Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin in Jerusalem
Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin in Jerusalem Photo by Emil Salman
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Shin Bet security service head Yuval Diskin recently spent a day in the West Bank city of Jenin as a guest of the Palestinian Authority's security service. This is Diskin's second visit of this kind to Palestinian Authority territory in recent months, the aim of which is to coordinate security ties between Israel and the PA. The first visit was to Ramallah.

The meetings have not been made public, in accordance with an agreement between the two sides.

In the past three years, as security relations between Israel and the PA have improved, Diskin and other senior officials in the Shin Bet and the Israel Defense Forces have paid several visits to PA-administered territory, primarily for meetings with senior PA officials and members of the Palestinian security services, at the Muqata compound in Ramallah.

The day-long working visits are an indication of how close the ties between the parties have become.

Diskin is essentially serving as the contact person between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Palestinian Authority's leadership (concurrent with existing channels maintained by Defense Minister Ehud Barak's office and by senior IDF brass ).

The Shin Bet chief is also working on the Prime Minister's behalf to coordinate confidence-building measures with the Palestinians in the security field.

Chief among them is the transfer to the PA of security authority in several West Bank cities and an arrangement through which the IDF would pull out of those towns.

The Shin Bet chose not to respond to the report of Diskin's visits to West Bank cities. Senior Palestinian officials, however, confirmed yesterday that Diskin had visited Jenin last week as the guest of the Palestinian general security services. The security forces, which demonstrate full control in Jenin, view the town as their greatest success story. It is not just activity hostile to Israel that have been headed off there. The area has also seen a dramatic drop in crime.

Several weeks ago, Brig. Gen. Nitzan Alon, the IDF's commander for the West Bank, visited the Ramallah headquarters of Palestinian security forces. He was accompanied by the head of the Civil Administration in the West Bank, Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai. Senior IDF officers, including GOC Central Command Maj. Gen. Avi Mizrahi, have also visited the West Bank town of Qalqilyah in the company of Palestinian counterparts.

Palestinian security forces have continued to take measures against Hamas in recent months. Over the past several days there have been a number of arrests of Hamas activists around the West Bank. About three months ago, PA security forces uncovered a major Hamas cell in Nablus, involving close to 40 people, some of them with weapons.

The Palestinian side has noted there a still problems in the coordination of activity of Palestinian security forces in Areas B and C, which are under Israeli security control. Many of the issues arise out of disputes between local clans.

The Palestinians also complain that Israel continues to hold up approval for the transfer of advanced equipment, such as up-to-date communications equipment, which Israel says could endanger the country in the future.