Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

How US Military Aid to Fatah Actually Bolsters Hamas

February 15, 2013 1:07 am 0 comments

Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal (L) and PA President Mahmoud Abbas. Photo: Jewish Policy Center.

On February 5, 2013, the reconstituted US House of Representatives Subcommittee on Middle East and North Africa held a subcommittee hearing on the subject of “Fatah-Hamas Reconciliation: Threatening Peace Prospects.”

Two senior expert witnesses from The Washington Institute for Near East Policy testified and expressed optimism that US trained Palestinian Security Forces, affiliated with Fatah, will combat the Hamas terror group which competes for power in the nascent Palestinian Arab entity.

Such optimism defies reality.

Let us take a dispassionate look at the past and present reality of the Fatah- dominated Palestinian Authority armed forces, known as the PSF, the Palestinian Security Forces

When the Palestinian Authority was founded in 1994, President Yasser Arafat, by design, established a multiplicity of security forces with overlapping authority and in competition with one another.

The 17 diverse forces of the PA, which often constituted no more than private fiefdoms, were ineffective and corrupt. What mattered to Arafat was that no force was of sufficient size or competency to seize power.

In several instances while Arafat was in power, PA forces turned their weapons on Israel. In September 2000, Arafat recruited security forces to organize attacks on civilians and soldiers in the course of what was called the second intifada, or uprising.

The Israeli military decimated the PA security forces in 2002, with facilities demolished and weapons seized.

Serious involvement by the West began to revitalize the PSF, the Palestinian Security Forces, after Arafat’s death in November 2004.

Subsequent US support for the PA Security Forces was intended to be a step towards creation of that stable Palestinian Arab entity.

In 2005, the Office of the US Security Coordinator was established. The 16 US officers who work within that office are assigned to the State Department. The Coordinator reports directly to the Secretary of State.

Mahmoud Abbas, Arafat’s successor, reorganized the security services into six main forces, and instituted a policy of mandatory retirement at age 60.

Efforts by the US to strengthen the PA forces were delayed, however, by the Hamas victory in the Palestinian Authority legislative election in 2006.

Hamas held a majority of the seats in the legislature and was heavily represented in the government. In addition, it had created its own security forces, with generous funds from Iran and Syria.

In June 2007, Hamas fighters routed a US-equipped and US-trained PA force that was 10 times bigger and captured the Gaza Strip. The failure of the PA forces was plain to see, and the US was prepared to invest more vigorously in strengthening that force because Abbas then ostensibly separated a Fatah-controlled government from direct involvement with Hamas.

By 2008, the Office of the Security Coordinator, with a staff of 145, defined as a key goal of its efforts, the development of a PA security force with paramilitary capabilities that could protect Abbas’ regime from Hamas. The American investment in this venture encompassed major assistance in reforming the forces and rebuilding of infrastructure, providing of equipment and major involvement in training.

In 2011, the Security Office enlarged its focus to include the development of PA indigenous readiness, training, and logistics programs as well as the capability to maintain and sustain operational readiness and support infrastructure. By that year, U.S.-financed training programs had graduated 4,761 Palestinian cadets from the U.S.-supported Jordanian International Police Training Center in Amman. The Coordinator’s Office also conducted training in the West Bank attended by 3,500 security commanders and troops. Washington helped build joint operations centers for planning, command, and control, as well as the National Training Center in Jericho.

However, as we consider the situation now, in early 2013, we see that not only has that goal of providing PA Security Forces with the capacity to repel Hamas not been achieved; over the past year, the influence of Hamas within the PA security forces has grown significantly. This, in spite of all the funding, training, and weaponry that has been supplied.

All other factors aside, there is an underlying cause that is routinely overlooked: the nature of traditional Arab (which includes Palestinian Arab) culture. Whatever the PR promoting a Palestinian state would have us believe, the reality is that for many Palestinian Arabs, loyalty does not rest with some abstract notion of a state that must be defended. Primary, loyalty is to the extended family: the clan. Training does not significantly alter this perception.

The problem lies with the fact that within the same extended clan there may be those serving in the PA security forces and those who are members of Hamas. Security forces officers are loathe to do battle with their brothers in Hamas.

In a 2011 report done by the Center for Near East Policy Research on “The Dangers of US aid to PA security forces,” this issue was addressed.

Dr. Mordecai Kedar, research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar Ilan University, said the troops can be loyal to the PA for the present.

However, when (not if) there will be domestic problems in the PA/Palestinian State these people will be loyal primarily to their clan [Arabic: hamula] rather than to the state, since they will never shoot their brothers or cousins…”

A prominent Palestinian-Israeli journalist explained that the clan system is not as strong as it once was, however:

This is Arab society. You can’t erase a centuries-old tradition—can’t tamper with culture. It will never work. You can’t impose a solution on anyone.”

Another cultural predisposition among the Palestinian Arabs has to do with combating terrorism. General Amidror, former head of the IDF’s Research and Assessment Division and currently serving as Security Advisor to Prime Minister Netanyahu, observed that:

There is a huge difference in the Palestinian view between law enforcement, which is seen as legitimate, and anti-terrorism, which is NOT seen as legitimate.”

The US confuses the two.”

This assessment has never been properly assimilated by US authorities involved with the training program. The PA has no laws against money laundering for terror groups; PA statutes do not define any group as a terrorist organization.  There has never been action against Hamas undertaken by PA security forces out of an anti-terrorist ideological conviction.

We might ask then, why American government and military officials have blithely ignored these realities, instead proceeding according to their own version of the situation: a version that is likely doomed to fail.

But even beyond these basic cultural facts lie other problems. There has been a decline of the PA security forces that has been accelerated by the fiscal crisis that began in the fall of 2012. With monthly salaries withheld or partially issued, many PA officers have stopped any semblance of work. With the consent of their commanders, the officers clock in and then go off to other jobs. This search for money has been exploited by Hamas, made rich by donors such as Iran and Qatar.

Numerous PA officers have been quietly working for Hamas, notably in its military wing, Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. Hamas penetration has been strong in several areas of the West Bank, particularly in the Hebron region, where senior PA intelligence officers are believed to be providing intelligence to Hamas.

Coupled with this is a new rapprochement in process between the PA and Hamas, with talk of a unity government.

Separation between the PA and Hamas following the Gaza coup was never as total as was popularly imagined. As early as 2008, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter charged that the PA was committed to transferring roughly 4 billion shekels each year to Hamas to help pay salaries of its workers and security officers. Abbas also arranged for the PA to pay for the electricity generated for the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

Now there is evidence of Fatah-Hamas coordination in parts of the West Bank. The PA has lifted the ban against Hamas rallies, and Hamas has gained control of many West Bank mosques. Israel’s intelligence community has determined that Hamas politburo Chief Khaled Masha’al has ordered the establishment of military cells to take over the West Bank.

What Israel now faces is a worst-case scenario: PA security forces have a history of turning on Israelis. With the increased cooperation between the PA and Hamas, the likelihood of this happening again grows more likely. Statements of late by PA officials suggest such cooperation. Former PA Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath, for example, has called for unity with Hamas that would “win further victories for us.” With Hamas cooperation, he said the PA would escalate “the struggle against Israel” in 2013.

However, should there be a repeat of prior attacks by PA forces, bolstered by cooperation with Hamas, dealing with the situation will be far more difficult than it has been previously. Now those PA forces are far better equipped and trained, thanks to a US policy that may have been ill-advised from the outset.

The time has come for an evaluation of the impact of US aid to the PA Security Forces, however well intended.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Relationships Yossi Vardi Credits Pushy Jewish Mother for His Startup Success

    Yossi Vardi Credits Pushy Jewish Mother for His Startup Success

    Millionaire entrepreneur Yossi Vardi credited his success in start-ups to his Jewish mother continuously pushing him to do better, Daily Mail reported on Thursday. “Jewish mothers are never satisfied and nothing is ever good enough,” he said, adding that his mother, who died 15 years ago, used to compare him with his cousins and say he was “an idiot.” “For most of my life I have been trying to show her I’m not,” he continued. “I keep on trying even now.” Vardi, […]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada Seth Rogen Unveils New Christmas Movie — ‘Will Open on Thanksgiving, Made by Jews’ (VIDEO)

    Seth Rogen Unveils New Christmas Movie — ‘Will Open on Thanksgiving, Made by Jews’ (VIDEO)

    Famed actor Seth Rogen on Tuesday unveiled with typical comic fanfare the trailer for his new Christmas film. The movie “was made by Jews… and opens on Thanksgiving,” Rogen pointed out on Twitter. The Night Before tells the tale of three “ride or die homies” celebrating one last debauchery-filled Christmas Eve reunion before they become too busy to keep up their annual tradition. In an effort to make the night as memorable as possible, they set out to find the “Nutcracka Ball – the […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish History Art Can Inspire Faith; It Can Also Empower Destructive Ideologies

    Art Can Inspire Faith; It Can Also Empower Destructive Ideologies

    A June 2015 art exhibit, “The Transformative Power of Art,” at the United Nations headquarters in New York City, harnessed the universal language of art to convey an important message: “Our fragile Mother Earth faces the devastating consequences of climate change, a defining challenge of our time.” The exhibit also included sixteen portraits of people from all over the world who have “contributed to the common good of humanity in one way or another and have transformed the way we […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Sports Israeli Muslim Cage Fighter Says He’s Proud to Fight Under Jewish State’s Flag

    Israeli Muslim Cage Fighter Says He’s Proud to Fight Under Jewish State’s Flag

    A 32-year-old Circassian Israeli Muslim Mixed Martial Arts fighter from Abu Ghosh says he takes pride in fighting under the Israeli flag, Israel’s Walla reported on Sunday. Like most Circassian Israelis, Jackie “the Punishment” Gosh was born Sunni Muslim. He became observant about eight years ago, and is now scrupulous in following his religion’s tenets, praying five times a day and fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. Gosh is also very proud of his Israeli nationality, and sees no contradiction between […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Music New Mark Skinner Documentary Explores Jewish, Arab Rap Scene in Israel (VIDEO)

    New Mark Skinner Documentary Explores Jewish, Arab Rap Scene in Israel (VIDEO)

    A new documentary explores the lives and work of Jewish and Arab rappers in Israel and how the ongoing conflict in the region has impacted their lyrics, the U.K.’s Jewish Chronicle reported on Thursday. Hip Hop in the Holy Land is a six-part series co-directed by Mike Skinner, the British frontman of hip-hop group The Streets, and produced by Noisey, a music channel published by Vice news. The first episode, published last week, shows Skinner meeting with Tamer Nafar, the founder of one of […]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada 49ers Running Back Jarryd Hayne Apologizes for ‘Hurtful’ Jesus Tweets

    49ers Running Back Jarryd Hayne Apologizes for ‘Hurtful’ Jesus Tweets

    New 49ers running back and Australian rugby star Jarryd Hayne apologized on Wednesday for a tweet in which he raised the age-old myth that Jews were historically responsible for Jesus Christ’s death. Reaching out to his Jewish fans, and the chairman of the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission, Hayne tweeted: “To the Jewish community @DvirAbramovich #WeAreAllOne.” Underneath, he keenly included a screenshot of a text message to elaborate on his apology: “I sincerely apologize for my tweets on July 1. I […]

    Read more →
  • Theater Israeli Actress Gal Gadot Recalls Being ‘Extremely Surprised’ at Winning Miss Israel Contest

    Israeli Actress Gal Gadot Recalls Being ‘Extremely Surprised’ at Winning Miss Israel Contest

    Israeli actress Gal Gadot reminisced about her childhood in Israel during an interview published in this month’s edition of Vanity Fair. “I don’t remember this, but my mom told me that when I was three they threw a party on the rooftop of the house. They put me to bed, and I heard people coming into the house and no one came to me. I went to the rooftop and took a hose and I started to spray water on everyone, just […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Wounded Israeli Soldiers Unite With American Veterans to Help Their ‘Brothers for Life’ Heal (INTERVIEW)

    Wounded Israeli Soldiers Unite With American Veterans to Help Their ‘Brothers for Life’ Heal (INTERVIEW)

    An Israeli organization is helping wounded U.S. veterans move past their physical and psychological challenges by connecting them with injured Israeli soldiers who understand what they’ve been through. “What we discovered very early is that there’s no ‘professional, psychiatrist, social worker’ or anything like that [or] pills that can come even close to helping a soldier who fought in combat, who was wounded, who lost his friends. No one can help him like another person who’s been through exactly what he has,” Rabbi Chaim Levine, […]

    Read more →