The Turbulent Territories

Feb 1, 2007 | AIJAC staff

Update from AIJAC

February 1, 2007
Number 02/07 #01

This Update focuses on the lessons of the Eilat suicide bombing in which a terrorist from the Gaza Strip killed three civilians when he blew himself up in a bakery and explodes one of the new myths about Palestinian suffering – that the international blockade is reducing them to poverty.

First, Ron Ben Yishai of ynet argues that the bombing proves that the intifada is still active, despite the internal Palestinian strife, and that this strife was one of the motivations for the bombing. He also explains that the relative recent calm and lull in suicide bombings is by no means because the terrorists have stopped targeting Israeli citizens. For this analysis, CLICK HERE.

Then Andrew McCarthy of National Review Online reminds us that one of the terrorist organisations claiming responsibility for the  attack is the al-Aqsa Brigades, which, as he demonstrates, is part of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ supposedly moderate Fatah faction. He argues that, while more diplomatically savvy than Hamas, Fatah still aims for the destruction of Israel, and that the US should therefore not fund it until it unequivocally renounces terrorism, purges its own terror wing and accepts there can be no “right of return”.  For this strong and thought-provoking piece, CLICK HERE.

Finally, it has often been reported since the Hamas election victory that the financial blockade of the Palestinian Authority is reducing vast numbers of Palestinians to poverty. However, the UN has recently announced that international aid to the Palestinians has actually significantly increased since the election. For a report on the details of this woefully under-reported announcement, CLICK HERE.

Intifada still here 

Eilat attack proves Palestinian terror threat still lurking in the shadows

Ron Ben Yishai

Jan. 30, 2007

Those who hoped that the intra-Palestinian clashes would decrease the terror threat faced by Israelis were proven wrong: The suicide bombing in Eilat Monday showed the opposite is true.

The two organizations that claimed responsibility for the attack clearly noted in their announcements that it was meant, among other things, to remind Palestinian factions that the real battle should be conducted against Israel. The message is clear: Hamas and Fatah must put their political battles and clashes aside and join forces with radical Islam’s armed groups in a merciless and uncompromising war against the real enemy. 

It doesn’t really matter which organization is directly responsible for the Eilat bombing. Based on past experience, it is likely that several Gaza organizations and groups cooperated here. In any case, it’s clear that those who initiated the attack sought to distinguish themselves within Palestinian public opinion from the large factions currently engaged in a civil war. 

The murderous suicide bombing allows them to demonstrate that currently they are the ones who lead the fighting against Israel and serve as an example to large, institutionalized organizations. This enables them to score some prestige points, recruit more members, and enhances the aid they receive from outside supporters such as Hizbullah, Iran, Syria and al-Qaeda.  

The Islamic Jihad and al-Aqsa Brigades have another reason for carrying out a murderous, grandiose terror attack: In the past year, and in recent weeks, dozens of suicide attacks initiated by these groups were thwarted in Judea and Samaria. Thousands of their activists were detained and dozens of the most senior ones were killed.  

Every time, Gaza group leaders swore to avenge the blows sustained by their comrades in the West Bank, yet besides Qassam rockets launched at the Western Negev, which caused relatively few losses and little damage, they failed to carry out any meaningful act of revenge. 

This fact not only frustrated terror chiefs in Iran and Lebanon, but also decreased support for them in the Territories. As a result, the motivation to carry out a West Bank-based or Gaza-based suicide bombing is increasingly rising.  

Convenient target

Terror attacks have a clear benefit for Palestinian organizations: A large number of Israeli casualties in one operation, which resonates across the globe. Last year there were several dozen attempts to carry out such attacks. In the West Bank, the IDF and Shin Bet were able to thwart most of them at the preparation stage. In Gaza, preparing an attack is simpler and safer, but it’s difficult to transfer the terrorist to a crowded location inside Israel. 

We can assume that Eilat was selected as the target because of the relative ease with which one can infiltrate its environs through the Egyptian border in Sinai and through the Arava region on the Jordanian border. Another reason is Eilat’s status as a magnet for international and local tourism, with attacks there receiving global media attention and harming Israel’s economy. As a rule, terrorists prefer to operate in an area where resistance and alertness are low, while the likelihood of inflicting causalities and receiving media attention is high. 

Monday’s attack illustrates that the Intifada, despite being restrained, still exists and is dangerous. The Palestinian motivation to target Israel and Israelis has not decreased in light of the economic and international pressure exerted on the Hamas government and the intra-Palestinian clashes; the opposite is true. 

Moreover, even if a Palestinian national unity government is formed and a compromise is reached on the release of abducted IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, there would still be powerful elements on the Palestinian street that would continue to target Israel with outside encouragement.

In conclusion, Israel’s government and citizens must prepare for a situation where we have to defend ourselves over a long period of time against radical Palestinian and Islamic terrorism, without a substantial chance to minimize the threat in the foreseeable future.  

This situation requires Israelis to display constant alertness and calls for the defense establishment to develop, as quickly as possible, technological means as well as defensive and offensive tactics that would minimize the terrorists’ ability to inflict losses and cause damages.


Not One Thin Dime for Abbas

As State presses Congress for more aid, Fatah’s terror wing murders more Israelis.

By Andrew C. McCarthy

National Review Online

January 31, 2007

When will the madness end? When will the Bush administration and Condoleezza Rice’s State Department finally stop their deranged midwifery of the Palestinian terror state conceived by the Clinton administration amid the mood music of two Intifadas?

On Monday, a 21-year-old suicide bomber, Muhammad Faisal al-Siksik, self-detonated at a bakery in the coastal town of Eilat on the Red Sea. Three innocents were killed: the bakery’s two Israeli owners and their Peruvian employee (whose family hails from Miami). Soon after came the claim of responsibility. The operation was carried out by the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, working in conjunction with Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

The Aqsa Brigades are not just any group of terrorists. They are the most ruthless, accomplished terror wing of Fatah, the organization bequeathed to us by the late Yasser Arafat. The Bush administration delusionally regards Fatah and its leader, Mahmoud Abbas (also known as “Abu Mazen”), as the “moderate” Palestinian faction. There is nothing moderate about them. Yet, the administration appears determined to play this foolish game to its inevitable end because, like its starry-eyed predecessor, it is entranced by the holy grail of Israeli/Palestinian peace.

Peace, of course, would require two sides desirous of coexistence. We’re one short. Palestinians do not seek to coexist with Israel. They seek to destroy Israel. But that may have to await their annihilation of each other, with Fatah and its fellow thug, Hamas, now locked in a struggle for control.

Hamas is proudly unyielding in its announced intention to vaporize the “Zionist entity.” By contrast, Fatah is cagier but no less determined. In the Arafat style, it feints every now and again toward negotiation with Israel. There is, after all, a trough of Western billions for any Palestinian leadership willing to affect aspiration toward the Clinton/Bush nirvana: two states, Israel and “Palestine,” living side-by-side in peace. Fatah needs those billions to keep its operatives loyal. Historically, it is a pervasively corrupt, creakily socialist outfit — a former Soviet client averse to elementary economic development.

But the act is just that, an act. The Fatah constitution still calls for the “eradication of Zionist economic, political, military and cultural existence[,]” through an “armed revolution” which is to be the “decisive factor in the liberation fight and in uprooting the Zionist existence” — a revolution that “will not cease unless the Zionist state is demolished and Palestine is completely liberated.”

Consistent with this overarching plan, the U.S.-led “peace process” has been a 14-year sham — hence, the intervening Intifada and related terror gambits. Fatah may occasionally say it will live with Israel, but it has demonstrated, repeatedly, that it will never agree to the commonsense requirements of coexistence: It not only demands land and Jerusalem as its national capital; it refuses to disarm terrorist militias and insists on a refugee “right of return” — an influx of well over a million Palestinians that would effectively destroy the tiny Jewish state from within.

By our State Department’s lights, this qualifies as “moderation” — perhaps because Hamas’s direct approach is bereft of diplomatic nicety, while the savvier Fatah seems willing to attrit Israel to death. (Such new gloss on the withering Bush Doctrine is also on display in Baghdad, where the administration now regularly consults with Abdul Azziz al-Hakim, or, as the White House describes him, “His Eminence,” leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq — a creation of Iran).

The murderous Aqsa Brigades, however, put the lie to Fatah’s charade rather embarrassingly. They were officially designated by the United States government as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 2002 after executing a series of atrocities conjoined to Arafat’s orchestration of the second Intifada, which began in late 2000 and has never officially ended.

There is no question the Brigades are part and parcel of Fatah. Documents seized by the Israeli Defense Force established that Arafat was paying them directly. Moreover, in a 2004 interview with the Arabic daily, Asharq al-Awsat, Fatah’s Ahmed Qurei, then Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, proclaimed: “We have clearly declared that the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades are part of Fatah[.]… We are committed to them and Fatah bears full responsibility for the group.” Qurei maintained that they “will not be dismantled,” and that each of the Brigades’ members had “the right to play a political role within the framework of Fatah.”

The Brigades are brazen about their intentions. They have, for example, expressed their “[i]dentification with and overall support of the position and declaration of the Iranian President [Mahmoud Ahmadinejad], who called with all honesty to wipe Israel off the map of the world[,]” adding: “We stress our support of the Iranian president’s position toward the fictitious Zionist state, which will disappear with the help of Allah.”

This should come as no surprise since, like many terrorist organizations, the Brigades receive financing from Iran and training from Hezbollah, with whom they coordinate attacks. (In fact, the Jerusalem Post reported just a few days ago that Hezbollah has provided Palestinian terror groups with “high-grade explosives that have significantly improved the effectiveness of roadside improvised explosive devices (IED) used against [Israeli Defense Force] patrols.”)

Of a piece with these alliances, the Brigades have recently taken to threatening the United States directly. Last May, while Abbas conferred with Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, the Brigades issued a warning that “[w]e won’t remain idle in the face of the siege imposed on the Palestinian people by Israel, the U.S. and other countries[.]…We will strike at the economic and civilian interests of these countries, here and abroad.”

Abbas keeps close ties to the Brigades. His wary confederation with Marwan Barghouti, a formative Brigades figure currently serving a life sentence in Israel for multiple murders, was essential to his 2004 election as Palestinian Authority president. The support of Barghouti and the Brigades remains key to Abbas’s hold on Fatah’s reins. Indeed, the German weekly Welt am Sonntag reported last March that Abbas has appointed another Aqsa heavyweight, Zakariya Zubeidi, to head the police force in Jenin — only after personally witnessing a demonstration of the wild popularity Zubeidi and the Brigades enjoy in that West Bank cauldron (Hat tip to the Vital Perspective Blog).

Consequently, the revelations recently reported in the Israeli press by one “Abu Ahmed,” a Fatah member and Aqsa Brigades leader, are alarming, albeit predictable. Ahmed explained that Abbas’s claim to recognize Israel’s right to exist was merely a “political calculation,” and that the aims of Fatah and the Brigades remain one and the same: the ultimate destruction of Israel. “The base of our Fatah movement keeps dreaming of Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jaffa and Akko,” he reportedly stated. “There is no change in our position. Abbas recognizes Israel because of pressure that the Zionists and the Americans are exercising on him. We understand this is part of his obligations and political calculations.”

Regrettably, the quixotic quest for Middle East peace has rendered Secretary Rice oblivious to Fatah’s long-entrenched and quite current record of terror. In an October 11, 2006, speech at the inaugural gala for the latest “Task Force on Palestine,” she asserted:
If peace and dignity are to prevail in the region, then it is absolutely essential for leaders to be able to show, for moderate leaders to show, that their ideas, and their principles, and their vision for the future can offer a better alternative than violence and terrorism. That is why President Bush asked me to travel last week to the Middle East — to confer with moderate voices, with moderate Arab governments and with moderate leaders, to build a support for those people who are trying and who need our help more than ever now, leaders like … most especially, of course, President Abbas in the Palestinian territories, from whom we have just heard.

It didn’t take long for Abbas to make a mockery out of this gushing tribute. On January 11, 2007, addressing a throng of about 50,000 at Fatah’s 42nd anniversary (after laying a wreath at the hallowed grave of the terror master, Arafat), the “moderate leader” railed: “[W]ith the will and determination of its sons, Fatah has and will continue. We will not give up our principles and we have said that rifles should be directed against the occupation…. We have a legitimate right to direct our guns against Israeli occupation….”

Those “principles” were reaffirmed yet again on Monday. They snuffed out the lives of three ordinary civilians whose great contribution to the “occupation” was to toil at a bakery. It was, once more, the handiwork of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the savages who do Fatah’s dirty work while America swoons.

Remarkably, the Bush administration has asked Congress to fork up $86 million in aid for Fatah’s security forces — forces in which many Brigades members now serve, and into which Fatah envisions someday folding the Brigades. That, evidently, is the “moderate” manner of “dismantling” terrorists: you simply mantle them to the regular police.

It is madness. Congress should give Abbas not one thin dime. Let’s stop making fools of ourselves. Let’s first hear Abbas unambiguously condemn the Aqsa Brigades and purge them from Fatah. Let’s hear Abbas loudly assert that all suicide bombings and other attacks intentionally targeting civilians are unacceptable. Let’s hear Abbas acknowledge that a peaceful settlement cannot realistically include a right of return.

How hard can that be for a “moderate”?

— Andrew C. McCarthy directs the Center for Law & Counterterrorism at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.


International aid to Palestinians up since Hamas win

Aimee Rhodes, Jerusalem Post correspondent

Jan. 26, 2007

International aid to the Palestinians increased by nearly 10 percent following Hamas’s election victory, the United Nations under-secretary general for political affairs told the UN Security Council on Thursday.

Ibrahim Gambari said on the anniversary of Hamas’s win that aid to Palestinians in 2006 had actually increased, despite the reassessment of donor programs and the cessation of financial transfers by Israel to the Palestinians.

He said that most of the aid was bypassing the Palestinian government.

“Total assistance to Palestinians last year – not including funds channeled to the Palestinian Authority government or Hamas by regional donors – had been $1.2 billion, which represented a nearly 10% increase over 2005,” a UN press release said.

Gambari said that humanitarian assistance alone had doubled since 2004 and primarily took the form of food aid and cash-for-work programs. He added, however, that real gross domestic product per capita had actually declined in 2006 by at least 8%, and poverty levels had increased some 30%.

During the briefing, Gambai spoke of the need to jump-start the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. He said he considered the upcoming meeting of the Quartet slated for February 2 in Washington an important opportunity to revitalize the process.

Quoted as stating, “None of us can afford another year like the last one in Lebanon and the Middle East,” Gambari cited periods of heightened levels of instability and suffering and said there was a sense of international urgency to find a political way ahead.

Gambari, who addressed a broad range of issues including internal Israeli and Palestinian matters, also decried Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank, saying that the number of “West Bank settlers…had increased by nearly six percent since 2005.”




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