Amos Harel, Avi Issacharoff
June 1, 2009 - 12:00am

The Hamas leader who was killed in a shootout with Palestinian policemen in Qalqilyah on Sunday had been on the Shin Bet security service's most wanted list for a long time. His terror network is believed to be responsible for the failed attempt to detonate an explosives-laden truck in the Dan region two years ago. It was the Palestinian Authority that finished the job - dealing Hamas in the West Bank a second blow, after last week's killing of another Hamas leader by an Israeli SWAT team near Hebron.

Israeli forces and the PA have a similar modus operandi - Qalqilyah residents said Palestinian police have a neighbor knock on the wanted man's door to tell him security forces are there, a practice the Israeli High Court of Justice prohibited the Israel Defense Forces from using. But beyond this, Sunday's operation shows the government of PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has gained a great deal of self-confidence. The PA can collect and use intelligence that not even Israel has. It can use its security services in a war on Hamas, since dialogue with the organization seems frozen.

Most importantly, perhaps, the Palestinian citizens of the West Bank feel more secure. The Israel Defense Forces regional brigade commander says he rarely sends soldiers into cities under his purview because the PA has them firmly under control. These cities, he adds, are no less secure than Israeli cities, and they have more police.
During the incident in Qalqilya, the city's deputy mayor, Hashem al-Masri, a Hamas member, approached the commander of the PA's National Security force in the city. The two exchanged words, and the PA officer slapped the Hamas man in front of dozens of residents.

Hamas on Saturday called on its people to protect themselves against the PA's security forces and to fight the PA as if it were the Israeli occupation - meaning, violently.

The PA responded that anyone attempting to harm its police would be sentenced to death.

Yesterday's incident was timed perfectly to coincide with the Palestinian negotiating team's discussions with the American administration. Not only did Abbas' visit to Washington end on a positive note, the PA showed it is fulfilling its road-map obligations, while Israel is in trouble with the Obama administration over construction in the settlements.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Abbas said he now has to wait for a positive move from Israel. The New York Times criticized Abbas, saying this was not enough.

Temporarily, in light of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's insistence on not recognizing the two-state solution, Abbas seems to be the one better off. But increasing tensions between the PA and Hamas in the West Bank might also influence Hamas to renew attacks on Israelis and eventually lead to new American demands on Abbas. From the PA's perspective, there is an even more worrisome scenario: The PA has long been warning of a Hamas attempt to assassinate Abbas or Fayyad.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017