Saturday, January 5, 2008

Between the Lines: Palestinian Authority Restores Order to Nablus?

The following contains an article excerpted from Haaretz along with some bracketed comments. It leaves a few obvious questions between the lines.
  1. Did the Palestinian Authority really restore order to Nablus?

    Shortly after this article appeared, the IDF found terrorists in Nablus manufacturing Kassams. Perhaps the PA merely made a deal with some terrorists to keep their activities out of site.
  2. If the PA was able to restore order to Nablus now, why wasn't it able to do it before? What changed? Did its ability to keep order suddenly and miraculously improve? Did it simply decide to use an ability it had all along?
  3. If the PA can keep order in Nablus, why can't it keep order elsewhere? Does it have capabilities in Nablus it doesn't possess elsewhere? (In this case, the clear inference is the IDF better stay active everywhere else in Judea and Samaria.) Alternatively, has the PA simply decided it doesn't want to keep order elsewhere in Judea and Samaria. (In that case, the obvious inference is the PA isn't interested in performing the most basic responsibility of any government.)
The bottom line is the Palestinian Authority remains either unwilling or incapable of meeting its most basic obligations.

Either way, there's no reason to expect any agreement that might be reached to be implemented successfully.

PA security forces restore public order in turbulent W. Bank city

By Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondent

NABLUS - Four young women from the Nablus neighborhood of Rafidiyeh went into a shop Wednesday near the clock square in the center of Nablus. Dressed in the trendiest jeans and blouses, they were looking for fashionable leather bags. Two minutes later they came out empty-handed, disappointed at not finding what they wanted.

Just a few months ago, they said, they did not feel safe enough to walk alone in the street. "We felt like there could be problems any moment," Laila, 20, said. "Today it's different." Her friend, Nahala, 18, says "people have stopped being afraid they're going to get hit by gunmen's bullets." And in fact, nowhere in the city, not even at the entrance to the Kasbah, could armed men be found who were not members of the Palestinian security forces.

Nablus, which until recently was decribed as the "terror capital" and the "capital of chaos," now seems like the most stable and quiet city in the West Bank.

Jamal, owner of a center-city clothing store, says the shake-downs, threats and armed robbery so typical of Nablus have stopped. "In the past, a gunman would ask a business owner for money for 'the intifada.' If he refused, the next day he could find his shop burned. Today, I'm pleased. During Id al-Adha, there was a lot of work and there are no more criminal problems," Jamal said.

The actions of the Palestinian security forces and the new urban reality in Nablus have pulled the rug out from under the claims in Israel about the weakness of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

[See the introductory remarks. Far from pulling the rug out, it merely raises the question, if the article is accurate, about the trustworthiness of Abbas and Fayyad.]

The Palestinian security forces, which have been accused in Israel mainly of carrying out attacks like the one on Friday near Hebron that took the lives of two hikers, have managed to accomplish what until recently was considered mission impossible: bringing law and order to Nablus.

[Again: Either a miracle occurred or the Palestinian Authority had no interest in maintaining law and order and apparently still has no interest in maintaining law and order in the other portions of the disputed territories it administers.]

The market stalls that clogged the streets have been removed by the Palestinian police. The security forces have managed to root out a phenomenon that was common in Nablus - stolen vehicles; Police are seen on almost every street spot-checking vehicle licenses.

Most of the Fatah gunmen have surrendered their weapons to the security forces. Some have even joined them.

[This is extremely convenient, since they are able to keep their weapons handy for future attacks on Israeli civilians.]

On Tuesday, two high-ranking activists wanted by the Shin Bet security services, Sufyan Kandil and Ala Abuda, gave themselves up to the Palestinian Authority and are now in a Palestinian jail.

[They will probably remain in a Palestinian Authority jail until they are fully prepared to carry out another terrorist attack, at which point they will be freed and given sufficient ammunition and other provisions along with any logistical assistance they might need.]

Most important of all for the Israelis is that the PA leaders say they have destroyed the Hamas infrastructure in the city.

[They probably also have a bridge they'd like to sell.]

It is difficult to pinpoint a single reason for the success of the Palestinian security forces in Nablus. Nablus Governor Jamal Mohsein says "every decision we made has been carried out. We united the security forces and ended competition among them. There is no more shooting off guns at weddings and funerals or at any other event. We confiscated 120 firearms from Hamas activists, along with explosives intended for attacks against Israel and the PA. Hamas has no more weapons in Nablus. We appointed new governing committees for all the charitable organizations that had operated under Hamas in the past, and they own numerous properties throughout the city, including hospitals and buildings. But the bottom line is that for this trend to continue, the peace process has to move forward," Mohsein says.

[He's got it backwards. Under the dubious assumption there's some truth in his words, these actions must be taken everywhere in the disputed territories if there is to be a real peace process.]

The PA's decision, particularly that of its prime minister, to focus on security in Nablus, stemmed from the understanding that it is the West Bank's key city. If the security forces can bring order to chaos here, it will send a message to the other cities in the West Bank, to the terror organizations and criminal elements. For this purpose, 350 policemen were brought to the city two months ago in coordination with Israel. Only a few days ago, they left to operate in other West Bank cities.

Nablus intelligence chief Abdullah Kamil says a strategic change is taking place in the region. "We thwarted Hamas' plans, of which we have proof, to take over the PA institutions in the city and make another revolution.

[Perhaps a revealing moment of candor. Apparently, the Palestinian Authority always had the capability but chose not to exercise it as long as the terrorists only targeted Israelis. Once Hamas became perceived as a threat to Fatah, they took action in Nablus.

This doesn't leave much confidence that they're not simply fighting against the terrorists that pose a threat to Fatah, but maintain their traditional support of terrorists which work in tandem with Fatah, including, of course, Fatah's own terrorists.]

We found dozens of weapons in their possession and some of the most dangerous explosives intended to thwart the peace process. Our goal was to strike at Hamas militarily and then deal with criminal problems and we have done so. We have disarmed Hamas, we have hit them hard, and today they cannot rehabilitate their infrastructure. Even in Israel, they are surprised at our success."

Kamil pulls out five guns. "All of these were captured in the homes of Hamas men. Most are from Israel, but there is one rifle here that isn't in use even in Israel, an M-23 sniper's rifle. We also stopped attacks by other organizations, with help from abroad," Kamil said.

Throughout the conversation Kamil charged that Israel was trying to hurt the Palestinian security forces. "How do you explain that right on the day we operated in the Balata refugee camp, the Israeli army went in? What is the logic, if not to weaken our ability to operate?"

[This may have to do with the continued involvement of Palestinian Authority security forces in terrorist activity.]

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