Israel Resource Review 17th December, 2006


Terror Score Card -
FACTBOX-How rival Palestinian armed factions stack up

Here's how the Palestinian armed rivals stack up militarily:


With U.S. backing, Abbas's elite presidential guard has grown to at least 4,000 men, up from 2,500 members when Hamas took power in March.

Last week, Hamas accused the presidential guard and a Fatah strongman of trying to assassinate Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh as his convoy was leaving the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt. Fatah denies the charge.

U.S. plans call for expanding the presidential guard to at least 4,700 members in the near term. Palestinian officials say the force would eventually grow to at least 10,000 members.

The United States and Israel have also backed a proposal by Abbas to let about 1,000 members of the so-called Badr Brigade, a Fatah-dominated force based in Jordan, into the Palestinian territories to reinforce Abbas's guard.

Under U.S. guidance, European states have committed non-lethal equipment, including vehicles, to the presidential guard. Washington has also helped organise shipments of guns and ammunition to the guard from Egypt and Jordan.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said last week that the Bush administration, pending U.S. congressional approval, would provide tens of millions of dollars in direct support to strengthen Abbas's forces.


Under Abbas's control, General Intelligence is believed to have 5,000 members. Fatah has accused Hamas of killing several of the unit's leaders in the Gaza Strip in recent months.

The killing a week ago of three schoolboys, whose father was an intelligence official considered close to Abbas, deepened the divide between Fatah and Hamas. Hamas denies involvement.

National Security Forces under Abbas's direct command include Military Intelligence and the Naval Police. They are not as well equipped as the presidential guard but are believed to have up to 30,000 members in all.


First deployed by the Hamas-led government on the streets of Gaza in May, Hamas says its "Executive Force" has grown from an estimated 3,000 members to nearly 6,000.

The force is built mostly from members of the Hamas armed wing, the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades, but it includes some members from allied militant factions such as the Popular Resistance Committees.

The force appears to be well equipped using the group's own resources. Israel and the United States believe Iran has provided tens of millions of dollars in support to bolster the force. Hamas does not provide any information about the force's sources of funding.


In theory, these fall under the jurisdiction of the Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry. But in practice, they are dominated by loyalists of Abbas's Fatah movement and Hamas has struggled to exert control over them. Their total strength is estimated at about 30,000.

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Words on the Nuclear Issue are Crucial
Uzi Arad
Former Israeli Intelligence Official

Statements made by heads of state on the nuclear issue have special importance because of the subject's critical nature. Accordingly, these statements are known as "declaratory policy," which indicates that these statements are significant in and of themselves . Among nuclear superpowers, the main component of "declaratory policy" does not refer to capabilities, but rather to deterrence. After all, the entire purpose of nuclear deterrence is dependent on persuading the adversary, among other ways by statements made by the highest echelons, what will happen to it if it dares to strike. "Declaratory policy" in the nuclear issue has always been an area in which policy makers have always been extra meticulous about every word they say.

Israel formulated a "declaratory policy" that is known as "nuclear ambiguity," because it was frugal with words and low in profile. Its diplomatic usefulness was proven over the years, which is why all the prime ministers stuck to it without making any changes. The latest case, in which Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ostensibly veered from the traditional line in an interview to a German journalist, is rare and unusual.

Nonetheless, obviously policy does not have to remain permanent and fossilized and all policy should sometimes be reexamined as to its suitability for changing circumstances. In our region, at the heart of the changing circumstances is Iran's nuclear arming and its acquiring means of launching long range missiles and its provocative statements about Israel. These circumstances, as I have written here before, cause an accumulative "deterrence deficit" on Israel's part the more the threats to it increase, while Israel is sticking to its "declaratory policy" and is maintaining an impressive degree of declaratory restraint.

The accumulated "deterrence deficit" could ostensibly justify calibrating the "declaratory policy" to a general and explicit message of deterrence. But such a calibration, as careful as it may be, would be a diversion from Israel's "declaratory policy" up until today, and it seems that the need for this is less right now, if only because Israel's work should be and is being done by others.

For example, we remember the statement by American defense secretary Cheney in the course of the first Gulf war, who explicitly threatened a massive Israeli response if it were attacked by unconventional weapons. That was it, he did not give details-but he threatened. Recently it was the current American secretary of defense, Bob Gates, who numbered Israel among the nuclear countries. He did not threaten, he did not explain-but ostensibly he revealed. And at this time, Senator Hillary Clinton who wants to be American president, expressed her evaluation that Iran will not attack Israel with a nuclear bomb if it achieves this capability, because this would necessarily lead to its obliteration. She said no more, did not explain-but deterred.

American statements do not obligate Israel of course. There is even a certain contradiction between them, as there is between the different motives behind them. Gates said what he said, most likely in order to explain Iran's aspiration to have nuclear capability; Clinton, in contrast, perhaps wanted to express her confidence in Israel's power of deterrence. Clinton believed that the Iranians would be deterred from carrying out a nuclear attack because of its fear of Israel's response, while Gates did not rule out the possibility of their not being deterred.

In the coming months the Iranian issue is expected to come up on the agenda even more and along with it, more statements. There will be those in Israel who will advocate updating the "declaratory policy" and increasing its component of deterrence. This was already done, for example, by Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres, who said a few months ago, "Iran can also be destroyed." There will be those, on the other hand, who will guard against any change and will stick to the "declaratory policy" as is, and will even want to tighten it. Opposition Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu-who was the first to define the Iranian threat as the main existential threat that Israel faces and whose nuclear capability must be prevented-in the past, would stick to the phrase "Israel will know how to defend itself," without explaining and without threatening.

It seems that this strict policy is still suitable. Among other reasons, because the American statements cited above somewhat cover for the accumulated "deterrence deficit." It seems that the time has not yet come to change Israel's "declaratory policy" on the matter, not with a slip of the tongue and not deliberately.

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