A complicated and unilaterally imposed situation

The West Bank security issue is complicated and involves many different and sometimes contradictory aspects.

First of all, the security situation in the West Bank may soon witness an increase in resistance activity by nationalists rather than Islamists, especially from Fateh circles. This is because recent political developments, particularly the combination of ending resistance against the occupation and a corresponding increase in Israeli activities to consolidate that occupation, mainly through settlement expansion, has to a large extent weakened and marginalized Fateh and other PLO factions.

Second, there are increasing indications that Hamas is building its military capabilities in the West Bank. These, at the moment, appear related to Palestinian divisions rather than Israel, but that could change any minute. The nature of the preparations (including for example, hundreds of military uniforms discovered in different parts of the West Bank) shows that there is serious potential in this regard.

Third, the Palestinian security services are in a very complicated position. They are tasked with preventing any kind of military activity, whether against the Palestinian Authority or Israel. But such activities reflect negatively on the political position and credibility of the PA. Consequently, the more successful the security apparatuses, in the absence of any political progress toward ending the occupation, the weaker the political leadership.

In the eyes of the public, the role of the Palestinian security services is legitimate when they maintain law and order in Palestinian areas, but not in the dual role assigned them by Israel and members of the international community, to prevent armed resistance against Israel and thus maintain the security of Israel.

Provisionally, this dual role was assigned the security services when they were established according to signed agreements between Israel and the PLO. These agreements gave the dual role a comprehensive political backdrop. The security services were created in the context of the Palestinian interim authority, which was meant for a transitional period that would also witness a gradual scaling back of the Israeli occupation before leading to a complete end to that occupation in accordance with those signed agreements and based on the relevant stipulations of United Nations Security Council resolutions that were the terms of reference. The agreements stipulated that within the interim phase of five years, starting in 1994, the two sides would conclude negotiations on a final settlement, which would include the issues of Jerusalem, refugees, settlements and security.

In reality, however, Israel deepened and consolidated its occupation, especially in the West Bank, through the expansion of settlements and confiscation of land. Israel also gradually retreated from the commitment to negotiate final status issues until we’ve now reached a point where an Israeli prime minister rejects the very foundation on which the whole peace process was built, namely the two-state solution. Such developments have left the original tasks of the security apparatuses devoid of context and thus alienated them from the Palestinian people and created the complicated and contradictory security situation we see today.

Israel cannot expect calm in the West Bank while continuing its settlement expansion. It also cannot expect continued harmony in its relations with the PA. Israel has unilaterally created a de facto functional division of labor in the security field and retained overall security control while leaving the PA other functions and responsibilities in a way that was neither agreed upon nor will lead to the realization of Palestinian aspirations to end the Israel occupation and achieve independence and self-determination.

Of course, Israeli security is the other side of the coin. But neither Israelis nor Palestinians will see their legitimate objectives–security and statehood–realized if they are not realized together.