THE ATTACKS ACCORDING TO IDF INTELLIGENCE, THE ATTACKS ACCORDING TO THE GSS (Article by Ron Ben-Yishai, "Yediot Ahronot", 24.7.98, Shabbat Supplement, p. 12) The attack this week in Jerusalem has reawakened a long-running debate between IDF Intelligence and the General Security Service (GSS). Among intelligence assessment officers in both organizations, there has been a professional disagreement regarding the extent of influence held by Hamas' political and religious leadership over the attack policy. This is not an academic argument, but rather a subject requiring clarification, in order to enable the intelligence community to decide how and where to invest its efforts in preventing and fighting terrorism. The subject has become especially important in light of the current stalemate in the political negotiations, since experience shows that when the diplomats are quiet, the bombs and Kalashnikovs talk, and we must be prepared for this. The GSS people assert that Hamas' political and religious leadership has only a small influence on the timing and type of attacks that the organization's military wing carries out. The political leadership, the GSS says, provides mainly ideological guidance and financial assistance, but what happens on the ground is determined independently by senior officials in the military wing -- people like Yehiye Ayyash and Mohi A- Din Sharif in the past, and by Muhammad Deif, Awad Awadallah and Mahmud Anoud today. Occasionally, they say in the GSS, the people who initiate the attacks also come from a less senior echelon. They do this when they have a good reason and, mainly, the technical and logistical capability to do so. Therefore, the GSS asserts, there is no sense in focusing preventive efforts on the political leadership; rather, the focus should be on members of all ranks in the military arm. IDF Intelligence has a different assessment. People there believe that the political and religious leadership of Hamas determines the attack policy and occasionally even gives the detailed orders to carry out the attacks. When it wants, there is active terrorism, and when its members conclude that the time is not right, they prevent it. As proof of their being right, IDF Intelligence personnel point to a series of incidents in which the Hamas leadership played a decisive role in setting policy. For example, after the liquidation of Yehiye Ayyash ("The Engineer"), the Hamas leadership decided, and publicly announced, that members of the military wing would blow up five buses using suicide bombers. The decision was carried out. In March 1996, however, in the wake of pressure from the Palestinian Authority (PA), the Hamas leadership decide to halt the suicide attacks and to carry out only shooting attacks. This order, too, was implemented meticulously. Some of the members of Hamas' political and religious leadership live abroad and are considered to be more militant than their colleagues in the territories. The latter are more cautious and try to prevent actions that will bring them into conflict with the PA. The local leaders are also more sensitive to the suffering of the population in the territories. They know that every attack leads to a closure, which leads to economic distress, and that this ultimately boomerangs on Hamas and lessens popular support for it. For this reason, it is possible to see more than a little moderation in Hamas' activity since Sheikh Yassin returned to the territories and reestablished his place as the organization's main leader. More than once, the sheikh has said openly that Arafat must be allowed to extract from Israel every piece of Palestinian land that he can get through political means. The leadership lined up behind him and this is one of the main reasons that in the past year there have been nearly no large-scale, showcase attacks. However, Hamas members have another consideration, one which overrides any other rational one -- revenge. There is apparently a consensus within the organization's leadership that the organization will lose prestige if it does not respond murderously to a physical attack on its leaders. Thus, according to experts, was born the failed attack in Jerusalem this week. An analysis of Sheikh Yassin's recent statements reveals that the Hamas leadership decided several months ago to carry out an attack on Israel in revenge for the assassination attempt on Khaled Mashal and the death of Mohi A-Din Sharif ("Engineer No. 2"). The fact that Israel had no connection to the accident in which Sharif found his death did not matter. It seems that the order to carry out an attack was given to the military wing's leaders several weeks, or even months, ago. However, they were in technical and logistical distress and found it difficult to carry out the order. Thanks to field work done recently by the GSS, IDF and apparently even the Palestinian security apparatuses, they lacked bomb materials and were forced to make the preparations in secret. Implementation was delayed until, ultimately, under pressure from the leadership, an attack attempt was made, but failed. In IDF Intelligence, they can view this attack as further proof of the correctness of their assessment regarding the central role played by the Hamas leadership in guiding the attacks. Fact: the military wing was not prepared, but the leadership pressed and the attack was carried out. If IDF Intelligence is right, there are several implications. The first is that it is possible to demand from Arafat that he act with greater force against terrorism, since he is the only one who has a dialogue with the Hamas leadership. He has made several deals with it, such as the "cease-fire" deals, which have held up nicely when tested. Another conclusion is that the efforts made by Israel to foil terrorist attacks should also include a broad range of activities that will damage the Hamas leadership's ability to function. In the meantime, it is capable of maintaining continuous and swift contact with activists in the field. The preventive effort should also be conducted abroad, but the current belief in the security establishment is that they should refrain, as much as possible, from physically harming Hamas leaders. There is currently fairly wide agreement that the elimination of leaders can be carried out only if it is absolutely clear that the killing of a specific leader will prevent attacks against Israelis and Jews, and only if it will be possible to carry out the killing in a manner that will not lead to revenge attacks. . ===================================================================== Information Division, Israel Foreign Ministry - Jerusalem Mail all Queries to URL: gopher:// ===================================================================== Note: The translations of articles from the Hebrew press are prepared by the Government Press Office as a service to foreign journalists in Israel. They express the views of the authors. --------------------------------------------------------