Now that the 44-hour triumph of the IDF over Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Jenin camp is over, the Palestinian Authority’s police have begun to take advantage of both of its weakened rivals – the PIJ and Hamas — to assert itself, and even to arrest members of both. More on the PA’s sudden display of steel can be found here: “It sure looks like the PA is finally starting to crack down on West Bank terror groups,” Elder of Ziyon, July 17, 2023:
Early Monday morning [July 17], the Palestinian Authority arrested some major Islamic Jihad and Al Aqsa Brigades figures from the Jenin area.
Also arrested were two students with ties to Hamas.
This comes on the heels of their arresting several last week, and a number of others during Israel’s last incursion into Jenin….
While the PA is publicly taking a strong pro-terror line, it appears to be cooperating with Israeli security as it had in the past, despite denials…
Why has the PA now started rounding up and arresting members of PIJ and Hamas in the West Bank? Because it can. After the lightning 44-hour campaign by the IDF into Jenin camp, the PIJ has now been severely weakened. Twelve of its fighters were killed but even more important, all of its multifarious weapons caches in the camp were located and destroyed. While the PIJ may claim it “drove the Zionists” out, and some Palestinians may even choose to believe that baseless claim, the devastation in the camp cannot be hidden.
For now a severely weakened PIJ can’t put up much of a fight in Jenin, which has been its power base in the West Bank, against the PA, having been stripped of its weapons. And Hamas itself has been weakened, not because it has just suffered a military defeat at the hands of the IDF — it was careful not to join the fighting in Jenin camp — but because it is now facing the greatest financial crisis in its history. Its main donor, Qatar, as of mid-May, has stopped providing Hamas with the monthly infusion of $30 million it had been supplying for several years. The terror group is having great trouble paying its fighters, including those in the West Bank, and this has led to a loss of morale.
It is at this moment, with both the PIJ and Hamas weakened in their different ways, that the PA has chosen to act. It has arrested operatives from both terror groups, so far without incident. It continues to praise the Jenin fighters from the PIJ, and to give verbal support – nothing more – to the terrorists of Hamas and other groups. But the PA has now decided to return to its security cooperation with the Israelis, not so much because it has any desire to please Israel or save Jewish lives, but because it wants to reassert its authority in the West Bank that, until the Jenin campaign and Hamas’ severe financial woes, it seemed to have lost to its rivals. Now the Shin Bet and the IDF will help the PA to reestablish itself as the sole authority among the Palestinians in the West Bank.
On July 5, just as the IDF left the Jenin camp, the PA arrested several members of various – so far unspecified – terror groups. There was no reaction from those groups. Then, on July 17, the PA arrested several high-ranking members of the PIJ and the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade. It also arrested, at the same time, two students who are members of Hamas. Two of those taken in by the PA forces announced that they were beginning a hunger strike that would end only when they were freed. A spokesman for the PIJ condemned the arrest of its members and said that “The [Palestinian] authority today must unleash [set free] the sons of the resistance and the Palestinian masses, to overthrow the policies of the Zionist enemy and confront them.” That’s not going to happen. A spokesman for the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade said that “we resolutely and categorically reject the arrests carried out by the security services after midnight.”
And that’s it. So far there has been no attempt by either group to violently oppose the PA. In the next few months we will know whether the IDF’s attack on the PIJ in Jenin, and Hamas’ desperate financial condition, have turned the tide, and again allowed the PA to resume its place as the dominant force among the Palestinians in the West Bank. Bad as it is, from Israel’s point of view it is still better than the violent alternatives.