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MIDEAST: Peace Move Could Be the Kiss of Death
Analysis by Sanjay Suri
LONDON, Mar 1 (IPS) - The U.S. hand of support offered to a new push for
peace in the Middle East could well turn out to be the kiss of death for
the peace process.
The London Meeting on Supporting the Palestinian Authority agreed Tuesday
that Lt. Gen William Ward from the U.S. army will head a security
coordinating group to support the Palestinian Authority.
This group will guide the Palestinian Authority get a grip on its
disparate security forces. The London meeting declared that the group
will also provide technical support including cars, radios and uniforms
for police, and help set up a retirement fund for security personnel.
The Palestinian Authority has pledged to trim its security and
intelligence services from 14 units down to three, move to appoint a
police chief, and to increase police presence on the streets of the Gaza
Strip and the West Bank.
The PA pledged also to try to liaise closely with Israeli security
All this it would do now under the guidance of a U.S. general.
Palestinians have for generations been at the receiving end of an Israeli
military force which they have seen as supplied, funded and politically
supported by the United States. The latest Intifadah, the name given to
the Palestinian militant struggle, is now in its fifth year, and it is by
no means over.
At this stage support to a new Palestinian security from a U.S. army
general is the first thing militants will see in the London agreement --
and probably the last thing they would have liked to.
It is also something they would have thought unthinkable a few months
ago. Former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was never likely to have
agreed to invite a U.S. general to overhaul Palestinian security.
The London agreement is expected to carry considerable weight. It is now
virtually an international agreement that Palestinian President Mahmoud
Abbas has signed up to.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, United Nations Secretary-General
Kofi Annan, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, European Union (EU)
Foreign Affairs and Common Security High Representative Javier Solana and
many other leaders attended the London meeting Tuesday.
But the fate of the agreement will lie in the hands of those absent: the
Palestinian militant groups, and the Israeli leaders.
Palestinian militant groups will not only be required to give up their
arms, but to do so under U.S. supervision through the Palestinian
Authority. Abbas agreed this move when he knows better than most who and
what he is dealing with.
''We have re-deployed our forces in the field and have taken a decision
to unify our security forces, and we are implementing this decision
despite the difficulties that you are well aware of because you are well
aware about the details of our country,'' Abbas said at the meeting.
Abbas has gambled early, and seriously, in deciding that this difficulty
can be overcome with visible U.S. support against the groups that many
Palestinians see as militants, even heroes, and which the United States
and Israel regard as terrorists.
The U.S. general has a clear mandate to back the PA in crushing these
groups. ''If they are not stopped, the path to peace will be blocked,''
Rice said at the meeting. ''The roadmap to peace correctly stated that
terrorist organisations must be dismantled if our common goals are to be
The Palestinian Authority, she said, ''needs to reform its security
institutions in order to fight terrorism and lawlessness effectively. The
United States is prepared to work with partners in the region and around
the world to realise this essential goal.''
The U.S. general was present at the London meeting. ''General Ward, who
is here with me today, will soon relocate to the region to lead our
efforts,'' Rice said.
Rice is counting on some Arab help. She named Egypt and Jordan as Arab
states that have made specific commitments to ''help the Palestinians
create honest and accountable security services.''
She had advice for other Arab states that ''must end incitement in their
media, cut off all funding for terrorism, stop their support for
extremist education, and establish normal relations with Israel.''
Her requirement of Israel was that it ''must also take no actions that
prejudice a final settlement, and must help ensure that a new Palestinian
state is truly viable. A state of scattered territories will not work.''
But many Palestinians and their supporters in the Arab world will not see
neutral equality here. They are not likely to be looking for it. Their
eyes will be on the relocating U.S. general.
= 03012221 ORP018
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