The IDF is in talks to give the Palestinian Authority more responsibility for security in Area A, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.- Gen. Gadi Eisenkot told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday.
Eisenkot emphasized the discussions are part of ongoing talks with PA security, and are not connected to diplomatic negotiations.
The chief of staff explained: “These talks are meant to increase the defensive effectiveness in the area, while examining the possibility of decreasing IDF soldiers’ entry into Area A.”
(Area A, which encompasses the seven major cities in the West Bank, is under PA control, but IDF forces may enter for security reasons.) “These talks are only at their beginning,” Eisenkot reassured MKs. “In any case, the IDF does not maintain a regular presence in Area A. Rather we enter the territory when there is an operative need.”
Similar discussions have taken place in the past and the idea is not something new, Eisenkot added, calling coordination between Israeli and Palestinian security forces a matter of mutual interest.
“The IDF will maintain full freedom of action in the territory,” he stated. The possible change is meant to increase stability in the West Bank.
Eisenkot added that IDF intelligence was aware in advance of destabilizing factors in the West Bank, and was prepared for the current wave of terror, which began in September.
“We have superior intelligence in the field, and the IDF is not limited in its actions. At the same time, it is important to emphasize that we cannot deter every terrorist who is willing to execute a stabbing attack,” he stated.
“The IDF is not skimping on manpower to protect civilians,” Eisenkot added, saying 65 percent of its regular troops are stationed in the West Bank. “The IDF is ready for the possibility of an escalation.”
Eisenkot said the army’s rules of engagement have prevented more rioters from being hurt and the IDF is strict about enforcing them.
Eisenkot also said that since a flourishing Palestinian economy is a factor in curbing violence, it would be a mistake to prevent Palestinians from working in Israeli towns or industrial areas in the West Bank.
As for the Gaza Strip, Eisenkot said locating tunnels used by terrorists is a top priority.
“The IDF invests great resources in facing this threat, in a variety of technologies and operations. In the last decade, the IDF invested over NIS 1b.
in an attempt to find a solution for the tunnels threat, including over NIS 500m. since the end of Operation Protective Edge [in 2014],” he added.
Eisenkot questioned whether Army Radio, “a military radio station that deals with civilian debates,” should exist since it diverts considerable human resources from the IDF’s primary military function. The Defense Ministry has authority over Army Radio.