Cabinet discusses unilateral withdrawals

Security Cabinet to receive report on formerly secret talks with PA to pull IDF from Ramallah and Jericho; 'this is a prize to terror.'

Shimon Cohen ,

Binyamin Netanyahu at Cabinet meeting (file)
Binyamin Netanyahu at Cabinet meeting (file)
Amit Shabi/POOL

Security Cabinet ministers are to receive an update on Wednesday on the formerly secret talks between Israeli representatives and the Palestinian Authority (PA), regarding the PA demand to remove IDF forces from Ramallah and Jericho.

The Cabinet discussion comes around three weeks after Haaretz revealed that secret contacts were being held between top IDF brass and senior PA sources, without government ministers or the Cabinet being informed.

Those secret talks revolved around removing the IDF presence from Ramallah and Jericho, two cities in Area A of Judea and Samaria designated as being under the PA's administrative and security control according to the 1994 Oslo Accords. However, the IDF was forced to reenter and take back control during 2002 Operation Defensive Shield amid the Second Intifada terror war.

Minister of Immigrant Absorption and Jerusalem Affairs Ze'ev Elkin (Likud), a member of the Security Cabinet, responded to the report with outrage, and in response Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told Elkin that the contacts did not bear fruit and therefore ministers were not informed.

Haaretz reports on Wednesday morning that for the first time since the initial report on contacts, the Cabinet ministers are to receive a detailed report regarding the still ongoing contacts and give their opinions regarding them.

A source involved in the affairs of the Cabinet ministers said that the ministers have been given two options.

One option is for them to reject the IDF withdrawal plan completely and declare that the negotiations deviated from the current government's red lines, while the other is to discuss all details of the plan and the responses raised on both sides during the talks.

The second option would in essence grant legitimacy to the contacts with the PA sources, and the PA's demand for withdrawals.

A political source who spoke to Arutz Sheva said, "in my estimation holding these contacts in the current period is a prize to terror," noting on the current wave of Arab terror that has claimed the lives of 34 victims since last September.

"After all any proposed idea of withdrawal comes due to the wave of terror we are in the midst of, and if we agree to a withdrawal like this, doing so will give more than just a signal to the attackers and potential attackers that terror pays, and with additional terrorist pressure we will withdraw from more and more territory."

In its demands the PA is asking that in the first stage of withdrawals the IDF would remove its forces from Ramallah and Jericho, and in response it will not discontinue the security cooperation of its PA Security Forces with the IDF as it has frequently threatened to do.