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Report Blasts Palestinian Leaders, but Fails to Implicate Arafat Directly

Jewish leaders acknowledge that the State Department has issued its toughest analysis of Palestinian compliance since violence began nearly two years ago.

But they are concerned that like previous reports, it stops short of implicating Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat.

The report released July 18 found there is no conclusive evidence that senior leaders of the Palestinian Authority or PLO were directly involved in acts of violence, but “some leaders of Palestinian security forces were involved in planning and/or supporting violent attacks on Israelis.”

The semiannual PLO Commitments Compliance Act report, which assessed the Palestinians from Dec. 16, 2001 through June 15 of this year, also noted high-level involvement in the smuggling of illegal weapons into the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Fifty tons of weapons were found when the ship Karine-A was seized by Israel in January.

The report also found that members of Arafat’s Fatah Party who were involved in terrorism were not disciplined — and that Palestinian leaders “made only sporadic and ineffective efforts to issue clear instructions to refrain from violence.”

Said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League: “Given the preponderance of information affirming the P.A.’s noncompliance, we are disappointed that the State Department did not draw the obvious conclusion, and explicitly determine that the PLO has not complied with its agreements.”

Previous compliance reports have made similar conclusions as to the lack of clear evidence linking senior PLO or P.A. officials to violence. But the implication of security force officials is a significant departure from previous reports — and appears to reflect the Bush administration’s tougher policy on the Palestinian leadership.

Last month, President Bush called for new Palestinian leadership, directly stating that the current leadership was “encouraging, not opposing, terrorism.” He also called for security reforms.

The new report reiterates the need for such reforms.

“There is evidence that P.A. and PLO officials have fomented violence on some occasions, while at some other times they have worked to bring it under control,” the report states. It notes that documents seized by the Israeli Defense Force during its incursions in the spring show payments from the Palestinian Authority to members of Arafat’s political party who were involved in terrorism. Some of those payments were signed by Arafat.

“While there is no conclusive evidence that Chairman Arafat or the senior P.A. or PLO leadership approved or had advance knowledge of planned attacks, they clearly knew that Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades, and elements of Tanzim and the Palestinian security forces were involved in the violence and they did not take effective or sustained action to rein them in,” the report says.

American Jewish groups have often used the compliance reports as documentation to back up calls for sanctions against Arafat and other Palestinian leaders. They have also been used to pressure the White House to get more involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

But because this report follows harsh language from the president about the actions of the Palestinian leadership, its effect may be minimal, having already been trumped by White House policy.

A State Department official conceded that Bush’s speech allowed for the report to go further than previous incarnations.

“It does reflect a slightly different tone,” the official said. “Bush’s remarks were based on the kind of information we had access to through the last reporting period.”

While the report does not look at Israel’s actions, it does make mention of the effect that Israeli incursions last spring had on the ability of the Palestinians to fight terrorism.

“The P.A. security services’ capacity to combat terror and violence, while never exercised adequately since the outbreak of the intifada, is now very significantly diminished,” the report states.

Within the reporting period, 179 Israelis, including 151 civilians, were killed, and 1,165 were wounded. During the same period, 679 Palestinians were killed and 1,514 were wounded. Those six months included the March 27 Passover bombing in Netanya that killed 29 people, a March 31 Haifa restaurant bombing that killed 15 people, and a May 7 attack on a pool hall in Rishon le-Zion that killed 15.

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