Jack Khoury, Barak Ravid
February 26, 2013 - 1:00am

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reportedly met Monday evening with Palestinian security chiefs in Ramallah and instructed them to enforce calm in the West Bank.

According to a report by the Palestinian news agency Ma'an, Abbas ordered the top officials to "preserve the general security within the Palestinian Authority's territories and avoid being dragged into the cycle of violence and chaos that is being perpetrated by Israel."

In the meeting, Abbas claimed that the Palestinian defense policy has proven itself to be one that does not toe the line dictated by the Israeli "occupation" and cares first and foremost for the safety and interests of the Palestinian people.

A well-informed Palestinian source told Haaretz on Monday evening that the Palestinian leadership is not seeking a frontal confrontation that would destroy the Palestinian Authority's institutions. But no one can guarantee that the events won't spin out of control, he added, asserting that Israel and the Palestinian protesters are the ones setting the pace.

The source dismissed claims that Israel had transferred January tax funds - collected by Israel on behalf of the Palestinian Authority under the Oslo Accords – including funds meant to pay wages to members of the security services. Such statements are unfounded, he said, considering that the funds intended for the security services do not come from Israel, but from other countries, primarily ones in Europe.

The U.S. administration has, over the past two days, been closely monitoring the escalation of violence in the West Bank, but has avoided high-level involvement. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has not called either Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or Abbas, leaving the issues to be handled by special peace process envoy David Hale, U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro and East Jerusalem Consul-General Michael Ratney.

According to a senior U.S. official, both the Israelis and the Palestinians sought American intervention shortly after the latest disturbances broke out over the weekend, but each one was told by the Americans to resolve the crisis through direct dialogue.

“We made it clear to the Israelis and the Palestinians that both [sides] can take steps to calm things in the field and prevent incidents that would just pour more fuel on the fire,” the American official said.

Senior Palestinian officials were enraged by an announcement made Sunday on behalf of diplomatic officials in Jerusalem to the effect that Netanyahu's envoy Isaac Molcho had “made an unequivocal demand that the Palestinians calm things down.”

A Palestinian source and an Israeli source said that the offices of Abbas and PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad were furious at the tone of the announcement, which they attributed to Netanyahu’s bureau and claimed was false. Both sources said that Molcho had called a senior Palestinian official and held a businesslike discussion with him that ended in a friendly fashion and didn’t include any demand.

“Each side made its arguments,” said the Palestinian source. “We told Molcho that Israel has to rein in its hooligans among the settlers and resolve the problem of the prisoners. It was a regular conversation of the type we have with Molcho two-three times a week. The statement issued by Netanyahu’s bureau was condescending and ridiculous.”


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