Mar 12 2015

Shooting of Fatah activist could doom security cooperation

Published by at 12:13 pm under Articles,Palestinian politics


By Daoud Kuttab

The Feb. 24 shooting death of 19-year-old Palestinian Jihad al-Jaafari by Israeli troops may have killed the last remaining working feature of the Oslo Accord — the 21-year-old agreement for security coordination between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his security forces have been stubbornly resisting calls to end security coordination, which has been one of the key guarantors of Israeli security and continuity of the Palestinian government.

In the early morning hours of Feb. 24, Israeli military units entered the Dheisheh refugee camp, situated in Area A, under Palestinian security control. The camp is two kilometers (1.2 miles) south of the main headquarters of the Palestinian National Guard in Bethlehem. According to the Oslo Accord, Israelis army units are forbidden in the areas under Palestinian security control, but years of Israeli violations have produced a simple unwritten understanding that when Israeli troops arrive, Palestinian security forces withdraw from the scene, and the local population normally engages them, throwing stones at the well-armed soldiers.

At 3 a.m., the Israeli effort to apprehend Saleh J’uedi failed because by the time they got to his home in the refugee camp, he was no longer there. As has been the custom in such situations, local youths pelt the invading soldiers with stones, but all the troops normally leave, with or without the person they had come to detain. There is no recent record of an Israeli soldier dying from Palestinians throwing stones at them. Israel’s own rules of engagement forbid shooting live ammunition unless the life of a soldier is in danger. Contrary to this rule, Israeli soldiers responded with what Suheir Ismael, a local activist, told Al-Monitor was “an extraordinary heavy barrage of live ammunition.” Jaafari was hit and died on the way to the hospital. According to Ismael, Jaafari had been active in the Abbas-affiliated Fatah movement.

The speaker of the Palestinian National Council, Salim Zanoun, called a meeting of the 124-member Palestinian Central Council at the Muqata presidential headquarters in Ramallah March 4-5 to decide on issues concerning the future of the Palestinian national struggle. In addition to Palestine’s joining the International Criminal Courtand the ramifications of having done so, another issue for discussion will be the future of security coordination with Israel.

According to Al-Monitor sources, the need to appoint a vice president will also be on the agenda. Abbas is 79 years old and has repeatedly said he does not plan to run for re-election. One of the individuals rumored to be a prospect for this coveted position and who would likely succeed Abbas is Majed Farraj, chief of the Palestinian intelligence directorate. Farraj, who often conducts sensitive talks with the Americans and Israelis, hails from the Dheisheh refugee camp.

Meanwhile, the Fatah movement is preparing to convene its seventh congress, which will cement the faction’s plans for Abbas’ succession and most likely elect a new crop of leaders that will undoubtedly be dominated by people born and raised in the occupied territories, much like Farraj, the late government Minister Ziad Abu Ain and and other activists.

Security coordination, which was meant to provide peace and tranquility for both Israelis and Palestinians, has evolved only to safeguard Israelis while trampling on Palestinians. With Palestinians seriously considering their strategic future in light of the Israelis’ refusal for the third month in a row to turn over Palestinian taxes collected on their behalf, and given of the decision by a US court to hold the Palestine Liberation Organization and the PA liable for hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation for Israeli Americans injured or killed during the second intifada in 2008, calls for dismantling the Palestinian-run PA are on the rise.

Whether the Palestinians turn in the keys, as they are threatening, or whether their government will collapse, remains undecided, but what is clear is that a decision on Palestinian-Israeli security coordination will be the key indicator of where things stand. Given Israeli disregard for Palestinian demands or reciprocity in the coordination effort, and the recent killing of a Fatah activist in an area that both sides agree is under Palestinian security control, the future of security coordination is obviously in jeopardy.

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