Israel’s civilian leaders have rejected recommendations submitted by the IDF to bolster the Palestinian Authority through arms supplies and economic easements, as a means of tamping down the violence that has rocked the country for over two months.
It is only the latest disagreement in an ongoing schism between the two sides of the government about how to handle the Palestinians, one that began well before the current crisis, according to a flurry of media reports.
“There has never been a bigger gap between how the political echelon and the military echelon read the current situation,” The Jerusalem Post commented on Thursday.
In an alignment that may seem counterintuitive, it is the military that has been stressing diplomacy and goodwill gestures, and arguing for Mahmoud Abbas’s PA as an effective, moderating force that can bring calm, if not a full-fledged “partner for peace.”
Both Palestinian and Israeli sources told The Times of Israel on Thursday that the Palestinian Authority has prevented dozens of planned stabbing attacks over the last few months.
Nevertheless, it was doubtful that the civilian leadership, which has accused Abbas over and over again of instigating the violence and depicts him as a full partner in it, will be moved by the claim.
Moreover, they are reluctant to agree to authorize such gestures as 5,000 work visas, as suggested by the IDF, lest it be perceived as “giving in to terror.” The fact that IDF officials made such recommendations before this year’s campaign of stabbings and shootings will make little difference to public perception. Then, too, there are those who believe that only a policy of “zero tolerance,” which should have been implemented at the outset, can restore stability.
On Thursday, Israeli paratroop commander Colonel Nimrod Aloni admitted that tackling Palestinian violence was a matter fraught with “a great degree of confusion.”
“Is there a chance of winning? I think this is really, really not a military question, that it is very, very much linked to government decisions,” he told Israel’s Army Radio. “At this stage we are playing defense, almost at our goal-line, and trying to prevent the next terrorist attack from happening.”
The media reports aside, a senior Israeli government official denied to Reuters that there was such an internal division over how to respond to Palestinian violence.