IDF Prepares for Possible Escalation in Run-up to Vote on Palestinian State

As the Palestinian Authority officially declares it will petition the UN for statehood in September, the IDF holds a two-day exercise to prepare for possible clashes on its borders in the tense months ahead.

The Israel Defense Forces is carrying out a two-day general exercise to prepare for the possibility of clashes erupting on Israel’s borders, in light of the Palestinian plan to seek recognition of statehood from the United Nations in September.

Commanding officers of all relevant operational army divisions will take part in the exercise on Monday and Tuesday, under the leadership of IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz.

The IDF will use the exercise to prepare for an array of possible scenarios for the tense months running up to September, from demonstrations and mass marches to clashes involving use of fire arms.

The officers taking part in the exercise on Monday are deputy commanding officers of operational divisions, mainly regiments. On Tuesday, officers with company commander rank and higher will take part. GOC Central Command, Major General Avi Mizrahi, and IDF spokesperson, Brigadier General Yoav Mordechai, will speak at the security exercise, along with the Merchavit Brigade commander and a border guard representative.

Along with the fear that war may break out in the occupied territories, the IDF will consider possible escalations on Israel’s border, much like the events of Nakba Day on May 15 and Naksa Day on June 5 this year, when Syrian and Palestinian protesters tried to cross the border in the North.

Although there are assessments that the organizers of these protests lost some of their momentum following deaths suffered during the demonstrations, and claims that the Syrian regime used demonstrators to distract attention from events in Syria, there is still a possibility that similar border incidents will occur in the run up to September. The main difficulty the IDF faces is in containing these protests, preventing them from happening in the first place and stopping them from approaching the border or settlements while harming as few people as possible.

On Sunday night, the Palestinian Authority, under President Mahmoud Abbas’ leadership, officially decided to petition the UN for recognition of a Palestinian state in September. The decision was made by members of the PLO executive committee and Fatah’s central committee, which together constitute the highest levels of leadership in the Palestinian Authority.

The decision essentially rules out the possibility of renewing direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians, although in recent weeks Abbas has claimed that if the talks were renewed the Palestinians would rethink the decision to go to the UN. The message that the Palestinian Authority wants to the send to the U.S. and Israel is that the Palestinian Authority does not fear a direct confrontation with the American government, and that it is not the Palestinians’ intention to ask for a ladder in order to come down from the tree of international recognition.

In a message that was transmitted at the end of the meeting, the Palestinian leadership asked the countries of the world to support a Palestinian state with 1967 borders, arguing that this would increase efforts to renew negotiations based on the Arab Peace Initiative, the decisions of the Middle East Quartet and the plan presented by U.S. President Barack Obama.

At the end of the discussion, it was also stated that the Palestinian Authority intends to carry out the reconciliation deal between Hamas and Fatah and to establish an expert government.