U.S. road map monitors: PA failing in fight against terror
Americans concerned PA lagging on arrests, interrogrations; also say Israel ignoring road map obligations.
The American officers responsible for monitoring Israeli and Palestinian compliance with the road map peace plan recently criticized the Palestinian Authority's counterterrorism efforts.
However, they have also demanded clarifications from Israel about its failure to carry out its road map obligations, which include a freeze on settlement construction and the dismantling of illegal West Bank outposts.
Specifically, the Americans are concerned that the PA does not engage in the full spectrum of counterterrorism activities, including arrests, interrogation and trial, as it would if it were trying to eradicate the armed wings of Islamic terrorist organizations. Instead, it makes do with trying to "contain" terror - to prevent specific attacks, and to keep Hamas from growing strong enough to threaten Fatah's rule in the West Bank.
The PA security services do occasionally arrest members of Islamic organizations, but they do not then follow up with the other steps in the "chain of prevention": interrogations, arrests of additional operatives, indictments and trials. Trials generally take place only if the PA is under external pressure, as in the case of the Palestinians who killed two off-duty soldiers out on a hike near Hebron three months ago. And when they do take place, they are generally hasty affairs.
Israel has been complaining about the lack of a "chain of prevention" for years, ever since the second intifada broke out in 2000. Now, it seems that the American monitoring team, headed by General William Fraser, has adopted Jerusalem's position on this issue.
Security coordination between Israel and the PA has deteriorated since the terror attack on Jerusalem's Mercaz Harav Yeshiva three weeks ago. Palestinian security officials are angry over what they view as Israel's lack of faith in them, as reflected in its recent decision to go after four wanted terrorists in Bethlehem itself, rather than informing the Palestinians and letting them try to arrest the men. And while the PA has recently arrested several members of Islamic organizations in the northern West Bank, the Israel Defense Forces and the Shin Bet security service question the significance of these arrests.
With regard to Israel's obligations, the Americans recently gave both the government and the defense establishment a list of 10 questions concerning outposts, settlement construction and other issues. Associates of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have been harshly critical of Jerusalem's failure to evacuate outposts, remove roadblocks and take other measures to improve the PA's economy, such as establishing industrial parks along the seam between Israel and the West Bank.
That may be what prompted Defense Minister Ehud Barak to declare, on three separate occasions over the last two days, that Israel would work to improve Palestinian life and promote economic projects, and would also consider removing certain roadblocks.
Barak, who will meet on Wednesday with PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, announced on Tuesday that he has approved the entry of 600 Palestinian policemen into Jenin, where they will engage in routine law enforcement. The policemen are currently undergoing training in Jordan.
Meanwhile, another senior American envoy, retired general James Jones, has begun a dialogue with Israel on its security demands of the Palestinians under a final-status agreement. The IDF's Plans and Policy Directorate is doing the staff work on this issue.