Israeli soldiers stand guard in front of Palestinian stone throwers during clashes in Bethlehem. (AFP/Thomas Coex, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- In spite of recent talks with Palestinian officials, Israeli armed forces will continue to intervene in parts of the occupied West Bank under full Palestinian Authority (PA) control, high-ranking Israeli officials said on Wednesday.
During a meeting of the Israeli security cabinet, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, and Israeli army Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot “made it clear that the IDF (Israeli army) maintains -- and will maintain -- the possibility of entering Area A, and anywhere necessary, according to operational needs,” a statement read.
“There is no other agreement with the Palestinians,” the statement added.
Area A refers to the 18 percent of the occupied West Bank which are officially under full Palestinian civil and security jurisdiction. However, Israeli forces have regularly carried out incursions in these areas since the Second Intifada, in a breach of the Oslo Accords.
Talks were reportedly taking place earlier this month between Palestinian and Israeli officials over putting an end to near-daily Israeli raids in Area A.
PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat told Ma’an that the cabinet statements marked “no change” in Palestinian-Israeli relations.
“Israel has insisted for years to violate signed agreements, including daily violations against the Palestinian control over Area A,” he said. “They’re a belligerent occupying power with a clear political program of colonization, apartheid and destruction of the prospects of a peaceful solution.”
Erekat dispelled the idea that there had been proper negotiations to address Israeli military incursions in Area A, saying that a Palestinian delegation had met with Israeli counterparts on the issue.
“The Israeli side came back with some idea of starting a process (of military withdrawal) in Jericho and Ramallah, but we said that it has to include all of Area A as per signed agreement,” he said.
“Their response is now being delivered by Mr. Netanyahu, the man responsible for destroying all signed agreements.”
Erekat said he believed the PLO needed to implement its decision to halt security coordination with Israel due to its continued violations.
“What Israel wants is for everyone to talk about details -- Area A, a few maritime miles in Gaza -- while in the bigger picture they continue moving ahead with their settlements and imposing an apartheid system over our people,” he told Ma’an.
“We are trying to save the prospects of opening a political horizon, while Israel does everything possible to destroy it, and the international community has utterly failed to assume its responsibility.”
The Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas stirred controversy in an interview
in late March when he credited the ongoing security coordination between the PA and Israel for curbing a wave of Palestinian attacks on Israeli targets.
The Fatah-dominated PA and Israeli forces have worked in coordination since the Oslo Accords in 1993, which planned for a gradual power transfer of the occupied West Bank from Israeli forces to the PA over the course of five years.
More than 20 years on, however, any transfer of power has yet to take place. The Hamas movement and other Palestinian groups have repeatedly accused the PA of aligning with Israel's goals
in the occupied West Bank, and recently of preventing a sustained uprising against Israel.
More than 200 Palestinians and nearly 30 Israelis have been killed since a surge in violence began in the occupied Palestinian territory last October.
The recent violence has been marked by small-scale attacks and attempted attacks, the majority carried out by Palestinian individuals on Israeli military targets.
However, a bus explosion in Jerusalem on Monday, later claimed by the Hamas movement, marked the first large-scale attack since the beginning of the unrest. The blast left 20 Israelis wounded and killed the alleged perpetrator, 19-year-old Palestinian Abd al-Hamid Abu Srour