Tags: israel | palestine | security | ties

Israel-Palestinian Security Ties Unravel as Peace Hope Dims

Tuesday, 24 February 2015 07:31 AM EST

After eight years of joint security operations and intelligence sharing with Israel that have kept tensions in the West Bank from erupting most of the time, Palestinian leaders are weighing an end to the arrangement.

Ties with Israel are on the brink of a “comprehensive confrontation,” said Jibril Rajoub, a close adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and one of the architects of security coordination in its first phase after the 1993 Oslo peace accords. “We will not be an insurance company.”

Shutting down the security partnership could increase daily violence and threaten foreign aid to the Palestinians, both sides say. Israel is making contingency plans to fortify Jewish settlements.

With peace talks dormant and settlements expanding, Rajoub and other senior leaders on the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Central Committee will meet March 8 to consider halting cooperation with Israel’s army, police and intelligence services -- a system supervised since 2007 by a succession of U.S. generals.

Under the arrangement, Palestinian forces run security in West Bank cities, while Israeli troops remain at the outskirts. The Israelis, though, maintain freedom of movement in the cities after midnight to seize suspects and break up cells they believe the Palestinians are unable or unwilling to tackle.

Early on Tuesday, Israeli troops who entered the Deheishe refugee camp near Bethlehem shot and killed a Palestinian man after firebombs were thrown at them, the army said.

Nighttime Raids

The number of such nighttime raids rose 58 percent last year to 6,000, according to the Palestinian Authority’s ministry of prisoner affairs. The Israeli military said arrests in the West Bank rose about 27 percent and police reported an unspecified steep increase in east Jerusalem.

“It makes them look weak in front of their own people, constantly humiliated with no authority,” said Mustafa Barghouti, secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative, who ran against Abbas in the 2005 election.

Palestinian police talk about raids against Jewish settlements and inside Israel that they have foiled. Israelis say they provide intelligence that has enabled their counterparts to stop threats from Hamas and other groups that oppose Abbas. Each side accuses the other of protecting its own.

Intelligence Minister

“The Palestinians are shooting themselves in the foot” if they terminate the security alliance, Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz said in a Feb. 12 interview. “While it’s important for us, it’s vital to them.”

Many Palestinians say that if the goal is to keep the status quo, it is not worth continuing.

Coordination that included joint police controls began with the signing of the Oslo agreement 22 years ago with the Palestine Liberation Organization. It broke down with the Palestinian uprising in 2000 and Israel’s opposition to the joint government Abbas formed with Hamas in 2005.

After Hamas and Fatah fought a short war in Gaza in 2007, Hamas was left to run the coastal strip alone and Fatah retreated to the West Bank. It accepted American help to train its forces partly to overcome Hamas. Thousands of West Bankers received training. Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the U.S. and European Union.

‘Pure Collaboration’

Israel says it still supports a two-state solution, blaming the Palestinian Authority for neither being serious nor strong enough to be granted sovereignty yet. Abbas, who turns 80 next month, says he is ready, accusing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of dragging out endless negotiations in order to build more settlements.

Any breakdown of security cooperation in the West Bank would present Netanyahu with the challenge of protecting the 350,000 settlers living amidst 2.5 million Palestinians. The settler population has tripled since the Oslo accords, while the Palestinian population has grown by about two-thirds.

“We would need more forces, more boots on the ground, which would mean more friction,” said Peter Lerner, a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces.

The cooperation on security matters has been a linchpin to the billions of dollars in foreign aid that keeps the Palestinian economy from collapse.

Salaries Cut

Paychecks to security personnel have already been cut, however, since Israel started withholding about $100 million a month in customs duties that it collects on behalf of the authority. Netanyahu, 65, cut off the money in January after Abbas took steps to bring Israel to the International Criminal Court to face charges of war crimes. Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said on Tuesday the transfers had been frozen for a third month in violation of legal agreements backed by the U.S.

Without the money, Palestinian officials say public institutions face collapse and warn that they won’t be able to deliver basic services such as policing and garbage collection.

“I don’t think any sound leadership, whether Israeli, Palestinian or in the western world, would like to see that happen,” said Gilad Sher, a former negotiator and now a fellow at Israel’s Institute of National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.

In a further blow to the Palestinian Authority and PLO, the two organizations were found liable by a New York jury on Monday of aiding attacks against Israel that killed American citizens. Under the ruling, the authorities could face compensation payments of as much as $655 million. Palestinian spokesmen said they will appeal.

While security forces from the two sides are still in daily coordination, communication is at the lowest level, said General Adnan Damiri, spokesman for the Palestinian security forces.

‘Fed Up’

“Our lives are intertwined with the Israelis,” Damiri said, pointing to electricity, water, and border crossings for commercial goods.

Gerald Steinberg, a professor at Israel’s Bar Ilan University, said he doubted the Palestinians would end coordination. “It’s a card that’s used periodically that gets attention, but it’s unlikely,” he said.

That is not how many Palestinians see it, suggesting that the current calm may be short-lived.

“The Palestinian people are fed up,” Rajoub said, sitting in his Ramallah office, which has a painting of him 20 years ago wearing a beret and general’s uniform. “The explosion will be destructive. If they slap us, I don’t think that we will turn the other cheek.”

© Copyright 2024 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

After eight years of joint security operations and intelligence sharing with Israel that have kept tensions in the West Bank from erupting most of the time, Palestinian leaders are weighing an end to the arrangement. Ties with Israel are on the brink of a "comprehensive...
israel, palestine, security, ties
Tuesday, 24 February 2015 07:31 AM
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