For Israel’s military, maintaining control of the occupied West Bank has been fraught with contradictions in recent months, creating a tension that senior military officials say does not bode well for stability.
The Israeli government imposed economic sanctions on the Palestinian Authority to protest the Palestinian leadership’s decision to join the International Criminal Court, withholding tax revenues it collects on behalf of the authority for several months. Yet the military — with the government’s approval — has been trying to maintain Palestinian economic stability and revive the local economy.
The years of relative quiet on the security front have given leaders on both sides more freedom to make decisions without the pressure of violence. But American-brokered peace talks collapsed last year, and instead of agreements, the two sides are engaged in a tense political and diplomatic confrontation.
And while the Palestinian Authority leadership is threatening to scale back its security coordination with Israel — a system of cooperation that is unpopular with many Palestinians — it has helped maintain the calm, and both sides appear to have an abiding interest in preventing a new outbreak of violence.
“The instructions we get from the government are to maintain security, civilian and economic stability as much as we can,” said Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon, Israel’s top commander in the West Bank, in a rare interview at the end of his tour as chief of the military’s Central Command.
The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and his Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in parts of the West Bank, have a similarly clear interest in maintaining stability, according to General Alon. He was speaking at military headquarters in Tel Aviv shortly before he was to take up his new post as chief of the military’s operations branch, a senior position in the high command.