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December 25, 2015 6:18 am

The Myth of ‘Palestinian Security Cooperation’

avatar by Stephen M. Flatow /

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Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Photo: Wikimedia Commons. – State Department officials and Middle East “experts” are always warning us that if the Palestinian Authority collapses, Israel will be harmed because Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation will come to an end. But an incident in Ramallah this week makes one wonder if that “security cooperation” really exists at all.

The Palestinian news agency Ma’an boasted on December 22 that “Palestinian police ordered Israeli Border Police forces out of the Beituniya area of western Ramallah and threatened to use their weapons if they refused, local security sources.” And indeed a YouTube video of the incident appears to confirm Ma’an’s characterization of the episode.

Ramallah is the capital of the Palestinian Authority, and under the Oslo accords, the city is under the complete security control of the PA — as opposed to some other parts of the territories, where Israel has the responsibility for security. So what were Israeli Border Police doing inside Ramallah’s city limits?

“Israeli forces had been chasing Palestinian schoolchildren in the area, when a number of Palestinian police officers led by Lieutenant Akef al-Shalan arrived,” Ma’an reported.

Here we have a textbook case of how “Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation” is supposed to work. Young Palestinians were throwing rocks — a time-honored method of execution in the Middle East — in an attempt to maim or kill Israelis. Last September’s murder-by-stoning of 64 year-old Alexander Levlovitz, as he was leaving Rosh Hashana dinner with his family, is a grim reminder of how serious rock-throwing is.

So the Israelis were in hot pursuit of a group of Palestinian would-be murderers. When the terrorists crossed into Ramallah, the Palestinian police should have arrested them. Instead, the police turned against the Israelis, screaming and threatening them (as the YouTube video clearly shows) as they expel the Israelis from the area.

Writing on last March, Nicholas Heras and Ilan Goldenberg of the Center for a New American Security dramatically warned of “the West Bank’s potential transformation into an ungoverned space that could become a haven for terrorism” if the Palestinian Authority collapses.

And in April, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy issued a report titled “Preserving Israeli-Palestinian Security Cooperation” which claimed that “security cooperation [between the PA and Israel] and the positive dynamics it creates are one of the few hopeful spots in an otherwise grim arena…Washington should prioritize efforts to protect and support security cooperation, and clearly convey this sense of priority to Palestinian and Israeli leaders.”

This perspective has clearly filtered down into policymaking circles. On December 5, Secretary of State John Kerry declared in a speech at the Brookings Institution that the collapse of the PA “would threaten the security of Israel” because it would lead to “chaos, lawlessness and desperation” and “Israel would be forced to assume all governance in the West Bank…”

If the current “governance” by the PA consists of protecting terrorists, then what kind of governance is that? How is it “hopeful” — as the Washington Institute put it — if PA security forces prevent Israeli soldiers from pursuing rock-throwers? While the Center for a New American Security is claiming that the collapse of the PA could turn the area into “a haven for terrorism,” doesn’t the Ramallah incident show that, in fact, it has already become a haven for terrorism?

The PA’s security forces have, in effect, informed young Palestinians: Go ahead, try to cripple or murder Jews, and if the Israeli soldiers chase you, then come to us and we will protect you from them. If that’s what Secretary Kerry and the foreign policy wonks call ”security cooperation,” then I guess we’re speaking two different languages.

Stephen M. Flatow, an attorney in New Jersey, is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in a Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995.

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  • Robert Valence

    All the parties involved have their own narrative. The US Administration’s narrative is primarily wishful thinking flavoured with Obama’s belief that the sheer power of his oratory will influence others to believe like him.
    Additionally, the US put a lot of effort and money into training the Palestinian “security forces” – so they have a vested interest to see that their men perform and are not made redundant.
    Whilst there has been some useful co-operation by the Pals, when it suits them, since this latest mini-uprising was initiated by Abbas to address his failing popularity ratings, the Pals can’t be trusted. “Dante”, above has the right idea.

  • How can there be security cooperation with the PLO terrorist entity? A collapse of the PLO terrorist entity would end the PLO occupation, and allow Israel to assume governance over all liberated areas in Judea and Samaria.

  • steven L

    Israel will find a solution to this “home grown Islamist induced terrorism”. It is a matter of time.
    The solution will be ethical!

  • Dave

    Mr. Flatow, like many other real experts on security have known for the longest time that the so called Security Cooperation between the PA police and IDF is only limited at best and quite frankly, depends on the whim of “President” Abbas.

    The Palestinian armed forces and police, are used mostly as an instrument of control of Abas’ PA against their rivals of Hamas and other groups desiring to topple the PA. Their cruelty towards average Palestinians is legendary. Can Israel rely on them to do the job of fighting terrorists from within the West Bank? Obviously not, since they pick and choose whom they are willing to confront. Even when they arrest a suspect, they would let them out of their jails, in a now famous “revolving door” policy. Ultimately, what the IDF must do to stem terrorism won’t be done by anybody else

  • brenrod

    everywhere we are ruled by liars. Let the PA collapse, its worthless. When they throw stones throw 100 times more at them. Give the pals terror. Let them beg for peace.

  • dante

    one has to agree that security cooperation is not consistent. the p.a. cooperates, when it cooperates, because it is in its interest. and, it is often inclined to display its defiance of Israel. nevertheless, there is substantial cooperation and one should not allow the serious shortcomings or subversions of the cooperation to impel one to dismiss it, discount it, or argue for its suspension.

    to paraphrase an Italian saying (popularized by Frenchman), let not the best be made the enemy of the good.

    the cooperation helps to maintain stability for the Arabs (under p.a. control) and it helps to preempt terrorism that could have a devastating effect on the lives of the Jews and the Arabs and others.

    • shloime

      that presupposes that “the good’ is any good at all.