Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin has announced that three basic-training bases in the West Bank will be moved inside Israel.
But Rabin, stressing that the bases were not being dismantled, said other army personnel would be moved to the bases.
“This is not an evacuation with the intent of not returning with other forces,” Rabin said Wednesday. “Instead of basic training bases, these will be bases and units of the Israeli army.”
Health Minister Ephraim Sneh said the changes were connected to the Israeli army’s planned redeployment in the West Bank, which along with holding Palestinian elections, represents the next phase for expanding Palestinian autonomy under the terms of the self-rule accord.
A senior Israel Defense Force source was quoted by Israel Radio as saying that the plan to transfer conscripts was just that — a plan that has not yet been implemented.
The IDF estimated the cost of the transfer at some $23 million, with the move taking place over the course of eight months.
The Palestinian Authority responded to the announcement by calling for a full IDF withdrawal from the territories, not just three training bases.
Finance Minister Avraham Shohat was due to meet next week with senior Defense Ministry and IDF officials to discuss funds needed fro the planned redeployment of troops from the West Bank. The Defense Ministry has asked for an additional $330 million to pay for the redeployment.
At a Cabinet meeting Wednesday, the government also discussed a proposal for providing millions of dollars of economic aid to the Palestinian Authority. The discussions took place after the IDF chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Amnon Lipkin- Shahak, warned earlier in the week that PLO leader Yasser Arafat could be toppled by Israel’s ongoing partial closure of the territories. Shahak said the closure could breed hatred among Palestinians cut off from jobs within Israel – – and that this in turn could lead to more terror attacks against Israelis.
He also said the economic hardships caused by the closure could undermine support for the self-rule government.
Economics Minister Shimon Shetreet suggested speeding up delivery of aid that Israel pledged to the PLO over a five-year period, and turning over hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes collected from Palestinians.
Police Minister Moshe Shahal proposed a long-term loan to the Palestinians that would spur employment and investment. He put the cost at about $300 million a year.
“It is clear that the closure has caused economic problems in Gaza,” said Environment Minister Yossi Sarid. “The present situation is totally unbearable and unacceptable. We have to decide — either we pay by security concessions – – or we pay in cash.”