Far-right ministers vow to oppose measures aimed at shoring up Palestinian Authority

Smotrich rules out ‘financial concessions’ to PA amid reported concerns over its potential collapse in West Bank; Ben Gvir slams ‘delusional’ plan

Far-right leaders Itamar Ben Gvir (2-R) and Bezalel Smotrich at the Knesset on December 29, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Far-right leaders Itamar Ben Gvir (2-R) and Bezalel Smotrich at the Knesset on December 29, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Far-right coalition leaders vowed to oppose a series of measures aimed at bolstering Palestinian Authority, as ministers were due to deliberate the steps at Sunday’s cabinet meeting.

Consideration of the proposals, which were reported Friday, came as concern grows that the PA could collapse, further destabilizing the West Bank as Israel contends with a spike of attacks that have been met with near-nightly IDF counterterror raids and a large operation in Jenin.

“We are not approving anything. No money will be transferred,” Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, head of the Religious Zionism party, told reporters before the cabinet meeting.

“There will be no financial concessions,” added Smotrich, a vocal opponent of Palestinian statehood who also holds a post in the Defense Ministry giving him broad authority over civilian issues in the West Bank.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who leads the Otzma Yehudit faction, said he would vote against the “delusional” measures.

“There is nothing more absurd than the body that supports terror, pays terrorists’ salaries, encourages incitement to murder Jews and takes over territory in [the West Bank] winning a basket of prizes amid a terror wave,” Ben Gvir wrote on Twitter.

Otzma Yehudit MK Yitzhak Kroizer similarly denounced the Palestinian Authority, which he said Israel should not be working to strengthen.

“You don’t solve one problem with an even greater problem,” Kroizer told Kan public radio.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during the Arab League’s “Summit for Jerusalem” in Cairo, on February 12, 2023. (Ahmad Hassan/AFP)

Sunday’s meeting follows a major counterterror operation carried out by Israeli forces last week in the northern West Bank city of Jenin, which Israel views as a hotbed of terror and where the PA has little authority.

According to Hebrew media reports, the proposals set to be deliberated are backed by the Israeli security establishment and include economic, travel and security measures aimed at stabilizing the PA.

Security officials told Channel 13 news that they have warned the political leadership of the PA’s possible fall and called for advancing the measures quickly. Many of the steps mentioned in the reports have been promised by past governments led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu but have yet to come to fruition.

The measures are also intended to counter Iran’s influence in the West Bank, the Ynet news site reported, following a series of attacks claimed by the Tehran-backed Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups.

The PA is at odds with Hamas, its leading rival, and PA security forces act against other terror elements in the West Bank. The PA and Israel also coordinate on security, although Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said last week that cooperation has ended, a threat he has made repeatedly in the past.

Palestinian gunmen take up positions during a confrontation with the Israeli army in the West Bank city of Jenin on July 3, 2023. (Jaafar ASHTIYEH / AFP)

The PA’s collapse would likely create chaos and a power vacuum in the West Bank, and an opportunity for terror groups to seize control, similar to the situation in Gaza, where Hamas violently ejected the PA in 2007. The PA has increasingly lost control over the northern West Bank, empowering terror groups, and spurring Israeli forces to carry out regular operations in the area following a series of deadly terror attacks emanating from the region.

Israeli officials have previously leaked plans to boost the PA in recent months, amid pressure from the US to step up cooperation between Jerusalem and Ramallah.

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