US road map monitor given new post - back home

Fraser's nomination to a new post raises fresh questions about American commitment to the peace negotiations.

william fraser 224.88 (photo credit: Courtesy USAF)
william fraser 224.88
(photo credit: Courtesy USAF)
The United States has given the general charged with monitoring the road map a new job five months after he assumed the post, leaving Israeli officials in limbo as to whom they will be working with as they pursue a peace deal with the Palestinians. Air Force Lt.-Gen. William M. Fraser III was nominated last week to become the commander of the United States Transportation Command headquartered at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, a job that would make it all but impossible for him to continue monitoring Palestinian and Israeli adherence to the road map. The monitor role has been a major new American responsibility intended to help move along the peace process, which aims for a historic agreement by the end of the year. Though Fraser will have to be confirmed by the US Senate before assuming the new post, a process that could take several months, his nomination raises fresh questions about American commitment to the peace negotiations the US helped reignite last November in Annapolis, where the monitor role was announced. It has also left Israeli officials unclear about their interlocutors as they address sensitive issues of road map compliance, which requires Palestinians to dismantle terrorist infrastructure and take other security-related steps while Israel must freeze settlement activity and dismantle illegal outposts. Defense officials said they were waiting for clarification from the Pentagon on whether Fraser would continue in his position. Officials said that following Fraser's appointment in November, Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered the IDF to open all of its doors to the US general. He has met extensively with Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad, head of the Defense Ministry's Diplomatic-Security Bureau, OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Gadi Shamni and Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj.-Gen. Yosef Mishlav. "We have invested a lot in Fraser," one senior defense official said. "It would be unfortunate if he left at this stage and we had to start all over again with someone else." US officials said that despite Fraser's promotion there were no plans to replace him now. Fraser, who served in the past as an advisor to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, was considered to be very well versed in the details of the road map and what both sides are doing on the ground. While there are indications that he could continue in his present capacity at least until after the US presidential election in November, the timeframe is dependent on the confirmation process. Though confirmations can drag on for months, the Senate usually addresses them within one to three months of their announcement, and the Senate is likely to consider Fraser's new role - as well as the recommendation that he receive a fourth star - before its summer recess. A US Defense Department official could not specify the timeframe, but noted that Fraser's new responsibilities were a "functional command" that would make it highly unlikely he could continue with his road map responsibilities. He said it was not yet clear whether Air Force Maj.-Gen. Paul J. Selva, who has been nominated to assume Fraser's current post as assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen, would also take over his road map monitor assignment. The White House, which made the nomination, did not respond to a request for clarification by deadline. An official in the Foreign Ministry said the ministry had not heard of any plans to replace the US general. After his appointment, there was speculation that Fraser would publicly grade the sides on their road map commitments. This never materialized, and Fraser has instead preferred to work quietly with Israel and the PA, by holding joint meetings. Under the first stage of the road map, the Palestinians is to take a number of serious steps to disrupt terrorist infrastructure and Israel is to stop settlement construction and dismantle West Bank outposts established after 2001.