Profile: Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton

Alex Fishman

Kana’an eBulletin – Volume IX – Issue 1903

“The three-star general from the Marine Corps, Keith Dayton, is cautious not to irritate the pro-Israeli crowd facing him. But he has not given them any doubt as to his role in the Middle East,” Alex Fishman wrote in Yediot Acharonoth.

His profile of Dayton appears in today’s edition of Yediot:

For three years now, Dayton has been hanging around here, and for the last two, since the summer of 2007, he has been intensively overseeing the formation of the Palestinian army in the West Bank. Israel prefers to keep its eyes wide shut and to call it an “upgraded national defense force.” Like an organized police force, something along the lines of an enhanced Border Police, a kind of force for riot dispersion destined to serve the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah in matters of public order and to supply it with more security from within: security from Hamas.

The Americans and the Palestinians – each in its own way – have completely different visions of this force. The Palestinians see it as yet another symbol, another step on the way to statehood. The Americans also see it as an internal security mechanism which is presently being developed in order to serve an independent Palestinian state one day. Not autonomy and not anything resembling it. Statehood. We, on the other hand, prefer to play the ostrich’s role with our heads in the sand. That is how we operate. Even the statesmen, in the end, see everything through the lens of daily security, through the daily patrol in Nablus’s casbah. So Dayton’s three battalions have arrested 600 opposition members, mostly Hamas, since the beginning of the year? Fine. As far as we are concerned that makes 600 less terrorists. Dayton plans on establishing ten additional battalions? Great, we applaud this. This way the arrests will double.

At the beginning of the month Dayton gave a lecture for five hundred attendees at a symposium organized by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. This institute is regarded as the intellectual stronghold of the Washington Jewish lobby. Dayton was sent right into the lion’s den. The audience was filled with a not negligible number of those same neo-conservatives who constituted the Bush administration. This was the first time that Dayton had spoken publicly about his role in the Middle East. At first he attempted to break the ice with an anecdote from the life of a leader he admires, Sir Winston Churchill. He then flattered to the audience by stating how important the institute was in forming American policy and how Obama’s commitment to Israel would remain unwavering.

The place and timing of this odd lecture by Dayton was not accidental. The lecture was also aimed at the ears of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu just prior to his departure for Washington, in the hope that he would take this into account. It seems that as of now, this threat has yet to be understood by us. On the prime minister’s flight back to Israel, one official referred to the American notion that an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel would solve all the region’s problems as being “juvenile and stupid.”

According to Dayton’s speech at least, there appear to be senior officers in Israel who hold a perspective somewhat different from that of Netanyahu. In his speech Dayton quoted one IDF officer who had asked him frequently: “How fast can you establish more Palestinian forces of this kind? These forces are the means by which we can leave the West Bank.”

The training of the Palestinian forces takes place in a facility outside of Amman. This facility, incidentally, is also used to train Iraqi security forces. Each Palestinian battalion contains five hundred combat troops. The training program is prepared together with Israel.

Moreover, Israel is granted veto rights over the content of the program.

The battalions that have already been sent into the field are deployed in Jenin, the village area of Hebron and Ramallah. The next forces to complete their training will be sent to Tulkarm and Kalkilya.

Nablus, Jenin, Hebron – which only half a year ago were ruled by armed gangs – are now quiet. In the past the IDF and the Civil Administration conducted intensive operations termed “hametz removal”: hitting the political-economic infrastructure of Hamas. Each month dozens of operations would take place, such as the closing of charity organizations, searches in mosques, seizures of bank accounts and companies related to Hamas. Today such operations are being conducted by Dayton’s forces, and effectively. Perhaps even more effectively than the IDF. Thanks to these battalions, Dayton told the audience, the IDF was able to transfer many of its troops from the West Bank to the operations in Gaza.

Israel can no longer continue to exist in a state of multiple personalities. Either it flows with the American policy that leads to a Palestinian state, or it ceases cooperation with Dayton. You can’t have it both ways. This is the perfect example of lack of any planning on the part of the prime minister or those surrounding him. If you don’t want to go with the American flow, and their regional policy is unsuited for you, why wait for the battalions to form into an army which will eventually turn its weapons against you?

. . . .

Source: Yedioth Ahronoth