Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told Sunday his cabinet minister that no governmental approval was issued to allow Palestinian police officers to carry weapons.
Two days ago, Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz gave an in principle approval to allow Palestinian officers to carry arms in certain PA areas and under certain restrictions.
‘The PA request is being fully examined. After the investigation, it will come up for discussion and approval in the cabinet.’ Sharon said.
Few cabinet members expressed objections, saying that Israel must not endanger its citizens and soldiers by distributing weapons to Palestinian police officers.
Palestinian Minister Saeb Erekat confirmed Sunday that Israeli and Palestinian security officials will meet Sunday evening to discuss deploying armed Palestinian police officers in the Palestinian areas.
Mofaz on Friday said that the decision to allow Palestinian police to carry arms would be implemented gradually and could be reversed within a week if necessary.
In a move to implement approved reforms and set an end to the state of chaos in the Palestinian Authority areas, Palestinian officials requested from Israel, early in the week, to allow Palestinian policemen to carry arms.
Israeli security sources said that Palestinian police will be allowed to carry handguns, not rifles, and will be banned to do so in areas close to army posts.
The detailed arrangements were left for local army commanders in coordination with their Palestinian counterparts.
For the past two years, Palestinian security forces were barred from bearing arms.
Israeli sources reported Thursday that Gen. Haj Ismail, commander of the PA security forces in the West Bank, is expected to meet with a, still unnamed, top Israeli security officer in two days to finalize an agreement.
Yet, Palestinian Negotiations Minister Saeb Erekat told Reuters he had not heard official word from Israel on the issue.
Israeli Security sources said that Palestinian police will only be allowed to carry arms after Israeli security approves every policeman entitled to carry weapons, and only in areas that are seen as hotbeds of armed resistance groups.
It is not yet clear to how would Israel allow Palestinian police to carry arms only in areas were armed resistance groups enjoys an active presence, while at the same time barring arms in areas were army exist and operates.
Army is intensively operating in areas were a core of active armed resistance exist.
The question remains to whether, with the deployment of armed Palestinian Police in those places, Israel would freeze army operations there or not.
As well, a strong police force is needed to enforce law and order in all Palestinian Authority areas. It is not clear to why Israel would bar armed police force from restoring law and order in areas that are not hotbeds for armed groups?
Recently, many Israeli army and security officers emphasized the need for other measures than the usage of mere force, calling for an active Palestinian authority role in security issues.
Palestinians are worried about Israeli attempts to divert the purpose of deploying an armed Palestinian police force from being a move to restore law and order into becoming a tool for igniting internal Palestinian fighting.