Israeli, Palestinian police may form joint patrols

August 21, 2013

Israeli and Palestinian police officers could soon find themselves on joint patrols in search of reckless drivers and other criminals if plans revealed Wednesday by the chief commissioners of both ­forces are endorsed by their leadership.

The patrols would take place in areas of the West Bank where Jewish settlers and Palestinian residents reside and share the same roads.

“There is currently a working group that is looking into coordination [among the Israeli police force, the Palestinian police force and the Israeli army] that could create something totally new — mutual police patrols,” Inspector General Yohanan Danino, Israel’s police commissioner, said Wednesday at a news conference in the ancient desert town of Jericho.

Danino’s Palestinian counterpart, Maj. Gen. Hazem Attallah, cautioned that the concept has not been finalized. But he said that “crimes have no borders” and that it is the role of “all police forces to work together to counter crimes” and improve society, even if, politically, Israelis and Palestinians agree on little else.

 The two most senior officers of both police forces, alongside their Jordanian counterpart, revealed that they have been meeting secretly over the past year and a half under the auspices of the Police Executive Research Forum, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization.

 Among the issues they have discussed: drug smuggling, human trafficking, juvenile crime, and traffic violations and accidents, which, they pointed out, kill more Palestinians and Israelis than the conflict between the two sides.

Danino said that one area in which better coordination would help is in preventing road deaths.

More than 60 traffic fatalities, for example, were reported in 2012 along Highway 60, a two-lane, 50-mile stretch that crosses the West Bank from north to south and runs through areas controlled by Israeli and Palestinian authorities.

“It’s complicated because it falls into both areas, but we must do what we can to reduce these car accidents,” Danino said. “We will work to identify difficult areas and will present a working plan by October 1, possibly including joint patrols by Israeli police and Palestinian police.”

There have been no joint Israeli-Palestinian military patrols since the early 2000s. There is, however, ongoing tactical coordination between the two, according to an Israeli army spokesman, Capt. Eytan Buchman.

“The bigger picture is that sometimes these lines of communication can act as a prelude to something as large as a peace process by simply getting people to work better together,” said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, in an interview.

Wexler previously worked with law enforcement ahead of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 among Ireland, Britain and Northern Ireland.

Ruth Eglash is a reporter for The Washington Post based in Jerusalem. She was formerly a reporter and senior editor at the Jerusalem Post and freelanced for international media.
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