The Guardian reports:
British intelligence helped draw up a secret plan for a wide-ranging crackdown on the Islamist movement Hamas which became a security blueprint for the Palestinian Authority, leaked documents reveal. 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 British 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 PA 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 also highlight the intimate level of 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 PA security apparatus which is increasingly criticised for authoritarian rule and human rights abuses, including detention without trial and torture.
The British documents, which have been independently authenticated by the Guardian, included detailed proposals for a security taskforce based on the UK’s “trusted” Palestinian Authority contacts, outside the control of “traditional security chiefs”, with “direct lines” to Israel intelligence.
Alastair Crooke writes:
Many have questioned why the European Union failed to provide an independent view to that of the United States on Middle East policy during the last decade. It is not a simple question to answer. Partly the EU failed to assert its voice because, at the beginning of the decade, it was scrambling to contain the impact of inflating US hubris, fuelled by the defeat of Saddam Hussein. Partly it was also a simple reflection of most European politicians’ dependency on Washington. But the release of The Palestine Papers provides another answer.
They show how Tony Blair in particular had so undercut the political space, that there was effectively no room for it. In a secret policy switch in 2003, he tied the UK and EU security policy into a major American counter-insurgency (COIN) ‘surge’ in Palestine.
It was an initiative that would bear a heavy political cost for the EU in 2006, and for years to come, when Hamas won parliamentary elections by a large majority. The EU’s claims for democracy have rung hollow ever since. Blair’s ‘surge’ also left the EU exposed as hypocrites: On a political level, for example, the EU might talk about its policy of fostering reconciliation between Palestinian factions, but at the security plane, and in other ways, the EU was pursuing the polar opposite objectives.
In 2003, US efforts to marginalize President Arafat by leeching away his presidential powers into the embrace of Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, collapsed. Arafat dismissed Abbas as PM. This was a blow to the US policy which – even then – was focused on creating a ‘de-Fatah-ised’ Palestinian Authority. Bush complained to Blair bitterly about Abbas’ dismissal: the Europeans still were ‘dancing around Arafat’ – leaving the US to ‘do the heavy lifting’ with the Israelis. Europeans were not pulling their weight in the ‘war on terror’, Bush concluded.
Blair’s COIN surge was his response to Bush: The Palestine Papers reveal ‘a security drive’ with the objective of “degrading the capabilities of the rejectionists: Hamas, PIJ [Palestinian Islamic Jihad], and the Al Aqsa Brigades – through the disruption of their leaderships’ communications and command and control capabilities; the detention of key middle-ranking officers; and the confiscation of their arsenals and financial resources held within the Occupied Territories. US and – informally – UK monitors would report both to Israel and to the Quartet. We could also explore the temporary internment of leading Hamas and PIJ figures”.