Israel has given approval for the Palestinian Authority to equip its security forces with riot-control gear, such as tear gas grenades and rubber bullets.
The PA has approached Israeli firms to buy such equipment in advance of expected demonstrations on the West Bank around the Palestinians' request for United Nations recognition as an independent state.
Palestinian security officials told their Israeli counterparts in their regular meetings that they will do everything within their ability to contain demonstrations and prevent violent interactions with the Israel Defense Forces and settlers. But the two sides are also preparing for the possibility that demonstrations will escalate into violence the PA will find it difficult to control. Thus, the IDF recommended a few months ago to allow the PA to acquire such equipment, so the Palestinians could deal with demonstrations before the IDF had to.
The ministers involved gave their approval at the beginning of September.
Now, the PA is working furiously to buy the equipment, but seems to be having difficulty procuring the goods because time is so short. The IDF will finish its preparations this week for a possible escalation in the territories. The Central Command will receive reinforcements of a couple of regular infantry battalions tomorrow, as part of its preliminary preparations against violent demonstrations, in the IDF's overall plan named "Summer Seeds."
At this stage, an additional 20 percent of forces are being added on the West Bank. The battalions have trained to deal with possible scenarios, including violent marches toward settlements, IDF checkpoints and major roads serving the Israeli population.
In case of an overall escalation, the IDF has prepared to double its forces in the West Bank. This plan includes bringing in regular forces now in training plus calling up a few reserve battalions on short notice. The IDF plans to minimize the damage to its training schedule, but if necessary, battalions from various advanced training courses will be called in.
The IDF has made large purchases of equipment for dispersing demonstrations, in addition to the regular equipment used in such circumstances. For example, it has brought out equipment that disperses a horrible smell or makes noise at an intolerable frequency.
The most reasonable scenario the IDF expects in the short term is for violent demonstrations in several areas, despite the PA's intentions to prevent such violence. IDF forces are preparing to defend the settlements, and should demonstrators attempt to penetrate the settlements, the army is ready to use controlled sniper fire to prevent such intrusions. It is not clear that any such conflict - if it comes - will occur in September. Such violence could break out in October or near the end of the year, a sort of delayed response to political developments.
The IDF and Shin Bet security service are also worried about the recent rise in the number of attacks carried out by right-wing extremists, including on the IDF, mosques and left-wing activists. This only complicates the situation as the PA advances its move at the UN.
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