The Bane of Palestinian Infighting

(New York Times) Kimberly Marten - The resignation of two Palestinian prime ministers in quick succession has left the PA leadership in limbo. But naming a new prime minister will accomplish little unless the Palestinians can also overcome the patronage, corruption and infighting in their security forces. As PA prime minister from 2007 until earlier this month, Salam Fayyad made security-sector reform a priority. Fayyad strove to replace the corrupt and intimidating militias of the Arafat era with professional security forces who earned the respect of the population. But old patronage networks ultimately proved stronger. Fayyad never managed to control the rat's nest of overlapping Palestinian security agencies, whose constant infighting was encouraged by struggles within President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party. Much of the training supported by the U.S. and EU was conducted in Jordan, away from traditional Palestinian bases. Yet old neighborhood and clan ties continued to be used in recruitment and some of the most powerful Palestinian security organizations remained outside the reform regimen. Jenin had been a showpiece of security-sector reform. U.S.-funded and Jordanian-trained PA forces swept through in 2008, arresting militias which had long spread terror and extortion among residents. But in May 2012 the home of Jenin's reformist governor was attacked by gunmen. When the dust settled, it became clear that factions inside the supposedly reformed security forces had been fighting one another for control over territory and patronage. At least two of the senior officers who were arrested had undergone U.S.-funded training in Jordan. The writer is a professor of political science at Barnard College and acting director of the Harriman Institute at Columbia University.

2013-06-27 00:00:00

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