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Israel army warn of escalation in West Bank as hard-right cabinet is sworn in

December 30, 2022 at 10:16 am

Israel’s President Isaac Herzog (front R), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (front L) pose with other ministers of Israel’s 37th government. [Israeli Government Press Office/Anadolu Agency]

Israeli security officials have warned of an escalation in the occupied West Bank due to changes to the Israeli army agreed upon as part of the formation of the new coalition government, Haaretz reported yesterday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed with far-right Religious Zionism and Otzma Yehudit parties to transfer responsibilities from the Israeli army to the heads of the two parties, Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir.

The security officials said so far nobody from the incoming government has updated the army or heard its officials’ positions on the government’s plans to transfer authority to far-right coalition partners.

Haaretz said security officials in the Israeli intelligence services and army believe confrontations in the West Bank will escalate in the near future.

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They fear that the ongoing internal transformations within the Palestinian Authority, along with the incoming Israeli government’s plans to implement unilateral steps in the West Bank, in addition to the possibility of changing the status quo at Al-Aqsa Mosque would lead to “widespread confrontations” in the West Bank which would force the Israeli army to deal with several fronts simultaneously, including with Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas and resistance groups in the West Bank.

The newspaper reported that the Chief of Staff of the Israeli Army, Aviv Kochavi, met last week with Netanyahu and expressed concerns regarding the coalition agreements.

He called on Netanyahu to listen to the army’s position before making a final decision on this issue.

Under the coalition agreements, Smotrich will serve as finance minister as well as minister in the defence ministry and will gain control over the organisation of operations in the occupied territories in the civil administration which manages the Palestinians’ affairs as well as the appointment of judicial advisors on all matters related to events in the occupied West Bank.

Meanwhile, Ben-Gvir will serve as national security minister and will have direct control over the border guards, allowing him to influence instructions on the ground and transfer the border guard units as he pleases from the West Bank to the Negev and the Galilee.

Kochavi also warned of Ben Gvir’s intention to grant immunity from trial to soldiers and police personnel who carry out military operations.

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