Palestinian Security Forces (not really) allowed in East Jerusalem

In recent weeks, there have been a number of press reports whereby Israel has consented to a renewed presence of Palestinian Authority security personnel in East Jerusalem (YNet: Palestinian police deployed in East Jerusalem after Israel ban; Times of Israel: Palestinian police return to Jerusalem suburbs).

Such reports are no more accurate than the recent articles celebrating the “approval of Palestinian construction in East Jerusalem” or “a suspension of Absentee Property Law.” In each of these cases, hasbara and sensationalist headlines are trumping the facts.

What has in fact occurred is that Israel has permitted armed Palestinian police to return to Abu Dis, Azariyeh, a-Ram and Biddou – Palestinian neighborhoods located adjacent to East Jerusalem, under Palestinian civilian control but full Israeli security control. This is the first time in more than 15 years that Israel has permitted armed Palestinian security to maintain a regular presence in these areas. The decision to end the ban on Palestinian security operations in these areas appears to be a reflection of the thriving crime in these neighborhoods – crime that Israeli security forces have little interest in working directly to control, but which nonetheless has security implications for Israel.

As with the recent Israeli decision to grant permits for Palestinian medical personnel to drive their cars to their places of work in Jerusalem, so too does this new policy vis-à-vis Palestinian security forces underscore how little many Israeli policies regarding the Palestinians have to do with genuine Israeli security concerns, and how much more they are grounded in political goals, like limiting the presence and effectiveness of Palestinian governance in certain areas. It is a decision that may benefit some Palestinians, but it is one grounded in Israeli self-interest.