The Palestinian Authority’s planned commemoration of the Nakba this weekend will be the first significant test of how the recent reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas has affected the PA’s security cooperation with Israel, senior Israel Defense Forces officers said yesterday.
The Nakba − literally, “catastrophe” − is the Palestinian term for Israel’s establishment. It is marked every year on May 15, the date Israel declared independence according to the Gregorian calendar. This year, Palestinians have planned a series of events running from Friday through Sunday.
“May 15 will be a dress rehearsal for September,” said Col. Eran Makov, commander of the Etzion Brigade, referring to Palestinian plans to seek UN recognition as a state that month.
“And also an important chance to see how the [PA security] forces operate” following the deal with Hamas: “whether they stick by their understandings with us and keep the demonstrations within their territory, or stand aside and don’t intervene. In recent incidents, they dispersed them [the demonstrators] before they even came into contact with us.”
In 2000, Makov recalled, then Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat used Nakba Day “as a dress rehearsal for the outbreak of the second intifada” that September. This year, he said, it might well serve as Palestinian preparation for September again.
Nevertheless, army officers in the Central Command aren’t expecting the dam to burst on Nakba Day. Though Hamas has been operating more openly in the West Bank since the reconciliation agreement was signed, so far, most of those clicking “like” on Facebook pages calling for a third intifada come from outside the territories, Makov said. The fact that there has been no influx of foreign activists or journalists also indicates that no dramatic developments are expected.
Still, many more troops than usual will be deployed this weekend, and senior commanders will be out in force to direct the action. The orders will be to show restraint unless the demonstrators cross “red lines” like marching on a settlement or an army base.
The main Nakba event will be a series of marches throughout the West Bank and Gaza on Sunday. But at least in the West Bank, the PA − whose security forces operate there but not in Hamas-controlled Gaza − plans to prevent any friction with the IDF.
Today, Palestinians are hoping for larger-than-usual attendance at the weekly demonstrations against the separation fence in Bil’in and Na’alin. Many Palestinians are also expected to attend Friday prayers on the Temple Mount, but so far, there have been no published calls for rioting after the service.
Avi Issacharoff contributed to this report
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