The Palestinian Authority has rejected the peace agreement that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert proposed.
A statement issued last night by Nabil Abu Rudeineh, PA President Mr. Mahmoud Abbas’s spokesman, noted the Palestinian Authority chairman would not accept the Israeli final status arrangement proposal. Mr. Olmert proposed Israel annex 7 percent of the West Bank and, in exchange, compensate the Palestinians with territory equaling 5.5 percent [of the West Bank] in the Negev.
Mr. Abu Rudeineh said that plan in question was not serious, since it failed to address the Palestinian interests in Jerusalem.
“The Israeli proposal is unacceptable, it is a waste of time,” he said last night to the Israeli media, adding: “The Palestinian people will agree to a state with territorial contiguity only in a way that includes Jerusalem as its capital.”
Senior Palestinian Authority officials told the Israeli media that “Olmert’s proposal, which was submitted to people who work for U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, contains nothing new and it is actually just an improved version of two similar proposals that were given in the past by Ehud Barak to Yasser Arafat.”
Khaled Kashkush of the Israeli Arab village Kalansua, a medical student at the University of Goettingen in Germany, will not get the chance to work as a physician at Rambam Hospital in Haifa, as the officers of Hezbollah’s intelligence department planned. It is doubtful whether he will be able to complete his studies. Instead of laboratories and clinical experience, he will apparently sit behind bars for many years.
On Aug. 6, an indictment was filed against Mr. Kashkush, 29, on suspicion of working on Hezbollah’s behalf during his stay in Germany. The General Security Services of Israel (GSS) say that he was not a low-level spy, but rather an attempt by Hezbollah to send into Israel, or recruit, what is known as a “strategic-level spy,” someone who can provide high-quality information in advance of the next round with Israel. Hezbollah, say GSS officials, invested great efforts in recruiting, handling and preparing him for his long-term mission. Had it succeeded, the damage would have been great. The GSS, luckily, was quicker this time.
Why did Hezbollah choose Rambam Hospital? Every beginning intelligence operative knows that activity in a hospital, particularly a central one, which has emergency roles, can give an indication and initial signs of a war alert. In time of war, the hospital is a nerve center, an inexhaustible source of strategic information such as, for example, national morale or even the military rank of the injured and dead soldiers.
The Kashkush file
Fifteen years ago when Hezbollah was still in the early stages of setting up its intelligence network, the organization recruited agents and spies to report on road systems, location of IDF camps and moods in Israel.
Since then, the organization’s intelligence network has improved, thanks to technological changes. The Google Earth software, for example, has become a readily-available, effective and quick tool for obtaining aerial footage, the quality of which would not put to shame photographs taken in the past by fighter planes. Hezbollah has no problem identifying in this footage security installations or population centers that could become a target in the next confrontation.
The Israeli press, including websites, provide a great deal of information that becomes intelligence and research material of great value. Hezbollah’s intelligence has enough Hebrew speakers who can translate all the public material.
A new support player in this department could be Mr. Samir Kuntar, the convicted murderer whom Israel freed in exchange for the bodies of two murdered Israeli POW’s in mid-July. Not only does he speak Hebrew fluently and is quite familiar with the Israeli way of thinking, but he is also the only Hezbollah member with a degree from an Israel university.
Another method in which Hezbollah has been specializing in recent years is listening to phone conversations of soldiers and civilians or military wireless networks.
Germany provides a new theater of action for Hezbollah, if only because the German government has still not defined it as a terror organization. Hezbollah can also operate legally among the Muslim communities in Germany by means of civilian bodies, mainly charity associations and monetary funds. The focus of Hezbollah’s activity in Germany is Palestinian students, not necessarily Israeli Arabs.
The process of finding, recruiting and handling Mr. Kashkush is suspected to have been carried out in the classic textbook manner.
During his studies in the faculty of medicine, Mr. Kashkush met Dr. Hisham Hassan, a Lebanese physician who lives in Germany and serves as head of the German branch of Orphaned Children Project Lebanon.
This NPO, which belongs to Hezbollah, operates in Germany with a legal permit and raises funds for Hezbollah shahids and their families. In Israel, the Martyr’s Institute, for which the NPO in Germany raises funds, has been outlawed. Presumably, Israeli security forces gave German intelligence the information that they held about the NPO and its branches in Europe.
Mr. Hassan, whose role was to spot potential candidates who could serve as Hezbollah agents and prepare them for recruitment, made friends with Mr. Kashkush. For three years he met with him at least once every two weeks. Mr. Hassan used to invite Mr. Kashkush to the offices of the association, and asked him to help with administrative work.
Throughout this period, Mr. Hassan submitted ongoing reports to his Hezbollah commanders about the progress of the “friendship” between him and Mr. Kashkush.
After three years, Hezbollah preparing an operating dossier for Kashkush, which included the definition of his mission as a strategic long-term agent at Rambam Hospital in Haifa. At this stage, Mr. Hassan was given the task of arranging a meeting between Mr. Kashkush and Mohammed Hashem, a 50-year-old Lebanese man who is a senior recruitment operative and handler for Hezbollah.
Mr. Mohammed Hashem is considered one of Hezbollah’s most senior intelligence operatives. He is well known to security organizations in Israel. Two weeks ago, security officials in Israel decided in an unusual step to publish his name in the Israeli media and present him as the organization’s senior handler of agents. The publication was intended to signal to Mr. Hashem that it would be best for him to leave his scene of activity in Europe.
Mr. Kashkush accepted the recruitment offer. The operating and training meetings were held in the cities Frankfurt and Erfurt. At first, his handler demanded of him information about Israeli Arabs studying abroad, including a report of their political tendencies, their economic problems or drug abuse. With time, they spoke about the main mission-to join the medical staff of Rambam Hospital in Haifa. Mr. Kashkush received about $30,000 for his activity – a significant sum for a student.
GSS officials say that this affair illustrates more than anything the importance that Hezbollah attaches to Arabs in Israel as an attractive target for recruitment, handling and carrying out high-quality espionage. From Hezbollah’s standpoint, these are citizens who enjoy freedom of movement in Israel, which enables them to collect intelligence on both the strategic and tactical levels.
An example of this was the recruitment by Hezbollah of a young woman from Umm el-Fahm, a dental student at Amman University. In July 2007, she was arrested upon her return to Israel, after having completed her studies. One of the tasks assigned to her was to transfer a flash memory drive to Hezbollah operatives within Israel.
Going Rate For Attacks
Hezbollah operates under the guidance of Iran, which is a dominant player in the intelligence war against Israel. The combination of Iran and Hezbollah has become a troubling element for Israeli intelligence services, particularly in recent years, when most of Hezbollah’s activity for recruiting and handling agents focuses on Israeli Arabs.
The joint effort by Hezbollah and Iran, aimed at setting up an operational and intelligence infrastructure against Israel, has become intensive since the withdrawal of IDF forces from southern Lebanon in May 2000.
Hezbollah established an extensive network of ties with Israeli drug dealers throughout the country, on the basis of drug smuggling from the northern border, which is carried out under the supervision and control of Lebanese drug lords who operate in its service. Hezbollah makes this trade contingent on receiving intelligence from the Israeli side, in addition to monetary payments for the drugs.
In the past two months, two Hezbollah-inspired al-Qaida cells were exposed, one in Rahat, in the Negev, and other of Arabs students from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, who planned to attack President George W. Bush’s helicopter during his landing in Jerusalem. But when it comes to helping Hezbollah against the Zionist enemy or helping Iran, some are willing to undertake the task in order to harm Israel.
Since 2006, Hezbollah’s activity in the territories has decreased, not only due to the intensive activity by the GSS in exposing and arresting cells, but also following Hezbollah’s disappointment in the Arabs of the territories, who did not deliver the goods and during the Second Lebanon War did not succeed in opening a second front of terror against Israel.
Another affair that was revealed recently was the recruitment by Iranian intelligence of Mr. Jeris Jeris, the former chairman of the Fasuta council, an Israeli Arab village. The main objective of the Iranian intelligence officers was to put Mr. Jeris in the Israeli Knesset Parliament and then utilize his status for Iranian goals.
However, Mr. Jeris was arrested in December 2006, and in his questioning, it became apparent that the Iranians had planned to operate him as a long-term agent. Mr. Jeris had been assigned the task of establishing a research center that would serve as a cover for gathering intelligence material.
He was even asked to prepare a review for the Iranians about society and the political establishment in Israel. When he returned to Israel, equipped with his handler’s instructions, Mr. Jeris collected academic articles on society and security in Israel, and joined an Israeli political party with the aim of running for a Knesset seat.
Hezbollah activity against Israel is also conducted by means of the organization’s skilled propaganda mechanisms. It is no secret that Mr. Nasrallah’s speeches received high ratings in Israel. Hezbollah also aims its television broadcasts at the Israeli Arabs and the Palestinians in the territories.
Hezbollah’s official television station, Al-Manar, receives relatively high exposure among Israeli Arabs.
Hezbollah’s messages in the media are filled with hatred for Israel, and include use of anti-Semitic images and incitement. They encourage Palestinian terror and encourage Hamas to adopt the same methods of instilling the myth of Islamic victory as a key tool of the struggle.
Hezbollah still has a score to settle with Israel. It still has not carried out the terror attack promised in revenge for their military commander Imad Mughniyah’s assassination, which they attribute to Israel. The organization’s current focus is on Israeli targets abroad.
Israeli security abroad has been on very high alert in the past months. Israel has indications of preparations for such an attack, but no one can stick a pin into the globe and say with certainty where the revenge will be carried out.
David Bedein can be reached at email@example.com. His Web site is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com.
©The Bulletin 2008