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...

  • Sports Israeli Soccer Team Faces Prospect of International Ban

    Israeli Soccer Team Faces Prospect of International Ban

    The Israel National soccer team could be facing a World Cup ban, and other soccer sanctions, unless it alleviates travel restrictions and increases field access for Palestinian players and coaches. The head of the Palestinian Football Association is pushing for international soccer’s governing body, the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA), to issue a ban on Israel competing internationally, claiming Israel’s restrictive travel for Palestinians is equivalent to a form of oppression. “It’s not only the athletes,” Jibril Rajoub explains. [...]

    Read more →
  • Beliefs and concepts Book Reviews Jewish Author of ‘Eat to Live’ Dishes on Health Care, Nutrition, Disease Prevention

    Jewish Author of ‘Eat to Live’ Dishes on Health Care, Nutrition, Disease Prevention

    JNS.org – While the national debate on “Obamacare” rages on past the recent March 31 sign-up deadline, bestselling Jewish author Dr. Joel Fuhrman says the “current disease care model of what we call ‘health care’ cannot possibly be sustained.” “There is simply not enough money available to support a system in which the lion’s share of expenditures is devoted to acute care, with virtually nothing being spent on preventive medicine, i.e. health care,” Fuhrman says in an interview. “To make [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity ‘Tears of Color’ Art Exhibit Shows Struggles of Israelis With Eating Disorders

    ‘Tears of Color’ Art Exhibit Shows Struggles of Israelis With Eating Disorders

    JNS.org – “This is how I want to be—without fear. Independent. I want to be like a bird. I want to spread my wings.” So reads part of the description beneath one of the 30 paintings on display until the end of May at the ZOA House in Tel Aviv. The collection represents the first-ever art exhibit of its kind: an exhibit created entirely by Israelis in treatment for eating disorders. Dubbed “Tears of Color,” based on one of the [...]

    Read more →
  • Beliefs and concepts Book Reviews Overprotective or Loving? Daughters Reflect on Jewish Mothers in New Anthology

    Overprotective or Loving? Daughters Reflect on Jewish Mothers in New Anthology

    JNS.org – Rachel Ament noticed that she and her friends often shared humorous anecdotes that were typically variations on a theme: overprotective, worrying Jewish moms who smothered them with love. That included Ament’s own mother. “My mom is probably every Jewish stereotype scrunched into one,” the Washington, DC, resident tells JNS.org. “At the root of all these stereotypical, worrying, overprotective moms, is love.” A social media writer for Capital One, as well as a freelance writer, Ament decided about three years [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Commentary ‎Kosher Lust: Love is Not the Answer (REVIEW)

    ‎Kosher Lust: Love is Not the Answer (REVIEW)

    Kosher Lust, by Shmuley Boteach (Gefen Publishing House, 2014). You really do want to find something positive to say about Shmuley Boteach. He is a phenomenon; very bright, an articulate bundle of energy and self-promotion. Anyone who has the chutzpah to describe himself as “America’s Rabbi” deserves ten out of ten for effort. I believe that along with most Chabad alumni, official and unofficial, he does a lot of good and is a sort of national treasure. In this world [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Hollywood’s Revisiting of Passover’s Exodus Story a Part of Throwback ‘Year of the Bible’

    Hollywood’s Revisiting of Passover’s Exodus Story a Part of Throwback ‘Year of the Bible’

    JNS.org – In a throwback to the golden age of cinema, Hollywood has declared 2014 the “Year of the Bible.” From Ridley Scott’s Exodus starring Christian Bale as Moses, to Russell Crowe playing Noah, Hollywood is gambling on new innovations in technology and star power to revisit some of the most popular stories ever told. “It’s definitely a throwback to the 1950s and early ’60s,” Dr. Stephen J. Whitfield, an American Studies professor at Brandeis University, told JNS.org. Starting with The [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada ‘Jewish Giant’ Headlines New York Jewish Museum Exhibit

    ‘Jewish Giant’ Headlines New York Jewish Museum Exhibit

    Eddie Carmel, dubbed “The Jewish Giant” by American photographer Diane Arbus, is the centerpiece of a new exhibit opening April 11 at The Jewish Museum in New York. Arbus met Carmel, who was billed “The World’s Tallest Man,” at Hubert’s Dime Museum and Flea Circus in 1959 but waited until 1970 to photograph him at his parents’ home in the Bronx, according to the museum. The son of immigrants from Tel Aviv, Carmel posed for Arbus with his head bowed to [...]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Disney Hit ‘Frozen’ Gets Passover Themed Makeover With ‘Chozen’ (VIDEO)

    Disney Hit ‘Frozen’ Gets Passover Themed Makeover With ‘Chozen’ (VIDEO)

    A Passover themed cover of hit songs Let It Go and Do You Want to Build a Snowman? from Disney’s Frozen has attracted tons of media buzz and a cool 65,ooo views on YouTube within days of going online. The work of Jewish a capella group Six13, the track is aptly named Chozen. We are celebrating “our freedom, our favorite festival, our fabulous fans, and aspiring Disney princesses everywhere” the group said. The Chozen music video tells the story of [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.