Egypt, Jordan and Yassir Arafat’s ‘Palestinian National Authority’ (PNA) recently concluded a formal treaty with the US and Israel on combatting Islamic movements, according to Israeli and British media reports quoting senior security and other officials. The fact that the countries have co-ordinated their policies against Islam is common knowledge, but the agreement to build ‘common infrastructure’ targeting a ‘common enemy’ is a new development.
Yedioth Aharanoth, an Israeli evening newspaper, reported on October 1 that the five have secretly agreed to “build common infrastructure to fight terrorism” in the Middle East. The parties had reached agreement at the highest level during secret talks in the preceding two weeks on the initiative of king Abdullah II of Jordan, the paper said. The infrastructure will facilitate the establishment of strong links between the secret agencies of the parties concerned, especially for the purpose of exchanging information, it added.
According to Yedioth Aharanoth, the idea of formalising the security co-operation was first proposed by Abdullah, who put it to Arafat during the latter’s visit Amman, on September 16. Arafat then secured the agreement of Ehud Barak, the Israeli prime minister, Egypt’s president Husni Mubarak and Bill Clinton, the US president.
Other reports, however, suggest that the idea may have come from Barak. After his meeting with Abdullah on September 16, Arafat is reported to have gone for a secret meeting with Barak the same day. This meeting took place at Barak’s private residence in Kohav Yair, east of Tel Aviv. According to the London-based daily Independent, the Israeli leader telephoned Abdullah while he was conferring with Arafat to make the proposal.
While the logistics of the deal remain hazy, there is no doubt that the three men quickly adopted the proposal. According to Yedioth Aharanoth, cooperation under the new agreement began after the car-bomb explosions in the Israeli towns of Haifa and Tiberias. Hamas leaders Khalid Misha’al, Musa Abu-Marzouk and Ibrahim Ghosheh were arrested on September 22, the day after an ‘Israeli Arab’ arrested for the bombings had admitted links with Hamas. The organisation’s offices in Jordan had already been closed in August.
The danger lies in the development of the so-called ‘security infrastructure’, consisting mainly of pooled information on the global Islamic movement. The bilateral arrangements between Arab, US, and Israeli governments for exchanging information have not so far been as effective as the US and Israel would like. The bombing of American targets in Saudi Arabia, for instance, has not been fully explained, and Shaikh Osama bin Ladin’s whereabouts, and the hiding-places of his wealth, have eluded detection.
One of the aims of the planned database will be to trace the sources of funding the global Islamic movement. Even ‘moderate’ Islamic movements, which restrict their activities to charity work, are unwelcome, as their success reflects favourably on political Islam. This explains the recent crackdown on non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Egypt doing purely charity or other social work. Another aim will be to trace Islamic activists the world over ï the ‘Afghan Arabs’, for example - and to prepare information, whether false or true, leading to their eventual ‘repatriation’ or extradition. Members of the Islamic media have also been identified as potential targets.
The first lesson for the global Islamic movement in these circumstances is clear: vigilance to defeat the infiltrators.
Muslimedia: October 16-31, 1999