Two recent examples prove that the Israeli-Palestinian “security coordination” is nothing but a bluff that predominantly serves Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah Party to rid itself of its own political rivals from Hamas.
On February 27, the IDF arrested suspected terrorist Zakariya Zubeidi.
Zubeidi was involved in numerous terrorist attacks during the PA-initiated terror war that raged from September 2000 through 2005. In one of the attacks, six Israelis were murdered.
Despite his involvement in terrorism, in 2005, at the request of the then-new President Abbas, Zubeidi was taken off Israel’s wanted terrorist list in return for him ceasing his terrorist activities. Having broken his prior commitment, in 2007, again at the request of Abbas, Zubeidi was included in a wider Israeli-Palestinian agreement that saw him removed for a second time from Israel’s wanted terrorist list in return for him ceasing his terrorist activities.
In 2014, while I was serving as the head of the Military Prosecution for Judea and Samaria, it become clear that Zubeidi had again broken his commitment when he was implicated in a shooting attack on the Samaria Military Court.
Nonetheless, Zubeidi remained free, intermittently subjected to differing “protective” measures taken by the PA security forces to prevent his arrest by Israel.
Despite these measures, Zubeidi was finally arrested by IDF forces and was indicted for multiple counts of murder and a number of counts of attempted murder.
Immediately upon Zubeidi’s arrest, Abbas’s office condemned the arrest of “senior Palestinian officials such as... Fatah Revolutionary Council member Zakariya Zubeidi.”
Since it is inconceivable that the PA security forces were unaware of Zubeidi’s terrorist activities, the question begs: Why did Abbas condemn the arrest of the terrorist instead of proudly saying that he was arrested as part of the security coordination?
The second example is similarly telling.
On March 17, Palestinian terrorist Omar Abu Laila, a Fatah supporter, murdered soldier Gal Keidan and Rabbi Ahiad Ettinger, a father of 12 children. Two days later, Abu Laila was killed during an attempt by the IDF to arrest him.
Following Abu Laila’s death, Hamas said the operation would not have been possible “without the close security cooperation with the PA security forces.”
Instead of affirming that the operation to arrest the terrorist double murderer had been a product of the so-called “security coordination,” PA Police Commissioner Maj.-Gen. Hazem Atallah denied any PA involvement in the event.
The PA “spiritual father” of the security coordination is none other than Abbas himself. Since deposing the democratically elected Hamas government in 2006, and more so since 2007 when Hamas terrorists violently seized control of the Gaza Strip, Fatah and Hamas have been involved in a never-ending power struggle. Abbas has done all he can to prevent Hamas taking control in Judea and Samaria as well.
Suddenly, Israel and the PA had a common enemy: Hamas.
Seizing the opportunity, Abbas realized that he could potentially kill two birds with one stone. By providing Israel with information about Hamas terrorists, Abbas could not only appease Israel and receive benefits for Fatah terrorists, but he could also persuade the US to foot the bill.
The only problem was, Abbas never intended for there to be real cooperation to fight all terrorism. Rather, he only wanted a means to rid himself of his own Hamas rivals in Judea and Samaria. Fatah terrorists were never the subject of the security coordination.
When the US and Israel enacted legislation in 2018 to combat the Palestinian Authority’s “pay-for-slay” policy – a policy by which the PA squanders hundreds of millions of dollars every year to pay financial rewards to terrorist prisoners, released terrorist prisoners and the families of dead terrorists – many commentators responded by saying that the move would potentially negatively affect Israeli-Palestinian security coordination.
When the US passed the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act (ATCA), which conditioned the provision of any aid to the PA on its acceptance of the jurisdiction of the US courts to hear cases against the PA for its involvement in terrorism, the PA responded by rejecting all the US aid, including the more than $60 million a year devoted to the security coordination.
The fear of negatively effecting the security coordination even spurred some to suggest an amendment to the ATCA to provide a loophole to continue funding the security coordination.
What these commentators fail to understand is that while Israel reaps the partial benefit of arresting Hamas terrorists, the security coordination is not in danger since it serves the PA and Fatah no less than it serves Israel.
Throwing money at the PA has always proved to be ineffectual at influencing its decisions. If Abbas decides to end the security coordination, he will do so as a result of his desire to reconcile with Hamas, and not because of any aid the PA may or may not be receiving.
The writer is head of legal strategies for Palestinian Media Watch and a lieutenant-colonel (res.) who served for 19 years in the IDF Military Advocate General Corps. In his last position he served as director of Military Prosecution in Judea and Samaria.