Daily Israel Report

Olmert Approves Strategy of Arming Abbas to Fight Hamas

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has approved the shipment of armaments to strengthen the forces of PA chief Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah terrorist organization.
By Scott Shiloh
First Publish: 6/14/2006, 1:02 PM / Last Update: 6/13/2006, 5:10 PM

Olmert’s decision effectively positions Israel on the side of Fatah in its conflict with the Hamas, the Islamic terrorist organization which governs the Palestinian Authority. That conflict over control of the PA has brought the two groups to the brink of civil war.

Fatah’s new weapons will be supplied by Egypt and Jordan and shipped to Fatah forces, including Abbas’s presidential guard, via Israel.

An aide to Olmert quoted by Reuters said, “He approved the delivery of a certain amount of weaponry to Abu Mazen's (Abbas's) presidential guard in order to bolster him so he can fulfil his obligations." The aide did not specify which obligations the weapons would help Abbas fulfill.

Providing weapons to Arab terrorist factions in the PA is a controversial issue in Israeli domestic politics. Arming the Fatah to fight the Hamas was one of the key ideas on which the Oslo Accords were based.

The late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin said that providing military hardware to the Fatah, which was then headed by terrorist chieftain Yasser Arafat, would enable Fatah to fight the Hamas unencumbered by the legal challenges which often plagued the IDF’s operations in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza.

Ironically, right-wing supporters have filed a petition with the Israel Supreme Court to block the weapons transfer on the grounds that the Fatah’s new hardware will ultimately be used against Jewish civilians and the IDF.

Opponents of the Oslo Accords also claimed the armaments the IDF provided Arafat and his security forces would eventually be used against Israel.

History proved those opponents right when the PA launched a full-scale armed conflict with Israel in September 2000, after the breakdown in negotiations at Camp David between former prime minister Ehud Barak and Arafat. Close to 1,200 Israelis have been killed in that conflict.

Prior to that, in 1996, barely a year and a half after Fatah received the military hardware promised under the Oslo Accords, the PA launched a short-lived armed conflict with Israeli forces over the opening of a tunnel parallel to the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City. Close to 20 Israelis were killed and wounded in that conflagration.

Taking sides in the Hamas-Fatah power struggle may have other ramifications. Since entering the political arena in the PA over a year ago, the Hamas has by many accounts, wound down the pace of its suicide attacks against Israelis. Fatah and Islamic Jihad terrorists have actually overtaken Hamas in carrying out successful attacks against Jews.

Though Hamas needs no pretext to murder Israelis, its announcement last week that it would renew suicide strikes against Israel may have been as much a warning to Fatah as to Israel.

Hamas may be signaling its enemies that if they can jeopardize the group’s hard-won status as the PA’s ruling clique, the Hamas, by redoubling its terror against Israel, can potentially destabilize the entire region and increase chaos on both sides of the security barrier.