U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, preparing for her trip to Europe and the Middle East, said the United States "might be involved" in the training and equipping of the
Palestinian security forces as part of the process
of reaching a two-state solution for Israelis
and the Palestinians.
She made the comment during a Feb. 1 interview with the Reuters news agency and Agence France Presse at the State Department. Asked what the United States could do, specifically, to help the Israelis and Palestinians reach an accord, Rice replied:
"Well, we'll go out there and talk about what can be done to help. I mean, obviously, the Palestinians are going to need help in terms of training and equipping their security forces. And I'm sure that there will be ways that we might be involved in that. The Palestinians also need to build the democratic institutions that will be the foundation for a state.
"And we're very much looking forward to the London conference because I think that there will be a really good conversation there about how that can be done effectively," the Secretary of State added in an interview made public by the State Department. "And then, ultimately, there is going to need to be a reconstruction package also for the Gaza, as the Israelis withdraw, and then later on for the West Bank. And we know, that the World Bank and others have been doing some work on what kind of reconstruction plan needs to be put in place. And so, again, at the London conferences, as Prime Minister Blair and President Bush said when the Prime Minister was here, you know, those baskets, security, political reform and economic reconstruction, having plans that the international community can then help the Palestinians to execute will be very important.
"And finally," said Rice, "I know that the Israelis have said recently that they are prepared to talk about coordination with the Palestinians on the Gaza withdrawal. And that, too, is a very important step."
Earlier in the interview, Rice said she considered it "extremely important that the Palestinians take seriously the obligations that they undertook in the roadmap -- to fight terror, to unify their security forces, to use their security forces, to make certain that no terrorist acts take place on their territory, and I think they have made some progress in this regard. It's not perfect, but they have made some progress. And there are good discussions going on between the Israelis and the Palestinians about how to move forward on some of the security concerns.
"And what I hope to do when I go there is to try and sustain -- help to sustain the momentum that they have clearly developed over the last several weeks. There is a lot of work to be done on the Palestinian security forces. They have to be unified. They have to be put under central control. They have to be better equipped and trained. All of those are elements with which the United States can be helpful, as well as other countries in the region like Egypt or Jordan.
"And so we have a long way to go to fully capable Palestinian security forces but there also has to be a will. And I do think that Abbas showed will in acting quickly. We hope they'll continue to act and to act more effectively over the next few weeks."
Agence France Presse asked if the Israelis needed to make some gesture to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to
strengthen his hand as he tries to bring independent militias under control.
Rice replied in the negative, saying: "the determination to fight terror and to reestablish law and order is something that the Palestinians need to do, period."
Furthermore, she said, "I think they understand that because one of the problems has been lawlessness in the Palestinian territories that has -- there's been great suffering of the Palestinian people from that lawlessness. And so the unification of the security forces and the use of security forces is going to be good for the Palestinians, as well as for the Israelis.
"The Israelis have made clear, I think, that they are prepared, for instance, to begin to turn over towns to the Palestinians, as they are able to perform security functions. So that is the kind of -- I won't call it a gesture -- that's the kind of move by the Israelis that I think should give some confidence to the Palestinians that they are going to eventually be in control of their own affairs; that there will be a partnership here between Israel and the Palestinians for moving forward for security for both the Israelis and for the Palestinians.
"I'm certain that they will have many discussions about the issues that you raised about how to think about prisoners, how to think about opening of checkpoints. We have asked the Israelis frequently to do whatever they can to improve mobility for the Palestinians, to remove checkpoints where possible, because mobility is, of course, an issue for Palestinian livelihood, for people to be able to work and to, to carry out just the daily tasks of life. And so mobility is another area in which, as this moves forward and as the security improves that you would hope there would be -- the Israelis would be responsive."