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Friday, January 02, 2004

Anarchy in the Terror-tories

Haaretz: The mayor of the local council of Arabe, a Palestinian town west of Jenin, resigned this week with his council members, after gun-toting militants ordered him to do so. The gunmen accused him of stealing the townspeoples' money.

The fawda (anarchy) is running rampant in the territories, notwithstanding Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia's statements about the need to fight it. Palestinian sources as well as Israeli intelligence sources report a continued deterioration in the situation, and even the meager achievements of the summer's hudna (cease-fire) are crumbling rapidly. The West Bank is dominated by armed gangs, which no longer fear the Palestinian Authority's security forces. Last month Tanzim activists tried to assassinate Nablus Mayor Ghassan Shaq'a and accidentally - or not - killed his brother instead. In Qafr Surda near Bir Zeit, thugs cut off the ears of an administrator in Bir Zeit University, to dissuade him from firing workers.

In Jenin and Nablus militias are engaged in both criminal and terrorist activity. They extort protection fees from merchants and kidnap businesspeople to supplement their income. Or they threaten political activists in an attempt to squeeze benefits from the PA.

While Prime Minister Ariel Sharon formulates his unilateral disengagement plan, which has not been mentioned since his controversial speech in Herzliya, the Israel Defense Forces is also agonizing over what to do. Is the fawda threatening the PA's existence? Should Israel make goodwill gestures to preserve the PA and enable it to establish its power in the territories? And how can this be achieved while Abu Ala declares his loyalty to chairman Arafat, whom Israel blames for the situation?

Continued . . .