The Oslo Agreement restricted the Palestinian Authority’s task to controlling the populations of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and preserving the security of the Israeli entity. Moreover, the Road Map committed the Palestinian Authority to fighting the resistance and destroying its infrastructure, in exchange for a promise of “the possibility of establishing a Palestinian state”.
Against this background, the American security coordination team was established; Its plans led to the Palestinian division, both geographically and politically.
The Palestinian Authority and Ramallah government continue to insist on proceeding with Dayton’s plans, where by tens of resisters are being assassinated and hundreds of them arrested, in addition to dismantling a number of the military resistance wings.
In light of the above, the Palestinian arena future awaits one of three scenarios. The first: stopping the arrests in order to continue with Dayton’s task of supervising the work of the security services and coordinating between them and the occupation forces. The Second: stopping the security coordination to pave the way for Hamas’ agreement on holding presidential and legislative elections. Third and most probable: the continuation of the security coordination and further establishment of the geographic division state between the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
The confrontations in Qalqilia, on 31/5/2009 between the Ramallah government’s security bodies and the members of al-Qassam Brigades (lit. Kata’ib al-Qassam, the military wing of Hamas) , raised back the problematic issue of security coordination between the Palestinian Authority and the Occupation, and re-shed lights on the formation of these bodies, their role in the West Bank, and their agenda; especially since it is still persecuting the resisters from the different Palestinian resistance movements, to dismantle the military wings of the resistance, and destroy their infrastructure.
We must keep in mind that the Road Map obligates the Palestinian Authority to impose order in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and protect the security of the occupation by breaking up the military wings and putting an end to what it called violence, as obligatory steps on the path to “establishing a Palestinian state”.
It was obvious since the beginning of the peace settlement path that the main goal of the PLO administration was to establish an independent Palestinian state, whereas Israel’s main goal was to rid itself of the burden of governing the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip and West Bank while preserving as much land as it can and protecting the safety of Israel.
Based on this, the Oslo Agreement was signed, as Israel allowed the Palestinian Authority to form security services with about 3,000 members. Later, it rose to 30,000 members, in accordance with Oslo 2, and the number of member was once again raised to 40,000 members right before the Second Intifada (Al-Aqsa Intifada).
However, the failure of Camp David, held in July 2000, to settle the issues of the final phase, draw the borders of the Palestinian state and determining a date to announce them led to the break out of the Second Intifada (Al- Aqsa Intifada), which was later secretly encouraged by the President of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat. At that time, the security services were under his command, and he insisted on keeping them a part of his direct authorities, considering them a main source of power and authority.
The Road Map resurfaced in 2003 and stipulated that the Palestinian party make a change in the Palestinian administration and the innovation of the Prime Minister’s post and making the PM in charge of the security services in order to carry out the security commitments demanded of the Palestinian Authority in accordance with the same map.
According to this, an agreement between the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmud Abbas, the Bush administration, and the Sharon government was made in March 2005, which entailed the formation of an American security coordination team. The duty of this team was to train and prepare the Palestinian security services and supervise the process of the security coordination between the occupation and the Palestinian Authority.
The Israeli Position
The occupation government dealt with the security dossier according to its view of the Palestinian Authority’s role in the settlement process. Therefore, the President of the Israeli government, Sharon, retaliated to the Second Intifada (Al-Aqsa Intifada) by launching a mass destruction attack, striking most of the Palestinian Authority’s headquarters and institutions. As an expression of Israel’s dropping of the Oslo Agreement and demolishing the pillars of the Palestinian Authority, the occupation forces launched Operation Defensive Shield at the end of March 2002 that led to the reoccupation of all the West Bank cities, which was punishment for their failure to see their task of preserving the security through to Israel’s standards.
Even when the Road Map surfaced in 2003, Israel intervened in the formulation of its content before announcing it, and had 14 reservations after that, as well as making the stipulation that the Bush Administration to take its reservations into account in exchange for the government’s agreement to the plan! These reservations focused on striking the resistance and protecting Israel before taking any political actions.
Although Abbas took many actions when it came to the matter of security, the occupation government wasn’t pleased with his achievements and didn’t think they met their standards. Israel also stated that “there is no Palestinian partner” in the peace process. Based on this, Sharon crystallized the unilateral disengagement plan as an active expression of his renouncement of the peace process, in accordance with the Road Map, which was supposed to lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state.
In the meantime, the Israeli government joined an agreement which led to the formation of the security coordination team in March 2005, the occupation wasn’t satisfied by just describing the desired purpose of making the team, but it also stipulated the need to be briefed firsthand on the team’s agenda and that it was necessary that the Israeli government approve all of its measures and actions. This means, that the Israeli government assigned itself the role of the monitor who evaluates the performance of the Palestinian security services.
According to this, some media sources reported that the Israeli government criticized Dayton and his team for their failure after Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in mid 2007. At the end of 2008, a number of officials from the Israeli Ministry of War commended the performance of the members of the Palestinian security services in their role of coordinating with the occupation forces and tracking down the resistance. Zionist sources also reported them stating that the development of the new Palestinian security services is a true step towards the war on Hamas and Jihad. However, this didn’t stop them from warning the same services by saying: nevertheless, if these services fail in the night raids to arrest the resistance movement activists, the stability of the area won’t have a real effect.
The Position of the Palestinian Authority
Since he first became President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmud Abbas enforced the implementation of the security articles in the Road Map plan. He made the Cairo Agreement with the resistance factions in March 2005, through which he was able to reach a unilateral Palestinian ceasefire with the hope of pleasing the Israelis, but it was no use.
Moreover, although the Israeli side paid no attention to any of Abbas’ actions, the Palestinian Authority continued to cooperate with the security coordination team to re-form the security services and integrate them, and to resume the security coordination with the occupation forces.
When the results of the legislative council elections were revealed in January 2006, Abbas began a process of retaining control over the security services as a presidential power, after he had passed it on to the Minister of Interior and Council of Ministers. This is a clear sign of how keen Abbas is to cling onto the security means as a necessary requirement in order to guarantee the continuation of the settlement with the Israelis.
When Hamas formed its 10th government and led the 11th National Unity Government, Fatah’s influential parties played the role of using the security services as a tool to wreak security havoc and spread chaos in a manner meant to baffle the “Hamas government” and lead to its collapse. This matter later developed to Hamas’ reaction of the decisive battle on 14/6/2007 and later the fragmentation between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
Despite what happened, the President of the Palestinian Authority continued to fulfill his “security commitments” in accordance with the Road Map, but this time it was on the West Bank arena. Abbas appointed Salam Fayyad, one day after the clashes, with the formation of the “emergency government” while he also did issue a series of decrees accordingly to monopolize the armed power. These included the decree issued on 26/6/2007, where Abbas ordered dissolving what he called “armed militias”, meaning the resistance factions. Fayyad’s government then began prosecuting the resistance and targetting resistance groups, logistics and infrastructure, and seizing their arms. The government in Ramallah went as far as considering the possession of arms a crime punishable by law.
Lt.-Gen. Dayton began by addressing the Palestinians and Jordanians in regards to what they are looking forward to and said, “If there must be a Palestinian state, then we have some serious work ahead of us, on the borders and managing the crossings. Then, there is Gaza and Hamas’ armed formations, which are a big challenge standing in the way of the future of the Palestinian state.
In short, in his words, this is the purpose for which the American General came to achieve. This is the task both addressed parties must help him complete, if, of course, they want to be promised with the fulfillment of the Palestinian dream and if the Jordanians want to sleep without worrying about “nightmares” coming at them from the west side of the river.
As a translation of the general agreed upon policies, Dayton made it clear that his team is in a close bond partnership with the Palestinians, Jordanians, and Israelis for a year and a half, under the title “Peace through Security”, to show that his work represents a regional program in which all the concerned parties are participants.
Indeed, the process of re-forming the security creed of the members of the Palestinian security services was carried out, and the majority of the mobilization was based on the phrase: You weren’t brought here to be taught how to fight Israel. The process of mobilization continued until Dayton himself praised it by saying: Confidence in that they are building their country has generated among the members of the security services.
Due to these events, the exhibition of hostility and the clashes between the security services and the resistance and even the settlers disappeared and were replaced with displays of trust and cooperation. The reports and statements of a number of senior occupation officials mentioned that there is coordination between the Israeli army and the Palestinian security services to deal with the demonstrations and track down the resistance, whom they called “terrorists”, to expose the resistance’s infrastructure and destroy it.
In return, the policy of strictness with the Palestinian resistance wings or “the armed gangs”, and breaking up the military formations or “militias”, was adopted. Dayton pointed out that about 1600 of the members of this new force, who attended training courses funded by the U.S in Jordan, have led security attacks in the cities of the West Bank and have arrested hundreds of Hamas, Jihad, and other resistance faction members. He went on to say: This was achieved through widespread coordination between them and the Israelis.
Perhaps, based on this, the element of insecurity is exploited anytime the Fatah and Hamas negotiations come close to reaching a joint agreement or come close to reorganizing the Palestinian house. Moreover, one of the worse displays of insecurity exploitation in the West Bank is the arrest of hundreds and the torture and humiliation of them, which sometimes led to the death of prisoners, as it did with Sheikh Majd Al-Barghouti on 22/2/2008.
Security coordination increased between the Palestinian security bodies and the occupation army. As the security bodies arrested the demonstrators in the West Bank and worked at “eliminating” disturbances which broke out because of the aggression and blockade imposed on Gaza in 2008 and 2009, a network of security service members cooperated with the Zionist occupation during the war in Gaza by executing acts of vandalism, murder, and undermining security, as well as observing, tracking, and exposing the actions of the resistance and the security services in the Gaza Strip. This was discovered on 28/2/2009 by the Palestinian government’s Ministry of Interior in the Gaza Strip. It was then announced that these members were a part of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah.
After the formation of Netanyahu’s government, and despite talk concerning the inability to continue the political negotiations between the Palestinian Authority the occupation, Dayton made a statement implying his continuation of the implementation of his security program when he said: We now have plans to prepare three other teams in Jordan, which is equivalent to 15,000 of the National Security forces, and to establish two bases of operations. He also added: we have plans to train the officials, including the middle ranking officers. Moreover, the officials of the Palestinian security services revealed, on 28/3/2009, that the senior officials of the preventive security reached the British capital city of London, it appears, to participate in security meetings, courses, and arrangements.
With Abbas’ repeated call for the need to hold presidential and legislative elections, by having Hamas’ approval on one hand, and having Dayton continue at his current pace, on the other, the process of security coordination is expected to head towards one of the following possible scenarios:
1. Putting an end to the arrests and continuing the process of building the security services and the intelligence coordination with the occupation through the American security coordination team. This possibility makes Abbas in a position of holding the stick from the middle. On one side, he appears as though he began to respond to the conditions of the Palestinian reconciliation and on the other, he hasn’t backed down from his commitments made in Annapolis and the Road Map.
It is possible, in the light of this that the amplification of the “conflict” between some of the security officers in the West Bank and Dayton may occur based on the last statements made by the latter, at the Washington Institute, in which he spoke in a manner that “humiliated the Palestinian Authority in front of its people”.
Abbas’ keenness to not lose the general international “momentum”, especially that of the Americans, by supporting the Palestinian Authority’s position on the Israeli “label”, makes him rule out such tactics at the present time.
2. Ending the security coordination to pave the way to Hamas’ agreement to hold legislative and presidential elections in January 2010, as a response to Mahmud Abbas’ invitation. During this period, Hamas hopes to organize its lines in the West Bank, which will enable it to consecrate the resistances’ validity on a national level.
However, in the Palestinian leadership and the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, the security coordination and the settlement course are higher up on the list of priorities than the internal Palestinian reconciliation and rearrangement of the Palestinian house; The PA was keen in guaranteeing that any internal Palestinian reconciliation does not damage or negatively affect the authority’s security and political “credibility” from the Israeli and American perspective.
Based on this, in the present time, the security factor which is tied to the American-Israeli standards will remain a dominant factor even if this reflects negatively on the national reconciliation course.
3. The continuation of the security coordination which is considered a political commitment of Mahmud Abbas to his partners in the peace settlement (the Israelis and Americans). The government in Ramallah views its success in the security test as an insurance policy against bankruptcy.
The chance of this scenario is enhanced by the fact that the security services in the West bank continue to make political arrests, even though it caused a halt in the national reconciliation. Moreover, the American administration acknowledged the plan of the security coordination team until 2012, and Congress allowed Dayton to continue his mission for two more years, as a sign of content with his performance and the desire to “invest” in the West Bank through “Peace through Security”.
for the PA and the Palestinians
• Giving priority to the Palestinian people and the national interest over any foreign conditions or dependencies, as well as prioritizing the process of reconciliation and re-arrangement of the Palestinian internal setting and ending the division.
• Returning to the adopted National Unity Government program that guarantees the “right of the Palestinian people to resist the occupation”.
• Consider the commitment of implementing the “Road Map and the Israeli reservations on it” the two reasons for the security havoc, the fragmentation, and the work on striking the resistance’s structure.
• Reassuring the Palestinian right to self-determination and “establishing an independent Palestinian state” as acquired rights that cannot be exchanged for the occupation’s security and can never be attained by giving up national unity.
• Unity and resistance are two vital components to preserving the Palestinian national rights. Therefore, we shouldn’t depend on the American promises that haven’t proved their credibility, especially regarding the right of the Palestinian people, as well as meeting the endless Israeli demands, which are always at the expense of the rights of the Palestinian people and their national basic stipulations.
Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations would like to sincerely thank Mr. Mooen Manna’, for writing the original text on which basis this assessment was written.
The Arabic version of this Assessment was published on August 2009