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ISRAEL-OPT: Donors pledge aid to Palestinian police, judiciary

RAMALLAH, 27 June 2008 (IRIN) - Palestinian police officers in the West Bank have reason to be optimistic, after donors at a conference in Berlin pledged US$242 million in aid to help reform civil security forces and the judiciary.

"As soon as the money from the donors comes in, we will know exactly what to do with it," Adnan Damiri, a Palestinian police spokesman, told IRIN, adding that the Palestinian Authority had many projects it wanted to implement.

The main focus, Damiri said, will be training and the building of police stations, "so we can better serve the citizens".

The police were severely affected by Israeli military operations during the second `intifada’, or uprising, which began in September 2000: Police stations were damaged, and equipment, including cars and communication devices, were destroyed or confiscated by the Israeli military.

The police officers' situation was made more precarious by the international financial sanctions on the Palestinian Authority during the time that Hamas led the government between early 2006 and mid 2007 - when the police were not paid.

"Officers were selling off the remaining equipment in the police stations, so they could bring home some money for their families," recounted one member of the police, requesting anonymity. "It was a very hard time."

"We sat at home basically for most of seven years, but we were able to surprise the Europeans with how good our forces still were," said Ismail, a senior trainer with the police, referring to foreign officers now assisting the Palestinians.

The money raised at Berlin - some $180 million - will go on police training in the West Bank, primarily through the European police programme named EU COPPS, recruitment, the procurement of items like cars, and the building of police stations over the next three years.

It would also help train judges and improve the capacity of the justice system in the West Bank.

EU officials stressed the importance they placed on linking a well functioning police system with a good judiciary.

Berlin-Annapolis

There is also a strong link between Berlin and the Israeli-Palestinian peace track, which was re-launched last year at the Annapolis summit in the USA, followed up by the Paris Conference, which raised over $7 billion in pledges. The money at Berlin came from unallocated funds already pledged at the first conference.

Israel's Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni who attended the conference, said Israel must be able to "hand over the keys to an effective and responsible government able to restore law and order".

Livni said in a statement "the majority of the Israeli public" would accept "territorial concessions in return for peace… when we are certain of what will happen on the other side of the border".

Tony Blair, the envoy of the Quartet - made up of the USA, the EU, Russia and the UN - said the Palestinians' ability to ensure security was a vital component needed to establish their independent state.

However, Palestinian security officials said Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank made it hard for them to operate.

Peter Lerner from Israel's coordination office in the Palestinian territories told IRIN that in addition to allowing new stations to be opened, a "rapid coordination" system was in effect, which enabled Palestinian police located in Area A (the autonomous territory according to the Oslo Accords) to reach Area B (the area under joint control) within 30 minutes.

As the Berlin conference, which relates solely to the West Bank, went on, a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip took some hits. Israel killed Palestinian militants in the West Bank and rockets were fired from Gaza at southern Israel, causing crossing points to the enclave to close.

The Islamist Hamas movement, which ousted Fatah forces last summer from Gaza and took total control over the Strip, is boycotted by most of the international community for its refusal to recognise Israel and renounce violence. Its police forces do not receive assistance from the West.

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Theme(s): (IRIN) Aid Policy, (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Governance

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Copyright © IRIN 2008
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
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