U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last week broke her previously stated policy of "guiding, but not directing" negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA). Rice used "unusual personal involvement" to pressure Israel and the PA, according to the liberal New York Jewish daily The Forward.



Under the agreement, Israel agreed to drop its demand for direct surveillance at the Rafiah border and to rely on video cameras without having authority to intervene on matters of security.



The left-wing Israel Policy Forum, Reform movement members and Americans for Peace Now met with Rice to express their backing before her recent trip to the Middle East. The Forum also sent a letter to Rice stating the "strong support" that the Bush administration has "from Jewish Americans on both sides of the aisle."



A letter-writing campaign is underway to U.S. President Bush and Secretary Rice. its gist is that they are gravely endangering Israel by allowing the PA to control the Gaza border.



The Rafah agreement is in direct contradiction to the Disengagement law, according to left-wing activist Meron Benvenisti. He wrote in the Hebrew daily Haaretz, "One should not dismiss the importance of the Rafah agreement, [which] contradicts the Disengagement plan as approved by the Knesset. [The law] stated that Israel will oversee and guard the external land envelope."



Abe Foxman, director of the liberal Anti-Defamation league (ADL), told The Forward, "I am nervous about this" because Israel's security may have been compromised. "I worry because there is a basic asymmetry, an imbalance, between the two parties. For the Palestinians, it is about status and sovereignty, which could always be adjusted, while for Israel it is about security and trust. If you make a mistake..., there is no going back."



CBS news reported that Rice staged "a virtual all-nighter before getting both the Israelis and Palestinians to agree to the deal."



A State Department spokesman dodged a question by a reporter who began to ask, "It's the first time that this administration is directly implicated in the negotiations..." Spokesman Adam Erelie interrupted the reporter and replied, "Not really. No, we've been involved very directly and very intensively for a long time."



Rice said that she still is a" big believer" in letting Israel and the PA conduct their own negotiations, but added that direct intervention sometimes is needed.



Her direct intervention was questioned also by David Twersky, director of international affairs for the American Jewish Congress. He said Rice's shuttle diplomacy for "a very small, modest achievement just shows how bad things are. What's going to happen when there is something really important to discuss?"