JINSA Report #950
[Note: at the Sunday funeral of the three men, thousands of Palestinians chanted anti-PA slogans, accusing the Palestinian Authority of "collusion" with Israel to arrest, disarm and kill Fatah military operatives. A largely unreported story is the unhappiness of Palestinians with the ruthlessness of the PA security forces in hunting down its internal enemies-Hamas, to be sure, but recalcitrant Fatah members and others as well. The United States and international "human rights" organizations have been completely and utterly silent about vicious abuses taking place inside the PA. It may be that the Palestinian public is reaching the limits of its patience with its own security force.]
On Thursday, three Palestinians murdered teacher and father of seven Rabbi Meir Chai in the West Bank. On Friday, Israeli forces surrounded the Nablus homes of the three suspects, all members of Fatah’s al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade, and demanded they surrender. Israeli intelligence had identified the men and cautioned that all three were armed. One came out holding his wife in front of him. The second refused to come out of his house, which was filled with family members. The third went to his attic and was shouting “Allah Akhbar” as the Israelis came upstairs. All three, but no others, were killed.
According to Ha’aretz, the Obama Administration, acting on complaints from the Palestinian Authority, requested that Israel “explain.” The Palestinians had asked the United States to condemn the raid as a violation of Palestinian authority in Area A, saying Israel should have asked the PA security forces to arrest the three. American officials received both the intelligence information and the details of the operation, and thus far at least, the administration has declined to offer an opinion.
Which is wise, as there are bigger issues at play here.
The Israeli government recently announced a (partial) “settlement freeze” and appears interested in a modus operandi with the Obama Administration to restart formal talks with the Fatah-led PA. Israeli citizens living east of the 1949 Armistice Line are increasingly edgy about their future in their homes. For the Palestinians, any apparent lessening of Israeli government support or protection for its own citizens has always appeared as license to attack. [After Israel withdrew unilaterally from Lebanon in 2000, Palestinian attacks on the West Bank increased throughout the spring until Fatah's Yasser Arafat opened the throttle on the full-scale terror war known as "the second intifada" in September.] And indeed, shooting and stabbing attacks against Jews on the West Bank have increased in recent weeks, culminating in the death of Rabbi Chai.
This presents a problem for the United States and for Israel.
Both have been touting the emergence of American-trained Palestinian “security forces” as a means of securing the West Bank against Hamas, and part of institution building for the Palestinians. JINSA had previously questioned the long-term loyalty of such a force, but this weekend’s operation shows the other side of the risk. It is one thing to accept that Fatah forces will hunt down Hamas forces that threaten them-it is another to expect Fatah forces to take seriously the day-to-day security of Israelis living on the West Bank. It is Fatah’s fixed position that those people have no right to be where they are and they will not be part of the future of the territories.
Israelis have seen revolving door Palestinian “justice,” and since all three suspects in the killing were products of Fatah’s own al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade, there was no reason to believe any Fatah arrest of the three would be anything other than temporary.
As a matter of day-to-day policing, Palestinian security forces have proven to be able to bring safety and security to local residents, allowing them greater freedom to improve their lives. As a matter of Hamas-hunting, the security forces will clearly work to protect themselves from Hamas, and use it as cover to eliminate other internal opposition. But as a matter of the safety of Israeli citizens living in disputed areas, security for Israelis has to come from Israel.