Palestinian police a symbol of empowerment
September 27, 1996
Web posted at: 7:30 p.m. EDT (2330 GMT)
Editor's note: This analysis of the current situation in
Israel comes from Jim Clancy, a CNN veteran who has reported extensively on
the Middle East.
From Correspondent Jim Clancy
(CNN) -- A deeply emotional welcome greeted Palestinian
police when they arrived in Gaza early one morning in May
1994. Palestinians saw their police and the arms they
carried as the first real sign of empowerment under the peace
process -- the indisputable evidence that something in the
relationship between Israel and the Palestinians had changed.
Despite some adjustments as the police set up their
operations, Israeli military commanders soon paid tribute to
the discipline and professionalism of the 30,000 Palestinian
police. This week, as those same police fired at Israeli
troops, the spirit of cooperation seemed to collapse.
The West Bank and Gaza exploded, bringing Israel's
peacemakers under fire as well. They were blamed for giving
guns to the Palestinians in the first place.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, who was defeated
by Benjamin Netanyahu in May elections, defends the
Palestinian police and peace attempts.
"The Palestinian police did show a great deal of
responsibility over the last three or four years. There is
no reason why they shouldn't do so in the future. And I know
that even today, most of them attempt to stop the shooting,"
But the scenes of open gun battles with Israeli troops
signified a dangerous new turn in the two peoples'
Some police who opened fire on Israeli police said they
stepped in to prevent a massacre of their own people by
Israeli troops. Others argued that the price of not standing
up and fighting would be the permanent loss of respect and
authority in the eyes of their own people.
Yet the Palestinian police are not a symbol solely for fellow
Palestinians. They are important to Israelis, who must see
them as a force representing discipline, authority and
security -- helping to guarantee the risks that Israelis and
Palestinians took when they joined the peace process.
There were heroic signs this week that some remembered the
peace process. In the midst of one shootout, Palestinian
police helped a wounded Israeli soldier to safety.
Overall, however, there is a desperate need for a cease-fire.
The lightly armed Palestinian police are no match for
Israel's military, and Palestinians have no illusions about
that. In the end, their power and authority comes from the
peace process, and will exist only as long as they defend it.
Both Israel and the Palestinians must uphold the lofty goal
of seeking peace. If there is no real peace process under
Israel's new government, there is nothing left to defend.
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