Several Palestinians on Monday strongly denounced the Palestinian Authority for rescuing two IDF soldiers who were attacked by a mob after accidentally entering the West Bank city of Jenin earlier in the day.
The PA’s political opponents seized on the incident to reiterate their opposition to Ramallah’s continued security coordination with Israel.
Other Palestinians praised the “heroic” Palestinians who attacked the soldiers and stole an M-16 rifle from the IDF vehicle they were riding in.
The two soldiers, a man and a woman, drove into the city on Monday afternoon, apparently led by navigation app Waze. Local residents began attacking the car with rocks and chairs, breaking the windows and bloodying the troops.
Videos from the scene showed swarms of people surrounding the vehicle and clawing at the soldiers inside it, including one person who appeared to try grabbing the female soldier by her hair.
Palestinian security forces could be seen in the videos protecting the Israeli soldiers during the riot. They also helped them leave the area.
A PA official in Jenin said that by rescuing the IDF soldiers, the Palestinian policemen avoided providing Israel with an excuse to launch a military operation inside the city.
“Our men acted in a responsible manner,” the official said. “Our duty is to maintain law and order and prevent harm to anyone who enters our cities, regardless of their identity. Today we proved that the Palestinian security forces are in control and are determined to prevent anarchy and lawlessness.”
However, some Palestinians saw it as an expression of the PA’s coordination with Israel on security matters in the West Bank, which has remained strong even as diplomatic contacts have foundered.
The security coordination, which allows the Fatah-ruled PA to keep a lid on rival group Hamas and other groups, has long been an extremely sensitive and controversial issue in Palestinian discourse.
For many Palestinians, security coordination is a form of “collaboration with the enemy” – a practice that is regularly denounced as “high treason.”
Several Palestinian factions, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), have long been demanding a halt to security coordination between the PA and Israel.
These factions argue that the security coordination harms the Palestinian national project and serves only the interests of Israel.
The groups, all of which are labeled as terror organizations by Israel, also complain that the security coordination prevents Palestinians from pursuing the right to “armed struggle” against Israel.
In the past few weeks, both the PLO and its ruling Fatah faction recommended that Palestinians halt security coordination with Israel. The moves came in response to US President Donald Trump’s December announcement recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Shortly after the Jenin incident, Hamas-affiliated websites ran headlines that portrayed the PA security forces as “traitors.”
One headline screamed: “Palestinian Authority security protects two Zionist soldiers from attack by Palestinian youths in Jenin.”
The report said that PA security forces had rescued the soldiers “amid popular outrage.”
Another Hamas-affiliated website published a cartoon featuring a PA police officer standing guard at the entrance to a settlement.
The officer faces a Palestinian family living in a tent in the Jenin refugee camp. The caption reads: “The Palestinian Authority hands over two Israeli soldiers who accidentally entered Jenin.”
— وكالة شهاب للأنباء (@ShehabAgency) February 12, 2018
Photos and videos of the incident and the wounded IDF soldiers appeared in many Palestinian media outlets, drawing emotional reactions from Palestinians, especially on Facebook and Twitter, where a hashtag entitled “Coordination is Treason” became very popular.
On social media, thousands of Palestinians criticized the PA security forces for their role in saving the soldiers’ lives.
“The question that needs to be asked is, will the Palestinian security forces defend their people against assaults by the soldiers and settlers?” asked a user named Marwan Hassan.
Khalil Abu Khaled, another Facebook user, wrote that “the youths of Jenin today displayed a unique form of heroism, while [PA President Mahmoud] Abbas registered a new page of shame in his black record.”
For some Palestinians, the screams of the female soldier in the videos posted on Facebook were enough of a reason for jubilation.
Khaled Daabes commented in a post: “Entering Jenin is not like exiting it. The heroes of security coordination rescued the soldiers. Down with security coordination!”
Many of the Palestinian comments on social media mocked the terrified soldiers, particularly the screaming and crying of the woman, saying it refuted the invincible reputation of the IDF.