karni crossing 298.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
While the cabinet on Sunday focused on transferring funds and lifting roadblocks ahead of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's planned meeting with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Monday in Egypt, the Defense Ministry is already beginning to prepare for the next stages: transferring security over cities to the PA and intensifying military coordination and cooperation.
In principle, officials said Sunday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak was not opposed to lifting roadblocks in the West Bank. But, they stressed, it needed to be done wisely and gradually.
The IDF is hoping to avoid results similar to those that occurred in December, when some 30 roadblocks were lifted at once and a suicide bomber from Kalkilya succeeded in infiltrating a car bomb into Tel Aviv for an attack that he ended up not perpetrating.
"We are not opposed in principle to lifting the roadblocks," one official said. "But it needs to be done in stages. Nothing is being done immediately."
In addition to the lifting of the roadblocks, another gesture under Barak's consideration is the transferring of weapons to the Palestinian security forces in the West Bank. Under consideration is the transfer of machine guns, ammunition and even possibly armored vehicles.
"This all depends on Abbas and whether he succeeds in restoring order and removing gunmen from the streets in West Bank cities," the defense official said. "Otherwise, this will not happen."
If everything goes according to plan, the next step would be to transfer security over West Bank cities - such as Jericho and Ramallah - to Palestinian security forces. In recent months, IDF sources said, coordination with PA security officials in the West Bank has increased.
Commander of the Judea and Samaria Division Brig.-Gen. Yair Golan, for example, recently started meeting regularly with the PA security chief in the West Bank. In addition, regional brigade commanders were also holding monthly meetings with their Palestinian counterparts to coordinate issues such as freedom of movement in their areas.
While the IDF continuously urges PA commanders to crack down on Fatah and Hamas terrorists, until now they have refrained from doing so, and most of their work focuses on maintaining law and order in the West Bank cities and locating cars stolen from Israel.
"The coordination talks will certainly be on the table as something that can be upgraded," an IDF source said. "The idea will ultimately be to use the PA forces to crack down on terrorists in the West Bank."