Amid concerns over the new Fatah-Hamas reconciliation agreement, the defense establishment is reconsidering its approval to allow a battalion of Palestinian security forces to travel later this month to Jordan for training by the United States.
Next week, the seventh battalion of Palestinian security officers and trained by the US will return to the West Bank from Jordan, raising the number of American-trained security personnel in the territories to around 3,500.RELATED:Gov't officials skeptical about Hamas-Fatah agreementColumn One: The Fatah fairy tale
Defense sources said that the departure of the eighth battalion, scheduled for some time in late May or early June, would depend on the establishment of a new Fatah- Hamas unity government and the potential effect it could have on Israeli-PA security coordination.
The security coordination between Israel and the PA has allowed the IDF to scale back operations inside Palestinian cities in recent years and to withdraw some units from the territories. The number of soldiers deployed in the West Bank in 2010 was the lowest since the beginning of the First Intifada in the 1980s.
Increased cooperation has also enabled the IDF to rely on PA forces to crack down on Hamas terrorist infrastructure and as a result to lift over 25 manned roadblocks throughout the West Bank since 2008. The battalions have so far deployed in Hebron, Jenin, Jericho, Ramallah, Nablus and Bethlehem.
IDF officers from the Central Command and the Civil Administration are meeting daily to assess the situation, but sources said that a decision to terminate the coordination would be up to the government.
“Everything is under review,” one officer said. “If, for example, a
Hamas representative takes over the security forces then we will
obviously not be able to work with him.”
The training of the Palestinian battalions is overseen by Lt.-Gen.
Michael Moeller who in November took up the post as the United States
Security Coordinator to Israel and the PA in place of Lt.-Gen. Keith
Moeller, a former B-52 bomber pilot in the US Air Force, is responsible
for the training of the PA forces in Jordan as well as the ongoing
reforms throughout the PA security establishment.