Dov Weissglass
Yedioth Ahronoth (Opinion)
December 29, 2009 - 1:00am

The heinous murder of Rabbi Meir Avshalom Hai called for speedy justice. Most likely the operational circumstances made it impossible to arrest the murderers and justified killing them. The many worrying indications of a resumption of terror acts in Judea and Samaria justified a swift, precise and forceful action, in order to deter properly those wishing to renew the acts of violence.

During my term as the chief of the Prime Minister's Bureau, at the Height of the Arafat terror onslaught, the government and the prime minister considered serious Palestinian action to exterminate terror as the one precondition for renewing diplomatic talks. The guiding principle was "no negotiations under fire." Israel's demand and the demand of the majority of the world's countries of the Palestinian Authority was that it take concrete and systematic action to end the terror: by means of intelligence, investigations, surveillance, searches, weapons confiscation, arresting suspects and preventing planned terror attacks. When prevention failed, and a terror attack took place, it was demanded of the PA to hold a vigorous and efficient investigation to catch the suspects, arrest them, question them and prosecute them.

Very little of that happened. Many of the Palestinian "security forces" at that time were themselves involved in terror and, in many cases, the PA didn't lift a finger after the terror attacks, and in the few cases it went to the trouble of acting, it made sure that the suspects, before and after a terror attack, were arrested and released soon afterwards ("the revolving door"). Intelligence information that Israel relayed to the PA in order to prevent a terror attack or to investigate one, was often used to warn suspects of action expected to take place against them.

The situation changed in wake of the road map and with the establishment of the Abu Mazen-Fayyad government. The Palestinian security forces underwent an upheaval: thousands were dismissed and thousands recruited, the command ranks were replaced and remanned, the covert and overt ties with terror organizations stopped; generous American aid-in instruction, equipment and training-raised the professional level of the Palestinian security forces and improved their performance.

A decrease in terror in Judea and Samaria was indeed effected, mainly by the Israeli security establishment, but also, without a doubt, thanks to the performance of the Palestinian security organizations. They are efficient, disciplined and determined, they have good working relations and coordination with their Israeli counterparts and their performance is immeasurably better than it was in the past.

There is no need to wax at length about how complex the situation is of the Palestinian Authority, which is seriously coping with Palestinian terror, which makes arrests, and which even kills people suspected of terror. Hamas's venomous PR depicts the PA as a "traitor" and as a "collaborator" with the Israelis and the Americans in curbing the battle against the occupation. Its situation is particularly difficult at this time, when the PA is unable to point to achievements "in return for" its efforts to curb terror. The furious mob in Nablus lashes out against the PA no less than at Israel.

The PA protests the fact that it was not asked to carry out the arrest [of Rabbi Hai's murderers]. It claims that an Israeli military operation of this kind makes it look ludicrous in the eyes of the Palestinian public. It is perceived both as a "collaborator" with Israel and also as being disregarded by Israel at such moments of truth. They also say that the anger of the Palestinian street will make it very difficult for the PA to put down terror initiatives liable to develop as a result of this operation and because of the diplomatic impasse.

According to what was reported and also confirmed by Israel sources, the PA investigated the latest criminal act with determination and with diligence, and even managed to arrest about 120 suspects. It could be that there was no choice but for a unilateral Israeli action, and that it was impossible to share the operational information with the Palestinians, but the decision-makers in Israel must not forget that without Palestinian security cooperation, Israel will find it very hard to maintain security on the level to which we've become accustomed in recent years. In similar circumstances in the future, Israel must act in such a way as to prevent or decrease as much as possible the affront to the Palestinian security organizations, unless this is absolutely essential. In the maze of Israeli-Palestinian relations, the (relative) quiet was fairly stable. Every effort must be made to preserve it.


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