15 December: Jordanian information minister Mohammad Adwan fingered Saad bin Suwied and Yasser Ibrahim as the murderers who fired eight bullets from the silenced gun that slew USAID executive Lawrence Foley outside his home in Amman on October 28. Adwan described Suwied – a Libyan who entered Jordan on a Tunisian passport and Ibrahim, a Jordanian – as al Qaeda members who were paid $68,000 for the assassination.
According to the information reaching debkafile‘s intelligence sources, the two assassins are not al Qaeda; they are in fact members of two Palestinian groups, who work in conjunction – the pro-Iraq Arab Liberation Front, whose leader Abu al Abbas is based in Baghdad, and the Jordanian wing of Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement. They were apprehended by Jordanian security forces in November in a sweep of the south Jordanian Islamic fundamentalist town of Ma’an. After a brief interrogation, the captured men admitted working for Palestinian groups operating in Jordan on behalf of Iraqi military intelligence.
When this information reached Arafat in Ramallah, he threatened Amman through emissaries
that if the two murderers’ Palestinian affiliation was made public, he would see to it that Jordanian Palestinian terrorists created havoc in the kingdom. The threat was effective. Security in Jordan is already shaky and Palestinian terrorism on the rise. Therefore, Jordan’s security and intelligence services advised the king and his government to fix the blame for Foley’s murder away from the Palestinians. Al Qaeda was accordingly named the culprit.
Not that the accusation held much water; Palestinian fingerprints on the crime are too blatant.
For one thing, on the day itself, October 28, a group called Shurafa al Urdun (“Nobles of Jordan”) claimed responsibility. The name comes out of the secular terminology of Arab nationalism whose values are anathema to the fundamentalist Islamic network. Furthermore, al Qaeda, unlike the Palestinians, rarely goes in for assassination; its hallmark is mass murder.
But most tellingly, Arafat himself, in his usual circular style, gave the game away in a speech he made to the Palestinian Legislative Council in Ramallah, on October 29, the day after the USAID director was gunned down in Amman. He repeatedly praised the “shurafa”, the Nobles, an expression dredged up from the old vernacular of PLO infighting which Arafat has not used for years.
On Sunday, December 15, the Sunday Times published in London an interview with Arafat, in which he bitterly accused Osama bin Laden’s group of “hiding behind the Palestinian cause for his own purposes.”
He forgot to tell his interviewers that in Jordan Palestinian gunmen who murdered an American diplomat were now hiding behind al Qaeda. He also forget to mention that, last April, the Israel troops who invaded his Ramallah offices found documents that revealed that as far back as 1995, the Palestinian leader and the heads of his security agencies were in continuous communication with senior al Qaeda officers through go-betweens in Bosnia.
The Times interview therefore represents only one of Arafat’s two faces. In Europe, he is the proud leader of a national liberation struggle. At the same time, in the Palestinian and Arab arenas, the Palestinian terror campaign is a vital front of the international Holy War. Every Palestinian he sends on a suicide mission is therefore a “shahid”, a martyr, who belongs in Paradise just as much as any al Qaeda fighter.
18 December: Israel’s election campaign has got off to a murky start.
Instead of a national debate on such core issues as Palestinian suicide terror – and how to stop it, peace terms, threats from Iraq, Hizballah and al Qaeda, the recession-wracked economy and acute social afflictions, Israel’s news media are engulfed by the daily allegations of election fraud and vote trafficking at last week’s contests for the two main parties’ parliamentary lists.
The loudest and most scandalous charges are leveled against prime minister Ariel Sharon’s Likud, although the police, brought in to investigate the charges, are focusing on both Likud and its main adversary Labor. Under the pressure of these allegations, Sharon promised to initiate law reforms to improve voting procedures and impede fraud; after two Likud central committee members were placed under house arrest on suspicion of soliciting bribes, he promised to evict miscreants from the party.
DEBKAfile‘s political analysts have no doubt that some of the charges against Likud, if not all, will stick; a certain amount of vote trafficking, fraud and bribery has become a feature of this and other party mechanisms for choosing their party representatives. The Labor leader may protest that his party’s primary contest was the essence of an honestly run democratic process – “no deals, intrigue, or political assassinations”. However, several hundred of the party’s ballot boxes are under scrutiny, their contents either inconsistent with the size of the local turnout or strongly suggesting prepared lists and block voting.
It therefore behooves both of Israel’s leading parties to spring-clean without delay. The trouble is that little time is left for real campaigning and the airwaves are too clogged with scandal to leave space for a national debate on the real issues.
What is already apparent is that all the important parties are fighting for a foothold at the political center. Sharon, though confident of sufficient votes to manage without Labor, has vowed to establish a national unity government, a euphemism for sharing power with Labor. Mitzna, who gained his party’s top spot as a dove, is making sure not to lean too far left, although he swears he will not join a Sharon government.
Sharon, to the dissatisfaction of sections of his party, is committed to a demilitarized and limited Palestinian state alongside Israel and peace bought with “painful concessions”, although shying away from timetables and the uprooting of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. He stands by his demand for terrorist violence to halt as a sine qua non.
Mitzna is committed to uprooting Hebron’s Jewish population, eliminating Jewish habitation in the Gaza Strip and the unilateral separation of the Israeli and Palestinian populaces. He also talks about handing over Temple Mount and parts of historic Jerusalem to the Palestinians.
Yet, “as next Israeli prime minister,” he warned the Palestinians Tuesday, December 17, that those who continued to wage terror “would be beaten to pulp,” while anything that moved in south Lebanon would be “exterminated” if the Hizballah went to war.