Help the Palestinians Help Us
HAVING just returned from the Middle East, I find it hard to have much optimism about peace between Israel and the Palestinians...There is, however, one potential chance to move forward. It centers on an American-led mission, based in Jerusalem, that is trying to build new security forces on the West Bank that will support stabilization efforts by the Palestinian Authority’s president...
The importance of this effort cannot be overstated: unless there are effective Palestinian security forces, Israel will never trust in a Palestinian state or be able to act on the quiet progress being made toward reaching a final settlement...
As became all too clear on my visit to Israel, however, this American-led effort is being crippled by decisions within the State Department. The small mission, called the office of the United States Security Coordinator and under the leadership of Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton, is effectively locked into a building in Jerusalem. While it’s a military mission, the State Department and the consulate in Jerusalem are in charge of Palestinian affairs and General Dayton’s advisory teams.
...the result is that the Dayton team has to rely on British and Canadian officials and private contractors to do its work in the field and develop critical personal relationships with Palestinian officers and officials. In fact, even the American military attachés at the embassy are forbidden by the State Department to go into the West Bank and Gaza to carry out liaison efforts with Palestinians or develop human intelligence on the threat of Hamas.
...It’s a shame that at such a pivotal moment in the peace negotiations, a key barrier to the first real step toward peace — and an effective war on terrorism in the West Bank and Gaza — is a set of State Department decisions.
And remember this?