Israel okays armored cars for PA security forces, to settlers’ chagrin

After years of rejecting such requests, Jerusalem approves transfer of vehicles; regional council head blasts ‘utter neglect of human life,’ calls PA police ‘terrorists in uniform’

File: Palestinian security forces in Hebron, November 14, 2017. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)
File: Palestinian security forces in Hebron, November 14, 2017. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

Israel has authorized the transfer of 10 armored cars to Palestinian security forces in the West Bank, after years of rejecting such requests, Palestinian media reported Tuesday.

The vehicles provide by the European Union entered the West Bank through Jordan, the report said.

It was not clear what led to Israel to okay the entry of the cars at the present time, but the move came amid concerns that the Palestinian Authority could downgrade security cooperation with Israel in the West Bank over a dispute involving tax revenues. Israeli officials say the cooperation is vital for anti-terror efforts.

Unnamed security officials told Hebrew media outlets Tuesday evening that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then-defense minister Avigdor Liberman approved the transfer over nine moths ago, at Washington’s request.

Tensions between Israel and the PA have risen in recent months over Israel’s decision to deduct from its tax transfers to the PA the sums of money the Palestinians pay to imprisoned terrorists and terror suspects, as well as the families of those killed in attacks against Israelis.

In February the security cabinet approved cutting $138 million in funds to the PA, the amount Israeli officials say the PA paid out in stipends to attackers and their families in 2018.

The deductions have led the PA to refuse all tax transfers from Israel, forcing Ramallah to launch austerity measures to tackle the budgetary shortfall.

This has included cuts to the salaries of employees, among them members of the security forces.

Under interim peace deals, Israel collects customs duties and other taxes on behalf of the PA, and transfers the funds to the Palestinians each month. These transfers cover roughly two-thirds of the Palestinian government’s budget.

Israel says the stipends to prisoners’ families encourage violence. Palestinians describe the payments as an important form of social welfare and say they are responsible for their citizens.

Following the report, Israeli settler leaders reacted with outrage to the news.

Union of Right-Wing Parties MK Moti Yogev wrote on twitter that he requested an urgent meeting of the Knesset Defense and Foreign Affairs Council, calling the transfer a “life-endangering crime.”

Yossi Dagan, head of the Samaria Regional Council claimed that PA security forces were involved in “many” deadly terror attacks.

Samaria regional council chairman Yossi Dagan attends the 14th annual Jerusalem Conference of the Besheva group, on February 12, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

He called PA security forces “terrorists in uniform” and said arming them was “utter neglect of human life and an unreasonable risk to the lives of IDF soldiers and the residents of Judea and Samaria.”

Yochai Damri, head of Har Hebron Regional Council, said in a statement: “Why do the Palestinians need armored cars? Who exactly is shooting at them?! We will pay for this wrong decision with the blood of our residents and soldiers.”

Israeli officials have said PA security forces’ operations are in Israel’s best interest, and have credited them with thwarting attacks.

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