Palestinian Authority security forces received ten armored vehicles from the United States four months ago, but the details are only coming to light now. The vehicles entered the West Bank via the Allenby Crossing from Jordan, with Israel's approval.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former defense minister Avigdor Lieberman authorized the transfer nine months ago at the request of the United States after years of delays. The news comes against a backdrop of a crisis created by the withholding of tax revenues from the PA over its monthly stipends to terror convicts and their families. The PA is refusing to accept any tax withholdings from Israel in protest of Israeli deductions equal to sums paid for committing acts of terror.
Representatives of West Bank Jewish communities strongly criticized the transfer of the military equipment to PA forces, some of whom have been involved in terror attacks against Israelis, calling it irresponsible, dangerous and risky.
"It's amazing how the same people who chanted 'don’t give them rifles' at protests against the Oslo Accords are now giving them armor. "I call on those who made this unfortunate decision to regain their composure," said Yossi Dagan, chairman of the Shomron Regional Council. "This is a decision that can draw a high price in blood," he added.
Chairman of the Mount Hebron Regional Council Yohai Damari said: "When we said not to give them rifles, we were considered peculiar. When we proclaimed that the Gaza Disengagement will bring about missiles, they called us false prophets. Why do the Palestinians need armor? Who is shooting at them? The cost of this erroneous decision will be paid with the blood of our citizens and soldiers."
Security establishment sources rebuffed the criticism, saying the prime minister and former defense minister Lieberman approved the transfer at the request of the Americans more than nine months ago and that they were handed over to the PA four months ago.
The PA had repeatedly asked Israel in recent years to allow entry to the light armored vehicles for its security operations, but they were rebuffed, until recently.
Due to the dispute, during the last three months, Palestinian security personnel have been receiving only half of their salary. Israel is being criticized for its harsh stance vis-à-vis the Palestinian Authority — whose security forces coordinate with Israel to thwart terror attacks — compared to the indirect negotiations it conducts with Hamas while allowing the terror group access to tens of millions of dollars from Qatar.
Initially, before the facts became clear, it was assumed that Israeli approval of the armored vehicles was meant to soften the resentment within the PA and ensure that security coordination is maintained.
The PA receives some NIS 500 million a month in Palestinian tax withholdings from Israel. Three months ago, following the passing of Knesset legislation to withhold the sum paid to families of terror suspects, PA President Mahmoud Abbas said that the Palestinians would refuse to accept any of the money.
US Envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt said in response to the PA's stance that "every Palestinian has the right to know that they are losing access to quality medical care because the PA decided that it is more important to support terrorists. The PA budgets for assassinations far more than the $8 million it owed to hospitals in east Jerusalem."