There appears to be, on both sides of the green line, a link between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the one hand, and criminality on the other. While, in the long term, ending the conflict is the only way of breaking the link and reducing criminality, in the short term, both sides are in dire need of better policing to reduce criminal activity.
The link is hard to prove statistically. Is there more violence within Israeli society--road rage, kids bringing knives to school, husbands killing wives, gratuitous murders--because of 38 years of occupation and the tensions and violence they have engendered? Or are there alternative causes, such as poor immigrant absorption, poverty, and perhaps a culture of permissiveness? Are criminal gangs running loose in Jenin and Ramallah because the conflict has destroyed normal Palestinian societal safeguards, or is the corruption of the Arafat years to blame?
Intuition tells us there must be a link between an extended conflict in which so many members of both societies are exposed to violence, and a rise in domestic criminal activity. On the other hand, kids bring knives to school in America and criminal gangs run loose in Columbia--all without the kind of existential conflict we two peoples suffer. Indeed, one could conceivably argue that the intensity of our conflict might steel the two civilian populations to exercise greater discipline in their daily lives. Moreover, according to a recent Palestinian PSR poll, while the occupation and its evils are cited as important background factors for lawlessness, the thrust of the current internal Palestinian discussion of law and order issues is on Palestinian responsibility for poverty, corruption, and internal anarchy.
Even allowing for the intuitive perception of a link, ending the conflict might not immediately sever that link (or prove its existence), since powerful violent impulses planted by the conflict could linger for years. One way or another, the conflict must not constitute an excuse for avoiding better law enforcement and crime prevention on both sides.
Here we encounter a paradox. The Palestinian police force is, on paper, huge--one of the largest per capita in the world. The Israel Police is small, one of the smallest per capita in the western world. The former is so large because the Palestinians were allowed by the Oslo Accords to have only police, no army. Yasser Arafat manipulated this provision to establish no fewer than 12 armed organizations, including intelligence and personal security units, and to play them off against one another to a point where none are efficient. He politicized the judiciary and nurtured corruption. Israel, unwisely, decimated some of the Palestinian forces during the recent intifada. Now the government of Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) is trying to pick up the pieces and consolidate them into three efficient police-type forces, thus far without spectacular success.
In contrast, the Israel Police is small and getting smaller, apparently because Israeli society, through its governments, has always insisted that we need to concentrate our energies on our many external enemies and that we have no particular law-enforcement problem. In 1995 we had 3.6 police officers for every thousand Israelis; now we have 2.6 per thousand. The police, including the prison service, receives only two percent of the national budget. Imagine a force of 27,000 (of whom 7,000 are in compulsory military service or in the Border Patrol) having to assign 5,000 men and women to guard the Temple Mount/Harem al-Sharif compound and 7,000 to physically remove settlers, during the approaching disengagement. Very few police will be available to deal with everyday crime inside Israel this August, to say nothing of the road blockages and other provocations settlers will attempt with little fear of police interference.
This points to one clear area of linkage between the conflict and law-and-order issues in Israeli society. It is an internal Israeli link: the setters' anti-disengagement campaign is to no small extent predicated on the conscious and premeditated violation of laws, usually non-violently or using low-level violence, with a fascist/anarchist fringe prepared to invoke murderous violence. Because the police and the IDF, backed by a succession of Israeli governments, have for years coddled the settlers at the expense of law and order in the West Bank and Gaza, the lines of confrontation are not clearly drawn. After having allowed, and financed, so many illegal settlements, and having looked the other way when settlers inflicted violence on Palestinians, we should not be surprised when settlers now direct their violence at Israeli society.- Published 11/7/2005 (c) bitterlemons.org
Yossi Alpher is coeditor of the bitterlemons family of internet publications. He is former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, and a former senior adviser to PM Ehud Barak.
A PALESTINIAN VIEW
A top priority
by Ghassan Khatib
As borne out by polls as well as the people's representatives in the Legislative Council, the Palestinian public has identified the issue of law and order as one of the top three priorities for the government to address. The other two--the economy, particularly unemployment and poverty, and reforms and fighting corruption--are hardly unconnected.
A lack of law and order has clear negative consequences for the economy because it discourages investment and reduces possible new economic initiatives. It also hampers efforts toward reform and against corruption, because only through a strong judiciary and due process of law can the government proceed in reducing corruption and enhancing reforms and improving the efficiency and performance of the different branches of the government.
But there is also a political angle. Many people, especially outside Palestine, believe correctly that in order for the Palestinian Authority to be able to fulfil its political and security obligations under any political agreement or plan, such as the roadmap, it would require the ability to enforce law and order. The government can only successfully deliver the people to an agreement if it can enforce the law. That's why elements both internal and external have an interest in strengthening and improving the ability to implement law and order and due process.
There are two kinds of constraints facing the efforts to this end that the new Palestinian leadership is exerting and is very serious about. The first has to do with the weak inherited structure of the judiciary, in addition to the undue influence on the judicial system of the security services, the executive authority and some political groups and personalities.
Another source of weakness is our one-party political regime, in which the ruling party is dominant in the security and executive authorities as well as other institutions, a phenomenon that reduces the professional performance of some of these authorities and the independence of the judiciary.
Finally, there is an inherited legal problem stemming from the fact that the law regulating the judiciary contains weaknesses and ambiguities reducing its efficiency. The apparent recent fatigue in the Legislative Council is preventing voting into effect any improvement of this law.
The second level of difficulties and limitations are external. It has to do with the Israeli occupation that is significantly weakening the PA and its status vis-a-vis the Palestinian public. In addition, in the last few years of continuous violent Israeli attacks and incursions, the Palestinian security infrastructure, including all prisons, was completely destroyed. This reduces the ability of the law enforcement services to fulfil their role. Police in the PA areas are able to move only to the extent that the Israeli army is prepared to allow, and this is limited and changing. Furthermore, the police do not have enough weapons and are anyway not allowed to carry them in many cases. In contrast, those responsible for violating law and order are armed with the most advanced and modern weaponry, mostly smuggled in from Israel.
The enforcement of law and order in Palestine is necessary for peace process requirements and for economic development needs. It is required by Palestinians and by those in the international community who are trying to help renew the peace process. These efforts are being resisted by elements in Palestinian society that have no interest in strengthening the PA and consequently resuming the peace process. But they are also being resisted by the Israeli government, which seems interested in prolonging the current weakness of the PA, especially in enforcing law and order. The lack of law and order in Palestinian society is being used to justify Israel's persistence in ignoring calls and efforts to renew the peace process and abide by international legality on issues such as stopping settlement expansion and resuming peace negotiations on the basis of the roadmap--a document that, among other things, calls for ending the occupation that started in 1967.- Published 11/7/2005 (c) bitterlemons.org
Ghassan Khatib is coeditor of the bitterlemons family of internet publications. He is the Palestinian Authority minister of planning and has been a political analyst and media contact for many years.
AN ISRAELI VIEW|
Three forgotten lessons
by Moshe Negbi
Israeli leaders tell their Palestinian counterparts they must enforce law and order. They state that this is a pre-condition not only for peace but for maintaining a viable Palestinian entity. The Israelis stress the particular importance of enforcing the law upon militant armed extremists who do not accept the authority of the duly-elected government. They call upon the Palestinians to draw a lesson from the "Altalena" crisis.
In June 1948, in the midst of Israel's War of Independence, a militant Jewish group smuggled to the shores of Israel a ship named Altalena, loaded with weapons and ammunition as well as Holocaust survivors from Europe. When the Jewish militants refused to surrender the arms to the Israeli army, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion gave orders to attack them, and the army fired upon the ship until it exploded. This determination to quell rebellion and enforce absolute obedience saved the infant Israeli democracy. "You must now demonstrate the same determination and not be afraid to have your own Altalena," the Israelis preach to the Palestinian leadership.
But the sad truth is that the lesson of Altalena has been long forgotten by the Israeli leaders themselves. Ben-Gurion's successors have lacked his determination and are very reluctant to confront extremist right-wing zealots when they break the law. This failure to enforce law and order actually explains how the illegal phenomenon of Jewish settlements in the Palestinian occupied territories came to be. The Israeli authorities knew very well that international law prohibits such settlements. At the beginning of the occupation Israeli law had prohibited them as well. However, Jewish extremists blatantly broke the law and the authorities, instead of evicting and punishing the illegal settlers, embraced them and gave them assistance and legitimacy.
The dismal failure to impose law and order persisted when Jewish settlers in the territories became violent and began harassing their Palestinian neighbors. In 1982, an official report by Deputy Attorney General Yehudit Karp confirmed allegations that settlers who assaulted Palestinians were generally neither arrested nor prosecuted. Twelve years later, following the massacre of 29 Palestinian worshippers by a Jewish extremist at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, the commission of inquiry headed by Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Meir Shamgar devoted an entire chapter in its report to the failure of law enforcement and noted that this failure encouraged the law-breakers and escalated settler violence.
This unchecked and unpunished violence bred terrible counter violence. Indeed, 40 days after the massacre of the Palestinian worshippers in Hebron, at the end of the traditional Muslim period of mourning, Palestinian zealots initiated their horrifying, inhuman series of suicide bombings against Israelis. Thus was created a vicious circle that engulfed the Oslo Accords in rivers of blood.
But the malignant effect of the lack of law enforcement has kept on spreading. Violent settlers in the territories, encouraged by the impotence of the authorities and probably feeling they are above the law, have begun to assault not only Palestinians, but also the very soldiers sent to defend them. Recently a paratroop battalion commander was quoted as complaining that in the Jewish settlement of Yitzhar, in the Nablus area, "there exists a gang of law-breakers; I do not fear entering a Palestinian village the way I fear entering Yitzhar." Again, the authorities have not only avoided punishing the "gang of law-breakers", but reprimanded the soldiers who were beaten by the settlers! When a company commander serving in Yitzhar complained in a newspaper interview that Jewish settlers threw stones at his soldiers, threatened them with guns, and cut off their water supply, the Israeli army reprimanded him for giving an unauthorized interview, and apologized to the settlers.
Similar but even more amazing is the complacent and lukewarm response of the authorities to dangerous incitement by prominent and influential rabbis who have repeatedly called upon their devout disciples, both soldiers and civilians, to disobey the law as well as military commands in order to prevent the prime minister from carrying out disengagement as approved by the Cabinet and the Knesset. Again, instead of prosecuting the inciters, army generals and Justice Ministry officials paid them complimentary visits, begging them in vain for moderation.
This is especially disturbing if one remembers that such rabbinical incitement against the democratically approved Oslo Accords led to the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. The assassin himself, Yigal Amir, said in his interrogation on the night of the murder: "Without a religious ruling issued by some rabbis I know, I would have had difficulty in committing the murder." A mere ten years later, the painful lesson that incitement "in the name of God" can be lethal has seemingly been forgotten. The very rabbis who incited a decade ago against Rabin also went unpunished.
When our attorney-general is required to explain this tolerance for rabbinical incitement he likes to speak about the need to respect freedom of speech. This explanation demonstrates that he overlooks still another historic lesson: the fate of the Weimar Republic, which was established in Germany after World War I. In the 1960s the Israel Supreme Court cited this lesson when it ruled that a democracy has the right, indeed the duty, to defend itself against those who try to use speech not as a tool of persuasion but rather as a tool to paralyze, frustrate and eventually destroy the democratic process. The supreme court justices--some of whom were themselves educated in the Weimar Republic and were first-hand witnesses to its demise--emphasized that democracy in Germany died because it let its enemies use political rights, and specifically free speech, to discredit and undermine it. No democracy, they said, can afford to repeat this fatal mistake.
Thus three vital lessons--the lesson of Altalena, the lesson of the Rabin assassination, and the lesson of the Weimar Republic--are now totally ignored by the authorities charged with the responsibility to impose law and order on those who rebel against the democratic system. Israeli democracy, just like the Palestinian Authority, is left defenseless against the zealots who seek to destroy it from within.- Published 11/7/2005 (c) bitterlemons.org
Moshe Negbi is a senior lecturer at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the legal commentator for Israel Radio.
A PALESTINIAN VIEW
There cannot be two rulers
an interview with Camille Mansour
bitterlemons: The issue of law and order is particularly urgent at the moment. What are the main concerns?
Mansour: In the present situation, law and order is something that it is vitally important to maintain and establish in the Palestinian Authority areas, and the issue has become particularly urgent now that we wish to go back to the negotiating table with the Israelis and put behind us the Palestinian-Israeli confrontation that started in September 2000.
The problem is the Palestinian Authority and its security apparatuses have lost control on the ground. It is extremely important for the PA to re-establish both its prestige and respect for the law among the Palestinian people. It's important not only for the continuation of the peace process but for the benefit of the people.
However, I do not believe it's possible to maintain law and order in the long run if there is no peace process. If there is no progress toward the end of the occupation and the ending of Israeli control over Palestinian movement within the West Bank, within Gaza, between the West Bank and Gaza and between the West Bank and Gaza and the outside world, it is impossible to maintain law and order in the long run. If there is no hope for a solution and, indeed, no final agreement, the PA can only establish law and order for a short while before there is a new breakdown. There is no other situation anywhere in the world where an occupied people succeeds in maintaining law and order among themselves when every day they are controlled and their land is expropriated by outside forces.
Having said this, it doesn't mean the PA or the people have no obligation to work toward establishing law and order. In fact, I would say that in order to better resist the occupation, law and order are necessary. The existence of law and order means there is a unified people. It means there can be no civil war. If someone violates the law he is punished. If the violator is not punished because the PA is not capable of doing so, then we are heading for social unrest and a weakening of the social fabric. If this happens, the political resistance is weakened.
bitterlemons: With this anomalous situation--that under occupation there is this demand that the occupied people should keep itself in line--what can the PA do to maintain order?
Mansour: It can impose law and order in the short term if there is hope that the occupation will end.
bitterlemons: How can the PA do so in the short term?
Mansour: It is possible if there is hope, if people feel the international community is ready to take steps to end the occupation, to remove the Israeli forces and ensure the dismantlement of the settlements. But if people don't have hope then it's impossible. If a person's land is expropriated, if he is the victim of a settler's aggression and he has no recourse to the law, how can you persuade people to respect any law? You cannot have two laws and two rulers, the law of the occupier and the law of the occupied authority.
Hope, in the short term, is mostly connected to the behavior of the Israeli military. In the present situation, when we hear that there is a withdrawal from Gaza but an intensification of settlement activity in the West Bank and a speeding up of the construction of the wall in and around Jerusalem, people will be skeptical, and that is a major obstacle to establish law and order.
But steps can be taken in the meanwhile, and we are witnessing this in the reforms in the security forces as well as steps to reform the judiciary. The rule of law is also necessary for the socio-economic situation to improve.
bitterlemons: What in the judiciary needs to be reformed?
Mansour: A lot needs to be done in the judiciary. We need to have a truly independent, impartial, accountable and efficient judiciary. We have to work at different levels, whether in the judiciary itself, the executive and even the legislative branches, insofar as the latter has to set the needed legal framework, one which is modern and in conformity with international standards. Concerning the judiciary, we need to look at how appointments are made, we need to ensure transparency of appointments and promotions, and set up a system of inspections and discipline.
As for the executive, the task is to facilitate access of people and lawyers to the court, and having courts that can receive cases and are equipped to receive the public. With respect to criminal cases, the public prosecution must be capable of collecting evidence against a suspect and for this it needs the assistance of the police. For example, there is the issue of summons: the police must be able to go to outlying villages to serve summons. Finally, we need to defend the courts, legal professionals, defendants and accusers against people entering courtrooms with weapons.
The police and security services have to be under the judiciary, insofar as they perform judicial functions, and must be ready, willing and trained to not only protect the courtrooms, but to execute sentences.
bitterlemons: What about the issue of corruption. How does that affect due process?
Mansour: One has to divide the issue of corruption into different components. One is about Israel. As Israel controls access to and from Palestinian areas, there have undoubtedly been connections between privileged Palestinians and Israelis to allow the movement of these people's goods and their persons. That is one component and it is prevalent in any situation that requires importation.
Then we need to distinguish between corruption and the ability of some people due to family connections to get good jobs in the Authority. Is it corruption? Well, it is not the rule of law, it is not the modern way of appointing people to the civil service. But should we call it corruption? I am not sure. It is about perception. The PA comes from a traditional society where families are important in getting access to jobs and privileges. Maybe, in an ideal situation in ten years, this phenomenon no longer exists. To me, the more important corruption is when there is a bid for a contract and someone gets the contract because they pay under the table. This must be absolutely condemned. But getting a job through personal connections, well, it's not acceptable, but it is a social phenomenon that will not disappear overnight.
bitterlemons: So in the short term...
Mansour: In the short term, the PA must work to restore the people's faith in the authority and its institutions by working to reform the judiciary and the security services. But ultimately, success in establishing and durably maintaining law and order and due process depends on the end of the occupation.- Published 11/7/2005 (c) bitterlemons.org
Camille Mansour is professor of international relations at Paris and Versailles universities. Since September 2004he has worked as a UNDP technical assistant on Palestinian judicial reform. In March of this year, he was appointed the secretary of a steering committee, for the development of the judiciary.
To unsubscribe from this bitterlemons HTML email list, simply write to email@example.com with "unsubscribe" in the subject line. To subscribe to the text version instead, write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Editors Ghassan Khatib and Yossi Alpher can be reached at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org, respectively.
Bitterlemons.org is an internet newsletter that presents Palestinian and Israeli viewpoints on prominent issues of concern. Each edition addresses a specific issue of controversy. Bitterlemons.org maintains complete organizational and institutional symmetry between its Palestinian and Israeli sides.