Page 96 - The Chapka 2016
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the Palestinian Officer Academy
 When you’ve just spent a year in Scotland and the Army of- fers you a job in a sunny climate, I challenge any of you to resist – even if you don’t know what or where that job will actually be! For me, it was Palestine, and more specifically the Palestinian Officer Academy. You could be forgiven for not hav- ing heard of it so I’ll aim to illustrate life in a slightly different environment to leafy Berkshire and Sandhurst.
Firstly, the bigger picture. To describe the situation in Israel and Palestine as complex is rather simplistic. For a start, there is no state of Palestine – the area is known as the Occupied Palestin- ian Territories since it was occupied by Israel in the 1967 war. The 1993 Oslo Accords set the foundations for a withdrawal of Israeli forces and the creation of a Palestinian state – the so- called ‘Two-state solution’, with a gradual transfer of authority and responsibility on the path to sovereignty. Achieving this would require significant and sustained Palestinian reform and development in many areas including politics, economics and security. The obstacles to this are numerous, and the prospect seems to be retreating further each year, but since 2008 the UK has been working alongside the US, Canada, the Netherlands and other partners to ensure that of all the barriers standing in the way of peace, security should not be one of them. Whether the new US President will agree remains to be seen!
The Palestinian Security Forces were formed mostly from vari- ous militias and informal groups, and whilst not an army, they do provide internal security within Palestinian-controlled areas to guard not-only against terrorists and criminal elements, but also states. They have shown significant improvement since the 1990s but still have a long way to go: they remain politicised and fragmented within different services, jealously guarding their kingdoms and funding; nepotism is rife; and, profession- alism and professional development is limited. Historically, all of their junior officer training has been conducted overseas at the invitation of states as varied as China, Morocco, Russia and Bangladesh. This means a lack of shared ethos or common
understanding, and is unsustainable. The Palestinian Officer Academy is intended to fill this gap by providing junior officer training to prepare young officers for their role. The British Support Team has led the support to this with one officer and one SNCO, as well as two Exercise-military contractors in the HQ, limited funding and moral support – it’s not much, but it has had a significant impact (and with Royal Lancers now hav- ing conducted two rotations of both officers and SNCOs our presence is felt and valued).
The first commissioning course began in April 16, and 54 young officers graduated in December to take up roles within the Se- curity Forces. The British role within the academy was a com- bination of planning, teaching, problem-solving, and most of all mentoring. We used command tasks, taught planning pro- cesses, and exercised security tactics. It is absolutely valid to say that this first commissioning course would never have gradu- ated without British involvement, cajoling and hard work. The greatest challenge in teaching within a leadership academy was dealing with Palestinian leadership. Palestinian commanders wanted authority but no responsibility, and presented barriers at almost every turn. Despite having only fifty-four students, the academy was commanded by a Brigadier and a stores request for a single AA battery required his signature. The Commandant is a good example of the older generation of Palestinian officers: he used to open the door for Yasser Arafat and was rewarded with a commission accordingly; his military trade is as a Naval officer, having trained in Morocco and Bangladesh. The astute of you may wonder at the relevance of Palestine having naval officers without a navy or even much of a coastline beyond the Dead Sea, but then the Deputy Commandant was an aircraft engineer despite Palestine having no aircraft. This is Palestine.
The UK contingent worked alongside coalition partners and within the structure of a US 3* HQ, but maintain our independ- ence. The different national restrictions on freedom of move- ment mean we can live in Ramallah and travel freely throughout
 Sandhurst in the...

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