TEL AVIV (Sep. 14)
Palestinians will need six months to build an effective police force in the territories and 18 months to construct a strong security force, high-ranking Palestine Liberation Organization officials have told Israeli security experts.
With this information as a guide, the PLO officials said the Israel Defense Force should first withdraw from peaceful areas and leave trouble-some refugee camps for the end, according to Joseph Alpher, director of Tel Aviv University’s Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, who participated in the discussions.
The Palestinian self-rule agreement signed in Washington on Monday stipulates that IDF forces will begin their withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank town of Jericho by mid-December.
Complete withdrawal of the forces was set for mid-April of next year.
Alpher said the PLO officials and Israeli security experts had also discussed the possibility of equipping the Palestinian forces with armored personnel carriers, machine guns and spotter helicopters.
MEETINGS BEGAN LAST YEAR
The meetings began in October 1992 and were held at two-month intervals under the auspices of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
In addition to Alpher, who is a former Mossad official, the Israeli team included reserve Maj. Gen. Shlomo Gazit, a former chief of military intelligence who is currently senior researcher at the Jaffee Center; and Zeev Schiff, a writer on defense issues for the Israeli daily Ha’aretz.
The three participated in the talks on a personal basis and had no government backing.
The Palestinians, however, were formal representatives of the PLO, according to Alpher.
The PLO team included Nizar Amar, military adviser to Mahmoud Abbas, who signed the declaration of principles with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres on Monday at the White House; Ahmed Khalidi, the defense adviser to the Palestinian delegation to the peace talks; and Yazid Sayigh, who heads the Palestinian delegation to the multilateral talks on arms control.
Alpher said the meetings led him to believe that Israeli and Palestinian security officials can find solutions to the problems involved in implementing the new Israeli-PLO accord.
According to Alpher, there was an “understanding” that the Palestinian security forces will need armored personnel carriers and machine guns for their patrols.
The patrols will need “something which will give them a decisive edge” over squads of the Islamic fundamentalist group Hamas, “who will barricade themselves in the (refugee) camps,” Alpher said.
Armored personnel carriers “are no threat to Israel’s security, but a PLO force of a few thousand men backed by a few spotter helicopters and good command could prevent a bloodbath,” he said.
The Palestinians want their police force to be very impressive from the moment it appears on the scene, “so that the people will see they have a police,” Alpher recounted.