Israeli Minister: Security Cabinet Kept in Dark About Talks With Palestinians

In response to Haaretz exclusive, Zeev Elkin and Naftali Bennett - both members of Netanyahu's security cabinet - vow to fight against any handover of security responsibilities to Palestinian forces.

Ofer Vaknin

Security cabinet member and Immigrant Absorption Minister Zeev Elkin said Monday that he "totally objects" to a proposed reduction of Israel Defense Forces security operations in West Bank cities, first reported in Haaretz, saying that negotiations with the Palestinian Authority were held behind the security cabinet's back. 

Elkin said he objected in particular to talks occuring "at a time when Palestinian terrorism has reared its head and gone wild."

"I demand that the defense minister update the cabinet immediately about the negotiations being held behind our backs, and stop any progress in this dangerous direction without an in depth discussion and approval by the security cabinet," Elkin, Israel's immigration minister and a senior member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party, said.

Elkin accused the Palestinian Authority of inciting its people to violence and of being "a part of the problem, not the solution." He said Israel "must not return to the pre-Defensive Shield days when the Palestinians said they would fight terrorism. We already paid a heavy price for that mistake during the second intifada."

Defense Shield was launched in 2002 after a string of deadly suicide bombings in Israeli cities that caused dozens of casualties. In that monthlong operation Israel renewed security functions in Palestinian cities after having ceded those responsibilites under the 1993 Oslo Accords.

A source close to far-right Education Minister Naftali Bennett, also a member of the security cabinet, voiced similar opposition to the talks.

"The transfer of security authority over areas A and B amounts to outsourcing the security of Israeli citizens to the Palestinian Authority," the source said, adding "we will fight against it with all our might. Only the IDF will defend Israeli citizens."

Cabinet ministers who wished to remain unnamed accused Netanyahu of "dragging behind Boogie (Defense Minister Ya'alon) in the conception that the Palestinians are the solution to terrorism, instead of realizing that they're the problem. It's another example of the failed conception by the Bibi-Boogie duo. No wonder that with this conception this duo can't vanquish terrorism."

Likud MK Yoav Kish and Habayit Hayehudi MK Bezalel Smotrich, who head the Knesset's pro-settlements Eretz Israel Caucus, also criticized the secret negotiations, saying in a joint statement that the government "doesn't have the mandate to go back to the Oslo Accords."

"Anyone who imagines we have a partner who we can trust apparently wasn't here for the last 20 years. Instead of withdrawal plan, we must vanquish terrorism and initiate full control and sovereignty in all our land."