The IDF and the Palestinian security forces in the West Bank have been enjoying a relatively good operational relationship over the past few years, but military sources told Ynet Tuesday that cracks have been appearing in the security relations' proverbial veneer.
According to both Palestinian and Israeli security sources, the PA's security forces stopped their IDF counterparts from pursuing their activities on at least two occasions in the past few weeks.
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The Israeli soldiers opted to turn back rather than clash with the Palestinian security forces.
About a month ago, an IDF force arrived at the West Bank city of Tulkarem as part of its routine operations in the sector. They were met by Palestinian security forces, who prevented them from entering the city, forcing them to abort their mission and turn back.
A near-identical incident took place in Jenin, two days later.
The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said that "The incidents in question are unfamiliar to the IDF."
Confrontation waiting to happen?
An Israeli military source said that the IDF's operational premise almost always prefers scrapping a non-vital mission should pursuing it will lead to an unavoidable clash with the Palestinian security forces.
According to a Palestinian source, the UN's upgrade of the Palestinian Authority's status has prompted the change: "The reality after November 29 is not the same as before. After (the vote) any Israeli soldier inside the 1967 lines is a conqueror on occupied land."
The issue of the cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian security forces is a highly sensitive issue, kept mostly under wraps.
The growing unrest in the West Bank, which has reached new highs following Operation Pillar of Defense, the subsequent UN General Assembly vote, and the newfound alliance between Fatah and Hamas, has gnawed at the collaboration, which has been lauded as very successful over the years.
An Israeli security source told Ynet that while a change in the two parties' collaboration has been noted, the channels of communications are still open and the security discourse flows freely.
"Despite the tensions and the notably different atmosphere, communications on the ground have stayed the same."
He added that an Israeli message has been relayed to the Palestinians, warning them against allowing the events in the West Bank to spiral out of control "in a manner which would not only be detrimental to Israel – but to the Palestinian Authority as well."
The sentiment was clarified further following several Hamas rallies held across West Bank cities over the weekend and the subsequent riots that broke out in Hebron.
According to Ynet's source, an Israeli official made sure to inform the PA that if its own security forces fail to stop Palestinian rioters from clashing with Israeli troops – the IDF will do so.
The message was apparently understood, as Ramallah's security forces exercised their authority over Palestinian rioters in Hebron and stopped them.
The IDF's Judea and Samaria Division's Palestinian liaison officers have been working extensively to maintain cooperation with their Palestinian counterparts with aim to prevent any unrest in the Palestinian cities from seeping into the Israeli ones.
Sources on both sides agreed that the Palestinian security forces are stepping up their vigilance vis-à-vis rioters in the need to restore order to the Palestinian street – and not necessarily their desire to cooperate with Israel.
The Palestinian leadership is livid with Israel over the government's decision to suspend the transfer of levies to Ramallah, as a significant part of the taxes Israel collects on behalf of the PA fund its security forces. The suspension, prompted by the UN's status upgrade, has resulted in delayed wages.
"If the troops think that they're not going to get paid, we'll have a serious problem on our hand. It will affect everything, including the security collaboration," a Palestinian source told Ynet.
An Israeli official expressed the same concern, adding that the PA is in dire financial straits.
IDF officials were mindful of referring to the possibility that a third intifada was already brewing, but IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen Benny Gantz and GOC Central Command Maj.-Gen Nitzan Alon have ordered troops in the sector to maintain vigilance, while "exercising professional resolve in dealing with any riot, be it big or small."
You can contact Elior Levy, Ynet's Palestinian Affairs Correspondent, at: email@example.com
Yoav Zitun contributed to this report
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