The U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md., is the site of the Middle East summit this week (Photo: Carrie Devorah)
JERUSALEM – Reacting to today’s Annapolis summit, there was some concern in Jerusalem regarding the role the U.S. has taken as the sole judge of whether the Israelis and Palestinians are fulfilling commitments leading up to the creation of a Palestinian state.
WND reported earlier this week in the run-up to the Annapolis summit that the U.S. already held back from Israel reports critical of the Palestinians fight against terror groups, according to informed diplomatic sources.
At the U.S.-sponsored conference, President Bush today read a joint declaration agreed to by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert committing the two to launch immediate negotiations aimed at “two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side.”
The parties said they would aim to conclude an agreement before Bush leaves office next year, with Israel expected to evacuate large swaths of the West Bank, handing Abbas the strategic territory.
The declaration also pledges Israelis and Palestinians will fulfill the U.S.-brokered “Road Map,” which calls for the Palestinians to fight terrorism and create unified security forces and for Israel to stop expanding Jewish communities in the West Bank and dismantle what are termed illegal outposts, or West Bank Jewish homes built without Israeli government permission.
The Annapolis statement sets up the U.S. as the sole judge of whether the Road Map is being implemented.
“The United States will monitor and judge the fulfillment of the commitment of both sides of the Road Map. Unless otherwise agreed by the parties, implementation of the future peace treaty will be subject to the implementation of the Road Map, as judged by the United States,” reads the declaration.
But some senior Israeli security officials, speaking to WND, said they were concerned the U.S. may overlook Palestinian violations for fear of negotiations extending past Bush’s term in office.
“The statements are very vague and leave open the good possibility America may overlook major security concerns for us in an effort to not stall negotiations,” said one security official.
Israeli commentators here expressed concern as well.
Shmuel Rosner, an analyst for Israel’s Haaretz daily, questioned which mechanisms the U.S. would use in judging both sides.
“This technical arrangement (of the U.S. serving as judge) is the most important practical outcome of the document. If the Americans are hasty, motivated by the desire to see the process come to completion while Bush is still in office, Israel might regret this deal,” wrote Rosner.
As WND reported, at the request of the Palestinians, the U.S. held back from Israel reports critical of Abbas’ purported attempts to fight terrorism in the West Bank, according to diplomatic sources familiar with the reports.
In line with understandings, the State Department and U.S. security representatives were to share their observations with Israel while the U.S. also monitors Israeli commitments and shares those observations with the Palestinians.
Fatah forces in recent weeks carried out what it called arrest operations against some gunmen in the West Bank, including members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and leaders of Fatah’s declared military wing, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.
According to Israeli security sources, Fatah rounded up some Brigades and PFLP members in the northern West Bank city of Nablus and transferred them to nearby Jericho, where they spent one night in a Fatah compound and then were freed but told they must stay in Jericho until after Annapolis. Most gunmen continue to receive room and board at Fatah compounds.
Several Brigades members rounded up and brought to Jericho, including a deputy commander of the terror group, last week entered U.S.-training courses for Fatah forces under way in the city. The U.S. and EU run regular training courses for Fatah militias to bolster Abbas against Hamas.
The Brigades, together with the Islamic Jihad terror group, has taken responsibility for every suicide bombing in Israel the past three years and has carried out thousands of shootings and rocket attacks against Jewish civilian population centers.
Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton, U.S. security coordinator for the Palestinian territories, has been closely monitoring the actions of Fatah forces in the West Bank, particularly Nablus, a city that was to serve as a litmus test for Abbas’ ability to impose law and order in the West Bank. Dayton heads the U.S. team to train and arm Fatah and was the principal architect of a U.S. plan to fund Fatah forces.
According to diplomatic sources familiar with his reports, Dayton filed largely positive reviews of the performance in recent weeks of Abbas’ forces. But other State Department monitors and U.S. security coordinators wrote reviews highly critical of the U.S.-backed Fatah militias, some noting Abbas’ forces carried out mostly symbolic gestures.
The diplomatic sources said the critical U.S. reports were held back from Israel at the request of Abbas’ office for fear it would negatively impact negotiations leading up to this week’s Annapolis summit.
To interview Aaron Klein, contact Tim Bueler Public Relations by e-mail, or call (530) 401-3285.