Nahom Barnea is a prominent Israeli journalist and regular columnist at the mass-circulation newspaper, Yediot Ahronot. On Friday, 19 September, he revealed shocking details of a recent “security coordination” meeting between Israeli and Palestinian security commanders. Barnea, well known for his journalistic reliability, attended the meeting which took place at the Israeli occupation army’s West Bank headquarters at the settlement of Beit El near Ramallah. The following is a verbatim translation of Barnea’s report as published in Yediot Ahronot:
“They (the PA security commanders) arrived at the IDF headquarters Sunday night, passing through the ‘Court roadblock,’ only a 3-minute-drive from Ramallah. They drove through the road leading to the old Beit El settlement, going through the gate of the former Jordanian camp which houses the Command of the Judea and Samaria Brigade.
All of them were dressed in civilian attire with the exception of the Inspector-General of the Palestinian Police. They were eight commanders, all of them veteran Fatah leaders. This is the last chance for the generation that came from Tunis to retain their grip on power before Hamas could take over and devour everything.
The commander of the Israeli Defense Forces in the West Bank, Major-General Noam Tiv’on wanted to invite them to a meal to break the day’s fasting. However, the agenda of the encounter was disrupted for reasons having to do with the failure of the Israeli army to suppress settler riots (near Nablus) and the death of a Palestinian boy by Israeli army bullets the next day, which eventually forced the guests to break their fast at their homes.
Well they did. The discussion would have wasted a lot of time had it been carried out at the food pantry prepared by the Israeli army. Tiv’on and the head of the Israeli civil administration in the West Bank, Major-General Yoav Mordechai wanted to present to the Palestinian commanders the plan- Jenin-2 for the deployment of PA forces in City.
The Israeli commanders asked their Palestinian counterparts for their permission to allow a journalist to attend the meeting. The Palestinians concurred. In fact, I was the only journalist allowed to attend the meeting. However, because of my presence and essentially because of the sense of urgency on the Palestinian part, the meeting assumed different directions with excessive extents.
Contrary to conventional belief, journalists hate to be surprised. They think they know every thing and that which they don’t know is not considered especially important. I was surprised by the things that the Palestinian security commanders uttered. I was also surprised by the tone of their voices.
The gist of their argument is that a violent confrontation between Fatah and Hamas will take place in January of 2009. On the 9th of January Abu Mazen’s presidential term will expire. He is determined to stay in office until January 2010. We can’t rule out the possibility that Abu Mazen will declare the Gaza Strip a “rebellious province”
The Palestinian security commanders asked their Israeli counterparts to join them in preparing a field plan and train their forces and supply them with weapons.
I have never heard such an excessive willingness on the part of the Palestinian Authority to work with Israel, except for a small period in the Spring of 1996.
Following the meeting, I told one of the Israeli commanders who was in the hall “this is just talk. Aren’t you worried that the followers of Fatah would disappear at the decisive moment as they did in Gaza?” “No,” he said. “Prior to the Gaza events, they didn’t know what would happen to them. But now they do.”
Abu al Fath is the commander of the General Security Apparatus of the Fayyad government. It represents the main military force of the Palestinian Authority. Abu al Fath is the most senior and highest ranking officer among the heads of the Palestinian security agencies.
“There is no conflict between us,” he told the Israeli army commanders. “We have a common enemy.” Abu al Fath commenced the meeting with a complaint about the settler rampage (near Nablus). The way he related to the riots was interesting. He went on saying that “this makes things more difficult for us, especially in dealing with ordinary Palestinians. You must have law and order just as you expect us to have law and order. I will do all I can to prevent the occurrence of operations (against you.). You realize that we are much better than before. Thanks to our operations, the Israeli army needs to carry out lesser operations.
Hamas: our common enemy
Abu al Fath went on: “there is a huge strife going on in preparation for January, 2009. Abu Mazen is adopting the peace-line and you should bolster his position. Release juvenile prisoners, this is very important. Remove the roadblocks and dismantle the settlements. I want to ask you to allow us to deploy a regiment from Jericho to Hebron. I know there is a problem with the settlers in Hebron and the frictions spots there. I have no intention to enter these spots. The regiment will operate in the villages of Southern Hebron.
Major-General Kivon replied: “I am quite happy with what you have said. The local commanders of both sides should meet and reach an agreement on this. However, Colonel Mordechai warned the Palestinian officer, saying that “the deployment of the regiment in Hebron should take place Friday night lest they collide with the settlers.” Abu al Fath said: “No problem. We are moving against Hamas even during the month of Ramadan.”
At this point, the head of the Fayadh government’s military intelligence, Majed Faraj began talking: “We are in the midst of a very difficult battle. There is an Arabic proverb: ‘the sea is before us and the enemy is after us.’ We don’t even have a sea. We have decided to fight the battle until the end. We have decided to put all our problems on the table. Every thing is clear. No game-playing. Hamas is the enemy, and we have decided to wage an all-out war against Hamas. And I tell you there will be no dialogue with Hamas, for he who wants to kill you, kill him first. You have reached a truce with them, but we won’t do so. To be honest, we behaved differently in the past.
Faraj went on boasting: “Now we are taking care of every Hamas institution in accordance with your instructions. Lately you gave us the names of 64 institutions, and we have already dealt with fifty. Some of these institutions have been closed down, others we have changed their administrations. We have also seized their money (Israel referred to the PA 150 bank accounts suspected of belonging to terrorist organizations while the PA closed 300 other accounts).
“I have two observations: In the past we thought a thousand times before entering a mosque, but today we enter any mosque whenever deemed necessary. Don’t understand from this that you are allowed to enter the mosque. On the contrary, we can enter the mosques precisely because you don’t. We also can enter the campuses of universities, including the Islamic University in Hebron. We are making utmost efforts and even if success is not 100%, motivation is 100%”
Following Faraj’s remarks, Hazem Atallah, the Inspector-General of the Palestinian Police Forces spoke: “Until the end of the year, we will enter into a confrontation with Hamas. Khalid Meshal said Abu Mazen’s government wouldn’t be legal after the 9th of January, hence we should bet ready for the confrontation. ”
Hussein al Sheik, head of the civilian affairs department in the Fayadh government said “this is very important. Hamas doesn’t have a military power in the West Bank, but it has the power to get people onto the streets.” Attallah addressed the Israeli commanders: I am talking about a comprehensive plan, if we enter the next year without being fully prepared, nothing will be left except arguing over who was responsible for the defeat, we, or you, or the Americans.
Mordechai assured him, saying: we will form a joint team, we will help you with the training and military gear. The Palestinians complained that a Canadian shipment of truncheons for the police was still being withheld at the Ashdod Port. Tiv’on assured them that “we will hand it over to you.”