The European Union was planning to announce Monday it will launch a three-year mission - starting Jan. 1 - to help the Palestinians build up a credible police force, EU officials said.
Officials said the decision by the EU foreign ministers will not mean European police officers patrolling the streets of Palestinian cities. The EU plans to provide up to 50 law enforcement experts to advise on how to staff, manage and finance Palestinian police forces, officials said.
The EU police mission will be the EU’s first security role as part of international efforts to get Israel and the Palestinians to make peace.
To date, the Europeans have been consigned to providing economic and financial aid to the Palestinians.
Officials said the police mission’s first priority would be to provide more security on the streets of Gaza City and Ramallah, followed by Nablus and other Palestinian cities.
EU role at Rafah crossing
Also, the ministers will debate an EU role in monitoring the Rafah border crossing point between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. Both Palestinians and Israelis have asked for that, but are still sorting out the conditions under which that can happen.
”The two sides must agree on a mandate for the EU” Before any customs inspectors are deployed at Rafah, EU spokeswoman Cristina Gallach said ahead of the EU ministers meeting.
She said EU officials were in negotiations on the weekend with Israeli and Palestinians officials.
The aim is to keep the Rafah border crossing open permanently to cut the travel time between Palestinian areas and Egypt. Israel closed it for security reasons before leaving Gaza in September.
Last week, the Israeli Cabinet approved the deployment of EU border inspectors, a major step toward giving Palestinians freedom of movement without Israeli controls for the first time in four decades.
But Israel and the Palestinians disagree over how much authority the inspectors should have. The Palestinians want them to be advisers. Israel wants them to have final responsibility. Also, citing security concerns, Israel wants to be able to monitor Rafah traffic via closed-circuit television, something the Palestinians reject.