Exclusive: Mixed signals from Jerusalem ahead of Rice visit

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrives in Israel over the weekend before the Arab Summit is due to open in Damascus. She will meet Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas in Amman. Her purpose and that of the concessions she has demanded of Israel is to make it worthwhile for Abbas to stay clear of the radical line espoused by Syria and Iran in Damascus and stick to the US-promoted peace track.
After defense minister Ehud Barak announced concessions to be laid before Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad at their meeting Wednesday, foreign minister Tzipi Livni stated that fighting terror in Gaza is pivotal for progress in peace negotiations. debkafile comments that Israel suspended its attacks on Hamas targets in Gaza three weeks ago.
The concessions Barak has announced include permission to deploy in Jenin, a West Bank terror stronghold, 600 Palestinian security men trained in Jordan under a US program. He will also authorize the delivery of 20 APCs from Russia for Abbas’ security forces and may also remove a couple of temporary roadblocks. Easing travel restrictions for Palestinian businessmen, he described as “a calculated risk” to improve the climate of talks with Palestinians. But he stressed that Israel will retain overall responsibility for West Bank security.
debkafile adds: Barak is also clearly bidding to improve the climate of his own uneasy relations with the Secretary of State and the generals operating on her behalf on the Palestinian-Israel scene.
Israel sees the Palestinian force trained in Jordan as a policing element for upholding law and order and combating anarchy in Palestinian towns – at best. Counter-terror tasks will continue to be carried out by Israel’s military and security forces.
The Washington Post recently reported that doubts in Israel and the US Congress about the loyalties of Abbas’ forces had slowed the arrival of the US training program’s funding. An American “with close knowledge of the program” was quoted as calling it “under-funded, under-equipped, under-everything.”

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