Palestinian security forces are often derided as sub-contractors of the Israeli military occupation due to close cooperation with the IDF. Some are worried that might change.
A video published on Monday appears to show armed Palestinian police evicting Israeli troops from the Ramallah area.
The incident took place in Beitunia, a suburb of Ramallah, according to Palestinian news agency Ma’an. The Israeli Border Police force had chased a group of schoolchildren, according to the report.
In the video, a Palestinian police officer named by Ma’an as Lt. Akee al-Shalan, can be seen yelling at the Israeli troops to “get away from my work,” and insisting that the Border Police contingent leave immediately.
An Israeli officer approaches his Palestinian counterpart and protests that people, presumably Palestinians, have been breaking through the separation barrier for the past three days. The Palestinian officer’s only response is to demand again and again that the Israeli troops leave the area. And they do.
The Oslo Accords split the West Bank into three distinct administrative areas. Area A, which consists of major Palestinian urban areas including Ramallah and Beitunia, is supposed to be under complete Palestinian security control. In practice, however, the Israeli army regularly incurs into Area A, usually to make arrests.
What makes this case unique is the fact that Palestinian security forces are not only present when that happens, but that they confront the Israeli troops and demand that they leave.
Palestinians often accuse their own security forces of collaborating with the Israeli army, acting as a sub-contractor of sorts for the occupation.
Sixty-nine percent of Palestinians want to end security coordination with Israel, although only 27 percent believe the Palestinian government will actually do so, according to a poll conducted by An-Najah University’s Center for Opinion Polls and Survey Studies last month.
One particularly telling video from June 2014 shows young Palestinians pelting a PA police station with stones immediately after an Israeli army incursion. In that case, PA police had retreated into their central Ramallah station minutes before the arrival of Israeli soldiers, who actually stood guard outside the Palestinian police station.
More regularly, Palestinian police quietly carry out arrests of militants accused of planning or carrying out attacks against Israelis. But the cooperation goes much further: Palestinian security forces also regularly prevent protesters, including non-violent marches, from even approaching Israeli military positions and West Bank settlements.
Israeli security officials regularly praise the cooperation of their — entirely subordinate — counterparts, and credit their actions with maintaining calm and preventing attacks against Israelis.
In recent months, however, some have noted a shift in the willingness of Palestinian police to suppress protests against the occupation. In one specific area, PA security forces have been keeping a low profile at daily protests on the northern edge of Ramallah where heavy clashes have been taking place.
The PLO actually voted to suspend security cooperation with Israel earlier this year, but quite expectedly, it was an empty declaration. The real fear is of a much slower deterioration of security cooperation, and of PA security forces’ willingness to collaborate with the army occupying their country.
Speaking to the New York Times’ Diaa Hadid several weeks ago, Israeli journalist Avi Issacharoff described such a scenario: “It’s not a day or an hour, it’s a gradual process: In a couple of weeks we might find five people disobeying orders. Then 20, then 125. This is what I am afraid of.”
Only time will tell if this video is the start of something larger.
A request for comment was sent to the IDF Spokesperson. It will be added here if and when it is received.