TEL AVIV — Israeli intelligence officials believe that al Qaeda has largely spared the Jewish state from terrorist attacks as part of a global plan to first destroy the United States and establish an Islamic empire before targeting Israel.
This consensus is based on constant and intensive monitoring of al Qaeda’s operations, and statements and analysis of its leadership’s beliefs, Israeli intelligence officials said.
Osama bin Laden and his followers have been under scrutiny here since the late 1990s — at least two years before September 11.
Al Qaeda’s presence in the Palestinian territories today is limited to rank-and-file operatives, usually Palestinians or Jordanians, who are closely monitored by Israeli intelligence.
The operatives maintain close links with Hamas and Islamic Jihad organizations, two groups responsible for most of the suicide bombings targeting the Jewish state.
The Israelis believe the United States is al Qaeda’s primary objective and that Israel will be dealt with in the final stage of its global plan.
According to Jonathan D. Halevi, a reserve lieutenant colonel in Israel’s armed forces and a foreign ministry adviser, al Qaeda is waging jihad, or holy war, against the United States as “retaliation” for what it considers “the terrorist war waged by the U.S. against the nation of Islam.”
Reuven Paz, a veteran of Israel’s intelligence apparatus, said the goal set for al Qaeda 20 years ago by its main ideologist, the late Abdullah Azzam, a Palestinian, is to create a single Islamic state that would encompass the world.
Azzam was killed 14 years ago in Afghanistan by a bomb planted in his automobile.
“No one knows who was responsible,” said Mr. Paz, director of the Tel Aviv-based Project for the Research of Intelligence Movements, an outfit known in this country’s intelligence community by the acronym PRISM.
A recent recording made in Iraq by Abu Musaab Zarqawi, one of al Qaeda’s most influential leaders, affirms the Israelis’ contention that it not only seeks the downfall of the West, but also a purge of Islam’s own “clerical establishment.”
“You abandoned us in the most difficult of circumstances and you handed us over to our enemy,” Zarqawi said.
This bitter critique referred to the circumstances in which the regime of Saddam Hussein collapsed and Iraq came under the control of American and allied forces.
Zarqawi’s original name, according to the Middle East Research Institute, was Ahmad Al-Khalayla.View Entire Story
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