JERUSALEM, Dec. 24 (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu moved Wednesday to head off a new rift with the defense establishment, declaring that he had full confidence in the abilities of the Israeli military echelon. Netanyahu’s remarks came on the heels of reports that he had rejected a memorandum on security issues between Israel and the Palestinians. The prime minister denied the reports, saying that the defense establishment had not yet completed its work on the document, and that reports of a rejection were not true. Israeli media reported this week that Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai, Foreign Minister David Levy and National Infrastructure Minister Ariel Sharon had been angered by the wording of the document, which had been drawn up last week by Israeli and Palestinian security officials and the CIA. According to reports, Netanyahu and the other ministers took issue with the references to “reciprocity” in security cooperation and efforts to fight terror — leaving open an interpretation that Israel is also somehow involved in terrorism toward the Palestinians. The document also did not refer specifically to Israel’s demand that the Palestinian Authority hand over wanted terrorists living in the autonomous areas. Security officials sharply recoiled at the criticisms. In the face of the public debate, Netanyahu stressed Wednesday that the work on the document was not complete, and that the intent of the whole process was to bring the Palestinian to honor their commitments. Palestinian officials said they would not agree to any changes in the document.
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