Despite accusations of Israeli policies of “ethnic cleansing” or “Apartheid” against the Arabs living throughout Judea and Samaria, simply traveling the roads of areas ‘B’ or ‘C’ where Jewish and Arab motorists are in fact sharing the same pavement disproves this accusation.
Ironically it is the Jews with Israeli identity cards who are forbidden under Israeli law from traveling or even setting foot in areas ‘A,’ which fall under complete Palestinian security and municipal control. Sometimes this discrimination can make traveling a complete hassle for Jewish commuters.
A perfect example is the Arab-only highway known as the ‘Quality of Life’ road which runs East/West, located just north of the Jewish community of Beit Horon connecting Route 443 to Ramallah.
Arabs living in villages along the route can get to Ramallah in a matter of minutes, but for Jews who are trying to reach communities in the Western Binyamin region, they are forced to take a complete detour heading West up 443, then North, and finally East, taking close to an hour to get to places like Talmon, Dolev, and other towns.
Despite the delays on the roads and the overall restrictions on Jews from entering areas ‘A’, I have no doubt that most Israelis refrain from trying to visit the cities of Ramallah, Jenin, and Tulkarem etc. not because of the law, but because most would be afraid that a exploration of these areas might become a one-way trip.
The images of the bloody hands of a young Palestinian proudly held up for the cameras outside a Ramallah window are fresh, he was one of the members of a lynch mob who brutally murdered two Israeli reservists who made a wrong turn and entered the city during the 2nd intifada, only to be captured and beaten to death with their bodies thrown out the window and dragged through the streets. No doubt this memory still resonates with those of us whose long term recollections (or perhaps one could argue short-term) remain intact.
It is those images and the thousands of others from that war of terror that send shivers down my spine when I see official Palestinian Authority police vehicles traveling freely alongside me on the roads in areas ‘B’ and ‘C’. I often find myself wondering about the officers in the car next to me (whose total makeup is approx. 4,000 armed men spread throughout eight battalions), supposedly tasked with ‘keeping the peace’ and ‘fighting the terrorists’ from groups like Hamas – who received their training from United States military officials in Jordan and were granted approval by Israel to openly carry semi-automatic Kalashnikov rifles.
What if as was the case in 2000, the Palestinian Leadership orders that their security officers – more like soldiers – turn their guns on Israeli motorists, both civilians and soldiers as they are traipsing our thoroughfares?
It certainly isn’t comforting to remember that one of the first Israelis murdered in that pre-mediated war of terror which began upon the collapse of Camp David on Sept 29, 2000 – was Border Police Supt. Yosef Tabeja, 27, of Ramle who was shot to death by his Palestinian counterpart on a joint patrol near Kalkilya.
I also wasn’t reassured when recently driving behind a clearly marked green license-plated Palestinian 12-seater passenger taxi van, that the sun visor providing shade to passengers in the back row of the vehicle clearly featured in its design the official Fatah emblem which includes a gun, bayonet, and grenade with the map of our entire country labelled as “Palestine,” and the word “Israel” obviously omitted.
But perhaps I’m just being paranoid. A superficial glance at last week’s headlines emanating from the PA might lead one to believe that a third-intifada is a figment of my imagination. As reported in the Jerusalem Post by senior IDF correspondent Ya’akov Katz on July 2, the Palestinian Authority recently carried out a “crackdown on crime and corruption in the West Bank,” by arresting 150 suspects and confiscating 100 weapons. According to the article, Israel views this “as a milestone for the PA as it imposes its rule and authority throughout the territory.”
One might have a sense of optimism from this apparently positive development. But a closer look reveals just the opposite. Katz explains: “Many of those arrested are former members of Fatah’s Al- Aksa Martyrs Brigades as well as a number of rogue officers from the Palestinian National Security Forces, the PA’s main counter-terrorism arm trained by the US in Jordan.”
In other words, many of those arrested are the same people who instead of using their training and weapons to fight terrorism, are ruling the streets as members of armed gangs, and more-so, were once a part of the same terror force guilty of murder for turning their weapons on Jews upon receiving Arafat’s orders to do so just 12 years ago.
So, despite the relative ‘quiet’ we have been experiencing in Judea and Samaria – don’t get me wrong, attacks still take place on a daily basis – but not on the levels and severity experienced during the first half of the last decade, as long as there are men in the car next to me traveling in an official ‘PA police vehicle’ – different in appearance than an Israeli police car, or an olive-colored IDF jeep, there is room for angst.
The writer is a media expert, freelance journalist, and host of “Reality Bytes Radio,” on www.israelnationalradio.com.