Defense officials mull gestures to woo PA from UN bid

Moves such as roadblock removals, freeing of Fatah prisoners among measures to keep Palestinians from pursuing statehood bid.

roadblock check point 521 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
roadblock check point 521
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
High-ranking members of the Israeli defense establishment have recommended that Israel offer the Palestinian Authority a series of goodwill and economic gestures in an effort to convince President Mahmoud Abbas to back down from plans to unilaterally declare statehood at the United Nations next month.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak is a proponent of the plan, which is said to be opposed by Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz.
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IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.- Gen. Benny Gantz and head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) Yoram Cohen are said to be in favor of the plan.
“This would be a way to get the Palestinians to understand that they have a lot to gain by working together with us, as opposed to making unilateral moves,” one defense official said.
Under consideration is the removal of roadblocks, the possible release of Fatah prisoners from Israeli prisons, an increase in the number of Palestinian workers allowed daily into Israel, and special permits to allow Israelis to enter Palestinian cities in Area A – territory that is off limits to Israelis under the Oslo Accords.
Defense officials said that the idea behind the goodwill and economic gestures was to demonstrate for the Palestinians what they could potentially lose if they go ahead with plans to unilaterally declare statehood at the UN General Assembly on September 20, as they announced they would over the weekend.
Ministers who oppose the move, such as Steinitz, have supported imposing sanctions on the PA if it unilaterally declares statehood.
One proposal has been to withhold custom payments that Israel collects on its behalf if the PA declares statehood.
Another proposal has been to make similar unilateral moves such as annexing settlements blocs to Israel.
Barak has warned against imposing sanctions on the PA, which he fears could lead to the collapse of the PA and push Abbas to dissolve it.
“The possibility that the PA would be dissolved could mean that Israel would be in charge of every aspect of life of the Palestinian people in the West Bank, and this is not something that it currently wants,” a defense official said.
As Israel works to formulate its diplomatic policy, the IDF is continuing to train military units in crowd-control techniques ahead of massive protests that are expected to break out along Israel’s borders.
Israel is particularly concerned with its northern border with Syria, where it fears that Syrian soldiers will also participate in the protests, and possibly engage IDF troops deployed to stop a border infiltration.
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