Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan on Tuesday denounced comments attributed to IDF Military Intelligence chief Herzl Halevi, who reportedly warned that the current terror wave could escalate in the West Bank without peace talks on the horizon.
Chanel 10 news reported Monday that Halevi and other military intelligence officials told the security cabinet last month that without negotiations, the armed wing of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement and members of the PA security forces could join the near-daily attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians.
Erdan denied Halevi had made such statements to the security cabinet, a small forum of ministers that deal with matters of state security.
“I sat in on many meetings with him. I never heard him say anything like this,” Erdan told Army Radio. “If this comment was made in a briefing to military reporters, I think it’s outrageous because we remember the days when there was a diplomatic process and the attacks and terrorism were far more intense.”
Halevi reportedly presented his assessment on January 24, as part of an annual evaluation of the security situation.
In an apparent reference to comments made last week by IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen Gadi Eisenkot against the use of excessive firepower, Erdan added that military officials should avoid making political statements.
“The army should stick to the job of an army,” he said.
Right-wing lawmakers took Eisenkot to task for stating that the IDF’s rules of engagement do not include soldiers “emptying a full magazine at a girl holding scissors.” He was presumably referring to an incident in November in which two Palestinian teenagers attacked an elderly man with scissors and were shot by an off-duty police sapper.
An Israel Radio report in December, citing an unnamed senior Palestinian source, said Fatah was considering whether to resume its participation in armed attacks on Israelis, and that such a development was only a matter of time. The report quoted the source as saying that Fatah would eventually join the recent wave of assaults.
Some 32 Israelis have been killed in the near-daily stabbing, shooting, and car-ramming attacks since the wave of violence broke out in October. More than 170 Palestinians have also died, most of them while carrying out attacks or attempting attacks on Israeli targets.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.