US Intelligence Takeover of Palestinian Authority

Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon informed the weekly cabinet meeting Sunday, March 13 that unauthorized West Bank outposts would be dismantled “as part of Israel’s commitment to the Middle East roadmap.” The roadmap demands that Israel destroy all outposts erected after March 2001, though not in the first instance.
This is the first intimation that the Israeli prime minister has launched into implementation of the “performance-based” roadmap, a sharp policy change that is not on record as having obtained government approval. Until now, Israel’s leaders insisted on the Palestinian side first meeting the roadmap’s initial mandatory demand “to undertake the immediate and unconditional cessation of violence and armed activity against Israelis everywhere” and “effective operations aimed at dismantlement of terrorist capabilities and infrastructure.”
debkafile‘s Washington sources interpret Sharon’s statement as meaning he is ready to move on to Stage B of his disengagement plan, namely the removal of unauthorized outposts on the West Bank. What President George W. Bush wants to hear when Sharon arrives for their White House meeting on April 12 is a timetable for Stage B and then Stage C for other parts of the West Bank, so as to clear the way for progress towards “a viable, contiguous Palestinian state.”
Bush has accepted the difficulty of accomplishing the destruction of the outposts in conjunction with the daunting and divisive project of evacuating 21 thriving Israeli communities in the Gaza Strip and four in the northern West Bank. This project will strain every last police, military, political and emotional national resource. But as debkafile revealed on December 17, 2004 (Sudden Discord between Bush and Sharon), after the outposts are disposed of, the prime minister will be confronted with demands for a timeline for the next stage, including for example the Israeli West Bank town of Ariel and other locations left unenclosed by the security fence.
The Sharon government and the country face more agonizing debate on those far larger and more emotionally-charged olden Land of Israel locations where at least 250,000 Jews live.
The first spark of controversy has been ignited, arising out of the decision to build by July a temporary barrier to protect Jerusalem against suicide bombing attempts from the West Bank, which though thwarted till now have become an almost weekly occurrence. One deputy minister, Likud’s Ehud Olmert, reported the barrier would enclose all parts of Jerusalem, including the eastern districts, as well as the neighboring town of Maaleh Adummum to the east and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem to the south. It will have eleven police-manned gateways. Olmert called the town and its 35,000 inhabitants “an integral part of Israel.”
Sharon’s other deputy, Labor’s Shimon Peres, stepped in to claim the fate of the town was still undecided. The arguments over more evocative West Bank locations could be crippling.
Sunday’s cabinet meeting thanked Talia Sasson, former member of the state prosecution, for her report, without going so far as endorsing it. She judged that 105 West Bank outposts had been illegally licensed and funded by one Israeli government after another, including two led by Labor as well as the incumbent administration. A ministerial panel was appointed to set out approval procedures for outposts and legal measures against wildcat activity. But the team was denied authority to implement the Sasson recommendations. Such decisions would have to be political because of the legal difficulty of retroactively declaring unlawful actions that were duly authorized at the time they were taken
Bush and his secretary of state Condoleezza Rice will not be impressed by any legalistic quibbling or the national controversy polarizing Israel. What the Bush administration is after is swift action without further procrastination. Administration leaders seem to be treating Israel’s pull-back from the Gaza Strip and West Bank in the same spirit as their insistence on complete Syrian military withdrawal from Lebanon. It is possible to conjure up a grand design charted by the Bush administration to simultaneously squeeze Israel and Syria into sharply constricted molds sized by its perception of the two nations’ true dimensions.
This was not admitted by defense minister Shaul Mofaz when he decided to compress the July disengagements into one month instead of two, which he explained by the necessity of curtailing “confrontation, emotional rhetoric and violence.” He thus implicitly stigmatized the settlers rather than disclosing the true reason for his haste: an unequivocal American demand to get moving on disengagement and get it over in no more than a month after the July 17 Palestinian parliamentary vote, i.e. by August 20-25 – a change that overrides a previous cabinet decision to carry out the withdrawals in four well-spaced stages, each carefully considered before implementation.
The prominence afforded the outpost report and the decision to abbreviate the evacuation period paradoxically conceals their rationale, namely, the unfolding new reality which produced them both.
These are some of the facts of this reality:
Last week, Lt. Gen William Ward, the newly appointed US security coordinator for Israel, Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinians, secretly moved into heavily guarded offices in central Tel Aviv, according to debkafile‘s exclusive military sources – although Rice stated in London last week that he would not relocate to the Middle East. The general settled in with a large team of tens of American officers. The four governments concerned were informed from Washington that General Ward was to be their address for communications to the US government.
This makes the new coordinator a kind of buffer or wall of separation dividing the four governments involved in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute from Washington. For Israel, this is tantamount to downgrading the Jerusalem-Washington relationship.
debkafile‘s Washington sources reveal that the American general was sent post haste to Tel Aviv to take charge of the intelligence pincer already at work on the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The Gaza Strip Arm went into action several weeks ago in total hush. An Egyptian military intelligence delegation led by the head of the Palestinian desk at Egyptian intelligence, General Ibrahim Bakhri, took up position in the territory. Operating in conjunction with the Egyptians and from the same offices is a British MI6 Secret Service mission of 25 agents. They share the task of bringing under control the assorted Palestinian intelligence and security bodies. For Palestinian liaison, they have been provided with Gaza strongman Mohammad Dahlan. The fact that Israeli authorities have allowed the two Gaza-based groups free rein without curbs or interference is the true reason for the sudden blossoming of a warm friendship between Cairo and Jerusalem and Israel’s willingness to withdraw from the flashpoint Philadelphi border strip.
Keeping this secret operation ticking over smoothly was discussed at length between Hosni Mubarak and his visitor, Mofaz, last week in Sharm al-Sheikh.
The West Bank Arm is run by a Jordanian military intelligence group working with an American Central Intelligence Agency team. The Jordanian group leader is General Abdallah Khayar who is based in Amman. His Palestinian contact is Jibril Rajoub.
Now that the two structures are up and running, Washington wants Israel to accelerate its withdrawal for three reasons:
1. Abu Mazen’s durability as Palestinian leader is an open question given his political and personal weakness.
2. When Sharon first came up with his disengagement plan, Arafat was still in the driving seat and no one envisaged the Hamas terrorist movement rising to power through the ballot box and replacing Abbas with an unknown face. This development may well negate the plan and other future withdrawals.
3. The White House is determined to prove its even-handedness to the Arab world and is therefore simultaneously pressing Syrian president Bashar Assad and Israeli prime minister Sharon for withdrawals.
To keep popular minds and discourse off these developments, Sharon arranged for the Sasson outpost report and the evacuation decision to come to light at this time.

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