DIPLOMATIC SURGE MAY PRODUCE DEAL IN ISRAEL
29 May 2002
"While the summer Middle East conference and Palestinian Authority reforms grab world headlines, DEBKAfiles exclusive military and intelligence sources report senior diplomatic and intelligence officials in Washington, Cairo, Riyadh, Jerusalem and at least one European capital, namely Berlin, working against the clock to reshuffle the components of the Middle East crisis into a new pattern. Its broad lineaments were first aired in DEBKAfile in mid-April. The idea is to assemble the package in advance of Egyptian president Hosni Mubaraks trip to Camp David on June 7.
To bring the deal this far, the White House had to make the divergent strands of its policy team speak with one voice. Therefore, assistant secretary of state William Burns spent Wednesday, 29 May, in Cairo talking to Egyptian leaders, at the same time as the defense departments policy chief Douglas Feith. The two officials will work together on the final configuration and execution of the new plan, on behalf of secretary of state Colin Powell, on the one hand, and vice president Richard Cheney and defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, on the other.
German foreign minister Joshke Fischer, in Israel since Tuesday, May 28, will represent the European
CIA Director George Tenet flies to Cairo or Jerusalem on Friday, May 31, to take charge of the final stage of the process. He will be joined in Jerusalem on Friday by Mubaraks political adviser Osama al Baz, who will inform the Israeli prime minister, defense minister and foreign minister that Egypt agrees to free Azzam Azzam, who has spent five years in an Egyptian prison on charges of spying for Israel.
Israeli ministers will reciprocate by releasing the eight Egyptian seamen captured aboard the Palestinian arms smuggling vessel intercepted on the Red Sea last January.
But beyond these two goodwill gestures, the deal entails granting Yasser Arafat the freedom to travel and return to Palestinian territory, an essential concession for making the Palestinian leader a figurehead of the reformed Palestinian Authority.
Upon the release of Azzam, Israel will endorse the Tenet plan to consolidate the jungle of Palestinian security and intelligence organs into four new Palestinian intelligence bodies based in the Gaza Strip. They will come under the direction of Muhamed Dahlan and be closely supervised by Egyptian intelligence. The collaboration of these four bodies with Israeli security will create a useful intelligence junction for the United States, Egypt, Israel and the PA to fight terror Palestinian and international.
Under another provision, the Egyptian army will be moved up to the frontier with Israel to block off a primary Palestinian arms and personnel smuggling route that runs through tunnels from Sinai into the Gaza Strip."