DEBKAfile Exclusive: Israeli leaders dismayed by Washington's secret favors to Syria. Palestinians want more concessions too
November 12, 2007, 5:13 PM (GMT+02:00)
Bashar Assad - persona grata for Bush administration
Although the US promised Israel that its renewed contacts with Syria would be confined to the Lebanon controversy, DEBKAfile’s sources report that a Washington-Damascus rapprochement is in full flight. The US ambassador will soon return to Damascus and Syrian officials are made warmly welcome in the US capital these days.
The rumors circulating Monday, Nov. 12, asserting that Israel’s defense minister Ehud Barak was pushing prime minister Ehud Olmert hard to enter into peace talks with Syria were put about by Olmert’s own office. The PM is weaving and feinting to avoid admitting that he was manipulated by Washington into attending the Annapolis peace conference alongside Syria, in breach of the American promise to Jerusalem.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has gone so far as to offer the Syrian delegate the conference floor to press his case for Israel to return the Golan which Syria lost in the 1967 War. The Golan issue will even be incorporated in the closing document.
The favors the Bush administration is bestowing on Damascus, none of which were cleared with Israel, have encouraged the Palestinians to inflate their demands and harden their negotiating stance.
Mahmoud Abbas, as DEBKAfile first revealed on Nov. 5, wants the Annapolis declaration to include the following points:
The Palestinian Authority will recognize Israel, but not as a Jewish state;
Palestinian sovereignty over Temple Mount including the Western Wall (last relic of the Jewish Temple) will be absolute;
There will be no Palestinian compromise on the 1948 refugees’ “right of return”;
The Palestinian state will enjoy full sovereignty over its land, skies, electro-magnetic space and underground resources, including water;
Israeli-Palestinian peace talks will be held to the deadline of August 2008.
These tough Palestinian conditions may force the conference’s delay from November to December. Mahmoud Abbas is using the extra time to send a delegation to Damascus to discuss cooperation to their mutual advantage in wheeling and dealing with Washington.
DEBKAfile’s Jerusalem sources add: Prime minister Olmert can hardly admit that by going along with the US-promoted peace conference, he fell into a trap which has cornered Israel against a hostile lineup, restored the Syrian president Bashar Assad’s fortunes in Washington and encouraged the Palestinians to stiffen their price for attending. Instead, he is pretending he is under extreme duress at home from his defense minister and army command to join Syria in peace talks.
In fact, DEBKAfile’s military sources report, Israel’s high command is amazed by the Bush administration’s amity with Damascus just two months after Israel’s chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi and military intelligence worked in close harmony with the Americans over the raid they set up to destroy Syria’s secret nuclear project.........................................................................................................................................................................
DEBKAfile Exclusive: US cuts aid to Egypt by $500 million over its failure to halt terrorist smuggling to Gaza
November 13, 2007, 6:48 PM (GMT+02:00)
US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Robert Danin is reported by DEBKAfile’s Washington and Middle East sources as having visited Cairo over the last weekend for a showdown with the Egyptian government on its failure to block the Egyptian-Gaza border at the Philadelphi sector to smuggled terrorists, arms and explosives.
He notified President Hosni Mubarak and intelligence minister Gen. Omar Suleiman that President Bush would recommend Congress cut a further $300 million from the annual aid bill to Egypt. This would come on top of the $200 million the House had already slashed on its own initiative.
The US official warned Egyptian leaders that the 2008 aid appropriation would be further reduced if smuggled war materials and Palestinian terrorists continued to enjoy the freedom to enter the Gaza Strip at will.
Cairo currently receives circa $3 billion in US aid per annum. Sizeable reductions if sustained would throw the Egyptian economy into crisis.
The White House has clearly had enough of Cairo’s slackness and rejects its two excuses, which are: Egyptian military manpower is too thin on the ground to seal the border and needs to be expanded and, besides, the Israeli navy must be blamed for failing to exert a marine blockade on Gaza.
This is the first time, DEBKAfile notes, that the Bush administration, under pressure from Congress, is wielding economic sanctions against a friendly Arab government in the interests of Israeli security.
Danin informed Egyptian officials that the US government had decided to take a firm hand on the issue because Cairo’s failure to crack down on arms smugglers and terrorists in Sinai - not only jeopardizes US regional interests and harms Israel but rebounds on Egypt’s national security as well. Washington cannot accept Cairo’s claim in official documents that it is tackling terrorists in Sinai, including al Qaeda, while giving them free rein. Bush administration officials find they cannot defend Egypt to the House Foreign Affairs Committee and its chairman, Tom Lantos (D-Calif). A high-profile delegation of four congressmen is on its way to Cairo to see for itself how security on the Egyptian-Gaza border sectors is managed.
DEBKAfile’s Washington sources add that the White House is furious with Mubarak over his contemptuous dismissal of the Annapolis peace conference and advice to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to boycott it.
The Egyptian president now has two options: He can either reclaim the scratched half a billion US dollars by embarking on effective action against the smugglers and terrorists roaming in Sinai, or beg the missing funds from Saudi Arabia.