CIA Director Bill Burns said he is “concerned about the prospects for even greater fragility and even greater violence between Israelis and Palestinians” following his recent trip to Israel.
In a live interview at the Georgetown School of Foreign Service in Washington on Thursday, Burns shared his thoughts and concerns about several global issues. When asked specifically about the Middle East, he first discussed Iran and the ongoing anti-regime protests there.
However, he identified the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as another concern. Regarding the flareup in violence and the frequent arrest operations aimed at preventing further attacks, Burns said the situation reminds him of the Second Intifada.
“I was a senior U.S. diplomat 20 years ago during the Second Intifada, and I’m concerned, as are my colleagues in the intelligence community. A lot of what we’re seeing today has a very unhappy resemblance to some of those realities that we saw then too,” he said.
“Part of the responsibility of my agency, of the CIA, is to work as closely as we can with both the Palestinian Security Services and the Israeli Security Services to prevent the kind of explosions of violence that we’ve seen in recent weeks, as well. That’s going to be a big challenge,” Burns said.
This potentially refers to the Palestinian Authority’s decision to end security cooperation with Israel. That decision followed a recent operation in Jenin, in which Israeli security forces were fired upon while trying to arrest a Palestinian Islamic Jihad cell. The firefight resulted in the deaths of nine of Palestinians, most of whom were armed terrorists attacking the soldiers, however, at least one of those killed was a civilian.
Israel said the raid was intended to arrest terrorists involved in recent attacks and reports circulated that the operation was meant to prevent an “exceedingly imminent” planned attack. Israel also said it had forewarned the PA security forces. However, the PA decried the raid as “a dangerous escalation.”
During Burns’ visit to the area, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas reportedly told him that the severing of ties was only partial and temporary. He also said that intelligence-sharing between the PA and Israeli continues.
Tensions between the Israel and the Palestinians has been high for the last year, since Israel launched Operation “Break the Wave” on March 31, an operation meant to stop terror attacks from being carried out by terrorist operatives from Palestinian communities in the West Bank.
Since the beginning of the operation, Israel has arrested more than 2,500 Palestinians, and more than 200 Palestinians have been killed in clashes with Israeli forces. Most of those killed were armed militants.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.