I had lunch with an Israeli friend yesterday who told me he had no doubt that Israel’s defense against terrorism emanating from the Gaza strip can only improve after the withdrawal from Gaza.
He may be right. But not if you read this article by Yuval Diskin from the shin bet, in makes some very worrying claims.
How Much Will Sharon Fork out for a Favorable Security Council Resolution?
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report
August 7, 2005, 9:15 AM (GMT+02:00)
Yuval Diskin, only three months Shin Beit director
Sunday, August 7, the Israeli cabinet approves by a large majority the evacuation of the first three Israel locations in the Gaza Strip, Morag, Netzarim and Kfar Darom. Similar approvals will follow for the remaining eighteen.
But that does not make Sunday Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon’s big day.
The important date for him is Wednesday, August 10. He will then find out if his huge gamble in pushing ahead, through thick and thin, with Israel’s pull-out from the Gaza Strip and part of the northern West Bank, comes up trumps. He has staked painful concessions, national unity and personal credibility on winning a big prize, but clearly believes it is worth the candle. That prize is a US-British-French initiative for a UN Security Council resolution declaring the Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip at an end. He is counting on this reward’s delivery as soon as he hands the territory to Palestinian sovereignty free of an Israeli presence.
For the prime minister, this prize would make all the setbacks and humiliations he has suffered in the last year or two since launching his unilateral disengagement plan worthwhile. His advisers tell him that he would emerge from the battle powerful enough to pick and choose the party he leads in the next general election and be assured of a third term as prime minister.
According to DEBKAfile’s Washington sources, Sharon has an American promise in his pocket for this step. British premier Tony Blair agreed to go along with the initiative after the Sharon government permitted the British secret service MI6 to set up situation rooms in Gaza, Rafah, the Erez Gaza-Israel border terminal, Ramallah, Jenin, Tulkarm and Jericho. French president Jacques Chirac promised to join in during Sharon’s Paris visit last month.
However this coming Wednesday will determine whether Sharon’s gambit stands or falls.
It is then that the Middle East Quartet’s economic coordinator for the Gaza Strip, James Wolfensohn, is due to phone his principals – President George W. Bush, UN secretary Kofi Annan, Blair and Chirac – with his final report. He will say –
I have succeeded in my mission to guarantee the economic future of the Gaza Strip and its land link to the West Bank, or –
I have failed in my mission, because Ariel Sharon is being stubborn and holding up my efforts to assure the Gaza Strip’s economic wellbeing and its direct link to the West Bank.
The first message will prompt steps in Washington to prepare Sharon’s dream resolution for approval after the last Israeli soldier is withdrawn. But if Wolfenson announces failure, Sharon will have lost his gamble.
The prime minister has already paid a stiff price in concessions to make the coordinator’s task a success. He has foregone all forms of Israeli presence at the border crossings between Egypt and the Gaza Strip in favor of an international presence; cut to the bone Israeli inspections of traffic at the Gaza-Israel checkpoints; agreed to relegate to Egypt security control of the Philadelphi border strip and the smuggling routes from Sinai to the Gaza Strip, and given Egypt the license to deploy troops in northern Sinai. The Palestinians will be allowed to dig a deep water port in Gaza, at the expense of Israel’s naval control of the Mediterranean coast. Most significantly, the Palestinians will be granted a land corridor across Israel’s Negev for the passage of goods and people from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank across southern Israeli territory. The Palestinians will receive these benefits without relinquishing terrorism.
Sharon has even waived the driving motive behind the evacuation, its unilateral nature, which was meant in the first place to begin disengaging the state of Israel from the Palestinian encumbrance. In the event, Israel is bound to executing its pull-out down to the last soldier and civilian for a wholly undesirable outcome: instead of disengagement, Israel must resign itself to intensified connectivity between the Gaza Strip and Israel.
But there is till one Palestinian demand that Sharon has resisted so far, upon which the entire scheme stands or falls: the Palestinians are holding out for the Gaza-West Bank corridor to be free of Israeli searches or the right to unload freight and travelers that hazard its security. Wolfensohn goes along with the Palestinian contention that Israeli authority to conduct such searches would nullify their sovereignty over the Gaza Strip and therefore not terminate the Israeli occupation
On the other hand, Israel’s security chiefs, the Shin Beit’s Yuval Diskin and AMAN’s Maj-Gen. Aharon Zeevi, are aghast at prospect of forfeiting this vital anti-terror measure. Once the trucks are able to pass through this corridor without restrictive searches for terrorists and weapons, there will be nothing to stop Hamas, Jihad Islami, Hizballah and even al Qaeda from jumping aboard and reaching the West Bank, along with their dangerous weapons of war. The Qassam missiles which battered Sderot will be aimed at the cities of central Israel, whose proximity will provide a further incentive for the suicide bombers heading out of Gaza unrestricted to West Bank.
According to DEBKAfile’s security sources, Diskin warned Sharon over this weekend that to make the terror threat real, it is enough for the Palestinian convoys to transfer a few score terrorists carrying Qassam missile and mortar diagrams for construction in West Bank metal workshops. They could also manufacture the shaped bombs long familiar to Israeli troops in the Gaza Strip and now menacing US Marines in Iraq. Very soon, Palestinian terror will again shoot across into Israel’s heartland after years of supreme and costly efforts to hold it back.
Diskin’s warning was so ominous that he is believed to be weighing resignation rather than accepting the impossible responsibility for national security should the prime minister give way on this point.
For Sharon the dilemma is a tough one: give up on searches of Palestinian convoys transiting Israel and let Wolfensohn claim success? Or stand by a vital national security interest and give up on a UN Security Council resolution framing international recognition of his monumental achievement to hang on his wall?
Without the world’s blessing for ending the occupation of the Gaza Strip, the prime minister will have dragged the country through a wrenching pull-out, bisected it and saddled it with a huge, unaffordable outlay – and for what?
Much of this agony stems from the prime minister’s office’s mishandling of the Wolfensohn mission. Underestimating its importance – perhaps because of the emissary’s rumpled appearance and unpretentiousness – Sharon’s advisers shunted the contacts with him over to the Labor vice prime minister Shimon Peres and his close associate Haim Ramon, both of whom are totally committed to a policy of almost unlimited concessions to the Palestinians. The pair seized on the opportunity of using Wolfensohn to extort from Sharon unconsidered compromises. They also did their utmost to fill in the blanks left in the discredited 1993 Oslo Peace Framework accords by the Palestinian terror war.
They “forgot” for instance to brief the coordinator on the dangers to Israel’s security inherent in the concessions they advised him to squeeze out of Sharon.
Wolfensohn may have understood much of this without their briefing. On the other hand, his remit from from the US president was to negotiate a plan for the Gaza Strip/s economic recovery hinging on a corridor through southern Israel linking it to the West Bank. Concern for Israel’s security was not part of his brief. He naturally sought to bring his mission to a successful conclusion.
Sharon has a vested personal interest in the coordinator’s success. He may therefore part with the final concession of unsupervised Palestinian traffic to the West Bank, a break that even Yasser Arafat never dreamed of achieving when he went to war in 2000.
If he does, he will have set in motion the countdown for a fresh outburst of terrorist atrocities and barrages of missiles and mortars – directed this time not merely against the sparsely populated Negev but the heavily populated, dense commercial and industrial conurbations of central Israel: Tel Aviv, Netanya, Raanana, Kfar Saba, Petach Tikva, Rosh Ha’ayin, Hadera, Caesaria, Pardes Hanna, Afula, as well as the government seat in Jerusalem.,