Amos Harel, Avi Issacharoff
March 8, 2010 - 1:00am

Israel has conveyed messages to the Palestinian Authority over the past few days that it must contain the popular protests that have recently erupted in the West Bank, stop PA officials from participating in them and keep them from turning violent, Palestinian sources told Haaretz.

They said Israel also told the PA it must reduce incitement regarding the Temple Mount and Jerusalem and curtail its campaign against the use of Israeli products.

Israeli officials said that if the PA does not cut down on the incitement and keep the protests and boycott campaign in check, Israel will reduce cooperation with the PA and increase its arrests in Palestinian-controlled areas, the Palestinian sources said.

Over the past few months, arrests by Israel in PA areas have declined, and the Israel Defense Forces has been limiting the entry of troops into those areas.

The messages to the PA were delivered during several conversations between senior Israeli security officials and their Palestinian counterparts, as well as by political figures. The Palestinian sources said Shin Bet security service chief Yuval Diskin had discussed the matter with the PA official responsible for civil matters in the West Bank, Hussein al-Sheikh.

The PA has sponsored several rallies in the villages of Bil'in and Na'alin, west of Ramallah, some of which have been attended by PA officials. In recent weeks, the PA has also backed protests in the village of Nebi Salah, north of Ramallah, and in Umm Salamuna in the Bethlehem region. Palestine Liberation Organization officials are prominently involved in clashes in the Jerusalem area and have come out against what the PA describes as the Judaization of Jerusalem.

In addition, PA President Mahmoud Abbas has spoken out sharply against the inclusion of Hebron's Tomb of the Patriarchs and Rachel's Tomb, near Bethlehem, in a list of Jewish heritage sites.

The PA has so far done nothing to curtail the protests and as of Sunday, had conveyed no message to its grassroots activists to maintain a lower profile at upcoming rallies.

Sources in the Israeli security establishment say they sense that the PA is taking an active part in organizing popular protests in the West Bank. Security sources say that at this point a third intifada does not appear imminent. However, the sources say, the PA could lose control if it gives the protesters too much leeway.

Mitchell to meet Abbas on Monday

The PLO executive committee on Sunday announced its support for indirect talks with Israel on a final-status agreement, mediated by U.S. special envoy George Mitchell, for a four-month period.

Mitchell is to meet in Ramallah on Monday with Abbas and the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat.

On Tuesday, Mitchell will meet with Abbas and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.

Palestinians are pessimistic about the chances for the success of renewed talks in light of Israel's harsh stands on several issues.


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