A Digest of the Week’s Exclusives

27 April: A batch of intelligence transferred to Washington consisted of materials that Israeli forces collected during their eight-day stay in the Jenin camp.

They includes evidence that the Jenin camp’s bosses were engaged – not only in launching multi-casualty suicide attacks in Netanya and Tel Aviv – but also secretly plotting and organizing large-scale suicide hits for American cities. Local residents with relatives in America had been approached with demands to arrange trips for terror activists to visit these relatives, flying out through Amman or Beirut. Those terrorists were given specialist training in the manufacture of explosives from chemical substances and fertilizers readily available in American shops, and equipped with fake passports and phony US visas. The Israeli operation in the camp aborted this plot.

Another collection of documents passed to Washington includes photographs of a special torture room in Yasser Arafat’s Jenin headquarters complex, which was located in the building opposite his office. Israeli intelligence officers who took the pictures found documents proving that the facility was used to torture Jenin families who refused to release their sons for suicide missions. These findings were handed over to the Americans as proof of Arafat’s involvement in recruiting “martyrs”.

A third archive shows the Jenin camp as being secretly governed by Lebanese Hizballah and al Qaeda agents who also trained the locals for terrorist operations. The file contains their real names and functions, as well as their code names. They set up a collective leadership for the Jenin camp in which all the local groups and factions were represented – after the Afghan Taliban model – in contrast to the Palestinian hierarchical establishment, topped by Arafat. Jenin’s leaders dubbed the camp, known in Israel as the Suicide Capital of the West bank, the Palestinian Kandahar.

28 April: The Bush formula creates a Camp X-Ray Palestinian prison facility a la Guantanamo by placing it under British and American guards.

If it works, the plan holds a number of advantages for Washington:

A. Bush wins kudos for hitting on a way to lift the Israeli siege against Arafat.

B. He impresses Saudi crown prince Abdullah and the Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, both of whom have accused his administration of pro-Israeli bias, with his even-handed Middle East policy.

C. The UK presence refutes charges that he is pushing the Europeans out of Middle East policy-making.

But it put the Israeli prime minister on the spot because:

A. He was forced to back away from Israel’s fundamental claim to stand those six terrorists before an Israeli court.

B. He was maneuvered into accepting Arafat’s unrestricted release. The moment Arafat consigns the six wanted men to a “remote detention facility” under British and American guard he is free to go anywhere he pleases, including the West Bank. The Bush-Sharon blueprint for shunting Arafat into the Gaza Strip is a dead letter.

C. The location of the “remote prison facility” in Jericho cancels out the greatest feat of Operation Defensive Shield which was to break up Arafat’s terror-impregnated West Bank regime.

D. Another point for Arafat is the introduction of the pro-Palestinian British element.

The British are bad news for Israel and bode future trouble in the intelligence field.

Arafat may have formally accepted the Bush plan, but it is a tough call for him too:

A. Turning in six comrades to the Americans and British after they shared his “heroic siege” under Israeli guns might not go down too well with the Palestinian people, Arab opinion and Muslims everywhere. It might be taken as a betrayal to buy his freedom. What then becomes of his proud boast that his only ambition is to be a Shahid, a martyr to the Palestinian cause?

B. His betrayal is two-edged: the US State Departed has listed the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine, based in Damascus – and a member of the PLO and Palestinian National Council – a terrorist organization, one of those against which the US is waging its war on global terror. Handing over Ahmed Sada’at, who never even stood trial, would be an admission that the PLO, which Arafat heads, embraces a terrorist group.

That would not be the end of it. The Hamas, the Jihad Islami and the al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades of Arafat’s own Fatah, will be next in line. He can hardly refuse to turn them over if he gives up PFLF activists. The Palestinian Guantanamo will soon be fuller than the American Camp X-Ray in Cuba.

Maybe that is Washington’s recipe for purging the Palestinians of terrorists, leaving them fit for negotiations on a settlement with Israel.

April 30: The UK did not need a second invitation from George W. Bush to come roaring back to the Middle East to Yasser Arafat’s rescue – with Javier Solana’s European Union outfit riding in on its back.

The initial arrangement was cautious: The British would arrive in the innocuous, limited form of a joint Anglo-American guard to make sure that the six Palestinians, whose extradition Israel demanded as its condition for releasing Arafat, stayed in their Palestinian jail. Nothing can now stop the Europeans, led by the eager British, from restoring Yasser Arafat’s standing as Palestinian leader and reconstructing Palestinian security bodies, the very infrastructure that Israel’s military painstakingly knocked down in its month-long counter-terror sweep through Palestinian West Bank towns.

The senior British staffer on the spot would be Alistair Crooke, a former high-ranking MI6 man and European Union’s Javier Solana’s representative in Jerusalem.

A. The grand US-Israeli plan for cutting Arafat down and consigning him to the Gaza Strip has been tossed aside, together with its companion blueprint for establishing self-rule on the West Bank under the auspices of the Kingdom of Jordan. The blow sustained by Israel – in no small measure under Saudi influence – has also hit Abdullah II of Amman, who based his fundamental policies on a strategic partnership with the United States and Israel. The Saudi crown prince achieved two strokes in Crawford: he got the Israeli army out of Ramallah and blocked Jordan’s reinstatement on the West Bank.

B. In contrast, The Palestinian authority will be reinstated – possibly on different lines with fresh faces, according to British and European concepts. Arafat will be re-confirmed as top man.

C. The Palestinian security agencies, whose primary function was to mastermind terror, will be rebuilt too by the same hands. The Americans are prepared to admit off the record that the CIA failed abysmally in its efforts to create effectively functioning security agencies following the conclusion of the Oslo accords. The British will certainly pursue their own ideas and install their own agents in the restored bodies.

It is not a happy prospect for Israelis, who are perfectly aware of the pro-Arab winds blowing consistently from London since 1948. Yasser Arafat’s installment as head of an independent Palestinian state has always been a key policy goal for the British government and its intelligence agencies.

What remains to be seen is how Arafat will use his fresh lease of life. Will he entrap the British in his toils as he did the Americans, making them the unwilling sponsors of his terrorist activities?

1 May:

The Palestinian leader now that he is free faces two opposing factions inside his own camp:

Faction one: Four top Palestinian officials – his official deputy Abu Mazen, Palestinian legislature speaker Abu Ala, his spokesman Yasser Abed Rabbo and his financial adviser Mohammed Rashid, are demanding that Yasser Arafat abandon his radical stance and his strategy of terror. This group, the pro-American-Saudi faction of the Palestinian leadership, wants him to use the fresh opportunity presented him to rebuild the Palestinian Authority on lines that will bring the Palestinian people to recovery. Deeply distressed from 20 months of Intifada, the ordinary Palestinian has hardly any money and many are on the point of starvation. Arafat’s aides are telling that the radical national-Islamic line he chose to follow with the Hamas, Jihad Islami and Hizballah, oriented on the Iran-Syria-Iraq axis, has run its course. The Palestinians have been beaten back by the US war on terror and Israel’s Operation Defensive Shield.

Now, he must seize the moment; the Americans, the Saudis and the Arab world are prepared to restore his fortunes and governing institutions – for a price. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer and Secretary of State Colin Powell have spelled this price out very clearly: As soon as he is free, he must embark on the fight against terror.

Faction two: Its top members are Tawfiq Tirawi, the intelligence chief who is the real commander of the Fatah’s al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, Sahar Habash, the Palestinian leader’s gofer, who is still working hard to hold together the extremist Fatah-Hamas-Jihad islami-PFLP- Hizballah alliance.

Ahmad Saadat, secretary general of the hard-line Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – PFLP.

Muhamed Dahlan, head of the Gaza Strip preventive security service, whose heart and mind belong with faction one. But his loyalty to Arafat is absolute and where Arafat leads, he will follow. Dahlan commands a trained militia that rivals that of Rajoub.

This faction says to Arafat: You are very near the peak of your achievements. Don’t throw it all away now. For 20 months, you stood up to Israel’s military might and survived; almost single-handed, you – not Bin Laden – held off the American assault on Iraq, by keeping American and Arab leaders fully engaged with the Palestinian issue.

You still have a reserve force, the Hizballah, which has not yet gone into allout action. Keep going, coordinating with Iraq and the Hizballah, and the Americans and Israelis combined will be defeated and you will triumph.

True, the plight of the Palestinian people is acute, but it is prepared for more sacrifice. One more effort and Arafat, Saddam Hussein and Hassan Nasrallah will rule the Middle East. So don’t desert the struggle for the sake of the American-Saudi golden calf.

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