Israel fears scathing U.S. report on its West Bank policies
Sources say U.S. coordinator James Jones' report will be 'very harsh, and make Israel look very bad.'
The United States security coordinator for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, retired general James Jones, is preparing an extremely critical report of Israel's policies in the territories and its attitude toward the Palestinian Authority's security services.
A few copies of the report's executive summary (or, according to some sources, a draft of it) have been given to senior Bush Administration officials, and it is reportedly arousing considerable discomfort. In recent weeks, the administration has been debating whether to allow Jones to publish his full report, or whether to tell him to shelve it and make do with the summary, given the approaching end of President George Bush's term.
Jones was appointed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice following the Annapolis peace conference last November. His assignment was to draft a strategic plan to facilitate stabilization of the security situation, as a necessary accompaniment to Israeli-Palestinian final-status negotiations. In this context, he assessed the PA security forces in the West Bank, whose reform is being overseen by another American general, Keith Dayton. Jones has visited the region several times and met with senior Israeli government officials and army officers.
According to both Israeli and American sources, the envoy's conclusions about Israel are scathing. Israelis who met with Jones on his most recent visit here a few weeks ago, including Israel Defense Forces officers, said their impression was that the report would be "very harsh, and make Israel look very bad."
Jones is apparently critical of Israel on two key issues. One is its fairly broad definition of its security interests in the West Bank under any final-status agreement. The other is its attitude toward the PA security services.
However, the sources said, Jones also had some criticism for Washington: He said its efforts to reform the PA security services fell short and complained that U.S. government agencies are not coordinating their assistance for these forces. In addition, he reportedly concluded that the PA forces are not yet capable of effectively enforcing the law in the West Bank.
The harsh criticisms contained in the executive summary are reportedly upsetting the Bush administration. Some senior U.S. officials are demanding that the full report not be published, so as not to create a storm in advance of the presidential elections in November. Jones, however, is apparently insisting that his full report be published, just as the report he issued last year on the Iraqi security forces was.
Officials at the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv declined to comment.