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On the Brink: Decline of US Trained Palestinian Security Forces

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

After nearly 20 years, the Palestinian Authority, the PA, has achieved the dubious reputation of being one of the largest recipients of foreign aid per capita in modern times. However, the PA has not achieved stability, democracy, transparency, or accountability. One the most corrupt regimes in the Middle East, the PA remains a fiefdom, at this point in time under the control of chairman Mahmoud Abbas, his sons, and his cronies.

The security forces established by the PA, unsurprisingly, share a similarly dubious reputation. Despite decades of money, training and equipment from western democracies, the PA armed forces-more than 30,000 PA security and intelligence person­nel-have in the main behaved little better than militias and are marked by considerable corruption. Rather than improving over the years, however, the forces have becoming increasingly problematic:

 

Throughout the course of 2012, a pattern was established in which senior commanders were increasingly allied with organized crime and renegade militias.

In many areas, PA security presence has dwindled as personnel and commanders- trained for the most part by the US-have been recruited by organized crime groups engaged in extortion, as well as in the smuggling of weapons and narcotics. In Jenin alone, this has been the case with scores of PA officers, as evidence mounts of similar phenomena in other cities under PA control, including Bethlehem, Hebron, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

 

This situation was exacerbated in the latter part of 2012 by a fiscal crisis.

As monthly salaries were withheld or only partially issued, many PA security personnel, with the consent of their commanders, clocked in and then went off to other jobs, often in the employ of private security agencies or for local criminals impressed by their Western training and equipment.

The presence of armed Hamas personnel has become a major factor in PA controlled areas in several different respects:

Having benefited from major donations from such nations as Iran and Qatar, Hamas has been in a position to exploit the financial crisis of the PA. Numerous PA security personnel have been quietly engaged to working for the Islamist group, particularly the military wing Izzadin al-Kassam.

Hamas penetration into PA security has been strong in several areas under ostensible PA control, particularly in the Hebron region where senior PA intelligence officers are believed to provide intelligence to Hamas.

The PA security services now allow Hamas to organize huge rallies in areas under PA control. This arrangement, a departure from earlier policy, enables Hamas to openly recruit members as well as to mobilize supporters, as efforts are made to restore the Islamist military infrastructure in areas under PA control. Most of these rallies have ended up as confrontations with the Israel Army.

Senior members of the ruling Fatah movement have touted Hamas’ war with Israel and called on the PA to prepare for another uprising in areas under PA control. Fatah, in statements reported in official PA-run media, has already announced the establishment of units assigned to fight the Israeli Army.

As a function of Abbas’ unilateral push for a state, PA security cooperation with Israel sharply declined in November and December 2012. Palestinian officers facilitated and even aided Hamas-aligned attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers. In some cases, PA personnel have attacked Israeli soldiers in broad daylight. PA security forces have also tried to stop the Israeli Army from capturing suspected Palestinian insurgents.

The Israeli army has privately acknowledged that Palestinians involved in attacks on Israelis have been allowed to join PA security forces and receive U.S. training.

Abbas uses the PA security forces for his own purposes.

Abbas has used PA security forces: to retaliate against critics who accuse him of corruption; to destroy or exile his rivals in Fatah; to pursue Palestinians who have sold land to Jews; and to stop Jews from reaching religious sites in the Nablus region.

None of the above issues has diluted solid Western support for Palestinian Security Forces.

Under President Barack Obama-who seeks to expand PA paramilitary units-the United States has pledged to continue to pour hundreds of millions of dollars a year into Abbas’ coffers, with large sums dedicated to the security forces. This is despite objections from Congress and appeals by Palestinian human rights organizations. Obama has exercised waivers to continue to fund the PA security forces.

Legacy of the PA Security Forces

Numerous conflicting agencies, controlled by Arafat

The Palestinian Authority was founded in 1994 by Yasser Arafat, who appointed his top cronies as heads of various agencies of the Palestinian Security Forces. Arafat imported personnel from the Palestine Liberation Army from such countries as Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria. The Palestinian security forces served as patronage for Arafat loyalists and within a year at least 17 agencies were formed, with authority overlapping and generating rivalries. [1]

The PA intelligence agencies, initially be limited to six, were quickly adopted by foreign sponsors, including the UK, Egypt, France and the United States. There was, however, little oversight of the forces, which engaged in extortion of Palestinians and received commissions on major deals in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Clashes with Israel and decimation

Without oversight, PA units became involved in attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers. In September 1996, PA security forces clashed with the Israel Army throughout the areas under PA control in the wake of Israel’s opening of a tunnel contiguous to the Temple Mount. Four years later, Arafat recruited security forces to organize ambushes and other attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers in what was called the “second intifada”. The Israeli military responded with Operation Defensive Shield. By the end of 2002, the PA security forces were decimated, with facilities demolished and weapons seized.

US involvement: Security Coordinator

The United States recruited NATO and other partners to restore PA security forces. Yet despite pledges of hundreds of millions of dollars, the Palestinian security forces remained fiefdoms and ineffective. Amid White House assurances to the US Congress, PA security forces were overwhelmed by Hamas fighters, who took over the Gaza Strip in 2007.

The PA defeat led to an overhaul of Palestinian security forces in the West Bank directed by the office of the U.S. Security Coordinator (USSC), established in 2005.

Since 2008, the focus of Washington has been to develop a PA security force with paramilitary capabilities, having the capacity to protect the regime of Arafat’s successor, Mahmoud Abbas, from Hamas and the ability to quell massive demonstrations. Abbas, however, failed to implement laws and directives on the restructuring of the security forces, delineation of responsibilities, and the imposition of effective civilian oversight. [2]

The office of the U.S. Security Coordinator, located in Jerusalem, is comprised of 16 U.S. military officers assigned to the State Department. [3]

The Coordinator-supported by such countries as Britain, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands and Turkey-reports directly to the secretary of state and oversees security aid to the PA as well as cooperation between Israel and the PA-administered areas. The U.S. goal is to assist in the establishment of an independent Palestinian state under the control of Abbas and the Fatah.

The U.S. strategy for achieving this goal began with the rebuilding of the PA security force structure, infrastructure, equipment and training.

By 2011, the strategy of the U.S. Coordinator’s office, with a staff of 145 personnel, shifted to the development of PA indigenous readiness, training, and logistics programs as well as the capability to maintain and sustain operational readiness and support infrastructure. The Coordinator’s office also envisioned enhanced security between Israel and the PA, as well as the improvement of the PA justice and prison sectors. [4] 

By July 2011, U.S.-financed training programs graduated 4,761 Palestinian cadets from the U.S.-supported Jordanian International Police Training Center in Amman. The Coordinator’s office also conducted training in the West Bank attended by 3,500 security commanders and troops. [5] Washington helped build joint operations centers for planning, command, and control as well as the National Training Center in Jericho. The facilities were meant to help the United States transition into a new role of “advise and assist” for the PA Interior Ministry and security forces. In mid-2011, the USSC determined that PA security forces were becoming a “responsive and effective professional force.” [6] 

The most influential U.S. official involved with nurturing the PA security forces was Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton, who served for five years in the post of Coordinator.

Dayton, alone among his peers, was involved in PA operations, training, appointments and even deployment of forces. To the consternation of senior Palestinian officials, the U.S. general established a system of rewarding those individual commanders who cooperated with him and worked to secure the dismissal of those who did not. [7] As a result, PA commanders followed Dayton because of either a personal or political agenda, or because they wanted their units to receive American equipment. [8] One Palestinian critic who lost his position as a result of criticizing Dayton was Col. Tawfiq Tirawi, then chief of the General Intelligence Services. 

EU involvement

The European Union has been training PA police, with more than 3,000 personnel trained via Britain’s Hart Security. [9] Over the last two years, EU focus has been on developing Special Forces, with France overseeing the training and equipping of Special Forces for site and diplomatic security. The three-week course designed for this – referred to a “train the trainer” – has been sponsored by France’s Compagnies Republicaines de Securite. This is a program that has sought to develop indigenous PA security capabilities. French instructors have taught PA police such skills as public order, defensive tactics, communications, and crowd control. 

A Closer Look at the PA Forces

Reorganization

In 2005, Abbas reorganized the Palestinian Security Services into six main units.

The PA chairman issued a decree to dismantle branches such as Force 17, the praetorian guard of the late Yasser Arafat. Efforts were launched to coordinate security agencies such +

s the Preventive Security Apparatus. Abbas, under a policy that called for mandatory retirement at age 60, also dismissed veteran commanders in the PA and replaced them with younger and more modern-thinking personnel. The PA Interior Ministry reduced the number of armed personnel by 90 percent, as of the end of 2010. 

However, aging commanders loyal to Abbas remained. 

Indeed, the ruling Fatah movement has not lost any of its influence over the PA security forces. Despite efforts by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to professionalize the security forces, some 80 percent of all officers were either Fatah members or affiliated with the movement. The commanders of all six major agencies have been members of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, regarded as the monitoring body of the movement. [10] The Interior Ministry, which oversees much of the security forces, is also dominated by Fatah members. The commanders of all six major agencies have been members of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, regarded as the monitoring body of the movement. 

PA Civil Police

The civil force of some 8,000 remains the least affected by the halt in PA salaries. Most of the members of this force are young men who still follow orders of their superiors and believe the promises that Arab states will end the fiscal crisis in Ramallah.

This force, the first to reappear in the West Bank after the second uprising in 2000, has been under the tight control of Brig. Gen. Hazem Atallah, who regards the financial crisis as a key challenge of his command. Although salaries are still forthcoming for this force, the crisis has affected operations in other ways. Fuel has been at a premium, thus limiting the reach of PA police operations. Plans to open and maintain police stations in rural areas of the West Bank, particularly in the north, have also been hampered.

National Security Force (NSF)

This U.S.-trained unit of nearly 10,000 officers has been significantly hurt by the fiscal crisis. Training of NSF personnel declined and corruption rose significantly in 2012. The problem has been compounded by the fact that at least 20 percent of the force was meant to protect the regime against plots within PA security units.

The Force’s biggest problem has been NSF commanders who often see themselves as fiefdom chiefs, particularly in the northern West Bank. Many of them have lent themselves out as muscle for organized crime in such cities as Jenin, Nablus and Tulkarm. Connected to a lead security agency, these commanders have been able to dismiss pressure from the Interior Ministry or even rival agencies. NSF was heavily implicated in the death of Jenin Gov. Khadoura Mussa, who threatened to hamper the growing relationship between militias and their partners in NSF. The force was said to have been split over the last year in wake of the resignation of longtime chief Maj. Gen. Dib Al Ali. Al Ali, close to Abbas and on excellent terms with Israel and the United States, was replaced by Nidal Abu Dukhan, who has marginalized those seen as loyal to his predecessor. [11]

Presidential Guard (PG)

The 3,000-member PG has been in decline despite U.S. programs to enhance this praetorian force of Abbas. The PG has been on alert amid the growing protest movement, which has included demonstrations outside the presidential compound in Ramallah. It has dealt harshly with largely peaceful sit-ins, dispersing protests and threatening human rights monitors. The fiscal crisis has led to an increase in moonlighting within the PG, and to
extortion of Palestinian businessmen.

Intelligence Services: General Intelligence; Preventative Security;Military Intelligence

The intelligence services have sustained less damage from the fiscal crisis than other forces. This is because several of the intelligence agencies receive funds from Western donors rather than simply from the Palestinian government. France has been helping the General Intelligence Services. GIS, which plans to train 1,200 officers in such technical skills as surveillance and data analysis, reports directly to Abbas.

The United States has been pumping money into the Preventive Security Apparatus, the largest of the intelligence agencies. PSA, with 4,000 members, has led most PA counter-insurgency operations, particularly against Hamas and Jihad. Formally, PSA reports to the Interior Ministry as well as the prime minister’s office, but many of these operations remain under the supervision of the United States and are monitored by Israel. Officially, Washington ended support for PSA, but U.S. aid has been quietly channeled to PSA as part of an effort to bolster forces loyal to Fatah in case of any war with Hamas.

Washington’s efforts to encourage a merger of PSA and GIS have been unsuccessful. A key reason is that the commanders of the agencies represent rival constituencies. GIS officers come largely from exile, particularly Tunis, while PSA stems from Fatah fighters who led the first uprising against Israel in the late 1980s. [12]

Military Intelligence has sustained a greater decline in morale amid the fiscal crisis than the other intelligence agencies. This force, nominally under NSF, has become a factor amid the power struggle within Fatah as MI officers provide muscle for rival factions. Despite efforts at reform, MI has failed to move from a political to a professional force and efforts to coordinate with NSF have failed. 

Corruption

In August 2012, some 20 PA officers were investigated on allegations of working with organized crime and gun-running. The probe determined that crime families in
almost every major city under PA control were offering police and security personnel part-time work doing everything from protecting homes to providing tips on police patrols and investigations. The biggest cases of corruption were in cities. 

Abbas ordered a crackdown on Fatah and PA officers in Jenin after the death of its governor, Khaddoura Mussa. He died hours after his home was fired upon, it was believed. by PA personnel.

Two of the shooters were identified as loyalists of outgoing NSF commander Al Ali, who was involved in a power struggle at the time of his resignation. The crackdown included Fatah militia commander Zakaria Zubeidi, accused of killing an Israeli Arab filmmaker in 2011, as well as participating in the attack on Mussa. During his subsequent five months in prison, Zubeidi was also interrogated in connection with the assassination of Hisham Al Rukh, deputy commander of PSA in Jenin in March 2012. [13] 

The corruption of the PA security forces has been exacerbated by the fiscal crisis in 2012. For most of the year, Palestinian civil servants received at most only a portion of their salaries and sometimes nothing. The failure to pay salaries has been blamed on Israel as well as Arab and Western donors. But many Palestinians assert that the real cause is official corruption and nepotism.

By December 2012, the 180,000 civil servants of the PA worked no more than three days a week and planned additional walkouts. The PA requires $200 million a month for salaries, more than half of which was meant to come from tax revenues from Palestinians who work in Israel. The rest of the salary budget was meant to come from foreign aid. The Palestinian Monetary Fund says the PA is in debt for $1.5 billion. [14] 

In the past, PA security officers walked off their jobs more than other Palestinian civil servants. During the crisis in 2007, as few as 20 percent of PA officers showed up to work. Abbas and his ministers could do little as most of the PA agencies retained their autonomy and commanders rejected all civilian oversight. [15] 

Abbas Uses Forces to Quell Criticism, Fight Rivals

Squashing protests about corruption

Abbas has used PA security forces to retaliate against critics who accuse him of corruption. 

Major allegations of corruption involve his two sons, whom he has allowed to gain major stakes in Western-financed development projects in the West Bank. Abbas has been able to manipulate foreign investment through his control over the Palestine Investment Fund. Inexplicably, PIF still operates in the Gaza Strip, captured by Hamas in 2007. [16]

In all, Abbas’ sons have won contracts for more than $250 million. For his part, the PA chairman was said to earn $1 million a month. Abbas has charged donors for personal expenses of more than $1 billion since he became chairman of the PA in November 2004. In a recent move, Abbas, whose fleet included two Western aircraft, requested a presidential jet from Russia. [17] 

Yasser, the elder Abbas son, has been allowed by his father to enjoy a monopoly on the sale of U.S.-origin cigarettes in the West Bank. The other Abbas, son, Tarek, has been allowed to peddle influence through his father in contracts for the U.S. government. [18]

The Palestinian media have been unable to report this because of the fear of Abbas’ security forces. Those who raised this issue have been arrested. In the first half of 2012, at least nine Palestinian journalists were arrested by the PA. A blogger, Jamal Abu Rihan, was arrested soon after he wrote on his Facebook page “The people want an end to corruption.” [19] 

As a result, the allegations have been aired abroad and the PA chairman has threatened law suits against media outlets in Qatar, Israel, and the United States. [20] 

Abbas’ two sons have also been using their father to shield business partners wanted for criminal activities. The U.S. Congress has been told that in 2009 the PA granted diplomatic passports to Issam and Devincci Hourani that provide them with immunity in their travels. Devincci, a U.S. citizen, has worked with Yasser Abbas for Caratube International Oil Co., based in Sudan. Devincci was also partnered with Yasser Abbas in the construction of a hotel in Sudan. [21] 

Abbas has used almost all of his forces to stop dissent. PA police have established a special women’s unit to violently disperse women protesters, including peaceful demonstrations against PSA. [22] The PA women officers operate in civilian dress and were trained to kick and slap women and children as well as journalists. 

The Presidential Guard has been used to break up sit-ins near Abbas’ office. PG personnel, many of them trained by the United States, have also been ordered to harass and threaten human rights workers. [23] Even PA civil police were ordered to stop protests in Ramallah, and in June and July 2012 anti-riot police and plainclothes officers attacked and injured marchers as well as journalists. The assault was led by Col. Latif Khaddoumi, police chief in Ramallah, and his assistant, Mohammed Abu Bakr, and aided by GIS, who sought to stop media coverage of the marches, which began as a protest of a meeting between Abbas and an Israeli politician. [24] The European Union expressed concern over the use of police to quell peaceful protests, but stressed that the training program would continue. [25] 

Many of the protests were organized through the social media. In response, the PA, in an order by Attorney General Ahmed Al Mughni and deemed a major shift in policy, blocked websites of independent news outlets. Al Mughni was believed to have been directed by Abbas himself or the head of an intelligence agency. [26] 

PA security forces also play a major role in monitoring schools and teachers. The PA-approved Independent Commission for Human Rights has received more than 400 complaints from teachers who were either dismissed or refused employment because of their political orientation. Those working for the Palestinian media also require security clearance. [27]

Pursuing political enemies

Abbas has used his U.S.-trained security forces to destroy or exile rivals in the Fatah.

In 2011, Abbas ordered security units to attack the Ramallah home of Mohammed Dahlan, where aides were arrested, and millions of dollars worth of cars and equipment confiscated. Abbas’ feud with Dahlan goes back 20 years when Arafat appointed him commander of PSA in the Gaza Strip. The post allowed Dahlan and his cronies to gain information about corruption in the PA, including by Abbas and his family. In July 2011, Abbas arrested 15 supporters of Dahlan and purged the security forces of anybody believed to be a sympa­thizer. A month later, Fatah said Dahlan’s expulsion from Fatah was final. [28] By that time, Dahlan and his family had fled to exile. 

Despite international criticism, Abbas has bolstered the powers of such agencies as GIS and PSA. In 2007, the PA chairman granted PSA the power of arrest and detention. Four years later, GIS said it would no longer issue arrest warrants against civilians or try them in military courts. PSA, however, continues to hold dozens of civilians while Military Intelligence has been allowed to act against civilians. [29] 

U.S. Difficulties in Tracking Aid to PA

Washington has sought to avoid dealing with the question of PA corruption and particularly the use of American aid by Abbas’ family. Indeed, critics, supported by internal U.S. reports, have asserted that a significant percentage of U.S. aid to the PA has been given in cash, in US currency. 

Since 2008, the United States has provided the PA with nearly $3 billion. [30] Once the cash payments are made by Washington, it becomes “impossible or nearly impossible to track.” The result: U.S. aid was found to be funding Palestinians who were deemed by the US to be terrorists – via the PA budget. The State Department was not seen as making any genuine effort to prevent security funds from reaching members of terrorist organizations. In 2007, the U.S. Agency for International Development, which funds UNRWA refugee camps controlled by Hamas, concluded that it was unable to “reasonably ensure” that assistance was not ending up in the hands of terrorist organizations. [31] 

PA Security Operations in Jerusalem

Abbas, despite agreements with the US and with Israel, has encouraged PA security forces to operate in Jerusalem. Israeli police have repeatedly arrested PA security and intelligence officers assigned to enforce Palestinian law in Israel’s capital. PA officers were alleged to have abducted Arab residents of Jerusalem and escorted them to Ramallah for interrogation and detention. In other cases, PA officers were used to harass residents of Jerusalem. The PA security presence was believed to be especially strong in Jerusalem’s northern neighborhoods near Ramallah. [32] At one point, every PA security agency, including GIS and PSA, was said to maintain a presence in Jerusalem. The PA, including Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, has proclaimed the right to operate anywhere in Jerusalem, saying this was part of its policy to transform Jerusalem into the Palestinian capital. [33] 

The PA presence in Jerusalem, which began immediately after Arafat arrived in the Gaza Strip in 1994, has resisted years of Israeli security and political moves to oust Palestinian troops from Jerusalem. This has included Israeli coordination with Jordan in an effort to marginalize the PA, particularly on the Temple Mount, another stronghold of PA security forces. 

In 2004, Israel was assessed-albeit mistakenly-to have ended the PA penetration of Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem after a decade of killings, abductions and extortion. [34] 

PA Forces Used Against Jews

The Palestinian Authority has used its security forces against Jews who engage in land deals with Arabs. The PSF has investigated all land deals by Palestinians to see if the buyers were Jews. PSF has arrested and detained Palestinians for agreeing to sell property in and around Jerusalem. 

On December 10, 2012, a PA court in Bethlehem sentenced two Palestinians to hard labor on conviction of selling land to Jewish developers from Betar. The Jews were alleged to have offered $45,000 for a dunam of land, nearly 10 times the market price. [35] The two Arabs, residents of the Bethlehem-area village of Hussan and owners of 38 dunams were sentenced to 10 years in prison. The investigation of the Arab “suspects” was conducted by the PSA, which has been monitoring all land sales in Area C, where Israel retains full civilian and security control. [36] 

NSF and other PA forces have also tried to stop Jews from reaching religious sites. 

Despite an agreement between Israel and the PA that allowed Jews to visit Jewish holy sites in PA areas, NSF and police fired toward 17 Jewish pilgrims who were leaving Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus. Under the Israel-PA agreement, the Israeli Army was to have maintained full control over Joseph’s Tomb. After numerous Palestinian attacks, including those joined by PA troops, Israel turned over control of the tomb to the PA, which in 2011 took responsibil­ity for protecting the site. 

However, on April 24, 2011, during the Passover holiday, NSF troops opened point blank fire on Jewish worshipers who were leaving Joseph’s Tomb, after morning prayers.

Five people were struck by PA fire, among them, Ben Yosef Livnat, a nephew of a senior Israeli minister, was killed instantly. The PA, despite Israeli pressure, refused to condemn the killing of the Jewish civilian. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, while acknowledg­ing that the visit of the Jews was not coordinated with the IDF, insisted that this did not justify the shooting by PA troops. Barak called for an investigation. [37] For several days, the PA refused to confirm that its troops opened fire on Jewish pilgrims. Nablus Gov. Jibril Al Bakri said a PA police patrol had been assigned to guard the tomb and blamed any problems on lack of Israeli coordination. [38] 

An Israel Army investigation pointed to serious failures in the vetting of PA security forces, including those accepted for U.S. training in Jordan. 

The investigation, bolstered by witnesses, asserted that NSF officers began firing in the air as soon as the Jewish worshipers entered Joseph’s Tomb. The Jews rushed to their three cars and began to leave when five NSF officers again opened fire on vehicles. An NSF non-commissioned officer, screaming “God is great,” ran toward one of the Jewish vehicles and began shooting at close range from at least three sides. [39] The NSF unit did not inform either its commanders or Israeli authorities of the shooting. The three cars filled with worshipers – one dead and four injured – reached an Israel Army roadblock where they were taken to a hospital. 

The Israeli army and Israel Security Agency, the ISA, also known as the Shabak, responsible for domestic intelligence, reached the conclusion that the incident was a “Palestinian terrorist attack” and determined that the NSF officers intended to kill Jewish worshipers. [40] On the other hand, the PA investigation concluded that the NSF officers did not intend to kill the Jews, while commanders claimed that the Jews, who did not carry weapons, opened fire, threw stones, and sought to run down the Palestinians. The PA found the five PA officers guilty of “grave negligence” and were placed in prison in Nablus out of concern that they would be arrested by Israel. [41] 

The Israeli investigation determined that the main NSF shooter, in his late 20s, was known to the IDF and ISA as a terrorist arrested in connection with shooting attacks on Israelis. Under agreement, Israel is supposed to vet and approve every cadet in the PA security forces to ensure that those convicted of terrorist offenses are not included. In practice, however, an undetermined number of Palestinians have been arrested by Israel on security offenses have been recruited by PA security forces. [42] 

PA officers stationed at Joseph’s Tomb – identified as Mohammed Tsabana, Saleh Hamed, Wa’el Daoud, Nawaf Bani Uda and Turki Zuara – were also part of two NSF battalions in Nablus trained in Jordan by the United States. This also required Israeli vetting. 

There is no evidence that the US State Department, responsible for U.S. security aid to the PA, has conducted any investigation at all of the killing of the Jewish worshiper, whose mother is an American citizen. 

In April 2011, Abbas signed a bill that called for a monthly stipend for all Palestinians as well as Israeli Arabs who have been convicted and sentenced by Israel for murder or attempted murder of Jews. The Palestinian Media Watch testified in the US Congress that funds which emanated from the U.S. and other donations were allocated for the “glorification and role-modeling of terrorists.” [43] 

Hamas-PA Rapprochement

The nightmare of the Israel Army is that the PA, directed by the ruling Fatah movement, would reconcile with Hamas and begin joint operations against Jews. 

That is what is now transpiring. 

In November 2012, in the aftermath of the missile war between Israel and the Hamas regime in Gaza, Fatah and PA officials expressed admiration for Hamas and said they were ready for a serious reconciliation effort to force Israel to conduct a full retreat to the armistice lines, which existed from 1949 until 1967. 

A Fatah group proclaimed that it formed a military brigade in Hebron, long a Hamas stronghold. 

Fatah’s military also pledged to continue attacks on Israel and avenge the assassination of Hamas military chief Jabari. 

An officer in Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, loyal to Abbas, claimed its militia had fired 600 mortars and rockets into Israel and the arsenal had not been depleted. [44] 

The Al Aqsa statement came amid a series of declarations by Fatah leaders, including those close to Abbas, that the PA would work with Hamas against Israel. At least five members of the Fatah Central Committee welcomed the Hamas missile war on Israel in November and said this has dissipated their opposition to sharing power with the Islamist movement. 

Jibril Rajoub, head of the Palestinian Olympic Committee and founder of the PA’s Preventive Security Force loyal to Abbas, declared at a rally in Ramallah that the Palestinians will fight until they establish a state and all Jews are removed from Palestinian areas. In an address broadcast by the PNC Palestinian state television, Rajoub, regarded as an intimate of Abbas, declared that Fatah was ready to shoot and urged Hamas to join the effort. [45] 

The Israel Army has already detected evidence of Fatah-Hamas coordination in areas under the direct control of the Palestinian Authority. 

Israeli military and security units have been tracking the resumption of activities by Fatah gunmen who had benefited from an amnesty by Israel in 2007. 

Israel has arrested former members of Fatah’s military wing in the area south of Hebron.

Some of these Fatah gunmen were later offered work in PA security forces and have been linked to the killing of Israelis in the Hebron area. One of those arrested was identified as Waal Al Araja, an officer for PSA, accused of killing an American Israeli citizen Asher Palmer, 24, and his infant son Yonatan in September 2011. Al Araja was believed to have headed the insurgency cell that planned the attack. [46] 

Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority praise of Jabari, responsible for the death of more than 1,000 Israelis over the last decade, came even from those considered the most moderate elements in Fatah. Former PA Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath called on Palestinians to “have mercy” for Jabari, and described him as a hero. Shaath, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, and also an intimate of Abbas, called for unity with Hamas, which, he asserted, would “win further victories for us.” [47] 

Shaath vowed that, with Hamas cooperation, Fatah and the PA would escalate what he termed the struggle against Israel in 2013. [48] 

Another PA official who is often described in the public domain as a moderate, Mahmoud Al Aloul, stressed that neither Fatah nor the PA has ended the option of “armed resistance.” Instead, this option required the suitable climate both within the Palestinian sector as well as in the international community. Al Aloul expressed the hope that the “Arab Spring” would be the trigger for another war against Israel. [49] 

Abbas, himself, has funneled tens of millions of dollars to the Hamas regime in Gaza. The PA has continued to pay 36,500 security personnel in the Gaza Strip despite that none of them have worked for the PA since the Hamas takeover in 2007 [50]

Hamas has exploited the renewed reconciliation with the PA to expand its military infrastructure in areas under the control of the PA. Israel’s intelligence community has determined that Hamas political bureau Chief Khaled Masha’al, has ordered the establishment of military cells to take over areas now under the control of the PA. 

An intelligence assessment, relayed to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, asserted that Masha’al’s orders reflected Iranian guidance and assistance to oust Fatah from the all of the Palestinian leadership, the same way that the Abbas-led movement was destroyed in the Gaza Strip in 2007. [51] The Hamas strategy was based on the reactivation of sleeper cells established in all areas controlled by the PA over the last decade. [52] 

The PA has been tolerant of other Islamist groups in its midst, particularly those that draw support from rich Gulf Arab sheiks. Even Salafist groups, inspired by Al Qaida, have been allowed to receive Gulf funds and establish a presence in mosques monitored by the PA. Indeed, the Salafists have enjoyed the support of Fatah and were appointed to PA agencies in an effort to compete with Hamas, particularly in Nablus. The arrangement was conditioned on a ban on Salafist criticism of Abbas himself even as members espouse war against Jews and other non-Muslims. [53] 

Indeed, PA control over mosques have been weak, a factor exploited by Hamas. Hamas has quietly dominated many if not most of the mosques, even those staffed by civil servants. In some cases, Hamas was believed to have been storing weapons in mosques as PA-appointed preachers, often inspired by Muslim Brotherhood figures around the Arab world, gave Friday sermons that severely criticized the Abbas regime. [54] 

Israel-Palestinian Authority Cooperation

Cooperation between Israel and the PA has been linked to a range of political and economic factors, including unrest in Palestinian Arab cities and the fiscal crisis in the PA. In mid-2012, however, cracks began to widen in the relationship between the Israel Army and PA security forces. [55] At the same time PA police and security forces began to harass Israel Army patrols and operations around PA administered cities. 

In November, 2012, the PA National Security Forces prevented an Israel Army patrol from entering Tulkarm. Two days later, NSF stopped a similar Israeli operation in Jenin. In both cases, Israeli troops, reflecting orders by the General Staff, chose to suspend their mission rather than confront the PA. For its part, the PA, in wake of the UN vote for official non-state membership, ordered its security forces to hamper Israel Army operations and defined every Israeli soldier as “a conqueror on occupied land.” [56] 

The Israeli military has warned the PA against this new policy, which included the lifting of the ban on Hamas rallies. Hamas rallies have been held on a weekly basis and often end in clashes with Israeli troops. The rallies are seen as part of the PA policy to escalate unrest against Israel without harming relations with the United States. [57] 

A focus of Hamas unrest has been in Hebron, a divided city with 250,000 Arabs and 1,000 Jews. At one point, Israel threatened that its military would battle Hamas unless the PA intervened, which prompted some Palestinian armed units to try to restore order. Still, the PA leadership has been willing to mar security cooperation, including blaming Israel for the current fiscal crisis as well as decisions to construct Jewish housing in Jerusalem and its suburbs. Without their monthly salaries, PA troops could be placed in the position where they would sabotage any cooperation with Israel. [58] At the same time, Abbas warned that the PA was prepared for any contingency should Israel build housing near Jerusalem. [59] 

The biggest threat to the Israel Army stems from the PA forces trained by the United States since 2008. Israeli military intelligence regards the eight National Security Forces battalions trained in Jordan under U.S. sponsorship as a “significant military force.” [60] 

The Israel Army’s Central Command has determined that NSF was showing significant skills in complex operations as well as in command and control. In mid-2012, the Command was impressed by the response of the PA security forces to the death of Jenin Gov. Khaddoura Mussa. The Jenin operation was regarded as noteworthy. Within hours of Mussa’s death on May 2, the PA organized a joint operation command under Interior Minister Said Al Ali. The command coordinated operations in UNRWA refugee camps around Jenin and Nablus, where around 150 people were arrested on suspicion of belonging to militias linked to Fatah dissidents, including members of the intelligence services. PSA officer Ibrahim Ramadan led the operation and detained even those suspected of possessing a weapon. Members of PSA and NSF were also arrested on allegations that they were working for former PSA commander Mohammed Dahlan, expelled from Fatah in 2011. [61] 

At the same time, the Israeli Army saw the PA crackdown as the latest demonstration of signs that NSF and other U.S.-trained units were forming breakaway squads that could eventually attack Israeli troops and civilians. [62] Despite statements to the contrary, the Israeli Army has long been wary of a blow-back by U.S.-trained PA forces. As early as 2009, Israeli officers expressed concern that U.S. training could produce PA units proficient in small group tactics, weapons and operational skills that could be used against Israeli soldiers and civilians. The assessment envisioned Israeli forces taken by surprise at the start of any insurgency war in the West Bank, particularly by those PA officers trained as snipers. Then-Central Command chief Maj. Gen. Avi Mizrahi assessed that as few as four snipers could “shut down an urban area.” Mizrahi regarded the NSF troops as a “proper infantry force.” [63] 

As a result, the Israeli Army has sought to stop the PA from acquiring weapons and platforms agreed to by the Israeli government. The most intense opposition has been to 50 armored personnel carriers donated by Russia to the PA in 2005. While Israeli leaders repeatedly promised Moscow to approve delivery of the combat platforms, the Russian vehicles, painted twice to prevent rusting, have been stranded in neighboring Jordan. The army has demanded that the PA remove mounts for the 12.7 mm guns, with a range of nearly four kilometers. Another demand was that the vehicles do not include communications systems. The PA has refused these demands. [64] 

At the same time, the Israel Army has been looking for PA officers suspected of forming insurgency squads. These squads were believed to be in Hebron and in Nablus. In late 2011, tensions escalated among PA officers as their colleagues were arrested in Israeli raids. Those nabbed included NSF and PSA officers, some of them suspected of links with Hamas cells. [65] The arrests within the PA intelligence community have included top officers assigned to monitor and crack down on Hamas. In December 2012, Israel acknowledged that two senior intelligence commanders were arrested in the Hebron region. Ahmed Bhais was the operations director of the PA General Intelligence Service in Hebron, and Mohammed Abu Eid was GI commander in the Hebron-area town of Yatta. [66]

As early as 2010, intelligence agencies under Abbas’ control were ordered to increase operations in Area C, particularly Hebron. GIS, for example, increased its informant network, and under Western guidance enhanced such skills as data analysis on intelligence regarding Israeli communities. The requirement for such intelligence had been deemed one of the greatest weaknesses of PA intelligence and security agencies. [67] 

The Israeli Army has been preparing for the prospect of PA attacks in cooperation with Hamas. In December 2012, Central Command conducted what was termed a surprise exercise north of Ramallah that sought to demonstrate coordination between the army and police. The exercise envisioned Fatah and PA gunmen opening fire toward Israeli troops during a civilian demonstration. The command deployed the Israel Artillery Corps, as well as the Israel Border police and Israeli civilian police units. [68] 

Abbas, Fayyad on the Wane

Until 2011, PA Prime Minister Fayyad sought to separate security policy from Fatah efforts to win unilateral Israeli concessions on such issues as withdrawal and statehood. Fayyad told security commanders that any snag or stalemate in relations with Israel would not constitute justification for ending either security cooperation with the Jewish state or a robust counter-insurgency effort against Hamas. [69] The price for Fayyad’s demand was Fatah approval for major appointments in the security agencies as well as reform, human rights and restructuring. Fayyad knew that even with control of the purse strings, he could only go so far without provoking a violent backlash by Fatah. 

By mid-2012, Fayyad had lost most of his authority over the PA security forces. Over the last year, Abbas has marginalized Fayyad as the chairman sought to accommodate the rise of Hamas. Meanwhile, Abbas and Fayyad are barely on speaking terms, and the prime minister, who retains excellent relations with donor nations, has been reduced to a “glorified accountant.” [70] 

However, President Barack Obama did not halt or slow down U.S. aid to the PA – even after it successfully sought non-state membership in the United Nations. [71] Moreover, U.S. diplomats have refused to acknowledge increasing PA civil rights violations, which have been attributed to the PA security forces that are trained by the US. The administration has also opposed moves in Congress to stop funding PA security programs. 

There are indications that there is increasing coordination between Fatah and Hamas in planning attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians. In December 2012, in some areas of Jerusalem, Palestinian squads engaged in nightly attacks on Israeli police patrols. At least one squad has deployed Hamas operatives assigned to conduct what the PA terms “non-violent resistance,” which include firebombs and stones. [72]

 

Israeli intelligence sources report that the PA-Hamas coordination of these squads reflects an agreement between Abbas and Hamas leader Masha’al to spark a war against Israel based on the use of Palestinian civilian fighters. Both men agree that a military confrontation with Israel would be unsuccessful and therefore Hamas and the PA must use civilians and massive protests to drag Israel into a shooting war. This would isolate the Jewish state and bring it under massive international pressure for a unilateral withdrawal from Jerusalem and the West Bank. [73] Abbas’ concession was the renewal of Hamas rallies throughout the West Bank. 

At this point, Abbas and Masha’al appear to disagree on the goal of the next uprising, meant to be based on the first intifada in 1987-1991. Abbas hopes the next uprising would force Israel to duplicate its unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005 – this time from all PA controlled areas. Masha’al sees the next confrontation as the destruction of Israel. So far, both men have decided to shelve their differences and focus on escalating tension and mobilizing Palestinians for a long confrontation with Israel. [75] 

The difference between the 1987 uprising and the next one is that the PA has some 30,000 active troops and another 36,500 on the payroll. Hamas has at least 25,000 fighters in the Gaza Strip and thousands of armed men in PA controlled areas. 

The prospect that any civil uprising would remain limited to stones or even firebombs appears nil. With Palestinian arsenals brimming with weapons and advanced U.S. security equipment, Israel could find itself fighting a war against Palestinians who are armed, trained, and financed by its greatest ally – the United States. 

Notes 

1. “Squaring The Circle: Palestinian Security Reform Under Occupation”
International Crisis Group. September 2010

2. Ibid

3. State Department mission statement on U.S. Security Coordinator’s Office

4. Ibid

5. Testimony by U.S. Security Coordinator Lt. Gen. Michael Moeller to the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia. July 12, 2011

6. Ibid

7. “Fatah Elections May Herald Changes in Palestinian Authority Security Policy” Jane’s Defense Weekly, Aug. 14, 2009.

8. “Squaring the Circle: Palestinian Security Reform Under Occupation” International Crisis Group. September 2010

9. EUPOL. June 22, 2011

10. “Squaring the Circle: Palestinian Security Reform Under Occupation” International Crisis Group. September 2010

11. “PA Arrests More than 100 Following Death of Jenin Governor” Amira Hess. Haaretz. June 25, 2012

12. “Squaring the Circle: Palestinian Security Reform Under Occupation” International Crisis Group. September 2010

13. “Former Fatah Commander Accuses PA of Torture” Khaled Abu Toameh Jerusalem Post. April 10, 2012

14. “Protests on unpaid wages to continue in Palestine” Gulf News. Dec. 24, 2012

15. “Squaring the Circle: Palestinian Security Reform Under Occupation” International Crisis Group. September 2010

16. Testimony of Jonathan Schanzer, vice president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies to the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia,
July 10, 2012

17. “A Bid: Israel Threatens to Topple Abbas” Itamar Eichner. Ynet.
November 14, 2012

18. “The Brothers Abbas” Jonathan Schanzer Foreign Policy. June 5

19. Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms. Sept. 23, 2012

20. “Abbas son says to sue US magazine over wealth claims” Maan. June 12, 2012

21. Testimony of Jonathan Schanzer, vice president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies to the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia,
July 10, 2012

22. Palestinian Center for Human Rights. Nov. 14, 2012

23. Palestinian Center for Human Rights. Nov. 4, 2012

24. Palestinian Center for Human Rights. July 2, 2012

25. Maan news agency. July 3, 2012

26. “Palestinian Media Clampdown Spreads to the Web” Maan. April 23, 2012

27. International Crisis Group. Squaring the Circle: Palestinian Security Reform Under Occupation” September 2010

28. Testimony of Jonathan Schanzer, vice president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies to the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia,
July 10, 2012

29. “No News is Good News Abuses against Journalists by Palestinian Security Forces” Human Rights Watch. April 2011

30. “Americans living in Israel sue Clinton, State Dept. over claimed terror group funding” The Daily Caller. Nov. 27, 2012

31. “Bernstein vs. Clinton” Israel Law Center suit against the U.S. government by 24 Americans in Israel. November 2012. The suit charges that the federal government has ignored congressional safeguards to prevent U.S. aid from reaching terrorists.

32. “Palestinian police officers operating in Jerusalem” Israel Today Aug. 25, 2008

33. Israel Today. Feb. 16, 2012

34. “The Expulsion of the Palestinian Authority from Jerusalem and the Temple Mount” Dan Diker. Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Aug. 2004

35. Maan news agency. Dec. 10, 2012

36. Gulf Daily News. Dec. 11

37. “PA Arabs Celebrate Murder by Desecrating Joseph’s Tomb” Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu Israel National News. April 24, 2011

38. Associated Press. “Israeli Killed, 4 Wounded in West Bank Shooting” April 24, 2011

39. Account from a witness. Dec. 26, 2012

40. Recorded meeting of Israel Army Col. Nimrod Aloni, Shomron Brigade commander, with Livnat family. May 8, 2011.

41. Israeli security officer. May 2011

42. Ibid. “All they have to do is proclaim loyalty to Fatah.”

43. “U.S. Paying Salaries for Jailed Palestinian Terrorists” Jerusalem Post. July 26, 2011

44. Fatah video statement. Dec. 14, 2012

45. Al Ayyam, owned by the PA. Dec. 2, 2012

46. PA television. Nov. 29, 2012

47. Maan. Dec. 9, 2012

48. Haaretz. Dec. 9

49. PA television. Nov. 22, 2012

50. Shaath: Boycott, Civil Disobedience to Escalate in 2013. Ma’an Dec. 20

51. Watan television. Private channel in the West Bank. Oct. 8, 2012. Links to these televised statements were provided by Palestinian Media Watch, Dec. 13, 2002

52. Testimony of Jonathan Schanzer, vice president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies to the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia,
July 10, 2012

53. “Israel Fears Plot by Hamas to Seize West Bank” British Sunday Times. Dec. 23, 2012

54. “IDF: Hamas trying to activate W. Bank sleeper cells” Jerusalem Post. Dec. 9, 2012

55. “Radical Islam in Gaza” International Crisis Group. March 2011.

56. “Squaring the Circle: Palestinian Security Reform Under Occupation” International Crisis Group. September 2010

57. “IDF, PA Collaboration in W. Bank Faltering.” Elior Levy. Ynet. Dec. 18, 2012

58. Ibid

59. “Shaath: Boycott, civil disobedience to escalate in 2013.” Maan news agency. Dec. 20, 2012

60. IDF, PA Collaboration in W. Bank Faltering. Elior Levy. Ynet. Dec. 18, 2012

61. “Abbas says E1 Settlement Project will Never Happen.” Wafa news agency. Dec. 22, 2012

62. “Intel Officer: Is a Third Intifada on the Horizon.” Walla news agency. Dec. 14, 2012

63. “PA Arrests More than 100 Following Death of Jenin Governor” Amira Hess. Haaretz. June 25, 2012

64. “Intel Officer: Is a Third Intifada on the Horizon.” Walla news agency.Dec. 14, 2012

65. Haaretz, May 17, 2010

66. “Squaring the Circle: Palestinian Security Reform Under Occupation” International Crisis Group. September 2010

67. “Israel detains 3 from PA security in Nablus” Maan news agency. Dec. 20, 2012

68. Jerusalem Post, Maan news agency. Dec. 9, 2012

69. International Crisis Group. Squaring the Circle: Palestinian Security Reform Under Occupation” September 2010

70. “IDF: Hamas trying to activate W. Bank sleeper cells” Jerusalem Post. Dec. 9, 2012

71. Testimony of Jonathan Schanzer, vice president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies to the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia,
July 10, 2012

72. ibid

73. Ynet. Dec. 18, 2012

74. “Palestinians: The Third Intifada Has Begun” Khaled Abu Toameh. Gatestone Institute. Dec. 17, 2012

75. Associated Press. Dec. 21, 2012

76. “Palestinians: The Third Intifada Has Begun” Khaled Abu Toameh. Gatestone Institute. Dec. 17, 2012

By David Bedein, posted January 23, 2013

Source: The Winnipeg Jewish Review

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Posted by on March 7, 2013. Filed under Israeli News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.