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...

  • Arts and Culture Theater US & Canada New Play Explores the ‘Arrogance’ of American Jews Critical of Israel, Playwright Says

    New Play Explores the ‘Arrogance’ of American Jews Critical of Israel, Playwright Says

    In his new play Mr. Goldberg Goes to Tel Aviv, playwright Oren Safdie tackles an issue that he has a major concern with: the relationship between Israelis and left-leaning Diaspora Jews with their “I know better” critical views. At the heart of the one-act play is Tony, a Jewish and gay Palestinian sympathizer who expresses strong anti-Israel sentiments when the play begins and at one point even sides with a Palestinian terrorist who holds his captive. Tony, who is also an [...]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Hassidic Parody of Taylor Swift Song Apes Long Jewish Holidays (VIDEO)

    Hassidic Parody of Taylor Swift Song Apes Long Jewish Holidays (VIDEO)

    A Jewish comedy troupe released a parody video on Wednesday of Taylor Swift’s hit song Shake It Off in which they joke about taking extensive time off from work for Jewish holidays. “And the goyim gonna stay, stay, stay, stay, stay. And the Jews are gonna pray, pray pray, pray, pray. I’m just gonna take, take, take, take, take. I’m taking off,” goes the chorus for I’m Taking Off. Menachem Weinstein, the video’s lead singer, is the creative director at [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Literature On 75th Anniversary, Looking at the Jewish Influence on Gone With the Wind

    On 75th Anniversary, Looking at the Jewish Influence on Gone With the Wind

    JNS.org – The 75th anniversary of the premiere of “Gone with the Wind” on Dec. 15 presents an opportunity to examine the Jewish influence on one of the most popular films of all time. That influence starts with the American Civil War epic’s famed producer, David O. Selznick. Adjusted for inflation, “Gone with the Wind” remains the highest-grossing movie ever made. It earned the 1939 Academy Award for Best Picture, the same honor another Selznick film, “Rebecca,” garnered in 1940. Selznick [...]

    Read more →
  • Featured Music US & Canada EXCLUSIVE: Matisyahu Provides Most Extensive Analysis Yet of His Religious, Musical Evolution (INTERVIEW)

    EXCLUSIVE: Matisyahu Provides Most Extensive Analysis Yet of His Religious, Musical Evolution (INTERVIEW)

    Matisyahu got candid in an exclusive interview with The Algemeiner on Monday about his religious and musical journey – after shedding his Chassidic skin, yarmulke, long beard and all – from the start of his career in 2005 when he became a reggae superstar with hits King Without a Crown and Jerusalem. The singer-songwriter embarks on his Festival of Light tour this month, an annual Hanukkah event that stops in Montreal, New York, and other cities before ending in San Juan, [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Personalities ‘Sheriff of Mars’ Unveils Endearing Life of Jewish Music Star Hidden in the Fields of France

    ‘Sheriff of Mars’ Unveils Endearing Life of Jewish Music Star Hidden in the Fields of France

    JNS.org – It was an era of steel strings, guitar heroes, and storytellers—high on heroin, rebellious. Outlaw country music, the hallmark of Nashville’s powerful and angry music scene of the 1970s, was the brew of greats such as Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Townes Van Zandt. But there is another, little-known music hero of that era: Daniel Antopolsky. A Jewish lad from Augusta, Ga.—the son of immigrants who settled in the south and ran a hardware store on Main Street—the [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Iranian Actress Replaces Israel’s Gal Gadot for ‘Ben-Hur’ Remake

    Iranian Actress Replaces Israel’s Gal Gadot for ‘Ben-Hur’ Remake

    Iranian actress Nazanin Boniadi replaced Israeli star Gal Gadot as the female lead in the new Ben-Hur remake, Hollywood.com reported on Tuesday. The Homeland actress will play Esther, a slave that Ben-Hur sets free and falls in love with. Gadot quit the movie when it became clear that filming conflicted with her schedule for the Man of Steel sequel. The Israeli actress plays Wonder Woman in the superhero film Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Actor Jack Huston takes on the [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Personalities Biography Sheds New Light on David Ben-Gurion’s Place in Jewish History

    Biography Sheds New Light on David Ben-Gurion’s Place in Jewish History

    JNS.org – There is one sentence in “Ben-Gurion: Father of Modern Israel” that made me sit up in surprise. I thought that I knew the basic facts about how Israel came into being, but while describing what it was like in the days and hours before the state was declared, author Anita Shapira provides one important anecdote I was not aware of. On the 12th of May, the Zionist Executive met to decide what to do. Moshe Sharrett had just returned [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada ‘Death of Klinghoffer’ Actress Compares Met Opera to ‘Schindler’s List’

    ‘Death of Klinghoffer’ Actress Compares Met Opera to ‘Schindler’s List’

    An actress starring in the controversial Met Opera The Death of Klinghoffer defended the show on Tuesday by comparing it to the 1993 Holocaust film Schindler’s List, New York Post reported. “To me, this was like [the movie] Schindler’s List. We make art so people won’t forget,’’ said the actress, who plays a captured passenger in the show and asked not to be identified. The Met Opera focuses on the infamous murder of Lower East Side Jewish resident Leon Klinghoffer, 69. The wheelchair-bound father of [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.