US Secretary of State Antony Blinken pressed Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas to accept and implement a US security plan aimed at reestablishing Palestinian Authority control over the cities of Jenin and Shechem (Nablus), US and Israeli officials told Barak Ravid of Axios on Wednesday.
The Biden administration is looking for ways to de-escalate the situation in Judea and Samaria and prevent it from deteriorating into a third intifada.
US and Israeli officials say they see the decrease in the PA’s security control as a key reason for the escalation. Abbas, meanwhile, has blamed Israel and the "lack of international efforts to dismantle the occupation."
Ravid noted that the PA and its security forces have been weakened over the last three years, especially in northern Judea and Samaria, where they lack popular support due to an ongoing economic crisis, alleged corruption, and the lack of progress in the peace process.
This has led to the PA effectively losing control in Jenin and its refugee camp, which are now mostly controlled by armed groups affiliated with the Islamic Jihad and Hamas, as well as Fatah members who don't adhere to the PA's leadership.
The PA has more control in Shechem (Nablus), but armed militias not affiliated with any political faction are also gaining a foothold, especially among young Palestinian Arabs.
The two cities have seen ramped-up Israeli military raids over the last year. Israeli officials say the Israeli military raids Jenin because the PA security forces are not doing it themselves. PA officials say the Israeli incursions erode their ability and legitimacy to act against the militias.
According to Ravid’s report, during his meeting with Abbas in Ramallah on Tuesday, Blinken stressed that one of the most important steps the PA needs to take in order to de-escalate the security situation is to accept and implement a security plan that was drafted by US security coordinator Lt. Gen. Michael Fenzel.
According to the US and Israeli officials, Fenzel’s plan lays out how the Palestinian security forces can regain control, mainly in Jenin but also in Nablus. The plan includes the training of a special Palestinian force that would be deployed to this area to counter the militias, the officials said.
Fenzel presented his plan to the Israeli government and to the PA several weeks ago.
While the Israelis supported Fenzel's plan, the PA had many reservations, the US and Israeli officials said.
PA officials told Fenzel that the plan was problematic because it didn't include any demands from Israel, like decreasing IDF incursions into Palestinian cities, different sources said.
According to the sources, the PA officials also claimed the plan doesn't take into consideration the need of the PA to build public support for such an operation.
The PA officials told Fenzel they don't have the legitimacy to operate during the day when the Israeli military conducts raids that leads to deaths at night, the sources said.
Abbas’ aides didn’t respond to requests for comment. The State Department declined to comment.