Members of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's presidential guard eligible for U.S.-funded training and equipment will be screened in advance for militant ties, U.S. documents showed on Wednesday.Notice how recruits are allowed to be associated with Fatah terror groups like Al Aqsa, and would only be dropped if they are from non-Fatah groups.
The Bush administration is trying to allay concerns raised by some U.S. lawmakers and Israeli officials that a portion of the $59.4 million program for the presidential guard could inadvertently benefit militants from al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, which is linked to Abbas's Fatah faction, or Hamas.
The groups are considered "terrorist organizations" by the United States and Israel.
Under the program, the United States will provide $14.5 million for "basic and advanced training" for the presidential guard and $23 million for non-lethal equipment.
Another $2.9 million in U.S. funds will be used to upgrade the presidential guard's training facilities, including a sprawling new base being build in Jericho, in the occupied West Bank.
A U.S. government document, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, said members of the presidential guard will undergo a series of local background checks before receiving any U.S.-funded training.
Their names also will be run through terrorism databases maintained by the FBI and the State Department.
In addition, Israel will be able to screen individual trainees before they are allowed to travel to Jordan for U.S.-funded training.
A Western diplomat close to the U.S. program said the screening process would create a "firewall against any terrorists becoming part of this program".
But it was unclear whether the safeguards would satisfy U.S. lawmakers and Israelis.
Presidential guard recruits already undergo screenings by local commanders. Some recruits have been dropped or moved to other branches, either because they are affiliated with non-Fatah groups or their family members are, Palestinian sources say.
Fatah has other ideas. From WND's incomparable Aaron Klein, who seems to be the only journalist who actually interviews terrorists (hat tip EBoZ):
The declared "military wing" of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party took credit for two of seven rockets fired into Israel on Tuesday, vowed to break a Gaza ceasefire and told WND that US financial aid pledged for Fatah security forces will be used to "attack the Zionists."Of course, this would not be the first time that US weapons are used by Fatah against Israel.
"Even if the American money and weapons reach only members of Fatah who are not involved in the resistance, it will find its way to the Palestinian resistance and be utilized for attacks against the Zionists," said Abu Ahmed, the northern Gaza commander of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terror group.
Abu Ahmed was referring to $59 million the Bush administration announced Tuesday it will send to strengthen Fatah security forces.