28 September: Ehud Barak, who led the Israeli government when Arafat launched his al Aqsa confrontation two years ago, initiated the doctrine of keeping the score even – and not only against the Palestinians.
By forcing the Israeli army’s withdrawal from Lebanon some months earlier, he led Israel into a prolonged standoff with the Lebanese Shiite Hizballah extremists. Most recently, they exploited the absence of Israeli resistance to post 8,000 missiles opposite Israeli cities and to draw off 15 percent of Israel’s water supply, by diverting the Wazzani River.
In the first year of the Palestinian campaign of terror, Barak reduced Israel’s armed forces to defensive tactics, forbidding them to destroy terrorist strongholds, so that he and his ministers could plunge undisturbed into Arafat’s drawn-out, circular, phony negotiations tactics at Camp David, Paris, Cairo, Taba and Sharm al-Sheik, while Arafat’s terrorists continued to notch up their terror campaign against Israeli civilians.
The format of the perpetual tie was then established.
While the Barak team was bent on its quest for “political horizons”, the Hizballah, al Qaeda, and Iraq’s military intelligence thrust clandestine shoots deep into the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and Israeli’s Arab community.
The damage to Israel’s strategic wellbeing is surfacing only now.
DEBKAfile offers here an interim summing up of Sharon’s gains and losses in his 19 months in office:
— He turned the 1993 Oslo Peace Framework accords into a dead letter.
— He shook Yasser Arafat’s infallibility as sole Palestinian leader and undermined his international standing.
— He snapped the conduit Arafat and the Palestinian Authority had maintained with Washington.
— He undid the Palestinian Authority as the sole central government for the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
— He seriously reduced the Fatah and its Tanzim militia.
— He broke up the Palestinian security and intelligence arms, including Jibril Rajoub’s preventive security service and Muhammed al-Hindi’s general security service.
— He wiped out the West Bank terrorist strongholds of the Tanzim, Force 17, the Hamas and the Jihad Islami.
— It is a little known fact that the IDF smashed al Qaeda bases and an important Hizballah center on the West Bank in the course of the decisive battle it fought in the Jenin refugee camp on April 13, 2002.
— He forged an exceptionally harmonious political and military partnership between Jerusalem and Washington and a high degree of understanding with the Oval Office.
— He deactivated Arafat’s deep and massive support in the European community and extinguished the EU’s tireless attempts to force on Israel arrangements contrary to its interests, like imported international peacekeepers.
— He stripped Arafat of unquestioning support from Cairo.
— He removed the Saudi peace plan from the international agenda, exposing it as a PR exercise that did not spring from the brain of the peace campaigner Crown Prince Abdullah but from the offices of two Washington DC public relations firms.
The Palestinian front: Yasser Arafat still calls the shots in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Palestinian communities elsewhere. Sharon missed four opportunities for bringing about his final exit, the first, when he took office in March 2001; second, after the Tel Aviv disco teenage massacre in June 2001; third, after the Passover murders at the Park Hotel, Netanya, in March 2002; fourth, after the Hebrew University, Mount Scopus attack in August 2002, when five Americans lost their lives.
Until now, Sharon consistently drew back from inflicting the death blow on the Palestinian terrorist high command and the Fatah suicide arm, the al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades. One consequence of leaving them at liberty until now was to effectively grant the Iraqi military intelligence cells operating under the al Aqsa Brigades umbrella full license.
It is no wonder that Palestinian terrorism continues unabated however much steel Sharon piles on the lower ranks.
Finally, Sharon has never come to grips with the Hizballah’s cross-border threat from Lebanon, nor taken action against the Palestinian Fronts and Islamic groups based in Damascus.
With the United States preparing to launch itself against Baghdad, Sharon finds he is prevented from bringing the operation he began against Ramallah to its logical conclusion – the breakup at last of Arafat’s high terror command and his possible removal. He is immobilized quite simply by the tab handed him by the Bush administration for long months of support and succor.
The first part of the tab constrains Israel from going after Arafat so as not to upset the fragile Middle East coalition Washington has assembled for the war on Baghdad.
After the full-scale assault on Iraq begins, Israel may pay dearly in the coin of eroded deterrent for the undecided state of play of its conflict with the Palestinians; Iraq may not be put off from launching missiles tipped with unconventional warheads against Israeli cities, knowing that Washington will tender the second half of its tab to Sharon, by making sure Israel does not fight back.
2 October: The British prime minister Tony Blair’s simplistic Middle East message on October 1, drew derision in Jerusalem with a tinge of remembered bitterness over Britain’s record in this region. Leaving aside the artificiality of the comparison between Iraq and Israel, DEBKAfile‘s political analysts suggest that this analogy may prove to be a major gaffe in view of the widening rift on Iraq between the US-UK and the majority of UN members.
What analogy will Blair choose for the Bush administration if it goes ahead with Britain and fights Iraq in defiance of the world body? Will he then declare that UN resolutions should apply to America and Britain as much as to Iraq?
Blair is not solely to blame for trying to lay down the law for Israel and its adversaries; he sees a chink in Israel’s deterrent armor that is opening up at the unfortunate moment when the country is confronted with three present and potential warfronts: the Palestinian, the Lebanese Hizballah and Iraq. The most dangerous threat of all comes from the domestic front. This week, a chorus of criticism went up against the IDF’s 11-day siege-and-destruction operation against Yasser Arafat’s government compound in Ramallah – and the way it was lifted. It came mostly from various self-interested Israeli politicians.
The fact of the matter, according to DEBKAfile‘s military sources, is that Israel’s siege of Arafat’s headquarters has not been lifted. Arafat’s top guns, the ones who designed his suicide-massacre campaign and were in the process of planning mega-strikes against Israeli targets in cahoots with Iraqi intelligence, especially Col. Tawfiq Tirawi, commander of the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, remained trapped. This in fact was just as Washington intended from the start.
How did this happen? After the cameras had finished clicking and whirring, the reporters were gone and the Palestinian victory celebration over, the Israeli siege rolled back into position, albeit in reverse order: the tanks forming the outer circle, special forces units next, and sharpshooters poised around the last standing Palestinian building, on the alert for escape attempts.
Before leaving for Moscow Sunday, September 29, Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon made it clear that none of the wanted men, including the fugitives, would enjoy Israeli immunity – and that went also for Arafat.
On Tuesday, October 1, defense minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer said the countdown had begun for the American assault on Iraq. He went on to declare: “If the Iraqis do attack us, it will only be if they are in critical distress. The Americans will do their utmost to crush Iraq’s capability, inter alia to fend off an Israeli response.” Then: “The Iraqis do have a surface missile capability, but they can carry no more than small quantities of chemical and biological materials. If we are attacked, we have the right to act to defend ourselves.”
Israel’s defense minister did not assert that Israel would fight back; he only noted that it has the right to do so.
Sharon’s own contribution to Israel’s deterrence has been equally uncertain. Last week, he went on record as saying that Israeli would not respond to just any Iraqi strike – only one that caused damage to life and property.
This stream of halfhearted rhetoric that emanates from domestic political agendas sends equivocal messages to the outside world. Blair quickly spotted the weakness, as no doubt have Saddam Hussein, Hassan Nasrallah and Yasser Arafat.
3 September: The Israeli writer and novelist David Grossman, in an article published in the New York Times Tuesday, October 1, lays out his theory that Israelis know only the side of their conflict with the Palestinians that Israel chooses to tell itself.
Grossman’s article is captioned: Dangerous delusion: Israelis don’t hear the whole story.
It seems to us that maybe the writer suffers from his own brand of the ignorant delusion he attributes to his fellow Israelis. Three facts offered here by DEBKAfile might suggest that the picture David Grossman presented New York Times readers is sorely deficient, if not one-sided.
1. Abu al-Abbas
This week, a reader wrote in with a reminder of a long-ago terrorist episode:
Many have forgotten that it was Abu al-Abbas, head of the Baghdad-based Arab Liberation Front chief, close collaborator of Col. Tawfiq Tirawi, who masterminded one of the most horrific of Palestinian terrorist attacks way back in 1979 in the north Israeli Mediterranean town of Nahariya. On April 22, a Palestinian cell member used his rifle butt to smash in the skull of 4-year old Einat Haran and helped murder her father, Danny Haran aged 32 in the same attack. Two-year old Yael Haran died when her mother, watching her family murdered from an attic, accidentally smothered the child to death to keep her from crying out.
Two of the Palestinian terrorists were killed in the attack; Samir Kuntar, was captured and imprisoned. His freedom was the object of the hijack of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro in 1985 by his controller, the same Abu al-Abbas. This time, he gained lasting infamy by throwing a wheel-chair-bound Jewish American tourist, Leon Klinghoffer, overboard to his death.
In 1996, Ehud Barak’s government allowed al-Abbas to visit the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Jerusalem. In October 2000, al Abbas demonstrated his gratitude by enlisting his organization to Arafat’s Intifada. Since then, his group has channeled millions of dollars donated by Saddam Hussein to the families of Palestinian suicide-killers.
Grossman starts the catalogue of Palestinian “errors and war crimes” two years ago. The massacre of Danny Haran and his babies occurred in 1979 – and that crime was not a lone instance then either.
2. A long-planned “spontaneous” uprising:
Some facts that will show David Grossman how carefully the Palestinian leadership choreographed the “spontaneous popular uprising” that “erupted” in September 2000, complete with weapons and war equipment, at least two years before the failed Camp David peace summit of summer 2000. Its supreme planner was Yasser Arafat assisted by diligent aides. The names of four of the wanted terrorist bosses cornered in Arafat’s compound today are less well known than Tirawi and the Force 17 commander Mohamed Demara. However their actions in the run-up to the September 2000 “eruption” are a glaring betrayal of the forward planning invested in the violence to come:
Ramzi Khouri: Arafat’s bureau chief, he sent his family overseas on September 25, three days before the Intifada began.
Adnan Saadi: This senior security officer in charge of Arafat’s personal safety shipped his wife and three children out of the country on September 13, sixteen days before Arafat’s D-Day.
Atallah Aweid: He was close enough to Arafat to have the advance knowledge for sending his wife and children out of the country six months before the violence began, on April 14, 2000.
Said Zahran: Arafat’s spin doctor got his family out of harm’s way on August 10, 2000, days before the Camp David conference, knowing that its failure was built into the Intifada master-plan.
Rat Poison as Terror Weapon
Another chapter of the “whole story” that seems to have escaped the notice of David Grossman was revealed by the Washington Post on the same day as his article appeared in the New York Times. Here is a quote:
“Doctors in Israeli hospitals had been noticing that when they operated on people wounded in homicide bombing attacks, patients often continued to bleed even after being sutured. Eventually, a young medical resident figured out why: The terrorists filled their bombs with as many nails, screws, glass shards and pieces of shrapnel as they could, and these were first dipped in rat poison. The rat poison worked as an anticoagulant.
Now Israeli emergency room doctors can treat bombing victims with Vitamin K to control the bleeding, but as the Rocky Mountain News reported, stronger drugs can cost up to $10,000 per vial.”