A Digest of the Week’s Exclusives

27 July: The speech delivered Friday night, July 26, by US ambassador John Negroponte at the UN Security Council in New York, drew little attention, surprisingly because it snapped Washington’s last ties to some critical historical conventions of the Middle East conflict.

Negroponte: “For any resolution to go forward, the United States – which has a veto in the 15-nation council – would want it to have the following four elements:

— An explicit condemnation of terrorism;

— A condemnation by name of the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, the Islamic Jihad and Hamas groups, groups that have claimed responsibility for suicide attacks on Israel;

— An appeal to all parties for a political settlement of the crisis;

— A demand for improvement of the security situation as a condition for any call for a withdrawal of Israeli armed forces to positions they held before the September 2000 start of a Palestinian uprising in which 1,467 Palestinians and 564 Israelis have died.

Just hours before the council session, Friday afternoon, Palestinian gunmen killed from ambush four Israelis driving on a road south of Hebron.

The “Al Aqsa Intifada” Yasser Arafat declared in September 2000 is denied acceptance as the uprising of an oppressed people against a brutal occupier; it is branded as a war of terror, which Israel has every right to combat and defeat.

DEBKAfile‘s Washington and Middle East sources examine the motives behind this dramatic departure.

A. The US relies on Israel as a rear base in its approaching assault on Iraq – ranging from air bases at its disposal to military stores and medical facilities, including hospitals for the swift intake of casualties from the front. Israeli military’s iron grip on terrorist strongholds in Palestinian towns is important for holding Palestinian terror in check and keeping West Bank road links and US military installations safe from terrorists.

B. The Lebanese Hizballah also threatens US forces from the rear. Their three fortified lines running from the Mediterranean in the west to Mt. Hermon in the east, parallel to the Lebanese-Israeli frontier, bristling with 10,000 missiles and rockets, can be turned not only against Israel but also against US Mediterranean warships and carriers, preventing them from approaching the Lebanese coast and bringing northern Iraqi military targets on the Syrian border within range.

The Hizballah may well “heat up” the Lebanese-Israeli border in solidarity with Yasser Arafat’s legions of terror, thereby provoking a powerful Israeli military reaction, most likely directed at wiping out Hizballah training bases and command posts in Lebanon and destroying its triple-tier fortifications and missile batteries. Israel may go so far as to demolish Syria’s strategic infrastructure that supports the Hizballah.

If the American war effort counts on Palestinian terrorism being held on a tight leash it requires the Hizballah military resources to be rooted out.

C. The American UN stand was a putdown for the European Union and its efforts to whitewash Palestinian terrorist groups and wean them away from suicide tactics to save them from being eclipsed in the American overhaul plan for the Palestinian administration (detailed in the three-part series DEBKAfile ran last week). Washington resents the futile efforts made by EU foreign affairs executive, Javier Solana, through his representatives in Palestinian areas, to induce the Palestinian Fatah-Tanzim, the Hamas and the Jihad Islami to publicly adopt a truce in their suicide attacks on Israelis as an impediment to its own program for revamping the Palestinian administration without making concessions to terrorists.

1. Sunday, July 28, Israel is transferring its first down payment of NS.70 million (roughly $15 million) of frozen tax receipts due to the Palestinians directly to the new Palestinian finance minister Salam Fayyad – both for urgent humanitarian needs and to help the Washington-approved minister create a US-Palestinian-Israel mechanism for keeping track of incoming funds.

2. On Tuesday, July 23, he sent an important letter to Arafat’s Ramallah office demanding ledgers, bills, receipts and other documentation pertaining to his office’s financial activities.

30 July: On July 29, Yasser Arafat posed with Rev. Jesse Jackson in Ramallah before cameras and roundly condemned “suicide terrorism”. Within hours he was venting his real feelings for Americans of any stripe with a series of contemptuous actions – all aimed at undermining the credibility of the US-sponsored reform program for cleansing the Palestinian administration of terrorist and corrupt elements.

First, he ordered his Fatah to launch a fresh wave of terrorist attacks – three in 12 hours:

Tuesday morning, July 30, masked Fatah terrorists waylaid and shot at close quarters two Israelis who drove a fuel truck into the Palestinian village of Jama’in south of Nablus; before dawn, a terrorist armed with two knives attacked a sleeping couple in Itamar, south of Nablus. The couple were injured but survived by fighting back and stabbing their assailant to death. Later that morning, a suicide bomber entered a falafel kiosk on Jerusalem’s Haneviim Street and blew up a bomb he carried in his knapsack, injuring five passers-by.

Second, he arbitrarily swept aside the police and security appointments made by the new Palestinian interior minister Gen. Abdel Razek Yahya, claiming they were unauthorized, and reinstated seven security officers the new man fired because of their records in orchestrating suicide campaigns. Arafat’s move left the pro-American interior minister humiliated and stripped of powers for setting up the single security force mandated in the reform program to replace the dozen forces dedicated to Arafat and his terrorist assaults.

Yahya responded by leaving for Amman to join his family an dropping out of the Palestinian delegation invited to meet secretary of state Colin Powell next week. Washington thereupon called off the delegation.

Third, Arafat refused to accept Egyptian and Jordanian instructors to train the new security force’s men, under the training program approved by the US and EU.

Fourth, Arafat pointedly humiliated the second pro-American, reform minister, Salam Fayyad, who was named to the Palestinian finance portfolio. Monday, July 29, when Arafat received the EU Middle East envoy Miguel Moratinos in Ramallah, he was attended demonstratively – not by the new minister but by his own appointee, Maher al-Masri – his reply to Fayyad’s request for a financial accounting of the Palestinian Authority Chairman’s office.

European leaders are still loath to stigmatize the men orchestrating terror against Israel. Moratinos did not take amiss Arafat’s anti-reform gesture, while French President Jacques Chirac turned aside a request by Israeli foreign minister Shimon Peres for the EU to place the Hizballah on its list of terrorist organizations, considering the danger that the group’s provocations could destabilize the entire region.

Tuesday, July 30, Shin Beth Director Avi Director submitted to the Knesset foreign affairs and defense committee a grim summing up of the 22 months of Arafat’s violent campaign of terror; it has cost the lives of 585 Israelis and 1,547 Palestinians, many slain in the 139 suicide murders and massacres, of which Hamas was responsible for 51, Arafat’s Fatah for 42, Jihad Islami for 31 (5 in collusion with Fatah) and the PFLP for 5. Israeli military incursions into Palestinian towns on the West Bank since April have thwarted an additional 138 potential suicide murders.

31 July: The difficulty of identifying the seven victims killed and more than 76 injured was complicated by the severe nature of their wounds and the fact that many were foreign nationals who were rushed to hospital unconscious. Some of the critically wounded underwent emergency surgery before regaining consciousness.

Most suffered from severe burns and internal injuries caused by blast as well as flying shrapnel, glass and debris. The first overseas students identified among the injured were from the United States, Turkey, Japan, South Korea and Italy, on summer courses at the Hebrew University Overseas Students Institute on Mount Scopus, Jerusalem, or new immigrants taking pre-graduate courses. The Israeli students, some Arab, were there for exams. (Of the Hebrew University’s 23,000 students, 5,000 are Arab.)

The Mount Scopus campus, with its idyllic, leafy nooks and stunning panoramic view of historic Jerusalem, is ringed round with a perimeter fence, its gates manned by armed guards. But, as students have often complained, any determined trespasser can find his way in. The Palestinian bomber who blasted the Frank Sinatra Cafeteria could have climbed the low fence dividing the campus from the Jerusalem Arab village of Issawiyeh, slipped through the National Botanical Garden, or thrown his bomb-laden bag over a fence and strolled empty-handed past the security guards at one of the gates. It is easy to reach the first elevator from the parking lot or the bus stop.

The Hamas in Gaza proudly claimed responsibility for this massacre. In English, Sheikh Rantissi declared the strikes would continue until Israeli occupation ends. In Arabic, he put it differently: “…until the Jews are thrown out of this land.” The Palestinian cabinet headed by Yasser Arafat, with Rev. Jesse Jackson at his side, condemned the Mount Scopus attack on the grounds that it is “harmful to the Palestinian cause”.

Earlier in the day, Jackson was on his way to call on the Hamas leader Sheikh Yasin in Gaza City. When he heard of the terrorist strike, he turned round and returned to Ramallah, where he rejoined Arafat.

The form of this atrocity also makes a mockery, whether by accident or design, of the deterrent measures against suicide bombers approved at Israel’s security cabinet on the same morning. Their relatives, whose complicity can be proved, will be deported to the Gaza Strip, their homes blown up and, in the case of Israeli Arabs, their property impounded.

However, the cafeteria bombing was not carried out by a suicide bomber. It was the work of a terrorist who slipped away after depositing his deadly device, free to spread more murder and bloodshed without his relatives incurring punishment. In this case, the new deterrent package is left without an object.

The steady rise of Israel’s death toll and the insidious integration of terror into the fabric of Israeli life demonstrate starkly that there is no watertight defense against terrorists and that no deterrents can avail. The Sharon government will eventually have to come to grips with the long-deferred assault on the Hamas strongholds in the Gaza Strip, and then deal with the men at the top of the pyramid of Palestinian terror, by meeting the rising demand to put Arafat and company on a plane to anywhere else.

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