Two Indigestible Pills Await Sharon at Aqaba

New Palestinian prime minister Mahmoud Abbas left for Amman Sunday after his internal security minister Mohamed Dahlan had all but finalized what he called a ceasefire deal with most of the Palestinian factions. Sunday, June 1, Abu Mazen brought these tidings confidentially to Undersecretary of State William Burns and National Security Council Middle East Director Elliot Abrams, the two US emissaries preparing the Aqaba summit to be attended by US President George W. Bush, Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon and Abu Mazen on Wednesday, June 4.
The Palestinian prime minister will also attend the earlier Bush summit with a group of Arab leaders at the Egyptian resort of Sharm al-Sheikh on Tuesday. Monday he will be plotting strategy with Egypt’s intelligence chief General Omar Suleiman and President Hosni Mubarak’s senior advisers.
debkafile reports from its intelligence sources that Abu Mazen and Dahlan worked hard to concoct some sort of ceasefire in time for the Aqaba summit – not by going to the heads of the Palestinian terror groups, but straight to the chiefs of local terror squads. It was not as difficult as they pretended to the Americans and the Israelis. As an Israeli security source told debkafile‘s sources, Dahlan and his people had more than a passing acquaintance with each and every one of these squad chiefs, enough to knock on their doors and even reach them in their hideouts.
In return for holding their fire for roughly three months, they were offered: 1. An Israeli pledge of immunity from reprisals backed up by US-Arab guarantee. 2. US dollar cash payouts made to each squad leader and its members. 3. Assured employment with the new Palestinian security force at a monthly wage. 4. A personal undertaking by Abu Mazen and Dahlan for the release of their co-terrorists from Israeli prisons.
The way this “ceasefire” was achieved finally exploded the myth put about by Abu Mazen – and widely accepted – that the Hamas and Islamic Jihad have set up a formidable terrorist infrastructure on the West Bank, the dismantling of which will be a tall order and take time.
It transpired that the Hamas retains no more than four senior operations in West bank towns, and Jihad Islami only one. debkafile has discovered the identity of the senior Hamas mastermind on the West Bank: Ahmed Saad of Nablus.
When Abbas and Dahlan were asked how the two Islamic groups were able to carry out daily strikes with so little manpower, they explained that when they wanted to stage an attack, they simply hired suicide hit teams from Arafat’s Fatah, Tanzim or al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades for an agreed fee.
In other words, the only functioning terrorist infrastructure on the West Bank belongs to Yasser Arafat, which in addition to carrying out its own operations, also subcontracts for the two Islamic groups.
The two Palestinian officials shared four more pieces of information with the American emissaries:
A. A truce on similar lines had been tentatively agreed with the Hamas and Jihad Islami in the Gaza Strip. It lacked a signature from the top rank. In Cairo, Abu Mazen was to meet Ramadan Shalah, the senior Hamas executive who had come especially from Damascus, and negotiate final terms. This might not be possible before the Aqaba summit.
B. Announcement of a Palestinian ceasefire might therefore not be released at Aqaba but held back for later.
C. Aside from Arafat’s organizations which they did not approach, Abu Mazen and Dahlan had not come to a ceasefire agreement with the terrorist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestinian, whose leader Ahmed Saadat is confined to Jericho for instigating the assassination of the Israeli tourist minister Rehavam Zeevi two years ago. Negotiations with Saadat’s men continue.
D. All the Palestinian squad leaders laid great stress on the release of terrorists held prisoner and detained by Israel, failing which they would lay themselves open to the charge of deserting their comrades. Abu Mazen initially demanded across-the-board- releases of Palestinian prisoners, whatever the charges against them. The Americans set limits, reluctant to attach themselves to a process that allowed terrorist-killers “with Israeli blood on their hands” to go free.
Two days before the Aqaba summit, the deal taking shape provides for the release of between 1,200 and 1,300 under-18 Palestinian prisoners and detainees plus 700-800 over 55s, leaving the hard core aged 18-55 in confinement.
As items of the pre-summit US-Palestinian-Israeli agenda were being ticked off, Yasser Arafat dropped his bombshell.
To mark Palestinian Children’s Day on June 1, he invited an audience of tots aged 3 to 5 to his headquarters in Ramallah. Addressing them solemnly as Palestinian President, he declared:
“Remember, each martyr wins the mercy of Allah!” He went on to intone the slogan that so often in the past signaled horrendous outbreaks of Palestinian suicidal homicides in Jerusalem’s streets, cafes, buses and campuses: “A martyr who falls in Jerusalem, is worth 40 martyrs who die anywhere else!”
Hearing that declaration, Israeli security forces braced themselves for the next onslaught of terror.
debkafile readers know by now that Arafat’s utterances are carefully rehearsed, never haphazard or spontaneous. His followers are familiar with his almost ritualistic pronouncements and the directives implicit in each one. This time, he made sure every Palestinian was exposed to his speech to the children by having it rerun all day over Palestinian TV broadcasting from Ramallah, over and over again. It was also a warning to President Bush, ahead of the two summit conferences he leads this week – with Arab rulers Tuesday at Sharm al-Sheikh – notably Crown Prince Abdullah, Mubarak, Jordan’s King Abdullah and the three cornered meeting in Aqaba – that creating a Palestinian security-intelligence force to fight the “martyrs” would be futile; he, Arafat, had raised generation after generation of martyrs from the time they could walk to continue the battle for Jerusalem.
So what are we talking about? officials from the Israeli prime minister’s office in Jerusalem asked the two American envoys: A ceasefire or a fresh wave of terror?
When the Americans referred the question to Abu Mazen and Dahlan, this is what they were told:
We can promise you there will be relative calm most hours of the day and night. But we cannot be expected to bring all terrorist and suicide activity to a complete standstill. We have obtained the consent of most of the Palestinian factions to suspend for three months their routine operations, the almost hourly mortar, missile, shooting and bombing attacks inside Israel, in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip – but we can’t prevent the large-scale suicide attacks from continuing, although we have been promised they will be spaced out – say, one a week.
In view of the nature of the “ceasefire” on offer, Sharon has 48 hours to decide whether to attend the Aqaba summit and thus enter into peace negotiations with the Palestinians under the sword of continuing Palestinian terrorism, the trap that brought down his Labor predecessors in government and which he solemnly pledged never to walk into.
According to debkafile‘s Washington sources, once there Sharon will be presented with another bitter pill to swallow, the immediate evacuation of 102 Israeli outposts thrown up on the West Bank in 2001, some illegally, to defend roads and communities from Palestinian ambush.
debkafile‘s political analysts strongly doubt that the Sharon government, already weakened by unpopular economic austerity measures, will be strong enough to carry these two demands past popular opinion or even survive the opposition from its own ministers.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email