US General: Fatah Soldiers are 'Founders of Palestinian State'
Palestinian Authority special forces were praised by an American general this week for becoming the founders of a new Arab country within Israel's current borders.
"As I look at you, I couldn't be more proud of the fact that you stepped up to be the founders of a Palestinian state," U.S. Lt.-Gen. Keith Dayton told a battalion in his speech to the troops Monday in Tulkarm. Dayton is responsible for the military training of the PA special forces. The statement was reported by the Reuters news service.
The American government has spent tens of millions of dollars outfitting the PA troops, which it calls “special forces,” possibly in order to avoid contradicting the Oslo Accords that limit military activities of the PA. Dayton has been overseeing their training, which takes place in Jordan and at a base built in Jericho with U.S. funds. Weapons for the “special forces” are provided by Arab countries, with Israeli approval.
The Olmert administration also approved a gift of armored personnel carriers from Russia with the stipulation that they be unarmed. In addition, Russia had wanted to hand over two helicopters to the PA as well.
Dayton told Reuters that the Obama administration plans to expand the training program for 1,500 more PA troops, creating three more battalions, in the next 12 months. Dayton already has supervised the training of 1,600 troops, most of whom are deployed in large PA-controlled Arab cities, including Jenin, Shechem and Hevron.
Despite their presence, the IDF continues to carry out the task of arresting terrorists, particularly at night when the PA forces do not operate.
"If it goes the way the administration has asked for, we will accelerate dramatically what we are doing here in terms of training and equipment, and filling in the gaps in between," Dayton said during his visit in Tulkarm, located almost adjacent to the Judea-Samaria separation barrier and only a few miles east of Netanya.
The additional training program requires approval from Congress for more funding that would allow the construction for more PA military bases in Judea and Samaria. Without defining the cost of the additional training and construction, Dayton stated it will entail “more financial support than we have ever had before.”
Both the past Bush administration and the current Obama government declared the training helps the standing and security of PA Chairman and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas, who is seen as a moderate peace partner for Israel. Officials in the Obama administration have said that the budget for Dayton will grow from $75 million last year to $130 million in 2009.
Fatah and the rival PA faction, the Hamas terrorist organization, are trying to reach a unity agreement which would make Hamas a recipient of American aid. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has stated that American financing would be problematic if Hamas joins Fatah without recognizing Israel's right to exist, and disarming.
Fatah also does not officially recognize Israel, and Abbas said on Tuesday he refuses to view the country as a “Jewish State.”