Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said Tuesday evening that Israel was not bracing for negative diplomatic fallout from the army's raid on a Jericho prison, both because it ended with relatively little loss of life, and because of understanding why Israel took the steps it did.
He said there was acceptance that "there was a bilateral agreement reached with international sponsorship that was breached and which the Palestinians were about to unilaterally abrogate."
Prime Minister's Office spokesman Assi Shariv said that even though the raid was covered extensively in the US and British media, Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert did not receive any calls from anyone condemning the move. The only criticism, he said, came from the Arab League and from various Arab MKs.
Diplomatic officials said that no criticism was expected to be leveled from Washington.
Indeed, both the US and British consuls-general in Jerusalem sent a letter to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on March 8 warning that the 14-man monitoring team would be pulled out of Jericho if its security situation did not improve.
This letter was the last in a number of appeals the British and US made to the PA over the last year to improve the situation at the prison, British Embassy spokeswoman Karen Kaufman said.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Tuesday night that the British were very close to pulling out the monitors last year. Kaufman said that the matter was raised with Abbas on December 15 and again on January 31.
The US and British diplomats wrote in their letter that "the Palestinian Authority has never fully complied with basic provisions of the agreement that established the US and UK Jericho Monitoring Mission." The PA, according to the letter, "has consistently failed to comply with the core provision of the Jericho monitoring arrangement regarding visitors, cell searches, telephone access and correspondence. Furthermore, the PA has failed to provide secure conditions for the US and UK personnel working at the Jericho prison."
The letter said that repeated demarches did not help, and that calls by Hamas to release the detainees called into question the political sustainability of the monitoring mission.
The diplomats wrote that if the PA did not come into "full compliance with the Jericho monitoring arrangements" or come to a new agreement on the matter with Israel, the monitors would be withdrawn.
The IDF's move against the prison began shortly after the last three of the 14 monitors who worked at the prison in shifts left Jericho.
Israeli, British and US officials denied there was any "collusion," although Israel did receive a copy of the March 8 letter and was aware of the British and US intentions.
US Embassy spokesman Stuart Tuttle said that the monitors left Jericho because of security concerns "articulated to the Palestinians over several months, the latest being in the letter to Abbas." He said that consistent with the terms of the Ramallah Agreement that set up the monitoring mission, that letter was shared with Israel. But, he said, "the US did not coordinate the specifics of the departure" with Israel.
One senior Israeli official said that Jerusalem had been in contact with the US and the British since it received the letter to Abbas, and made clear that it would not initiate any action while the monitors were still in the prison. Israel let it be known, however, that once the monitors left, the Ramallah Agreement would be "null and void" and Israel would be free to "bring them to justice."
The official said that Tuesday's action was an important message to the new Hamas government. "It shows that Israel is a country ruled by law, and that those who murder Israeli ministers or Israeli citizens will be brought to justice, even if they are in a jail in the middle of a Palestinian city," he said.
He rebuffed claims that the operation was launched now out of political considerations, saying that it was "not likely" the British and American monitors decided to leave because Israel would be going to the polls in two weeks.
He also said that the wave of kidnapping of foreigners that followed the IDF action would only come back to haunt the PA. "By kidnapping foreigners, they are biting the hand that feeds them," the official said, warning that these countries would then come under pressure to cut off assistance to the PA, including badly needed humanitarian assistance.
Following the IDF action, the British Embassy issued an advisory against all travel to Gaza and the West Bank "following serious threats against UK and US nationals." embassy advised against all travel to east Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank, and strongly advised a high level of vigilance when traveling anywhere in Jerusalem.
The US issued a similar travel advisory.
The National Security Council's Counterterrorism Division also updated its travel advisory, including a call for Israelis to "avoid visiting and immediately leave" Jordan and Egypt, and to "avoid visiting and leave as soon as possible" Morocco and Kenya.
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