It’s bad enough that the convoys of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, careen around the cities in the West Bank at 150 kilometers per hour, and that their security forces are posted every ten meters on the routes they are planning to take, and that they stop traffic coming anywhere near these convoys for many minutes on end, sometimes causing massive traffic jams that take an hour or more to untangle in the hot, hot midday sun.
It’s even worse that the Palestinian security forces guarding these two official’s routes are sometimes way-too-trigger-happy. One case in point – the shootout over parking spaces in Bethlehem during the 6th Fatah General Conference. Another recent case-in-point – the shooting of a young man in Ramallah who came too close to the convoy of Abbas’ aide Tayeb Abdul Rahim.
Now, it is reported, in Haaretz today, that “Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad are guarded by Israel’s Shin Bet security service on some of their trips around the West Bank. According to an agreement between Israel and the PA, a team from the Shin Bet’s VIP security unit accompanies Abbas and Fayyad whenever they are in Area C, meaning that part of the West Bank that is under full Israeli control according to the Oslo accords. On Tuesday, for instance, Fayyad visited several villages near Nablus to inaugurate new wells. Because the trip going back and forth between Area C and Area B (where Israel has security control but the PA is in charge of civilian matters), Fayyad’s convoy also included an Israel Police patrol car, representatives of Israel’s Civil Administration and a jeep full of Shin Bet bodyguards. These guards were responsible for Fayyad’s security in Area C, while his Palestinian bodyguards – members of the PA’s Presidential Guard – took over in Area B. Israel Defense Forces sources told Haaretz that the security procedures for guarding Abbas and Fayyad on their trips through the West Bank stem from Israel’s desire to avoid having armed Palestinian guards open fire in Area C should their charges come under attack … The security Israel provides for Abbas and Fayyad is meant to prevent either of two possible scenarios. One is an assassination attempt by Palestinian extremists, such as the Hamas cell that was recently arrested for allegedly planning an attack on Abbas. The other is an assassination attempt by right-wing Israeli extremists. Fayyad’s spokesman, Jamal Zakut, declined to comment on this report. However, both Palestinian security sources and the Shin Bet confirmed it. ‘The Shin Bet guards the Palestinian Authority president and the PA prime minister according to regulations, and in full, orderly coordination with all the security services’, the Shin Bet said.”
The Haaretz article added that the Shin Bet is “responsible for round-the-clock protection of only seven [Israeli] people defined as ‘symbols of the state”: the prime minister, the president, the defense minister, the foreign minister, the Knesset speaker, the leader of the opposition and the president of the Supreme Court … All other senior officials are guarded by their offices’ own security guards rather than by the Shin Bet”. This Haaretz article can be read in full here.
This evening, Bethlehem-based Ma’an News Agency reported that “Israel does not provide protection for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas or Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, spokesman for the Palestinian Security Services Adnan Ad-Dameri said Thursday … ‘This news is not true’, Ad-Dameri said over the phone, ‘the Israeli media says so to misrepresent and to harm the status of the Palestinian Authority’. He assured Israel has “nothing to do with the security of the Palestinian President.” This report can be read in full here.
Who do you believe – the Shin Bet when it says it provided protection for the Palestinian President and Prime Minister, or the spokesman for the Palestinian Security Services, who denies it???