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July 26, 2005
Pointing To A Failed State

An independent study on the effectiveness of official Palestinian security forces show them to be understaffed, outgunned, ineffective and corrupt. The BBC reports on the unsurprising results, which the Dutch and Canadian governments funded, that point to the folly of granting sovereignty to the Palestinian Authority:

The lack of equipment includes shortages of ammunition, of means of communication beyond mobile phones and of all-terrain vehicles.

Other problems include the continuing power of personalities and clans, which often create alternative, informal chains of command and weaken the authority of the man in overall charge, Palestinian Authority Interior Minister Nasser Yousef.

BBC Jerusalem correspondent Nick Thorpe says the problems are closely tied to the history of the conflict in recent years - the destruction of the Palestinian police infrastructure by the Israelis since the start of the second intifada, or Palestinian uprising, in 2000.

Continuing attempts to streamline the forces are praised by the report, but the overall picture is disturbing. It says the Palestinian forces are caught between far better equipped Palestinian militant groups on the one side and the Israeli army on the other.

The Israelis had to "destroy the police infrastructure" after 2000 because the Palestinian Authority used them to assist groups like the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade in carrying out attacks on Israelis. Had Arafat and the Palestinians used their police infrastructure for law-enforcement purposes instead of another terrorist gang, then Israel would not have needed to crush it. The Oslo accords and every negotiation since then has attempted to get the Palestinians to accept responsibility for maintaining peace on their own, and they continually subverted their police for war and terrorism instead.

Now that the years of corruption and co-optation have taken their toll, no one should express surprise that the police force that the Palestinians have left have no real influence or power, or that clan affiliations carry more weight with the rank and file than the corrupt government that misused them for years. Before a police force can enforce the law, the government which promulgates it has to value the law. Perhaps Abbas does, or maybe he just pretends better than Arafat, but either way those "police" who managed to make it this far without getting killed did so by not having much illusion as to their mission under Arafat and Fatah.

Under these conditions, without a strong and credible independent force capable of taking on the various militias and gangs that outshoot government representatives, the entire Palestinian enterprise will roll downhill faster and faster towards a Somalia-like conclusion. Warlords and gangsters will rule the West Bank and Gaza territories, while the ineffectual central government holes up in Ramallah. Laws will be issued, but the "police" and government security forces will remain thoroughly infiltrated and under the regional and local influences of clan affiliation and gang leadership.

And into this stew of chaos and gang warfare, al-Qaeda will establish itself as a player, just as it did in Somalia. Osama bin Laden will not resist building a significant organization within easy reach of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, as well as the open waters of the Mediterranean.

Until the Palestinians reform their security forces and start to seriously address the militias and gangs, granting sovereignty to Abbas will create a failed state right where it will strategically and tactically do the most harm. Either we need to keep the lid on the West Bank and Gaza or we need to have someone replace Israel as an admnistrator until we see results.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 26, 2005 6:33 AM

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Tracked on July 27, 2005 2:50 AM

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