JERUSALEM (JTA) — A secret Israeli proposal to remove troops from two major Palestinian-controlled West Bank cities was not a diplomatic initiative but an operational and security measure, the Israeli military’s chief of staff said.
On Tuesday, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that the offer on Ramallah and Jericho was “a move designed to improve the reality in which we are living,” Haaretz reported, citing two unnamed Knesset members who attended the meeting.
In rejecting the proposal, Palestinian officials demanded that Israel withdraw from all areas controlled by the Palestinians under the Oslo Accords, known as Area A.
The proposal first reported Monday in the Israeli daily Haaretz had Israel ceasing its military operations in Ramallah and Jericho except for in emergencies, and then to gradually stop activities throughout Area A, which is supposed to be under Palestinian civilian and military control.
The offer was made late last month during secret meetings between Palestinian Authority and Israeli officials, according to Haaretz.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon reportedly signed off on the offer, which came after Palestinian officials told Israel Defense Forces officers during meetings to coordinate security that IDF incursions into Palestinian areas damaged the P.A.’s credibility and led to friction between security officers and local residents.
Palestinian officials reportedly threatened to suspend security coordination with Israel if Palestinian control is not restored in Area A and Area B, where the Palestinians maintain civilian control.
Also Tuesday, Israeli government minister Zeev Elkin told Army Radio that Netanyahu had not told the Security Cabinet about the secret negotiations because of the Palestinians’ rejection of the proposal. Elkin said the failure to notify the Security Cabinet, where he is an observer, about the negotiation was “improper.”