In June 2019, an IDF force entered the Palestinian West Bank city of Nablus to perform a series of routine arrests. At some point, the Israeli force and members of the Palestinian Authority security service began exchanging fire after the Israeli side erroneously identified them as armed hostiles.
While this incident ended with no casualties and only one Palestinian servicemember was wounded, the Palestinians were livid.
Israeli security forces and IDF officers opened a continuous dialogue with their Palestinian counterparts, at all levels, to avoid hostilities and ensure the continued security coordination between the two sides.
The 2019 incident in Nablus, as well as the most recent incident in the Palestinian city of Jenin — during which two Palestinian security officers and the suspect were killed by Israeli forces — are just two examples of flare-ups between Israeli and Palestinian security forces on the ground.
It is a sensitive relationship that can overcome the tensions that such incidents bring in most cases.
Normally, security coordination between the two sides allows freedom of action for IDF forces during arrests in areas under Palestinian security control.
The IDF usually issues a warning from Israel to the coordination and liaison headquarters before making an incursion, sharing the time and location in which IDF forces plan to enter.
Palestinian police and other members of the security apparatus in the area are then evacuated shortly before Israeli forces enter to prevent the sides from opening fire at one another as happened Wednesday night in Jenin.
This safeguard protocol was not activated this time around as the IDF force that entered Jenin operated undercover.
Israel does not alert the Palestinians when fielding undercover units — which are dressed in civilian clothes and ride vehicles with Palestinian license plates to blend in with the population.
Clashes may erupt when the undercover force is stopped for routine inspection and is exposed or when Israeli forces exchange fire with their targets and Palestinian security forces mistake them for criminal gangs.
After such instances, the Israeli side launches an investigation into the incident and reports its results to the Palestinian side.
And while security collaboration between the two sides often goes back to normal shortly after, timing is key — and this incident comes at a time when tensions are running high in the West Bank due to the recent round of fighting between Israel and Gaza and the volatile situation in Jerusalem.
The terrorist group Hamas has already taken advantage of the incident by praising the two slain security officers for fighting against Israeli forces and standing by the wanted men they came to arrest.
Hamas often uses such incidents to try and incite security officers to attack Israeli forces.
The defense establishment now has to contend with both the Palestinian security forces themselves, and with the fire that Hamas is trying to stoke among the Palestinian population within Gaza and in the West Bank.
It is important to note that the most significant slumps in security coordination between Israel and the Palestinian Authority followed events with geopolitical implications — such as Israel’s attempts to install magnetometers on the Temple Mount or when Jerusalem announced it was planning to annex the parts of the West Bank.
And while incidents such as the one in Jenin had never seriously affected security ties, the current sensitive reality means Israel cannot necessarily rely only on p.