In the aftermath of the arson attack which took the lives of 18-month-old Ali Saad Dawabsha and his father in a village in Duma, West Bank, Palestinian residents are volunteering to start unarmed night patrols. The patrols are a response to an increasing number of settler attacks, combined with a consistent lack of protection from either the Israeli military or Palestinian Authority (PA).
Since the beginning of 2015, an average of 12 settler attacks against Palestinians and their property have been committed each week, only 7.4% of investigations opened following such attacks leads to an indictment. In the event of an attack, due to the fact most of the West Bank settlements are in Area C which falls under full Israeli control, Palestinians rely on Israeli protection – which is not usually forthcoming. The PA security services are not allowed to operate in these areas.
This system of areas is a result of the Oslo Accords which split the West Bank into three; Area A, B and C. The PA, which was established under the accords as an interim body, was given apparent full control of Area A, the smallest chunk of land, while Area B came under shared control and Area C fell under full Israeli control. The idea was that a final status peace agreement would be reached within five years, and then all areas would fall under Palestinian jurisdiction. Over 20 years later the system is still in place.
Israel has not been content with the lion's share of control and has relied on controversial security cooperation with the PA to retain control over all areas. Over the years the security cooperation has been used to quell protests or to arrest persons wanted by Israel. A recent example of the cooperation in action was during "Operation Brother's Keeper", when the Israeli army took control of the West Bank city of Ramallah in Area A using the PA police headquarters as their base.
Following the Duma arson attack, the issue of security coordination resurfaced. Haneen Zoabi, a Palestinian member of the Israeli Knesset, told Al-Jazeera: "The PA, just a few hours after Ali [Dawabsheh] was killed in Duma, started contact with Israel in order to control the anger of the people, in order to prevent a reaction."
This security cooperation has bred discontent and disillusionment among the Palestinian population. The PA was supposed to be a vehicle that would transport Palestine towards statehood. Instead, its existence has arguably made the occupation viable – PA run schools and hospitals, supported by foreign aid, maintain a status quo allowing Israel to shoulder its obligations as an occupying power. The PA ensures that the security in "liberated" towns and villages in Area A is effectively managed, saving Israel money and manpower.
Over the past decade, the Palestinian security sector has grown faster than any other sector of the PA. As of October 2014, it employed 44 per cent of all civil servants in the Palestinian Authority. In 2013, it absorbed almost $1 billion, or a little over a quarter, of the PA's annual budget. Funding has been pumped into it from foreign donors; in 2009, it emerged that the British government's aid arm DFID had allocated £76 million to the PA for what it defined as "security sector reform". The largest beneficiary of all this is undoubtingly Israel.
The PA security sector's growth has done little to further the security of the Palestinian people. The Oslo Accords have confined the work of the PA security into a tiny slither of the West Bank. It cannot protect the Palestinian citizens that fall outside of this slither and answers to a higher command within it. Its existence also allows this to continue. While Israel is responsible for the Duma arson attack by engineering an environment which ensures settler attacks continue, the PA is not without blame.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.