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Bush Mandates Envoy With Increased Powers; PA Stands To Gain

The U.S. has complied with a Palestinian Authority (PA) request and has given Lt. Gen. William Ward expanded powers to pressure Israel on negotiations with the PA.

First Publish: 5/29/2005, 2:37 PM / Last Update: 5/29/2005, 3:00 AM

PA chairman Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) revealed that U.S. Envoy Ward would take on a stronger role, and Israel officials confirmed the report. The move came one day before the PA announced it will employ 5,000 soldiers to help facilitate the planned Israeli evacuation of 9,000 Jewish residents from Gaza and northern Samarian this summer.

Abu Mazen has asked for guns for the police as well as armored vehicles, demands which Israel has rejected. Ward's role until now has been limited to helping the PA establish its security forces. Ward was restricted from intervening in talks on Israeli withdrawals from urban centers and on prisoner releases.

The Bush administration is not satisfied with the stand-off between Israel and the PA, according to the Washington Post.

Ward's new powers represent a significant reversal concerning American involvement in the Israeli-Arab struggle. Earlier this year, after Ward was tapped as special Middle East envoy, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stated, "The United States does not feel that it is necessary to intervene simply for the sake of intervening. The bilateral security cooperation is more important than anything that we could do trilaterally."

Ward's new powers, which were announced by the PA and not by the United States, and Bush's declaration that Rice will return to Israel before the planned evacuation date, are signs that the U.S. intends to at least influence, if not direct the negotiations between Israel and the PA.