June 7, 2002 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 97

Calls for Reform in the Palestinian Authority Part II: Security and Economic Reforms

June 7, 2002
Palestinians | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 97

A. Reform in the Security Apparatuses
The Legislative Council issued a document proposing: limiting the terms served by the commanders to four years; reducing the number of security apparatuses; placing the apparatuses under a civil authority such as the Interior Minister under the supervision of the Legislative Council; assembling a national security council to be headed by the president which would serve as a supreme committee for supervision of the security institutions and apparatuses; and preventing the security organizations and their directors from engaging in politics, information, fee collection, and from maintaining contact with Israel except for security coordination.[1]

PLO Executive Committee Secretary Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) sought restrictions on the number of security apparatuses, and clear definitions of their areas of responsibility. "Such a [large] number of apparatuses cannot remain. We must have an effective security force, and thus there must be a limited number of apparatuses with defined areas of responsibility. Leaving things the way they are can cause the apparatuses to engage with each other. In truth, the exchange of accusations that occurred [among the various apparatuses][2] are disgraceful, and must stop. We must define for ourselves what security we need, so [that we can then decide] whether we need one or two, three or four [apparatuses]. In the event that we decide that we need all the apparatuses, we will leave them all. No one but us has the right to determine the number of apparatuses and who will head each."[3]

Former minister of parliamentary affairs Nabil Amru called for oversight by the political leadership of the security apparatuses,[4] while Legislative Council member Qaddura Fares, proposed replacing all heads of the security apparatuses, since over eight years had passed since their appointment.[5] Muhammad Dahlan, head of the Preventive Security apparatus in the Gaza Strip, also spoke of the need to replace all the commanders, including himself, saying that all wanted to leave their posts.[6]

In an interview with CNN, Arafat rejected the suggestion that the security apparatuses be merged: "So far, we have acted in the West Bank according to Jordanian law, and in the Gaza Strip according to Egyptian law. When we have Palestinian law and Palestinian independence, we will have our own strategy and our own plan."[7]

A completely different picture emerged from the words of Arafat's economic advisor and close confidant Muhammad Rashid. Rashid claimed that the PA had already agreed to merge the 12 security apparatuses, and explained the reason for doing so: "We know that the U.S. will not agree to the existence of the armed militias, and we are committed to a single armed Palestinian security apparatus."[8] Muhammad Dahlan noted in a similar vein that the Palestinians were "working to combine the apparatuses, so that their number will not exceed four."[9]

The Palestinian Authority daily Al-Ayyam reported that Arafat was on the verge of approving a comprehensive plan for reorganizing the Palestinian security establishment. The plan reduced the number of apparatuses to four for internal, external, and general security, as well as a police force. Force 17 would remain as the presidential guard; only the police and the internal security apparatus would be able to make arrests; the apparatuses in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip would merge; there would be a national security council which would include the apparatus heads; and the commanders' terms of office would be restricted to four years.[10] Arafat's political advisor Nabil Abu Rudeina approved the implementation of this plan, and noted that the president would be approving it.[11]

PA ministers also reported that during a conference of the Palestinian leadership, Arafat said that the security apparatuses would be reorganized.[12] Arafat also decided to put together a "supreme security committee" which would include the national security forces, police, intelligence, presidential security, military intelligence, and preventive security. Possible candidates for membership in this committee were 'Abd Al-Razaq Al-Majayda, Ghazi Al-Jabali, Amin Al-Hindi, Faisal Abu Sharkh, and Moussa Arafat.[13]

head of Preventive Security in the Gaza Strip claimed that Arafat had offered him the position of national security advisor, and announced that he was resigning from his post as head of Preventive Security in the Gaza Strip. Dahlan said he was considering Arafat's proposal, but that in any event he would not withdraw his resignation.[14] Top Palestinian officials noted that during his visit to the PA, CIA Director George Tenet had proposed reducing the number of security apparatuses to three instead of 12; while the Palestinians had proposed cutting them to six.[15]

B. Economic Reforms
The Palestinian officials who sought reform focused on the need to fight corruption and to oversee PA funds. Legislative Council member Hussan Khader known as a vocal critic of Palestinian Authority corruption, told the Israeli Arabic-language weekly Kul Al-Arab that corruption, and those involved in it – among them Arafat's economic advisor Muhammad Rashid – must be fought: "Muhammad Rashid is one of the most corrupt. He has managed to destroy the cultural and social infrastructure of the Palestinian people more than Sharon and his tanks and APCs… Many of the most corrupt individuals are criminals against our people. They carried out and legitimized corruption… It is proven that the danger of corruption is the same as the danger of the occupation; thus, we will fight to correct the domestic Palestinian situation and act for change with a comprehensive political view, a national base, and national goals."[16]

Similar comments came from Legislative Council Secretary-General Ruhi Fattuh, who is also a member of the Legislative Council committee in charge of reform. He said that reform would include "a settling of accounts with all those involved in corruption."[17] Nabil Amru also demanded an end to corruption.[18]

Legislative Council member Qaddura Fares proposed handling the problem of corruption as follows: all the economic authority's funds should be part of the general PA budget, so that its expenses could be monitored.[19] Additional proposals appeared in a document drawn up by the Legislative Council which demanded: an end to the proliferation of decision makers and areas of responsibility for handling PA funds, and proposed exclusive supervision of PA income by the Treasury Ministry; combining the accounts of the General Treasury into one comprehensive account that would include all income from the PA and its institutions.[20]

Abu Mazen, secretary of the PLO Executive Committee, said that economic reform should focus on preventing the transfer of donations from foreign NGOs to Palestinian NGOs: "There must be order in all financial matters, and, like in every other country in the world, there must be one source to which the funds will flow, and another from which they will be issued. This is so that we can say to the world that we have transparency, and so that we will not permit anyone who wants to play [with our money], such as the NGOs which act without anyone knowing what they are doing. The donor countries come, meet with whoever they want, and provide aid to whoever they want, as if there were no PA, and as if its officials were worthless. This is not allowed anywhere in the world… We must have an apparatus with full transparency, so that the money and the aid will be apportioned by this apparatus, while today, dozens of NGOs are given [money] to act without us knowing where it comes from and where it is going. This is a basic responsibility of any self-respecting authority."[21]

As a first step towards economic reform, Arafat approved the National Bank Law, that will apply to all PA banks – which up to this point functioned in accordance with laws dating back to 1941 and 1966.[22] To date, no details on the new law have been released.

C. U.S. and Israeli Involvement in the Reforms
Top Palestinian officials who called for reforms stressed that their reform demands had nothing to do with those emerging from the U.S. and Israel. When asked to respond to President George W. Bush's statement that he hoped there would be reforms and democracy in the PA, Arafat said, "We are proud of our democracy. Don't forget that President Carter, along with leaders and top officials from all over the world, supervised the election of myself and the Legislative Council, and we are proud of this."[23]

Minister of Planning and Regional Cooperation Nabil Sha'ath declared, "Improvement and reform are a Palestinian matter. The goals and the tools for it are Palestinian, and they have won unanimous agreement on the part of the Palestinian people. No non-Palestinian element must be permitted to interfere in this matter."[24] A similar position was expressed by Jibril Rjoub, head of Preventive Security in the West Bank: "Building the PA is a Palestinian matter, and the reshaping of the Palestinian establishment is the demand of every Palestinian citizen… We must not 'import' a reform plan, or ideas of individuals. Our people have sufficient abilities, qualifications, and strength."[25]

According to a report by the Saudi daily Al-Watan, CIA director George Tenet supports Muhammad Dahlan's appointment to head the new unified Palestinian security apparatus that would work to stop Palestinian attacks on Israel originating in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.[26] In an interview with the London Arabic-language daily Al-Hayat, Dahlan discussed the proposal that he would supervise all the apparatuses: "Personally, I would not want it. But there is a difference between my personal desire and the national interest. I would be the first to protest this, but [I will do so] through official channels, in cabinet meetings and in the framework of my good relations with President Arafat." Asked whether he would accept the appointment to the post, Dahlan said he would.[27] On another occasion, Dahlan said, "Neither Israel nor America will decide for the Palestinian people who will [be a top security official] and what status he will hold. This is a decision to be made by the Palestinian people and the president."[28]

Despite denials of American involvement, statements by Arafat's economic advisor Muhammad Rashid indicate that American and Palestinian officials are working together on reform in the PA. According to him, he and the American officials set a timetable for democratic reform in the PA, and both sides want to make essential changes in the political and security authority bodies prior to the international conference slated for late June or early July. Rashid further clarified that American officials, among them U.S. Assistant Secretary of State William Burns, would be helping to plan the changes, and that they hope Tenet would be helping with advice on training a new security force.[29]

[1] Al-Quds (Palestinian Authority), May 25, 2002.

[2] Abu Mazen was referring to the exchanges of accusations between Jibril Rjoub, head of the Preventive Security apparatus in the West Bank, and Muhammad Dahlan, head of Preventive Security apparatus in the Gaza Strip.

[3] Al-Ayyam (Palestinian Authority), May 7, 2002.

[4] Al-Sinara (Israel), May 10, 2002.

[5] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (Palestinian Authority), May 16, 2002.

[6] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (Palestinian Authority), May 25, 2002.

[7] CNN, May 13, 2002.

[8] Al-Hayat (London), May 18, 2002.

[9] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (Palestinian Authority), May 25, 2002.

[10] Al-Ayyam (Palestinian Authority), May 26, 2002.

[11] Al-Quds (Palestinian Authority), May 27, 2002.

[12] Al-Ayyam (Palestinian Authority), May 28, 2002.

[13] Al-Quds (Palestinian Authority), June 4, 2002.

[14] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (Palestinian Authority), June 5, 2002.

[15] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (Palestinian Authority), June 5, 2002.

[16] Kul Al-Arab (Israel), May 16, 2002.

[17] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (Palestinian Authority), May 22, 2002.

[18] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (Palestinian Authority), May 24, 2002.

[19] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (Palestinian Authority), May 16, 2002.

[20] Al-Quds (Palestinian Authority), May 18, 2002.

[21] Al-Ayyam (Palestinian Authority), May 7, 2002.

[22] Al-Quds (Palestinian Authority), May 22, 2002.

[23] CNN, May 13, 2002.

[24] Al-Ayyam (Palestinian Authority), May 13, 2002.

[25] Al-Hayat (London), May 10, 2002.

[26] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), May 6, 2002.

[27] Al-Hayat (London), May 2, 2002.

[28] Al-Hayat (London), May 11, 2002.

[29] Al-Hayat (London), May 18, 2002.

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