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PM denies plan to transfer 2,500 acres to Palestinians

Palestinian Authority to get ‘not a single meter,’ Netanyahu promises cabinet ministers, contradicting earlier reports

Mount Kabir and the Tirza Valley in the northern West Bank. (Tamar Hayardeni/Wikimedia Commons)
Mount Kabir and the Tirza Valley in the northern West Bank. (Tamar Hayardeni/Wikimedia Commons)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday told ministers that Israel will not transfer any land to the Palestinian Authority, contradicting reports over the weekend that said Israel was considering handing 10,000 dunams (some 2,500 acres) over to the Palestinians as a goodwill gesture.

Speaking to Likud ministers ahead of the weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said Israel will not transfer “not 40,000 square meters, not 10,000 meters and not a single meter.” His statement was quoted to the press by an official at the Prime Minister’s Office.

The prime minister was responding to press reports last week that said Israel was considering giving 10,000 dunams (approximately 3.8 square miles) to the PA.

On Tuesday, Channel 2 reported that the Civil Administration, the IDF’s liaison unit to the Palestinian population in the West Bank, was considering transferring the land, currently under Israeli control, to the Palestinian Authority.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly government meeting, at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on November 29, 2015. (Emil Salman/Pool)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly government meeting, at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on November 29, 2015. (Emil Salman/Pool)

The move, if implemented, would be carried out as a goodwill gesture to the Palestinians in exchange for efforts on the authority’s part to help quell a surge in Palestinian terror attacks over the past two months, and in a bid to stabilize what Israeli planners increasingly worry is a fragile PA.

According to the 1995 Oslo II Accord, the West Bank is divided into three parts: Area A, which is under full PA control; Area B, which is under Palestinian civil control and Israeli security control; and Area C, under full Israeli security and civil control.

The proposed 10,000 dunams would come from Area C, which contains the largest amount of land of the West Bank’s three parts, at about 60 percent.

Outside of anonymous sources within the Civil Administration, there was no official confirmation of the plan, which was published by Channel 2 when US Secretary of State John Kerry was in the region in an attempt to ease tensions. On Sunday, the Prime Minister’s Office denied the report altogether.

The move angered the right flank of Netanyahu’s government. Education Minister Naftali Bennett, head of the Jewish Home party, criticized Netanyahu for statements the latter made on Palestinian statehood during a visit to the US two weeks ago.

“The last thing you need to do in the face of a terror wave is to give them gestures,” Bennett said. “Why does the American approach always have to be accompanied with gifts to the side that is murdering us?”

On Saturday, Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) sent Bennett a letter in which he said that if reports regarding the transfer of land or weapons to the Palestinians were correct, they were a sign of a “moral crime and a prize for terrorism. Such steps would endanger the lives of Israeli citizens that we – ministers of the government – are in charge of protecting.”

Minister of Science Ofir Akunis, speaking to the Hebrew language daily Maariv before Sunday’s meeting, said no land or arms would be transferred to the Palestinians, adding that the media reports were “hallucinations.”

Last week, an unnamed IDF officer also reportedly proposed transferring more arms to PA security forces.

A wave of Palestinian stabbings, shootings and vehicular rammings have killed at least 22 Israelis since the beginning of October. Over 80 percent of the perpetrators have come from the West Bank.

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