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Shin Bet head said to warn Netanyahu PA could collapse, worsening security situation

In first briefing since elections, Ronen Bar reported to update PM-designate on range of security issues, including situation in West Bank and Gaza, threat from Iran

Composite image shows Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar (left) and Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90; Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Composite image shows Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar (left) and Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90; Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu was briefed last week by Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar on the risk of a collapse of the Palestinian Authority and a resulting security deterioration, according to a weekend report.

The Walla news site, citing two sources with knowledge of the matter, said the two met at the beginning of last week at Bar’s request, with the head of the internal security service updating Netanyahu on the security situation in the West Bank and Gaza, threats from Iran and other issues.

The Shin Bet refused to comment on the report, while Netanyahu’s office had yet to respond.

It was the first meeting between the two since parties loyal to Netanyahu won 64 seats out of the 120-seat Knesset on November 1. On Sunday, President Isaac Herzog officially gave Netanyahu the mandate to form a coalition.

Israeli security officials have warned in recent months that the Palestinian Authority, controlled by Fatah, is losing control of the northern West Bank, particularly in the cities of Nablus and Jenin.

A complete collapse or dismantling of the PA would create heavy demands on Israel, forcing it to take charge of both security and civilian affairs in areas it currently controls.

Members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group are seen during the funeral of Mateen Debaya, killed during an Israeli raid, in the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank on October 14, 2022. (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)

Netanyahu’s expected far-right coalition partners Bezalel Smotrich of Religious Zionism and Itamar Ben Gvir of Otzma Yehudit support measures against the PA, the latter publicly stating he would support abolishing it entirely.

Amid the deterioration of PA control, Palestinian gunmen have repeatedly targeted troops operating in the West Bank, as well as military posts, troops operating along the West Bank security barrier, Israeli settlements and civilians on the roads.

Though most of the Palestinian population remained uninvolved in the violence, thanks to an improving economic situation, the security establishment fears the unrest could lead to further escalation, the likes of which have not been seen in two decades, according to Walla.

Security officials are particularly concerned over the Lion’s Den faction, formed in August by members of various terror groups, which has claimed responsibility for most of the shooting attacks and is made up of participants who are too young to remember the destructive consequences of the Second Intifada — an onslaught of Palestinian suicide bombings and other terror attacks and a resulting Israeli crackdown from 2000 to 2005.

The military has in recent months waged a major anti-terror offensive mostly focused on the northern West Bank to deal with a series of Palestinian attacks that have left 29 people in Israel and the West Bank dead since the start of the year.

The operation has netted more than 2,000 arrests in near-nightly raids, but has also left over 130 Palestinians dead, many of them — though not all — while carrying out attacks or during clashes with security forces.

Walla also reported that the Shin Bet chief discussed special security arrangements for Netanyahu and his family, who will live in their private home in Jerusalem while the official Prime Minister’s Residence continued to undergo crucial renovations ordered by the Shin Bet.

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