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Rajoub is Out and Hebron is In

18 November 2002

By Yisrael Ne’eman

Many questions are being asked concerning the Friday night Hebron attack, particularly concerning the military response and political issues as to the Jewish presence in the city.  Hebron over the past two years was generally fairly quiet despite the tensions between Jews and Arabs which have known massacres in the past, the most famous being the terror attack which killed over sixty Jews in August 1929 in an action initiated by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin el-Husseini against an ultra-orthodox, non-Zionist community.

In the 1980’s there was the attack against the yeshiva, retaliations against Islamic students, constant shooting into the Jewish Quarter and the massacre of 29 Moslems in the Cave of the Machpela in 1994 by Baruch Goldstein.  Over the past two years Jewish holidays have turned into target practice for Palestinian snipers firing into the Jewish Quarter.  But overall since September 2000 Hebron in relation to Bethlehem, Nablus, Tulkarm, Jenin and Ramallah has been fairly quiet even though it is the only Arab city in the Judea and Samaria (West Bank) with a mixed Jewish Arab population (Arabs outnumber Jews by about ten to one when taking Kiryat Arba and the Jewish Quarter together versus Arab Hebron).

The Islamic Jihad is taking the honors for the successful attack in an area where previously there were no successes.  The former chief of the West Bank Preventive Security forces Jabril Rajoub is from the Hebron area and well connected to the extended families and powers to be and despite it all was able to keep Palestinian violence on a low level.  Several months ago he was fired from his post by Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasir Arafat.  He was considered a challenge, a threat and too much of a moderate.  Although involved in espionage against Israel his men were not involved in shooting incidents.

After the Defensive Shield and Determined Path operations to clear out Palestinian terrorism, this was not to Arafat’s liking especially when ‘court moderates’ like Abu Mazen were seeking a political solution to the conflict.  Rajoub was an armed ‘moderate’, very different than the Palestinian politicians. 

With Rajoub gone, the Islamic Jihad, Hamas and Fatah/Tanzim (led by Arafat) began filling the Hebron vacuum.  Arafat’s greatest rivals are his own PA moderates, his new allies the radical Islamic groups.  The PA moderates, like Rajoub were in favor of a two state solution, Arafat and the others want a total war on a Mideast regional scale or larger.

The most explosive powder keg in Judea and Samaria is Hebron and the Jihad has lit the match.  The Hebron/Kiryat Arba Jewish communities are very right wing, ardently religious and radical.  Arafat is hoping for a radical right wing Israeli response.  In the upcoming elections he favors a right wing victory so there will be no more talk of a ‘two state’ solution.

Arafat and the Palestinian extremists have not given up hope for a full-scale conflagration.