Confusion Reigns in Gaza and Jericho, Causing Concern Among Israeli Leaders

The somewhat chaotic situation in the newly autonomous Gaza Strip and Jericho district is causing the Israeli government considerable concern.

The subject dominated this week’s Cabinet meeting.

Nearly three weeks after the signing of the Cairo accords calling for the implementation of Palestinian self-rule, Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat has still not finished naming the 24-member Palestinian Authority that will have overall responsibility for governing Gaza and Jericho.

And of the 18 members who have been named to the authority, none have yet been assigned defined functions.

The situation with the Palestinian police is also causing alarm. Only half of the envisioned 7,000-member police force has arrived in Gaza and Jericho, and PLO leaders repeatedly complain that they lack the funds to operate the force properly.

The leaders also state that they do not have sufficient weapons, or even food, for their police officers.

Israel is planning to pay the salaries of the 36,000 staffers who were previously employed by the Israeli civil administration until the end of May. But it is not clear who will be picking up the tab after that.

PLO ACTIVISTS ANGERED

Another source of potential problems, the Cabinet learned at Sunday’s weekly meeting, are local PLO activists in Gaza and Jericho, who are angry at being bypassed by Arafat for key positions in the autonomous zones.

Further complicating the situation, Israelis living or working in Gaza are voicing confusion over how to deal with the Palestinian police.

Highlighting these concerns was an incident Monday, when an Israeli arriving at the Erez Checkpoint in Gaza with Palestinian workers he was driving into Israel went past a Palestinian roadblock. He thought he would only need to be checked at the Israeli roadblock, but he soon found out he was wrong when Palestinian police shot out his tires.

And in Jericho, Palestinians who formerly cooperated with the Israeli authorities were voicing their fears when Jibril Rajub, who had spent 17 years in Israeli jails, arrived there to establish the local Palestinian internal security office.

On Sunday, Rajub attempted to allay fears that his office would endanger the civil rights of Palestinians living in Jericho. Nevertheless, former collaborators with the Israeli administration were said to be very worried since Rajub is known to have strongly opposed any pardon for collaborators and is said to have begun compiling dossiers on them.

(Contributing to this report was JTA correspondent Hugh Orgel in Tel Aviv.)

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