Analysis: Netanyahu's demilitarized state

A small militia, but no tanks.

PA police 88 (photo credit: )
PA police 88
(photo credit: )
Yes to Kalashnikovs but no to mortars. Yes to Russian BTR-70 armored personnel carriers but no to tanks. Yes to transport helicopters but no to fighter jets. Yes to night-vision goggles but no to anti-tank missiles. The idea of a demilitarized state that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke about on Sunday is not new vis-à-vis the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There are also a number of countries that have decided not to maintain a standing military, such as Andorra, whose defense is the responsibility of Spain and France, as well as Costa Rica, which abolished its armed forces in 1948 - these could be used as a role model for such a state. In his monumental speech, Netanyahu laid out some of the characteristics of the demilitarized Palestinian state he envisions. The state, he said, would not be allowed to import weapons, make pacts with Israel's enemies or close its airspace to Israel. Some of these characteristics, though, stand in direct contradiction to precedents such as Andorra. A small, landlocked country in Western Europe, Andorra may not have a standing military, but it does have a military pact with Spain and France under which it will receive protection in the event of a conflict. In his speech, Netanyahu said Israel would not allow the Palestinian state to enter into military pacts. Other possible models are Grenada and Barbados, which do not have militaries but are members of the Regional Security System, an international body established to provide security for the Eastern Caribbean. It is safe to assume Netanyahu would not want the Palestinian state to join an organization made up of Arab countries that would allow Arab military forces to enter the state if needed. Rather, the understanding in the defense establishment and IDF is that when the prime minister speaks about a demilitarized state he is referring to one without a full-fledged military, but rather one with a police/paramilitary force, comprised of thousands of soldiers/policemen trained by the United States and European Union. The reason the Palestinians will be allowed to have this force is so they can maintain law and order and at the same time crack down, if necessary, on Hamas and other terrorist groups in the West Bank. Currently, there are two forces that are being trained in the West Bank. The first, called the "blue police," is being trained by the European Union. This is a regular police force being built from the ground up, with trainees learning forensic and criminal investigation techniques. The second, more dominant, force is the "green police." Their name, however, is confusing since the force is made up more of soldiers than of policemen. This unit also goes by the name "Dayton's force," for Lt.-Gen. Keith Dayton, the US security coordinator to Israel and the Palestinian Authority - and the man who is overseeing the training of forces in Jordan. There are already three battalions in the West Bank and another three are scheduled to deploy there soon. IDF sources recently said Dayton plans to put total of 10 battalions in the West Bank by the end of the decade. Israel, government officials said, supported Dayton's work since it was part of Netanyahu's "bottom-up" plan, which calls for Palestinian reforms on the ground before a diplomatic resolution to the conflict. Israel is willing to take calculated risks when it comes to Dayton's force. The first risk was allowing a battalion to deploy in Jenin and to scale back IDF operations there. The second risk was to allow a deployment in Hebron, which is a known hotbed for Hamas and is also home to a small but relatively radical Jewish settler population. In the meantime, the force is equipped with light body armor and light machine guns such as Kalashnikov rifles. As reported Tuesday in The Jerusalem Post, 50 Russian-made armored personnel carriers are currently in Jordan waiting to be transferred to the West Bank. They are being held up since Israel and the PA are arguing over whether they will be allowed to have heavy machine guns installed on their turrets. If Palestinian forces continue to prove their effectiveness in the fight against Hamas - as they have in Hebron, Jenin and recently in Kalkilya - Israel will come under growing pressure to withdraw from additional West Bank cities and transfer them to Palestinian control. This could expedite the establishment of Netanyahu's demilitarized state.