After Gaza, What Price Palestine’s Security Sector?


8 October 2014


Security eats up a sizeable proportion of the PA budget, accounting for almost $1 billion (26%) of the 2013 budget, compared to only 16% for education, 9% for health, and a staggeringly low 1% for agriculture, traditionally one of the main sources of livelihood for Palestinians. The security sector is also the recipient of considerable international aid: the United States, the European Union, and Canada pumped millions of dollars into what is euphemistically termed Security Sector Reform (SSR) in 2013 alone. In fact, there is now one security person for every 52 Palestinian residents compared to one educator for every 75 residents. Daily newspapers frequently carry announcements of bids for more PA prisons – there are already 52 new prisons and eight new security compounds – as well as riot control gear.

An important indicator of the growing importance of the security sector has been the appointment of security personnel to leading positions or in municipalities, governorates, and politically sensitive positions. For example, Majid Faraj, head of Palestinian Intelligence, was on the Palestinian negotiating team in the most recent negotiations with Israel. Although security force heads like Jibril Rajoub and Mohammed Dahlan have been powerful in the past (and may be again in future), what is different now is that this is being presented as part of a modern state-building package.

Needless to say, far from providing for Palestinian security, the rapidly mushrooming sector has, as Israel intended from the start, served as an instrument of control and pacification of the Palestinian population in the area directly under the PA’s authority (Area A, according to the Oslo Accords) as well as the area controlled jointly with Israel (Area B). In these areas, Palestinian security forces have curbed demonstrations, arrested activists, violently disarmed the military wings of political parties, and tortured militants as well as political activists. At the same time, security collaboration with Israel has reached unprecedented levels, as will be discussed further below. Meanwhile, Israel has a free hand in Area C, some 60% of the West Bank, which is under its military control.