JERUSALEM (Aug. 18)
The hand over of West Back cities to Palestinian control is hitting some snags.
The main sticking point is who will take responsibility for controlling fugitive terrorists in cities that the Israel Defense Forces leave.
The scheduled transfer of Jericho and Kalkilya to Palestinian Authority control was frozen Monday after the Palestinians failed to guarantee that they would stop terrorists operating from those towns.
Maj. Gen. Giora Eiland, head of the IDF planning division, met Sunday night with Haj Ismayil, head of P.A. forces in the West Bank. But the two failed to reach an agreement on how to handle the issue of fugitives in the cities to be transferred.
Israel demanded that the P.A.’s security minister, Mohammad Dahlan, commit himself to ensuring that the fugitives do not resume terrorist activity.
Israel reportedly agreed that fugitives who are not considered senior terrorists could be absorbed into the P.A. security forces to prevent them from reverting back to terrorism.
Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom declared that unless the Palestinians take full responsibility for preventing terrorism against Israelis, Israel would not leave the Palestinian cities. Last week, Israel had said it planned to hand over Ramallah and Tulkarm as well, pending a Palestinian plan to maintain security there.
Despite the crisis, Dahlan expressed confidence Monday that differences would be resolved “within the next few days.”
Meanwhile, meetings set for Monday between Israeli and Palestinian field commanders were canceled, the Jerusalem Post reported.
Negotiations Monday night between Israeli and Palestinian security representatives ended without a resolution, and negotiations were expected to resume Tuesday.
A P.A. official said Israel was refusing to remove roadblocks around Kalkilya, Jericho, Tulkarm and Ramallah.
The Palestinians requested a total removal of the roadblocks around Kalkilya, while Israel insisted that the IDF be allowed to scrutinize those leaving town.
Education Minister Limor Livnat wrote to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Monday, demanding that the issue of Palestinian fugitives be brought before the government’s security Cabinet.
It was not clear what exactly precipitated Monday’s crisis. As recently as Sunday, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz spoke favorably of Palestinian Authority efforts to prevent terrorism.
Mofaz said that the transfer of power in the cities in question would be done “gradually, very carefully and under control.”
So far, the only change on the ground has been an easing of the closure around the West Bank city of Nablus, allowing Palestinians free access.
The closure had been imposed following two suicide bombings last week by Palestinian terrorists. The easement followed a shooting attack Sunday night just south of Nablus, in which an Israeli teenager was shot while driving from the settlement of Yitzhar.
The number of soldiers manning the checkpoints ringing Nablus has been increased in order to speed up the security checks. The IDF also has allowed public transport in Nablus to resume.