There are strong reservations about the wisdom of the US training a Palestinian security force.
Israel recently approved the delivery of Russian armored personnel carriers for the Palestinian Authority, while it continues to laud American assistance to PA security forces.
The program in question began in March 2005, with the establishment of a US security coordinator team, headed by Lt.-Gen. Keith Dayton, who is due to step down from that post in the fall.
Plans then called for selected PA national security force troops to be trained and equipped by the US. The idea was to transform the old PLO terror militia into a professional force that would build a nation.
Five years later, with millions of dollars expended on this ongoing program, cogent reasons for doubting its wisdom present themselves.
Maj.-Gen. (res.) Ya’acov Amidror, former head of the IDF’s Research and Assessment Division, suggested last year that the Americans may be acting with “a certain naivete.” Concurring, an Arab journalist with connections to the PA has stated that “to expect political fruits from this is a mistake – an illusion.”
One of the more serious questions that has surfaced concerns the loyalty of the troops being trained. Dayton says they are loyal to “the Palestinian flag and the Palestinian people.”
Palestinian society, however, is founded on traditional Arab culture, whose first allegiance is to the clan (hamula), and not the nation.
Dr. Mordechai Kedar, research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, observes that “when (not if) there will be domestic problems in the PA/Palestinian state, these people will be loyal primarily to their clan rather than to the state, since they will never shoot their brothers or cousins.”
THE ROLE Hamas might play vis-à-vis these forces is another cause for alarm. PA troops are expected to stand against Hamas so that it cannot take over in Judea and Samaria.
Yet a proposal for a “unity government” that would forge a Fatah- Hamas coalition remains on the table. The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs in Washington has voiced strong reservations about the wisdom of US training of a Palestinian security force without a clear understanding of the authority to which that force would ultimately answer. It is possible that the very PA troops expected to contain Hamas might come to be commanded by Hamas. After all, that is precisely what occurred in Gaza, where we witness Hamas forces brandishing American weapons.
Meanwhile, the fear that Palestinian troops may turn their weapons on the IDF stems from the precedent of what occurred with the outbreak of the second intifada 10 years ago, when Palestinian troops nurtured and trained by the US and even by the IDF engaged in a fullscale armed action against Israel.
Indeed, the PA issued an official report, funded by the American government and the European Union, which indicates that the PA security forces had risen to a “pre-army” level. That report, published by the Palestine Center for Policy and Social Research, mentions that the PA forces have been significantly professionalized thanks to US military aid, which, over the past 18 months, has trained five battalions in a four-month course held in Jordan.
In other words, were PA troops, in frustration and anger, to turn on Israel, they would do so with a newfound competence, thanks to the training being provided by the US.
Perhaps the time has come to recall that a major stipulation of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s plan for a Palestinian state, which he presented at Bar- Ilan University on June 14, 2009, was that “in any peace agreement, the territory under Palestinian control must be disarmed, with solid security guarantees for Israel.”
David Bedein works as director of the Israel Resource News Agency and the Center for Near East Policy Research, www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com and the Middle East Correspondent for the Philadelphia Bulletin,www.TheBulletin.us.
Arlene Kushner is the senior research analyst for the Center for Near East Policy Research and author of a daily blog, ‘Arlene From Israel