“Security was the toughest part of the job,” Salam Fayyad said, reflecting on his first two years as prime minister of the Palestinian Authority. The second intifada, a five-year uprising against Israeli occupation, had just wound down, leaving in its wake an epidemic of crime and lawlessness in the West Bank. To restore order and to demonstrate that authority could fulfill this most primary function of a state, Fayyad worked with security chiefs to revive the mission of the Palestinian Security Services and enhance their professionalism, to deploy the civil police, and to get gunmen off the streets. Those steps required strategies for both introducing reform in opaque systems and persuading people that better policing was not tantamount to supporting an occupying state. By the end of 2007, six months after he assumed office, crime rates were down and public perceptions of safety had started to improve. Still, continued Israeli interference in the West Bank’s internal security plus other persistent challenges undermined efforts to maintain a functional and sovereign security apparatus.
Jennifer Widner, Tristan Dreisbach, and Gordon LaForge drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in Ramallah, Nablus, and Jericho in June and July 2019 and in Princeton, New Jersey, and other locations during 2019 and 2020. The case is part of a series on state building in Palestine, 2002–05 and 2007–11. Case published June 2022.