Shin Bet head Ronen Bar and IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi are harshly critical of the Palestinian Authority for what they have labeled a weakening of security coordination with Israel. They believe this stems from “orders from above” given by the head of the PA, Mahmoud Abbas. Some senior Israeli security officials, however, believe that Israel is fanning the flames by insisting on continued nightly arrest operations (Haaretz, Tuesday).
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The debate within the IDF between those who believe there will be no option other than a wide-scale operation in the West Bank, and those who support strengthening the Palestinian security apparatus and cutting back IDF operations in the West Bank, makes it clear that Israel has no viable plan in place to deal with a possible collapse of the PA, and appears surprised by the current level of hostilities. As usual, Israel is looking for tactical solutions to fundamental problems. Weakened security cooperation is just one threatening aspect of the illusion of calm in the West Bank.
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- Israel weighs limiting West Bank operations to help strengthen Palestinian Authority
For years, Israel worked under the flawed assumption that a higher standard of living would blunt Palestinian national aspirations. As long as tens of thousands of Palestinians can work in Israel, study overseas and establish businesses, Israel would be able to maintain the status quo: money for calm. According to this line of thinking, Israel would be able to build in the settlements, knock down doors, arrest and kill Palestinians and appropriate lands, and still maintain security cooperation. And, most importantly, not have to deal with diplomatic negotiations.
This mendacious equation leans of the backing of Washington, even under the Biden administration. The president began his term by resuming economic assistance to the PA, but when it comes to the peace process it has adopted the Israeli position that “there is no political feasibility” for restarting negotiations.
But the absence of “political feasibility” for negotiations, and all the more so for the signing of a peace agreement, requires the strengthening of the Palestinian Authority and its security apparatus. It should receive far greater assistance than it currently does. Israel is not the only party that should adapt its policy to reality in the West Bank and reduce the number of operations in areas controlled by the PA before things lead to an explosion and a widespread uprising. The United States cannot shake off its responsibility to the Palestinians and their leadership either. It has the strength to present a diplomatic horizon, rehabilitate Abbas’ standing, and formulate an activist policy that will not allow any Israeli government established following the elections to evade dealing with the conflict.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.