Cabinet to Discuss Palestinian Authority Boost Measures
In light of fresh concerns that the Palestinian Authority is on the verge of disintegrating, the security cabinet will reportedly discuss approving several measures to strengthen the PA during a meeting on Sunday.
With the support of the Israeli security establishment, the cabinet will discuss financial, travel, and security measures aimed at stabilizing the PA, according to Friday Hebrew media reports.
A new industrial zone in Tarqumiyah, close to the southern West Bank city of Hebron, is among the proposed actions. Israeli security officials have long reportedly supported this idea.
The PA debt payments scheduled to Israel will be loosened, and the cabinet will also talk about travel arrangements like extending the hours of operation for the Allenby crossing into Jordan and issuing biometric passports.
A briefing on security issues will be given to lawmakers by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, and other security officials, according to Channel 13.
Security officials informed the network that they had alerted the political leadership to the potential collapse of the PA and requested that quick action be taken.
According to the news website, the measures are also meant to counter Iran’s influence in the West Bank. The Iranian government supports the terror organizations Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad
The PA and Hamas are at odds, and PA security forces combat other terrorist groups in the West Bank. Although Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas threatened this week that cooperation has ended—a threat he has made repeatedly in the past—the PA and Israel also coordinate on security.
Similar to the scenario in Gaza, where Hamas forcibly ousted the PA in 2007, the collapse of the PA would likely result in chaos, a power vacuum, and a chance for terrorist organizations to seize power. Following a string of deadly terror attacks from the area, the PA has lost control over the northern West Bank, giving terrorist organizations more power and encouraging Israeli forces to conduct routine operations there.
Earlier this week, Israeli forces conducted a significant counterterrorism operation in Jenin, a city in the northern West Bank that Israel considers to be a hub of terrorism and where the PA has little control.
In what appeared to be a coordinated leak from the government, all three of the major Israeli TV networks covered the planned cabinet discussion during Friday night broadcasts.
Israeli officials have previously leaked details of initiatives to strengthen the PA in recent months in response to US pressure to increase coordination between Ramallah and Jerusalem.
A senior official in Netanyahu’s office revealed to The Times of Israel in February that the prime minister had approved several small steps to give Ramallah financial support. But as of last week, only one of the three steps had been carried out.
Netanyahu reportedly said to lawmakers late last month that Israel “needs the Palestinian Authority,” but that it also “needs to crush [the Palestinian] ambition” for an independent state.
The upcoming cabinet meeting follows this week’s IDF counterterrorism operation in Jenin and the region’s ongoing violence.
Twelve Palestinian shooters and one Israeli soldier, Sgt. First Class David Yehuda Yitzhak of the Egoz commando unit, were both killed during the IDF operation in Jenin. The IDF was looking into whether Yitzhak had been injured by so-called friendly fire.
In response to the Jenin operation, Abbas declared that other ties would be severed and security coordination with Israel would remain suspended.
In January, after an IDF raid in Jenin resulted in clashes that resulted in nine Palestinian deaths, most of them members of terror groups but also at least one civilian, Abbas declared a complete freeze on all security coordination with Israel. Abbas had previously threatened to halt security coordination with Israel on numerous occasions. At the time, Israel claimed that the raid was a crucial anti-terrorist operation.
But a week later, Abbas told William Burns, the head of the CIA, that some elements of the security coordination system were still in place and might eventually be fully restored.
Previous Palestinian attempts to halt this coordination have failed, in part because the PA benefits from it by being able to fend off threats from Islamic Jihad and Hamas. It has additionally come under pressure from the US and Israel to uphold ties with Israel, as both countries view cooperation as a crucial factor in reducing terrorist activity and fostering stability in the West Bank.
After the Jenin operation, the violence in the area has persisted recently.
Two armed Palestinians suspected of carrying out a recent shooting attack were killed by Israeli forces on Friday morning in Nablus, a city in the northern West Bank, and a Palestinian man was killed by an Israeli bullet later that day close to Umm Safa.
Staff Sgt. Shilo Yosef Amir, a 22-year-old Israeli soldier, was shot and killed by a Palestinian gunman on Thursday close to the settlement of Kedumim. The attack’s perpetrator, Hamas, took the blame.
The West Bank security barrier, Israeli settlements, military outposts, and civilians on the streets have all been repeatedly targeted by Palestinian gunmen over the past year.
In the West Bank, tensions between Israelis and Palestinians have been high for the past 18 months, with the Israeli military conducting almost nightly raids in response to a string of deadly Palestinian terrorist attacks.
25 people have died as a result of Palestinian attacks since the year’s beginning in Israel and the West Bank.
In that time, 151 Palestinians from the West Bank have died, the majority of them in attacks or clashes with security personnel, but some of them were innocent bystanders and others died in mysterious circumstances.