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President's spokesman answers WND reader's question

White House spokesman Tony Snow

The president believes assurances from the leader of the Fatah party that aid and weapons being supplied by the United States to create a Middle East security force will not be turned against Israel, according to a spokesman.

The response came to a question submitted by a WND reader, “paulpucket,” on the website’s WND’s MR. PRESIDENT! forum, which allows readers to submit questions for the daily White House press briefings with spokesman Tony Snow.

The question from “paulpucket” referred to a WND report that a unified Palestinian security force financed, armed and trained by the United States is set to include members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, one of the most active, anti-Israel terror organizations.

The story said a spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees – a major Palestinian terror group – also pledged in a WND interview to infiltrate U.S. training programs for Palestinians and to obtain American weapons provided to Palestinian forces.

On her visit to the Middle East last week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters the U.S. will ensure weapons and aid reportedly being provided to militias affiliated with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party will not be used to attack Israel.

The reader’s question was: “Why do we continue to give aid to un-civilized people? When will we discern these people do not want peace but to wipe the State of Israel off the map and continually fire their rockets into Israel and smuggle arms from Eygpt thru tunnels often as they can get away with it…”

The question was asked at the press briefing by Les Kinsolving, WND’s correspondent at the White House, who added some background information:

“WorldNetDaily’s Jerusalem correspondent reports Secretary of State Rice telling reporters that the United States will ensure that weapons and the $86 million provided to militias affiliated with Fatah will not be used to attack Israel. My first question, how does the president believe this is possible when the military wing of Fatah is al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, which together with Islamic Jihad has taken responsibility for every suicide bombing in Israel in the past two years, including the killing of U.S. teenager Daniel Wultz?”

Snow said that he believes that Hamas, another faction in the Palestianian dispute, “has been fairly actively engaged … in acts of terror.”

“I agree. So has Fatah,” said Kinsolving.

“Prime Minister Abbas has made it clear and guarantees what we think are sufficient and clear that it is his desire to try to be able to negotiate with Israel effectively toward a two-state solution. And as you know, the United Nations right now is providing humanitarian aid that is supposed to be used, and is guaranteed to be used by audits and other follow-ups strictly for humanitarian purposes. That’s how we would expect this aid to be spent,” Snow continued.

Kinsolving persisted: “How can the Bush administration, which says it is opposed to terrorism, give $86 million, plus weapons, to any organization led by Abbas, who just told a rally in Ramallah that Palestinians should stop shooting each other and ‘direct our guns against Israeli occupation,’ who funded the 1972 Munich massacre of Israel’s Olympic Team and wrote a thesis denying the Holocaust?”

“Again, Les, if you’ll take a look at developments in recent days and conversations, the real key is to look for folks who are going to be committed to negotiating with the Israelis. And the Prime Minister has been – I’m sorry, the President, President Abbas, has been – well, I’m not going to get into the internal politics because that’s the sort of thing that can get misquoted.”

“Do you think he has changed in the last week, since he…,” Kinsolving continued.

“I think that it is important – we believe that President Abbas is somebody that is determined to try to work toward peace in the region, and we’re going to try to facilitate that.”

The report continued that the Bush administration reportedly will grant $86.4 million to strengthen the Fatah forces, including Force 17, Abbas’ security detail, which also serves as de facto police units in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

The U.S. aid is meant to bolster Fatah, which the U.S. considers moderate, against Hamas. Fatah and Hamas have engaged in weeks of deadly factional clashes after Abbas’ call last month for new Palestinian elections in a move widely seen as an attempt to dismantle the Hamas-led PA.

Rice said the U.S. is working with Fatah to create a unified Palestinian security force, which she said would combine Fatah factions and afford more control over the distribution of aid and weapons.

Referring to the weapons previously supplied to Fatah with little control over distribution, Rice stated, “It was envisioned that the Palestinian Authority would have security forces. The problem is those security forces broke [up] into essentially personal militias under Arafat. They broke into too many that were often warring with each other.”

Rice announced U.S. military envoys in Israel created “a plan for security forces that can be part of the solution, not part of the problem. And this plan is not just to equip them and train them, [but] it is also to professionalize them, to unify them, to put them under a single command.”

“This is a train-and-equip program that is going to move over time,” Rice said, “so it is not as if you simply arm the Palestinians on Day One and then have no input or control over what happens from then on. I think as a result you can maintain some control on what is being done.”

But the report said according to Palestinian security sources, Fatah’s strongman in Gaza, Mahmoud Dahlan, has been tasked with leading the effort to create the unified Fatah security forces under the auspices of Keith Dayton, the U.S. security coordinator in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

WND has learned the new unified Fatah forces, currently being set up in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, are set to include leaders of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terror organization from Nablus and Jenin in the northern West Bank and from the Brigade’s leadership in the Palestinian city of Ramallah.

The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades is the declared “military wing” of Fatah. Together with Islamic Jihad, the Brigades has taken responsibility for every suicide bombing in Israel the past two years, including an attack in Tel Aviv in April that killed American teenager Daniel Wultz and nine Israelis. The Brigades also has carried out scores of deadly shooting and rocket attacks against Israeli civilians in recent months.

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