PM approves 25 armored vehicles to PA

Olmert's move criticized by the right; IDF, Shin Bet oppose move, say Hamas might get vehicles.

PA police 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
PA police 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Right-wing lawmakers on Wednesday lashed out at Prime Minister Ehud Olmert following an announcement the he had agreed to allow Palestinian security forces in Nablus to receive 25 armored vehicles, reversing two years of IDF opposition. Likud officials said the plan was "the continuation of the moral deterioration of Olmert, [Defense Minister Ehud] Barak and [Foreign Minister Tzipi] Livni, which will only lead to a further deterioration in security." Likud Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu added on Army Radio that "these armored vehicles and weapons will eventually fall into the hands of Hamas." MK Arye Eldad (NU-NRP) said "Olmert's cynicism has passed beyond any reasonable borders. [He] will be personally responsible for every Jew who is hurt and will need to stand trial for crimes against the Jewish people." Olmert was presenting the agreement as a gesture to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas before next week's Middle East peace conference in Annapolis, officials said. The IDF and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) have opposed supplying Abbas's forces with armored vehicles, in part out of concern that they might fall into the hands of Hamas or other violent groups. The security establishment questioned the judgment of such a move, citing Monday's shooting attack near Kedumim that emanated from the Nablus area, which the PA was supposed to be controlling with its newly-deployed police force, Israel Radio reported Wednesday morning. Security officials said this proved that PA forces were not capable of reigning in terror groups. Government officials responded to the criticism by saying that the PA needed appropriate tools if it was expected to fight terrorism. Defense officials downplayed the significance of the transfer of armored jeeps as a threat to the IDF. These could easily be destroyed, they said, should they be turned against Israeli forces. When Hamas overran Gaza in June, expelling Fatah forces loyal to Abbas, the Islamist group captured large quantities of weapons supplied to Fatah by the US and others. Russia proposed shipping the armored vehicles to Palestinian security forces two years ago, but the deal was stalled because of Israeli opposition. Now that approval has been given, the deal is set to go through. No time frame was given for the arrival of the vehicles. In addition to the armored vehicles, some reports said that Olmert had approved shipment of 1,000 rifles and 2 million rounds of ammunition for Abbas's forces. Palestinian comment on the deal was not immediately available.