Tel Aviv – A new report released by the Center for Near East Policy Research, a Jerusalem based think-tank, discusses the possible connection between American military aid and Palestinian terrorism, and deals with the Office of the U.S. Security Coordinator (USSC), run by Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton.
The report, “Implications of U.S. Military Training of Palestinian Security Forces,” was authored by center chairman David Bedein, who also serves as the Middle East Correspondent for The Bulletin.
Established in 2005, the USSC manages a multinational team of advisors, whose role is to restructure the Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces and train personnel. American tax dollars pay for advanced military and constabulary training for the Palestinian security forces at bases in Jericho in Israel and Giftlik in Jordan. The cost of training an entire battalion of National Security Forces (NSF) troops in Jordan is $11 million.
Since 2008, approximately 2,100 troops, enough to make four battalions, have been trained by Americans in Jordan. The American government utilizes advisors from the DynCorp International Corporation for training Palestinian forces. The Palestinian Authority, American intelligence and the Israel General Security Services (Shabak) ensure the soldiers enrolled in American training programs are vetted for terrorist links.
However, there is evidence that many people in the Palestinian security apparatus are also members of banned terror groups.
The report elaborates, “Salam Fayyad, PA prime minister, reached an agreement with the forces of Al-Aqsa (Martyrs) Brigades… not to arrest them as long as they maintained a low profile. Al-Aqsa people are sheltered and receive salaries from Mr. Fayyad. When PA security troops were deployed in Nablus, Al-Aqsa people who had not been trained in Jordan and were not vetted, received command positions. This included one individual who had engaged in extortion.”
Some members of the Israeli political and military establishment have expressed their support for General Dayton and his program, citing a decline in terror in Judea and Samaria. In contrast, Mr. Bedein writes that the willingness to work with Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades indicates that the Palestinian Authority is not, in principal, opposed to the use of violence.
Operations mounted by PA forces are most often aimed at destroying Fatah’s rival, Hamas, rather than in reducing terrorism.
Fatah recently has been attempting to reconcile with Hamas, creating the possibility of American trained forces being merged into joint units with Hamas fighters.
There is also a risk of American trained forces turning on Israel. As Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas stated, he “reserve(s) the right to resistance” if negotiations do not turn out the way he likes. This occurred during the second intifada when Yasser Arafat had failed to gain his demands by negotiations. During that period, American training was also used against Israeli civilian targets.
The report stated that human rights have not improved in the Palestinian Authority since the inception of the program. “Palestinian and other human rights organizations report brutality, torture, and arbitrary arrest by those PA security forces trained by both the United States and European Union.”
General Dayton looks on his Palestinian charges with pride. During a military ceremony, he announced to Palestinian forces that he “couldn’t be more proud of the fact that you stepped up to be the founders of a Palestinian state.”
However, the nature of that state remains to be seen. A new plan for Palestinian statehood, written by PM Fayyad, discusses restoring unity with Gaza – Hamas – and of implementing Sharia law.
The report quotes a “prominent Palestinian journalist” as saying that the association between the Americans and Fatah could give Hamas a boost in the polls in the next election. This would certainly prove detrimental to efforts to create a demilitarized Palestinian state as envisioned by Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Moreover, every officer in the Palestinian forces is required to swear an oath of allegiance to Fatah. This had led to “elite PA forces trained in Jordan (being) unwilling to stop Fatah militia operations, including extortion and abductions.”
Israeli Maj. Gen. (Res.) Ya’akov Amidror commented regarding the Palestinian security forces’ efforts to reduce terror, “There is a huge difference in the Palestinian view between law enforcement, which is seen as legitimate, and anti-terrorism, which is not seen as legitimate…. The U.S. confuses the two.”
In the report, Dr. Mordechai Kedar of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University is quoted as saying that American trained forces cannot be expected to fight against terror when members of their own clans participate in terror organizations.
“When there will be domestic problems in the PA/Palestinian State these people will be loyal primarily to their clan rather than to the state, since they will never shoot their brothers or cousins… you can surely say that their loyalty will be according to the context of the event in which their participation will be required.”
Dr. Kedar spoke with the Five Towns Jewish Times regarding the USSC and its role in the peace process. “On one side, it [the USSC] is good because it strengthens those sectors that might work with Israel, especially the security forces. But, on the other side, no one can guarantee that these weapons which the Americans are giving those Palestinians will not be turned against Israel,” Dr. Kedar stated.
When asked about the unwillingness of American trained forces to act against the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Dr. Kedar responded by saying that the PA forces “can become very easily a terror group against Israel… with all respect to Mr. Dayton and his efforts, this is a mine which is being implanted in this area. I’m pretty sure that they will be the front power against Israel when the day comes.”
Asked if he believed that American training will be used in a war scenario against Israel, Dr. Kedar responded in the affirmative.
Mr. Bedein’s research indicates that current aid to the Palestinian security forces is in direct contravention of American law. Congress, in making appropriations for Palestinian training, instituted a caveat, “None of the funds appropriated by this act may be provided to support a Palestinian state unless the Secretary of State determines and certifies to the appropriate congressional committees that… the elected governing entity of a new Palestinian state… is taking appropriate measures to counter-terrorism and terrorist financing in the West Bank and Gaza, including the dismantling of terrorist infrastructures.”
Continued Palestinian Authority support for the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades means that it would be impossible for the Secretary of State to honestly certify that this provision has been met. According to a 2005 Congressional Research Service report, “Congress wants to ensure that U.S. assistance is used for legitimate humanitarian projects and that no U.S. aid is diverted for military or terrorist use against Israel.”
Mr. Bedein recently traveled to Washington to present his report’s findings.
He spoke with staffers of 25 key members of the U.S. Senate and House and presented copies of his report to make them aware that, “U.S. military aid to Fatah may backfire.”
Despite being cleared for terrorist ties, some recipients of American training are former leaders of banned terror groups that have received amnesty from Israel as a gesture to build up Mr. Abbas.