Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz is interested in transferring three more West Bank cities to the Palestinian Authority prior to the start of the implementation of the disengagement plan, set to begin August 15.
So far Israel transferred the security authority over the cities of Jericho and Tul-Karim to the Palestinian Authority.
Yet, the process, which has started in accordance with the February Sharm’s summit understandings, has been frozen over a dispute on the PA’ program to handle the ‘wanted’ issue.
The Palestinian Authority started a gradual process of disarming and absorbing ‘wanted’ individuals into its security apparatus. Yet, Israel demands that the PA immediately disarm ‘wanted’ individuals in both cities, saying it represents a commitment that the PA signed.
Hundreds of Palestinians resorted to arms to defend their cities against the major Israeli invasion of Palestinian Authority areas in the West Bank in the year 2002.
Since then Israel has prepared lists of names of ‘wanted’ Palestinians, many of whom were killed or arrested in hundreds of military operations over the past 2 years.
According to understandings reached between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in the Egyptian Sharm Al-Sheikh resort, Israel was supposed to hand over five West Bank cities to the PA.
Qalqilyah, Bethlehem and Ramallah are in row for the delayed handover.
Israeli security sources hinted that the resumption of handovers is likely to be announced in the planned meeting between Sharon and Abbas slated for June 21.
Sharon has instructed his defense establishment to prepare a package of ‘gestures’ to be presented to Abbas. Israel has been under U.S. pressure to take steps to strengthen the Palestinian leader, who is facing a serious internal challenge on the hands of the growing in strength and popularity Islamic groups.
Meanwhile, Israel and the PA are engaged in talks over allowing West Bank deportees to Gaza and few European countries to return to their cities and towns; another frozen process that should have been implemented immediately after the Sharm’s summit.
Most of deportees were either Palestinian resistance operatives who were withheld inside the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem during the 2002 invasion of the city, or relatives of resistance operatives, who took part in military attacks against Israeli targets.