What upset the Palestinian Authority officials after the IDF raids on Nablus in which three “suspected” or “wanted” Palestinian men, all members of President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party, were shot in what not only Palestinians but also some Israelis (such as the human rights organization B’Tselem) say were “extrajudicial killings”?
Haaretz tells us that “The PA on Saturday complained to the U.S. that during the raid Israel had unjustly invaded area A, for whose security the Palestinians are solely responsible. The PA demanded that the Americans voice their own position on the matter. Over the weekend, the Palestinians also protested to the coordinator of government activities in the territories, Maj. Gen. Eitan Dangot, that IDF soldiers had entered area A in Nablus and had not allowed PA security forces to arrest the wanted men”. This was contained in a Haaretz article that can be read in full here.
What is “area A”? It is one of three designations assigned, during Israeli-Palestinian negotiations of the Oslo Accords, of the occupied Palestinian West Bank territory. Area A, which as Haaretz reported is supposed to be under full Palestinian security control, is actually under as much Israeli control as Areas B (supposedly joint control) and Area C.
The Israeli Minister of Defense (currently, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak) rules the West Bank. Decision about the deployment of any Palestinian forces, in any part of the West Bank whatsoever, including Area A, is decided by the Israeli Defense Ministry.
Israeli security and military forces make regular — daily and nightly — incursions into Area A of the West Bank. Does the PA protest?
For example, as Ma’an News Agency reported today, “Israeli forces detained nine ‘wanted’ Palestinians during overnight operations in the West Bank, the military said. A military official said two people were arrested in Qalandiya south of Ramallah, one in Biddu also south of Ramallah, two in Surif near Hebron, and four in Beit Awwa southwest of Hebron”. These places are all in Area A. The Ma’an report is posted here.
The Jerusalem Post’s well-informed military correspondent Yaakov Katz reported today that “The IDF raid in Nablus on Saturday, during which the three murderers of Rabbi Meir Chai were killed, appears on the surface to be just another military operation in the West Bank. It was, however, much more, and resonated widely at Sunday’s cabinet meeting in Jerusalem due to the identities of two of the terrorists and the ongoing negotiations for the release of Gilad Schalit. One of the terrorists was Raed Sarkaji, a known Tanzim operative, who was released in January 2009 from an Israeli prison after serving a seven-year sentence on terror charges. Another was Anan Subuh, an Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades operative who had received a pardon from the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) as part of the 2007 deal, under which 400 Fatah terrorists handed in their weapons, promised to cease their terror activity and in return were assured that the IDF would stop hunting them. The timing could not have been better for the opponents to the Schalit deal, who have long argued that the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners would mean more terrorist attacks against Israel. Sarkaji and Subuh are proof of this. This does not mean that all Palestinians released from jail return to engage in terror activity or that the fugitive deal is a failure. On the contrary, the fugitive deal is considered a success since out of the 400, only a handful returned to terror and most of them have already been re-arrested. As a safeguard from all of this, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is demanding that the hard-core prisoners, slated to be released in a swap with Hamas, be exiled either to Gaza or overseas, but will not be allowed back to the West Bank. While the intelligence on the identity and location of the three suspects was obtained by the Shin Bet, the IDF had the option to transfer the information to the Palestinian Authority and ask it to carry out the arrests on its behalf. In December 2007, for example, the IDF allowed the PA to arrest two gunmen who shot and killed two off-duty IDF soldiers as they were hiking near Hebron. The two are still being held in a Hebron prison. Behind the IDF’s decision to carry out the operation on its own – a move that raised the ire of the Obama administration – was an understanding that the settlers in the West Bank would view a PA operation to capture the three as the final act of betrayal. After freezing settlement construction [n.b., for ten month’s only, one of which has already gone by] and ousting the Har Bracha Yeshiva from the hesder arrangement with the IDF, the Netanyahu government – the settlers would have said – is leaving our security in the hands of the Palestinians. In addition, there was the possibility that due to their affiliation with Fatah – the ruling party in the West Bank – the three might have been let off the hook by the PA. This was a chance Israel was not prepared to take”… This insight into Israeli political and military strategy is posted here.
However, despite the IDF “clean-up” operation, the PA is continuing to “investigate” the killing of the Israeli settler, Rabbi Hai, last Thursday. Ali Waked has reported in YNet today that “The Palestinian Authority has arrested a Palestinian who was allegedly involved in last Thursday’s shooting attack, which left Rabbi Meir Hai killed. Ynet has learned that the Palestinian military intelligence arrested the suspect, who is considered a close friend of the three cell members. A Palestinian security official confirmed the arrest in a conversation with Ynet, but refused to say whether the man is suspected of being personally involved in the attack or whether he was arrested as part of the PA’s efforts to prevent a response to the assassination of the three Fatah cell members in Nablus on Saturday. The PA continued its efforts over the past day to calm the Fatah members and security officials who fear that the Nablus assassination marks the end of the truce with Israel and a return to the pursuit of wanted Palestinians. The Palestinians fear that those who were pardoned by Israel will continue to be pursued. The last Palestinian detainee is also included in the list of Palestinians pardoned by Israel”. This report is published today on the YNet site here.
There was more than a suggestion in media reports since Saturday’s IDF action in Nablus that the PA is blaming Hamas for the attack that resulted in the death of the Israeli settler from Shavei Shomron.
What else is really going on here, beneath the surface, as the Fatah-Hamas rivalry continues to play out, the Shalit deal may be coming to a climax, and the U.S. is preparing to make a new effort to get the Palestinian Authority back to the “peace talks” with Israel, a year after they were cut off during the IDF’s massive military operation in Gaza?