No decisions have been made by the Israel Defense Forces regarding any changes in security cooperation with Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank following the announcement of a reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas. Contacts between IDF officers on the ground and their West Bank Palestinian counterparts are projecting business as usual.
Security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which is led by Fatah, has greatly increased over the past two years as the Palestinians have sought to block attempts by Hamas to gain influence in the West Bank, following the group’s takeover of the Gaza Strip. Israel’s primary interest in the security cooperation has been preventing terrorist attacks.
Following the improvement in relations with counterparts in the West Bank and the deployment of American-trained Palestinian battalions, the IDF allowed the Palestinians to expand their range of control over West Bank cities and in some village areas, along with a reduction in the number of IDF incursions into the cities. In cases in which the IDF has entered Palestinian towns, usually to carry out arrests, Palestinian forces have withdrawn to avoid conflict with the Israeli army. This is what occurred at the beginning of this week when IDF forces entered Nablus to investigate Sunday’s killing of an Israeli near Joseph’s Tomb.
Commanders in the West Bank division of the IDF and the coordination staff of the IDF Civil Administration in the West Bank meet regularly with senior Palestinian officials, and these Palestinians are reportedly expressing a continued desire to coordinate their activities with Israel.
IDF sources rejected contentions by Israeli politicians that there was no advance warning of a possible conciliation accord with Hamas. Although there was no specific information about the prospect of an agreement being signed in Cairo, IDF intelligence officials have long anticipated a possible “framework agreement” between Fatah and Hamas. The IDF’s most recent annual intelligence assessment provided to Defense Minister Ehud Barak stated that there was a “high probability” of such an outcome.
In the absence of direction from Israel’s political leadership, the IDF will follow developments to discern any change in Palestinian operations in the West Bank. The army currently views the accord as no more than an agreement in principle that still lacks details regarding security matters, announced primarily to appease the Palestinian street.
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