yaakov katz and herb keinon, THE JERUSALEM POST Dec. 15, 2006
Citing a lack of manpower as the reason behind the failure to curb weapons smuggling into the Gaza Strip, Egypt plans to ask Israel to significantly increase the Border Police force along the Philadelphi Corridor in talks scheduled to be held between the sides in the coming weeks, The Jerusalem
Post has learned.
Israel, according to government sources, does not feel Egypt needs additional troops on the border, but rather needs to make more effective use of the troops already there.
"It's not a matter of more manpower," one official said, "it's a matter of being active, not passive."
According to defense sources involved in the talks with the Egyptians, IDF officers from the Southern Command will meet in the coming weeks with their Egyptian counterparts to summarize the past year, since Egypt deployed 750 border policemen along the 14-kilometer stretch of desert between Rafah and Sinai.
"We are not satisfied with the Egyptian conduct along the border and believe they can do more to stop the smuggling," said an official close to the talks.
At present the Egyptians are effective if given concrete intelligence information by Israel about where smuggling is taking place, sources said, but they don't take the initiative on their own. For instance, the sources said, the Egyptians will not make random patrols in certain neighborhoods on the Egyptian side of the border to stake out a presence and act as deterrence.
Unless there is an overall change in Egyptian policy, the sources said, this passive approach won't change, regardless of whether there are 750 additional troops near the border, or 1,750.
The Camp David Accords spelled out in great detail the number of security personnel and amounts of weaponry allowed into the demilitarized Sinai, and Israel is very reluctant to let Egypt introduce additional troops in the region beyond the 750 security personnel that were allowed in last year.
Meanwhile Thursday - ahead of the deployment of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's Presidential Guard at the Karni Crossing - defense officials blasted Lt.-Gen. Keith Dayton, the US security coordinator to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, for "not doing enough" to prevent Palestinian terrorism.
According to these officials, Dayton, who has been stationed in Israel for almost a year, has so far failed to "provide the goods" in helping to create a strong military force under Abbas's authority and capable of confronting the Hamas military wing.
Dayton, who oversees the US training of Abbas's forces, has explained that the PA leader's private army is supposed to be a counterweight to Hamas and to ensure the perpetuation of moderate forces in the Palestinian territories.
"The Presidential Guard is not doing anything in the Gaza Strip," said one senior defense official. "I hope Dayton can come up with a solution and increase the number of soldiers while getting the Palestinians to improve the level of security in Gaza."
While it wasn't Dayton's responsibility to enforce order in the Gaza Strip, the official said: "If Dayton is providing the Palestinians with weapons and equipment, then he should ensure that they use it against terrorists."
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