Why did the Palestinian premier visit Jenin refugee camp?

Palestinian PM Mohammad Shtayyeh’s visit aimed to send a message to the residents that the PA stands with them despite its refusal to send its security forces to clash with the IDF.

Mohammad Shtayyeh gestures during a Palestinian leadership meeting in Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank February 20, 2019.  (photo credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS)
Mohammad Shtayyeh gestures during a Palestinian leadership meeting in Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank February 20, 2019.
(photo credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS)

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh’s surprise visit to Jenin Refugee Camp on Sunday aimed to send messages to both the Palestinian public and Israel.

The official reason for the visit was to offer condolences to the families of a number of Palestinians killed by the IDF during recent armed clashes in the camp.

But the visit is seen by some Palestinians as an attempt by the PA to show that it has not turned its back on the residents of the camp, especially the families of the slain gunmen.

The camp residents have often criticized the PA and its security forces for failing to confront IDF troops when they enter the area to arrest suspected terrorists.

Shtayyeh’s visit aimed to send a message to the residents that the PA stands with them despite its refusal to send its security forces to clash with the IDF.

People carry the body of Mahmoud Samoudi, 12, who died of a wound he sustained during an Israeli raid in Jenin, during his funeral in the West Bank, October 10, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/RANEEN SAWAFTA)People carry the body of Mahmoud Samoudi, 12, who died of a wound he sustained during an Israeli raid in Jenin, during his funeral in the West Bank, October 10, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/RANEEN SAWAFTA)

PA security forces rarely enter the camp, a hub of armed groups belonging to Fatah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas.

The visit also came amid growing criticism of the ongoing security coordination between the PA security forces and the IDF in the West Bank.

Shtayyeh’s rivals in Hamas and PIJ said the main goal of the visit was to embellish the image of the PA, noting the fiery anti-Israel speech he delivered in the presence of the gunmen.

Shtayyeh praised the “martyrs” and accused Israel of “funding its election campaign with Palestinian blood.” He added: “We know for sure that Israel does not want peace. The blood of the martyrs will not go in vain.”

The message Shtayyeh sought to send to Israel was that, contrary to its claims, the PA has not lost control of the situation in the northern West Bank, specifically Jenin and Nablus.

Another message: Don’t expect the PA to crack down on the armed groups as long as the IDF continues its security crackdown in the West Bank.

Finally, Shtayyeh’s visit to Jenin Refugee Camp may be seen in the context of the battle of succession in the PA.

In recent years, Shtayyeh has adopted a hardline approach toward Israel in a clear attempt to score points with the Palestinian public, thereby boosting his chances of succeeding PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

For Shtayyeh, his very presence in a refugee camp alongside masked gunmen and the families of “martyrs” is the best way to present himself as a suitable candidate to succeed the 87-year-old Abbas.