CIA chief begins new Middle East 'peace' initiative

  • From: "Muslim-News" <editor_@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <submit@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 31 May 2002 16:35:06 +0100

THE Bush Administration will re-engage seriously in the Middle East
today when George Tenet, the CIA director, embarks on a tough mission to
try to rebuild security ties between Israel and the Palestinians. 

Amid accusations that Washington is still not properly pursuing peace
efforts to end nearly two years of bloodshed, the American spy chief
will attempt to resurrect a key component of the Palestinian Authority.
Mr Tenet had postponed his trip repeatedly, apparently out of concern
that as with previous missions this year by Dick Cheney, the
Vice-President, and Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State, he would
return from the region empty-handed. 

But after pressure on the Bush Administration from moderate Arab states
and Europe, Mr Tenet has agreed to help the Palestinians to reform their
security services and rebuild ties with the Israelis. 

Until now, a dozen rival Palestinian security agencies have operated
under the control of Yassir Arafat, the Palestinian leader. The system
helped him to stay in power but did little to maintain order in the West
Bank and Gaza or to deter suicide bombers. 

The Americans now want a simpler structure with a clear chain of command
that will enable the Palestinians to safeguard their community and crack
down on militants. 

Mr Tenet’s mission coincides with a similar visit by William Burns, the
US Assistant Secretary of State responsible for Middle East affairs. He
will press Mr Arafat to institute political reforms, including the
holding of elections which were due three years ago. 

If the parallel missions are successful, Mr Bush may use the opportunity
of a summit with Egypt’s President Mubarak at Camp David next week to
announce a date and place for his proposed Middle East peace conference
this summer. 

Despite the expectations that progress is now possible, Washington is in
the paradoxical position of knowing what it wants in the short term and
what its goal is at the end, but with no “road map” of how to get
between the two. 

In the near future the Bush Administration would like to see reforms
take place in the Palestinian Authority and elections on a new
leadership. In the long term it envisages the withdrawal of Israeli
forces from the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the creation of a
Palestinian state side by side with its Jewish neighbour. 

President Bush has been cautious about setting out a time frame for his
initiative. He has made it clear that he does not trust Mr Arafat as a
reliable negotiating partner. Equally, he knows that Ariel Sharon, the
Israeli leader, is ideologically opposed to withdrawal from the occupied
territories and any dismantling of Jewish settlements on Arab lands. 

Washington has made it very clear that it would like to see Mr Arafat
replaced. Reports in Israel said that key members of the Bush
Administration were very impressed by Muhammad Dahlan, the Palestinian
security chief in Gaza who was in Washington last week for talks with Mr
Tenet. Jibril Rajoub, his counterpart in the West Bank, is also regarded
as a possible successor. 

The problem with earning US endorsement is that it is regarded as a
political black mark among Palestinians. By far the most popular new
leader is Marwan Barghouti, the leader of the mainstream Palestinian
group Fatah on the West Bank, who was arrested by Israeli forces at the
end of March and is still in detention. 

An opinion poll by the Palestinian Centre for Political Research this
month found that Mr Arafat had 35 per cent of support — a slight drop.
Mr Barghouti had 19 per cent, a dramatic rise. Sheikh Yassin, the blind
leader of the militant Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, had 13 per

One possible way out would be to leave Mr Arafat as head of state but
appoint a prime minister with day-to-day control of the Government. 

Source:  Timesonline

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