Middle East Roundtable /
Edition 4 Volume 1
An interview with Ziad Abu Amr:
Alarm bells ringing
bitterlemons: How serious do you feel the breakdown of
law and order we seem to be seeing around us is at the moment?
Abu Amr: I don't think this issue should be exaggerated.
What has happened so far was easy to contain, for the time being. I think
what happened was an alarm for the Palestinian Authority and Palestinians in
general to take care of a large number of accumulating problems. It was a
warning to people to turn their attention to tackling these problems before
they explode in our faces once again, perhaps in a more serious way.
But I would not suggest that Palestinian society is on the
verge of collapse. This is not the first time Palestinian society confronts
this type of problem. There is the continuation of the Israeli occupation,
military incursions and the siege, and despite all these problems,
Palestinian society has demonstrated a great deal of resilience.
bitterlemons: You talk of this as a warning to the PA.
A warning to do what?
Abu Amr: It's a warning that unless we turn our attention
to fix the Palestinian order in its entirety, in terms of political,
security, administrative, and legal reform, we may face problems similar to
the ones that we have encountered recently, illustrated in the state of
lawlessness and certain violations of the rule of law, even political
violence, that resulted in confrontations and the burning of PA or security
bitterlemons: Particularly from the international
community you often hear the demand that the PA should assert itself to set
its house in order. To what extent is this possible, while Israel continues
its military incursion and checkpoints, etc?
Abu Amr: The Israeli measures against the Palestinian
people and the Authority, and the siege on the Palestinian president, the
restriction of movement and the continued incursions and assassinations,
make it extremely difficult for people to focus on fixing their internal
situation. However, there are things that are within reach and that could
and should be done. Of course, nobody is demanding that the PA do things
beyond its means, we understand this and the reason we want to fix our
internal situation is because doing so will make the Palestinian people more
immune vis-a-vis the Israeli aggression and the state of siege.
bitterlemons: Do you feel there is any significance in
the news that the police will now be able to carry arms again?
Abu Amr: Well, the preliminary, modest and partial
deployment of the Palestinian police force is significant from the
political, psychological and security point of view, i.e., that the tools of
law and order are back in Palestinian cities and villages. This is a good
step, but I think the success of this depends very much on the Israelis,
whether they will allow this modest step to succeed or not, whether they
want to enable the Palestinian police to reassert itself, which also means a
reassertion of the PA. It won't succeed unless the Israelis are serious in
enabling them to undertake renewed responsibilities in maintaining law and
order in the Palestinian areas.
bitterlemons: Isn't there a danger that the police will
be seen as Israeli proxies?
Abu Amr: I don't think so. They will not receive orders
from the Israelis. Of course the Israelis will impose a number of
restrictions on the mandate, movement and work of the police, but these men
will be receiving their orders from the Palestinian leadership.
bitterlemons: You mentioned judicial reform. How
important is this and what exactly is needed? Are we talking about the
ratification of the constitution, or where are we going from here?
Abu Amr: I think the reason we are seeing all these
problems is because the separation of powers has not yet been established in
the PA. If there was separation of powers of the legislative, executive and
judiciary, and if there was independence of the judiciary, we wouldn't have
seen these kinds of problems. That's why judiciary reform is necessary, to
get a separation of powers and also in terms of having specific job
descriptions for the people who work in the judiciary.
bitterlemons: And are you optimistic that such reform
will take place in the near future?
Abu Amr: I'm not sure. This has been a standing problem
for a long time and I have no reason to believe that it will be solved
tomorrow. I hope it will, but I'm kind of skeptical.
bitterlemons: Yet you feel it is one the elements that
need to be solved in order to avoid a repeat of recent events?
Abu Amr: Well, this is the mechanism to take care of the
state of law and order and due process in our society. I think that without
a reformed, effective and independent judiciary nothing can be fixed in the
Palestinian situation and violations of the rule of law will continue. So
this is one of the main pillars in reforming the Palestinian order.
Ziad Abu Amr is a member of the Palestinian Legislative
Council (PLC) for Gaza City and the head of the PLC's Political Committee.
Bitterlemons-international.org is an internet
forum for an array of world perspectives on the Middle East and its specific
concerns. It aspires to engender greater understanding about the Middle East
region and open a new common space for world thinkers and political leaders
to present their viewpoints and initiatives on the region. Editors Ghassan
Khatib and Yossi Alpher can be reached at