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U.S. Report Blasts P.A. Security, but Stops Short of Blaming Arafat

April 5, 2001
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A U.S. State Department report analyzing the Palestinian Authority’s compliance with its peace commitments found that the “PA’s security forces instigated and participated in anti-Israeli violence,” but said it was not clear whether they acted on orders from the P.A.’s president, Yasser Arafat.

The report has sparked renewed calls by U.S. Jewish groups to downgrade the relationship between the United States and the Palestinian Authority and to place at least some elements of the PLO and P.A. security apparatus on the State Department’s terrorism list.

The PLO Commitments Compliance Report, which analyzed events from June 16 to Dec. 15, 2000, also found that the Palestinian leadership has not tried to stop the current violence with Israel.

The Tanzim, the militia arm of Arafat’s Fatah faction of the PLO, came in for criticism.

“In addition to participating and encouraging demonstrations, stone throwing and shootings, Tanzim leaders incited violence, calling on Palestinians to `escalate the Intifada (uprising),’ `to take it into every street and every Jewish settlement,’ and to continue the violence despite the PLO’s agreement at the Sharm al-Sheikh summit to take steps to end it,” the report said.

The report, which was held for three months for administration review, does not draw conclusions about possible sanctions against the Palestinian Authority or the PLO for violating the PLO Commitments Compliance Act of 1989. That act recognized the PLO and set parameters for its relationship with the United States.

American Jewish groups believe the findings should lead the Bush administration to review the P.A.’s status in Washington. Suggestions have included downgrading the status of the PLO’s local office, not allowing Arafat and other Palestinian leaders to travel freely in the United States and classifying the Palestinian Authority and the PLO as terrorist organizations.

“The report makes it abundantly clear that elements of the Palestinian Authority have been actively engaged in acts of terrorism and violence against Israeli citizens,” said Kenneth Bricker, a spokesman for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. “The appropriate response by the U.S. government at this point is to immediately place Tanzim and Force 17 on the U.S. terrorist list.”

Force 17 is Arafat’s elite presidential guard. The State Department fingered both Force 17 and the Tanzim for instigating attacks against Israelis.

However, citing conflicting reports from Israeli security services, the report said that “it is not clear if Chairman Arafat or other high level PA officials sanctioned such actions.”

Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, blasted the report as a “whitewash.”

“It only encourages Arafat to believe he will never be held responsible for murder against Jews,” Klein said. “It’s a political mistake to absolve what is publicly known.”

Some Jewish groups are opposed to adding Arafat and the Palestinian Authority as a whole to the terrorism list because it could sever the U.S. relationship with the Palestinian Authority. A more measured approach, they believe, would be to place just Tanzim and Force 17 on the list, sending a warning to the Palestinian Authority.

“You never want to take the extreme measure first,” said one Jewish organizational source.

But some left-leaning groups say any break in ties with the Palestinian Authority would be detrimental.

“There are many other options that those interested in diplomacy should be considering other than trying to isolate and humiliate the P.A. and the PLO,” said Geoffrey Aronson, director of the Foundation for Middle East Peace.

“The reports are not historical, but political,” Aronson said, noting that the report criticizes P.A. elements but reflects the political judgment not to dismiss the Palestinian Authority and Arafat as partners for peace.

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