Challenges: The Palestinian Authority (PA) is committed to building and maintaining competent and professional security and justice sectors to help advance a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, a core U.S. national security objective. PA security forces work in conjunction with the justice sector to provide law enforcement, ensure public safety, combat violent crime such as terrorism, and respect human rights in the West Bank. The INL-funded PA Security Sector Transformation Program (PASSTP) is assisting the PA to achieve these objectives.
A three-star officer – currently U.S. Army Lieutenant General Frederick Rudesheim – serves as the United States Security Coordinator (USSC) to assist the PA to transform and professionalize its security sector; engage with the Israelis and Palestinians on security initiatives that build trust and confidence; and support U.S. and international efforts that set the conditions for a negotiated two-state solution. INL works closely with the USSC to implement security assistance programs for the PA, and provides the funding necessary to support the PASSTP and related U.S. efforts. The U.S. also coordinates with the Government of Israel in order to implement this program.
Goals: The INL program began in 2007 with a key goal to establish at least nine special battalions within the PA National Security Force (NSF), a gendarmerie-like force with the mission to provide a rapid reaction capability to support the Palestinian Civil Police (PCP). After attaining this milestone in 2012, the program’s overall focus shifted from build, train, and equip to one focused on assisting the PA to develop further the institutional capacities to maintain these gains. The program now continues to assist the PA to professionalize its security forces, and assist the PA to build, maintain, and sustain security and justice sector institutions necessary for a future Palestinian state.
INL added a Ministry of Interior (MOI) project in 2008 and a justice sector project in 2009. In 2010, INL introduced a corrections project and began supporting the Palestinian Civil Defense(PCD) (fire/rescue service). INL’s assistance to the PCD works to ensure it is prepared to prevent, mitigate, and control hazards. The MOI institution-building project focuses on reform and increased accountability, management, and administrative oversight of the ministry. INL’s corrections programming assists the PA to enhance compliance with international human rights standards for prison and detention centers.
The goal of the justice project is for the PA to improve delivery of justice services and to uphold the rule of law with the public, and within the PA security services. Its primary components include the creation of an automated case management system, improved evidence collection, increased coordination between law enforcement and prosecutors, and construction of new prosecutors’ offices in Jericho and Nablus. The program enables the PA to provide better public service and allows criminal investigators and public prosecutors to develop stronger cases that lead to faster, fairer, and more impartial justice. The justice project also includes a component to develop legal defense capabilities for indigent and marginalized youth and adults.
Accomplishments: By 2012, INL and USSC had trained and equipped nine NSF Special Battalions and two Presidential Guard battalions, totaling over 5,500 personnel. The PA has deployed these battalions on successful operations throughout the West Bank, conducted counter-terrorism and other law enforcement operations such as occurred in Jenin during June, and Nablus during September of 2016, and provided security during public events, including a high-profile and complex visits by President Obama in 2013 and the Pope in 2014.
The PA security assistance program is widely regarded as a success. Speaking before the European Parliament in March 2013, then-Israeli President Shimon Peres said, “A Palestinian security force was formed. You and the Americans trained it. And now we work together to prevent terror and crime.” Thanks largely to the effective and measured use of crowd control methods, crisis negotiation, and other policing tactics by the PA security forces, large demonstrations that have occurred periodically in the West Bank in recent years have not resulted in widespread violence, injury, or death. In April 2016, Israeli Defense Minister Ya’alon said “the PA has worked tirelessly recently to stop terrorism” and his Central Command Chief added “a few months ago, Israel was handling about 85 percent of the counterterror activity in the West Bank…but today the Palestinians are handling about 40 percent.”
At the request of the PA Attorney General, INL expanded its successful justice sector case management project, which started with one governorate, to include all of the West Bank. INL’s training and technical assistance for criminal investigators and prosecutors has succeeded in cutting case backlogs by as much as 90 percent in some governorates, and shortening the length of time it takes prosecutors to prepare a case by as much as 50 percent. The increased efficiency and professionalism of the public prosecutors continues to improve the capacity of the PA to provide a fair, timely, and more impartial justice system.
Since 2009, INL has trained over 2,400 prosecutors and law enforcement officers. INL and other international assistance has helped the MOI prioritize requests for security assistance, and to prepare long-term strategic plans for the PA security sector. Additionally, INL has funded construction of eight new fire stations, and trained over 1,200 firefighters. Corrections assistance has included advanced training for prison staff and administrators and security upgrades at facilities. The Palestinians are expected to begin construction in late-2016 on a new INL-funded prison in Nuba to serve the southern West Bank.