‘Blue-and-white’ operation to apprehend terrorists

Analysis: Due to the brutality by terrorists in the murder of children, the IDF will not rely on anyone else as it hunts for those responsible.

Soldiers at Itamar settlement 311 (photo credit: REUTERS/Nir Elias)
Soldiers at Itamar settlement 311
(photo credit: REUTERS/Nir Elias)
In recent years, since the deployment of American-trained Palestinian security forces in the West Bank, the IDF has in many cases relied on the PA to arrest terror suspects, and sometimes even those known to have been behind attacks against Israel.
But the operation to apprehend the terrorists who murdered five members of the Fogel family as they slept in their beds in their home in Itamar on Friday night will be completely “blue-and-white.”
RELATED:IDF hunting for perpetrators of brutal Itamar killingsPM promises to bring Fogel family killers to justice
This time, due to the type of attack and the brutality it took to murder sleeping children, the IDF will not be relying on anyone else as it hunts for those responsible.
The attack in Itamar catches Israel three months into 2011, and after the quietest “security year” the country has experienced in a decade. In 2010, nine Israelis were killed in Palestinian terrorist attacks, compared to 15 in 2009 and close to 40 in the year before.
It also came after a year during which IDF commanders met close to 700 times with their Palestinian counterparts, coordinating security operations and the PA forces’ deployment throughout the West Bank.
Just last month, the Central Command decided to remove the Hawara checkpoint at the southern entrance to Nablus, just before the turnoff to Itamar, allowing free movement from northern Samaria to other parts of the West Bank.
On Saturday, the checkpoint was restored, at least for the time being.
The IDF does not plan on changing its current work relationship with the PA security establishment, and after the perpetrators behind the attack are caught, business will likely go back to usual as the sides continue to meet, coordinate operations and facilitate the US and European support of the PA.
The lull in terrorism in 2010 was a direct result of this coordination and the PA crackdown on Hamas and other terrorist groups in the West Bank – not a result of anynewfound love for Zionism, but out of an understanding that if it is not done, Hamas will take over Ramallah as it took over Gaza in 2007.
The joint work with the PA and the IDF’s ability to cut back on the number of operations inside Palestinian cities has allowed the military to also cut back, over the past year, the number of soldiers it maintains in the West Bank on a regular basis, reaching some of the lowest numbers since before the second intifada erupted in 2000.
The IDF did not have any specific intelligence regarding Friday’s attack. It had, however, placed forces and settlement security teams on high alert in recent weeks amid fears of infiltrations, due to the increased tension and clashes between settlers and Palestinians.
The assessment within the IDF is that the perpetrators acted alone and did not belong to an established terrorist organization like Hamas or Islamic Jihad. They might be affiliated with one group or another, but their motive could be the growing tension with settlers, or the wave of delegitimization of Israel, and particularly the settlements, sweeping throughout the Palestinian cities and towns.
Despite the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt and the violent rebellion in Libya, the West Bank has remained quiet. On Tuesday, this is expected to change, with Palestinians planning several massive demonstrations to protest against Israel and in support of Fatah-Hamas unity. The IDF will need to be careful about how it responds both to Friday’s attack and to the upcoming demonstrations; to prevent further escalation, it will also need to work to try and rein in the usual “price tag” settler retaliatory attacks.
Politically speaking, all eyes will be on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. While he challenged the world on Saturday to unite in denouncing the attack in Itamar in strong and unequivocal terms, Netanyahu is said to be in the midst of writing a new groundbreaking diplomatic speech in which, some predict, he will call for the establishment of a Palestinian state within temporary borders.
The attack in Itamar could serve as Netanyahu’s excuse for getting out of something he never wanted to do in the first place.