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US Report: Israel Hampers Training of PA Forces

New US report accuses Israel of delaying transfer of key equipment for training Arab security forces to PA. There are reasons.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 7/28/2010, 2:40 AM / Last Update: 7/28/2010, 2:37 AM

Flash 90

A report published on Tuesday by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in Washington accuses Israel of causing delays in the transfer of weapons, radios, vehicles, helmets and other equipment to the the PA in Judea and Samaria. These delays, according to the report, are hampering American efforts to train Palestinian Arab security forces in the area.

Israel's wary approach-avoidance outlook was explained by the Head of Central Command, as brought by Yoni Ben Menachem of Reshet Bet, after the report was published .

The report’s purpose is to establish whether the US is getting value for the $392 million it has spent on training and rehabilitating the Paletinian Authority security forces since 2007, and was compiled after inquiries with US, Israeli and Arab officials between July 2009 and May 2010.

The report added that Israel publicly praises the effectiveness of security forces which in operate the West Bank, yet still causes delays which make it more difficult for the forces to act fully. For example, the report cites the impounding by Israeli customs of 1,000 AK-47 rifles despite prior approval of their import by the Israeli government. Another example is 1,400 radios (whose entrance into the area for security purposes was previously approved) that US law enforcement authorities were forced to put into storage at a cost of $176,000 to the American taxpayer.

According to the report, there is evidence that that the Palestinian Arab security forces have markedly improved their efficiency, but Israel has blocked a US State Department proposal to set up a specialist counter-terrorist unit within the forces despite repeated calls on the forces to combat armed factions in Judea and Samaria.

The report acknowledges that equipment shipments are frequently approved by Israel, though there can be delays of up to a year. It adds that Israel's insistence on considering each shipment on a case by case basis also affects what is described as "non-lethal" equipment such as raincoats.

However, an article published on Tuesday by Yoni Ben Menachem of Reshet Bet has shed a different light on the GAO report. Ben Menachem quoted Head of Israeli Central Command Maj.-Gen Avi Mizrahi, who said in May that the PA security forces, trained in Jordan by United States Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton, are a formidable potential enemy.

Mizrahi said at the time: "This is a trained, equipped, American-educated force. This means that at the beginning of a battle, we will pay a higher price. A force like that can shut down an urban area with four snipers… It is a proper infantry force facing us and we need to take that into account. They have attack capabilities and we do not expect them to give up easily."

Ben Menachem said that Mizrahi’s words reflect Israel’s suspicion of the PA security forces despite their praises towards the forces’ determined war against Hamas. He defended Israel’s actions in delaying the entrance of equipment into the area, saying that Israel does this in order to preserve the security of its citizens.

Israel, explained Ben Menachem, is convinced that allowing the Arab security forces to be strengthened too much is likely to rebound on Israel in the future. These security forces will  form the core of a future Arab military that will operate as part of an Arab state. But even before an Arab state forms, there are dangers to Israel’s security posed by these security forces. Ben Menachem cited the example of Arab forces pointing rifles supplied to them by Israel towards IDF soldiers during the 1996 riots at the Kotel tunnel. Another such example is the part played by Arab officers and soldiers during the second intifada in 2000. These officials turned in an instant into armed terrorists and attacked IDF soldiers.

Ben Menachem explained that the Arabs act according to their interests, which are currently to prevent Hamas from overthrowing the Abbas government. Should their interests change, for example if and when Hamas and Fatah are reconciled, the weapons that have been allowed to enter the PA controlled areas will pose a real threat to Israel, particularly when the forces have been trained by Lt. Gen. Dayton, he concluded.

PM Netanyahu has insisted on demilitarization as a non negotiable condition for  PA statehood, but training a group that is a virtual army  may be establishing facts on the ground.