'Netanyahu: Palestinians Rejected Israel's Secret Offer'

Prime minister offers explanation as to why Israel's security cabinet was kept in dark over negotiations with Palestinian Authority, according to Immigration Absorption Minister Zeev Elkin.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the weekly cabinet meeting, March 7, 2016.
Emil Salman

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not update the security cabinet on secret negotiations to restore Palestinian Authority control over West Bank cities because the Palestinians rejected the offer. Thus Immigration Absorption Minister Zeev Elkin told Army Radio on Tuesday morning.

Elkin said Netanyahu offered this clarification when he demanded the prime minister explain the Haaretz report exposing the secret contacts between Israel and the Palestinians.

"We did not receive a report on the contacts in the [diplomatic-security] cabinet and that is improper," Elkin said in an interview with Army Radio.

"The prime minister told me the cabinet was not updated because the move did not come to fruition due to a Palestinian rejection of the offer. As usual, the Palestinians never miss out on an opportunity to miss out on an opportunity," said Elkin.

The Oslo Accords award the Palestinian Authority civilian and security control of Area A, which includes the larger Palestinian cities and surrounding villages, representing about a fifth of West Bank territory. But since Operation Defensive Shield in the West Bank in 2002, during the second intifada, Israel stopped abiding by some of the Oslo Accords regarding Area A, and the Israel Defense Forces operates there today without restrictions.

Under the proposal revealed Monday in Haaretz, Israel offered to stop its military operations in Ramallah and Jericho, except in so-called "ticking-bomb cases." Then, if the measure succeeded, it would gradually extend this cessation of activities to the rest of Area A.

Elkin, who has observer status in the diplomatic-security cabinet, said he told Netanyahu that such an offer should be discussed in the cabinet before it is offered to the Palestinians.

"The concept of the Oslo [Accords] that the Palestinians will do the work for us has not proven itself," he said. We changed this concept during Operation Defensive Shield, and to turn the clock back now would be wrong, he added.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki confirmed that the Palestinian Authority objects to the Israeli offer. Maliki told the Voice of Palestine radio on Tuesday morning that the Palestinian Authority had rejected the Israeli offer to end operations in Area A.

Maliki said the Palestinians demand Israel stop all such activities in all Palestinian cities immediately.