But Obama, Abbas and Netanyahu Can’t Overcome Their Mutual Antipathy

As the proximity talks between Israel and the Palestinians, heavily spurred on by the Obama administration, finally got underway, they faced an unlooked-for paradoxical obstacle to progress: the ill will and squabbles marring relations between President Barack Obama, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
These antipathies appear even more far-fetched in the light of conditions on the West Bank which, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military and Middle East sources report, have never before been so amenable to diplomatic accommodation.
In terms of security, the number of Palestinians wanted by Israel's Shin Bet terrorist activity has dropped to nearly zero for the first time since the late 1990s.
"This is the first time in many years," said a senior Israeli officer, "that we have no terrorist targets on our books and the few suspects around are small fry who are not planning serious attacks."
This clean sweep is the outcome of hard work by Israeli security forces, supported for the first time by the genuine efforts of the Palestinian special force known as the Presidential Guard.
This force is composed of five battalions, trained and organized by American and Jordanian military experts at a special training camp assigned them outside the Jordanian capital, Amman.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military sources report that another two battalions still at the camp are due to graduate and return to the West Bank in the second half of July, so winding up the program.

Gen. Dayton leaves a well-trained, professional Palestinian force

The achievement of seven trained Palestinian battalions must be credited largely to the US Security Coordinator Lt.-Gen. Keith Dayton, who has brought five strenuous years to a successful close by personal tenacity in the face of almost universal pessimism. He ends his mission with 6,000 trained and professional Palestinian commando troops able to secure Palestinian ruling institutions. For now, this force is pro-Western in orientation.
Lt.-Gen. Dayton's exit is a good moment for the Obama administration to leave his shoes unfilled and instead make the transition of the Presidential Guards' command and logistics over to Palestinian hands.
If so decided in Washington, this, more than any other diplomatic move, would instill in the Palestinians a sense of progress towards establishing the organs of a Palestinian state.
In any event, the Palestinians would not be left entirely to their own devices.
A CIA team will be standing by in Jerusalem to oversee Palestinian security forces on the West Bank and the three Palestinian intelligence branches.
And the Palestinian monetary and financial system, presided over by Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, is essentially run and supervised by former British prime minister Tony Blair, the Middle East Quartet envoy acting for UN, US, Russia, Britain and the European Union, together with his deputy, former State Department official Robert Danin.
Palestinian law and order institutions, including an appended security force called the Palestinian Judicial Police, are essentially managed by a staff of Canadian bureaucrats, security officers and intelligence personnel, while local Palestinian police contingents are administered and commanded by British police officers.
Lt. Gen. Dayton is the overlord of this intricate system of administration designed to be the bone structure of Palestinian statehood. Since most of the foreign staffers will stay in place after his departure, the American footprint on the West Bank, strengthened since Israel winnowed its checkpoints down to the minimum and diluted its troop presence, is stronger than ever. The West Bank is free as never before of the political and security pressures which obstructed all past peace initiatives.

Medvedev tries to get his oar in by cultivating Hamas

Cut out of a role on the mainstream Palestinian scene by the Americans, Russian president Dmitry Medvedev tried to cash in on his visit to Damascus by rendezvousing Wednesday, May 12, with the peace rejectionist Hamas political leader Khaled Meshaal. He then used his Ankara visit to join Turkish president Abdullah Gul in calling for Hamas to be co-opted to the Middle East peace process, a surefire road mine.
Moscow has thus been left by Washington's dominant role on the West Bank with no other resort than to patronize Hamas, symbol of the anti-American line among the Palestinians and partners of the likeminded Syria, Turkey and Hizballah.
Medvedev's actions moved Israel to fury although they have nowhere to go from there.
In any case, all the parties involved in the proximity talks US Middle East envoy George Mitchell is steering between Israelis and Palestinians are quite clear that, notwithstanding the enormous efforts he and the US president are investing, there can be no substantive progress until direct talks are broached between the parties.
At the same time, it is abundantly clear that the entire process is fated to be bogged down as long as the three key figures, Obama, Netanyahu and Abbas are preoccupied with their first priority of scoring points in their political and personal arenas at each other's expense.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's sources fear that the advantageous situation prevailing in the West Bank today may be a thing of the past in September 2010, when the proximity talks are due to end.

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