The Oslo Agreement of 1994 instigated a two-fold process. First, it launched Palestinian security sector reform (SSR) aimed to protect Palestinians and serve as pillar of statehood. Second, it mandated Israeli and Palestinian security forces to work together in border regions, jointly supervising various bridges and boundaries.
The Palestinian security forces were chosen for their loyalty to the Palestinian cause. Many were former prisoners. They were trained and equipped in the use of force, but not provided with skills for working with civil society. In spite of their loyalty to their people, and their passion to help, they lacked knowledge on how to engage effectively with civil society.
Like the Israeli and Palestinian populations at large, Israeli and Palestinian security forces have a history of antagonism and violence. They had little opportunity to meet each other and understand little about the other’s culture, experiences and perceptions. This caused tensions and problems with the civilians crossing these checkpoints between Gaza and Israel and between the West Bank and Jordan. Israeli and Palestinian security forces need communication skills and conflict resolution skills to deal with the public and with each other.
A number of local initiatives responded to these challenges. Between 1996 and 1999 several freelance conflict resolution trainers set up a programme to train Palestinian police, security forces, and government employees on how to better relate with the public. The programme was led by the Palestine Center for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation (CCRR), an interfaith centre that provides peacebuilding education programmes to a variety of audiences, including the police, security forces, and government employees, in collaboration with PANORAMA, a Palestinian NGO focused on democracy and civil society, and the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights. Its purpose was to improve relationships between Palestinian security forces and Palestinian civil society.
In Hebron, Bethlehem, Abu Dis, Jericho, and Ramallah the trainers reached at least 200 Palestinian members of the security forces. The programme focused first on facilitating an internal dialogue between the different factions in the security forces, to help them learn to understand each other and coordinate with each other. The training included an introduction to conflict resolution skills and methods, a self-assessment to reflect on theirown motivations and behaviours and how these impact the public, a discussion of the impact of internal conflicts within the Palestinian security forces on the public, and an exercise on improving relations with the public.
In 1998-1999, a separate programme brought together Israeli and Palestinian security forces mandated to manage a 24-hour a day border checkpoint at Allenby bridge at the Jordanian border and at Karmy bridge between Gaza and Israel. Given the history of conflict and animosity, this programme aimed to improve the relationships between Israeli and Palestinian security forces. The CCRR and the Israeli Centre for Negotiation and Mediation designed a model of training material course for 40 hours, co-facilitated and co-trained with one Palestinian and one Israeli facilitator. Senior officers on both sides also attended the course.
The officers had little information about each other’s habits, values and general culture other than the negative rumours and stereotypes each side held of the other. Given the lack of trust and understanding, it was difficult for them to work with each other. This course focused on ways to resolve daily conflicts between the two sides, including communication skills and cross-cultural understanding to change the image each side has of the other. The training began with basic trust building. Facilitators helped participants understand the experiences and perceptions that shaped each person’s understanding and behaviour emphasizing their shared humanity. Each participant was given the opportunity to introduce their culture and values to the others. These courses were the first opportunity for those officers to get to know each other and to learn how each side sees the other. All participants and their ranking officers reported a great interest in these courses, and a commitment to continue attending it. Participants indicated that their relationship with each other has changed after taking this course, and the way they were dealing with each other also changed and became better.
Excerpt from the book Local Ownership in Security: Case Studies of Peacebuilding Approaches edited by Lisa Schirch with Deborah Mancini-Griffoli and published by The Alliance for Peacebuilding, The Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict, and the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame.
 Palestinian Center for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation Annual Report 2005. Bethlehem, Palestine. Pg. 14. (Accessed August 19, 2014 at http://www.ccrr-pal.org/upload/English%20Report.pdf)
 Participants gave a written and oral evaluation every day of training.