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(photo credit: AP [file])
Israel has no interest in and has derived no benefit from the violence within the Palestinian Authority, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the cabinet Sunday.
"We have no involvement whatsoever with what is going on," Olmert said. "It is an internal Palestinian matter that we are not happy about, and that we don't believe will be able to lead us to the [diplomatic] process we are hoping for."
Olmert said Israel hoped the Palestinian violence would end, "both the internal violence and the violence directed at us."
Olmert's comments followed a briefing that the deputy head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) gave the cabinet on the violence.
The deputy Shin Bet chief, who can only be referred to as "Yud," said that in the Agency's view, there was little chance that the upcoming meeting in Saudi Arabia between Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal would succeed in quieting down the situation.
On the contrary, he said the situation was likely to worsen, as both sides were now tying to gain strength for the "next round."
The assessment of the Shin Bet is that while neither Fatah nor Hamas has an interest in chaos or a full-blown civil war, that is where the situation is headed. He said that as opposed to what happens in an orderly state, in the PA orders given by the political echelon - either Abbas or Hamas's Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh - were not being carried out.
"The political level's orders to stop the violence are not being implemented," the Shin Bet official said. "The street is deciding and determining things."
Yud repeated the assessment heard frequently in recent weeks that the violence could lead to an increase in Palestinian terrorist attacks in Israel, designed to unite the factions.
In reply to a question from Environment Minister Gideon Ezra, the deputy Shin Bet head said he did not believe imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti was a moderate influence or that his release would strengthen the moderates inside the PA.
He said there was a gap between the public perception of Barghouti as being able to strengthen the moderates, and what the intelligence community knows about his positions.
The deputy Shin Bet head said Hamas's strength in Judea and Samaria was about 15% of what it was in Gaza.
He described the current violence as an ideological battle between Fatah and Hamas over the future of the Palestinians.
In addition to the ideological element, he said that since so many bystanders have been killed in recent days, the element of revenge killing had entered into play as well.