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(photo credit: AP)
Global Jihad and Al Qaeda based in Jordan have stepped up their attempts to infiltrate Israel and were in close contact with Palestinian terror cells based in West Bank, OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Yair Naveh revealed on Wednesday.
"We recently caught several local terror cells that were in touch with the international Global Jihad based in Jordan," Naveh told a closed meeting at the Jerusalem Center of Public Affairs. Naveh would not say for certain that the al-Qaeda camp in Jordan worked under the direction of the movement's Iraqi leader Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, but, he said, "Al Qaeda was working to tighten its grip on the ground" in Jordan and Israel.
Jordan, the high-ranking officer said, should be particularly concerned with the Hamas takeover of the Palestinian Authority. Naveh predicted that Hamas would spread out to the other side of the Jordan River and might even succeed in toppling the Jordanian government.
"Hamas is gathering strength and a dangerous axis starting in Iran, continuing through Iraq and Jordan is in the process of conception," Naveh told the audience including former Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Dr. Dore Gold and Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror - former head of research at Military Intelligence. "I don't want to be a prophet but I am not sure there will be another king after King Abdullah."
While the IDF has reported attempts in the past by Al Qaeda to infiltrate the Gaza Strip, Naveh's remarks on Wednesday was the first time the IDF revealed that cells in the West Bank were also operating in conjunction with the international terror organization.
"Zarqawi and his men are trying to get a better grip in Jordan," Naveh continued. "They are in the midst of trying to create ideological and religious cells in Gaza and the West Bank and their next stage is to connect themselves to local terror cells."
The Jordan Valley, Naveh said, was a "strategic security asset" that created a barrier between Israel and terrorism from around the world. "The Jordan Valley allows for shoulder-to-shoulder fighting alongside the Jordanians against terrorism," the IDF chief said adding that in his opinion the Jordanians preferred that Israel held on to the Jordan Valley and not relinquish it under a final status agreement with the Palestinians.
Moving to the Hamas, Naveh said he expected the radical group would continue perpetrating attacks against Israel even after it completed forming a new PA government. "Hamas, in my opinion, will agree to a 3-4 year hudna [ceasefire] during which it will continue carrying out attacks under the disguise of other groups," the senior officer said. "In the long term they will not change since the global process that is going on including Iran and Syria supports them."
Hamas, he said, would not carry out suicide bombings on buses in Tel Aviv, but would use the next few years to garner Palestinian public support with the ultimate goal of spreading Islam throughout the Middle East. "Over the next few years the Hamas will try to win over the hearts of the Palestinians," Naveh said. "A dangerous route is in formulating and it begins in Iran, continues to Iraq, to Jordan and then to Israel."
Palestinian terror groups, he said, received funding, sometimes up to hundreds of thousands of dollars, through Western Union branches in the territories. While Islamic Jihad would escalate is terror activity to try and vanguard the Palestinian struggle, the Fatah, the commander predicted, would also step up its attacks against Israel to "try and become legitimate in the eyes of Hamas."
The IDF, Naveh said, was facing a difficult period which included questions as to what its relationship would be with the PA security forces following the formation of a new Hamas-led government. The transfer of security control over PA cities, the commander said, was currently irrelevant and off the table.
"If Hamas will take over the security forces we won't be able to hold regular meetings with the PA brigade commanders like we do now," he said. "When we go into Jenin to arrest terror suspects we also won't be able to give them heads up before we come in."
Fences, Naveh said, made good neighbors and he called for a continued effort to "separate" from the Palestinians in the West Bank from a security standpoint. "Every place there is a fence we have good neighbors," he said. "I am in favor of continuing to build the [West Bank] security fence and separate roads for the Palestinians so there will be less friction and less terror."
Naveh also became the first senior IDF official to admit the military's failure to accurately predict the PA election results and Hamas's victory. He also said that the Military Intelligence needed to run an in-house inspection to determine how it failed to predict the elections. "I was surprised with the results," he said. "I thought the Hamas would get 40 percent of the vote since it was clear the [Palestinian] public was fed up with corruption."
Hamas's victory, Naveh said, demonstrated that the Palestinians were not just fed up with PA corruption but also believed that the armed struggle was the only way to achieve their diplomatic goals. "A simple citizen might not want to be personally involved in terror but as a concept he believes that the armed struggle is the way to achieve his goals," he said.