Israel Resource Review 30th January, 2007


Commentary: How Abbas's Encouragement to Attack Israel is Being Carried Out
Arlene Kushner

January 30, 2007

Two weeks ago, at a rally for Fatah, PA president Mahmoud Abbas said, "Let a thousand flowers bloom, and let our rifles, all our rifles, all our rifles, be aimed at the Occupation."

Yesterday, shortly after the suicide bombing in Eilat, a masked spokesman for Islamic Jihad, one of the groups that claimed credit for the attack, said, "Our rifles, all our rifles are being aimed at the enemy."

Dr. Michael Widlanski, PA media expert and Arabist, does not believe this is a coincidence. Rather, it seems that "the attack was an attempt to move the Palestinians away from killing each other by moving them back to killing Israelis," which is what was suggested by Abbas in his speech.

Both Islamic Jihad and Al Aksa Brigades have now threatened more attacks that would, according to Islamic Jihad, return to "the heart of Israel."


Meanwhile, an uneasy truce between Fatah and Hamas is holding for the moment, sort of. One Hamas leader was shot dead today, and gunmen who were supposed to leave the streets are still there.

More information has surfaced regarding the projected meeting in Mecca between the factions, scheduled to begin on February 5, under the patronage of the Saudi royal family. Ahmed Qurei, former PA prime minister, will head the Fatah delegation, and Khaled Mashaal, the Hamas delegation. Abbas and PA prime minister Ismail Haniyeh will also be in attendance.

The Saudis are hoping to promote the formation of a unity government that will be acceptable to the international community, and, according to the London-based daily, Al Quds Al Arabi, are planning on providing the Palestinians with $1 billion to ease their situation.


The IDF has announced that it has taken out a tunnel near the Karni crossing via an aerial attack, a tunnel that would have been used imminently for a terrorist attack. It is hardly the first time that terrorists have dug tunnels at Karni with the intention of attacking from Gaza; what makes this notable is that Karni is a main crossing for goods into Gaza, and when the terrorists put it in their sites, they are inconveniencing fellow Palestinians.

This has nothing to do with the attack on Eilat yesterday, which -- it is surmised -- took place after a terrorist moved from Gaza into the Sinai and then into the Negev. The Karni crossing is considerably farther north along the Gazan border.

The announcement about this attack, put out by the IDF spokesperson, includes the unusual phrase, "In accordance with a decision made by the political echelon." Dr. Aaron Lerner of IMRA, in pointing this out, remarked that he had never before seen this wording in an IDF announcement, and that it seemed to be a jab at the Olmert government -- an expression of the military frustration at being prevented from taking all actions that are deemed advisable.


Meanwhile, there has been no definitive decision made by "the political echelon" with regard to the proper response to yesterday's bombing. Maybe we should demolish the suicide bomber's home. But that hasn't been shown to be an effective deterrent. Maybe we should destroy warehouses used for weapons storage. But then innocent civilians might get hurt. Maybe . . . maybe . . .

The government seems immobilized, and is putting out a message that can only be interpreted as weakness. One report I read explained that Olmert is afraid that Kassam attacks, which have slowed down in recent days, would be stepped up if there were a strong response. Rather puts the terrorists in control, doesn't it? According to some military sources cited by YNet, Israel is reluctant "to take extreme and irreversible measures," whatever that means. Seems to me, when it comes to rooting out terrorism, we'd want to take measures that cannot be reversed.

In spite of Peretz's call for an end to Israeli restraint -- and truly Peretz is no hawk -- Olmert has instructed the IDF for now to make no change in its policy in Gaza. Gov't officials are still talking about finding out who was really responsible before action can be taken.

One official is quoted as saying that while Al Aksa Brigades has claimed involvement, it was probably just an Islamic Jihad operation. And here is where I get really really cynical: If Al Aksa Brigades -- which is a branch of Fatah and recognizes Abbas as its leader -- is involved, then it is harder for Olmert to meet with Abbas and to claim him as a moderate to whom Israeli land can be turned over. This creates a problem for Olmert. So, it rather has to be -- doesn't it? -- that the finger is pointed at Islamic Jihad.


My take? It doesn't matter which group actually did it. They're all after us, all gearing up. And they tend to cooperate. It's past due for us to move in a major operation in Gaza to take out weapons storage facilities, weapons manufacturing facilities, and terrorists as we can find them, whatever the group they claim allegiance to.

In 2006, the IDF and Shin Bet caught over 100 Palestinian terrorists -- suicide bombers, weapons experts, those planning soldier kidnappings -- who originated in Gaza and tried to infiltrate Israel via the Sinai, the easiest way to get into Israel from Gaza.

Yesterday I reported that the Eilat suicide bomber had likely entered the Negev through one of several holes in the fence; that is what I read. But now it seems this may have been in error (perhaps the holes are in the fence between Gaza and the Sinai) and that the border between the Sinai and the Negev has no physical barrier but is monitored by infantry patrols and undercover units.

We have not seen the last, here. Security experts are now concerned about a third Intifada (read war). Do we sit here and wait for infiltrators to make it into our cities? Or are we going to wise up and take preemptive action?


The Knesset is taking legal steps toward the impeachment of President Moshe Katsav. The process was begun by the Knesset House Committee earlier today; procedures were then passed by the Knesset plenum. A petition, signed by 30 MKs, will be delivered to Katsav tonight. Within two weeks deliberations in the Knesset will begin, with 90 votes required for impeachment. Such action has never before been taken against a sitting Israeli president.


The good news for today is this: There has been a survey conducted regarding which party people would vote for if elections were held today, and who is perceived as best suited to serve as prime minister. What we see is that there has been a radical shift in the electorate.

Likud would receive 32 mandates; Yisrael Beitenu would receive 10; Kadima and Labor would each receive 9. As to the person best suited to be prime minister, 34% would choose Binyamin Netanyahu (Likud); Tzipi Livni (Kadima) and Ami Ayalon (Labor) would each be selected by 16%; Ehud Barak (Labor) would be chosen by 8%; and . . . Ehud Olmert (Kadima) would be preferred by 3%.

All right!! The electorate gets it. Now we have to see the coalition implode and the changes take place.


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Abbas condemns Eilat bombing [says bad PR and ineffective]
Maan News Line

Gaza, Ma'an - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has on Tuesday renewed his rejection and condemnation of the bombing operation in Eilat which he portrayed as unnecessary and useless for the Palestinian people.

From Cairo, where he is meeting with Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, Abbas said such operations will not shake the ceasefire in the Gaza Strip between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

President Abbas was also asked how the fragile Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire can be kept. Abbas responded, "Everybody is fed up with the frequent violations of the ceasefire."

Referring to the recent clashes between the rival factions, Fatah and Hamas, Abbas added, "We feel bad over what is happening in the Palestinian territories. This distorts the image of the people's struggle."

As for guaranteeing that the current truces will last, Abbas said, "Only the concerned Palestinian parties can guarantee appeasement through controlling its own members."

Abbas again portrayed the Executive Force, the security body under the command of the Hamas-led interior ministry, as illegal. He referred to the fact that he only agreed to the appointing of a number of armed men to the minister of interior on the condition that they be assimilated into the security services, rather than forming a new branch.

Abbas confirmed again that the Egyptians, who are a major partner to the Palestinians, played a great role in reaching a ceasefire between Hamas and Fatah last night.

As for whether Abbas has any specific plans intended to push the political process forward, such as a meeting with the Hamas political bureau head, Khalid Mash'al, Abbas said: "The formation of a unity government needs no meetings since there are parties who are working on that issue."

With regard to the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and the plans for its reform, he said there is an agreement to hold a preparatory meeting in the Syrian capital, Damascus to determine who will participate in reforming the PLO. Once that meeting is accomplished, there will be a formal meeting in Cairo, he said.

Earlier on Tuesday, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak held talks with President Abbas to discuss the developments in the Palestinian arena and the means to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The meeting was attended by PLO member Yasser Abed Rabbo, the head of the PLO's negotiations department, Saeb Erekat, and the Palestinian ambassador to Egypt, Munther Dajani.

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Palestinians Unite Behind Terror Attack, As Bomber Fulfils PLO Leader's Wishes
Dr. Michael Widlanski

Three Israeli civilians were murdered by a Palestinian terrorist in Eilat yesterday who was explicitly fulfilling the request of PLO leader Mahmoud Abbas that the Palestinians stop fighting each other and start aiming their weapons against Israel.

"Our rifles, all our rifles are being aimed at the enemy," declared a masked spokesman for the Islamic Jihad terror organization shortly after the bomb attack on a bakery in the southern Israeli resort city of Eilat.

Jihad's statement copied Dr. Abbas's call-two weeks ago-for Palestinian unity and for attacking Israeli "occupation" instead of "brother" Palestinians. Hundreds of Palestinians have been killed by Palestinians in the last six months of what the Arabs call "felataan amni"-security chaos, more than 40 in the last five days alone.

"Let a thousand flowers bloom, and let our rifles, all our rifles, all our rifles, be aimed at the Occupation," declared Abbas in a public rally that was aired on Palestinian television and radio on January 11, but his words were largely ignored by the Western press and diplomatic corps.

Official Palestinian television reported last night (January 29, 5 p.m. English broadcast) that the attack was carried out by the Islamic Jihad with the help of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade of the Fatah organization, that is headed by Abbas.

Abbas himself, who heads the PLO, Fatah and the Palestinian Authority, did not issue a clear condemnation of the attack, though some Israeli media and diplomats reported that he had.

In fact, the state media controlled by Abbas, such as the Al-Quds newspaper, referred to the human bomber as a "shahid" or martyr, a title of honor, while Palestinian radio in Arabic-Sawt Felasteen-called the attack on Eilat "amaliyya tafjeeriyya"-an explosive operation.

Only late in the day yesterday did Voice of Palestine radio issue a minor report stating that one of Abbas's aides, Ahmad Abdul-Rahman, said the Palestinian leadership opposed attacks on civilians. Neither Abbas nor Abdul-Rahman appeared on radio or tv to make the statement themselves.

After yesterday's terror attack in Eilat, the Islamic Jihad spokesman gave detailed biographical information about the bomber, Muhammad Faisal Al-Siqsiq, who, he said, had carried out the murders with the help of Jihad and the Fatah organization of Dr. Abbas.

The words and actions of the Islamic Jihad organization-and those of Hamas and PLO leader Abbas-seemed to confirm that the attack was an attempt to move the Palestinians away from killing each other by moving them back to killing Israelis, as suggested by Abbas himself in a speech two weeks ago.

The internet web site of Islamic Jihad said the "Eilat operation" was meant to unite Palestinians of all organizations, and it seemed to work.

Voice of Palestine radio reported Tuesday (Jan30) that a truce between Fatah and Hamas had been reached, and V.O.P. said there was relative quiet in the Gaza Strip and West Bank areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority. =============== Dr. Michael Widlanski is a specialist in Arab politics and communication who teaches at the Rothberg School of Hebrew University. He is a former reporter, correspondent and editor, respectively, at The New York Times, The Cox Newspapers-Atlanta Constitution, and The Jerusalem Post. He has also served as a special advisor to Israeli delegations to peace talks in 1991-1992 and as Strategic Affairs Advisor to the Ministry of Public Security, editing secret PLO Archives captured in Jerusalem.

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