Middle East Monitor / January 10, 2020
Israeli intelligence in the West Bank has started calling a number of potential candidates in the upcoming Palestinian legislative elections, who may run on the Hamas lists, asking them not to run. They have threatened them with spending the four-year term of their appointment inside Israeli prisons.
Israel and the PA have arrested dozens of Hamas members in different areas of the West Bank, and the arrests included former ministers in the resigned Hamas government, legislators, university academics, journalists and unionists. Hamas considered this a coordinated campaign to prevent their participation in the upcoming elections, expected in the coming months.
It is noteworthy that the joint security campaign against Hamas in the West Bank is occurring while the occupied territory is experiencing security calm and no armed operations. This raises legitimate questions about how the security coordination between Ramallah and Tel Aviv continues, despite their political estrangement.
The campaign of arrests has been on-going in the cities of Nablus, Tulkarm, Ramallah, Al-Bireh, Hebron and Jericho and the number of those arrested has not been disclosed.
While this security crackdown affected PLC member Mohammad Al-Natsheh, former Minister of Local Government Issa Al-Jabari, a leader in Hamas Abdel-Khaleq Al-Natsheh, and a number of freed prisoners, Hamas revealed that more than 40 of its cadres were arrested, 50 more were summoned for questioning, while 30 had their homes raided and searched.
It is no secret that the PA and Israel’s arrest of Hamas leaders and cadres in the West Bank aims to weaken the movement and remove its leaders from the political arena. The majority of those arrested do not pose a real threat to the PA and Israel’s security, but they form a nucleus of political ideas that influence Palestinian society.
The Palestinian security services are trying to justify their repressive campaigns against Hamas by claiming they are the usual measures they take in the West Bank related to controlling the security situation and to prevent any disturbances in the field. The PA claims that the security coordination with Israel continues, based on the instructions of the Palestinian leadership, because it achieves a Palestinian interest.
Perhaps the link between the Palestinian and Israeli arrests is confirmed first by the issuance of Israeli military rulings to transfer a number of the detained Hamas leaders to administrative detention for periods ranging from four to six months. This means they will be absent from the West Bank during the elections, which may threaten Hamas’ chances of winning.
Hamas circles in the West Bank have said these arrests will not stop it from participating in the upcoming elections, adding it will participate with the hope of being victorious due to the internal fragmentation experienced by the Fatah movement.
It is worth noting that the campaign of arrests of Hamas cadres is expanding despite the prevailing security calm in the West Bank, which witnessed the last armed Palestinian attack in August with the killing of an Israeli soldier in the Gush Etzion settlement.
At the same time, looking at the identities of the detainees indicates that they were arrested purely for political purposes related to the elections, and depriving Hamas of leaders during its electoral campaign.
At the same time, Israel and the PA have recently increased their focus on the activities of the Islamic bloc in the West Bank universities, considering it the student branch of Hamas. They claim that they are making great efforts to increase their influence in universities in preparation for recruiting students into their ranks. This will give them more influence on the Palestinian streets and worries the Israeli and Palestinian security.
The PA and Israel’s joins efforts to quell Hamas’ chances in the upcoming Palestinian elections have meant the Palestinians allow security coordination with the occupation to continue in spite of declarations that dealings with the occupation would cease as a result of its withholding of Palestinian taxes. The benefits they both hope to gain through arresting Hamas members far outweighs the injustice the PA feels towards the occupation’s continued oppression.
Adnan Abu Amer is a Palestinian academic