IDF: Don't let PA control Gaza crossings

Several General Staff members tell Barak ceding control of Erez, Karni crossings a mistake.

idf checkpoint 224 88 (photo credit: AP)
idf checkpoint 224 88
(photo credit: AP)
Defense Minister Ehud Barak appears to be on a collision course with the IDF, which has voiced strong opposition to allowing the Palestinian Authority to regain control of the Gaza side of crossings between Israel and the Strip. On Tuesday, Barak's office released a statement signaling a change in his stance, saying he would consider reopening Gaza's border crossings if violence from the territory ceased. "When conditions have ripened in the future for an end to the rockets and the terrorism and the reduction of the weapons' smuggling, we will be willing to consider concessions on the Gaza crossings through cooperation with representatives of [PA Prime Minister Salaam] Fayad's government," Barak said. But The Jerusalem Post has learned that several members of the IDF General Staff are fiercely opposed to the idea, which would transfer control of the Erez and Karni crossings to Palestinian security forces. Two officers who have come out against the proposal are OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant and Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj.-Gen. Yussef Mishlev. Defense officials said the issue came up during talks Barak held with Fayad and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Jerusalem on Sunday, and that the defense minister told them he would reconsider the Palestinian proposal. Barak presented both officials with a 35-page list of goodwill gestures to the Palestinians in the West Bank that the IDF began implementing on Monday with the removal of the Rimonim Checkpoint, east of Ramallah. A top defense official, close to the defense minister, said Barak's statement was aimed at appeasing the Americans and that he did not intend to allow the deployment of PA forces at the crossings in the near future. "How can we let [PA President Mahmoud] Abbas deploy forces there while Hamas is in control of Gaza?" the official asked during a conversation with the Post. "This would have the opposite effect and would strengthen Hamas instead of Abbas." Barak is also considering an Egyptian proposal to transfer control of the Rafah crossing, between Gaza and Sinai, to Hamas and Fatah jointly. Egyptian Minister-without-Portfolio for intelligence, Omar Suleiman, has brought up the proposal as part of the cease-fire talks he is mediating between Israel and Hamas. Defense officials said it was unlikely that Barak would agree to a Hamas presence at the crossing, but that Israel was looking into the possibility of strengthening the mandate of the European Union monitors who were stationed there before Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in June. The move would involve creating a mandate that would allow the monitors to inspect the people passing through the crossing between Gaza and Egypt.