The plan hatched by Condi Rice and Elliott Abrams to train up a Palestinian ‘Contras’-style force under the auspices of Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) has fallen into a significant degree of chaos. The WaPo’s Ellen Knickmeyer and Glenn Kessler went to Muwaqqar, Jordan, where some 1,050 Palestinian security men are supposed to be being trained, and this is what they reported:
- Weeks into the course, which began in late January, U.S. and Jordanian instructors had yet to receive essential training equipment, including vehicles, two-way radios, dummy pistols, rifles and batons, and a U.S.-designed curriculum, Americans with close knowledge of the program said. Because of Israeli concerns, the group of more than 1,000 Palestinian trainees has not been outfitted with pledged body armor or light-armored personnel carriers. The shortages and delays have forced U.S. and Jordanian trainers to improvise their way through the program, including purchasing pistol-shaped cigarette lighters for use in arrest drills and using their own cars for driver training. One of the Americans said, “In short, we are faking it.”
Read the whole thing. Many of the details are hilarious and/or tragic, depending how you look at them.
I think the most tragic aspect is that the trainees are probably destitute Palestinians from the diaspora– perhaps from Jordan, or perhaps some of the scores of thousands of Palestinians summarily kicked out of Iraq… And maybe they were so ill-educated or ignorant that when they signed on they thought they were doing something glorious and nationalistic? Or maybe for some of them this was the only way they could figure out how to get back home to their homeland?
So there is, certainly, a tragic personal aspect to the story. The politics, however, are almost pure farce.
Basically, the pro-Likud people and other Arabophobes in the U.S. Congress– that means, quite a large proportion of the members– can’t imagine trusting Israel’s Palestinian “partners” in Fateh enough to give them even decent flak jackets or other basic equipment for gendarmerie-type training…. And then there’s the ever-present “contractor”, in this case DynCorp, who no doubt is eager to skim off its high percentage from the deal. So the training sounds as though it’s nonsense: the Contras meet the Keystone Cops sort of thing.
Knickmeyer and Kessler note that,
- The courses here are the first extended training of Palestinian recruits since June, when hundreds of Fatah graduates of a U.S.-backed, 45-day crash course conducted in Egypt were deployed against Hamas fighters in Gaza.
Hamas routed the Fatah forces in the strip in five days, leaving Hamas in charge of Gaza and Abbas, a Fatah leader, governing the West Bank.
It is extremely uncertain whether these latest 1,050 trainees would do any better.
Look, I have a suggestion. Israel does actually need a Palestinian “partner for peace.” That is, it needs a Palestinian party or movement or administration that is capable of preserving calm on the Palestinian side and reining in the many thousands of Palestinians who have been driven towards rash and violent acts by the degree of horrendous suffering that the IOF has inflicted on them and their families. And Hamas does look as if it has been paying a lot of attention precisely to building up such forces, especially in Gaza… (Remember that Crisis Group report that gave many details about how internal political and inter-clan violence in Gaza went down significantly after the Fateh forces left.)
Of course, no Palestinian force– whether Fateh, or Hamas, or the Palestinian Boy Scouts– could be expected to play the role of policing the Palestinian side of the equation without being offered its own serious stake in the situation thus being “secured.”
But why all this money being shoveled to DynCorp to train Fateh’s forces, when they have little hope of securing anything– unless they do so in coordination with Hamas?
Well, the Likudist influence in Congress may not, in the end, prove to be a wholly bad thing. It’s a strange old world we live in.