Washington

- Senators John Asof and Republican Lindsey Graham, together with 34 senators, urged the administration of President Joe Biden to maintain the rank of the incumbent of the US security coordinator for Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

In a letter addressed to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, US lawmakers indicated that the United States maintains high-level engagement to support peace and stability in the West Bank and Israel in the interest of American national security.

The members believe that downgrading the incumbent of this position undermines necessary security programs in communications between Israel and the Palestinians, and pointed out that downgrading this position threatens to rupture the international coalition led by the United States, which is "committed to strengthening the security and stability of Israel and the West Bank."

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides also expressed concern about the planned reduction.

The Israeli Ministry of Defense raised similar objections.

Two weeks before President Joe Biden arrives in the region, US officials are working to clear up any tensions that might disturb the visit.

The current US security coordinator to Israel and the Palestinians, General Michael Finzel (communication sites)

In what context does this move come?

Congress has passed a law that generally reduces the number of generals for purely financial reasons, and the Pentagon plans to reduce the rank required to appoint the USSC in Jerusalem from the rank of "3-star" general to the rank of colonel.

The move comes as a result of the National Defense Budget Act passed by Congress in 2017, which included a provision to cut the number of generals by 111 as part of an austerity plan to curb spending.

Although most of the senators - who signed the letter last Friday to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin - voted in favor of the budget bill, they believe that including the US security coordinator in Jerusalem in the list of positions to be reduced "would undermine American leadership and its credibility in the region." turbulent, and it is necessary to have a high-ranking officer who can deal with high-ranking military leaders in other countries."

The US Security Coordinator's office in Jerusalem was established in 2005 as part of the "road map" peace plan drawn up by the administration of President George W. Bush.

The international team includes representatives from the United Kingdom, Canada, the Netherlands, Italy, Turkey, Poland and Bulgaria, but is headed by an American general, and the task is currently carried out by General Michael Finzel.


Historical significance of this position

Since its establishment, the Security Coordinator has focused on programs to reform and strengthen the Palestinian Authority's security forces, and to enhance the coordination of that force with the Israeli side, which has long described this task as critical to stability in the region.

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy presented a research paper on the position of the "American Security Coordinator" that detailed the circumstances, results, the broader framework of this position, and the effects of the expected US decision.

Shira Efron, director of research at the Israel Policy Forum, and former Palestinian negotiator and expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy Ghaith Al-Omari;

Not to lower the level of the American security coordinator because of the negative repercussions on the role and image of the United States in this important period of recurring tension between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

A 2009 meeting brought together Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (right) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left), and in the presence of former US President Barack Obama (European)

According to the research:

  • The initiative to establish the Office of the US Security Coordinator began in Jerusalem, and many observers consider it one of the rare successes of US policy on Israel and Palestine.

  • Over the past years, the Office of the Coordinator has helped rebuild the Palestinian security sector after the "second Palestinian intifada", and has also contributed to raising security coordination between Israel and the Palestinian Authority to advanced levels.

  • This prompted the two sides to ease the "tensions" in the West Bank, especially during periods of escalation, and the US security coordinator was able to quickly reach senior civilian and military officials in the United States, Palestine and Israel.

  • The US Department of State created this position as part of the "road map" for peace, and it is part of a joint team that represents - in addition to the United States - 7 other NATO countries (the United Kingdom, Canada, the Netherlands, Italy, Turkey, Poland and Bulgaria), but its nucleus consists of elements of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. US Defense (Pentagon).

  • The coordinator’s work is overseen by the US Secretary of State and the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the person responsible for this office coordinates with Israel and the Palestinian Authority to deepen security coordination between the two sides, “improve the capacity of the Palestinian security services, and advise the Palestinian Authority on security sector reform.”

  • Over the past years, the position of the security coordinator has been distinguished by two characteristics: the first is the high rank at the head of his command, and the second is at his headquarters in Jerusalem.

  • The existence of this position provided a positive and clear sign of Washington's commitment to playing a lasting security role between Israelis and Palestinians.

Both Al-Omari and Afron believe that the downgrading of the coordinator’s rank at this time comes at an inappropriate timing in two respects: First, there is an escalation in events again in the West Bank, after years of relative calm, and it also adds tension to the relations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel.

Secondly, it strains relations between the United States and the Palestinian Authority.


Negative American messages

The Palestinian and Israeli researchers believe that the downgrading of the security coordinator sends a negative symbolic message of Washington’s indifference to security coordination between the Palestinians and Israelis, especially with the Palestinian Authority feeling disappointed with what it considers insufficient US support, especially after the Biden administration failed to fulfill its promise on the issue of reopening the consulate. America in Jerusalem.

The reduction of the coordinator's position also sends a negative message to the process of "reforming" the Palestinian security sector, a task that Washington attaches great importance to and plays a major role in financially, financially and operationally.

Downgrading the coordinator's rank would waste the necessary American prestige vis-à-vis the Israeli and Palestinian sides.

Finally, the American coordinator is the highest-ranking official among the representatives of the eight countries that make up his security office, and lowering his rank to a colonel would push other countries to lower the ranks of their officers, effectively eliminating the office's tasks.

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