Mr Abbas, you're missing the point: the security agreement

Mr Abbas, you're missing the point: the security agreement
Comment: Abbas' nullification of Oslo is an attempt to salvage a legacy with his people, when in fact it is the security cooperation with Israel that defanged the Palestinian movement.
6 min read
01 Oct, 2015
Abbas' anticipated speech at the UN said nothing new to Palestinians [Getty]

Last month, a video emerged online capturing the beating of two protesters by riot gear-clad police.

The protesters were demonstrating against Israeli incursions into the al-Aqsa compound, but those wielding the batons were Palestinian riot police, not Israelis.

The speediness with which the offending officers were indicted provides an insight into the dilemmas facing the PA.

With leading members of the PLO calling for the termination of the joint security agreement, and Mahmoud Abbas splitting his amassed duties in anticipation of his retirement, there is an air of uncertainty within the Ramallah bubble.

Within this bubble, Fatah dominates the political class, which relies upon a security agreement with Israel to protect its privileges, but is loathe to appear to be seen as too close to its more shadowy operations.

The agreement has acted as a foil to any direct confrontation to the occupation since 2005, leaving any resistance to it largely rudderless. Public disdain with the PA's cooperation with the Israeli army has been a source of public grief, but in recent months public demonstrations against the PA have raised the possibility that such sentiments could be reaching boiling point.

     Public disdain with the PA's cooperation with the Israeli army has been a source of public grief

Security coordination between the Palestinian Authority and Israel has its roots in the Olso accords, which placed 23 percent of the West Bank (Area B) under joint Israeli-Palestinian security control.

The specific protocol which refers to the joint security agreement is stated in Annex 1, Art. 3 of the Protocol Concerning Redeployment and Security Arrangements: "A Joint Coordination and Cooperation Committee for Mutual Security Purposes is hereby established. It will deal with all security matters of mutual concern regarding this agreement in the West Bank and Gaza Strip."  

But it was not until the second intifada that the coordination between the two states deepened. In a speech at the third annual Herzliya conference in 2002, Ariel Sharon highlighted the reforms the PA would need to undergo in order to be an institution ready for peace.

The need for credible and sustainable institutions was not mentioned, despite being an integral component of the Oslo formula. However, the Machiavellian master of intrigue did lay out his demands for the PA's security reforms - which were threefold:


  1. Dismantling of all existing security bodies loyal to Yasser Arafat
  2. Appointing a new Minister of Interior to oversee the dissolution and outlawing of Palestinian military wings
  3. Immediate renewal of Palestinian-Israeli security cooperation


Deflecting political capital away from the popular leaders like the PFLP's Ahmed Saadat and Fatah's more militant Marwan Barghouti towards securocrats within Fatah, such as Mohammad Dahlan and Jabril Rajoub, had the result of placing cooperative security as a key principle of the post-second intifada consensus.

Salam Fayyad's doctrine of Fayyadism provided the theoretical framework for these securocrats to become increasingly involved in neoliberal statecraft, turning the West Bank into a veritable police state.

Fayyadism essentially proposed that, in order for nascent state institutions to flourish, they needed to do so alongside a strong security sector.

During Fayyad's tenure as prime minister, 31 percent of the PA annual budget went on security, dwarfing the expenditure allocated to healthcare or education.

Fayyad's ability to appeal to the demands of international capital flows as well as the West's obsession with "Islamic terror" led to the the EU and the US happily supplying the PA with the funding and training to build its security apparatus.

European and US assistance

With a budget of more than $8 million each year, the EU Police Mission for the Palestinian Territories provides technical support and modern policing techniques to the PCP - which consists of approximately 8,000 officers in the West Bank - as well as technical and legal advice to the PA’s justice institutions.

EUPOL COPPS has utilised the crowd control techniques deployed in Belfast by the Royal Ulster Constabulary to repress popular demonstrations against the PA. The US involvement with the emerging security establishment in the West Bank has been somewhat more controversial, and deeply wedded to the free market.

The Palestine Papers unveiled the role General Dayton played in arming and training the PA security forces. Through Jordanian and Egyptian intermediaries, as well as American contractors Dyncorp, PA security officials were trained to professionalise their security sector.

The Palestine Papers linked these security officials with torture and mistreatment of Hamas detainees in PA prisons. The Dayton doctrine served to remould the whole structure of the PA security apparatus, staffing it with well-disciplined officers in collaboration with the Israeli Shin Bet - adhering to an emerging logic which has prevailed throughout Abbas' tenure: protection of the PA structures is vital for statehood.

As the occupation has become ever-more entrenched, however, the lines between the PA and the Israelis have become increasingly blurry, creating a pax Israeliana, through which Palestinian and Israeli security officials have enjoyed an intimately cozy relationship.

     The lines between the PA and the Israelis have become increasingly blurry, creating a pax Israeliana

From Sumud to surrender

A poll conducted last week by PSR found that 57 percent of Palestinian respondents supported a return to an armed intifada in the absence of peace negotiations.

The PA leadership, and especially Abbas, have not reflected this sentiment in their policies.

Since 2005, the PA has sought to internationalise the cause through international forums such as the ICC, UNESCO, while continually rejecting violence. This is a clear break with international Palestinian relations of the 1970s and 1980s, which was defined by the ideals of Sumud (steadfastness) and reliance on internal resistance.

The turn from Sumud to surrender is epitomised in Abbas' UN speech yesterday. Surrender has brought with it compliance, and the PA currently ameliorates the occupation's most egregious consequences. 

Limited water supply and a flailing agricultural sector, induces the PA make public appeals to USAID and other aid agencies for food and assistance, while the Preventative Security forces detain of militants and protesters fighting the occupation.

Mohammad Dahlan, the former head of the Palestinian Preventative Security forces, and Majid Farraj, head of the Palestinian General Intelligence services, are two frontrunners to succeed Abbas as president.

This is due to a support base which is easy to placate, and an understanding of how to engage with their anti-Hamas allies, the Shin Bet.

The overturning of the security agreement would not only remove their ace in the hole, but also consign their whole political class into a state of uncertainty. Abbas' words are thus hollow - not even he is crass enough to consign his political offspring to the wilderness.

Nick Rodrigo is a freelance researcher working for the Afro-Middle East Centre based in Johannesburg. He holds an MA in the Theory and Practice of Human Rights from the University of Essex, and has previously worked with Iranian and Palestinian human rights organisations.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.