As Israel prepares to release another group of 26 Palestinian prisoners later this week, Israeli security experts say security cooperation with the Palestinian Authority remains solid despite three separate incidents in which Palestinians killed Israelis. The security experts say they do not see the killings as evidence of a new intifada, or Palestinian uprising.
“This is the best security cooperation we’ve had in years,” Shlomo Brom, a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies and a retired brigadier general in the Israeli army told The Media Line. “The Palestinian security forces are much more professional than in the past and they are not political.”
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Brom said there has been a decision by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to maintain security cooperation with Israel, despite growing anger in the Palestinian street against Israel’s continued construction in post-1967 areas.
Israeli press reported that last week, Palestinian security forces arrested three members of the Islamist Hamas movement who planned to send drones carrying explosives into Israel. The reports quoted Palestinian security officials that the men had already carried out test flights and were in advanced preparations to launch a miniature drone.
The planned attack came after three Israelis were killed recently in separate incidents. In the most recent one, a former army colonel was killed in his home in the Jordan Valley in an area that Israel acquired in 1967. Last month, an Israeli soldier was killed by a sniper in the West Bank city of Hebron. Also last month, an off-duty Israeli soldier was killed after he was lured to a Palestinian village by a co-worker.
The three separate incidents, coming so close together, and after a long period of relative calm, shook up Israelis and raised fears that a new Palestinian uprising could be on the way. However, security officials say, in the cases of the off-duty soldier and the army colonel, there may have been disputes over money that contributed to the murders.
At the same time, say Israeli experts, Palestinians are angry about many Israeli policies.
“The ethos of the Palestinian people has not changed, nobody became a Zionist or has any love of Israel,” Ronni Shaked, an Israeli journalist who covered the Palestinians for 20 years and is now a researcher at the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, told The Media Line. “But most of the terrorist activity since 2008 was sporadic operations, like someone just deciding to take a construction tool in hand and kill a Jew. It is not organized Palestinian terrorism like it was ten years ago.”
Israeli security officials, including Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon have recently praised the Palestinian Authority for their close cooperation with Israel. Abbas has paid a political price, as the Islamist Hamas movement, which controls the Gaza Strip, has accused Abbas of “doing Israel’s dirty work.”
Israel is set to release an additional 26 Palestinian prisoners, almost all of whom have been convicted of murdering Israelis, as a good-will gesture as part of the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Shaked says that some 17 percent of Palestinian prisoners return to terrorism, as compared with 66 percent of criminals who are recidivists. At the same time, he says an estimated 500,000 Palestinians have spent at least one night in an Israeli jail.
The prisoner issue is a hot –button issue that cuts across political lines.
“We need to encourage the Palestinian Authority to continue security cooperation,” Shaked said. “And releasing prisoners will give Abbas the feeling that he achieved something from Israel.”
That, Shaked and Brom agree, will only strengthen Abbas and the more moderate forces among the Palestinians. If the current round of negotiations achieves a deal, it will put Abbas in a better position to win a Palestinian referendum for a deal with Israel.
Article written by Linda Gradstein, courtesy of The Media Line
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