Bethlehem - Ma’an - “We are here not to replace you or dictate what you have to do, but to help as friends and partners,” European Union Special Representative (EUSR) to the Middle East Peace Process Marc Otte explained as he toured an EU-funded police station in Bethlehem this week.
Otte made the remarks as he toured the new Bethlehem Police Operational Control Room Head Quarters, paid for by the European Union under the EUPOLL COPPS program that sees police experts and specialists oversee training of officers on police protocol and the use of equipment like motorcycles, radios, bomb deactivation materials and sophisticated crime scene investigation equipment.
With the Police under the wing of Europe and the Palestinian security services under the eye of US General Keith Dayton, some Palestinians are wary of the external involvement, saying it interferes with Palestinian internal politics, as well as with the ability of Palestinians to take up violent resistance if they choose that tool in their fight against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. The same police training courses are not carried out in Gaza, whose police are under the de facto Hamas government.
Explaining the European role in Palestinian police training, Otte explained, “our commitment as Europeans is to create Palestinian police at the service of the community, working for the security of Palestinian citizens which is severely challenged everyday by the occupation and by the incursions [of Israeli forces into West Bank areas].”
The police of the West Bank forces, he said, “represent those who continue to fight for independence by peaceful means and in a spirit of cooperation with all the neighbors of the future state.
“I know that a political solution include the resolution of other problems like refugees, Jerusalem, as east Jerusalem should become the capital of the Palestinian state. All that needs to be done…I think the honor of the police is to have started to be pioneer in creating the condition for that state,” he continued.
The EUPOL COPPS program spent 40 million Euro on the trainings and equipment in 2009, and is poised to spend the same amount in the coming year. Dutch and British funding is also poised to start construction on a new prison facility in Jericho.
“If the police do their job well, criminals get arrested and put in jail,” Otte explained citing the necessity for a prison as the effectiveness of the police increases.
What it is all leading to, Otte said, is “A state of its own citizens which doesn’t owe anything to anybody else.”