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Friday, May 04, 2007

State Department trying to take advantage of Olmert's weakness

The US State Department is apparently trying to take advantage of the Olmert-Peretz-Livni government's weakness and has presented a series of "acceleration benchmarks" for an "Agreement on Movement and Access" (AMA) between Israel and the 'Palestinian' Authority. The benchmarks include specific, inflexible dates and have no requirement for one party to comply with its obligations before the other has to act.

The Olmert-Peretz-Livni government has objected to the benchmarks:
The officials raised concerns Israel was being asked to ease restrictions on Palestinian movements without assurances that Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has completed his own commitments on security.

While Israel appeared prepared to lift restrictions in the West Bank starting in mid-May, it has serious reservations about other demands, including one that would allow Palestinian bus convoys to travel between Gaza and the West Bank by July 1, officials said.

"Some of the ideas Israel is already implementing, others are already well advanced, and there are some that Israel will not be able to address in the present because of security concerns," an official in Olmert's office said.
The document also includes increased assistance for 'moderate' 'Palestinian President' Mahmoud Abbas Abu Mazen's Force 17-dominated 'security services.' As you may recall, Force 17 is headed by a wanted murderer, and its leaders have repeatedly said that any weapons supplied to them would be used against Israel.

Of course, Israel is partly to blame for this, because it has transferred weapons to Force 17 itself, and because it continues to promote the delusion that Abu Mazen is a 'moderate' and is different from Hamas. Abu Mazen himself is a Holocaust denier, and the 'Palestinian Authority' under his command has continued to brainwash children to commit suicide, while denying the Jewish (and Christian) connection to the land of Israel.
Officials in the defense establishment object to several issues in the document, especially the demand to expand the operation of the passages in the Gaza Strip and the removal of many roadblocks in the West Bank.

These officials believe that the benchmarks involve security risks.

Israel has not responded officially to the document and an inter-ministerial discussion on it was postponed on Thursday.


The document was written by the U.S. security coordinator, Major General Keith Dayton, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dick Jones and U.S. Consul-General in Jerusalem Jacob Walles.

It was sent to Washington, where it was approved by Secretary of State Rice before it was presented to Israel and the PA. However, both Israel and the PA's official answer to the document is still pending.

Palestinian sources told Haaretz that the PA has accepted the document, but it fears that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will sabotage the turning of it into an agreement due to his precarious political situation.

If both sides accept the document it will become a binding agreement.


The document demands, among other things, that Israel approve and support in an "immediate and ongoing" manner the requests of U.S. security coordinator Dayton for the provision of required armaments, ammunition and equipment for security forces under the control of and reporting to the PA chairman in the West Bank and Gaza.

Each clause is accompanied by a precise timetable for implementation. For example, Israel and the PA are required to establish, no later than July 1, 2007, a bus convoy service operating five days a week between the Erez checkpoint at the entrance to the Gaza Strip and the Tarqumiya roadblock at the entrance to Hebron for passengers from Gaza and the West Bank.

Israel is required to remove specific roadblocks and other traffic and movement restrictions in the West Bank at specified dates. For example, Israel must remove restrictions and provide access no later than June 1, 2007 in the Bethlehem 1 and 2 clusters, in the Hebron clusters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8, in Nablus clusters 1, 2, 3 and 4 and in the Tubas 1 cluster.

It must remove roadblocks in the Nablus area and specifically the ones in Beit Iba, Hawara, Awarta, Shavei Shmoron and Beit Foriq no later than June 15.

However, the timetable in the document is not entirely relevant as the measures in it were scheduled to begin on May 1.

Rice agreed on formulating the document during her last visit in Israel and the PA. The Palestinians received the document last Wednesday, April 25. Senior Palestinian sources told Haaretz that the PA accepts its principles, although the PA has not given Washington an official answer yet.

The PA and mainly its defense forces and national security adviser Mohammed Dahlan are required to take a series of clear steps, limited by a timetable.

Dahlan is required to develop a plan against Qassam rockets with the support of Abbas no later than June 21, 2007. The president must deploy these forces no later than that date.

The Palestinian forces are required to act to prevent arms smuggling in the Rafah area in coordination with Israel.

Abbas and Dahlan must subject the defense forces to the PA chairman by June 15.

Both Israel and the Palestinians are required to reestablish the coordination and liaison headquarters in the West Bank.
The full original document may be found here. Rice is scheduled to return to Israel on May 15 to 'discuss' it.

Arutz Sheva calls the plan a 'timeline to terror' and fears that Israel will be required to fulfill its obligations even if the 'Palestinians' do not fulfill theirs (which is what has happened in every 'agreement' until now). Arutz Sheva notes that the actions in the AMA are essentially a rehashing of the now-tattered 'road map.'
The Bush administration nonetheless insists that the eight-month plan will bring a win-win situation for all parties.

Secretary Rice expresses confidence that the specific deadlines will create a firm structure in a process that has not moved forward despite years of efforts by various U.S. governments.

A senior U.S. official commented the plan provides incentives on both sides – “One side gets security. The other side gets greater [freedom] of movement.”

Israeli officials aren’t so sure; Jerusalem noted that Israel is being told to erase security measures without first making sure that Abbas can keep his promises to ensure security for Israelis at the same time.

As an unnamed Israeli official pointed out, “There is not (sic) conditionality. Even if they don’t complete their obligations, we’ll have to complete ours.”


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