A number of Hamas cadres in the West Bank have been arrested by the Israeli army in recent weeks. This has raised questions about security coordination with the occupation authorities, as it has become common for Israel to arrest prisoners a day after they are released by the Palestinian Authority as part of the revolving door policy adopted by both sides.
The commander of the Israeli army in the West Bank, General Eran Niv, has expressed his satisfaction with this security coordination; without it, he believes that Israel would have faced a substantial increase in armed operations. He claimed that the army had confiscated 100 kilograms of explosives in Jenin; arrested two Hamas cells in Nablus and Hebron that had built two explosives laboratories and planned attacks; thwarted 200 resistance operations; and arrested 3,000 Palestinians.
Niv noted that the level of security coordination with the Palestinian security agencies has reached unprecedented levels. However, such overt Israeli praise will expose senior Palestinian figures as collaborators with the occupation, which will be embarrassing for them.
The current level of coordination between the PA and Israel goes beyond political commitments. It reveals the actual alignment between the PA and Israel against the resistance: information is exchanged and members of resistance groups are arrested, exacerbating the difficult situation of such groups in the occupied West Bank. According to senior Israeli security officers, the coordination relies on the backing of the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas.
The head of the Research Division in Israeli Military Intelligence, Brigadier General Dror Shalom is one such officer. “The relations between Israel and the PA, the attempt to uphold day-to-day life and improve the economic situation, and especially effective security coordination with the Palestinian security services, depend to a large extent on Abbas,” explained Shalom. “A lot of people in Israel see him as an inciter, but he is key to the quiet that has been in effect since 2006… I find it hard to imagine anyone who would present more moderate or pragmatic positions than Abbas. We need to take that into consideration.”
Right-wing Israeli writer Nadav Haetzni said that the heads of the Israeli security services provide Abbas with complete cover, especially senior generals in the Israeli army, Mossad and the Shin Bet security service. All, he has claimed, position themselves to defend Abbas and his PA. According to the head of Shin Bet, Nadav Argaman, he and his colleagues are recruiting other senior officers to defend Abbas’s security services in the West Bank, and continue to support them by pumping funds to the authority.
Members of the Palestinian security services sneak into the West Bank disguised as Israeli Special Forces in their attempts to capture members of Hamas who are wanted by Israel. Recently-released prisoners are also re-arrested and taken to unknown locations, even though they have just left an Israeli jail a few days earlier, after spending several years in prison. Some of them are very ill. Such re-arrests are common to both the Israeli and the Palestinian security services. Recent victims include political researcher Yasser Manna, Marwan Astita and teacher Muawiya Hanani. A few days after being released by the PA they were picked up by the Israelis at their homes in Nablus, along with former prisoner Mahmoud Kharouf on his way home to Qalqilya. Palestinian political detainee Alaa Bashir is another who has been affected by this “revolving door” arrest policy.
The policy is nothing new, and is now out in the open and well-known. The problem with this is that the PA and Israel are arresting Palestinians on the same charge. The Israelis are no longer content with the PA arresting activists, because they do not trust the PA to provide the information they need, so Israel must also arrest the individual again for questioning about the same case. The policy means that the occupation authorities and the PA basically take turns to arrest resistance cadres. Any announcements to the contrary by Abbas about stopping security coordination are simply for media consumption.
There is very little difference on the modus operandi of the Israeli and PA security services. Each escort the other through checkpoints and their own areas of control to facilitate arrests. Those who have been arrested and interrogated by one side only to be re-arrested by the other speak of the same information being told to them by the second batch of interrogators, on an almost word for word basis. The Palestinian security services also boast of returning Israelis who entered West Bank cities “by mistake” back to the Israeli army in the context of security coordination, while the PA has also transferred a number of detainees from prisons in the West Bank through Israeli military checkpoints.
All of this confirms that security coordination between the Palestinian Authority and Israel continues despite supposed political disagreements and differences between Ramallah and Tel Aviv. Abbas may claim that he has severed ties with Israel, but the facts on the ground suggest that security coordination in particular is still very much a fact of West Bank life. What goes on behind closed doors reveals the true nature of the relationship between the PA and Israel. While Israel has been attacking Abbas, accusing him of rejecting the peace process and being a hostile leader who must be dismissed, it is also working with him extensively to prevent the deterioration of the security situation that could trigger the third intifada.
Despite the decisions of the Palestine National Council, Palestinian Central Council and Palestinian Legislative Council to stop security coordination with Israel, Abbas still meets with Shin Bet’s Nadav Argaman every now and again in Ramallah. Security relations between the two sides have never been better.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.