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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Cabinet intelligence briefing: Syria preparing for war, Hamas strengthening

At the weekly cabinet meeting today, the Israeli Philharmonic received an intelligence briefing from Brig.-Gen. Yossi Baidatz, head of the Research Division at the Military Intelligence Branch. According to Baidatz, Syrian President Hafez al-Assad is working on two fronts simultaneously:
On the one hand, he (Assad) doesn't rule out the possibility of a diplomatic settlement with Israel, but on the other hand he is preparing his forces for a military confrontation, by enhancing the production of long-range missiles and moving antitank missiles close to the Golan Heights border. From his point of view, the two do not contradict each other.
For the record, the quote above came from YNet, and Haaretz also has it as "anti-tank missiles" but the JPost has it as anti-aircraft missiles.

Assad is also working to bring down the Lebanese government so as to avoid the Hariri inquiry (the inquest into the death of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, who was murdered a year ago, in which members of Assad's family have been implicated). Another massive demonstration is taking place in Beirut today. Baidatz said that Hezbullah was taking a three-stage approach to toppling Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora's government: first, mass protests; second, a tent city; and third, discussing nonviolent means of bringing about Saniora's downfall. Baidatz said Hezbullah appeared to be at the third stage, and was looking to win a third of the seats in Lebanon's cabinet in order to be a blocking faction.

Meanwhile, the main beneficiary of the hudna in the Gaza Strip is Hamas. Hamas has moved into the area of the former Gush Katif hothouses and has placed security guards at schools, a move which will likely bolter the group's popular support. Seventeen rockets have been shot at Israel from Gaza since the hudna went into effect. Baidatz says that Hamas is continuing to show sighs of strength in face of the economic blockade, in part due to the money funneled by the Gulf States. And in part due to the cash smuggled in by Hamas leaders.... Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin pointed out that thus far, between 40 and 50 percent of the PA government salaries have been paid since Hamas rose to power. But on Thursday, I blogged a story that indicated that it was a much higher 69% of salaries, with Hamas smuggling in a total of $66 million in cash.

Diskin also addressed the problem of an identity shift among Israeli Arabs, who are increasingly defining themselves as an "oppressed local minority," challenging the Jewish democratic nature of the State of Israel, and adopting the Palestinian narrative [of displacement].


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