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Hamas accuses PA of targeting members

October 22, 2014 at 2:00 pm

Hamas’ West Bank Spokesperson Saed Abu Bahaa has accused the Palestinian Authority (PA) of “targeting” its members during rallies called for by the group’s leadership to defend the Al-Aqsa mosque compound against Israeli efforts to assert control over it. Bahaa said the PA were attempting to “silence” and marginalize members of the movement.

“We consider oppressing rallies in support of Al-Aqsa – despite the fact that they had obtained the needed licenses – as a major and serious breach of freedoms,” he said in a statement. “Hamas views the practices of PA security services against supporters of al-Aqsa and Jerusalem as attempts to silence any voice opposing the Judaisation of the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque,” he said.

The Palestinian unity government has reunited Gaza and the West Bank under a single political authority for the first time since the split began following Hamas’ success in the Palestinian legislative elections of 2006- however cracks have been visible since its inception.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has attempted to thwart this Palestinian reconciliation. Following the kidnap of the three Israeli teens, Israel relentlessly pursued Hamas members in the West Bank- in the ensuing hunt for the boys, five Palestinians were killed, two homes were demolished and another 600 detained (mainly Hamas members), all without charge or judicial procedure. The recent Gaza offensive also aimed to crush Hamas, and with it Palestinian reconciliation.

During the crackdown in the West Bank, termed “Operation Brother’s Keeper”, the Israeli army took control of the West Bank city of Ramallah for the first time since 2007, using the PA police headquarters as their base. Palestinian protestors who confronted the Israeli army turned on the Palestinian police when they had left, who in-turn responded with live fire. Minutes later the Israeli army returned in an apparent armed assistance to the Palestinian police force.

According to the Committee for Political Prisoners, since the ceasefire which ended Israel’s offensive on Gaza came into effect, PA security forces have arrested 145 Hamas members and summoned 170 others. A statement read that the arrests targeted student activists and those who took part in: “anti-Israel activities organised during the war on Gaza or those who attended the celebrations of Gaza’s victory in Ramallah, Hebron, Nablus and Tulkarm.” The committee called for the PA to stop carrying out the agenda of the Israeli occupation and to adopt the spirit of reconciliation by not dealing with its political rivals through a security approach.

The security co-operation between Israel and the PA is no secret, distancing it from many Palestinians who have come to see it as an arm of the occupation. Palestinians often know when the Israeli military are coming because the Palestinian soldiers/police disappear from the streets. For those blindfolded and dragged out of their homes in the early hours of the morning by PA security forces and interrogated for crimes such as burning tyres and throwing stones, it is hard to tell the difference between the two. Abbas has explicitly defended this coordination, claiming it was “a Palestinian national interest.” He had earlier gone so far as to call it “sacred.”

Today, security makes up a sizeable proportion of the PA budget, accounting for 26% of 2013 expenditures. There is now one security person for every 52 Palestinian residents compared to one educator for every 75 residents.

Israel’s Yossi Kuperwasser, director general of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, said during a court case waged against the PA, “I think that the Palestinians shared partial, tendentious and incomplete information with the Shin Bet.”

Shin Bet, the Israel security agency, was reportedly trying to “cover up their inability to use this tool called the Palestinian security forces in supplying them with the purpose for which they exist: preventing terror.”

Not only is it recognised here that the PA is openly sharing files with Israel’s notorious intelligence agency, there is no attempt to hide the fact that the PA, as an entity, has been created solely for this purpose, as a “tool” to be used by Israel.

However, in October Abbas threatned to reconsider the co-operation unless a framework for ending the Israeli occupation was set in motion. Some say Israel’s greatest loss during Operation Protective Edge was the battle for public opinion. Abbas may have lost this battle too. He seemed to do very little as the Gaza Strip was pulverised, his leaked conversations with the Qatari Emir made him seem bitter and his speech at the UN a last ditched grapple for public support. Shortly before the Gaza offensive, his continued belief in negotiations left him publically humiliated after Kerry’s peace talks collapsed amid settlement building. Meanwhile, Hamas was seen to resist the mighty military force of Israel with homemade projectiles.

Just before the latest offensive, a June public opinion poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research showed that PA President Mahmoud Abbas was winning the trust of 53 percent of Palestinians, while Hamas’ Gaza leader Ismail Haniyeh received the support of 41 percent. According to PCPSR, 61 percent of Palestinians would vote for Haniyeh after the hostilities had ceased.

Since then, the tables have turned to some degree, possibly aided by diplomatic successes such as the recognition of the state of Palestine by Sweden and in the UK House of Commons, alongside the huge pledges of aid for Gaza’s reconstruction. The latest poll by the same group showed that Abbas’ approval rating more than doubled.

However, Israel’s moves to partition Al-Aqsa only highlight the symbolic nature of such recognition and demonstrate how far the reality of a two state solution along the 1967 borders really is. Reports of the PA crushing protests condemning this partition soon after their security forces killed a Palestinian man in a night time raid may demonstrate to the Palestinian people that Abbas is more concerned with establishing a closer relationship to Israel, than with the other part of its unity government.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.