More reinforcements for Abbas: Prime Minister Ehud Olmert approved the recommendations of Defense Minister Amir Peretz to enable limited and controlled transfer of arms to the Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ security detail. Olmert okayed the proposal before he left for the United States Sunday.
Security officials said that the transfer would consist of a limited number of weapons and would be tightly monitored. The arms would be distributed to a very specific list of security officers know to Israel and within Abbas’ closest circle, whose job is to guard the Palestinian chairman.
Israel sees Abbas as its partner for dialogue in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and assessed that considering the violent infighting among rival factions in the PA, the likelihood that Abbas might be targeted is high. Israel estimates that Hamas is continuing to stockpile weapons via illegal smuggling across the Egyptian border, so the power-balance is extremely vulnerable and the situation is poised for escalations in violence. In such a situation, Abbas could be in Hamas’ sights.
Reasoning out the decision
"The weapons are meant to help "Protect (Abbas), because his life is in danger," a Defense Ministry spokeswoman said.
Military officials explained to Ynet, “We can’t watch everyone (the other factions) getting strong and arming, while Abbas remains exposed and vulnerable. How can we hold a dialogue with him and help him? True, there is a change in Israeli policy here, a certain risk, but the decision was made according to the recommendations of all security officials who are extremely familiar with the situation and thought it was the right thing to do.”
Security officials explained that in deciding, they examined various scenarios, including the assassination of Abbas – which could worsen the anarchy in the PA. They concluded that such an event would be much riskier than more guns in the presidential guard.
“At the root of the decision there is trust in and recognition of Abbas and his men. They don’t act against Israel, and therefore the danger is almost non-existent,” security sources explained to Ynet. Additionally, these weapons wouldn’t be useful for terrorist intentions, as “they are mainly looking for weapons that can bypass the security fence, such as Katyushas and the Grad missile.”
The Likud called the decision “wrong and pathetic.” In a message appealing to Olmert and Peretz to cancel the decision, the Likud wrote: “Past experience has taught us that giving weapons to the Palestinians has ended in its being turned against the IDF and Israeli citizens.”
Hanan Greenberg, Attila Somfalvi and the Associated Press contributed to the report