Washington Post: Obama’s behavior to Israel is “startling” and “puzzling”

March 16, 2010

* “In recent weeks, the Obama Administration has endorsed ‘healthy relations’ between Iran and Syria, mildly rebuked Syrian President Assad for accusing the U.S. of ‘colonialism,’ and publicly apologized to Moammar Gadhafi for treating him with less than appropriate deference after the Libyan called for ‘a jihad’ against Switzerland.” But when it comes to Israel, Obama, Clinton and Axelrod have decided to join the international beat-up-on-Israel club.

* “If the Obama Administration opts to transform itself, as the Europeans have, into another set of lawyers for the Palestinians, it will find Israeli concessions increasingly hard to come by.”

* “It’s easy to dislike Israel’s settlements, and still easier to dislike many of the settlers. So it would be a splendid thing for Israel to tear down its settlements, put the settlers behind its pre-1967 borders and finally reach the peace deal with the Palestinians that has been so elusive for so long. Except for one problem: The Israeli-Palestinian conflict isn’t territorial. It’s existential.”

* “That helps explain why Ehud Barak in 2000 and Ehud Olmert in 2008 put forward comprehensive peace offers to the Palestinians, and were rebuffed, even though in both cases, the offers included the division of Jerusalem.”

* “For years, Israel’s soi-disant friends, particularly in Europe, had piously insisted that they supported Israel’s right to self-defense against attacks on Israel proper. But none of them lifted a finger to object to the rocket attacks from Gaza.”

* “In the past decade, Israelis have learned that neither Palestinians nor Europeans can be taken at their word. That’s a lesson they may soon begin to draw about the U.S. as well. Which is a pity for many reasons – not least because it gives the settler movement every excuse it needs to keep rolling right along.”

* “White House strategists are cynically distancing themselves from Israel in order to curry popularity by capitalizing on the anti-Israeli hatred which has engulfed the world.”

A Palestinian rioter in Jerusalem today

 

CONTENTS

1. Am I the only journalist in the world making this point?
2. A crisis of historic proportions?
3. Washington Post: Obama’s behavior to Israel is “startling” and “puzzling”
4. Ha’aretz: David Axelrod’s attacks on Israel are “dishonest”
5. For Israelis, Ramat Shlomo is as much a part of Israel as is Tel Aviv
6. Israel condemns Hamas’ anti-Semitic remarks
7. “To say that I am deeply concerned is an understatement”
8. “Obama’s turn against Israel” (Wall Street Journal editorial, March 15, 2010)
9. “The settlements aren’t the problem” (By Bret Stephens, WSJ, March 16, 2010)
10. “Obama has crossed the line” (By Isi Leibler, Jerusalem Post, March 16, 2010)
11. “America’s shiny new Palestinian militia” (By Daniel Pipes, NRO, March 16, 2010)


AM I THE ONLY JOURNALIST IN THE WORLD MAKING THIS POINT?

[All notes below by Tom Gross]

[This dispatch is a follow-up to the previous dispatch: Palestinian Authority honors top terrorist the moment Biden leaves the West Bank.]

Both the White House and U.S. State Department are still refusing to criticize the Palestinian Authority’s honoring of a top Palestinian terrorist just hours after Joe Biden left the West Bank last week. This is despite the fact that one of the 38 adults and children killed by that terrorist was not only an American but she was the niece of a U.S. senator from President Obama’s and Secretary of State Clinton’s own Democratic party (Senator Abraham Ribicoff’s niece, nature photographer, Gail Rubin).

I mentioned this in my previous dispatch. I have done a search and I seem to be the only journalist in the world reporting on this fact, and I’m not even American. Does no American journalist think it worthy of reporting that the American taxpayer-funded Palestinian Authority, honors a terrorist who in cold blood killed an American who was a close relative of a Democratic senator in the very place where Joe Biden visited hours earlier, and Obama and Clinton still have almost nothing to say about this five days later? (The New York Times has reported the ceremony to honor of the terrorist but not the fact that she killed the niece of a U.S. senator nor the fact that no American official has condemned this.)

 

A CRISIS OF HISTORIC PROPORTIONS?

Below, I attach some reactions from American politicians followed by four articles (all by subscribers to this email list) relating to the present attacks on Israel by the Obama administration. Israel’s ambassador to Washington Michael Oren has called it “the worst crisis between Israel and the U.S. since 1975 – a crisis of historic proportions.” (Personally I think this is an exaggeration, yet it may become so if Obama pushes Israel any further into a corner.)

Former Mossad head Ephraim Halevy has said he believes the onslaught of statements against Israel is due to Obama’s determination to rehabilitate what he sees as America’s tarnished image among Muslims.

(Michael Oren and Ephraim Halevy are also subscribers to this email list.)

Meanwhile, the lies broadcast today around the world by CNN International – that Jerusalem’s Hurva synagogue has been built on a mosque and so on – are incendiary and dangerous beyond belief.

 

WASHINGTON POST: OBAMA’S BEHAVIOR TO ISRAEL IS “STARTLING” AND “PUZZLING”

In a lead editorial, The Washington Post also criticized Obama. The paper said:

“President Obama’s Middle East diplomacy failed in his first year in part because he chose to engage in an unnecessary and unwinnable public confrontation with Israel over Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem… So it has been startling – and a little puzzling – to see Mr. Obama deliberately plunge into another public brawl with the Jewish state.

“… The dispute’s dramatic escalation seems to have come at the direct impetus of Mr. Obama… Mr. Obama risks repeating his previous error. American chastising of Israel invariably prompts still harsher rhetoric, and elevated demands, from Palestinian and other Arab leaders…”

“Last year Israelis rallied behind Mr. Netanyahu, while Mr. Obama’s poll ratings in Israel plunged to the single digits. The president is perceived by many Israelis as making unprecedented demands on their government while overlooking the intransigence of Palestinian and Arab leaders. If this episode reinforces that image, Mr. Obama will accomplish the opposite of what he intends.”

 

HA’ARETZ: DAVID AXELROD’S ATTACKS ON ISRAEL ARE “DISHONEST”

The Obama administration’s attacks on Israel are even too much for the leftist editorial writers on the Israeli daily Ha’aretz:

“Attempts to imply that Israeli policy is endangering the lives of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, and even Iraq, verge on an insult to the intelligence. Afghans don’t care about Ramat Shlomo, or about the Palestinians and Netanyahu. As far as extremist Islamists are concerned, the seven-year presence of American forces on Iraqi soil is a good enough excuse to attack Americans. Efforts by Obama’s senior adviser, David Axelrod, to imply otherwise in television interviews are dishonest.

“Palestinians see the Obama administration’s decision to attack Israel as an invitation to adopt a more confrontational line. The PA has smelled blood. So why not start a riot [as they did today] and blame the Israelis, especially when the U.S. government is doing the same.”

The car of an Israeli motorist attacked by Palestinian rioters today

 

FOR ISRAELIS, RAMAT SHLOMO IS AS MUCH A PART OF ISRAEL AS IS TEL AVIV

Several people have asked me where Ramat Shlomo is located. Contrary to statements by prominent Western media commentators and European governments who should know better, it is not a new community and no Arabs are being evicted. It is a thriving community of 20,000 Jews located to the north of downtown Jerusalem between two larger Jewish communities, Ramot and French Hill. Its growth would not interfere with the contiguity of Arab neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem. There is more new Arab housing than Jewish housing being built in Jerusalem, a point the international media almost never seems to make.

 

ISRAEL CONDEMNS HAMAS’ ANTI-SEMITIC REMARKS

The Israeli foreign ministry this afternoon “condemned with disgust the latest anti-Semitic remarks by senior Hamas officials, aimed at inflaming emotions in the region, referring to Jews as animals and advocating the murder of Jews in Jerusalem and elsewhere.” (I wonder whether the Obama administration or European governments will condemn them too?)

There will be no further dispatches on this list until the week after next because of other work commitments.

[All notes above by Tom Gross]

 

“TO SAY THAT I AM DEEPLY CONCERNED IS AN UNDERSTATEMENT”

While I am told that there is considerable discontent in private among senior Democratic Party members of Congress at the way Israel is being pushed around by the Obama administration, so far few have spoken out strongly*. In contrast many Republicans and others are speaking out.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) both urged the administration to ease the tone of the dispute. “It’s time to lower voices, to get over the family feud between the U.S. and Israel. It just doesn’t serve anybody’s interests but our enemies,” Lieberman said.

Here are some other examples.

• Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, (R-Florida) the leading Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, stated that the Obama government’s condemnations of “an indispensable ally and friend of the United States… undermine both our allies and the peace process, while encouraging the enemies of America and Israel alike.”

 

• Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) said: “It is hard to see how spending a weekend condemning Israel for a zoning decision in its capital city amounts to a positive step towards peace.”

 

• Congressman Mike Pence (R-Indiana), said: “Since taking the oath of office, President Obama has repeatedly extended a hand of cooperation to our enemies while pushing aside the concerns and interests of our allies. This disturbing pattern has been displayed time and again in our dealings with Israel over the past year. The recent rhetoric by the Obama Administration threatens the stability of Israel at a time when it faces terrorist threats on its borders and the possibility of a nuclear Iran just over its border.

“The United States of America knows no greater friend in the Middle East than Israel. House Republicans will continue to stand by our most cherished ally, and we will hold the administration accountable for the words and actions it takes toward the people of Israel and their democratically elected government.”

 

• Congressman Eric Cantor (R-Virginia): “To say that I am deeply concerned with the irresponsible comments that the White House, Vice President, and the Secretary of State have made against Israel is an understatement. In an effort to ingratiate our country with the Arab world, this Administration has shown a troubling eagerness to undercut our allies and friends. Israel has always been committed to the peace process, including advocating for direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians, in effort to bring this conflict to an end. Unfortunately, the Palestinian Government continues to insist on indirect talks and slowing down the process.

“While it condemns Israel, the Administration continues to ignore a host of Palestinian provocations that undermine prospects for peace in the region. Where is the outrage when top Fatah officials call for riots on the Temple Mount? Why does the Palestinian Authority get a pass when it holds a ceremony glorifying the woman responsible for one of the deadliest terror attack in Israel’s history?

“Israel continues to be a world leader in the fight against terrorism and speak out against the prospects of a nuclear Iran. For this Administration to treat our special relationship with Israel, one of our closest and most strategic Democratic allies, in this fashion is beyond irresponsible and jeopardizes America’s national security”

 

(*) One Democratic congresswoman who has spoken out is Shelley Berkley (D-Nevada), who is a subscriber to this email list and who accused Obama administration officials of using “overwrought rhetoric” and employing “an irresponsible overreaction” to Israel.


FULL ARTICLES

“OUR ENEMIES GET COURTED; OUR FRIENDS GET THE SQUEEZE”

Obama’s turn against Israel
The U.S. makes a diplomatic crisis out of a blunder.
Wall Street Journal editorial
March 15, 2010

In recent weeks, the Obama Administration has endorsed “healthy relations” between Iran and Syria, mildly rebuked Syrian President Bashar Assad for accusing the U.S. of “colonialism,” and publicly apologized to Moammar Gadhafi for treating him with less than appropriate deference after the Libyan called for “a jihad” against Switzerland.

When it comes to Israel, however, the Administration has no trouble rising to a high pitch of public indignation. On a visit to Israel last week, Vice President Joe Biden condemned an announcement by a mid-level Israeli official that the government had approved a planning stage – the fourth out of seven required – for the construction of 1,600 housing units in north Jerusalem. Assuming final approval, no ground will be broken on the project for at least three years.

But neither that nor repeated apologies from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prevented Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – at what White House sources ostentatiously said was the personal direction of President Obama – from calling the announcement “an insult to the United States.” White House political chief David Axelrod got in his licks on NBC’s Meet the Press yesterday, lambasting Israel for what he described as “an affront.”

Since nobody is defending the Israeli announcement, least of all an obviously embarrassed Israeli government, it’s difficult to see why the Administration has chosen this occasion to spark a full-blown diplomatic crisis with its most reliable Middle Eastern ally. Mr. Biden’s visit was intended to reassure Israelis that the Administration remained fully committed to Israeli security and legitimacy. In a speech at Tel Aviv University two days after the Israeli announcement, Mr. Biden publicly thanked Mr. Netanyahu for “putting in place a process to prevent the recurrence” of similar incidents.

The subsequent escalation by Mrs. Clinton was clearly intended as a highly public rebuke to the Israelis, but its political and strategic logic is puzzling. The U.S. needs Israel’s acquiescence in the Obama Administration’s increasingly drawn-out efforts to halt Iran’s nuclear bid through diplomacy or sanctions. But Israel’s restraint is measured in direct proportion to its sense that U.S. security guarantees are good. If Israel senses that the Administration is looking for any pretext to blow up relations, it will care much less how the U.S. might react to a military strike on Iran.

As for the West Bank settlements, it is increasingly difficult to argue that their existence is the key obstacle to a peace deal with the Palestinians. Israel withdrew all of its settlements from Gaza in 2005, only to see the Strip transform itself into a Hamas statelet and a base for continuous rocket fire against Israeli civilians.

Israeli anxieties about America’s role as an honest broker in any diplomacy won’t be assuaged by the Administration’s neuralgia over this particular housing project, which falls within Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries and can only be described as a “settlement” in the maximalist terms defined by the Palestinians. Any realistic peace deal will have to include a readjustment of the 1967 borders and an exchange of territory, a point formally recognized by the Bush Administration prior to Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza. If the Obama Administration opts to transform itself, as the Europeans have, into another set of lawyers for the Palestinians, it will find Israeli concessions increasingly hard to come by.

That may be the preferred outcome for Israel’s enemies, both in the Arab world and the West, since it allows them to paint Israel as the intransigent party standing in the way of “peace.” Why an Administration that repeatedly avers its friendship with Israel would want that is another question.

Then again, this episode does fit Mr. Obama’s foreign policy pattern to date: Our enemies get courted; our friends get the squeeze. It has happened to Poland, the Czech Republic, Honduras and Colombia. Now it’s Israel’s turn.

 

THE SETTLEMENTS AREN’T THE PROBLEM

The settlements aren’t the problem
The Palestinians’ beef with Israel isn’t territorial – it’s existential.
By Bret Stephens
The Wall Street Journal
March 16, 2010

I once got an angry letter from Baruch Goldstein’s father. Goldstein, remember, was an Israeli settler who in 1994 entered the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron and gunned down 29 Muslim worshippers. A decade later, I wrote a column for the Jerusalem Post in which I described Goldstein as personifying Israel’s lunatic extreme. The father insisted that his son deserved to be celebrated as a hero. Indeed, his grave site was transformed into a shrine until the Israeli army eventually tore it down.

It’s easy to dislike Israel’s settlements, and still easier to dislike many of the settlers. Whatever your view about the legality or justice of the enterprise, it takes a certain cast of mind to move your children to places where they are more likely to be in harm’s way. In the current issue of the American Interest, former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer persuasively spells out the many ways in which the settlement movement has undermined Israel’s own rule of law, and hence its democracy. And as last week’s diplomatic eruption over the prospective construction of 1,600 housing units in municipal Jerusalem shows, the settlements are a constant irritant to the United States, one friend Israel can’t afford to lose.

So it would be a splendid thing for Israel to tear down its settlements, put the settlers behind its pre-1967 borders and finally reach the peace deal with the Palestinians that has been so elusive for so long.

Except for one problem: The Israeli-Palestinian conflict isn’t territorial. It’s existential. Israelis are now broadly prepared to live with a Palestinian state along their borders. Palestinians are not yet willing to live with a Jewish state along theirs.

That should help explain why it is that in the past decade, two Israeli prime ministers – Ehud Barak in 2000 and Ehud Olmert in 2008 – have put forward comprehensive peace offers to the Palestinians, and have twice been rebuffed. In both cases, the offers included the division of Jerusalem; in the latter case, it also included international jurisdiction over Jerusalem’s holy places and concessions on the subject of Palestinian refugees. Current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also offered direct peace talks. The Palestinians have countered by withdrawing to “proximity talks” mediated by the U.S.

It also helps explain other aspects of Palestinian behavior. For Hamas, Tel Aviv is no less a “settlement” than the most makeshift Jewish outpost on the West Bank. The supposedly moderate Fatah party has joined that bandwagon, too: Last year, Mohammed Dahlan, one of Fatah’s key leaders, said the party was “not bound” by the 1993 Oslo Accords through which the PLO recognized Israel.

Then there is the test case of Gaza. When Israel withdrew all of its settlements from the Strip in 2005, it was supposed to be an opportunity for Palestinians to demonstrate what they would do with a state if they got one. Instead, they quickly turned it into an Iranian-backed Hamas enclave that for nearly three years launched nonstop rocket and mortar barrages against Israeli civilians. Israel was ultimately able to contain that violence, but only at the price of a military campaign that was vehemently denounced by the very people who had urged Israel to withdraw in the first place.

As it happens, I supported Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, bloody-minded neocon though I am. On balance, I still think it was the right thing to do. By 2005, Israel’s settlements in the Strip had become military and political liabilities. But there is a duty to take account of subsequent developments. And the sad fact is that the most important thing Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza accomplished was to expose the fanatical irredentism that still lies at the heart of the Palestinian movement.

The withdrawal exposed other things too. For years, Israel’s soi-disant friends, particularly in Europe, had piously insisted that they supported Israel’s right to self-defense against attacks on Israel proper. But none of them lifted a finger to object to the rocket attacks from Gaza, while they were outspoken in denouncing Israel’s “disproportionate” use of retaliatory force.

Similarly, Israel withdrew from Gaza with assurances from the Bush administration that the U.S. would not insist on a return to the 1967 borders in brokering any future deal with the Palestinians. But Hillary Clinton reneged on that commitment last year, and now the administration is going out of its way to provoke a diplomatic crisis with Israel over a construction project that – assuming it ever gets off the ground – is plainly in keeping with past U.S. undertakings.

In the past decade, Israelis have learned that neither Palestinians nor Europeans can be taken at their word. That’s a lesson they may soon begin to draw about the U.S. as well. Which is a pity for many reasons – not least because it gives the settler movement every excuse it needs to keep rolling right along.

 

OBAMA HAS CROSSED THE LINE

Obama has crossed the line
By Isi Leibler
The Jerusalem Post
March 16, 2010

The bureaucratic fashla [blunder] of our dysfunctional government to forestall the announcement of a new housing project in Jerusalem during the visit of US Vice President Joe Biden provided a pretext for the Obama administration to launch one of the harshest condemnations ever leveled against us by a US government. But while the timing of the announcement was appalling, it involved no breach of undertaking.

In fact, the Obama administration had previously publicly praised the Israeli government for making a “major concession” by imposing a settlement freeze which explicitly excluded Jerusalem.

The campaign was personally orchestrated by President Barack Obama. His Vice President Biden accused us of “endangering US lives in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.” Despite Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s abject apology, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accused him of “insulting” the US. Obama’s chief political adviser David Axelrod even claimed that the Israeli government was deliberately undermining peace talks.

These hostile outbursts must be viewed in the context of the fact that despite strong ongoing support for Israel by the American people, the US-Israel relationship has been on a downward spiral since the election of the new administration. Former Mossad head Ephraim Halevy attributes this to Obama’s determination to rehabilitate Islam’s global tarnished image.

Yet his strategy of “engaging” Islamic rogue states has been disastrous. The effort to prevent the nuclearization of Iran by appeasing the Iranian tyrants backfired with the ayatollahs literally mocking the US. The response of Syrian President Bashar Assad to US groveling and the appointment of an ambassador to Damascus, was to host a summit with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hizbullah terrorist leader Hassan Nasrallah and ridicule the US demand that he curtail his relationship with Iran. President Obama did not consider this “insulting,” prompting the editor of the Lebanese The Daily Star to say that “the Obama administration these days provokes little confidence in its allies and even less fear in its adversaries.”

The Arab League refuses to modify its hard-line against Israel. It insists that Israel unconditionally accept the Saudi peace plan, a full retreat to the ‘67 borders and the implementation of the Arab right of return which would signal an end to Jewish sovereignty in the region.

THERE ARE now ominous signals that to obviate their failures, White House strategists are cynically distancing themselves from us in order to curry popularity by capitalizing on the anti-Israeli hatred which has engulfed the world.

Despite continuously incanting the mantra that it remains committed to the alliance with Israel, the White House is not behaving in an even-handed manner. Obama does not disguise his animosity and repeatedly humiliates our prime minister. The administration “condemns” us for building homes, not in densely Arab populated areas of Jerusalem but in Jewish suburbs like Gilo and most recently Ramat Shlomo which most of us regard as Israel no less than Tel Aviv.

Instead of condemning the brutal Palestinian murderer of an Israeli civilian in December, the US requested “clarification” after Israel apprehended the killers who the PA extolled as heroes. They failed to block a UN Security Council resolution criticizing Israeli police for protecting worshippers at the Temple Mount from Arabs hurling stones at them. They even condemned us for authorizing repairs on Jewish heritage sites over the Green Line.

In stark contrast, the US has not publicly reprimanded the PA on a single issue over the past twelve months. It is unconscionable that neither the White House nor the State Department conveyed a word of protest concerning the ongoing incitement and spate of ceremonies sanctifying the memory of the most degenerate suicide killers and mass murderers. Not even when our peace partners President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad personally partook in these ghoulish ceremonies. In fact, during Biden’s visit, the PA announced that they would postpone a ceremony to name a public square in Ramallah to honor Dalal Mughrabi, the female monster responsible for the abominable 1978 massacre in which 37 Israelis including 13 children were butchered. Nevertheless the ceremony took place and the PA TV interviewed Mughrabi’s sister who stated: “This is a day of glory and pride for the Palestinian people. We must unite, and our rifles must unite, against the enemy who steals our land.” The US failed to register a protest.

NETANYAHU HAS extended more concessions than any other Israeli leader. His government immediately agreed to negotiations with the Palestinians. In contrast, Abbas told The Washington Post that being confident that the US would ensure that the Palestinians obtained whatever they sought, he saw no benefit in negotiating with the Israelis. This scenario is now being realized.

Netanyahu also overcame Likud resistance to a two-state solution and acceded to a temporary settlement freeze which no previous Israeli government was willing to consider. He authorized the release of prisoners and reduced checkpoints, even compromising the security of Israeli civilians.

Yet, far from acting as an honest broker, the US effectively endorsed most of the Palestinian positions and is poised to pressure Israel into making further unilateral concessions.

In a recent chilling document, reiterated by Biden in the course of his condemnation of construction in Jerusalem, the US assured the PA that the principal objective of the “indirect” negotiations was not peace, but the establishment of an independent Palestinian state and that parties who adopted negative positions would be dealt with “in order to overcome that obstacle.”

Our relations with the US will now be further tested.

Obama is surely aware that recent statements by his administration will only embolden the Palestinians and Jihadists to be more extreme in their demands, making it inevitable that the talks will almost certainly fail. Some may infer that this is precisely his intention. We will then be blamed for the breakdown and the US, with the backing of the Quartet and others, will then seek to impose a solution upon us.

There are certain red lines which no government of Israel may cross. Netanyahu, on this occasion, must stand firm. The current crisis transcends political or ideological differences between Likud, Labor and Kadima. All mainstream parties should unite and convey to President Obama that Israel is a sovereign state and will not automatically bow to diktats of the US administration. They need to make the US administration and public understand that no government of Israel will agree to freeze construction in Jerusalem, the heart and soul of the Jewish people.

We may not be a superpower but the Obama administration will hesitate to pursue a path which rejects the consensus of the nation. A demonstration of unity against the unprecedented attacks on Israel’s sovereignty by the Obama administration will also encourage the American people and Congress to publicly support and assist us to reaffirm the traditional alliance and bonds of friendship between our two nations.

It will hopefully also encourage the Obama administration to relate to us with at least the same level of courtesy and respect it extends to rogue states.

 

“THE STUPIDEST PROGRAM THE U.S. GOVERNMENT HAS EVER UNDERTAKEN”

America’s shiny new Palestinian militia
By Daniel Pipes
National Review Online
March 16, 2010

“The stupidest program the U.S. government has ever undertaken” – last year that’s what I called American efforts to improve the Palestinian Authority (PA) military force. Slightly hyperbolic, yes, but the description fits because those efforts enhance the fighting power of enemies of the United States and its Israeli ally.

First, a primer about the program, drawing on a recent Center of Near East Policy Research study by David Bedein and Arlene Kushner:

Shortly after Yasir Arafat died in late 2004, the U.S. government established the Office of the U.S. Security Coordinator to reform, recruit, train, and equip the PA militia (called the National Security Forces or Quwwat al-Amn al-Watani) and make them politically accountable. For nearly all of its existence, the office has been headed by Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton. Since 2007, American taxpayers have funded it to the tune of US$100 million a year. Many agencies of the U.S. government have been involved in the program, including the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, the Secret Service, and branches of the military.

The PA militia has in total about 30,000 troops, of which four battalions comprising 2,100 troops have passed scrutiny for lack of criminal or terrorist ties and undergone 1,400 hours of training at an American facility in Jordan. There they study subjects ranging from small-unit tactics and crime-scene investigations to first aid and human rights law.

With Israeli permission, these troops have deployed in areas of Hebron, Jenin, and Nablus. So far, this experiment has gone well, prompting widespread praise. Senator John Kerry (Democrat of Massachusetts) calls the program “extremely encouraging” and Thomas Friedman of the New York Times discerns in the U.S.-trained troops a possible “Palestinian peace partner for Israel” taking shape.

Looking ahead, however, I predict that those troops will more likely be a war partner than a peace partner for Israel. Consider the troops’ likely role in several scenarios:

No Palestinian state: Dayton proudly calls the U.S.-trained forces “founders of a Palestinian state,” a polity he expects to come into existence by 2011. What if – as has happened often before – the Palestinian state does not emerge on schedule? Dayton himself warns of “big risks,” presumably meaning that his freshly-minted troops would start directing their firepower against Israel.

Palestinian state: The PA has never wavered in its goal of eliminating Israel, as the briefest glance at documentation collected by Palestinian Media Watch makes evident. Should the PA achieve statehood, it will certainly pursue its historic goal – only now equipped with a shiny new American-trained soldiery and arsenal.

The PA defeats Hamas: For the same reason, in the unlikely event that the PA prevails over Hamas, its Gaza-based Islamist rival, it will by incorporate Hamas troops into its own militia and then order the combined troops to attack Israel. The rival organizations may differ in outlook, methods, and personnel, but they share the overarching goal of eliminating Israel.

Hamas defeats the PA: Should the PA succumb to Hamas, will absorb at least some of “Dayton’s men” into its own militia and deploy them in the effort to eliminate the Jewish state.

Hamas and PA cooperate: Even as Dayton imagines he is preparing a militia to fight Hamas, the PA leadership participates in Egyptian-sponsored talks with Hamas about power sharing – raising the specter that the U.S. trained forces and Hamas will coordinate attacks on Israel.

The law of unintended consequences provides one temporary consolation: As Washington sponsors the PA forces and Tehran sponsors those of Hamas, Palestinian forces are more ideologically riven, perhaps weakening their overall ability to damage Israel.

Admittedly, Dayton’s men are behaving themselves at present. But whatever the future brings – state, no state, Hamas defeats the PA, the PA defeats Hamas, or the two cooperate – these militiamen will eventually turn their guns against Israel. When that happens, Dayton and the geniuses idealistically building the forces of Israel’s enemy will likely shrug and say, “No one could have foreseen this outcome.”

Not so: Some of us foresee it and are warning against it. More deeply, some of us understand that the 1993 Oslo process did not end the Palestinian leadership’s drive to eliminate Israel.

The Dayton mission needs to be stopped before it does more harm. Congress should immediately cut all funding for the Office of the U.S. Security Coordinator.


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.