A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending May 17, 2007

The plan to link Jordan and West Bank was presented to Israel and Palestinians last week by a high-ranking Jordanian emissary


 


11 May: Our Middle East sources reveal exclusively: Amman proposes a new state framework linking Jordan and the Palestinian Authority to be established before the rise of an independent Palestinian state. Amman is not thinking in terms of confederation or the West Bank’s reversion to annexed Hashemite territory, the status it held before Jordan’s 1967 war defeat.


Former Jordanian prime minister Abdul Salem Majali, who led the negotiations which culminated in the 1994 peace accord with Israel, presented the outline to Israeli and Palestinian leaders. It also calls for Jordanians to be part of the Palestinian team holding final-status negotiations with Israel. Amman is acting out of concern for the shaky Palestinian Authority, but debkafile notes that the framework could draw Israeli into backdoor recognition of Hamas’s role in Palestinian government.


Egypt and Saudi Arabia are not in favor of these links. Cairo suspects that if the arrangement works on the West Bank, the Jordanians will want to scoop up the Gaza Strip too. Riyadh is historically opposed to any enhancement of the Hashemite throne, a former rival.


Majali presented the plan in broad lines to a number of Israeli politicians – from the left-wing Meretz leader Yossi Beilin to the right-wing minister Avigdor Lieberman. It was gaining support among the heads of Jordan’s security services as a strategy for fortifying the kingdom against the shocks of the US troop withdrawal from Iraq, which would leave the kingdom exposed on two fronts: Iraq, where Amman expects the US military to start pulling out in late summer, and the West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority is on its last legs. Its breakdown would engulf the territory in the sort of chaos and violence which has swept the Gaza Strip.


King Abdullah is convinced that resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict is more urgent than ever. His plan aims: –


1. To delineate the relationship and define the political and security links between Jordan and the West Bank.


2. To forge a Jordanian-Palestinian consensus on the demands put to Israel in negotiations for a permanent solution of the conflict.


 


Gaza‘s Sinks Further into Iraq-style Badland, Yet Olmert Can’t Say No to Washington


 


13 May: Israel’s top military brass says Gaza today is in some respects more dangerous than South Lebanon, even though Hizballah has replenished its stocks of thousands of Katyusha rockets.


Since Israel’s 2005 evacuation of the Gaza Strip, the Palestinians have amassed enough missiles and rockets to fire several hundred a day and enhanced their range beyond Sderot to reach the important port and town of Ashkelon, the outskirts of Ashdod as well as Netivot and Ofakim. Yet Israel continues to hold back from destroying the hazardous stockpile.


This week, on the recommendation of Lt. Gen. Keith G. Dayton, US security coordinator, instructions from Washington reached Jerusalem forbidding Israel to carry out a major military operation in Gaza. Olmert’s concurrence infuriated and alarmed security and military establishments. debkafile‘s military sources report they say it is dangerous to delay any further their plans, which are based essentially on in-and-out incursions to pursue terrorists and missile-launchers, demolish war materiel stocks and infrastructure, and assassinate terrorist leaders.


 


debkafile reveals why Jordan’s Abdullah called off Ramallah trip at last minute


 


14 May: Sunday, May 13, the king called off his trip to meet Mahmoud Abbas on Amman’s plan to restore Jordan’s influence on the West Bank as the centerpiece of a new peace drive. Jordan’s Palestinian community was roused to fury by debkafile‘s exclusive and detailed disclosure of the plan on Friday, May 11. Ramallah too was seriously embarrassed.


The 3.5 million Palestinians of the Hashemite kingdom (more than half the total population of 6 million) suspect the plan to link Jordan to the West Bank is a device to get rid of them by relocating them in the future Palestinian state. The last thing Jordan’s Palestinians want is repatriation, although the “right of return,” is a central proviso of every Arab master plan for peace with Israel, including the Saudi blueprint of 2007.


To calm Palestinian tempers, prime minister Maaruf al-Bakhit promised early government recognition of their permanent residence rights in Jordan and ownership of land and their homes. Still up in arms, they asked Abbas to force King Abdullah to make a formal commitment to respect their rights of residence in… Jordan.


But Abbas, though reluctant to let the largest external Palestinian community down, could hardly make nonsense of the Arab consensual demand for Israel to grant “right of return” in any peace accord. Abdullah was also in a fix; he could not go back on an important diplomatic initiative solidly backed by Jordan’s security services. His only option was to avoid taking off for his date with Abbas by plucking a last-minute downpour of rain out of the blue skies..


 


A group of dozens of rabbis visited Temple Mount Sunday in a departure from the mainstream prohibition


 


14 May: There has been a rabbinical consensus hitherto behind the Halakha (religious law) prohibiting the entry of religious Jews to Temple Mount lest they tread on the place where the Holy of Holies in the Jewish Temples was situated. The rabbis visiting Temple Mount Sunday deviated from this ban, but took care to confine themselves to areas permitted by halakha.


 


Israel Plays Hi Tech War Game While Hizballah Seeks Tactical Gains by Throwing Rocks


 


14 May: It was a typical concatenation of Middle East contrasts. Monday, May 14, Israel launched a four-day war game at civilian and military command levels. The lead actors are Chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi, the General Staff, regional commanders as well as the prime minister and defense minister. The scenarios using computers, satellites and hi-tech communications are meant to simulate crisis management in the event of a full-scale war.


It will also impart the fundamentals of modern conflict management to PM Ehud Olmert and defense minister Amir Peretz, supplementing some of the shortcomings they displayed in the Lebanon war.


On the other side of Israel’s troubled northern border, Hizballah is carrying out a live exercise to chase the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon-UNIFIL peacekeepers away from the border region first, then from all parts of South Lebanon. The Lebanese militia places its trust in low-tech weaponry: Hizballah’s Hassan Nasrallah is employing hundreds of troops disguised as villagers and civilians of the militia’s reserve force to throw rocks at the UN peacekeepers patrolling areas under the UN Security Resolution 1701 of last August.


Saturday, May 12, the UNIFIL commander, Italian General Claudio Graziano, called a meeting of mayors of the Bin Jbeil region to express concern about incidents of stones being thrown at UN peacekeepers, but tried to keep his tone amicable.


Israel’s national command war game is geared primarily to withstanding an outbreak of hostilities with Iran or Syria, should either or both dispatch their long-range missiles against strategic targets and densely populated towns in Israel.


 


Iran begins to enrich uranium on a far larger scale after solving most technological problems


 


15 May: debkafile reports: Iran’s nuclear leap catches the Bush administration preparing to start pulling US troops out of Iraq and embarking on an ultra-sensitive dialogue with Iran. Washington says the talks with Tehran will be confined to the Iraq crisis. However, they are bound to range over other issues, such as Persian Gulf security, Lebanon and the Palestinians.


In advance of the IAEA report to the UN Security Council next Monday, May 21, a short-notice inspection found Iranian engineers to be using roughly 1,300 centrifuges and producing enough fuel suitable for nuclear reactors. Iranian scientists appear to have surmounted the technological roadblocks preventing their bringing the P2 centrifuges up to speed.


The energy agency’s director Mohammed ElBaradei said: “We believe they pretty much have the knowledge about how to enrich. From now on, it is simply a question of perfecting that knowledge.”


 


Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas calls off Gaza talks with Hamas PM Ismail Haniya as intense Hamas-Fatah battles leave anothert six dead


 


The fifth Palestinian truce broke down Thursday when a Hamas member was gunned down. Hamas claims Israel is coordinating its air raids over the Gaza Strip Thursday with Fatah’s military plans against the Islamist group.


Most of the 40 fighters killed in four days of battles belong to Fatah and the security services it dominates. All the previous truces have collapsed before they took effect. Wednesday, Hamas gunmen killed five of their own fighters by mistake when they hit a Fatah van carrying Hamas prisoners. Earlier, they killed five bodyguards barricaded in residence of Fatah leader Rashid Abu Shbak.


The chaos in Gaza led Hani al-Kawasmeh to throw up his hands Monday and resign as Palestinian minister of interior.


debkafile's Palestinian sources report that the streets are ruled by warring armed gangs over which the rival factions are losing control, leaving the Saudi-brokered Mecca reconciliation and Hamas-Fatah power-sharing accords in tatters.


 


Israel strikes back at Palestinian missile offensive with five air attacks on Hamas and Jihad Islami targets in Gaza. Fifteen Palestinians estimated killed


 


17 May: Hamas threatens to renew suicide attacks inside Israel.


The raids destroyed a Hamas military compound, installation and vehicle in Gaza City, hit two Jihad Islamic missile squads at Jebalya and Sufa. Israeli tanks took up “look-out” positions near Sedjaiya. Israeli broadcasts warned civilians to stay away from Palestinian missile-launching sites.


Six Hamas fighters killed, 30 injured in the toppled building, 2 more in vehicle. Jihad squad took casualties.


debkafile: The Hamas threat is serious. The Islamist group covertly maintains a sleeper network of suicide bombers on the West Bank awaiting call-up.


More than 30 missiles were fired Thursday, striking an empty school near Sderot, injuring two people, and setting a Moshav greenhouse and factory ablaze.


More than 80 missiles fired in three days have injured scores of Israelis, some seriously, and caused extensive damage.


The government Thursday began evacuating thousands of distressed citizens from Sderot to army holiday facilities. Hundreds have left with the help of private donors or under their own steam to escape the heaviest missile attack Sderot has sustained in seven years.


Schools and workplaces in Sderot and neighboring Shear Hanegev remain shut Thursday. MK Shay Hermesh, member of the ruling Kadima party, charged that of the 300 million shekels the prime minister pledged for bomb shelters and protected areas in Sderot, only IS 5 m was actually transferred.

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