Jewish World Review July 23, 2002 / 14 Menachem-Av, 5762

Details in the CIA's yet to be unveiled new Mideast security plan

By Eli J. Lake | (UPI) Following talks with representatives of European governments and moderate Arab nations, the Bush Administration is putting the finishing touches to a security plan designed to give back control to the Palestinian security structure in the West Bank and Gaza.

Early this week senior foreign policy advisers are expected to decide on specific recommendations by CIA Director George Tenet in a draft plan for ending the suicide bombings that Israel has said justify its military presence in the West Bank and Gaza, U.S. officials told United Press International.

The officials say Tenet, who visited the violence racked region in the spring, is expected to send a high level Agency representative to Israel and the West Bank this week to work out further details on the plan.

Last Tuesday, Secretary of State Colin Powell met in New York with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher, and his Jordanian counterpart, Marwan al-Moasher. Powell also met with the "Middle East Quartet" -- U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller, Javier Solana, the High Representatives of the European Union, the E.U.'s Commissioner for External Affairs Chris Patten, and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. Thursday, President Bush met Saudi ARabian Foreign Minister Saud Faisal and Maher.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher Friday said the plan did not yet have a name. "We've called it 'the ideas developed by George Tenet' and we've called it 'the plan that George Tenet helped develop that we will implement to reform the Palestinian security apparatus.'"

Tenet, the author of a cease fire proposal from June 2001, met with Israeli, Palestinian and other Arab intelligence chiefs in June to develop the detailed plan.

Diplomatic sources and U.S. officials tell UPI that the plan would establish a new five-part security committee comprised of representatives from the CIA, Israeli internal security, Egyptian and Jordanian intelligence and a newly formed Palestinian security agency. "We want the Egyptians and Jordanians to play a role and have a stake in this," a U.S. official said on condition of anonymity.

The committee would be in many ways similar the tripartite security commission formalized under the 1999 Wye River Accords, where Israel, the CIA and the Palestinian Preventative Security services shared real time information on planned terrorist attacks, according to U.S. and diplomatic officials familiar with the plan. At the same time Jordan and Egypt have yet to formally sign off on the idea.

In this week's meeting of the so-called "principal's committee" consisting of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Richard Cheney, Tenet is also expected to name a U.S.-backed Palestinian candidate to head a unified Palestinian security apparatus. The leading candidate from the State Department and CIA is the former Preventative Security Chief for the West Bank, Jibril Rajoub, according to diplomatic sources in Washington.

Rajoub, who has long had close ties to the CIA (the agency even helped finance the construction of his palatial headquarters building in the mid-1990s), was stripped of his rank last month when Palestinian Leader Yasser Arafat rearranged his security services.

In April the Israelis destroyed his compound during a stand off to obtain terrorists the Israelis said Rajoub had harbored. Eventually, Rajoub released the wanted men to CIA representatives on the ground, prompting the Hamas wing in Gaza to issue a death warrant against him.

But the Hamas branch in the West Bank, of which Rajoub's brother is a member, never agreed to the "Fatwa," and Rajoub is said to be currently in the West Bank city of Hebron.

But Rajoub has also run into resistance from hawkish members of Bush's security cabinet and the Israelis. One Israeli official told UPI, "I would like to see someone in this position who does not have blood on his hands."

Another aspect of the plan would be the gradual placement of Palestinian security officials, vetted through the committee, into positions of authority in towns and cities in the West Bank and Gaza, according to U.S. officials and diplomatic sources.

The Egyptians have offered to train Palestinian police officers, but U.S. officials warn that it is premature at this point to speculate on this level of detail.

When asked about this Friday, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said, "I'm not going to get into that kind of detail yet, because that involves the elements that might go into restructuring, streamlining, retraining in the Palestinian security apparatus to create an apparatus that can really take responsibility."

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JWR contributor Eli J. Lake is State Department Correspondent for United Press International. Comment by clicking here.

© 2002, UPI