GushKatif-Gate - Israel's Watergate
Drama in Israel… Suspicions that PM Sharon's Gaza pullout plan, which radically contradicts his previous world-view, was concocted to evade corruption charges, were aired months ago by Israel's former Deputy Education Minister Zvi Hendel, a Gush Katif resident.
However, these suspicions were recently confirmed by two top-notch Israeli reporters.
The bombshell was dropped on the Israeli public in a prime-time Israeli TV talk show and aired 15 June. Here is a link to the relevant item in the TV show. You will see and hear the two reporters, Raviv Druker (Israel Channel 10 TV) and Ofer Shelach (Yediot Ahronot, Israel's largest daily) being hosted by veteran TV host Nissim Mishal. The two excitedly summarize evidence published in their recent book, according to which the Sharon's disengagement plan was concocted for no better reason than evasion of devastating corruption charges.
Click here to view the Channel Two TV segment – with English subtitles summarizing the interview:
Accuracy note: Druker and Shelach speak so fast that complete subtitles were impractical. Therefore, the subtitles you just saw are an abbreviated summary of the content aired. A complete and unabridged translation of the TV clip follows:
Complete and unabridged translation of the Channel Two TV segment:
…”And who is the army general that Sharon tried to plant inside the General Staff?
All this is in the book "Boomerang," by journalists Ofer Shelah and Raviv Drucker”
Before we begin, here are some headlines that we have culled from the book:
The decisions on the disengagement plan were made with top army officers deliberately being left out of the loop, and without the participation of the ministers and cabinet.
The evacuation plan was born because Sharon was sure that then-State Prosecutor Edna Arbel would indict him.
Sharon proposed to one of the army's top generals that he be a "plant" and report to him on the goings-on in the General Staff.
You know, Sharon is perceived by the public as determined, strong.
But your book presents a completely different image – of someone pretty scared of police interrogations and led by the nose by what is known as the "Ranch Forum" and [top aide] Duby Weissglas. Raviv.
We too were surprised by what we found. One government minister told us, "This is the weakest Prime Minister I have seen, and I have seen many Prime Ministers."
The point is that Sharon is very strong at imposing his decisions, but is weak in that he can be persuaded to make decisions; he has no backbone of his own today, and the most outstanding example of this is of course Duby Weissglas and the disengagement plan...
And the myth regarding Duby Weissglas in this matter is correct. In October 2003 [...]
Weissglas pushed forward the disengagement.
He is the father of the disengagement
Weissglas is the father of the disengagement.
Was Sharon just a puppet?
Sharon wanted only to survive politically. And I'll give you a real-life example.
In October 2003, before the disengagement plan started, before we knew anything, before the speech and everything, Weissglas instructed staffers in the prime minister's office: Give me data on Gaza because I think we should withdraw from Gaza.
Sharon was still opposed to it then – but he came around later.
At that time, Weisglass also started spreading hints to other people that if Sharon didn't agree to this plan, he would end his political career as an 'insignificant old man.'
Weissglas also started pressuring [Defense Minister] Mofaz at this time, to support the plan because of the close ties between the two of them.
But more than anything - Weissglas felt that he had the right key to persuade Sharon. He sells him the right narrative – how to convince him.
When Sharon arrived in office, he didn't know what to do. We describe a prime minister who – like people say of him, is great at tactics, very astute politically, but has no strategy and he doesn't know what to do – neither on the personal level with the pressure being exerted on him, nor on the national level.
Don't forget: After two years in office, he finds himself – the great terror-fighter, Arik Sharon – with the largest number of terror victims ever – and during his term.
And Weisglass – together with the Ranch Forum, but mainly Weisglass – takes advantage of this to lead Sharon [by the nose]... but it's not only the process Raviv described.
In December '03, after Sharon's Herzliya speech introducing the disengagement, when the plan was still very vague – in fact, Sharon was still asking the Chief of Staff and the Defense Minister what they thought about evacuating just one or two communities – Weissglas goes to Washington all by himself and meets with then-U.S. National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice, privately – without his Military Secretary Moshe Kaplinsky or National Security Advisor Giora Eiland, who usually accompany him.
Very senior army officials have told us that this was the trip in which Weissglas made the following offer: In the first stage, we will quit Gaza, in the second stage there will be a deep withdrawal from Judea and Samaria, and in the third stage, we will even be willing to talk about the '67 borders.
The important thing is that from that moment, there is no contact with those people who were supposed to help Sharon decide about the plan, figure out what Israel would get in return, and help Israel get the best possible deal. And from that moment, the plan essentially rolls along on its own.
To what extent, Ofer, did the police investigations, the fear of the investigations, (State Prosecutor) Edna Arbel in the background, and his fear of being indicted, influence this historic decision regarding the disengagement?
The people who are closest to Sharon told us absolutely that if not for the police interrogations, the decision [to quit Gaza] would not have been made. This can be seen by the timetable of events and the decisions made in February '04.
At the time when the system – Giora Eiland, who was appointed by the prime minister to work on the plan – is working to save something, to try to get something in return for the disengagement, Menny Mazuz is appointed Attorney General. Edna Arbel is still in the picture, and Sharon is convinced that she won't end her term before indicting him, and then something very interesting happens.
This is the most outstanding example of this, because what happens then is that there is a very dramatic week – that week Menny Mazuz is appointed, Sharon receives a summons to be interrogated, there are leaks from the prosecution that an indictment is on the way…
That Edna Arbel wants to indict Sharon.
Yes. And then the Ranch Forum convenes, and it is not explicitly stated, but there is an atmosphere in the background that there has to be a dramatic diplomatic move that will overshadow everything else, that will change the national agenda.
So they decide to come out with a major diplomatic step – and this is the major diplomatic step.
Giora Eiland, who is supposed to prepare the plan, reads about it on his computer screen, at a time when he is preparing an entirely different plan, one in which Israel will receive something in return. And that is the reason Eiland opposes this plan.
And now a riddle that you present in the book. You write about a certain army general that the prime minister tried to "plant" in the General Staff, so that he would report to him – a mole for the prime minister in the General Staff. Who is he? Who is the general?
There are 24 names, you know…
We can't say who it is.
All along, Sharon was very unhappy with the army, and constantly tried to create direct channels of communication , and most of the time succeeded.
He is in such a senior position that he can report to him?
He is a member of the General Staff forum. He is in a senior position,
The general himself told us explicitly: Sharon suggested it to me…
He wanted him to leak to him…
Yes. "You will tell me what is going on there in the discussions in the General Staff." Ariel Sharon was very unhappy with the army.
You are not willing to divulge the name?
No, we won't reveal who it is.
Can you write his name for me on a note?
Do you know how to read upside down?
Yes I do…
But if you say 'note,' listen to something interesting.
We relate in the book – the book talks about all the 4.5 years of the second intifada. We tell the full story of the non-extension of Bugy Yaalon's term as Chief of Staff.
And wonder of wonders, a note is involved here too.
Ariel Sharon – in the most blatant way that a prime minister has ever done – interferes in appointments including the appointment of his military secretary.
He demands to see the files of the candidates – and by the way, the prime minister has no say whatsoever in this appointment, and Yaalon comes with the files to show him the candidates, and all does is write down the names on a note and put it in his pocket, and two days later, Yaalon starts to hear from Defense Minister Mofaz: "This one is unacceptable," "The prime minister's office says this one is out, and why don't to propose this one?" And the defense minister distances himself from the process – and incidentally, another amusing detail: In the prime minister's office, they nicknamed Mofaz the "operations officer" – because follows orders.
All the top defense officials, although most are against the plan – fall into line with the prime minister?
The most outstanding example, once again, is Mofaz, who beforehand said: "Whoever supports a unilateral retreat apparently hasn't been here for the last two and a half years ."
But there are others that were less noticed.
A few months before adoption of the disengagement plan, there was a debate among the top brass of the IDF in the presence of the Chief of Staff. Many options were presented. One of the options was unilateral disengagement from Gaza. There was unanimous agreement regarding the idea: Absolutely no.
Army Intelligence Chief Ze'evi-Farkash said that it would be a catastrophe to do that. The head of IDF Research said it would be the worst possible thing... but after several months, when they saw that Sharon was determined, they amazingly all fell in line and backed it...
We are making a very serious claim: In the past four and a half years, there have been many opportunities to end or change the course of the intifada, but because of the decision-making process, these opportunities were missed, and the bottom line – it's terrible to say – is that many people were killed [by terrorists] in vain."
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