PA police chief confirms security cooperation with Israel back on track

By
November 8, 2017 14:37

In July, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced that security coordination was halted in response to Israel’s placement of metal detectors near the entrances to the Temple Mount.

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Israeli security forces remove Palestinian flag from the Temple Mount (Credit: Yeshivat HaKotel)

Israeli security forces remove Palestinian flag from the Temple Mount (Credit: Yeshivat HaKotel)

The Palestinian Authority has completely restored security coordination with Israel, PA police chief Hazem Atallah said on Wednesday.

“They are coordinating. Everyone is coordinating now,” he said when asked if all the PA security forces resumed security coordination with Israel. The decision was made two weeks ago, he said.

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Atallah was speaking at an event organized by the Foreign Press Association at the Carmel Hotel in Ramallah.

In July, PA President Mahmoud Abbas announced that security coordination was halted in response to Israel’s placement of metal detectors near the entrances to the Temple Mount, a site holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims.

However, Atallah said security coordination between the PA police and Israel largely never stopped.

“Even when it was stopped or cut or frozen or whatever, that did not apply to the police,” he said. “We don’t work for politics; we work for people.”

According to Atallah, the only aspect of security coordination that was halted between the police and Israel was joint field meetings.

“So 95 [percent], if not more, of the activities of the police were working,” he said.

Regarding other branches of the PA security forces, such as the Preventive Security Service and the General Intelligence Service, Atallah did not say how security coordination had been halted.

In many respects, the police had no choice but to maintain security coordination with Israel, he said.

For example, Atallah said, the police cannot transfer prisoners through Israeli-controlled parts of the West Bank without security coordination.

Israel controls a majority of the West Bank’s territory.

Security coordination is highly unpopular in the Palestinian territories.

Seventy-three percent of Palestinians supported Abbas’s decision to suspend security coordination with Israel in July, a September poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found.

When asked to confirm a Ynet report that PA security forces thwarted seven attacks against Israelis in the West Bank in October, Atallah said: “Anybody who is trying to destroy stability and security is going to be arrested and stopped... This is our orders, clear orders.”

According to multiple Israeli and international reports, over the past two years, PA security forces have foiled hundreds of attacks in the West Bank that were supposed to target Israelis.

Atallah also reiterated Abbas’s position that the PA would not accept a scenario in which it takes responsibility for Gaza and Hamas’s armed wing, Izzadin Kassam, holds onto its weapons.

In mid-October, Egypt brokered an agreement between Fatah and Hamas to advance reconciliation efforts and restore the PA’s governing authority in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas has controlled Gaza since ousting the Fatah-dominated PA in 2007 from the territory.

“No way,” Atallah said when asked if he would accept Izzadin Kassam maintaining control of their weapons. “It is impossible.

How can I maintain security when there are all these rockets and guns and whatever? Is this possible? It doesn’t work.”

Over the past several weeks, many Hamas officials have dismissed the possibility of disarming Izzadin Kassam.

“Disarming us is like Satan dreaming of heaven. No one can take away our weapons,” Hamas chief in Gaza Yahya Sinwar said on October 19, al-Shehab, a Gaza-based news site, reported.

Izzadin Kassam is comprised of some 25,000 members who possess hundreds of guns, rockets and other weapons.

Atallah also said he plans to call up the 8,000-9,000 police officers who worked for the PA before Hamas took over Gaza to run the police in the territory.

“These are the officers who I will work with as chief of police,” he said.

Hamas officials have said the PA should integrate the police officers the Islamist movement has appointed since taking over Gaza.

But Atallah’s comments suggest he has no plan to do that.

Atallah also said Israel has been holding up the transfer of motorcycles donated to the PA by the Americans at Ashdod Port for 40 days.

He said Israel informed him two days ago that it plans to transfer the motorcycles to the PA traffic police, but they are still sitting at the port.

Israel also has denied the PA access to DNA tests, Atallah said.

“Why don’t we have these tests? It’s not because we are stupid,” he said. “It’s not because we don’t have qualified officers. It’s not because we don’t have a place. We have a lab. It’s because the Israelis are not giving us this test.”

Israel must approve all weapons and equipment given to or purchased by the PA security forces.

In response to a question about the motorcycles and DNA tests, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories unit said it “upholds ongoing communications with the Palestinian Authority’s security officials.”

According to an Israeli security source, the motorcycles were released to customs this week. The source did not say when they would be in the PA’s hands.


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