by DEBKAfile, 27 July 2002


"The speech delivered Friday night, July 26, by US ambassador John Negroponte at the UN Security Council in New York, snapped Washington’s last ties to some critical historical conventions on the Middle East conflict.

Negroponte: “For any resolution to go forward, the United States – which has a veto in the 15-nation council – would want it to have the following four elements:
-- An explicit condemnation of terrorism;
-- A condemnation by name of the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, the Islamic Jihad and Hamas groups, groups that have claimed responsibility for suicide attacks on Israel;
-- An appeal to all parties for a political settlement of the crisis;
-- A demand for improvement of the security situation as a condition for any call for a withdrawal of Israeli armed forces to positions they held before the September 2000 start of a Palestinian uprising in which 1,467 Palestinians and 564 Israelis have died.“

Not surprisingly, the Arabs, who called the council meeting to condemn Israel for last week’s air raid on Gaza City, put off further debate on their draft until Monday.

Just hours before the council session, Friday afternoon, Palestinian gunmen killed from ambush four Israelis driving on a road south of Hebron.

DEBKAfile’s political analysts view the American UN ambassador’s landmark statement as strikingly significant in terms of the Bush administration’s war on global terror and its relations with the Arab and Muslim world, as well as its perception of the Israel-Palestinian conflict and the Jewish state’s future in the Middle East.

The “Al Aqsa Intifada” Yasser Arafat declared in September 2000 is denied acceptance as a war of liberation or the uprising of an oppressed people against a brutal occupier. The American speaker, by the conditions he posed for any Security Council resolution, clearly branded the armed Palestinian campaign a war of terror, which Israel has every right to combat and defeat with diplomatic and military assistance from the United States. The conditions he laid down effectively negated the legitimacy of the uprising the Palestinians launched 22 months ago and precluded them from gaining any political capital from their resort to violence.

DEBKAfile ’s Washington and Middle East sources examine the motives behind this dramatic departure.
A. The approach of D-Day for the US assault on Iraq and its reliance on Israel as a rear base.

For the upcoming military campaign, the United States needs clear road links from the Mediterranean to the Jordanian-Iraqi frontier, as well as safe access to the vital jumping off and rear bases the US command has positioned in Israel - ranging from air bases at its disposal to military stores and medical facilities, including hospitals for the swift intake of casualties from the front. US war planners rely on the Israeli military’s iron grip on terrorist strongholds in Palestinian towns for holding the Palestinians in check and keeping West Bank road links and US military installations safe from terrorists.

B. The American military rear is equally open to threat from the Lebanese Hizballah. The Shiite extremists have built three fortified lines running from the Mediterranean in the west to Mt. Hermon in the east, parallel to the Lebanese-Israeli frontier. Those lines bristle with 10,000 missiles and rockets. Thanks to supplies from Iran and Syria, the Hizballah can field the third largest missile arsenal in the Middle East. While most of those lines menace Israel, some of the batteries face west from points along the Lebanese Mediterranean coast. They are aimed at preventing US warships and carriers from approaching the Lebanese coast and bringing northern Iraqi military targets on the Syrian border within range.

The Hizballah may well regard the branding of the al Aqsa Brigades, Jihad Islami and Hamas as terrorist groups by the US ambassador as a call to arms, a challenge to make good on its political and military pact with Yasser Arafat, by “heating up” the Lebanese-Israel border.

This could provoke a powerful Israeli military reaction, most likely directed at wiping out Hizballah training bases and command posts in Lebanon and destroying its triple-tier fortifications and missile batteries. Israel may go so far as to demolish Syria’s strategic infrastructure that supports the Hizballah.

If the American war effort counts on Palestinian terrorism being held on a tight leash it requires the Hizballah military resources to be rooted out.

C. The shakiness of some key Arab regimes, notably Saudi Arabia, and what is seen in Washington as their unreliability as American allies. The stand taken by the United States at the UN Security Council is a frank brush-off of Arab concerns and wishes regarding to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

The Saudi de facto ruler Abdullah, in particular, has accumulated several black marks in Washington, aside even from the al Qaeda issue, thereby driving a rift in the royal house. Not only has he refused to take part in the American campaign against Iraq or permit American use of its territory as bases for attack (as reported repeatedly in DEBKAfile and DEBKA-Net-Weekly), but he and his faction in Riyadh are the sole source, aside from Iran, of the monetary aid funneled to the terror groups named in ambassador Negroponte’s Security Council statement.

D. The American stand as articulated at the Security Council aims a snub at the European Union, rejecting its efforts to whitewash Palestinian terrorist groups and wean them away from suicide tactics to save them from being eclipsed in the American overhaul plan for the Palestinian administration (detailed in the three-part series DEBKAfile ran last week) .
In recent weeks, a concerted effort was launched by the EU foreign affairs executive, Javier Solana, through his representatives in Palestinian areas, to induce the Palestinian Fatah-Tanzim, the Hamas and the Jihad Islami to publicly adopt a truce in their suicide attacks on Israelis. Rather than approaching the groups’ top men, the European emissaries met the heads of local cells, mainly in Jenin and Ramallah.

DEBKAfile’s Palestinian sources insist, despite the many claims to the contrary, that this initiative got nowhere. The European messengers failed to reach the groups’ ringleaders and were systematically misled by their Palestinian interlocutors.
Rejecting the broad European perception of Palestinian violence as a legitimate liberation struggle, the Bush administration resents the EU’s latest maneuver, regarding it as an EU attempt to rescue the three Palestinian terrorist groups – the al Aqsa brigades, the Hamas and the Jihad Islami and, by association, their ally, the Hizballah - from the consequences of their terrorist campaign. Solana’s efforts are treated in Washington as an impediment to the comprehensive US assault on global terror. Naming the very Palestinian groups fostered by the EU, the United States was meant to cut the ground from under the Solana initiative.
American strategy at the UN Security Council is echoed in the Middle East by tangible advances in Washington’s program for building a new Palestinian administration, as DEBKAfile’s sources report.

1. Sunday, July 28, Israel is transferring its first down payment of NS.70 million (roughly $15 million) of frozen tax receipts due to the Palestinians directly to the new Palestinian finance minister Salam Fayyad. The Sharon government is making the transfer, apparently acting under American pressure, to a Palestinian official who is an American citizen and enjoys the trust of the Bush administration and the International Monetary Fund. The payment is designated first for urgent humanitarian needs, but a portion will also be earmarked for the creation of a new US-Palestinian-Israel mechanism to keep track of all incoming funds and make sure not a cent or shekel reaches Arafat’s tottering Palestinian Authority or its still dangerous terrorist arms.
2. On Tuesday, July 23, an important letter went out from Fayyad to Arafat’s Ramallah office. It contained a dry request to hand over, in the interests of regular accounting, the ledgers, bills, receipts and other documentation pertaining to the financial activities of the chairman’s bureau of the Palestinian Authority. The request also covered Palestinian-Israeli partnerships in onopolies for the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The new Palestinian finance minister is evidently determined to find out not only what Arafat’s men got up to with public funds, but also the extent to which some Israelis were involved. One way or another, Fayyad will eventually lay hands on this information and when he does, he will certainly relay it to Washington. He has thus laid a time bomb for high Palestinian Authority officials, but also created a potential source of embarrassment for some of the Israelis who contracted business with Arafat and his henchmen after the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords."