Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House last week (Courtesy Carrie Devorah)
JERUSALEM – Did Israel deliberately hide Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ organization’s responsibility for the murder of a Jew until the completion of last week’s U.S.-sponsored Annapolis summit?
That’s the question opposition politicians and some security officials here are asking regarding the terrorist shooting of a Jewish resident of the West Bank just days before Abbas departed to Annapolis. At the summit last week, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert committed to aim for the completion of an agreement that would hand strategic territory to the Palestinian leader.
Two weeks ago, Israeli Ido Zoldan was gunned down by Palestinians in the northern West Bank. Immediately after the killing, leaders of Abbas’ military wing, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, called WND to take credit for the attack.
Yesterday, the Israel Defense Forces released for publication an announcement that Israeli security agents caught the culprits of the Zoldan murder two weeks ago, in the hours after the killing and days before Annapolis. The culprits were a cell of Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, whose members double as paid police officers for Abbas’ Fatah organization.
The IDF reported yesterday two of the men, Abdullah Braham and Jafar Braham, were arrested on the night of the murder. A third terrorist, Fadi Jamaa, was later apprehended by Palestinian security forces.
According to security sources speaking to WND, the Brahams’ serve in the Palestinian Preventative Security Services, which last month received a shipment of U.S. assault rifles.
The U.S. and European Union run training sources for the Preventative Security Services. The State Department announced in October stepped up training programs for the Fatah security forces ahead of last week’s Annapolis summit.
The news that Abbas’ forces carried out the murder did not receive much media play in Israel. The three major newspapers published back-page articles reporting arrests were made, but two of the three newspapers did not mention that Abbas’ group was responsible.
At sessions in Annapolis, Israel and the U.S. committed to providing aid to Fatah forces even though statistically Fatah is responsible for more terrorism from the West Bank than Hamas.
Senior leaders of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades serve in the Fatah forces, including the chiefs of the Brigades in several West Bank cities. Abbas last June appointed senior Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades leader Mahmoud Damra as commander of Force 17, a major, U.S.-financed Fatah security force. Damra, who was arrested by Israel last November, was on the Jewish state’s most-wanted list of terrorists.
The Brigades took responsibility together with the Islamic Jihad terror group for every suicide bombing in Israel the past three years and for thousands of shootings and rocket attacks aimed at Jewish population centers.
Asked why the IDF withheld publication of the arrests of the Fatah security officers for the Zoldon murder until after Annapolis, a spokeswoman for the army deferred the question to a superior, who did not return calls to WND before publication.
Security sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the IDF was not involved in the decision to hold back the information.
“In this case, the IDF spokesmen didn’t even get information about the arrest until yesterday,” said an IDF source. “The arrests were made by the Shin Bet security services. If you want to know why they waited to give us the information and ask us to make any announcement, just ask the prime minister’s office.”
The IDF source charged the decision to withhold the information was likely political. An announcement that Abbas’ police officers carried out the attack could have generated domestic opposition to Annapolis.
In interviews with Israel National News, opposition Knesset members speculated why the information was withheld.
Nationalist Knesset member Nissan Slomiansky stated, “I originally heard that the reason Israel did not publicize the identities of the murderers was because they had caught only two and needed the PA’s help in capturing the third one, and that’s why they couldn’t publicize it.
“If that’s true, I support the government – but if it’s not, and the reason why they did not publicize was in order to ease the Annapolis summit, this is a scandal of unprecedented proportions – and it must be stopped by simply refusing to hold the next round of talks with Abbas.”
Knesset Member Aryeh Eldad accused Olmert of being complicit in murder.
“The blood of Ido Zoldan is on the head of Ehud Olmert and the members of his government, who decided just a few weeks ago to allow PA policemen to enter Shechem and to give them rifles, ammunition and heavy weapons.”
To interview Aaron Klein, contact Tim Bueler Public Relations by e-mail, or call (530) 401-3285.