A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending August 11, 2005

How Much Will Sharon Fork out for a Favorable Security Resolution?


6 August: Wednesday, August 10, Sharon was due to find out if his huge gamble in pushing ahead, through thick and thin, with Israel’s pull-out from the Gaza Strip and part of the northern West Bank, has come up trumps. The prize is a US-British-French initiative for a UN Security Council resolution declaring the Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip at an end. He is counting on this reward’s delivery as soon as he hands the territory to Palestinian sovereignty free of an Israeli presence and emerge powerful enough to pick and choose the party he leads in the next general election and be assured of a third term as prime minister.

According to debkafile‘s Washington sources, Sharon has an American promise in his pocket for this step. British premier Tony Blair agreed to go along with the initiative after the Sharon government permitted the British secret service MI6 to set up situation rooms in Gaza, Rafah, the Erez Gaza-Israel border terminal, Ramallah, Jenin, Tulkarm and Jericho. French president Jacques Chirac promised to join in during Sharon’s Paris visit last month.

Sharon’s gambit stands or falls depending on the Middle East Quartet’s economic coordinator for the Gaza Strip, James Wolfensohn, informing his principals – President George W. Bush, UN secretary Kofi Annan, Blair and Chirac – on the success of his mission to guarantee the economic future of the Gaza Strip and its land link to the West Bank. If he reports the Israeli prime minister is holding out, Sharon will have lost his gamble.

The prime minister has already paid a stiff price in concessions to make the coordinator’s task a success. He has foregone an Israeli presence at the Egypt-Gaza border crossings in favor of an international presence; cut to the bone Israeli inspections of traffic at the Gaza-Israel checkpoints; relegated to Egypt security control of the Philadelphi border strip and the smuggling routes from Sinai to the Gaza Strip, and given Egypt the license to deploy troops in northern Sinai. The Palestinians will be allowed to dig a deep water port in Gaza, at the expense of Israel’s naval control of the Mediterranean coast. Most significantly, the Palestinians will be granted a land corridor across Israel’s Negev for the passage of goods and people from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank. The Palestinians will receive these benefits without relinquishing terrorism.

But he is still holding out on one point: the right to search traffic transiting the Gaza-West Bank corridor across Israel for items or persons dangerous to Israeli security. Wolfensohn supports the Palestinian contention that this right would nullify Palestinian sovereignty over the Gaza Strip. But srael’s security chiefs, the Shin Beit’s Yuval Diskin and AMAN’s Maj-Gen. Aharon Zeevi, are dead against forfeiting this vital anti-terror measure.


Palestinian Gaza “ceasefire” commission breaks up


7 Aug. debkafile reports exclusively: Ten days before the Israel evacuation of the Gaza Strip begins, the Palestinian commission supposed to oversee the Gaza ceasefire is dissolved. This was Palestinian Authority Chairman Abu Mazen’s only channel of dialogue with the Hamas and Jihad Islami terrorist leaders and his only mechanism for trying to keep them in check.


Israeli’s finance minister Binyamin Netanyahu quits in protest against Gaza pullout


7 August: Netanyahu walked out of the cabinet meeting that approved the first three Gaza evacuations by 17 to five. He said he saw an Islamist terror base rising in the Gaza Strip as the first stage on its declared road to capturing Jerusalem and “liberating all Palestine.”

He accused “an automatic majority “in the government and Knesset of pushing ahead blindly with a process of retreat for which it had no popular mandate. The situation is deteriorating, he warned. Israel has agreed to abandon the Philadlephi border route and allow the Palestinians a seaport in Gaza that will admit more illegal arms ships like the Karine-A (which was intercepted at sea in 2001).

Five Likud ministers voted against the withdrawal from Netzarim, Morag and Kfar Darom due to begin in 10 days. The next batch will be approved in a week’s time.


Industry minister Ehud Olmert is named acting finance minister for three months after Netanyahu’s resignation sent TASA stocks tumbling 5%


7 August: Prime minister Sharon called Bank of Israel governor Stanley Fischer to assure him that the government’s economic policy will not change under a new finance minister. debkafile‘s financial analyst predicts uncertainty and some volatility in the coming days – especially if government instability leads to an early election.

debkafile‘s political analysts see finance minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s abrupt decision as stealing away their shared party, Likud.

The prime minister’s hold on government may prove more fragile than he thinks. There are already pressures to bring the date for an early election forward to the early months of 2006. Sharon’s bid for a third term as prime minister will no doubt be weakened by the final split in Likud and the finance minister’s open challenge to his leadership in party and country. This contest will come to the fore in the Likud primaries ahead of parliamentary elections.


Osama bin Laden Looks like He Is Heading for Iraq


8 Aug. Coded electronic signals bandied in recent days among al Qaeda Middle Eastern elements across secret Internet sites all carry the same message: the supreme leader, Osama bin Laden, has come out of hiding in Afghanistan and set out, or is about to set out, for Iraq. debkafile‘s exclusive counter-terror sources say some of the signals schedule his date of arrival as the second half of September when Ramadan is estimated to begin. It is planned to launch the biggest offensive his organization has ever mounted against the US army. The signals cap a secret exchange of messages in recent weeks in which al Qaeda’s Iraq commander Abu Musab al -Zarqawi attempted to persuade bin Laden to leave Afghanistan and take command of the Ramadan offensive in Iraq. Zarqawi argued the importance of his transferring from Afghanistan to Iraq on two grounds: to boost al Qaeda’s standing as it embarks on an “offensive whose scale and importance rival the September 2001 operation.” and in the interests of his own personal safety.

If bin Laden was indeed swayed by Zarqawi and aims to reach Iraq by mid-September, he has little time to lose and must already have set out on his winding secret journey, or be about to depart. One of his options would be the long way round through Pakistani and Iranian Baluchistan and across the border into Iraq.

But there is an alternative route from Pakistan which he might find easier. debkafile‘s counter-terror sources revealed last May that al Qaeda had established a new marine base in the remote Gawatar Bay, a Persian Gulf inlet down the middle of which runs the Pakistani-Iranian border.

The al Qaeda leader may choose to enter Iraq by sea rather than take the long, overland route, in which case his people will have arrived at Gawatar Bay and making preparations for his journey. He would have reason to believe it is safer. Intelligence of al Qaeda’s Baluchi sea smugglers has reached the American and British naval forces operating in the northern reaches of the Persian Gulf, the Shatt al Arb, Basra and the southern Iraqi oil terminals. Yet neither has been able to put a stop to the traffic.

Bin Laden has proved himself an undercover escape artist par excellence. In the five years since he escaped the Bora Bora siege, he and his party, including his close tribe, have managed to flit from place to place undetected – even when his pursuers were close and watching out for him.

If he does indeed make it to Iraq, the public airing of his presence in the Land of the Two Rivers, would have a radical impact on the nature of the Iraq conflict. No longer a mere guerrilla campaign, it would escalate to a full-scale fight to the finish against al Qaeda in Iraq, analogous to the all-out hostilities in Afghanistan.


Turkey arrests a key terrorist close to bin Laden for plot to blow up Israeli cruise ships


10 August: According to debkafile‘s exclusive counter-terrorist sources, Habib Akdas, head of the Turkish terrorist group IBDA-C, the Great Eastern Islamic Raiders Front, masterminded an al Qaeda plot to ram fast rubber dinghies loaded with explosives into several Israeli cruise vessels docking in southern Turkish ports last weekend. The cell he led also planned attacks on Jewish targets. The same IBDA-C group struck Jewish synagogues in Istanbul on November 15, 2003.

The Israel liners were diverted to Cyprus from their destination port of Antalya and Israelis warned to avoid that coast. Our sources add the link between the IBDA-C and al Qaeda goes back to 1998 when its former leader Mirzabeyoglu and his followers were sent to prison. Between 50 and 70 escaped the country, splitting up between Afghanistan, Chechnya, Greece, Bosnia and Germany. In the first two countries, the fugitives joined up with al Qaeda and fought with them. It was then that Habib Akdas joined Osama bin Laden’s inner circle. In Bosnia, they received terrorist training; in Greece they exploited old connections in Greek intelligence to secure assistance. In the 1980s, when tensions were running high between Athens and Ankara, Greek intelligence used IBDA-C members for forays into Turkey.

In Germany, the Turkish terrorists set up logistics and intelligence networks to support members operating in conjunction with al Qaeda.

From the late 1990s, therefore, far from the gaze of western counter-terror and Turkish security authorities, the IBDA-C and al Qaeda quietly built up one of the most dangerous undercover terrorist networks operating today in Europe.


Orient House is Reopened, Symbol of formal Palestinian Foothold in Jerusalem


10 August: “The Palestinians are about to fulfill a dream. Israel’s pullout from the Gaza Strip next week is but the preface to more withdrawals on the road to a Palestinian state with Jerusalem its capital.”

So said the chairman of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas Tuesday, August 9.

Without conceding a single point, giving anything in return, setting the Middle East road map in motion – or even starting to crack down on terrorists, the Palestinians will soon be granted:

1. The Gaza Strip rid of every last Jew and Israeli as their exclusive domain.

2. For the first time, they will share an open border with the largest Arab nation, Egypt.

3. A deepwater port over whose shipping traffic Israel will have no control.

4. A territorial link from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank.

There is no doubt that Abu Mazen has done a lot better than the late Arafat who never dreamed of fulfilling so many dreams. When he spoke of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem its capital, Abbas was not talking out of his hat.

Orient House, the symbol of Palestinian Authority sovereign rule in East Jerusalem, has quietly reopened for business for the first time in four years. In 2001, this symbol was demonstratively shut down on the orders of the first Sharon government. Now, the Palestinian leader has jumped the gun and set his brand on Jerusalem, the seat of the Israeli government, ahead of peace negotiations or any talks with Israel on the profoundly controversial Jerusalem issue.

debkafile‘s Palestinians sources reveal that the Palestinian Authority, on Abbas’ orders, has begun issuing communiques to the Palestinians of East Jerusalem. They appear under the letterhead of the Orient House, “the National Headquarters of the Palestinian people in Jerusalem.”

Abbas has just appointed a new Palestinian intelligence commander for the West Bank. He is Rashid Nafa, former chief of Palestinian special forces, instructing him to focus on Jerusalem. His orders are to stake out a presence in the city, and, second, to contain the “Judaization” of Jerusalem and its environs.

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