The gap between the Palestinian Authority’s official statements and its actions became clear last week over the issue of security coordination with Israel. After the death last Wednesday of PA minister Ziad Abu Ein in an incident involving Israel Defense Forces soldiers and Border Police, senior PA and Fatah officials, including Saeb Erekat and Jibril Rajoub, stated that the PA would cease security coordination with Israel. In fact, this has not happened. Palestinian security officials are apparently refraining from high-profile meetings with their Israeli counterparts; however, telephone coordination is ongoing.
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Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Friday in an interview on Channel 2 that the Palestinian threats are “empty” adding: “We can get along without security coordination. The coordination is more important to the PA than to us.”
Clearly, coordination with Israel assists the PA in maintaining stability, enabling it to receive intelligence information on Hamas activities in the West Bank, some of which are directed against the PA itself. The coordination also allows ongoing movement of PA security forces in West Bank cities, in areas where Israel has security control. And yet, Israel also has something to lose if the coordination were to end. It is enough to recall that every year more than 100 Israelis who accidentally enter Palestinian cities are extracted by PA forces unharmed.
Abu Ein’s death did not spark more widespread violence in the West Bank but the wave of terror, which began in Jerusalem and the West Bank in late October, continues. On Friday a former security prisoner from the West Bank village of Nahalin threw acid at six Israelis in a vehicle near the Gush Etzion hitchhiking station. Although the attacker used to be affiliated with a terror organization, he was described — as were the other perpetrators of recent attacks — as a “lone wolf” using improvised means. The exception to this rule was attack on the synagogue in Jerusalem, which was not improvised but carefully prepared. But in that incident, like the others, there appears to be no organized terror group that backed the perpetrators.
Embarrassing footage from Gaza
Meanwhile, on Thursday, Palestinian Internet sites released classified IDF footage that was part of an internal military probe into the killing of four Hamas divers after they came ashore at Zikim beach early in the Gaza war last summer. IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz ordered an investigation into the leaked material, which was apparently uploaded by means of a civilian computer. From there to Palestinian websites the road is short.
The reason the army is embarrassed by the footage is clear. It includes various classified details (including one “secret” the IDF insists on continuing to define as such, although it has been known for years to every Palestinian child in Gaza). But the footage shows a few more things. It illustrates the gap between the official version of events shown to the public and what actually happened as illustrated by the details of the investigation. In the official version, the lookout who first identified the figures on the beach was praised for his initiative. In fact, the footage shows that a huge and clumsy force – including ships, aircraft, a tank and a bulldozer — were required to thwart the incursion and that there were many lapses in coordination before the Hamas operatives were finally hit. The footage shows no small amount of courage on the part of the Hamas men, one of whom crept up to a tank and placed an explosive device on it. Gantz himself said the same during a meeting with soldiers who excelled during the Gaza war, when he noted that Hamas had often also fought bravely — a comment that sparked criticism by senior officers.
The footage shows that the operation in Zikim was conducted clumsily but ended reasonably from the Israeli perspective, a statement that could apply to the entire Gaza war. Last week, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that Hamas operatives had begged him to assist them in achieving a cease-fire with Israel toward the end of the fighting in August, underscoring Israeli claims that Hamas was forced to accept the Egyptian cease-fire plan that it had rejected as unacceptable when it was first presented in mid-July.
The trouble is, from Israel’s perspective, that no long-term agreement was attained to ensure the cease-fire’s stability. This may be an impossible aspiration given the gaps between the sides. But the continued closure of the Gaza Strip, mainly from the Egyptian side, along with Hamas’ frustration, could still mean another outbreak of violence in Gaza in the coming months.