Palestinian Authority says working 'to prevent violence’

‘Israeli measures, settler attacks could lead to intifada’

Students from the University of Birzeit clash with Israeli security forces (unseen) near the West Bank city of Ramallah, on July 24, 2017.  (photo credit: FLASH90)
Students from the University of Birzeit clash with Israeli security forces (unseen) near the West Bank city of Ramallah, on July 24, 2017.
(photo credit: FLASH90)
The Palestinian Authority is working to prevent an upsurge in violence in the West Bank and continues to support “peaceful” protests against Israel, a senior PA official said Monday.
However, “Israeli policies and measures against Palestinians could lead to a popular uprising,” he warned.
The official told The Jerusalem Post he did not believe Sunday’s terrorist shooting attack at Tapuah junction near Nablus, which left two yeshiva students critically wounded, was directly related to PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s decision last week to indefinitely postpone the Palestinian parliamentary and presidential elections.
“Such attacks are not new, and they often take place in response to the practices of the Israeli government, army and settlers against Palestinians,” the official said.
Israeli security restrictions in the Old City of Jerusalem, which have led to nightly clashes between dozens of youths and police officers, are among several reasons behind the mounting tensions, the official said.
“The recent [Jerusalem District Court] decision to evict dozens of families from their homes in [the east Jerusalem suburb of] Sheikh Jarrah, daily provocations by settlers at al-Aqsa Mosque and a ban on Ramadan celebrations at Damascus Gate have created a very bad atmosphere,” the official told the Post. “Some Palestinian factions are using these incidents to call for attacks on Israel.”
Over the past few weeks, the PA, Hamas and other Palestinian factions have called on Palestinians to “confront increased attacks by Jewish settlers and extremists” and Israeli security measures against Palestinians, particularly in east Jerusalem and the northern West Bank.
In addition, they have called for protests against the planned eviction of families from Sheikh Jarrah. An Israeli court has ruled that their homes had belonged to Jewish families before 1948.
Abbas’s decision to delay the Palestinian presidential and legislative elections, which were slated for May 22 and July 31, respectively, has triggered a wave of protests in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The protests have thus far remained confined to social-media platforms, with only a few small demonstrations in Ramallah and the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave.
By accusing Israel of preventing the elections from taking place in Jerusalem, Abbas has whipped up anti-Israel sentiment among the Palestinians. His opponents accuse him of using the Jerusalem dispute as a pretext for delaying the vote.
Many Palestinians in the West Bank are angry with Abbas, but they are afraid to launch large-scale protests against him for fear of being targeted by the PA security forces or Fatah gunmen. On Saturday night, shots were fired at the home of a parliament candidate near Hebron who called on the European Union to halt funding to the PA in response to Abbas’s postponement of the elections.
The PA leadership, on the other hand, continues to encourage Palestinians to engage in “popular resistance” activities against soldiers and settlers. Some Palestinians have interpreted “popular resistance” as a green light for carrying out terrorist attacks.
Meanwhile, the assessment in the PA is that the Tapuah junction terrorist attack was carried out to embarrass Abbas and drag the PA leadership into a confrontation with Israel. The PA believes those behind such attacks are hoping that Israel would retaliate by targeting Abbas and his security forces.
According to the PA official, the Palestinian security forces are “determined to prevent any group or individual from carrying out operations that could harm the national interests of the Palestinians.”
The ongoing security coordination between PA security forces and the IDF could prevent similar terrorist attacks in the West Bank in the future. The PA leadership’s continuing incitement against Israel, nonetheless, could undermine its own alleged effort to prevent terrorism.
In light of the rising tensions between the PA and Hamas, as well as other factions, in the aftermath of the postponement of the elections, there is a high likelihood that Abbas’s rivals, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, will continue their efforts to carry out terrorist attacks against Israel, both in the West Bank and from the Gaza Strip.