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Building a Successful Palestinian State: Security

Building a Successful Palestinian State: Security

by Robert E. Hunter, Seth G. Jones

An examination of options to meet the external security requirements of a successful, independent Palestinian state.


An examination of options to meet the external security requirements of a successful, independent Palestinian state.

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RAND Corporation
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Building a Successful Palestinian State

By Robert E. Hunter Seth G. Jones

Rand Corporation

Copyright © 2006 RAND Corporation
All right reserved.

Chapter One


Every negotiation and plan for peace between Israel and its neighbors has had one overriding element-those issues and concerns that can be subsumed under the blanket term "security." Indeed, a wide spectrum of issues, ranging from economics and education to political governance, has bowed before security concerns in the course of efforts to create a just and lasting peace. Security trumps everything else. For this principal reason, there has been no major success at what, in many other parts of the world, have proved to be functional approaches to peace and resolution of conflict. Examples include mutual increases in standards of living that lead individuals, families, and communities to reduce if not eliminate their preoccupation with "security" and to put aside historical grievances and rival claims. In time, that may happen with Israel and its neighbors, as well, including the Palestinians. But that day is some way off and will depend, among other things, on each party's sense of security. Thus, security issues will continue to have primacy in the effort to design the parameters of a viable Palestinian state. Other aspects of state creation, with few exceptions, will need to be related to these issues and the ways in which they are worked out.

Security issues will play a fundamental role in the creation of a Palestinianstate in at least four overlapping ways. First, a Palestinian state must be able, alone or in concert with others, to ensure security within its own borders, consistent also with Israel's security. This includes the Palestinian state's ability to promote public order and to protect its citizens-as well as to protect others, either resident in or visiting its territory-from violent attack and subversion, whether originating from without or within the state, and to provide its citizens with a sense of normality in their daily lives. (The major issues involved with internal security are fully elaborated in the main RAND Corporation study (The RAND Palestinian State Study Team, 2005.)) Second, a Palestinian state must also take steps to enter into arrangements that will help to ensure Israel's security. These must include credible reassurances through confidence-building measures, dispute-resolution provisions, and concrete steps to eliminate terrorist and other violent attacks against Israel originating from Palestinian territory. Third, the territories of both Israel and Palestine must be secured against incursion from abroad. Fourth, the creation of a Palestinian state must be seen as making a positive contribution to regional security-a goal that imposes burdens more on other states and institutions than on the Palestinian state, its institutions, and its leaders.

Designing a Palestinian state that can fulfill these four basic requirements-on its own, in cooperation with others, and in terms of its existence and relations with Israel and others-has historically proved to be beyond reach for a variety of reasons that we explore below. The challenge now is to analyze and explore each of these elements, along with their relationship to one another and to other key aspects of designing and creating a Palestinian state that can succeed.

Internal and external security arrangements for a Palestinian state are inextricably related. Examples include the effectiveness of Palestinian policing and the nature and extent of security arrangements along the Palestinian-Israeli border, counterterrorism efforts, and intelligence functions. Thus, the discussion in this monograph overlaps the issues presented in the companion RAND study. Both explore the relationships and overlap where it seems most appropriate to do so.

This monograph focuses on the external security dimensions of a Palestinian state (i.e., issues involving borders or direct interaction between a Palestinian state and its neighbors). We begin with a brief historical overview of major security issues since the 1993 Oslo Accords. We then offer analysis and options in those areas that we believe are central to external security concerns.

Historical Overview

Security concerns have been a sine qua non throughout the history of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. This subsection outlines the major security agreements and negotiations since the 1993 Oslo Accords. Oslo was an important step toward the creation of a Palestinian state because it transferred to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) practical control over a small amount of territory in Gaza and the town of Jericho, along with the prospect that negotiations would proceed to a successful conclusion.

The 1993 Oslo Accords and the subsequent 1994 Israel-PLO Agreement on the Gaza Strip and the Jericho Area were the first steps toward Palestinian sovereignty, and they included several important security elements. First, although the Palestinians acquired authority over Gaza and Jericho, Israel continued to have authority over Israeli settlements, military installations, and Israelis living within Palestinian territory. Second, the Palestinian Authority was explicitly prohibited from exercising functional jurisdiction in the areas of foreign relations and external security. As Article VI of the 1994 Israel-PLO agreement stated:

The Palestinian Authority will not have powers and responsibilities in the sphere of foreign relations, which sphere includes the establishment abroad of embassies, consulates or other types of foreign missions and posts or permitting their establishment in the Gaza Strip or Jericho Area, the appointment of or admission of diplomatic and consular sta., and the exercise of diplomatic functions.

This provision ensured that Israel would monitor and secure the Palestinian borders with Egypt and Jordan, as well as defend against threats from the air and Mediterranean Sea. The Palestinians were prohibited from establishing a military and acquiring such equipment as heavy weapons and tanks, and their police forces were limited in the number and caliber of arms and ammunition they could possess. Third, the agreements created a series of bilateral and multilateral enforcement and monitoring arrangements that involved the Palestinian Authority, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, and the United States. For example, the Israelis and Palestinians established a joint security coordination and cooperation committee for mutual security purposes, district coordination offices, and joint patrols. Liaison and cooperation arrangements were also established, involving the governments of Jordan and Egypt. In sum, following Oslo, Israel retained responsibility and authority over most internal and external security matters with regard to the West Bank and Gaza.

The situation did not change significantly over the next few years. However, two agreements were reached that were important vis-à-vis Palestinian and regional security: the 1994 Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty and the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (Oslo II). In most security areas, the status quo persisted, and Israel retained responsibility for external security. As Article XII of Oslo II stated: "Israel shall continue to carry the responsibility for defense against external threats, including the responsibility for protecting the Egyptian and Jordanian borders and for defense against external threats from the sea and air." Israel retained responsibility for the security of Israeli settlements, military installations, and Israelis in Palestinian territory. The Palestinian Authority was again prohibited from establishing embassies and consulates abroad, creating a diplomatic staff, or building a military. Oslo II did give the Palestinian police power to maintain security and public order in most matters in Palestinian territory. Oslo II also permitted the Palestinian Authority to make international agreements in the areas of financial aid, regional development, culture, science, and education.

Another important change to the status quo was the Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty of October 1994, which contributed to a more peaceful regional security environment. In addition to establishing peace, Israel and Jordan agreed to cooperate in a number of areas: drug trafficking, counterterrorism, criminal activity, and border crossing. The treaty was also important because it contributed to a more stable external security environment and provided for Jordanian involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis continued into the late 1990s and early 2000s at a number of locations, including the Wye River Plantation, Sharm el-Sheikh, Camp David, and Taba. At least four security issues were central to these negotiations.

First, Palestinian and Israeli negotiators discussed the possibility of stationing a U.S.-led international force in the Jordan Valley and on the Palestinian borders with Israel, Egypt, and Jordan. The December 2000 "Clinton Parameters" specifically argued that "the key" to establishing security "lies in an international presence that can only be withdrawn by the agreement of both sides" (Ross, 2004, p. 802). (See Appendix B.) Primary objectives of the proposed force would have been to monitor implementation of a peace agreement, prevent smuggling, and perhaps provide external security for the Palestinian state. The force would overlap with a phased Israeli Defense Force (IDF) withdrawal from Palestinian territory. As several primary source accounts have indicated, however, there was substantial disagreement. Palestinian negotiators argued that an international force was necessary to ensure Palestinian security, especially in the absence of a Palestinian military. The Israeli government contended that an international force might be unresponsive to its security needs and complicate its right to redeploy in an emergency.

Second, both sides continued to disagree about Israeli settlements-particularly such issues as the Israeli annexation of settlement blocs, contiguity between and among settlements in Palestinian territory, and further development of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Palestinian negotiators pointed to the growth of settlements and rejected the creation of Israeli settlement blocs, which they viewed as a threat to the contiguity, security, and viability of a Palestinian state.

Third, Israel consistently maintained that a future Palestinian state must be demilitarized and insisted that there should be restrictions on Palestinian weapons and military personnel. However, a Palestinian state would be permitted to have a strong security force for internal security purposes. Furthermore, Israeli negotiators requested early warning stations, mobile patrols, airspace rights, and supply bases in such regions as the Jordan Valley. They also required the right to redeploy forces to the Jordan River in the event of an external threat that constituted a "national state emergency" in Israel.

Fourth, Jerusalem remained one of the most contentious security issues. Of particular importance were Palestinian and Israeli sovereignty rights over the Muslim, Christian, Armenian, and Jewish Quarters in the Old City; sovereignty over a number of holy sites in Jerusalem, such as the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount; and the city's status as capital of Israel and Palestine. Yet despite such differences, Israeli negotiators still agreed to cede significant portions of East Jerusalem to the Palestinians.

Following the failure of Camp David II and subsequent negotiations to produce a breakthrough, the security situation rapidly deteriorated into a second intifada. Since 2001, there have been some discussions between Israelis and Palestinians. But security concerns have plagued efforts to end the conflict and create a Palestinian state. Following the death of Yasser Arafat, there have been additional steps toward easing security concerns. For example, the IDF handed over several West Bank towns, notably Jericho and Tulkarem, to Palestinian security control. The United States also sent special envoy Lieutenant General William Ward as "security coordinator" to assist Palestinian security forces and help coordinate Israel's disengagement from Gaza.

In sum, security has been-and will continue to be-the fundamental concern among Israelis and Palestinians. Despite some progress during the 1990s, the al-Aqsa intifada has served as a stark reminder of the tenuousness of peace and demonstrated the need for viable security arrangements following the creation of a Palestinian state. Ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will require understanding security requirements for a settlement and embedding them in all aspects of negotiations. Both parties must openly and precisely agree about what "security" means, how it can and must be ensured during the onset of a genuine peace, and how security should be implemented over time.

Key Security Issues

The following pages discuss seven areas that we believe are central to external security concerns:

Border arrangements

An international force

Palestinian military forces

Israeli settlements that may remain within a Palestinian state

Intelligence, monitoring, enforcement, and dispute-resolution provisions

Special security issues regarding Jerusalem

The external environment as it affects Palestinian and Israeli security.

Chapter Two

Border Arrangements

Ensuring Palestinian, Israeli, and regional security on a basis acceptable to both Israel and Palestine will require establishing workable border arrangements. Borders are a central issue in several respects: whether Israeli settlements will remain on the Palestinian side of the Green Line separating Israel proper from the West Bank and if so-as, to some extent, is likely-what borders will be drawn in negotiations; the design and nature of borders between Israel and Gaza following the withdrawal of some of the Israeli presence; whether there will be a special status for Jerusalem; whether both Israel and Palestine will have contiguous territory (perhaps involving land swaps); and how the West Bank and Gaza will be connected, e.g., either physically or "virtually"-i.e., by providing for uninhibited transit between the two areas.

The manner in which these issues are settled will depend on many factors, of which security is only one. As a general proposition, the more that territory is contiguous, that boundaries are clear and undisputed, that Israeli settlements are limited in the West Bank (in territories not ceded to Israel), and that Israelis and Palestinians can agree upon arrangements for passage of Palestinians between the West Bank and Gaza and other connections between the two, the easier it will likely be to solve security issues.

One critical dimension of border arrangements-the permeability of the border-does not necessarily depend on the resolution of matters raised above. Permeability is the ease with which people and goods will be able to move across Palestine's borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt-including passage between the West Bank and Gaza. The concept of permeable borders can include some limitations on the number of crossing points between Israel and Palestine, as opposed to "open" or "unrestricted" borders. There are at least three possibilities: (1) impermeable borders, especially between Israeli and Palestinian territory; (2) permeable borders without the presence of an international force; and (3) permeable Palestinian borders that are monitored with the assistance of an international force.

Impermeable Borders

Impermeable borders would prevent most-if not all-goods and people from crossing the Palestine-Israel border, although exceptions might be made for government officials or other identified individuals. As Figure 1 illustrates, the current Israeli construction of a security barrier raises questions that are germane to this issue.


Excerpted from Building a Successful Palestinian State by Robert E. Hunter Seth G. Jones Copyright © 2006 by RAND Corporation. Excerpted by permission.
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