Patently ridiculous. Ludicrous. That’s the situation with the PA, and this is whom we are supposed to be dealing with.
I wrote yesterday about the plot to assassinate Olmert when he went into Jericho in August, about the arrests made by the PA of those planning the attack and their subsequent release and then re-arrest. It was PA prime minister Salaam Fayyad who addressed this publicly, saying they had been re-arrested. In fact, Fayyad told Knesset Speak Dalia Itzik that, "we are studying the incident and plan to do our best in order to restore the order in the region. We will draw all our lessons from the incident."
I indicated in my original report that those arrested were members of the PA security forces — Fatah, I should add, to clarify. I have subsequently learned that they were not only in the PA security forces, they were supposed to have been helping to guard Olmert’s convoy. Makes sense. Who do you recruit for such a mission? The men who will be close to the convoy.
But after all of this, what do we have? Fatah spokesman Ahmed Abdul Rahman declaring that "This is a false story meant to undermine the efforts of the Fatah movement and President Mahmoud Abbas to reach a just peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
"I call on all media outlets to disregard the false Israeli version, because there are clear political Israeli interests behind this falsification."
Come on, guys. This is transparent and you’re making yourselves look ridiculous.
I will add here that the Shin Bet is now blocking any trips of Israeli officials into areas in which the PA has (or is supposed to have) security control. Our inability to rely on the PA forces is about as clear as it could be. While I tell the above light-heartedly, there are very serious implications.
Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter said that this incident was a "classic example of the Palestinian Authority’s ‘so-called’ policy of fighting terror."
It has been observed by analysts that there is reason why this information — which is weeks old — was released now. It serves to put the PA on the defense in negotiations.
And there’s yet more on the PA.
According to Khaled Abu Toameh today in the Post, the Bush administration is exerting heavy pressure on Abbas to appoint Muhammad Dahlan as his deputy.
Well… if the matter of how the PA officials responded to the planned assassination is ridiculous, this is patently more so. But there’s nothing remotely funny here.
Dahlan is broadly viewed as a "reformer" and someone who has the potential strength to pull things together, where Abbas is slipping.
But Dahlan is a terrorist. He was arrested by Israel for terrorist activities 11 times in the 1980s. The CIA has a recording of him giving the orders to bomb an Israeli school bus in Kfar Darom, on November 18, 2000 — an attack in which two adults were killed and several children wounded, including three siblings who each lost part of a leg. Israeli Intelligence is in possession of documents proving his direct involvement in all stages of the foiled Karine-A gunboat operation of 2002. And his name is associated with a bomb factory.
The US cannot do better than this in its attempts to strengthen Abbas? It’s both pathetic and shameful, in my opinion.
Abbas is resisting, according to the report; the Egyptian newspaper Al-Masriyoon says that Dahlan has been inciting Fatah in Judea and Samaria against Abbas.
And to make matters even more complicated , relates Abu Toameh, Abbas and Fayyad are in the midst of a crisis. It’s so bad that when Rice was here, she had to meet separately with each.
Former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon has written an analytic piece for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs about a little discussed but potentially significant subject — the purchase by Israel of natural gas from off shore reserves in Gaza’s coastal waters, discovered in 2000.
It was the British corporate giant British Gas that found the reserves and has since gone into partnership both with the PA and private Palestinian owned contracting companies. The goal is to develop the reserves and sell Israel, which has need of additional energy sources, massive quantities of gas. The thought was that the revenues (up to a billion dollars) for the Palestinians would jump start their economy. This was Tony Blair’s idea.
However, says Yaalon, the problems are considerable and actually constitute a security risk for Israel in several respects:
Money secured by the PA , rather than jump starting their economy, would likely go at least in part to further fund terrorism. Thus Israel would in effect be funding terrorists intent on acting against her.
Military actions begin to be judged in commercial terms. Yaalon suggests that the reluctance of the Olmert government to do a major operation in Gaza may be in part because of concern about not upsetting this transaction.
Ultimately, because Hamas controls Gaza , it would become involved. The British, in particular, invested as they are in this venture, are likely to go easier on Hamas and talk about the possibility of negotiating with them. Hamas would be less isolated.
Israeli dependency for energy on a corporate group that involves the PA is likely a poor move. There is a risk of terrorists using the gas line as leverage against Israel, threatening to cut off gas or doing so.
Other groups such as al-Qaeda may be motivated to attack the drilling installations, even though they are planned to be submerged well under sea level.
As soon as the reserves were found in 2000 , British Gas and its Palestinian partners approached Israel about buying the gas — then British Prime Minister Tony Blair urged this on Israel. However, both Prime Minister Sharon and Mossad head Meir Dagan were opposed because of security issues.
It is Olmert who has revived interest in a deal with British Gas and pushed for a final understanding. Yet one more reason to question Olmert’s judgment and his intentions.
Yaalon suggests that focus on this deal may have deflected Israeli exploration of other potential sources for natural gas. There is the possibility that there are sufficient gas reserves off the coast of Haifa for Israel’s needs.
Writes Yaalon: "The latest indications are that the BG Group, with the full backing of the British government, intends to finalize a multi-year agreement with Israel before the end of 2007.
"The dangers inherent in Israel’s potential purchase of British Gas from the marine reserves off Gaza require an immediate, comprehensive, interagency security assessment by the IDF, Israeli Security Agency, Mossad, and other organs."