|Israel Resource Review
||23rd October, 2000
Official PA radio news - the PBC Voice of Palestine - Oct 12-17
There was an important shift in recent days in the content and tone of
broadcasts, best signified by what was left out as by what was left in.
The lead-up to the Sharm al-Sheikh summit was marked by a sharp decline
in the use of direct calls for violence on the part of Palestinian Arabs.
This trend seemed to shift once again on the morning of October 17.
The pre-summit period also witnessed less use of inflammatory poetry
and the use of martial music and fiery rhetoric by reporters and studio
announcers-elements which characterized the period between Oct 1-Oct. 11
(e.g. comments by Palestinian minister Hassan Asfour: "We regard settlers
as terrorists and as targets for our bullets).
However, even during this more recent period there was also no clear
message-whether in the name of Yasser Arafat himself or in the name of "al
qiyadah-al-filastiniyya" (the Palestinian leadership) to avoid violence or
even to "remain calm." Indeed, there were still many secondary-level uses
of incitement such as rapid-fire, on-the-scene reports from battle zones
of Intifadat al-Aqsa (the al Al-Aqsa Intifada). This is especially true of
Hebron, Nablus and Bethlehem where breathless reports of injuries sustained
by citizens were juxtaposed to calls to listeners come out and help and
defend Palestinian rights.
The change in tone and content does not appear to have any connection to
the Israeli helicopter gunship attack on Palestinian transmitters after
which VOP broadcasts moved from 657medium wave (AM) to 103.4 FM. Rather, the
change seems to be connected with a political decision by the Palestinian
Authority based on the perception that the fiery rhetoric and some of the
fiery actions (such as the burning of the Tomb of Joseph in Nablus) were
"irresponsible" (to use VOP's own term) or counter-productive.
Moreover, there has been no official condemnation or even public
pronouncement of disapproval of any single act or sets of actions carried
out by Palestinian forces or civilians. These include the attacks on
Israeli soldiers by Palestinian police who were members of the same joint
Palestinian-Israeli patrol units in Gaza, the mob killings in Ramallah or
the shootings into Israeli settlements and neighborhoods.
The Voice of Palestine has for more than five years been the official
voice of the Palestinian Authority, particularly its leader, Yasser Arafat.
It has broadcast almost exclusively in Arabic from its headquarters in
Ramallah, but in the last two weeks, VOP has added several daily news
bulletins in Hebrew, English and French to its daily menu.
VOP's message has almost always been more modulated, sophisticated and
moderate than PA television or newspaper outlets.
For purposes of this survey, news broadcasts have been monitored at peak
listening hours and news round-up shows (7AM,8AM, 12-Noon, 2PM, 4PM and 7 or
ELEMENTS OF REPORTING
VOP has continued its stepped up attention to "Arabs within the Green
Line," highlighting Israeli Arab members of Knesset (MK's) far beyond the
level employed before the current crisis. Similarly, Israeli Arab
casualties have been given equal billing with Palestinian casualties. The
term "Israel" is almost never used in connection to Arab citizens of Israel,
and it is apparent that the PA is consciously using its radio to woo and
influence this community.
Here are some concrete examples:
Oct 5-Several news reports referred to Israeli police operating against
riots in Nazareth and Um al-Fahem as "junuud al-ihtilal" (occupation
soldiers. This was the first referral to Israeli security forces operating
inside Israel (the Green Line) as "junuud al-ihtilal"
Oct 6-In clashes between Jews and Arabs,VOP used, for the first time, the
term "mustawtaneen" (settlers or colonists) to refer toJewish citizens of
The United States
In recent days, VOP has been pushing the PA position that the US is
tilting strongly in Israel's favor, particularly on security positions as
well as Israel refusal to accept an international inquiry into the recent
VOP reported (7AM, Oct. 17) that PA General Abdel-Raziq al-Mujaida said
the Israeli taking over of international border checkpoints in Rafah was
the end of the ceasefire agreement reached several days earlier because of
"criminal Israeli terrorism."
Interviewee Dr. Manuel Hassasian (7:13 AM): "The summit is one thing and
the blessed intifada is another thing. The blessed intifada has is part of a
historical process and it has pushed forward the Palestinian cause"
The tough and even direct incitement showed signs of beginning to return
on October 17 as the results (or lack thereof, according toVOP'smorning
reports) of the Sharm al-Sheikh summit became clearer.
A. Muhammad Dahalan, head of PA security in Gaza, during 7AM interview
show: "The intifada will continue. We will not arrest members of Hamas and we
will not take away their arms."
B. 9:55 AM October 17, Senior commentator Youssef al-Kazaz (during
lead-up to a telephone call-in show with listeners):
"We will defend ourselves. We will defend our land. We will defend our
history. We will defend our holy places."
(Note: the call to "defend holy sites" and "come out and defend al-Aqsa"
was used on VOP broadcasts on September 27 and September 28 in the prelude
to the visit of Ariel Sharon to the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif areas.)
Muhammad Jabber (caller, speaking to al-Kazaz): "The blood of the
Palestinians will continue to flow. Onward to Jihad."
Kazaz: "Thank you Muhammad, and blessings on you and on all Palestinian
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Official PA radio news - the PBC Voice of Palestine - Oct 18/19
The Palestinian Authority yesterday announced compliance with the Sharm
summit understandings, but the announcement (which ran first at 2-PM on Oct.
18 and subsequently) was noteworthy for three factors:
1. It was terse.
2. It was ambiguous.
3. It was conditional on Israel keeping agreements first. (See below for
details). In addition, all Palestinian commentators and politicians
interviewed stress their belief that Israel will violate agreement.
The broadcasts of October 17-18, after the Sharm summit, stressed Israeli
obligations-to withdraw, to lift closure etc-without mentioning reported
The three big achievements of the summit are seen as the inclusion of the
UN in monitoring results (through Secretary General Kofi Annan), opening up
airport and port, and highlighting Palestinian cause. Iraq has received
favorable mention several times for sending aid and for trying to urge a
tough line at the coming Arab summit.
Through the broadcasts of Oct 18-19, there has been no clear renunciation of
violence. There has been no condemnation of any violence-except by Israelis;
Nor has there been any condemnation or even serious criticism of any
particular act violence against Israeli civilians, policemen or soldiers
(such as the mob lynching or burning of Jericho synagogue), and there has
been no general call for Palestinian citizens to exercise restraint or to
put away their weapons.
Quite the contrary, VOP continues to identify Israel, Israeli politicians
and Jewish settlers as continuing in wanton acts of aggression against the
peace-loving Palestinian people.
NEVERTHELESS, THERE HAS BEEN A CHANGE IN TONE.
Muhammad al-Sayyad, the head of the Israeli Desk at VOP told Israel Radio
(Voice of Israel-Kol Yisrael) that VOP had been instructed to tone down
nationalistic messages and music. Mr. Al-Sayyad's comments, however, are
true, but not completely so. Much of the martial music-with explicit
blood-curdling lyrics-has been shelved for the moment, but a strong
undercurrent of hostility-even threats-remains in the verbal content of news
and interview shows and some musical portions as well.
Shortly after the Sharm agreement, VOP an agreement was signed. Later,
taking its cue from Arafat's advisor Nabil Abu-Irdeineh, it said the summit
ended in understandings, not a real agreement.
Clashes between soldiers and Palestinians-such as the Giloh shootings in
Jerusalem following the summit-are characterized as Israeli aggression and
racism. There is no mention of sniping or Palestinian initiation of fire.
For example, the Giloh-Beit Jalla incident was reported on Oct17 in the
evening and Oct 18 in the morning as an Israeli attack prompted by
Jerusalem's racist mayor ( "hundreds of members of the racist Kach movement
led by Mayor Olmert leading the demonstration"). Giloh itself was
identified in several broadcasts as "mustmara" (colony) or "mustawtana"
The critical sniping attack on an Israeli policeman was offered in the
passive voice, without any attempt to identify who the shooter might be.
Similarly, the next morning's broadcast opened with the following item:
"Four citizens were martyred and ten injured in confrontations sparked by
the continuation of Israeli aggression against our people."
There are some signs of internal dissension (inside Fatah rather than
between PA and Hamas), as seen in remarks by Yousef al Kazaz during his
commentary on Oct. 19.
DETAILS AND EXCERPTS
October 19-Voice of Palestine
7:00 AM morning headlines (in order):
1. The Palestinian leadership warns against the separatist policy advocated
by some Israeli policymakers;
2. The leadership affirms its adherence to the understandings of the Sharm
al-Sheikh summit consistent with execution of those understandings;
3. Speaker of Parliament Ahmed Qureia discusses the dangers of the
separation policy in an interview;
Interview with AhmedQureia (Abu Ala), Speaker of Palestinian Legislature,
"The situation is not just the towns and villages. It is much more dangerous
than that. We are not against separation if it is based on the June 4 1967
lines, but we will not allow separation inside our land nor the
establishment of lines inside our land.
"The danger of the agreement spoken of between Barak and Sharon is that the
first point is the separation policy; the second point is the unilateral
annexation to Israel of settlements; the third is the consideration of the
Jordan Valley as Israel's security zone; the fourth point is leaving the
question of Jerusalem open for 10 or 15 years without solution. That is the
danger and it's not important which voice expresses it-Prime Minister
Barak. It's important to expose this and fight this before it gets
implemented because they believe that force is the only thing that works in
Q: What is your view of the peace process?
A: "There's no question that it has been wounded, and its blood is flowing
from the blows it received from the Israeli government. I don't see any
chance of the process being resumed -as spoken of-in the coming weeks,
according to President Clinton's statement.
Q: The language of pressure and threats is not new to the Israelis, then
why go back to the dialogue (with the Israelis) if the extremist Sharon is
going to be in the government?
A: It's difficult. The government does not have a parliamentary
majority. It's difficult for Arab parliamentary deputies. I don't know any
country in the world that would open fire on its citizens in such a wicked
way that Israel opened fire on its Palestinian Arab citizens in Nazareth,
Um al-Fahem, Acre, Haifa and Jaffa."
Q: What do think about what happened in Sharm al-Sheikh?
A: "This is not an agreement, but a collection of understandings.
"We want the protection of our national and personal rights for which our
people have struggled. And also not just that, we want the American
administration to understand our clinging to our national rights-the right
of return, self-determination, an independent state whose capital is
Jerusalem--these are not exaggerated (demands) from our standpoint nor are
they simply blowing out hot air."
Commentator Yousef Al-Kazaz: (8:40-10:00 AM)
"The Palestinian Ministry of Information condemns the Israeli attempts
against President Yasser Arafat , against our elected president.
President Arafat clarified the essence of the Palestinian position:
"We will defend ourselves, our national legitimacy, the unity of
Palestinian homeland from Al Aqsa (note: play on words, means from the
furthest point) in the North, from Hebron, from Rafah in the south to
Jerusalem in its heart.
"In Sharm al-Sheikh, the Americans, in the person of President Clinton
took note of the reality of the Palestinian position for choosing a
strategic peace for the sake of national legitimacy, a Palestinian state.
"Any security actions taken on the land by the Israeli occupation will
definitely be met by Palestinian security actions no matter what anyone
wants or what anyone reacts to it among personalities here or there or
anyone inside the Fatah movement. We comfort our wounded who were injured
due to the aggression started by Sharon who polluted our holy places
in Jerusalem, igniting a bloody war between Israel and Palestine. We mourn
our martyrs. They will remain inscribed in our memories, their names on our
schools and on our streets.
"We will not abandon our national dream in our Palestinian state, nor will
we renounce that dream. We will not be terrorized by Israeli killing and
destruction. We have sworn that no trace of Israeli occupation will ever be
left in our land. As for the Israelis, if they want peace, if they want
coexistence, they have to get out of our land, Palestine.
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Official PA radio news - the PBC Voice of Palestine - Oct 20/21
SUMMARY AND ANALYSIS
In the lead-up to the Arab summit, there has once again been a strong
escalation in strong rhetoric and atmospheric tension on the Voice of
Palestine as shown in the broadcasts of October 20-21. Most of the news
shows are taken up with announcements of deaths and casualties suffered at
the hands of "occupation forces "committing evil crimes" (jara'im
wihshiyya) followed by denouncements of Israel's human rights violations,
emphasizing that the UN had agreed to investigate.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
Yasser Arafat, featured at 10:00 intro to the news: "By blood and by
spirit we will redeem you O Palestine." (The quotation in Arafat's own
voice was apparently taken from an old rally.)
The same slogan featured prominently in VOP's coverage of mosque prayers
on Friday Oct 20 as in its Hebron reporter's coverage at 2PM of mosque
demonstration: "The worhipers came out of the Nasr Mosque chanting 'By blood
and spirit we will redeem you O Palestine."
One of the signs that VOP is toughening its line is the frequent quoting of
the hard-line Farouk al-Qadoumi (nominally the PLO foreign minister) who on
normal occasions is usually ignored by VOP. Qadoumi has been a vocal
opponent of the Oslo Process and he is considered "pro-Syrian." When he is
featured on the news in a high-profile position, it is a definite signal
from the PA leadership.
The coverage of three major incidents shows the anti-Oslo trend:
1. The attempted destruction of a Jewish commuter bus in Gaza, with about 40
people on board. While Israeli media covered the incident and described the
huge and sophisticated nature of the 11-pound satchel charge (which was
fitted with metal ball-bearings and shrapnel-producing devices), the Voice
of Palestine ignored the incident altogether, reporting only that
"occupation soldiers fired at citizens." It goes without saying that the
VOP also did not feature any Palestinian Authority condemnation or
disapproval of the incident. Israel Radio reported that the sophisticated
bomb was, according to Israeli intelligence officials, constructed by top PA
officers under the command of Gaza Security chief Muhammad Dahlan. Because
of the heavy shielding around the bus, no one on board was seriously hurt.
2. The explosion at the PA's Force 17 headquarters in Bethlehem was ignored
for many hours. This may indicate the PA's embarrassment over what may have
been a "work-related" explosion caused by a premature detonation of a bomb
that was being prepared or embarrassment over negligence at such a
high-level PA installation. (Force 17is the elite PA unit which serves as a
personal guard for Yasser Arafat.)
3. The several-hour-long incident near Nablus involving a group of settlers
who were touring Biblical sites. Starting in the afternoon of October 19,
the incident-which was on-going---was described as a settler attack on
Palestinian citizens. By 10o'clock in the evening, the whole tone of VOP
had changed. The news was preceded by a resurgence of martial music. The
news opened with an official statement from "a security source," who
described "a group of armed settlers attacked the Askar (refugee) Camp."
There was no reference to the fact that most of the settlers were women and
children and that most of the men, too, were unarmed and that they had
arrived on a school bus.
An unusual but telling feature of the morning broadcast of October20
was the use of an pseudo-academic lecture (broken up by martial music) to
highlight the comparison between Yasser Arafatand the lateGrand Mufti Haj
Amin al-Husseini. Listeners weretoldhow Husseini opposed the Jews
(al-Yahoud) in Jerusalem and how he stood up to then-world power Great
The announcer also featured the way the Palestinian masses (translation
from Arabic jamahir) rejectedthe pleas of the moderate Iraqi Foreign
Minister of the time Nuri al-Said to reject violence and strikes. (This may
have been a veiled snub of the current position of Egyptian president Husni
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Official PA radio news - the PBC Voice of Palestine - Oct 22
The Voice of Palestine continued its policy of leading its news shows
with the details of the burial of "martyrs" and the listing and counting of
the injured. VOP continues to go into detail about the funeral arrangements
in an effort to maximize crowd size.
The two next important items in the headlines (Oct 21 eve and Oct 22
throughout the day) are, respectively, continued demands for investigation
of human rights violations and "wicked crimes" committed by "occupation
forces" as well as analysis of the outcome of the Arab summit.
The strident militaristic tone that re-emerged strongly on the eve of the
Cairo summit has remained, appearing not only in the news programming but
also in musical programming, historical features and phone-in shows and
Almost every news show is preceded by strongly patriotic and/or Islamic
songs speaking of "breaking down the gates to Jerusalem" or "returning to
QUOTES OF THE DAY
(The fourth and fifth headlines in 8AM and 9AM VOP news)
"The Italian delegate to the United Nations says that Israel (deliberately)
sent its two soldiers into Ramallah a week ago knowing full well what would
befall them -- as a means to gain favorable public opinion."
(The use of this item-through the mouth of a foreign source-- is
significant and subtle because the PA's own police captured the Israeli
soldiers outside Ramallah and brought them into a police station inside
Ramallah. Some PA officials reportedly apologized privately to Israel
counterparts at the time, but the above item can be seen as a public
retraction of the reported apology. Furthermore, the Italian government had
itself-more than 12 hours before the VOP broadcast-- said that the Italian
delegate's comments did not reflect government policy.)
"The Executive Committee of the Arab Orthodox (Chutch) Council in Palestine
calls on the masses of our people to come out of the churches at 11:30 to
express refusal to accept Israel's international terrorism in all its forms."
The Palestinian Authority, through its ministers interviewed on VOP, is
pleased with the tough tone of the Cairo summit and the call to stop
contacts with Israel. At the same time, the PA seems genuinely disappointed
that the summit did not act even more strongly.
"The Intifada of the Palestinian people has left a strong impression on
the Arab street and in each Arab country," declared Information Minister
Yasser Abed-Rabbo in a morning interview. "We haven't seen this kind of Arab
stance for some time," said Abed-Rabbo, who, along with Arafat himself,
seems proud to have united the Arabs against Israel once again, including
Iraq-which threatened to attack Israel.
"The holding of this summit-including the attendance of Iraq and all the
Arab countries-was the first Arab summit in more than ten years," declared
Development Minister Nabil Sha'ath in an afternoon interview.
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"No Arab military west of the Jordan River"
Fact or Fiction?
by Gal Luft
Though the dimensions of the evolving Palestinian state have not yet been decided upon, one thing is almost certain: Palestine will be the Arab neighbor with which Israel shares the longest border. Furthermore, Palestinian armed forces are deployed no further than five miles from Ben Gurion Airport, 11 miles from the Israeli Defense Forces' headquarters in Tel Aviv and two miles from the Knesset in Jerusalem. These facts alone are enough to place the emerging Palestinian army, its institutions, its intentions and its capabilities at the center of attention of Israel's defense establishment in the coming years. However, there is one obstacle preventing serious treatment of the topic. The official position of all Israeli governments since the signing of the Oslo Accords has been that there is no nor will there ever be a Palestinian army west of the Jordan River, even in the framework of a comprehensive peace deal with the Palestinians. Police yes, but an army is out of the question. The disqualification of a Palestinian army even became one of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's so called four red lines for final status negotiations--the others being no return to the 1967 borders, no division of Jerusalem and no acceptance of full responsibility for the creation of the refugee problem1. As long as Israel views and treats the Palestinian army as merely a police force, it will be conceptually difficult to treat it as a potential threat, to factor it into the Arab-Israeli military balance and to allocate the necessary resources to meet the challenges that such an army could potentially pose. Since the beginning of the peace process, the conception of a demilitarized Palestine has been an Israeli wishful thinking; Palestinians, however, seem to have a different aspiration: to have their own armed forces.
In a 1998 study on the Palestinian security services, I concluded that the Palestinian police in its present shape is a hybrid, too complex and overstaffed to be the police force required for the preservation of law and order in the Palestinian territories, yet, for the moment, lacking the infrastructure required for the creation of a regular standing army. Further, I argued that as a militarized society, the Palestinians are likely to aspire to have their own regular army as an important component of their nation building process2. Nothing that happened since then profoundly alters this assessment. On the contrary, over the last three years the Palestinian Authority has taken further steps toward the inauguration of a full-fledged Palestinian army. In May 1998, for example, the Palestinian Legislative Council completed the legislation of the Firearms and Ammunition Law thus laying the foundation for defense industry. New weapons and fighting tactics have been introduced, and training has improved considerably with Palestinian company and battalion commanders receiving professional training in Egypt, Yemen, Algeria and Pakistan as commanders of combat units. In 1998, the training of Palestinian security forces was limited to small sized units such as platoons and companies, but since the beginning of 2000, the Palestinians have been exercising full battalions in different combat scenarios. In the first half of 2000 alone, no fewer than six battalions held full-scale exercises in the Gaza strip3. These are only some of the indicators showing that in the event of a Palestinian declaration of statehood-- whether unilaterally or part of a peace agreement with Israel--the Palestinians will already have a de facto, fully operational military force.
To assess the implications of a Palestinian army on Israel's national security, three issues need to be addressed. The first is to assess Palestinian intentions. How determined are the Palestinians to invest their scarce resources in a fully operational regular army. Would they be willing to settle on the Israeli restriction of, at most, an overgrown apparatus for law enforcement with a competent border police and perhaps some form of national guard? If they do decide to form an army, what kind of army would it be? Heavy or light? An all volunteer army or a conscript army? How do the Palestinians foresee their military institutions, their civil-military relations and the role of the military in their society? What operational capabilities do the Palestinians aspire to achieve and how will these aspirations materialize?
Aware of the Israeli sensitivity to the issue, the Palestinians have refrained so far from publicly discussing their plans for their country's defense. Due to the tense relations between Palestinian security chiefs and due to Yasser Arafat's centralist style of governing, it is not even clear whether Palestinian state builders have debated these issues among themselves behind closed doors. This makes the challenge of addressing Palestinian intentions even tougher.
Second, Israel's adherence to the "no army" policy raises an ethical dilemma and invites a reality check. Can one sovereign country prevent its neighbor from exercising the basic right of self-defense? Can it dictate to a neighbor how many and what kind of weapons it can have, how many soldiers it can recruit or what chunk of its national budget it can invest in defense? The history of international relations offers few precedents of such conduct raising questions about its viability. Israel's denying the state of Palestine the right to establish a standing army, to introduce mandatory military service, to procure and produce weapons, to invite the deployment of forces from fellow Arab countries or to enter into mutual defense treaties with them is a policy which deserves to be questioned. I will argue that Israel's policy of denying the state of Palestine the free hand to decide on its national security priorities is self-deluding and has little chance of showing long term success. Palestine's demilitarization can bear fruit only if Israel develops control and verification mechanisms that will endure in the long run. Israel should also be willing to react decisively against any agreement violations while bearing in mind that an overly restrictive and oppressive disarmament policy toward Palestine could be self-defeating; it could lead the Palestinians to seek alternative means of deterrence in the non-conventional sphere.
The third, perhaps the most important, set of issues deals with the scenario that all of Israel's efforts to demilitarize Palestine fail and a conventional Palestinian army is deployed in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. This could happen under two scenarios. In the case of a unilateral declaration of statehood, the Palestinians may feel that they are no longer bound by the quantitative and qualitative limitations of the Oslo agreements and might publicly proclaim the establishment of their army in the framework of their declaration of independence. Or the establishment of the state of Palestine could be part of a final status agreement with Israel. In such a case, the Palestinians are likely to accept Israeli stipulations regarding security, including strict restrictions on the supply, training and doctrine of the Palestinian armed forces. A gradual weakening of the enforcement mechanisms together with increased Palestinian enthusiasm to go public with their armed forces could result in a de facto Palestinian army on the ground.
Under both scenarios, Israel will have to seriously study the strategic implications of a Palestinian army for Israel's security and how this new player will affect the military balance in the Middle East in the eventuality of a military confrontation between Israel and the Arab world.
Soldiers Without Fortune
From the very beginning of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, it was clear to both sides that the right of self-government would include the right to bear arms. The agreements signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority--the 1994 Cairo Agreement, the 1995 Oslo II Agreement and the 1998 Wye Agreement--which provided for the establishment of the Palestinian police forces, also imposed strict on the siz, the structure, the responsibilities and the weapons of the Palestinian police. These limitations, however, were constantly violated. The Oslo II Agreement allowed the PA to employ no more than 30,000 police officers. In reality, the number of men in the Palestinian security services ranges between 41-45,000. The agreement also set a 15,240 limit on the number of firearms owned by the police. Here too, the PA has a bad record of compliance. It is hard to determine precisely the number of weapons in the PA, but it is estimated to be four times the allowed number. Perhaps most disturbing is the fact that some of the weapons are held by civilian members of the Tanzim, the armed wing of Fatah, barely controlled by the official security forces as was seen in the September 1996 tunnel riots, the Nakba riots in May 2000 and the October 2000 al-Aqsa riots when armed members of Tanzim opened fire at IDF troops.
Severe discrepancies also exist between the types of light weapons allowed by the agreement--including pistols, rifles and machine guns of 0.3" or 0.5" caliber--and the weapons that the PA is actually stocking. According to reports, the Palestinians have obtained anti-armor missiles, rocket propelled grenades, mortars, and possibly even shoulder launched anti-aircraft missiles.
The structure and composition of the Palestinian security services are also incompatible with the provisions of Oslo. Israel acknowledged the need for a civil police to deal with pure law enforcement, a public security service to perform security related missions such as joint patrols, a preventive security service to prevent acts of harassment, violence and retribution, a presidential security force to protect Chairman Yasser Arafat and other VIPs, an intelligence service to combat terrorism and prevent incitement to violence and Emergency Rescue services. In addition, Israel allowed the PA to establish a coastal police to prevent smuggling and infiltration from Gaza's shoreline. Though only seven services are recognized by the agreement, the PA employs today at least twelve security apparatuses, including military police, aerial police, military intelligence, and an enigmatic special security force which submits to Araft's direct control. The proliferation of the security forces serves an important role in the application of Arafat's long standing strategy of "divide and rule." By and large, the security services are hostile to each other and spend endless effort spying and monitoring each other; this system ensures that no security chief obtains too much power to endanger Arafat's regime.
The PA's bad record of compliance with security related provisions is a harbinger of two things to come. First, it shows that on matters related to their own security, the Palestinians do not see themselves bound by signed agreements, and there is no indication that this behavior will change once the Palestinians achieve statehood. Second, the above trend indicates that the PA is not only inclined to invest not only more resources in security than what was prescribed by the agreements but much more than most countries in a similar stage of development are willing to invest. The size and structure of the Palestinian security forces impose a heavy burden on the Palestinian economy. Almost a third of the one billion dollar annual budget of the PA is spent on salaries for the security personnel. The percentage of the PA's defense expenditure as part of its gross domestic product surpasses that of most Middle Eastern countries, including Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and Iran4. This level of expenditure does not leave enough resources for infrastructure, health, welfare, and education. It reflects, however, national priorities rather than real security needs.
The Palestinians live in a militarized society. In the seven years since the establishment of the PA, the "uniform" culture has pervaded every sector of society. Yasser Arafat, dressed in military fatigues, has become a generalissimo-style leader of a nation in arms. Military parades and ceremonies are common in Palestine's main cities; Palestinian media show on a regular basis pictures of the armed forces in action; the per capita ratio of armed personnel--an outstanding ratio of 1:50, the highest in the world--makes the members of the security services very visible in the PA.
The most striking indicator of the militarized society is the mobilization of Palestine's young generation. Palestinian scout groups and the Fatah youth movement, the Shabiba, include semi-military activities like parades, marching drills and martial arts in their programs. Summer camps run by the PA offer teenagers experiences like handling and firing light weapons, planning and executing mock attacks on IDF posts, and training in first aid. Young Palestinians are led to believe that a Palestinian army is in the making and that it is the historic role of their generation to serve in it. 5
Palestinian legislators, diplomats, security chiefs and academics seem to be in agreement about the symbolic as well as the functional necessity of some form of a Palestinian army after statehood is proclaimed. "A state," said police chief Gen. Ghazi Jabali "is not worth anything without an army that protects its civilians." 6 There is little agreement among Palestinians, however, on the military's purpose, its size, functions, and structure, nor on the organization and the nature of civil-military relations. Those who object to the establishment of a strong, heavily-equipped army are mainly concerned that an oversized army will become a liability on the Palestinian economy, sapping resources for economic development. Another source of concern is the current conduct of the Palestinian security forces: their abuse power, their human rights violations, their involvement in crime and corruption. The behavior of the security apparatuses has caused many Palestinians to feel they are living in a police state. This raises concerns among many that a concentration of power in the hands of a dominant armed force may undermine Palestinian democracy.
Among those who favor a full-fledged conventional army, many believe that a large armed force will be a major job provider to mitigate the disturbing unemployment problem. They believe that the only way to contain the resentment of the unemployed masses, keeping them off the streets, is by drafting them and instilling in them discipline and ideology.7
"As a nation heading toward independence, I don't think that we need a military power in the traditional sense." said Gen. Nasr Yusuf, Director General of Palestinian Public Security and Police Forces, "because our state will never enter into an arms race with Israel".8 Most Palestinians agree with this assertion. They realize that no matter how strong the Palestinian army will become, it will never be as strong as the IDF. The PA's expenditure on defense is only three percent of Israel's. Any attempt to enter an arms race with Israel would be detrimental for the Palestinian economy. The size, the organizations and the strength of the Palestinian army will therefore be designed to address the specific threats Palestine faces.
There are different views on what would constitute the acceptable force structure for the Palestinians. Yezid Sayigh suggested that since maintaining both a defense force and a police force might prove too costly, the Palestinians should study options for a single formation, such as national guard with responsibility for both law enforcement and border security. 9 Other officials insist that Palestine should have, in addition to a ground force, an air-transportation wing and a small navy to secure lines of communication and protect Gaza's territorial water.
One of the dilemmas the Palestinians will face is whether to equip their army with heavy weapons such as tanks and artillery or to keep it equipped strictly with light arms as Israel demands. From the economic point of view, a procurement of heavy arms would be a heavy burden. A first-class tank comparable to the Israeli Merkava III costs $3-5 million. Tank ammunitioncosts $750-2,500 per round. Maintenance atraining costs are also considerable. Low-grade equipment will not match the IDF's capabilities and will still take a heavy toll on the Palestinian economy. The total Palestinian expenditure on defense in the year 2000, for example, is equivalent to what Israel pays to purchase, maintain and train one top-of-the-line tank battalion or three sophisticated F-15I jets. With such a disparity of military and economic power, the Palestinians are likely to have little incentive to invest in the development of an armored corps.
In addition to the relatively high costs of heavy weapons and the political implications of violating of the agreement with Israel in such a way, there is another obstacle to establishing a heavily-equipped military. The Palestinians suffer a scarcity of training grounds where they can train heavy formations. Tank and artillery ranges require a lot of vacant space that the densely populated Gaza Strip and the mountainous West Bank lack. Without sufficient training, it is doubtful whether the Palestinians will ever be able to develop meaningful fighting capabilities of heavy formations. It is possible, however, that the Palestinian army will strive to obtain long-range weapons such as howitzers, mortars, and rocket launchers. For the Palestinians, artillery pieces are somewhat strategic weapons that would enable them to threaten strategic targets in Israel and deter it from attacking Palestine in the event tension rises between the two countries.
The same limitations that apply on the ground apply to a greater degree in the air and at sea. Presently, the PA has a small aerial unit which operates a tiny fleet of seven transport aircraft and helicopters. Although about 200 Palestinians have reportedly undergone training as fighter and helicopter pilots, only a small fraction of them are young and fit enough to serve as pilots in a Palestinian air force. The only airfield in Palestine, at Dahaniya in the Gaza Strip, is too small to accommodate a large air fleet. Following independence, Palestine is not likely to enjoy full sovereignty over its air space, as it is used by and considered essential for the training of the Israeli air force. It is very unlikely that Palestine will develop a significant air force, even in the long run. It is likely, however, that over time, the extent of civil air transportation will increase. Some of the civilian planes could serve military purposes, such as aerial photography and delivering of military articles between the West Bank and Gaza (assuming that an air strip will be constructed in the West Bank).
At sea, it seems that Palestine is not likely to make serious progress toward building a significant naval force. The 13 crafts owned by Shurta Bahariyya, the PA's coast guard, are mostly small Zodiak boats with no fighting capability. The Palestinians' first priority after independence would more likely be to invest in a commercial fleet rather than a maritime force. In the longer run, Palestine is likely to opt for patrol boats and frigates. Arab countries in the process of modernizing their fleets may provide Palestine with vessels taken out of service. Since air and sea platforms cannot be hidden from the IDF's intelligence gatherers, it is unlikely that Palestine will be engaged in serious effort to challenge Israel in these domains.
In sum, it is difficult to decipher the official PA intention regarding its future military force. All Palestinian policymakers and security officials with whom I talked admitted that no forum exists to discuss Palestine's long term security needs, mainly because the competition and the sour relations between the security chiefs do not allow an orderly process of brainstorming and exchange of views. It is probable that Arafat and his close circle of advisors are yet undecided on the nature of the Palestinian army. They all agree that it would be better for the Palestinians to leave the issue untouched until statehood is achieved rather than burden the already strained Israeli-Palestinian negotiations with another bone of contention.
Can Israel prevent Palestinian militarization?
Let us assume for a moment that an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement includes a Palestinian pledge to accommodate the Israeli "no army" red line. Will Israel be able to enforce such a provision if the Palestinians continue to be determined--despite the agreement--to have their own army? If so, for how long? What mechanisms are needed for verification and monitoring of such an agreement? Who will inspect, and what will be the penalties if violations occur?
History provides us with a few cases in which sovereign countries accepted, whether willingly or reluctantly, demands by their neighbors or patrons to limit their militaries to a certain size or to avoid using certain types of weapons. These restrictions led in most cases to negative, sometimes catastrophic, consequences. Germany after World War I was almost completely demilitarized by the victorious allies. The Versailles Treaty which went into effect on January 10, 1920, forbade conscription and limited the number of German troops to 100,000; the German General Staff was disbanded, as was the entire defense industry; and construction of aircraft, battleships heavier than 10,000 tons, submarines, tanks and heavy artillery was prohibited. To enforce compliance, the allies established a heavily-staffed control commission which was allowed to conduct on-site inspections throughout Germany. But the German aspiration to restore its position as a leading European power could not be suppressed. It took Germany less than 15 years to completely unbridle itself from the disarmament regime. During this period, the Germans avoided surrendering large quantities of military articles and were engaged in covert activities to evade the restriction of Versailles. In 1927, the control commission ceased to exist and arms evasions could proceed almost without disturbances. Twelve years later, when the Wehrmacht marched into Poland, Germany was Europe's strongest military power. 10
Following World War II, another country, the Republic of Korea under Syngman Rhee, experienced the fallacy and dangers of the 'light army doctrine.' In June 1949, the last US occupation force left Korea, and the responsibility for the defense of the Korean peninsula was left in the hands of the South Korean Army. As the Cold War intensified, the US, South Korea's chief patron, fearing unnecessary friction with the Chinese and Soviet Communists in Asia, saw great danger in allowing South Korea to become a regional military power. Rhee's army was, therefore, denied armor and heavy artillery and was supplied with only the necessary means to combat the mounting internal guerrilla activity. The June 1950 invasion of North Korea into the south revealed how poorly prepared the South Korean army was to meet the country's security challenges. In four days, North Korean troops stormed the south and took its capital Seoul leading to the long and bloody Korean War.
The cases of Germany and Korea demonstrate the potential dangers of regional powers' infringing on fellow countries' rights to decide on their necessary means of self-defense. The German case in particular demonstrates most of all the challenge of enforcement. Germany succeeded in unleashing itself from the disarmament regime mainly because the allied countries showed apathy in their treatment of the German violations. Their fallacy was the belief that the main safeguard against infraction of treaty obligations was the good faith of the signatory. More modern international regimes of disarmament and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction such as the Non Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty (NPT) and the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) show us again and again that attempts by one country to demilitarize a neighbor in order to prevent it from posing a threat are doomed to failure if that neighbor has set a goal to arm itself to the teeth. Countries like Iraq and Iran which were committed by the NPT not to manufacture, acquire or receive nuclear or other nuclear explosive devices have been undermining thespirit and the letter of the agreements they signed. History's lesson is that if the enforcement mechanisms are not coercive and harsh enough to convince the violators to stick to the letter of the agreement, one can rest assured that this kind of imposed demilitarization is likely not to succeed in the long run.
In its relations with the PA, Israel has proved to be reluctant to act decisively against Palestinian violations of previously signed agreements. With the exception of the Netanyahu government that put the issue of the Palestinian police at the top of its list of priorities during the 1998 negotiations at Wye River, Israeli governments fearing an erosion of the domestic support for Oslo turned a blind eye to the Palestinian violations. On the other hand, Israeli military officials have repeatedly expressed their indignation at the weak and indecisive response of Israel's civilian leadership to the ongoing violations. The most disturbing phenomenon the military pointed at was the September 1996 and May 2000 incidents of Palestinian policemen and Tanzim activists opening fire at IDF soldiers. Israel submitted a list of those holding weapons illegally and policemen suspected of misconduct, but so far the PA has ignored Israel's demand to punish the violators.11 Security officials also alerted against the growing activity of the Palestinian security forces in areas under Israeli security jurisdiction such as Area B and East Jerusalem. In this case too, the demands to discontinue the Palestinian security services' operations not coordinated with Israel went unheeded. Despite the PA's failure to comply with the agreements, Israel indicated that it was willing to move forward in the peace process. This lax attitude created a feeling among the Palestinian security officials that there is a wide gap between Israel's declared policies regarding the PA security forces and its actual willingness to enforce these policies. This is perhaps the reason for Arafat's reported concession to Barak's red line on a Palestinian army in the July 2000 Camp David summit. Around the negotiation table, the Palestinians indicated that they would be willing to accept major constraints on the right every sovereign nation has to form an army. They agreed, in principle, to a demilitarization of the West Bank and Gaza from heavy weapons and to avoid signing defense pacts with countries that are at a state of war with Israel.12 The militaristic tendencies of the nascent state and its poor record of compliance with signed agreements leave little hope that Palestine will live up to its obligations in the long run. After all, why would a proud nation that so far has not failed to adopt any symbol of state sovereignty, from a parliament to a postal stamp, agree to accept a gross intervention in its domestic affairs? Why would a nation that invests so much of its resources in security and which perceives itself to be under existential threats accept ongoing, intrusive limitations on the principle instrument of defense? The answer is that the acquiescence is quite likely tactical. The Palestinians know that as long as their army is kept "light," they can always present it as "an improved police force." After all, the line between an army and a lightly armed police force is often blurred. Furthermore, once statehood is achieved, the Palestinians will be able to find ways to scuttle Israeli attempts to verify and enforce the non-militarization clauses of the agreement.
The lesson of the Palestinian implementation of the Oslo accords is that merely expecting they will adhere to the honor system does not suffice to prevent the Palestinians from militarizing themselves. If serious about keeping Palestine demilitarized, Israel will have to adopt a series of verification mechanisms to ensure compliance with the agreement. As a sovereign state, Palestine will enjoy a free exchange of goods with the rest of the world through Gaza's harbor and airport. A Palestinian-Israeli final status agreement will also determine whether Palestine will control common borders with Egypt and Jordan. Whether via land, air or sea, the Palestinian state will be able to import a large variety of military articles including heavy weapons. In recent years, there have been many attempts to smuggle weapons and ammunition into the PA. The most popular methods were underground tunnels in the Rafah section of the Israeli-Egyptian border and Israeli criminals conducting illicit arms transactions with Palestinian clients. Though many of these operations were thwarted by the Israeli security forces, thousands of firearms and explosives, including weapons stolen from IDF bases, found their way into the PA. With Palestine turning into a state, Israel will be unable to prevent the import of light arms into the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Monitoring the import of heavier types of weapons such as tanks, armored personnel carriers and artillery pieces is likely to be easier. Heavy weapons are transported mainly via sea, and Israel could insist on placing on-site inspectors in the Gaza harbor to inspect suspicious looking shipments.
One of the most difficult challenges Israel will face following Palestine's establishment will be to draft a policy of sanctions and penalties to deal with future Palestinian breaches of the agreement on security related matters. Israel will have to establish a set of red lines that, if crossed, would trigger a response. The recent precedents of Israel giving in on its self-imposed red lines require special attention. Israel will have to distinguish between tolerable and intolerable breaches. Intolerable breached that might occur include: a Palestinian deployment of anti-aircraft missiles in an attempt to disrupt Israel free air traffic, the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction, an invitation to and deployment of foreign forces in Palestine, the support of terrorist groups, and the signing of bilateral or multilateral defense treaties with fellow Arab states.
A violation of these red lines would call for a harsh, though proportionate, Israeli response. Israel will have leverage to employ against Palestine if the latter attempts to undermine Israel's national security. Following the usual formal diplomatic protests, Israel could take more severe measures against Palestine, such as economic sanctions, a trade embargo, the termination of employment of Palestinian workers in Israel, an air and sea blockade, and the obstruction of free movement between Gaza and the West Bank.
To avoid such an escalation, Israel should insist, in the framework of an agreement with Palestine, on an international monitoring force that would have the right to perform on-site inspections at Palestinian military installations. Such a force should enjoy free access to Palestinian military supply depots, training bases, recruitment centers, laboratories, factories, workshops and most importantly, to restricted areas in the Gaza harbor and airport in order to inspect incoming goods. The inspection team should be required to submit periodical reports about Palestinian compliance with the demilitarization clause. Agreement violations would have to be addressed and treated promptly by Palestinian government authorities, and a failure to do so should be followed by proportionate response by the international sponsors of the agreement.
Strategic threat or strategic nuisance?
The emergence of a Palestinian Army in the West Bank and Gaza Strip has so far promoted little discussion in the Israeli defense establishment and academia. Most of the analyses of the potential implications of the emerging army have not been free of political biases attempting to present the Palestinian army as a formidable menace with potentially considerable strategic implications on Israel's national security. One of the most alarmist and widely publicized analyses on the topic was by Professor Yuval Steinitz and focused on the worst case scenario of a Palestinian invasion into Israel's rear in the event of a comprehensive regional confrontation betweenIsrael and its Arab neighbors. Steinitz asserted that the deployment of Paleforces in the immediate proximity of the Israeli rear is liable to transform them into a decisive factor in any Israeli war against an Arab coalition. Lightly armed Palestinian forces could disrupt the mobilization of Israeli reservists, harass 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 in the vicinity of the West Bank. Steinitz darkened the picture even more by suggesting that the Palestinian army is capable of launching a surprise attack against Israel. Teams of truck mounted Palestinian soldiers could successfully infiltrate deep into Israel attacking IDF headquarters, electronic media installations, public figures and government buildings.13
The Steinitz scenario cannot be totally dismissed, but by any military yardstick many of its elements are implausible.
The main problem that Palestinian infantry would face is that they simply could not penetrate very deeply into Israel on foot. They would likely face highly alert IDF units that would decimate them well before they reached their destination and caused significant damage. Despite its alarmist nature, the main merit of Steinitz's report is the introduction of the topic of the Palestinian army to Israeli public debate. The main question he tried to address is whether a Palestinian armed force west of the Jordan River constitutes a strategic threat to Israel. His answer is an unequivocal yes.
Nevertheless, determining the likelihood of the Palestinian army posing a strategic threat to Israel's security requires a serious assessment of two elements: capabilities and intentions. Whereas the capabilities of the Palestinian security forces are fairly well known, the Palestinian intentions are still enigmatic. To understand them, one should focus mainly on the Palestinians' perception of threat and their attitude toward the use of force in order to address those threats.
By and large, Palestinians view the role of their military as defensive. Decades of life under military occupation taught them a similar lesson to the one the Israelis learned: military force is the only means to deter hostile action against a newly born, feeble nation. The Palestinians feel a sense of powerlessness vis-à-vis the mighty state of Israel. Peace agreement with Israel is possible but it will not heal all the sore wounds Palestinians suffered in recent history. The Palestinians are likely to continue to perceive Israel as their main threat even if state of peace exists in the region. The Palestinians' primary fear is that of an Israeli reoccupation. Israel, with its formidable army and aerial dominance would be capable of invading Palestine and conquering its territory if such a need were to arise. The fear of being invaded is the most deeply rooted fear of any nation (perhaps with the exception of the lucky ones protected by an ocean). But for the Palestinians
the fear of invasion is more realistic than for all of Israel's Arab neighbors. The Palestinian state will be located on Israel's main water aquifer; if water becomes scarce, Israel might want to reclaim its access to the water. In addition, Palestine's tuning into a buffer state between Israel and Jordan could affect the Palestinians perception of threat. The Palestinians know that an invading force of an Arab coalition via Jordan has traditionally been one of Israel's primary security concerns. Israel invoked this contingency to justify the need to maintain Israeli military presence in the Jordan River Valley. in the Palestinian case the fear of invasion is a mirror image of Israel's own fear of invasion from the east. In fact, the Palestinian delegation to Camp David refused to accept any IDF presence along the Jordan River Valley and at the border checkpoints with Jordan.14 So by emphasizing the 'threat from the east,' Israel has instilled concern among Palestinians that in the event of an emergence of an Arab coalition in the east, Palestine could be invaded by IDF armored formations moving to secure the passes along the Jordan River as part of an Israeli preemptive action. Israel's fear, then, could make the Palestinians no less anxious than Israel about the possibility of anti-Israeli Arab coalition east of the Jordan River.
It is not only invasion that Palestinians may perceive as an existential threat. Their dependency on the Israeli economy is also a source of inherent weakness. In the event of a deterioration in Israeli-Palestinian relations, Israel could potentially strike the Palestinian economy with mortal blows simply by refusing to employ Palestinian workers or by obstructing the free movement of goods and services into Palestine by imposing an air and sea blockade. Another perceived threat is the threat of Israel cutting off the connection between Gaza and the West Bank, the two interdependent blocks of Palestine: Gaza, by virtue of its harbor and airport provides Palestine with a link to the world, and the West Bank provides the economic and cultural base. The safe passage connecting Gaza and the West Bank will be, at best, a sunken or bridged double-lane road easily blocked by one or two police patrols. For the Palestinians such action would be a casus belli their military forces would have to address.
A second set of threats the Palestinians are likely to be concerned with are domestic. From the organization and conduct of the Palestinian security forces in the pre-state period, we can see that domestic stability and the elimination of potential opposition to Arafat are the primary responsibilities of the Palestinian security forces. No fewer than five intelligence bodies are currently involved in intelligence gathering and spying on Palestinian government officials, members of competing security forces, and members of the Islamic opposition mainly from Hamas and the Islamic Jihad movements. Extensive intelligence efforts are also directed toward members of Palestinian militia groups in the diaspora and Fetah activists living abroad. In the event that an agreement with Israel grants Palestine control over joint borders with either Jordan or Egypt, the Palestinian Army will have to prevent cross-border infiltration of insurgents attempting to undermine the regime.
It is, therefore, safe to assume that the two missions of the Palestinian Army would likely be the defense against potential Israeli aggression and regime preservation. What kind of army would the Palestinians need in order to fulfill the two missions? In order to fulfill the second mission Palestine would need a force structure not very different from the one it already has, that is, with strong intelligence bodies and police forces trained in riot control and counter-insurgency operations. The fulfillment of the first mission would require quite a different force structure. 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 would have to seek means to deter Israel from using force against them. In order to build a deterrent capability, the Palestinians would have to consider the following options:
--Entering into defense treaties with fellow Arab nations. By entering into defense treaties with Arab nations, the Palestinians would send a message to Israel that a military attack on Palestine would necessarily invite intervention by other militaries. Knowing that an attack on Palestine would result in a regional confrontation could well deter Israel from using force against its weak Palestinian neighbor.
--Developing long range capabilities. The cheapest and most effective way to deter Israel from attacking Palestine would be to develop military capabilities that could inflict damage on a variety of strategic targets in Israel. The proximity to Israel's population centers would enable the Palestinians with primitive artillery pieces to comajor Israeli cities such as Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, 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 sea and air ports. The development of a Palestinian artillery corps would be the most cost-effective step for Palestine. Artillery pieces such as 122mm and 130mm towed guns, katyusha rocket launchers, and 120mm and 160mm heavy mortars are easily obtained and cheaply maintained. Israel would naturally take into consideration the heavy price its civilian population might pay in the event it were to attack Palestine.
Palestine can also opt to develop an anti-aircraft capability that would cover the majority of Israel's airspace. This capability has strategic relevancy since Ben Gurion Airport, Israel's aerial transportation hub, is located in close proximity to Palestinian territory. Relatively primitive anti-aircraft weapons could disrupt Israel's entire civil transportation infrastructure.
--Acquiring non-conventional capabilities. Even an impressive buildup of artillery forces would not suffice to offset the Palestinian inferiority in firepower vis-à-vis the IDF. Palestine is not likely to be able to develop an airforce, while the Israeli airforce could inflict heavy damage on Palestine. In addition, Israel is known to have developed a nuclear arsenal to be used as a weapon of last resort. The logic of developing a non-conventional capability could also apply to Palestine, a country engulfed by a powerful, potentially aggressive neighbor. The incentives that influence the Palestinians to introduce non-conventional weapons: First, their availability. Artillery shells and 122mm rockets armed with chemical warheads have been developed and are being produced by Arab countries like Syria, and Iraq. This ammunition is easily transferred and cheaply stored and maintained. The Palestinians could easily smuggle such ammunition into their territory and store it in underground warehouses. Second, their versatility. Chemical ammunition can be launched from standard artillery pieces and does not require the extra cost of procuring launchers. Third, medium range artillery pieces cannot be intercepted by Israel's ballistic missile defense system, the Arrow, that is being developed to counter against non-conventional threats from distant countries like Iran and Iraq. The present Israeli doctrine to defend its population centers against medium and short-range chemical attacks is essentially the distribution of gas masks and confinement into shelters and sealed rooms. The 1991 Gulf War proved this home-front defensive doctrine to be insufficient. Israel's vulnerability to weapons of mass destruction could be easily observed by the Palestinians who might find the non-conventional option an appealing means to counter balance Israel's non-conventional capabilities. Fourth reason is Palestinian pride. Most Arab countries are involved, in one capacity or another, in the development and procurement of weapons of mass destruction. The pursuit of such weapons has become far more than the fulfillment of a strategic necessity but a means to enhance national pride and to increase the country's prestige. The desire to become a player taken seriously in the region and to increase the Palestinians' self esteem could tempt the Palestine to glimpse toward the non-conventional option.
Needless to say that each one of the three courses of action would present Israel with a new set of strategic challenges not known since 1967. Israel could not sit idly by in the face of such a change in its strategic environment and would be prone to take punitive action against Palestine. This makes Palestine a perfect candidate to become a casualty of the widely known security dilemma. Any attempt by the Palestinians to enhance their security by adopting means of deterrence against Israel would ultimately leave Palestine less secure, economically damaged and diplomatically ostracized. I therefore conclude that any Palestinian attempt to impose a strategic, perhaps existential threat on Israel would be highly self-defeating. Though the possibility of Palestine adopting strategies which contradict their self-interest could not be excluded in light of some of their past choices, the likelihood of such an eventuality is small. Conversely, the plausibility of Palestine presenting Israel with a threat that is less then strategic or existential is much higher.
Years of friction and cooperation with Israel have taught the Palestinians some important facts and lessons about the IDF's operational culture, its conduct, its weak points as well as its strong points. The Palestinians have also followed with great interest Israel's operations in Lebanon against Hezballah guerillas. Israel's war in Lebanon taught the Palestinians about the Israeli public's high sensitivity to casualties. The unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon created the impression among Palestinians that Israel suffered from war fatigue and that a well trained, dedicated guerilla group could drive Israel out of an occupied territory. The perceived victory of Hezballah in Lebanon has not only made the Shiite movement popular among Palestinians but has also presented the Palestinians with a viable alternative to the diplomatic track in case it fails to meet the Palestinians' expectations of the peace process. Attempting to emulate Hezballah's success, the Palestinians are apt to resort to use of force by means of guerilla tactics that differ from the terrorism and popular uprising means they used so far. The mountainous territory of the West Bank and the densely populated refugee camps of the Gaza Strip would constitute typical, Lebanon like, guerilla warfare friendly terrain. It could take place in the shape of sporadic attacks on IDF vehicles, planting of side-bombs and mines along Israeli routes of transportation, ambushing and attacking Jewish settlements and their residents, and sabotaging Israeli civilian and military installations.
The "Lebanonization" of the West Bank and Gaza Strip is one of the most sought after strategies Palestinians are contemplating in the event of a major showdown with Israel. But in addition to the precedent of Hezballah's success in Lebanon, there is another reason for the Palestinians to value the merits of low intensity conflict against Israel. The September 1996 riots following Israel's opening of the Hasmonean Tunnel in Jerusalem were a landmark in Palestine's history of armed resistance. The three days of fighting were the first opportunity Arafat had to test his soldiers' combat performance. Surprisingly, they fared well. Despite the IDF's overwhelming superiority in manpower and weapons, the Palestinian police inflicted 14 dead and dozens of wounded Israeli soldiers. Among the IDF casualties were three senior officers, two colonels and a brigadier general. The PA also paid a heavy price in the riots: 69 killed, but only 12 of them were police officers. Most importantly, the bloody riots brought diplomatic victory to the PA, because they broke the standstill in the peace process in place since the May 1996 election of Prime Minister Benjamin Natanyahu.
Many Palestinians perceive the "September War"
to have been a mini victory over the IDF. They believe that an
armed intifada exposed to media coverage would eliminate the
disparity in power between the IDF and the Palestinian forces,
since Israel would be unable to use widely its heavy weapons and
air power. They believe that the military option is viable and
that the military capabilities they have acquired so far would
suffice to conduct a protracted guerilla campaign against
Israel. The Palestinians assume that Israel would not be
inclined to carry out high level of violence against civilian
targets and, in light of the Lebanon experience, under no
circumstances would be willing to become embroiled in a costly
war in urban areas.
Employment of the Palestinian army as a tool to
achieve political independence is a real source of concern in
the IDF. Many of the lessons learned in September 1996 have been
incorporated by the IDF, and most of its combat units are better
prepared for a showdown in the territories. But it is not clear
if Israeli society is willing to endure a long, violent
confrontation that is likely to take a high toll in life and
treasury. If the results of such a war would repeat the
precedent of the Tunnel riots, that is, the accomplishment of a
political goal through the use of force, then the threat
constituted by the Palestinian army could indeed be considered
to be strategic.
The other plausible configuration in which the Palestinian army could have strategic relevancy is in the case of a full-scale war between Israel and an Arab coalition. The pro-Arab disposition of the Palestinians makes it safe to assume that they will not sit idly by if such a war breaks out. Palestine's main contribution to the coalition's effort would be the disruption of the IDF's mobilization system by creating chaos and confusion in Israel. 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 over reliance on reserve forces, 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 army of Palestine. 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. The emergence of a threat from the east would force the IDF to send armored reserve formations to the eastern border. These units would have to force their way through Judea and Samaria's narrow corridors and could be easily subjected to the Palestinian Army's direct fire. The impact of the Palestinian army on an Israeli mobilization should not be underestimated. However, Palestinian success in disrupting IDF units from moving to the front in the case of a full- scale war would probably not have a decisive effect on the outcome of an Arab-Israeli war. The IDF would apply enough air cover to allow reinforcements to reach the front line early enough to confront enemy forces crossing the Jordan River, but these reinforcements would most likely to arrive at the front after experiencing considerable delays and fighting.
Conclusion: calling spade a spade
A combination of the Palestinians' will to have a significant army and an Israeli failure to dissuade the Palestinians from adopting such a plan is likely to result in a Palestinian army that is more than what Israel would like to see and much less than what the Palestinians aspire to. Assuming that against Israel's wish, Arafat will eventually establish an army, Israel should begin to conceptually as well as operationally prepare for such an eventuality. This would require Israel to acknowledge the fact that an Arab military will exist west of the Jordan River. Once reality sinks in, the Israeli defense establishment will have to adapt its existing defensive and offensive plans to a new environment in which Israel is surrounded by one more Arab country. The IDF will have to prepare operational plans to deal with the different scenarios that the Palestinian army could present. Moreover, the IDF will have to take a new look at the Middle East military balance and factor the new Palestinian military in the overall Arab order of battle. It will be have to reconsider the allocation of forces, in terms of quality and quantity, to the different regional commands and assess whether the current order of battle and its equipment are suitable for some of the scenarios presented above. As the most likely scenario in the near future is what was referred to in this work as the "Lebanonization of the West Bank and Gaza," the IDF will have to continue to develop its counter-guerilla doctrine and establish new units that specialize in this type of warfare. The IDF's proven ability in Lebanon to incorporate cutting-edge technology and tactical sophistication has to be applied to the Palestinian front in a short period of time and with no less success than shown in south Lebanon. To accurately assess the intentions and capabilities of the growing Palestinian army, Israel will also have to invest a great deal in intelligence gathering by means of electronic and airborne devices to compensate for the loss of its presence on the ground.
All of these activities cannot take place without Israel's first recognizing that a Palestinian army is already in the making and that the creation of a substantial Palestinian army would introduce a new threat to Israel's security. A threat that could, under certain scenarios, cause mainly psychological and operational problems for Israel. Once acknowledged, however, it is also a threat that could be contained and acted upon. The key to a serious treatment of any problem lies in its recognition, and such recognition is not the role of the IDF but an exclusive mandate of Israel's civilian leadership. This leadership is caught in a dilemma. The Israeli government's continuous treatment of the Palestinian army as a mirage denies the IDF the tools with which to seriously treat the problem. Conversely, by accepting the inevitability of a Palestinian army, Israel could lose important bargaining cards in its security negotiations on a final status agreement.
Despite the many unresolved issues that still exist between Israel and the Palestinians, it appears, ironically, that on the issue of the Palestinian army both sides share similar approach: each for its own reasons would like the other side to believe that an Arab military west of the Jordan River does not really exist.
- Prime Minister Ehud Barak's address to the Knesset on the Camp David Summit, July 10, 2000.
- Gal Luft, The Palestinian Security Services: Between Police and Army, (Washington DC: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 1998).
- Ha'aretz, July 12, 2000.
- Defense expenditure as a share of GDP for 1996 of the PA was 6.4% in comparison to: Egypt-4%, Iran-5.5%, Lebanon-3.7%, Qatar-4.3%, Sudan-2.2%, Syria-6.2%, Tunisia-1.8%. Adapted from Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies Shlomo Brom and Yiftah Shapir eds. The Middle East Military Balance 1999-2000 (London and Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2000).
- The New York Times, August 3, 2000, A1.
- Khaled Abu Toameh, "Uniform Culture," The Jerusalem Report, July 31, 2000, p. 28.
- See for example Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Ahmed Qurie (Abu Ala), speaking at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy's Soref Symposium, in Washington, D.C., May 7, 1998.
- Defense News, July 13, 1998, p. 20.
- Yezid Sayigh," Redefining the Basics: Sovereignty and Security of the Palestinian State," Journal of Palestine Studies, XXIV, no. 4 (summer 1995), p. 10.
- See Barton Whaley, Covert German Rearmament 1919-1939: Deception and Misperception, (Frederick, Maryland: University Publications, 1984).
- Ze'ev Schiff, "Anger in the IDF," Ha'aretz, May 22, 2000.
- Yediot Ahronot, Weekend Supplement, August 18, 2000, p. 5.
- Yuval Steinitz, When the Palestinian Army Invades the Center of the Country.
- Haaretz, August 14, 2000, p.B-3.
Gal Luft is a former battalion commander in the IDF and
currently a doctoral candidate in the Department of Strategic
Studies of the Johns Hopkins University's Paul H. Nitze School
of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).
Lt. Col. (res.) Luft is a research associate of the
Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He is the author of
The Palestinian Security Services: Between Police and
Army (Washington DC, 1998) and co-author of The Last
Arab-Israeli Battlefield: Strategic Implications of Israel's
Withdrawal from Lebanon. (Washington DC, 2000).
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