The Israel Defense Forces is preparing for the possibility of a violent uprising on the West Bank in the coming months.
Still, the army does not necessarily expect a violent escalation in the wake of the results of the Israeli election, and they are aware that the Palestinians are imposing restraint in an attempt to prevent an uprising.
The Central Command is presently completing a series of maneuvers and training exercises designed to prepare the forces for a scenario of confrontation with the Palestinians. In this context maneuvers were carried out in the Central Command, in the divisions and the brigades as well as training exercises in regular army and reserve units.
In the past months there has been a large gap between the tense atmosphere in diplomatic relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, in light of the Palestinian request to join the International Criminal Court in The Hague and the Israeli reaction of freezing the tax money to which the Palestinians are entitled, and the situation on the ground. Security coordination between the IDF and the Shin Bet security services and the Palestinian security services continues as usual for now, despite Palestinian threats to discontinue it. The coordination is based on shared interests of the two sides and the desire of both to prevent a violent clash. At this point the Israeli defense establishment sees little willingness on the part of the Palestinian public to take part in large popular anti-Israel demonstrations, along with continued Palestinian Authority efforts to prevent a conflagration, mainly for fear of the major damage they anticipate to Palestinian society and the Palestinian economy, like that whic
h occurred during the period of the second intifada.
The most acute change in circumstances on the West Bank resulted from the freeze on the tax money collected by Israel for the Palestinians. To date about 1.5 billion shekels ($374 million) have been frozen in three months, along with additional funds worth about 1 billion shekels, which are held by Israel (on the other hand, the debt of the Palestinian electric companies to the Israel Electric Corporation is estimated at about 1.7 billion shekels).
The tax freeze has forced the PA to adopt a policy of harsh budgetary restraint, and in recent months Palestinian civil service workers have received only about 60 percent of their monthly salary. In an attempt to relieve the economic pressure to some extent, the IDF, with the approval of the Netanyahu government, allowed an increase of about 10,000 in the number of Palestinian laborers allowed to work in Israel and in the settlements, and an increase in the number of entry visas for Palestinian merchants from the West Bank into Israel.
On the West Bank there has been a significant rise in recent months in Hamas attempts to activate terror squads by means of the external command headquarters in Turkey and the Gaza Strip. Both the Palestinian Authority and Israel have arrested dozens of Hamas men from the West Bank, members of various groups suspected of planning terror attacks. Islamic Jihad has also increased its military activity, mainly in the northern West Bank. Israel has also identified renewed activity, independent and unmonitored, by members of Tanzim, the popular movement of Fatah, some of whose members defy the PA. There is a fear that in the event of an escalation in terror Tanzim members will once again take part, as happened during the second intifada.
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