The Palestine Papers
Meeting Minutes: Saeb Erekat and Udi Dekel on Security

The meeting opens with a discussion of the bulldozer attack in West Jerusalem. Dekel tells Erekat he rejects the idea of an international force in a Palestinian state, and that he insists on "some Israeli stuff" in the West Bank.

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  • Dr. Saeb Erekat (SE)
  • Rami Dajani (RD)


  • Udi Dekel (UD)
  • Kamil Abu-Rukon (KAR)


Meeting Minutes:  (Highlights -- Not verbatim)

[Discussion on bulldozer attack in West Jerusalem earlier the same day]

UD:     I want to clarify at the beginning that the MoD, that is Amos Gilad, is responsible for the security committee. We are here to review the issues and see how things are proceeding.

[Discussion on the tours of settlement areas: places visited; upcoming tour to Ariel; UD asserted that the tour to Maale Adumim showed that it was not closing the areas around and that there was space available]

UD:     Why does your side keep mentioning Jerusalem in every meeting – isn’t there an understanding on this between the leaders…

SE:      We are offering you a complete security concept – no need to wait for Amos Gilad to discuss things seriously with Hazem. The MoD is simply not interested in an agreement. Barak told John Kerry there will be no agreement by end of the year. I will present to the concept that we have introduced to your side, which is also what we gave General Jones. [Asks RD for copy of the Jones letter].

RD:     It would be good to exchange our responses to Jones.

SE:      If you give us your paper to Jones we can share ours with you.

UD:     I don’t have anything. It’s the MoD that deals with this.

SE:      So let me summarize [starting presenting Palestinian position on security forces structure, functions, one authority – one gun; rule of law; capacity building up to international standards, ongoing process] …

UD:     [interrupting]  What is international standard? There is no such thing in security. You cannot tell me what this standard is.

SE:      This is the objective set for us by the international community. I did not invent anything. It’s the work that the US, General Dayton, and the Europeans, EU COPPS, are doing. They are the ones who use the term “international standards”. There are objective things relating to rule of law, one authority one gun, professional work.

RD:     And for example standards relating to chain of command …

SE:      So we’ve said, instead of talking about lists of restrictions at the beginning, let’s start by identifying the needs – the responsibilities and function of the security forces: to fight crime and terrorism; to maintain law and order and carry out law enforcement; to protect the borders from smuggling and infiltration; and to maintain overall national security.

UD:     This does not tell me anything. I need to know in detail how you will be able to stop terrorism [continued talking about terrorist threats and how the Israelis know how to deal with them; the Palestinians do not].

SE:      Another element in our security concept is the third party role. We propose a long term international presence …

UD:     [interrupt] What is long term? That doesn’t mean anything.

SE:      It depends, could be around 10 years. The international presence we propose will carry out a number of functions [SE presents the functions: capacity building; assist in management and security of crossings; monitor implementation of agreement; assist with border security; and carry out any function required by Israel in place of Israeli military]

UD:     We reject the idea of international force instead of our presence.

SE:      You tell me your concerns, and I will ensure they are met by the third party – anything short of your military’s presence on my territory. For example, if you need early warning stations – you tell me where to put them, what specifications they should have; you don’t even pay for them. But they will be run by others, not you. This way I am meeting your concerns, not undermining them. Anything short of an Israeli soldier on Palestinian territory.

UD:     We insist on some Israeli ‘stuff’; but maybe we can talk about hiding it or other ways …

SE:      No. In that case we prefer the occupation.

UD:     Why are you going from one extreme to the other. Maybe we can hide it.

SE:      When there is a Palestinian state, your occupation will be over. Your only presence will be civilian – doctors, technicians … no soldiers. We will not accept limited sovereignty.

UD:     I don’t understand why you say it’s limited sovereignty. You can agree to it.

RD:     In all cases of arms limitations, the country demanding the limitation is not the one to maintain a military presence. That would essentially make us your protectorate.

UD:     When you say third party, it is not so simple. There are many scenarios where they cannot be useful. For example in the airspace you need the planes all the time in the airspace to deal with any risk – things always show up on the radar, sometimes flocks of birds or even clouds. You need to react to any possible threat right away.

SE:      Let me finish [presenting the concept]

UD:     I don’t want to be rude, but this is not useful. We need to discuss details and scenarios. This is too general. I know that you think when there is peace there will be security. We can’t and don’t think that way. For us, in order to have peace, we need security first.

SE:      As I said, we start by agreeing the needs and responsibilities, and then discuss what weapons they will have. We look to international standards – what Dayton and EU COPPS are doing.  This is an ongoing process, the building of our security forces up to international standards – happening now and will continue even after the creation of the state. We are serious. We know it is a big responsibility. We are doing all the training and capacity building now in full coordination with you. You can ask the MoD. You can ask Dayton about the success and positive results.

UD:     On the internationals, the problem is that they don’t live here. They don’t know what the results are. I would like to be happy with the ‘results’ [mocking] but it is important to say, again, the reason there is no terror from the West Bank is because of our ability to control it. We learned from our past mistakes. There is no terror now because of us ‘cutting the grass’. To fight terror you need determination … [UD goes on discussing terrorism, and describes Jordan as a great example of how to build the security system to fight terrorism]. So based on what I see, there is a big gap between us on security.

SE:      Let me continue [presenting concept]. The international presence will be at the crossings, they will help with capacity, monitor implementation, and perform all needed Israeli requirements. They will help with the transition.  We also propose full cooperation and coordination through operation centres: trilateral with each of Jordan and Egypt; and multilateral with all five sides. It can function 24 hours per day and respond immediately to any emergency.

UD:     This does not work. We need to respond immediately. Even if something shows on the radar and it’s a flock of birds. Our fighters need to be able to intercept.

SE:      As Nietzsche said, the devil is in the details. So we can discuss what is needed in the operation rooms for them to work. We can discuss modalities, mandate, functions etc in detail. Regarding military planes, [according to] the model we have proposed, no military aircraft uses Palestinian airspace – not us, you, or third parties. The same for our territory and territorial waters – no armies, irrespective of nationality. We want to have this special status, and will go to the Arab League and others and request this. This is our concept.

UD:     Your vision. I think you have good will and are trying to solve the problem. But I feel you don’t understand our security needs. We understand the end answer and response to security challenges, and your concept is not enough. It does not address specific scenarios – it is a good cover but does not respond to the details. What the experts need to discuss is: first the challenges, then the objectives, and finally the missions. [mentions Philadelphi as example]

SE:      So you want to be in the Jordan Valley?

UD:     We have the experience of Philadelphi.

SE:      What about Jordan on the other side? Can’t they continue to maintain total control and security like they do now on their side? If you insist on a presence in the Jordan Valley, let’s not waste time. I have done everything to meet your needs and concerns. I said put the early warning stations and connect it to the operations room in Tel Aviv. Anything short of your presence. Give me a concept short of your presence, that insures your interests. You can be creative. I have given you so many openings.

UD:     Frankly, I don’t imagine the US or Europe will deploy forces –even with our agreement. They cannot be effective.

SE:      The US has the best military in the world. Its fleet is right here in the Mediterranean, its forces are all around.

UD:     Let me say some words about the international force. Until now, the Israeli position is that we do not support this. But it is one of the things we can discuss. As a host country you can invite them and ask them to go away. It’s your business. But third party simply cannot carry out the functions we need [UD mentioned there are 9 functions]. If we discuss the scenarios then we can show you how it does not work.

SE:      Your presence is a non-starter. Question: Can you propose anything short of your presence?

UD:     What makes you think the third party will not be seen as occupation? What is the difference?

SE:      We have the TIPH example and model. [SE explains role and status of TIPH among Palestinians in Hebron. RD mentions EU BAM and effectiveness of mission, good relations with the public even under difficult conditions.]

SE:      If you have an Israeli base in the Jordan Valley, the kids will be looking for ways to attack it. If we have a British base, they will be looking for jobs there. The Palestinians want to end the occupation. They will not see third party as occupier, but as helpers.

UD:     Look at UNIFIL, it is proof that the internationals will change their entire mission and its implementation when it came to one terror attack. They just changed their way of doing business. They don’t have the determination. It is not the foreigner that will protect people in Tel Aviv.

SE:      In this case we will need an army. I would like you to come to a tour with me to the Jordan Valley. I will show you things you will be ashamed of as an Israeli [SE discusses several Israeli policies and measures suffocating Palestinian life in the Jordan Valley]. It is the most exploitative colonial system – it is not security. I will show you the meaning of security in the Jordan Valley.

[Discussion on having the tour in the coming week. Parties agreed that technical meeting should take place as soon as possible now that Hazem Atallah is back and Amos Gilad has recovered].