HERB KEINON, JPOST
Netanyahu gov’t fears implications of US inability to train Arab forces; says failures in Iraq evidence against proposed US security plan for the Jordan Valley.
WASHINGTON/JERUSALEM — Two weeks ago, as extremist Sunni fighters poured over Syria’s border into Iraq, Israeli government officials maintained a practiced silence in public, largely declining comment on the territorial advances of ISIS into major cities and over international lines.
Privately, however, the Israeli government deliberated over the implications of ISIS’ advancement as relevant to the security of Israel in the short-term and – in the long-term – to America’s ability to deliver on its security guarantees.
Israel’s national security leadership watched as Iraqi security forces, trained over the course of five years by the US military, “literally left their shirts on the ground and fled” when faced with a fight, one such senior Israeli official told The Jerusalem Post.
Bearing witness to the crisis from the sidelines, Israel “observed the effects of US-trained Arab forces in Iraq and, from that, has learned lessons on proposals for the Jordan Valley,” the official said.
Last December, during an aggressive push for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, US Secretary of State John Kerry proposed a security plan that would ultimately remove the IDF from the Jordan Valley – a natural borderland between the West Bank and Jordan that serves as a strategically vital security buffer, according to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, from aggressive state and non-state actors alike.
The plan, which would replace the IDF with an international force trained by the United States, was based on months of research conducted by US General John Allen, who earned his reputation on security training in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The qualifications of Allen, who most notably served as commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, are not lost on Israel’s leaders, who have expressed their concerns in recent days to their American counterparts.
The message: If Sunni security guards would not fight ISIS soldiers in Iraq in service to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Shi’ite government, then a US-trained Arab force in the Jordan Valley will not fight fellow Arabs to protect the Jewish state.
“These are two distinctly different situations,” State Department spokesman Edgar Vasquez said in response to Israel’s criticisms on Monday. “The comparison with Iraq is simplistic, and not relevant to the ideas that General Allen is developing in the security dialogue with his Israeli counterparts, which we have deliberately not shared with the media.”
A senior US defense official told the Post that comparing the Iraqi army to the Palestinian Authority is like comparing apples and oranges.
“The ISF is an army — a legitimate army,” the official said. “The PA faces completely different threats altogether, and its a completely inappropriate comparison to make.”
Israeli government officials making the comparison are “simply selecting facts to support their predetermined position,” and cherry-picking, the official continued, while adding that ISIS poses a regional threat acknowledged by the Obama administration.