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Palestinian Academy Prepares Future Security Force

During President Bush's visit to the Palestinian territories this week, President Bush is pledging support for efforts to rebuild Palestinian institutitutions. VOA's Jim Teeple reports a key part of that effort can be found in the ancient city of Jericho, home of the newly opened Palestinian Security Sciences Academy.

It is all discipline, all the time at the Palestinian Security Sciences Academy that opened a few months ago in the West Bank.

Inspection starts at dawn, the beginning of a long day for the 143 recruits. All were selected for their professionalism and for their loyalty to moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

These recruits will be eating and studying here for the next year. After breakfast, it is time for a full day of academics. The course load includes classes in management, criminology, forensic sciences, and Hebrew.

Cadet Suhaib Wa'el from Nablus says the Hebrew lessons could help ease tensions in the volatile West Bank. "We must learn this language to deal with them when any accidents happen between two areas," he said. "One area is with the Israeli hand, and the other area is with the Palestinian hand. What can you do? You must learn the language to deal with them."

The academy is nestled in the largely tranquil city of Jericho -- the world's oldest city -- and is modeled on elite police academies in Jordan Egypt and Qatar. The nearly $2 million in funding for the academy comes from Arab states and the European Union. The U.S. also has offered some indirect support.

Academy Director Noor Abu Arub says his mission is to create a new generation of police -- an elite force that he says Palestinians can be proud of, but also a force that Israel will respect enough to end its military occupation of the West Bank.

"We believe that we can control the security in all cities in Palestine. We need Israel to let us see our work. But every day if Israel penetrates our cities, it is a problem for our work," he said.

Israeli officials say they wish the recruits well, but they are uncertain if the Palestinians can control the militants who continue to attack Israel.

More than 300 Palestinian police applied to get into the academy.

Hana Hindi and Nawa'em Sharawneh are the only women cadets, but they say that is not a sign of discrimination at the academy. Hindi says the academy stresses professionalism. "We learn here how to implement the law to both men and women and there should be no differences in the implementation, whether it is men or women," she said.

The recruits will not have much time to enjoy their elite status. After they leave the academy, they will be tested -- both by the Palestinian street -- and by Israeli security forces. Israeli officials say they will only withdraw their forces from the West Bank when it is safe enough to do so.