Geysers of Resistance to the PA Are Bubbling in the West Bank

[Jerusalem Report] Leslie Susser - The gradual disappearance of armed gangs roaming the streets of the West Bank began after Israel offered Palestinian gunmen an amnesty in July last year. About 300 handed in their weapons, and were taken off the list of wanted men. Others, who kept their weapons, lay low to evade arrest. American-trained Palestinian forces took over from Israeli forces the policing of Nablus in November 2007 and Jenin in May 2008. However, Brig.-Gen. (res.) Shalom Harari, a former adviser to the Defense Ministry on Palestinian affairs, rejects the idyllic security picture painted by the Americans. In his view, falatan - the lawlessness of guns in hands other than the central authority - is still widespread. All that has happened is that the guns and the private armies have gone underground. "The new police don't dare tackle the militias head-on. There is no 'assembly line' for dealing with militia fighters or money men: that is, no process of arrest, trial and jail." Yet all over the West Bank, geysers of resistance are bubbling. According to Harari, the militias, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front (PFLP) and Democratic Front (DFLP) have an estimated 120,000 weapons - rifles, grenades and explosive charges - "under the floorboards waiting to come out. And if there is a confrontation, bear in mind that groups like PFLP and DFLP which, although secular, were against Oslo, might side with Hamas and Islamic Jihad." In Harari's view, the PA will be able to hold on against Hamas and the others only as long as Israeli forces remain in the West Bank. "If we left, within six months Hamas would build up terrorist infrastructures capable of reaching Tel Aviv," he declares. Moshe Elad, a former military governor of Jenin and Bethlehem, now a researcher at the Technion's Shmuel Neeman Institute, notes, "Fatah may have the weapons, but Hamas has the people behind it, and the great fear of the Fatah forces is that, in a showdown, the Palestinian public will side with Hamas." To illustrate, Elad notes that Abbas can't even move around freely on the West Bank. "Abbas has not made any visits on the West Bank outside his Muqata headquarters in Ramallah....I think Abbas has a problem going into most places, because his people are not in control."

2008-10-16 01:00:00

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