- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 12, 2004

JERUSALEM — A scathing report by a Palestinian legislative committee lays the blame for the anarchy and drift within Palestinian society squarely on the Palestinian Authority and by implication on the man who leads it, Yasser Arafat.

“The main reason for the failure of the Palestinian security forces in restoring law and order is the total lack of a clear political decision and no definition of their roles, either for the long term or short,” the report says.

A five-member panel of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) drew up the report after hearing testimony last month from dozens of witnesses ranging from Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia and security officials to street activists and journalists. Panel members included both Arafat loyalists and critics.

The report is remarkable in its frankness and its willingness to accept Palestinian responsibility for the failures of Palestinian society rather than pointing a finger only at Israel. Although the report does not focus on Mr. Arafat, it is clear from its contents that the failures of the Palestinian Authority stem from its leadership.

The report calls for a halt to the firing of rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israel, a tactic it said had brought ruinous retaliation from Israel.

“Those who [fire the rockets] do not represent the people and nation,” it said. “They are doing it without thinking about the general interest and public opinion in the world and Israel. There is no vision or purpose to the rockets.”

The report also called for the resignation of Mr. Qureia’s government and new elections.

In testimony revealed by the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, to which a copy of the report had been leaked, Interior Minister Hakim Balawi laid responsibility for the chaos in the Palestinian streets directly upon the leadership, although he did not mention Mr. Arafat by name.

“We lost control because of hesitation in the decision-making process and because we did not speak to the street about what we wanted and about the political situation,” he said.

“There is readiness on the part of the security forces … but there are no clear decisions and the political plan is not defined.”

The implication of the report is that uncontrolled actions by militant groups such as Hamas and the failure of the Palestinian Authority to exercise control have stood in the way of a political process leading to achievement of the Palestinian national goals, particularly the establishment of a state.

The chief of intelligence in the Gaza Strip, Amin al Hindi, lamented “a lack of institutions from the outset, a lack of rules and regulations, with no clear goals. Nobody was put on trial for violating rules because there were no rules. And since there were no budgets, security forces began operating at the whim of their commanders.”

Mr. al Hindi said that orders issued by Mr. Arafat are sent to as many as 10 security chiefs simultaneously “and ultimately no one actually carries them out.”

The head of one of these security forces, Rashid Abu Shbak, said although the Israeli occupation was responsible for the deterioration of “security and social norms,” blame also falls on the Palestinian Authority.

“We have been handling the problem all wrong,” said Mr. Abu Shbak, who leads the Preventive Security forces in Gaza.

“We discuss the problem with the persons who created it and give in to their illegal demands. We encouraged this, against the law and against the very spirit of statehood.

“If this continues, it will send difficult messages to our people, to the Israelis who claim there is no Palestinian partner and to the international community — that we don’t deserve a state.”

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