Reprinted from The Jerusalem Post of March 27, 1997
The Palestinians had a good laugh over the notion that Arafat's security chiefs would warn Israel in advance about terror attacks.
For a century Jews in this land have relied on themselves for intelligence operations as Middle-Eastern Arab nations unleashed endless wars and violence against them. So successful was this philosophy of self-reliance that the exploits of the Mossad, the General Security Service and military intelligence, working separately or in combined operations, were widely acclaimed.
Intelligence garnered in Arab capitals, on the West Bank, and in Gaza were a key to exploits like the liberation of Jewish hostages at Entebbe, the execution of the killers of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games, the capture of Adolf Eichmann in Buenos Aires, and the destruction of Iraq's nuclear bomb plant in Baghdad. More recently, newspapers worldwide described how master bomb-maker Yihye Ayyash, known as "The Engineer," was himself blown up while using his mobile phone, a means of execution some might call poetic justice.
In these and other exploits, most still shrouded in secrecy, our intelligence services supplied that vital ingredient - accurate insider information - to ensure success. This practice of "God helps those who helps themselves" worked magnificently until 1994, when Israeli premier Yitzhak Rabin ordered his intelligence chiefs to end the reliance on the network of agents they had built up with great patience and effort in Gaza and the West Bank.
Rabin claimed publicly that Arafat, who didn't have the High Court to contend with,
would succeed in preventing terror. The field professionals in every branch of Israeli
intelligence were aghast at this monumental blunder, which was to cost the country over
200 deaths from terror. "It's like blinding a man and cutting off his ears," said Rafi Eitan,
terrorism adviser to prime ministers and consultant to Western government on the subject,
"a lifetime of hard, careful work - gone. It's a policy designed to bring disaster upon the
Jews of Israel."
Morale in security circles slumped badly. The mastermind of this unrealistic concept was Shimon Peres and his litter of lawyer mediators. They concocted the Oslo accords, which enshrined the principle that, henceforth, Yasser Arafat's nascent security services would supply all the information Israel needed to protect itself against terrorism. Hamas and Islamic murderers would be forced to make a bonfire of their arms. Ayyash and others like him would become voluntary social workers among Gaza's poor.
It was part of Peres's "New Middle East," and it went disastrously wrong from the outset. Israeli intelligence circles, their traditional sources of information uprooted by the policy of relying on a hostile PLO, found themselves hamstrung. Nowhere was their embarrassment clearer than when soldier Nachshon Wachsman was kidnaped in October 1994. With their informants gagged, the GSS had no idea where Wachsman was being held captive. A flustered Rabin, taking a shot in the dark, announced that the soldier was a prisoner in Gaza. Finally the GSS located Wachsman, held captive near his Jerusalem home. The soldier was killed before his would-be rescuers stormed the house.
THE policy of relying on Jibril Rajoub, Arafat's security chief, and on Mohammed Dahlan, his counterintelligence commander for information, could not work. In fact, it was a major joke among the Palestinians. This goes far in explaining why suicide bombers could strike where and when least expected. And still the naive belief persisted that Arafat's chiefs would warn us in advance about terrorist attacks.
In addition, the sudden elimination of a prime source of information from the West Bank reaching the GSS was demoralizing, affecting the Mossad, and military intelligence too. Knowing all this, it seems beyond belief that, on becoming premier last year, Binyamin Netanyahu did not immediately order the intelligence community to revert to the "self-reliance" policies that had traditionally stood the nation in such good stead.
True, until last week's suicide attack in Tel Aviv, there were no suicide terrorist bombings for 10 months. But terrorists were murdering Israelis, on the roads and elsewhere. If Netanyahu had taken the trouble to reread his pre-election speeches, he would have been reminded of his insistence that Arafat had a pact with Hamas and Islamic Jihad whereby suicide bombings would not be employed as long as the Israeli government gave him everything he wanted.
Arafat made his future intentions crystal-clear in giving the green light for an attack on Israeli soldiers when Netanyahu ordered the exit of the controversial Western Wall Tunnel opened without consulting him. The shooting mobs were organized by Rajoub and Dahlan - just as they have been doing now with stones and firebombs in Hebron and Bethlehem.
The frustrated anger felt by our intelligence chiefs burst out after last Friday's attack. Said Moshe Ya'alon, military intelligence chief, with a soldier's bluntness: "Arafat gave the green light for suicide bombing attacks." He added that Rajoub had incited and directed the rioting in Hebron and other cities. Israeli intelligence officers knew that former convicted terrorists, released prematurely from Israeli prisons to appease Arafat, organized and led the rioting. Palestinian police, sent in as a gesture so as to appear to be restoring order, were astonished to discover their own comrades in the front line, hurling rocks and urging on the local youth to acts of "heroism."
The Israeli defense minister and chief of staff, among those still suffering from the illusion
that Arafat is a good chap, called on him to ensure that there would be no more terrorist
attacks. They were probably still hoping that Palestinian security chiefs would act like
gentlemen, and honor agreements.
But Arafat's double game was clear, proven by the release of some 120 fundamentalist prisoners days before the riots erupted. Among them was major Hamas figure Ibrahim Makadmeh, who promptly applauded the killing of Jewish women in Tel Aviv. It was claimed in Gaza that Makadmeh had been rearrested, although Israeli security sources have no proof of this. In any event, Palestinian prisons are as porous as sponges.
There is no doubt that Arafat has unleashed the hounds of terror - and he has no intention of reigning them in.
(c) Jerusalem Post 1997
Uri Dan and Dennis Eisenberg are authors of The Mossad: Secrets of the Israel Secret Service and other books on the Middle East)