Israeli Cab Driver Rescue Reveals Outplayed Abu Mazen
The truce declared by Palestinian terrorist organizations on June 29 was initially held up by prime minister Mahmoud Abbas and his internal security minister Mohammed Dahlan as evidence that persuasion could work better than confrontation to disarm the terrorists. They asked for a three-week grace period – which was granted and massive releases of Palestinian terrorists in Israeli jails – which was not.
More than two weeks have been used up of that period and the two Palestinian leaders have barely gone through the motions of stripping the terrorist groups of their weapons in the areas turned over to their responsibility, the Gaza Strip and Bethlehem. In the 15 days of ceasefire from June 29 to July 14, 10 Israelis were murdered by Palestinian terrorists and the level of attacks on Israeli targets remains high in the southern Gaza Strip. Gazan Palestinian groups are using their freedom of movement to step up their members’ missile-launching, mortar shelling and bomb-making aptitudes. The talks on further Israeli troop withdrawals from Palestinian West Bank towns are therefore stalled, throwing the US-backed peace initiative launched at the June 4 Aqaba summit called by President George W, Bush into near-stalemate.
The case of the kidnapped Israeli taxi-driver, Eliahu Gorel, 61, from Ramat Gan demonstrated the risks of handing terrorist-ridden cities over to Palestinian security responsibility. Snatched by five Palestinians at knifepoint last Friday, July 11, he was discovered by his rescuers four days later in a pit underneath a derelict house in the Betuniya suburb of the Ramallah which is the seat of Palestinian government. In their offices a stone’s throw away from the pit, Abu Mazen and Dahlan promised Israeli defense minister Shaul Mofaz to help obtain his recovery, but did not raise a finger.
Tuesday night, July 14, elite units of the Israeli army and police with Shin Beit intelligence raided the Betuniya hideout and freed the hostage. After it was over, OC Central Command, Maj. Gen Moshe Kaplinsky said: “I want to stress that contrary to all reports, the Palestinian Authority played no role whatsoever in the rescue. We received no relevant information from Palestinian authority that helped locate missing man.
At the same time, “members of the Israeli prime minister’s party” in Norway leaked a telling piece of information. At a top level conference of security officials called before his departure for London and Oslo, Sharon gave the order to launch an “independent operation” to free the taxi driver without appealing to the Palestinians.
Saturday, July 12, Israeli agents reached the woman, girlfriend of one of the four abductors, who holding the hand of a 4-year old child, hailed Gurel’s taxi on the outskirts of Lod and lured him into the trap. On French Hill, the four men dragged him out of the taxi. After she was found, the girlfriend led Israeli agents to the rest of the gang. The two were picked up in Kalandia north of Jerusalem and guided the Israeli raiding force to the Betuniya hideout. The four Palestinians – all from Beit Rima, north of Ramallah – are being interrogated. At one point, they demanded for Gorel’s safe return the release of 2,000 Palestinian terrorists from Israeli jails, including the Popular Front leader Ahmad Sa’adat, who is imprisoned in Jericho under American-British custody for ordering the assassination of Israeli tourism minister Zeevi two years ago, Fatah-Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti, on trial in Israel for multiple murder of Israelis, as well as senior Jihad Islami and Hamas operatives.
Most strikingly, Palestinian terrorists have since the “truce” went into effect taken to killing Israelis in ones, instead of in large-scale multi-casualty operations. Some have also gone back to using the knife, a favorite weapon of the pre-bomb-belt era of Palestinian terror. First intimation of this switch in tactics occurred hours after the Aqaba summit, when the bodies of a young Israeli couple were found stabbed and bludgeoned to death in Jerusalem.
The death toll began to rise despite the statistical drop in number of terrorist attacks and alerts – as a brief chronology shows.
June 12: Avner Maimon, 51, was shot dead in ambush while driving past Kfar Yabed near Jenin.
June 13: Staff Sgt. Mordecai Sayada, 21, was killed by a single sniper’s bullet in Jenin.
June 20: Noa Leibovitch, aged 7, died of wounds sustained in a shooting attack on the family car on Trans-Israeli highway.
June 20: Avner Mordecai, 58, was blown up by Palestinian suicide bomber in his Sdeh Trumot grocery store.
June 26: Amos Amit, 31, from Hadera, was killed in the Israeli Arab village of Baq’a al Garbiya.
June 27: Staff Sgt. Erez Ashkenazi, 21, from Kibbutz Reshafim lost his life in a major terror prevention operation in the Gaza Strip.
June 30: Christo Radkov, 46, from Bulgaria, shot dead in work team on the Trans-Israel highway.
July 8: Mazal Afari, 65, was murdered in her living room in Kfar Yabets.
July 15: Amir Simhon, 24, from Bat Yam, was knifed on the el Aviv promenade while sheltering his girlfriend from a slashing two-edged dagger. The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades assailant earlier seriously injured security guard outside restaurant, stabbing him and throwing “burning fluid” in his face.
By picking Israelis off one by one, Palestinian terrorists escape scathing condemnations from the international community and devastating reprisals by Israeli armed forces, while achieving the same effects. Israel’s security forces and the country as a whole remain in a state of high suspense for the next blow and diminishing confidence in Mahmoud Abbas and Dahlan as harbingers of an end to the violence.
Yasser Arafat has steadily rehabilitated his standing at the expense of the Palestinian prime minister in a cunningly interwoven campaign of terrorism and political skullduggery. Before he took off on his travels, Sharon knew there was no point in asking Abu Mazen to intercede with or act against terrorists, whether to find the abducted taxi driver or disarm terrorists groups, because Arafat had neatly incapacitated Abbas and Dahlan in an ostensible power struggle. Arafat had cleared the field of anyone who counted barring himself. The Israeli prime minister therefore ordered the Israeli military to “act independently” in the taxi driver’s rescue.
Sharon, whom President George W. Bush called to the White House on July 29 instead of September to maintain the momentum, is faced with the crisis of an empty Palestinian square on the American president’s peace plan. Arafat has acted even more swiftly to disarm the Palestinian prime minister than Sharon expected when he warned British prime minister Tony Blair of this very eventuality.
The Palestinian prime minister is invited to the White House on July 25.
Under pressure from Washington to shore him up, Israel may ease up on blanket ban against releasing Hamas and Jihad Islami prisoners and accept inventory register of Palestinians` illegal weapons instead of total disarming.