The violent and extensively covered events of last week, from the country's highways to Muasi (in the Gaza Strip), focused public attention and put pressure on the decision makers and those in the government and the army responsible for carrying out the disengagement. Both sides in the Israeli dispute - the central government and its opponents - are engaged in drawing conclusions, investigating and preparing for the next stages in the struggle over the evacuation of the Gaza Strip. In this struggle, additional moves, which are concealed from the eye or outside the lens of the camera, will be influential, and perhaps even decisive. These include deeper American involvement, the establishment of a Hamas military force and the activity of what the Israeli security services call "the Jewish underground - the third generation."
American involvement in monitoring events in Palestine is more thorough and consistent than in the past. It is security-related, via Lieutenant General William Ward and his team; economic, in the guise of former World Bank president James Wolfensohn, and political, headed by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Middle Eastern Affairs David Welch. Ward, Wolfensohn and Welch reflect the determination of President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to serve as midwives to the evacuation of Gaza, through close supervision. Ward, as opposed to the emissaries who preceded him during Bush's first term, heads a regular military network, which symbolizes American power in the world, and he is backed by a system that is more centralized and coordinated than it was in the past, during the period when Rice and her successor Steven Hadley (formerly her deputy) served on the National Security Council. Financial expert Wolfensohn, who is in charge of rehabilitation and aid, is ostensibly a representative of the Quartet, but in Europe, the UN and Russia, they are increasingly admitting that this is only a cover for a policy that is being made in Washington. Welch, the third and the mobile member of the team of high commissioners, is responsible for supervising the political component in the activity of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen).
While these people are being deployed as Abbas' "republican guards," in Gaza the "popular army" of Hamas is being established. The initial information about this organization reached the security services in February, and the heads of the network - the minister of defense, former chief of staff Moshe Ya'alon and former head of the Shin Bet security services Avi Dichter - were quick to speak about it in the Knesset and in public, but only now is the scope of the Hamas army becoming clear.
This is a framework of about 2,000 armed people, according to estimates, under the command of Ahmed Jabri, who was released from an Israeli prison. Slowly but surely, squads and companies are being built, for the most part adjacent to the refugee neighborhoods and camps, and later on a brigade structure is anticipated as well. The units train, even with weapons, inside schools and other public buildings, causing a commotion that has already angered peaceful residents who live nearby.
The purpose of the establishment of the popular army, as opposed to the masked men of the attacks and the rockets in the Iz-Adin al-Qassam Brigades, is not to raid the settlements of Netzarim or Neveh Dekalim (although this possibility is being taken into account as well), but to prepare for confrontation between Hamas and Fatah at the moment of the Israeli evacuation. The "popular army" will march proudly in the parade of liberation and victory on Omar al-Mukhtar Street, and perhaps not only there, and not only at a measured pace. It is prepared to participate in the power game of "grab as much as you can" with respect to the evacuated territories and the abandoned assets. That is one of the concerns of the Israel Defense Forces, and not only of the IDF - in Cairo they are afraid of the establishment of a regime headed by Hamas in Gaza, and a linkage between it and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
The Shin Bet security services have an additional concern, in the area of hidden threats: the present generation of Jewish terror. The first generation operated during the first half of the 1980s, carried out the attacks against the Palestinian mayors and planned the terror attack on the Temple Mount. The second generation, according to the counting of the Shin Bet, operated a decade later - this is the generation of Baruch Goldstein (who killed and wounded a large number of Muslim worshipers in the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron in 1994) and Yigal Amir (who assassinated Yitzhak Rabin). The third generation includes dozens of extremists, whose names and photographs are on file in the (security) network, some of them active as individuals or in pairs, and some in units of 10 or more people, who are loosely linked in semi-underground cells.
One of the characteristics of the Israeli network, which is usually not a positive thing, is the fact that the various participants in the spectacle are familiar with one another. It is not surprising that senior members of the government network grew up in parallel, and often even together. The police commander of the southern region, Uri Bar-Lev, spent the course for infantry officers as a bunkmate of the head of the Home Command; Gershon Yitzhak and the director general of the Foreign Ministry, Ron Prosor, studied in a course for brigade commanders with the head of the Northern Command, Benny Ganz. But those on the other side of the legal barricade also share a common background. Avri Ran, who is wanted (by the police, not the Shin Bet), was the partner of one of the senior members of the Shin Bet during navigation exercises in the officers' training course 25 years ago.
An expert on the subject in the intelligence community compared the activity being planned to pizza deliveries: There are delivery boys and there are those in charge of transportation, fuel, equipment, communications and instructions, but instead of pizzas, they are delivering bombs. One doesn't see them blocking the roads and involved in fistfights. They are preparing to choose a place, a time and a method. The security services know a great deal about them, but not everything, and as in the case of the first two generations of Jewish terror - preventing their attacks is far from certain.
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