IDF Raid Leads to Fallout on Many Fronts

A routine IDF raid on terrorists in Ramallah that went wrong cast a shadow on Israel-Egypt relations, caused a firestorm in the Israeli cabinet and led the PA to call for the U.S. to pay damages.

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Hana Levi Julian, | updated: 10:41

A scant hour before a sensitive meeting between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, undercover IDF troops went into Ramallah Thursday for a routine operation to arrest wanted terrorists, but quickly encountered major enemy resistance and called for backup. The sought terrorist escaped, and four PA Arabs who were arrested were later released.

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) used the raid as an opportunity to demand the U.S. pay for the damages to the neighborhood where the battle took place. Abbas, who slammed the raid as proof that Israel’s “calls for peace and security are fake,” demanded the U.S. send five million dollars as compensation for the attack.

Fatah Takes U.S. Money and Supports Al-Qaeda
While Abbas was calling for American financial assistance, a senior Fatah official was urging the Arab world to carry out violent activities against the United States.

The Fatah call for terrorism against America comes after the Bush administration won agreement from the U.S. Congress to provide $86.4 million to strengthen security forces loyal to Abbas. Bush had requested Congressional approval for $100 million in aid to shore up the PA government headed by the Fatah leader.

Abu Ali Shahin, a senior Fatah member and former PA minister, told PA television this week that local Arabs hate the United States more than Al Qaeda hates it.

"Do to Bush what you want, and we wish you success with Bush," he said, addressing his remarks to Al Qaeda. "We are fighting the Americans, and hate the Americans more than you!”

The raid also cast a pall on the meeting between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. The meeting was later described as “tense,” as Mubarak himself described to reporters at a joint news conference following the talks.

Political Reverberations in Israel Over Ramallah Raid
In Israel, meanwhile, the aftermath of Ramallah raid left Israel’s top political echelons in tatters, with top officials from the Prime Minister on down sniping at each other over who was to blame and for what.

Senior politicians harshly criticized the IDF and the General Security Service (Shin Bet) for carrying out the operation on a politically sensitive day.

“Such an operation, I think, did not need to have been made on the same day that there is a visit of the Israeli Prime Minister to a country in which we have utmost strategic interest,” said former Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer. The senior Labor party member and current Minister of Infrastructures added, “The relations between us and Egypt are such that they are more important to us than anything else... According to the information I have in my hand, it was possible not to carry out this operation now, but to postpone it.”

Yisrael Beitenu MK Yisrael Hason, former deputy head of the Shin Bet, disagreed. “Nothing should have kept Mubarak… from preventing smuggling,” he said on Israel Radio. “It should not have bothered him because he knows how to swallow these things. This was an operation that I think the IDF does a few times a week… without Mubarak stopping his activities.”

The head of the Central Command, Major-General Yair Naveh, was also slammed by cabinet members because he reportedly did not update Defense Minister Amir Peretz or anyone else in the political arena about the army’s plans to carry out the raid.

Military sources defended the move. “Arrests are carried out almost daily in Judea and Samaria. This was an operation against senior wanted men who were involved in planning a terror attack inside Israel,” they reminded pointedly.

An Israeli television news program reported Thursday night that Olmert was planning to fire Peretz and instead hire fellow Laborite and former Prime Minister Ehud Barak in his place.

The report prompted a fiery response by Labor Secretary-General and Minister Eitan Cabel, who said, “Labor will not allow the dismissal of any of its ministers, internal rivalries notwithstanding.”

Barak is poised to announce his candidacy for party leadership in the upcoming primaries to be held in late May. It was Barak who pulled the IDF out of Lebanon in May 2000 during his tenure as Prime Minister, without first ensuring that Hizbullah would not be able to re-arm.

Peretz’s supporters in the Labor party accused Olmert of trying to take the heat off his own poor standing in the latest public opinion polls by pointing the finger at Peretz for mismanagement of the war with Hizbullah terrorists in Lebanon and now for this latest fiasco in Ramallah. They also brought up allegations of corruption against Olmert from before he became prime minister.

A survey released by Israel Radio this week found that Olmert’s popularity has plummeted. Some 69 percent of the Israeli public said they believe Olmert is not a good leader. Some 60 percent said he is not an honest leader, and 77 percent said he is not functioning well in his position.

The Prime Minister’s Office denied reports that Olmert is planning to fire Peretz.