Academic journal article Middle East Quarterly

The Palestinian Military: Between Militias and Armies

Academic journal article Middle East Quarterly

The Palestinian Military: Between Militias and Armies

Article excerpt

The Palestinian Military: Between Militias and Armies. By Hillel Frisch. New York: Routledge, 2008.218pp. $140.

Frisch, a senior research fellow at Israel's BESA Center for Strategic Studies and senior lecturer at the department of political studies at Barflan University, argues that it is easier to develop a terrorist infrastructure than to unite one's forces under an organized military.

In the heyday of the Oslo peace process, Yasser Arafat created approximately seventeen different security forces, all of which were doing much the same thing. The Palestinians also established the General Security Services, an umbrella organization set up to coordinate the work of several disparate units. Today, the Palestinian security establishment consists of border police, military intelligence, military police, and a presidential security unit.

These forces, including intelligence units, grew out of the military wing of the PLO and the militias that had served as Arafat's bodyguards during his Jordanian, Lebanese, and Tunisian years. The Palestine Liberation Army was founded in 1965, and its forces, including a small air force and navy, trained with sympathetic Arab militaries.

Frisch shows that having so many security apparatuses was Arafat's way of ensuring he remained in power. The security forces protected his regime from possible coups and reduced the threat of mutiny and insubordination. This labyrinthine system pitted security units against each other and ensured that the military would never grow strong enough to depose him. …

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