Israel’s Continued Pursuits in the West Bank’s Area A
Palestinians and Israelis are experiencing a conflict over the Israeli army’s “pursuit” of wanted Palestinians in Area A. Meanwhile, Palestinian security agencies are asking Israelis to hand over security information in order for them to arrest and pursue wanted Palestinians themselves, but Israel is refusing and demands to do it itself. The PA is not afraid that it will lose what is left of its status and sovereignty over the West Bank.
The Israeli army took advantage of the outbreak of the intifada since October 2015 and the expansion of the parameters of the Palestinian attacks against Israelis, causing the death of 33 Israelis and the wounding of over 250 others, to violate all areas of the West Bank under the pretext of the pursuit of wanted Palestinians. They did not distinguish between Areas A, B, and C.
Israel stressed that the army’s freedom to operate in Area A is a holy matter, and this means that Israel wants its army to freely enter all areas of the West Bank, without distinguishing between Areas A, B and C. Circles affiliated with the Israeli government coalition threatened to cause an uproar if the army’s operations are restricted in these areas because its control over these areas ensure Israel’s security.
According to Israel, the purpose behind its pursuits in Area A lie in the fact that it wants to arrest those who are wanted. This includes those who are planning to carry out armed attacks against it. Israel views these individuals as a “ticking time bomb”, so it cannot wait for the Palestinians to arrest them under as a result of security coordination, as this takes too much time in their eyes, thus allowing those who are wanted to disappear and execute their attacks. Israel has arrested 3,000 Palestinians in the period between October and March.
Israel insists on continuing its pursuit of Palestinians in Area A despite the fact that the Israeli military leaders have confirmed and stressed that the PA is reinforcing its activities against those carrying out attacks in this area. While Israel has been responsible for thwarting 85 per cent of attacks in the West Bank since October and the PA thwarted 15 per cent, the equation has changed since March, as the PA is carrying out 40 per cent of the security pursuits and Israel is doing 60 per cent of the security and military activities in the West Bank. Despite this shift, it seems that Israel still only has confidence that its security forces will preserve its security.
These pursuits are considered an old matter for the Israelis that have not changed despite the fact that the Palestinian security forces are clearly providing services for the Israeli security. However, the Israeli army often does not trust the information given to it by the Palestinians, this pushes them to enter Area A, thus eliminating whatever prestige the PA still has in the West Bank. This makes the PA keen on preserving its network of interests with the Israelis to serve some influential people in the PA, without serving the national Palestinian cause.
The fact that the intifada has entered its seventh month and the fact that the Israeli army continues its raid Area A raises question marks regarding the fate of the security negotiations that began in March on the possibility of Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian cities such as Ramallah and Jericho. However, Israel’s continued pursuits suggest its desire to take parts of the West Bank and continue to enforce its security control over it under different names and pretexts, such as security areas, hot pursuits and the protection of settlements.
It is worth noting that the issue of pursuits is a fixed issue in Israel’s military approach. There are various Palestinian convictions that believe these pursuits are carried out by means of coordination with the Palestinian security services and that this coordination is growing by the day. Such coordination involves thwarting attacks and operations, and taking turns arresting Palestinian activists and rebels between the two security agencies. This indicates that the PA is not serious in its threats to stop security coordination and gives Israel a security cover for its pursuits against the Palestinians.
Practically, it seems that the Israeli army is entering Area A as it pleases and conducts pursuits in it, while sometimes informing the PA and asking it for security information on some armed groups. The army then withdraws from the area after arresting those wanted in areas such as Hebron, Nablus, Jenin and Ramallah.
Perhaps Israel’s continued pursuits gains it popular acceptance from the Israeli masses and allows it to gain more accurate and intensive security information on the West Bank than it receives from the Palestinian security agencies. Israel prefers to have its security forces to be present alongside its Palestinian counterpart in the West Bank in order to completely preserve its security.