GAO faults Israel for limits on Palestinian security


WASHINGTON (JTA) — The U.S. congressional auditor says Israeli restrictions and Palestinian limitations are hampering the effectiveness of an American-led mission to train Palestinian security forces.

The General Accounting Office published a report on the $392 million that the U.S. State Department has spent to train and equip Palestinian Authority security forces.

The report refrained from drawing conclusions, however, because the involved U.S. officials "have not established clear and measurable outcome-based performance indicators for assessing the progress of their security assistance programs for the P.A."

Part of the problem, the GAO report said, was that the P.A. "capacity for reforming, rebuilding, and sustaining its security forces are changeable and still in a relatively early stage of development, making it difficult for the P.A. to set targets that" the office of U.S. security coordinator Gen. Keith Dayton "could use to measure the progress and effectiveness of its programs."

However, the GAO also said that Israeli restrictions frustrated the mission: Israeli forces at times kept the relevant U.S. officials from traveling through the West Bank to supervise and assess the mission; Israeli bureaucrats kept equipment from reaching the Palestinian forces for months at a time and made land use to set up training camps difficult.

Palestinian bureaucrats also placed hurdles in the way at times.

Dayton "lacks the means to hold the Government of Israel or the P.A. accountable if shipments are delayed or approvals withheld," the GAO report said.

The report noted the effort’s accomplishments, among them the graduation of five battalions, with another six planned for this year.

It also noted that Dayton and State Department officials planned to establish performance indicators this year.

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