The army has completed its debriefings of reserve officers who took part in the Jenin campaign, and the top brass is convinced there has never been such a well-documented IDF operation. As a result, the UN commission charged with investigating the events in the West Bank City will get a clear picture of the orders handed down all the way from general headquarters to the lowliest of rifle squads.
A non-prejudiced observer viewing the intelligence material on the "suicide bomber capital" will not be able to incriminate the IDF, the top army brass believes. But there are still concerns, since it doubts the objectivity of the UN commission. One reservist officer who took part in the operation in Jenin said he was worried about an upcoming business trip to Europe, fearing that even if he traveled on a second passport in his possession, he could end up in The Hague.
Judge Advocat General Dr. Menachem Finkelstein held feverish discussions last night on the issue of legal backing for soldiers who were in Jenin. When asked if he had been requested to provide such backing, he said, "the answer is covered by attorney-client privilege."
Chief of Staff Shaul Mofaz, who opposes any cooperation with the UN commission, is considering preventing investigators from making direct contact with the army. Major General Giora Eiland, head of GHQ's steering committee on the Jenin affair, has set up three teams headed by colonels - an operational team, intelligence team and a team investigating the civilian population - to collect, process and prepare material for the commission.
A senior officer who took part in last night's deliberations proposed that the Jenin operation be viewed according to the precedent of "Mogadishu and not Kosovo." In Mogadishu, the Somalian capital, "a state's army" (the United States under UN auspices), operated according to "legal logic" against "an irredentist, non-sovereign group" (Mohammed Fara Aidid's militia), which operated from inside an innocent civilian population.
The operation in Somalia reflected an inherent asymmetry between the two sides, just like the IDF operation against the Tanzim, Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Jenin, while the official security forces of the Palestinian Authority were neutralized.
In Kosovo, well-known - maybe too well-known - to commission members such as American General William Nash, there was symmetrical fighting between two ethnic entities, Albanian and Serbian, in which a third force - NATO - intervened.
Senior officers, meanwhile, are furious at the Foreign Ministry, and particularly Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, for not foiling maneuvering by Arab states and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to establish the Jenin panel. Peres, remembered one officer, said during a Labor Party meeting that Israel's diplomatic stature is reasonable because "a billion Chinese and a billion Indians support us." Those two billion were not at the UN this weekend when Annan put together the mission.
But preparations for the panel - and for Israel's public relations campaign against the PA's role in terrorism - continue. Over the past two weeks, the Military Intelligence's research department has been declassifying documents that show the involvement of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, and the PA, in terror. According to the documents, Arafat regards terror as a legitimate instrument for achieving Palestinian national goals, and he nurtured and financed terror groups for use against Israel in the current conflict. According to documents seized during the recent military operation, the PA leader's direct and indirect involvement in terror, and that of the PA and its intelligence services, "was at every level, and all ranks, from Arafat's leadership, through the mid-levels of his aides and the heads of the security services, down to the field."
Arafat's leadership of Fatah included heading Fatah's off-shoots - the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades, the Tanzim and the Return Regiments. That is important since the Al Aksa Brigades is on the U.S. list of terror organizations.
Military Intelligence, therefore, has classified Arafat as a terrorist.
A 44-page document prepared by the research department emphasizes that in Jenin, and particularly in the refugee camp, the terrorist groups built a broad infrastructure "to export suicide missions in Israel." Twenty-eight such missions had reached Israel from Jenin, while many other attacks had "caused the deaths of dozens of Israelis and the wounding of hundreds."
The document also covers Hamas and Islamic Jihad activities, while drawing a direct line between the actions of Marwan Barghouti and the various military wings of Fatah, including Tanzim, as well as a direct line between Barghouti and Arafat.
Therefore, the IDF will argue that Arafat was responsible for terror emanating from Jenin, where, "unlike other cities, [Palestinian fighters] remained to stubbornly fight, spill soldiers' blood and operate from inside populated homes, understanding that would castrate the IDF's reaction, and out of hope that serious harm to civilians would lead to damage to the IDF's image and to international pressure."
According to Military Intelligence, Islamic Jihad in Jenin was controlled by Damascus, which should embarrass Syria, a new member of the UN Security Council and one of the initiators of the commission to Jenin.
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