JERUSALEM (Mar. 14)
Israeli authorities have dismissed the mass resignation of Arab police officers in West Bank towns and villages as inconsequential.
But they have taken measures to punish the Palestinian population for mounting a war of attrition against the Israeli civil administration, which appears at the moment to have replaced the violence of the past three months.
Under the pressure of unwritten orders from nationalist elements, Arab police officers began handing in their resignations over the weekend. According to official figures, 250 have resigned so far. Arab sources put the number at 450.
Senior Israeli police officers and Police Minister Haim Barlev have stressed that Arab police function mainly on the local level, dealing with traffic infractions and civilian complaints. They have nothing whatever to do with security measures.
Although some Arab police officers reported for duty in the West Bank on Monday, sources at the civil administration said the actual number who resigned was not important, because Arab police have not been performing well for the past two months, in any event. They said they would try to persuade others to return to work, but are preparing for an extended period without their help.
Local Arabs seem satisfied with the resignations, but have little respect for the Arab police. One woman outside the Dahaishe refugee camp, near Bethlehem, claimed the Arab cops “would not have lifted a finger if they saw a Palestinian being beaten by Israeli soldiers.”
Another woman said, “By their mere presence they freed Israeli soldiers to do other jobs.”
In addition to the police officers, several Arab town council members have resigned and local Arabs are threatening not to pay their taxes. About two weeks ago, Arab employees of the civil administration’s income tax collection department in the Gaza Strip quit their jobs.
As a countermeasure to the civil disobedience–though it was not identified as such–the Israeli authorities cut off the supply of gasoline throughout the West Bank on Sunday, causing long lines at gasoline stations. The official explanation was attacks on the tanker trucks that supply the territories.
Fuel is still being delivered for vital services, such as use in hospitals, and shipments continued Monday without interruption.
So far, Arab nationalist circles have not called on the 18,000 Arab employees of the civil administration to resign. The problem is how to pay their salaries with little tax revenue coming in. Several hundred teachers remain idle as a result of the school strike.
Other employees, including tax collectors, are reported to be under pressure and nervous. Their work has been seriously affected in the past few weeks, according to civil administration sources.
An Arab general strike has been called for Tuesday and Wednesday. Meanwhile, Israeli soldiers tried to force shopkeepers in Jericho to open for business during the official daily strike hours, which start at noon.
They are forcing other merchants to close during the morning hours, when nationalist elements allow them to remain open to serve the needs of the local residents.