Right-wing members of the Israeli government reacted furiously to media reports that the government had authorized the transfer of US-made armored personnel carriers and weapons to the Palestinian Authority
Officials close to Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich (Religious Zionism) said they he had not been aware of the transfer and that he is “boiling over with anger.”
Smotrich estimates that the new initiative to arm the PA as well as moves to reach a compromise on judicial reform, are attempts to “pay Benny Gantz to create a unity government which will revive the Oslo accords.”
A member of Smotrich’s party, MK Tzvi Succot, commented on the report: “It’s terrible. If it’s true, I don’t know how to live with it. We didn’t come to play games.”
Other Likud ministers, including Amichai Chikli and Yoav Kisch, also complained that the move had not been authorized in a cabinet meeting,
National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir (Jewish Force) threatened Netanyahu, stating that: “Mr. Prime Minister if you don’t commit in your own voice that the reports of a transfer of arms to the Palestinian Authority are wrong – there will be consequences. If you intend to push for a second Oslo government, please update your ministers and the public, and we will act accordingly.”
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant denied the reports of the arms transfer, his office stating on Wednesday: “Despite the false picture that appears from various reports, since Defense Minister Yoav Gallant entered the position, no transfers of weapons to the Palestinian Authority have been approved. Any attempt to present things differently is deceitful and untrue.” The Coordinator of Government Activity in the Territories (COGAT) denied the reports as well.
However the ministry did not deny the reports of transfer of armored personnel carriers which were apparently transferred from the US via th Allenby Bridge this week in an attempt to strengthen the PA’s security apparatus. The Al-Quds newspaper claimed that weapons were also transferred to the PA with the consent of the Israeli government.
According to PA security officials, the transfer included no less than 1,500 weapons, including laser-guided M-16 and Kalashnikov assault rifles.
According to a report by Israel’s Army Radio, Israel set several conditions for the weapons’ use: 1. They may only be used against terror and not against criminals 2. The weapons may only be used by the security apparatus – general security, counterintelligence, and the police.
PA security officials stated that the PA requested the arms and equipment over a year ago, but Israel refused. The green light was given in light of the summits that were held between Israel and its Arab neighbors in Aqaba and Sharem al-Shiekh, after a discussion with COGAT.
Israeli security officials stated that this is one of a number of moves being initiated to help the PA. The next moves depend on the PA succeeding in operations against terrorists in Judea and Samaria and restoring the security coordination stopped peremptorily by Abu Mazen at the beginning of 2023.