While serious violence from the Gaza Strip has continued, the overall situation in the West Bank has gotten better, according to an IDF spokesperson. Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich, speaking in a conference call on Tuesday sponsored by The Israel Project, said that since 2007 there is “somewhat a growing stability” in the West Bank as suicide bombings have declined and economics and security have improved.
Suicide bombers were at one point a serious threat from the West Bank during the Second Intifada, but Leibovich pointed to the construction of the Israeli security fence as a key reason why the attacks have subsided. Despite the fence, the IDF has maintained counter-terrorism operations as well.
Leibovich said there are 28,000 Palestinian police officers “that enforce law and order” in the West Bank, and “overall there is a good tactical cooperation with those forces on behalf of the IDF.”
As the West Bank has become more secure, the Israeli roadblocks have declined and the West Bank economy has grown. Leibovich said that more than 200 checkpoints and roadblocks have been removed in recent years “in order to ease the lives of the Palestinians” that live in the West Bank.
As for the economics, she said that “exports have gone up; imports have gone up; the unemployment rate has gone down.” She did not specify if that was just on the Palestinian side in the West Bank, which she referred to by its Israeli name—Judea and Samaria—or included Israeli communities there as well. Dozens of hotels have also been built.
Better, Not Perfect
That doesn’t mean the West Bank threats are gone. On Wednesday a press release posted on the IDF Spokesperson’s Blog reported that a terror cell was recently arrested from a village near Bethlehem.
While they apparently did not manage to kill anyone, they did place explosives and attempted shooting attacks. They were apprehended in a joint IDF and Israel Security Agency (ISA or Shin Bet) operation.
According to the press release, the investigation that led to the cell began after they shot at a border police vehicle. The ISA said the cell committed other shooting attacks as well.
According to the press release, the ISA said that “the terrorists planned violent riots to ‘lure’ security forces to the area. Once the security forces arrived at the scene, the terrorist cell fired at them using improvised guns. No injuries or damage were reported in any of the attacks.”
In addition, there have been multiple other attacks in the West Bank just this year. Perhaps the most vicious was the stabbing murders of five members of a family— including three children—in their home in the Itamar settlement in March. Leibovich described the attack as “horrific.”
However, while threats and attacks still occur in the West Bank, she said that “overall, I would say the security situation is stable.”
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, November 17, 2011)