Israel Resource Review 15th June, 2005


Is the Palestinian Authority Headed for Collapse?
A Middle East News Line Exclusive

The Palestinian Authority is quietly bracing for the prospect of collapse.

PA officials said numerous officials have fled or plan to leave the West Bank for Jordan and other Arab states. They said the assessment of many in the PA leadership is that the authority could collapse by late 2005 as the split within the ruling Fatah movement widens.

"The Fatah is split between the young guard who wants to take over now and the old guard who wants to remain at all costs," a PA official said. "Whatever happens, the fate of Fatah is linked to the PA."

Officials said PA security services have been unable to stem the increasing violence in the streets of Palestinian cities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. They said Fatah factions have been engaged in gun battles in Ramallah, the center of Palestinian government, while police largely stood by.

On Tuesday, PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qurie warned that he would suspend the Cabinet unless the security forces were ordered to halt the chaos in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Qurei also cited the violence in Ramallah.

"If this security chaos does not end, we will suspend our duties," Qurei said on Tuesday. "We are telling the heads of security services that there should be severe deterrence for all those who are tampering with security."

Over the last two weeks, Fatah's old guard appeared to have succeeded in postponing a congress scheduled for August 2005 to elect a new leadership. The move has angered young Fatah challengers, and PA officials predict the splintering of the movement into armed factions, with each competing for control of areas in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. They said many of these factions would be supported by foreign elements.

"In truth, this thing poses a strategic threat to the steadfastness of the Palestinians," Palestinian Legislative Council member Jamal Shubaki said. "It poses an internal threat upon the Palestinian stronghold, which remained firm in the face of all recent confrontations."

Officials said PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has sought to maintain a semblance of order in an effort to ensure the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank in August. But they said Abbas has lost control of the Fatah movement, particularly the 21-member Fatah Central Committee. Abbas, they said, could count on the support of two Central Committee members.

"PA and Fatah people have never been so scared as they are now," an official said. "There is a stream of people going to Amman and sending their families and money there."

The most immediate threat to Abbas and the PA comes from the Fatah-controlled Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. Officials said Al Aqsa operatives have sought to align themselves with Abbas's rivals in Fatah in preparation for a coup.

Abbas's leading rival has been Fatah chief Farouq Khaddoumy, backed by the movement's old guard. Fatah leaders have pressed for Khaddoumy's appointment to PA vice chairman, which would allow him to succeed Abbas.

At the same time, Fatah operatives have formed alliances with PA security commanders. Officials said the commanders have sought to form private militias to prevent their dismissal by Abbas or Interior Minister Nasser Yusef.

"The idea is that Al Aqsa will shoot at Abu Mazen [Abbas] if these commanders are dismissed," a Fatah source said.

Officials said several dismissed PA commanders have already fled the West Bank to avoid retaliation by the families of those killed or detained by security forces. They said the commanders had also feared that they would be jailed on corruption charges.

In early June, PA Military Intelligence units attacked PA officials to protest the dismissal of commander Brig. Gen. Mussa Arafat. The units stormed the home of the governor of Nablus and abducted a PA diplomat in the Gaza Strip.

Officials said Yusef agreed to shelve plans to absorb military intelligence in the PA National Security Force. Arafat's command, however, was not restored.

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Official PA Media:
Israel Poisoning the Water with "Super Drink"
Dr. Michael Widlanski

Analysis of the Palestinian media
June 14, 2005

Voice of Palestine radio

V.O.P. ran a long and rather strange item in the middle of the day [opening its 10 a.m. news broadcast] in which aPA cabinet Minister warned about drinking "Super Drink" a product transferred from Israel which was said to be "outlawed internationally" and which was deliberately introduced in Palestinian areas to poison Palestinians. The item was apparently not repeated at major broadcast times.

From Palestinian newspapers


Other Al-Quds Items:Hamas strongly supports Al-Qudwa's Statement [supporting right of armed resistance and Palestinian right to bear arms]; Another story covers pre-trial motions concerning press coverage of Saddam Hussein's upcoming trial in Iraq [features picture of Saddam]; continuing coverage of Islamic criticism of alleged American and Israeli desecration of copies of Quran;


TOP-OF-PAGE-PICTURE: Dr. Abbas receives Bahraini-Palestinian delegation Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda: Leads with warning from PA Col Husni that security chaos is continuing. Top-of-page picture shows Abbas meeting with American negotiator General Ward.

Major top-of-page picture off-lead shows Palestinian women holding copies of Quran, protesting Israeli treatment of Palestinian prisoners and alleged desecration of Islam's scripture.


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Mixed Messages from the Official Palestinian Authority Media
Dr. Michael Widlanski

June 15, 2005

There is a sense of drift in the Palestinian Authority as reflected in a welter of mixed and contradictory messages in the Palestinian media:

On the one hand, Voice of Palestine opened its Wednesday morning broadcasts on an optimistic note-impending Palestinian-Israeli security agreements, including transfer of more territory to Palestinian Authority (PA) control, apparently including the city of Jenin. The V.O.P. radio reports follow yesterday's newspaper stories concerning upcoming high-level Egyptian visits and diplomatic activity.

At the same time, PBC television has taken to running several minutes of film footage of Mahmoud Abbas in his meetings with local and foreign dignitaries-without sound overlay or with music-much the way it did during the Arafat regime, when the ultimate goal was regime reinforcement.

On the other hand Al-Hayat al-Jadeeda and Al-Quds reported Wednesday that Prime Minister Ahmad Qreia is basically threatening a government crisis-perhaps his resignation-if the "security chaos" continues, with various Palestinian groups using their weapons as they see fit.

On another note, V.O.P. radio reported that Israel arrested "the youth Sudqi Owdeh" a Palestinian who had been released by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas from jail in Jericho. Israel had opposed release of Owdeh, of al-Saida near Tulkarm, and another man, who Israel said were active members of an Islamic Jihad terror cell responsible for an attack on a Tel Aviv nightclub in February and for planning to carry out suicide attacks in Jerusalem two weeks ago. Elsewhere, V.O.P. accused Israeli soldiers of "haphazard and random fire" in an attack on Al-Dura in the Hebron region.

"Prime Minister Ahmad Qreia said the Palestinian Authority was making preparations .make sure the unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Gaza was positive and successful and would lead to Israeli withdrawal from all Palestinian lands." (V.O.P., Wednesday morning news roundup-7/8 a.m. June 15.)

Voice of Palestine radio

Voice of Palestine's senior anchorman, Nizar Al-Ghul read the following item as a kind of editorial immediately following the morning headlines:

"The military court at Ofer yesterday sentenced the Jerusalem youth Abdullah Adnan Yehya Shrabati, 24 years old, from the Wadi Joz neighborhood, to 23 prison terms at hard labor as well as a term of 35 years for a variety of operations against Israeli targets. The prisoner Sharabati was arrested on September 14 2003.regarding the operation against the number 2 bus in Jerusalem and for the operation in West Jerusalem against the number 14 bus in June 2003. The court also found that Sharabati was a member of Hamas in the Hebron area and that he directed and helped gain information for carrying out explosive operations against Israelis in crowded areas."

[Note the same item read by the V.O.P. anchorman appeared as a small item on P 1 of Al-Quds, with continuation to jump page, p33.]

From Palestinian newspapers

Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda: QREIA THREATENDS SUSPENSION OF GOVERNMENT RESPONSIBLIES IF SECURITY TRANSGRESSION AND CLASHES CONTINUE Other Hayat Items: IDF Commander Halutz warns that Gaza withdrawal will cease if exposed to Palestinian fire [top of page picture] Abbas on visit to Doha

Al-Quds (lead item) also leads with Qreia threats, suggesting strong physical danger to PA leaders from Palestinians, Al-Quds also his comments added and different slant by adding sub-head where Qreia complains about not being able to visit Jerusalem [an apparent reference also to Israel]. This newspaper highlights Qreia's hope that PA-Israel contacts will produce diplomatic progress.

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Ending Israeli Occupation Precondition for Disarming PM Qurei Recommits to Truce, to 'Smooth' Israeli Withdrawal
Palestine Media Center - PMC [Official PA website]

[With thanks to IMRA for locating this item]

Reconfirming its commitment to the ceasefire on Tuesday, the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) rejected Israel's demand and ongoing pressure to disarm anti-Israeli occupation factions as a recipe for Palestinian infighting and civil war, reiterated that ending the occupation is a precondition for disarming the Palestinian resistance, and describing the repeated Israeli demand as part of the Israeli government's maneuvering to absolve itself from its "roadmap" commitments.

The PNA confirmed its commitment to maintain the ceasefire and to facilitate the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza strip, planned for mid-August.

"We are preparing very well for the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank and we hope it will be completed successfully. We are prepared to assume all our responsibilities in these areas," PNA Prime Minister Ahamd Qurei said on Tuesday.

"We want this unilateral disengagement to pass smoothly so that it could be followed by a full withdrawal from our Palestinian territories, including (the Israeli-occupied) Jerusalem," he said.

Qurei hoped that the upcoming summit between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon would lead to "real" coordination ahead of the pullout.

On Monday Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Erakat similarly reiterated PNA commitment to the ceasefire, but said it should be mutual and simultaneous.

"Every effort should be exerted to sustain the quiet. But it cannot be sustained by one side only. Both sides should be committed to stop violence against one another mutually and simultaneously," said Erakat on Monday.

The issue would be "on top of the agenda" during the planned summit between Abbas and Sharon on June 21, he said.

Palestinian deputy interior minister Jamal Abu Zeid and the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) deputy chief of staff Moshe Kaplinsky held Tuesday the first meeting of the Palestinian - Israeli committee coordinating Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

Halutz's Latest Shot in Israeli Maneuvering

The IOF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz said Tuesday that Israel might have to temporarily delay its withdrawal from the Gaza Strip if Palestinian attacks continued, saying that: "There won't be disengagement under fire."

The PNA and the Palestinian factions have unilaterally committed themselves to a truce with the IOF two weeks ahead of the summit between President Abbas and Prime Minister Sharon in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on February 8, during which Abbas and Sharon reached and announced a "ceasefire" understanding.

Palestinian anti- occupation factions have since been committed to their unilateral truce despite the ongoing Israeli violations that claimed more than 30 Palestinian lives since February 8.

Haluz's statement was the latest shot in Israel's pressure tactics and maneuvering.

The Israeli government has been either reneging or prostrating on its Sharm el-Sheikh obligations as well as avoiding serious coordination with the PNA on its unilateral "disengagement" plan from the Gaza Strip and a tiny part of the northern West Bank, and threatening now and then to delay its withdrawal from both Israeli-occupied areas, as part of its pressure to dictate on the PNA to use force instead of national dialogue with the factions.

"The (PLO) Executive Committee expressed its concern in the face of the maneuvers by the Israelis who are refusing to deal seriously with the key questions linked to the withdrawal from Gaza," said a statement issued by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) on Monday.

Al-Qidwa: Ending Occupation Is Precondition for Disarming

The PNA on Tuesday sent a clear-cut message to Israel that ending its occupation of the Palestinian Territory is the indispensable precondition for disarming the Palestinian resistance.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Nasser Al-Qidwa said in a statement sent to reporters that the PNA will not disarm the factions until Israel ends its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which the Hebrew state occupied in 1967.

The "roadmap" peace plan calls for ending the Israeli occupation, said al-Qidwa, noting that, according to the international law, the Palestinians have the right to resist as long as the Palestinian territories are occupied.

"My position is based on international law and a deep understanding of our responsibilities according to the (UN-adopted) roadmap, and I will not retract my words," he said.

"As long as there is occupation, we don't think that there should be an end of arms," Al-Qidwa told Israel Radio.

Al-Qidawa was referring to an earlier statement on Saturday to the same effect, which set off an Israeli storm.

On Saturday, Al-Qidwa told Palestinian television that disarming resistance factions was not on the agenda.

"The dismantling of armed organizations is not on the table because weapons are legal as long as the occupation exists," he said.

"Possession of weapons is a strategic issue as long as there is occupation," Al-Qidwa continued, adding that weapons should be organized and not be used to break the law.

Later in the day he elaborated.

"Under international law, the Palestinian people have the right to resist this occupation and defend themselves," the former Palestinian envoy to the United Nations told Reuters in an interview.

"When occupation ends, it becomes a different matter. It would have to come to a national position to start disarming everybody, everybody but the security apparatus," he said, referring to the PNA security forces.

"Keeping our weapons is a strategic option," he added.

Threatening Israeli Reaction

His statements have angered the Israeli officials who have threatened to cancel a scheduled summit meeting on June 21 between Abbas and Sharon.

"The refusal of the Palestinian Authority to disarm the terror groups drops a cluster bomb on the process that could lead to negotiations and quiet," Vice Premier Ehud Olmert told Israel Radio. "Very simply, either they will fight terrorism or we will fight terrorism."

Separately, Israel's Deputy "Defense" Minister Zeev Boim said Israel will not begin peace talks until the Palestinians disarm terrorists. Al-Qidwa's comment "places doubt on the Palestinian intention to enter the road map framework acceptable to the entire international community," Boim told Israel Radio.

Palestinian Factions Warn: Truce Should Be Reciprocal

Meanwhile The Higher Follow-up Committee of Palestinian National and Islamic Forces on Monday blamed Israel for endangering the fragile ceasefire in the West Bank and Gaza strip.

"We must make it abundantly clear that the ceasefire depends on reciprocity from the other side, we can't maintain the ceasefire and the calm if the Israeli occupation army continues to kill and maim our people and raid our towns and villages," the committee said.

"A one-sided truce will not be accepted and cannot continue," said a statement issued by the 13 Palestinian factions. "We hold the Zionist enemy completely responsible for the deterioration of the truce."

The Committee said as many as 23 Palestinians had been killed by the IOF since Abbas-Sharon summit on February 8.

In their statement Monday, the groups said they would continue to consult with one another to determine an "appropriate response to the ongoing aggression."

"We are going to meet again within two days in order to discuss our final stand," said Mohammed al-Hindi, an Islamic Jihad leader. "It looks like Israel will continue in this aggression and we cannot accept that anymore."

Similarly Saed Sayem, a Hamas spokesman, said his movement's patience was wearing thin.

"Israel is committing daily violations," he said after Sunday's meeting. "We are going to reconsider our stance if Israel continues its aggression."

Shaath Denies Commitment to Disarm Factions

On the same day Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Information Nabil Shaath also warned of Israel's ceasefire violations.

"If Israel carries on with what it is doing, it will be difficult to control matters," Shaath said.

Shaath also denied that the PNA) was committed to disarm the anti-occupation factions at the Sharm el-Sheikh summit.

Shaath told the Cairo-based Radio Voice of Palestine that the PNA would not carry out such a commitment under the roadmap peace plan until Israel dismantles the illegal Jewish settlements and stop constructing its Apartheid Wall in the occupied West Bank.

President Abbas wrapped up a two-day visit last week to Gaza, which was dominated by urgent talks with the 13 factions aimed at salvaging an increasingly precarious ceasefire agreement.

"If you want to achieve peace and security, it is in our national interest to maintain calm," he said Thursday on Palestinian television following talks with Hamas and Jihad.

"We must maintain calm despite the continuous provocations from Israel," Abbas insisted.

The factions, including Hamas and Jihad, pledged to honor the 4-month old truce, provided Israel reciprocates.

Israel: For Us the Partner Is the PNA

On its part Israel said it has nothing to do with the Palestinian factions and that the PNA is its "partner."

"Israel never had any illusions about the true nature of both Hamas and Islamic Jihad," said Mark Regev, spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

"For us the partner is the Palestinian Authority," he added. "We are hoping that the Palestinian Authority will finally take the steps to dismantle these groups so they don't torpedo the process of dialogue between the Palestinian Authority and Israel."

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Congressmen urge end to PA incitement against Israel
Near East Report
June 5th 2005

Before Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' recent visit to Washington, 34 House members sent a letter to President Bush urging him to ask Abbas to take action against anti-Israel incitement by the PA. Citing a recent inflammatory sermon on state-run Palestinian television, these members, led by Reps. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD) and HENRY WAXMAN (D-CA), outlined steps that Abbas must take to end incitement. •NER•

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