Israeli Settlements Come under… MI6 Surveillance

The Israeli government is getting ready to offer down payments to voluntary evacuees from 21 Gaza settlements and four West Bank locations that Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon plans to remove by the end of 2005. This move is designed to stimulate departures and jump the gun on two major delaying factors: the cabinet only approved the Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon’s disengagement outline; voting on settlement removals is not due until March 2005 and then it will be piecemeal. Secondly, compensation to departing settlers entails long and tiresome legislation, whereas down payments do not. Broad hints that the first comers will get the best deal have been thrown out already. The bargaining is clearly about to begin.
A second Middle East party has also hit on the notion of financially rewarding people willing to change address. debkafile‘s Palestinian and Jordanian sources reveal that Jordan’s King Abdullah is offering non-returnable “mortgages” – cash on the nail – to high Palestinian officials willing to purchase and move to luxury villas in Amman. The king is hoping to shut the West Bank door to the Egyptians, whose arrival is described as imminent under a putative proposal agreed by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Sharon and British prime minister Tony Blair (about which more later). The Amman villas come with a proviso: purchasers must list their new addresses on their calling cards. Their dual residency is intended to provide Jordan with a foothold at Palestinian Authority headquarters in Ramallah and represent the king’s interests on the West Bank.
According to our sources, several Palestinians have taken Abdullah up on his offer; two are prominent: Yasser Abd Rabo, Palestinian co-signatory of the Geneva Accords and Jibril Rajoub, Yasser Arafat’s own national security adviser, evoking a nasty letter from Arafat to the palace in Amman announcing that he would not stand for Jordanian officers and agents running around Palestinian territory. The West Bank is not the Gaza Strip! He declared.
Both are anxious to stall momentum on the Mubarak-Blair-Sharon project, on which White House national security adviser Condoleezza Rice has been briefed, for Egypt to send 150 instructors to Jericho to set up a new training academy for intelligence and special operations officers. These instructors are to double as the nucleus of the projected Egyptian military intelligence presence which will work in harness with British Secret Service MI6 agents to supervise the reorganization (called “reforms” in the Middle East road map) and operation of Palestinian security and intelligence bodies.
Abdullah and Arafat share in interest in sabotaging this Jericho project, but are too far apart on everything else to collaborate.
The prime minister’s office in Jerusalem has not shared the ins and outs of this proposal with outsiders including cabinet ministers. In important respects it is an offshoot of President George W. Bush’s limited gains from the Europeans and the United Nations on Iraq; jocular encounters and amiable speeches have so far yielded no offers of troops or authority to fly NATO or UN flags over the US-led multinational force.
Even the president’s resuscitation of the virtually moribund Middle East Quartet elicited a tepid response. Britain, which already has troops in Iraq, was the only European power prepared to jump back into the Palestinian-Israel conflict, in its own inimitable fashion and for its own reasons.
Tony Blair believes fervently that restoring Britain to Arab favors as a lead player in the Middle East is the key to Britain’s revival as a political and economic power. However, he suffers from five handicaps: 1. Gone are the glory days of formidable British fighting strength. 2. Investment capital is in short supply. 3. The British public has no taste for foreign adventure. Blair’s military involvement in Iraq is unpopular and eroding his own and his Labor party’s electoral standing. Labor came third and last in local council elections last week, trailing the opposition Conservatives and Lib Dems. 4. Behind the grandiloquent rhetoric lauding the close US-UK pact, Washington is clearly delimiting British expansionist aspirations – especially in Iraq. British military presence and influence are carefully winnowed down to a narrow – albeit strategically important – strip of the south between the Iraqi-Iranian border cities of Basra and al Amara, outside the southern oil fields and with scarcely a toehold in most other cities including Baghdad. 5. Parts of the Blair government cling fondly to Britain’s former pretensions as the great friend of the Muslim Arab world, forgetting they were unceremoniously pushed out of the Middle East half a century ago and not always remembered with affection.
6. MI6, the operational arm of British expansion, historically opted for the Middle East camp opposed to Israel and cultivated a special relationship with Yasser Arafat going back decades.
Strictly speaking, Egyptian intelligence invented the Palestinian national leader and used his services between the 1960s and well into the 1990s. Even today, the Egyptian official assigned to keeping tabs on him is intelligence minister General Omar Suleiman. It is less well known that during those decades, British intelligence ran a covert operation to build him up as a world figure. London saw in him a vehicle for planting British influence deep inside the Arab-Muslim orbit (which is why he was never received in Islamic revolutionary Tehran) and an instrument for keeping Israeli intelligence in check and limiting its influence in Washington.
These ties were somewhat loosened after the 1993 Oslo peace accord, when he relocated from Tunis to Gaza and Ramallah. But they were never abandoned.
The British have performed two key services for the Palestinian cause:
A. They sponsored the concept of Palestinian statehood as a means of reducing the Jewish state to what London considered its natural dimensions, sitting behind Arafat’s shoulder and lobbying the international case for a Palestinian state year after year until it was taken up by President Bush.
Few Israelis are aware of the pivotal role parts of MI6 through the British Foreign Office played over the years in developing and shaping Palestinian diplomatic and PR strategy, helping to make the Palestinian cause far more resonant internationally than the Israeli case – even when Arafat openly espoused and practiced terrorism.
B. They instigated the first Palestinian uprising against Israel in 1987; it was not provoked by Arafat then still in Tunis or even the PLO leadership, but MI6 agents operating in the Rafah refugee camp of the southern Gaza Strip. The trigger was a road accident in which an Israeli army truck ran over a group of Palestinian children. The local protest raised spread quickly and was presented opportunistically to the media as a “popular uprising.”
Again in 2004, British “activists” are working hard to win Arab “hearts and minds.” Now “volunteers” are sent over to shield Rafah residents against Israeli military operations and support Palestinian protests against Israel’s anti-terror barrier.
But, despite these five obstacles, Blair’s chances of making progress towards his goal are a lot better now than they were in 1987.
For one thing, President Bush owes him a big favor for standing alongside the United States in Iraq. MI6 agents may therefore swarm over the West Bank under fairly lax control from Washington.
For another, the British path is paradoxically eased by the Israeli prime minister’s office’s spin campaign around Sharon’s disengagement plan and the Israeli media’s readiness to buy uncorroborated reports presenting Egypt and European governments as eager to accept a role in the plan’s execution and lavishly fund its costs. The UK is thus granted an opportunity to depict its agents’ presence in the West Bank as laying the groundwork for the Egyptian military and intelligence personnel supposedly coming to supervise the reorganization and operation of “reformed” Palestinian security bodies.
This is far from the truth. Egypt has not yet decided finally to get involved in Sharon’s disengagement scheme. The coordination between London and Cairo is flimsy at best, resting only on the initiative of Muhammed Rashid, a private Palestinian Kurdish individual, who commutes regularly between the two capitals, the while pushing hard for his London-based business partner, former Gaza strongman Muhammed Dahlan, to make a comeback. Furthermore, Arafat’s promises to streamline his security apparatus are trumpeted far and wide without awkward questions on implementation.
Last Thursday, June 10, Israelis were afforded a rare glimpse in the sky of Venus passing the sun; on the ground, they saw the MI6 in action. Israeli radio announced dryly that a group of British intelligence officers had visited Jenin and carried out surveillance of Israeli settlements. No one asked whether the group was on a cowboy spying mission or had received authorization. And if authorized, by whom? The Israeli government is after all the competent security jurisdiction in the territory.
That was not the end of the matter. debkafile‘s Washington sources report that shortly after the incident was discovered, the British premier handed the US president at the Georgia G-8 summit a secret intelligence report that was a clear signpost to where the Blair government is heading.
The report claims the Palestinians have made a good start on cracking down on terrorists – except that they are severely hindered by… the IDF. Israel’s Shin Beit and its troops – and their unremitting efforts day and night, year after year, to keep Palestinian suicidal terrorists at bay – rate no mention in the MI6 report except as an obstacle to Palestinian good intentions.
The London report, our sources learn, was handed to other leaders attending the summit. A copy was even addressed to Ariel Sharon and another to Yasser Arafat.
This development raises some interesting questions about the game developing around the Israeli prime minister’s disengagement plan – to be the subject of the second part of this debkafile Special Report.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email