Barak mulls weapons transfer to Fatah

Barak considering approving a US plan to allow weapons, protective gear and night-vision for PA.

PA police 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
PA police 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Defense Minister Ehud Barak is considering approving a US plan to allow the transfer of weapons, protective gear and night-vision goggles for Palestinian security forces in the West Bank, The Jerusalem Post has learned. The American request, which is expected to be officially submitted to the Defense Ministry by Lt.-Gen. Keith Dayton - the US security coordinator to Israel and the PA - in the coming days, will be one of the issues topping the agenda of Barak's meeting with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayad on Wednesday. Defense officials in Jerusalem said it was likely that Israel would approve the request, noting that it had allowed the transfer of weapons to the PA in the West Bank since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in June. Next week, the officials said, the PA will finally receive the 25 armored vehicles from Russia that Israel approved for delivery in November. In his meeting with Fayad, Barak was also expected to discuss a list of goodwill gestures he planned to approve for the Palestinians, including the deployment of 600 PA security personnel currently being trained in Jordan - supervised by Dayton - to Jenin. Defense officials said the gestures were intended to minimize tension between US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Barak, who has come under criticism for refusing to ease restrictions in the West Bank. Rice is scheduled to arrive in Israel on Saturday night. The armed PA policemen will be charged with maintaining order in Jenin during the day, but the IDF will retain security control and will continue to operate there at night. The deployment in Jenin, defense officials said, would be similar to that of 700 policemen last year in Nablus. "We must exhaust all possible ways of assisting the ongoing negotiations with the Palestinians," Barak said. "We must ease restrictions on the Palestinians whenever it does not conflict with Israeli security, even while taking a calculated risk." Speaking to the press during a tour of the IDF's Tel Hashomer induction center, Barak mentioned several Turkish and European economic projects that Israel was promoting in the West Bank. "There are a number of economic projects that we are working on, which are intended to generate momentum and provide jobs for Palestinians," he said, emphasizing that that "our top responsibility is to provide security for the citizens of Israel." Barak is also considering a series of gestures to ease Palestinians' movement in the West Bank. These include lifting a number of temporary roadblocks, opening a VIP lane at checkpoints, and exempting Palestinian businessmen who are approved by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) from inspections