Netanyahu and Abbas.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered a personal apology to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas earlier this week after IDF troops engaged in a tense standoff with the rais’ personal security detail just outside his home in Ramallah during a nighttime arrest raid, according to an Internet report.
The story, which was first reported by journalist Barbara Opall-Rome of the Defense News web site, claims that the Palestinians were enraged by what they viewed as Israel’s “utter disregard” of their sovereignty over Area A, the sections of West Bank land which Jerusalem recognized as the domain of the Palestinian Authority by dint of the 1993 Oslo Accords.
According to Defense News
, the confrontation, which had the potential to devolve into a full-blown clash, was triggered when Israeli special forces seeking to arrest terror suspects in south Ramallah sought to enter an area adjacent to Abbas’ residence that was cordoned off by his secret service.
When the Palestinian officers refused the IDF’s attempts to further encroach on the premises, a “heated face-off ensued,” according to the report. Israeli and Palestinian commanders at the scene were engaged in heated arguments for about 15 minutes before the IDF unit decided to take an alternate route and avoid a diplomatic crisis.
The story quotes senior Israeli and Palestinian security officials who confirmed the incident did indeed take place.
"Our soldiers came to the barrier that blocked off the street and told their soldiers to lower their weapons, that we needed to work here," an Israeli official told Defense News
"The security of Abu Mazen [Abbas] started arguing, and after a few minutes, our soldiers understood. They took a different route. There was no violence; just shouting and perhaps pushing."
The Palestinians were so enraged that they phoned the Civil Administration, which is the Israeli government department that handles all non-military aspects of its rule over the West Bank. The Israelis, in turn, sent a formal apology from Netanyahu.
"They apologized for what they claim was a mistake," a senior Palestinian commander told Defense News
. "I'm not sure it was a mistake, but Netanyahu sent his apology."
Saeb Erekat, the PA’s chief peace negotiator who recently took up his new position as secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, fumed over the incident, telling Defense News
: "It was a despicable act. They ordered Abu Mazen's guards to disappear. … This wasn't published, but it happened. They were practically in his garden, approaching his house just to tell him 'We're here.' As if he needs to be reminded. Personally, I don't know why Abu Mazen is taking all of this. I honestly don't know."
When asked for comment, the IDF expressed regret over the incident.
"This was not planned,” a military source told Defense News
. “It was an unfortunate event; and we will draw lessons from it as we continue to function in all areas where our security forces have the need to operate."