JERUSALEM—Palestinian security forces have foiled some 200 attacks on Israelis during the upsurge of “lone wolf” violence that began four months ago, according to the chief intelligence officer of the Palestinian Authority.
Maj. Gen. Majid Faraj made the claim this week in an interview with Defense News.
Israeli security officials have maintained that despite the almost daily attacks by knife wielders or Palestinian drivers ramming Israeli pedestrians, the security forces of the Palestinian Authority have cooperated with their Israeli counterparts and have been instrumental in containing the violence. Faraj’s statement is the first explicit confirmation by a Palestinian official.
Faraj, who commands the PA’s General Intelligence Branch on the West Bank, said that his men have arrested about 100 Palestinians on suspicion of planning attacks on Israelis.
Hamas spokesmen were quick to condemn the PA security forces, which number some 30,000 men, for “serving the security of the occupation and combating the Palestinian intifada.”
Faraj said that his cooperation with Israel was based on his desire to prevent the radicalism of ISIS and other jihadi groups from infecting the Palestinian population. “The number of Palestinians supporting them now is very marginal,” he said. “But if ISIS or other extremist groups decide to fight Israel, they will find sympathy on the Arab street.”
Although many Palestinians condemn security cooperation with Israel in the current climate of confrontation, Faraj said he was acting in the interests of the Palestinians and not as an agent of Israel. “ISIS is on our border. They are here with their ideology; and they are looking to find a suitable platform to establish their base.”
Faraj, who rarely makes public statements, was giving what he said was his first-ever media interview. He is close to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, 80, who has become increasingly isolated within the Palestinian hierarchy and has little support on the Palestinian street. One of the major tasks of the PA security forces, say Israeli analysts, is to prevent terror attacks by Hamas supporters on the West Bank aimed at drawing an Israeli crackdown and chaos that would eventually lead to Hamas supporters displacing Abbas.
“We must prevent a collapse here because the alternative is violence, anarchy and terrorism,” said Faraj. “We, together with our counterparts in the Israeli security establishment, with the Americans and others, are all trying to prevent that collapse. The experts all know that in case of collapse, everybody will get hurt. [The radicals] are already in Iraq, Syria, Sinai, Lebanon, and Jordan, but Ramallah [the seat of the PA], Amman, and Tel Aviv must remain immune from them.”
Faraj, who spent years in Israeli prisons as a security offender, said that security coordination, apart from reducing violence, kept alive the possibility of renewed peace talks when the politicians are ready for it. “So I will continue fighting to keep this bridge against radicalization and violence that should lead us to our independence.”
In Gaza Tuesday, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said that the current surge of violence in the West Bank, which has spilled over to Jerusalem and other parts of Israel, is not an expression of despair but a holy war. “Our holy war will drive the occupier out of Palestine.”