Ignoring Israeli law, the U.S. consulate’s chief security officer is arming 35 Palestinian security guards, prompting the Israeli guards, who resigned in protest.
By Itamar Eichner
A scandal has erupted in the American Consulate in Jerusalem, as three Israeli security guards have quit following a plan to hire 35 armed Palestinian guards from East Jerusalem. The Palestinians have been undergoing weapons training in Jericho in recent days.
The decision to hire and arm the Palestinian security personnel was made by the consulate’s chief security officer, Dan Cronin. The plan is to employ them mostly as escorts to American diplomats’ convoys in the West Bank. Their operating base will be at the consulate in the city’s west, as well as six other facilities around the city belonging to the consulate, of which five are in western Jerusalem.
The plan is a breach of a 2011 agreement between the consulate and the Israeli government, which determined that only former IDF combat soldiers hired by the consulate would be allowed to carry weapons. That year, Israel gave the consulate approval to keep about 100 guns for its security guards, but only if they’re American diplomats or Israelis who served in the army. While the consulate employs scores of guards from East Jerusalem, they have not been armed up until now.
Sources said that a change in attitude towards Israelis in the consulate began about a year and a half ago, when Cronin began his tenure. Employees claimed that since then, seven Israeli guards were fired, compared to one Palestinian. Three Israeli guards quit recently in protest of Cronin’s decision, and said he has been training the Palestinian guards at an American facility in Jericho. Some of the security guards were even flown to the US for training, they said.
Workers who were employed by the consulate accused Cronin of a callous attitude towards the Israelis and of voicing pro-Palestinian remarks. “The law in Israel is merely advice to him,” they said. “Cronin does what he wants. He doesn’t want the Israelis in the consulate.”
According to these sources, some of the Palestinian guards have been arrested in the past for throwing stones, or have relatives who were convicted of terrorist activity. “The consulate’s conduct is extremely biased towards the Palestinian side, and Cronin is actually raising an armed militia of Palestinians in the consulate. They’re trained in weapons use, Krav Maga, and tactical driving. This is irresponsible. Who is ensuring that putting this weaponry in Palestinian hands will not lead to terror?”
The most senior advisor to the consul general is a Palestinian who served time in Israeli prison because of membership in the PLO. Another employee is related to one of the leaders of Hamas in Jerusalem, Mohammed Hassan Abu Tir, who has served numerous sentences in Israel’s penal system.
“The United States’ consulate has complete faith in the professionalism of its staff,” the consulate said in response. “We do not discuss security for our diplomatic delegation, but note that there are many inaccuracies in the claims. Furthermore, we coordinate our work with local authorities in a complete and ongoing manner.”
View original Ynet publication at: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4615021,00.html