the Litani River. UNIFIL is letting this happen in breach of its Security Council mandate to prevent the recurrence of the 2006 Lebanon War threat to Israel.

debkafile‘s sources add that Israel’s proposal for a prisoner swap has been on the table for months: The two soldiers’ freedom in exchange for Samir Kuntar, the Lebanese terrorist who murdered members of the Nahariya Haran family and a policeman in 1979, four Hizballah captives, an Israeli Arab caught spying for the Shiite group and the bodies of 10 Lebanese buried in Israel. The sticking point is Hizballah’s insistence on the inclusion of Palestinian prisoners in the swap, which Israel refuses.


British University-College lecturers urged to boycott Israel


28 May: The UCU meeting in Manchester, northern England, decided to boycott Israeli academic institutions – without admitting it.

Members were urged to “reflect on whether it is appropriate to maintain their links with Israeli institutions” in the light of “the humanitarian catastrophe imposed on Gaza by Israel.”

Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg cancelled plans to visit England in protest of the measure. The Israeli ambassador Ron Prosor denounced the move as counter to academic principles. Around 30 delegates of the 250 attending the union’s annual congress opposed the motion, which passes to the national executive committee for approval.


FM Tzipi Livni calls for Kadima party to prepare for early elections


29 May: debkafile reports coalition parties Labor and Shas and the opposition Likud are gearing up for a general election in November 2008 or January 2009 at latest. Kadima is in dire straits over the case building up against prime minister Ehud Olmert’s corrupt acceptance of large sums of cash from an American businessman and his refusal to step down for the police investigation.

Assuming that its leader Olmert’s days are numbered, the party faces a leadership primary ahead of an early poll. Foreign minister Tzipi Livni, 50, and transport minister Shaul Mofaz, 60, are the leading contenders, although at least two other ministers have thrown their hats in the ring.

Breaking her much criticized silence over the Olmert scandal Thursday, May 29, Livni spoke strongly in favor of a primary to choose the party’s next leader and candidate for prime minister in order to give the ordinary citizen a faith-restoring role in choosing national leaders.

Kadima must demonstrate that it rejects the premise that politics is a dirty word and corruption the norm in Israeli politics.

Tuesday, Ehud Barak called for the prime minister to withdraw or, alternatively, his party must call an election.

The Attorney General Thursday instructed the prosecution to complete their case with all possible speed to end the intolerable situation of a cloud of suspicion hanging over a serving prime minister.

debkafile‘s political sources note that the prosecution and police investigation of the case against the prime minister has turned up more of the prime minister’s past funding sources in addition to the businessman Talanaksy. The case against him is therefore far from complete.

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