Palestinians Make Strides In West Bank Security The Palestinian Authority has taken a larger role in restoring order in the territory, forming a new civilian police and a security force trained and funded by the U.S. and the EU. It's considered a success story -- and key in the resumption of peace talks with Israel -- but a report says it's hard to sustain.
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Palestinians Make Strides In West Bank Security

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Palestinians Make Strides In West Bank Security

Palestinians Make Strides In West Bank Security

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One reason the Israelis and Palestinians have agreed to talk again is that security conditions in the West Bank have improved substantially. Over the past few years, the Palestinian Authority has taken a larger role restoring order, even disarming militants. There is a new civilian police and a security force trained and funded by the U.S. and the European Union.

Deborah Amos reports from the West Bank.

DEBORAH AMOS: Captain Abir Abu Farah, trim in her blue police uniform, is the 32-year-old police chief of Beit Sahour, a Palestinian Christian town south of Jerusalem.

How big is this town?

Captain ABIR ABU FARAH (Chief of Police, Beit Sahour): Thirty-two thousand people here. Not very big, but it's good.

(Soundbite of bell ringing)

AMOS: Beit Sahour has four churches, one mosque and a thriving business -making olive wood souvenirs for the tourists in nearby Bethlehem. While Palestinian women are making it to top government posts, Chief Abir is the first female chief of police, and in this male dominated Arab society, she demands respect from all of her male subordinates.

Capt. FARAH: (Foreign language spoken) (Through translator) They have to salute. I have instilled in my workers the fact that we deal with each other in a military fashion rather than in a societal stereotype fashion.

(Soundbite of file cabinet banging)

AMOS: Chief Abir has been on the job for more than a year, part of the state-building measures of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. The police and the security force have largely delivered in the West Bank, restoring law and order, even convincing the Israeli security establishment that they can get the job done.

Mr. AVI ISSACHAROFF (Journalist, Haaretz): It's a huge success story. I think there's almost a revolution, I would say. It's amazing.

AMOS: Avi Issacharoff reports on Palestinian issues for the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz.

Mr. ISSACHAROFF: The West Bank that the Israelis knew till 2005 is not the same like it is right now. It's a very quiet place. It's a very secured place, safe. I would say that it's even safer than the streets of Tel Aviv.

(Soundbite of car door closing)

AMOS: The Israeli defense forces have ultimate authority over the entire West Bank, and still control day-to-day security in 60 percent of the area. Coordination with the Palestinian police is necessary for success. In Beit Sahour, Police Chief Abir says coordination has improved, but there is still friction.

Capt. FARAH: (Through translator) This coordination is not immediate. It can take hours for the Israelis to respond to our requests.

AMOS: The problem, says Abir, comes in the areas adjacent to Beit Sahour where Israelis are in direct control. A criminal can commit a crime in Beit Sahour, says Chief Abir, and then flee to the Israeli-controlled areas known as Area C.

Capt. FARAH: (Through translator) Not only do the criminals know that we cannot go into Area C, everybody does. Area Cc is a safe haven for criminals.

AMOS: And Israeli patrols make unannounced sweeps in Chief Abir's town.

Capt. FARAH: (Through translator) The Israelis come in as they wish, at night, in the daytime. And whenever they appear, we have to disappear. And this puts us in an embarrassing situation with our citizens.

AMOS: The success of the new Palestinian security force is difficult to sustain, says a new report by the International Crisis Group. The report recommends expanding the area of Palestinian jurisdiction and curbing Israeli patrols in Palestinian areas unless there's the threat of imminent attack.

Mr. ISSACHAROFF: It's not like a process that...

(Soundbite of finger snapping)

Mr. ISSACHAROFF: ...can happen like that. But sometimes, it needs time.

AMOS: Avi Issacharoff says that the Palestinian security forces have proven themselves in the past few weeks amid rising tensions over the renewed peace talks. When Palestinian militants killed Israeli settlers on the West Bank and wounded two others, it was Palestinian security forces that made the first arrests.

Mr. ISSACHAROFF: A few days after that, they had the car. They had the finger prints. They had the names, and they arrested the people that were actually involved in this attack. So I think that at the end of the day, even with some kind of limitations from the Israeli side, yes, they perform and they manage to show that they have a real control on the ground.

Unidentified Woman: (Foreign language spoken)

AMOS: For the Palestinians, control on the ground is limited under Israeli occupation, as the International Crisis Group report points out. But for now, the success of the police and the security forces is welcomed by the Palestinians and recognized as a positive step by the Israelis.

Deborah Amos, NPR News, Jerusalem.

INSKEEP: Next, we have a story about the Middle East negotiations that have succeeded. Until recently, the @Israel Twitter account belonged to Israel Melendez, a Miami man who owns a pornographic website.

WERTHEIMER: He got the account back in 2007 when Twitter was just getting started. He told the New York Times he could never use it because it was always flooded with replies from people thinking it was Israel, the country.

INSKEEP: Eventually, Israel's foreign ministry called and offered to buy the Twitter name.

WERTHEIMER: Melendez got $3,000 for his trouble, and now @Israel is an official state account.

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