Defense officials say government considering Palestinian request to take control over additional parts of W. Bank; initiative may be linked to efforts to get Abbas back to negotiating table.
The government is considering a Palestinian request to transfer security control of additional territory in the West Bank to PA security forces as a goodwill gesture to President Mahmoud Abbas.
The initiative may be linked to efforts to get Abbas to agree to renew negotiations.
The territory under consideration to be transferred is in Area B (assigned under the Oslo Accords to PA civil and Israeli security control) and Area C (assigned under the Oslo Accords to full Israeli control).
Defense officials said that a new security agreement was under consideration in accordance to the Palestinians’ request as they seek to expand control over additional parts of the West Bank.
The issue reportedly came up during Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s talks with US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta during his visit to Israel earlier this week.
The IDF has dramatically scaled back its operations inside Palestinian cities in recent years due to the PA security forces’ effectiveness in cracking down on Hamas and other terrorist organizations.
The IDF last year allowed the PA to open police stations in villages in Area B.
“There are talks about a possible new security package,” one defense official said on Wednesday. “The Palestinians ask for different measures and we need to consider them.”
While the IDF might favor transferring security for certain parts of the West Bank as a possible way to minimize violence, such a decision is expected to encounter fierce political opposition.
The IDF believes that if the PA feels like its authority is expanding, it will make sure to crack down on terrorist elements and to work toward containing demonstrations that could break out as the Palestinians move forward with their bid for statehood at the United Nations.
The defense establishment is also opposed to withholding funds from the PA and is concerned that stopping money transfers to Ramallah could lead to the PA’s collapse, anarchy in the territories and ultimately to an increase in violence by Palestinians dependent on the PA for their livelihood.
Panetta also came out strongly during his trip to Israel on Monday against the decision by Congress to withhold $200 million in aid.
“Members of the PA security forces whose salaries are not paid will be less inclined to contain demonstrations and crack down on terrorist organizations,” another defense official said.
“It is in Israel’s security interest for the aid to continue.”