A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending May 11, 2006

Olmert Plants Seeds of Discord in Government and Party


6 May: The one million-strong Russian community feels it has been used and swept aside by both senior partners of Ehud Olmert’s new government coalition which took office Thursday, May 4, in Jerusalem. The prime minister has omitted to place any ministers of Russian origin in his government, while Amir Peretz’s Labor placed no Russian immigrants in any realistic slot on its Knesset list.

Two days before his first cabinet meeting Sunday, May 7, the incoming prime minister put up the price of bread by seven percent. This was a slap in the face for his three new coalition partners, all of which, especially Shas, are committed to raising the living standards of the poor, for whom bread is a staple.

While omitting mention of his predecessor, Ariel Sharon, in his presentation speech, Olmert has taken at least one leaf out of the Sharon manual for would-be rulers: Use bombastic rhetoric and a show of vigorous authority to disguise inaction and incompetence. Sharon was fond of declaring loudly: “I have ordered the government to… (crack down on terrorists, fight crime, beef up the police force, reform education, fight poverty etc). None of those orders was executed.

The Sharon government’s most notable action was the controversial evacuation of the Gaza Strip in 2005. Olmert proposes a follow-up on the West Bank to “set Israel’s final borders” on the East. His critics question whether he is up to moving ten times the number of Israelis from West Bank homes as were evicted in Gaza. Drawing on another of his predecessor’s stratagems, Olmert is counting on shouting down domestic resistance by holding up the blessing of the White House when he meets President George W. Bush on May 23, and winning European endorsement in a subsequent tour. Neither is in the bag.


New focus on Iran prompts appointment of deputy Mossad chief Ilan Mizrahi, 56, as Israel’s next National Security Council chief


7 May: He replaces Giora Eiland who asked to be relieved of the post last year. debkafile‘s intelligence sources report the new appointee, an experienced field operative, is a world class authority on Iran and expert on Muslim and Arab affairs, although less conversant with Palestinian issues.

The NSC’s relocation from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem places a security-clandestine branch directly alongside the incoming prime minister. He acquires an ace in secret diplomacy should he wish to bypass defense minister Amir Peretz, foreign minister Tzipi Livni or his inner security cabinet, for discreet exchanges with Washington, foreign intelligence chiefs, or key Arab officials. Father of three, the prime minister’s new national security adviser spent four years as deputy Mossad chief. He has a master’s degree in Oriental Studies.


Shin Beit: Fatah-Al Aqsa Brigades prepares large-scale strike against Israel


8 May: debkafile reports PM Olmert and defense minister Peretz were handed this urgent warning Sunday. It was based on a new decision by al Aqsa West Bank chiefs to mount a large-scale attack in an Israeli city to provoke massive Israeli military retaliation which would shake if not topple the Hamas government.

It would also be the incoming Israeli defense minister’s first test. Security circles criticize one of his first decisions after taking office Sunday, May 7, to permit 13,000 Gaza Strip workers to enter Israel for jobs. They fear Palestinian terrorists will take advantage of the eased restrictions to gain entry to Israel.


The “cash-strapped” Palestinian Fatah and Hamas spend big for their coming showdown


8 May: While deep in long, fruitless talks with Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya, Palestinian Authority chairman Abu Mazen over the weekend issued secret directives for mobilizing recruits to his private army and the release of cash from the “Arafat Fund” to pay their wages.

Abu Mazen controls the Arafat Fund, whose capital is estimated $2 billion – certainly enough to cover the public sector payroll and ease humanitarian distress in the Palestinian territories. Instead, his Fatah released $25,000 to each of the 15 or 16 terrorist groups under its aegis. Hamas correspondingly distributed to each member of its armed Ezz e-Din al-Qassam force a large food package plus INS250.

Hamas leaders threaten that should it be toppled or starved out of office, they will launch a “super-intifada” against Israel in the first stage and across the entire Middle East in the next stage, implying its ability to harness fraternal wings of the Muslim Brotherhood.


Palestinian Hamas and Fatah-Al Aqsa Brigades spend hundreds of millions on… guns


8 May: While Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert was busy presenting his new government, debkafile‘s military sources reveal Hamas executed the biggest arms transaction in its history – a $250,000 cash deal with Sinai arms smugglers.

The new items include 1,000 Kalashnikov automatic submachine guns, 500 Italian-made Beretta pistols and a large supply of ammo. The crates were slipped through from Sinai to the Gaza Strip Saturday night, May 6, without interference by Egyptian border security guards.

The terrorist arm of Abu Mazan’s Fatah is another good customer of the Sinai smuggling gangs. In the last ten days, al Aqsa Brigades and Hamas buyers have been competing for massive purchases of explosives, ammunition and weapons.The competition has sparked battles between the two groups to commandeer space in the gunrunning tunnels that snake under the former Philadelphi border strip between Egyptian Sinai and Gaza.


Olmert government faces first revolt and first no confidence motion over bread hike


8 May: The revolt has forced the government to postpone from Monday to Wednesday the first reading of the long-delayed passage of the 2006 state budget.

Monday too, the opposition Israel Beitenu tabled no confidence in the government over its partial unilateral withdrawal plan from the West Bank “for no return.”

Regarding the budget-cum-bread controversy, the prime minister’s Kadima and Labor agreed last week to let the first reading of the budget drafted by the former government go through and reserve the changes reflecting new coalition agreements and perks for the third and final readings.

This arrangement was ditched at the last minute Monday when coalition and opposition factions demanded time to study the budget bill first.

On related issues, Kadima’s negotiations with Torah Judaism – to top up the government’s 67-member parliamentary base by 6 Knesset members – are advancing sluggishly. The ultra-religious party insists on restoring family allowances slashed by the previous government and wants a state religious authority created in place of the dissolved ministry for religious affairs.

The Olmert government makes its debut therefore on very shaky ground.


The US bows to European pressure, accepts “temporary mechanism” for aid to Palestinians


9 May: debkafile adds: This decision has bankrupted the Olmert-Livni strategy for isolating the Hamas-led Palestinian government.

Not a single Quartet foreign minister called the Palestinian leaders to account for diverting funds needed to feed the population to arming their terrorist organizations – Hamas and the Fatah-al Aqsas Brigades. Instead, the US, EU and Russian foreign ministers accepted the claim put before them by Saudi, Egyptian and Jordanian envoys, that the Palestinian people faces humanitarian disaster if international funds continue to be held back against Hamas’s renunciation of terror and recognition of Israel.

Despite the evidence from Jerusalem that the Palestinians are not short of medicines and essential foods, which Israel allows through to the Gaza Strip, the US surrendered to the majority Quartet view after EU foreign affairs executive Javier Solana’s declared with pathos: “We will not let the Palestinians starve.”


Cairo reports Egyptian forces kill suspected al Qaeda ringleader in Sinai


9 May: Monday, May 8, the Jerusalem Terror Warning Center cited “a critical kidnap threat” in Sinai and warned Israeli travelers to leave at once.

debkafile‘s counter-terror forces report the warning was issued after a concentrated Egyptian siege force failed to pull in the al Qaeda cell responsible for bombing attacks in Sinai – in Dahab and El Arish last month and in Taba and Sharm el-Sheikh in the last two years.

Tuesday, the Egyptians reported Nasser al-Malakhi was killed in a shootout in an olive grove near El Arish and an accomplice detained.


debkafile is the first to reveal contents of – not one but two – letters Iran’s Ahmadinejad has sent to President Bush


9 May: Neither of the letters Mahmoud Ahmadinejad mailed Sunday, May 7, to George W. Bush represents an olive branch – just the reverse: Their writer takes a high moral tone and emphasizes the importance of Islam to mankind and the world. Neither does the Iranian president deign to offer concessions to ease international concerns and the standoff on Iran’s nuclear program.

debkafile‘s sources in Tehran obtained the first drafts of two separate communications – only one of which Iranian proposes to release to the media.

Our Iranian experts comment that in sending personal letters to the US president, Ahmadinejad is trying to emulate the revolutionary founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. In 1987, Khomeini wrote the last Soviet ruler Mikhail Gorbachev a letter preaching him on how to react to the imminent downfall of the USSR and communist rule. The only resort left to Soviet rulers, said the Iranian revolutionary, was to embrace Islam and the solutions it offers.


Olmert beats back revolt; Israel’s 2006 state budget scrapes past its first Knesset reading


10 May: debkafile reports: On tenterhooks, the incoming prime minister promised the leaders of his Kadima’s three coalition partners to embody amendments on social issues, including “options” for bread price hikes, in the budget’s second reading.

To survive, the government must enact the state budget within less than 40 days. Olmert complained that only 50 coalition MKs out of 67 voted against the new government’s first no-confidence motion filed Wednesday by opposition party Israeli Beitenu against unilateral withdrawals from the West Bank.


Tehran opens a back door into Israel for its penetration-cum-terror agents: Sudan to the Negev


11 May: debkafile‘s intelligence sources reveal that amid heightened threats against Israel by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran Revolutionary Guards units and agents have been deployed in Khartoum. This is a major escalation of the clandestine Iranian threat to Egypt and Israel alike.

debkafile‘s security sources Sudanese infiltrators are caught cross into the southern Israeli Negev almost daily, shepherded by any of three local smuggling rings: the Palestinian gang headed by Jamal Samhadan, the Hamas government’s new appointee as commander of its security forces, Sudanese-Egyptian crime organizations and al Qaeda’s Sinai network.

All three are readily available to operate under the orders of the Iranian RG intelligence officers posted in Sudan.

An Israeli security source told debkafile that the current Egyptian-Israeli-Gazan border situation offers Iranian agents and terrorists mixed in among the Sudanese infiltrators an easy route into southern Israel. The RG agents are Arabic speakers, having acquired the language from their stint as military instructors with the Lebanese Hizballah.

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