Palestinian Security Services Not Ready to Assume Control, Report Says

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:18 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wants to press ahead with a U.S.-sponsored Israeli-Palestinian meeting despite reports that Palestinian Authority security services are not ready to take over security control.

The Israeli daily Ha'aretz reported on Thursday that U.S. Security Coordinator Keith Dayton does not believe the Palestinian security forces in the West Bank are capable of meeting security needs in cities but might be ready after they are trained in six months.

Dayton told Israeli officials that he appreciated Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's efforts to rebuild the Palestinian security forces but said he had lost confidence in the forces after the collapse of Fatah in the Gaza Strip in June.

Israeli Military Intelligence also predicted that the P.A. would not be capable of asserting security control over the West Bank any time soon, the paper reported.

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert are scheduled to meet on Friday -- their first get together since Rice's visit last week.

Rice is pressing the two sides to wrap up a final declaration ahead of a U.S.-sponsored meeting that is supposed to take place in Annapolis, Maryland, before the end of the year. She is due back in the region in early November to meet again with Israelis and Palestinians, the State Department said on Wednesday.

Rice told the House of Representatives Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday that the Annapolis summit was intended to provide hope -- to give "the moderate [Palestinian] forces a chance to demonstrate that statehood is a reality."

"Our concern is growing that without a serious political prospect for the Palestinians, that gives to moderate leaders a horizon that they can show to their people that indeed there is a two-state solution that is possible, we will lose the window for a two-state solution, that you will see the further radicalization of Palestinian politics, of politics in the region," she said.

The Palestinians have threatened to pull out of the conference if the core issues -- refugees, the status of Jerusalem, final borders -- are not addressed, including a timetable and plan for implementation in the joint declaration.

Experts on both sides have warned that if the conference fails there will be an outbreak of violence and a radicalization of on the Palestinian side.

On the same day Rice spoke, the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades linked to Abbas' Fatah faction claimed responsibility for shooting attacks that left two Israeli civilians wounded in the West Bank.

Olmert's spokeswoman Miri Eisin said on Thursday that while the shooting attacks against Israelis bother the government, Israel would continue to talk with Abbas.

The Al-Aksa gunmen want to embarrass Abbas, Eisin said. Nevertheless, she said that Israel would speak with Abbas, but only about a framework agreement, not about implementation.

"We're not sure about their capacity to be able to implement [agreements]," Eisin said by telephone. A large part of that implementation would include security issues.

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