West Bank lawlessness is a threat to Israelis and Palestinians alike - editorial

The lawlessness in the West Bank is not just a threat to human life, it is also responsible for incidents that are of international importance to Israel.

 Family and friends mourn during the funeral procession of Tiran Fero, an israeli teenager whose body was kidnapped from a hospital in Jenin by palestinian gunmen and returned to Israel tonight, in Daliyat al-Karmel, northern Israel, November 24, 2022 (photo credit: SHIR TOREM/FLASH90)
Family and friends mourn during the funeral procession of Tiran Fero, an israeli teenager whose body was kidnapped from a hospital in Jenin by palestinian gunmen and returned to Israel tonight, in Daliyat al-Karmel, northern Israel, November 24, 2022
(photo credit: SHIR TOREM/FLASH90)

This week an Israeli teenager, Tiran Fero, drove with a friend from his home in Daliat al-Carmel near Haifa to Jenin. Upon entering the West Bank city, they accidentally crashed their car and were taken to a local hospital for treatment.

Then, at some point Palestinian gunmen entered the hospital – while Ferro was fighting for his life – they unplugged the machines to which he was attached and kidnapped him, while his father and uncle took cover in the corner. Ferro quickly died and the captors kept his body.

After more than 24 hours of pressure and negotiations, the Palestinian Authority was able to secure the release of Ferro’s body and it was returned to his family for burial.

Kidnapping a person from a hospital is a severe violation of human rights

Why are we accepting lawlessness in Palestinian cities?

However, we have been conditioned to accept the lawless and murderous situation that is developing in places like Jenin, Nablus and other Palestinian cities.

Family of Tiran Fero waiting to receive the teenager's body. (credit: COGAT SPOKESPERSON)Family of Tiran Fero waiting to receive the teenager's body. (credit: COGAT SPOKESPERSON)

While Israel’s authorities thank the PA for “taking action to return Tiran Ferro of blessed memory, to his family,” the reality is that the Palestinian Authority has enabled this lawlessness.

The PA is the recipient of huge largesse internationally. Probably per capita, the West Bank has received more international financial support than any other place in the world over the last decades. 

This has included European Union support for Palestinian police institutions and US support for the Palestinian Security Forces.

However, despite almost two decades of all this support for law and order and institutions, basic things like treating a victim of a car accident and not letting a body be kidnapped from a hospital elude their security forces.

This kind of lawless criminal behavior is not an aberration. Recently, Israel and the PA have been forced to take on the gunmen of the rogue Lions’ Den group in Nablus.

This is in addition to the daily raids in the West Bank under Operation Breaking the Wave that the IDF undertakes.

It was one of these raids that led to the death of Shireen Abu Akleh in a gun battle between Israeli forces and Palestinian terrorists – that has resulted in international condemnation of Israel and even an FBI investigation of Israel’s actions.

The lawlessness, therefore, is not just a threat to human life and a violation of basic rights of human dignity, such as being treated in a hospital; it is also responsible for incidents that are of international importance to Israel.

The lawlessness could also represent an emerging threat to Israel and the Palestinians. This is because it appears there is a flood of illegal firearms in the West Bank. 

The images of Palestinians killed in recent gun battles with Israeli forces has illustrated that many of the Palestinians have access to an arsenal of M-16s and other types of arms.

The men who use these weapons are now turning them on the PA and seem to be taking over more areas in the West Bank, exerting more influence.

With the leadership of the PA aging and increasingly out of touch with average people, the institutions decaying and lawlessness spreading, it’s imperative for all those who care about peace and stability to focus on reducing the role that lawless gangs, armed men, militants and terrorists are playing in the West Bank.

Israeli authorities coordinate with the Palestinians on a variety of issues, as the return of Ferro exemplifies

However, both sides, as well as the US, EU and other international players, need to take a realistic assessment of how we can improve the situation.

Israelis cannot be complacent

We must not be complacent in this time when Israel’s government is changing and when the Palestinian Authority knows that its aging leadership will also need to transition one day.

Our adversaries, whether it is Iran or extremist groups or local gunmen, want to eat away at law and order and threaten security. The terrorist bombings in Jerusalem this week are yet another example of that phenomenon.

A situation must arise wherein the kidnapping of a hospitalized victim by a gang of thugs is not the new normal. It’s a huge challenge for Israel’s new government as well as for the PA.