IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot warned the Security-Cabinet at the beginning of the week that there is a more than moderate chance that a violent conflagration could erupt in the West Bank, adding that the US decision to choke the Palestinian Authority (PA) of financial funds is counter productive for Israel and could inflame matters in the area.
Eisenkot was raising objections to the numerous measures being taken that he said would only push PA President Mahmoud Abbas into a corner and potentially create an intransigent leader unwilling to cooperate with Israel on security matters.
Several factors, Eisenkot argued, were converging that risked imperilling overall security in the West Bank.
Among the factors raised was the recent American announcement that the White House would be halt funding for the last aiding source beneficial for the Palestinians.
Eisenkot also lamented the failed reconciliation deal between the PA and the Hamas terror group in Gaza and noted that the aging Palestinian leader, beset by poor health, could lose control of the area as unrest remains in Gaza and anger reaches boiling point in the West Bank.
According to Eisenkot, these combined factors have created a concerning dynamic for the IDF which could be forced to face a rising tide of violent riots.
The IDF chief warned that in the event of a violent escalation, the army would be compelled to increase the number of troops on the ground.
For the army, Abbas’s upcoming speech in the UN General Assembly carries significance for how events will unfold in the West Bank.
The defense establishment believes that Abbas’s 2015 speech at the UN inspired the wave of terror that ensued, which was marked by daily car-ramming, stabbing and shooting attacks by lone wolf Palestinian terrorists throughout Israel.
With the US pressure mounting on the 82-year-old leader, the defense establishment attaches significance to his speech, which is expected to be a defiant declaration against US President Donald Trump and a tacit imprimatur for fresh terror attacks.
Amid the concerns, Eisenkot outlined a plan to mitigate the risks of an escalation of violence and to fill the void left behind by the US’s retreat from efforts to assist the PA.
The overarching conclusion set out by Eisenkot was the Trump is pushing Abbas onto the ropes despite the fact that Israel depends on him to keep a lid on violence and terrorism.
Other security officials have made clear that maintaining the PA’s stability was in Israel’s best interest. They have also noted that the US’s $60 million in funding for the Palestinian security services was not affected, but all civilian aid budgets were stopped.
The officials blamed Abbas for working to sabotage Israeli indirect negotiations with Hamas to put an end to the daily border violence in Gaza. According to the officials, Abbas is deliberately seeking to ensure an intensification of the humanitarian crisis gripping the strip.
Abbas, for example, has refused to transfer salaries to 75,000 PA workers in the strip and is refusing to fund a larger supply of electricity to the residents.
The officials have accused Abbas of choking the Gaza residents in order to foment further conflict between Hamas and Israel, hoping that Israel will attack the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave and deal a fatal blow to the terror movement, which competes with Abbas for power.
In addition, creating circumstances that will potentially provoke Israel into launching an offensive will enable him to continue his legal battle against Israel in international forums.