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Abu Hadid: P.A. "Credible Peace Partner"
Commander of Palestinian forces in Bethlehem talks diplomacy
Yehonathan Tommer (tommery06)     Print Article 
Published 2009-12-25 02:12 (KST)   
General Abu Hadid is a former Fatah Tanzim officer and immediate past commander of the Palestinian forces in the Jenin area of the West Bank, a post which he held between 2006 and 2008.

He was born in a West Bank village near Nablus and obtained his military training in exile in the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon and later in China. He is married, a father of seven children (four daughters and three sons) and has two granddaughters.

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His eldest son Youssef graduated in information technology from An Najab University in Nablus and is studying at Sandhurst College in the U.K. His youngest child is 13 years old.

General Hadid was appointed in August 2008 to his present post as Commander of the Bethlehem Governate. The district extends between includes Jerusalem and Hebron and includes Areas B and C, defined as Israeli security control areas under the Oslo Accord of 1993.

He is responsible for general security in the municipal A-Zone and commands authority over all security branches including general intelligence, preventive security and the national police force in the Bethlehem district.

He met last week with representatives of the foreign media in Israel at his office in the Palestinian security compound in Bethlehem.

Speaking in Arabic through an interpreter, the soft-spoken General, who is a key strongman in the Palestinian Authority, exuded charm and rationality while dexterously sidestepping the cardinal issues in the present diplomatic deadlock.

He emphasized the Authority's achievements in restoring law and order to the West Bank and its success in repressing Hamas and curbing terrorist activity in the areas under its control. Fatah has fulfilled its obligations under the Road Map and is a credible partner for peace, Hadid stressed repeatedly. He praised the Authority's security cooperation with Israel but accused it of arbitrary interference in Palestinian security affairs, ethical malpractices and manipulating its obligations under the Road Map to avoid negotiating a peace settlement.
Brigadier General Abdullah Abu Hadid, outside his security headquarters in Bethlehem
©2009 Yehonathan Tommer

Q. General Hadid, what are the main security problems in your area?

A. The main problem is the occupation and the division of the area into Zones A, B and C. Security requires mobility and freedom of movement. We have to coordinate with the Israelis if we want to move from one zone to another. Zones B and C are under total Israeli control. Even Zone A, where we operate, is still under Israeli security control. It would be much easier if only one party was dealing with security here. But we have two heads. The Israelis regularly come into our area, Zone A. We have our own plans and projects. But as long as the Israelis can come in and out, this disrupts our programs and plans and we cannot work efficiently.

I want to give you a small example. The adjoining town of Beit Sahur and the village of Al Badiye are both in Zone A. But these two areas are separated by a 100 meter fence which is located in Zone C. To move from Beit Sahur in Zone A. to Al Badiye in Zone A, we have to coordinate with the Israelis. Because we have no control over Zones B and C o0f the Palestinian territories, these areas have become safe havens for all law breakers. If someone (in Zone A) is wanted for violating the law, and he runs to Zone B or C, we cannot do anything without coordinating with the Israelis. He will simply sit there and laugh at us and mock us and we cannot do anything.

Q. What can you tell us about reports that Hamas is trying to reorganize in the West Bank and how real is the threat that what happened in Gaza may happen here?

A. Hamas and all other opposition factions are always trying to operate in our area. But I want to reassure (you) that our security capabilities are able to thwart all Hamas's plans. What happened in Gaza cannot be repeated in the West Bank. Israel's unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip was one of the main reasons why Hamas took control and not because the Palestinian Authority was weak. We hold Israel responsible directly and indirectly for Hamas's takeover of the Gaza Strip. We have to bear in mind that Israel had damaged or destroyed most of the PA's security forces, headquarters and infrastructure in the Gaza Strip. And the withdrawal was carried out without any coordination with the PA. It came as a surprise. We cannot exonerate the Israelis.

Q. How are the Palestinian Security Forces dealing with the problem of the land mafia?

A. The Palestinian territories were once under Jordanian control (between 1948 and 1967 Y.T.) before the Israeli occupation. There were no official documents regarding the ownership of these lands. In the early 1950's the Jordanian government began a process of correcting this by reregistering land titles. The Israeli occupation disrupted the Jordanian project. Some areas of the West Bank were registered and there is no dispute about their status.

Unfortunately, In Bethlehem, Hebron, Tulkaram and other areas of the West Bank, the status of land ownership titles remains unclear and people still don't know where the borders of their plots are. Because the P.A. cares so much about the issue, President Mahmoud Abbas has ordered that a committee be formed to examine the matter, and it started its work in the Bethlehem area eight months ago. We are serious about this. Those who violate the law will be brought to justice.

Q. What degree of cooperation do you have with the Israelis ahead of the Christmas season?

A. 1.3 million tourists entered the Bethlehem area in 2008 and there was not a single complaint or disruption. Today we received information that there are many Israelis and some are even civilians in Bethlehem. We are aware of their presence even though Israel bans them from entering and we take care to protect them. I was asked what we should do with them. I said let them be tourists, roam the streets and leave them alone. Anyone who enters this area is safe.

There is ongoing security coordination with the Israelis. In all fields of concern to both sides, because we share the land and we are neighbors. And there are many issues that require coordination.

Three reasons explain the present calm. The Palestinian political leadership has made a strategic choice. The two parties are committed to implementing the Road Map and the PA is committed to implementing security. The Palestinian security forces have made a tremendous effort over the past year to control the situation. Some of our men have even been killed in clashes ( with militants) while imposing law and order and many others have been injured and even disabled. We have also managed to collect illegal weapons which the Israelis were unable to do when they were here and we have been able to restore law and order and stability. The whole world has recognized the PA's success in imposing law and order.

Q. Why do Israeli forces come into the area ( Zone A which is designated as territory under complete Palestinian responsibility) if you are so successful in enforcing law and order? Why don't they ask you to arrest suspected militants and when they come in where do your forces go?

A. Ask the Israelis! They come against our will. When they enter, we withdraw. Most of the time it is unjustified. They come in according to their mood without coordinating and do nothing.

Three days ago I met with the American Consul General. I showed him that during 2009 the Israelis entered Bethlehem 240 times without any coordination with us even though we have an agreement that they can enter Zone A. without coordinating only in cases when a wanted person is considered to be of a ticking bomb! The Israelis unfortunately violate this agreement. We have protested against this.

There were another 204 cases of entry with coordination. Sometimes they inform us as they are on their way. They should give us early warning so that we can take our forces off the streets. If this continues it could produce tragic consequences one day which neither side wants.

Q. Are you satisfied with the training your forces are getting?

A. Our forces are trained on three levels: local training in Jericho; training in Jordan supervised by the Americans (General Dayton's team) and the Jordanians; and individual training for senior Palestinian officers in Algeria and other countries. I am very pleased with the training taking place in Jordan and on the other levels. We have made huge strides in reorganizing and reconstructing the Palestinian forces.

Palestinian Police are also trained in the Palestinian legal system and law enforcement and regulations and attend lectures given by representatives of the Red Cross and human and civil rights organizations and the media. We want them to be aware of the comprehensive aspects and the role of the media. The court system is good and efficient.

Q. What percentage of Christians serve in your force? Why don't young Christian men and women join the Palestinian forces in greater numbers?

A. We bend the regulations and make them more flexible with regard to height and age and other basic requirements so that Christians can join our forces. Few enlist because of low salaries, which are on average about $500 a month. They have better opportunities elsewhere and can travel freer than their Moslem countrymen.

Q. Are the Israelis removing road blocks to encourage greater freedom of movement for Palestinians and to stimulate Palestinian economic growth? What is your influence over their removal?

A. The Israelis don셳 listen to the Americans or the Europeans or the international community. Are they going to listen to me? The Israelis tell me that they have removed road blocks but we find that soldiers are still positioned there and stop people for inspection.

Q. Do you feel with the improvement on the ground and the international support you have received, that you are ready to be in charge of an independent Palestinian state?

A. I am committed to the political decisions of the Palestinian Authority and these are also my own personal feelings. The Israelis are disappointing partners. I feel them to be peace partners. We share the same air and water and we are neighbors. We abide by all agreements that we signed with them and we are a Palestinian partner who is also capable of fulfilling its obligations. We are now looking forward for hope and for peace and getting rid of the past with all its pain. The future is much more important for us - for our children and for our grandchildren ? for us and for the Israelis. It's the same for the entire region and for the world.

We also look forward to an Israeli partner which will have the courage to move forward toward peace.

I can only talk about security and not about politics. I read the Road Map very well, as well as the Mitchell Plan and the Zini plan. I want to see how much of the Road Map the Israelis implement. I want to tell you how much we implemented of the Road Map which is a security plan, actually. I challenge anyone who says we did not fulfill all our obligations under the Road Map.

The Road Map talks about freezing settlements. The entire world is trying to persuade the Israelis. But after all these international efforts, the Israelis said only for 10 months. They are freezing only 3,000 and another 1,000 housing units with the exception of East Jerusalem. We were supposed to return to the pre-September 28, 2000 lines where there would be no checkpoints. You can tour the area and see for yourselves the Wahd el Maar checkpoint which connects the southern West Bank to the northern West Bank. Let's stop fooling ourselves.

Everything is transparent. The media has turned the world into a global village. You can see for yourselves that construction is continuing. This is a security matter for us.

Q. Years ago the Israelis would have called you a terrorist because of your training and active involvement in the Palestinian forces in Lebanon. Today you have many grievances against Israel. Do you see the Israelis as enemies, neighbors or partners for a settlement?

A. We thank the U.S. team headed by General Dayton which also includes Canadians and British and also the European Union and every country that contributes to the reconstruction of the PA. The Americans are doing a great job training our security forces in Jordan, providing equipment, clothes, vehicles and weapons. They are also helping to reconstruct our security forces. They also do not interfere with our work and helping us with technical and financial matters. More than 30% of the budget for the Palestinian security forces comes from donor aid. Without the support of the international community our situation would be much worse. We still need the support of the international community in all fields: political, financial and training until the Occupation ends.

©2009 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Yehonathan Tommer

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