President Barack Obama’s new security envoy has been tackling security obstacles to the establishment of a Palestinian state.
John Allen, the former U.S. commander in Afghanistan, has been supporting the shuttle by Secretary of State John Kerry between Israel and the PA. They said Allen, a retired Marine Corps general, was working mostly with Israel to formulate security arrangements that would facilitate a Palestinian state as early as 2014.
“Gen. Allen’s role is focused on the security dimensions of this initiative,” Defense Department spokesman George Little said.
Little said Allen was supporting Kerry’s current shuttle to prompt the renewal of Israel-PA talks. He did not elaborate.
Allen visited Israel at least twice since May 2013. His meetings were mostly with senior Israeli military commanders to help determine the security needs of the Jewish state in any withdrawal from the West Bank.
“The Israelis have raised possible new threats should the army leave the West Bank,” an official said. “They include rocket and mortar attacks as well as the use of air space by hostile elements. Allen was assigned to try to resolve these concerns.”
Officials said Allen, unlike his predecessors, represented both Kerry as well as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. They said the administration of President Barack Obama hopes that Allen could generate a lobby within the Israeli military that would support full withdrawal from the West Bank.
Allen has not been dealing with the PA. Officials said the administration sought to compartmentalize security issues whereby they could
be addressed and resolved through U.S. military aid and equipment to the Jewish state.
“There are any number of obstacles, but we’re working through them,” Kerry said on June 30. “And we made progress, as I said, in every sector.”
So far, the retired general has also raised the prospect of United Nations troops between Israel and a Palestinian state. But Israel has sought direct military control, particularly over the Jordan Valley.
“The rationale behind reaching understandings on U.S. security guarantees at this point is to render certain Israeli security demands from the Palestinians moot and thus remove them from the negotiating table,” a source who participated in the Allen meetings told the Washington Post on July 1.
So far, Allen was said to have been dismayed by the slow pace of the talks with Israel’s military and Defense Ministry. Officials said both the Israeli government and military have signaled skepticism over U.S. security guarantees in wake of Washington’s refusal to consider military options against a nuclear Iran.
“I will vehemently oppose any deployment of international forces in place of the Israel Defense Forces,” Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said on July 1. “The principle needs to be very clear: the Palestinians should be able to control their lives and we should be able to control our own security because, for us, security means survivability.”
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