In Judea and Samaria, the post-Abbas era has already begun

Transition to a post-Abbas Palestinian Authority have already begun – including heightened Hamas activity in Judea and Samaria.

By Yaakov Lappin, TPS

On Tuesday evening, Israeli security forces conducted a counter-terror raid in the Jenin refugee camp, the epicenter of terrorism in Judea and Samaria.

The Israeli forces, who were engaged by Palestinian gunmen and returned fire, also deployed a Spike Firefly loitering munition — a suicide drone. The Palestinians detonated an improvised explosive device under an army vehicle, and targeted the rescue vehicles sent in to assist it.

The incursion was the latest reminder of the Palestinian Authority’s fragile standing in the area—the Israeli operation came on the heels of an attempt by the P.A. to regain a degree of control in Jenin following a large-scale Israel Defense Force operation there in July.

While P.A. chairman Mahmoud Abbas is still technically in charge of the P.A., Fatah, and Palestine Liberation Organization, in practice, several Palestinian actors are behaving in a manner that suggests the post-Abbas era has already begun in Judea and Samaria.

Hamas, for its part, which rules the Gaza Strip and is seeking to boost its foothold in Judea and Samaria, has increased its ability to orchestrate terrorist activities there. Hamas does this using its “West Bank headquarters,” which are centers for coordinating terrorism with higher level commanders in Gaza and Lebanon.

Read  WATCH: Israeli Police officer recounts gun battle with Hamas terrorists

Israel and the P.A. have a common interest in preventing a Hamas presence in Judea and Samaria — a presence fueled by Iranian cash and weapons.

However, it is Israel that will have to neutralize the emerging threat, a task that hinges on Israel’s continued full freedom of movement and intelligence superiority in the region.

The P.A.’s recent attempt to step up its own raids against gunmen in Jenin and Shechem (Nablus) suggest a realization that if Ramallah fails to rein in the armed groups, Israel will do so instead, further weakening the P.A.’s standing.

After Abbas

These events provide hints as to what may occur after the 87-year-old Abbas departs the scene.

The inability of the Fatah faction to unite and produce a clear successor to Abbas, someone that could maintain the existing Palestinian coalition leadership structure, may lead to surprising scenarios.

One of those scenarios might be that elements within Fatah come to view Hamas as a potential partner to leverage against Fatah rivals. This scenario give Hamas a substantial role in the P.A.’s decision-making process.

Sub-factions within the P.A. are already behaving like the post-Abbas era has arrived, with some acting independently to build support among armed militias, secure financing, and expand their own political connections both inside of and outside of Judea and Samaria.

Read  Israel: Hamas uses ambulances for terrorism

Israel’s response has been to create a capability to disrupt terrorism irrespective of the P.A.’s political and internal security dynamics, and irrespective of which scenario ends up playing out.

That means ensuring operational readiness for any eventuality, and preparing for all scenarios on the security front.

Israel and Iran

Those preparations also have to take into account Iran’s growing role in Judea and Samaria, which finds expression through terrorist financing and the smuggling of weapons and drugs via the Jordanian border, and dealing with a younger Palestinian generation that is both frustrated by the lack of any change in its situation and exposed to systematic, radical incitement on social media and mainstream media.

While the current security situation has not yet reached the intensity of the first or second intifadas, Israel is taking preemptive action to prevent a third intifada, identifying and disrupting threats as they materialize.

As far as the Israeli defense establishment is concerned, the primary objective remains consistent: preserving stability and countering terror.

That also includes the granting of some 150,000 work permits to Palestinians, allowing them to enter Israel and Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria. It also means preferring P.A. rule to the other two alternatives facing Area A of Judea and Samaria: Hamas or chaos.

From Iran’s vantage point, meanwhile, the boundary between Judea and Samaria and Israel, marked by fences and crossings, represents a potentially exploitable vulnerability. Furthermore, the blurred lines between criminal and terror activities, especially in the context of arms and drugs smuggling, is seen by Iran as an opportunity.

Proactive security measures like Tuesday’s raid in Jenin, while preparing for any eventuality that might follow Abbas’s departure, will form main pillars of Israeli defense policy in the near future.