Palestinian Authority still plans to unify security agencies

Special to World
Friday, September 12, 2003

RAMALLAH The Palestinian Authority has pledged to maintain plans to merge additional security units as part of a U.S.-sponsored reform plan.

PA officials said the mergers would include unifying the commands of several security agencies under the responsibility of the Interior Ministry. For the last four months, the ministry was operated by Security Affairs Minister Mohammed Dahlan, though under the formal portfolio of Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas.

Abbas resigned last week and PA Chairman has appointed a replacement and ordered a Cabinet reshuffle. The most likely candidate to replace Dahlan is Gen. Nasser Yusef, a senior police commander in the Gaza Strip.

The reform process launched by Dahlan was sought to unify what for more than a decade were separate branches of security agencies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Officials said the mergers has already included the Preventive Security Apparatus, civil defense forces and passport control department.

On Sept. 4, the Interior Ministry said its security organizations have been unified. The ministry cited the police force, with 14,618 officers, most of them in the West Bank, the Preventive Security Apparatus, with 5,152 officers, the civil defense forces, with 727 members.

The Interior Ministry as well as Dahlan's Security Affairs Ministry have received an estimated $200 million from the United States to facilitate the reform of security agencies. Dahlan controls three of the PA's 13 security agencies. The rest is under the direct control of PA Chairman Yasser Arafat and has not adopted any part of the reform plan.

Officials said Dahlan's security reform plan would be overseen by the new PA national security council. Arafat has appointed a 14-member council, which he heads, and includes Dahlan, Brig. Gen. Jibril Rajoub and heads of the security agencies.

"The Palestinian leadership has decided to unify all the Palestinian security, police and intelligence networks within the framework of a council called the National Security Council," Arafat spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said on Thursday.

"This council will meet immediately to put forward a work plan that will guarantee the unity and effectiveness of the security forces apparatus."

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