/ 1 February 2011

M16 drew up plan to curb Hamas

M16 Drew Up Plan To Curb Hamas

British intelligence helped draw up a secret plan for a wide-ranging crackdown on the Islamist movement, Hamas, that became a security blueprint for the Palestinian Authority, leaked “Palestinian papers” have revealed.

In the latest and most damaging disclosure, it has emerged that the plan asked for the internment of leaders and activists, the closure of radio stations and the replacement of imams in mosques.

The disclosure of the plan, drawn up by the intelligence service in conjunction with Whitehall officials in 2004, and passed by a Jerusalem-based MI6 officer to the senior Palestinian Authority security official at the time, Jibril Rajoub, is contained in the cache of confidential documents obtained by Al Jazeera TV and shared with the Guardian.

The documents, which reveal that the Palestinian Authority offered to recognise Israel as a Jewish state and hand over a large section of East Jerusalem to the Israelis, also highlight the intimate military and security cooperation between Palestinian and Israeli forces.

The bulk of the British plan has since been carried out by the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority security apparatus, which is increasingly criticised for authoritarian rule and human rights abuses, including detention without trial and torture.

The British documents, independently authenticated by the Guardian, included detailed proposals for a security task force based on the United Kingdom’s “trusted” Palestinian Authority contacts, outside the control of “traditional security chiefs”, with “direct lines” to Israel intelligence. It lists suicide bombers and rockets as issues needing urgent attention.

Difficult situation
Under the heading “Degrading the capabilities of the rejectionists”, the MI6 Palestinian Security Plan recommends “the detention of key middle-ranking officers” of Hamas and other armed groups, adding: “We could also explore the temporary internment of leading Hamas and PIJ [Palestinian Islamic Jihad] figures, making sure they are well-treated, with European Union funding.”

United States state department spokesperson Philip Crowley said the latest leaks would “at least for a time, make the situation more difficult”, while the senior Palestinian negotiator, Nabil Sha’ath, acknowledged that the documents were genuine and Palestinian groups in Latin America reacted with shock to the revelation that former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice privately suggested Palestinian refugees be settled in Chile or Argentina.

Among the newly released confidential Palestinian Authority documents is an extraordinary account of a 2005 meeting between Israel’s then defence minister, Shaul Mofaz, and the Palestinian Authority’s interior minister, Nasser Youssef.

Referring to Hassan al-Madhoun, a commander of the armed Fatah-linked al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades that Israel held responsible for a suicide attack, Mofaz asked Yousef: “We know his address … Why don’t you kill him?” Yousef replied: “The environment is not easy, our capabilities are limited.” Israel killed Madhoun a few months later in a drone missile attack on his car.

The Palestinian Liberation Organisation’s chief spokesperson, Saeb Erekat, is recorded as telling senior US official David Hale in 2009: “We have had to kill Palestinians to establish one authority, one gun and the rule of law … We have even killed our own people to maintain order and the rule of law.”

Erekat also complained to US envoy George Mitchell in 2009 that not enough was being done to seal off tunnels from Egypt into the Gaza Strip, the documents reveal, undermining the siege of the Hamas-controlled territory, and urged that Israel and Egypt do more to prevent the smuggling of goods and weapons.

In an echo of the proposals in the British documents, Erekat told Hale: “We are not a country yet but we are the only ones in the Arab world who control the zakat [religious charitable donations] and the sermons in the mosque.”

The papers highlight far-reaching official British involvement in developing the Palestinian Authority’s security apparatus in the West Bank, which was led from the late 1990s by the CIA and has recently focused on the build-up of forces under General Keith Dayton, who was US security coordinator for Israel and the Palestinian territories until last October.

Former MI6 officer Alistair Crooke said the British documents reflected a 2003 decision by Tony Blair to tie UK and EU security policy in the West Bank and Gaza to a US-led “counter-insurgency surge” against Hamas — which backfired when the Islamists won the Palestinian elections in 2006.

The Palestinian Authority’s security control of the West Bank has become harsher and more extensive since Hamas took over Gaza in 2007. Hundreds of Hamas and other activists have been routinely detained without trial in recent years and subjected to widely documented human rights abuses.

Meeting Palestinian officials in 2009, Dayton is recorded praising the Palestinian Authority’s security: “The intelligence guys are good. The Israelis like them. But they are causing some problems for international donors because they are torturing people.

I’ve started working on this very recently. I don’t need to tell you who was working with them before,” he said, apparently referring to the CIA. — Guardian News & Media 2011