Shin Bet: PA barely functioning
In talk with military correspondents, Security chief Yuval Diskin expresses concern over weakening of Palestinian Authority, boost in Hamas’ power. Shin Bet head warns: Terrorists to ‘import’ experts from abroad. Regarding Gaza border chaos, Diskin says: Egyptian were also stunned
The security chief also addressed weapons smuggling through the Gaza-Egypt border and said that in the long run, Egypt will have an interest in curbing the movement of people through the border.
Meanwhile, Diskin advised Israelis to refrain from traveling to Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, as an international terror cell is still active in the area.
The Shin Bet head also spoke about recent incidents of Jewish terror and said no one, accept for the two terrorists themselves, was aware of the plots, referring to attacks in the Arab-Israeli town of Shfaram and to the later killing of Palestinian laborers in the West Bank.
Regarding the PA, Diskin said it is mostly able to function when it comes to providing social services, but not much else.
“Their ability to enforce (their authority) on the ground is slim,” he said.
According to Diskin, Palestinian leader Abbas has trouble controlling the Palestinian masses. Still, the security chief noted the Palestinian mobs that raided evacuated settlements were mostly expressing their joy after many years in which movement in the Strip was restricted.
The Shin Bet chief said that since the IDF left the Philadelphi route, and following the chaos in the region, large quantities of weapons have been smuggled from Egypt into the Strip.
"We estimate that about 3,000 guns, a million and a half bullets, 150-200 RPG launchers, hundreds of kilograms of explosives and a large number of pistols were smuggled,” he said.
According to Diskin, the last few days saw an improvement in the sealing of breaches in the Gaza border. However, he noted people from both sides of the border are still crossing it.
"The Egyptians were astonished by what happened on the Philadelphi route. In the long run it will be in Egypt's interest to ensure no movement across the border, at least not into the Egyptian side," he said. Diskin also noted he has information regarding intentions to smuggle weapons through the sea, and said that the matter will have to be addressed in the future.
‘Hamas elections campaign efficient’
Meanwhile, Diskin warned that Hamas continues to boost its strength ahead of the upcoming elections in the Authority, scheduled for January 2006.
"Hamas has established itself as an equal power to the PA, and refuses to bow to its commands," Diskin said. He also expressed concern over the weakening of the Fatah, and said that if the organization fails to regain its stature, Abbas will face serious difficulties once elections roll around.
"The Hamas infrastructure for the elections is very efficient and its activists are very obedient. They aim for significant electoral achievements, but they do not expect to win," Diskin added.
Turning his attention to the West Bank, Diskin said the situation there is different as a result of Israel's presence in the area, with Abbas growing in influence while Hamas weakens. Diskin also joined the list of those who object to Hamas participation in the elections, saying armed groups must not be allowed to take part in the democratic process.
‘We must present this as a fact – there will be no diplomatic progress until this happens,” he said. At the same time, Diskin admitted the demand to disarm Hamas or prevent it from taking part in the elections is almost impossible.
However, the Shin Bet Chief noted Israel undertook a bold move by removing settlers from Gaza and the northern West Bank, and added it was time for the Palestinians to undertaken trust building measures.
“We uprooted 8,000 citizens from their homes. We paid a heavy price,” he said. “Few countries would have done that.”
Imported terror experts
Diskin estimated that following the IDF's retreat from the Gaza Strip, the West Bank will become the main terror arena, with attempts to carry out terrorist attacks and move activists, information and arms from Gaza into the West Bank.
Diskin also said he expects "experts" will be brought from abroad to support terror operations in the Bank.
"The Islamic Jihad's infrastructure in Samaria has been active all through recent months. However, our preliminary information indicates that it was the Hamas that carried out the recent attack in Be’er Sheva, and not the Islamic Jihad, which claimed responsibility."
Terror in Sinai (Photo: AFP)
Diskin also discussed the issue of the security fence, saying that until the barrier's construction is completed, the flow of different elements, such as illegal aliens, criminal networks or car thieves, from the West Bank into Israel will continue.
"As long as the West Bank is not sealed off, effective supervision must be in place. I also oppose any passage between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, excluding humanitarian cases," he said.
"We must take advantage of the credit which has been granted to us after the withdrawal, and insist on these principles. We must not forget the the risk we took upon ourselves, and communicate this to the Americans as well," Diskin said.
Danger in Sinai
Referring to global Jihad groups, especially in light of the terror attack in Sinai, Diskin said he estimates that the terror infrastructure in Sinai is stronger than the Egyptians have previously estimated.
"The organizations in question are ideologically associated with al-Qaeda, and the Egyptians are encountering difficulties in countering them,” he said.
Turning his attention to the disengagement, Diskin said quite a few plans for disruptions during the pullout were foiled, including the damaging of phone, water, and electricity infrastructure in large cities.
Regarding the two recent terror attacks perpetrated by Jews against Arabs, he said nobody except for the killers knew about the plans.
‘I do not mean to evade responsibility in the case of the murder committed by soldier Eden Natan-Zada,” he said. “The Shin Bet had some material about him before he was enlisted, and there might have been an error in judgment….at the same time, we must recall this is a complex matter, as the Shin Bet is not the agency tasked with rejecting soldiers from enlisting for IDF duty.”
Threat to the prime minister
Addressing the threat to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's life in the wake of the disengagement, Diskin said Sharon still faces danger because of his responsibility for the withdrawal, as do other senior key officials who took part in the disengagement plan.
He also said that while the Shin Bet works to protect Sharon, the organization is not, however, aware of any concrete plan to harm the prime minister.