WASHINGTON, (AP) – The United States soon will begin training officers of a Palestinian security service to better protect officials visiting the West Bank, the State Department said Sunday.
The training is part of a U.S. effort to bolster moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ government in the West Bank, formed after Hamas seized power in Gaza in mid-June.
The Bush administration has made clear that it sees the Palestinians’ internal split as an opportunity to push for a political settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, using the West Bank as a model.
During a visit to the West Bank earlier this month, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced that the U.S. would spend about $80 million for broad security training of Palestinian services. As part of that effort, trainers from the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security will begin carrying out exercises with Abbas’s Palestinian Presidential Guard in the West Bank during a series of courses to run through early 2008. The State Department said the primary aim was improving VIP protection.
The U.S. provided training for Palestinian security services in the 1990s, but such cooperation was cut off with the outbreak of Israeli-Palestinian violence in 2000.
The Department of State provides similar training to a number of friendly security services around the world.
In the two months since the Hamas victory, Israel has resumed security coordination with Abbas’ forces and allowed them to receive shipments of weapons, hoping to prevent further gains by the Islamic militants of Hamas.