Fatah terrorists working as PA Police planned to assassinate Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on his way to Jericho for an August 6 meeting with PA Chairman and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen).
The Shabak (General Security Service) released the information Sunday. Israeli intelligence provided the PA with information on the planned assassination. The PA arrested the terrorists, members of Fatah. Some days later, however, the men were released – causing furor in government circles.
“The State of Israel views the incident with extreme gravity,” a government source quoted on Voice of Israel state-run radio said. Prime Minister Olmert later promised Israel would "not look the other way" with regard to the incident.
Army Radio Arab Affairs Correspondent Shimrit Meir reported that PA officials are trying to downplay the affair. “According to the PA, the people arrested were ‘youngsters, who perhaps didn’t understand the severity of their plans,’” she said.
“These same people that say this to you are not saying they didn’t intend to carry it out, but just lacked the capabilities?” host Razi Barkai asked.
“Correct,” said Meir. “I think the feeling among the Palestinians is that these guys didn’t realize how severe their actions would have been.” Meir acknowledged that it was a sign of Abbas’s weakness that he released the would-be assassins, members of the Al-Aksa Brigades terror group – funded by his own Fatah movement.
Meir later reported that the plot never really passed the "gathering information" stage. It was also later reported that some PA officials said two of the plotters were later re-arrested, possibly as recently as two days ago. Conflicting reports abound as to whether the plotters are currently in prison or not.
MK Yuval Shteinitz (Likud) said the entire affair highlights the absurdity of PM Olmert’s drive toward an agreement with Fatah at the Annapolis Summit. “Anyone who is willing to take their head out of the sand will see that Fatah is also an enemy of the State of Israel,” Steinitz said. “Abu Mazen is not a partner, despite Ehud Olmert’s attempts to throw sand in our eyes. Abu Mazen can not even control his own Fatah movement, let alone Hamas.”
Meretz Chairman MK Yossi Beilin, also interviewd on Army Radio, stuck up for Fatah and Abbas: “What if Fatah attempted to assassinate Olmert and then freed the men responsible, how can we continue to negotiate?” asked Barkai.
Beilin: “We are talking about gangs not controlled by Fatah. It is not a homogenous movement, and there are family clans. How can we say ‘if you let them go we won’t go to the summit.’”
“How can we not say that?” asked Barkai.
MK Zevulun Orlev (NRP) called upon the IDF to pursue and arrest all of the would-be assassins released by Fatah and for the government to cancel its participation in the Annapolis Conference.
US officials are reportedly calling to an investigation into whether the PA police who planned the assassination had received training from the US as part of America's efforts to bolster Fatah.