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Security coordination must be based on respect, not Israeli whims

June 30, 2014 7:06 P.M. (Updated: July 2, 2014 1:15 P.M.)
By: Mahmoud Jabari
Mahmoud Jabari is a public speaker on youth engagement originally from Hebron and he is currently a senior Communication student at Champlain College. Follow him on twitter.

In 2002, I awoke one morning to find that the Palestinian Authority's headquarters near my home in Hebron was under siege by Israeli tanks.

The scene was not particularly strange since I had seen tanks and experienced curfews before, but seeing -- and not merely hearing -- tanks and F16s shelling a target before my very eyes was something new.

I have to admit that since that time, one of my eminent hopes was to not see such violence repeated in the West Bank again in the future.

Over the past sixteen days, I have called multiple times to check on my family in Hebron, the scene of an intensive Israeli military operation to find the three Israeli students who are thought to have been kidnapped from a Jewish settlement nearby.

During one of my calls, my six year old brother tried to tell me what he had heard about the military operation. "Did you hear about the guy who was killed in Hebron?" he asked. "Did you see the photo from the houses searched by the Israeli army? They have been searching every home."

For a moment, I went silent and did not know how to explain the situation to a six-year-old child who has to hear the tragic news happening all around him in his own city.

This is not so different, however, from the tragic news that the relatives and families of the disappeared students have had to hear and bear in these last few weeks.

The possible kidnapping of three students cannot be justified nor accepted morally nor politically. It is also surprising, since in the last few years, there has been an increasingly widespread, collective national Palestinian agreement on the necessity of using peaceful means of struggle against the Israeli occupation as a means to end the occupation and achieve independence.

There are many Palestinians who think that the possible kidnapping of three Israeli students -- their ideologies and backgrounds aside -- is an unacceptable action. However, the current Israeli military actions on the ground are only making things worse, and could potentially undermine the possibility of peace anytime in the near future.

Examining the current Israeli military operation in the West Bank -- particularly in Hebron -- makes clear a number of points, however, and suggests that what we are seeing today is not just about bringing back three Israeli students.

Firstly, the Israeli government has just received a perfect opportunity to justify an unjustifiable escalation in the West Bank. When Israel commits collective punishment against the Palestinian people, banning Palestinians from Hebron from entering their places of work in Israel, imposing movement restrictions across the West Bank, depriving Palestinians from Hebron the right to cross the border into Jordan to travel outside of the country, and implementing searches of hundreds of Palestinian houses in a brutal manner, it antagonizes more people, many of whom do not necessarily support what happened to the Israeli students.

To add to that, five Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces across the West Bank, and two elderly individuals have suffered heart attacks and died during home raids.

Will this bring back the missing students? Maybe it will, but even if it does, it will only lead to even more hate and antagonism for Israel and will expand the already-existing gap between Israel and its surroundings.

Secondly, the PA has just received a definitive stab in the back from two sources: one from the potential kidnappers and one from the Israeli government. Strangely, despite the President Mahmoud Abbas' condemnations of the kidnapping, the Israeli government continues to hold him responsible for what happened.

However, the most striking aspect of Israel's reaction was its order for the Palestinian security not to operate in the PA areas. There is no better way to slap the PA in the face after its own President said -- a few days before the kidnapping -- that security collaboration with Israel was "sacred."

Many Palestinians are now left asking: if our own "security forces" cannot provide the needed protection for its citizens when targeted by such an Israeli operation, then what is the purpose of a Palestinian Authority?

Thirdly, whoever executed the kidnapping of the Israeli students knew the potential consequences for the Palestinian people as well as the PA very well. The Israeli government reaction -- verbally and on the ground -- is helping to destroy the little respect left for the Palestinian Authority and its security forces. What kind of state-to-be is it when its security forces have no sovereignty?

On one hand, the extent of disrespect the PA received from Israel might reflect the real behind-the-scene dynamics of its relationship with Israel. On the other hand, Palestinians are increasingly perceiving the PA to be a mere "watchdog" for Israel.

After clashes with the Israeli army in front of the Palestinian police station in Ramallah on Sunday ended, for example, Palestinian youth stoned the station. This is a sign of an increasingly visible anger at the PA's performance on multiple levels.

If Israel and the international community allow for a violent escalation and rash reprisals to take place at this extremely sensitive time, things might become uncontrollable on the popular level.

The current PA approach, however, is only serving the interests of the Palestinian political elite. The Palestinian people need to push for a thorough revision to the PA's approach and make it clear that we want to be equal and respected partners in all mutual issues, and not merely security brokers on Israel's behalf.

The views expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect Ma'an News Agency's editorial policy.
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