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Exclusive: Serious falling-out between Israel's Barak and Washington over peace track
March 15, 2008, 9:09 PM (GMT+02:00)
DEBKAfile's Washington and Israeli sources report that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the three US generals, who act as US envoys for the Israel-Palestinian peace track have accused Israel's defense minister Ehud Barak of sabotaging Rice's Middle East policy objectives. This accusation was first raised by Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
In protest against what he considered these officials' anti-Israel positions, Barak absented himself from a meeting Friday, March 14, in Jerusalem with US Gen. William Fraser and Palestinian PM Salam Fayyad. Instead, he sent Amos Gilead, senior political adviser at the defense ministry.
Gilead said that the minister was not scheduled to attend, but our sources confirm that at previous encounters of this sort Barak represented Israel in person.
The defense minister complained that Gen. Keith Dayton, one of the th ree US envoys, leveled harsh criticism against him personally and Israel's defense community in general at a gathering of US consular staff serving in Israel.
According to our sources, Dayton faulted Israel on three points:
1. Israel, he said, was not giving Palestinian security and intelligence organs a chance to act in an orderly and continuous manner in the A areas of the West Bank under their control. This prevented the Palestinian Authority from exercising its authority over West Bank towns and rooting out terrorist structures, while strengthening Hamas elements and helping them build strongholds that would undermine Abbas.
2. Systematic Israel military operations in West Bank towns are driving wanted terrorists, criminal gangs and lawbreakers into Israel-controlled B and C areas in search of asylum. Gen. Dayton insinuated that the current anarchy in the West Bank was down to Israel, which he bla med for the inability of Abbas and Fayad to take charge of t! he terri tory.
3. The American general told the US diplomats that Ehud Barak and his defense establishment had spurned repeated American requests for a set of new security measures to be introduced on the West Bank as peace negotiations went forward.
A diplomatic source present at the meeting was convinced that Gen. Dayton's severe remarks were backed by the secretary of state.
Barak is reported by DEBKAfile's military sources to have angrily rejected the US general's charges and remarked such complaints should have been properly addressed to him, not laid before officials not directly involved in the Israel-Palestinian dialogue, some of whom are openly hostile to Israel. The minister said there was no point in him attending any more "Palestinian charades."
Those military sources also noted that Gen. Dayton had still not accomplished his mission to establish an effectiv e Palestinian anti-terror force for the Ramallah government. That appears to be at the bottom of the controversy.
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