Palestinian security forces in the West Bank this week arrested members of an Islamic Jihad squad that tried to build the infrastructure for manufacturing rockets. Three of the organization’s members were arrested in Tul Karm with a model of a homemade rocket in their possession.
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This incident brings to light two truths that official Israeli and Palestinian Authority spokesmen prefer not to comment on publicly, in any detail. First, that the security coordination between the side continues to work well, despite political tensions, with the PA contributing in a meaningful way to Israeli security. Second, that without Israeli aid, there is a likely danger that the PA would collapse under the pressure being wielded by Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The rule of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rests in large measure on Israel’s backing.
Only once in the past decade was that perception acknowledged openly by a senior Israeli figure. Gadi Shamni, at the time the head of Central Command, aroused the anger of the PA when he told the truth. Later, in 2014, Israel uncovered a network of almost 100 Hamas activists in the West Bank, who were aiming to carry out an ambitious plan to perpetrate extensive terrorist attacks against Israelis and to topple the PA. (According to foreign reports, when the Israelis displayed documentation from the interrogation of the network’s leader, Abbas toughened his attitude toward Hamas, just before the start of Operation Protective Edge.)
Behind the scenes, even when Netanyahu and Abbas argue over the PA’s financial aid to Palestinian terrorists jailed in Israel, the facts of this cooperation are known to all, and the sides behave accordingly. That includes the U.S. administration, which doesn’t necessarily excel in its understanding of what’s happening in the territories.
The relevant people in the administration, in particular those in the Pentagon, are well aware of the danger of a security crisis erupting in the West Bank, but the White House is not fully attentive to it. The small team that’s in charge of the “peace process” was jolted earlier this month when Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s special envoy to the Middle East, announced his resignation. This week Greenblatt held a series of farewell events in Jerusalem, which, as was the case with all his visits to the region in the past two years, did not include even a single meeting with Palestinian Authority officials.