Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that the IDF would continue to operate in Area A of the West Bank, which is officially under full Palestinian Authority security and civilian control.
The majority of Palestinians live in Area A, mostly within city centers, which has been under complete PA administration as per the 1993 Oslo Accords.
Netanyahu said Wednesday after discussing the issue with the security cabinet that the IDF would maintain the right to operate in Area A according to “operational needs.”
“There is no other deal with the Palestinians,” the statement said.
Israel and the PA have been negotiating in recent months a change in the status quo for Area A. The IDF began to operate there during Operation Defensive Shield in 2002 — a massive Israeli military campaign to quash terrorism during the Second Intifada — and has continued to do so since.
An Israeli-PA discussion about halting IDF operations across Area A followed the rejection by the Palestinians in March of an Israeli offer to cease military operations in Ramallah and Jericho, and subsequently evaluate whether it could then extend to other West Bank cities.
Haaretz reported last month that Israel had proposed to halt operations in the two West Bank cities, except in cases in which a terrorist attack was thought imminent.
In recent weeks, several meetings have taken place between senior Israeli and Palestinian security officials, including representatives from the Shin Bet security agency, IDF Central Command chief Maj. Gen. Roni Numa, and the head of the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), Major General Yoav Mordechai. Palestinian officials involved included Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh, the head of general intelligence Majed Faraj, and the head of preventative security in the West Bank Ziyad Hab al-Rih.
While the prime minister has rejected the idea that the IDF would completely cease operations in Area A — an idea that was also opposed by the Shin Bet — it remains possible the Israeli army could limit its operations in mostly Palestinian areas.
A unnamed senior official was quoted by Haaretz on Monday as saying that the sides were now discussing a temporary limit on IDF activities in all Palestinian cities with increased responsibility for Palestinian security services.
According to the Haaretz report, IDF entry into Area A would require the approval of the head of the army’s Central Command rather than that of a division commander, as at present.
The Palestinian Authority is currently under popular pressure to end security coordination with Israel. PA President Mahmoud Abbas, however, continues to believe the security coordination is beneficial for both sides.
Sue Surkes and Avi Issacharoff contributed to this report
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