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Britain trains Palestinian security forces to protect Israel

Palestinian security forces stand guard at the entrance to Balata camp, near the occupied West Bank city of Nablus, on 15 December 2020. [JAAFAR ASHTIYEH/AFP via Getty Images]
Palestinian security forces stand guard at the entrance to Balata camp, near the occupied West Bank city of Nablus, on 15 December 2020. [JAAFAR ASHTIYEH/AFP via Getty Images]

Britain is currently helping to train and develop Palestinian security forces in the Israeli-occupied West Bank in an effort to prevent the "potential overspill of violence into Israel," an investigation by Declassified UK has revealed.

The Capability, Accountability, Sustainability and Inclusivity Programme aims to provide the Palestinian Authority security forces with support and training in order to make them "more capable" when dealing with "threats to Israel originating in the West Bank". The promotion of "security cooperation with Israel" is also an objective.

Based in part on records and statistics obtained by a freedom of information request, the investigation discovered that the programme cost British taxpayers £3.3 million last year. This followed the £2.3 million that the Ministry of Defence was allocated in 2017-18 for its "British Support Team" based in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

That funding in turn was sourced from the £1.3 billion cross-government Conflict, Security and Stability Fund (CSSF), a subsidiary of key governmental departments which aims to improve stability in various regions by financing projects that do not directly impact Britain's national security.

The team which trains the Palestinian security forces, Declassified UK found, is made up of seven military personnel from the British Army and Royal Air Force led by a brigadier. One document related to the programme notes that such British support has been ongoing for seventeen years, and does in fact aim to "reduce potential security threats to the UK" by addressing alleged extremism in the occupied territories.

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According to the programme's literature, however, the long-term aim of the training is to lay the groundwork for a two-state solution and prepare the security forces of a future Palestinian state, a process that the British have long claimed to support. "The UK supports Palestinian security sector reform because a capable PASF [Palestinian Authority Security Forces] is a pre-requisite for a two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," the document explains.

Despite the PA being generally viewed as the legitimate political body representing Palestinians in the West Bank – following its creation in 1994 after the Oslo Accords – there have been widespread concerns regarding its corruption, the lack of political legitimacy of President Mahmoud Abbas (whose term of office should have ended in 2009) and its security coordination with Israel. The PA's torture of Palestinian detainees has also been well-documented.

The report by Declassified UK also details Whitehall's other security programmes in the region, including the manufacture and distribution of military vehicles for the PA and Jordanian forces, as well as extensive support and training for Lebanese security forces dealing with Palestinian refugees in the UN-run refugee camps in Lebanon. Although the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office in London claim that such operations serve the purpose of countering the influence of groups such as Hezbollah, the projects under the CSSF all have the common stated aim of preventing Palestinian resistance and "violent extremism" from spilling over into Israel.

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