In farewell remarks, IDF chief urges cabinet to strengthen PA security forces

Gadi Eisenkot tells ministers Palestinian forces recently thwarted Hamas terror attack, says strong security cooperation in Israel’s best interest

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Illustrative: IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot (C) participates in weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on January 13, 2018. (Ariel Schalit / Pool / AFP)
Illustrative: IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot (C) participates in weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on January 13, 2018. (Ariel Schalit / Pool / AFP)

Outgoing IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot reportedly urged the government to strengthen the Palestinian Authority security forces, noting that they had recently thwarted a Hamas terrorist attack in the West Bank.

In his farewell remarks to the cabinet on Sunday, Eisenkot said PA forces seized weapons and explosives originating from Hamas’ military wing in Area A of the West Bank several days ago, ministers attending the meeting told Channel 10 news. Area A are parts of the West Bank under full Palestinian control.

According to the ministers, Eisenkot said the PA forces’ operations against Hamas terrorists in the West Bank were ongoing. He said that while the PA was thwarting Hamas activities out of its own interests, it was in Israel’s best interest to strengthen the PA security apparatus.

Eisenkot also urged against imposing collective punitive measures against Palestinians in the wake of terror attacks, and said economic growth was needed to maintain stability in the West Bank.

The Palestinian Authority, led by President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party, cooperates closely with Israeli security, while its rival Hamas has fought three wars with the Jewish state since 2008 and fired hundreds of rockets into Israel. It also continues to try and carry out terror attacks in the West Bank.

Palestinian security troops in Hebron, November 14, 2017. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

Israel has accused the Gaza terrorist group of stepping up efforts in the West Bank recently, directing a spate of deadly attacks against Israelis there over the last several months. PA forces helped the IDF in its manhunt for at least one of the terrorists in the recent attacks, who fled to the West Bank after shooting dead his two Israeli co-workers.

The security cooperation that is valued by both sides could be dealt a blow by the Trump administration’s cuts to Palestinian aid.

The Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act of 2018 will likely force the US to terminate all aid to the PA, including security assistance, by the end of January.

The Trump administration is scrambling to find a solution after belatedly realizing that eliminating the security aid, which totaled $61 million in 2018 even as other Palestinian assistance was being cut, would be unpopular with both Israel and the PA, threatening its Middle East peace plan.

Last month, US Army Lt. Gen. Eric Wendt, who serves as US security coordinator for Israel and the PA, urged Congress lawmakers to come up with a short term fix to the law to allow the aid to continue.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, right, meets US President Donald Trump In the West Bank city of Bethlehem on May 23, 2017. (Fadi Arouri, Xinhua Pool via AP)

However, legislative attempts to amend the ATCA were on hold due to the US government shutdown, according to Haaretz. Sources involved in the efforts told the daily that if the law is not amended by the end of January, the PA will be forced to reject US assistance for the rest of the fiscal year.

One source indicated that Israel supported the efforts to save US security assistance to the PA, saying that “nobody in Israel wanted a security crisis in the West Bank weeks before the election.”

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