Gen. Ward Admits PA Not Able to Stop Terror

Special U.S. Middle East envoy Lt.-Gen. William Ward has warned the U.S. Senate that the PA's ability to enforce law and prevent attacks on Israel "does not currently exist."

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, | updated: 18:03

Ward's comments were distinctively different from the praise he lauded on the Palestinian Authority (PA) during his visit to Israel in May, when he told reporters, "The PA has taken essential steps…to cause a single line of authority to exist…for dealing with law and order. [There is] more to be done."

Ward gave a totally different picture to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and reported that the 58,000-member PA police force is like "a social welfare net" in which less than 22,000 "actually show up for work." Contradicting what he said in Israel, the military envoy admitted that PA Chairman Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) has not succeeded in changing the PA security force from being a collection of units with "loyalty to individuals, chieftains and fiefdoms." Building loyalty "will occur over time,” he added.

Ward, who was appointed to his post because of his experience in dealing with terrorism, tried to avoid a direct answer on the issue of Abu Mazen's intention to include terror groups in a future coalition government but conceded he did not know if "I would do business that way."

Ward also revealed that Israel and Egypt are nearing an agreement on transferring responsibility to Egypt for patrolling the Philadelphi Route along the international border in the southern edge of the Gaza region, an area in which Arab smuggling of arms, weapons and terrorists into Gaza has been common for years.

A senior American diplomat also was more negative than usual. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs C. David Welch told the committee that he is "deeply concerned about the fact that certain Palestinian extremist groups have offices and headquarters in Damascus… I think that is a dangerous indication of Syrian support."

Although Welch said he is more optimistic than he was a month ago, he echoed Ward's concerns over the PA’s ability to curtail terrorism. "Overall, Palestinian performance on confronting violence has been far from satisfactory, and this is a real shortfall and area of concern."