Speed guns replace AK-47s on the pacified streets of Jenin

Blue-shirted Palestinian police officers with a German-supplied radar gun were busy last week on a road in the northern city of Jenin. Until three years ago, when a law and order campaign was launched, Jenin was the most lawless city in the West Bank and no one then imagined it could become a venue for speed traps.

"I'm confused. What is going on here?" said Khaled Rahan, 19, whose van was pulled over inside the Jenin city limits on the road leading south from Jenin to Nablus. He was going 63kph, 13kph over the limit, which police insist the public knows about, despite their being no signs yet to that effect.

"We do this for you to be safe. Why don't you have seat belts for everyone?" Major Ayman Ibrahim Abdul-Qader asked another driver caught speeding with the radar gun. The fine for speeding up to 80kph is 300 shekels (about £50), while a driver going beyond that is also taken to court so that he may lose his license, police say.

In addition to making roads safer, the radar gun and enforcing traffic law has considerable symbolic importance. Preceded by a steep drop in attacks against Israeli targets, it underscores the success of the Palestinian Authority in bringing West Bank areas it rules under law and order.

In a very real sense, the law and order campaign is the prerequisite for Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's stated goal of having Palestinian areas ready for statehood by next year, whether diplomacy with Israel remains stalled or not.

"The state to be built is made up of tiles," says General Radi Assidi, the senior Palestinian commander in Jenin. "The radar represents law and order and discipline. It comes within the context of the rule of law, although it is just one of a thousand elements that has to be present."

Just a few years ago, at the height of the second intifada uprising, there was no law in Jenin other than that of the al-Aksa martyrs brigade militia, affiliated with Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction. The city had the distinction of serving as the launching pad for more bombing attacks against Israel than any other during the intifada and its refugee camp was largely razed during an Israeli West Bank operation seven years ago.

Internally, it was the Kalashnikov that ruled. In 2004, the militia's gun-toting leader, Zakaria Zubeidi, kidnapped the governor of Jenin, Haidar Irshard, for refusing to make payments to the brigades. The brigades also burned down the local offices of the Palestinian Legislative Council.

Now, however, under the law and order programme, Mr Zubeidi has been coopted. He is a director-general in the local security forces, with a regular place on the PA payroll. "Now that the PA has taken complete control of its security agencies, it is logical that I am an active member of these agencies," Mr Zubeidi says.

The PA helped build a villa for Mr Zubeidi, who insists he deserved this because his house was demolished three times by the Israeli army.

General Assidi says: "Zakaria and his group are much calmer now, they are members of the security forces and adhere totally to the rules for the PA security services."

With Israeli forces generally holding back so that the PA forces can exert control, the city has come back to life, boasting a new shopping mall and cinema. "Things are a lot better," says Ahmad al-Saadi, who works in a spice store. "The improvement in security affects everything."

Mr Al-Saadi says that with the streets safe, on Saturdays many Arab citizens of Israel now come to shop in the city, injecting much-needed cash.

However, a Hamas supporter with relatives being held in Palestinian jails voiced dissatisfaction. "There is no real security. All they are doing is chasing us," said the man, who asked not to be identified.

Palestinian analyst Hani Masri, head of the independent Bada'el think-tank in Ramallah, says the PA should be given credit for bringing internal security to the streets of cities like Jenin. However, the improvement is a fragile one, he says. "At the same time that this has happened, Israel has been broadening the occupation by settlement building, destroying homes and passing new laws," Mr Masri said.

In particular, Mr Masri said, a new law requiring a referendum if Israel gives up territory in a peace deal points up that peace prospects are moving backwards, not forward, he says. "Without a political horizon, the results we've seen on internal security could collapse rather than continue," he said.

News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Extras
indybest
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Full Stack Developer (.NET 4.0, ASP.NET, MVC, Ajax, WCF,SQL)

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Full Stack ...

AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - Investment Management

£450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - I...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?