PA rejects request to disarm at Joseph’s Tomb

10 PA officers stationed permanently at holy site; Israel also allowing PA to expand security operations in W. Bank.

IDF soldier stands guard at Joseph's Tomb 390 (photo credit: REUTERS)
IDF soldier stands guard at Joseph's Tomb 390
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Palestinian Authority has rejected an Israeli request to not arm its policemen stationed at Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus with AK-47 Kalashnikov assault rifles, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
Nevertheless, the IDF and PA recently reached new understandings regarding security arrangements at the holy site.
Israel’s interest in improving coordination with PA security authorities came after a Palestinian policeman shot dead Ben-Yosef near the tomb last April. Livnat, the nephew of Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat, had entered Nablus without IDF authorization.
In recent months, the IDF and the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria reached understandings with the PA, which has now stationed 10 police officers at the tomb, a popular destination for Jewish worshipers.
The PA has also put in place strict rules of engagement, in an effort to prevent shootings of Jews who occasionally sneak into the city to pray at the tomb.
Due to the improvement in coordination, the IDF last week allowed a group of Jews to enter Nablus to pray at the tomb without an Israeli military convoy and under the sole supervision of PA security forces. The PA police met the group at the Huwara checkpoint south of the city and escorted the worshipers during their time in Nablus.
“This was a monumental event and is a demonstration of the improvement in security coordination,” one defense source said.
The upgrade in Israeli-PA coordination at the tomb comes as peace talks between the sides remain deadlocked. Last week, PA President Mahmoud Abbas reiterated that he would not continue talks with Israel unless it imposed a freeze on Jewish construction in east Jerusalem and in West Bank settlements.
Despite the standoff, Israel is allowing the PA to expand its security control to additional parts of the West Bank. Several weeks ago, the IDF Central Command gave the PA permission to begin operating in Sebastia near the Shavei Shomron settlement.
Sebastia is located in Area C, which under the Oslo Accords is under Israeli civilian and military control. Permission for the PA to operate in Area C is extremely rare due to the proximity to Israeli settlements.
Last month, the Post reported on an Israeli decision to ignore the establishment of two PA police stations on the outskirts of Jerusalem. The stations were established in territory marked as Area B, which according to the Oslo Accords is under Israeli security control and Palestinian civilian control.
The police stations in the Jerusalem-border villages were established without Israeli government approval but the state is not demanding that the PA remove them, since it prefers not to deploy Israeli police and military forces in the villages.