Netanyahu convenes security meeting to discuss West Bank tensions

Without presence of Ben Gvir or many other ministers, security officials reportedly discuss need to shore up Palestinian Authority, as situation continues to deteriorate

File: In this handout photo, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds a situational assessment with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi and other senior officials on May 9, 2023. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)
File: In this handout photo, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds a situational assessment with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi and other senior officials on May 9, 2023. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly convened a security discussion at his office in Jerusalem on Sunday evening, without most of his cabinet ministers.

According to reports, Netanyahu met with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar, IDF head Herzi Halevi, National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi and other security officials.

Channel 13 news reported that the meeting centered around “the precarious situation” of the Palestinian Authority, amid the deteriorating security situation in the West Bank, and included a discussion over potential gestures to help shore up the PA.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who was not invited to the meeting, has been left out of sensitive security meetings in the past, reportedly over fears that he would leak information about sensitive operations.

Last week, President Isaac Herzog called Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to send well wishes for the Eid al-Adha holiday and also to stress the need to fight terrorism and incitement, following a string of deadly attacks on Israelis in the West Bank.

On the same day, Gallant spoke with senior Palestinian Authority official Hussein al-Sheikh about recent incidents in the West Bank, including the settler attacks on Palestinians, his office said.

Right: Palestinian Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh gives an interview to The Associate Press, at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, June 13, 2022. Left: Defense Minister Yoav Gallant attends an event at the Knesset, June 13, 2023. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser; Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In the wake of a deadly Palestinian terror attack on June 20, in which four Israelis were killed by Hamas-affiliated gunmen, hundreds of settlers rampaged in Palestinian towns and villages for five days, setting fire to homes and cars, and even opening fire in some cases.

According to a readout from the Defense Ministry, Gallant told al-Sheikh — who holds the Civil Affairs portfolio — that Israel “views the violence used by extremist elements against Palestinian citizens in recent days with severity, and emphasized that Israel will work to bring the perpetrators to justice.”

Gallant told al-Sheikh that Israeli security forces would “work to thwart terror wherever required,” and asked to convey a message to the Palestinian Authority to take “quick and powerful action against the centers of terrorism, which work to destabilize the area,” according to the readout.

The pair agreed that there was a need to calm the atmosphere in the West Bank “for the sake of the Israeli and Palestinian population,” the ministry said.

It was the first such publicly announced call between Gallant and Palestinian Authority officials. The military’s liaison to the Palestinians, Maj. Gen. Ghassan Alian, also participated in the call.

Last month, an Israeli drone struck a car carrying three Palestinian gunmen who had just opened fire at a checkpoint in the northern West Bank, marking the first targeted killings in the West Bank since 2006.

Smoke billows from an Israeli helicopter strike during an army raid in Jenin in the West Bank on June 19, 2023. (Jaafar ASHTIYEH / AFP)

The incident came days after attack helicopters were used in a military raid in the northern West Bank city of Jenin in which seven Palestinians were killed, including two teens, and eight soldiers were injured by a large roadside bomb and in clashes with Palestinian gunmen.

Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians have been high across the West Bank for the past year and a half, with the military carrying out near-nightly raids, amid a series of deadly Palestinian terror attacks.

Since the beginning of the year, Palestinian attacks in Israel and the West Bank have killed 24 people.

According to a tally by The Times of Israel, 134 West Bank Palestinians have been killed during that time, most of them during clashes with security forces or while carrying out attacks, but some were uninvolved civilians and others were killed under unclear circumstances.

Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.

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