Israel Resource Review 1st August, 2003


From Clandestine Army to Guardians of Terror:
The Palestinian Security Forces and the Second Intifada
Dr. Gal Luft
Dr. Gal Luft is co-director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security (IAGS)

Presentation given at the National Press Club in Washington, DC on July 24th, 2003

(Presentation hosted by the Center For Near East Policy Research and the Israel Resource News Agency)

Copyright © Gal Luft

[Permission to use this material only with the express consent of Dr. Luft]


In the period between the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993 and the outbreak of the second intifada in September 2000, the Palestinian Authority (PA) proved that it had not renounced the use of force as a viable instrument of policy. On the contrary, throughout the eight years of diplomatic negotiations with Israel, it has repeatedly and deliberately used violent means whenever diplomacy failed to fulfill the Palestinians' political aspirations. Palestinian Minister of Information, Yasser Abd Rabou, confirmed this two-prong strategy: "The Palestinian side," he said, "will make clear that the negotiations will go on alongside the Palestinian struggle against the occupation. It would be impossible to continue the negotiations unless it is to a certain extent combined with a certain [level] of struggle against the occupation."

To be able to combine violence and diplomacy, the PA needed to develop a military capability that would allow it to offset Israel's overwhelming military superiority. And indeed, under the guise of an innocent police force, a sizable Palestinian military apparatus emerged west of the Jordan River Valley. The army of the PA became a complex, badly managed cluster of at least a dozen loosely connected armed groups, not including the other Fatah-affiliated armed groups: Tanzim and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. Operating under a "divide and conquer" strategy, PA chairman Yasser Arafat built his forces in such a way that only he could arbitrate between them, giving none of them enough power to threaten his regime. All of them, however, were given leeway to develop capabilities that would eventually threaten Israel.

Several times prior to the second intifada Palestinian military and para-military forces were engaged in fighting against Israel. In addition to the 1982 Lebanon War in which Israel defeated Palestinian brigades belonging to the Palestinian National Liberation Army, the Israel Defense Force (IDF) met the Palestinian armed forces in combat twice before the summer of 2000. The first incident occurred in September 1996 following a controversial decision made by then Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to open to the public a Herodian Tunnel in the Old City of Jerusalem. The decision sparked a three-day combat in which 69 Palestinians and 14 IDF soldiers died, and over 1,200 people were wounded. Most of the fire in this encounter was generated by uniformed Palestinian policemen who had been trained to prevent exactly such occurrence. For the IDF, the Tunnel riots were a seminal event that changed the attitude toward the PA's security services from a partner for peace to a potential foe. As a result, the IDF revised its doctrine and began to seriously prepare for the possibility of an armed clash with the Palestinian security services.

May 2000 brought the outbreak of a second wave of riots, referred to by the Palestinians as the "al-Nakba Riots". The participation of the uniformed Palestinian security forces in these riots was more limited than in 1996. Alternatively, the riots introduced Tanzim, the armed faction of the Fatah movement, as an independent armed militia and a key player in the Israeli-Palestinian security arena. It became apparent that by arming and financing popular militias in the PA controlled territories, Yasser Arafat has been preparing an alternative military force to operate alongside his official, uniformed security apparatus.

The two violent clashes exposed the duality in the PA's way of using force. The PA has managed to integrate conventional military capabilities with popular elements operating at the grass-roots level. The merit of this duality of means is that it allows the PA to engage in a popular war and yet continue to build conventional military capabilities that might be needed for a wider, high-intensity conflict. Summer 2000 brought about two major events: the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon and the failure of the Camp David peace negotiations. Inspired by Hizbullah's success in driving Israel out of Lebanon, Arafat decided, as many times before, to improve Palestinian political standing through the use of force. Asymmetrical warfare has emerged in modern history as the weapon of the weak; he thought that as such, if used persistently, it could yield substantial gains. The success of dedicated, poorly equipped guerrilla forces in prevailing over superior conventional armies in places like Algiers, Vietnam, Sudan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, and Lebanon, has been a source of inspiration to many Palestinians. ]

They believed that a protracted campaign of terror and violence would be sufficient to bring Israel to make further concessions to those made in Camp David. Hence, the tenets of the PA's strategy of fighting Israel in the first year of the intifada were violent demonstrations designed to give it an image of a popular struggle complemented by a campaign of terror by Islamic fundamentalist groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. These groups enjoyed freedom of operation and often the direct assistance of the Palestinian security forces. In addition, the PA launched a massive propaganda campaign and used diplomatic manipulations in an attempt to internationalize the conflict. To make things worse, Arafat allowed the Tanzim to develop as a parallel paramilitary force with so many weapons and so much power that his security apparatuses could not stand against it even if he decided to stop the violence. Tanzim members -- many of whom also serve in the ranks of the Palestinian security forces -- often act as though they are above the law and therefore did not submit to the authority of the Palestinian police. The few attempts by Palestinian police to arrest popular Tanzim activists or to confiscate their weapons ended in civil disobedience and, at times, in violence.

In the second year of the intifada Tanzim, through its military wing the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, adopted the use of suicide bombers and took the lead of the terror campaign from the Islamists. In fact, Tanzim was responsible for some of the bloodiest terror attacks inside Israel including the March 2002 Passover Massacre in which 29 Israelis were killed while attending a Seder in Netanya. Tanzim's espousal of terror as a key component in its war against Israel blurred the lines between the Islamists and the PA allowing the Palestinian security forces to openly engage in terrorism.

Documented evidence gathered from Arafat's offices in Ramallah reveal a disturbing picture of Arafat's personal involvement in financing and facilitating terrorism. The documents also prove beyond doubt the deep involvement in terrorism of top officials in the Palestinian security establishment.

This brought about a change in the Israeli approach toward Arafat and his units. They were no longer perceived as guardians of peace but rather as part of the Palestinian terrorist infrastructure. Hence, over the thirty three months following September 2000, the IDF has launched numerous attacks against Palestinian military infrastructure using helicopters, jet fighters, tanks and missiles to destroy most of the PA's headquarters, training bases, vehicles and equipment. The heaviest attack occurred in March 2002, after Palestinian terrorism rocked Israel's main cities no less than 12 times in one month, killing 70 and wounding 548. Israel decided to take off the gloves and do exactly what Arafat had promised to do but failed to deliver: eliminate the Palestinian centers of terror. On March 28, hundreds of Israeli tanks and armored personnel carriers rolled into six Palestinian-controlled cities. One by one, Ramallah, Kalkilya, Tulkarem, Bethlehem, Nablus and Jenin were seized by the IDF as part of Operation Defensive Shield. The operation was a heavy blow to the PA. Thousands of weapons were confiscated and hundreds of militants were arrested including many members of the security apparatuses.

The view that the Palestinian security forces are tainted with terror is also held today by the U.S. administration. In his historic June 24 speech, President George W. Bush declared that Palestinian statehood would be conditioned on a complete reform of the security forces and total rejection of terrorism. "Palestinian authorities are encouraging, not opposing, terrorism. This is unacceptable," he said. "The United States will not support the establishment of a Palestinian state until its leaders engage in a sustained fight against the terrorists and dismantle their infrastructure. This will require an externally supervised effort to rebuild and reform the Palestinian security services. The security system must have clear lines of authority and accountability and a unified chain of command."

The demand for comprehensive reforms in Arafat's security services was also repeated in the Quartet's "roadmap" to Israeli-Palestinian peace, developed in order to fulfill the vision laid out in Bush's June 24 speech. Disappointingly, as of this writing, the necessary reforms have not been implemented and there is no sign that the Palestinians are prepared to relinquish violence as a tool to achieve their political aspirations.

The chaotic nature of the situation on the ground poses great challenge for military analysts trying to assess current Palestinian military capabilities. Nevertheless, this study attempts to describe the status of the various apparatuses, their weapons, missions, doctrine, training, and their relations with fellow security bodies. It also presents an assessment of the implications of the intifada on the readiness of the forces and their ability to endure a long period of fighting with Israel.

The second part of this work will examine the different aspects in which Palestinian military forces could pose a military challenge to the IDF and to Israel at large. These aspects will be reviewed through three scenarios. The first is, in essence, a prolongation of the existing situation in which Israel and the PA military bodies fight each other using guerrilla and counter-guerrilla tactics. The tactics used by the Palestinians under this scenario include ambushes, bombings, drive-by shootings, coordinated attacks on Israeli military outposts in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and terror attacks against Israeli civilians.

The IDF's action involves the use of high-tech weapons and specialized units and is directed mainly toward Palestinian military installations, infrastructure of terror organizations and individuals suspected in military activity against Israel. At times, IDF units carry out incursions into Palestinian controlled territories for punitive or preemptive purposes or to remove threats from the vicinity of Israeli settlements.

Nevertheless, despite the intensity of the fighting, both sides refrain from using their entire arsenal and military capabilities against each other. The Israeli military has so far refrained from invading and re-conquering the Gaza Strip, the center of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and the PA has held back some of its forefront units from joining the fray.

The second scenario will describe an all-out Israeli-Palestinian military confrontation in which the PA uses all the weapons, units and tactics that have not been used until now. Naturally, such escalation will force Israel to expand its own arsenal of lethal weapons, including the extensive use of air power, artillery and heavy armored formations. According to various reports, Israel is not ruling out the possibility of launching an all-out attack against the PA in the Gaza Strip in response to escalated violence. Such radical measures would entail the IDF to move into the city of Gaza in order to destroy the military and political infrastructure of the PA and the terror organizations it hosts. This, in turn, would put the PA in a battle for its survival. The Palestinians' lack of a comprehensive defense system and the disparity in power between the PA forces and the IDF would bring about a complete destruction of the remainder of the PA's military infrastructure as well as its political institutions. But before this happens, the IDF will have to meet Arafat's soldiers in the narrow streets of cities like Gaza, Rafah, Khan Yunis and the adjacent refugee camps as well as in West Bank cities which the IDF invaded many times before. Urban war, as the IDF experienced in the battle of Jenin refugee Camp during Operation Defensive Shield, could be complex and costly in term of casualties. Success in such a war depends mostly on the ability of the attacker to crush the fighting will of the defender before international intervention takes place. The degree of persistence and willpower of the Palestinian security forces and the Palestinian population from which these forces draw their support is likely to be one of the most important considerations that would determine whether Israel should embark on such an operation. The PA, seeking new means of deterrence to deter Israel from launching such an attack, may resort to examining unorthodox options in the sphere mega-terror attacks and use of non-conventional weapons.

The third scenario will focus on the role of the Palestinian military forces in the event of a regional war involving one or few Arab players such as Syria, Libya, Iran, and Hizbullah. The danger of intervention of more Arab states such as Saudi Arabia or Morocco as well as the abrogation of existing peace treaties with Jordan and Egypt should not be discounted. The plausibility of such a scenario have been, somewhat, reduced in the wake of the terror attacks on New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, the subsequent U.S. declaration of war on terrorist organizations and their host nations and U.S liberation of Iraq. But the unpredictable nature of the region, the conflicting agendas of the different players and the traditional fragility of military coalitions still give this scenario a degree of plausibility.

Such a war could be triggered, for example, by a Hizbullah missile attack on Israel's north. Such an attack is likely to elicit massive Israeli retaliation against Syrian-occupied Lebanon and Syria itself and might involve other countries. Palestinian action could also trigger regional turmoil. A successful mega-terror attack causing hundreds of Israeli casualties would most likely provoke a large-scale, uninhibited punitive offensive that could, in turn, create a humanitarian crisis, Palestinian flight to Jordan and severe destabilization in the region including a real danger to the Hashemite Kingdom. Fighting in the framework of a coalition of Arab states, the PA military units could have an important supporting role with considerable operational implications on the IDF's ability to mobilize its essential reserve component. Palestinian military and para-military forces could also attempt to attack important military and civilian installations inside Israel itself, creating havoc and significant psychological damage.


The formation of the Palestinian security apparatuses were explicitly defined by the Cairo Agreement signed in May 1994 and the subsequent Oslo II Agreement signed in September 1995. The Cairo Agreement determined that the Palestinian Authority could establish a strong police force that would be referred to as "the Palestinian Police." The duties, functions, structure, deployment and composition of the Palestinian Police, together with provisions regarding its equipment and operation, were prescribed in the agreement. The PA police undertook to perform normal police functions, including maintaining internal security and public order, protecting the public and its property and acting to provide a feeling of security and safety, adopting all measures necessary for preventing crime and protecting public installations and places of special importance.

The Oslo II Agreement signed in September 1995 added an important duty to the Palestinian Police: combating terrorism and violence and preventing incitement to violence.

The agreements also provided the means to do the job. Israel allowed the PA to absorb up to 7,000 veterans of the Palestinian Liberation Army (PLA) living throughout the Arab world and to recruit them into the ranks of the Palestinian Police. The rest of the men were to be recruited from the local population of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian Police was to be composed of seven integral branches: Civil Police, Public Security, Preventive Security, Intelligence, Presidential Guard, Coastal Guard and Emergency Services and Rescue. The agreement specified that except for the Palestinian Police referred to in the agreement, no other armed forces shall be established or operate in the Gaza Strip or the West Bank. In reality, the PA employs today at least 12 different security apparatuses, this without taking into account the Tanzim, Fatah's armed militia, the most dominant force in the second intifada and other armed groups such as the Popular Resistance Committees and the al-Aqsa Martyr Brigades which will be described later.

National-Security Force ( Kuwaat Al-Amn Watani) (NSF)

As the largest security service, numbering about 14,000 men, the NSF is responsible for most of the missions along the borders of "Area A", the area which used to be under exclusive Palestinian control, and inside the cities. Soldiers of the NSF guard most of the checkpoints on the outskirts of main cities taking part in other general security-related missions. Until the outbreak of the second intifada, the force also operated a company specializing in the Israeli-Palestinian Joint Patrols.

The forces in Gaza are organized in three brigades, a northern brigade, responsible for the northern part of the Gaza Strip including Gaza City, a southern brigade responsible for the southern region of Rafah and Khan-Yunis, and a border brigade of approximately 1,000 troops which patrols along the eastern border of the Gaza Strip. In the West Bank, the NSF consists of eight battalions of 400-450 troops deployed in the large Palestinian cities of Ramallah, Jenin, Tulkarem, Jericho, Kalkilyah, Nablus, Hebron, and Bethlehem.

The NSF recruited most of its men from the PLA and gradually added increasing numbers of local recruits. Commanding the NSF in Gaza is General Abdel al Razzak Majaideh. The commander in the West Bank is General Haj Ismail, both officers are PLA veterans. NSF units were equipped with 30 armored vehicles BRDM2, most of them were destroyed in Israeli raids. The troops carry AK-47s and pistols but also keep heavier weapons in their arsenal. Civil Police (Shurta Madaniyya)

The civil police, known as the Blue Police, is the PA's main law enforcement apparatus. It handles ordinary police functions such as directing traffic, arresting common criminals, fighting drug trafficking and keeping public order. The organization employs over 7,500 policemen in Gaza and approximately 4,700 in the West Bank. According to the interim agreement, the Civil Police would also deploy in 25 selected villages and towns throughout the West Bank's Area B, the area of PA civilian jurisdiction and Israeli military control. The policemen in these villages were allowed to carry firearms within the village territory, and to maintain public order but this arrangement has been cancelled since the outbreak of the hostilities.

The police forces are equipped with light weapons and drive blue vehicles. Just like other apparatuses, the infrastructure of the Palestinian Police was considerably damaged by Israel. Members of the Civil Police, including its former commander, General Ghazi Jubali, have been involved in terror attacks against Israeli targets. In July 1997, the IDF caught three policemen who were on their way to attack a Jewish settlement near Nablus. Jubali turned out to be the person who masterminded the attack and since then he is wanted by the Israeli authorities. As a result, he was excluded from all the security negotiations between Israel and the PA. Jubali is prohibited from leaving the Gaza Strip and cannot have direct command over his troops in the West Bank. Police operations in the West Bank are, therefore, directed by the local police chief, Muhammad Jabari, whose headquarters are in Ramallah.

In December 2000, the death of Jubali's deputy Abdel Muati al-Sabawi while trying to dismantle a bomb, revealed the connection of members of the Civil Police to an illicit weapons industry in Gaza. According to Israeli sources, Jubali and some of his deputies were personally involved in coordinating the production of mortar shells and hand grenades.

Jubali was replaced by Brig. Gen Salim al Burdeini. Rapid Deployment Special Police Unit

This is the spearhead of the Civil Police. This force of a few thousand highly trained men specializes in handling complex crises such as severe riots, and counter-terrorism operations. The unit is specifically trained in urban warfare and is the most capable in restoring order in the PA's crowded refugee camps. Many of the commanders of the unit have undergone training in the Soviet Union and one of their important roles is to train instructors for the other Palestinian security services.

In October 2002, a group of Hamas gunmen kidnapped and killed the unit's commander, Col. Rajeh Abu Lihyeh. Hamas refused to hand over the principal suspect and resisted attempts by the PA to storm the refugee camp where he lives. The incident triggered clashes between Fatah and Hamas leading to five deaths.

Presidential Security Force 17 (Amn Al- Ri'asah)

Force 17 is the unit that is responsible for the protection of Yasser Arafat as well as other VIPs and important installations in the PA. This high quality security apparatus, commanded by Faisal Abu-Sharah since 1994, is based on the historical Force 17 which provided PLO leaders intelligence and protection against internal rivals during the 1970s and 1980s.

The force is estimated at 2,000 men in the Gaza Strip, deployed in three geographical battalions: a northern battalion, a southern battalion and a battalion, which controls Gaza City. In the West Bank, the force consists of approximately 1,500 men, most of whom are deployed in Ramallah and commanded by Mahmoud Damara, also known as "Abu-Awad".

In addition to providing security guards, Force 17 deals with counter- terrorism and the arrests of opposition activists and suspects of collaboration with Israel. It also assists the NSF in routine security missions along the border with Israel and patrols the main cities.

Force 17 has two subsidiary bodies, subjected to the Presidential Security command. The first is Force 17 Intelligence Unit whose main mission is gathering information about the activities of the opposition movements and other domestic threats. The other is the Presidential Guard, Arafat's most loyal and trusted inner circle. This small unit of several dozen elite fighters provides the tight security around him, preventing any assassination attempts. The unit commander is Yusuf Ali Ahmed Abdallah, also known as "Dr. Yusuf".

Unlike the other security services, Force 17 consists mainly of officers who came from Tunisia in 1994. These officers are hardly known in the public and lack local ties and popularity that many of the other military leaders enjoy.

According to the IDF, Force 17 members, especially in the West Bank branch, were involved in numerous terror attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians such as shooting attacks, roadside bombs and mortar attacks. In February 2000, a cell of Force 17 members in coordination with Hizballah, was associated with launching mortars on a Gaza Strip settlement. The group's leader, Mas'oud Ayad, was assassinated by the IDF shortly afterwards. On March 30, 2001, Israeli forces bombarded from the air two of the headquarters of this force in Ramallah and Gaza. Soon after, in early April, Israeli forces arrested several members of this force inside Area A. Force 17 bases and offices were severely damaged by Israel's attacks, especially during the attack on Arafat's headquarters in Ramallah during Operation Defensive Shield.

Preventive Security Forces (Amn Al-Wiqa'i) (PSF)

This plainclothes security force operates in the West Bank and Gaza with an estimated power of close to 5,000 agents and is known to be the largest of the PA's intelligence forces. Until the outbreak of the intifada, this body was involved in preventive actions against terrorist and opposition groups as well as information gathering in Israel. It had its own prison and interrogation installations. Some of the PSF activities were associated with violence, abduction of civilians, interrogations, tortures, and other illegal actions. The PSF achieved, therefore, a reputation for human rights violations including the death of tortured detainees.

PSF leaders prior to the hostilities, Jibril Rajub in the West Bank and Muhammad Dahlan in Gaza, were amongst the most powerful individuals in the security establishment. They were politically influential due to their power among the grass roots as well as their political connections with the political leadership of the PA. Both of them were part of the Fatah leadership at the beginning of the first intifada and both were imprisoned in Israel. During the heydays of the peace process, they worked in close cooperation with the Israeli security forces especially in the fields of counter-terrorism and crime prevention. They were also involved in the economic life of the PA and had control over the PA's imports and exports of goods and services. They were known to be involved in corrupt practices such as collection of protection fees, issuing of business licenses, extortion and theft.

With the outbreak of the second intifada, both leaders were faced with increasing criticism regarding their previous collaboration with Israel. To enhance their credibility and patriotism in the eyes of the Palestinian public, they had to re-invent themselves and adopt hard-line positions. As a result, the PSF, especially its Gaza branch, has gradually become an active participant in the fighting. The PSF headquarters in Gaza converted itself into the main center for the manufacturing of weapons and a safe haven for terrorists planning to carry out attacks in the Gaza Strip. Within the headquarters, and with full knowledge and consent from senior members of the PSF, a huge amount of weapons was manufactured and stockpiled. These weapons were handed out freely to terrorist cells belonging to Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, and Fatah, which used them to carry out daily bomb and shooting attacks in the Gaza Strip. Dahlan and his deputy, Rashid Abu-Shabak, were reportedly involved in directing and sponsoring terror attacks against Israeli targets in the Gaza Strip. Abu Shabak has been personally involved in the November 2000 attack on a school bus in Kfar Darom, and is the driving force behind Palestinian production of mortars and rockets. He and his deputy Samir Mashrahawi maintain close working relations with Hamas and PIJ. PSF members in the West Bank have also been involved in planning, executing and backing terror attacks including an attempt to blow up a car bomb in an Israeli population center.

The PSF involvement in terrorism triggered a change in Israel's approach toward the organization. Rajub, Dahlan and Abu-Shabak were treated no more as part of the solution but as a major part of the problem.

Their headquarters were destroyed and key members of their organizations were arrested or assassinated. Due to personal tension with Arafat and the leadership of Tanzim, both security chiefs were forced to step down as part of the changes that took place in the security forces in July 2002. Dahlan's position was taken by Abu-Shabak. Rajub was replaced by Brigadier-General Zuheir Manasra, former governor of Jenin. But PSF members refuse to obey his orders. Instead, they submit to Rajub's deputy Colonel Bashir Nafe. With the establishment of the Palestinian cabinet in May 2003 headed by Mahmoud Abbas, Dahalan was appointed defense minister. He formed a joint apparatus combining the West Bank and Gaza Strip branches of the PSF relieving Manasra from his job. Being a Gaza resident, Dahalan faces difficulties asserting his authority on the PSF in the West Bank and it is yet to be seen whether he succeeds in uniting the two branches under one command.

General Intelligence (Mukhabbarat Al-Amma)

The General Intelligence is the PA's official intelligence body specializing mainly in counter-insurgency and the hunt of collaborators with Israel. It is also involved in intelligence gathering outside the territories, counter-espionage operations and developing relations with other foreign intelligence bodies.

The organization's size is estimated to be 1,000 men, many of whom are highly experienced intelligence agents who worked at the PLO headquarters in Tunis prior to the establishment of the PA. In addition, there are up to 2,000 informers and unofficial employees who render various services to the General Intelligence.

The General Intelligence is headed by Maj. Gen. Amin al-Hindi, who was involved in the 1972 massacre of the Israeli athletes in the Munich Olympics. He disappeared after the attack and emerged 22 years later as the commander of the General Intelligence. But the more visible man in the organization is the West Bank director Tawfik Tirawi, who since the beginning of the intifada, is known to have been involved in organizing civil disobedience as well as numerous terror attacks.

On September 1, 2001, the General Intelligence organization suffered a severe blow with the death of al-Hindi's deputy, Colonel Taisir Khatab. He was reportedly assassinated by an unknown Palestinian organization calling itself the Martyr Bilal al-Ghoul Group.

In June 2002 Tirawi was forced to resign due to personal dispute with Arafat.

Military Intelligence (Astkhabbarat Al-Ashkarim)

A smaller intelligence body of 500-600 men, is headed by Mussa Arafat, Yasser Arafat's nephew. The Military Intelligence is a preventive apparatus, which deals mainly with arrests and interrogations of opposition activists who might endanger the stability of the regime. This body also investigates some of the illegal actions carried out by other intelligence and security bodies. The Military Intelligence is also involved in intelligence gathering in and on Israel. In addition, it arbitrates in the occasional feuds between the different security forces.

Unlike former Gaza Preventive Security Service chief Mohammed Dahlan, who used to be a Fatah leader, or Palestinian Intelligence chief Amin al-Hindi, who earned his reputation as a PLO fighter, Mussa Arafat has very little popular support. His power is mainly derived from his special relationship with Yasser Arafat. On several occasions his unit was involved in fighting, ending up with casualties, with other Palestinian armed bodies. In 1998, Mussa Arafat's men raided the Tanzim office in Ramallah, accidentally killing one Tanzim activist. In other incidents, they fired at the Chairman of the Tanzim in the West Bank, Marwan Barghouti, and few of his associates, thus causing great tension with the local population. In July 2001, the Military Intelligence was involved in armed clashes with members of Hamas and the Palestinian Popular Resistance Committees following the arrests of some of the Committees' men.

Military Police

This is a subordinate body to the Military Intelligence which specializes in riot control, arrests, protection of VIPs and important installations, maintenance of prisons and enforcement of order and discipline among the security bodies. The military police is the PA's ceremonial force and Arafat's guard of honor upon his arrival and departure form Gaza.

Special Security Force (Amn Al-Khatz) (SSF)

The Special Security Force was established in January 1995 and works under Arafat's direct supervision. Its official objective is to gather information about the activities of opposition groups in foreign countries, especially Arab ones, but its actual function is to spy on the PA's other security services. The SSF supplies Arafat with information about cases of corruption and illegal actions of PA officials. It is the smallest of the organizations, numbering several dozen, and headed by Muhammad Natur who is very close to Arafat.

Coast Guard (Shurta Bahariyya)

The official objective of the Coast Guard is the protection of the PA's territorial water mainly against arms and drug smugglers from Egypt. It owned 13 motorboats equipped with machine guns, all of them were destroyed by the IDF. Most of the members are foreign recruits who used to belong to the Fatah naval unit abroad. They are trained in diving and underwater sabotage. The unit is deployed mainly in Gaza and consists of about 600 men in Gaza and 400 in the West Bank. What is the use of hundreds of seamen in the West Bank which has no access to the sea? Upon their arrival to the PA areas, the soldiers of the Coast Guard, who had received special commando training in Egypt, made the unit highly valuable and able to deal with dangerous challenges. As an elite unit, the Coast Guard in the West Bank is responsible for the protection of prisons and other important installations. But the capture of the Karine-A revealed another role to the Coastal Guard: facilitating arms smuggling operations via sea into the PA. The captain of the Karine-A, a colonel in the Coastal Guard, demitted in his interrogation that the organization took part is several smuggling schemes under orders from Arafat's associates. The Israeli response to these findings was decisive. The Coastal Guard was prohibited from conducting operations in PA water, its maritime equipment was destroyed and its members are currently restricted to operations on the ground. The Coastal Guard is presently headed by Gamaa Ghali and the West Bank component is commanded by Abu-Zaki.

Aerial Police (Shurta Al-Joya)

The aerial police is a rudimentary aerial unit based on "Force 14", Fatah's aviation unit, responsible for operating and maintaining what used to be a small fleet of five helicopters, used mainly for Arafat's and other VIP's transportation. The unit numbers several dozen and is commanded by Shukri Tabet. In addition, there are some 200 Palestinians who have reportedly undergone training in Arab militaries as fighter and helicopter pilots. However, only a small fraction of them, are young and fit enough to serve as pilots in a Palestinian air force. The only airfield in the PA is at Dahaniya in the Gaza Strip but this field was destroyed by Israel and is no longer operational. So were the helicopters and the rest of the equipment. As of this writing, the PA has no aerial capabilities.

Civil Defense (Al-Dafah Al-Madani)

Consisting of the fire department and rescue services, the Civil Defense coordinates these and other civilian services during emergencies. In normal times, the body administers a massive program of first aid and rescue training for the civilian population. This unit, numbering approximately 2,000 men, has its own ambulances and rescue vehicles and is commanded by Brig. Gen. Omar Ashur.

County Guard (Amn Al-Makhapta)

The county guard is a small force which supplies security services to the county governors and their offices. It engages in summoning people for questioning, resolving local quarrels and enforcing decisions of the Palestinian courts of arbitration.


The most prominent feature of the Palestinian security forces is the proliferation and amorphousness of the aforementioned units, which makes a precise definition of their different responsibilities nearly impossible. There are, for example, seven different bodies dealing in various capacities with intelligence and counter-insurgency operations. The abundance of intelligence units has dual reasoning. First, it represents Arafat's emphasis on the survival of his regime through counter-insurgency operations in an attempt to weaken the militant opposition as much as possible. The opposition movements, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, must be under permanent surveillance in order to diminish the political threat which they pose. Second, the intelligence bodies are mostly plainclothed apparatuses employing agents who look and dress like regular civilians. This can allow the PA to inflate the number of security personnel to a large extent without violating the quotas prescribed in the Oslo and Cairo agreements. With so many security bodies no wonder that their jurisdictions overlap each other often causing street clashes, confusion and inefficient work. In more extreme cases confusion may lead to harsh results when one security branch ends up battling with a competing one over blurred jurisdictions. Coordinating the services to prevent such unfortunate events is complicated because Arafat has built his forces in such a manner that only he could arbitrate between them.

Another factor creating command and control problems is the separation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The geographical barriers prevent Palestinian commanders from moving freely between Gaza and the West Bank and exercising their command over their troops in both areas. As a result, each one of the apparatuses has two branches independent of each other: one in the West Bank and the other in the Gaza Strip. The regional commanders work directly under Arafat without any intermediate level of command. This results in friction between West Bank commanders and their Gaza colleagues over funding, prestige and political influence.

Unlike most militaries, the PA security forces do not work under the supervision of a general-staff-like body. There are two umbrella organizations to coordinate the work of the different services but their authorities are limited. First is the General Directorate of Palestinian Security Services, established in May 1994, which is responsible for the logistic coordination and maintenance of the Palestinian security bodies and services. The supreme commander of all the security and intelligence apparatuses is the Chairman of the PA, Yasser Arafat. Under him serves General Nasr Yusef, a former PLA general, as the chief-of-staff. His responsibility is to coordinate nine administrative departments responsible for training, logistics, communication, finance and political guidance. Nevertheless, the Directorate has no operational jurisdiction and no authority to interfere with the activities of the different services. Another body that has become increasingly influential since the outbreak of the intifada is the Palestinian High Security Council chaired by Arafat and comprising all the PA security organs. The council is the PA's highest body of national security decision-making but it serves mainly to demonstrate national solidarity and to convey a false image of cooperation between the various services.

By the beginning of the third year of the intifada the Palestinians have no effective mechanism of coordination of their military operations and the fighting is conducted in decentralized manner.


One of the key principles of the Israeli-Palestinian agreement was the Palestinian right to bear arms in order to ensure its security as well as the security of Israelis. To do so, the Israeli agreement allowed the PA forces to hold 15,000 rifles and pistols and another 240 machine guns of 0.3" or 0.5" caliber. This number was later doubled. The agreement did not prescribe the number of weapons each one of the apparatuses would be allowed to have but determined that only authorized members of the Palestinian Police would be allowed to carry them.

Except for the arms, ammunition and equipment of the Palestinian Police described in the agreement, no organization or individual in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank area is allowed to manufacture, sell, acquire, possess, import or otherwise introduce into the Palestinian controlled territories any firearms, ammunition, weapons, explosives, gunpowder or any related equipment.

The PA has been violating the above provisions almost since its establishment. It is hard to determine precisely the number of weapons in the PA, but it is estimated to be more than four times the allowed number. Tens of thousands of illegal weapons are in the hands of members of the security forces as well as in the hands of unauthorized civilian members of the Tanzim, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other political groups and criminal groups. Severe discrepancies also exist between the types of light weapons allowed by the agreement and the weapons that the PA is actually stocking. The Palestinians have obtained anti-armor missiles such as LAW and AT-3 Sagger, M203 grenade launchers, rocket propelled grenades, mortars of various calibers, 107mm and 120mm katyusha rockets, land mines, hand grenades, shoulder launched anti-aircraft missiles and truck mounted anti-aircraft guns.

The general assessment is that the PA is involved in a massive effort to amass stocks of illegal weapons and ammunition to enable it to have an extended fighting capability. The accumulation of weapons is carried out by smuggling them into the PA through the Dead Sea and into the West Bank, or through the Mediterranean Sea into the Gaza Strip. On January 29, 2001 the Israeli security forces found on the beach near Ashkelon sealed barrels containing dozens of rocket propelled grenade launchers and hundreds of grenades and mortar shells. The barrels were part of a larger cargo, directed to Gaza, that was discharged by a smugglers' ship from Lebanon. On May 7, 2001, the Israeli Navy managed to capture a fishing boat off the coast of Haifa with a large quantity of arms and ammunition bound for the forces in the Gaza Strip. The cargo included rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, 50 katyusha rockets, mines, grenades and shoulder launched anti-aircraft missiles. This arsenal was sent to the PA by Ahmed Jibril's Lebanese based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC). It has been established that several similar shipments made it through to the PA and the weapons are in the hands of various armed groups, including the official security services.

But the biggest attempt to smuggle weapons into the PA took place in January 2002 when a ship -- the Karine-A -- transporting fifty or more tons of arms, was captured by the Israeli Navy. The shipment included both 122 mm. and 107 mm. Katyusha rockets, which have ranges of 20 and 8 kilometers respectively. It also contained 80 mm. and 120 mm. mortar shells, various types of anti-tank missiles, anti-tank mines, sniper rifles, Kalashnikov rifles and ammunition. The types and the quantities of the weapons captured aboard the Karine-A, as well as the timing of the ship's voyage, indicated that Palestinian armament efforts are designed not exclusively for defensive purposes, but rather for changing the military balance between the PA and Israel. From Gaza, the 122 mm. Katyushas could have threatened Ashkelon and other coastal cities; while from the West Bank, Ben-Gurion International Airport and several major Israeli cities would have been within their range. The shipment also included rubber boats and diving equipment, which would have facilitated sea borne attacks from Gaza against coastal cities.

Another channel of smuggling is from Egypt by means of secret underground tunnels, which connect Egypt to Rafah in the Gaza Strip. Despite the IDF's extensive efforts to locate and destroy these tunnels, all of them dug underneath the Israeli controlled borderline, the underground channels are still very active.

The border with Jordan is also a place for weapons transfers. Israel thwarted several Palestinian efforts to smuggle weapons and ammunition through the Dead Sea and the Jordan River. It is hard to assess, though, the extent of weapons that successfully filtered through the porous border. In addition, there are continuous efforts to break into Israeli military installations and steal valuable weapons. Some of these efforts were very fruitful, and dozens of anti-tank missiles as well as machine guns, rifles and ammunition were transferred into Palestinian hands. In February 1997, for example, a former IDF scout was arrested for stealing a military patrol vehicle loaded with weapons and ammunition. In the investigation he admitted that the weapons were ordered by the PA through a Palestinian who served as a connection with the suspect. Israeli arms dealers and other criminals have an important role in assisting the Palestinian procurement efforts. Some of the weapons are smuggled into the PA through regular commercial import channels. Weapons hidden in trucks and containers escape the eyes of Israeli customs inspectors and are then transferred directly to the PA.

Indigenous Arms Production

The PA is prohibited from manufacturing weapons and ammunition both domestically and outside its borders. Furthermore, it should prevent weapon production by terror organizations such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. In the first four years of its operation, there was no evidence that the PA was involved in arms production. There were, however, several attempts by Hamas members to build workshops and laboratories to produce bombs and grenades. But due to fruitful Palestinian-Israeli security cooperation, these attempts were thwarted. In one case, the PA raided a grenade factory that produced more than 6,000 grenades, but the ammunition was kept by the PA and never handed to Israel as agreed. In 1997, there was a change in the PA's policy regarding indigenous weapons production. In May 1998, the Palestinian Legislative Council completed the legislation of the Firearms and Ammunition Law, a law that enables the production of weapons and ammunition in the Palestinian controlled territories, thus laying the foundation for an indigenous defense industry capable of producing light arms and ammunition. And indeed, such factories have been established, working under the scientific committee of the Fatah movement and adding to the PA's arsenal large quantity of light ammunition.

On January 30, 2001, the Palestinians fired, for the first time, mortar shells on an Israeli target. Since then, more than 500 mortars and rockets have been fired at Israeli settlements. Whereas in the beginning it was thought that the PA is using smuggled mortar shells, by mid-May 2001, the Israeli General Security Services uncovered a network of Palestinian operatives who were involved in the manufacturing of mortar rounds in Gaza. Senior ranking officers of the Palestinian Police were involved in the production of thousands of shells in various calibers. A similar operation was initiated by the PSF, headed by Muhammad Dahlan. PSF agents were asked to produce 120mm aluminum mortar shells that could provide Palestinian artillery with extended range.

They also produced grenades, bombs and over 1,000 stabilizers for anti-tank missiles. Other information that surfaced from interrogation of PSF detainees revealed how the PSF actively sponsored and encouraged the setting up of many workshops in Gaza City used to manufacture weapons. These weapons were used by many different terrorist organizations to carry out attacks against IDF units and Israeli civilians.

Documents seized by the IDF in one of the raids in Gaza showed that PSF members were also involved in setting up a chemical plant to produce nitric acid used to produce high-quality explosives. The man behind this initiative was Rashid Abu Shabak.

As of this writing, it appears that most of the activities of weapons production have been severely limited, especially in the West Bank. The IDF destroyed many weapons factories and confiscated materials that could be used for weapons production. Production is likely to continue to take place in places like Gaza City and Khan Yunis where IDF activities are limited. It is almost certain that the attempts to establish a clandestine arms industry would continue. The PA sees indigenous arms production as a necessity since this is the only way to ensure the supply of weapons and ammunitions to its forces.


According to the Oslo Agreements, Palestinians joining the security forces were supposed to be trained as policemen, not as combat soldiers. To do that, the PA received assistance from several countries including Britain, Austria, the Netherlands, Egypt and the Scandinavian nations. The CIA also had an important part in the training of the various services hoping that such training would facilitate the PA's war against terrorism. Palestinian intelligence agents received training by CIA instructors both in the Palestinian controlled territories as well as in the United States. The CIA training focused on advanced surveillance and photography methods, sniper training and advanced VIP protection techniques. The CIA also provided the PA with listening devices and computer programs capable of scanning large numbers of radio frequencies. With such radio scanners, the Palestinian forces can listen in on IDF radio communication.

The funding of the donor countries enabled the PA to establish training bases in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip. Until the outbreak of the intifada, training courses for new recruits were conducted regularly and according to an annual training program. But since each one of the security services recruits and trains its own men, there has been little coordination or information exchange between the services on how to improve the quality of training. The Palestinian security forces still lack the resources for extensive training program. As a result, basic training is usually insufficient and runs from 10 days to one month of intensive courses. For more elite units like Force 17, the training is three months.

The daily contact with the IDF, when cooperation still existed, also had a positive influence on the quality of the Palestinian forces. Although Israel was never directly involved in the training and instruction of Palestinian forces, it was only natural that the Palestinian Police, by simply operating alongside a well-equipped standing army like the IDF, emulated and adopted many of the drills and techniques performed by the Israelis.

Since 1998, there has been a change in the training routines of the PA. The services began to adopt training programs with gradually stronger military orientation rather than focusing exclusively on police work. Palestinian company and battalion commanders were sent to undergo training in Egypt, Yemen, Algeria and Pakistan as commanders of combat units. Many of those who were previously qualified to function exclusively as law enforcers began to think, plan and function as professional soldiers. In addition, the size of the formations trained by the PA also grew. In 1998, the training of Palestinian security forces was limited to small-sized units such as platoons and companies, but in the beginning of 2000, when it became apparent that crisis was imminent, the PA started training battalion-sized formations. In 2000 alone, until the outbreak of the intifada, the NSF conducted six battalion exercises. The training focused on various combat scenarios including urban warfare, gaining control of an area of land, mock attacks on IDF posts and Jewish settlements, and use of mechanized forces.


In 33 months of the second intifada, more than 1,500 Palestinians have been killed and more than 15,000 have been wounded. On the Israeli side, more than 800 people have been killed and more than 5,000 people have been wounded. Both sides have suffered a serious setback to their economy and national morale.

In the first few weeks of the fighting, the performance of the Palestinian security forces was rather poor. The violent demonstrations were part of the PA's strategy to present the crisis with Israel as a genuine act of disillusionment and rage by the Palestinian people. Arafat, therefore, refrained from ordering his security forces to act against his people's display of anger. Not only did the PA forces not attempt to restore order, they became increasingly involved in the fighting, though only on an individual basis. Palestinian policemen exchanged fire with IDF troops in numerous occasions but overall displayed a low level of military competence. They generated a great deal of sporadic, inaccurate fire with very little results. Contrary to the riots in September 1996, when the PA forces succeeded in killing 14 Israeli soldiers in two days, in the first two weeks of the second intifada, not one Israeli soldier was killed in combat with the Palestinian police. In first year of the second intifada, fewer than 50 Israeli soldiers have been killed and only 20 of them in direct combat. The rest were victims of bombing and lynching. By any military standards, this toll is minimal considering the intensity and duration of the fighting. It reflects more than anything the superb military readiness of the IDF units but no less a poor military competence of the Palestinian side. The Palestinian security forces have also surprised the IDF by using none of the special weapons such as anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons in their possession, and by failing to execute any military operation against Israel beyond the level of a squad.

The weakening of the central regime and the failure of its security forces to defend the Palestinian population led to a severe loss of prestige and a desire of the Palestinian street to have alternative armed forces. This sentiment allowed local militias to accumulate power and, hence, erode the status of the security services as the PA's primary instrument of force. The dire economic situation has brought many members of the security forces to leave their ranks and join smaller organizations which provided them with additional income and social benefits. The largest of these militias, Tanzim, has become the leading organization in the popular struggle against Israel. Other groups are the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a militia affiliated with Fatah and the various popular resistance committees as well as other cells belonging to the Islamists groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad.


Tanzim is not a newcomer in the Palestinian arena. During the seven years of the first intifada, most armed operations against Israel were carried out by the Fatah Hawks, which used to be the military wing of the Fatah movement. With the signing of the Oslo agreements and renunciation of the violent struggle, the Fatah Hawks organization was abolished. But despite the proliferation of uniformed security bodies since 1994, Arafat insisted on maintaining a militia that would not be part of the formal administration of the PA. He therefore approved and funded a successor body known as Tanzim. It was comprised of small cadres of armed activists operating throughout the West Bank and to a lesser extent in the Gaza Strip during the years of the peace process. Their primary occupation was to control the opposition to Arafat in the PA and to be his independent arm to lead popular action against Israel, in case the need for such action arose.

In the May 2000 Nakba Riots, Tanzim activists were in the forefront of the demonstrations and were those who generated most of the fire against the IDF. Despite the increasing armament of Tanzim, Israel has never acted decisively against Arafat's violation of the agreements which prohibited the formation of any armed body outside the official security forces. With the outbreak of the second intifada, Tanzim, under the leadership of Marwan Barghouti,--now imprisoned in Israel--immediately assumed the leadership over the Palestinian masses.

The precise size of Tanzim is not known. Estimates range between 10,000 and 40,000 members. These members are mostly Fatah supporters who were either not recruited to the PA security services or students and unemployed Palestinians. Many of the activists are graduates of the first intifada and some have been imprisoned in Israel. Most members have undergone training in PA sponsored training camps in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Tanzim's influence is not uniform across the PA territory. The organization is specifically influential in Ramallah and Nablus, less so in cities like Bethlehem and Jenin. The Gaza Strip branch of Tanzim is characterized by a higher percentage of employees of the security services who work during the day as intelligence agents or police officers and when off duty, as Tanzim activists. As a result, many of the Tanzim weapons used in attacks against Israel are, in fact, those weapons that Israel had supplied the PA as part of the Oslo agreement.

Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades

With the escalation of the fighting, pressure grew on the security forces to take a more active role in the fighting. Arafat needed a mechanism that would allow members of the security forces to serve the Palestinian cause without giving up the seemingly popular nature of the intifada . He also realized that such a mechanism is needed to alleviate the frustration and resentment among his soldiers. Such a mechanism was established in October 2000 in the shape of a new organ called the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. This organization is, in essence, a cluster of unaffiliated armed gangs, several hundreds in force, which operate mainly in the refugee camps of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. It allows members of the security forces to take part in the execution of terror attacks without incriminating their uniformed forces. And indeed, hundreds of NSF, PSF, General Intelligence, the Civil Police and Force 17 are active participants in the brigades. In fact, the commander of Force 17 in the West Bank, Mahmoud Damara, is known to be one of the senior commanders of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. As the intifada proceeds, the organization's power in the West Bank is increasing and it aspires to become the official armed branch of the Fatah movement. Its ideology is uncompromising; it opposes the peace process and it is committed to an unlimited armed struggle with Israel. The al-Aqsa Martyrs have been responsible for hundreds of terror attacks since October 2000, including ambushes, drive-by shootings, mortar firing, and bombings.

In keeping with the official Fatah line, the cells initially confined their attacks to the West Bank and Gaza, targeting Israeli soldiers and Jewish settlers. But Israel's assassination of Raed Karmi, a popular militia commander in the West Bank city of Tulkarm, in January 2002 changed that. Al Aqsa fighters launched a sustained series of suicide attacks inside Israel, including the first suicide bombings by women, quickly outpacing the radical Islamic groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

The fighters of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades also serve as a link between the PA security forces and the opposition movements Hamas and Islamic Jihad, allowing the PA deniability when accused of supporting those terrorist groups. With the establishment of the Martyr Brigades, the Palestinian military establishment has become even more complex than it used to be. Even Palestinians closely associated with Arafat's close circle cannot understand the chain of command and system of affiliations and allegiances that exists inside the PA's security establishment. Many of the Palestinians involved in the intifada have double or even triple affiliations. Member of Force 17, for example, could also become associated with Tanzim and at the same time carry out operations on behalf of the al-Aqsa Martyrs. As the popularity of the popular militias is growing, many members of the uniformed bodies cross the lines and join the militias bringing with them their weapons and expertise. Today, thousands of the employees of the Palestinian security forces, especially in the Gaza Strip, are also militiamen. The main reason they still keep their allegiance to their uniformed jobs is financial. The security forces are among the few sectors in the Palestinian government establishment that are still being paid regularly, though the salaries are meager. As long as Arafat can deliver paychecks to his troops, the loyalty of the uniformed bodies is guaranteed. But economic collapse of the PA and inability to pay salaries to the public sector may lead to a subsequent collapse of the security forces and mass desertion into the embracing hands of the opposition movements.

Effect on Training and Combat Readiness

The intifada had mixed impact on the training and quality of the Palestinian forces. On the one hand, it had a detrimental effect on the ability to conduct regular training, recruit new members and maintain high level of readiness. Most of the PA's training infrastructure has been destroyed by IDF missiles including the newest training facility of the PSF near Ramallah and the Civil Police in Gaza. In fact, the Palestinian security forces do not train anymore.

IDF operations have also taken a heavy toll on maintenance and logistics. Consequently, the PA logistic support of its units has significantly deteriorated since the outbreak of the intifada. Many of the vehicles used by the PA forces have been destroyed in IDF attacks and those that survived suffer from shortage of spare parts, technicians and fuel to keep them in operational shape. Palestinian weapons, radio equipment and machinery are also badly maintained with great implications on the effectiveness of the forces.

The Palestinians are also facing an ammunition shortage. While during the first weeks of the intifada there had been a massive use of firearms, including automatic fire at demonstrations and funerals, Palestinian guerrillas have become increasingly aware of the fact that ammunition is a finite resource. The leadership of the intifada has called several times for a more economic use of ammunition and the need to preserve resources for a prolonged struggle. As mentioned before, there are great efforts to replenish the ammunition stocks by smuggling ammunition from outside sources. The most important way of ensuring weapons inflow is by maintaining the underground tunnels passing underneath the road along the border-fence in the southern area of the Gaza Strip, in the area which separates Palestinian Rafah and Egyptian Rafah. The tunnels are operated by the Samadana clan in Rafah. Members of the clan wage an ongoing battle along the borderline in order to secure the inflow of weapons and prevent IDF patrols from thwarting their smuggling operations. To protect their lifeline, the Samadanas generate heavy fire on IDF armored vehicles patrolling near the city of Rafah. As a result, on average, 50% of the total daily number of shooting attacks and roadside bombs in the territories occur in this area. Despite the erosion in Palestinian military power, in some areas the intifada had a positive effect on the PA's military readiness. It enabled many Palestinian servicemen to improve their combat skills by participating in gunfire battles against the IDF. Palestinian troops had an opportunity to use their weapons on live targets including against heavy equipment such as IDF tanks and armored personnel carriers. The fighting enabled them to test some of their capabilities and to draw important tactical lessons. The experience that has been accumulated is useful for the training of future Palestinian recruits. But it is important to note that only a small part of the Palestinian soldiers gained such combat experience. The majority of the troops, especially those affiliated with the NSF, have been deprived of training for more than two years and their combat readiness is likely to have been degraded.

Attempts to reform the security forces

The growing disappointment of the Bush administration with Arafat's conduct brought about in May 2002 a demand from the White House that the PA reform its security establishment as a precondition to further progress toward peace. This demand was reiterated in President Bush's June 24 address. The American call for reforms corresponded with a general feeling on the Palestinian street that the security forces and their chiefs, recipients of almost half of the PA's budget, have been riddled with corruption and have failed the people.

The level of popular support for reforms in May stood at 91 percent. Specifically, 85 percent supported the calls for the unification of the security services under one command and for purging them of corruption.

Arafat's reform plan, however, was at best cosmetic. It called for halving the number of Palestinian security services. After such a restructuring, a police force, border guards, internal and external security branches, military intelligence and a personal guard unit for Arafat would remain in existence. To oversee the coordination and direction of all the security forces, Arafat appointed loyalist Gen. Abdel Razak al-Yahya as the new interior minister. Upon taking office, Yahya pledged transparency and accountability, and, most importantly, to embark on a serious effort against Palestinian terrorists.

Simultaneously, Arafat removed some of the key people in the Palestinian security establishment, especially those who had power bases and popular support capable of challenging his rule. Among those deposed were the chief of police Ghazi Jubali, the head of civil defense Mahmud abu Marzuk, the head of general intelligence in the West Bank Tawfik Tirawi, and, most importantly, the heads of preventive security in Gaza and the West Bank, Dahlan and Rajub. Instead, Arafat appointed a number of uncharismatic loyalists who are unlikely to defy his leadership. Most disturbing was the fact that many of the new appointees like Rashid Abu-Shabak and Mahmoud Damara who were known to be closely linked to terrorist organizations in the territories as well as in the Arab world. Finally, in October 2002, Arafat replaced al-Yahya, regarded as a U.S. favorite for his apparent reformist zeal, by Hani al-Hassan, a Fatah member considered loyal to Arafat. Arafat's steps indicate a strategic choice diametrically opposed to U.S. and Israeli objectives. Instead of using the reforms to move beyond the destructive impact of terrorism, he has tightened his control over his terror machine and installed people connected to some of the world's most dangerous terrorist organizations in order to improve cooperation with them. Under the guise of reforms, he has strengthened his regime by removing from power any viable opposition. Understandably, the administration responded to these problems by slowing down its engagement in the reform process. The establishment of the Abbas government has brought a new wave of reforms but at the same time intensified the struggle for control over the security bodies. While Abbas, Dahlan and finance minister Salam Fayad demanded full governmental control over all the apparatuses, Arafat insisted on maintaining his operational control over most of the units. Furthermore, a conflict evolved over the control of the funds distributed to the forces. Against the will of the security chiefs Fayad insisted on a centralized payment system in which government workers' salaries are paid through the banks, not through direct payments. This organizational change has reduced some of the power in the hands of the security chiefs.

Future Scenarios

1. Prolonged Low Intensity Conflict

According to this scenario Israel and the PA continue to engage in a low intensity fighting for an unlimited period of time or until the two sides rescind violence and return to peaceful negotiations. Palestinian strategy according to this scenario would be to generate a high level of Jewish casualties over a long period of time, and to create a sense of insecurity among Israeli civilians. Israel's security fence currently under construction is likely to make infiltrations of suicide bombers a more difficult task. In response, the Palestinians would focus their attacks on Jewish civilians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip hoping to make life there intolerable and economically unfavorable. This might lead to voluntary departure of disillusioned settlers and, hence, weaken the Israeli will to continue the presence there.

Furthermore, the Palestinians derive a sense of achievement by what they perceive to be the effects of the intifada on the Israeli economy. They believe that only if the Israeli society pays a heavy price in the conflict the Palestinians would be able to reap future benefits from their struggle. Therefore, there are no signs that the Palestinians will end the violence or alternatively adopt the use of non-violent methods. Israel, on its side, is likely to continue its operations against individuals and groups involved in terror attacks through the policy of targeted killing of Palestinian military activists suspected of planning and executing terror attacks. Israel's military strategy would be to contain the violence, prevent terror attacks in Israel itself, increase the economic pressure on the PA and degrade the military capabilities of the various organizations. This means that Israel would continue to target Palestinian weapons factories, training bases, headquarters and offices of the various bodies and Palestinian posts from which fire was originated. In addition, Israel would continue to fight arms smuggling into the West Bank and Gaza Strip both via land and sea.

Continuation of the existing situation has several implications on the PA military. The erosion in the military effectiveness of the PA formal security bodies due to Israel's attacks on training bases, headquarters, individuals and other installations is likely to continue. With no operative training bases, and logistic support the military bodies, especially the NSF, are deprived of proper training and their new recruits cannot reach the minimal standards of military professionalism.

Furthermore, prolonged intifada would continue to take its economic toll on the PA. Under economic adversity the PA compensation to its security operatives is likely to decline, a fact that would increase the incentive of many members of the security forces to offer their services to terrorist groups and rough militias.

In sum, a prolonged intifada could have disastrous effects on the structure, organization, discipline, and readiness of the Palestinian security forces. The police and paramilitary units are not likely to maintain the level of military effectiveness they had before the intifada and the Palestinian military establishment's equipment and expertise will gradually shift into the hands of a group of warlords, gangs and local militias.

2. Full-Scale Confrontation

Continuous escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict due to an increase in the terrorist activity within Israel might lead to an Israeli decision to use overwhelming force against the PA with the intention of destroying the remainder of its military infrastructure. In such a scenario, it is likely that the IDF would use air and artillery forces followed by entry into the Gaza Strip and West Bank cities with armored and infantry units. It is also likely that any Israeli operation would be extensive in scope and would aim to reach a rapid military decision before the international community intervenes. But unlike cities in the West Bank which have been repeatedly invaded by the IDF with minimal resistance, Gaza Strip cities and camps could be an entirely different challenge. Essentially a huge refugee camp, Gaza's density and crowdedness are forbidding. Gaza is one of the most densely populated territories in the world which means increased friction with the civilian population and, hence, a potentially great number of civilian casualties.

Palestinian forces in Gaza are better organized and better equipped than their brothers in the West Bank. The Palestinian access to heavier weapons and more powerful explosives is better than in the West Bank. Palestinian militants operating in Gaza have already proven their capability to destroy Israeli Merkavah tanks by planting powerful bombs along Israeli routes of transportation. Clearly under this scenario, the PA would put to action every military capability at its disposal. This includes the use of anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, mortars and rockets. NSF units in the Gaza Strip are operational and could be dispatched to confront the advancing IDF. These units are armed well enough to be able to launch attacks against Jewish settlements and military installations in the Gaza Strip.

The crucial component of the PA's preparation for a major showdown with Israel is the ability to inflict psychological and material damage to the Israeli home front. The most effective way to do so would be by means of deployment of many long-range weapons such as mortars and rockets. The proximity to Israel's population centers would enable the Palestinians with primitive artillery pieces to cover major Israeli cities such as Jerusalem, Netanya, Hadera, Kfar Sava, Modi'in, Rosh Ha'ayin and Ashkelon. In addition, Palestinian artillery could reach strategic targets, such as critical road junctions, oil and gas farms, communication installations, power stations, industrial complexes, IDF bases and headquarters, government buildings, cultural centers and most importantly, Israel's seaports and airports. Palestinian known artillery capabilities include low caliber weapons such as 60mm, 90mm and 120mm mortars up to a range of six miles, 107mm rockets up to a range of five miles and 122mm rockets up to a range of 13 miles.

3. Regional War

The outbreak of a regional war in the Middle East is the most unsettling scenario which could develop from a long period of gradual escalation in the military relations between Israel and the Palestinians and a stalemate in the diplomatic efforts to end the violence. In the summer of 2001 as well as in 2002, the strategic assessment of the IDF General Staff presented a possible scenario in which the intifada escalates to a point which leaves members of the Arab world little choice but to become actively involved in hostilities against Israel. Such deterioration could occur either as a result of a Palestinian or a Syrian-Iranian-Lebanese catalyst. Continuous provocations by Hizbullah along Israel's northern border could lead to harsh IDF retaliation against Syrian targets. This could, in turn, invite further escalation by dragging additional regional actors into the cycle of violence. Israel, as a result, could find itself fighting a war in two or three fronts against an unpredictable combination of Arab militaries. In addition to the automatic participation of Syria, Lebanon and Hizbullah, it is likely that other Muslim countries such as Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Libya and Algeria could also join the fray. The response of Jordan and Egypt is unpredictable since they are bound by peace agreements with Israel as well as other international commitments. But a bloody conflict over and within Gaza could present problems for Egypt, and might eventually be serious enough to affect its peace agreement with Israel. Similarly, a major struggle between Israel and Palestinians on the West Bank leading many Palestinians to seek refuge in Jordan might impact Jordan's internal stability and bring to an end of the peace between Jordan and Israel.

Whereas this scenario is clearly most unfavorable for Israel, many Palestinians believe that regional war is the only way to break the political-military deadlock in which they are caught. They believe that a regional crisis involving several Arab countries would be the only way to balance Israel's military superiority and to exert international pressure on it by using the "oil weapon".

What would be the role of the Palestinians in such a war? The IDF's response to an Arab attack would be quick mobilization of its reserve units and deployment of armored reserve formations along the eastern border in order to establish a strong line of defense in the Jordan River Valley and the mountain ranges overlooking it. These units would have to force their way through Judea and Samaria's narrow corridors and move through areas heavily populated by Palestinians.

The Palestinians' main contribution to the coalition effort would be to disrupt the IDF's mobilization and deployment by creating chaos and confusion in Israel and slowing down movement of IDF units. Since the backbone of the IDF is its reserve units, the speed of their call up, their travel to their bases and from there to their fighting positions carries strategic importance, especially in the event scenario of a surprise attack. Israel's miniscule size, its congested traffic and the IDF's heavy reliance on a limited number of transportation routes, many of them running in mountainous terrain, could be an Achilles heel easily exploited by the Palestinians. The Palestinians' greatest impact on the Israeli deployment could be felt in routes connecting Israel's major population centers along the coastal plain with the security strip along the Jordan River Valley. A war between Israel and its neighbors could also inspire some Arab-Israelis to assist their brethren. The involvement of the Arab-Israelis constituting almost 20 percent of Israel's population-- in the Palestinian uprising, resulting in the death of 13 Arab demonstrators in October 2000, has shown that their allegiance to Israel in the event of a regional war is not guaranteed. According to Ha'aretz military journalist Ze'ev Schiff, there has been an alarming increase -- from 56 in 2001 to 74 in 2002 -- in the number of Arab-Israelis prepared to participate in terror activities against Jewish Israelis. In 2000, there were eight terrorist cells discovered among Arab-Israelis. In 2001, there were 25 groups uncovered, while in 2002, 32 were discovered.

Many towns and villages inhabited by Arab-Israelis are located along strategic routes of transportation connecting Israel's coastal plain with the Galilee, the Golan and the Jordan River Valley. The participation of Arab-Israelis in the Palestinian efforts to disrupt IDF units from moving to the front is a disturbing thought that deserves to be treated with great care.

The disruption and attrition of IDF units en route to the front could reduce the IDF's capability to confront its enemies from the other side of the river. The IDF is likely to apply enough air cover to allow reinforcements to eventually reach the frontline early enough to confront enemy forces crossing the Jordan River, but these reinforcements would most likely arrive at the front after experiencing considerable delays and fighting.

Another scenario, suggested by several military experts, describes Palestinian incursions into Israel's rear in the event of an all-out confrontation between Israel and the PA. Lightly armed Palestinian forces could cross the porous border either by foot or by trucks and attack critical strategic locations in Israel. They could disrupt the mobilization of Israeli reservists, attack from the rear IDF units deployed along the Jordan River Valley, attack airforce bases with shoulder launched anti-aircraft missiles, attack settlements and create panic and havoc in Israel population centers. Palestinian soldiers could also successfully infiltrate deep into Israel attacking IDF headquarters, electronic media installations, public figures and government buildings.

Such attacks by Palestinian infantry are likely to face highly alert IDF and border police units that would probably decimate them in most cases well before they reach their destination. But even few successful penetrations into Israeli territory could cause significant operational as well as psychological damage. Furthermore, it is likely that a Palestinian attack would take place in conjunction with simultaneous attacks by other Arab militaries. In such a case, the IDF's attention and resources would be divided among several fronts and its ability to contain minor incursions by Palestinian commandos is likely to be weakened.

4. Use of non-conventional weapons

Due to their tactical inferiority, the Palestinians realize that they are likely to fare poorly in an all out one-on-one confrontation with Israel. In order to defend themselves against Israeli aggression, the Palestinians are likely to adopt a defensive doctrine the main pillar of which would be the emphasis on deterrence capability vis-à-vis Israel. In their search for means of deterrence against Israel, the PA could resort to the acquisition and introduction of non-conventional capabilities. The thought of the use of non-conventional weapons by the PA or other Palestinian elements is unsettling but should not be dismissed. There are several technological, political and psychological explanations as to why the PA might want to opt for acquiring weapons of mass destruction, among them are the cheap cost of such weapons and the sense of prestige and security they grant to the owner.

And indeed, in the tenth month of the intifada, Palestinian media began to call for serious consideration of the deployment and perhaps use of chemical and biological weapons.

The general atmosphere in the PA is that if attacked by Israel, the Palestinian people would be called to fight for their survival using all available means. It is clear that without international intervention, the PA would not be able to deter Israel from launching a massive attack with the aim of destroying the PA. If such attack occurs, the only meaningful deterrent the PA could have is the ability to threaten the vulnerable Israeli home front in a similar way that Saddam Hussein exploited this vulnerability during the 1991 Gulf War.

Many Palestinians believe that biological and chemical weapons are a legitimate and desirable means in the struggle against Israel, especially since Israel itself is known to have non-conventional weapons in its arsenal. Furthermore, in order to tarnish Israel's image, Palestinian spokesmen and media have published false claims of Israel's alleged use of non-conventional weapons against the defenseless Palestinian population. They have blamed Israel for using shells containing depleted uranium, dispensing poisonous chocolate sweets in the Gaza Strip, employing "Black Gas" that causes nausea, and shelling the Palestinians with cans of paint containing poison. Israel has been blamed for spreading foot and mouth disease in PA territory, and Arafat's wife, Suha, claimed during a visit by Hillary Clinton, that Israel poisons Palestinian wells. Ludicrous as they are, these allegations are widely believed, and they help create legitimacy in the eyes of the Palestinian public for the introduction and perhaps the use of non-conventional weapons. A December 2001 poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy & Survey Research from showed that only 26% of the Palestinians viewed the use of such weapons against Israel as an act of terrorism.

To achieve non-conventional capability, the PA could either acquire munitions carrying chemical weapons or alternatively use chemical or biological agents delivered by suicide bombers. Artillery shells and 122mm rockets armed with chemical warheads have already been developed and are being produced by Arab countries like Syria, Iran and Iraq. This ammunition is easily transferred and could be smuggled into the PA via sea or air, but the PA does not have the necessary artillery to deliver it. The long-range weapons that are already known to be in the hands of the PA, namely light mortars and rocket launchers could potentially be used to fire artillery shells carrying chemical and agents but their payload is so small that the damage they could inflict would be negligent.

A more promising delivery device would be the use of suicide bombers armed with non-conventional material. "A few bombs or death-carrying devices will be enough, once they are deployed in secluded areas and directed at the Israeli water resources or the Israeli beaches, let alone the markets and the residential centers," suggested a Palestinian newspaper.

This will be carried out without explosions, noise, blood, or pictures that are used to serve the Israeli propaganda. Anyone who is capable, with complete self-control, of turning his body into shrapnel and scattered organs, is also capable of carrying a small device that cannot be traced and throw it in the targeted location.

This proposition should not be treated lightly. Though the experience of terrorism by means of weapons of mass destruction has been very limited, the taboo of using such weapons was broken by the Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo in 1990 when its members planned to spray botulinum toxin in the streets of Tokyo. Three years later, a failed plan to use anthrax in residential areas was discovered. The cult intended to kill thousands of people by using chemical weapons in Tokyo's subway system and in at least one case, in 1995, succeeded in causing panic and casualties. Since the September 11 terror attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, several plots by terror organizations to conduct mass killing by means of chemical and biological weapons have been uncovered. During Operation Defensive Shield, for example, the IDF discovered in Arafat's compound four bottles of bromide, 12 liters in total. Bromide is a toxic chemical. When inhaled it can cause serious breathing problems. It can be weaponized and used by suicide bombers in order to inflict more damage and panic.

Israel's small size, its dependency on few fresh water sources, its dense population, its porous borders and the increasing number of Palestinians willing to sacrifice their lives in suicide missions, are factors which make it more vulnerable to attacks of the nature discussed above than other countries. It is hard to determine precisely how real and immediate the threat of Palestinian use of non-conventional weapons is. Clearly the motivation for such an option, at least among fringe groups, exists, and the means to do that are at their disposal. Naturally, the position of the Palestinian leadership on the subject is elusive. But an escalation of the intifada may put this leadership in a direct existential threat which may make the idea of doomsday weaponry very compelling.

Israel, for its part, should be aware of the strategic as well as psychological implications of the threat to use, or the actual use, of such weapons by the PA or any of the terrorist groups under its umbrella. An Israeli perception that such capabilities exist in the hands of a Palestinian opponent may increase the degree of nervousness in the public and force the government to adopt harsh measures against the PA.


Military analysts, who measure countries' military potential mainly by counting hardware, such as platforms, weapons and formations, find the PA armed forces to be a challenge to assess. On its face, it is a poorly equipped, complex web of apparatuses which have been severely degraded since the outset of the intifada. But the exacerbating war against terrorist groups in places like Chechnya and Afghanistan has demonstrated that rag-tag opponents could often offset conventional military superiority by resorting to tactics of terror, guerrilla and attrition. Judged by its role in the asymmetric war of the kind Israel is facing, the Palestinian security forces, inferior as they may be, should not be treated as a negligible addition to the Arab-Israeli military balance.

The existence of hostile, militarized Palestinian groups west of the Jordan River Valley could pose significant strategic threat to Israel. "The characteristics of that threat are invisible, like cancer," said Israel's Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon. "When you are attacked externally, you see the attack, you are wounded. Cancer, on the other hand, is something internal. Therefore, I find it more disturbing, because here the diagnosis is critical. If the diagnosis is wrong and people say it's not cancer but a headache, then the response is irrelevant. But I maintain that it is cancer. My professional diagnosis is that there is a phenomenon here that constitutes an existential threat."

And indeed, the geographical location of the West Bank and Gaza Strip could allow Palestinian units to help building a land bridge between Israel and other Arab countries. Furthermore, through the deployment of long-range artillery and anti-aircraft weapons, Palestinian units could impose a threat to Israel's population centers, air traffic and other strategic targets. The fact that Palestinian forces are deployed no further than five miles from Ben Gurion Airport, eleven miles from the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv and two miles from the Knesset in Jerusalem only emphasizes the need to treat it with utmost care. The Palestinian proximity to Israel's population centers, and main arteries of transportation enable it to hinder the IDF's reserve mobilization process, on which Israel relies in an emergency situation.

Though the size and capabilities of the Palestinian armed forces are not likely to allow it to deny IDF units access to the front, it could significantly erode the IDF's strength by forcing it to fight its way there.

Therefore, either in the case of prolonged war with the PA or in the case of a conflict between Israel and an Arab coalition, the role of the armed forces of Palestine would be far more significant than their intrinsic military value. Israeli governments have understood the potential dangers posed by allowing Palestinian militarization and have taken action to stop this trend. But after two years of fighting between Israel and the PA, with Israeli towns and settlements, not to mention the city of Jerusalem, attacked by artillery fire, it became clear that the Palestinian military capabilities are far beyond what had been the intention of the architects of Oslo and that the Palestine security services and militia groups should receive no less attention than any other military in the region.


Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, July 29, 2001, Quoted in Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Special Dispatch - PA, July 30, 2001, No. 247.

Gal Luft, The Palestinian Security Forces: Between Police and Army (Washington, DC: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 1998), pp. 25-28.

Gal Luft, "The Palestinian H-Bomb: Terror Winning Strategy," Foreign Affairs, July-August 2002.

Ronen Bergman, Authority Granted, Yediot Ahronot, 2002.

For the full text of President Bush's Rose Garden address see:

Information on PA units was adapted from discussions with US and regional military and intelligence experts as well as various open sources such as: Shlomo Brom and Yiftah Shapir eds. The Middle East Military Balance 1999-2000 (Cambridge and London: The MIT Press, 2000); International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS), The Military Balance 2000/2001 (London: Oxford University Press, 2001); Gal Luft, The Palestinian Security Forces: Between Police and Army (Washington, DC: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 1998); Avner Avrahami, "Structure of the Palestinian Security Apparatus", Ha'aretz, July 30, 2001. Figures of members and weapons are estimates and may not correlate with figures published by the media.

Haaretz, May 24, 2001; Jerusalem Post, May 24, 2001.

The only unclassified information about this unit was published by the Russian TV in May 1998 after the PSS had sent to Russia a request for assistance in supplying special purpose equipment for the unit. "Palestinian Special Purpose Police Want Russian Equipment", Moscow NTV, May 28, 1998, in FBIS-NES, June 2, 1998, p. 150.

Gal Luft and Jonathan Schanzer, "Fatah-Hamas Relations: Rapprochement or Ready to Rumble?" Policywatch #693, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, December 19, 2002.

For more information on Force 17 see: Reuven Paz, "Force 17: The Renewal of Old Competition Motivates Violence", Peacewatch #316, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, April 5, 2001; IDF Spokesperson, "Force 17 Background Material",

B'Tselem report, "Neither Law nor Justice", Report on the Palestinian Preventive Security Service, Jerusalem, August 1995. Also Amnesty International Report 1997: Palestinian Authority (internet edition), specifying that 1,200 people were arrested by the PSS on security grounds and 10 died in Palestinian prisons.

Gal Luft, "The seizure of Gaza-Bound Arms: Military Implications," Peacewatch #359, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, January 8, 2002.

Steve Rodan and Arieh O'Sullivan, "PA Smuggles Arms Via Sinai Tunnels", Jerusalem Post, International Edition, June 6, 1998, p. 32.

Alex Fishman and Ron Leshem, "We Gave Them Guns", Yediot Ahronot, Weekend Supplement, February 16, 2001; Lior El-Hai, "Palestinian Intelligence Sent an Israeli to Steal Shoulder-Fired Missiles", Yediot Ahronot, March 25, 1998.

On CIA training of the PA security forces see: Arnon Regoler, "The Intelligence Pros", Kol Hair, November 24, 2000; Yediot Ahronot, February 16, 2001.

Interview with commander of Palestinian Police Gen. Nasser Yussef in Niel MacFarquhar, "How Palestinian Policemen Were Drawn Into the Conflict", New York Times, September 29, 1996, p. 1. Ha'aretz, July 6, 2000, July 12, 2000; News Channel 2 TV, July 11, 2000; Yediot Ahronot, February 16, 2001.

Gal Luft, "The Palestinian Military Performance and the 2000 Intifada", Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA), vol. 4, no. 4, December 2000.

Roni Shaked, "Arafat's New Army", Yediot Ahronot, Weekend Supplement, July 27, 2001.

Amos Harel, "Egyptian Border Police Smuggling Weaponry to PA", Ha'aretz, August 17, 2001.

Gal Luft, "Reforming the Palestinian Security Services," Peacewatch #382, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, May 15, 2002.


Opinion poll # 4, conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) between 15-18 May 2002.


Dr.Yuval Steinitz, "When the Palestinian Army Invades the Center of the Country", Commentary Magazine, December 1999.

Dr.Gal Luft, "The Mirage of Demilitarized Palestine", Middle East Quarterly, vol. VIII, no. 3, p. 57.

Opinion poll # 3, conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy & Survey Research, between 19-24 December 2001.

"A Palestinian Information Center: There is Serious Thinking about Obtaining Biological Weapons", Al-Manar, August 13, 2001, translated by and quoted in Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Special Dispatch-PA, August 14, 2001, No. 255.

Interview with IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon, Ha'aretz Friday Magazine, August 2002.

More Sources:

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Dahlan: Rice did not discuss dismantling groups with me
[Confirms NYT story that US is NOT demanding that the PA disarm terror groups]
The Jerusalem Times (Independent Palestinian weekly) 31 July 2003

No warning to dismantle militant factions

Gaza-Muhammad Dahlan, Minister for Security Affairs denied Sunday the Israeli news reports that Condoleezza Rice , US president's National Security Advisor, had told him that the grace period of 90 days to dismantle Palestinian militant organizations has ended. In a statement issued by the Minister's office, Dahlan stressed that this issue has never been discussed. "Furthermore, the government does not work based on specific periods," said the statement " we work based on our agreement with the factions and according to our national interests." Also the statement denied that Dahlan has discussed with the CIA Chief, George Tenet the issue of buying the activists weapons. "All these untrue news are rumors which aim to slander the delegation's mission to Washington.

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What Would Happen If Israel Were to Use US PR Tactics in Their Information War?
Haggai Huberman
Diplomatic Correspondent, HaTzofeh

The American Example

The prime minister's visit in Washington takes place a few days after the Bush administration taught the world a bit about delicate taste. The photographs of the corpses of Uday and Qusay, the proof that more enemies have been eliminated, arouses thoughts of what would have happened had the State of Israel had adopted such nauseating American norms.

Less than a year ago, the IDF court-martialed soldiers who photographed the bodies of murderous terrorists who were killed in battle. They did not distribute the pictures worldwide, but among themselves. The IDF was right to court-martial them because such actions degrade human dignity.

But the Americans do as they please. They photograph corpses and distribute the pictures throughout the world, officially. One of Saddam's grandsons was killed, and no one thinks that an investigation should be launched.

We are not America, but it is no shame to admit that we have much to learn. The determination to make sure that fighting does not stop until complete victory, the realization that the victory must penetrate the consciousness of everyone in the area (which is why the photographs were published). It would be appropriate for us to learn these values, even if by other means than publishing pictures of the crushed heads of Uday and Qusay.

The American example should accompany Ariel Sharon to Washington. After the meetings between Bush and Abu Mazen, the US is preparing a campaign of surrender to Palestinian terrorism for Sharon. Sharon's administration has refrained from eliminating or expelling Arafat, even when Washington believed that Israel was about to do so (for example, after the Palestinian massacre in the Park Hotel in Netanya). From this they learned, and got proof as time went on, that pressure on Sharon, even light pressure, produces results. And thus we have arrived at a situation where by pressuring Sharon, the government accepted the outrage known as the road map, in which it commits to concessions to the end, including the right of return, the 1967 borders and a Palestinian state, things that were not signed in the Oslo Accords and even Ehud Barak was not willing to give. And after this agreement, the Palestinians announce openly that they will not respect the agreement about confiscating weapons and fighting Hamas, while Israel is told to release prisoners to placate them, while such a release does not appear at all as part of Israel's concessions in the road map.

When Sharon arrives for his meeting with President Bush this week, it would be appropriate for him to compliment his host on the lesson we would all like Sharon to learn from Bush himself. For there is no one wiser than the one with experience. And if Bush does not understand why Sharon is giving him such a compliment at such an important time, Sharon will be able, when Bush pressures him to make more and more concessions, to teach the President what is written in our Book of Ethics, "Take the beam out of your own eye, before you concentrate on a sliver in your neighbor's eye" and perhaps to demand, at the same opportunity, that he allow Jonathan Pollard, who is rotting in an American prison, to return to Israel on the prime minister's plane. Because if Bush believes that Israel does not need to be afraid of releasing hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, why is the greatest empire in the world afraid of releasing Jonathan Pollard to his homeland?

This piece ran in Hatzofeh on July 27th, 2003

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The Political Role of the NGO's in Israel
Dr. Gerald M. Steinberg
Steinberg is a Fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Lassman is managing editor and principle researcher for NGO Monitor.

  • One of the harshest fronts of the Arab-Israeli conflict is the information war, in which powerful non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with major influence on the international media consistently display a biased approach.

  • The hijacking of the Durban anti-racism conference in 2001 by anti-Israel NGOs illustrated the dangers of politically motivated humanitarian groups that derive credibility simply on the basis of mission statements promoting "universal human rights."

  • In spite of the hypocrisy of Durban, and the highly visible distortions in NGO reports of the IDF's military operations in Jenin in April 2002, many of these NGOs, some of which enjoy observer status at the UN, continue to raise hundreds of millions of dollars from governmental sources, especially the EU, as well as from private donors.

  • Their influence is particularly felt when NGOs direct political discourse by misquoting international law and over-using the terms: "war crimes," "genocide," and "ethnic cleansing."

  • The NGO Monitor project was initiated to examine how certain humanitarian NGOs covering Israel and the Middle East deviate from their mission statements and fund-raising activities that claim to support universal human rights values, in order to engage in overt political and ideological activities.

The Growing Influence of NGOs

In recent years, thousands of "non-governmental organizations" (NGOs) have been formed with the goal of influencing policy decisions and shaping global political perspectives on issues ranging from humanitarian law to protecting the environment. Human rights NGOs have become the most powerful and well-funded members of this large community. Through relentless campaigning, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Ford Foundation, alongside thousands of much smaller organizations, have succeeded in gaining immense power in placing human rights issues - as they interpret them - high on governmental agendas. The UN and related international organizations, governments, the international media, and the academic community consult daily with NGOs with a view to incorporating their reports into policy. Amnesty's campaign for Soviet prisoners of conscience was so influential that President Gorbachev invited representatives from Amnesty to visit Moscow to discuss reforming the Soviet Union.

At the same time, the absence of democratic accountability and transparency has not blunted their prominence or removed their "halos" of perceived objectivity.

The following analysis explores how humanitarian NGOs that include Israel and the Middle East in their campaigns have played a major role in the ongoing ideological campaign to delegitimize Israel. Their impact on the 2001 Durban UN Conference Against Racism, their statements delivered at the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR), and their regular reports on violence in the Middle East illustrate how several NGOs that claim to deal with universal human rights are distorting basic norms and at times even promoting the antithesis of their important and noble aims. For this reason, NGO Monitor has set itself the task of monitoring the activities of such NGOs to generate greater public debate on the complexities of human rights issues and to avoid the subjugation of universal human rights values to partisan interests.

What are NGOs?

NGOs are generally defined as autonomous non-profit and non-party/politically-unaffiliated organizations that advance a particular cause or set of causes in the public interest. The range of causes on which an NGO can focus is unlimited, but a cardinal principle is that NGOs operate in a manner consistent with the objectives for which they receive funds. Donations are an NGO's lifeline because they are independent organizations. Funding can come from governments, the UN, private trusts and philanthropies, individual donations, religious institutions, and, in many cases, other NGOs.

NGOs can contribute to democracy through challenging governments and promoting social interests, but they themselves are not democratic institutions and have no democratic accountability. An NGO is only accountable to its particular funding organizations and members. Meanwhile, criticism of a human rights NGO is often dismissed as an attack on the values of human rights themselves.

Monitoring the Three Types of Humanitarian NGOs

NGO Monitor1 was founded to address these issues by tracking the activities of humanitarian NGOs. In this framework, it is important to distinguish between three types of NGOs. The first group consists of international bodies such as Amnesty and Human Rights Watch, whose operations are truly global and very influential. Amnesty International, for example, claims a membership of one and a half million, and an annual operating budget of $30 million with projects in 140 countries. The second group is made up of region-specific NGOs such as Miftah,2 Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR),3 Physicians for Human Rights - Israel (PHR-I),4 and LAW.5 These regional "humanitarian" NGOs restrict their activities to the Arab-Israeli conflict and, in most cases, to criticism of Israel. The third group consists of NGOs that collect funds for a variety of projects and areas, and provide financial and technical support to smaller regional NGOs. Examples include the Ford Foundation, International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), New Israel Fund, Christian Aid, and the Advocacy Project.

The Power of "Self-Appointed Moral Guardians"

The fundamental objectives of NGO Monitor are to analyze the core agendas, biases, and long-term goals of these three types of NGOs with regard to Israel and to chart the influence of, to cite Anne Bayefsky, these "self-appointed moral guardians."

On the one hand, the ease with which an NGO can depart from its principles, combined with the influence it enjoys, leads to very costly political and ideological attacks against Israel. The Arab-Israeli conflict is not only played out on the battlefield, but is also accompanied by a ferocious media war. In this context, NGOs often use loaded and unsubstantiated terms, such as "war crimes," "genocide," or "ethnic cleansing," while misquoting international law and removing the context of the dangers faced by Israel.

The most insidious practice is the dissemination of gross inaccuracies in their reporting. A prime example is Miftah, a Jerusalem-based "human rights organization" that brands itself "The Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue & Democracy." Miftah's publications use terms such as "international reconciliation and cooperation," while its reports and press releases continually misrepresent Israel's democratic institutions, and misquote and fundamentally distort the policies of the Israeli government, portraying Israelis as racist colonialists. For example, the separation fence being constructed to provide security is branded the "Apartheid Fence." (See detailed analysis, see "The Anti-Israel Agenda of Miftah."6) There is no call on the Miftah website for dialogue or reconciliation with Israel.

Significant members of the humanitarian NGO community have consistently violated their carefully crafted and politically neutral mission statements by compromising universal human rights values. Attacks on Israel on many different policies are standard themes in reports and press releases. The perceived moral authority of these NGOs has allowed them to ignore or distort the humanitarian, political, and strategic complexities of the Arab-Israeli conflict.7 For the most part, the Palestinians are portrayed by them as "victims of Israeli aggression."

It is not coincidental that both the international media and humanitarian NGOs devote disproportionate time to Israel and the territories. The press, academic institutions, UN diplomats, and policy-makers in individual governments rely heavily on NGO assessments and reports (and visa versa, so that the NGOs often quote diplomats, journalists, and academics). This closed circle does not always tell the full story - and the journalists, diplomats, and academics readily make use of the accessible and simplistic packaged information and political analyses that the NGOs efficiently supply and distribute. The NGOs recognize that cooperation with the press and the diplomatic community is vital for fundraising, without which no NGO can function, and this results in a highly incestuous relationship, immune from external scrutiny.

In reality, Israel has been confronted with a brutal and violent wave of terror attacks, and under any reasonable definition of human rights and humanitarian law, the right of self-defense is basic and inalienable. Tragically, Palestinian terrorists seek safe havens in densely populated civilian areas, using their neighbors and families as human shields. These same areas are also used to build and operate bomb factories or workshops. Yet these basic facts are very rarely reflected in the reports and analyses produced by the NGOs. This has led to a situation where anti-Israel political lobbying and ideology have come to be accepted as the norm for NGO reports and analyses on the Middle East.

"Diplomatic Terrorism?"

Over and above their standing in the press and at international conferences, three prominent landmarks reflect the modus operandi of NGOs in the international arena. 1) The 2001 Durban World Conference against Racism (WCAR). 2) Reports produced by the NGOs concerning Israeli military action in Jenin in April/May 2002. 3) The events surrounding the annual meetings of the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) in Geneva. These three landmarks provide clear evidence of the serious threat these self-styled "guarantors" of universal human rights have already posed to the free flow of reliable information in the media, academia, and the diplomatic community.


A UN resolution began the process leading to the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance held at Durban in September 2001. "Interested non-governmental organizations to be represented by observers, in accordance with UN Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31" were also invited to attend as observers. Large numbers of NGOs organized a parallel NGO Forum (sometimes confused with the conference) that overshadowed the formal proceedings thanks to the media attention generated by the NGOs. The NGO Forum produced what is known as "The NGO Declaration," which, while not an official conference document, was signed by groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

A regional conference in Tehran, intended to produce a composite Declaration against Racism and a Plan of Action, preceded the conference. Israel, along with Jewish NGOs, were excluded and, in their absence, Israel was accused of committing "holocausts" and being anti-Semitic.8 There was no public condemnation of the exclusion of Israel or the Jewish groups. Meanwhile, the NGO declaration at the Durban conference,9 written in highly politicized language, reflected a concerted effort to undermine Israel. Article 164 states "targeted victims of Israel's brand of apartheid and ethnic cleansing methods have been in particular children, women and refugees." Article 425 announces "a policy of complete and total isolation of Israel as an apartheid state . . . the imposition of mandatory and comprehensive sanctions and embargoes, the full cessation of all links (diplomatic, economic, social, aid, military cooperation and training) between all states and Israel." Furthermore, Article 426 talks of "condemnation of those states who are supporting, aiding and abetting the Israeli apartheid state and its perpetration of racist crimes against humanity including ethnic cleansing, acts of genocide."

The constant comparisons with South Africa and apartheid are fundamentally flawed. Israel grants full legal and civic equality to its Arab minority. The status of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is subject to a final settlement and the issue of a Palestinian state is a matter of intense diplomatic energy and sensitive negotiation. Moreover, the Israeli army has a clear policy of avoiding civilian casualties. A fact of the war on terror is the concentration of suicide bomb-making factories in densely-populated areas. Moreover, the Palestinians have also shown a willingness to put small children directly in the line of fire. These reasons help explain the tragic number of Palestinian children and women killed. In cases where Israeli soldiers have shown excesses, they have stood trial and were removed from their positions. The NGO Forum omitted to mention any of these facts, and this pattern is seen in the NGO community repeatedly.


NGOs were prominent in spreading false rumors of a "massacre" in the immediate aftermath of Israel's operation Defensive Shield in April 2002 against Palestinian terrorist networks within the Jenin refugee camp. A member of the Amnesty International team, Professor Derrick Pounder, a forensic expert, was quoted by the BBC immediately after the operation, saying the signs point to a massacre.10 Even though Amnesty International later admitted that there was no massacre, its instinctive and premature hints, taken up by the international media, contributed to the quick spread of the lie of the massacre that is still being exploited by anti-Israel organizations.11

UN Commission on Human Rights

During its annual five-week session in Geneva, the UNCHR regularly adopts 5 to 8 anti-Israel resolutions, and more than 30 percent of its meeting time is devoted to one-sided discussions of Israeli policy. Largely as a result of campaigning by NGOs that enjoy consultative privileges at the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), such as the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR),12 the commission ignores or gives inadequate attention to the world's most significant human rights abuses, largely for political reasons (this year the UNCHR has a Libyan chair while Israel is barred from membership). PCHR13 alone submitted six written interventions condemning Israel while rejecting counter-resolutions condemning Palestinian atrocities and use of terror attacks. As an organization, PCHR essentially serves the interests of the Palestinian Authority. While its mission statement promises criticism of all factors affecting Palestinians' human rights, its long reports make scant mention of the high levels of corruption in the Palestinian Authority including the embezzlement of many hundreds of millions of dollars of donor money. Yet, PCHR is funded by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)14 and the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN),15 that itself receives 80 percent of its funding directly from the European Union. This grants it the authority of a human rights organization, despite its politicized work.

The UN has rules for granting ECOSOC accreditation to NGOs, but actual accreditation rests more on politics than commitment to human rights. China blocked the application of the NGO Human Rights in China, and the Arab and Islamic bloc sought to prevent the Jewish humanitarian NGO Hadassah from receiving accreditation.

Analysis of NGO Funding and Facilitator Organizations

Much of the moral authority of NGOs, as well as their political strength, comes from support from funding and facilitator organizations. The huge budgets that NGOs have acquired turn them into political superpowers. Although the funding groups have a responsibility to ensure that their funds and support are not being directed in covert ways to support terrorism or political campaigns, such as the one being conducted by the Arab world against Israel, this requirement is largely ignored. While funding organizations have taken great care to establish financial-transparency mechanisms to make sure money is not misappropriated, the substantive work that the NGOs engage in has been subject to far less scrutiny. As a result, funding institutions and individuals have granted significant political power to organizations that hide behind a veneer of "moral guardianship."

One can categorize three types of funding bodies active in the areas of human rights and humanitarian issues. The first consists of governmental bodies and UN organizations, such as the European Union, UNICEF,16 USAID, CIDA (Canada), and other ministries for overseas assistance. The second type, identified above, is made of other NGOs who style themselves as "facilitator organizations," providing invaluable logistical, technical, financial, and professional support, such as the ICJ. The third type includes foundations such as the Ford Foundation and the German Fund for Palestinian NGOs.

Many well-meaning institutions may have unknowingly contributed political ammunition in the public relations war against Israel by continuing to finance NGOs that use a human right façade to conduct a campaign to delegitimize Israel. There are even Jewish organizations, such as the New Israel Fund, that have been deceived into assisting allegedly "humanitarian and reconciliation organizations," such as the Arab Association of Human Rights,17 whose real activities focus on the propaganda war against Israel and are far removed from universal human rights issues.

Demand Accountability from NGOs

This problem can be expected to grow unless the accountability demanded from NGOs is increased significantly, including closer scrutiny by the press and by funding organizations. These NGOs' supposedly non-political nature and adherence to "universal human rights principles" have bequeathed them a "halo effect" against criticism and scrutiny. It is for this reason that their success in setting the global agenda has been so powerful.

Unchecked authority has allowed several groups to blur the distinction between advancing universal human rights and promoting narrow ideological and political causes. The NGOs analyzed here contribute to the simplistic equation that Palestinian suffering begins and ends with Israel's military actions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. They thus ignore the moral dilemmas, political complexities, and the nature of armed conflict and terrorism.

The combination of perceived impartiality, their grassroots nature, and noble aims have granted NGOs immense moral authority. As a result, the need for independent external examination of humanitarian NGOs has become apparent, especially given their inherent absence of democratic accountability and the lack of capacity in funding organizations to monitor and evaluate the activities they support. Initiatives such as NGO Monitor can provide the foundation necessary in order to strengthen transparency, accountability, and moral balance.

* This Jerusalem Viewpoints was prepared in the framework of the NGO Monitor Project, a joint venture of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs, founded jointly with the Wechsler Family Foundation, and B'nai B'rith International.

2. See analysis at
3. See analysis at
4. See and
5. See analysis at
7. See the NGO Monitor analysis analyzing the joint declaration by six major NGOs on the treatment of humanitarian aid workers.
8. Prof. Irwin Cotler, The conference against racism that became a racist conference against Jews.
10., April 18, 2002, BBC Internet site.
11. See that has links with the human rights NGO, Partnership for Civil Justice.
12. See NGO Monitor analysis at
13. See analysis of the organization at
14. See analysis at
15. See analysis at
16. See analysis at
17. See analysis at

The Jerusalem Letter and Jerusalem Viewpoints are published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 13 Tel-Hai St., Jerusalem, Israel; Tel. 972-2-5619281, Fax. 972-2-5619112, Internet: In U.S.A.: 1616 Walnut St., Suite 1005, Philadelphia, PA 19103-5313; Tel. (215) 772-0564, Fax. (215) 772-0566. © Copyright. All rights reserved. ISSN: 0792-7304.

The opinions expressed by the authors of Jerusalem Viewpoints do not necessarily reflect those of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

Published in Jerusalem Viewpoints No. 499 June 2003

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If The Cease Fire Collapses, Israel will Topple the PA
Alex Fishman
Military Correspondent, Yediot Aharonot

On Wednesday, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz met with Mohammed Dahlan. On July 6, when they met face to face for the first time, Dahlan surprised Mofaz and for the first time presented his conception and "90 day plan" for uprooting terrorist elements from organizations such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. He sat and read to the minister his plan from a notebook. He said that he planned to conduct searches in homes, confiscate illegal weapons, arrest armed men walking the streets. He spoke about stopping the production of Kassam rockets and explosives, and dealing with smuggling. He spoke about arresting people who train terror activists. He spoke about putting on trial wanted men who operate against the PA policy, including the most senior wanted men. He promised to stop funding for Hamas, to deal with the "dawa", the Hamas social infrastructure,and to replace inciteful preachers in the mosques.

This was a serious plan, which could have allowed Israel to meet the PA halfway with the feeling that there was a serious security official on the other side of the barricade.

However, to Mofaz, as to the GSS people, this plan, for some reason, sounded familiar. It looked like Dahlan had pulled out his notebooks from 1995, when he was the commander of the Preventive Security Service in Gaza. The same paragraphs, the same promises. But the defense minister made the decision that we must give this plan a chance anyhow. And indeed there were several signs of things beginning to be done, which quickly melted away.

When Dahlan was asked by the Americans whether he was blocking funds to Hamas, he threw around numbers. When the GSS, ever so superficially, checked the numbers, they found that nothing had been done. The Saudis, who swore not to support terror and that they would stop sending money directly to Hamas, continue to transfer, by means of Saudi charity institutions, USD 14 million annually, directly into Hamas bank accounts in the territories.

It is difficult for Dahlan to deal with the Saudi money. He himself hosted, about two months ago, a Saudi delegation, headed by an influential Saudi prince. Everything in order to strengthen his position, nothing connected to the elimination of the terror infrastructure.

Colonel Tirawi, commander of General Intelligence in the West Bank, doesn't do much either. In once case he reported to the Americans about arresting terrorists whom he himself sent… Sometimes he announces the discovery of a bomb here or there, according to information coming from Israel. As for arrests and trials, forget it.

The GSS, as per promises made to the Americans as part of the cease-fire agreement, relays information to the Palestinians about developments regarding terror attacks. Most of the information remains on paper. The Palestinians are also supposed to relay information that which could help thwart terror attacks. The information that arrives is marginal.

At his request, chief US monitor John Wolf receives from Israel, once a week, a report about what was done and what was not done. He requested such a report from the Palestinians as well, which he has not yet received. In the meantime, he is buried in a bureaucratic sea of correspondence. He has to report to the State Department, the White House, some of his people write reports to the CIA. Altogether the contribution of the American monitoring is not yet felt in the field.

On Wednesday Mofaz began the "braking stage" in Israeli gestures towards the Palestinians. This was no longer a talk about clarifying intentions. Mofaz asked for a report from Dahlan. Dahlan responded that the 90-day plan would begin working according to its own pace and conditions and that Israel should not interfere. Everything was said in good spirits, there was no confrontation. But the defense minister began to block: Kalkilya will not be transferred in the meantime to the PA. As for the other cities requested by Dahlan, such as Ramallah, he was told that the subject would be brought up in the security establishment.

At internal Defense Ministry discussions, Mofaz told the heads of the various departments that should the cease-fire collapse, his policy would be not to return to the parameters of military operations on the eve of the hudna, i.e., thwarting, capturing territory, curfew, closure, etc. That's over. If the cease-fire collapses and we face much stronger terror infrastructures, Israel will bring down the PA. The PA will end its historical role and no longer be a player in the arena.

In the same internal discussions, the defense minister said that if within a number of weeks the PA does not carry out real steps to stop and dismantle Hamas and Islamic Jihad infrastructures, Israel will not enter any negotiations about implementing the middle stage, i.e., the establishment of a Palestinian state in temporary borders. Moreover: Israel, in coordination with the US, will carry out moves that will make it possible to apply pressure on the PA. For instance: The IDF will again deal with the matter of smuggling from the tunnels in Rafah. In other words, the army will return to Rafah . . .

Top Israeli security officials have the feeling that we are again going to play the role of "regional sucker." That everyone has fallen in love with this hudna, including the Americans, and that it has become a substitute for the real dismantling of the terror infrastructures.

Abu Mazen and Dahlan are making an effort to sell the version that goes: The calm which we have created in the field will eventually lead to much greater international support for the PA. The PA will be strengthened as a result of this support, and then it will be able to deal with the terror infrastructures with the aid of the Palestinian street. Israeli officials claim that this is a theoretical version, which has not proved itself up to now.

This article an in the August 1st issue of the Yediot Aharonot

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Sharon Sees Bush Standing Strong for Disarmament of the Terror Groups
Nahum Barnea and Shimon Shiffer
Columnists, Yediot Aharonot

[Sharon's assessment contrasts with Dahlan's assurance that he was not asked by the US to disarm the terror groups - DB]

Sharon's aides are convinced that in this visit [to Washington], or rather in the interval between Abu Mazen's and Sharon's visit, the administration's attitude towards the new Palestinian government took a turn. This was the highlight of the visit, as far as they are concerned: No more discounts will be extended to Abu Mazen in the battle against terror. [The Americans] will no longer be satisfied with relative calm. There is an unequivocal demand for the terror organizations to be disarmed and eliminated.

This thesis was tested, successfully so far, on the White House lawn: Bush said it to Abu Mazen before the cameras, and repeated it in the press conference with Sharon. It has not been tested in the complex reality of the Middle East. Sharon's aides believe that the American pressure will have an effect and Dahlan will begin to arrest Hamas operatives. "He is walking around with a lighter near a pile of gasoline cans. If he does not light the fire in time, the gasoline will blow us all up."

Bush was surprised that the Israelis had imagined that he would waive the demand for the Palestinians to dismantle the terror infrastructure. "I set the battle against terror as a main objective of my foreign policy," he said. "I am saying that there can be no peace with terror. I will not be the one to give in on this issue."

Another part of Bush's world campaign against terror is Syria. The Syrian matter arose in the working lunch that Bush held with Sharon and his extended staff in the White House. The things that were said there would make several mustaches in Damascus stand on end.

"We are concerned by the Syrian behavior," said Bush. "We are conveying messages demanding that Bashar Assad immediately halt support for Hizbullah and the Palestinian rejectionist organizations. Our impression is that Assad is a bit strange. We thought he would be different than his father. After all, he is a doctor, and educated in the West. We ask ourselves, does he really control his country." […]

This article ran in the August 1st issue of Yediot Aharonot

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