Middle East Monitor / February 26, 2020
Israeli authorities have established a multi-force agency to prepare for the possibility of unrest should the next Israeli government proceed with the annexation of illegal West Bank settlements.
According to the report in Haaretz, the joint body includes representatives from the Israeli military, police, Shin Bet, other “defence agencies”, as well as from government ministries.
The aim, the paper added, is “to coordinate a unified response in the event of a major outbreak of violence in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and other fronts.”
The possible scenarios envisaged by the Israeli authorities include armed attacks, “Palestinians breaking into West Bank settlements”, mass marches over Israel’s “southeastern and northern borders”, “rocket fire from Gaza, Syria and Lebanon”, and “mass marches near settlements”.
The paper added that Israeli “intelligence assessments” also predict demonstrations by Palestinian citizens of Israel, perhaps “at major intersections”, as well as “escalation” in Jerusalem.
Israeli authorities believe that any unrest “wouldn’t last for more than a few weeks” and that “the likelihood of a third intifada breaking out is considered low”.
The body, to be headed by a cabinet minister, will coordinate “the division of labour among the various organisations”, with police largely “responsible for preventing attacks inside Israel and the settlements” and army “responsible for the rest of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and border areas”.
Overall, Haaretz added, “the preparations are expected to cost hundreds of millions of shekels and will include holding joint exercises, buying necessary equipment and holding regular meetings to consider possible scenarios.”
Although previous warnings of large-scale, sustained Palestinian unrest in recent years have failed to materialise, including following developments such as the US relocation of the embassy, Israeli authorities believe “that annexing the settlements would be perceived as a more significant step”.