Israel Weighs Idea of CIA Monitors

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:09 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Washington has no plans to install CIA representatives as monitors in the Israeli-Palestinian Authority conflict, a U.S. official said on Monday.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said he would not oppose an increase in the size of the CIA contingent already here.

Over the weekend, Israel reiterated its refusal to accept international observers, after leaders of the world's richest nations, including President Bush, called on Israel and the PA to accept some form of "third-party monitoring" to ensure that a ceasefire agreement, brokered by CIA chief George Tenet but yet to take hold, is being carried out.

However, Sharon told lawmakers on Monday that rather than agree to foreign observers, he would not oppose allowing a larger number of CIA representatives to arrive.

A senior advisor to Sharon, Zalman Shoval, said Israel does not "rule out altogether" the possibility of adding a few more CIA representatives to the ones already here. But discussions would have to be held with Washington to determine exactly what kind of role they would play.

A spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv said there was "no plan...just ideas out there" for involving CIA operatives as monitors in the situation.

The CIA has been engaged in the conflict since Israel and the PA signed a U.S.-brokered accord in 1998. Currently, a CIA representative chairs a tripartite meeting of U.S., Israeli and PA security officials each week. However, the U.S. intelligence agency has not exactly fulfilled the role of "monitor."

"On this particular subject everyone has to agree," the embassy spokesman said, in reference to the stipulation in the G-8 statement that both Israel and the PA must agree to the stationing of a monitoring body.

A fact-finding committee under former U.S. Senator George Mitchell earlier this year presented recommendations aimed at restoring calm in the region, after investigating the reasons for the outbreak of violence in September.

'The only way forward'

In Genoa, leaders of the world's seven wealthiest nations plus Russia urged the implementation of the Mitchell Report as "the only way forward." They said a "cooling-off" period - to begin after violence has stopped - must begin as soon as possible, and the bloodshed must be halted.

"Third-party monitoring, accepted by both parties, would serve their interests in implementing the Mitchell Report," they said in a statement.

Shoval said the statement had somewhat surprised Israel. Earlier in the week, Secretary of State Colin Powell had opposed the idea of outside observers as "premature."

Shoval, a former ambassador to the U.S., said Israel's part experience of foreign monitors had been "completely negative." The outside presence had not only been ineffective, he said, but also counter-productive.

The most blatant example, said Shoval, was in southern Lebanon, where before Israel withdrew its troops the U.N. did not prevent the Hizballah from carrying out attacks on Israeli soldiers and cross-border rocket attacks on civilians.

After Israel withdrew in mid-2000, the U.N. failed to ensure that the Lebanese army deploy in southern Lebanon, allowing Hizballah terrorists to take up positions right along Israel's northern border, he said.

But even going back as far as 1967, Israel's experience was not positive, Shoval said. U.N. troops based in the Sinai pulled out when Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser ordered them out.

Another, less important reason for Israel's refusal to accept the monitors, was that the deployment of international forces "will be seen by Palestinians and others as a reward for ongoing violence," Shoval said.

It is something the PA has demanded all along, and the Palestinians will see it as a "triumph of the strategy of violence and terrorism."

High alert

Israeli police and security forces were on high alert against the possibility of terror attacks on Monday ahead of the finale ceremony of the Maccabiah games.

More than 2000 athletes from around the world have been participating in the quad-annual, despite the trouble in the region.

Israeli officials have been warning that the relative quiet over the weekend was only a result of a decision to cool things down on the part of the PA during the time the G-8 leaders were meeting.

They expect terror activities to resume soon, especially after last week's killing of three Palestinians in a drive-by shooting allegedly by Jewish extremists.

On Sunday, two policewomen stopped a would-be suicide bomber in Haifa as a matter of stepped up security precautions.

The government announced last week that it was going to crack down on Palestinians living and working in Israel illegally and on those who harbor them.

In the course of a spot check, one Palestinian, who name has been barred from publication, admitted that he had been intending to carry out a suicide attack.

According to a police statement, he led the police to a derelict building where he had stashed a bomb.