Abbas abandonned by US as a weak horse

DEBKAfile Exclusive: Israel adopts US decision to switch backing from Mahmoud Abbas to Palestinian PM Salim Fayyad

June 24, 2007, 8:45 PM (GMT+02:00)

Ahead of the Sharm al Sheikh summit, the Olmert cabinet decided Sunday, June 24, to release frozen funds “in a phased process to support a new Palestinian government” – not the Palestinian Authority, which is headed by Mahmoud Abbas.

Salim Fayyad holds the key finance and foreign ministries as well as the premiership in the Ramallah-based emergency government established after Hamas’ takeover of the Gaza Strip earlier this month. Amounts owing to Israeli suppliers will be first deducted from the total which will be remitted in installments.

According to DEBKAfile’s Washington sources, Ehud Olmert switched his support from Abbas to Fayyad after talking to President George W. Bush in the White House on June 19. That conversation took place amid a crisis of confidence. The US president asked straight off which part of the Israeli ruling establishment should be held responsible for neglecting to heed the rising strength of Hamas – the political level or an intelligence agency.

And indeed striking differences were demonstrated at the cabinet meeting in Jerusalem Sunday. The Shin Bet domestic intelligence service chief Yuval Diskin warned Hamas was plotting a terrorist attack to undermine Abu Mazen (Abbas), while military intelligence AMAN chief Maj. Gen Amos Yadlin maintained that terrorist attacks were not expected in the near future before Hamas consolidated its gains.

US sources familiar with the Bush-Olmert White House encounter report that the US president remarked that Israel had misled his administration regarding the operational strength of an opposing force for the second time after underestimating the Lebanese Hizballah in the summer of 2006. They say the Bush administration is critical of Olmert’s preference for Yadlin’s evaluations over those of Diskin, which put him wrong in the early days of the 2006 war.

According to US intelligence evaluations, Bush said, Hamas was stronger, better organized and funded by Iran than Israeli intelligence reports had conveyed.

American intelligence analysts reckon that Abbas will need to hurry up and repair the PA’s corrupt reputation among Palestinians to save the West Bank from falling into Hamas’ hands like the Gaza Strip.

But the Bush administration no longer believes he is capable of combating Hamas or any other terrorists on the West Bank. The line Olmert heard therefore was tagged “West Bank first.” Fayyad was chosen to carry the policy through.

According to DEBKAfile’s Washington sources, the US president turned down Olmert’s bid to meet his government’s security requirements for what he called “a security horizon” before approaching peace diplomacy with the Palestinians. In Bush’s view the clock could not be turned back and Hamas’ takeover of the Gaza Strip if final. he did not therefore accept Olmert’s claim that the separation of the Gaza Strip from the West Bank presented a historic opportunity to destroy Hamas by starving its domain of all but its basic needs.

That is why America’s attention is focused on saving the West Bank from the Islamist fundamentalists and Iran.

For lack of faith in Abbas or Olmert, the Bush administration is looking to two Sunni Arab rulers, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Jordan’s King Abdullah. Both fear Hamas’ conquest of Gaza may produce a fundamentalist surge in their countries and are extremely uneasy over the presence of an Iranian forward post on their doorsteps.

At the same time, neither has concrete plans for dealing with the peril.

DEBKAfile’s Moscow sources report that the Kremlin, which kept a keen eye on the Bush-Olmert talks and took note of the reverse in Gaza to American Middle East interests, decided to send Russian foreign minister Sergei Ivanov to the region this week. He may test the ground for launching a Russian shuttle mediation among Hamas, Israel, Egypt and Jordan. Moscow, as a member of the Middle East Quartet, will therefore offer the Abu Mazen government in Ramallah recognition, but will also accept the Haniyeh government in Gaza.

June 24, 2007 | 1 Comment »

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  1. Bush being critical of Israeli intel is really the pot calling the kettle black. If he is ready to abandon Abbas that’s a good thing, except he hasn’t told Condi Rice. She’s still pressuring Israel to give 700 million to the PA. Fayyad is a financial technocrat, not a war time PM. He isn’t going to be the head of the PA and he isn’t going to fight Hamas. If Bush thinks that he’s smoking something that Olmert brought him. If war doesn’t break out in Gaza this summer Hamas will move against the PA in Judea and Samaria. What will Bush do then? What will Olmert do then?

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