Officer says releasing prisoners, upping work permits for West Bank residents could reduce terror; moves would only to be implemented if calm returns

Palestinian policeman take part at a training session of the Palestinian special police force in the West Bank city of Ramallah in 2014. (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
Palestinian policeman take part at a training session of the Palestinian special police force in the West Bank city of Ramallah in 2014. (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)


The IDF recently proposed the government consider a series of goodwill gestures to the Palestinian Authority that may help bring an end to the wave of terror attacks that began in September, a senior army officer was reported saying Wednesday.

Among the measures proposed is allowing the PA security apparatus to acquire more weapons, releasing Palestinian security prisoners, giving Palestinians more work permits and alleviating the passage of commercial goods between the PA and Israel, according to the officer, who spoke to Israeli reporters on condition of anonymity.

The proposals were revealed a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told US Secretary of State John Kerry that Israel would not make any gestures until spiraling Palestinian terror attacks on Israelis ended, according to a senior Israeli official.

The IDF officer said the army sees moves aimed at easing Palestinians’ lives in the West Bank as key to stemming the violence, which has seen near daily attacks in the West Bank, Jerusalem and elsewhere for two months.

The mechanism by which Palestinian-produced goods are imported to Israel could also be streamlined and simplified, the officer said, and releasing prisoners, including those held without trial in administrative detention, would be seen as a goodwill gesture that could help calm tensions.

The comments were reported on by a number of Hebrew-language news outlets.

An army source who also spoke on the condition of anonymity stressed to The Times of Israel that no such measures have been taken but are only being “considered, and will be made if the security situation returns to calm.”

The officer said the IDF recognized Palestinian efforts to quash the violence, predicting that if left unchecked the wave of attacks could last several more months and even worsen.

A larger outbreak of violence may spell “anarchy. We will also see the ideas of Islamic State on the rise. This is not science fiction,” this officer warned.

“We are now seeing an average of 15 disturbances of the peace on a week day and 40 around the weekend, with each one comprised of dozens to hundreds of demonstrators. But it can easily become 20,000 or 200,000 protesters,” he said.

According to the officer, the army was working to minimize Palestinian casualties, recognizing that killing attackers, protesters and others could beget more violence.

“We have learned a lesson from the last two intifadas – [many] Palestinian casualties will bring a violent outbreak. Our rules of engagement are more permissive than restrictive, but when a trembling girl stands with scissors in her hand there is no need to ‘puncture’ her with ten bullets. She can be kicked or shot in the foot,” the officer said.

Israel has come under fire from Palestinians, human rights groups and others for applying lethal force when it has seemed unnecessary. On Sunday, a teen Palestinian girl was shot to death by an off-duty police sapper after she slashed at people with scissors in central Jerusalem. Her cousin, also involved the attack, was shot and seriously wounded.

In early October, Israeli forces shot and injured a woman who pulled out a knife in a bus station in Afula, in an incident captured on video.

Footage from the scene showed her standing at a distance from which she had little possibility of harming the Border Police officers who shot her, and it later emerged that she suffered from mental issues and likely never intended to actually attack anyone.

The officer said the army defines 95 percent of recent attacks as inspired by earlier assaults or made in revenge for killed friends and relatives, and not directed by a political or terror group.

The profile of the “lone wolf” attackers, the officer said, is one of “despondent young people, some of them unemployed.”

As reported by The Times of Israel