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SHABAK HAS A NEW CHIEF

Yuval Diskin: 'Shabak Security Service Will Make Every Effort To Protect Muslim Holy Sites From Attacks By Jewish Fanatics'

'Mounting Jihad Threat To Israeli Air Travel And Targets Abroad'

Yuval Diskin in Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee

The new Shabak Security Chief Yuval Diskin has unveiled his thinking on both the Arab and Jewish threats facing Israel today. In his first briefing to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Diskin presented a detailed assessment against the backdrop of Israel's controversial plan to evacuate the Gaza Strip and 4 northern Samaria settlements starting in August.

'The Jewish fanatic fringe may expand and plan attacks on Muslim holy sites in order to halt the disengagement'. That's the assessment of the new Shabak Security Chief Yuval Diskin who pledged to everything possible to protect the Al Aksa mosque and Dome of the Rock on Jerusalem's Temple Mount. Diskin spoke less than 24 hours after two such alleged plots were disclosed to the Israeli public.

The Plots: Two Jewish brothers were arrested on suspicion of planning to buy a LOW anti-tank missile for firing at the Mosque on the Temple Mount. According to Diskin the brothers had checked out different launch sites to fire the missile. However, they decided to call off the plan. Another case involved an Israeli who had planned to direct an electronic model airplane over the Temple Mount first with a camera and maybe later with explosives. The suspect named as Ilan Hirshfield had consulted with model airplane experts on the possibility of flying one over the Temple Mount. Again the plan did not reach the operational stage so the State Prosecutor decided not to indict any of the suspects. Diskin declared that both the Israel Police and the Shabak have 'no sense of humor' when it comes to any such provocative ideas and will respond with the full rigor of the law.

Anti Disengagement Protests

Overall Jewish Threat: Diskin said: 'I am concerned that the Jewish fanatic fringe may grow and try to stop the Disengagement by violence and terrorism. The Shabak will also take all action to protect Prime Minister Sharon and other Israeli leaders. He warned that Israel has already experienced the assassination of one Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin and could not tolerate another. He used such loaded expressions as 'an explosive wave' and 'an explosive atmosphere'.

Administrative Arrests of Jews: Although the Shabak was not eager to implement administrative arrests of Jewish suspects, it would, if more gentle methods were not effective. He called on public leaders, including rabbis to show responsibility. In answer to another MK, Diskin said the Shabak was not a branch of the Israeli government nor did it take orders from the Prime Minister. Selective administrative arrests would be carried out only after a full review and only with Dichter's approval.

Mahmoud Abbas & Palestinian Authority: A power struggle was now underway; on one side, Hamas and the other terror groups contend that only terror will achieve the Palestinian goals. On the side, Chairman Mahmoud Abbas argues that terror is counter-productive to the Palestinian cause. Not that Abbas was soft on Israel; Dichter said Abbas would fight hard to try and implement what the Palestinians call their right to return to Israel itself. The main problem of the Palestinian Authority was the collapse of Palestinian society, which makes it difficult for Abbas to take control.But did Abbas have enough security personnel and weapons to de-fang Hamas? Dichter said yes; Abbas has the power but lacks public legitimacy to do so. It was a real problem that Abbas was a weak leader who could not impose his will on the terrorists. Even the ruling party of Fatah lead by Abbas has its own terror branches and this overall sense of their leader's weakness permeates the Palestinian security forces. The bottom line was that the match-up between Fatah and Hamas would determine the parameters of the Palestinian Authority in the future.At this point the weakness of the Palestinian Authority and Fatah does not bode well for the upcoming Palestinian election on July 17th. Hamas believes it will make gains and perhaps dominate the Palestinian Parliament. If Hamas enters the Palestinian Authority it would have to become more pragmatic but on the other hand it will make the PA more extreme. Dichter said that if Hamas officials serve politically it will make it more complicated for Israel to carry out counter-terror measures against them if they are involved in violence. He was certain that Hamas will not permit the PA to disarm the organization of its weapons. The problem was that Hamas will enter the PA as both a social and terrorist organization.

Local Splinter Groups: Although Hamas was abiding by the current 'Tahdia' lull, this was not the case with local Palestinian splinter groups. They were still carrying out isolated attacks with machine guns and launching mortars. Dichter referred to them as 'ticking bombs' that could trigger a serious deterioration if not reined in by Mahmoud Abbas.

Philadelfi Axis & Northern Samaria: The Shabak chief warned that terror could increase from Northern Samaria after the Israeli pullout unless an 'effective Palestinian alternative' took control. This could include Palestinian rocket fire at Israeli targets. He was just as adamant about the Philadelfi Axis, an IDF buffer zone separating the Gaza Strip from arms smuggling in Egypt. The IDF would definitely have to remain there if there was no effective alternative.

World Jihad Threat: The Jihad was trying to build an infrastructure in the Palestinian areas, but so far Israel has foiled them. They posed a greater threat abroad and this included Israeli air travel, diplomatic missions and tourist sites frequented by Israeli tourists. The Shabak would have to allocate greater resources to this threat.

Bedouin in Negev: Dichter declared there are parts of Israel's Negev populated by Bedouin tribesmen which are 'ex-territorial'! Israeli law and order were not really enforced there. The Bedouin population, which felt it was discriminated against by the authorities, had taken practical control of the area. It posed a major security risk in that arms and explosives could also be smuggled in from Egypt and Jordan. The Shabak would also increase its efforts in this area but the security chief the root of the problem also had to be addressed.

Positive Side:

1. The U.S. is deeply interested in making political progress between Israel and the Palestinians.

2. Mahmoud Abbas doesn't believe in terrorism, although there is a gap between his belief and his action.

3. Hamas is under political pressure; it will have to decide on whether to revert to terrorism or to extend the 'Tahdia' cease-fire.

David Essing

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