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SSR Country Snapshot: Palestinian Territories

In the disputed Palestinian Territories there is a high refugee population and a large diaspora.  Security Sector Reforms (SSR) began in 2003, but have only been effectively present since 2007.-


SSR Snapshot: Table of Contents

1. SSR Summary

2. Key Dates

3. Central SSR Programs/Activities

4. Key Funding Commitments

5. Major International Donors

6. Major Civil Society Stakeholders

7. Key Domestic Government Actors

8. Central Challenges

9. For More Information


1. SSR Summary

The Palestinian territories consist of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem, collectively home to 4.3 million people, not including approximately 300,000 Israeli settlers. The territories are governed by the Palestinian Authority (PA), although the 2006 elections and subsequent collapse of the Fatah-Hamas unity government in 2007 mean that Fatah controls the West Bank and Hamas controls Gaza. Consequently, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has ruled the West Bank by presidential decree since 2007 (BBC News, 2012; US GAO, 2010: 11). The animosity between Palestine and Israel continues with the recent revival of the Palestinian statehood movement. With Palestine gaining state recognition with United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and permanent observer status in the General Assembly of the United Nations, Israel continues to suppress Palestine through including (military campaigns) into the Gaza strip and the suspension of funds due to the PA. Additionally, the tensions between Hamas and Fatah are unabated, as evident by the political clashes over local elections in October 2012 (BBC News, 2012).

The Roadmap for Peace (henceforth Roadmap) was endorsed in 2003 by Israel, the PA, and the Quartet on the Middle East (the UN, United States (US), European Union (EU) and Russia). The Roadmap provides the main basis for security sector reform (SSR) efforts (by the US and EU). The US has focussed on directly supporting the Palestinian Authority Security Forces (PASF), Ministry of the Interior, and the Presidential Guard through training, equipment, infrastructure, and advice since 2007. The EU has supported the Palestinian Civilian Police (PCP) via the EU Co-ordinating Office for Palestinian Police Support (EUPOL COPPS). The goal of both programmes are to provide stability, reduce terrorism, and provide law and order ‒ the goal is to provide independent domestic security and policing forces. Neither the security nor policing reforms have a specific timeline or qualified set of goals at the time of writing. There has been a significant shift in both programmes to aid in justice sector reform, though both primarily focus on domestic capacity and training personnel.

Many of the SSR reforms are inextricably linked to the Middle East peace process, reforms and efforts require peace to be successful and vice versa, which has reduced the efficacy of many efforts. Particularly, all reforms and programs are subject to Israel’s control, which delays equipment requests, construction, and other activities.

For policing reforms, the major challenge is engagement with Palestinian civil society. The two major SSR programs do not inclusively involve any civil society actors from Palestinian or Israeli society, making it difficult to effectively support law and order. Lastly, the regional political climate clouds nearly every aspect of aid and policy. The Arab Spring, Syrian Civil War, and fears of a nuclear-armed Iran continue to complicate the Israeli-Palestinian relationship.

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2. Key Dates:

  • The Roadmap for Peace (April, 2003), agreed to by Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and the quartet (The US, the EU, Russia, and the UN) that sets out a strategy for a two-state solution
  • Hostilities between Israel and Palestine resume in 2006 and Fatah-Hamas conflict begins in 2007
  • Palestinian is granted permanent observer status in the UN General Assembly (November 29, 2012)

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3. Central SSR Programs/Activities:

Palestinian Authority (PA) Security Sector Reform Program (SSRP): Spearheaded by the United States effectively began in 2007 and has focused on training the PA National Security Forces (NSF), in addition to infrastructure, capacity building, and justice sector reform.

The European Union Co-ordinating Office for Palestinian Police Support (EUPOL COPPS): Builds on the previous work of the EU Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process. EUPOL COPPS focuses on training police personnel, in addition to institution-building programs and laying the foundations for the Rule of Law in the Palestinian Territories.

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4. Key Funding Commitments:

EU Co-ordinating Office for Palestinian Police Support (EUPOL COPPS): Mission budget €9,330,000 for the period 1 July 2012 to 30 June 2013 (EUPOL COPPS, 2012)

US Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) Palestinian Authority Security Sector Reform Program: Fiscal Year Request 2012: US$113,000 (US DoS, 2012)

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5. Major International Donors:

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6. Major Civil Society Stakeholders:

The Arab Association for Human Rights (HRA): Works to promote political, civil, economic, and cultural rights of Palestinian Arab minority from an international human rights perspective.

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7. Key Domestic Government Actors: 

Government of IsraelThe Government of Israel is the sovereign state in the Palestinian territories, allowing the PA to limited self-rule. Shipments of equipment for PA security forces is subject to approval by the Government of Israel (US GAO, 2010: 32). Additionally, Israel administers many areas within the West Bank and maintains the blockade around the Gaza strip (US GAO, 2010: 6).

Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO)/ Palestinian Authority (PA): The PLO is a political and paramilitary organization established in 1964 that represents the Palestinian Territories in addition to the Palestinian diaspora community. The PA is the semi-autonomous administration established to govern the West Bank and Gaza strip as according to the 1994 Oslo Accords.

PA National Security Forces (PANSF): The PANSF is a lightly armed force that supports the civil police, delivers law and order, and combats terrorism.  It is not understood to be a “true military force” (US GAO, 2010: 12).

Presidential Guard:  An elite force of about 2,300 personnel with specialized functions for protection and quick reactions under the direct supervision of the PA President.

Ministry of Interior: The Ministry is in charge of security in the Palestinian Territories and is directly in charge of the PCP, PANSF, the Palestinian Civil Defense (emergency services) and other security bodies (US GAO, 2010: 13). 

Palestinian Civilian Police (PCP): Most of the PCP is responsible for daily policing duties, such as arresting criminals, controlling traffic and keeping order, although it also has a rapid deployment unit that engages in more complex situations, like riots or counterterrorism activities (US GAO, 2010: 13).

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8. Central Challenges:

Palestinian independence/Israeli Settlements (West Bank): Security is difficult to maintain in the Territories due to the division of authority between the Government of Israel and the semi-autonomous PA. Additionally, Israel has continued to open new settlements and expand existing ones, increasing tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.

Law enforcement/Rule of Law: The Palestinian territories have struggled with maintaining law and order over the years.

Internal Political (strife between Hamas and Fatah/Abbas): The ongoing feud between Hamas and Fatah continue to reduce Israel’s enthusiasm to devolve any further power and funding to the PA. Israel recently suspended taxes it collects on behalf of the PA until March 2013, allegedly due to Palestine’s recognition in the UNGA (RIA NOVOSTI, 2012; UN News, 2012).

Regional instability: Many countries in the Middle East are politically unstable, forcing Israel to take tighter measures. Additionally, the potential for nuclear-arm Iran has further pressured Israel to tighten up its security measures. 

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9. For More Information:

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 2013. “The Roadmap: Full Text.” BBC News.

The full text of the Roadmap for Peace that details international agreement and the commitments for Israel, Palestine, and intervening powers.

 Kirstoff, Madeline. 2012. “Policing in Palestine: Analyzing the EU Police Reform Mission in the West Bank.”

A policy paper that examines the EUPOL COPPS program in Palestine. The report examines the effects of the police reforms on Palestinians, policy outcomes, and puts forth a number of policy recommendations for EUPOL COPPS programs and public engagement. 

Palestinian Security Sector Observatory (Marsad).

Marsad gathers analysis, reports and news related to Palestinian security governance and SSR.

United States Government Accountability Office (US GAO). 2010. Report to the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Its Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, House of Representatives.

A comprehensive report of the U.S. assistance to the security forces of the PA up to 2010, including policy recommendations and financial information.

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If you notice any information that needs to be updated in this SSR Country Snapshot, please let us know at [email protected].