Force 17 298.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Amid growing discontent in Israel, the United States announced over the weekend that it plans to continue financing and training military forces loyal to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, despite Hamas's takeover of the Gaza Strip.
As security coordinator between Israel and the PA, US Lt.-Gen. Keith Dayton was responsible for training and financing equipment used by the Presidential Guard, Abbas's elite force that was in charge of the Rafah and Karni crossings. During last week's fighting in Gaza, the forces proved their ineffectiveness and together with the rest of the Fatah military and political wing, failed to demonstrate a real opposition to Hamas.
"Dayton's plan completely failed," a senior defense official said. "The Presidential Guards which he was responsible for were easily run over by Hamas."
The official expressed satisfaction with Israel's decision to oppose Dayton's "benchmark plan" - presented last month - which called for free passage between Gaza and the West Bank. "Thankfully we rejected the plan," the official said. "Imagine if we would have succumbed to American pressure and accepted the plan and then Hamas would have taken over."
But despite the criticism, the US said Dayton plans to continue assisting the Palestinians but will shift the focus of his attention from Gaza to the West Bank.
US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said that Dayton's role in the region would be reevaluated in the coming weeks.
"In the days and weeks ahead we're going to take a look at that to see how to proceed with the security assistance program, how Keith Dayton is going to continue working with the Palestinians," McCormack said. "I believe that he has every intention and that we have every intention of his continuing his work with the Palestinians."