As in the instance of many complicated issues, we cannot begin a discussion of specific issues without providing background and context. Earlier this month, the Israel Defence Forces entered Jenin, located in what many Jews call Judea and Samaria. This portion of the originally mandated territory is in Area A under the governing authority of the Palestinian Authority in accordance with international agreements called the Oslo Accords.
This agreement was voluntarily implemented by Israel because the accords were never signed by the PA, then under the leadership of the now-deceased Yasser Arafat. At that time, there was the international aspiration that there might be a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Under the agreement, the disputed territory occupied by Israel after three wars was divided into three areas. Area C, the largest piece, was essentially vacant land with little population and was solely under Israeli governance. Area B was under joint Israel-PA governance. Area A, which was the most populated and had all-Arab cities, was under sole PA governance. Jenin is one of those cities.
Under the accords, Israel retained overall responsibility for security, including responsibility for maintaining security for all borders.
Over the years, Israel made a number of offers to the PA to resolve differences. The PA declined to consider any of them. They insisted on a return to 1948 Armistice borders and independent statehood with their own armed forces. Based on Israel’s experience with Gaza and Lebanon, this was unacceptable to Israel.
The goodwill toward Palestinians that was evidently held by an important element of the Jewish population seems mostly to have been forfeited over time. An appreciation has grown that there is no acceptable solution for the Arab side that would allow for a viable Jewish state. Consequently, for many, the idea of a two-state solution is no longer feasible.
Meanwhile, the PA has maintained a hostile attitude to Israel, educating young Arabs to hate Jews and to aspire to murder them, and paying the families of deceased and jailed terrorists substantial pensions. Many suicidal activists have been incentivized in their actions by these awards for their families. These payments are a part of the PA budget.
Further, popular support from the Arab population has shifted from the PA to the terrorist organizations headquartered in Gaza and in Beirut, Lebanon. Elections for PA leadership have continually been postponed to avoid the takeover by Hamas that occurred in Gaza. Hezbollah controls the government of Lebanon. Both these entities are now financed by Iran, which has publicly announced their intention to eradicate the Jewish state.
The situation has been aggravated by the increasing incapacity of current leadership. PA President Mahmoud Abbas is reportedly in ill health. There is now competition as to who will replace him. This has caused further internal conflict, which has impaired PA functioning. Measures aimed at controlling terrorist operations or crime gangs would not encourage popularity.
With this background, we can turn to consideration of the Jenin event.
While there is theoretical cooperation with the PA on security matters, more and more it has fallen to Israeli forces alone to carry out this task. Although the PA claims statehood, more and more it has failed to build the infrastructure required. Particularly over the last two years, security in the major Palestinian centres under their jurisdiction has been lacking. Crime is rife and terrorist organizations have used the vacuum to establish a network aimed at destroying Israel, financed primarily by Iran.
In recent months, Israel has suffered 58 attacks having their origins in Judea and Samaria. Often, the perpetrators escape to hide in sanctuaries established within the Arab population centres in the region. Arms and monies have been smuggled into that area from Jordan. One diplomat from Jordan has been arrested and charged in this regard.
The IDF exercise involving a brigade-strength force is likely the first of a number that will try and establish a return to law and order in Area A, in Judea and Samaria. Remarkably, the IDF was able to carry out its mission in densely populated Jenin while avoiding any civilian casualties. Sadly, there were two IDF fatalities.
The failure of the PA to carry out its responsibilities leaves Israel with no alternative. Even with the IDF’s efforts, many of the terrorists in this specific area escaped. Four locations in the local network were disrupted, one of them located in a mosque basement. Arms caches were removed along with funds that were found, which were being used to finance terror activities. Almost 100 operatives were arrested and 18 were killed – all were combatants.
The situation indicates that this is only the first of similar necessary exercises to discourage attacks on innocent civilians. We will probably see this not only in Jenin but in other population centres in the region. We may see the program carried out despite efforts by many parties around the world seeking to vilify the Jewish state.
Max Roytenberg is a Vancouver-based poet, writer and blogger. His book Hero in My Own Eyes: Tripping a Life Fantastic is available from Amazon and other online booksellers.