Analysis: Going down with a fight?

Every mishap and botched operation will be used as ammo by the PA against Israel - this time, Israel is not giving up without a fight.

Jawaher Abu Rahma Bil'in 311 (photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
Jawaher Abu Rahma Bil'in 311
(photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
In January 2007, then prime minister Ehud Olmert flew to Egypt for talks with President Hosni Mubarak. Several hours later, and as the two leaders had sat down for talks, the IDF entered Ramallah in broad daylight to arrest a terror suspect. In the ensuing operation, which was broadcast live on Al Jazeera, three Palestinians were killed and another 30 were wounded.
Olmert was deeply embarrassed and in response ordered the IDF to enact new operational procedures for approving operations in the West Bank that could have an adverse effect on ongoing diplomatic processes. The general who approved that operation in 2007 was, interestingly enough, Maj.-Gen. Yair Naveh, recently brought back from retirement to serve as the deputy to Yoav Galant, who will take up the post of chief of staff next month.
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Nowadays, there is no diplomatic process and that is exactly why such operations are all the more dangerous. While the IDF does not enter Ramallah anymore in broad daylight due to the lull in terrorism and outstanding ties and cooperation it has established with Palestinian security forces, in the absence of peace talks – every mishap and every botched operation will be used as ammo by the Palestinian Authority against Israel.
This is the case with the death of 35-year-old Jawahar Abu Rahma. The Palestinians claim Abu Rahma was killed by IDF-fired tear gas during an anti-security barrier demonstration near Bilin on Friday. The IDF has pointed to serious discrepancies with the Palestinian claims to the point that it might be possible that Abu Rahma wasn’t even at the demonstration.
Until a picture of Abu Rahma at the demonstration is brought forward, the IDF questions will remain intact. The basic question of what she really died from has also yet to be answered. Yes, the Palestinians now admit that she was hospitalized in the past. But no, it was not due to cancer as the type of medicines she received on Friday might indicate.
According to Lt.-Col. (res.) Dr. Maurice Rogev, former head of the IDF’s Legal Medical Bureau, the only real way to determine if someone was killed by tear gas is through an autopsy, which was apparently not done in the case of Abu Rahma. Most lives, Rogev explained, would not be at risk by tear gas, but those of people with a preexisting heart or respiratory condition would be.
Was this the case with Abu Rahma? Unclear.
What is interesting to note is the way the IDF has pushed back against this story. The credit, in this case, goes to OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Avi Mizrachi, a no-nonsense tank officer who has decided to fight back against PA efforts to delegitimize Israel and particularly the IDF.
Mizrachi enjoys close ties with the PA security leadership and as published in The Jerusalem Post several months ago is considering a PA request to allow Israeli Jews to visit Palestinian cities in Area A, territory currently off limits to Israelis.
On the other hand though, Mizrachi is disturbed by the escalating anti-Israel rhetoric and particularly by calls from the Palestinian side to boycott Israel and undermine Israel’s fundamental rights as a state.
Some people have drawn comparisons between Abu Rahma and the Muhammad al-Dura affair. The main difference is that in 2000 the IDF did not overly challenge the Palestinian and international claims that its soldiers had killed the 12-year-old boy in Gaza. This likely contributed to al-Dura being turned into an icon still used today against Israel.
For this reason and others, Mizrachi ordered his staff on Saturday to immediately investigate the story of Abu Rahma’s death. While the truth has yet to come out, one thing is clear – Israel is not giving up this time without a fight.