Lyin' Jack Straw
Le Monde's Jerusalem correspondent Gilles Paris reports.
The withdrawal of the Americans and the British gave the green light to the Israeli Army.
In virtue of an agreement concluded in 2002, six Palestinians implicated in the assassination of Israeli minister Rehavam Zeevi and presumed arms trafficking had been held in Palestine’s Jericho Prison, supervised by US and British observers. The British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw justified the unilateral decision to end the mission on Tuesday 14 March for “reasons of security” after having, he says, attempted to alert the Palestinians on numerous occasions of his concerns for security.
The US State Department also justified the withdrawal of US observers on grounds of “security”. Only three British observers were present at the prison on Tuesday. When they departed, the Israelis began their attack. Neither the British nor the Americans would comment on the connection between the two events. The Israeli Army justified the operation by claiming the “violation of accords” with the Palestinian Authority.
The release of Jericho’s most important prisoner, Ahmad Saadat, Secretary-General of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), was suggested on March 7 by the head of the Palestinian Authority. Mahmoud Abbas, who feared the assassination of Saadat by Israel [should he be released], said he would release the prisoner only if he received a letter from the PFLP’s policy bureau absolving him of all responsibility.
Since February, the Israeli Army has been reestablishing its checkpoints at all the major exits from Jericho, renown for its general calm and frequented by many foreign nationals. This decision is a contravention of the agreement reached in February 2005 in Sharm el-Sheikh between Mr. Abbas and Ariel Sharon. The agreement was to have given back control of major population areas to the Palestinian Authority but in fact the accord was limited to Jericho.
The implicit green light given by the British and the Americans to the Israeli raid coincided with controversial decisions and declarations to which there was no international reaction. The Israeli Presidential Council confirmed on Tuesday the start of work on the construction of a police post east of Jerusalem in advance of a plan to build a settlement linking the Maale Adoumim colony to Jerusalem. This project aims to prevent the Palestinians from establishing their capital in East Jerusalem, conquered by Israel in 1967. In a visit on the same day to the Ariel colony, built between Nablus and Ramallah, interim Prime Minister and Kadima Party Chairman Ehoud Olmert, declared that the entire settlement block of Ariel is an integral part of Israel and will remain so forever.
Israel also shut down the Karni crossing, the only possible exit for goods to and from the Gaza Strip. This crossing had already been closed for many long weeks since the beginning of the year. Its closure has added the threat of shortages in this overpopulated territory, where certain areas are considered the poorest of all Palestine. The World Bank is alarmed by the situation. In November 2005, US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice supposedly imposed an agreement on the Israelis which should have facilitated the transit of goods.