Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is not ruling out the possibility of transferring military equipment, including armored vehicles and bulletproof vests, to the Palestinians, he said during a security consultation on Sunday.
"Decisions on this matter will be made according to the recommendations of Major-General Keith Dayton, who has been entrusted to build the Palestinian forces. Any recommendation by Dayton will be considered by the defense establishment. Only then will we decide," Olmert said.
Olmert's position is opposed by many cabinet ministers, including newly appointed Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, the two Yisrael Beitenu ministers and the ministers from Shas.
National Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said during the discussion, "Lessons should be learned from previous weapon transfers. All the weapons we have transferred to Fatah eventually made their way to Hamas and were turned against us."
Before the weekly cabinet meeting, Olmert attempted to justify his position, saying, "Some two months ago Israel approved the recommendations of General Dayton to supply weapons to Fatah forces in Gaza. This equipment included armor, bulletproof vests and other items that are not weapons, including uniforms and tents.
"This equipment however was not transferred to Fatah, even before Gaza fell to Hamas. Therefore, if General Dayton recommends transferring equipment to Fatah forces in the West Bank, this can definitely be considered positivelty."
Olmert then made it clear that “this is in no way about the transfer of weapons, but of supplemental military equipment.
“This equipment is of no danger to the Israeli forces, even if in the future it may fall into enemy hands,” the prime minister said.
But Defense Minister Barak said that "Fatah’s problem is not the lack of weapons, but rather its lack of willingness and resolve to defeat Hamas”.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said, “One-time gestures are pointless. I suggest a long-term economic and political package that will lead the Palestinians to compromises that the international community and Israel are demanding.”
Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman said, “Whoever thinks Fatah lost to Hamas because its weapons were not advanced enough, does not understand the reality.”
He too claimed Fatah lacked the determination to fight terror, adding that “additional arms may fall into the hands of terrorists that will aim them toward Israel”.