Palestinian Authority, Intelligence and Security
The Israeli-Palestinian struggle has been marked by violence and international diplomatic conflict since the British "Balfour Declaration" opened the predominately Arab territory of Palestine to large-scale Jewish immigration. Tensions escalated in the region, with outbreaks of periodic violence, even before the establishment of the State of Israel in 1947. Israeli territorial expansion in 1948 further angered Palestinians when Jerusalem was declared an Israeli city, violating the original agreement that made the religious seat an international city. The Six Day War in the late 1960s further expanded Israeli control in the region, again sparking violence between the region's factions.
In the 1990s, Israel and the Palestinian Authority began a series of peace talks. However, growing nationalism and radical fundamentalism in both Israel and Palestine undermined the peace process. The Palestinian State claims that Israel continues to occupy Palestinian territory illegally, and Israel says that its military presence is necessary to protect Jewish peripheral settlements. In 2001, a new wave of violence in the region marked the beginning of the second Intifadah. The Palestinian Authority, and its military and intelligence community have been cited by the international community for prolonging the Intifadah and encouraging anti-Israeli and anti-American terrorism.
Little is known about the structure and the daily functions of the Palestinian intelligence and security community. The main intelligence agencies are the National Security Service and General Intelligence. Domestic political intelligence and foreign intelligence (mostly espionage against Israeli defense forces) is carried out by these organizations, which rely on a large network of human intelligence and informants. There is no real distinction between civilian and military intelligence forces, since much of the Palestinian Authority is para-military in nature.
The Palestinian Authority maintains three major security forces. The Presidential Police protect Palestinian officials and provide a special guard to Palestinian leader Yassar Arafat. The Civil Police protect public welfare, and sometimes operate with the military against Israeli forces. The Preventative Security Forces are a quasi-intelligence based, secret police force.
After the terrorist attacks on the United States, Arafat quickly distanced his national forces from those of Al-Qaeda. However, many in the international community remain skeptical, noting Arafat's connection to other Islamist groups. In 2003, the United States government released a "Road Map to Peace," a long-term compromise proposal to halt growing Israeli-Palestinian violence. However, many Palestinians and Israelis disagree on the future prospects of peace in the region, and the nature of any settlement between their two governments, especially in light of the conflict in Iraq. The Palestinian Authority continues its endeavors to gain international support for and recognition of an independent Palestine.
█ FURTHER READING:
United Nations. "The Question of Palestine." < http://www.un.org/Depts/dpa/ngo/history.html > (13 March 2003).