Senior Israeli security sources on Monday accused the Palestinian Authority and its security services of “complete incompetence” in fighting terrorism, following the killing of two Israel Defense Forces soldiers in the West Bank over the past few days.
The charge constitutes a sharp change in Israel’s attitude toward the PA, after a long period during which the IDF and the Shin Bet Security Service had praised the security cooperation with the PA forces. But, according to one senior source, “over the past few months, there have been numerous instances in which terror attacks were foiled, but all were foiled solely by the Israelis.”
The sources added that the PA had done little in the way of arresting terrorists recently and that no terrorists had been tried by Palestinian courts during the entire past year.
Following the shooting attack that killed Staff Sgt. Gabriel (Gal) Kobi in Hebron on Sunday, political and military leaders held several consultations on Monday, including a phone conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was on vacation in the south. So far no clues have been reported that could lead to the gunmen.
Despite demands by right-wing MKs, Israel is unlikely to take any serious measures against the PA, such as delaying the release of additional prisoners, as was agreed on the renewal of peace talks two months ago. While Israel is highlighting the absence of any condemnation of the soldiers’ killings by the PA, it would prefer to avoid steps that would focus international comment on Israeli actions.
In addition to discussing security measures, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on Monday supported allowing settlers to occupy a Hebron building called Beit Hamachpela in response to the attack. Late Sunday night Netanyahu instructed that “immediate action” be taken to occupy the building.
At the end of March 2012, Jewish residents of Hebron occupied the house, presenting papers showing that a company called Al-Aydun al-Akarat, owned by Assaf Nehmad of Talmon, had purchased part of the structure. The Civil Administration decided that the documents were problematic and did not approve the transaction, following which, then-Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered the building evacuated.
The settlers appealed to the Military Appeals Committee, a quasi-judicial panel that can overturn administrative decisions made by the Civil Administration bureaucracy. This past June, the committee ruled that the Civil Administration must reconsider the transaction. Over the summer, the settlers resubmitted their documents and responded to various requests for additional clarifications, most recently in August.
During the meeting in Ya’alon’s office on Monday, Civil Administration officials said that as far as they were concerned the transaction was valid. Indeed, at the end of the discussion, Ya’alon instructed that an occupancy permit be issued.
However, remaining legal obstacles could take a considerable amount of time to clear up. For one thing, the building is not registered in any land registry, and the procedure for such registration has several stages. Moreover, the settlers did not purchase the entire building, only part of it, which will make its registration even more complicated.
Meanwhile, 14 Palestinians associated with Beit Hamachpela petitioned the High Court of Justice on Monday to prevent settlers from entering it. The Palestinians are demanding that all the legal formalities be allowed to run their course, rather than have the issue decided by a political maneuver. Some of the petitioners are former owners who claim the purchase documents were forged, while others own the parts of the building the settlers never purchased. The High Court asked the state to respond to the petition by 1 P.M. today.