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Leaks Reveal Deeper Palestinian-Israeli Security Ties

January 26, 2011

JERUSALEM—Leaked documents published Tuesday show extensive collaboration between Palestinian security forces and their Israeli counterparts, a relationship Israeli commanders say has been key to security gains in the West Bank.

Palestinian forces guarded al-Jazeera’s office in Ramallah Tuesday, as the organization published more leaks.

PALDOCS

Among the most explosive revelations in the latest release are minutes of a 2005 meeting in which Palestinian officials appear to be plotting with Israeli officials to assassinate a Palestinian militant in Gaza.

The leaks are likely to aggravate unease in the Palestinian territories, following revelations earlier in the week that showed the Palestinian leadership offering extensive compromises to Israel in peace talks.

Qatar-based al-Jazeera satellite channel on Sunday began releasing what they say are internal Palestinian negotiating-team papers dating from 1999 to 2010.

According to the Palestinian minutes of a 2005 meeting, Israel’s defense minister at the time, Shaul Mofaz, asked then Palestinian Interior Minister Nasser Youssef about a militant named Hassan al-Madhoun.

“Why don’t you kill him?” Mr. Mofaz asked Mr. Youssef, according to the document. Mr. Youssef replied that he instructed the Palestinian security forces commander in Gaza to do just that. “We will see,” he said.

Weeks later an Israeli missile struck the militant’s car in Gaza City and killed Mr. Madhoun.

Neither Mr. Youssef nor Mr. Mofaz could be reached to comment. Gen. Adnan Damiri, a spokesman for the Palestinian security forces, said the documents were “filled with lies,” but declined to comment on the specific incident.

“We have a professional security force, not a militia and not a political security force,” Mr. Damiri said. “Our job is to implement the law and the decisions taken by the civilian leadership and we have returned security and stability to the West Bank.”

It was impossible to verify the authenticity of the most recent leaked documents, but Palestinian officials have confirmed the authenticity of two previous batches of leaks.

[PALDOCS]

Earlier leaks showed Palestinian negotiators offering concessions to Israel in private that went beyond the Palestinian leadership’s public expressions of defiance. The leaks brought a public outcry that forced Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to issue a public defense of his administration’s leadership of peace talks. Palestinian forces were deployed outside al-Jazeera’s office in Ramallah.

The U.S. and European Union have overseen the training of the Palestinian Security Forces, which have played an instrumental role in restoring law and order to cities once ruled by criminal gangs and militant factions.

In recent interviews and briefings, Israeli military commanders spoke in glowing terms of their Palestinian counterparts and the security situation in the West Bank, which they said has seen remarkable gains.

A top-ranking Israeli general on the country’s general staff said Tuesday that the situation in the West Bank was “the best it’s been in the last eight years.”

Attacks against Israelis in the West Bank dropped from nearly 2,000 in 2002 to 45 last year, according to the officer. He said Palestinian forces deserved a large share of the credit for the improvement, in addition to an Israeli campaign against militant networks in the territory.

“The Palestinian Authority is trying to take actions and to be well coordinated with the IDF,” the acronym for the Israel Defense Forces, the general said. “To a certain degree we are satisfied the Palestinian security forces are going after terrorists who target Israelis.” He said the improved security had allowed Israel to reduce the number of troops deployed in the territory in each of the past two years.

Another Israeli commander in the southern West Bank city of Hebron, once a militant hotbed, said this week that the level of violence was the lowest he had seen in his 21 years of service.

There are still militant cells loyal to Hamas and other militant groups trying to re-establish themselves, but they are increasingly rare, he said.

In one week earlier this month, his soldiers conducted just three targeted raids to arrest suspected militants, he said. A couple of years ago soldiers in his area were carrying out around a dozen raids a night, he said.”The situation today is totally changed,” he said. “It’s not only because of the achievements of the IDF, but because of the Palestinian forces fighting Hamas.”

In monthly meetings with his Palestinian counterpart, the atmosphere is “very good, very positive,” he said.

“The Palestinians seem to understand today that supporting terror is not good for Palestinian society,” he said.

The improved security has even allowed him to begin two months ago to collect “hundreds” of weapons from Jewish settlers in his area.

A senior adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered restrained praise. “The prime minister has said on more than one occasion that the Palestinians have taken important steps in security reform and modernization of their forces and we’ve praised them for it, but we argue there’s still quite a ways to go,” the official said.

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