Palestinian police deploys to Jerusalem suburbs
Amman - Armed Palestinian police have been deployed to four neighbourhoods near Jerusalem for the first time in 15 years, a move that allows them to replace Israel’s military occupation in controlling troubled Palestinian areas.
The deployment of 90 armed Palestinian police in high-crime and drug-infested districts abutting Jerusalem in April was followed by a series of measured Israeli steps to ease restrictions on Palestinians. These included allowing Palestinian physicians to drive their cars to work in Israel for the first time since the Palestinian uprising in 2000.
The moves are in line with agreements under the framework of an interim Palestinian-Israeli peace deal signed in 1993. The timing, however, coincides with Israeli security warnings that further pressure on Palestinians may culminate in another uprising.
The deployment relieves Israel from the hassle of policing unruly Arab districts, dangerous even for Palestinian police. The areas are strategically situated just outside Israeli cities.
Armed Palestinian police set out on patrol in Abu Dis, Azariyeh, Ram and Biddou districts after Israel lifted its ban on their deployment. The communities have a combined population of nearly 130,000, mostly Palestinian Arabs.
Palestinian police patrolled, often jointly with Israeli officers, the streets of Abu Dis in the 1990s but it was an unarmed force that Israel ordered to leave in the wake of the uprising.
Since then, Palestinian police were infrequently allowed to return to Abu Dis and other Arab suburbs adjoining Jerusalem under Israeli permission and for specific purposes — to control crowds or arrest fugitives. The areas later fell completely outside the command of Israeli civil police. The security vacuum attracted drug dealers and car thieves.
The absence of routine police patrols in Abu Dis and other Arab suburbs of Jerusalem is mainly connected to the intricacies of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As part of the interim peace deal, the West Bank was divided into districts with different jurisdictions. While Israel maintained overall control over the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip — Palestinian lands it captured in the 1967 war — the Palestinian self-rule government took over only 38% of the total territory.
Major Palestinian cities came under full autonomy, with armed Palestinian security forces deployed there. Smaller towns and villages received limited self-rule, with restrictions on the stationing of Palestinian police.
In communities close to east Jerusalem, restrictions were particularly tight.
Israel annexed east Jerusalem in 1967 and proclaimed it as part of the indivisible and eternal capital of the Jewish state, a move that violates UN resolutions. The Palestinians want east Jerusalem as the capital of their would-be state.
The status of Jerusalem is to be determined in final status Palestinian-Israeli negotiations, which broke up years ago with no sign they will restart anytime soon.