The Defense Ministry denied reports that some 1,500 rifles were authorized by Israel to go to Palestinian hands.

Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich seen during a press conference, at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem. April 30, 2023
(photo credit: ALEX KOLOMOISKY/POOL)

The government was in uproar on Wednesday after Army Radio reported that the Palestinian Authority had been given armored vehicles and 1,500 weapons with Israeli approval.

The reports were soon denied by the Defense Ministry and the Unit for Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT).

The Defense Ministry said that Defense Minister Yoav Gallant hadn’t approved such a delivery since he assumed the role, and COGAT added that no weapons had been given to the PA in the last year.

Netanyahu: Bennett, Lapid are responsible

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed the move on the Bennett-Lapid government last year.

“What we did do was implement a decision made by defense minister Benny Gantz (in the Bennet-Lapid government) on January 22, to transfer a number of armored vehicles to replace other armored vehicles that have become obsolete,” said Netanyahu. “This is what we did. No tanks, no Kalashnikovs, nothing. So sometimes even the fake news is not ‘armored,’ and it’s good that we punctured this lie.”

Still, MKs from both the coalition and the opposition rushed to condemn the report.

Palestinian police officers keep guard ahead of the visit of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, in Jenin in the West Bank July 12, 2023. (credit: RANEEN SAWAFTA/REUTERS)

Smotrich ‘seething with rage’ after approval

Reports from the Religious Zionist Party said that party leader and minister in the Defense Ministry Bezalel Smotrich was “seething”. He was reportedly unaware of such a delivery and said that if it was true, it was being done to reel in National Unity leader Benny Gantz to form a “left-wing” government with him.

“Mr. Prime Minister, if you don’t promise that the reports on weapons being give to the terrorists of the Palestinian Authority are wrong, there will be consequences,” warned National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir. If you mean to work toward an Oslo government 2.0, please update your ministers and the public, and we’ll act accordingly.”

Ben-Gvir was already on the outs with Netanyahu after the prime minister refused his request on Tuesday to give terrorists in prison worse conditions than they have now. As a result of the decision, Ben-Gvir had announced that his Otzma Yehudit party would meet on Wednesday to discuss its future steps.

RZP MK Zvi Sukkot called the reports terrible, saying “if it’s true, I don’t know how I can live with this in any way.”

Opposition MKs also expressed outrage at the reports.

“A government that builds conspiracy theories on the security of the nation and manages it in the media isn’t appropriate and cannot look after the security of Israel’s citizens,” the National Unity faction said in a statement in response to Netanyahu blaming the previous government for the deal.

“After Smotrich called to break up the PA, it turns out his government is working diligently to arm it with advanced weaponry and equip it with armored vehicles,” said Nation Unity MK Matan Kahana. “I don’t have an appropriate closing sentence for the situation…”

“This right-wing government is fake,” said Yesh Atid MK Ron Katz. “They’ve completely lost their governance and deterrence.” 

As reported by The Jerusalem Post