Israel in row over American weapons for Palestinian police

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Israel has refused to allow the US to supply weapons to the Palestinian Authority (PA) police, exposing a growing disagreement between the two governments over how much support to give the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas.

Israel has refused to allow the US to supply weapons to the Palestinian Authority (PA) police, exposing a growing disagreement between the two governments over how much support to give the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas.

The PA says it needs the weapons to enforce law and order and maintain security in the West Bank. Israel's reaction will be seen as fresh evidence that it is doing less than Washington would like to bolster the presidency of Mr Abbas - but also that it is ready to ignore such differences when it chooses.

The request for new police weaponry was made by General Nasser Yousef, the experienced security chief appointed by Mr Abbas as Interior Minister. But it has been transmitted to Israel's government by Lt-Gen William Ward, appointed by President George Bush, among other things, to help the PA's security forces.

Israeli officials say that General Ward and two Bush adminstration officials, Elliot Abrams and David Welch, were merely "passing on" General Yousef's request. The US embassy declined to comment but well-informed Western diplomatic sources say the US is in favour of the proposal and believes that it would help Mr Abbas to fulfil his stated intention to eliminate militant violence.

Vladimir Putin, Russia's President, met Mr Abbas yesterday, but appears to have shelved a plan to deliver 50 armoured patrol vehicles to the PA after similar Israeli resistance.

Israel has been demanding that the PA disarm wanted militants before it hands over security control of three more West Bank cities. It has also been maintained despite Mr Abbas's shake-up of the security services last week - in which he moved two long-standing Arafat appointees. He also told the police this week to use force if necessary to stop militant attacks, which persist despite the negotiated voluntary ceasefire. No Israeli has died as a result of Palestinian gunfire or bombings in March or April - the longest period since this uprising began.

Israel maintains that by seeking to "co-opt" militant factions into the political process rather than taking firmer steps to "dismantle the terrorist infrastructure", Mr Abbas failed to qualify for such help. Mark Regev, the foreign ministry spokesman, said: "There are two issues here - commitment and capability. Until he has shown the commitment, to talk about capability is putting the cart before the horse." US officials by contrast are reportedly keen to provide the matériel and training.

The diplomatic sources predicted that the US would not bring serious pressure on Israel to change its stance, at least until after disengagement from Gaza.

This is in keeping with other issues such as settlement expansion, where the US disagrees with Israel but is reluctant to push its differences to a full-scale row.

Comments