Magazine article Joint Force Quarterly

The Palestinian Authority Security Force: Future Prospects

Magazine article Joint Force Quarterly

The Palestinian Authority Security Force: Future Prospects

Article excerpt

Should the United States continue to support the Palestinian Authority Security Force (PASF)? To the Western observer, the current violence in Jerusalem is but another iteration of the intractable conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. To the average American, the term Palestinian is often synonymous with a masked Arab hurling a rock at the ubiquitous Israel Defense Forces (IDF). The reality on the ground is, of course, far more complex. Unknown to most is the fact that during the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict, the West Bank was quiet and stable. In fact, since 2009 the PASF has received silent, grudging approval of its performance in the West Bank by Western leadership. (1) The success of the PASF, like that of many nascent security forces supported by the United States, can be short-lived, especially in light of recent attacks by both Palestinians and Israelis. However, PASF performance has shown that it is a capable security force that is worthy of Israeli partnership, Palestinian trust, and further U.S. support. To substantiate this position, the development of the PASF will be briefly examined and set against its unique organization. Both its history and its distinct structure allow it to maintain order within the West Bank. The PASF will face challenges to further development if any success in a two-state solution is reached, but it remains the best hope for legitimate security for the Palestinian people.


The growth of the Palestinian Authority Security Force is not well understood and is often wrapped in misconceptions about regional actors. Development of the PASF began after the September 1993 signing of the Oslo Accords, which followed the end of the First Intifada. (2) Substantial donor support was used to transform the bodyguards and security personnel of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and its leader, Yasser Arafat, into an initial security force that swelled under Arafat's leadership. (3) His involvement in the security force, however, caused Western leaders to question the PLO's dedication to achieving peace with Israel. The majority of the PASF was incapacitated following the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000, which resulted in decreased donor aid and the destruction of much of its infrastructure. (4) The death of Arafat in November 2004 and the ascension of Mahmud Abbas as his replacement established the conditions for rebuilding a more enduring Palestinian security organization. Supported by the "Quartet" powers (the United States, European Union [EU], United Nations, and Russia), Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in 2005 announced the creation of the office of the United States Security Coordinator (USSC) for Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which would oversee the rebuilding of the PASF into a multi-branch security force as a part of the so-called Roadmap to Peace to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (5) The difficulty of implementation and complexity of the environment increased after Hamas won the Gaza Strip election in January 2006, and its subsequent forceful takeover from the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in 2007. This development would effectively split the Palestinians into the Fatah-ruled West Bank and Hamas-led Gaza Strip. (6)


The PASF is organized into four main services, each with a separate and distinct mission, with other supporting elements of various sizes and capabilities, including an extensive intelligence apparatus. Integral to this architecture is the founding principle that the PASF was created with full transparency to Israel and coordinated by, with, and through the USSC.

The four basic services are the Presidential Guard (PG), responsible for the security of the Palestinian president; National Security Force (NSF), which provides area security and support to the Palestinian Civil Police; Palestinian Civil Police (PCP); and Civil Defense (CD) directorate, which provides basic firefighting and emergency response throughout the West Bank. …

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