Glenn Kessler reports on the status of Palestinian efforts to secure their territories for more far-reaching peace initiatives in today’s Washington Post, and finds that the Palestinian Authority has fallen far short in even forming a unified security force under civilian control. The Palestinians still refuse to confront and disarm militants, perhaps because a majority of their official state security forces don’t really exist:
Though Israel is scheduled to depart the Gaza Strip in six weeks, the badly fractured Palestinian security forces are still struggling to consolidate into a body capable of maintaining control, a top U.S. general told Congress yesterday.
Lt. Gen. William E. Ward, who four months ago was assigned to assist the Palestinians with their security services, described a difficult and at times frustrating experience of trying to reorganize a “dysfunctional” system of individual fiefdoms and an almost nonexistent chain of command. The Palestinian police also have little infrastructure or communications equipment, much of it having been destroyed by the Israelis in the past four years. …
Ward testified that about 20,000 of the 58,000 Palestinians with security jobs show up for work. Over time, he said, the security services had turned into a “social welfare net,” with payments being made to people even if they did not contribute to the day-to-day security on the streets.
Kessler doesn’t ask how many of the 38,000 official security personnel avoid work due to other commitments, such as operations for Islamic Jihad, Hamas, or Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. Somehow I doubt that all 38,000 AWOL security forces use their stipends as nothing more than a welfare check. Later in the piece, Kessler quotes General Ward as skeptical about Palestinian efforts to co-opt militant groups rather than confront and disarm them, but that large percentage of unaccountable “police” officers — almost two-thirds — suggests that the militants have co-opted Palestinian security, not the other way around.
Until the Palestinians get serious about putting their security forces under clear civilian control and eliminating the militias, they cannot handle the responsibilities of sovereignty and statehood. As it stands, the Palestinian territories resemble Somalia, a recognized failed state, more than they resemble even Egypt or Syria, let alone Jordan or Kuwait. The Israelis had better build a big wall to keep the chaos out when the UN forces them to transfer official sovereignty to Abbas and the gang at Ramallah.