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Palestinian Security Sector

The Palestinian security apparatus is composed of numerous intelligence and security agencies. Their mission and organizational placement within the Palestinian Authority has remained largely undefined, causing much duplication and functional overlaps. For example, some have never had functioning powers, others had competing missions, many operated independently and nearly all reported directly to Arafat. In addition, there are armed militias that are not subordinated to the Palestinian Authority.

The spreading state of anarchy and lawlessness in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, both West Bank and Gaza Strip, was largely due to the power struggle among rival Palestinian security services and the related unwillingness of Arafat to replace the security forces chiefs, fearing more internal fighting. Instead of being loyal to the Palestinian Authority, the security forces are primarily devoted to their commanders. When a chief is dismissed from his job, his influence remains intact and the forces continue to be subordinated to him, even though he is no longer in charge. The situation is extremely difficult and complicated, with the risk of loosing utterly the control and heading towards a civil war.

The Palestinian Police Force (PPF), also referred to as the General Security Service (GSS), was established in May 1994 and includes the Palestinian Public Security Force; the Palestinian Civil Police; the Preventive Security Force (PSF); the General Intelligence Service, or Mukhabarat; the Palestinian Presidential Security Force; and the Palestinian Coastal Police. Other quasi-military security organizations, such as the military intelligence organization, also exercise de facto law enforcement powers. Palestinian police are responsible for security and law enforcement for Palestinians and other non-Israelis in PA-controlled areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israeli settlers in the occupied territories are not subject to PA security force jurisdiction. Members of the PA security forces committed numerous, serious human rights abuses throughout the year.

Prior to the eruption of the second intifada in 2000, a number of security agencies had proved to be reliable and effective. 'Preventive Security' in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with the assistance of the American Central Intelligence Agency, exchanged intelligence information and maintained strong cooperative relations with Israeli intelligence agencies, and the 'Police Forces' maintained a certain level of public order and security.

In June 2002 Arafat reshuffled his cabinet and curtailed the number of ministerial positions. He also streamlined the security apparatus by nominating a Minister of Interior to be in charge of three important arms: the police, the Preventive Security Service, and the National Security Service. On 26 June 2002, the PA published a 100-Day Plan for Reforms.

The Palestinian reform plan-in conjunction with international plans-is to integrate all agencies that serve the interests of security into three main bodies. Preventive Security Services, Police Forces and Civil Defense will fall under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Interior, while General Intelligence and Public Security will continue to report directly to Arafat. The objective and aim of reform is to centralize command and control of the security apparatus and to supervise and implement security sector reform on all fronts. In addition, the plan calls for considerable downsizing of forces, separation of powers, training and technical assistance, the establishment of a National Security Council and the creation of real budgets and oversight committees with financial and budgetary powers.

The government's program calls for the immediate implementation of previous security sector reform decisions. The three agencies entrusted with internal security-Preventive Security, Police Forces and Civil Defense fell under the jurisdiction and direct supervision of the Prime Minister, thereby effectively creating a clear chain of command and control. With the appointment of a Minister of State for Internal Affairs, the new Palestinian security apparatus is now in the process of consolidating power and reconstituting Palestinian security forces with a view to establishing law, order and security in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Implementation of this plan depends in large part on the renewed engagement of the United States in the Security Oversight Group as well as Israel's active engagement to assist the process.

Palestinian National Security Advisor Jibril Al-Rajoub announced in June 2004 that the Palestinian security apparatuses will be reduced to three in accordance with the "roadmap" peace plan, which was drafted by the Quartet and adopted in November 2003 by the UN Security Council. Al-Rajoub told reporters that "these apparatuses are the national security services, the general security services and the political services that will abide by the National Security Council (NSC) and Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei."

Arafat's death in November 2004 sparked much speculation regarding the shifting power balance among possible leaders, the various security agencies, the PA, the PLO, and the various political and militia groups in Palestine. Ahmed Qurei, prime minister, was set to become chairman of the NSC. However, given the confusion amongst the agencies under Arafat's rule, and Arafat's role as a unifying figure, it remained unclear how the agencies would operate in the post-Arafat era in which domestic challenges to PA authority were likely to be greater.

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Page last modified: 28-07-2011 00:54:11 ZULU