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Israel To Give PA Control Of More Cities Print E-mail

By Yaakov Katz and Herb Keinon
October 19, 2008

In an effort to maintain momentum on the ground in the absence of a peace deal with the Palestinians, Defense Minister Ehud Barak has drawn up a plan under which Palestinian security forces would take control of several key West Bank cities during the coming year.

On Wednesday, IDF regional commanders and Civil Administration head Brig.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai will meet with their Palestinian counterparts to finalize details ahead of the planned deployment - possibly later this week - of 700 Palestinian policemen in Hebron.

Barak has presented the plan to US security coordinators for the region Generals Keith Dayton and James Jones, as well as to Quartet envoy Tony Blair, senior defense officials told The Jerusalem Post.

Following the deployment in Hebron, the Defense Ministry is also considering adopting the "Jenin model" in Nablus, Tulkarm and Kalkilya.

The "Jenin model" refers to a US-Israeli initiative in Jenin to gradually transfer security control of the city to the Palestinians.

Under the plan, which was launched earlier this year, the IDF scaled back its presence in the city, lifted roadblocks, permitted the deployment of US-trained Palestinian forces and opened the city to Israeli Arabs to improve the local economy.

In addition, construction is currently being done on a major industrial zone in conjunction with the Gilboa Regional Council.

The model has received much praise from the IDF, although officers in the Central Command stress that while Palestinian security forces are effectively restoring law and order in Jenin, they have yet to noticeably crack down on local terror elements.

Hebron was chosen as the next city for the plan, since it is one of the largest cities in the West Bank and is home to a large Hamas contingent. The hope is that a massive deployment of troops in the city in conjunction with an economic boost would neutralize the Hamas threat to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's regime, officials said.

"We need to expand the Jenin model," a top official said. "Hebron is a good place to start, since there is a serious governor there who works together with us and understands the importance of the project."

The idea of making significant security progress in one area of the West Bank and then taking that model and duplicating it in another city is not a new one, and - to a large degree - is fueling Blair's efforts here.

Blair, according to diplomatic sources, is working closely on this matter with Jones and Dayton. According to the officials, Blair wants to continue working in Jenin, and then gradually moving on to Nablus and Hebron.

Hebron, according to Israeli sources, is likely to be much more complicated, because of both the size of the city and the Jewish enclave there.

According to the diplomatic sources, the logic behind moving step by step on the ground is to get the PA to shore up its security control where it is able, so that Israel will view the security situation as improving.

As Israel sees security improvements, the logic goes, Jerusalem will lift additional checkpoints, open roads and allow more economic activity.

This is then supposed to "embolden the moderates" in the PA and show the Palestinians that the PA can "deliver."

At the same time, under this plan, the diplomatic talks are to continue. But the officials said the negotiations would not succeed if there were no fundamental change in the atmosphere on the ground.

This means enhanced security for Israel and lifting the "trappings of the occupation" for the Palestinians - which is what Blair is trying to accomplish on a city-by-city basis.

 

 

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