Shin Bet said to urge PM to buck far-right in order to prevent West Bank flareup

TV report cites document from security service warning that Palestinian Authority security troops could turn their weapons on Israeli forces due to PA’s inability to pay employees

Israeli soldiers stand guard next to the scene of a Palestinian shooting attack, near Wadi al-Haramiya, West Bank, January 7, 2024. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
Israeli soldiers stand guard next to the scene of a Palestinian shooting attack, near Wadi al-Haramiya, West Bank, January 7, 2024. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

The Shin Bet has submitted a document warning Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to urgently act in order to prevent an imminent flareup in the West Bank, according to an Israeli television report Friday.

For months, the security establishment has urged Netanyahu to reverse the cabinet decisions taken after October 7 to withhold hundreds of millions in tax revenues that Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority and prevent the return of some 150,000 Palestinians from work inside Israel and the settlements.

The former decision was taken as part of an effort by Israel to disconnect from Gaza, given that some of the tax revenues are used to pay services and employees in the Strip. The latter decision was taken as a security precaution following the Gaza-ruling Hamas’s terror onslaught, in which some 1,200 Israelis were brutally killed and roughly 240 were taken hostage.

The security establishment has warned that the policies risk collapsing an already cash-strapped PA, which would leave Israel responsible for providing services to millions of Palestinians in the West Bank.

The PA has been unable to pay its employees, including members of its security services in full for months, and the Shin Bet document reported by Channel 13 warns that this could lead to PA troops turning their weapons on Israeli forces after decades of cooperation that the IDF has credited for curbing terror and maintaining stability in the West Bank.

The US has also repeatedly called on Israel to release the PA tax revenues, noting that they belong to Ramallah, effectively accusing Israel of stealing. Biden officials have warned that failure to do so risks opening up another front in the West Bank on top of the war in Gaza and increasingly intensifying clashes on the Lebanon border between Israeli forces and the Hezbollah terror group.

But Netanyahu has not budged on the matter amid pushback from far-right ministers Itamar Ben Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, whose support he needs to maintain his coalition.

Far-right leaders Itamar Ben Gvir (L) and Bezalel Smotrich at the Knesset on December 29, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Netanyahu reportedly reached out to UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed asking if Abu Dhabi would be willing to finance unemployment benefits for the Palestinian workers in the West Bank. The Emirati leader flatly rejected the request.

“A lot of blood could be spilled, for merely political reasons,” a security source told Channel 13. “Not enough is being done to prevent this.”

The document reported by Channel 13 came hours after an Israeli man was wounded in a shooting attack in the settlement of Adora and several days after Channel 12 news reported on similar warnings issued by security chiefs regarding the situation in the West Bank.

According to that report, the warnings were relayed by IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi and other senior military commanders, who said Israel risked a new front in the West Bank amid the war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip and ongoing clashes on the northern border with the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah.

Besides Netanyahu, the report said the other members of the war cabinet — Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Minister Benny Gantz — were also warned of the prospect of major unrest in the West Bank.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and IDF chief Herzi Halevi, October 23, 2023. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Tensions in Israel and the West Bank have been high since October 7, when some 3,000 terrorists burst through the Gaza border into Israel in a Hamas-led attack, killing at least 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and seizing some 240 hostages. Israel responded with an aerial campaign and subsequent ground operation with the goal of destroying Hamas and freeing the hostages.

The Israel Defense Forces has continued to operate throughout the West Bank and police have been on high alert in Israel, in light of concerns about a possible escalation of violence.

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