By Alaa Tartir

To speak of Israeli-Palestinian ‘cooperation’…is to use no less than a misnomer. This is not, however, simply because ‘the outcome of cooperation between an elephant and a fly is not hard to predict’, as Chomsky so pithily writes…but because in the context of the Oslo peace process, ‘cooperation’ is often only minimally different from the occupation and domination that went before it. ‘Cooperation’, in this context, is above all an internationally pleasing and acceptable signifier which obscures rather than elucidates the nature of Israeli-Palestinian relations. - Jan Selby, 2003

I…applaud the Palestinian Authority’s continued security coordination with Israel. They get along unbelievably well. I had meetings, and at these meetings I was actually very impressed and somewhat surprised at how well they get along. They work together beautifully.Donald Trump, 2017

Overview

From the outset, the Palestinian Authority (PA) security establishment has failed to protect Palestinians from the main source of their insecurity: the Israeli military occupation. Nor has it empowered Palestinians to resist that occupation. Instead, the PA has contributed to a situation in which the Palestinian struggle for freedom has itself been criminalised.

Rather than recognise resistance as a natural response to institutionalised oppression, the PA, in tandem with Israel and the international community, characterises resistance as ‘insurgency’ or ‘instability’. Such rhetoric, which favours Israeli security at the expense of Palestinians, echoes discourse surrounding the ‘war on terror’ and criminalises all forms of resistance.

This dynamic can be traced back to the 1993 Oslo Accords, but it has been galvanised over the last decade through the PA’s evolution as a donor-driven state that espouses neoliberal policies. The donor-driven reform of the security sector has been the linchpin of the PA’s post-2007 state building project. The enhanced effectiveness of the PA’s security forces as a result of massive donor investment has in turn created additional ways of protecting the Israeli occupier, thus creating spaces that are ‘securitised’, within which the occupier can move freely in the execution of its colonial project.

Such a development could only have two outcomes: ‘better’ collaboration with the occupying power in a way that shored up the destructive status quo; and greater violation of Palestinians’ security and national rights by their own government and national security forces.

This policy brief analyses the evolution and ‘reform’ of the Palestinian security forces since the establishment of the PA, and examines Palestinian-Israeli security coordination and its deleterious effects on the Palestinian ability to resist Israel’s occupying forces as well on basic liberties. It focuses on the PA forces in the West Bank and not the situation in Gaza, which requires separate research and analysis. It concludes with policy recommendations to reinvent the PA security forces’ operations and overhaul their structures so that they may truly serve to protect their own people.

The Rise of the Palestinian Authority Security Forces

The evolution of the PA security forces can be categorised in three phases: the Oslo Accords (1993-1999), the Second Intifada (2000-2006), and the post-2007 PA state-building project.

The Oslo Accords were characterised by two parallel, yet conflicting, projects: state building and national liberation. The former implied constructing state-like institutions and a bureaucracy under occupation, while the latter meant pursuing the revolutionary programme for self-determination that had been adopted by the PLO. The tension between these ventures already manifested themselves under the late president Yasser Arafat’s rule. Arafat’s personalised style of governance and its resultant complex network of corruption and patronage meant that the evolution of the PA security forces was from its advent neither inclusive nor transparent. Rather, it was fraught with nepotism, and was used as a tool to address the threats posed by Oslo’s opponents and to stabilise the population. In turn, it also solidified the nascent ‘peace’ agreements. The 9 000 recruits in the ‘strong police force’ envisaged in the 1994 Cairo Agreement became nearly 50 000 security personnel by 1999.

This proliferation of the security forces – all spying on each other, as Edward Said once said – has had severe consequences for Palestinians. Arafat’s establishment of security-driven political structures nourished authoritarianism and blocked accountability mechanisms in the Palestinian political system. This resulted in a dearth of legitimacy and further insecurity for Palestinians. As the security establishment grew in numbers and institutions, Palestinians remained ill-protected, and corruption and patronage within the forces became endemic. The divide-to-rule approach paved the way for future Palestinian fragmentation.

During the Second Intifada, Israel destroyed the PA’s security infrastructure because PA security forces participated in the uprising. This created a security vacuum into which non-PA actors inserted themselves, with mixed results for Palestinians. This exacerbated intra-Palestinian competition and led external donors, the PA, and Israel to be even more concerned with building a strong and dominant security sector. In June 2002, the PA announced its 100-Day Reform Plan; in 2003 the Quartet Road Map demanded that a ‘rebuilt and refocused Palestinian Authority security apparatus’ must confront ‘all those engaged in terror’ and dismantle ‘terrorist capabilities and infrastructure’. PA security structures were forced to combat terrorism; apprehend suspects; outlaw incitement; collect illegal weapons; provide Israel with a list of Palestinian police recruits; and report progress to the United States.

Accordingly, Palestinian security reform ‘remained…an externally-controlled process, driven by the national security interests of Israel and the United States, and characterised by very limited ownership on the part of Palestinian society.’ The international donor community led this reform in 2005 through the establishment of the European Union Coordinating Office for Palestinian Police Support (EUPOL COPPS) and the US Security Coordinator (USSC). This situation persists in the form of a ‘one gun, one law, one authority’ strategy through which the PA’s monopoly on force and violence is ensured.

The post-2007 state-building project under the PA has aimed, mainly through EUPOL COPPS and USSC, to reinvent the PA security forces through technical means, including training and weapons procurement. It has also aimed to reinvent the forces politically by constraining Hamas and its armed wing, curbing Fatah-allied militants through co-optation and amnesty, cracking down on criminals, and conducting security campaigns, particularly in Nablus and Jenin. These forces became known as Dayton’s forces in reference to Keith Dayton, the US lieutenant general who led the PA military establishment’s ‘professionalization and modernization’ process. Local and international human rights organisations have accused these reformed forces of human rights violations and of suppressing freedoms.

The current phase has further entrenched the predominance of Israeli security interests at the expense of the Palestinians. Disarmament and criminalisation have impaired popular resistance against the occupation, including peaceful demonstrations and marches, advocacy against Israel’s violations of human rights, and student activism. Today, PA security forces largely protect the security of the occupier and not that of the occupied. In short, the security of Palestinians has been jeopardised because their own leadership has been subcontractedto repress them. The post-2007 security reform agenda has thwarted Palestinians’ national struggle, their resistance movement and their everyday security, and has subverted the very functioning of Palestinian politics.

Security Coordination as Domination

To understand the magnitude of the security coordination enterprise, it is useful to note that the Palestinian security sector employs around half of all civil servants, accounts for nearly $1 billion of the PA budget, and receives around 30 per cent of total international aid disbursed to the Palestinians. The security sector consumes more of the PA’s budget than the education, health, and agriculture sectors combined. The sector is currently comprised of 83 276 individuals in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, including 312 brigadier generals, of whom 232 report to the PA and 80 to Hamas. In comparison, the entire US Army has 410 brigadier generals. The ratio of security personnel to the population is as high as one to forty-eight – one of the highest in the world.

Security collaboration between Israel and the PA has fulfilled the Oslo Accords’ objectives of institutionalising security arrangements and launching a peace process that is tightly controlled by the security sector in order to enable Israel to fulfil its colonial ambitions while claiming to be pursuing peace. This process of ‘securitised peace’ is manifested in a number of ways, including the PA security forces’ arrest of Palestinian suspects wanted by Israel (as in the recent case of Basil Al-‘Araj, who was arrested and released by the PA only to be hunted and eventually assassinated by the Israelis); the suppression of Palestinian protests against Israeli soldiers and/or settlers; intelligence sharing between the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and the PA security forces; a revolving door between Israeli and PA jails through which Palestinian activists cycle for the same offences; and regular joint Israeli-Palestinian meetings, workshops, and training.

Though Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has threatened to suspend security coordination, he has at the same time declared it a ‘Palestinian national interest’ and a ‘sacred’ doctrine. PA security force activities and Abbas’s political manoeuvrings have created a deep gap in trust between the Palestinian people and the PA.

Indeed, multiple surveys over the years have shown that the majority of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip (between 60 and 80 per cent) oppose security coordination with Israel. In a March 2017 Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey poll, two-thirds of respondents demanded Abbas’s resignation, with 73 per cent expressing the belief that Abbas was not serious in his threat to suspend security coordination with Israel. In a 2010 Maan News Agency poll, 78 per cent of respondents said they believed that the PA security forces were engaged in surveillance, monitoring activities, and intervening in people’s privacy. Finally, according to Visualizing Palestine, 67 per cent of West Bank Palestinians said they felt they were living in an undemocratic system that cracked down on freedoms in large part as a result of the security realm.

Negative public perceptions about security coordination are fuelled by lived experiences – from which elites are often spared – as well as by official rhetoric and the contents of the leaked Palestine Papers. For instance, Keith Dayton remarked in 2009 that senior IDF commanders had asked him, in regard to the Palestinian security forces he was training, ‘How many more of these new Palestinians can you generate, and how quickly?’ He also said a senior Palestinian official addressed a graduating class of these ‘new Palestinian men’ in Jordan, saying, ‘You were not sent here to learn how to fight Israel…you were rather sent here to learn how to keep law and order, respect the right of all of our citizens, and implement the rule of law so that we can live in peace and security with Israel.’ And in 2013, in a speech before the European Parliament, Israeli president Shimon Peres stated: ‘A Palestinian security force was formed. You and the Americans trained it. And now we work together to prevent terror and crime.’

While security coordination between Israel and the PA has been cemented since the Oslo Accords, the status quo is not a foregone conclusion. However, change will be difficult to achieve, as the system has created a segment of Palestinian society that will seek to maintain it. This segment is composed not only of security personnel in the West Bank and Gaza, but also of those Palestinians benefiting from institutional arrangements and a network of collaboration and domination. The status quo is beneficial for them, and ‘stability’ is their mantra. They are committed to an approach that privileges the political, economic and security elite, and they have no incentive to reverse the rules of the game.

Any attempt to halt security coordination would thus have real consequences for the PA and its leadership. Yet the perpetuation of the status quo is destructive for the majority of Palestinians living under Israel occupation and for the Palestinian people at large. With the crushing of the ability to correct political wrongdoing and hold elites accountable, business as usual will likely continue. Security coordination will remain a defining feature of the skewed reality that favours the occupier if action is not taken – soon.

Reinventing the PA’s security doctrine

The entrenchment of the PA security establishment requires policy interventions at multiple levels, from correcting biased rhetoric to establishing accountability mechanisms. The following recommendations, addressed to different stakeholders, propose an overhaul of the PA security forces’ operations and structures.

The Palestinian Authority

The PA must listen to Palestinian people and respect their wishes and aspirations, including in the security domain, otherwise the legitimacy and trust gap will grow larger. There has never been an inclusive Palestinian political system, but a more responsive, representative, and responsible leadership would ensure that the security of Palestinians, rather than that of their occupier and coloniser, is a core concern. An authentic security sector, as Tariq Dana has argued, would mean an end to the ‘focus on internal policing known as the “Dayton Doctrine”’ and ‘a program that demands accountability and justice be put in place’.

As Hani Al-Masri has elaborated, this would require gradual but firm steps to eventually freeze or suspend security coordination, including: ending Palestinian security apparatus intervention in political issues; reducing security allocations in the annual budget; disbanding parts of the security apparatus and restructuring the remainder, with an emphasis on professionalism, patriotism, and freedom from political nepotism; and instructing the security apparatus to resist raids by Israel in the West Bank’s Area A.

Although the PA still argues that the current security arrangements and division of labour serve the two-state solution, the relentless Israeli colonisation of Palestinian land means that the PA and its leadership must reassess their function. The looming threat of annexation should push the PA to take action before its role solidifies as a subcontractor to the Israeli occupation.

Palestinian Civil Society

Palestinian civil society organisations, especially human rights organisations, must form more effective coalitions and intensify their efforts to hold the PA and its political and security leadership accountable for their human rights’ violations. In the absence of institutions that perform checks and balances, pressure that goes beyond writing and publishing reports (though this in itself is an important act) is urgently needed. In other words, Palestinian civil society organisations need to develop practical actions that confront the PA’s continuous rights’ violations.

These civil society actors, including academic institutions, public intellectuals and think tanks, must also address the PA’s discourse in which Palestinian resistance is reframed as criminal insurgency or instability. Israeli and international actors who use this discourse should also be confronted. Civil society must embrace and operationalise resistance rather than see it criminalised, and view it as an all-encompassing way of living under occupation and in exile. Resistance as a way of life can help to reverse how the political and security elite currently portray it. Resistance can then ensure the restoration of the core values and ideas that enable Palestinians to engage collectively to realise their rights.

External actors, particularly security bodies EUPOL COPPS and USSC, need stringent scrutiny from civil society, both within Palestine and in their home countries. They cannot continue to dominate the security realm without accountability or transparency. By promoting the rule of law in an authoritarian context, these bodies contribute to the ‘professionalization’ of authoritarian practices by (ab)using a good governance framework. Their claim that their mandate is ‘technical’ enables them to evade the political results of their operations and interventions. After a decade of operation, it is time to conduct an independent Palestinian-led evaluation of these bodies and use that as an accountability mechanism to reform these erstwhile ‘reformers’ and decide on the way forward.

Donors and the Donor Industry

In a context highly dependent on aid, the supremacy assigned to securitisation and militarisation extends to the realm of development. Policymakers in donor states and Palestinians who facilitate donor programmes should address how ‘securitised aid’ has transformed a liberation movement into a subcontractor to the coloniser, and has resulted in authoritarian tendencies that favour the security establishment at the expense of sectors such as health, education, and agriculture, as well as at the expense of democracy.

Moreover, in Palestine, securitised aid and development have not only failed to address poverty, unemployment and empowerment, but have also created new insecurity and illegitimacy. Development planners must acknowledge that these patterns will never be reversed unless people, and not the security establishment, drive actions and are the constant reference point.

All these actions are the duty of the Palestinian people, especially when policymakers do not represent them and their aspirations. Palestinian society needs to confront the tools used to repress its mobilisation and organise in order to ensure the realisation of its fundamental rights. The non-factional youth-led initiative End Security Coordination that emerged in the aftermath of Basil Al-‘Araj’s assassination in March 2017 represents an example of such mobilisation. In their call for action, the group stated

'Our people have struggled for too long for us to stand idle while repressive leaders barter our oppression and dispossession for their personal gain…We are approaching 30 years since the Oslo Accords that transformed what remained of our land into open air prisons administered by unrepresentative PA officials who have hired themselves out to be our colonizers’ first line of defense…The Oslo regime does not represent us. Now is the time for us to come together and rebuild our collective struggle for the liberation of all of Palestine.’

If such organised resistance can continue and increase, pressure from the people may be able to change the trajectory of PA-Israeli security coordination, rendering Palestinians better equipped to work toward self-determination and the attainment of human rights.

* Alaa Tartir is the Program Director of Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network, a Research Fellow at the Centre on Conflict, Development, and Peacebuilding (CCDP), The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID), Geneva, Switzerland, and a post-doctoral fellow at The Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP).

** This article was first published by Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network

 

By Tariq Dana

According to a recent survey, as many as eighty-one per cent of Palestinians living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) believe there is corruption in Palestinian Authority institutions. These perceptions are reinforced by the recently-launched annual report of the Palestinian Coalition for Accountability and Integrity (AMAN), Transparency International’s Palestinian chapter. These perceptions persist despite much-touted state-building efforts by former Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to root out corruption, and are at variance with international reports that suggest there is animprovement in governance.
Corruption has become structural to the Palestinian body politic, and pre-dates the establishment of the Palestinian Authority (PA). The problem needs to be tackled at its roots, and cannot be addressed through conventional measures used in other countries, particularly against the background of prolonged Israeli colonisation and occupation and the way in which Israel both reinforces and exploits corruption.[i]

Deconstructing corruption: The patron-client system

Corruption in PA institutions should not be perceived as merely a matter of administrative and financial wrongdoing committed by irresponsible individuals whose behaviour is driven by greed and personal interests.[ii] The scandals that Palestinians hotly debate from time to time – such as embezzlement of public funds, misappropriation of resources, and nepotism – are an outcome of long-standing corruption embedded in the underlying power structure that governs the Palestinian political system, and that were rooted in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) before the Oslo process.
Recent efforts to fight corruption have largely been ‘technical’ in nature, and have focused on such actions as drafting codes of conduct, improving recruitment procedures, and developing preventive measures to deal with specific violations. While such measures are necessary they cannot be sufficient if the political root causes of corruption are ignored. The nature of PA-specific corruption needs to be understood in order to tackle it effectively.
PA corruption is, in effect, a self-enforcing system. Perhaps the primary factor in reproducing and maintaining the corrupt nature of the Palestinian polity is ‘patron-clientelism’.[iii] In Palestine, patron-clientelism is rooted in the social values of kinship and familial ties, which are in turn shaped by factional politics. These social and political ties provide the ruling elite with a strategic tool to control constituents and expand the network of supporters by redistributing public resources in order to buy political loyalties, which in turn helps the ruling elite to preserve the status quo and maintain its dominance over political and economic assets.
Patron-clientelism also contributes to the climate of corruption by arbitrarily favouring incompetent loyal political constituents and excluding skilful people. It thus fosters rivalry among clients who compete to demonstrate their loyalty to the ruling elite. Corruption is further reinforced because one way in which patrons reward loyal clients is by tolerating their financial malfeasance.[iv]
Patron-clientelism has historically characterised the relations between the PLO executive and national institutions and political constituents.[v] The inner circle of the PLO leadership used patron-client networks systematically for multiple purposes: to extend influence over political constituents, to exclude other political forces, and to implement its political agenda unopposed.
For example, during the 1980s, the PLO leadership used the Sumud (steadfastness) Fund in the OPT – which was formally channelled through the Palestinian-Jordanian joint committee – to reward their supporters and exclude others.[vi] This approach encouraged manipulation and monopolies and introduced corrupt practices and duplication of development projects. It also contributed to expanded client networks to serve the political projects of Fatah and the Jordanian leadership. While the Sumud Fund’s stated objective was to support education, agriculture, health and housing, in reality the main beneficiaries were ‘the big landlords of the Jordan Valley, the industrialists, the Jordanian civil service (in the West Bank), and professional groups who received generous housing loans’.[vii]
After the Oslo Accords, the patron-client regime was unsurprisingly inherited by the PA and constituted the backbone of its institutional base. Instead of carrying out a merit-based institution-building process, patron-clientelism became a defining feature of the PA institutional structure, and a powerful tool of exclusion and inclusion. This was associated with the personalised and unaccountable style of governance of the late PLO chair, Yasser Arafat, and the Palestinian political leadership.[viii]
The PA has managed to secure loyalties among constituents largely by offering access to resources for economic survival rather than by persuasion for its political, economic and social programmes. In particular, the large PA public sector has been a vital instrument for creating dependency and securing loyalties. This contributed to the institutionalisation of corruption in the PA public sector, playing into the hands of the Israeli government whose intention in signing the Oslo accords was to create a client state that it could control through rents distributed to the PA via international donors, coupled with a strategy of territorial fragmentation and containment.[ix]
The PA public sector currently employs over 165 000 civil servants who are fully dependent on salaries guaranteed by international aid to the PA. The security sector is the largest with 44 per cent of total PA employment, absorbing between 30 and 35 per cent of the annual PA budget, thus receiving a bigger share than vital sectors such as education (16 per cent), health (9 per cent) and agriculture (1 per cent).
The dysfunction of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) and the complete absence of legislative monitoring of the governmental budget have freed the presidency and the executive from institutional checks and balances and public accountability. This has bolstered executive control over public spending and the executive’s ability to control constituents by using the stick and carrot strategy. This has, consequently, enhanced irregularities and violations of employment rights.
Indeed, employment in the PA public sector does not necessarily imply job security. If employees criticise PA policies they are likely to be forced into early retirement,denied salary payments, or arbitrarily removed from their posts. They may also face a series of punitive measures, including denial of promotions or transfers to distant areas.
Furthermore, given that much of Palestinian society is based on tribal/clan/family social relations, the PA has sought to accommodate large families in order to ensure their loyalty. When the PA established its Ministry of Local Government, it included a special department concerned with tribal/clan affairs. The Ministry recognises mukhtars (heads of tribes or clans) and authorises them to speak on behalf of their families. Whereas tribalism had been marginalised by the rise of the national movement, in the 1990s the PA appointed some representatives of prominent families to ministerial posts based on tribal considerations. These ministries were subsequently largely staffed by the ministers’ relatives and friends. After recent ‘state-building’ reforms, employment based on family considerations was reduced. Instead, some ministers have surrounded themselves with cronies.[x]
The patron-client system has also been used to co-opt and neutralise political opposition. Several political leaders – independents, leftists and Islamists – were incorporated into the PA project that they initially claimed to reject. They were offered privileges, advantages, and access to prestigious public posts in exchange for political loyalty. Some of those co-opted personalities subsequently became key actors in PA politics.

The money and power of elites

The corruption embedded within the Palestinian political system is best exemplified in the interplay between power and money at the highest level of political authority. This is the most prevalent form of corruption, and yet it is the most difficult to trace because the elites often enjoy social, political or legal immunity. Moreover, the complexity of the way in which money changes hands, and its transnational character – which can involve money laundering, black markets and foreign bank accounts – also makes this form of corruption particularly hard to trace.
Elite corruption generally comes to light only in times of internal conflicts within elite circles, and mutual accusations of large-scale embezzlement then dominate news headlines. For example, former Gaza security strongman Mohammed Dahlan accumulated much of his wealth from monopolies over key imports to Gaza during the 1990s. After he was expelled from the Fatah Central Committee due to allegations that he was planning to oust PA President Mahmoud Abbas, more accusations of corrupt practices were levelled against him, such as creaming off tax revenues used for his businesses in London and Dubai.
Similarly, Mohammad Rashid, former economic advisor to Arafat and a key Dahlan ally, was sentenced in absentia fortransferring millions of dollars out of the Palestinian Investment Fund and setting up fake companies. In response, Rashid revealed that Fatah had a secret bank account in Jordan that was run by Abbas and two of his associates. In each case, revelations of corruption are the result of a power struggle rather than serious efforts to combat corruption.
The misuse of official positions for personal gain is another facet of elite corruption. Cases that were exposed included unauthorised personal use of public resources, illegal public-private deals, and theft of public property. Such practices were a regular occurrence during the 1990s and negatively impacted local and international perceptions of the PA. According to the first Palestinian audit conducted in 1997, nearly 40 per centof the PA budget – approximately US$326 million – had been misappropriated.
Despite attempts at PA reform in recent years, there does not appear to have been substantial improvement in fighting this phenomenon. According to the 2008 AMAN report, the abuse of public positions for the misappropriation and waste of public property can be clearly seen in the allocation of state lands to individuals or firms. The AMAN 2011 report reveals the continuation of this trend, with the waste of public funds remaining the most prominent visible form of corruption.
Another means of self-enrichment by the political elite at the expense of the rest of the population can be seen in the excessive income inequality in Palestine. The Global Gini Index pointed to extensive inequality in income levels between high-ranking officials and other PA employees in 2013. According to recent reports, some public sector officials earn a monthly salary of more than $10 000, and enjoy other privileges. By contrast, two-thirds of PA public sector employees earn between $515 and $640 monthly.

Corruption under occupation

Israel has repeatedly contributed to and exploited corruption in the PA in order to blame Palestinians for their economic ills, and to distract attention from the devastating impact of its colonial policies on Palestinian social and economic development. Although PA corruption is undoubtedly harmful economically, it is worth noting that its effects are a distant second to the impact of systemic Israeli destruction of the Palestinian economy.
There are many ways in which Israel is a key actor in fostering corruption and protecting the corrupt. The public-private monopolies controlled by individuals high in the PA bureaucracy and their partners in the private sector would not have been possible without the collusion and collaboration of Israeli businesses and the consent of the Israeli political and security establishment.
Another example is Israel’s direct involvement in the so called ‘secret accounts’ established in the 1990s by some Palestinian officials around the world, including accounts held in the Bank Leumi in Israel. Much of the money came from taxes on Palestinian imports that Israel had collected, which it directly transferred to these accounts. Between 1994 and 1997, Israel transferred $125 million into these accounts; in 1997 alone, Israel reportedly transferred $400 million into Palestinian accounts in Israeli banks.[xi] While Israel’s role has become less visible in recent years, it still offers a safe haven for the corrupt.
At the same time, Israeli propagandists actively exploit PA corruption, and uses accusations of Palestinian corruption for political gain. During the Second Intifada that began in September 2000, Israel used the corruption card as part of a broader strategy to remove Arafat and impose an externally sponsored ‘reform’ process to suit its own agenda. In particular, Israel exploited the international preoccupation with ‘terrorism’ by accusing Arafat of using PA resources to finance terrorism. It successfully pushed an internationally-sponsored restructuring of PA institutions, weakening Arafat through the creation of the new position of prime minister, and the restructuring of the ministry of finance.

How Palestinians respond to corruption

Palestinians living under Israeli occupation believe that corruption is one of the most serious problems they face, second only to the occupation itself. A 2014 opinion poll found that 25 per cent of Palestinians surveyed believed corruption was a serious problem, second after the problem of occupation and settlements, which stood at 29 per cent of those surveyed. This is unsurprising, given that corruption siphons off scarce Palestinian resources and breeds a wide range of social problems, contributes to inequality and harms the social fabric, and corrupts the struggle for national liberation and the pursuit of Palestinian rights.
The first domestic challenge to PA corruption was in 1997 when the PLC released a report in the wake of the first audit cited above. The report revealed widespread corruption in PA institutions and contained a damning indictment of all ministries.
The report was crucial as it opened the Palestinian public’s eye to the existence of systemic corrupt networks within the PA. In response, Palestinians mobilised and demanded reforms and transparency. In 1999, twenty prominent figures – including academics, intellectuals and members of the PLC – signed the ‘The Nation Calls Us’ manifesto, which accused Arafat of ‘opening the doors to the opportunists to spread corruption through the Palestinian streets’. PA security forces arrested many signatories and accused them of threatening national unity.
By 2004, growing popular dissatisfaction with PA corruption erupted in street protests over government appointments of some notoriously corrupt personalities. Due to the increasing internal and external pressure on the PA, Arafat acknowledged that there was corruption and promised that the culprits would be prosecuted.
Popular anger at corruption was also a main factor in Hamas’s overwhelming electoral victory in the 2006 parliamentary elections. For many people Hamas offered an alternative, and had earned respect for its efficient service delivery, particularly among the poorer people. However, after the formation of the Hamas-led government in 2006, it began to establish its own brand of clientelism by appointing and promoting supporters in various government posts. This contributed to the power struggle and political rivalry between Hamas and Fatah. To this day, Hamas-Fatah competition over appointmentsconstitutes a significant impediment to the reconciliation process between the two factions. Meanwhile, Hamas’s years in power in Gaza have led the public to level similar allegations of corruption against Hamas as they have against Fatah, especially after Hamas began making massive profits from thetunnel economy between 2007 and 2014 together with a lack of transparency in dealing with the receipts.
Partially in response to public dissatisfaction, the PA founded the Palestinian Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) in 2010, which was tasked with receiving public complaints and ensuring that corruption cases were dealt with speedily and effectively. Although the PACC is portrayed as an independent commission, financially and administratively, its chairperson was appointed by presidential decree, and many of its advisory board members include former ministers, ambassadors and presidential advisers. Some cases of corruption have reportedly been brought to justice, but press reports as well as interviews I conducted indicate that the investigations are selective. Furthermore, public opinion polls indicate increased public mistrust in the PACC, and a perception of systematic interference in its work by the presidency, security services and political parties.
Popular campaigns against corruption have largely diminished in recent years due in part to growing PA authoritarianism and increasing repression by its security services. This has includedblocking websites that reveal stories of PA corruption.

Uprooting corruption

Effectively ending corruption requires a structural response that involves the entire political system, including an effective legislative monitoring system, institutional checks and balances, and an independent and well-functioning judiciary. Immunity would be withdrawn from any person, regardless of position, in case of direct or indirect misuse of political power and public resources. Civil society representatives would play an effective role in monitoring public institutions and resources. Because the international aid industry provides fertile ground for corruption and lacks accountability, the existing aid system would need to be reformed to ensure it does not assist to foster corruption.
However, it is difficult to see a situation in the near future where these measures are agreed upon and implemented. Palestine has no sovereignty, and its people are barely surviving under a prolonged occupation of nearly fifty years, and a siege of nearly a decade. Most Palestinian people are outside the OPT, living as exiles and refugees in very difficult conditions, or as second-class citizens of Israel. Corruption is a major contributing factor to the Palestinian national movement’s inability to achieve its objectives, and also serves the objectives of Israel’s occupation. Yet corruption will remain endemic within the PA as long as Palestinians themselves do not begin restructuring their national institutions according to democratic principles and standards of accountability as part of a broader strategy to pursue self-determination and Palestinian national rights, including freedom from occupation.
 Tariq Dana is a Senior Research Fellow at the Ibrahim Abu-Lughod Institute of International Studies, Birzeit University. He also teaches courses on global political economy.

 

 
[i] I thank Al-Shabaka Program Director Alaa Tartir for his insights, feedback, and support in the preparation of this brief, and the Heinrich-Böll-Foundation’s Palestine/Jordan Office for their partnership and collaboration with Al-Shabaka in Palestine. The views expressed in this policy brief are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Heinrich-Böll-Foundation.
[ii] It should be noted that while neither the private nor the non-governmental sectors are immune to corruption, they are not the focus of this paper. In addition, it should be noted that this paper does not cover Gaza and Hamas, although this is an important area for future study.
[iii] Patron-client relations are based on inequality whereby a patron monopolises the centres of power and resources to contain the client within his sphere of influence. See Shmuel N Eisenstadt and Luis Roniger (1984). Patrons, clients and friends: Interpersonal relations and the structures of trust in society,Cambridge University Press.
[iv] Rex ‪Brynen (1995). ‘The Neopatrimonial Dimension of Palestinian Politics’, in Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 25, No. 1, 23-36.
[v] As’ad Ghanem (2010). Palestinian Politics After Arafat: A Failed National Movement, Indiana University Press.
[vi] The Sumud Fund is different from Samed, the economic institution of the PLO established in 1970.
[vii] Salim Tamari (1991). ‘The Palestinian Movement in Transition: Historical Reversals and the Uprising’, Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol 20, No 2, 63. See also: Khalil Nakhleh (2004). ‘The Myth of Palestinian Development: Political Aid and Sustainable Deceit’, Jerusalem: Passia.
[viii] Ghanem (2010).
[ix] Mushtaq Husain Khan, George Giacaman and Inge Amundsen (eds) (2004). State Formation in Palestine: Viability and Governance during a Social Transformation, Routledge.
[x] Information collected in author’s interviews in Palestine in 2015.
[xi] For further information, see: Cheryl A Rubenberg (2003).The Palestinians: In Search of a Just Peace, Lynne Rienner Publishers, 256. See also: Jamil Hilal and Mushtaq Khan, ‘State Formation under the PNA: Potential Outcomes and their Viability’ in Khan, Mushtaq, et al (2004). 64-119.

By Henry Siegman

Introduction

Failed bilateral talks over these past 16 years have shown that a Middle East peace accord can never be reached by the parties themselves. Israeli governments believe they can defy international condemnation of their illegal colonial project in the West Bank because they can count on the US to oppose international sanctions

Bilateral talks that are not framed by US-formulated parameters (based on Security Council resolutions, the Oslo accords, the Arab Peace Initiative, the "road map" and other previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements) cannot succeed.

Israel's government believes that the US Congress will not permit an American president to issue such parameters and demand their acceptance. What hope there is for the bilateral talks that resume in Washington DC on September 2 depends entirely on President Obama proving that belief to be wrong, and on whether the "bridging proposals" he has promised, should the talks reach an impasse, are a euphemism for the submission of American parameters. Such a US initiative must offer Israel iron-clad assurances for its security within its pre-1967 borders, but at the same time must make it clear these assurances are not available if Israel insists on denying Palestinians a viable and sovereign state in the West Bank and Gaza.

By International Crisis Group

After almost two decades of unsuccessful U.S.-sponsored negotiations, Palestinians are re-evaluating their approach to peace.

Tipping Point? Palestinians and the Search for a New Strategy, the latest International Crisis Group background report, discusses why Palestinians, who are most in need of a resolution, balk at resuming negotiations; why, although President Obama appears willing to be engaged and confront Israel, Palestinians have denied him the chance to advance talks; and why, seventeen years after Oslo, the best that can be done is get the parties to talk indirectly. The answer is not that the PLO or its leadership have given up on talks and the two-state solution. They have invested too much for too long to shift course swiftly and radically. Rather, they seek to redress the power imbalance with Israel by pressing their case internationally, reinvigorating statebuilding, and encouraging a measure of popular resistance.

By Mohsen Mohammed Saleh

Is real reform of the Palestinian Authority (PA) possible, or is reform simply a matter of 'dancing to the Occupation's tune'? Also, can the types of reform be divided and classified in such a way that some administrative, economic, educational, and social reforms are achieved, with the understanding that political and security reforms are much more difficult – if not impossible? Or will reform solely improve the image of the Occupation and prolong its existence – which in itself is considered a deviation from the prime objective that the Palestinian Authority was established to achieve: ending the Occupation and not merely improving the status quo under its reign?

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