Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Friday that threats by the Palestinian Authority to end security cooperation with Israel, in the wake of the death of a senior Palestinian official on Wednesday, did not faze the Israeli establishment.
Ya’alon told Channel 2 that such a measure would “hurt them more than us,” and that Israel could “manage without it.”
His remarks came just two days after he said the cooperation between Israel and the PA was important and would continue.
The defense minister said Friday that the PA was benefiting greatly from the cooperation, with Israel uncovering Hamas plots to overthrow Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank and foiling terror attacks on Israeli targets.
Ya’alon described the security situation in Israel as “adequate.”
“In the previous decade, there were suicide bombings every few days. The situation today is adequate. It’s not quiet but it’s adequate. Attempts by terror organizations to carry out attacks are thwarted. The policy we [in the Likud] are leading is based on experience, responsibility and [good] judgement,” he said, injecting some election talk into his interview answers.
Over the past two months, nearly a dozen Israelis have been killed in a series of terror attacks perpetrated by Palestinians, mainly in Jerusalem, in what the government has described as hard-to-stop lone-wolf attacks. The attacks came after weeks of rioting in East Jerusalem and the West Bank in response to Palestinian fears that Israel seeks to change the status quo on the Temple Mount and allow Jews to pray there, a charge Israel has vehemently denied. Tensions in the capital have been high since the June kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers and the killing by Jewish extremists of a Palestinian teenager as a revenge attack.
The abduction and killing sparked a summer of disturbances that climaxed with Operation Protective Edge, the 50-day war Israel fought against Hamas and other terror groups in and around Gaza.
During the war, the Shin Bet said it had arrested over 90 operatives and thwarted a Hamas coup attempt in the West Bank aimed at toppling Abbas and starting a third intifada uprising.
Last month, the Shin Bet also revealed that members of a Hamas terror ring in the West Bank, run from the organization’s headquarters in Turkey, sought to carry out an array of major attacks, including on Jerusalem’s main soccer stadium and its light rail line.
The announcement confirmed a Times of Israel report earlier last month that said Israel had arrested dozens of members of a Hamas terror network operating throughout the West Bank.
The Shin Bet said the ring was preparing to kidnap Israelis in Israel and abroad, enter Israeli villages, detonate car bombs, perpetrate roadside attacks, and execute a major terror attack in Teddy Stadium, where the Israeli soccer team Beitar Jerusalem plays its home games.
The Shin Bet asserted that the plan was evidence of an “indefatigable” desire on Hamas’s part to rehabilitate its terror infrastructure in the West Bank and to tug Israel into a sharp military response, which might indirectly lead to the toppling of Abbas’s regime, which is “one of Hamas’ goals.”
On Thursday, a top aide to Abbas said the Palestinian Authority was ready to freeze security cooperation with Israel in the wake of the death PA official Ziad Abu Ein after a clash with Israeli troops on Wednesday.
“We see Israel as having complete responsibility for the murder of Ziad Abu Ein,” Erekat said.
Ya’alon had expressed his “sorrow” for Abu Ein’s death on Wednesday, and said the security coordination with the Palestinian Authority would continue.
“The incident during which Ziad Abu Ein died is being investigated by the IDF,” Ya’alon said. “We express sorrow over his death.”
“The security stability is important to both sides and we will continue the security coordination with the PA,” the defense minister said on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday conveyed a personal message to the Palestinian Authority pledging that Israel would investigate the death of Abu Ein, and urging restraint.
Abbas has called for a Palestinian leadership meeting to discuss the response to the death, which is scheduled for Sunday.
Israel sees security cooperation with the PA in the West Bank as a vital part of its efforts to stymie terror attacks and gain intelligence on the ground.